Exclusive Ross Brawn Q&A: Were taking nothing for granted 24 Sep 2009
The story of Brawn GPs 2009 campaign is almost too good to be true. A team saved at the last minute from closure, and then going on to win not only their debut Grand Prix, but one race after another. It has never happened in the history of Formula One racing before. True, they did seem to flag a bit midseason, but over the last few races Brawn are clearly up and running again. Team owner Ross Brawn is confident in the BGP001s resurgence, but he isnt about to start toasting championship success just yet
Q: Ross, the constructors championship is virtually a done deal for Brawn GP. Or do you see a scenario where a lead of 40.5 points wont be enough?
Ross Brawn: Well, mathematically it is not done and, until it is done mathematically, I dont relax and the team does not relax. It would obviously be fantastic to have the last one or two races without the pressure of the championship, but we are prepared either way. And I have learned from many years in the sport that you dont take anything for granted until it is actually completed.
Q: At some races during the middle of the season it looked as though Brawn were running out of steam. Over the last three races you are back with a vengeance. Why did you seem to flag?
RB: We had a couple of races where we struggled with tyre temperature. Normally - and this is a very positive thing - the car is very good on those tyres, but we had a couple of races, like Silverstone or at Nurburgring, where we could not get tyre temperature and I think we overcompensated. I think we tried too hard to find a solution to the problem and thus confused ourselves. So we took a step back, went back to fundamental principles and accepted that there are races where we might not be able to win, but we could still score strong points. And we simplified our approach and got back to fundamentals again. The team had done a very good job developing the car, but because of that confusion we had midseason, we lost the benefits of the improvements that wed made. But now these benefits are becoming clear. I think we did stutter a bit midseason, but we understood why and weve got it back on track now.
Q: You have two drivers in the running for the title. At the beginning of the season Jenson Button was stronger but now Rubens Barrichello seems to have the edge. Do you have a preference?
RB: No, not at all. With two drivers who are so close in performance, it is inevitable with a sport as complex as Formula One racing that one race will favour one more than the other, and when one starts to get the impetus it is quite difficult for the other to break that impetus. It seems that the little difficult period we had midseason hurt Jenson a little bit more than it did Rubens. Rubens found solutions more quickly than Jenson, and now Rubens has got the upper hand slightly. But its a very close contest and at this race it could easily go the other way again. I am very delighted to have two drivers who both fight for the championship. We have to fight in a correct and proper way.
Q: But its rumoured one will stay and one will leave the team, so theres a chance that the champion could leave
RB: First of all those decisions have not been made yet, and I think I want to complete the championship in a really open way. If we have a world champion that for whatever reason leaves the team thats a shame, but Id rather have an open contest than anything else.
Q: The future of the team is secure thanks to some big sponsorship deals. Can you say anything about that yet?
RB: No, not really. Our partners want to keep their involvement quiet until next season so theyll be able to have the maximum impact. What I can say is that we are structured for next year and beyond. That was a key objective for us, and with the performance that we had, it was a fantastic help to put together a package for the coming seasons. We are very happy and comfortable with the future and our announcement will be made over the winter.
Q: The rumours of Mercedes interest in buying a stake in Brawn were quite a surprise considering their long standing cooperation with McLaren
RB: This is all speculation Im afraid and I cannot comment on speculation. The directors and shareholders of the company want a long-term future for the company, and of course we are always looking for opportunities to secure that future for the company as well as we can, but the rest is just speculation.
Q: At Spa, Formula One expert and three-time Formula One champion Niki Lauda looked into his crystal ball to predict 2010 driver line-ups. In your case he saw Nico Rosberg as the new team mate to Jenson. How realistic is that?
RB: Again, that is pure speculation that Im not going to comment on. I cannot give you an opinion on that.
Q: Have you secured an engine for 2010? Mercedes stepped in at the last minute at the beginning of 2009. Have you come to an agreement with them for 2010?
RB: We have plans to use a Mercedes engine for next year, but there is still some, lets say, administration to go through with the FIA. But theyve given us an indication that they are comfortable with that arrangement, and Mercedes is also comfortable, so we just have to complete the arrangement now. We are moving on and it looks as if we will use a Mercedes engine next season as we are delighted with it.
Q: What do you make of the FIA verdict in the Renault case? You have worked under Flavio Briatore. Were you surprised by the conspiracy, and also by the severity of the punishment?
RB: I worked with Flavio for five years. That is quite some time. I think that for an offence such as race fixing the punishment has to be very severe. Its the first occasion that I am aware off in my 30-odd years in racing that such a thing has occurred - and it was shocking for all of us. I cannot judge the blame and guilt of the individuals, but I was shocked because I have known those people for many years and I would have never expected those people to commit such an offence. It was a disappointing and sad day for Formula One, but I think Formula One also demonstrated that it does deal with those things, and that people who do such things get caught and they get punished. I am deeply sad that it happened. Have I been surprised about the people involved? I guess everybody was surprised about what happened. Pat Symonds is a friend who Ive known for a very long time and its a shock to even think of that sort of approach. And the same goes for Flavio.
Q: This track is similar to Monaco and Valencia - both races won by Brawn cars. What will it be this weekend?
RB: I think we have a strong performance at these sort of tracks and the tyre temperature should not be a severe consideration for us. We have a nice aero upgrade here which is worth several tenth of a second, so we should be looking forward to a competitive weekend. If I look at the remaining tracks, I think this should be one of the strongest and Abu Dhabi should also work very well. Possibly we will find Suzuka and Interlagos a little bit more challenging, so this is a track that we want to get the most from.