By Phil Huff
April 4 2010
Mercedes GP team principal Ross Brawn sat in on the 'Friday Five' press conference today, speaking about the lack of show in Bahrain and what can be done to fix the show, amongst other things. Here's the complete transcript of what he had to say...
Was the result in Bahrain pretty much what you expected or were there some surprises?
I think so. There were no major surprises. We are not quite where we want to be and therefore the results were a little bit disappointing. But we know what we have got to do. The season goes through many phases. The first part of the season is everyone establishing where they are and then reacting to where they find themselves, so we are reacting at the moment.
Coming here to a very different type of circuit, how does your performance here compare to Bahrain? For example, Martin, I think you learned quite a lot from Bahrain which will be of use here.
It is very difficult to judge where you are as there are four seconds difference between empty fuel and full tanks. I think everyone runs at both levels to judge where they are on the first day. You have got to check out the brakes, you have got to do some high fuel work. I think with Michael (Schumacher) we made some progress today. I think possibly with Nico (Rosberg) we went the wrong direction on some set-up changes and he wasn’t so happy with the car at the end. I think generally we are extracting the potential of the car which we know is not quite high enough yet but we had a reasonable day.
Looking back a year ago here your own team was making a debut. What an extraordinary year. Just reflect on the last year and the change.
Yes, it is surprising how quickly you forget where you were a year ago when you are dealing with the challenges of a new season. It was an exceptional year for us. Certainly one of the highlights of my career. I think we have entered into a new phase now with the team where we can be more confident in our future planning and in our ideas and investment for the future. Really, quite honestly an astonishing 12 months but what we did last year very quickly disappears into insignificance in terms of what we are trying to achieve this year and what we are trying to achieve for the future, so it was very quickly forgotten. We are more focussed on performing this season.
And the fire still burns just as brightly.
Oh yes, yes. For me personally a year off reminded me how much I enjoy the business. I can still get out of bed in the morning and want to get into the office. The plans we have for the future of the team have been quite invigorating from my perspective.
We have seen today that Virgin has received permission from the FIA to increase the size of its fuel tanks, so that it can finish races. A question to all guys, how close are you running to the limit of fuel efficiency and on a race like this with high fuel consumption do you expect to see any teams struggling or having to drop their pace?
I think it’s all really been said. There’s a formula which varies from track to track of power/fuel starting weight and you run the engine in the best form, both strategically and from a lap time perspective. So you may chose to start with a bit less fuel and run the engine lean for a while which gives less power or you may start with a plan to run the engine at the optimum. I think it depends where you’ve qualified and how you intend to run the race. I think all of the top teams, certainly, have had enough knowledge from previous years to be able to judge the size of fuel tank (required) and none of us have made them any bigger than they need to be. Bahrain is a hard race in that respect; this is another hard race in that respect, so I think we’re all on the limit at these races which is how it should be. The systems are generally sophisticated enough that we shouldn’t run out of fuel – it doesn’t mean to say we won’t, a mistake might be made but we’ve got pretty good monitoring of the fuel usage of the car to manage it during the race. You may see or hear on the radio that management is going on, when you’re in traffic, when you’re held up by another car, you may chose to save some fuel, so that you can run the engine at a more powerful setting when you get a clear track. So it’s just part of the challenge of Formula One now.
We’ve spoken about the comparatively monotonous race that we had in Bahrain but I’m interested to know about the strategy both of your team and of Ferrari. If Sebastian hadn’t had the problem, those two Ferraris behind looked pretty racy to me. Do you think they might have caught up and we might actually all be talking about what a splendid race it had been with a big scrap at the end of it?
I think it is important that we do wait and reflect on what we have before we start making changes. Changes can definitely be for the worst as well as for the better. Some tracks are not conducive to overtaking. Bahrain, historically, has been a track where it’s been very difficult to overtake, so I think we do need to wait and see and get a few more samples of what’s going on before we see what we have.
I understood 99 percent of the race in Bahrain; maybe you can help me to understand the remaining one percent. Obviously there is an advantage this year when a driver stops early, so it was logical for me that Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull stopped the drivers who were in front. But your strategy was different. I didn’t understand this, because Nico was in front of Michael.
I think the strategy is to stop as soon as you’ve got a gap in the traffic behind you, so you’ve got to make sure that you can come out and use the new tyres. We felt that we had enough margin with Nico to be able to react because the time difference on the tyres was pretty finely balanced with the gap we had with the car behind, so we could react when we needed to. Nico got held up in the pits; if you watch what happened, Mark and Jenson came in at a point when we wanted to release Nico, otherwise it certainly would have been a very close situation with Lewis. So in that case it didn’t work out for us but basically you were waiting to call that first stop as soon as you’ve got a gap behind and you can use the tyres. Here, it’s going to be a little bit different because the tyres take one or two laps to warm up and therefore it’s not such a dramatic change when you go to new tyres; it will take two or three laps for the cars can react. But I have to be honest and say there’s not a lot of challenge in the strategy at the moment. I think what may happen this weekend is that we may get some safety cars which will make it much more interesting, but one of the things that we have lost in my view is the challenge of the strategy because of the loss of the fuel weights and other variables but those are things that we need to study and see how we can perhaps bring back in.
What options remain to improve the quality of the show?
I think that the fundamental is do you do something artificial or do you try and evolve the cars in a different way or do you evolve the tracks in a different way? There are lots of artificial means of changing things around. The easiest is to put the fastest cars at the back but I don’t think that’s Formula One. Things like that can be done. We will wait and see how these next few races evolve and then decide if there is something that we can do which keeps the spirit of Formula One.