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The story so far - Brawn GP's mid-season report 26 Jun 2009

Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix BGP 001.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Saturday, 6 June 2009 Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix BGP 001 leads Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn Grand Prix BGP 001.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 24 May 2009 Race winner Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix celebrates victory with the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday, 26 April 2009 Race winner Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday, 26 April 2009 Race winner Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix (Right) and second placed team mate Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn Grand Prix celebrate on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 29 March 2009

It’s a tale worthy of a Hollywood film script. Despite starting the year not knowing if they would even be around at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Brawn GP have been far and away 2009’s strongest team, outshining 2008’s trio of title contenders, Ferrari, McLaren and BMW Sauber.

Backmarkers made good, the former Honda team have taken six wins from eight races and lead the constructors’ championship with a sizeable advantage. Here’s the story of their season so far…

Brawn GP
World championship points: 105
Best qualifying result: 1st (4x)
Best race result: 1st (6x)

What a turnaround! From a bitterly disappointing 2008 to Honda’s shock withdrawal, to the scrabble to keep the team afloat and, finally, to a seemingly permanent place on the podium, Brawn GP have gone from the doldrums to delight in just a few short months. Eight races in, and four poles and six victories for the rechristened team is the best-ever start to a season for a ‘new’ constructor.

Of course, with Ross Brawn at the helm and two experienced drivers in Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello occupying cockpits, everything augured well. But the same could have been said of Honda at the start of last season, and look where that got the Japanese manufacturer - a dog of a car, ninth in the championship, and just 14 points.

It was the early realization that the RA109 would never be up to scratch, however, that seems to have made the difference. Honda refocused on the development of its 2009 successor sooner than any of its rivals, and this forward thinking paid off. Far and away the most complete looking car at the pre-season tests, the BGP001 was also devilishly quick. And the dark horse hasn’t disappointed.

In fact it’s performed impeccably, recording just one retirement from eight outings and putting at least one Brawn driver on the podium at every race so far. From its complete dominance at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix to its majestic display in Monaco, a Brawn has never been far from the front. Only at the last round at Silverstone did anyone - Red Bull - suggest that an end to Brawn’s supremacy could be in sight.

But that’s not to say there hasn’t been tension. At the Melbourne opener several rivals queried the legality of the BGP001’s innovative double diffuser. And so while they racked up points, for several weeks Brawn didn’t know whether they would be able to keep them. The diffuser clearly gave them an advantage, but it was far from the whole story (after all, Toyota and Williams were running similar concepts). Eventually the FIA’s Court of Appeal found in Brawn’s favour and the team was clear to dominate with impunity.

And so they have, at least until the most recent British Grand Prix, where problems with tyre temperatures rendered them powerless to halt the ever improving Red Bulls. Some feel this was just a blip, but perhaps the engraver should wait just a little longer before starting work on the constructors’ trophy.

Battle of the team mates - Jenson Button v Rubens Barrichello
Qualifying: Button (6-2)
Race: Button (7-1) Barrichello retired in Turkey
Points: Button 64, Barrichello 41

Outpacing team mate Rubens Barrichello at all but two meetings, six-time victor Button has been Brawn GP’s man to beat. Last season Barrichello took 11 of the then Honda team’s 14 points, but in 2009 the veteran Brazilian driver has been comparatively off the boil and occasionally unlucky, even recording the team’s sole retirement after suffering gearbox problems in Turkey. With almost 300 race starts under his belt, however, Barrichello has the experience to get back on track. He clearly had the upper hand over Button at the latest Silverstone round and is adamant he’ll take a victory of his own soon.

In summary - with a quick car, strategic brilliance and two drivers hungry to succeed, Brawn must remain title favourites, despite Red Bull’s recent success.