Rubens Barrichello made best of a heavy fuel load, superb tactics and a critical error from McLaren to win the 57-lap European Grand Prix in Valencia. He took the chequered flag two seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton and in doing so moves second in the championship race, 18 points behind Brawn Mercedes team-mate Jenson Button who finished in a distant seventh place.
Hamilton looked to be in complete control of the race in the early stages as he stormed away from the pole position with team-mate Heikki Kovalainen backing up Barrichello and allowing the Hungarian winner to pull a small advantage. Barrichello, however, was able to run close behind Kovalainen and with his heavier fuel load was able to gain second position following the first round of stops.
With his rear gunner now consigned to third, Hamilton pushed hard to keep the gap to the Brawn racer between three and four seconds. However, it was all for nothing as on lap 38 Hamilton peeled off into the pit lane only to find the team had not prepared the tyres. As the crew scrambled around, the valuable seconds ticked by and after 14 seconds Hamilton was back in the race. Barrichello by this point was now six seconds up the road and the race was lost for McLaren.
It was a superb drive from Barrichello who may well have taken the victory regardless of Hamilton's problem, but it would have been a whole lot closer. With Red Bull enduring an awful race weekend, Barrichello moved ahead of Mark Webber in the championship as the Australian finished ninth and out of the points. Sebastian Vettel suffered a fuelling problem and then another engine failure to record his second consecutive retirement.
Kimi Raikkonen qualified sixth and made use of KERS off the line to vault to fourth by the first corner. From this point the 2007 champion drove his usual solid race, gaining third from Kovalainen in the second and final stop. Team-mate Luca Badoer had reasonable pace in race conditions, but his return after a decade on the sidelines in place of the injured Felipe Massa was littered with small errors leaving him 17th at the chequered flag.
Kovalainen will be disappointed with fourth position after running second through the first stint but the Finn held off the charging Nico Rosberg to the line and recorded his best finish, in what has been a difficult second season with McLaren Mercedes.
Rosberg continued his string of points scoring results with a fine fifth, while team-mate Kazuki Nakajima's race was compromised in qualifying with mechanical isues and then destroyed in the race by a right rear puncture. The Japanese racer has yet to score this year.
Fernando Alonso chased Rosberg for much of the race before settling for sixth position at his home grand prix in the leading Renault while championship leader Button had a poor race to seventh position and just two championship points.
Starting fifth, Button made a good start to the race to run alongside Sebastian Vettel into the first turn. Perhaps with his large championship lead in his mind, Button backed off and this allowed four cars to stream through. The Brawn driver soon passed Webber, but was judged to have cut a chicane to gain an unfair advantage and was forced to relinquish the position. The British driver would gain the place from Webber in the final round of pit stops, but it was a poor performance from a driver aiming for the ultimate prize.
Robert Kubica claimed the final point for the BMW Sauber team with a solid run to eighth position, while Webber looked lost all weekend and finished a dismal ninth and out of the points. Red Bull Renault therefore leave Valencia having failed to score and are now 27.5 points behind Brawn Mercedes in the constructors' championship.