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Exclusive Q&A with Mercedes' Ross Brawn 25 May 2013

Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 22 May 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 R-L: Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal and his wife Jean at the Amber Lounge Fashion Show.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Friday, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, 24 May 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 23 May 2013 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 23 May 2013 Ross Brawn (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Team Principal.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 12 May 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 25 May 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 signs autographs for the fans.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Friday, 24 May 2013 Pole sitter Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 25 May 2013

Sunday’s Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco 2013 will feature two Mercedes on the front row of the grid. But their experienced team principal Ross Brawn knows that even in Monte Carlo that is no guarantee of victory. In an exclusive interview with Formula1.com, Brawn discusses Mercedes’ race prospects, their struggle with the 2013 tyres, Paddy Lowe’s early arrival from McLaren and more…

Q: Ross, it is nice to be the season’s ‘qualifying kings’ - four poles out of six is pretty impressive - but is it enough?
Ross Brawn:
It is not enough, but it is a good step from where we were. Of course we have to convert that raw, one-lap time into consistent race time and at some tracks we do that in reasonable fashion and at other tracks we struggle. It is understanding those tracks which are challenging that’s a priority for us at the moment, while not losing the one-lap performance of the car. We have to juggle that and we are making some progress.

Q: Can you explain why Mercedes are able to pull pole positions out of the hat, but find it hard to convert them into strong results?
Clearly we are using the tyres in the best possible way for a short run and maybe the worst possible way for a long run, which means that we get the short-run benefit at the expense of the long-run benefit. So what we have to do is find a way of preserving the short-run performance and lengthen the long-run performance. It looks big, but it’s not huge. With these tyres - if you run them ten degrees too hot they really suffer, so if you can get them running ten degrees cooler it means less stress and the improvement is pretty substantial. We came close to it at some races - we had it during some races - as we’ve found that the other compound works very well. That’s our challenge - finding a solution.

Q: Is it all just about tyres - and will the proposed changes from Montreal onwards help? Supposedly those changes won’t be as big as some had hoped…
I don’t know to be honest, but with the [tyre] failures that have occurred a change was necessary - that’s the first priority. Whether it will help or not, we don’t know. And in Montreal we will not truly know because it is not the type of circuit that we are suffering at, such as Barcelona. I think that Silverstone will be the first acid test of where we are with these new tyres - and the changes that we are making on the car.

Q: What do you make of your situation here in Monaco? It is the track where the saying goes that the race is won on Saturday. Could tomorrow be your big day?
Indeed we all know that Monaco is the track where pole position is the most important in the season. But we also know that we have tyres that will not survive - that you will probably have to make more pit stops that you want to - so pole does not automatically convert into a race win. We have to make sure that we can do the strategy we want tomorrow and that we can run the race we want. We do have two goes at it as we have two cars on the front row, so with both cars we have an opportunity to find the right solution tomorrow. And indeed pole position - or let’s say the front row - does help. More than at any other race of the season.

Q: Is it possible to run a one-stop strategy - something that everybody seems to dream of? Could it be that with your two shots at the win you run one car on a one-stopper and the other on a two-stopper?
I don’t know at the moment. Everybody has their ideas of what they will try to do, but then you have to monitor the tyres during the race. This much I can say for sure - tomorrow will be either a one-stop or two-stop race. As to what we are going to do, ask me tomorrow at the same time. (laughs)

Q: Last time we spoke we asked you if too many cooks would spoil the broth with regards to the team’s expanding technical line-up. You said it could be the case if everybody tries to do the same thing. Has everybody found his niche?
Very much so. There is clarity and you can see - or I can see - the way the team is developing and that it is exactly as I hoped it would. Twelve months ago - or a bit over 12 months ago - when I sat down with the board - with Dr Weber, Dr Schmidt and the other board members - and we discussed what we need to do to make a change in the quality of the team, they supported me 100 percent. I hope that we are now seeing the benefit of that support. It is a crucial because there are two cars to do this year: the current car and next year’s car. Next year’s car is the biggest change that there has been for some time - a positive change, as we see Honda coming back into Formula One and that is a great message. The engineering structure that we have put in place is exactly as I have envisioned it to be. Now Paddy [Lowe] is joining us earlier as we have anticipated and we have to find the right solution to make sure that Paddy’s contribution is well managed and integrated with the jobs of Bob [Bell], Aldo [Costa] and Geoff [Willis]. That is my challenge for the next period.

Q: What part of the ‘menu’ will Paddy take over to stay in cooking terms?
Ha, if only it were that easy! (laughs) To be honest we haven’t had any time with Paddy. Until Paddy joins the team I cannot sit down with him and discuss in detail where he will be most usefully involved. I think it will be a mixture in reality, but still making sure that everybody in the team knows what their responsibility is. Very soon Aldo will move over to start the design proper of next year’s car and Geoff will move on to the 2015 car and will now be supervised by Bob. So we do have a plan and I will not disrupt the plan because Paddy arrives earlier than anticipated. On the fine-tuning we have to make sure that we are making full use of Paddy’s abilities to enhance the team. That’s where we are.

Q: Regarding drivers, what are the qualities you see in Lewis? Is it different dealing with a former champion than with other drivers?
Maybe there is a sort of confidence when drivers have achieved a world championship - knowing that with the right circumstances and the right car they can achieve that result. Lewis is very good to work with. He is very straightforward. He is new to the team and we are learning about Lewis and vice versa - and it is still on a slope of improvement in terms of our understanding the best way of achieving the most of Lewis. We have that with Nico [Rosberg] as he has been with the team for quite some time. So with him it is a more established relationship. But that is normal. If these two guys keep pushing each other the way they do, that is a fantastic combination.

Q: From the four pole positions the team have had this season, three have come from Nico. Is that because he knows he team better and Lewis is still in a warming-up phase?
Perhaps. But we shouldn’t underestimate what Nico has achieved. He is a great driver and that’s why we have been keen that Nico agrees to a long-term contract with the team. Lewis meets a new challenge and it will take a bit of time. What I think is that it will be pretty even spread between the two of them - at least I hope that is the case, as we don’t want one driver dominating the other. That’s not what we expect to see - not what we want. I think it will go in cycles: there will be periods when one driver gains the upper hand for a few races and then the other one will come back. That will be great to see.

Q: How do you personally see your future? Life in the fast lane for a while yet, or is fly fishing and growing roses becoming more tempting?
Ha, it is still the fast lane at the moment. It was very enjoyable today at the pit wall - tense, but fantastic. And when we saw everything going our way it was very rewarding. I will go on doing it as long as I find it rewarding. Of course it is a bit frustrating that it takes time to convert that into race success, but that’s the next step of the reward. (laughs)

Q: So how rewarding will it be tomorrow?
Well, starting first and second, if we don’t get a podium tomorrow then there is something quite wrong.

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