Ross Brawn Q&A: 2012 already our top priority 14 Sep 2011
Things have been looking up for Mercedes at recent races, with Michael Schumacher finishing fifth at the last two rounds in Belgium and Italy. But while this improvement in results is very welcome, team principal Ross Brawn wants more - much more. With race victories and championships very much on their list of targets, the team have already switched their focus to next year so they can develop the very best successor to this years hit-and-miss MGP W02. Speaking exclusively to Formula1.com, Brawn explains more
Q: Ross, how much of a pleasure was it to see Michael Schumacher back on form in Monza and Spa? In Belgium, for example, he raced from last on the grid to finish fifth
Ross Brawn: Well, of course, Spa was great - as was Monza - but somehow both results are a bit subdued as we are celebrating fifth places. We want to celebrate much more than that. Sure, the way he moved all the way from the back to P5 was a pleasure to see and we saw some great manoeuvres. But we are not here to celebrate fifth places.
Q: Lap One in Spa must have also been something of a surprise. Nico Rosberg had an excellent start and suddenly a Mercedes was leading a race. Alas, it was not meant to last. What happened?
RB: Of course it was nice to see our car leading a race, but in reality we knew that it would be very difficult to bring it home. Spa is a track that makes your wing system very vulnerable when you are up at the front and frankly we know that we havent got a strong enough car yet. But yes, Nico demonstrated that if we have the car that we want then he will be out there winning races. But of course a race like Spa strengthens the motivation and the ambition to succeed.
Q: Did Rosberg say anything on the radio when he was leading the race? Did he say he hoped that this would be his chance of victory?
RB: No, I dont think that he said anything in that direction because he is realistic. His car was probably a second slower than the cars around him. Weve got to find that second for next season. Because he unfortunately went out on the first lap in Monza, it makes that lead in Spa - as short as it was - a special moment. We had a fun chat afterwards and he said how much fun it was to be in front with a completely free track. He wants more of these experiences.
Q: Both drivers have proven in the past that they have what it takes to regularly be on the podium. So it must be the cars fault the team are struggling
RB: Of course our objective has to be to improve the car, as the engine has demonstrated that it has strength. The engine has won many races - Ive won races with the engine - and a team has won races with the engine this year. So the engine is great. Weve got great drivers and if you look at the equation the conclusion is that we have to have a stronger car. We have a very good team in place to prepare the car, the strategy, and the pit stops, etc. We have all the ingredients - we just need to have a stronger car. I think everybody in the Mercedes Grand Prix team knows that we are going to have a stronger car in the future.
Q: Former driver and team boss Gerhard Berger has criticised the team lately for not delivering enough. How helpful is such criticism?
RB: Well, I am not sure what Gerhards motives were for the comments hes made. But the reality is true - we havent got a strong enough car yet. And yes, someone like him should know how difficult it is and I am sure he does know. But, of course, the lack of success for the people we have in the team is an even stronger motivation. It just drives you much harder and gives you stronger ambitions. I havent paid much attention to the comments Gerhard has made. I know him personally and my guess is that he is having a little fun. We will achieve what we want to achieve.
Q: You are hiring people to join all of your technical departments. Did you downsize too radically?
RB: Possibly we have been a little bit too optimistic. And clearly we are not strong enough at the moment. We at Mercedes are completely committed to succeeding in Formula One, but we also want to succeed in the spirit and understanding of the limitations. We need to move up to the limitations that are allowed. It is true to say that the teams that started big are still benefitting from their size because they have better options to make their adjustments. We had some headroom and we are filling this headroom now and I can already see the improvements. On a strategic level Bob Bell joining has been a great help to the team and in other areas the extra strength that we have is enabling us doing a better job. The board is completely committed to succeeding in Formula One and weve got all the opportunity we need to succeed.
Q: When Brawn won both titles in 2009 you were in control of your own destiny and any decision making was down to you and Nick Fry. Is it very different now?
RB: It is different, but it has had positives as well. The depth, the expertise and the resources we can draw on from other parts of our company is going to be a vital element to our success in the future. I think our board recognises that a Formula One team has to be nimble when it comes to day-to-day decisions without referral. That is the responsibility they have handed over to Nick and myself and the rest of the management team. We have - in order for the team to be effective - a great degree of freedom in what we need to do. But we have to respect our owners and shareholders in the right way. That changes things a little bit, but I think our chairman, Professor Dr Thomas Weber, and the rest of the board recognise the team has to operate as a Formula One team - otherwise it will not succeed. We have a very good balance I think.
Q: So youre not going to repeat the mistakes of Honda and Toyota. Youre not trying to run a corner shop from the company boardroom?
RB: No. I think our management is very smart and they know that you have got to bring the strength that you have to the team and make sure that the team can use the strength which exists within it. Personally I have had nothing but maximum support from Dr Dieter Zetsche, Professor Weber and all the members of the board.
Q: Tyres still seem to be an issue for you on all tracks and in all conditions. Why cant you seem to catch a break sometimes?
RB: Well, I think that is part of the challenge of Formula One to be honest. I think the situations that you have with the tyres and getting the most out of them is part of what Formula One is about as well. I think we welcome that. But of course it is frustrating at times when you dont get it right. But its the same tyres for everybody and I have to say that Pirelli have done a fantastic job to ensure everybody has the same opportunity with the tyres. Theyve succeeded fantastically in their first year. They should be applauded and we have to take the tyres as part of the competition in Formula One, just as it should be.
Q: Its tricky to predict the future, but what are your hopes for the rest of the year. Can you defend P4 in the constructors championship?
RB: Well, P3 has moved away from us a bit since we last spoke, but there is no doubt that people in our team are fiercely competitive and they will use the best of what we have for the rest of the year. But we also recognise that this is the time of the year when more and more focus has to move to next years car and we definitely cannot compromise next years programme. Our priority is definitely next years programme, but we are also trying to do as much as we can for this season. I think weve still got a lot of exciting races ahead of us. And if opportunities come our way we are sure not going to waste them! (laughs)
Q: So you say you are already focusing on the 2012 car. Can you draw any comparisons with 2008, when you created 2009s championship-winning Brawn?
RB: There was a major change in regulations in 2009 and that will not be the case from 2011 to 2012. It will be a sort of evolution, so I dont think the situation is the same as then. When we went to the first test in 2009 we immediately knew, from what we saw from the other teams, that we would be very competitive and that proved to be the case. The 2012 cars will be a much more gentle evolution. Cars will increase over the winter in the normal percentages, unless somebody comes up with a very radical idea nobody else has thought about yet. We will put the same resource, effort and amount of work into the new car as the other top teams. I dont feel in any way disadvantaged in terms of the resources, capacity and effort we are putting into the new car. My guess is that we are making a good step forward.
For Formula One and F1 team merchandise, click here.