F1 Winter Break
A Brawn insider spills the beans
A Brawn insider spills the beans
Posted By:   |  31 Mar 2009   |  10:37 am GMT  |  68 comments

Very interesting piece on the Guardian site today, quoting a Brawn team ‘insider’ talking about how much faster the car is capable of going than we saw on Sunday.

It’s interesting because Ross will not like this very much at all. He didn’t get where he is today by giving anything away and this gives a bit too much away.

That said, it does deflect attention away from the diffuser, suggesting, as they used to do in Brawn’s Ferrari days, that the thing everyone thinks is the key to speed, isn’t and that the key lies elsewhere.

“I think, basically, that if someone is two-tenths off us they can feasibly win the race but, if we’re half a second in front, which is probably where we are at the moment, although we don’t necessarily look like that, it is just foolish to just annihilate people all the time.”

I posted on this before the race and it makes sense, you never rub people’s noses in it in F1, that kind of behaviour will always come back to bite you.

“I think we have a little bit in the bag. We’ve got good stuff coming and I think we have reason to be confident.”

“The visual bits are not really the performance drivers, it’s all the surfaces you can’t see that give you the real performance.

“One of the good things about the Brawn car is that competitors will look at all of it and say, ‘That’s the bit that’s making it fast.’ But it is not necessarily one thing; they could be focusing on something that is not really a big performance driver.”

“We were looking at everybody else’s times asking why were they all so slow. Our research was telling us we would be the quickest car.”

And so it has proved.

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It was clear on Sunday that the team was driving well within its capabilities. If Brawn are so far ahead (and I now think they are), then the other teams should concentrate on their 2010 challengers rather than wasting money and time trying to catch the Brawns. Ross has had 15 months to develop the 2009 car .... the other teams are going to find it impossible to close the gap with such major changes needed to their cars.

With limited testing, just use the 2009 season to get the 2010 cars ready and let Brawn have their day.

[ Here's the link to the http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009/mar/31/motor-sport-formula-one-brawn-mercedes-jenson-button" rel="nofollow">full Guardian article ]


Interesting, the broken rear diffuser didn't seem to slow the Brawn down significantly. At one point after the crunch he was equaling Mr. Button's times.


This seems like a really stupid thing for an 'insider' to say.

As you say James, this kind of thing comes back to bite you, so why would they do this? Other teams have great resources and they will be closing in on Brawn, no doubt.


Is this Nick 'cannot shutup' Fry running his mouth again?

I have a feeling that the FIA is going to ban these diffusers (as per my comments earlier, the massive cost they represent) and comments like that are only going to make that even more likely.


mmm.. Not very helpful comments for Ross.

I wonder if the 'insider' is one of those about to be made redundant?


With the job cuts at Brackley, surely Brawn are at risk of many more 'insiders' not just speaking up to the media but to the competitor teams about their performance enhancers below the surface of the car. I can imagine there are quite a few staff facing redundancy with a bee in their bonnet about the team as a whole at the moment.


Psychological game...


As an Italian speaker, James, you might like http://www.sportmediaset.it/formula1/articoli/articolo22022.shtml" rel="nofollow">this link ... Alonso saying it will take MONTHS to catch/copy Brawn.

Wonder if he wishes he had signed for Brawn last year when they wanted him? 😉

Wonder if it would be better for Renault (and the other flat head teams) to concentrate on 2010 ... wasting months on the 2009 car means the season will be all but over by the time they can even begin to catch Brawn.

[ Alonso is quoted as saying that merely copying the Brawn diffuser is not the point: "The Brawn is different from any other car, it's more efficient. But you have to work on the entire vehicle. It's not just a question of adding a new diffuser and expecting the car to go a second quicker. It will be quick if it also has a new front and a new back." - Il Moderatore ]


I don't get the impression that Brawn were sandbagging to the extent suggested by this insider. Rather, Jenson was driving well within the limits of the car, especially on the softs, because they were worried about how the tyres would hold up. No doubt Jenson could have beaten Rosberg's fastest laptime but he would have been left a sitting duck to the likes of Kubica on the prime tyres at the end of the race. Look how Rosberg fared on the softs after that quick lap.

Tyre use is going to be a real factor this year and this is going to play into one of Jenson's greatest strengths, his smoothness.

It's also interesting to see how the teams are all posturing in advance of the appeal hearing: e.g. Ferrari and Massa trying to give the impression that the championship's all but over; Alonso likewise; Red Bull, who have the most to gain/lose in that they have done a very decent job without a trick diffuser but have the most work to adopt a trick diffuser are banging on about the expense of copying the trick diffusers.

It's still not clear at least to me how the Brawn, Toyota and Williams diffusers *are* within the regulations and maybe it's not necessarily clear to the others. The key seems to be how things look from directly underneath the car. I imagine a Brawn would look like as if the floor joins the lower part of the diffuser (i.e. the real diffuser) seamlessly, but somehow they are getting low pressure air into a second upper deck. I've had a look at the regulations, which is enough to give you a headache, and it seems that you can have a hole in the floor provided that you can't see bodywork through it - maybe this is the key? It may be the case that than Brawn et alii are not taking a different interpretation to the regulations but have seen a way through the regulations which is not obvious to the complainants?


"...the other teams should concentrate on their 2010 challengers rather than wasting money and time trying to catch the Brawns."

Interesting theory, as fair enough Honda/Brawn have done just that, to great effect. But if seven or more teams gave up on this season that would be a real shame for Formula One, given how exciting this season could be.

Consider also that Honda didn't really have any sponsors to think about. I don't know what Vodafone, Petronas et al would make of their team giving up on the 2009 season to concentrate on the next after one race!


I get the impression, although I could be very wrong, that the Brawn GP001 was specifically designed around the philosophy of not using the KERS at all. This would confer inherent handling advantages with better packaging, low c.g., and optimal weight distribution, and the aerodynamic advantages of the smaller radiators and side pods which are not required to cool the KERS. It certainly seems to be conferring a huge advantage over competitors at the moment. On the other hand it may make it much more difficult to incorporate a KERS into the car at a later date. Another factor in this may be the KERS availability and applicability, or otherwise, of the Merc power-train they were forced to shoehorn in at the last minute when Honda went AWOL.

Renault have stated that not using KERS is a great disadvantage. Once the teams have sorted the wretched thing out this may well be the case.

The curse of KERS that Brawn will face is twofold. Firstly if KERS cars are just behind them on the grid they will probably be able overtake at the start using their power boost. Secondly once behind a KERS car they won't be able to overtake it, as the Aussie race has already shown, in spite of their potentially superior lap times.
I am sure that the Big Bear is all too aware of these factors, in fact has been for the last fifteen months, well before I thought of them. But what will be his solution to them?


Fascinating, although as some have said before it did look very much like they were driving within their limits at Melbourne.


I think Brawn cars are superior in a true sense on the track right now and as someone above rightly said, its not only down to the diffuser. KERS related weight distribution maybe the other strong reason for this.

I also do not see them losing the appeal for the reason of them reading the rule differently. A loophole was found and as has been the case over years it does not warrant a punishment. However if it is affecting racing, court may ask them to not use it any further.

At the same time, logic of ditching the season after just one race for others does not hold any water. We have time and over again seen season swinging like a pendulum. A few DNFs/mishaps for Brawn and everyone will be looking at the fragility of the team and hailing a new champion.

Big manufacturers definitely are worried about the pace and the preparation Brawn has brought to the table and I am sure there are many a engineers losing their weekends over it. But hey, isn't that what a racing spectacle is all about? Isn't that what us fans are looking forward to?

I personally feel this thread is veering a bit towards giving up hope on this season and make sure of next. Not the right approach I say. Its a race.. on track and off it and I am all for the brilliance we see over the season.. from drivers, mechanics, technicians, strategists and designers.

I say Bring it On!! Three cheers to racing.

A Ferrari fan 🙂


To Martin WR

If the Brawn has more fuel it can sit behind the kers cars, looking after its tyres and punch in some hot laps whilst the others have to pit. Then the race would be in their hands again.


Notice McLarens silence on the diffueser issue... of course they do not want to apeal a Mercedes team.... but think again. With such poor rear end aero handling on the McLaren, the double decker diffuser maybe the answer they need to their current car. I bet they are praying the apeal fails so that they can add a double decker to their car and solve their problems.

I would not be suprised to see them run it before the ruling in that what do they have to loose. Heike could run it, Hamilton not. That way they find out the benifits, without much risk. If the apeal fails, they have a head start, if it is upheld, it is not likely Heike would loose much from the back of the grid.

But as I said in aan earlier post, the lack of Kers is the big gain, and if I were McLaren, I would do the same trick by removing it from Heike's car to see what happens as BMW did - and look where that got Kubica!


OK this sounds a bit crawly but I just wanted to say a big thanks for your blog. Am loving the mix of insider info, informed opinion (you were spot-on about the Brawns & Mclarens in testing) & insights into the life of an F1 journo. Even those ultra-critical bulletin boards & forums are praising this site so good on you.


To Finn:

your logic is way off assuming the sponsors/team/FIA/fans or anyone else want to see the rest of the field drop 2009 and focus on 2010. The sponsors pay big bucks to have their car competitive for every race. They don't pay for it to show up on Sunday afternoon and just cruise around. This is the very first race on a street circuit with many variables. The McLaren is slow, it's no secret, and Lewis finished 3rd by luck. Is it right for MCL to think they are in the hunt and to blow loads of money on trying to catch BGP? I guarantee they will as James has already heard from insider's they are flying bits out for Malaysia. Ferrari didn't score any points in 2008 at Australia and guess what, they failed this yr again. If they would've given up last yrs fight they wouldn't have another WCC and Massa wouldn't have been 1 point off the WDC.

I recommend reading James' previous post about Lewis not giving up till it's over.


First it was a mindless new points system applied by FIA against the law. Now we have illegal cars legalized by FIA against new rules, but only in one purpose to destroy FOTA unity. Great season, indeed. Ministry of Truth should hire you if they didn't do it yet.


well, i can answer why everyone else is so slow...they didnt have 16 months with two wind tunnels to produce a car.


Have I fallen asleep for 6 months and missed something? I thought we'd only had ONE race out of seventeen. Why is anyone talking about giving up on 2009 and focusing on the 2010 car?

Quite apart from being an affront to all the fans, that approach only worked for Honda/Brawn last year because of the new regulations. The same wholesale change doesn't apply next year so the return on that investment would be much smaller - in fact it would surely have to follow a similar path to developing this year's car?

I also suspect Ferrari are hyping up the gloom to put pressure on the FIA to ban the diffusers on appeal. They're depressed yes, but do they really think they can't close the gap? I don't think so.

True racers chase the leader, not give up after the first race. This is a time to be excited and inspired, not despondent.... we have the privateers of Red Bull, Brawn and the once mighty but always proud Williams mixing it with the big boys again. I only wish we had Ken Tyrrell in the pit lane alongside them and this would be a dream season.

All those in favour, say "aye".


If after 4 races the brawn cars are undefeated then they will concentrate on next year whats the point in chasing them. All these teams are having to saving money as told to us by max.There's no guarantee that putting a new diffuser will help them catch up so none of the teams boards are going to release funds in what could be a hopeless chase.Remember all the top teams have major sponsorship issues:Renault,williams,bmw have all lost there major sponsors,Toyota major loss in sales,fiat in the process of buying GM.These boards could decide the direction of this season. If they say just get on with it and do the best you can if we win if we don't we don't you have a budget work to it.Never forget accountant's run the world.In the past money was thrown at teams to win but with the credit crunch all the old rules are out the window also there is no testing at all so teams can only test on race weekend but they cant add and remove as they wish the car they register on friday is the one they race with.So if they put parts on and they dont work tough .I admire ross for what he's done but without the money that the manufactures have 2010 could be a very heavy fall when they've concentrated 2009 to making a 2010 car but the look on bernie's face when brawn takes both title's in hungary would be worth the wait.



Come on Webber, Rosberg, Vettal, Button, Rubens and any other top driver who hasn't had the car to compete over the last few years

I don't care who wins, but lets have some cracking racing....a bit like last Sunday morning!


I think this is a double bluff from Brawn GP. By having an "insider" came out and said that the diffuser is not the main performance pusher and it was just the car as a whole being fast, they deflect attention to this diffuser part. Whereas the diffuser may itself be the main factor after all.
As Ross Brawn is always regarded as a "master tactician", this then would just be one of those tactics people use.


well, if renault managed to close 1 second gap to Ferrari and McLaren in 2008 i don't see why them couldn't do it this year. Other teams too, for that matter.

And focusing on 2010 car means nothing. 2010 car will be just an evolution of 2009, so while you're improving your 2009 car you are already improving the basis for 2010 car 🙂


The Brawn car story is nice,in football you never have the smaller teams winning,but now what we and James thought to be an exciting championship can turn to be a boring season dominated by one team,like sometimes happened before.
I watched RAI after the race,there were Jean Alesi and former Ferrari team manager Fiorio,but didnt see James.


James is spot on- it's probably a contact down the pub!

On another note, a fellow appreciator of James Allen's talents has set up a petition to bring the fan's favourite commentator back to the TV commentary booth alongside Mr Brundle (James- note your popularity has risen massively recently and that's good the petitions and forums against you were unjust and unfair) and if you could all please sign it it would be fantastic. [ http://www.gopetition.co.uk/petitions/bring-back-james-allen.html" rel="nofollow">click here ]


An interesting piece, I suspect the 'insider' is quite right in what he says and while I doubt Ross will be happy about it, I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone inside the paddock.

Having a background in hydrodynamics I'd like to think I'm reasonably well placed to interpret the aero design on modern F1 cars. When the first pictures of the Brawn car were released at the Silverstone shakedown, I spent some time poring over them and I was immediately struck by the purposeful design of the front wing and how well it would work in concert with the side pods and mirror winglets to push air through the diffuser. The design seemed to be focussed strongly towards feeding the diffuser and, to my eye, doing surprisingly little to direct air to the rear wing.

Now we know Brawn have taken advantage of the rules to maximise the area of their diffuser, but I'm convinced that the diffuser only represents the icing on what is already a very nice cake. The diffuser is beneficial for sure, but it's the way the rest of the car works in concert to push so much air through it that is the secret to the BGP001's success. Other teams may copy the diffuser, but without wholesale changes to their front wing and side pods (at a minimum) they won't be able to match Brawn's pace with it. That kind of development will take months and the teams aren't in a good position to implement such changes under the testing ban.

Unless serious reliability issues start to creep in at Brawn, I predict they'll have a similar season to Renault in 2006 where they ran away with it in the early season, then then Ferrari overtook them once the Mass Damper was banned. If Brawn can take their chances early on and then continue to score consistently once the other teams catch them up, then they're a good bet for both championships.


This could be a psychological game or a plonker at the team is still infected with the BAR culture - they were extremely mouthy in their early years.

Alternatively it might just be some twit down the pub that is no more an insider than I am and the journo was just looking for something to publish.


Concerning developing a car for 2010, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't refuelling banned next year? This will mean the fuel tank capacity will almost double. There will be many challenges in packaging and optimising weight distribution. I hope nobody throws in the towel for '09, but I'm sure the major teams already have a design program underway for 2010.


I bet the other teams cant wait for one of the Brawns to go rolling around, and land upside down so they can all get a good look at the 'trickery' under there! - infact they are probably all planning a conspiracy to snip jensons brakes, when he nips to the toilet before the GP starts LOL!


I wouldn't have thought those that are going to be made redundant would speak up about how good they think the car is.

Well, maybe one or two who aren't that bothered about what they can and cannot say to people in their contract.

I can't see it being someone trying to rub the other teams the wrong way *cough* Nick "Smiler" Fry. Ross isn't that sort of person. Although what 'senior source' as the Guardian put it, would speak up?


Probably not. I'm sure they have to sign some form of secrecy act on some data now? Particuarly after the "spygate" saga...


and in these testing times, its better for to get the 7 teams who dont have it making it (more work for more employees 😉 'every little helps' - that is so destined to become a catch phrase isnt it...I can see the adds now..


Wasn't Brawn telling Rubens to slow down because the safety car was deployed and they have to lap within a minimum time limit now?


me thinks this is an insider soon to be out in the cold perhaps?...one of the 250~ to be made redundant, whats he got to lose? being fired! (not)


Yes, they did - because the rules were changing to such a scale that it would could give a tactical advantage. They didn't do it because they just couldn't be bothered with racing. Plus, as Stephen quite correctly points out above, there's no off track testing.

But maybe i'm missing something.


Many thanks, BR - what network works for you?

Cheers to falmouth ....


No, I'm not from Falmouth, Cornwall - the reason for this name is so boring as not to bear repetition...!


Long time reader, not commented before. Really like this site, and would love to see James back commentating, I always thought he was brilliant. And how would it be if it was Rubens who won the WC in a Brawn? Quite a fairytale story... okay, unlikely maybe...

Reason I'm replying is: Finn, I'm from Falmouth, Cornwall, and have to say net connection is fine as long as you're in the centre, especially on higher ground (very hilly)...


The rule changes for next year will be much smaller then this year - so what they can learn in developing this years car will pay off for next year as well.

2009 has been a special case, where the cars have needed a complete change in philosophy from the 2008 cars.

We could be in for a great year as the chasing pack closes in on Brawn over the year.


"Why is anyone talking about giving up on 2009 and focusing on the 2010 car?"

Don't forget BMW made a similar decision in late 2008.

It would be interesting to ask Mr. Kubica and Dr. Thiessen (separately of course) if each NOW thinks the mid-2008 strategy switch to focussing on the 2009 design was correct.

What do you think?


@Martin P: Finally someone speaks some sense. Well said. 'Aye'


The same wholesale change doesn’t apply next year so the return on that investment would be much smaller - in fact it would surely have to follow a similar path to developing this year’s car?

Indeed, worse than that. Writing off this season prevents you from testing your improvements on track. Remember, there is no testing this year (apart from straight line) so you have to use Friday, Saurday and Sunday to do the work.

So, even if you are going to concentrate on next year, you do it by racing this year.

Frankly, like you, I think its nonsense. Racers want to race. Even if its just to see if by the end of the season can they beat those at the front and say "look we are better than you", even if it takes them time to do it.

If you don't agree with that why do you think Williams are still here despite not having won a championship for a very long time? They want to win, but they aren't going to go home and sulk just because they aren't winning. Thats the true mark of a racer.


I'd rather bet on Barrichello retiring at the end of the year instead of a b-team which does not make sense financially.


This year's developments can be carried over towards next year's car.
I am not aware of any major change in the regulations for 2010. As such, it'll make sense to play the 'catch up' game.


I'd be surprised, the Guardian writer is not someone who travels, more likely a contact down the pub in Brackley.


Well, if they ban them, then 3 teams will have to spend a lot of money making flat head diffusers ... so money will have to be spent one way or another (though 3 teams sploshing out will be cheaper in total than the other 7 teams sploshing out).

I don't think the 'insider' mouthing off is saying anything that we didn't already know. JA pointed out that the Oz race lap times were well below what Brawn could do, and we heard Brawn speaking forcefully to Rubens telling him to slow down during the race.

Brawn are clearly capable of thrashing everyone in F1 at the moment (save for bad luck/reliability issues) so I think the other teams should take a leaf out of Ross' book and dump this season to concentrate on getting their 2010 cars right.


He drove well, he was missing a LOT of downforce


Couldn't that be because JB backed off whereas RB was still pushing to make up places?

Or, like you say, the part of the diffuser which was broken off by the McLaren wasn't critical in generating grip - in which case the real secret of the diffuser is how the air is being worked under the car, rather than the bits we can see in the pics.


"Wonder if he wishes he had signed for Brawn last year when they wanted him?"

I expect they still want him, my impression is he's the best development driver on the grid.

So IF the Brawn Team do win the world titles this season, and they bring in Snr. Alonso, would they run three cars, or a sister Team. And who would be number one?


Thanks, Il Moderatore .... I think Alonso is right. It isn't just a case of whacking on a new diffuser and expecting that you can catch the Brawns ... the whole car needs to be changed .... which really will take months of development. Much better IMO to put those months of work towards 2010.


That's a frightening thought, Finn. Had Alonso signed for Honda/Brawn and brought his legendary 6 tenths to an already frighteningly quick car; how far ahead would he have been in Australia?


Probably both Sir.

I suspect it works like a venturi, so if the "lips" of it are crushed, the "throat" part will still work the magic.

Wouldn't it be hilarious, if the diffuser trick is banned, Brawn modify theirs... and it adds an extra 5/10s.


Well, its not just about KERS. We also have tyre use and wear rates. Fair enough one race is not a useful set of data points, but it does seem as if the Brawn is very nice to its tyres.

A KERS equipped car that doesn't look after its tyres will be eaten for launch by a non KERS car that does look after its tyres. It'll take longer, but the non KERS car will get past.

And then you've got the driver. A smooth driver will protect the tyres more than an aggressive driver, without even thinking about it, its just what will happen.

So we've got two drivers that drive for the fastest team that also appear to be easier on their tyres than the rest, both of whom are both good in this regard. Its quite an advantage - not something that you can fix in the design office if your driver likes an aggressive turn in style (Kubica if I correctly remember what MB has said about him the past).

Re: Kubica - why was he so aggressive? He was going to take Vettel anyway. There was no need to squeeze him that much. He just threw it away. Those two are going to just get better and better.


Honda spent masses of money on their KERS system and were thought to be ahead of the game with that system too, until they pulled the plug. They tested it last year in a modified RA106.


For this season, Brawn will just overtake people in the pits if necessary.


Yes I'm sure that's right - Maclaren are going to have to redesign their whole rear end anyway...!

Also Maclaren are in such a bad way that it's probably in their interests to have Brawn taking points off Ferrari and BMW, since Brawn may well be thought likely to drop off in the development stakes.

I think KERS is going to become a real factor as well - at the moment it doesn't seem to be a massive overall advantage although it seems to be quite a practical advantage in the race. But it's only going to get better as the season goes on, particularly in terms of how light those using it can make it.


Thanks for the link Finn. Drives me nuts when people quote an unlinked article.


Maybe a few of the guys at McLaren will be packing their bags to make a little room.


I'm sure the McLaren aero guys that moved to Honda last year did likewise...


But you can't 'unlearn' what you already know.


Be interesting to see because F1 has previous when it comes to people getting stuck behind mobile chicanes. It could be that pit stops will be the only time it will be possible to pass the KERS crew and of course it won't just be the front runners using the thing. Braun could turn out to be in a small minority not using trick power-trains. The whole field could be littered with mobile chicanes using the wretched contraption that can't be passed on the straight. So you can guess that I'm not too sanguine about the prospects for my favourite team on that count unless they pollute their nice simple car with the thing.
At the same time. with the drastically reduced braking distances in evidence this year it seems that the goal of facilitating overtaking going into corners has proved as elusive as ever.


That would work if it's only one or two cars (and not from the same team). If, say, two Ferraris get ahead of a Brawn, I would not bet against the slower Ferrari just backing up the Brawn until the first one can pit comfortably. Likewise with any other teams on the grid.

Just look at what happened to Rosberg, stuck behind Raikkonen for two periods during the race (the second is, granted, due to his botched pit-stop). Barrichello managed to overtake some cars, true, but he would not have been second without the safety car, and if their performance advantage were to narrow (and other teams learn how to use their KERS better) then...


Falmouth - so called because you live in Falmouth, Cornwall? If yes, do you - by some happy chance - have mobile broadband and know how well it works in the town centre? I've got to go to Falmouth at Easter and need to take my Mac with me. I know the town is meant to have Vodafone and Three mobile broadband coverage, but all the granite is said to make it very flaky. Just wondered if you know which one works best. I can get access in wifi hotspots in bars and hotels, but I have some copy-writing documents I need to work on which I'd rather have on a secure private connection. TIA.

The Red Bull has to be the beauty to the Brawn beast. Surprised, if a loophole really does exist in the regs, that Adrian didn't spot it and exploit it.


I wouldn't say give up completely, but I'd put 90 percent of my efforts into 2010. Sponsors would be happier with a WDC/WCC challenge next season, rather than a season playing catch up in 2009 followed by another hamstrung season in 2010 (because of all the effort put into playing catch up in 2009).

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