The remarkable story of Brawn GP
There will be a few headaches on Monday among employees of Brawn Grand Prix following their team's brilliant double Formula 1 title win, but the biggest pain may be felt in Japan.
For the Brawn team that won the drivers' and constructors' world championships at Sao Paulo's Interlagos track on Sunday is the same one that, in Honda's colours, had been propping up the grids in 2007 and 2008.
It is a quite remarkable story - and the word fairytale, which has been banded around a lot since Sunday evening, is a fitting one.
In February, this team was on the verge of extinction and yet eight months later it is on top of the world. Team boss Ross Brawn is one of the coolest characters in sport, but even he was briefly lost for words after the race, choked with the emotion of it all.
"We all felt the same way," a senior Brawn engineer, who prefers to keep a low public profile, told me on Monday morning. "There is a lot of relief because there have been a lot of dark times."
Honda's decision, announced in early December last year, has undoubtedly cost the Japanese company hundreds of millions of pounds worth of publicity. More importantly, it left its former team staring at the precipice.
Bosses Brawn and Nick Fry spent the winter looking for a new owner to buy the team.
"Every day it seemed to be a different story," our Brawn man says. "There would be someone who was said to be interested in buying it, some Mexican billionaire or something, but all the rumours died away. Then Honda came out and said there was no serious buyer, and everyone would be in the depths again.
"Ross was very good. He took people to one side and explained the situation. He'd say: 'I know it's tough, but don't go anywhere if you can avoid it. I think we can sort something out, and I think it's going to be good.'
"But he couldn't tell people what was going on, because he didn't want to get their hopes up only to have them come crashing down."
Through January and February, the employees at the team's base in Brackley had to watch as the other teams tested their new cars. And their frustration was heightened because their simulation data was telling them their car, which they thought might never see a race track, was dynamite.
"Weeks before the car got on the track," the source says, "we were told by one of the aero guys that we would be two seconds quicker than anyone else.
"I knew we'd made a number of big steps over the cars we'd done before, but even so, we'd had two years of dogs, and I thought the bloody aerodynamicists had got their numbers wrong again."
Then, with less than a month before the start of the season, Honda decided that letting the team go under would not be a good idea, and a deal was struck whereby Brawn would buy it out and Honda would provide enough money to go racing for a season, after which Brawn GP would be on their own.
So with three weeks to go before the season opener in Australia, the Brawn GP 001 finally hit the track - and it was true to its creators' predictions.
It was the fastest thing in the field by a mile, and Jenson Button went on to win six of the first seven races, the foundation for the championship he finally clinched on Sunday.
What is less well known, though, is that the car is, in the words of my source, "a botch job".
It was designed for a Honda engine, and it was not until December that the team knew they would be using a Mercedes. That necessitated some pretty crude changes.
"The chassis had the back six inches cut off to fit the engine in - the sort of thing you wouldn't normally do even with a test car," says my source. "And the gearbox was in the wrong place because the crank-centre height is different. There's a massive amount of compromise in the cars."
Those compromises introduced a significant performance deficit into the Brawn car, but it raced like that all year.
That is because the lead time on making a new chassis is several months, and at the time the team would have had to make the decision - in April - the car was dominating.
By the time it had dropped off the pace, and it was obvious the team needed the extra speed that would come with a bespoke chassis and improved weight distribution, it was too late to commission a new design.
Just as incredibly the team, tight on budget, made only three chassis all year - one for Button, one for Rubens Barrichello, and a spare - when a big-money outfit such as McLaren will typically make seven or eight.
That the Brawn was so quick in the circumstances is incredibly impressive.
Having a Mercedes engine rather than the uncompetitive Honda undoubtedly made a big difference. But clearly the team had also made a quantum leap with the car. And that says a lot for the way Ross Brawn, who joined too late to make any impression on the 2008 car, was able to marshal the team's resources better than had been done before.
Brawn has now won nine F1 drivers' titles and eight constructors' championships with three different teams - adding his own to Benetton and Ferrari. Button is the first driver other than Michael Schumacher to be crowned under his guidance. But pinning down exactly what makes the softly spoken 54-year-old Englishman the best technical manager in F1 is surprisingly difficult.
"It's amazing - it's all very subtle," says the Brawn insider. "It's almost like you don't know he's doing it.
"He has meetings, and he talks about how he thinks things should be done in the future and so on, and because his reputation is second to none, you don't question where it's coming from. But he doesn't come into the drawing office very much.
"He doesn't tell everyone what to do, he just leaves us to get on with it. He's not autocratic by any stretch of the imagination. He just gives people the confidence to do what they can do, and removes their concerns as they come up.
"The big thing is having the technical organisation he wants and letting them get on with it. It's a strange thing, because it's the same bunch of people who last year designed a dog."
This season has been far from an easy ride, though.
The early races were marred by the controversy over Brawn's 'double diffuser', which was eventually declared legal - and was never the sole reason for the car's performance.
While that was going on, Brawn had to cut something like 270 jobs to suit his new, more straitened, circumstances - a decision, he admitted on Sunday, which had been very painful.
There were the outbursts by Barrichello when he felt the team were favouring Button - a claim that has been proved unfounded by the evidence of the second half of the season.
Then there was the tricky mid-season period when the team dropped off the pace, and there have been Button's mystifying problems in qualifying that lost him competitiveness on Saturdays compared to his team-mate.
Yet there has never been a sense of crisis, just the same calm, methodical approach that oozes out of every part of Brawn's being.
The brief moment post-race in Brazil when he choked back tears of joy was the only time Brawn has come close to losing control in the 15 years I have known him. And even then he was quickly back to his normal self, predicting that the team would continue to be a force next year.
With Fernando Alonso in what is expected to be a rejuvenated Ferrari, and Lewis Hamilton and McLaren probably back on top form, few would predict a second consecutive title for Brawn and Button - who, incidentally, has still not signed for 2010.
But the team have an unidentified title sponsor already in place, and a Mercedes buy-in on the horizon.
And bearing in mind the travails of Brawn's remarkable journey, and the compromises inherent in their car this year, there is no reason to disagree with the Brawn insider who insists they will at least be "a respectable front-runner".
Considering where they were eight months ago, that speaks wonders for this team and its remarkable boss.