Ahead of the Australian GP: The Brawn GP team shocked the world in 2009

Today Max Verstappen dominated pole position for the Australian Grand Prix, but let's remember how Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello did it as total outsiders in a team that was formed 20 days before the start of the 2009 season.

by Sededin Dedovic
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Ahead of the Australian GP: The Brawn GP team shocked the world in 2009
© Mark Thompson / Getty Images

Just three weeks before the start of the 2009 Formula 1 season, a team that officially did not exist rose from the ashes and performed a miracle. As the "fastest circus" prepares for its latest return to Australia, let's think back to 15 years ago when Brawn GP defied the odds to take a stunning double win in the opening race of the season, a feat only previously achieved by Mercedes in 1954.

This is written in gold in the history of this sport, and today it seems completely unbelievable, but even then it was a sensation. It was 2008, and the world was struggling with the worst economic crisis of the 21st century.

The auto industry was particularly hard hit, with Honda, already suffering from poor results during 2008, suddenly announcing its withdrawal from F1 on 5 December. This decision threw over 700 factory workers into a desperate struggle for survival.

Considered redundant, these young engineers and mechanics suddenly had mortgages and families to worry about in addition to losing their jobs. The company simply could not pay so much administration and workers in the midst of a difficult economic situation.

: Jenson Button of Great Britain and Brawn GP celebrates clinching the F1 World Drivers Championship during the Brazilian Formul© Mark Thompson / Getty Images

However, the team's shrewd leader, Ross Brawn, a veteran known as "the old fox", wasn't about to give up without a fight.

Honda was desperate for a quick exit to cut costs, and finding new owners proved difficult in such a turbulent economic climate. But Brawn, always resourceful, managed to convince the Japanese company to sell him the team for a token pound, on the condition that the money set aside for severance payments (around 100 million euros) be used to run the team for the season.

It would later turn out that it preceded the historic debut of the new team in Formula 1. Brawn GP, officially named after the team principal, was not founded until March 6, 2009, just three weeks before the first race. The tenacious Brit was not done yet.

He secured an engine deal with Mercedes, which was a key move. However, his most audacious feat was convincing Bernie Ecclestone, the head of F1, to pay the team their TV rights up front (around €50 million). This was a gamble, as Brawn GP's budget was modest compared to other teams, most of which spent over €200 million a year.

Jenson Button of Great Britain and Brawn GP drives during the final practice session prior to qualifying for the Abu Dhabi 2009© Clive Mason / Getty Images

Ironically, due to the timing of the crisis and Honda's departure, development of the new car began before the financial turmoil.

Few at the factory knew that the car they were meticulously building had potential for championship glory. The innovative design of the rear double diffuser surprised the competition, showing its potential during pre-season testing where the Brawn GP topped the charts.

However, most still doubted their ability to be real contenders. In Formula 1, newcomers or some weaker drivers make a breakthrough in the preparatory races. This is exactly why a wrong narrative like this current season is created.

Max Verstappen proved today that regardless of modest training and pre-season testing, when the competition starts he is the total king of the track. He dominantly won the pole position. The 2008/2009 fairytale really began when the team arrived at the Australian Grand Prix.

Jenson Button then secured the pole position, and his teammate Rubens Barrichello was right next to him in the first row. Button, who was initially out of contract for the 2009 season before the team was bought out, led the entire 58-lap race.

Barrichello, despite the problems at the beginning, managed to overcome them and complete an incredible feat - a one-two finish for an underdog team. "To see Button and Barrichello achieve first and second place is the result of determination, dedication and an incredibly satisfying outcome," said a delighted Ross Brawn.

"After all the struggles and problems we have faced in the past four months, this is a sensational result." The story did not end there. Button won the Drivers' Championship and Brawn GP became the only team ever to win the Constructors' Championship in their debut season (which was also their only season).

"This is not just my victory, but the whole team's," Button said. "It's a fairytale finish to the first race, and we're going to fight with the resources we have to stay on top. We've earned this; we've worked hard for it." The final detail adds another layer to the incredible story.

The Brawn GP car was stripped of its sponsor before the first race. The only one who dared to take a risk and invest some money was businessman Richard Branson, the deal was made just a day before the start of training for the Australian Grand Prix.

The story of the 2008/2009 Brawn GP. is proof of human resilience, ingenuity and the power of teamwork. It serves as a reminder that miracles can happen even against seemingly insurmountable odds, with passion, determination and a little luck.

Max Verstappen Jenson Button
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