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Exclusive interview - Honda's Ross Brawn 17 Mar 2008

Ross Brawn (GBR) Honda F1 Team Principal..
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 15 March 2008 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda RA108.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 Jenson Button (GBR) Honda RA108 and Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB4.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 Ross Brawn (GBR) Honda Team Principal speaks with Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 23 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda RA108 makes a pit stop.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008

Honda came painfully close to points in Australia, the team’s first race under the leadership of Ross Brawn. Although Jenson Button crashed out on lap one, Rubens Barrichello finished sixth, only to then be excluded for running a red light.

A DNF and a disqualification may not have been the result Brawn was hoping for, but he is positive that the very fact they were in contention for points - a rarity last season - means things are heading in the right direction

Q: Ross, your first race with Honda is history. How would you sum it up?
Ross Brawn:
It was an obvious disappointment because we had a good opportunity to take some points. Overall we don’t have the most competitive car, but we had a good car for this race. It was a shame that we made the mistake and passed through the red light at the pit lane exit, for which there are no excuses. It’s just disappointing as the team did a fantastic effort and we did not take the chance that was available.

Q: When you joined Ferrari in 1996 it was a troubled team. Now, again, you are with a troubled team. Are there any other parallels between the situation then and now?
Maybe. The potential here at Honda is very high. It is an excellent, highly professional group of people so I feel optimistic that we have all the ingredients we need to perform. I am looking forward to the challenges in the next couple of years. I hope that we can have the same result that we had at Ferrari - that would be fantastic. It’s about the same starting situation so why not have the same finishing situation? Let’s see!

Q: You’ve only been with Honda since the end of November, so no big turnaround can be expected just yet, but do you have the feeling that the development so far is going according to your plan?
My first period is to observe and see how things are done, because there are sometimes things done differently, but they can be as good if not better to what I am used to - and I really didn’t want to come here with an attitude of ‘now, this is how I’ve done it before and this is how I want it done now’. So I really took some time to find out how everything works, and we have started a process of restructuring the team to give it a greater capacity, to make it stronger for the future. My initial observations are very positive: it’s a good group of people, we’ve got all the resources we need, got all the facilities that we need - now we have to start to make use of it all.

Q: By now you must have an idea why, after strong results in 2006, the team fell back so badly last season?
Some idea, yes. Comparing the cars with what I know and with what we have here I can see some areas of the car which are not very strong. I can see things where we can make progress. And I guess one of the problems with the teams was that they didn’t understand why the car was so good in ‘05/’06, which meant when the performance dropped it was more difficult to work out what to do.
I want to put in place a stronger understanding - and all the facilities needed - to understand what the car is doing, to judge what the car is doing, to design and develop the car so that we can be much more consistent in the future.

Q: The team did a three-day private test in Jerez before flying out for the first three races. The emphasis was on new aerodynamic parts. Did those new parts have a significant impact and will they carry you through the next two races?
It was a very good step - and it was a planned step. We knew that in planning this car from the very beginning that it was going to run initially with a low spec and that we would have this new spec introduced before the first race. That was all part of the plan and the encouraging thing was that what was predicted from our aerodynamic group then worked on the track. If not, we would have had to face a really big challenge.

Q: How much does it help to have Rubens, with whom you have worked for many years, to ‘translate’ your measures onto the track?
Yes, it does help to work with a driver that I have been working with before. First of all there was no time lost in getting to know each other. I think that Jenson is a very good driver, but we are just learning to work with each other. So it very useful to have Rubens here who can help me identify the priorities that we need.

Q: For a decade you worked with the exceptionally gifted Michael Schumacher, who tirelessly pushed his team for performance. How do you see the situation with Jenson and Rubens?
Well, there is a big difference. Michael was a reference for Grand Prix racing, for every driver. I was lucky to work with somebody on the level of Michael. That sort of driver comes along only once every ten years. Now it works a little bit differently. But I am quite happy with the two drivers we have. When I look around in the paddock there aren’t another two drivers that I would particularly pick.