Though a number of prominent Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) members – most notably Renault and Ferrari – have been critical of Ross Brawn this year, the Brawn GP team principal has received a vote of support from Red Bull Racing counterpart Christian Horner.
Earlier this year, Renault F1 managing director Flavio Briatore – who worked closely with Brawn during their days spent together at Benetton in the mid-1990s – suggested the Englishman should be removed from his post as head of FOTA's technical committee and that as a 'new' entity following Honda's withdrawal, his team should be denied commercial rights revenue and prize money for its first three seasons of existence.
The Italian was also particularly scathing about the talents of the Brackley-based outfit's drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello – currently first and second respectively in the title chase approaching the midway mark of the 2009 campaign – whilst Ferrari lawyer Nigel Tozzi accused Brawn of being 'a person of supreme arrogance' over the 'double-decker' diffuser row, as the runaway world championship leaders have put a number of noses out of joint with their form this year. Brawn similarly spent a not inconsiderable period of his top flight career at the Scuderia
Horner, however – team principal of British Grand Prix winners Red Bull, a fellow independent operation up against the might of F1's manufacturer entries – has leapt to Brawn's defence, arguing that with Williams and Force India both jumping ship from FOTA and signing up unconditionally to the FIA's budget-capped 2010 regulations, it would have been all-too easy for Brawn GP to do the same.
“Each team has had difficult decisions to make and I, in particular, would just like to pay credit to Ross Brawn and the commitment that he's shown to FOTA,” the former racer underlined. “He's stuck to and believed in his principles, as an independent team, and I think that's absolutely commendable in difficult times. Red Bull are involved in other categories, McLaren have other initiatives within their group, [but] they (Brawn) have no form of income other than going grand prix racing.
“I think the unity that the teams have shown, the way that they've worked together and what has been achieved in the short space of time that FOTA has existed is significant. I think the cost savings that we've seen this year have been driven by FOTA and certainly, as an independent team, we have seen the benefits of the lowest-ever engine prices – probably in the last 25 years in Formula 1 – and in budget reductions, probably for all teams, anywhere in the region of 15 to 25 per cent, with proposals on the table to reduce budgets by probably up to 40 per cent going forward.
“It's a great shame that we've reached this stalemate because I think progress was being made, albeit lumpily. Positions have obviously hardened recently and we find ourselves in this situation, but I certainly think there's nothing to be ashamed of.”
On the topic of the enduring stand-off between the eight FOTA 'rebels' and the sport's governing body over Max Mosley's controversial budget cap initiative and the FIA President's increasingly autocratic manner of governance – which some believe is bordering on the arbitrary – Horner was unequivocal. Adamant that FOTA have done all they reasonably can, he was equally insistent that the dispute is not a witch hunt aimed at removing the Englishman from the most powerful and influential post in international motor racing.
“At no point has there ever been a condition from FOTA of anything along those lines,” the 35-year-old stressed. “We have actively tried to engage with the FIA over the past few weeks to constructively find a solution. Mr. Mosley represents the whole of the FIA, so this is not pointed personally at any individual. I think a huge amount of effort has been made by the teams to try and find a compromise, because at the end of the day we do have a duty of care to the people that we sit here and represent, the employees, to the fans, to the sponsors and to the public. The intention and effort was to try and find a solution and we felt that significant compromises had been offered, [but] I think we have gone as far as we can and have reached the stage where we can go no further.