Exclusive Ross Brawn Q&A: We are going in the right direction 25 Feb 2013
Technical problems might have blighted the first two days of winter testing for Mercedes, but since then team principal Ross Brawn has seen his drivers - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg - top the timesheets on two occasions.
In an exclusive interview, the man who won multiple world championships with Benetton, Ferrari and his eponymous squad, Brawn GP, discusses the recent management changes at Mercedes, the progress of the team's new F1 W04 car and the impact of Lewis Hamiltons arrival
Q: Ross, too many cooks spoil the broth. Has that saying taken on new meaning for you in 2013?
Ross Brawn: Ha, it can be a problem if everybody tries to do the same thing! (laughs) It is important to have clear areas of responsibility. I am responsible for the sporting side; running the team on an operational level. If we can maintain that then there will not be a problem.
Q: Youve always dealt with a Mercedes representative, but now that representative (Toto Wolff) is also a shareholder. Does that change things?
RB: Good question. I have not thought about that yet. I dont imagine so. I have been dealing with board members, so I dont anticipate any differences, no.
Q: You have been blessed with a huge amount of success in Formula One racing, but you havent experienced huge success since 2009. What affect does that have on you?
RB: I think it makes you more ambitious - hungrier to get back to that feeling that you had when you were successful. Formula One is an incredibly challenging business and one has to be right on several levels to achieve success. We convinced Lewis (Hamilton) to join us, and we put in place a very good technical line-up during 2012 - and the car weve got now is reflecting that. It just takes some time to recognize what you have to do; that the corrections that you have to make and the solutions that you have to put in place are a 12- to 18-month process - in any team. Yes, it has been frustrating, but I genuinely feel that we are going in the right direction.
Q: If 2013 doesnt turn out to be your year, do you think 2014 could be? The last time there were significant rule changes - in 2009 - you won both titles with Brawn GP
RB: 2014 is going to be a massive opportunity for the team that gets it right. Of course, we try to use these opportunities. I have a feeling that this time around everybody has recognized a) what an opportunity it is, and b) what a challenge it is going to be. At least this is what I hear from other teams who have parallel projects in place like we do - having a group working on the 2014 car as well as one working on the 2013 car. We are one team - we are an engine and a chassis designer and we can design and build those two major components together as one car.
Q: In Lewis, Mercedes have signed one of the most aggressive racers out there. Is that a quality you were looking for?
RB: First of all, the very top drivers rarely become available. It is not like having a list and you can tick off the qualities that you are looking for. They all have strengths and weaknesses like everybody does in our business. Lewis is a fantastic driver from a speed, competitiveness and racing perspective, and now we have to learn to work together on an engineering and development side. I must say that the short period he has been with us has been very positive, and there is no doubt that he is now a part of our team.
Q: Should the car not deliver this year is there a chance that the team could lose a lot of that Lewis lustre? Was this something that you had to consider?
RB: Well, weve explained the long-term programme to Lewis. It wasnt just about what we can do this year or next year but in the next few years. I think it was very important that Lewis understood that. One thing is clear: we cant approach 2013 saying well Lewis is here for the long term; we said that were doing 2014 properly so we dont need to worry about 2013. We worry and are putting a lot of effort in 2013 because we want to do the maximum that we can. I think Lewis has recognized that weve got a medium-term plan and he wants to be part of it.
Q: Lewis is completely new to you. What do you know about him from your own experience?
RB: What we all know is that he is an incredibly quick driver. He is very passionate about the sport and what he does. He has all the attributes you need to be a world champion - hes proven that. We know all these things as you can see them from the outside. What you dont get unless you work with somebody from the inside is the chemistry - the relationships they need to build - and weve started that journey. Its something very positive at the moment and I hope it stays positive for a very long time.
Q: Of course, the most important issue for you at the moment is your new car - the F1 W04. Did the problematic first couple of days' testing in Jerez nearly give you a heart attack?
RB: Of course the first couple of days were very disappointing. But what was encouraging in that situation was Lewiss attitude and approach. He was very mature and he understands these complex engineering processes. We explained to him what had happened and he understood and dealt with it. For sure, it was not what we wanted to happen, but it was a useful experience for the team and Lewis and vice versa. So yes, Jerez was disappointing and you dont want it to happen - not with a new driver in his first run in the new car.
Q: How is the situation now? There are only four test days to go
RB: Well, we had some new car reliability issues. It doesnt appear to be anything fundamental. The car looks a step forward from where we were last year. The car is doing what all our simulations and modelling suggested that it would do. It is not so that we think weve got a championship-winning car right now, but the difference we have anticipated or predicted between the 2012 and 2013 car seems to be real, which is always an encouraging sign.
Q: How difficult is it to move the car forward when youve got tyres that dont last for much more than one lap?
RB: You have to take a very intelligent view and carefully judge what you find. The capacity of the teams to measure the behaviour of the car is huge now - not like in the old days where you had to do five very careful laps, and then another five laps, and had to compare on the stop watch what was going on. Sure, the stopwatch is the final arbitrator, but you get so much more information today from analysis systems that you have the capacity to judge what is going on. The tyre situation is a by-product of that fact that weve got exciting races. If you have tyres that go on forever then the racing will be pretty boring and nobody wants that!
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