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Brawn: The Impossible Formula 1 Story - Series Review

Written by Owen Bradley, Edited by Meghana Sree

Credit: Disney+

Brawn: The Impossible Formula 1 Story, is a four-part docuseries on Brawn GP’s fairytale F1 season of 2009; presented by the Hollywood legend Keanu Reeves who is known for films such as John Wick, The Matrix, Speed, and Point Break. The series takes its time, with each episode standing at approximately one hour long, however, the pace of the show (much like the Brawn car) never drags.


Interviews with drivers and team members such as Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, Mark Webber, Ross Brawn, Felipe Massa, and many more really do add to the atmosphere that this docuseries has, and it is a nice nostalgia trip back to F1 in the late 2000s as well.


A Series for the Pure Racing Fans

Credit: Jose Galiot

To be clear, this is a documentary for Formula One purists and general fans alike. Details about FOTA (Formula One Team’s Association) are greatly expanded upon and put into a visual way to help fans understand.


This is something which is now rarely ever talked about, despite the sports industry seeing it in effect recently with the “Super League” in Football, where a select number of championship-winning clubs from around the world were going to form their own football league, with the best of the best clubs taking part.


FOTA were going to branch off and form their own racing championship, with teams such as Ferrari being a huge brand to have joined FOTA and supported their progress. All of this was because Formula One and Bernie Eccelstone were not splitting the money grossed by F1 equally between the Formula One brand itself and the other teams. The F1 brand would take half of the profits, with the other half being shared out equally between ten teams.


Ecclestone interviewed on the show, and claimed that a lot of the work Ross Brawn and the Brawn GP team achieved was down to pure luck. At one point, he stated: “People like to believe they are smart because of the success they have had, but it’s all down to luck. Being in the right place, at the right time.”


The Emotional Journey

Credit: Disney

This is where the series shines. The episodes are packed with interviews not only with the key figures in the team, but also with their fuel rig operator who left the team in the beginning and started a new career as a plumber, only to then return and work weekends with the championship-winning Brawn GP team.


Interviews like this are where this series really goes into another gear. We have all heard the stories of success and the more intricate details of the 2009 season from a variety of people, and whilst it’s always important to have them involved in a project like this, the lesser-known team members add such a great emotional value to the story, with a more personal and everyday feeling to Formula One and indeed, the Brawn story.


The story is phenomenal, and the series is well-written. The interviews with Rubens Barrichello deliver such an emotional moment, when he speaks about what happened to him during his career with the Ferrari team, where he partnered Michael Schumacher and assisted Schumacher and the team to those Constructors’ Championships, but always felt like he was on the back foot, always playing second fiddle to the iconic German.


Button also adds a thoroughly emotional element too. He speaks of how his late Father, John Button, managed to motivate him and calm his nerves during the 2009 Brazilian GP weekend at their hotel, and instead of letting his son get nervous, he spoke with him about his career up to that point. This is then contrasted, with Ross Brawn mentioning how Jenson Button would come into the paddock the next morning, fully revitalised and refreshed.

Credit: Kerim Okten

Anthony Hamilton, father of Lewis Hamilton, also features in the series, albeit somewhat briefly. Despite his limited time on-screen, he says something incredibly poignant in the story.


When Jenson Button is talking about what his father did to help, Hamilton also says that if it were his own son, he would have done the exact same thing as John Button did. Overall, this is proof that a strong family-support surrounding a driver is usually what helps them to succeed in this sport. Their families deserve just as much credit as the team members for motivating their children or siblings.


Passion and Politics


The series is an incredible amalgamation of different tones and viewpoints, which both counter-balance exceptionally well. The political intrigue and technicalities of the sport and the car itself work in great harmony to elevate the storyline.


The great graphical showcase of how the Brawn GP Double Diffuser worked, political figures of the sport like Bernie Ecclestone, and the Honda boss in 2008 who sold the Honda team to Ross Brawn for £1 are all elements that are balanced incredibly well with the pure driven passion from the drivers, families and engineers.


Engineers who, half of which had to be let go due to financial concerns after the season-opener in Australia, after fighting so hard in the winter to stay afloat.


Massa and Barrichello also opened up on the pressure to be like the next Ayrton Senna or Nelson Piquet, and unfortunately were criticised heavily by the Brazilian media and fans alike for their inability to replicate the famous moments from their country’s historic drivers.

Credit: Gerry Rochman

Keanu Reeves is a presenter and a well-known figure in the motorsport world, wishing Valentino Rossi well at the 2021 MotoGP Finale in Valencia, and also has been seen in the F1 paddock on multiple occasions.


In this series, it’s clear as day that Reeves is not here to merely draw a more mainstream audience – he genuinely has affection and passion for motorsports and is not afraid to ask some slightly hard questions to the likes of Eccelstone. Overall, Reeves does an absolutely spectacular job.


This is Not Netflix’s Drive to Survive


Formula 1: Drive to Survive on Netflix has come under heavy criticism since the very first season for creating false narratives and overall having poor production. Drivers would be on a qualifying lap, and the way it’s edited will show the same corner multiple times from different angles, just to construct their narrative.


Despite the modern use of onboards throughout the entire race and different feeds, Netflix have seemed unable to construct a docu-series about F1 that is accurate, causing Max Verstappen to sit out of multiple seasons.


Brawn: The Impossible F1 Story is not like this. This is made in a realistic and respectful way, there are no villains of this story, only a team who saw an opportunity. Like Formula 1: Drive to Survive, the Senna documentary which was released in 2010 by Asif Kapadia, saw similar criticism from Alain Prost, who was portrayed as the ultimate villain in Senna’s life, despite being great friends off the track.


This series never stoops to that level, and for that it portrays Formula One in a realistic and yet energetic way.


Conclusion

Credit: TNT Sports

Simply put, this is a must-watch. If you're an older fan or a new one, this series has something to offer for all audiences. If you’re somebody who is just looking for something to watch, this series would definitely interest you. However if you are a die-hard fan like all of us here at DIVEBOMB, then this series is absolutely one of, if not the greatest documentaries on motorsport of all time.


Overall, I rank this documentary an absolutely excellent score of 9/10.


But what would you rate the series out of 10? Let us know in the comments!


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