In 2007, an ill-advised
“Earthdreams” marketing concept
disguised a lack of sponsorship
and coincided with a dip in form,
and things were worse in ’08 as the
team slipped down the grid. However,
there was light at the end of the
tunnel: Ross Brawn had been
engaged as team principal and was
already planning for a 2009 revival...
BAR’s engine supplier
Honda took over the
reins in ’06 and finally
managed to win a race
– that year’s Hungarian
GP with Jenson Button
(LEFT) – but wouldn’t
come close again in
two more seasons.
When Brawn morphed
into Mercedes GP, with
all the extra resource
that came with factory
status, it was not
business as usual. Best
20 10 results were
three third places for
Nico Rosberg (LEFT). L o r
rawn GP was in existence for just one
season in 2009 – in the course of which the
team won the Formula 1 Drivers’ and
Constructors’ World Championships. It was
an extraordinary episode in F1 history.
Organizational wizard Ross Brawn joined
the ailing Honda team in 2008 (see below)
and abandoned work on the existing car
– the awful RA108, which drivers Rubens
Barrichello and Jenson Button somehow
cajoled to ninth in the Constructors’ points
– to concentrate on an all-new RA109.
Then, Dec. 5, came the bombshell.
Amid a deepening economic crisis the
Honda board had got cold feet on its F1
spend and agreed a complete withdrawal.
A shocked Button heard the news while
waiting for his bags at an airport.
There followed some frantic negotiation
between Brawn, team CEO Nick Fry and
Tokyo. Brawn and Fry’s argument was
that it would cost a huge amount to
close the doors and fire everyone. As
negotiations continued on possible
buyers, Honda continued to pump in cash
and the team got on with building the car.
The challenge was sourcing an engine.
In the end Mercedes’ partner team
McLaren agreed that Stuttgart could
supply the troubled outfit. Meanwhile Brawn
trimmed staff levels in search of economies.
Finally, March 5, 2009, just 22 days
before the first grand prix in Melbourne, a
Brawn. When the white BGP001 first took
to the track at a Barcelona test, Button
began to set extraordinary lap times – and
the team knew it had a potential winner.
In Australia, Brawn survived a scare
when rivals protested the double diffuser
concept. The FIA declared it legal, but it was
too late for others to copy it effectively.
Button and Barrichello were unstoppable
in the early races, with Jenson winning six
of the first seven grands prix. But Red Bull
Racing was rapidly developing its car, and a
lack of resources – in relative terms – made
it much harder for Brawn to stay ahead.
While Rubens grabbed two late-season
wins, Button failed to add another after his
sixth in Istanbul in early June, taking only
a second and a third in the last 10 races.
But his early form proved enough, and he
took the title in Brazil with a race to go.
Behind the scenes, Mercedes decided to
return with a full factory team. Unable to
pursue that with current partners McLaren,
it saw Brawn as the perfect opportunity.
On Nov. 16th, 2009, it was confirmed
that Brawn would become Mercedes GP.
The package, including 2010 drivers
Nico Rosberg and an unretired Michael
Schumacher, plus Ross Brawn still at the
organizational helm, looked awesome. But
it took four years, Lewis Hamilton and a
change of engine rules for everything to fall
into place for the rebooted Silver Arrows...
management buyout was confirmed – and
the team was now Brawn GP.
What generous McLaren didn’t predict
was the potential of a car that was designed
as the 2009 Honda. The team exploited a
loophole in the regulations that allowed for
the concept of the “double diffuser,” which
generated huge levels of downforce. Some
say the idea came from a Honda engineer
in Japan, others that it emanated from
Honda’s backmarker Super Aguri “B team,”
and was taken by a departing staffer to
Toyota and its customer team Williams.
Toyota and Williams did pursue similar
concepts, but nowhere near as well as
After selling Brawn
GP to Mercedes-Benz at the end of
2009, Brawn stayed
on as team principal
with Mercedes GP,
but left at the end of
2013 after failing to
agree on his future
role with the team.
The structure he’d
put in place led to a
Formula 1 Drivers’
for Lewis Hamilton
and the Stuttgart
marque in ’ 14.
Brawn GP’s double championship-winning single season of Formula 1 in 2009 is now
the stuff of legend. and tenuous as it is, Tyrrell Racing’s ultimate demise in ’ 98 is linked.