BRAWN AND BRAINS
Under Ross Brawn’s stewardship, a promising new era dawns for Formula One
EGULAR readers of this column will be familiar with my pervading sense of exasperation over the way Formula One is run, particularly in recent years as everyone – Bernie Ecclestone, the teams, the sports governing body (FIA) – followed their own agenda. Fear not, though; help appears to be at hand.
That is the overriding impression I had following a chat with Ross Brawn, recently appointed managing director of F1 for the sport’s new owners, Liberty Media Corporation. Brawn will be one of three people replacing Bernie Ecclestone, a fact that reveals a great deal about the former dictator’s restrictive methods. But the key element of Brawn’s important role is that he is a fully quali ed poacher turned gamekeeper.
Brawn has seen F1 from every angle, starting with his days as a mechanic/ truck driver/tyre man/tea-maker for Frank Williams in the early 1970s; through championships with Michael Schumacher at Benetton and Ferrari; on to running his own title-winning team; before helping establish Mercedes F1 in its current competitive state. And, nally, taking three years out to watch F1 from a distance.
The latter is the key from your point of view. Ross, ever a racing fan, has been sitting on his sofa, trying to establish what’s going on … and not being particularly impressed. It’s okay, he says, if there’s a laptop handy and loads of information. And he agrees that aspect of F1 appeals to followers deeply
Rembedded in the technical minutiae that drives the racing in every sense. But it was apparent to him that the casual viewer could not afford to put the kettle on or visit the toilet for fear of losing the race’s plot line; assuming they had it in the rst place. Brawn seems intent on bringing old-school values to a sport that has disappeared up its own commercial exhaust pipe and lost sight of its primary purpose: entertainment.
Brawn’s belief runs contrary to the theory that F1 should largely be a forcing house for the motor industry. The current energy-regenerating power units, technically brilliant though they are, bring huge expense to a sport that needs to trim costs and eventually feed that reduction back to the paying spectator.
“If F1 has to align itself with road cars, then logically we end up with an electric car that drives itself, and nobody wants that in F1,” says Brawn.
These are just some of the points Brawn has on his list of matters for discussion. Driving his agenda is a need to see F1 cars race wheel to wheel without the aid of DRS.
“I’m not a fan of DRS,” says Ross, and hopefully that includes the excessive use of blue ags inhibiting mid- eld runners and backmarkers from going racing for fear of having their wrists slapped.
Max Verstappen fans will also be pleased to learn that Brawn supports the teenager’s insouciance and is not in a rush to criticise. According to Brawn, in 2016 Verstappen was “a great breath of fresh air for F1. He was very