I want to take this time to congratulate Brawn GP as much, if not more, on their winning of their winning of the constructors’ crown as Jenson Button an winning the drivers’ title.
In the furore that always the crowning of a new world champion in anything the turns in the road they have travelled to get there get smoothed out. This year there are those who have bucked that trend, mostly by implying that Button is somehow a less worthy champion because he remained winless for the second half of the season.
Another fact of most F1 titles is that the winner of the constructors’, teams’, manufacturers’ (call it what you will) title is often quickly forgotten by all except the anorak community. The winning constructor is never a pub quiz question, the winning constructor is never heralded with multiple awards and the chief mechanic never gives a gushing acceptance speech. If I ask you to reel off every winning constructor of the 90s and you’d probably falter (unless you are a ‘special’ kind of fan), drivers of the same era and you’d never even stumble.
But Button is world champion.
He made the best of the situation that was presented to him, winning six of the first seven races while his teammate, by way of contrast, won none in the same equipment.
But this year it was more apparent than ever just how big a role the team and car play in scoring wins.
At the start of the Button was transformed from a man who had previously won a grand total of one Grand Prix in a career filled with midfield mediocrity into a multiple race winner.
On the other hand Lewis Hamilton, a man whose form since entering F1 made you suspect he might also be able to have a stroll across Monaco’s harbour, was left looking enviously at the top half of the grid. And that’s before all the mad too-ing and fro-ing during the season.
But Brawn aren’t just any team.
They are, of course, the rescued Honda outfit, thanks to a management buyout led by Ross Brawn, after the Japanese manufacturer pulled out after two disappointing seasons.
But even if Honda may have left useful things like designs for cars and the occasional stack of cash around Brackley, it was only part of the job.
Brawn and Nick Fry still had to build the car, get as much testing as possible before the ban fell and secure an engine deal. This is where, in my opinion, the team won the title.
Firstly Button needs to give a big warm hand shake to the man who found the loophole for the double-decker diffuser. Yes someone at Williams and Toyota found the same loophole, but no-one seemed to exploit it the way Brawn did. That may be down to the fact Honda abandoned their 2008 campaign almost as soon as it began, so had six or so months longer than everyone else to study a massive raft of rule changes.
The second master stroke made in the back room was whoever decided to give Mercedes a call over supplying engines. A marque that had not been a customer supplier before this year, was suddenly the most prolific powerplant in F1, and the fastest. There have been very few times this year when one of the six Mercedes engines has not been at (or near) the top of the speedcharts.
Even once these choices had been made and the team had taken their early successes times were tough. The residual Honda money, and any gained from sponsorship as the team’s potential became obvious, was not enough. The team had to fire several workers even after the victory in Melbourne.
Then as the season moved to Europe chinks began to show in the Brawn armour. Vettel and Red Bull already had one win in China and were now introducing updates at a rate very few, let alone Brawn, could keep up with. Other teams were getting updates, including the once crucial double diffuser, and the march Brawn had stolen in the winter had melted away by the summer.
Doom-mongers doubted the team’s means and ability to keep their car competitive as Red Bull clawed back into range over the summer.
But Brawn did introduce upgrades. A one-two finish in Monza a tour de force for the team as the brute force of the engine was complemented by strategy choices by the team that pushed both drivers past the rapid two-stoppers ahead.
That result aside the upgrades did not win races, but rather did just enough. They no longer needed to win races, a reward for their early and off season work.
And for that alone Brawn’s title should be remembered.