The 2009 season was an extremely critical year in the history of Formula 1, little for what happened on the track and a lot, a lot for what happened outside of it, where the most bitter political battle of the 2000s was fought and which has risked seeing the world of Formula 1 literally split in two: FIA on one side, FOTA on the other.
In a world as complex and above all dominated by the economic factor as Formula 1 is, such a chaotic year can become the right opportunity to allow the most brilliant figures to establish themselves despite not having the budget of the giants available, one of those right days so that David can beat Goliath, and to take advantage of all this is the British engineer Ross Brawn.
From the economic to the political crisis
This situation originates at a time of severe economic crisis: the costs of Formula 1 are increasingly difficult for teams to bear, especially for those who, despite the huge investments, have never had an important return in terms of results and, of consequently, on the growth of the brand image value.
All this leads Honda to raise the white flag and sell the majority shares of the team (taken over by Ross Brawn) and several other brands to evaluate the same idea, not to mention that obviously there is a drastic decrease in interest from other manufacturers. to evaluate entry into Formula 1. All this leads the FIA to propose revolutionary innovations on the regulation, including budget cup and important simplification changes on a technical level that will (in part) be adopted starting from the 2009 season.
The FIA wants a cheaper, simpler Formula 1 and consequently more suited to the possibility that the existing hierarchies can be overturned, exposing the big teams more to be undermined by teams with smaller budgets.
This situation inevitably leads to a tug-of-war between FIA and FOTA, at the head of which is Luca Cordereo di Montezemolo, in turn supported mainly by Ron Dennis and Christian Horner, without initially there being any prospects of a meeting point between the parts and even bringing the FOTA to threaten the exit of the main teams from Formula 1 to go to constitute a separate championship that better reflects the original meaning of the world championship for prototypes, that is the search for performance and technological innovation not bound to costs and sustainability for smaller teams.
This battle is perpetuated for a long phase of the year 2009, while the world championship is underway, slowly bringing FIA and FOTA to find compromises based above all on the signings of the teams to the concordance pact, bound to some steps backwards by the FIA.
This political chaos seems to almost shift the attention of the world of Formula 1 to the outside of the track, on which one man in particular has focused, realizing the great possibility offered him by this moment of confusion.
The birth of the Brawn GP and its secrets
As previously mentioned, Honda is the first team to surrender to the growing management costs deriving from Formula 1 and, also thanks to the contraction of the market caused by the global economic crisis, decides to leave by selling the team's shares.
What is the price of this market operation? One pound.
The problem, in fact, does not consist in itself in the value of the team, but in its high management costs. For this reason, Honda is willing to sell the team even at a truly negligible amount. Upon transfer of ownership, the acquisition of the team by Ross Brawn is recorded as an operation that took place for the symbolic sum of one pound.
Once the team has been taken over, Brawn finds himself having to face the very economic difficulty that had convinced Honda to give up, initially finding himself without the shadow of a sponsor.
Throughout the season, the English engineer will be engaged in a frantic search for brands willing to sponsor his team, some of which will appear on the car's livery only for some Grand Prix, but the real economic support on which the team will have the possibility to count comes from another figure known for his eccentricity and genius: Richard Branson.
Virgin's owner is a well-known fan of extreme sports and challenges in general, and it is therefore not difficult for Brawn to convince him to enter the world of Formula 1 by taking on this challenge that seemed to be truly incredible.
How could a newborn team, taken over by an engineer following a bankruptcy and almost devoid of any support, have tried their hand at the complex and expensive world of Formula 1? The only advantage of the Brawn GP was that it had an extremely competent owner in terms of Formula 1 and with an amazing past as technical director at Ferrari.
Starting precisely from this point, as a great director Brawn knows how to bet on the right horses, so he entrusts the design of the car to Jörg Zander and Loïc Bigois, who are based on a project that derives from Honda to create the new car.
A simplification of the aerodynamics is planned for the 2009 season, with simpler and larger front wings, narrower rear wings and others. Furthermore, the flow deviators cannot occupy their classic position in front of the side bellies, therefore the Brawn GP adopts these components in a smaller size and in a much more advanced position. As for the front, totally renewed front suspension schemes are adopted and above all it is decided to lower the nose as much as possible, which goes against the tendency to adopt the high nose preferred by the other teams.
Having said that, the real strength of this car is found in the rear area, where the Brawn adopts a double diffuser that brings so much advantage on the track and as many controversies outside of it, where it will be targeted by the other teams who consider it non-compliant. to the regulation.
This component, endorsed by the FIA despite the protests of the other teams, is characterized by a slit that divides the air coming from the bottom in two directions: the classic one that brings the flows to flow on the lower surface of the extractor, plus another way which flows into a hole placed in an upper and central position. This double airway significantly increases the downforce generated at the rear, ensuring excellent traction useful for unloading the horsepower of the powerful equipped Mercedes engine.
The season will be dominated by Brawn and his drivers, the English Janson Button, who will triumph in the drivers' championship, and the Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, a former Ferrari driver. The supremacy of this single-seater is evident above all in the first phase of the season when it collects six wins in the first seven races.
Over time, the gap will be narrowed by the Red bull, which is laying the foundations for its long dominance which would begin in the following year. But Newey’s rapid developments and all of Newey’s insights will come too late to compensate for Brawn’s huge lead in the first Grands Prix. At the end of the season, after having conquered the drivers 'and constructors' titles, the Brawn will be taken over by Mercedes, which will thus stage its great return to Formula 1.
The Ross Brawn team therefore participates in a single world championship and, taking advantage of the political and technical chaos resulting from the new regulations, takes advantage of this opportunity to write its name indelibly in the roll of honor of Formula 1, without granting spectators any another apparition.
Most likely the English engineer was aware of the fact that as soon as the world of Formula 1 had found its technical and political balance it would no longer be possible for its team to compete for the victory, but this makes the history of this team even more fascinating.