How Brawn GP benefited from the 2009 rule change

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The new season will start in a few months. Formula 1 is entering a new era with new regulations. It is not the first time that the sport presents a new set of rules. With the introduction of new rules, there are often obvious winners, but also losers. Brawn GP was one of those winners. The team only existed for one year, but took off with both titles.

Thirteen years ago, the big problem in Formula 1 was the limited overtaking opportunities. The lords of the sport had come up with a plan, with new cars, to make the sport more attractive. Adjusting the regulations to attract more viewers in this way is therefore of all times.

Regulation change 2009

Formula 1 had come up with a number of solutions. For example, the ‘Kinetic Energy Recovery System’, or KERS for short, was first introduced. It was an optional modification, the teams were given the choice to use it or leave it as it was. It provided a driver with an electronic boost of around 82 horsepower for just seven seconds. It could mean the difference between a successful overtaking maneuver or a new attempt. The downside was that defending also became a bit easier with the extra horsepower.

Monaco Brawn GP

In addition to the KERS system, the profile-less tires also returned. Today we don’t know any better, but that was new then. People have been driving around with profile on the tires for a number of decades. This allowed the riders to monitor the wear of the rubber. This also prevented a sudden tire blowout, because drivers could see when the tire was at its end. The ‘slicks’ also gave the drivers more grip than with the profiled tyres. The thinking was: less downforce and more mechanical grip mean better racing and more overtaking manoeuvres. At the rear, the height of the rear wing increased. The idea was that the shape, direction and force of turbulent air would change. This should make it easier for a vehicle behind to follow.

Departure Honda

Honda started its own factory team in Formula 1 in 2006. The result of two seasons was one win in Hungary and fourth place in the constructors’ championship. That is of course fine for a debut year. The team therefore employed two experienced drivers, namely Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello. In addition, Ross Brawn was the team principal and at that time he had already had his glorious period at Ferrari. So the Brit knew how to build a winning team. Still, things did not go well in the sporting field in 2008. The Japanese chose, like Haas in 2021, to focus on the new season with the new rules and to stop developing the 2008 car.

Honda 2008

Honda’s adventure came to an abrupt end. With the financial crisis that also started to hit Formula 1, the Japanese car brand had to make choices. In the context of damage limitation, the team had to pull the plug on the Formula 1 project. However, team principal Brawn and Nick Fry knew what was going on behind the scenes and were eager to keep the team. Talks were held by Honda with several backers and eventually, with just a month left before the season opener in Australia, a deal was struck with Brawn and Fry. The two were allowed to buy the team for the symbolic amount of 1 British pound.

Double diffuser

After Honda dropped out, Brawn had to come up with an alternative to the bike. Mercedes presented itself and Brawn joined forces with the German car brand. The car’s original design was based on the Honda power unit and there was simply no time to adapt the car to the Mercedes engine. A compromise was chosen, but it was not really ideal.

With Brawn at the helm, loopholes were always sought. This time too, the Brit came up with a technical tour de force, the double diffuser. Not only Brawn GP had incorporated the idea into the car, Williams and Toyota also had their variant on the cars. Still, the element on the Brawn car would do its job best. The downforce loss of the regulations was compensated with the new part. It made the Brawn GP 001 an unbeatable car, at least the first few months.

winter test

Testing was done three weeks prior to the first Grand Prix. Barrichello and Button’s car went like a firefighter. Both gentlemen therefore recorded the fastest times of the official tests in Jerez and Barcelona out of nowhere. The cars were almost two seconds faster than the rest. It also caused the FIA ​​to cancel the times initially. The motorsport federation thought that the chicanes were chipped, otherwise such a big difference would not be possible. It soon became apparent that Brawn GP had simply done his homework well.

Course of season

This strong trend was continued at the beginning of the year. Button won six of the seven first Grands Prix. The advantage of the double diffuser was also noticed by the other teams and each team started making its own version. That caused Brawn GP’s lead to slowly but surely diminish. Red Bull Racing got closer halfway through the season and Sebastian Vettel saw Button come closer in the championship as well. However, Vettel’s final sprint was not enough to keep Button and Brawn GP from the world titles.

Jenson Button, 2009 World Champion

Mercedes

Brawn GP was still a private team at the time. To compete against Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull Racing for years, more money was simply needed. Brawn could no longer do that himself, so it was decided to sell the team to Mercedes, which does have the clout to compete.

Mercedes, 2010

It remains to be seen what the new regulations of 2022 will bring us. We can assume that the smart minds within the teams have been working for a while to find the loopholes in the law, in order to repeat the fairytale of Brawn GP.

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