16 Jul 2019
Back in 2009 something was achieved that will likely never be repeated – Brawn GP, in its only season of competition, secured both the drivers’ and constructors’ Formula 1 world titles, achieving an unprecedented 100 percent win record.
The feat was all-the-more remarkable given that in the weeks leading up to the season, the team which was to be known as Brawn GP barely even existed. Honda had pulled out of F1 at the end of 2008 amid the global financial crisis and two seasons of poor performance.
The Japanese manufacturer’s exit led to the team being purchased in a management buyout led by Ross Brawn and Nick Fry. It cost them the grand total of £1, but getting the team was the easy part, they had to keep it afloat. Thankfully, the team had abandoned development in 2008 in favour of a head-start on its 2009 car, so they at least had a starting point.
The move paid off, because the car was frightfully quick out of the box. Powered by a Mercedes engine, which was chosen simply because it fit best, the Brawn BGP 001 won six of the first seven races in the hands of Jenson Button. Rubens Barrichello added two further wins later in the season, something even more special considering his position was constantly under threat during 2009 as the team scrambled to find a budget.
The Brazilian revealed during at Goodwood broadcast this year that he had a rolling four-race contract with Brawn during 2009, with compatriot Bruno Senna constantly rumoured to be taking his place at the time.
Only three BGP 001s were ever made owing to the team’s shoestring budget – BGP 001-01 was raced by Barrichello from the season-opening Australian Grand Prix until the 14th race in Singapore where he took on the third chassis. Meanwhile, BGP 002-02 was driven by Jenson Button in every single race, something pretty much unheard of in modern-day F1.
Following the conclusion of the 2009 season, Brawn was sold to Mercedes and the three cars served a period as show cars for the German manufacturer. Ross Brawn later took ownership of chassis #002, while Button got hold of one of the two cars raced by Barrichello after taking Mercedes to court – he had a clause in his contract saying he was entitled to one of the cars if he won the championship, but Mercedes initially refused to hand one over. Mercedes retains the third car to this day.
After initially returning to running condition in 2016, where it was driven at Goodwood by former F1 driver-turned broadcaster Martin Brundle, chassis #002 returned to the Festival of Speed this year, 10 years on from that magical season. This time it was driven by former Brawn test driver Anthony Davidson, as well as Barrichello, giving him the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the only Brawn car he didn’t race in 2009.
Button, who now lives in the US, wasn’t at Goodwood, but got behind the wheel of the car one week later at the British Grand Prix. The car he owns isn’t in running order at the moment, but there are hopes that two Brawn cars could run together again in the future.