Best Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 1st (2009)*
Worst Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 11th (1999)
Title: The Fashionable Latecomer
Who would have thought? The team that has been beating its chest for nigh on a decade that they would take F1 world by storm have finally gone and done it. Somewhat ironically, the team arrived with minimal fanfare and was only known to be competing in 2009 barley a month before Melbourne. True to form then, the Brawn GP team of Honda heritage and BAR before that have finally turned up to the party. And my how the party has changed because of them.
Brawn GP’s current successes are a far cry from the disastrous first season the team endured as BAR in 1999. With former World Driver’s Champion Jaques Villeneuve being recruited by long-time chum Craig Pollock, the team was loudly proclaiming how it would be challenging for victories within a year. The reality, of course was the complete opposite. The team, with its controversial split livery failed to score a single world championship point that year, barley keeping touch with the Minardis. With this wake up call fresh in the teams mind, they made great strides in 2000, with Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta putting in solid drives over the year to chase fellow Honda engine users Jordan hard and claim fifth place.
The team had mixed fortunes in 2001 with both Villeneuve and Zonta putting in some decent drives only to have one of many Honda engine failures seen that year. The team did start to show its potential though, taking its first podium and challenging for points more frequently. 2002 was a disaster however. The white cars had a reliability record that would make Williams’ FW30 blush and the team’s pace was noticeably lacking from the get go. A change to Britton Jenson Button saw the team’s fortunes start to turn around with BAR taking a well deserved fifth with some stellar drives from Englishman. All of this was despite Villeneuve’s increasing discontent and vocal slamming of the team through the media. This would prove pivotal at season’s end with the long-serving Craig Pollock and the aging Jaques dumped in favour of Japan’s Takuma Sato thanks to increasing influence in the team from Honda.
The changes in driver line-up and management (with David Richards now leading the team) saw the BAR squad blow both McLaren and Williams off the track to be on the podium at 14 out of 18 rounds of the season. This led to a strong second place finish with the only blight being the team couldn’t quite manage that elusive win despiter several opportunities.
Unfortunatley this momentum was not to last with the team returning to the bad old days of midfield running (finishing sixth) with Sato going close to ending up in a record number of accidents over the season, including that infamous clash with Michael Schumacher at Spa. Despite Honda taking over the team in full and ex-Ferrari speedster Rubens Barrichello joining for 2006 things didn’t start out promisingly. Top eight finishes were few and far between, but the Japanese squad seemed to get a second wind in the last half of the season taking its first win with Button and claiming a fast-finishing fourth.
The chest beating began in earnest at the start of 2007, with the team keen to capitalise on its momentum. Yet instead of challenging near the front, Honda and their ‘Earth Dreams’ paint scheme were found near the back weekend after weekend taking a disappointing eighth. 2008 was to prove the annus horribilus (even with Ross Brawn’s brains in the fold): Barrichello’s sole third place wasn’t enough to stop Honda finishing ninth and then declaring its exit from the sport.
But, just like the current state of the world’s finances, the only way was up. 2009 has been finally shown us what this team is capable of. Now known as Brawn GP, the car is dominating the championship with Jenson Button leading and Rubens Barrichello currently sitting first and second with very little in the way of competition.
And so, like that party guest that is running late, when they finally show, they show up in style.
* NOTE: Result has been obtained during the season currently in progress.