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GP Week : Issue 37
ultimately came to naught. From early on in the new year, it had become clear that the only salvation for the team formerly known as Honda lay with a Management Takeover, headed by Ross Brawn and Nick Fry, and the world, along with Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, GP2 Vice-champion Bruno Senna and over 700 staff, held its breath. Meanwhile, the economic turndown was hitting sponsorship. With banking giants RBS caught at the centre of the global financial scandal, Williams announced that it would be looking for a new sponsor in 2011 after RBS announced it would pull out of the sport after its deal with the team finished at the end of 2010. Meanwhile Renault’s title sponsor ING also announced it would be pulling out of the sport a year earlier than RBS, at the end of the 2009 season. But then, finally, a bit of good news. On March 5 BrawnGP was launched as the Management Takeover of Honda was confirmed. A day later the BGP001, fitted with a Mercedes engine, took to the track for a shakedown and Formula 1 had its tenth team. With the FIA announcing long term cost cutting plans to further help the sport from 2010 onwards, including standardised non-competitive parts (including KERS), FIA President Max Mosley expressed his hope that Formula 1 might see 12 teams in the not-too-distant future. Quite incredibly, even within the economic turndown, one step was taken 30 towards this goal when the USF1 Team announced its intention to enter F1 in 2010. Viewing the global climate as an opportunity rather than a hindrance, an American F1 Team seems a viable prospect, and one hopes that their preparations go well over the next 12 months. But apart from the politics and economics, there was the small matter of testing and the launch of a new breed of F1 car. BMW was the first team to reveal its 2009-spec challenger and, with new regulations limiting aerodynamics and insisting on a massive front wing and very thin but high rear wing, BMW tester Christian Klien summed up the thoughts of every self respecting F1 fan by declaring the new car to be quite possibly the “ugliest” F1 car he’d ever laid eyes on! But as testing went on, and more teams launched their 2009 challengers, the new look F1 started to become normal and, day I say it, quite pretty. God is most certainly in the detail with the 2009 cars and, with a blank sheet of paper it’s been fascinating to see the different design approaches the teams have taken. The driver line-ups have remained relatively unchanged, with just Vettel – switching ships from Toro Rosso to Red Bull – conducting the majority of the team’s winter running after Mark Webber was hit by a 4x4 whilst cycling through Tasmania on his annual charity challenge. With Red Bull promoting Sebastien Buemi to Toro Rosso and holding onto Bourdais in place of the impressive Takuma Sato who tested for the squad, the Swiss is the only rookie in the field. Bruno Senna held out all winter for the second seat at Honda/BrawnGP, but lost out in the end to Barrichello who stays on for his 17th season in Formula 1. And then there are the management changes. Mike Gascoyne and Collin Kolles have left Force India, while Luca Marmorini has departed Toyota, citing the reduction in engine development as leaving him with minimal challenges in the sport. And then there’s Ron Dennis. The rumours had been circling for some time that he would walk away from F1 if and when Hamilton took the title, and while his decision had little to do with that fact, his departure is sure to have some impact on the team. McLaren has been left in the capable hands of Martin Whitmarsh, a man who has been such a capable deputy to Dennis for so many years and who deserves his promotion thoroughly. So that’s pretty much where we are. It’s been a rocky few months, but we’re still here. Testing has given us a confused look at the current powerbase in Formula 1 and, with a completely new grid of cars from a new set of regulations, the 2009 season promises to be a thriller. With costs coming down, and the FIA and FOTA working in tandem to ensure the sport’s long-term financial stability, the future looks bright for Formula 1.