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Brawn exit signals end of the dream team 27 Oct 2006

R-L: Ferrari Chief Designer Rory Byrne (RSA), Rubens Barrichello (BRA), Sporting Director Jean Todt (FRA), Technical Director Ross Brawn (GBR) and Michael Schumacher (GER). Ferrari F2002 Launch, Maranello, Italy, 6 February 2002. World © McNeil/Sutton

Soon after joining Ferrari 10 years ago, it became clear that British engineer Ross Brawn would play a fundamental role in the team’s renaissance. His technical talents, coupled with the design skills of Rory Byrne and driving expertise of Michael Schumacher, helped revitalise the Scuderia. Eleven world titles later, and just days after Schumacher competed in his final Grand Prix, it has been announced that Brawn too is to exit the sport.

Brawn’s career began with a lengthy apprenticeship at the British Atomic Energy Research Establishment, after which he gave in to the racing bug and moved to March Engineering in 1976. Starting off as a machinist, Brawn quickly became a mechanic for the March Formula 3 team.

Brawn moved to the newly-formed Williams team in 1978. Quickly working his way up through the ranks, he gleaned invaluable experience as both a technician and aerodynamicist and ended up as the team’s head of research and development. He quit in 1984 for a brief spell with Carl Haas's FORCE/Beatrice squad before becoming Arrows’ technical director late in 1986. The team went on to finish fifth in the 1988 world championship, before Brawn left for a highly-successful stint with Jaguar’s sports car division.

The lure of Formula One racing, however, lingered and Brawn returned to the paddock late in 1991 as Benetton’s technical director. It was during his six seasons with the team that Brawn joined forces with Michael Schumacher (starting out on his Formula One career) and Benetton’s chief designer Rory Byrne. Together, the trio won back-to-back drivers’ championships in 1994 and 1995, and the all-important constructors’ title in 1995.

In 1996, Schumacher headed to Ferrari; Brawn and Byrne followed. It was a brave move for all three - the Italian team hadn’t won a drivers’ championship since 1979 and had finished the ’95 season third, 64 points adrift of Benetton. Nevertheless, Schumacher won three races in his first year. The victories steadily increased in ’97 and ’98 and both seasons the team finished second in the standings. The rest is history. Ferrari dominated Formula One racing for the next six years. They took successive constructors’ titles from 1999 to 2004, with Schumacher commencing a run of five consecutive drivers’ crowns in 2000.

Now, with Brawn and Schumacher finally going their separate ways, and with Byrne having already taken a step back into consulting, the original ‘dream team’ is no more. Brawn, like Schumacher, says he plans to spend more time with his family. They say racing is in the blood, however, so it will be fascinating to see where he - and Ferrari - go from here.