Tech Specs: Brawn BGP 001
A look at one of the most accidentally dominant cars in F1 history.
The car that was the centre of one of the best rags-to-riches story of Formula One history, the Brawn BGP 001 won the championship for the Brawn GP team in their debut and only year of competition in 2009, handing British driver Jenson Button his only driver's title that year also. The chassis evolved from the concept that the Honda team were working on throughout 2008.
Eventually in December of 2008, Honda announced that thanks to financial setbacks within the company, the Japanese manufacturer would be withdrawing from F1. As Honda looked for a suitable buyer to continue on the team the car was worked on in the background, with former Honda Team Principal Ross Brawn eventually agreeing to buy out the team and run it throughout 2009.
Thanks to the loss of Honda from the sport, Brawn was forced to look for another engine supplier, settling with power from future buyers Mercedes, supplying the team with their FO108W 2.4 litre naturally aspirated engine, roughly mated to a chassis designed by Loic Bigois. The transmission was also designed in-house by Brawn GP. The team designed a seven-speed automatic gearbox as opposed to the other Mercedes powered factory team Force India, who opted to purchase transmission from the McLaren team.
Rubens Barrichello, 2009 Spanish Grand Prix.
With the quick decision to use the Mercedes engine, the engineering team were forced to shave six inches off the end of the car, thus compromising the car's centre of gravity leaving the team with little time to fix the issue. Brawn also stated that there were numerous issues with the car, such as the weight and some parts not working to potential. One of the decisions to use a Mercedes engine was down the the efficiency of fitting the engine to the already designed chassis. The car also sported a radical “double diffuser” design to the rear of the car to aid downforce on the underbody of the car.
Thanks to the numerous regulation changes set in place for 2009, the cars looked and worked very different to the previous year's variants and a shake up in the grid pecking order was predicted. Brawn GP, considering the situation with the car were not of high hopes when Jenson Button debuted the car at Silverstone on the 6th of March 2009, and three days later the car made it's official debut for testing at the Circuit de Catalunya. Soon the car was impressing, with drivers such as Ferrari's Felipe Massa going as far as saying the BGP 001 was looking to be one of the most competitive of the season.
The comments played through as Brawn managed to win the opening round of the season as Button led teammate Rubens Barrichello home to take a one-two finish in the team's very first Grand Prix, a feat not managed since Mercedes had done so in 1954. Button would go on to win five of the next six races, with the team reaching the podium in the first eight races of the season. Despite the team's performance dropping mid season thanks to the rest of the field catching up, Button eventually took the title in Brazil, with the team also securing the constructor's title at the same event one round early. The car took a total of eight wins out of seventeen races, Button's six victories to Barrichello's two.
One of the major taking points was the car's double diffuser as mentioned earlier, and the design immediately attracted attention from rival teams. Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull complained that the designs saw on the BGP 001, Williams FW31 and Toyota FW109 were illegal but each of the three designs were eventually cleared by the FIA being deemed as legal and that nothing went against the rules in these designs.
For the 2010 season, Ross Brawn sold on a 75.1% share to Daimler AG and Aabar Investments and the team became Mercedes Grand Prix, eventually forming into the currently dominant Mercedes AMG Petronas team we see today. Button left to go to McLaren for 2010, whilst Barrichello saw out his final two seasons in F1 with Williams. Brawn stayed on as team principal until the end of 2013, working with new drivers Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg in 2010.
In what was one of the best comeback stories, the Brawn BGP 001 will forever be remembered as one of the fastest, most dominant cars in the history of the sport, one that almost didn't compete at all, and one that shouldn't have worked as well as it did, a proper machine.