Rubens Barrichello picked up his second win in three races to lead a Brawn GP 1-2 at the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Barrichello and teammate Jenson Button both passed the top three thanks to one-stop strategies to lead the sweep at the Monza circuit that put the British team in the driving seat for the F1 title.
Barrichello, coming off his first victory in five years at Valencia last month, shaved two points off of Button’s overall Formula One championship lead by getting within 14 points with four GPs to race.
Barrichello was relishing the prospect of an open battle against his teammate after playing second fiddle to Michael Schumacher for so many years at Ferrari.
“I can show my true me behind the wheel,” Barrichello said. “I’m going to give my very best. It’s going to be a good and healthy fight.”
Lewis Hamilton of McLaren crashed on his final lap while running third, allowing Kimi Raikkonen to finish on the podium for the fourth straight race at Ferrari’s home GP.
Red Bull’s title hopes were hanging by a thread after Mark Webber crashed on the opening lap and Sebastian Vettel finished eighth.
Webber, who started 10th, went off at the Della Roggia turn after tangling with Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber to see his deficit to Button stretched to 28.5 points, while Vettel is now 26 points behind the British driver.
“It gives it a blow for sure,” Webber said of his title chances. “I haven’t scored points in three races.”
Button has 80 points; Barrichello has 66, Vettel - who won in the rain here last year - 54 and Webber 51.5. Brawn GP leads Red Bull by 40.5 points in the constructors’ series.
“Focusing on one person is a lot better than focusing on three,” said Button, who finished on the podium for the first time in three months. “It’s nice to be back up there in second position.”
Hamilton was heading for a third top-three finish in four races before spinning out at the high-speed Curva di Lesmo corner.
“I don’t even know if it was a mistake. I don’t even know what happened,” the defending F1 champion said. “I just lost the back end.”
Raikkonen passed Adrian Sutil, who started second, going into the opening Del Rettifilo corner while Barrichello, Button and Tonio Liuzzi all pushed ahead of Heikki Kovalainen, who would finish sixth after starting fourth for McLaren.
Hamilton, on a two-stop strategy like Raikkonen and Sutil, had built a near 15-second lead over Barrichello by his pit after 15 laps for a 3.7-second advantage over Raikkonen and 4.7 on Sutil, and would drop to third behind the Brawns after his stop right afterwards.
Barrichello stayed ahead of Button after both drivers pitted halfway through the 53-lap race and both moved ahead of Hamilton after his last stop with Button enjoying a near four-second lead over his fellow Briton while trailing Barrichello by five seconds.
Barrichello hung on to the close for a 2.8-second win in front of the fans for his first podium at F1’s fastest track since winning the race for Ferrari in 2004.
“It was a great decision. The guys with KERS had 20 meters on us in the start and we had to have that in mind,” the 37-year-old Barrichello said of the team’s strategy. “Our pace was good enough to be in front of them by the last pit stop.”
Sutil finished fourth to pick up his first F1 points, Fernando Alonso of Renault was fifth and BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld was seventh.
Giancarlo Fisichella finished ninth in his Ferrari debut after replacing Luca Badoer, whose two last-place finishes as Felipe Massa’s substitute had prompted a switch.
Liuzzi’s return to F1 after a near two-year absence ended after 22 laps when the Force India driver, who had replaced Fisichella, retired from the last race on the European leg of the calendar. The next stop is the Singapore GP, which is being raced at night on September 27.