Brawn speaks to

Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn is famous for his bold strategic decisions, and once again in Brazil he put Michael on a pit stop schedule which proved successful. With two wins from two races, Ferrari are now very much in the driving seat, and for once McLaren has to come from behind

Brawn speaks to

Adam Cooper spoke to the man with one of the toughest jobs in F1.

Q: At the end of last season you said that to win the championship you had to lead from the off, and not play catch-up as in the last few years. Are things really coming together now?

"It's too early to say. The big danger is relaxing, and we mustn't do that. We have to remember that they've broken down in both races, and we don't know whether we would have come first if it had evolved normally. We need to wait."

Q: Why did you choose the two-stop strategy?

"You can overtake here, which very important during the race. And the car was good, so with low downforce, and good straightline speed, we could overtake them. That opened up the strategy. We didn't feel we could overtake. We would probably have had to do the same as they did and follow them. Overtaking Hakkinen was crucial. Michael really had to do it in the first few laps to stand a chance, and it was great to see overtaking in F1 again. It was exciting for us on the pit wall, and I'm sure it was exciting for the viewers. That was the crucial part, because we suspected he was on a one stop, and the only way we could make any sense of our strategy was to overtake at the beginning."

Q: After he got past were you confident that Michael could open up enough of a gap?

"It was close, to be honest. Even if he didn't, we still thought it was worth trying, because what would evolve in the rest of the race? Of course not knowing when Hakkinen would have come in, we weren't able to judge how we would have gone."

Q: Michael set a fastest lap which would have qualified him fifth - what did you think of that?

"It just shows how bad a job we're making in qualifying! We've got to improve qualifying, and I say that as a team, not just Michael. It's a shame to have such a great driver - both drivers are very, very good - and a good car, and not make better use of it. Our two qualifying sessions this year have been pretty poor. So as a team we've got to improve qualifying. But the rest of it is very good, and I think the four months he had out last year really revitalised him. He's hungry for it."

Q: Once again your strategy was key to a victory - how satisfying is that?

"People sometimes overestimate that. It's something that comes together as a team. I have to make the decisions on the pit wall, but on Saturday night we were here with the drivers until late, and again early in the morning going through it again. It's the engineers the drivers and myself. So it's a team effort."

Q: Your reliability has been so good for so long, so how much of a worry was Rubens' retirement with a hydraulic problem?

"It's always a concern when you don't finish, and it's a great shame for him as it was his home crowd. Once he got past Hakkinen he was doing what he needed to do. So it was a tragedy for him. It was obviously not to our normal standards, so we have to find out what happened - it looked like something split or a hose burst."

Q: Who has the better car this year - McLaren or Ferrari?

"We always assume that they're positioned better than us, because that makes us work harder, but I think they have a very good car. It's great to see our car so competitive, but I wouldn't say there's a big difference, and Hakkinen is driving exceptionally well in qualifying and in the race. I think he's going to be very strong opposition this year. I don't think they'll be down for too long. But obviously it's a great result to be in this position, but we won't be underestimating them."

Q: In the last few years you've made a big step forward when the European season started. Do you have new things coming?

"We have some bits and pieces. But it's not like previous years; it's only two weeks after Brazil. In previous years there was a break before the European season, and everyone went testing. I think everyone's going to struggle to get a few days testing in this week. There are new things evolving all the time, and it just depends whether they work. During last year we were trying lots of things, but they weren't working, so you can't be absolutely sure. There's a lot of work being done, and there's no one at Ferrari relaxing on the first two results."

Q: What are your thoughts on Imola?

"It's a different sort of circuit. It's a braking and traction circuit. Engine power is quite important, but there are no real fast corners. We were OK there last year, so I'm hopeful. Obviously there will be no pre-race testing this year, so we can't be sure, but I think we'll be alright."

Photo: Allsport

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