#F1 Feature: Brawn: F1’s Authoritative Giant

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor: Carlo Carluccio

A person who has led both teams and drivers to the pinnacle of their sport, along with numerous world titles, often poses a level of certain gravitas, respected by all.

Adrian Newey may well be the design genius of his generation but Ross Brawn is more than his equal when it comes to running a successful racing team. Some would argue that since the mid 90’s, Brawn has proven the more influential of the two in the sport of Formula 1.

Newey’s first big break came under the tutelage of Patrick Head who remained the Williams technical director during his tenure at Didcot. When he moved to join Mclaren, after a sterling 1998 season, the Woking machinery began remorselessly falling away from contention until the release of the Mclaren MP4/18 proved a step too far.

ppp-neweyAt the time, Mclaren employed a matrix management system. Add to that Ron Dennis’ known penchant for being anally retentive, it is likely that Newey was not allowed a slip of paper in his office. Having made his break for freedom, Adrian returned to his preferred quill and parchment in his Red bull office, and famously retains this level of simplicity within his drawings today.

Brawn began at Williams as well and moved to Arrows, then Jaguar during his career,  before landing at Benetton in the early 90’s. With designer Rory Byrne and Schumacher they won the 1994-95 titles and then collectively upped and left for the Italian way of life in Maranello.

Miracle of miracles, the foreigners, including German Michael Schumacher, transformed a withering Italian prancing horse and set about rewriting the F1 record books.

brawn_schumacher_ferrari-1349351163The ensuing sustained domination of F1 was unique in the sport’s history.

Yet, the impertinent French, set about usurping Ferrari’s dominance in the mid ‘naughties’, and the heads of two influential Italian families called a summit. It was time for their countryman to return to managing the family business.

Brawn was exited at the end of the 2006 season, and following a fishing sabbatical was offered the role of transforming an ailing Japanese venture. Mega bucks were thrown at developing the Honda prototype racing project. However, the shareholders of the host global automotive manufacturing company decided enough was enough, pulled out of F1 in 2008, selling the team to Brawn for a famous single digit currency unit of £1.

With just weeks to go before the winter testing for the 2009 F1 season, Mercedes were co-opted by Brawn as engine partner’s for the abandoned Honda chassis.

australia-melbourne-race-f1-wallpaper-2009-19The F1 championships were won for Brawn GP by mid summer, though the emerging Milton Keynes based Bulls made an impressive – but all too late – challenge.

Having discovered their long term lover McLaren was cheating on them and planning to design road cars, the powerhouse of German Automotive manufacturing – Daimler Benz – decided the time was ripe to re-enter their own works team into the Formula 1 competition; the first time since they withdrew an all dominant team in the mid 1950’s.

Brawn and a couple of buddies did a deal to sell the company they acquired just one year earlier for a reported $100m to Stuttgart.

The task of re-creating Mercedes Benz glory was entrusted to Ross Brawn, though initially the German’s appeared reluctant to spend more than a fifth of his previous Japanese masters. He recruited Ferrari comrade and talisman driver, Michael Schumacher for the campaign, along with commonly regarded less impressive German driver, Nico Rosberg.

Times were tough, though the Daimler Benz purse strings became ever more open as Brawn set about a programme of modernisation of the production facilities in Brackley.

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At the end of 2013, Brawn quit. There were new boys in town, and they were regularly grabbing the microphone and creating negative publicity (Lauda trying to buy off the FIA of tyregate). This was affecting Brawn’s ability to steer the ship, so there was one last offer from the maestro, “My way, or I take the highway“.

Ross is currently travelling, and has appeared in a number of places of F1 nostalgia, Maranello and Grove to name but two.

fishing

The prancing horse meanwhile has recruited a savvy project manager to cut out the cancer of ineptitude and still the civil war at the home of Ferrari.

Newey was ‘allegedly’ also offered a blank chequebook and was informed he wouldn’t even need to clock on for work when arriving at the factory. Yet multi billionaire Red Bull magnate Mateschitz, managed to scrape together enough cash to provide Adrian with an offer he couldn’t refuse. A lifetime supply of Apfelstrudel and Pez candy, and the peace and quiet of a factory all to himself on the Milton Keynes Red Bull Technologies estate.

Whiilst Newey is undoubtedly the guru of #F1 motor car design from the modern era, yet this quietly spoken, mild mannered English gentleman may be able to redefine the laws of physics, but lacks skills in the inspirational leadership stakes.

The 2013 Malaysian GP demonstrated never better, the respect Ross Brawn commanded from his troops. Whilst a naughty Sebastian Vettel blatantly disregarded even a call on the radio from his team manager, Brawn was able to insist during the race his drivers hold station – despite the fact Nico Rosberg in 4th was clearly quicker than a struggling Hamilton in 3rd behind the two Bulls.

imagesThe honesty of Hamilton’s view of the situation was plain for all to see on the podium. He looked as though he’d lost $100 bill and found a nickel. Later Lewis commented “it should have been Nico” who received the podium acclamation. Yet, by insisting the pre-race strategy agreements were honoured, the team’s integrity was intact, trust was maintained and Brawn’s authority displayed as untouchable.

Driver’s disobeying instructions over the radio is always big news. The top story covered by UK TV broadcasters following this year’s Malaysian GP was the fact that Massa finishing 7th, had refused to move over for Bottas who ended up 8th.

This weekend, the rest of the paddock would have been rubbing their hands with glee, as the all conquering Mercedes F1 team began a public meltdown, from which they may not be able to recover. Of course Mercedes will win the WCC and one of their pilots will be the F1 2014 driver champion. Yet things will never be the same in Brackley.

The fallout from ‘multi 21’ for Red Bull, many believe was simple. Horner lost respect amongst fans of the sport and is a figure of ridicule on fan sites and forums. Vettel was boo’d on the podium for most of the year, whilst Brawn went quietly about his business adding the finishing touches to the structures and processes which then delivered this year the most dominant F1 car for decades.

The two heads of Mercedes F1 are now at loggerheads. It appears the abrasive and opinionated Niki Lauda favours Hamilton, whilst the self image obsessed, media hungry Toto Wolff backs Rosberg.

This division can only become greater as the season progresses and the title ambitions for one of the protégés is within reach.

Paddy Lowe is piggy in the middle, and on a hot day in the pit lane, appears to be glancing around nervously to check for his shadow.

Michael-SchumacherRoss Brawn made a name for himself as a brilliant strategist in the mid-nineties whilst at Benetton, his instinct to call a counter move was without equal, such that it appeared Brawn was in fact orchestrating the race with a deft touch.

Today, Mercedes are accused of having a strategy team which is too rigid. They compute billions of numbers on Saturday night and develop from this a Yes/No decision tree for all foreseeable circumstances.

The strategy tree for the Hungarian GP said, “If we have a 3 stopper appearing behind our other driver two stopping – with stops yet to come – should we ask the lead car to move over?” The computer flickered away, then answered YES.

However, despite the defiance from their employee driver to follow agreed strategy protocols, Mercedes were slow to consider Nico’s alternatives. When it became clear Alonso was running a Kamikaze do or die dash to the end of the race on what would become merely the wheel rims –  the strategists asked the computer once again,

The response was “data input required”

Such was the chaos of the race, this scenario had not been foreseen by the uber efficient German machine.

In that moment, Brawn was never more obviously missed.

John Watson, is a former Grand Prix winner and knows Niki Lauda well. They were team-mates at both Brabham and .Mclaren, and Watson’s observation on the ensuing melee at Mercedes following last weekend’s race is as follows.

“Lauda is a very intelligent man but I do not know what authority he has. Paddy Lowe is a great guy but he is not the right person to deal with things while Toto Wolff is more interested in promoting himself. There is one person who could bring order to the team, and this is the man they let go, Ross Brawn…”

Mercedes’ loss may yet be Ferrari’s gain should he take up the appointment of ‘special consultant’ to the team.

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14 responses to “#F1 Feature: Brawn: F1’s Authoritative Giant

  1. Really enjoyable read Carlo. A lot of my “younger” memories of watching F1 are of a red shirted Brawn, peeling a banana, serenely talking to Schumacher and executing perfection, week in week out. It was mesmerising to watch.

  2. Great article. Very fun to read and very informative. There should be a WMC (World Manager Championship) every year and Ross Brawn should have won several of them.

    Interestingly, we have close to 15 team managers (assuming some teams have more than one head) but with Brawn and Briatore currently out of the sport you can count the managers that actually seem to hold the power and administer it with the fingers of your left ear.

  3. Nice read.
    Mercedes management were almost as funny in Hungary as Mr Horner in Malaysia last year. Luckily wizard Ross was in town for last years tyre gate schenanigans, as who knows where the team would have ended up with Nikki-To at the helm.

  4. behind the wheel, Lauda excelled, while in the pits, he was almost a source of attrition with the teams he worked with and the media

    just remember his seasons with Ferrari and then with Jaguar, often he was bashing somebody or something in the media, until that episode at Jaguar testing, when he said even a monkey could drive F1 modern cars, then he came, spun, proved the opposite and was ridiculed around the same media he used and stil uses to attack other people

  5. Another read of the highest order here Carlo – thanks!

    I have a question though….would you agree that Ross Brawn favoured Lewis Hamilton at the Brackley setup? Lewis has credited his and Lauda’s influence as a large reason for his move there showing his amazing draw as a figurehead. I always got the feeling that Brawn saw a Schumacher esque potential in Hamilton.

    • I’ve long thought despite Lauda’s claims that Brawn was the real attraction for Lewis’ move. I could see Hamilton winding up with Brawn in the future if he ever alights at another team.

      • That’s my intuition, too. If ever Mattiacci’s henchman job is done and Brawn suddenly pops up to cool everyone down at Maranello (which I wouldn’t be surprised to have been the plan all along), I see Lewis being the first one in..

  6. Superficial with no detail….. I get your skimming the web sites and passing it on for the newbies, fair enough, but it ends up VERY poor & wrong in so many places. A small example is the complete ignorance of Jean Todt.

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