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Exclusive Ross Brawn Q&A: We're targeting victory in Bahrain 03 Mar 2010

Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes GP Team Principal. Formula One Testing, Day One, Valencia, Spain, Monday 1 February 2010. Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain, Friday 26 February 2010. (L to R): Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes GP Team Principal with Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 3 February 2010. Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Jerez, Spain, Saturday 20 February 2010. Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes GP Team Principal watches Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01. Formula One Testing, Day One, Valencia, Spain, Monday 1 February 2010.

Ross Brawn is renowned for his no-nonsense approach, so it’s no surprise that the Mercedes GP team principal is keen to avoid speculation about the MGP W01’s competitiveness ahead of this month’s season-opener in Bahrain. However, with a big upgrade set to be introduced at the Sakhir race, Brawn is confident seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher and team mate Nico Rosberg will have cars that are capable of challenging at the front...

Q: Ross, how satisfied are you with the MGP W01?
Ross Brawn:
We are not quite as well prepared as I would like to be, but we are getting there. It’s been quite a difficult winter. I think as it was the first winter with 450 people, as opposed to 700, we’ve felt the loss in a few areas. But I’m reasonably happy with the car. It’s showing good promise. We need to keep up our development speed, and then we should be okay.

Q: What feedback have you had from Schumacher?
RB:
Well, we haven’t got the car working consistently. I think that is one of the challenges we have. When the car is well balanced it’s good, but we are having a few difficulties finding a consistent balance. That’s a little frustrating. But we are starting to understand what we need to do now.

Q: Do you sit down with him and discuss the progress of the car?
RB:
Yes, Michael works directly with the engineers and technicians. I oversee and listen to the discussions, and add when I feel there is a need for clarity. Michael works very hard with the engineers and technicians and is giving us great input.

Q: This comeback was quite a risk for both the team and Schumacher himself…
RB:
Of course there was a risk, but it was a risk that we were both happy to take. It was exciting to do and nobody has regretted it for a single moment.

Q: The lap times seem to suggest that Mercedes is about a second off the pace of Ferrari and McLaren. Are you concerned about that?
RB:
I don’t think that it is a second. You have to look into the details of what has been done. I think that on our high fuel runs and our race runs, when we get the car right, we are competitive. It’s just a little tricky to get the car right. Michael hasn’t carried out a proper low-fuel qualifying run, but Nico (Rosberg) had a go with lower fuel and it was definitely not bad. He ended the third test day with the best overall time. So I don’t think that we are a second away. As I said before, we are not quite where we would like to be yet, but it’s a moving target. That’s the nature of our business. The team that is leading is always the target for everyone else, and there is only one team that can lead - all the rest have to play catch up. We go through phases of being the leader, and phases of being the ones trying to catch up. At the moment we’ve probably got more catching up to do, but I am not overly concerned.

Q: How will you close the gap?
RB:
We have an update for Bahrain. We decided not to bring it to Barcelona but leave it until the last moment. We’ve learnt to assess and run pieces without testing them. It’s crucial when you have seasons without testing, as you have to bring upgrades to races during the year. In Barcelona we had little bits and pieces, but the major upgrade will be introduced in Bahrain.

Q: How important is it to show off to partners and sponsors during testing?
RB:
The important thing is to do the work. And that work is to check out the brake system, check out reliability, and obviously check out handling. There is no point running with 20 kilos of fuel all day and looking fantastic. It is in no way representative of what you have, particularly with this year’s new rules, which mean we’ll start the races with a lot of fuel. We need to understand what the car is like on low fuel, but also what the car is like on high fuel. So we just keep our heads down and do our work. It will become apparent who’s done the best job at the first race.

Q: Recently there has been a reshuffle of the Mercedes GP board, but there seems to be some debate about who is in and who is out. Can you clarify the situation?
RB:
It is very clear. There has not been a reshuffle of the Mercedes GP board - it was the creation of the Mercedes GP board. Before the shares were sold, the team consisted of six directors. When the team was sold five of those people remained on the management board of the team, but they don’t have directorships. Half of those directorships passed up into the overseeing board, which are three Mercedes members, two Aabar members and myself. I represent the minority shareholders on the board. It’s a steering board, rather than an operational board. The operational board - or managing group - is still the same. Nothing has changed.

Q: Now the team is Mercedes GP is there more pressure to succeed?
RB:
Of course it has a different perspective, but I had that feeling for ten years at Ferrari. It’s something that you get used to. You keep your head down, you focus and you work. We want to win races, and if we don’t win races we will be deeply disappointed. Obviously there is a lot more media attention, or at least a different type of media attention with Mercedes. But there are also a lot of benefits from the relationship with Mercedes, so I see it as a positive thing.

Q: When do you realistically expect to start winning races?
RB:
Bahrain. Our objective is to start in Bahrain. Once we see where everybody is, we’ll see what sort of task that we have to carry out and how we need to react. Our target is always to win the next race. And the next race is Bahrain.