BRAWN BGP 001
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