Ross Brawn is continuing to refuse to give anything away about either Brawn GP's driver line-up or the anticipated Mercedes-Benz buy-in next year – as he acknowledged that his homecoming following Jenson Button's world championship success in 2009 was a rather more pleasant experience than the first time he had helped to engineer a driver to F1 title glory.
Whilst acknowledging that Button is '99 per cent' likely to remain on-board at Brackley into 2010 – despite the two sides still proving unable to come to an agreement on salary, with the driver asking for more than his team is willing to pay him – Brawn would not comment on speculation linking Williams refugee Nico Rosberg to the ex-Honda F1 outfit's second seat at the behest of engine-partner Mercedes.
The Englishman was, however, very quick to heap praise upon the Stuttgart manufacturer for the vital role it played in not only helping to rescue the squad from the jaws of oblivion after Honda suddenly and unexpectedly pulled the plug just under twelve months ago – but also in powering Button to the ultimate laurels.
“Mercedes are a very important partner,” he stressed, speaking during a special celebration parade in Brackley. “Without the Mercedes engine I don't think we would have won the championship this year. It's a great engine – possibly the best engine in Formula 1.
“We've formed a really good partnership with the Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines team at Brixworth – also in Northamptonshire – and we're looking at all opportunities for the future, but it's too early to say at the moment what they will be.”
What Brawn was more forthcoming about, by contrast, was the assertion that having had to shed a significant number of staff following the uncertain 2008/09 winter, there will be no more redundancies now that the team is well-established in its own right – but equally that there will be no new vacancies either.
“We did go through a painful restructuring, obviously very painful for the people who suffered,” he acknowledged. “I think it's heartening to have a lot of them say they're still very proud of the team, and I'm very proud of the contribution they genuinely made over the winter, because that restructuring didn't happen until March/April of this year. All of those people were involved with this project and should feel very proud of it.
“We feel we're at a good size to be viable now, because we're a private team and we have to be able to operate off the income from partnerships, sponsorships and from the FOM television money. We don't intend to increase and we don't intend to decrease; this is a good operational size for us for the near future. There are changes coming in Formula 1, but we're pretty comfortable with where we are.”
Finally, the 54-year-old was presented with a special accolade by the town's mayor for his achievements in spearheading the resurrection of a team that had looked set to founder on Honda's ashes, enabling it to not only rise phoenix-like from the flames but then go on to fight for and claim both the drivers' and constructors' crowns come season's end, a dramatic turnaround of almost fairytale proportions. And the reception, he admitted, was somewhat more agreeable than it had been 15 years earlier...
“I was lucky enough to win the championship in '94 with Benetton,” Brawn explained. “We came back to Enstone and there were buses there too, but they were all protesters because Michael [Schumacher] had knocked Damon Hill off – that was the welcome I got for the world championship in '94! This has been fabulous, and certainly one of the best days in my history, for sure.”