Brawn GP, the team that has made all of the running in the early part of the 2009 Formula 1 campaign, has 'all the resources' necessary at its disposal to head off the challenge of the top flight's 'grandees' as the season progresses – that is the earnest conviction of all involved as Jenson Button stakes his claim to make it two British world champions in swift succession.
Button has triumphed in three of the opening four grands prix this year, and allied to third position to dominant Red Bull Racing duo Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in the torrential downpour of Shanghai, the 29-year-old returns to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix on 10 May sitting pretty twelve points clear in the drivers' title standings.
Though the ex-Honda F1 outfit has barely modified its Mercedes-powered BGP 001 challenger since the Australian Grand Prix curtain-raiser in Melbourne last month, still its rivals have been unable to catch up. Some of them – traditional front-runners McLaren-Mercedes, Ferrari, BMW-Sauber and Renault chief amongst them – anticipate taking a significant, 'double-decker' diffuser-aided step forward in Barcelona in just under a fortnight's time, and of stopping Brawn's crushing hegemony firmly in its tracks. The current pace-setters, though, remain quietly confident.
“I think our team has got all the resources,” CEO Nick Fry is quoted as having said by The Times
. “We have got a reasonable upgrade package for Barcelona. Whether it will be as big as some others, we don't know. Do we have the resources to develop for the rest of the year? Yes, we do.”
The doubt over Fry's assertion is a product of the distinctly unsettled and uncertain winter that Brawn endured after Honda announced at the end of last year that it was pulling the plug on its F1 project with immediate effect, leaving many paddock sages to surmise that the team would not be on the starting grid Down Under at all. With sponsors still being sought, funding is not believed to be as ample at Brackley as it is at many of the other squads – but then in a new age of limited development, it may not need to be.
“From the time that Honda announced they were stopping at the end of November, the budget was limited [and] the developments weren't coming,” conceded team principal Ross Brawn, who nevertheless alluded to 'quite a lot of new bits' in the pipeline for when the cars take to the Circuit de Catalunya, scene of Brawn GP's eye-catching testing debut back in February.
“They are coming now, though, so we can get the ball rolling again in terms of improving the car, [and] I've got no doubts about Jenson's ability to win. The way he is driving, that part is taken care of. It's up to us to produce the performance in the car, do the pit-stops [and] strategies and make sure the car is reliable.”
McLaren, for their part – nervously awaiting the verdict of the FIA World Motor Sport Council's hearing into the Albert Park 'lies' scandal in Paris tomorrow – are adamant that they have 'thrown everything' at the similarly Mercedes-powered but aerodynamically poor MP4-24 in a desperate effort to keep Button's compatriot Lewis Hamilton in the hunt for back-to-back championship successes.
That 'all hands to the pumps' approach saw no fewer than twelve modifications brought to the table in Bahrain last weekend – a race in which the Stevenage-born ace produced a flawless attacking performance to finish a season-best fourth – but team principal Martin Whitmarsh hopes such ardent development does not engender negative repercussions for 2010.
“We've put a lot of effort in, by comparison to some of our competitors,” the Englishman underlined. “If you do that, it can be to the detriment of longer-term development – but being McLaren, we want to win. We've made steps in the right direction, but we need to keep pushing.”