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Exclusive interview with Mercedes' Ross Brawn 24 Oct 2013

Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Practice, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 5 July 2013 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, Sunday, 13 October 2013 Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, Thursday, 10 October 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice, Hungaroring, Hungary. Friday, 26 July 2013 (L to R): Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal congratulates race winner Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 in parce ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Hungaroring, Hungary. Sunday, 28 July 2013 Mercedes AMG F1 W04 nose sensor.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice, Hungaroring, Hungary. Friday, 26 July 2013 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice, Hungaroring, Hungary. Friday, 26 July 2013 Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal celebrates on the podium with the Constructors trophy.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Hungaroring, Hungary. Sunday, 28 July 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 29 June 2013 (L to R): Paddy Lowe (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Executive Director (Technical) and Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice, Hungaroring, Hungary. Friday, 26 July 2013 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 25 May 2013 (L to R): Toto Wolff (AUT) Mercedes AMG F1 Director of Motorsport and Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 19 April 2013 Mercedes AMG F1 W04 technical detail.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Preparations, Silverstone, England, Thursday, 27 June 2013 Race winner Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 and Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal celebrate.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England, Sunday, 30 June 2013 Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 26 May 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Singapore Grand Prix, Practice, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Friday, 20 September 2013 Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Practice, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 5 July 2013

Ross Brawn’s name has rarely been out of the news in 2013; not only because of Mercedes’ race-winning performances, but also because of speculation surrounding his future. In a wide-ranging interview, the silver arrows’ team principal addresses that issue, as well as discussing the current season, the possible effects of the 2014 rule changes, and why all he really wants is to have fun…

Q: Ross, there has been a lot of speculation about your future recently. What is the actual state of affairs?
Ross Brawn:
Well, there will be a transition at some point. Paddy (Lowe) joined the team - and he joined it earlier than we expected - and now we are having discussions about what is the best solution for the team in the future. It is a very amiable solution - a solution for the team to be as competitive as it can be in the future. Those discussions are ongoing.

Q: Niki Lauda (Mercedes’ non-executive chairman) suggested that it all depends on you - that the team would love to keep you - and that it is you who must decide whether to stay or to go. From what you’ve just said it all sounds a bit like you have already made up your mind - and that slowly but steadily you are on your way out…
RB:
That is an interpretation of what I just said. I think it will all become clear. Inevitably in the future we will make it clear what is happening. Until then I don’t want to encourage speculation or confirm anything. My position is that we will let people know when we are ready to let people know.

Q: What about the immediate future and 2014?
RB:
Next year we’ve got a great car. We are excited over the car that we are doing - it is such an exciting opportunity. You will see a big disparity between teams next year for the first time in a long time. There will be some teams who get it right - and some teams who get it terribly wrong. With the regulations, the powertrain and the technical challenges next year I am very pleased that we started the project in good time, doing a lot of the ground work and having put an infrastructure in place with Aldo (Costa), Geoff (Willis) and Bob (Bell) which enabled us to put some serious resource to the 2014 project. Geoff started the project back in 2012. We are as well prepared as anybody and I have good reason to be optimistic for next year.

Q: Now that enthusiasm heavily supports the assumption that you will be here in 2014…
RB:
That sounds a bit like reading tea leaves! (laughs) When we are ready we will let everybody know.

Q: What is it that you look for in a job that you would base your decision on? Priorities shift in the course of a career…
RB:
I am the same as everybody - so I want what everybody wants: to have fun.

Q: If you had to choose, what would you settle for: Money, personal freedom, being the biggest fish in the pond or fame?
RB:
Ha, it all sounds good. But what I really want is that this team is successful. My ambition for this team is to be successful. As I just said, we’ve done a massive amount of ground work to make sure that this team is successful. We made a good step forward this year and an encouraging step to consolidate that so that we’re ready for the big step next year.

Q: You said earlier that some teams will get it right in 2014 and others will get it terribly wrong. You said that with an undertone suggesting that you know that Mercedes will get it ‘terribly right’…
RB:
You never do know, to be honest. All I know is that the more resource you can put in - and the earlier you can put it in - the better to make sure you’ve considered all of the directions that you might want to go, because there are several directions that you can go with these cars. The engine needs to be developed parallel to the chassis and we’ve been able to do that with a one-team approach. Because of that we’ve been able to start with the concept from the very beginning. So both concepts - the engine and the chassis - have been united for two or three years now. That gives us the best chance. I cannot guarantee that we absolutely have the best solution, but we’ve been able to reject directions which probably would have brought us problems.

Q: What’s your guess regarding when the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ will begin to show themselves in 2014?
RB:
We will get snapshots in testing - and I think the first three tests will be fairly dramatic for everybody as these powertrains are so new. Sure, you do get a picture and see little flashes of the performance of cars - even in a period when reliability is perhaps not established. I have a feeling that the disparity between the front and the back will be huge next year, particularly when you’re going into a race. The race will be the combination of car performance, engine performance, the tactics and the technology - so there are many more variables in 2014 than we’ve had. Lately the engine has dropped out of the equation, but next year it will again be very much part of the equation, which I think is great for Formula One. Everybody having the same engine - or virtually the same engine - and everything being just down to the chassis is losing something. Bringing the engine back (into the equation) is good news - it has been that way in most of my years in Formula One. Only the last four or five years has the engine been neutralized. So it’s great that it will be a factor again.

Q: Speaking of engines, is Honda anywhere in your vision, as has been rumoured?
RB:
Ha - nice try, but my lips are sealed! (laughs)

Q: How does the cooperation with Paddy Lowe work? From reading his face one gets the idea that he is working way beneath his capabilities?
RB:
I’ve known Paddy for many years and my relationship with him is very good. We’ve found, let’s say, a means of working on the right things and priorities, and I think it is working well and he is contributing well. There are some new approaches and aspects that Paddy is bringing in terms of how we run the team. He is highlighting things that we do well and also areas where we could improve - so he is making a very useful contribution.

Q: Will he ever take over as team principal?
RB:
That is the long term.

Q: There is the impression that only Red Bull and Lotus are still developing their 2013 cars if you look at their recent performance explosion. Isn’t that rather surprising?
RB:
It is a little bit. Red Bull is a really strong team - they are the reference at the moment, as we want to become the reference in the future. The strongest team is always the reference for anybody else and Red Bull has done a great job over the last few years, as they’ve been the reference. They're strong and functioning well, and when they need to they can squeeze some extra performance out of the car. They also have a driver who is in great form at the moment and all of that makes them the natural reference. We’ve had two or three races where we’ve failed to demonstrate what we can do, but I hope that over the next few races we can demonstrate what we can do and extract the maximum performance from the package that we have - which is stronger than what we’ve shown lately. We’ve flattered them (Red Bull) in some respects in that we haven’t put up the challenge that we should have done. I am optimistic that in the next few races we will come back to show them what we can do.

Q: Three teams are fighting over P2 in the constructors’ championship: Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus. Which of the three fighters has the upper hand car-wise and driver-wise?
RB:
We are a team that will go with their two drivers into next season. We are the only one of the three teams with a stable driver line-up - and that is important. There is not a lot between any of those cars, so it will be down to driver and team performance - that will make the difference. I don’t think that any of us three teams has a significant car advantage that will be the absolute factor for the last four races, so it all depends on the human factor. For us it is key to finish all the races.

Q: Is it also to your advantage that you have two drivers in the car that have already won races this season?
RB:
Yes, perhaps. They’ve done a great job this season -I can’t criticize them at all. In the last few races where we’ve failed to maximize the points we should have scored, the drivers have not been a factor in that situation. There were safety cars at the wrong moment for us, we had reliability issues, we had the puncture with Lewis in Suzuka - things certainly out of the driver’s control. So yes, our guys are doing a great job.

Q: What can you say has surprised you most about your drivers?
RB:
I think the thing that surprised people - people outside the team and not those internally - is that Nico can compare with Lewis. People might have anticipated that Lewis would be a dominant factor and that’s not been the case. And that’s great for the team.

Q: Or perhaps he hasn’t shown his claws yet…
RB:
Well, hopefully (next year) we will be fighting for the championship, and our two drivers will be fighting for it. Then we will very likely have more challenging situations to manage. Managing the two this year has been very straightforward - and of course we want to continue with that. But as we all know that only one driver can win the title, things might get intense and things can develop. For now we have a good spirit. Should we have some challenges because we are fighting for the drivers’ title, then I would welcome those challenges. And if challenges intensify, also sensitivity heightens. Should that happen the drivers have a very good spirit and approach and it is up to us as a team to manage such situations. Should we get into such a situation, it would show that we are more competitive than this year.

Q: What has surprised you most with Lewis? He came to Mercedes with ‘baggage’, but here he is, as calm as a lamb…
RB:
Ha, I don’t know if that is a surprise. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about him. What I do know about life is that if you see somebody from the outside it is very often not what you get on the inside. I have worked very well with Michael (Schumacher) and the Michael I knew was not the same as the version that was built up by other people. Lewis has been extremely straightforward, very open and always willing to give his honest opinion - very easy to deal with, but challenging. He is demanding just like any race driver is in his position, but demanding in a very positive way. He’s a real pleasure to work with.

Q: 2013 has seen significant changes but also irritations at Mercedes. How much influence on the year has each of those had?
RB:
No significant influence at all. The car this year is a product of what was done in the past. And there have been opinions on certain issues, but they have not affected the way we’ve raced. At the end of the day it is always my decision on what we do - that reference has not changed - and that has to continue. A team run by a committee is a disaster, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have members of the team contributing, as long as it goes through the right channel. That can be a very useful process.

Q: You as final decision maker - does that give you sleepless nights?
RB:
It never has. I have been very fortunate. And that does not mean that I don’t care or don’t have passion about it. For whatever reasons I never had sleepless nights about Formula One - any sleepless nights I ever had were at the end of 2008, not knowing what’s going to happen with the team. In terms of prime function and my role in the team I never had sleepless nights.

Q: Is that what it takes to be in F1 racing - never having sleepless nights?
RB:
Probably, yes. There is a very tense pressure in Formula One - high levels of stress. But that should be a positive thing - stress to succeed. You always have to view it as a positive, otherwise get out of Formula One!

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