In further news likely to make Honda feel sick, it has been revealed that the outstanding success achieved by Brawn GP in F1 in 2009 has earned the Brackley-based outfit – which was left in the lurch by the Japanese manufacturer at the end of last year – a staggering $255 million in terms of brand exposure.
Off the back of a number of years of over-investment and underachievement – allied to falling car sales precipitated by the debilitating global credit crunch, which hit the automotive industry harder than most – Honda announced back in December that it was pulling the plug on its F1 participation with immediate effect.
That left the future of the team and its 750 employees up in the air, and as all involved faced a winter of uncertainty, the prospects looked bleak. However, an eleventh-hour management buy-out led by Ross Brawn and Nick Fry – accompanied by a Mercedes-Benz customer engine deal, a sponsorship agreement with Richard Branson's Virgin Group and unstinting hard work back at the factory – saw the team rise phoenix-like from the ashes of Honda as Brawn GP, and the rest, as they say, is history...
With eight grand prix victories from 16 outings so far in 2009 – six for newly-crowned F1 World Champion Jenson Button, and two for team-mate Rubens Barrichello – and both world titles now in the bag one race from the end of the campaign, it has been a fairytale-like turnaround, and a lucrative one at that.
According to media analysis company Margaux Matrix, the nine hours of worldwide television coverage enjoyed by Brawn GP this season – three times what Honda received twelve months earlier – were worth at least $255 million, a figure calculated by analysing the race broadcasts of the first 15 grands prix of 2009 against advertising rates in 18 countries.
It is an incredible story of commercial success, and added to the $100 million paid by Honda to Brawn to cater for redundancy pay-offs and a further $50 million granted in terms of other expenses, it means Honda's pull-out has cost the car maker as much as $400 million.
Of the $255 million, $60 million is understood to have gone the way of opportunistic chief backer Virgin – for the comparatively measly expenditure of just $400,000 a race, equating to less than $7 million for the entire campaign – which has subsequently switched its allegiance in a more comprehensive manner to newcomer Manor for 2010, after Brawn's success priced the new champions beyond what Branson was willing to pay.