Ross Brawn has paid tribute to the 700-plus workforce at the newly re-named Brawn GP outfit for what he described as their unstinting 'great spirit and fortitude' throughout a winter of uncertainty that at one point had looked likely to leave them all unemployed.
After Honda in Japan pulled the plug on its manufacturer support of the Northants-based operation back in December, the prospects appeared bleak, with bid after bid falling by the wayside. Though Brawn insists that 'closing down the team was always a last resort', until it was officially announced today that his management buy-out had been successful, such a course of action did remain a very real possibility.
Thankfully for all concerned, that has not now materialised, and if the team faces a race against time to put two competitive cars on the grid for the 2009 curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in little over three weeks' time, the greatest triumph is that they will be there at all.
“Honda wanted to make every effort possible to secure the future of the team,” the Englishman stated. “Following Honda's decision to withdraw, we needed to find a way to secure as many jobs as possible, ensure the team's continued participation in Formula 1 and make best use of the state-of-the-art facilities that we are fortunate to have here in Brackley.
“Closing down the team was always a last resort. It wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment on the options available to Honda – suffice to say that the Honda board recommended and approved this route, and I'm obviously very pleased that they reached that conclusion.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Honda for their fantastic co-operation and support – particularly those members of the senior management who were closely involved with concluding our agreement – and for the faith they have demonstrated in myself and our team.
“It is a great shame that we are no longer able to continue with Honda Motor Company, having worked together for so long. Quite simply, I have purchased the team from Honda. As the owner I will continue to be supported by the incumbent management team, who have worked closely with me throughout the sale process and will continue to do so in the future.”
Brawn went on to warmly praise his employees, who he revealed had maintained morale even when the team seemed to be entering its darkest hour. He was similarly full of enthusiasm for the squad's engine supply deal with Mercedes-Benz – which he is hopeful will help to accelerate progress given the lack of testing time available before the sport heads Down Under to get the new campaign underway at the end of the month.
“There is no denying this has been a difficult time for everyone at our Brackley base,” the 54-year-old acknowledged, “but I am immensely proud of the great spirit and fortitude that I have witnessed in the factory over the course of the past few months.