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Exclusive Ross Brawn Q&A: We'll do a better job this year 24 Feb 2012

(L to R): Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 with Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal and Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 at the unveiling of the Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 21 February 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 23 February 2012 Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 21 February 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 23 February 2012 Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal (Right).
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, 22 February 2012 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One Testing, Day 2, Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, 22 February 2012 Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal with Bob Bell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 23 February 2012 Mercedes AMG F1 W03 front wing detail.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 21 February 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 21 February 2012 (L to R): Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1, Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal, Norbert Haug (GER) Mercedes Sporting Director and Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 with the new Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcel

Back in 2009, Brawn GP’s championship-winning success story got underway during pre-season testing at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya. So for Ross Brawn, who still heads up the team that is now Mercedes, the Spanish track holds very special memories. With the new F1 W03 launched there this week, we caught up with Brawn to discuss the car’s comparatively late arrival, his ambitious drivers' hopes and why he believes they will move forward this year...

Q: Ross, did you decide to launch the new car in Barcelona because you did the same with the Brawn ahead of your championship-winning season back in 2009?
Ross Brawn:
Well, I haven’t thought about that, but indeed it is a nice thought! (laughs)

Q: So why did you decide to launch at the second test?
Our whole programme is structured around the time when we wanted to freeze the car’s specifications. We thought that the programme we have devised, where we used the old car at the first test and would take the new car to the second test, was an alright approach for us. We are still confident that this is the correct way for us to go.

Q: It was a brave move, as at this time of year Barcelona is cooler than Jerez and it can be quite tricky getting the tyres up to temperature. Was it a bit of a gamble?
It possibly was. But as you can see we’ve won that gamble as it is warmer than in Jerez so we have definitely made the right decision.

Q: You’ve always been convinced that sooner or later the car will deliver. Is the W03 the car that can deliver?
Ha, there is nothing like the ‘final’ car. None of us are ever completely happy with what we do and we always constantly think of how to improve. But I can say that this car is a good step forward. We can see that from the analysis and simulation work - and the way we’ve approached it. I think we’ve genuinely made a good step forward. Of course you never know what the opposition is going to do, but I also feel more confident as we now have a much stronger organization at hand than in the past. There is never the ultimate car because before you finish it you have already focused on the next one. But, as I just said, the W03 is a pretty good step forward.

Q: Driver Nico Rosberg said in a recent interview that the thing he wants most this season is to progress. He declared it in a way that suggested there hasn’t been much progress over the last two years…
I think all of us wish we had progressed more and that is why we have chosen to strengthen the team. We have a lot of bright people in the company - and even finishing fourth last year was not such an easy task. But yes, we want to step up to be one of the really top teams and with Bob Bell joining last year and very recently Aldo Costa and Geoff Willis it means there are real assets in the team. I am comfortable that we are definitely moving forward.

Q: You have two top guys in your line-up and both are chomping at the bit to finally make it on to the podium. How much longer can you keep them calm?
Ha, I don’t mind them chomping at the bit to get on the podium because that is what they should be doing. I think we share our thoughts, we share our ideas and we help them understand the plans that we are putting in place. They are part of the team and should know what is going on. We haven’t got a strong enough car yet, but I think they understand how difficult a challenge it is - and they are part of that challenge. They take consolation in the way the team is, as they see that we are structuring for the future.

Q: Lotus and Force India have said that they want to reach P4 and P5 in the constructors’ standings this season. So where are you going?
Forward - that has to be our ambition.

Q: So who will make way?
I don’t know - you never know in this business who is doing a great job and who is not. That is the fascination. You turn up at the first race and don’t know who will be in front of you and who will be behind. What I do know is that we have a much stronger organisation, so wherever we find ourselves after that first race we will be able to react and move forward.

Q: What’s different about this year’s car? Are there things above and beyond those changes demanded by the regulations?
Sure, we had to comply with the new regulations and that was mainly the exhaust technology disappearing. But then we had some different ideas last year that didn’t really come to fruition in terms of the exhausts. Even so, we really learnt a lot from that and the W03 has taken this learning process into consideration so we can make sure that we do a better job this year.

Q: Will the scrapping of the blown exhausts help you?
Maybe. Maybe the margins could be narrowed between the front and the cars behind, but there will still be margins. When you start with new technology the rate of progress can be quite strong in the first or second year. But now we have removed that technology and are faced with more conventional cars, we are all waiting to see what the next trick around the corner is that will have such immense performance gains. If that does not happen, it will be a case of chipping away bit by bit at the ‘performance rock’ of what we want to achieve.

Q: All of last season’s frontrunners who ran the blown exhaust are lamenting a loss of grip now. Could this be your lucky moment?
You mean because we have less to lose - maybe! (laughs) I do believe the differences between those at the front and in the midfield will be much smaller this season so to make it to the front you will need to find less time. But my guess is that it will be twice as hard to find a tenth of a second as it was last year.

Q: What has Michael Schumacher’s feedback been like? Over his career he’s tried out many new cars…
It is positive. He likes the feel of the car and he likes the consistency of the car particularly in the fast corners. Of course it is very early on, and on the first day of his running we lost a lot of the afternoon due to a problem. This though has to be seen subjectively. We could head to Melbourne and he feels positive about the car, but we are not quick enough. So those feelings don’t count for a lot. But at least he is not indicating that there are any fundamental problems with the car that we have to focus on. It is just a matter of raising the general level of performance. I would say we are in a pretty good place at the moment.

Q: So are you shaking everything down at this test and then looking for speed at the final test next week?
We are looking for speed now. Of course you have to be very careful here because of the cold conditions, as you could be easily misled on the tyres. Some of the things you do here might not be relevant for the first few races. What we are also looking into is consistency, so we will be running some race simulations over the next two days. Yesterday morning we had a pretty good and trouble-free time doing plenty of laps. Once you have put the reliability issue behind you, you can really start to look at the performance. So we are pretty positive.

Q: You were taken by surprise by your poor performance at last year’s Melbourne race. Will it be a more positive Grand Prix this year?
Of course we hope so. What happened in Melbourne last year was that we had carried over some problems from the tests. The cooling of the car was not good enough and there had been a lot of wasted effort put in to resolve the cooling and some other reliability issues. It hit us massively at the first couple of races. So yes, it was a really messy start to the season and this year it has been one of our major priorities to avoid such a messy start, as it distracted us from focusing on the performance that we wanted. The indications suggest that this year Melbourne will be much smoother. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

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