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Why Brawn GP’s success isn’t a surprise

Leaving Australia there was no doubt who the weekend belonged to. Brawn GP confirmed that their winter test pace was real by dominating qualifying, and rounding it off with a 1-2 finish in the Grand Prix itself.

The scary thing is that Jenson didn’t even need to push 100%. The safety car period, and a fumbled second pit stop made it look closer than it actually was in reality. He had far more pace up his sleeve had he needed it

It will certainly go down as one of the greatest stories in F1 history. There was a real “feel good“ factor about this result just like there was in Monza in 2008, when Vettel won in the rain for Toro Rosso.

Many people in the F1 paddock have been left stunned at the pace of Brawn GP. However when we  take an in-depth look at the team should we really be that surprised? Should we have perhaps have seen it coming instead?

Why have Brawn GP done so well?

There are a whole host of reasons as to why Brawn GP are so strong.

The main reason that stands out is the amount of time that has been spent working on this car. As soon as Ross Brawn came into the team (in November 2007) he decided that the 2008 car was slow. It had so many problems, that there was no point in trying to improve it. It was going to be virtually impossible to close the huge gap on Ferrari and Mclaren with this car.

With the unique opportunity that the huge 2009 regulation changes presented, Ross Brawn decided to waste no time whatsoever. The 2009 rules were like starting from a fresh piece paper. With the 2009 regulations the teams were starting again at the same level again. Think of it as pressing the reset button.

Brawn GP invested far more time on the 2009 car than any other team. They had at least a 6 month head start on all the other teams. Reports suggested that the team had up to 4 wind tunnels working overtime throughout 2008 just on the 2009 car.

With all this time that the team has had, has allowed them to put a lot of thought into this car. Just looking at the car, you can tell that it has been a long time in the making. You can see the sheer detail everywhere on the car. The front wing has lots of little details on it and the sidepods are beautifully sculpted. The fresh 2009 rules ment there were many different development routes, which could have been taken. Ross Brawn, and his team of engineers have clearly gone down the right route. They have adapted to the new aerodynamic rules brilliantly, and have just done a better job than all the other teams.

 Of course there is that controversial “double decker diffuser” that has come under scrutiny from the other teams. It’s extremely ingenious and well designed. It gives the car about 0.5 seconds worth of performance.

The teams that are complaining about this diffuser, are basically frustrated that they haven’t come up with the idea themselves. Brawn GP have been very innovative, and it has paid big dividends. Along with Toyota and Williams (who also have a similarly designed diffuser) Brawn GP managed to find a loophole in the regulations and made the most of it superbly. It’s very unlikely that the protesting teams will win their battle on April 14th. Therefore the other teams are looking as if; they are going to have to make the change themselves, which will be mighty difficult for them.

Brawn GP also decided against using the KERs system. This has given the team more freedom in how they distribute the weight around the car. It was something less to worry about, and have to work around. Clearly the car is working very well without it. However if the other teams start to make more use of the system, and gain more of an advantage from it, it could cause a problem for Brawn GP. However the team could run a version of the Mercedes KERs system later on in the season if they want to.

The budget that Brawn GP is working on is another significant factor. When Ross Brawn bought the team he was given 100 million pounds by Honda to keep the team alive for the 2009 season. 100 million pounds is the amount that Honda would have had to fork out, in order to close down the factory, and make all the staff (over 700 of them) redundant. This would obviously have made Honda look very bad, so decided that giving the same sum to Ross to keep the team alive was better for their reputation.

Brawn GP also received an advanced commercial payment from FOM boss Bernie Ecclestone. That makes a total of 140 million pounds, which for one season is a decent and workable budget. In 2007 the top spending teams spent in the region of 200 million pounds just to give a comparison.

Brawn GP are looking to agree a long term deal with Virgin to become a long-term sponsor. This could add even more funds to what is already a useful budget.

The team’s factory in Brackley boasts some of the finest facilities in F1. Their wind tunnels for example are state of the art, and up there with the best in F1.

During the winter whilst the media and fans alike speculated over the team’s future, Honda still gave the team money and support. Therefore they were able to carry on full pace with developing the car throughout this time, even in the knowledge they might never race the car. For all the workers to keep on working under those circumstances knowing their jobs were on the line is awe inspiring.

In Mercedes, Brawn GP have acquired one of the best, if not the best engine in F1. The Honda engine in comparison was weak and lacked power in recent seasons. Therefore having the Mercedes engine has been a substantial improvement on the power front. The only downside was that the car had to be changed slightly, in order to accommodate it. However Ross Brawn and his team dealt with that with brilliant ease, and in super quick time which was deeply impressive. Clearly that necessary change didn’t slow the car down.

And of course the other main reason why the car is so quick is the man of the moment, Ross Brawn himself. After such glittering stints with Benetton and Ferrari, Brawn is considered to be one of the most talented men in the paddock. He has a great working knowledge of F1 cars, and is an exceptional team leader. Thanks to his time with two top teams, he has acquired a huge amount of experience to draw back on. He knows exactly what it takes to win the championships.

The problem with the Honda team before Ross Brawn’s arrival was that individually everyone was doing a great job. However collectively as a team they weren’t effective. There was no leader making the important decisions. There was a lack of direction. The factory overall was a confused environment. When everything came together at the end, it was a complete misguided mess.

Ross Brawn has changed that. He is now the one at the top calling all the shots, and he links all the departments together. He oversees the whole operation. All the talented individuals in the team now have direction, and know what they are doing. Ross Brawn is now utilising the potential, and enormous talent this team has always had. His trackside operation is very strong too. He helps keep everyone calm and focused during the race weekend. This was definitely an important factor in Melbourne.

The team is now structured far better, and there are better systems in place within the team. It’s far more professional than it had been. Now there is a great end product coming out of the team. The money is being spent wisely and put into all the right places.

Ross Brawn is a very hard and strict person he needs to be. He pushes those around him very hard, but also keeps spirits high, and ensures that the factory has a great family atmosphere. This was a key strength at Ferrari had whilst he was there.

Everyone in the team knows how talented Ross Brawn is. They are all fully aware of his hugely successful career in F1, so are therefore able trust him, and are inspired by him.

Another positive element about Brawn GP is that fact that Ross Brawn is a hands-on boss. He isn’t like other team bosses who are spending most of their hours in their offices just doing paperwork. Ross Brawn is on the factory floor and working, and guiding all of engineers. He is the kind of team boss F1 used have all the way back in the seventies.

Nick Fry who is now the CEO of the team is now the man doing much of that paperwork, and dealing purely on the commercial side of the Brawn GP team. This is the sort of stuff that Ross Brawn’s talent would be wasted in doing. Whilst Nick Fry does all that Ross Brawn is with his team building and preparing the car.

I think this hierarchy at the top of Brawn GP works extremely well for them. All F1 teams should go down this route.

Yet another crucial factor is that it is Ross’s team. Therefore every single decision is his. The big issue when the team was owned by Honda was that there was too much control by the Japanese board. They were interfering too much with the running of the team. They were just putting big money into the team, and hoping it would all work out. They weren’t there that it took more than huge splashes of cash to succeed in F1.

Throughout their time owning the team they made many bad management calls, which affected the team’s progress. One of them was sacking Geoff Willis, who was responsible for the quick and nimble 2004 challenger, and the 2006 car. As soon as he was sacked the team lost all the gains they had made, and built the catastrophic 2007 car.

Despite the 5 months of turmoil Honda’s exit caused the team, Brawn GP are much better off without them. Ross Brawn is free to run the team his way without his decisions being overruled or questioned.

Those 5 months have turned out to be a great character building test for the team, and they are now working with more spirit and determination than ever before. They are now an extremely happy and positive workforce. It’s a shame that over 250 jobs will have to be redundant. However that is a face across other F1 teams, not just Brawn GP.

Another great decision Ross Brawn made, was on his driver line-up. He could easily have hired Bruno Senna, and received a useful amount of sponsorship money as a result. However he decided that having an experienced driver in Rubens Barrichello was the right way to go. He knows all the tracks and he has the experience in race winning cars. He knows the game very well, having recently become the most experienced driver in F1 history

He is a safe pair of hands, and still very fast. Bruno Senna would have needed time to find his feet in F1. He would have needed time to get used to the car and learn all the tracks. The team would have had to work extremely in order to extract the best from him. Rubens can also push Jenson very hard, which is very beneficial. All the extra media attention that would have come with the Senna name may have caused too big a distraction during a tough time for the team.

Can Brawn GP continue their success and mount a championship challenge?

Brawn GP have to be considered the favourites to land the title. At the moment their car is a long way ahead of everyone else’s. Their car is particularly good over the long runs as it looks after the slick tyres very efficiently. The car has very high levels of grip and downforce, and handles better than all the other cars. In Sepang the car should work even better than it did in Melbourne. Its here where will see how far ahead of the others they really are.

And as the team have a very useful budget, and state of the art facilities, there is no reason why they should lose out in the development race.

They are not the team with the most money, but Ross Brawn is very efficient operator, so that isn’t a big issue. Renault won their 2005 and 2006 championships using a far smaller budget than the likes of Mclaren and Ferrari at that time. Talent can make up for not having the biggest budget

However if Virgin decide to pour a substantial amount of money into the team, then that would certainly be a very useful bonus. Brawn GP could attract more sponsors in the near future too. At the moment sponsoring Brawn GP is a very good business proposition, even in this tough economic climate. Brawn GP are at the front therefore the car is getting a huge amount of TV air time. They are also the team being featured most in the press at the moment due to their fantastic acheivement. There is no doubt that Richard Branson’s decision to sponsor the team is very clever, and timed to perfection.

Brawn GP are already well on their way with their big upgrade for the Spanish GP in May. There is no reason why they can’t stay in front all season long.

Eventually the other teams will create their own versions of the “double decker” diffuser, and will catch up. Meanwhile whilst Brawn GP are ahead they need to win as many races as they can, and hope to open a gap at the top of the championship table. Something which could work in the team’s favour is the close group featuring four or five teams right behind. No team has yet stood out as the clear main challenger to the Brawn GP team. If these teams take it in turns to be Brawn GP’s closest challengers, then this could help them build up the points margin.

They have two drivers who are perfectly capable of delivering the title. Barrichello has the experience of driving a front running a car, and knows how to win races. Button is also very much at home in a fast car. Whenever he has been given a quick car (the whole of 2004 and the second half of 2006) he has flown. His driving style is extremely smooth, which could be a huge bonus as on many tracks the slick tyres will need to be nursed, to get the most out of them.

A worse case scenario would be the double decker diffuser being banned at the court of appeal. But as mentioned earlier on, that is an unlikely outcome. The FIA and then the race stewards deemed it legal, so the protesting teams will find it hard to win their case. Even if Brawn GP lost out in the appeal losing 0.5 seconds of performance may not even be enough to strip from of their place at the front of the grid, although it would make life harder admittedly

You can be sure though that Ross Brawn has a back-up plan just in case Brawn GP were to lose out on April 14. That’s the kind of guy he is.

The long term future of Brawn GP

This year the team are fine. They have a perfectly healthy budget to work with. Next season is an entirely different matter though. However if the team can get Richard Branson to invest heavily in them, and they can get a few more sponsors then the team will be in a reasonable position.

Remember that they could get a decent amount of prize money too, and the yearly dose of commercial money from Bernie Ecclestone.

Another crucial factor is the new 30 million pound budget cap for next season. No doubt Brawn GP will be one of the teams to sign up for this. I am sure a talented team being led by Ross Brawn could operate extremely well within a budget cap, and continue to be competitive in the years to come.

In conclusion when you study the Brawn GP team, it starts to become more and more apparent why the team is looking so strong at the moment. When you look at all the factors behind their success, it becomes less of a surprise than it might have seemed at first. Brawn GP deserves an enormous amount of credit.

A championship challenge is definitely on!







April 2, 2009 - Posted by | Main Features

1 Comment »

  1. This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

    Comment by matt | April 2, 2009 | Reply

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