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Burning Rubber: Welcome back, Brawn with the brain

Former Mercedes boss still has a plenty of offer

Gulf News

The seeds of hope planted around hopes for a long overdue return to Formula One by Ross Brawn look certain to come to fruition. Maybe even later this week or early next.

That is if the feedback from my — usually 100 per cent dependable — spies behind the scenes is as accurate as has been, thankfully, so often in the past. Their Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina could even be the stage for an announcement revealing the 62-year-old’s future after his much-regretted three year lay off following a bitter fallout with Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe when they were recruited to Mercedes, where he was the main figure, in 2013.

He exited in the direction of as many isolated salmon and trout streams as he could, comforted with a £100m fortune, to pursue is passion for fly fishing and stressing he was not missing F1 for a split second.

That, I have no doubt, was the truth. Formula One, on the other hand, was missing him. Badly. And the marathon of persuaders, including the usually influential likes of F1 kingpin Bernie Ecclestone, but this time failing in his pleas, started its run that is only just now rolling to a halt.

The mastermind behind all of legend Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles at Benetton and then with a faded Ferrari team almost single-handedly restored to greatness by Brawn’s magic touch, was adamant in his resistance to all the lures.

Truth to tell F1 needed him more than he needed it: his bank balance was bulging, his trophy cabinet a spectacular show, his lifestyle was more relaxed than it had ever been and his reputation, a mixture of engineering expertise and masterful race strategy, was unquestionably one of the foremost ever in the sport.

They are all aspects which only served to render him a permanently constant target for a comeback. And on his terms. Which is what has happened.

The powerful influence of new F1 owners, Liberty Media, came into play and they quickly identified the possibilities and made top-secret approaches urging the architect and designer of so much success to take up their requests. My information is that he has submitted to their desperate needs and his own restless drive and ambition and secretly already agreed a deal to take up the position of Chief Executive Officer of the sporting side of the business, dealing first hand with the teams and the FIA, the planners and rule makers, to shape and replan the future of grand prix racing.

It is likely that his role will edge a wee bit into Ecclestone’s area of control, but will ease the F1 overlord’s onerous burden and leave him to concentrate on his commercial, TV, sponsorship and team-by-team negotiations.

Whatever, Brawn’s reappearance and the call upon his all-round ability, developed from his growth as a humble milling machine operator in 1976 before being scooped up and advanced by Sir Frank Williams into F1 frontline with his newly formed team, will be hailed as a triumph. He is, to my way of thinking — and I’m not alone — Formula One’s hottest non-driver property.

Even now Mercedes, in the shape of three times champion Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, are still reaping the rewards and winning ways of his legacy of expertise and planning before he walked away off the back of his fallout.

So what, in the face of all the gleeful uproar surrounding his sensational return, does he say? He is, as expected, astutely diplomatic and responds without confirming his upcoming role: “Go back to run a team? No, thanks. I would not want to go back to F1 in the same capacity as much as I enjoyed it.

“I’ve done all that. Been there. And I want to move on. It would feel I was only doing that because I had nothing else to do rather than trying my best to create something completely new.

“When I left F1, I said to myself: ‘Never say never’. And there are changes afoot which I have watched with interest. “During the three years I have been out I have been able to see the sport in a different light from when I was involved inside it as a competitor with team responsibilities. “

On behalf of everybody on the F1 scene, I would like to say: Welcome back, Mr Ross James Brawn, talent extraordinaire, you have been sadly missed.

— The writer is a motorsports expert