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Roddy Graham's Blog: 30 April 2009 - Business of F1

Date: 30 April 2009

Roddy Graham is chairman of the ICFM and commercial director of Leasedrive Velo

What a delight to see a "fledgling", virtually sponsor-less newcomer take on the establishment at the highest level of motor sport and prevail.

I, of course, refer to Brawn F1.

The team, born out of the huge Honda F1 operation, barely made it to the grid in Australia. It only did one pre-season test in Barcelona before arriving in Melbourne and, against all odds, swept all before it with a magnificent one-two finish.

Malaysia saw more of the same with Jenson Button winning again and, while he had to be content with third place on the podium in China, in the first real test for the team the Brit, who so nearly joined the dole queue in February, secured the greatest victory of his career last weekend.

So, besides, rejoicing in the fact that all the Grand Prix held so far this year have been won by new teams, what can we learn from the season so far?

First, you don't need bucket loads of money to win.

Second, you need the right people at the helm to steer the cars and the team to victory.

Third, you need a talented team of individuals working together as a cohesive unit. Sound familiar for good business practice?

After Bahrain, Ross Brawn admitted they had no spare parts left. The cupboard was empty. For the first four Grand Prix of the season, the team had survived using just two chassis, a few spare bits and pieces and the bare minimum of sponsorship. Virgin reportedly has only contributed £175,000 so far, which would just about pay for a steering wheel and front and rear wings!

An announcement on future support is due at the next round in Barcelona.

Brawn has however stated that more car development can be expected in Spain.

Lesson one: you can get by on the minimum essential resources but you must nevertheless invest for the future.

What do Brawn and Red Bull have in common?

Apart from being the only teams to have won this season, they have top men at the helm and top drivers. Some of the shrewdest technical brains around in F1 are Ross Brawn and Adrian Newey. No coincidence then that they lead the field at the moment.

Ross Brawn has an awesome pedigree in World Sportscars and F1 and was the mastermind behind Michael Schumacher's record seven Driver's World Championship titles.

Honda brought him on board to turn their fortunes around and, with wholesale rule changes for this year, he quickly abandoned work on last year's dog to concentrate on this year's design. He knew when to cut his losses.

Jenson Button drives as smooth as silk and Rubens Barrichello may be the oldest in the field and hold the record for most Grand Prix starts but he is no slouch. He out-qualified his teammate last year for a start.

Lesson two: you need top people with a good mix of experience to steer the organisation to success.

Brawn GP is the name on the nosecone. Brawn Grand Prix is the entrant. Brawn is the only major name appearing on driver and team overalls. But does Ross Brawn, the man in overall charge, steal the limelight? No, he's a team player. After the podium in Melbourne, a different member of the team has been nominated each time to collect the constructor's trophy. He recognises the contribution of talented loyal employees.

Lesson three: you need talent in a team and you need to engender team spirit so that everyone pulls in the same direction.

So technical advancements are not the only things handed down from F1.

Lessons in business management can be learned too!