Ross Brawn's takeover of the former Honda team sets up an intriguing scenario. Having an engineer in charge of a team harks back to a former age, a time when Bruce McLaren ran McLaren and Jack Brabham/Ron Tauranac were in charge at Brabham.
It could be great. In one fell swoop many of the limitations of the previous big-budget outfit have dissolved. There is no longer the nightmare of having to coordinate the team base with a parent company over-eager to get involved but without a full understanding of the problems.
The politics of directing a huge budget where it's most needed - rather than where the power base dictates - disappears when there no longer is a huge budget. The energy-sapping issues of what corporate message to send to the world evaporate. All you're left with is a lean, simple racing team. It will be directed by someone with a deep understanding of what makes a car go faster and who isn't much interested in the periphery.
Much of what went wrong at Honda was specific to Honda and shouldn't be seen as inherent in any manufacturer team.
The Renault operation at Enstone works beautifully well in that a budget is provided and the racers are left to do the job. In a different model again, the Toyota operation in Cologne operates very smoothly and since the Tokyo management have become more hands-off the cars have become ever more competitive. But it requires much more energy and resource to keep a giant such as that running smoothly. Brawn GP can be rid of a whole layer of bureaucracy.
Of course for such a team to have a long-term future requires F1's cost cutting measures to be even more savage. In the meantime, Brawn GP inherits facilities built up from a massive manufacturer spend, but without the inertia that a manufacturer programme usually entails. It has some catching up to do in that its rivals have been testing for almost a month, so it would be surprising if it starred in the opening races. But thereafter things could get very interesting.
There's no reason why the woeful performance of the Hondas in the previous two seasons should carry through into Brawn GP. Ross spent last year reorganising the team into a more logical framework with better defined responsibilities. The RA108 was meanwhile patched up and raced as best they could manage. It received scant development into the second half of the season as the focus shifted to the future.
The new car could be very good.
The careers of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello have been rescued and for them this is a great opportunity to perform without the pressures of representing a manufacturer.
With the right attitude this could be the basis for giant-killing performances. That attitude is pretty much guaranteed from Rubens, given how keen he was to stay in F1 when it looked like he was going to be forced to call time on his career. For Button it's going to require more of a mind shift. Like the team, he needs to get in lean, hungry mode and see if he can do justice to a wonderful talent just as the sport's power brokers have ceased to have much interest in him.
As well as recalling the past, this leaned-down operation might just be signalling the future. In years to come, will there be a Symonds GP based at Enstone? A Howett F1 in Cologne and maybe even a Sauber team in Hinwil?
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