Ross Brawn has admitted that the current structure of the Formula 1 team that now carries his name is only a “medium-term” solution, implying that it will need extra investment if it is to continue to thrive.
Honda finally confirmed on March 6 that it had sold the team to Brawn GP Ltd in a management buyout that also involved four other directors of Honda Racing, including CEO Nick Fry. It is believed that the sale involved a nominal fee, and in addition Honda promised a substantial dowry which goes some way to paying for the team’s first season – while in effect also absolving the Japanese manufacturer of any responsibility for future redundancies.
The Honda cash and scheduled FOM payments will finance the team in the short term, while a sponsorship deal with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has bolstered its strength. But more support will be required for 2010 when the team must fend for itself.
Although the FIA has made the new budget class an option (see left), it’s highly unlikely that the team could scale down sufficiently to be eligible to run to those rules. Brawn said that the “majority” of the existing staff will be retained, but there has been no firm news about cutbacks.
The BGP001 car proved instantly competitive when it first hit the track, just three weeks before the season-opening Australian GP which it sensationally won. The performance stunned the F1 world, but there are sound reasons why the team is better off than had been anticipated during the winter.
In fact the team had been working on converting its original Honda RA109 design to accept a Mercedes engine from a much earlier stage than had previously been thought. Brawn has revealed that the Mercedes was chosen over the alternative option of a Ferrari “around Christmas time”, mainly because the former was a much closer fit architecturally to the Honda that the car had been originally designed around. That meant there was less work involved in adapting the RA109 than might be expected. Crucially, it was possible to use the original gearbox design, so that there was no impact on suspension geometry and so on. The team also made its life easier by going without KERS, since the system it had intended to use was retained by Honda. Thus the car does not feature the compromises that come with packaging a heavy KERS system.
However, the biggest head start Brawn had was the fact that the team had pushed ahead with serious aero development for the 2009 rules before any of its rivals, and had been working flat out in its two wind tunnels. Last year the team made an early and very public decision to abandon any development on the disappointing RA108 in order to prepare for this season.