Race Blog
Abu Dhabi 2011

What money can't buy

Three third place podium appearances and one front row start, and all that in 2010… not a lot to show for almost two years of hard work and hundreds of millions of dollars, is it?

When the Mercedes men who knew best decided to spend a king’s ransom on the all-conquering Brawn Formula 1 team at the end of 2009, I’m sure space was quickly made in the trophy cabinet at Stuttgart for the deluge of glittering prizes they expected to accommodate.

24 months on and I’m guessing that even the most clever rearrangement of those three small cups has failed to disguise the board’s disappointment.

Why? Why has so very little success come the way of the Brackley-based outfit since the Mercedes suits and money arrived?

Certainly the team has some talented people in place: highly qualified technicians, engineers and designers for sure; a powerful engine; and plenty of cash to spend. But it just doesn’t seem to be coming together, does it?

On the driver front one can certainly see the sense in employing Nico Rosberg. He’s probably never going to set the F1 world alight with his ability but he could ably back up a front-of-the-grid hotshot.

Sadly – for the team – front row grid slots are a distant memory for the erstwhile champion in car #7. Michael Schumacher is certainly not the super-quick racer of several years past, and the wisdom of employing a man over 40 to drive a thoroughbred F1 car remains highly questionable. It might have worked for Mercedes in 1954 but it’s not working now.

As memories of the German driver’s all-conquering seasons fade, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport vice president Norbert Haug’s insistence (he has volunteered this opinion in more than one F1 press conference) that Schumacher will soon rediscover his form sounds increasingly desperate in tone.

Of course the man running the show, the multiple title-winning ex-Benetton, Ferrari and Honda man Ross Brawn (regarded by many in the F1 paddock as a genius, certainly in planning race strategy and sniffing out rules loopholes) remains as respected as ever.

Perhaps, just perhaps, winning all those championships has dulled Brawn’s desire to win.

Of course I’m guessing Ross would disagree, but all top-level sport is in no small measure a mind game.

Just imagine: you’ve had more success than almost anyone in F1’s history, you’ve overseen the design of championship-winning cars, devised strategies that were stunningly executed by the winningest driver in the sport’s history, your very own team conquered all in its only season, and to top it all off you’ve trousered more money than you imagined you might ever earn…

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that just a small percentage of your desire, focus and hunger may be dulled – and that, in the cut-throat never-stand-still world of Formula 1, is all it takes.

Manchester-born Brawn may prove me wrong – we’ll see – but to my mind there’s only one man in sport whose fire never seems to fade, however many times he tastes the victory champagne: Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

If Ross can emulate the mighty manager of the football team he supports and win again it would be an achievement to rival any that went before.

Time will tell…


Please now take a few minutes to enjoy my pictures from the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by clicking here.

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