Normally an off-season Formula One test session wouldn't be worth reporting to anyone but the most hard-core racing fans, but the motorsport press was shocked to see which team has emerged at the front of the pack at this week's official session at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. Only a couple of weeks after announcing their new ownership and return to the grid for this season, it was Brawn GP that embarrassed the heavy-hitters and lead the field, running with a plain livery while strategizing sponsorship deals and posting lap times a full second ahead of Ferrari, the next fastest team in testing.
While some postulated that Jenson Button's lap times were nothing more than a publicity stunt, running on a reduced fuel load to lap faster and garner attention, analysts note that the team was up at the front the whole way through their full Grand Prix weekend simulation. Even Fernando Alonso says the former Honda team's performance is for real, while Ross Brawn, the mastermind technical director turned team owner, credits the team's performance to the priority placed on developing the new car last year under the Honda banner.
Meanwhile, returning champions McLaren-Mercedes, which is supplying Brawn's engines in exchange for Honda's severance cash, languished at the back of the field, while Toyota, which is tipped to follow Honda out of the sport if they don't win their first race this year, ran at the front with Ferrari and BMW. With new regulations in place, we knew things would get shaken up, but Brawn GP was probably the last team we expected to seize the reins. Click below to view a new image gallery, and follow the jump for video footage.