Will Gray

Technical Talk: Button v Barrichello showdown

Will Gray

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The Formula One World Championship is effectively down to a
two-horse race after the Brawn one-two at Monza
- but how do title contenders Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello shape up

Barrichello is the man of the moment, winning at Monza last weekend to add to his victory in Valencia, but
while Button has suffered a recent a drop in form he remains in the driving
seat having collected six wins in the opening seven races.

There is certain to be some pressure and nerves influencing
Button's stutter during this part of the season but there are also a couple of
significant technical aspects that could just have helped Barrichello find his
way - and could help him continue to maintain momentum to take the title battle
right to the end.

Button and Barrichello have very different driving styles -
the former a smooth driver and the latter taking a more aggressive approach.

Button has the ability to maintain momentum going through a corner,
progressively increasing his braking coming into the apex until it is very
heavy then accelerating smoothly out of the corner. It gives him a gentle and
floating style that sees his entire lap flow smoothly from corner to corner -
but it works best with a well balanced car, and if the car is not behaving well
his style will be disrupted more than others.

Barrichello, on the other hand, brakes later and initially
harder as he heads into the corner, scrubbing off more speed immediately and
limiting his need to brake as hard as Button ultimately does before he steps on
the accelerator.

This style is less affected by the car's overall balance and
also allows the car to be run lower, improving aerodynamics which become more
efficient at lower ride heights.

Barrichello's more aggressive style generates more heat in
the car's tyres, and that is something that the Brawns have needed over the
last few races - explaining one part of the conundrum as to the
Button-Barrichello balance.

Additionally, it works better on some tracks than others,
particularly the faster tracks like Monza,
where there is high speed followed by heavy braking.

An interesting comparison of Barrichello's style compared to
Michael Schumacher's while the pair were at Ferrari shows that Barrichello was
only comparable to the multiple world champion when he was on the stop-go
circuits, where getting a good exit from the corner is most important.

At Monza, while the higher temperatures meant Button's
struggles to generate heat in his tyres were negated, the crucial exit speed
element would likely have given Barrichello the edge in qualifying that enabled
him to line up one spot ahead of Button - which made him the lead Brawn during
the aggressive opening lap charge and, along with the use of a tried-and-tested
KERS-diminishing strategy and the car's efficient aerodynamics, proved a
crucial part in securing his race victory.

On top of this, Barrichello has been boosted by a change to
the type of material used in his braking system, initially made at Silverstone,
which now suits his driving style better.

All the cars on the grid use carbon fibre composite brake
discs, which are light and are able to operate at higher temperatures than
steel - sometimes up to 1,000 degrees Celsius - but the disk and calliper never
reach operating temperature immediately.

In fact, the temperature increases by around 100 degrees
Celsius every tenth of a second for the first half second of braking - and
although that seems a minimal amount of time, it is a lot in Formula One.

By using materials that make this temperature build up
quicker, Barrichello's shorter sharper braking style comes into its own as it
allows him to maximise that even further - and this could be another factor in
his rise to form since the Silverstone race.

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