So at this stage of the season, the question is being begged: how come the championship seems to be being dominated by two little teams while the world champion driver's team and the world champion constructors are nowhere? There are all sorts of reasons being proposed:
1. That the two title battlers from last year were so caught up in their battle they forgot about this year. Probably rubbish - they have way too many resources for that to have been an issue. They have separate teams of designers/aerodynamicists working on the following year's car that don't need to think about racing this one.
2. That McLaren and Ferrari devoted so much time and energy to KERS that they weren't looking for the aero loopholes - sorry loopslots - hard enough. There's maybe something in that one. The only big manufacturer team that was dubious about KERS - Toyota - is lo and behold the only one to think of the aero loophole and the only factory team with a fast car.
3. That a radically new set of regulations moved the demands away from ultimate optimisation of a small set of differences around a well-understood basic concept, towards new thinking, small racing-savvy groups that could come up with good answers quickly rather than committees. Probably something in that one too, though Ferrari operates along the small group dynamic even though it is quite a big team.
4. Or is all the above incidental? Is this really about Brawn v Newey Part 3? Is the Brawn v Red Bull battle just the latest in a series of jousts between the two pre-eminent influences on F1 success of the past decade-and-a-half, Ross Brawn and Adrian Newey? Before this instalment we had the Newey-McLaren/Brawn-Ferrari battles of 1998-2003 and before that there was Brawn-Benetton v Newey-Williams for a couple of years. It seems no matter how their circumstances are shuffled, F1's competitive order resolves itself into their two opposing camps.
They each bring different things to the table, but both work. Newey is the hands-on design purist who still uses a drawing board, who can somehow visualise airflow and what a car needs. Give him the opportunity of a new set of aero regs, where the requirements are jumbled, and he shines. But it's a myth that all he's interested in is aerodynamics - what he's interested in is performance, and aerodynamics is usually the best area for finding it.
But don't forget some of his key innovations - energy storage (banned in 1998 but back in vogue now), brake steer (banned in 1998) and torque-sensing diffs (banned in 2000) have had nothing to do with aerodynamics.
Notice how many of those innovations were banned? Pretty much all of them. Any idea who was behind getting most of them banned? That would be Ross. Does that rankle with Newey? You bet. The underlying niggle between them was evident as recently as the FIA appeal hearing on diffusers.
Brawn is the engineering-steeped people man who puts the right guys in the right places then inspires and motivates them, who has a deep understanding of strategy and a mind that in its own way is every bit as lateral as Newey's. But while it doesn't go as technically deep, it goes wider.
He applies himself very well on the off-circuit aspects of competing. He has likened F1 to warfare, and he wages total war. Notice how when he was at Ferrari, it seemed to win a disproportionate number of FIA decisions - and how now he's no longer there it doesn't? Notice how Brawn has just won a crucial one? Maybe coincidence, maybe not.
They bring different things, but what they share is a competitiveness intense even by F1 standards.
To continue reading this feature, join Autosport Plus today.
Are you an Autosport magazine subscriber? Activate your online account
- Your Autosport Plus membership includes:
- Unlimited access to Autosport's news - no monthly cap.
- Read the best motorsport features, analysis and opinion.
- Explore Forix, our comprehensive motorsport stats database.
- Choose from a monthly or yearly membership.