Ross Brawn argues that whatever Brawn GP achieves in the 2009 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix at the end of the month, the team can already be assured of taking away 'an enormous sense of pride and achievement' at having overcome its 'biggest challenge' – that of being on the starting grid at all.
Brawn GP has risen from the ashes of the former Honda F1 outfit, which was put up for sale by the parent company in Japan back at the beginning of December, as a result of falling car sales precipitated by the global credit crunch, and poor on-track return for its considerable, £147 million investment in 2008 alone.
Following the manufacturer's shock withdrawal, all manner of allegedly interested parties were mooted in connection with purchasing the beleaguered Brackley-based operation and rescuing it from its demise, from David Richards' independent Prodrive concern to billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Group.
As time advanced, however, it became clear that a management buy-out led by team principal Brawn was the favoured option of the Honda board, and official confirmation was finally made this morning [see separate story – click here
], followed by a shakedown of the new, Mercedes-powered BGP 001 at Silverstone. It has been, the former Ferrari tactical genius reflects, a rollercoaster ride.
“It has been a challenging few months for the team, certainly,” he admitted, “but I am very pleased that we have finally reached a successful conclusion and the future of the team has been secured.
“We have conducted an initial shakedown of the car at Silverstone today, and both the car and team are now heading to Barcelona where we will participate in the full team test at the Circuit de Catalunya on 9-12 March. Later next week we will head down to Jerez in Spain for a further three day test on 15-17 March. We obviously have a significant test programme to work through, and this will require our full focus.
“The biggest hurdle we faced was being in a position to race in Melbourne, and we will now be able to achieve that target. Initially we may experience some reliability issues resulting from the lack of track testing, but we feel we have a good car and we hope that our performance will be respectable. We are confident in the fundamental design principle of our car, and look forward to the opportunity to develop it further as the season progresses.”
Indeed, given Brawn's expertise, many within the paddock expect the car itself – whose development was begun early on in the 2008 campaign – to be a fairly potent piece of machinery; the doubts arise only from the chronic lack of testing time that will be available now to the team before it has to fly Down Under to Melbourne for the opening grand prix of the season in just over three weeks' time.
The Englishman is a hopeful that with a driving line-up of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello once more on-board – significantly the most experienced pairing on the grid, with 420 starts between them – Brawn GP has everything it needs to make in-roads into the opposition as swiftly as possible.