A recent report wonders aloud whether the Brabham name is close to a return to Formula One, with family scion David telling a Brazilian outlet “yes, there is the possibility to bring the team back (to F1).” However, the short answer to “Is the Brabham name coming back to Formula One?” is likely “No,” and the long answer is likely, “Not for a while.”
Why is the rumored return (a thin rumor, at that) even a news item? Because during his spell in the sport, as a driver and then as a team owner, Jack Brabham brought about as much panache, prestige and intrigue to F1 as Ferrari does cachet. The now-86-year-old Brabham won three F1 World Championships, the first in 1959 when he pushed his Cooper over the line after running out of gas. He became team owner in 1961 after his second driver’s title, his team collecting a total of six Driver’s Championships and four Constructor’s Championships before it shut down in 1992. What’s more, he was the first team owner to win a Driver’s Championship in his own car, then Bernie Ecclestone bought the team, then Alfa Romeo owned it, then Peter Windsor’s attempt to own it (which is still a matter of mystery). Denny Hulme of Can-Am fame would also win an F1 championship as a driver for Brabham, Graham Hill, Nikki Lauda and Dan Gurney are also on its list of pilots and Gordon Murray – yes that Gordon Murray of that other F1 – designed the “fan car” for it. It’s a big name.
Before the start of the 2010 season, a German businessman who bought the remains of the Super Aguri team lodged an application with the FIA to start a team under the Brabham name. The Brabham family then began court proceedings, claiming they knew nothing about the team or the businessman’s rights to use their name. For some context, Lola and March, two additional legendary F1 constructors, also lodged applications to join the circus in 2010, efforts that came to nothing.
That’s where things have been for more than three years, and that’s why we think this new report is a long way from signaling any Brabham return. Even after the legal battle is settled, any team or naming rights owner would need to find a team to buy or buy the branding rights to. While a sufficient amount of money can always get a conversation started in F1, there probably aren’t any teams that truly fit either of those profiles right now.
So you can put your throwback blue and white Parmalat jacket away now, at least until 2014…