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Ted Kravitz - the German GP from the pit lane

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F1 Mole | 12:24 UK time, Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Brawn

Rubens Barrichello caused a bit of a storm when he blamed his team for messing up his race, but I've been through the race lap times and done the numbers on this, and the Brazilian has his good friend and countryman Felipe Massa to blame for missing out on second place.

Barrichello came out of his first stop behind Massa, whose soft tyres had gone. In the 10 laps Rubens was stuck there, he never bettered a one minute 37.2 seconds lap. His target time was a 1.34.7 - Barrichello was losing two and a half seconds per lap!

In total, 25 seconds were lost in the second stint. After his third stop, Rubens was 15 seconds behind Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and 10 behind Massa. So even allowing for some time lost through tyre graining Barrichello would have finished second behind Webber, if only he'd been able to get past the Ferrari in those 10 laps.

Barrichello's outburst aside, the most startling message coming out of Brawn was their acknowledged fear of now potentially losing both championships.

Ross Brawn's statement that they now have to respond "or we'll throw the championship away" will have focused minds at the factory.

The big question is: can they respond? One rival technical director I spoke to played down the potential effect of the recent departure of chief designer Jorg Zander - if he had been crucial to the team's future, my man said, Brawn would have made sure he stayed.

Apparently, the real talent behind the BGP 001 is a guy lower down the seniority ladder in the aerodynamic department. This chap has been identified by the other teams as one to keep an eye on, so I'm told, but you can be sure Ross Brawn will be protecting his assets.

So Brawn have good people and it would be foolish to write them off just yet. They started the year with the most developed car of them all, and they have a Mk III version of the double diffuser coming for Hungary, together with a new rear wing and new bodywork, so they should still be in the hunt.

How they respond now will in many ways define their future potential: Are the Brawn team a consistent championship contending team to be reckoned with going forward, or just a single-season one-off?


Red Bull

Red Bull might be dominating F1 since they introduced their upgrade package at the British Grand Prix, but their car has an interesting Achilles Heel. It seems to be a problem with the electronics shutting the car down when there is an impact from a bump or a kerb.

When Mark Webber's lap times fell off the pace once his lead in Germany was secure, it was because he had received an instruction from the team not to bang the car over the kerbs, thus minimising the risk of this problem recurring. Vettel received a similar instruction when in the lead at Silverstone.

We saw this in action in Friday practice: Vettel hit the bump in the braking zone for Turn One, and the engine cut out. When the car was recovered to the garage, the engineers focused attention on the connectors housed at the bottom of the right hand sidepod.

Mechanics took a photo of whatever part had gone wrong or become disconnected and sent it back to the factory to show people responsible what happened. It was a quick fix to sort it out and Vettel was able to rejoin the session.

It is something to be fixed before Hungary, where a lot of lap time comes from effective use of the kerbs.

After the race in Germany, team principal Christian Horner was keen to talk about just how much Webber's broken leg had threatened his whole F1 career (having said all season that it was fine, wasn't a problem, etc).

Mark Webber relaxes after his win in Germany

The right leg might only operate the accelerator, but what Webber was really worried about over the winter was whether his leg, foot and ankle would still have the feel and sensitivity required to make miniscule adjustments to the pedal.

There's still a titanium rod in Mark's leg, as happens with a compound fracture, but the victory proved beyond doubt that the Australian is getting back to his best.

One more thing: Have you noticed how Mark Webber really builds up a thirst after a long drive? In the drivers press conference after the race he got through nearly a whole jug of that orange isotonic drink they leave out. Vettel had half a glass and Massa didn't touch the stuff. Watch out for it at the next race - Mark loves that stuff!


Ferrari

Incredibly, Germany saw Felipe Massa's first podium of the season, which promoted him into the 'best non-Brawn or Red Bull driver' spot in the championship.

Amongst the usual race-specific set-up work, Ferrari spent Friday practice testing a nosecone for their 2010 car.

It looks identical to the Red Bull nose concept, with scalloped mid-section and high edges, but I was amazed that they had already designed and made next year's nose section and were testing it mid-way through the 2009 season.

Since there is no in-season testing, Fridays are the teams' only chance to track test this kind of stuff. Ferrari are clearly looking to "do a Honda", and spend all their present energies designing and wind-tunnel testing next year's car - a decision that led to the early dominance of Brawn this season.

In the era of teams' cost saving and redundancies, Ferrari have managed to employ two more people to take part in a pit stop.

They are slot-gap cleaners - mechanics who run a thin cleaning strip between the front wing flap and the main plane to make sure there isn't any debris in the gap.

Ferrari wouldn't be doing this just for fun, so they must have had an incident earlier in the season when a piece of rubber or rubbish became lodged in the front wing gap and ruined the car's front aero. Another illustration of just how sensitive this year's cars are to dirty air.

McLaren

The paddock jungle drums had it that McLaren felt bad that they had failed so spectacularly to provide both their drivers with a decent car this season, that they would offer Heikki Kovalainen a new contract for next year by way of apology.

I asked team boss Martin Whitmarsh if this was true on Saturday evening, and he said no, the car had nothing to do with it.

Indeed, while acknowledging Kovalainen's strengths as a fast driver and a thoroughly good bloke, Whitmarsh did point out that Heikki hadn't enjoyed the results that either he or McLaren would have liked recently (although a point in Germany was a good result).

Kovalainen's management are currently in discussion with Whitmarsh over what happens next year.

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