Whenever an F1 team is in the doldrums, rumors of staffing changes begin to circulate. This year was no exception for the Mercedes (nee Brawn) squad. In 2009 the team, newly morphed from Honda, seemed to launch from somewhere close to the very back of the grid to become the class of the field. That all changed in 2010: the Merc team was often competing against the likes of Renault and Williams for “best of the rest” honors.
As a result, paddock gossips have wondered aloud if perhaps Ross Brawn’s days as team principal might be numbered. Brawn has scoffed at the notion, however, saying, “I will not resign until this team is successful.” Brawn went on to shed some light on why the team has been underperforming this year.
During the first half of last season, of course, the Brawn team (as they were then known) seemed bullet proof. Sooner or later, though, Teflon coating wears away, and during the second half of 2009 the usual suspects seemed to have clawed their way back to the front. Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull all seemed to be able to mount challenges against the Brawns at various times.
The Red Bulls, in particular, seemed to be coming into their own. They demonstrated an evolution that they continued in 2010, which carried them to both the driver’s and constructor’s titles. And what of Brawn? Ross Brawn himself has allowed that their stunning success last year was the result of a perfect storm, more or less. As is well known by now, Honda’s 2008 car was such a disaster that Brawn, recently installed as tech director, decided to pour all the team’s resources into the 2009 iteration. The strategy paid off, in spades.
On paper, it looked as though the team (now Merc) might be positioned to make a decent run at the title in 2010. But more has changed at the team than just the name (again). As Ross Brawn recently told Auto Motor Und Sport, “In 2008 we had 750 people in Brackley and several hundred in Japan for Honda. We no longer have those numbers.”
Brawn has repeated his strategy for 2009 to a degree. He stopped development on the 2010 car somewhere around mid-season, and began pouring resources into the 2011 car. Will the ploy yield the same results as before? Said Brawn, “We won’t experience [the] fairy tale of 2009 for a second time. But I am sure that we will have a very good car. We will only know how good when we drive it. If it is as good as we think it is, then we have also the organization in the back to develop it during the season.”