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No quick fix for Brawn’s car woes
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No quick fix for Brawn’s car woes
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Aug 2009   |  8:24 am GMT  |  14 comments

I was interested to see some quotes from Jenson Button’s race engineer Andrew Shovlin in a story on the BBC website about what the team has done to send it’s 2009 challenger down the wrong path on development.

Since Jenson Button’s last win, in Turkey three races ago, he has not featured in the top three in qualifying or the race and the only podium has been Rubens Barrichello’s at Silverstone. Button toiled there, largely it was assumed, because he could not get the tyres up to temperature, but in the final laps he suddenly got on to the pace, which is a more complex problem.

Shovlin, like all the other Brawn engineers will not have been able to relax on the beach during the enforced two week shutdown. His mind will have been turning over possible reasons for the car’s erratic behavior. He told the BBC’s Sarah Holt that, “At the moment there is such a small window where it is working really well and we can’t cope with that. We need to fix it so it’s quick on any track and in any temperature.”

It's been heavy going for Button

It's been heavy going for Button


Broadly speaking, the car was in this state at the start of the season. It hadn’t had a huge amount of testing before the first race, it was just quick straight out of the box. Anyone, like me, who was at that first test in Barcelona will never forget the astonishing performance of this new, sponsorless, car.

From then on it didn’t change all that much for the first four flyaway races, which it dominated, then they had a major upgrade in Spain which seemed to work well. Monaco was all about Button’s finesse and Turkey was a great drive again by Button, forcing Vettel into a mistake on the opening lap.

Brawn would love to wind the clock back to the specification which worked perfectly on all circuits, but according to Shovlin, “It’s not as simple as going back to an old car specification. That’s not the answer; it is something much more subtle than that. We may have done something to the car to make it more sensitive.”

Button’s plaintive wails over the radio that the tyres are not working, or that he has savage oversteer have become as much a soundtrack of these last three races as the sound of the engines. It is the sound of the dream of a lifetime slipping away.

So can they fix it? Well their biggest problem is that testing is banned, so even if they think they’ve found the answer and line up a few solutions, they cannot go out on track to test them for verification. That will make the task ten times harder. It also means that they have to spend precious time during Friday practice at Grands Prix sorting out problems, rather than going faster.

There is another area of concern, which Shovlin hints at in his interview, “The problem this year is the budget,” he says.

When Brawn led the management buyout of the team he was given, as he said at that Barcelona test, “a budget to impress,” with which to develop the car. The idea being that they would find sponsors and partners to ensure their survival into 2010 and beyond.

But they had a nervous few months recently, as the business plan called for them to receive $35 million owed to the team for Honda’s share of TV and prize money. This money was not forthcoming and in June and July the team had to be very careful about committing funds to development, because they also had to keep one eye on budgets for 2010.

My understanding is that they received this money when they signed the Concorde Agreement last week, so that puts some much needed funds into the team.

I know also that there are sponsors and investors who have been sniffing around F1 for some time but were unwilling to commit until stability was restored with the Concorde Agreement. We may start to see them come in soon and hopefully one or two of them will go Brawn’s way. In addition, as front runners this year, their share of the prize money next year will be or the order of $70 million.

But the team is definitely in a finely balanced situation, with regards to this year and next and as Red Bull is throwing the kitchen sink at trying to win this world championship, Brawn must decide when and how much to take from Peter to pay Paul. And then find a quick fix to a complex problem.

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14 Comments
  1. Finn says:

    I reckon Bernie told Brawn to take their foot off the go-faster-peddle for a few races to give the season some much needed life. As soon as Red B are within 10 points, Brawn will suddenly re-find their form.

    I love the smell of a good conspiracy theory in the morning ;-)

  2. Anssi says:

    I think Bernie Ecclestone already said that they don’t get the money (from the constructors’ championship) because they are a new team.

    As I have understood, they had to officially come in as a completely new team. And from Ecclestone’s comments I have understood that the prize money situation is different for a team in its first year in the sport. I don’t understand why should that be, but that’s what I understand from what Ecclestone has said.

    So I wouldn’t take it for granted that they will receive prize money from the championship based on this year’s results.

  3. Anssi says:

    Or perhaps Ecclestone was just ‘kidding’, being his usualf self, stirring the pot just for the fun of it.

    If he is faced with a financial collapse of the Brawn GP team, I’m sure he wouldn’t just let it collapse… I believe he already paid the Williams team money in advance even.

  4. Stevie P says:

    I was curious with Brawn GP in Hungary… in P1 they seemed to velcro on attachements to the car, on the nose, that emulated the Red Bulls’ nose (although the RB’s nose is like that due to the suspension arms, forcing the nose upwards at that point). They then circulated a few times and then took them off – obviously something of a test of potential new body parts?

    But why attach pieces with (what looked like) velcro… why not have a complete nose? And then I read the above. Ah-ha… lack of budget. QED!

    Valencia is most important for Jenson and Brawn, if they can get up near the front… it may mean they’ve resolved their tyre issue and the championship(s) are back on. If not, Red Bull have momentum and look likely to take it.

    1. mayhemfunkster says:

      I think these bits are intended only to check for driver visibility on top of the chassis.

      They will be velcro as they were in part mounted on the top of the nose (rather than nose cone), which is part of the tub and major structure of the car. Its therefore completley daft to design and build a whole new tub (at insane cost, lead time and effort) on the whim of checking a mere concept for next year.

      That’s why they’ve took to the velcro. I’m sure they’ve not lost their minds and are attaching bits with sellotape or something!

      1. Stevie P says:

        Sure, sure MayhemFunkster… I’d never seen it before and was wondering whether budget affected their working practise.

        I’ve seen a team, for example, rather than taking their existing wing and attaching pieces to it or removing them etc… they just have a complete “front end” – nose, wing etc. Same with other areas of bodywork. I’d never seen bits “double-sided sticky taped” on ;-) [Do you reckon they could get work on Blue Peter? Make your own Brawn car from a toilet roll and some sticky backed plastic ;-)]

        But, as you point out the “modifications” were “added \ removed” from behind the “join” between nose-cone and tub… my bad!

  5. RON says:

    The BrawnGP needed sponsorship – so Bernie and Max arranged for the car to have a huge technical advantage with the diffuser…

    This worked as planned/scammed and the car dominiated… the others copied the illegal design, and the Brawn has sunk to the bottom again… Brawn gained the sponsorhip it needed to stay afloat…

    F1 is a scandal, designed to look like a race…

    F1 disgusts me to the core…

    Button is one of the worst drivers on the grid… he should not be anywhere near the front given a geniune racing platform..

    1. Snail says:

      Button is one of the worst drivers on the grid… he should not be anywhere near the front given a geniune racing platform..

      Clearly you’ve forgotten 2004, when Button came 3rd in the championship, beaten only by the Ferraris of Schumacher and Barrichello. Jacque Villeneuve, in the same car as Button was nowhere to be seen. For sure, he must be rubbish if he can do that.

      As for the rest of your comments – your imagination is far to active.

    2. Nicollers says:

      If F1 disgusts you to the core, why bother watcing it? I think Brawn fluked it and left everyone napping. Now the big boys have woken up and are starting to reel the ex Honda crew in. I really feel Brawn won’t win the World Championship now. The car is now slower than the Williams and Rubens is struggling for morale as he feels he’s number 2 again, plus he nearly killed his fellow countryman. This must be weighing on his mind big time. I hope he snaps out of it, but I don’t think he will. A team needs 2 drivers up for it 100%. Red Bull are going to win both championships by a country mile. Couldn’t tell you who will win the Driver’s though……

    3. Dicko says:

      “F1 is a scandal, designed to look like a race…

      F1 disgusts me to the core…”

      …. and yet here you are on an F1 website, reading up about what is going on and posting your thoughts.

      If it really bothers you that much, why bother?

      As for Button being the worst driver on the grid… Really?? Is that why he’s considered one of the smoothest drivers out there, often able to make his tyres outlast others, and yet remain fast. How many times has he crashed out this season?

  6. David says:

    Button qualified 3rd at Nurburgring so he has been in the top three in qualifying in one of the last 3 races – but I digress;

    Money issues aside it will be interesting to see just how they handle this – they had the jump on the field at the start of the season due to a controversial part (not declared legal till 15 April) and now find themselves struggling for minor points finishes.

    I would be interested to know how much of the problems they are having are their own doing or how much have the teams been able to leap frog them?

    I suspect (not that I am by any means an expert) that the latter is more true than the former and if this is the case then it is RBR’s title to take.

  7. niceguyrichy says:

    LOL RON , ta much for making me laugh if nothing else :p

    I’m pretty sure sure that I read anssi that Brawn def already got the money they were due, even though some folks (FB?) contested it. could be wrong of course.

    I don’t smell any conspiracy re Brawn performance (unfortunately), seems they’ve just lost ground on the others.
    hope to hell they get it together and Button wins it, he deserves it just for his unflinching loyalty :)

    (and just btw, I’m sure I said waaay back when that Shumi wouldn’t be racing , cos ultimately he was too broken from his big bike crash..)

  8. Andrew says:

    I think it’s pretty clear that when the car can get it’s tyres in their operating range the car is just as fast as the others. As they gave stated, something has been put on the car that is making managing these temps much harder.

  9. Lola says:

    Brawn had an advantage while being the master ind of the double deck diffuser.
    Once the usual big boys, (that at the beginning did not have it) got the diffuser too and learned how to use it properly, they are simply spanking Brawn.
    I would not be surprised to see McLaren and Ferrari doing their business as usual until the end of the season.
    Maybe RB spoiling the party from time to time but not much.
    Funny thing is that Button may get away with the title without stepping on the podium until the last race.

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