I will never forget the feeling I had when I saw this Brawn car for the first time on the Monday morning in Barcelona on the 9th of March. It looked different, the detail on the car was so refined, and it went like stink.
Here was the most dominant F1 car we’ve seen since the Ferrari of 2004 and it was born out of the wreckage of the Honda team. Today they got a one-two finish in the first Grand Prix, making monkeys of the opposition as they went. How must Honda be feeling now? They pulled out of F1 just before Christmas, despite the assurances of Ross Brawn that the car would be a potential championship winner.
The executive who took that decision is like the man from Decca Records who turned down the Beatles. He would say it had to be done because car sales were plummeting, but the other manufacturers have stayed in and they didn’t have a car like this one.
It’s very likely that they will dominate again in Malaysia, although the heat there will test the reliability of this car, which has still not done a huge mileage in testing. They have a good 8/10ths advantage over the Ferrari and more than a second over the McLaren. Both teams are frantically working on bringing new parts to the car at the next few races, hurling money at the problem, making a bit of a mockery of the concept of cost saving. For Ferrari to do the diffuser properly it requires a new gearbox casing, so it’s a very big job. McLaren have an astonishing manufacturing capability and they will need it because they are coming from a long way back.
As for Jenson Button, he was enjoying himself this weekend, always looked relaxed and happy, not feeling pressure, revelling in the second chance that fate has given him. But behind the scenes he was very intense all weekend, apparently. He knows that this is his opportunity to do all the things he thought he was going to do in his career, before it went down the wrong path with Williams, then BAR and Honda.
I expect to see a more intense Button now, more single-minded, more ruthless even. He can take no prisoners from here, he has to translate this car advantage into results every time, keep Rubens behind him and nothing can stand in his way. If he can get far enough ahead in the points before the big teams wake up, he can win the world title. If they had stuck with the ‘winner takes all model’ of deciding a championship, he’d have had an even better chance.
This Brawn car has been very carefully prepared and has come out of the oven perfectly cooked, whereas, in comparison the grandee teams have whipped something up in the microwave. They now have to work hard to refine. It’s unlikely that the FIA appeal court will help them by upholding their appeal against the Brawn diffuser, they are going to have to do it the hard way, in the wind-tunnel.