Just when you thought the big sensation of 2009 was the fact that the McLaren is off the pace, the BrawnGP team rose out of the ashes and stole the limelight.
Brawn, Button and Barrichello.
Will they be the trio to beat this year? I will go ahead and say yes. Here’s why.
Button and Barrichello set testing times that were up to a second ahead of the competition in Barcelona this week. Stint times show that their race pace is about as fast as McLarens ultimate qualifying pace in Barcelona: http://ellincedelpaddock.com/racesimbutton.pdf
Evil tongues say that this speed is achieved by running underweight to attract sponsors. But that makes no sense whatsoever. BrawnGP is set budgetwise for 09 and they have literally no time for playing games.
Felipe Massa have been quoted for saying that the times of the BGP001 car are unreachable at the moment. And even if they ran without ballast and put it back in the car, it would still be very quick.
Williams Technical Director Sam Michael said that if they indeed have that pace, they will be lapping the field in Melbourne.
After having seen the speed of the BrawnGP team, Flavio said: “When I arrived here I was still optimistic regarding our opportunities. That is no longer the case.”
Those are ominous sounding qoutes, but lets take a look at the BGP001. Here are some of its distinctive features and strong points.
-Designed without KERS in mind. Making it easier to play around with ballast for optimal weight distribution.
-An incredibly low nose. A direct contrast to the other teams. Some with much “taller” noses. This looks to be as low as possible according to regulations.
-Snug and small sidepods and inlets. Lesser cooling needed as no KERS is installed in the car. A high positioning for optimal airflow towards the rear.
-A frontwing where the main part is made as narrow as possible. This is achieved by a clever design of the endplates which in return directs the flow around the front wheels.
-Mercedes engine. Believed to be around 50 bhp up from the Honda engine of last year. Even with 1.000 revs less. Very smooth power delivery according to Barrichello.
-“Double decker” diffuser. Exploits the regulations by making it a part of the crash structure thus creating a larger diffuser area.
-“Snow plough” bargeboard. Sits under the chassis of the car and tunnels the airflow very effectively to the diffuser area. Williams has showed a similar design to this. (Interestingly enough, Williams was the only other team to dip below the 1.20s in the Barcelona tests.)
There are several other strong features of the car. But all these combined makes it an ingenious little packet. It boggles the mind that this car almost didn’t see the light of day.
So what are we looking at? A repeat of 1992? Nigel Mansell in an almost unbeatable Williams FW14B with active suspension?
Maybe not that extreme, but there is a very real possibility that Button and Barrichello will dominate in Melbourne. And with no in-season testing allowed, who knows how long this domination could potentially last.
It would certainly bring about the greatest fairytale in F1 history. Two drivers almost written off by the F1 community now fighting for the championship. Not the ultimate scenario for a Kimi fan like myself. But I think I could live with that.
All through the winter, there has been talk about how the new regulations could upset the traditional order of the pack. How it might bring some of the mid-field contenders right up to the front.
Well, this is it. I believe this has indeed happened. Get ready to eat some humble-pie. I have already had a slice myself and I’m ready for seconds.
Last year I published a story where I wrote the following about Barrichello: “How are you going to celebrate when you realize that switching teams turns out to be the worst decision you have ever made?”
You might see me licking the plate in about two weeks time. What the executive branch in Honda are doing then, I dare not to think about..