Tech Draft: Has Ross Brawn forgotten his passion for F1?

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I always look forward to reading Ross Brawn’s column on the Formula 1 website, but recently it has me questioning his intentions and motivations for the sport, and whether he has forgotten his passion for F1.

Brawn has been one of the more identifiable non-driving F1 personalities over the last 30 years, and not only due to his outstanding talents as an engineer and manager, but also because of his ability to relate with the public on an everyday level.

Even during the heyday of Brawn’s F1 direct operational career, it was easy for the fans and media to connect with him because, even though he was arguably the top technical authority in one of the world’s most highly technical sports, managing and interacting with some of the most elite sporting talents that the world had ever witnessed, he was able to communicate with us in a way that garnered a unique empathy because we simply felt as though he was one of us; an everyday person.

An engineer at heart, Brawn’s propensity to tell the facts as he believed them to be, avoiding the bullshit had me and many others engaged and perceiving him as nothing but genuine, even if we did not agree with him.

In his post-Istanbul article this week Brawn briefly touched on the topical discussion of why such a quantum shift in the F1 technical regulations is necessary when both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships are the most closely contested in many years.

Brawn writes: “I think that fails to understand the fact that while the championship is thrilling this year the cars still struggle to follow each other closely and create overtaking opportunities.”

He then writes,: “While the 2022 rules won’t change the situation overnight I think they are a much better platform to improve the racing on the track and I’m sure that once the new rules have settled down, we will see some incredible races and championships in the future, with even more wheel to wheel action.”

To me, there are two words that come to mind when reading Brawn’s comments: condescending and presumptuous.

Firstly, by stating that he thinks those of us who are feeling that way are failing to understand the facts, he is to me exuding an attitude that us non-believers are the uninformed who require patronizing and the enlightenment of his worthy opinion.

Secondly, Brawn makes a definitive statement that the 2022 rules will inevitably produce more wheel to wheel action, which not only is nothing but an unqualified belief, but in the face of the thrilling 2021 season, he fails to acknowledge that we are already witnessing the highest number of close proximity encounters for the lead of, not only Grands Prix in 2021, but also both of the championships.

Of course, as I am an opinion piece author as well, I do understand that the principle of such articles is to present a personal outlook, regardless of how controversial it may be, but in Brawn’s role as F1’s Managing Director of Motor Sport, a very important part of his role is to, as listed on the F1 Corporate website, ‘bring fans closer to the action’.

Condescension and presumption are both alienating behavioural traits themselves, but they are also mannerisms that are not becoming of Brawn as an individual, nor of a corporate role with such a public profile.

It’s important to recognize though, that by being engaged by F1 corporate and the FIA to be pivotal in the strategic direction of the technical definition of F1 from 2022 onwards, Brawn has become emotionally invested in the process, and a recent comment of his is a clear demonstration of this: “We have to remember that this is the first time F1 and the FIA have ever put this sort of intense work into shaping the design and direction of the sport’s racing car.”

Through his professional progression from an integral member of a team pursuing the grand prize, up to his high level corporate role, determining the strategic direction of the competition of the very same prize that he was once part of pursuing, I believe that Ross Brawn has become too consumed in his own importance, and forgetting the person he really is.