The Brawn Phenomenon

October 19, 2009

Ross Brawn, when we interviewed him for Performance at the Limit, back in 2008, at least he can pick his own team colours now.

Ross Brawn, when we interviewed him for Performance at the Limit, back in 2008, fortunately you can't see the green trousers - at least he can pick his own team colours now.

So in the end it was all resolved in Sao Paolo, Jenson Button is the new Drivers World Champion and Brawn GP is the World Champion Constructor.

Although both Jenson and Rubens have shown their real potential this year, 2009 for me has really been about the achievements of one person, Ross Brawn. Ferrari must be really kicking themselves that they didn’t offer the quiet, authoritative Englishman the position he wanted, that of Team Principal, when Jean Todt stepped down at the end of 2006. Brawn isn’t a great designer in the mould of John Barnard, Gordon Murray or Adrian Newey, neither is he a great wheeler dealer in the mould of Ron Dennis, Bernie Ecclestone or, dare I say it, Flavio Briatore. No Ross is perhaps closer to Colin Chapman of Lotus and his former boss, Patrick Head of Williams in that he is a great leader of engineers and a navigator through the complexity of technology.

At the many talks I give on the subject of F1, I’ve often been asked why Brawn have been so successful this year. The answer has two parts to it, first the team have always had significant resources in terms of infrastructure and human talent, way above the performance they had demonstrated since their days as British American Racing and then Honda Racing. So you had to have the elements to make a world champion team. The second part is that they weren’t able to galvanize and utilize all of these resources until they had some coherence and, in particular, technical direction, this is what Ross gave them. The recipe for success at Ferrari had been simple, get them all working together as one team with some clear direction and priorities, a clear strategy. Ross has applied the same philosophy at Honda, now Brawn, to devastating effect. It will be interesting to see if they are able to sustain this momentum in 2010, I suspect they will.

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