F1 Racing (UK) - - THE CHAMPION CARS - 2009

Don’t be­lieve the hype. F1’s re­ces­sion-era un­der­dog, run by a team born from the ashes of the works Honda team and run on a shoe­string, was one of the most ex­pen­sive F1 cars of all time.

The story begins with Ross Brawn’s ar­rival as Honda team prin­ci­pal in late 2007. Hav­ing helped drag Fer­rari out of the dol­drums in the ’90s he knew a bad car when he saw one – and Honda’s 2007 car was aw­ful; the 2008 one not much bet­ter. Pre­par­ing for a rough ride over the com­ing months, Brawn men­tally wrote off 2008 en­tirely and turned ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion to the forth­com­ing pack­age of rule changes for 2009.

“There was some dis­agree­ment be­tween the chas­sis group and the en­gine group over their con­tri­bu­tion to the poor per­for­mance that had gone on be­fore,” Brawn ex­plained in a re­cent in­ter­view. “And there was a be­lief from Ja­pan that there was a sort of sil­ver bul­let I could ap­ply to bring about a step change in the per­for­mance. That’s not the case. F1 is a com­plex busi­ness…”

Brawn’s record did bring re­spect as he steered the var­i­ous groups in the right di­rec­tion, and he was able to di­vert an in­cred­i­ble amount of re­source to the 2009 project. De­sign­ers from Honda’s de­funct satel­lite team Su­per Aguri ran a wind­tun­nel pro­gramme eval­u­at­ing one con­cept while the team at Honda’s Brack­ley HQ ran an­other, both with in­put from the moth­er­ship’s Tochigi R&D fa­cil­ity.

The re­sults of this work were nearly scup­pered when the global eco­nomic melt­down prompted Honda to de­part the sport in De­cem­ber ’08 and of­fer the team for sale. In­evitably, shys­ters be­gan to cir­cle. Brawn fi­nally ne­go­ti­ated a deal to take over the team himself, armed with a para­chute pay­ment from Honda and a help­ing hand from F1 ring­mas­ter Bernie Ec­cle­stone.

The Brawn BGP 001, hastily adapted to run a Mercedes en­gine, was in­stantly quick; it wasn’t the only car whose de­sign­ers had spot­ted a loop­hole in the new dif­fuser reg­u­la­tions, which al­lowed an­other ‘deck’ to be in­stalled, but it was faster out of the box. All that work in the wind­tun­nel meant the front wing, which in­flu­ences the all-im­por­tant aero map of the en­tire car, was bet­ter de­vel­oped than any ri­val’s.

Those ri­vals caught up as de­vel­op­ment stalled for lack of cash but, by then, Jen­son But­ton had done enough to es­tab­lish himself as the world cham­pion in wait­ing. Not bad for some­one who was nearly out of a job just months ear­lier. Car­bon-fi­bre com­pos­ite mono­coque Dou­ble wish­bones, pushrod ac­tu­ated tor­sion bars and damper, front and rear Mercedes FO108W V8 2,400cc N/A Brawn 7-speed semi-au­to­matic 605kg N/A Bridge­stone Jen­son But­ton, Rubens Bar­richello Jorg Zan­der, Loïc Bigois

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