Brawn GP: One incredible year (Video)

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From drop-outs to world champions in less than 12 months

One year ago today, Honda announced it was putting its F1 team up for sale. In the 12 months since then their successors, Brawn, stunned us by not only surviving but by dominating the first half of the season and ultimately bringing home both world titles.

It may have been called a ‘fairytale’ but there was a twist at the end of the story. By being taken over by Mercedes the team’s long-term stability has been secured – but in gaining that they’ve lost their world champion driver.

Revisit the remarkable story of Brawn below including footage of that first test at Silverstone and Jenson Button talking about his championship victory in Braszil.

The Honda crisis

December 4th 2008 – Honda to sell team or quit

It was clear to anyone who watched the 2007 and 2008 world championships that Honda were struggling badly. Throughout 2008 the mantra from the team was how they were focusing their energies on 2009.

December 5th 2008 – The official announcement from Honda and the FIA’s response in full

But facing a sharp downfall in car sales Honda abruptly decided to pull the plug on its F1 team, regardless of what those running it thought of their chances for 2009. The initial instruction from Honda was to wind up and shut down to the tea. Nick Fry and Ross Brawn ultimately persuaded them to opt for a manegement buy-out – but it took months to agree.

In the meantime the F1 world reeled as it felt the first effects of the credit crunch. Here’s some of Sky’s reportage of the story which I appeared on last year:

Janaury 8th 2009 – David Richards says F1 costs are still too high – and he’s not buying Honda

The new year brought no good news. David Richards, who looked like the best bet to save Honda, confirmed he wasn’t going to take over the team. Other people rumoured to be taking over the team were Michael Schumacher and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu.

February 17th 2009 – Will Honda’s team race in 2009? (Poll)

Weeks away from the start of the season, half of fans still thought a way would be found to save the team. They weren’t to be disappointed.

February 28th 2009 – Brawn Racing? Surely not??

Becken pointed out in the comments that the names of two websites referring to ‘Brawn Racing’ had been registered by a former BAR employee. It seemed too good to be true but…

The birth of Brawn

March 6th 2009 – Brawn GP takes Honda F1’s place on the 2009 F1 grid

The deal was finally announced – the team formerly known as Honda would now be called Brawn GP.

March 6th 2009 – Brawn GP tests its 2009 F1 car

The team quickly booked a test session on Silverstone’s Stowe circuit. The first impression of the car was good, despite a rushed job to fit a customer Mercedes V8 in the back in place of a Honda. But it was impossible to judge just how good the car was with no other cars to compare it against at the test.

March 9th 2009 – 2009 F1 testing: March 9th (Update: pictures and video added)

The team formerly known as Honda finally arrived at a group test session and it was immediately clear that despite missing two months’ testing they had one of the fastest cars on the grid.

In this video, which includes footage of the first test at Silverstone, Button talks about his feelings on driving the BGP001 for the first time:

As soon as I jumped in it I though ‘Wow, this is good pace.’ On my first five lap run I was six-tenths quicker than anyone.
Jenson Button

March 13th 2009 – If Brawn GP really are that fast??

It quickly became clear Brawn’s pace was going to have a dramatic effect on the championship.

March 26th 2009 – Jenson Button changes helmet design

On the eve of the first race of the championship, Button dropped his customary Union Flag helmet design to chime in with the bright colours of the new Brawn team.

The season, part one: Dominating

March 28th 2009 – Jenson Button leads Brawn GP 1-2 (Australian Grand Prix qualifying)

Any remaining doubts about the speed of the Brawns vanished when Button and Rubens Barrichello locked out the front row of the grid for the season opener in Melbourne.

March 29th 2009 – Button wins for Brawn in spectacular start to season (Australian Grand Prix)

While Button took a lights-to-flag win Barrichello had to climb through the field after dropping back at the start. When Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica crashed late in the race it handed Barrichello second place – giving Brawn a scarcely believable one-two finish on their debut.

April 7th 2009 – Technical review: Australia and Malaysia

The BGP 001 exploited the rule allowing a ‘double-diffuser’ which rival teams including Red Bull protested.

April 14th 2009 – FIA to rule on legality of Brawn, Williams and Toyota diffusers (Poll)

After the first three races the FIA rules the diffusers were legal. That left Brawn’s competitors rushing to put their interpretations of the double-diffusers on their cars. Button won the first two races and finished third in the rain at China behind the Red Bulls, which had emerged as their closest competitors.

May 10th 2009 – Did Brawn deliberately give Barrichello a poor strategy to let Button win?

Round six and win number five for Button at the Circuit de Catalunya. But this time questions were raised over his strategy which helped him get past Barrichello who led in the early stages.

May 24th 2009 – Button closes on ‘best start’ record

Only Nigel Mansell and Michael Schumacher had made better start to championships than Button did over the first six races of 2009.

May 28th 2009 – Brawn set to extend Button’s contract – but will he get a new team mate?

This early in the season it looked like a foregone conclusion that Button would get a contract extension. But in the end neither Button nor Barrichello stayed at Brawn.

May 28th 2009 – Mercedes should put a sticker on this car

Brawn’s status as a customer team meant Mercedes couldn’t use their success to promote their products. The engine manufacturer would take care of that problem within a few months.

June 7th 2009 – Vettel’s mistake lets Button in for another win (Turkish Grand Prix review)

Button’s championship lead hit 26 points after his sixth win at Istanbul, aided by a Sebastian Vettel’s costly mistake on lap one. This was the highest Button’s lead reached all year – and his last win of the season.

The season, part two: Defending

June 21st 2009 – Untouchable Vettel romps to Silverstone victory (British Grand Prix review)

Two weeks later the tables were turned and Red Bull romped to victory while Button struggled. A combination of the team easing back on development to start work on its 2010 car, and difficulties getting the car to heat its tyres up (which particularly affected Button) plagued them for much of the second half of the season.

July 12th – Rubens Barrichello lashes out after Brawn strategy costs him more points

Barrichello’s complaint about the team giving him a “blah, blah, blah” explanation for his problems at the Nurburgring became infamous instantly, and inspired a spoof music video.

August 8th 2009 – Button, Vettel, Webber, Barrichello: one of these men will be champion (Poll)

With seven races to go, Button was the favourite to win the championship among F1 Fanatic readers, with 41%. The man thought most likely to rival him at this stage was Mark Webber, who’d just won his first Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.

I like the way the first two comments on the article above perfectly encapsulate the arguments for and against Button as world champion.

August 23rd 2009 – Rubens Barrichello grabs win from Lewis Hamilton (European Grand Prix)

While Button’s qualifying performances let him down his championship rivals couldn’t string enough good results together to seriously damage his lead. Barrichello won at Valencia but Vettel retired with engine failure and Webber was out of the points in ninth.

August 30th 2009 – Kimi Raikkonen edges Giancarlo Fisichella for win (Belgian Grand Prix review)

The low point of Button’s season came at Spa, when he was knocked off on the first lap by Romain Grosjean. But once again his rivals failed to capitalise.

September 9th 2009 – Mercedes to take 75% stake in Brawn – but what does that mean for McLaren?

Behind the scenes, things were developing rapidly for Brawn. Nine months after being ditched by Honda the team were preparing to link up with a manufacturer once again.

September 13th 2009 – Barrichello leads one-two as Brawn are back on top (Italian Grand Prix)

There was a resurgence in form as well, the team finishing one-two at Monza. Barrichello turned the table on Button for this one, but only took a two-point nibble out of his team mate’s championship lead.

World champions

October 18th 2009 – Webber wins in style as Button races to title
October 18th 2009 – Jenson Button is F1 world champion
October 18th 2009 – Brawn win 2009 F1 constructors’ title

Button’s second half of the season had largely been an exercise in beneath-the-radar points-gathering. That all changed at Brazil, where he had to race through the field after qualifying a disastrous 14th.

Meanwhile Barrichello went backwards after starting on pole position. Fifth place was enough for Button to seal an incredible and unlikely championship win with one round to spare.

In this video Button talks about his emotions on the final lap before he won the world championship:

A final twist

November 16th 2009 – Mercedes Grand Prix take over Brawn for 2010 – but what about Jenson Button?

Mercedes completed their deal to take over Brawn ahead of the 2010 season – meaning the name Brawn will be gone from the grid after a single, astonishingly successful season.

November 18th 2009 – McLaren confirm Jenson Button will join Lewis Hamilton for 2010

But the biggest surprise was still to come, as Button announced he would go to McLaren to defend his championship title in 2010. In effect, he’s gone from one Mercedes customer to another.

The rivalry between these two teams should provide one of the most fascinating storylines of 2010.

Pictures from Brawn’s incredible year

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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15 comments on “Brawn GP: One incredible year (Video)”

  1. I sort of agree with everyone who says that the Brawn success was hardly a ‘fairytale story’ because Honda spent hundreds of millions on the car before giving it away (the worst decision in F1 history?). Perhaps we shouldn’t have been too surprised that a car designed by 4 different wind tunnels turned out OK.

    But at the same time, it was just incredible that a team that looked on the brink of collapse just a few weeks before the season began not only survived, not only finished one- two in its first race, but won both championships. What a story!

    1. Yea I agree, I think it’s more ‘fairytale’ because Button and Barichello were effectively done driving and then out of nowhere, they’re winning the championship…..the car wasn’t a fairytale at all.

      1. Certainly the fact that two men everyone thought were a pair of right offs, Rubens, whose best everyone thought was way and disappointingly behind him, an a man who some thought had in in him but most had dismissed as to soft and unlikely to get another victory in his career, in a car that though incredible well developed was compromised by the new engine and the fact that they did as the first true privateer team in eons. Is a fantastic achievement.

        Fairytale I dot like the sound of because it passes over the fact that this was done on blood sweat and tears and at the beginning right on the precipice.

    2. Even if you think of the car as Honda, it’s still an amazing turn around in form.

  2. This winter, Brawn / Mercedes GP, will have a huge advantage for testing because they did so few hours of testing the past winter. And now they have much more hours to spend then the other teams since the new rules made the privet tests to have a limite, right?

    Correct me if i am wrong.

    1. well, it will be the same for everyone, won’t it?

      Also, considering the Brawn wasn’t the fastest car at the end of the year, i can’t see a real advantage coming into next season.

      the RBR5 won the last 3 races. And Ferrari started focusing on the 2010 car around Belgium-Italian Grand Prix this year.

      1. And the McLaren was on Pole with similar fuel weights & well ahead of the Red Bulls in race at Abu Dhabi the last race of the season until they called Hamilton into the pits – hopefully bodes well for Button next year :)

  3. I still think it was a very bad move on Honda’s part, they knew they’ve spent a mess of money on their 2009 contender and then they pulled out. They should’ve ran what they created and then maybe pull out of the sport. Plus, after this success of Brawn, if it was still under Honda, I don’t think they would’ve pulled at the end of it all. I really liked Honda. They were my second favorite team.

    1. Of course it was a bad move on Honda’s part! They wasted all kinds of money investing in the 2009 car yet quit and didn’t get to have their name on the trophy! :)

    2. But if Honda stayed in F1 then they would have used HONDA engines and not the Mercedes powerhouse. Maybe they still win, but who knows?

  4. The battle between Mclaren & Mercedes will be the most exciting to watch in 2010,alongside the battle of the British drivers.

  5. Having been a Jenson fan since 1999, i’ve been waiting for the day he got in a race winning car, he did & he won the world championship.

    I realise everyone has their own opinions on the 2009 season, but Brawn GP’s achievements are a true fairytale. I know that Honda’s money was the thing that made it happen, but to come from where they were a few weeks before the first race to winning both championships is just incredible.

    2010 is too far away for my liking, the possibilities of which drivers, which teams, are going to end up on the grid is enough confusion.

    Apart from the obvious combinations (Lewis/Jenson, Fernando/Filipe, theres always the possibility of Brawn/Mercedes doing it again. Nico Rosberg is consistently a points scorer in an average car, what is he capable of in a great one?, also Nick Heidfeld (if he ends up with the seat) is the same, the pair of them (in my opinion) are capable of doing the same as Jenson & Rubens did this season.

    I woke up yesterday to the news that Sauber are back on the grid for next year, cheered me up no end, also the news that they tested Bertrand Baguette, I love drivers with unusual names.

  6. That test footage was awesome, I cranked up my surround sound system for the end part of the vid and it’s phenomenal! :D

  7. In theory it could all happen again in 2010 if Sauber were to use Toyota’s car design plans and somehow make it into a winner. Yeah, I’m reaching, but it is possible.

  8. The 2010 season’s set to be an absolute cracker. 2 world champions in an all British team isn’t something I ever expected to happen. That at the maclaren – mercerdes rivalry to boot!

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