Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn says winning the drivers’ and constructors’ titles with a team bearing his name in 2009 was his biggest singular achievement to date.
Brawn spent 10 years with Ferrari, where he won five drivers’ and six constructors’ championships with the team, before taking a year out of the sport and returning with Honda in 2008.
At the end of the season, Honda decided to pull out, but rather than close the team, Brawn and Nick Fry brokered a deal to save the outfit, renaming it Brawn GP. Jenson Button went on to win the title, with Rubens Barrichello backing him up to help the team win the constructors’. The team was then sold to Mercedes ahead of the 2010 season.
Speaking exclusively to the August edition of the JA on F1 podcast, Brawn said the 2009 success was “singularly, as a short intense period” his greatest achievement.
He added: “Looking back at Ferrari, it took three years to get where we wanted to get to. It took three years of hard and difficult work, so that was different and when we got there managed to keep it going for a long time – that was special as well.
“The 2009 season will always be with me, especially with people we were with and the way the team came together and the experience we had as a group was very special.
“It was a magic period because of the traumas of what went on at end of 2008 and the way everyone stuck together. We had the difficulty of making some of the team redundant. Some things were a new experience for me and quite traumatic for all of the team. To come out with two world championships was stunning and something I’ll never forget.”
In the wide-ranging interview, Brawn said that he “never had a long-term game plan” of reaching Formula 1 and becoming team principal, but he had “always had an interest in engineering” and admitted he is competitive so “Formula 1 was the perfect environment” for him.
Brawn took a year out in 2007 to go fishing and do all the things he hadn’t been able to do having worked in Formula 1 consistently since 1991.
“I did 10 years at Ferrari and I was never quite sure how to draw a line under it or whether I wanted to do,” he said. “But I felt I wanted to at least take a step back and explore other things.
“I had a lot of things that had stacked up over years which I hadn’t be able to do. Decided the best way was to take a year out and reflect on everything. I really enjoyed my time at Ferrari and I would have been very uncomfortable walking away from Ferrari and into another team.
“I was also mindful of coming back to UK as my two girls were starting families and I knew [my wife] Jean would get torn, as I would be, between time in the UK to see grandchildren and time in Italy – so all those factors came together.
“I made a list of all the things I liked about Formula 1 and all the things I didn’t like and it turned out to be positive so I wanted to carry on. That’s the engineer in me, I tend to get very pragmatic. I enjoy the competition, I enjoy the team, I enjoy the challenge.”
Honda struggled in 2008, finishing ninth in the constructors’ with just 14 points. The manufacturer pulled out but the team rose from the ashes as Brawn GP.
Brawn added: “Funnily enough, there was no choice. We didn’t want to close the company. We had what we felt was an exciting car and a lot of very dedicated people in team.
“When we looked at the numbers and looked at deal we were able to negotiate with Honda, it was kind of an 18 month extension of the closure. There was enough funding for a good year and most of second year if we needed to – and not be any worse off at the end of it if we closed the company there and then. We ended up in a no lose situation. It was fortunate the way things worked out.”
When asked to finish the sentence: ‘I won’t rest until…’, Brawn replied: “…I’ve won more races. We spoke earlier about 2009, it’s surprising how quickly you put that behind you. Day to day it is about the next race. I will stop one day. I guess I’m in the autumn of my career.
“I don’t want to stop at the wrong time. I’d like it to be my choice in the best interest of the team. I want to be as close to the top as I can be. Winning races, and hopefully championships, is the lifeblood of why I’m in F1.”
To listen to more from Ross Brawn, plus an interview with Lotus team principal Eric Boullier, make sure you listen to the August edition of the JA on F1 podcast, available to download via the iTunes store or directly here.