The winter of uncertainty that has afflicted Brawn GP (formerly Honda) has helped rather than hindered the Brackley-based outfit and enabled the team to produce a quicker and more competitive car - that is the opinion of renowned Formula 1 designer Gary Anderson.

Having risen from the ashes of Honda - which put its F1 operation up for sale back in December, as a result of falling car sales precipitated by the global credit crunch, and poor on-track return for its considerable, ?147 investment in the top flight in 2008 - Brawn GP was expected to struggle to make much of an impact this year, even with a Mercedes-Benz powerplant in the back of the BGP001.

In the hands of race drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, however, the new machine has been tearing up the winter test tracks since it first took the circuit in Barcelona little over a week ago - more than a month later than most of its rivals - and has on occasion proven to be as much as a second faster than any of the opposition.

Though some have surmised that the car must be running light - or even underweight - in a last-ditch bid to attract sponsorship before the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in a week-and-a-half's time, Anderson echoes the conviction of such as former F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso that the pace displayed has been very, very real.

"They've done a very good job," the Ulsterman told Crash.net Radio. "The car looks consistently very quick and it's been reliable. Being late to introduce it has meant that they've had more time to design aerodynamic components and make it the best they can. Being late with the engine installation isn't too big a drama, because they've handled that quite well - and it has given them a little bit of an advantage as far as the performance-related components are concerned.

"I've been surprised a bit at testing times up until this last test (in Barcelona). I genuinely believed that with the bits and pieces that went onto the cars - the aerodynamic changes and the re-introduction of slick tyres -they would be half a second quicker than last year or maybe even a second, and I've been surprised that the times weren't there.

"The Brawn is the first car that has shown up and said 'okay, we can be there now'. Really and truthfully, other than running the car underweight - and I think Ross Brawn is too clever to be playing around with that sort of thing - they are genuinely quick."

Anderson designed cars for Stewart, Jaguar and most notably Jordan over the course of his long career in the top flight, and as such he understands better than most just what makes for a successful contender. He suggests that Adrian Newey has achieved just that with the new, Renault-powered Red Bull Racing RB5 - and was outspoken on the diffuser row that is threatening to explode when the competitive action gets underway Down Under on 29 March [see separate story - click here].

"The other car that impresses me is the Red Bull," he contended. "I think that can be genuinely quick as well. It's a step forward from last year as far as their overall performance is concerned - if you look through the car, it's genuinely a real contender I feel. Ferrari I think are reasonable, but McLaren seem to be in a bit of trouble.

"I think it's a bit blatant that they (Williams, Toyota and Brawn GP) are exploiting the loophole (regarding the diffuser), because the way I read the regulations - and I've designed cars for quite a while - I can't see the rule that allows you to do what they've done.

"The way I see it is the way that McLaren and Ferrari and Renault and a lot of other teams see it. Maybe I'm just na?ve-minded, but I don't understand where this loophole is - and I've read it many, many times to try and understand.

"For the FIA to say that it's legal means everyone else needs to go off and do something different, and seven other teams have got to change their cars. If you read the black-and-white regulations, it says what Ferrari and McLaren and those teams have is what you can do."

As to what to expect in Oz, Anderson was unwilling to take a punt on who would make the running, with too many variables from what he describes as 'the biggest changes in ten years' within the sport leaving the pecking order nigh-on impossible to accurately predict.

"Everybody is trying to catch up with what have been the biggest changes in ten years probably," he reasoned, "and really it's a different learning curve for all the teams. Testing is about understanding and developing in the best way possible, but I think going to Melbourne from what we've seen in testing so far it really is going to be a bit of a lottery.

"I don't necessarily expect the teams we saw last year dominating at the front to be dominating in the same way; I'm sure there will be some of the smaller teams being a bit of a pain in their side. There are going to be surprises in Melbourne, I believe."

TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE

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