The talk of the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year has been the return to running of the iconic 2009 championship winning car – the Brawn GP BGP001.
The 002 chassis, owned by Ross Brawn, and stored safely away in his garage up until very recently, has been brought back to life by D3 Racing Solutions. In the first of her pieces from the event, Sarah Merritt was lucky enough to catch up together with both Ross, and Martin Brundle, who was Ross’s choice to have the privilege of driving this beautiful car up the hill for the assembled fans to witness, and chat to them about them about this amongst a few other things.
Sarah Merritt: Starting with you Martin, we rely on your commentary to guide us through the F1 weekend, and I know throughout your career, you’ve partnered with quite a few people. I wondered, who you’d say was your favourite that you’ve worked alongside?
Martin Brundle: I’d have to say Murray Walker, because he was my first commentary partner and he taught me so much. I always say it’s a bit like have Pele to teach you how to kick a ball, in that he is the maestro. I don’t know how many years I had with Murray, but it was a great experience. I have enjoyed every co-commentator that I’ve been with – I had a year with DC that I really enjoyed – but it would have to be Murray, bless him!
SM: On a subject that you both may have experienced – I was wondering how hard it is when there’s something that you are frustrated with, and you have to keep that inside. Martin, you are always very sage and balanced in your commentary, and I guess there are some things that you cannot just express an opinion on that you might want to?
MB: If I have a strong opinion on something then it is coming out. I believe I’ve earned the right to that after 31 years of being in F1. Actually, the biggest problem was back in the day, when over dinner, Ross might have told me something that was between us!
What is really annoying about that is that somebody will tell you a secret, and it will be a big one, and then you read it somewhere else – that never happened with me and Ross, I have to say. Being discreet, 20 or 30 percent of what I know, I can’t repeat, but if I have an opinion, then it is coming out, and Twitter is quite an amusing platform because people will soon let you know whether they agree with you or not.
SM: Now I know you aren’t on Twitter, Ross, but recently we’ve seen Damon Hill join the social media platform, and I think he has certainly experienced that recently a few times. It’s interesting to see how social media and F1 as a subject are working together now.
Ross Brawn: Well Formula 1 and motor racing changed dramatically with social media, and changed with the internet. The old days where you waited until a Thursday when Autosport came out to see what was going on have changed dramatically. Everything is instant now.
In my roles in the various teams, I had to bear that in mind, that something you say will be out on the internet half an hour or less later. Also, in my role, I had different responsibilities. I had sponsors involved, and whatever you thought about a driver’s performance, you couldn’t say that, quite frankly! If you were critical of the driver, you had to keep that quiet, because you were always concerned about the team.
In Martin’s role, he can state opinions and be open and honest about what he thinks is going on. In my role, it was always to try and give as much information as I could without compromising the team or the sponsors, and that was frustrating at times because you want to be open and say things, and share that with the public, but that won’t do you any good with the team. You have to keep that criticism private within the team itself.”
SM: But in your current “role”, Ross, you could say whatever you want..
RB: You’re right, I could….but people might start saying what they thought about me as well!
SM: Martin, a question about F1 versus endurance racing; I know you’ve driven both, and we often hear talk of F1 drivers heading in that direction when they “retire” from F1. How different are the skills that you need?
MB: I think the two coexist very nicely together, but do not underestimate endurance racing – that’s why some drivers that go and do it don’t get on with it. It’s incredibly tough. Funnily enough, that’s where I met Ross, in the Jaguar Sportscar team.
Both Formula 1 and endurance racing are massively challenging at the highest level. If you actually look at the logistics of a 24 hour race with 30 scheduled pit stops, and the crew you need – I remember at Jaguar, we had 5 cars, 15 drivers, 135 crew at the track – it’s a massive undertaking.
If you go with the right mind-set as a single-seater driver, and you are prepared to work with your teammates instead of trying to beat them at every opportunity, if the team can trust you with the car, and you can do a quadruple stint and bring the car back pristine, and then handle oil, gravel, rain, debris, back markers…all of that is an immense challenge.
But then of course, so is driving a Formula 1 car at the highest level. It’s more of an individual sport, so more challenging in that respect, but I have the upmost respect for the champions in both disciplines.
SM: And it was so cruel to see the number 5 Toyota stop on track at Le Mans just minutes from the end…
MB: I hated to see that for the team, for the drivers. It was so unfair. Motorsport can be very cruel. I’ve broken down on the last lap in a Benetton, and lost a podium in a McLaren, lost a victory in Canada because my differential broke. They broke my heart, but that broke the heart of a whole team, probably a nation back in Japan, and a lot of fans alongside at the circuit – that was your worst nightmare.
SM: Now the reason that we are all here together at the Goodwood Festival of Speed today, is because of the beautiful Brawn GP BGP001, that you own, Ross, and Martin will be driving. How did this all come about?
RB: The car has been mine for a number of years. I have it stored, and when I went into the storage units where it was kept, I just kept looking at it thinking we really ought to take that out. The tragedy of modern Formula 1 cars is that you need half a dozen, maybe eight, people to run the thing, so it’s quite an exercise to take the thing out, but it had been sat in that garage far too long.
We had to organise quite a group, and D3 Racing Solutions have been doing the preparations and running that. I have some good guys – some of the guys from the team have come along, who know the car, so it’s in good hands, and unfortunately with the traffic this morning [we are talking on Saturday lunchtime], I missed the first run, but I shall be there watching this afternoon.
SM: I watched Martin go out this morning and listened to them fire up, it just sounds beautiful!
RB: “Yes and it’s just so frustrating that it has limited usage, and that you need a small army to run these things.
SM: And will you keep the BGP 001 running now?
RB: I hope so, yes – it needs a fairly serious event to be honest, because of all the preparation and support needed, so it won’t be out every weekend, but I hope to take it out more often.
SM: And this is the 002 chassis that is running, Jenson’s actual championship winning car?
RB: Yes, that’s right, the 002, the pukka championship winner. Jenson got the spare car and I got the proper one!
SM: And do you think he’ll be passing by to have a look at it tomorrow?
RB: I hope so, yes, I hope we can see him with the car.
SM: Do you think he might fancy a go and try and jump in for one of your runs, Martin?
MB: He’s most welcome! It’s just a great privilege to drive the car. I’ve known Ross a long time, and I think it’s a great responsibility as well as obviously it’s pristine, it has zero spares of any description…
RB: That’s exactly how we raced it!
MB: …so it’s not a car for wheel spins and doughnuts, it’s a car to show the race fans. It just reminds you when you are trying to three-point turn these at either end of the hill, that they’re so NOT designed to do this; as in, go up a muddy hill in a queue.
I said to the guys on the radio that it’s like keeping a patient alive on an operating table – it’s too hot, it’s too cold, the pneumatic pressure, the oil pressure, the battery, the hydraulics – they basically nurse it, because they are used to firing it up and going and driving it flat out. You can’t shift without being full throttle, which is interesting, so I’m toodling around, and I suddenly find I’m doing 110MPH out here, thinking I was doing 50!
SM: I think Ross should let you have a track day, and film it for Sky F1, that would seem the best way to handle that! [Ross smiles]
MB: Yeah, we can do that – that’s a deal. Thanks for organising that!
It was really great to sit down with Martin and Ross, and I could have honestly chatted to them all afternoon, given the opportunity, on all manner of subjects.
Martin and Ross also filmed an interview for Sky Sports F1 from the garage, so keep an eye out for that on their Goodwood Festival of Speed coverage.
Later in the weekend I was in the F1 group holding pen as they all got ready for their run up the famous hill. Jenson was driving the McLaren MP4/2, which was parked up alongside the BGP001, and took the opportunity to cast his eye over the Brawn, with Martin already sat in it. “Get out of my car!” he joked, laughing with Martin, and said it was looking good, before shaking hands with the team members, many of whom were with him during the time he drove it. Great to witness the champ alongside his faithful 2009 steed – let’s hope an opportunity comes along soon for us to see him behind the wheel of the BGP001 again.