After a decade on the Ferrari pit-wall, and a year tending to his garden, Ross Brawn will leave Italy to become the team principal of Honda. While it was common knowledge that Honda had made the Briton an offer earlier in the year, few actually thought Brawn would do it. The strategist – who is known for winning many of Michael Schumacher’s races and being a solid pillar at the Scuderia – will take on the new challenge at Honda at the end of this month.
Ross will become the team principal at the Brackley-based squad and will be responsible for the designing, manufacturing, and engineering departments. He will work alongside Nick Fry who will remain as the chief executive.
I am very excited to be joining the Honda Racing F1 Team. Honda has a proud heritage in Formula One and the opportunity to help the team to realise its potential represents a fantastic new challenge for me in the sport.
The team has already done a great job of giving due consideration to its future and has spent a good deal of time putting in place both people and first class engineering resources to achieve its ambitions. I look forward to working alongside what I know to be some very talented people and helping Honda to rediscover its winning ways.
Today’s announcement that Ross Brawn is to join our team is a very satisfying conclusion to the process of refreshing and revitalising a strong and determined team. Ross obviously needs no introduction.
His experience of winning world championships in Formula One will be crucial as we seek to put Honda back into championship contention and I am delighted that we will be working together to achieve that.
Thinking about Brawn’s reason behind his sabbatical, it was clear that he wanted a new role within Ferrari, perhaps taking over the mantle from Jean Todt. However, the team clearly had other ideas as to how to structure themselves, and this may have pushed Ross away. Having said that, it clearly could have been the other way round – I guess that is something we proabbly won’t get to know. Ferrari have also shown that they can win the title without him, although I think it is fair to say that had McLaren not been excluded the end result of the championship may have looked different.
For Honda though, only time will tell how long Ross remains. With a woeful 2007 car that was undriveable and a team that appears to be unmotivated, perhaps Ross has bitten off more than he can chew. I imagine if anyone can turn the team around then it is Brawn, but I fear his challenge ahead will not afford him of the luxuries he was perhaps used to at Ferrari.
One good thing I can definitely see coming out of this is the retaining of Rubens Barrichello. As a former Ferrari driver in the team’s dominating era, Rubens worked with Ross and no doubt owes a debt of gratitude to the Briton himself. I hope Brawn will want to keep Barrichello with Jenson Button, if anything just for consistency during the progression.
Looking at the giant jigsaw, I can see 2008 as being one of Honda’s up years. Driver aids are out and this is something Button will revel in. A smooth and forgiving driving style should help him, particularly when pitched against drivers of the younger ilk. Combined with the force that is Brawn, and maybe even fewer front-running competitors (Renault either being penalised or building a dog again), Honda might be able to return themselves to the front again.
So, the big question: Will Honda return to winning ways in 2008?
Things are definitely looking good for Honda next year – assuming the car is anyway half decent then Brawn will get the best from it.
Hopefully Rubens will get to stay on, but if Alonso came a’calling would they turn him down?
Honda must seem more appealing to Alonso now Brawn is on board. But would he want to take the risk? Honda are so inconsistent with their cars – runner-up one year, dogs dinner the next. Despite having many key people in the squad, it would be a big risk. Late 2008 might be a better time to make a judgment on the future of Honda.