Honda Brawn GP
The 2009 Formula 1 season is about to kick off with the Australian GP in Melbourne. But the biggest story started at the end of 2007.
Japanese car manufacturer, Honda, had returned to F1 a couple of years previously but had little to show for the millions of dollars and time they had invested. So they decided to employ the expertise of former Benetton and Ferrari F1 technical director Ross Brawn. When Brawn arrived, the 2008 car had been completed and looked unlikely to be a world beater, so Brawn’s first decision was to sacrifice the 2008 season and concentrate on a new design to comply with the revised regulations planned for 2009. As a result the 2008 season unfolded as would be expected, with the Honda being reliable but no where near fast enough to be in contention for high point scoring finishes. What had been unforeseen however was the global economic crisis that hit in the latter part of 2008 and as a result Honda decided that enough was enough and announced that their F1 division was up for sale.
The Honda F1 team had a factory, workers, a completed 2009 race car and the contracted services of two proven, race winning, drivers but no-one wanted it. Ross Brawn and team manager Nick Fry bought the team from Honda themselves, for a nominal fee of allegedly £1.00, but were faced with raising the capital to run the team. Somehow they managed to secure an engine supply deal with Mercedes and at the last minute the, now renamed, ‘Brawn GP’ F1 team were confirmed as an entry in the 2009 F1 Championship.
It hasn’t all been plain-sailing. A major component in the Brawn design (as well as those of two other teams) has been protested about. The governing bodies stewards have ruled that it is legal, but there is still an appeal pending.
The practice and qualifying sessions have proven the new Brawn car to be a revelation. Consistently up with the front-runners in practice, a major sponsor-ship deal secured with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin group of companies, and by the end of qualifying, Jenson Button and Rubens Barichello putting their cars on the front row of the starting grid. (the first time that a new team has achieved that feat since Jackie Stewart put Ken Tyrrell’s first car on pole in 1970)
After masterminding Michael Schumacher’s seven world championships at both Benetton and Ferrari, Ross Brawn is back with a bang.
I wonder if, at this moment (as Richard Branson is opening his wallet even wider, with a huge grin on his face) hari-kari is being committed in the Honda board room?