F1 2009 – Round 1 – Australia – Baby, They Were Brawn To Run!

In Formula 1, General on 02 April, 2009 at 12:07 am

Yes, okay, that’s an awful title, but it was that or “The Brawn Supremacy”, which I’ve already seen used elsewhere…

Now, I try not to be biased, and to present an even-handed account of things, but I can’t help but love the “underdog”, even if that is a bit misleading with regards to BrawnGP…

The whole team had been pretty much written-off by everyone over the past few months, but I had been hoping they would come out with a decent car after 15 months of working on it. As I covered in previous blog entries, I had high hopes in Ross Brawn, Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button, but to see them translate their early testing (all seven days of it!) into genuine speed in Melbourne really warmed my heart.

Not just me either it seems. There were people up and down the pitlane and all over the world wishing them well. They have publicly mentioned that both Ferrari and McLaren did everything that they could to help them get to the grid in time. They have Virgin sponsorship, which is a real coup in itself, seeing as other teams (like Jordan for instance) have been trying to get Richard Branson’s money for years and years. I can’t actually see him buying the team outright, even if the FIA do approve his “clean fuel”, but I CAN picture him becoming their main title sponsor, possibly even re-badging the Mercedes engines as “Virgins”…

Following Saturday’s 1-2 in qualifying, which in turn led to a 1-2 in the race on Sunday, with Jenson Button leading every lap from start to finish, sponsors will be smashing down their doors to get their logos on the car or those nice clean white overalls… Branson was there first though, even if the amount he was first thinking of investing has probably had to go up by a substantial amount…

This was the first time in 55 years that a team making its debut qualified first and second on the grid and went on to finish the race in the same positions. The last time was Mercedes-Benz. I find it wonderfully ironic that (after Jarno Trulli’s penalty) the top three cars in the points were all powered by Mercedes engines!

The whole weekend I was either watching or thinking F1… The BBC (who have taken over the F1 TV license in the UK, after ITV decided to focus on football) have really spoilt us this year. Not only can you watch both Friday practice sessions, with live commentary, you can watch it online, or via their interactive service on Digital TV (the so-called Red Button service). I was in “F1natic Heaven”…

Sorry boss, I know I shouldn’t really have watched 90mins of Friday Practice while I was at work, but I really was just listening “most” of the time I was supposed to be doing pie charts and pretty pictures…

The Red Button also allowed me to pick different commentary to listen to during the race, namely a choice between ex-ITV commentator Martin Brundle with BBC F1 commentator Johnathan Legard, OR, the commentary from Radio 5Live, with their regular F1 team, led by David Croft, and joined this year by Anthony Davidson, who drove for Super Aguri last year, was test driver for Honda, and is rumoured to be in line for reserve driver/test driver at BrawnGP.

Croft and Davidson really work well together. They’ve worked together before from when Davidson was first testing with Honda, and then when Super Aguri folded. He provides a similar viewpoint as Martin Brundle does, both being ex-Formula One drivers, but Davidson’s experience of the cars and drivers is much more recent, having driven against most of the current field, albeit in a car that was an embarrassment…

Not his fault. Or the teams really… I think they would have preferred to have upgraded the 2006 Honda, rather than the 2007 model. Those cars were probably the reason that the Honda board puled the plug on both operations, rather than face the ignominy of a third year at the back of the field, while dreaded rivals Toyota snapped at the heels of the likes of Ferrari and BMW…

The irony is that for the cost of keeping BrawnGP running and the necessary redundancy packages, along with penalties to be paid to FOM and the FIA for withdrawing before 2012, they might well have been able to upgrade their engine just like Renault did, and this could have been HONDA’S first 1-2… Probably with added KERS too!

As for the “Diffuser Row”? Well, all six cars were cleared at ‘Scrutineering’ by the race Stewards, and four teams lodged an Official Protest. BMW’s protest was thrown out on a technicality (don’t know what for certain, I was hoping to pick up Autosport on the way home, but WHSmith, who normally put it out on a Wednesday night, still had a tonne of last week’s issue out instead). Protests from Red Bull, Ferrari and Renault were lodged with the Stewards, and it is understood the the WMSC (The World MotorSport Council) will meet after the Malaysian Grand Prix to “Clarify the Rules and Regulations” regarding the three diffusers. The Toyotas also had problems when their rear wing was discovered to flex more than the required maximum under pressure, and their qualifying times were disallowed. Williams was going to lodge a similar protest against Ferrari and Red Bull, but decided to withdraw it “for the good of the sport”… (subtle hint there, FOTA?)

Ironically again (and the weekend was full of sweet little ironies) Rubens Bsrrichello pointed out that his Diffuser had actually been damaged in the first corner pile-up, caused by Heikki Kovaleinen hitting him in the rear and punting him into Mark Webber’s Red Bull, who in turn knocked someone else off (this is why I wish I had Autosport in front of me!). Rubens fell back to around 7th or 8th, and then had to fight his way back up to the front… … with a broken diffuser. So it gave hm no performance advantage, and may even have hindered him. Okay, if Kubica and Vettel hadn’t taken each other out, he might only have finished fourth, but he was still ahead of both Trulli in the Toyota and Hamilton in the sole McLaren (Heikki having retired after the first lap). He might even have been able to take Vettel, as his tyres were visibly getting worse. As David Coulthard pointed out in the post-race analysis, Ross Brawn doesn’t just build fast cars, he builds fast, TOUGH cars! Rubens damaged his front wing against Mark Webber and then later lost the front left corner under Kimi Raikonnen’s rear. Unlike some of the other wings we saw damaged, this one just bent, then broke off. It didn’t shatter into thousands of shards like the others (I’m thinking most notably about the BMW and Red Bull collision) it just fell off, leaving enough of a wing to get him back to the pits for a nose-job!

KERS will come into play much more in Malaysia, and I’ll prattle on some more about that after Sepang…

For now, I am ecstatic… I still can’t believe that Jenson Button got his second win, and Rubens his umpteenth second place… All credit is due too to Lewis Hamilton, for bringing a dog of a car home in third place, when Ferrari failed to score at all, and Alonso and Rosberg both finished behind him. He gained a lot of places through attrition, but he also used KERS to great effect in overtaking heavier cars to climb from 18th on the grid to ultimately going home with third place and six points! Even if he didn’t get to stand on the podium…

By the way, one final thing, as Columbo would say, two of the diffusers being protested are apparently influenced by Super Aguri… It seems that their designers had found some way of measuring something along an arc between two points, and a huge development area in this part of the car. Super Aguri closed down, and some of the engineers went back to Japan, some to Honda, and some to Toyota… the further twist though is that the BrawnGP (nee Honda) diffuser is fundamentally different to the Toyota diffuser, in that they both use different arcs between the same two points. Apparently Williams came up with their own interpretation and is a third separate type of diffuser. Sam Michael said that they had submitted a number of designs before the current one was accepted. Ferrari must have gone through a similar process when they moved their sidepods back within the allowed area, to make room for vertical wing mirror mountings that just so happen to act like “bargeboards”… That was viewed as a very clever manipulation of the rules… Ditto for Red Bull’s rear “pull-rod” suspension…

My argument therefore is: “If these three teams can come up with three different interpretations of the rules that the FIA have cleared as legitimate, then perhaps the other seven teams should try to come up with their own interpretation of the rules, rather than have the “spec” diffuser they were so against the idea of in the first place?”

  1. This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  2. […] https://aardvarkz.wordpress.com/2009/04/02/f1-2009-round-1-australia-baby-they-were-brawn-to-run/They’ve worked together before from when Davidson was first testing with Honda, and then when Super Aguri folded. He provides a similar viewpoint as Martin Brundle does, both being ex-Formula One drivers, but Davidson’s experience of … […]

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