The Brabham team had been in the sport since 1961 and had made champions of founder Jack Brabham and his friend and team-mate Denny Hulme as well as twice for Nelson Piquet in 1981 and 1983 – but by the mid-80s with the departure of Piquet, increasing struggles with the technical regulations and owner Bernie Ecclestone’s increasing focus on his FOCA duties had led to a decline. When at the end of the 1987 season engine supplier BMW had decided to leave F1, Bernie took the opportunity to sell up. The original buyer was Walter Brun (of EuroBrun fame), but he swiftly sold it on to a Swiss businessman named Joachim Luhti.
Luhti brought the team back into Formula One for 1989 using Judd engines (the Judd concern had been another one of Jack Brabham’s babies, as it happened), hired Sergio Rinland to design the BT58 chassis and brought in a mixture of youth and experience in the shape of hotly-tipped Stefano Modena and returnee Martin Brundle. No-one was expecting miracles. especially with the team in pre-qualifying to begin with, but the pieces were potentially there for a good comeback.
7. Martin Brundle
Like the Brabham team, Martin had been out of Formula One in 1988 although this was by choice rather than necessity. Fed up with piloting sluggish Tyrrells and Zakspeeds around the circuit until they inevitably broke down, he went to join Tom Walkinshaw Racing’s Jaguar sportscar team and evidently had a whale of a time as he won the 1988 World Sportscar Championship and still had time for a guest appearance in F1 for Williams. So why come back? F1 continued to be the pinnacle of motorsport for one thing, but the car had tested well and he must have been confident.
8. Stefano Modena
Brabham had given Modena his debut in F1 back in 1987, but, inexperienced with turbo engines he had had to pit several times to replace flat-spotted tyres before retiring with exhaustion. A fruitless season with EuroBrun had followed, though he comprehensively wiped the floor with Oscar Larrauri and even showed a little pace now and then when the car wasn’t breaking down. Many still peg Modena as a potential star of the future, and if the Brabham lives up to its potential this could be the start of something.