When Ross Brawn and Nick Fry were talking up the future of their team following Honda’s withdrawal announcement many people had their doubts. Yes, Honda F1 Racing did sacrifice 2008 season and focused on 2009, yes, they had Ross Brawn at their helm. But over the years we got used to promises and words of high hopes coming out of Brackley whether it was during their BAR or Honda days. Most of the time however delivering on those promises was entirely different matter.
Then came Barcelona test. Only few days after announcing formation of Brawn GP the team took their (at the moment) only car to the test track for the first time. Jenson Button lead the time sheets for better part of day 1, Rubens Barrichello posted 3rd fastest time on day 2. On day 3 Button was quickest out there and the only one with the time in 1:19s. And then on the final day Rubens went even better pushing the car to 1:18.926 – a pace that even Autosport brands as “blistering”.
The naysayers were out almost immediately, Flavio Braitore among them. According to their opinion the pace displayed by Brawn GP is simply a publicity stunt to attract sponsorship. The blank sponsorless livery speaks for itself, right ? There are suggestions that the team runs with very low fuel levels and that perhaps it is even underweight (not illegal during testing) to help them get to the top of the timesheets.
Then there is other group of people who believe that the car’s pace is genuine, Fernando Alonso among them. There is no doubt that both Barrichello’s and Button’s fastest laps were achieved in qualifying trim. But the fact is the car is quick and reliable straight out of the box.
Ross Brawn himself is pleased (extremely) with the performance but also says the car is where they expected it to be:
“We are extremely pleased with the inaugural test of the BGP 001 car in Barcelona this week. The team made a very late start to our pre-season testing programme with only seven days in which to run the car before the first race in Melbourne, therefore our focus has been on reliability and achieving as much mileage as possible. Both of these aims have been successfully achieved this week. That the car has run so reliably ‘out of the box’ is a tribute to the strong team that we have at our factory in Brackley and they have done a great job during a very difficult period.
The car is performing to our expectations and the feedback from Jenson and Rubens has been positive with both drivers completing full race distances.”
The mind games are definitelly on and it is very difficult to make anything out of the test times. Despite the slow times posted by McLaren how many people actually believe that McLaren MP4-24 will turn out to be back of the grid car ?
Back in 2001, Prost AP04 posted some impressive times during winter testing, they seemed to be right there with the big guys. But those times came at price, their only aim was to impress and attract funding. Jean Alesi:
“I understood that because I understood the importance of funding. But the time came when we had to stop that, and initially the team did not want to. But we were just fooling ourselves. We had to go back to running with a high fuel load to develop the car the way all the other teams do, not with 15 kgs.”
The team ended the season with 4 points only and went bankrupt during the next winter.
Back in 2004 however BAR Honda cars were very quick during the winter and they kept their pace during the season too. Bad luck that the built their best car in the same year when no one could match Ferrari. Still, BAR Honda winter form turned into great year for them. Although without a race win the team finished second in contructors championship (119 points) and Jenson Button 3rd in drivers championship (85 points).
It will be interesting to see what kind of season will 2009 turn out to be for Brawn GP, will it be the 2001 Prost or 2004 BAR Honda scenario ?