F1 Winter Break
How Jenson Button did that lap time
McLaren Honda
How Jenson Button did that lap time
Posted By:   |  12 Mar 2009   |  2:47 pm GMT  |  24 comments

Everyone is buzzing with the performance of the new Brawn Mercedes car in Barcelona, particularly that lap Jenson did on Wednesday of 1m 19.127 to end the day fastest.

There is a lot of speculation within F1 circles and the wider public about how he did that time, whether it is genuine or whether they are running an underweight car to attract sponsors, as some teams have done in the past.


Even Fernando Alonso has paid tribute to the Brawn team today, saying that his Renault couldn’t do those lap times whatever configuration it was in!

Well I’ve taken a close look at the data I’ve gathered and there is no doubt that this car is performing remarkably. We will only know whether it has been running underweight when we get the first two races out of the way and we can see what the relative performance of the Brawn to the BMW and Ferrari is when they all have to be the minimum weight.

Jenson did the lap time on the third lap of a four lap run. What is interesting about it is that his first flying lap was a 1m 19.229, so already very quick on the first lap, then he goes faster again. It was a qualifying simulation, of course, but he found more from the tyres on the second flying lap.

Whichever way you shake it, this was a massively quick time and reminiscent of the pre-season tests in 2004 when he did similar things, everyone thought it was underweight showboating, but the team went on and finished second in the championship.

As for their long run pace, this too is equally impressive. Jenson did a 22 lap run with laps mostly in the 1m21s and high 1m 20s. On Wednesday in Barcelona not too many other cars were doing long runs at that speed. Massa’s Ferrari does a 20 lap run with laps in the low 1m21s.

So on the face of it, as Alonso says, the Brawn is as fast as the Ferrari, which is amazing if the car is running at its legal weight. Bear in mind that Ferrari is running KERS and Brawn is not, so there is a weight advantage to Brawn. And the Brawn is able to put its ballast where it wants it, to improve weight distribution. But on the other hand the Ferrari has the performance boost of the KERS button on the straights – Massa is 8km/h faster across the start line than Jenson.

Jenson does another long run, this time 21 laps, eight of which are in the 1m 20s, again super-competitive.

They’ve been working on their 2009 car for longer than any of their rivals, having effectively written off the 2008 season before it started! They’ve made the work count and you can see why the team were so frustrated that Honda panicked when it saw the November sales figures and pulled the plug on F1.

The team knew they had a really good car on their hands.

Featured Video
Sign up for Jenson’s Triathlon today!
Featured News in mclaren
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

It's been on the back of my mind that this could be yet another false dawn for Jenson, but now I have a feeling that this could be the car he has been waiting for since 2004 when BAR were expected to peak.

I've never been this excited for an F1 season in my 12 years of watching!


the thing is, honda weren't the only team to concentrate their efforts early on the 2009 car. i think what is making people question the validity of their times is that this is Brawn's first test this year. for most other teams, this is their 4th or 5th test using the '09 spec car and they have been improving all the while. to come straight in and hit the ground running like they have, honda either *really* laid the groundwork flawlessly last year, or something is squiffy. i don't think the KERS / non KERS thing is going to differentiate lap times this early on, until ballast and braking stability compromises become more favourable. as much as i'd love to see it, i just don't think Brawn will be this quick come Melbourne.


Lets just hope that this will be the time that Jenson can finally show how good he can be in a competative car since he's huge points hall in the 2nd half of 2004.

It's such a shame that Honda jumped ship as a full winters testing could have put Honda/Brawn right up the front of the grid if they are showing this sort of pace on only day 4 of testing.


Firstly, James, I wanted to say what a great blog you have, well reasoned and well written articles and a very interesting insight into the world of F1. Secondly, I have to say how surprised I was with the quality of your work when I contrast it to your work as a commentator on ITV.

On the Brawn thing, by chance I spoke with a model builder for Honda F1 just before he went to the Silverstone shakedown. His view was that the team were extremely happy that they ended up with the Merc engine, it is roughly 70bhp or 10% up on the Honda powerplant that was going to be dropped in the car his year. He was very confident they had a good car on their hands.

The pace of the Brawn is a surprise even with this knowledge in hand, but i guess if you spend the amount of time this team has on developing the aerodynamics of the car for the 2009 season and then 8 weeks before the season starts they are able to put in an engine with 10% more power it is going to be a very competitive package.

I'm now more excited about the forthcoming season than I have been for many years, so lets hope it's a good one!


No question that they are competitive. Right now it seems that actually Brawn Mercedes will be in the role of Macca and challenging Ferrari at least early on this season (apart from BMW, Toyota of course). It is an interesting situation for Mercedes as a supplier, as well. Agree on almost double development time of Brawn, too.


As a fan of the BAR/Honda/Brawn team, and in particular Jenson Button, I'm finding it very hard not to get excited about this week's testing performances. I see that Rubens has just gone to the top of today's times, half a second clear of second place.

For about 18 months, those of us following Jenson and the team have been pinning our hopes on the promise of 2009. In December, it appeared as if those hopes may have been dashed, but the last week has been a real roller coaster. If I were to have drawn up my dream scenario, I don't think it could have been much better than this. Australia can't come soon enough - I haven't been this excited about an F1 season in years!

One thing I can't understand is what the logic would be in running an underweight car? They've only got 7 days of running between securing their future and the first race - why would they waste that time gathering data on an underweight car. It would surely be pointless? The funding is in place for 2009, so it's not as if they're desperate for a sponsor at this moment in time anyway, besides which, they've apparently got a big sponsor lined up to be unveiled the Thursday before the Oz GP. Do you have any info on that, James?

From what I've read, Ross seems very content with what he's seen and it's exactly what he was expecting from this car. I'm inclined to believe him, personally. Am I being unduly optimistic?


I do wonder why people are so surprised the car is quick? Before Honda quit F1 they were frantically trying to create a new car to the new specs. They were confident they could do it and almost everyone expected them to improve a lot after 2 dismal seasons.

So apart from lack of laps at test tracks this winter the team has been pretty much business as usual. Developing the car behind the scenes in case a buyer came along, which in one way or another it did.

Should we really be surprised that the car is handling well and pretty quick in "certain" conditions. We've always known Jenson is quick given the right car. Maybe Honda just delivered this time!


- I've been wondering about the advantages/disadvantages of KERS. You mentioned that without it they gain a weight advantage, but with it they gain a "boost" advantage. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
- I'm wondering whether the Mclaren Mercedes powerhouse with it's beautiful facilities and incredible simulators is about to be tremendously embarrassed by a team that just a short while ago was ready to pass into the pages of history. I'm also wondering whether Brawn is going to be an example for USF1 to follow.


Barrichello has just gone into the 1:18s!!! [ Who needs Twitter! You guys are amazing ... - Moderator ]


Those stats about long runs and times are available somewhere online?


I think DanB has hit the nail on the head. Whilst I could imagine the Brawn team running underweight for the first day or two, it would make no sense to waste an entire 4 day test running in conditions they won't be replicating in Australia. To my mind, they're working on the vital stuff.. ie, speed work for qualification purposes and race distances (pit windows included) in order to judge long-run reliability and tyre wear.

It certainly seems to me that the Brawn GP car is very likely a contender already... so much so that on Tuesday I was asking a mate who's a bookie what odds he had on Button winning either one race this year or even winning in Melbourne!

Also, I'd like to echo Herbie75's sentiments. I have to admit James, I wasn't your biggest fan when you commentated on ITV, but this blog is very good indeed! Good work!


2 simple facts! This car now has the Mercedes motor, and no KERS !! So it has more power and less weight, 2 simple ingredients to make a car fast! Add in that Jenson Bottom is under a huge amount of pressure to start performing like he ever wants to win a race again, and hey presto, you have a reason for such a great achievement straight out of the box! Will it last?? Who knows! 🙂


The whole is it underweight argument is getting boring already. The team needs sponsors sure, but why turn a potentially front running car into a middle of the pack car by compromising in the short window of testing they have for the season by running underweight.

It's the result of an 18 month development cycle and the fact that Ross Brawn and the rest of the team thought enough to take a risk and invest just goes to show they must have known the car was half decent. They did it for the jobs but not just that I am sure.

Rubens just did a 1.18:926 and it shows the car is developing very nicely after just a few days. I can imagine next week at Jerez they will fine tune it even more and they can be possible winners for atleast the first part of the season. Really exciting times for ex-Honda fans like myself.


Frankly, Ross Brawn is simply one of the greatest car designers ever. Honda have really ballsed up.

Thanks James; you are doing a great job keeping our enthusiasm at fever pitch!


I wondered how long it was going to be before the underweight talks started.

I hope they arent it would be fantastic to see them at the front of the grid and for wins both drivers deserve that shot.

I say this as a Ferrari fan i really dont mind if Brawn Gp is as good or better than the Ferrari its new faces at the front of the grid.

Hamilton needs his mid pack season every driver has had to have at one point or another.


I recall on the day the car was unveiled statements online saying at least we have a Super Aguri-like underdog team to route for.... so much for that!

Ill just say I think its impressive regardless of the whole Honda saga. That ANY team is finally giving us hope of running neck and neck with Ferrari/Mclaren....is exciting. I thought it would BMW, still hoping it is....were about to found out!



Since jenson has had such dirboxes to drive the last few years, my excitement for F1 had dropped badly.

Seeing this, the times jenson and rubens are doing has restarted the fire.

I really hope that brawn GP is for real and there not playing silly games. Though looking at the long stints, its looking bloody good for race day in 2.5 weeks !!!!


If they were running light just to attract sponsors then what difference does that make? The Brawn GP car is FAST and a brilliant looking machine as well!


Do you think Ron will want his engine back!!


I read an article a couple of days ago quoting Rubens. Here's the direct quote from Autosport.com: "It has been a tough two or three years, and I am not here to promise anything but I am only here competing because I feel I have the chance to win."

I have a feeling both the Brawn drivers are not at all surprised by this pace. It certainly makes sense that Rubens would want to continue his career if he thinks he's a shot at race wins and maybe even a title. Jenson's thinking would be along the same lines with his pay cut.

It's going to be very interesting to see how the Jerez test goes next week. I have to admit I haven't ever been this excited about the start to an F1 season. As a Jenson fan, the only thing that's worrying me at the moment is Rubens!


Well if anyone deserves to have a good F1 season it's Rubens, he lived in the shadow of shumi ,then had a useless car, so about time he had a change of fortune, as he has proved himself to be an ecceptional sportsman and driver. I'm an LH fan, but I would be happy to see rubens as WDC this year.


Interesting side-effect of the KERS/non-KERS running cars is the relative differences as described by James:

"Bear in mind that Ferrari is running KERS and Brawn is not, so there is a weight advantage to Brawn. And the Brawn is able to put its ballast where it wants it, to improve weight distribution. But on the other hand the Ferrari has the performance boost of the KERS button on the straights - Massa is 8km/h faster across the start line than Jenson."

Sounds like there is going to be a LOT of overtaking! The non-KERS cars on the twisty bits and the KERS powered cars on the straights!


Agreed. Some people are commenting that Honda may end up regretting their decision to withdraw this year, if the car is as quick as it currently appears. However, that statement overlooks the fact that the Mercedes engine added a reputed 60-70bhp - perhaps this chassis with a Honda powerplant would still have been slow!


On the 'contrast' point - a mainstream commentator's role is to appeal to the majority - not just us nerds. The fact that James was able to interest me, my wife (who only watches f1 if i purchase for her at least one pair of jimmy choo shoes per quarter) and my extended family (if through bad timing on my part we were having everyone over for a family lunch) is a credit to him. Also James's work on the ITV website was excellent, particularly the Friday practice notes. I only say this Herbie, not to cause a fuss, but because I think the vast majority of us want James back where he belongs - in the commentary box and as such I just can't let an unfair comment pass. Sorry.

PS - James - I am not a wierd obsessive fan so no need to step up your security arrangements just yet!!

Top Tags
SEARCH McLaren Honda
JA ON F1 In association with...
Multi award winning Formula One photographer
Multi award winning Formula One photographer

Sign up to receive the latest F1 News & Updates direct to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!