The nose works as part of the overall aerodynamic package to direct air around the car, critically to the radiators, the rear wing and the diffuser. A higher nose does not automatically work better than a lower one, but how it works with the rest of the aerodynamics to best manage the airflow. A low-nosed car is just as capable of doing this well as it is badly – the 2009 McLaren also had a low nose and wasn’t exactly one of Woking’s best.
So why did Brawn abandon its lower (compared to pre-1990 designs, the 2009 Brawn and 2011 Ferrari noses are both raised) nose? There could be a number of reasons, here’s a couple.
Brawn 001 was optimised around the double diffuser concept (and remember that nose shape plays a role in feeding air to the diffuser), which only Brawn, Toyota and Williams had at the start of 2009. When the other teams brought out their own double diffusers, Brawn rapidly lost its dominant advantage. By the end of 2009, the Red Bull was the car to beat despite not being optimised around a double diffuser. It’s not impossible that, had the double diffuser loophole been clarified early enough (as Ross Brawn offered to do) either way, Red Bull would have had the fastest car for the whole year, but we’ll never know.
The 001′s successer, the Mercedes W01, featured a similar shaped nose – albeit higher off the ground. It’s entirely possible that in developing W01 the windtunnel/CFD numbers simply told the team a higher nose worked better than a lower one. After all, what worked on 2009-spec “refueller” cars wouldn’t necessarily work as well on the 2010-spec chassis, with a much larger fuel tank.