Back then a raft of new rule changes including new aero regs aimed at helping overtaking, tyre changes in the form of a return to slicks and efforts at reducing costs by banning testing combined with a very clever interpretation of the rules helped Brawn to a massive early season advantage.
One wonders if history is repeating itself in this new easier-to-overtake, ‘porpoising’, big wheel, budget cap era of 2022. Thirteen years ago Jenson Button won six of the first seven races and then didn’t win again that season. It was enough, though. Red Bull and McLaren responded in the second half of the year but the Englishman had it all sewn up and Charles Leclerc looks similarly – and ominously for the others – a class apart this year.
The new rules have clearly benefited Ferrari and hindered their rivals in equal measure but Leclerc is piecing together perfect weekends and such are the makings of titles. His biggest threat ought to be coming from his teammate but Carlos Sainz Jr had a miserable trip to Melbourne, leaving the stage clear for Leclerc to fend off the Red Bull threat alone.
Sainz looked strong in practice but an error in qualifying restricted him to 9th and his lap two crash came on the back of anti-stall issues at the start. He seems like a man under pressure. Which is good news for Leclerc even if he’ll protest it’s the opposite.
The fuel problems which prevented Max Verstappen from scoring for the second time in three races are said to be different from the fuel starvation issues from race one but tongues will inevitably wag.
Christian Horner said afterward that he’d rather try and make a fast car reliable than be trying to speed up a plodding beast of burden which sounds reasonable enough until you remember that recent products of Milton Keynes have been both fast and capable of running all day.
Perversely, Mercedes came away happy with third and fourth from a weekend that had once again threatened to end in ignominy. Lewis Hamilton might have been slightly more pleased with fourth had he not been leapfrogged by team-mate George Russell for his first Mercedes podium by dint of clever and fortuitous safety car tactics.
If Mercedes ever do crack the porpoising issue, they could be right back in the hunt, given they are already second in the Constructor’s championship with only the third or fourth fastest car. Then again, fixing the porpoising problem might come at the expense of lap time.
Final mention goes to perennial underdogs Williams who scrapped their way to an improbably 10th place with Alex Albon running a ‘no stop’ one-stopper which worked a treat. Leaving the compulsory stop to the penultimate lap was useful outside the box thinking which helped offset the pain of yet another expensive crash for Nicolas Latifi in qualifying, albeit one for which Lance Stroll got the blame.
They, like most of the teams, need to find some pace from somewhere. In the meantime, Ferrari are sitting pretty. One notable difference from 2009, though, is the length of the season. There were six fewer events that year. The never ending nature of the 23-race 2022 schedule could be the best chance for Red Bull and Mercedes to close the gap to the laughing cavalier on his prancing horse.