Brawn GP: The only debutant Formula 1 team to win both championships

On this day in 2009, Jenson Button and Brawn GP won the Formula 1 world and constructor's championships. This is the story of how they did it.

Jenson Button (L) and Rubens Barrichello pose with the Brawn GP team. (Image: Twitter)

The story of Brawn GP is one of the more unique ones to be found in the world of Formula 1. The fact that a team changed ownership and rebranded completely is nothing new in F1 racing.

After all, the current Aston Martin team can trace its roots back to the Jordan F1 team. And the current Alfa Romeo side are basically the Sauber team with naming rights sponsorship of the iconic road car company.

But Brawn GP… they were different.

The team, best remembered by modern fans either as Honda Racing F1 or BAR Honda, were not even supposed to make it onto the grid in 2009. That they even made it to the first race was something of a minor miracle.

They didn’t even have a mssive budget either. This led to a degree of uncompetitiveness creeping in during the latter half of the season. However, they were not to be denied in the end.

Jenson Button would claim his sole world title with the team, and the team also claimed the constructor’s title. This makes them the only team with a 100% success rate in the sport.

Let us now look back at the crazy story of the team that would eventually go on to become Mercedes. No, really.

The background

The end of 2008 saw Honda pull out of Formula 1. The main reason for this was the financial recession of that year, which hit the company quite badly.

However, there were some hopes of salvaging the team. The 2009 car had been in development from an early stage and was pretty much complete before the pull-out.

Eventually, Honda chose to sell the team to Ross Brawn – then the team’s team principal – for a token sum of 1 pound. They also agreed to supply a budget of 100 million US dollars; approximately the amount it would have cost them to shut down the team.

However, there was still the small matter of the engine. Brawn would not be getting Honda engines, so looked to find a deal from another supplier. They eventually settled for Mercedes. Few knew it at the time, but that would be a critical decision for the team’s future.

Anyhow, the team motored on and, by the time it was ready for testing, they knew they had a good car on their hands. This became evident to other teams too, with the Brawn cars topping the charts.

By the time the season rolled around, many expected them to be challenging for podiums and race wins. Few realised they would be competing at the very top.

Brawn GP – the little team that could

The season began at Australia that year, and qualifying saw Button take pole with Barrichello second. To everyone’s amazement, Button led Barichello home in a 1-2 finish.

Button would again take victory at the rain-shortened Malaysian GP, making Brawn the first team to take two wins in their first two races since Alfa Romeo in 1950.

There was a degree of controversy involved with Brawn, however. Many teams thought their rear-end ‘double-diffuser’ was illegal. However, after multiple checks – and complaints – the system was deemed in accordance to regulations by the FIA.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel threw a spanner in the works when he won the Chinese GP. The title fight was on – Red Bull vs Brawn, Vettel vs Button.

Except Button would go on to win the next four races at Bahrain, Spain, Monaco and Turkey. Two of those races – at Spain and Monaco – saw Brawn get 1-2 finishes again.

However, the lack of development on the car was beginning to show. The team’s smaller budget meant they couldn’t work on the car as much as their rivals did, and this led to a decline of form.

After winning six of the first seven races, they only won two of the next 10. Red Bull would win five of the next races, whereas McLaren would see Lewis Hamilton claim two wins.

It’s also worth noting that the two races Brawn won were courtesy of Barrichello. This made the Brazilian an unlikely title contender against his teammate and Vettel.

However, Button was not to be denied his win. A fifth place finish in the Brazilian GP at the end of the year was enough to seal the deal.

The aftermath

Brawn GP remained in existence for only one year. Mercedes, their engine supplier, purchased a majority stake in the team and made it their works team.

But success was not immediately forthcoming. Mercedes wrongly believed they had brought in to a title-winning team. But Brawn fought tooth and nail to be a top team, and the lack of investment left them some way off the pace to defend their title.

The four years after that were dominated by Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel, who claimed four straight world driver’s championships on the trot. However, Mercedes did finally break the energy drink team’s monopoly – and how.

The introduction of turbo-charged engines from 2014 saw Mercedes handle the transition better than anyone. As a result, they have won all of the world and constructor’s championships since then.

Shayne Dias

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