Brawn — another historic name disappears

Okay, so Brawn may only have been in Formula 1 for less than one year. But undoubtedly it is a name and a team that will go down in history.

There was a magnetic attraction to the Cinderella story that was the life of Brawn GP. Until March, the existence of the former Honda team hung in the balance. A last-minute lifeline and some punchy Mercedes engines (which required the incredible generosity of McLaren) saved the day for the employees at Brackley.

The car turned out to be devastatingly quick. In its short life, the Brawn team achieved some juicy records. This made it, by many measures, the most successful new team there has ever been in F1. Today it secures a status as the only team ever to have a 100% championship-winning record.

The shortest-lived legendary team

Despite a lifespan of less than a year, Brawn will go down in legend. Its rapid success ensured that it had become a household name. And its livery — with the distinctive chartreuse swooshes highlighted by bold, black borders — will surely become as iconic as a JPS livery, a Marlboro livery or a Gulf livery.

People quickly became attached to the Brawn colours. Just look at how many of this year’s F1 books are decked out in a snot green that tries to replicate the fluorescence of the car itself. It is such a strong image.

A livery change was widely expected as soon as Brawn started to get more sponsors. But a livery change never happened. Despite the fact that most of Brawn’s sponsors over the 2009 season actually had red logos, thereby clashing awkwardly with the neon yellow, Brawn stuck with the original livery because it worked so well.

Mercedes to ignore Brawn heritage?

Maybe I am over-egging the pudding a little. But I genuinely think the sport has lost an icon. Today’s announcement that the Brawn team will be bought by Mercedes brings to an end this incredible story of the plucky underdogs who won against all odds.

It is yet another stage in the rollercoaster existence of the Brackley-based team whose history can be traced back to Tyrrell. In the past five years alone, the team has been owned by British American Tobacco, Honda and Brawn. The Mercedes era should finally bring some stability to this team.

Mercedes Grand Prix possible livery

In its press release today, Mercedes has included a mock-up of the sort of livery it presumably wants to run with next season. All trace of the Brawn heritage has apparently vanished.

Maybe I am just too romantic for my own good. But I would like to see the splashes of Brawn chartreuse remain, with the rest of the car remaining silver. After all, the current McLaren livery has “Rocket Red” in more or less the same places as Brawn’s chartreuse.

There is much talk about how the “return” Mercedes to F1 as a works team will mean a return of the legendary “Silver Arrows”. That’s funny, because I seem to remember everyone saying the same thing when McLaren switched to a silver livery in 1997. Maybe it doesn’t count any more.

McLaren’s colours: If not silver, what?

Speaking of McLaren’s silver livery, their press release today says that it will remain the same. Against expectations, McLaren have extended their engine deal with Mercedes to now last until 2015. But Daimler AG will be selling back the bit of McLaren that they own, and McLaren will become a Mercedes customer team rather than the pseudo-works team they had become.

As speculation increased over the past week or so, I began to wonder what colour scheme McLaren would adopt were they to part ways with Mercedes. Obviously that is a bit academic now, but it’s interesting to think about.

Nowadays most people think of McLaren as a silver (or, for the less charitable among us, grey) team. But it is probably more accurate to think of McLaren’s main colour as being red.

Red is the most prominent colour of the most evocative McLaren livery — the famous Marlboro scheme it ran in its 1980s heyday. Historically, McLaren ran with an orange livery.

The team describes the red colour that features in today’s livery as “Rocket Red”. It is not a scarlet or a Ferrari red. It is rather orangey, perhaps in a nod to the team’s history running in orange.

In recent years, McLaren have been known to run test cars in an orange livery from time to time. It would be really neat if McLaren toned down the “Rocket Red” a notch or two, and made its colour orange once again.

Or am I just being too romantic again? Maybe not. It is a good sign that McLaren Automotive use orange prominently in their marketing.

27 comments

  1. Good post. I too am a romantic for the glamour of F1, and although the image of the team being plucky underdogs knocking the car together in Ross Brawn’s garden shed is far from the truth, it’s a resonant image that has captured the public imagination.

    I know it’s a totally misleading figure, but suppose if you look at the stats on a “success per race entered” basis, Brawn would be the most successful team of all time.

  2. I like the white and (whatever it is) scheme too, but I don’t think the loss of the Brawn name counts for much… Not nearly as much as the presence of the man himself in the office. It’s reasonable to assume this was Ross B’s payday… He’s spent a lot of the last year flying home in coach on Valujet to terminate good employees. His name will always be associated with a season of:

    – Calmness in the face of disaster;

    – Cleverness, honestly executed (he warned the other teams about the diffuser interpretation);

    – Dominance;

    – Discipline (“Settle down and look at the charts, Rubens…”);

    – Improvement in the face of repeated staff decimations;

    – And a double-headed championship.

    So what that they changed the name: He’s still Ross Brawn, with as much claim to the innermost circle of F1 leadership as anyone in the sport.

    I’m certain the transfer of Honda’s assets to this supremely competent player was indisputably Bernie’s handiwork. (I’ve mentioned this before: Does anyone remember the snotty things Ecclestone said so publicly about Honda just as they withdrew after spending billions, as Toyota has just done? It seemed inexplicable. But Bernie was being Bernie. That little man is just visiting us from a Star Trek parallel universe: He can see through the seventh dimension of the time-space continuum to make sure that just-the-right people get their needs met.)

    But the glory of this season is entirely Brawn’s to treasure. And his reputation was already tremendous! How else could his ego be flattered? He’s got an engineer’s temperment… Even if he was fond of flashy clothes and Flavio-style brassiere models, he might well have traded his name on the letterhead for the financial resources that come from having Daimler on speed-dial.

    As Button is learning this week, Merc wanted this team for price; but they’re still a huge company with deep pockets, and Brawn may have resolved to never again have a successful season sullied by mass firings.

  3. I like the white and (whatever it is) scheme too, but I don’t think the loss of the Brawn name counts for much… Not nearly as much as the presence of the man himself in the office. It’s reasonable to assume this was Ross B’s payday… He’s spent a lot of the last year flying home in coach on Valujet to terminate good employees. His name will always be associated with a season of:

    – Calmness in the face of disaster;

    – Cleverness, honestly executed (he warned the other teams about the diffuser interpretation);

    – Dominance;

    – Discipline (“Settle down and look at the charts, Rubens…”);

    – Improvement in the face of repeated staff decimations;

    – And a double-headed championship.

    So what that they changed the name: He’s still Ross Brawn, with as much claim to the innermost circle of F1 leadership as anyone in the sport.

    I’m certain the transfer of Honda’s assets to this supremely competent player was indisputably Bernie’s handiwork. (I’ve mentioned this before: Does anyone remember the snotty things Ecclestone said so publicly about Honda just as they withdrew after spending billions, as Toyota has just done? It seemed inexplicable. But Bernie was being Bernie. That little man is just visiting us from a Star Trek parallel universe: He can see through the seventh dimension of the time-space continuum to make sure that just-the-right people get their needs met.)

    But the glory of this season is entirely Brawn’s to treasure. And his reputation was already tremendous! How else could his ego be flattered? He’s got an engineer’s temperment… Even if he was fond of flashy clothes and Flavio-style brassiere models, he might well have traded his name on the letterhead for the financial resources that come from having Daimler on speed-dial.

    As Button is learning this week, Merc wanted this team for price; but they’re still a huge company with deep pockets, and Brawn may have resolved to never again have a successful season sullied by mass firings.

  4. I like the white and (whatever it is) scheme too, but I don’t think the loss of the Brawn name counts for much… Not nearly as much as the presence of the man himself in the office. It’s reasonable to assume this was Ross B’s payday… He’s spent a lot of the last year flying home in coach on Valujet to terminate good employees. His name will always be associated with a season of:

    – Calmness in the face of disaster;

    – Cleverness, honestly executed (he warned the other teams about the diffuser interpretation);

    – Dominance;

    – Discipline (“Settle down and look at the charts, Rubens…”);

    – Improvement in the face of repeated staff decimations;

    – And a double-headed championship.

    So what that they changed the name: He’s still Ross Brawn, with as much claim to the innermost circle of F1 leadership as anyone in the sport.

    I’m certain the transfer of Honda’s assets to this supremely competent player was indisputably Bernie’s handiwork. (I’ve mentioned this before: Does anyone remember the snotty things Ecclestone said so publicly about Honda just as they withdrew after spending billions, as Toyota has just done? It seemed inexplicable. But Bernie was being Bernie. That little man is just visiting us from a Star Trek parallel universe: He can see through the seventh dimension of the time-space continuum to make sure that just-the-right people get their needs met.)

    But the glory of this season is entirely Brawn’s to treasure. And his reputation was already tremendous! How else could his ego be flattered? He’s got an engineer’s temperment… Even if he was fond of flashy clothes and Flavio-style brassiere models, he might well have traded his name on the letterhead for the financial resources that come from having Daimler on speed-dial.

    As Button is learning this week, Merc wanted this team for price; but they’re still a huge company with deep pockets, and Brawn may have resolved to never again have a successful season sullied by mass firings.

  5. Is it just me, or are people forgetting the Mercedes team of 1954-1955? Two drivers titles out of two years in the sport. There were no constructors titles yet then, but for what was available at the time, they too had a 100% hit rate.

    Of course, now that they’re back, that 100% hit rate is at stake. But if there’s one guy who can keep that alive, it’s Ross.

  6. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    El Gordo, you are right that Brawn’s success was really down to Honda megabucks. But a lot of people lost their jobs, and the whole team almost went down the pan, so you can’t help but be attracted to the story.

    Cridland, another great comment. You’re right that this news is really a signal of the ultimate success of Brawn, the team and Mr Ross Brawn himself.

    Journeyer, trust you to know the history better than anyone else! 🙂 Somehow I always forget that Mercedes were originally only in F1 for two years (despite their history in pre-F1 grand prix racing).

  7. Duncan- I don’t understand why you disliked Nick Fry so strongly. Has your opinion of him improved?

  8. Duncan- I don’t understand why you disliked Nick Fry so strongly. Has your opinion of him improved?

  9. Duncan- I don’t understand why you disliked Nick Fry so strongly. Has your opinion of him improved?

  10. Cridland, for me Nick Fry was all mouth and no (green) trousers. I have no real idea if Nick Fry truly was a bad team manager or if he was made to look bad by Honda’s policies.

    But what I most disliked about Nick Fry was the way he would try to spin a bad news story into a good one. I wouldn’t have minded if he was any good at it, but he was terrible. The turning point for me was when he more-or-less declared that they would win the race on ITV before a Japanese Grand Prix (I’m afraid I don’t remember which year). They had a terrible race in the midfield.

    You’re right to ask the question though, because my opinion of him has improved. I am sure that the Brawn team would not have survived were it not for his work with Ross Brawn and determination to save the team. For that, he deserves major credit.

  11. Offtopic – I love Collatine and Saward and Duncan, but props to James Allen for this post, which explained what was going down with Kimi just hours before it happened.

  12. Offtopic – I love Collatine and Saward and Duncan, but props to James Allen for this post, which explained what was going down with Kimi just hours before it happened.

  13. Offtopic – I love Collatine and Saward and Duncan, but props to James Allen for this post, which explained what was going down with Kimi just hours before it happened.

  14. More offtopic, via Autosport:

    As well as a difference of opinion about wages, Raikkonen and McLaren were believed to not be in agreement about the number of sponsorship appearance days he should do…

    (Golly, isn’t that a surprise?)

  15. More offtopic, via Autosport:

    As well as a difference of opinion about wages, Raikkonen and McLaren were believed to not be in agreement about the number of sponsorship appearance days he should do…

    (Golly, isn’t that a surprise?)

  16. More offtopic, via Autosport:

    As well as a difference of opinion about wages, Raikkonen and McLaren were believed to not be in agreement about the number of sponsorship appearance days he should do…

    (Golly, isn’t that a surprise?)

  17. More offtopic- I need background help. Can anyone explain the meaning of this passage from this article?:

    The fact that Ron Dennis had gone to Max Mosley himself to inform him after Alonso tried to blackmail the team at the 2007 Hungarian GP seemed to be overlooked.

    What’s meant by that — “Alonso tried to blackmail”?

  18. More offtopic- I need background help. Can anyone explain the meaning of this passage from this article?:

    The fact that Ron Dennis had gone to Max Mosley himself to inform him after Alonso tried to blackmail the team at the 2007 Hungarian GP seemed to be overlooked.

    What’s meant by that — “Alonso tried to blackmail”?

  19. More offtopic- I need background help. Can anyone explain the meaning of this passage from this article?:

    The fact that Ron Dennis had gone to Max Mosley himself to inform him after Alonso tried to blackmail the team at the 2007 Hungarian GP seemed to be overlooked.

    What’s meant by that — “Alonso tried to blackmail”?

  20. And even MORE offtopic –

    The Driver Dance is coming to a close. But how many weeks has it been since you’ve heard the name “Kovalainen?”

  21. And even MORE offtopic –

    The Driver Dance is coming to a close. But how many weeks has it been since you’ve heard the name “Kovalainen?”

  22. And even MORE offtopic –

    The Driver Dance is coming to a close. But how many weeks has it been since you’ve heard the name “Kovalainen?”

  23. Hi Cridland, sorry it’s taken me so long to respond.

    I think the Planet-F1 article is referring to the fact that Fernando Alonso threatened to go to the FIA with his evidence that McLaren was in possession of Ferrari data unless he was given number 1 status over Lewis Hamilton.

    As for Heikki Kovalainen, it is indeed notable that he does not appear to be in the frame at all. From what I gather — and this is totally unsubstantiated and may be wrong — Kovalainen has motivational issues.

  24. > Alonso threatened to go to the FIA
    > with his evidence that McLaren was
    > in possession of Ferrari data unless
    > he was given number 1 status over Lewis

    Had no idea.

    Y’know, every time I try to really, really admire one of these guys, something like this comes along. Schuey stops for a sandwich at Rascasse, Lewis tells a whopper for trivial purposes, Rubens whines about his team, Jense boasts of being “#1, bay-bee!” a little too loudly… And it all vanishes in a puff of smoke.

    Massa’s currently my ‘ethics’ point leader, but his career is young. Vettel’s on the podium as well.

    Re Kovi, isn’t it strange how it works? To pass through such a finely grained filter of tests and challenges, arriving in such a rarefied field of competition, and then to demonstrate an absence of fire… When you’re already receiving the big paychecks!

    Algusuari made some comments that we’re a little weird this week too, something about how the drivers in F1 weren’t very friendly. And I’m thinking, Hell no they’re not friendly — They’re risking their lives in the face of immutable laws of physics for money and glory, kid! It’s not about Christmas cards!

  25. > Alonso threatened to go to the FIA
    > with his evidence that McLaren was
    > in possession of Ferrari data unless
    > he was given number 1 status over Lewis

    Had no idea.

    Y’know, every time I try to really, really admire one of these guys, something like this comes along. Schuey stops for a sandwich at Rascasse, Lewis tells a whopper for trivial purposes, Rubens whines about his team, Jense boasts of being “#1, bay-bee!” a little too loudly… And it all vanishes in a puff of smoke.

    Massa’s currently my ‘ethics’ point leader, but his career is young. Vettel’s on the podium as well.

    Re Kovi, isn’t it strange how it works? To pass through such a finely grained filter of tests and challenges, arriving in such a rarefied field of competition, and then to demonstrate an absence of fire… When you’re already receiving the big paychecks!

    Algusuari made some comments that we’re a little weird this week too, something about how the drivers in F1 weren’t very friendly. And I’m thinking, Hell no they’re not friendly — They’re risking their lives in the face of immutable laws of physics for money and glory, kid! It’s not about Christmas cards!

  26. > Alonso threatened to go to the FIA
    > with his evidence that McLaren was
    > in possession of Ferrari data unless
    > he was given number 1 status over Lewis

    Had no idea.

    Y’know, every time I try to really, really admire one of these guys, something like this comes along. Schuey stops for a sandwich at Rascasse, Lewis tells a whopper for trivial purposes, Rubens whines about his team, Jense boasts of being “#1, bay-bee!” a little too loudly… And it all vanishes in a puff of smoke.

    Massa’s currently my ‘ethics’ point leader, but his career is young. Vettel’s on the podium as well.

    Re Kovi, isn’t it strange how it works? To pass through such a finely grained filter of tests and challenges, arriving in such a rarefied field of competition, and then to demonstrate an absence of fire… When you’re already receiving the big paychecks!

    Algusuari made some comments that we’re a little weird this week too, something about how the drivers in F1 weren’t very friendly. And I’m thinking, Hell no they’re not friendly — They’re risking their lives in the face of immutable laws of physics for money and glory, kid! It’s not about Christmas cards!

  27. I’m not sure Massa’s career is that young. He’s been in F1 since 2002!

    But I agree with you. Massa is clearly a real gent, as his behaviour at Interlagos in 2008 thoroughly demonstrated.