As we near the halfway point of the 2009 Formula 1 world championship, there has only ever been two names on the lips of the motoring press: Jenson Button and Brawn GP.
The sweeping technical regulations introduced with the goals of closer racing, increased overtaking, and better entertainment promised a different look and feel to Formula 1—no one realized just how much these changes would affect the once familiar F1 landscape.
The mighty teams have fallen, and in their place stand the masters of F1's new order.
The new regulations (no doubt to Jenson's delight) have played directly into the hands of Ross Brawn and his upstart team. From the very first test to the present, the car Ross Brawn saved from obscurity has been, for all intents and purposes, dominant and seemingly untouchable.
Even without the much-touted, green, earth friendly, hug a tree, save the polar bears KERS, the BGP001's superior grip and balance has bested the best and left them wondering exactly where all their development money has gone (should've used it to hire Ross Brawn).
Yes, Brawn GP had the controversial "double diffuser" since the beginning, but even the other teams that showed up to '09 with that particular bit of aero work have yet to see great results. And the only car yet to challenge the Brawn's dominance, the Adrian Newey designed RB5, didn't even have the trick diffuser.
For six of the last seven races, Jenson Button has proved his skill, tenacity, and ability to drink and spray champagne whilst standing on the top step of the podium to great effect. Button was always held back, in part by Honda's blundering management of their F1 franchise but mostly because he lacked a competitive car.
His years of frustration have paid off; the end of Honda's F1 nightmare brought the season Button could only have dreamed of—a complete and total reversal of fortunes.
The car is brilliant. The driver is brilliant. The season: a bit boring?
With six wins, Button has the WDC firmly in his grip, or at least dead in his sights. At this point (though it's still fairly early) it's Button's title to lose; a challenger need only rise to the occasion.
However, after seven races yielding only two winners, can we really watch this all season? Can Brawn and Button get boring?
The dynastic rule of F1 by big budget, factory backed teams such as Ferrari, Renault, and McLaren-Mercedes could have been construed as boring to watch, yet the rule of his majesty Michael Schumacher is still touted as the prime example of dominance and skill. Perhaps a new dynasty is on the rise? If no one can step up to the challenge, then perhaps so.
The charm of the underdog garnered Brawn GP much attention, but this underdog has turned out to be an overlord.
Button has proved to the world his abilities in an F1 car. Brawn GP have proved the power that an underdog team can possess. But where is everyone else? Surely Brawn GP couldn't have had everything right from the get go?
Some would say that watching one man win each and every race would be boring, but that doesn't stop anyone from watching Sebastian Loeb dominate the WRC. Some would say that watching one team win each and every race would be boring, but that doesn't stop the Tifosi from supporting their Scuderia (pardon my rudimentary knowledge of Italian).
Hopefully, in the next race at Silverstone we will see a challenger rise to meet a Brawny Button. Surely some designer on at least one of the other teams can figure out a way around the Brawn GP juggernaut. (If they can't, maybe a budget cap wouldn't hurt too much.) Perhaps if it rains throughout the weekend Sebastian Vettel or Lewis Hamilton or anyone can find a chink in Brawn GP's armor.
If not, it'll just be another standard chapter in Brawn and Button's brilliant 2009 season. But if you love F1 like I do, one thing it won't be is boring.
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