The Legacy of 2009


No passing through my dirty air please
If you ask most people they will tell you that 2009 was a boring season of F1 that was dominated by Jenson Button in a car that was massively superior to all the others. That's what they'll say but it really wasn't like that. An under-funded team came out of a massive rule change with an advantage and couldn't afford to develop the car. So then everyone else caught them up and we ended up with a second half of the season where nearly anyone on the grid could pull off a win depending on what weekend and track they were at. But 2009 has a lot more of a legacy than that and lots of things that happened that year started F1 down the path that has lead it into all the issues it has today.

2009 was a revolutionary year in F1 as for the first time in 25 years that the drivers and constructors titles were not won by one of the big four teams. Not only wasn't it won by one of them but it wasn't even contested by any of them. The pecking order had been well and truly shaken. From 1984 onwards the 3 main teams dominating the sport were Ferrari, McLaren and Williams. The 4th team that was an interloper was the team based at Enstone (many name changes). Whilst other teams might have been competitive at times it was these 4 that always led the way, with 2 always being in ascendency whilst the others were in decline. Through 84 to 87 it was McLaren and Williams in ascension with McLaren making the best of it. Come 1988 Williams went into decline and Ferrari were on their way up to compete with McLaren without actually every making it. 1991 saw Williams come back to the fore and Ferrari going into a decline. McLaren's eventual decline started in 93 and this is where the team from Enstone came to the front after many years of being the 4th team. Enstone were at the front for only a couple of years between 94 and 95 before Ferrari then became the main competitor to the dominant Williams team. Williams long period of dominance came to an end in 1998 when the classic Ferrari/McLaren duel resumed until the early noughties when Ferrari became a huge dominating force with both Williams and McLaren nipping at their heels. Ferrari stayed at the front until 2005 when the team from Enstone reached the top of its 10 year cycle and hit the front again before once more falling back down the order after 2 seasons. This left McLaren and Ferrari to dice it out for the next couple of years. It was a simple pattern - one of the teams would be leading the way whilst a couple of the others reset themselves to rebuild back to the top. All until 2009 where the order finally shaken up.

A lot of people think badly of Red Bull due to their years of dominance and the fact they have a massively unlikable team principal but we shouldn't forget that they stepped in and save two spate F1 teams that were heading for the scrap heap. Originally the promising Stewart team that had well and truly been crushed by the wrecking ball of the Ford corporation under the Jaguar name, the fact the team survived long enough to fight its way back up the order is credit to them. But for the fact that one of the teams had found a technical loop hole Red Bull would have come out of the rule change as the front team and in reality it is they who broke the F1 monopoly of the other teams. Whilst they are currently struggling they have established themselves as one of the top teams and I have no doubt that they will come back round again and that is one of the legacies of 2009. The other is that the Brawn situation allowed Mercedes an easy option in to have their own team without having to develop from scratch, something that as you can see has worked out well for them. But not all the repercussions of 2009 have been positive for the sport.

2009 was a year of financial crisis across the capitalist world and whilst F1 usually finds itself immune from this on this occasions it didn't. Having spent a large amount of money on the developing new technology for the rule change for 2009, and seeing no return whatsoever, the financial market meant that BMW, Toyota and Renault had no other option to pull out of F1. Added to that fact that Honda had pulled out at the end of 2008 this meant the sport had lost 4 major constructors. Thankfully Renault were still going to supply engines but it still meant that F1's engine suppliers had been cut by 50% since 2008 something that has repercussions to this day. During the 2009 seasons a certain Max Mosley attempted to implement the now famous budget cap rule. He introduced 3 new teams who entered thinking that's what the rules were and arranged for Cosworth engines to be supplied to all. The rule was vetoed by Ferrari, BMW, Red Bull and Renault and never came to fruition and somewhat ironically probably spelt the end of BMW and Renault as teams because they couldn't afford to keep up with their other voting partners. It really pains me to have to prise such a man but Max Mosely was right to try and introduce that rule. What he was trying to do was to make sure the sport was full of racing teams who had a chance of being competitive and not dominated by manufactur teams. You see the reality of it is that a manufactur may supply engines to multiple teams but if they have their own team there is no way they are going to stand for the customer team beating them. Which means as the 3 engine suppliers were Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault it meant only those 3 teams (Renualt's being Red Bull) were really every going to win in F1. The other teams are just filler. The budget cap was an attempt to stop the sport being dominated by those big names and give the small racing teams a chance of being in the sport. It was rejected - by the people it was designed to hold back - and what we have been left with is a sport that is far less competitive. McLaren's link with Honda may be a disaster but their thinking was sound. They were never going to win with a customer engine so they had to go a different way. Why has it failed? Well the same people that are at the top of the sport have closed the doors to allow anyone else to be able to develop and catch them up which is what your true legacy of 2009 is. The big corporate companies rebelled against the FIA and now dictate the rules to the sport rather than the other way round. They are now in a position to prevent any other team knocking them away from their spot at the top which in turn means that 2009 will probably be the last time for a long time that any team ever breaks into the front runners.

One last legacy of 2009 is the constant change for a dramatic rule changes. Everytime a team becomes dominant a massive rule change is called for mainly because they look back at 2009 and see how the order was shaken up and hope that if they do it again its their team that comes out on top. The fans hope it will produce the close racing and competitiveness again but the truth is it never will. The reason 2009 became such a competitive season was because the team that came out of it in front technology wise had no money to develop that and everyone else caught up. Now days there is no such thing as an underfunded team, and as we saw with the 2014 rule changes, once one of the big boys has an advantage there is now way to catch them.

2015 and the complaints of dull racing and lack of competition can all be traced back to 2009, the breaking of the mould and then the team revolution to make sure they kept their place in the then new order. The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum and a fix for F1 is not going to be easy. No turkey ever votes for Christmas
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nicely put article about 2009 been the trigger for change at the top. One thing in F1 is domination will always happen in cycles so Mercedes ' will end sometime down the future

Max's idea people thought were bonkers but as ever the murky politics tends to drag the sport down and the power play between the manufacturers and Bernie and FIA will always be there to protect self interest.

One other note I remember the powertrains were supposedly around $10m a season and they've ended up being double the price as the engine manufacturers cite initial R &D cost to take into account

At the root of it is always money from TV revenue which the teams want a bigger share but Bernie will never surrender his share for CVC and the bigger teams will want to ensure they always get a bigger share ( who's idea was it to have royalty payment for Ferrari for their years in F1) - they are guaranteed $50m a year for this

teams at the front don't want things to change as always... eventually though the other teams will catch up as seen in the past once the advantages have been fully exploited then the racing will be closer again

We've seen in the past even when cost control has been exercised to keep things on a playing field and make racing closer or two teams don't honour it to stay in front
because the team that came out of it in front technology wise had no money to develop that and everyone else caught up. Now days there is no such thing as an underfunded team, and as we saw with the 2014 rule changes, once one of the big boys has an advantage there is now way to catch them.


And here lies the problem of testing restrictions and the nonsense of frantically and repeatedly waving the "Keeeping-costs-down" banner on every decision regarding F1 these days.

Because the real issue here shouldn't be about be who could afford to test and develop and who

It should WHY have in the past generation or so the costs of testing and developping become so unaffordable in the first place?
And who has made it so?

Engine freezes, grid-drop penalties, testing bans have all been in place for several years now.
Are there any more teams on the grid?
So we have full-capacity grids?
Are smaller teams any better off through any of the recent cost-saving measures??
Is the competition any closer?

There was also a wordwide recession in the early nineties. No restrictions on testing, developing, and no penalty for changing parts.

And 30 cars trying to qualify for each Grand Prix...

And modestly-financed teams like Jordan or Sauber that gained midfield respectability right from their first Grand Prix...
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I guess the cost of testing went up with the developing technology. When the likes of Sauber and Jordan came in we were still in the age where testing was done with a stopwatch, trial and error and driver feedback. Now days they can plot every little thing exactly and if you don't have the years of data to compare too then your just not going to cut it.
I guess the problem with cost-saving by restricting testing is that it costs the teams that need to play-catch up more rather than less due to the failure to gain any decent results at all. The one or two teams who manage to get it right are then sitting pretty for the next few seasons.
Back in the day the Osella team had plans to build their own 1,500 metre test track at their Italian HQ. I don't think anything came of it but all the constructor teams have testing facilities. As I have mentioned before, the Chief Executive of FOM owns a couple of F! grade race tracks so I'm sure they could be rented at a reasonable price to the teams without their own track.

If any of you haven't watched the interview Sky did with Max Mosely in their "Legends" series I'd recommend it. He talks about qualifying cars and engines as well as Q tyres and cites these as the reason for trying to cap costs. To make the drivers start the race in the car and engine they qualified in, fine but the whole cost control thin has just gone too far.

BTW - we have just had an in season test after Austria and only two teams ran their race drivers. Does this mean that this sort of testing is now so monitored by computer systems it doesn't really matter who drives the car or that the teams don't really care about these tests as it's just another revenue stream?

The Technical Working Group is crap and should be disbanded. The F1 Commission is pointless, to allow any of the teams to be involved in rule making and governance of the sport is complete madness. For any team to have an input into rules changes and/or veto's should never be allowed. I'd give control of the sport to the ACO. Endurance racing nearly died a few years ago so the powers that be looked long and hard at what regulations would stimulate involvement from constructors and give close racing and low and behold it has worked. If they can do it for one form of motorsport why not another? F1 needs a completely impartial rule making authority and the teams then have to get on with it.
With all the sensors and aero rakes and other fancy equipment used these days almost all of the testing related to the development of the car and its parts is done using computers/data. Driver input isn't useless, but is probably mainly applied to setting up the car to the driver's liking. I'm sure the teams find their input on the overall drivability of the car to be somewhat useful.
The problem with 2009 is that it was a major year of flux in F1 such that with so many changes it would be difficult for anyone to pin down which aspects had a greater or lesser effect on the future of F1.

The issue of Brawn has, I believe, to be looked at in isolation from the rest of the factors that season. With the 'double diffuser' having such a dramatic effect on car performance it's difficult to say what would have happenend had that design loop hole been banned over the closed season. We like to think of Brawn as a rags to riches story where by the big corperation pulled out and the little guy fought back. It is of course, not as simple as that. By the time Honda announced their immediate withdraw from F1 in December 2008, 99 percent of the design of the 09 Honda would have been complete with the cars construction underway. Perhaps the most impressive thing as regards design was that the car was able to be modified to take the Mercedes engine. Honda provided a good deal of financial backing to enable to the team to start 2009 on a comfortable financial footing and beside the previously mentioned double diffuser, Brawn were getting a Mercedes engine that had powered McLaren to a world championship the previous year.

The thing that makes this season most remarkable is the very sudden decline by Brawn after the Turkish GP. To point to a single explination for this is almost impossible. We know for a fact that the car was still capable of winning races because Rubens won two of them. We know that the car was reliable it recorded just two retirements for the whole team all season where as Vettel alone retired 3 times. Did Button consider he had such a healthy lead in the championship that, as Alain Prost used to say, he drover just quickly enough to maintain his lead in the points? The fact remains that had the season just counted from Great Britain onwards (a total of 10 races) it would have finished:

Seb Vettel - 55 points
Mark Webber - 42 points (on count back)
Rubens - 42 points
Hamilton - 40 points
Kimi - 39 points
Jenson - 34 points.

Now that suggests there is far more going on there than the other teams catching up with the pace of the Brawn. There must have been an upgrade or some change in the fundimental handling / design of the Brawn car that meant from GB onwards Rubens was far more comfortable in the car than Button. I guess we will have to wait until Jenson's book to find out the real reason. Something like this isn't completely without precident though. In 76, as part of an upgrade to the Mclaren M23 they moved the oil cooler amd the car suddenly lost a lot of it's performance. It took the team a while to work out just what had caused it, and once they had returned the oil cooler to it's original position the car stared working again.

On the wider issue of the 2009 regulation changes, it's funny to think that the lower, wider front wings were supposed to increase front end grip while following other cars and allow for closer running and better overtaking. This season we have seen that the cars still have issues running in dirty air and part of the problem has been suggested to be the over reliance on the complicated front wing needing clean air to produce front end grip. Suggestions have been made as part of a revised package of rules to raise and reduce the size of the front wing to produce the need for more mechanical grip. And so the merry go round continues.

The other aspect of 2009 took place off the track. Two of the biggest names of the previous decade or more had stepped away from the sport. Jean Todt stepped down from the Ferrari board and Ron Dennis turned over all responsibility for F1 to Martin Whitmarsh. With Mosley desperate to introduce his 'cost capping' measures, Christian Horner at Red Bull who, according to Adam Parr's book 'The Art of War' was originally as keen as most of the other team principles to go ahead with this, did a u-turn at a crucial meeting and was in part responsible for the original idea falling down. This didn't of course stop the teams getting together in 2009 and threatening to withdraw from F1 if a new way ahead for 2010 with regards to cutting costs could not be established. Bernie had already been here before and thanks to the fact that he knew there was no way the teams could be held together as a single voice when money was involved, got to the teams individually and hence this is where we have the single payments etc of the revised Concorde agreement. Divide and conquer being Bernie's simple but effective principle. With Mclaren still in a state of decline following Spygate, Renault hobbled by Crash Gate and Brawn being courted by Mercedes, it's not hard to see how Horner and Red Bull found themselves in a postion to have a major influence and be useful to Bernie. It was no suprise at all when the first teams ot leave FOTA were Ferrari and the two Red Bull backed teams (along with Sauber who at one time were the recipiant of a great deal of backing from..... Red Bull).

So in that respect, I think while 2009 was an important year in the way that F1 changed, I think it happened over a wider period, starting with the formation of FOTA in 2008 with the bulk of the changes introduced across the 2009 / 2010 seasons. Leading to the 2013 Concorde agreement.
There must have been an upgrade or some change in the fundimental handling / design of the Brawn car that meant from GB onwards Rubens was far more comfortable in the car than Button.
I don't remember the specifics but I believe they changed Barrichello's brakes and from that point on he performed much better.
Yeah, the precise details are lost in the fog of my memory but there had to be a number of factors rather than just a single upgrade. That would explain why Rubens found his mojo but not why Button went so far backward in relation to everyone not just his own team mate. If I was a betting man, I would go with the fact that he wasn't too worried and took the Prost option of doing exactly what he needed to do to take the title. Supporting that theory would be his dramatic fight back after the poor qualification in Brazil and his attacking drive through the field. That would indicate that the pace was still there.

Interesting though.
I think cider_and_toast your foggy memory jas forgetten the big leaps forward taken by Red Bull and Mclaren. I think that accounts for a great deal of why Button was suddenly behind them.
Again, I know that, but it's still only a small part of the picture. Yes they made big leaps but Rubens still won two races. That car was able to win among the company of its peers. There were a number of factors involved in Button's decline in performance.
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It's also quite possible that Button suffered from the pressure / nerves in the second half of the season.

It is important to remember his career had been written off many times up to that point; I'm sure he was waiting for that bubble to burst and his dream championship disappear.
I actually went back to look at the two races Rubens won. Both races had very high tempretures which swung the pace back to Brawn and away from the Red Bulls and Mclarens. At the European Grand Prix Button had a poor quali and a poor start but actually had car issues so was pacing himself to 7th. At Italy he did get beat by Barrichello but was in 2nd only 2.5 seconds behind him. This being Monza its fair to say Rubens was probably pretty nifty round there. Other than that their results weren't to different.

I still maintain that Brawn inability to develop the car meant everyone else caught up and Buttons results simply dropped because every weekend there were more drivers that could beat him.

Which is kind of the point I was making regarding rule changes. 2009 give a false impression that rule changes even things up. They don't. Even if Ferrari splash the cash and catch Merc up they'll still be 3rd and 4th every race because no one else has the means to do it. Give em fixed rules for a while, testing and a budget cap they probably would.
I agree with your last point and that sort of got lost in what I was trying to say in my long post. Because there were so many variables affecting that season it's impossible to say which had the greater effect. In my opinion the biggest single factor was a design change that while not in the spirit of the changes was perfectly legal. Without the double diffuser there would have been a much closer season and again, in my opinion, the title fight would have gone to Red Bull.
Sorry to disagree again. I think without the double diffuser the season would have been much more of a foregone conclusion. Red Bull would have walked away with it.

The fact is the Red Bull never ran the double diffuser and was still up there near the front. Without the 3 teams running it at the start of the season and without all the other teams adding it to their package as the season went on Red Bull would have been dominant out front and no one would have been able to catch them as they would have continued to develop just as quick as the other teams and, like we've seen after the 2014 rule change, once a big name teams gets its nose in front like that it takes a long time for anyone to get anywhere near them.
I disagree with your disagreement. I don't think Red Bull would have walked it. Their start to the season, while yielding a couple of podiums was still shakey with a number of low points finishes and retirements. With the Double diffuser the race was on to redesign a chassis that wasn't made for it to get back that lost down force. Without it, teams would have gone off on other design avenues and may have caught up sooner.

The season turned on the double diffuser. It is more than possible that without the double diffuser the Brawn car would have been the equal of the Red Bull rather than a good distance ahead for the first 7 races of the season.

The biggest problem with the 2014 rule changes is that with the restriction on engine development, if a team got ahead it was always going to stay ahead. As you pointed out, with the double diffuser, Brawn were miles ahead but before the mid point of the season that gap had been wiped out. It's the restriction on development that has caused the current situation not regulation regarding what the engines looked like.
I have to agree with RasputinLives Brawn recognised Red Bull were the team to beat based on pre season testing before they rolled out . it was only because Vettel fluffed his starts too often they could not capitalise their true pace
There is certainly a good case for having independent engine builders, there seem to have been several periods where the racing has been more interesting. There has also been less interest when a dominant engine has been built for the use of one team, e.g. McLaren with Honda. And to hark on once more it was more interesting when the rules for engine design were more open e.g. 1.5 litre supercharged v 4.5 litre normally aspirated.
Again, I know that, but it's still only a small part of the picture. Yes they made big leaps but Rubens still won two races. That car was able to win among the company of its peers. There were a number of factors involved in Button's decline in performance.

Two prime factors, from mid-season onwards, may probably have been that:
- he was spending much of his time negotiating contract terms with Ron Dennis? :snigger:
- and, almost as much again, denying rumours that he was off to McLaren? :goodday:
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