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Posted on March 11, 2009
Brawn in better shape than you might think | James Allen on F1 – The official James Allen website on F1

Ross Brawn’s team still has a long way to go, the car has no sponsors on it, the Mercedes engine deal is rumoured to be for just one year and they have to find partners in an economic crisis, but for 2009 things are a lot rosier for this team than they might appear. For one thing, Ross is not running the team on a shoestring, he has been given a budget not just to compete, but to impress.

Honda estimated that it would cost them €100 million to close the team down and rather than do that, with all the bad publicity that would entail, my information is that they have effectively given that sum to Brawn as a subsidy to run the team in 2010. After that he’s probably on his own. So he needs to show performance this year in order to attract long term partners, a point he made yesterday during his briefing. Added to the £45 million the team gets from Bernie Ecclestone as its share of the commercial revenues, this gives the team a very healthy estimated €145 of budget for the season – hence being able to prioritise Barrichello’s skill and experience over Bruno Senna’s sponsorship money.

Despite being Billy Big Pockets, I’m told that the team aren’t going to be throwing the money around in the non-engineering areas, so hospitality and marketing activities will be strictly ‘credit crunch rations.’

There are sacrifices being made for the greater good; Jenson Button was on around £12 million a year in the Honda days and he will have taken a big cut, just to be able to keep his career going, a bit like his old mate David Beckham. That said, he had just signed a new deal with Honda in October, so they would have paid him two years’ money anyway. I don’t think he’s exactly suffering. He admitted that having stared into the abyss over the last few months, he comes back to F1 with a greater desire to do well and get more from a career, which has yet to peak.

So how is the Brawn GP car and what are the prospects? Well I’m delighted to say that the car looks very good indeed. It’s fast, that’s the main thing. They also ran quite reliably for the two days I was in Barcelona, but gremlins will strike them, it’s inevitable with such short lead times. One thing in their favour is that the exhausts come as part of the Mercedes package, so that’s one less installation elent to go wrong.

But making a fast car reliable is infinitely preferable to the other away around, which is what they’ve had to deal with for the last two years.

Jenson did a long run on Monday afternoon of 20 laps, the kind of stint he would expect to do in the Spanish GP between pit stops. It was highly respectable, starting out in the low 1min 22s and coming gradually down to the mid 1m 21s. The car is consistent, driveable and a great basis on which to chase more performance. On Wednesday he did a lap in the low 1min 19s, which is fast by any standards. When I spoke to him and Ross over the last few days I could tell they were so happy about the performance of the car right out of the box. It’s a bit like 2004, when they had a good ‘un from the word go. That year only the Ferrari was faster.

It’s going to be a very tight midfield again this year, which will probably contain Red Bull, Brawn, Williams, Force India and Toro Rosso, possibly in something like that order, to start with at least. And where might McLaren slot in there?

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Brawn in better shape than you might think
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  1.   1. Posted By: Gary Davidson
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 2:28 pm 

    Button’s just done a 01:19′.127 at Barcelona. Unbelievably impressive no matter how much fuel is in the car!

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  2.   2. Posted By: guy
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 2:34 pm 

    Are we to assume from James’s guestimated midfield list of teams that mclaren will either be up at the front or right at the back of the field?

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  3.   3. Posted By: Ali
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 2:40 pm 

    Indeed, it’s 1.6 sec faster than the Q2 time of last year’s Spanish GP.

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  4.   4. Posted By: john g
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 3:01 pm 

    quite frankly, i’m amazed at the times and the number of laps that the brawn cars are putting in! they have a good shot at some points in aus i reckon

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  5.   5. Posted By: Gary Davidson
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 3:06 pm 

    The beauty of this season is how hard fought it is going to be. I mean there’s 5 or 6 teams expecting to win races, 3 or 4 expecting to win Championships and no one is expecting to finish last in the WCC.

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  6.   6. Posted By: Peter
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 3:11 pm 

    Very impressive indeed, but don’t forget, that they started to develop the new car months earlier than anyone else. I think that reflected by their current speed. Hope they can hold on longterm.

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  7.   7. Posted By: RCC (aka Rockingcopsecorner)
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 3:26 pm 

    Brawn have floored me with their initial pace, they are looking really good to be a strong midfield contender. I pray they aren’t glory laps running on fumes.

    I keep seeing pics at the testing of a Ferrari team member called ‘Chris’, a big bloke with a beard and i think he has something to do with security, he’s possibly Canadian. Any idea who he is? If anyone would know i’m sure you would!

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  8.   8. Posted By: Kevin M
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 4:02 pm 

    I think Jenson would be pretty chuffed knowing his car has gone 2.5s faster than Hamilton’s time. Not to mention at least a second faster than everyone else.

    James: Is this a case of the other teams masking their true pace? Surely the Brawn car is not a second faster than the Ferrari. Also I’m noticing from the test times that fastest laps are usually posted in the morning session. What are the teams doing differently in the afternoon as opposed to morning?

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  9.   9. Posted By: Dom Leste
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 4:50 pm 

    Have Brawn GP announced their test driver? If so is it davidson?

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  10.   10. Posted By: john g
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 5:39 pm 

    given that they have yet again topped the test times, i think they are just sponsor hunting. there’s no way that they can come into their first test running the same pace as ferrari, BMW and toyota, on equivalent runs. of course, it takes a certain level of performance to even get those good times in the first place, so they have a competitive car, but i don’t think that’s representative of their true position.

    i see hamilton has been off the road (again) – seems to me like he’s pushing very hard and still nowhere near on lap time. [ According to the Gazzetta, Flavio Briatore agrees with your sponsor-hunting theory - Moderator ]

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  11.   11. Posted By: Tom P
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 5:42 pm 

    Kevin – many teams are doing simulation of race weekends, so in the morning are simulating qualifying sessions, while in the afternoon doing race distances. That may be why the some of the quickest times are set in the morning.

    Regarding the reserve driver role, I beleve Wurz is acting as an advisor this season. The third driver is basically useless this season with mid-season testing banned, so an official third driver is unlikely for most teams I would imagine.

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  12.   12. Posted By: Nat McBride- Lockwood
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 6:18 pm 

    So does that mean Bruno Senna is a test driver then, with Davidson doing the 5 live stuff? He wouldn’t throw his sponsors in there if they’ve not given his a driver, surely?

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  13.   13. Posted By: Dermot Keelan
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 7:04 pm 

    “Sponsor hunting” or not the Brawn performance is the single most impressive thing i’ve seen this winter given the circumstances.

    That said though Honda did divert the majority of their efforts into ’09 from an early stage last season. I genuinely hope they can be one of the good news stories this year. The guys in Brackley really deserve a break after two dismal seasons and spending a winter wondering if they would have jobs at all this year.

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  14.   14. Posted By: Patrice Ici
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 7:53 pm 

    Finally, proof that maybe the new regulations will create a more even playing field …. dotdotdot …

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  15.   15. Posted By: Malcolm46
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 8:02 pm 

    Without wanting to sound like a cynic…. do you remember the when Prost tested during the winter tests in 2001, they were setting some very competitive times (even breaking lap record if I remember correctly..?) but when they turned up in Australia they were no where near the front. Why? Because they were trying to get sponsorship, so we see what happens, but hopefully Brawn does have some genuine pace. Honda were developing the car for a very long time and Button isn’t too slow.

    In answer to James’s question at the end of the article, I was kind of hoping James would answer exactly where McLaren are!!

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  16.   16. Posted By: Michel
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 9:22 pm 

    Malcolm: I made the same observation on Keith’s F1 Fanatic blog. Hopefully Brawn GP has some real pace, but at the very least, they have enough cash to survive the season, unlike Prost.

    As someone who used to cheer Honda back in the late ’90s, I’d love to see another privateer team do well (STR last year does not really count, though it was close)

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  17.   17. Posted By: dave
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 9:35 pm 

    Malcolm46: no one can answer your last part m8 as with some teams its about getting sponsorship and the rest its just mind games

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  18.   18. Posted By: The Conspiracist
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 10:59 pm 

    I wish Brawn GP every success for the future, and even in this dark day with little to no corporate sponsorship money being around I’m sure the team will open some eyes and attract sponsors. It kind of reminds me of seeing Rob Gravett turning up to race in the BTCC and beating Andy Rouse.

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  19.   19. Posted By: rpaco
        Date: March 11th, 2009 @ 11:43 pm 

    Conspi….
    I was there I saw that! The good old days of paint swapping and wheel impressions in yer doors!

    Shame that when Lewis H (MBE) is aggressive all the drivers complain, they never did when Shumi (as he later admitted) did a lot worse, deliberately shoving them off to win championships and blocking the track in qualifying etc. Senna too was aggressive but again no complaints.

    I am surprised that Jense is so fast since the lairy back end is not suited to his Prost/Stewart style. It will hopefully be in the commentary and not in the pits with ??? (I was going to say Lou here but it will be someone else this year) “Jenson what went wrong this time?” with the smoking derelict in the background.

    While their engineering techniques and procedures are world class, I am sure that the removal of Japanese management style will be a relief to all in the team.

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  20.   20. Posted By: Steve
        Date: March 12th, 2009 @ 2:02 am 

    Of course the Brawn cars are fast. They are looking for sponsors, they’re hardly going to go out there with full tanks and full wings, are they?

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  21.   21. Posted By: Alastair
        Date: March 12th, 2009 @ 9:52 am 

    How does 100 million EUR + 45 million GBP = 145 million EUR???

    Anybody know if Brawn are using KERS??? [ I think that in today's money it would be £92,764,011 + £45,000000 = £137,764011. It probably depends which P.O. counter you use ... - Moderator ]

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  22.   22. Posted By: Alastair
        Date: March 12th, 2009 @ 10:32 am 

    Ross Brawn makes and interesting remark in this Autosport interview: “It’s 15 months of work. We said that we were sacrificing last year to concentrate on this car, and what you see is what we said we would do. So it is perfectly rational in my mind.”

    It makes you wonder how many test miles the BGP001 did last year, during the 2008 season, while the other teams were developing their 2008 cars. Perfectly legal, of course, given that the in-season test ban only came into effect this year. I think that the BGP001 might be as competitive as the test times indicate. Why else would Jensen and Rubens stay? They would have been involved in last years tests. Presumably it could have done thousands of miles of testing on Honda’s test track with all eyes following the 2008 season. Ross wouldn’t have bought the team if the car hadn’t been tested.

    I think we might be looking at a contender here.

    I’ll ask again. Does anybody know if Brawn are using KERS???

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  23.   23. Posted By: DanB
        Date: March 12th, 2009 @ 11:50 am 

    BrawnGP are not using KERS. [ Happy now, Alastair? - Moderator ]

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  24.   24. Posted By: James Allen
        Date: March 12th, 2009 @ 12:29 pm 

    JA writes: Correct, they are not using KERS. Ross said they may look at it later in the season and would presumably approach Mercedes for their system first.

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  25.   25. Posted By: guy
        Date: March 12th, 2009 @ 1:43 pm 

    Perhaps mclaren would give Brawn GP a KERS system for, i don’t know, one of their chassis?!!

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  26.   26. Posted By: rich
        Date: March 12th, 2009 @ 2:00 pm 

    I think we would of known about a secret test last season for this new car. Nothing is every secret these days. i think its a mixture of sponsor hunting and pace. Any predictions for the first race yet James?

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