Interview: Adam Cooper with Brawn

There was no time to repair it for the afternoon and, surprisingly, there was no spare on site. However, a new one is winging its way to the Middle East and will probably go in the Brazilian's car after first qualifying, assuming that jury-rigged repairs to the original get it through Saturday's action

Interview: Adam Cooper with Brawn
After taking such a pounding in Malaysia, Ferrari have worked miracles to ready a pair of F2005s for Bahrain. However, the decision already appears to have bitten the team, after Rubens Barrichello suffered a serious gearbox problem in first practice.

Clearly it will be a very stressful couple of days for the team, and there have already been serious compromises. Barrichello was not able to contribute to any tyre comparisons so it was left to Michael Schumacher to put miles on the soft tyres.

If those are rejected after the data is analysed, the team will be committed to running the harder tyres - which it has not yet run here - for the remainder of the weekend. It's intriguing stuff, and it will be fascinating to see how the team cope.

Q. Can you explain exactly what happened to Rubens today?

Brawn: "We had a bearing failure on the left hand side of the gearbox. It happened very quickly, so we're hoping that there was a problem with a specific bearing. It happened on the first run. That particular gearbox is one of the ones that's done a couple of thousand kilometres in testing. So it was a surprise to use. Unfortunately the spare gearbox is not here until tomorrow [Saturday], so we'll try to patch up the gearbox tonight, and make it last tomorrow, when hopefully we can change gearboxes. We'll run it in the morning and see. If there are problems with it we'll need to get into changing to the other gearbox as soon as we can. We've got to try and keep this one together for at least the first qualifying."

Q. After qualifying one the cars go into parc ferme. How do you get round that?

Brawn: "We've spoken to the FIA. It's happened before, people have changed gearboxes because they've had a problem. We've explained what happened. As long as we change the box for something which is identical - they'll come along and inspect that all the parts are exactly the same - they don't have a problem. We can show them the damage, we can show them the problem we have, they feel that's acceptable within the parc ferme regulations. As I say I think there's been a precedent set and a gearbox has been changed under parc ferme rules."

Q. Did you have gearbox problems before?

Brawn: "The gearbox has been quite reliable in testing. I don't think it's anything to do with the content of the gearbox. I think we've had an unfortunate situation with one bearing pack. We don't think we have an intrinsic problem. It's difficult to fix because it did some damage when it failed. The guys are trying to put it together now, and make it last at least tomorrow."

Q. Why didn't you have a spare gearbox on hand?

Brawn: "We were expecting to have one, but because of all the other priorities it didn't come. We thought that on the first day it's unlikely that we'll have a gearbox problem. It was due to arrive tomorrow so we'd have a spare for the race. Unfortunately we had problem. It's a risk that we took in bringing the new car here."

Q. Was Michael happy with the way things went?

Brawn: "The two drivers have had a day each in the car. Michael and his engineer made very good progress today. The changes they did with the car were very positive, and they've got a direction they want to go in tomorrow. The tyre wear seems quite good. We'll get the full figures tonight after a full analysis. There's lots of reasons to be positive. We're reasonably optimistic so far."

Q. You decided pretty early on the type of tyre. Is it because you were sure already from the beginning what type of tyre is good here, or didn't you want to bring another risk factor by trying two different tyres?

Brawn: "Really we ran the softest tyre as long as we could, because we wanted to get the most experience on the softest tyre, and that gives Bridgestone the chance tonight to look at the tyres properly and see whether they feel that they are going to be able to last the race. If tonight we make the decision they can't last the race, then of course we go back to the other tyre. That controls the decision. Today, particularly losing Rubens car, we wanted to keep the mileage on the soft tyre as high as possible. That gives a better picture for what we'll get to see on Sunday. It's not easy, because the track changes. You also have to look at last year's data, at what the track was like on Friday, what wear rate you got, what you got on Saturday, what you got on Sunday, and you try and extrapolate that to what you're going to get this weekend. Last year was very unusual, because it was very cool on Sunday. So wear rates we saw on the Sunday may not be what we experience this weekend with the predicted temperatures."

Q. Some people have said the track is more abrasive than last year - is that something you've experienced?

Brawn: "We haven't seen that, no. The cars are so different and the tyres are different to last year, I'm not sure we've got a good reference. That's not our opinion so far."

Q. What were you most concerned about before coming here?

Brawn: "There were a couple of different things. One is we didn't know what the cooling was going to be like generally. We've not tested in these sort of temperature. We had some problems with electrical boxes which were overheating, but I'm glad to say they're all under control now. There was a little problem in the gearbox, but not related to the problem we had today. At the last test we did we had no repeat of that problem. There was a little problem with the box, but that was something we fixed, and the box ran perfectly OK. This problem we had today was certainly unrelated to what we saw in testing. The engine cooling was a big concern. We knew we were going to be 35-40degC here, and the warmest we saw [in testing] was 25. You extrapolate all the figures, but you don't really know. One of the pleasing things today was that the cooling was very much under control. That was a relief."

Q. Are you checking Michael's gearbox carefully?

Brawn: "Yes. We're being very diligent everywhere because it's a brand new car. Naturally you stare a little a bit longer, you look a little bit more carefully, because it's a new car that we don't know as well as the old car."

Q. The last six Ferraris have won on their debut, which is obviously a tough act to follow. Is there any feeling within the team that anything less than a victory this weekend is a step backwards?

Brawn: "We've always been at a level where we're optimistic that we can win any race that we take part in. That certainly wasn't the case in Malaysia, that was one of our worst races for some time. I think if we don't evolve this weekend into a condition where we can win, it will just drive the team even harder to create that situation and fix it for the next race. I hadn't realised that every new Ferrari had won on its debut! It would be nice to follow that, but I'm not worried even if we don't. First of all I would love to do it, but if we don't, I think it will just inspire the team even more. Either way, I'm not overly concerned."

Q. When you made the decision to bring the new car how difficult was it not to let emotions come into the process?

Brawn: "It is difficult. You have to take a proper, objective view. We made a list of all the problems we had, and we agreed that if we fixed those problems to a reasonable level... We tried to quantify the risks. One of the risks obviously became eventually the gearbox problem, because we didn't have a spare. But I can't remember in the history of Ferrari when we've needed to change a gearbox. It's a very rare event. So it didn't seem a very high risk. But of course Sod's Law applied today, and we got caught out. We took an objective view to all the elements, and the fact that this car is quite a lot quicker than the old car, and clearly we needed some extra performance. It also had an influence for Imola, because if we didn't run the car here, we couldn't run it at Imola, because of the engine rules. We were mindful of the fact that even if we took a little bit of a risk here, we've got three weeks before Imola, and any risk we take here will be reduced in time for Imola."

Q. Any regrets about the decision to start the season with the old car and launch this one so late?

Brawn: "I think we can only judge that decision over the season, but I have no regrets. It's very tough now, but I know in another one or two races, we're going to benefit from the decisions we made. We couldn't have had a new gearbox - we would have had to use the gearbox we originally designed, and that was quite a heavy compromise. To start the season knowing that you've already compromised the design is not what we do. I don't regret the decision."

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