Brawn GP complete fast track to championship triumph 18 Oct 2009
Twelve months ago, as Ferrari secured the 2008 constructors crown, talk turned to who would triumph in 09. Would it be the Italian team again? Would arch rivals McLaren fight back? Or would new powerhouse BMW Sauber steal their thunder? One team not mentioned was Brawn. Then still Honda and languishing ninth in the standings with just 14 points, only a brave soul would have bet on the Brackley squad.
But at Interlagos on Sunday - with one race in hand - Brawn defied the odds, rounding off their fairytale debut season with their very first drivers and constructors title. Formed at the last minute from the remnants of the Honda team after the Japanese manufacturers shock withdrawal last December, its been an incredible story.
Its still got to sink in, a tearful Ross Brawn told British Formula One broadcasters the BBC after the chequered flag fell in Sao Paulo. It will take a while (to sink in). Its special - very special.
Of course, with Ross Brawn as team principal and two experienced drivers in Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, the long-term prospects for the newly rechristened team always looked good. However, nobody - at least outside the team - thought theyd be in the running for the 2009 championship.
The early acceptance that Hondas 2008 car, the RA109, would never be up to scratch played a key part in their success. Before any of their rivals, McLaren and Ferrari included, Honda had refocused on the development of its 2009 successor. After a last-minute engine deal with Mercedes, the BGP001 arrived relatively late for the pre-season tests but instantly looked far and away the most complete car. And as the season got underway the dark horse didnt disappoint.
Over the first eight races Brawn took four poles and six victories in the best-ever start to a season for a new constructor. Despite a mid-season lull (by those early high standards), they have since gone on to take a further two wins as the 09 campaign has moved into its closing stages. Never far from the front of the pack, Brawn have gone from gloom to glory in just a few short months.
Thats not to say there havent been moments of unease. At the Melbourne season opener several rivals queried the legality of the BGP001s innovative double diffuser. And so while they racked up points, for several weeks Brawn didnt know whether they would be able to keep them. Although not the whole reason for their pace (Toyota and Williams were running similar concepts), the diffuser clearly gave them an advantage. It was a worrying time, but eventually the FIAs Court of Appeal found in Brawns favour and the team were clear to dominate with impunity.
By this point, however, Brawn already had other challenges to face. The first inkling of a problem had come at Aprils wet Chinese Grand Prix. Whilst rivals Red Bull took a forceful one-two, Button and Barrichello both struggled to get enough heat into their tyres and limped home in third and fourth.
Although the team hoped it was a blip, the problem persisted. Indeed, whenever track temperatures verged on chilly, the Brawns tended to lose the edge off their pace and Red Bull were able to seize the advantage. The effect was arguably most obvious during the teams home race in Britain, where Red Bull scored another imperious one-two.
As the technical might at Brawn fought to find a solution, the teams closest competition was gaining fast in a championship fight that had previously looked a foregone conclusion. But Red Bulls challenge didnt prove so clear-cut either. And while Brawn -and especially Button - never really regained the level of dominance they enjoyed at the start of the year, they did at least come up with an adequate solution to the tyre temperature issues and continued to score points consistently. Mistakes and poor fortune for Red Bull, meanwhile, meant they were always one step behind.
Arriving in Brazil with an almost insurmountable 35.5 point advantage, celebrations come Sunday afternoon were all but inevitable at Interlagos - though that didnt make them any less sweet!