Ross Brawn will return to Formula One ahead of the 2008 season, but his destination is expected to cause more than a few raised eyebrows, with Honda set to confirm the Briton as its new team principal today [Monday].

Brawn stood down as technical director at Ferrari at the end of the 'Schumacher era' in 2006, but was expected to take just a year's sabbatical before returning to Maranello, perhaps as team principal if Jean Todt relinquished his hold on the position. However, recent rumblings within the Prancing Horse should have given the game away with Todt apparently not content to 'move upstairs' just yet, prompting Brawn to look elsewhere for the role he craved.

According to Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, the respected technical guru will be installed at the head of Honda's struggling operation, with Nick Fry, who previously held the role, assuming the chief executive position.

According to the report, Brawn was first approached by Fry in April, but decided to honour his pledge to hold talks with Ferrari first. Although those conversations appeared set to pave the way for his return to Maranello, things took another turn only last month, allowing Brawn to re-open negotiations at Brackley, despite having also attracted attention from Red Bull - where he could have formed another technical dream team with Geoff Willis and designer Adrian Newey - and Toyota. Fry and Brawn travelled to Japan for talks with Honda hierarchy, before the deal was confirmed, internally at least, last week.

Brawn will start work immediately - winter testing starts later this week - and apparently has control of both the engineering department and the team at trackside, something which could provide the catalyst for a return to the form of 2004, where Jenson Button finished third in the world championship while the team was still titled BAR.

Since then, the team has dropped back into midfield, with 2007 being its worst for some time, Button contributing each of the six points achieved over 17 races. The decision to replace technical director Geoff Willis with motorcycle expert Shuhei Nakamoto is understood to have played a big part in the downfall, and has led to Button making repeated threats to quit the team at the end of his contract.

Fry has repeatedly tried to convince the Briton that things would improve and Brawn's arrival is the biggest possible underlining of that promise. The CEO is now expected to focus on the team's marketing strategies, including ramping up the environmental programme that began with 2007's radical 'earth car', leaving Brawn to try and translate the six constructors and five drivers' titles he achieved with Ferrari into something similar at Honda.

 

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