Q & A with Nick Fry

Mercedes GP might not have been on the same pace as Red Bull or Ferrari so far, but the team is adamant that its progress will soon help the German squad be fighting on top again

Q & A with Nick Fry

AUTOSPORT talked to CEO Nick Fry after Nico Rosberg's first podium of the season at Sepang.

Q. You were winning races and the world title with Brawn GP last year. Does the podium finish in Malaysia for Mercedes GP feel a bit like a breakthrough result?

Nick Fry: In many ways, I felt the last 10 laps this time were more stressful than the beginning of last year. Obviously the car is not as quick as we would like, and we did the best result we could of in Malaysia. It was important to cement the relationship - not only with Mercedes but also with Petronas.

And to do that here in Malaysia was just great for everyone - in front of the Malaysian prime minister and the president of Petronas. It was a great start to the relationship and we had a good weekend - with lots of good PR, and more importantly for F1 a good race with lots going on.

Q. Was it important for the Mercedes GP-Brawn GP partnership to get a good result early on in the season?

NF: I believe we are all in this for the long run. All the companies involved and all the parties involved are looking at this as a very long term relationship. The first few results are not critical to that, but it is always good to get something under your belt. If we had not been on the podium for the first half dozen races that would clearly have been worrying, but to get at least one under our belt when our car is not as strong as it might be is great. We've got some decent improvements coming along so hopefully this is the first of many.

Q. Nico Rosberg came in the season very much under the shadow of Michael Schumacher, but he has shaken it off and grown into the role of impressing. What is your verdict on him?

NF: My personal verdict on Nico is that he is doing exactly as I expected. He was the first into the frame, ahead of Michael [Schumacher] and Nick [Heidfeld] because Ross and I thought he was a brilliant driver. That was before Mercedes came on the scene, and he is just confirming what we thought. I know others in the paddock were not so convinced, but I think even they must be convinced he is the real deal now. It was a very solid performance all weekend in Malaysia and all year so far. He is very assured, very confident of himself and he has done some great qualifying as well - which augers very well for the future.

Q. Have you seen a change in his confidence over the first few races?

NF: I can honestly say I haven't. I think there probably was a little bit of a gulp when we told him that Michael was coming on board. But he is a confident chap and confident in his own abilities, and he has got down and just continued to work - and ignored the fact that it is Michael there. He is just a team-mate who happens to be very good, and probably the pressure of having a seven-times world champion alongside him probably helped a little bit and hardened his resolve.

Q. How is Michael getting on? There seems to be steady improvement at every race?

NF: Michael is, for me, quite remarkable. Even this weekend, the level of feedback that he gives is something that I have never seen before - and that is just not in the debriefs. When you have the headphones on you hear amazing things - and in qualifying he was driving around almost giving a commentary. The FIA, who also listens, was also very impressed that a driver can do that.

Every race he is learning a little bit more and it is all coming together slowly but surely, which is probably what you would expect. He has taken the disappointment of what happened in Malaysia very well and he is old enough to realise that sometimes these things happen. He has taken away the positives again and I would not underestimate him.

Q. The team came into the season admitting you would not be winning from the off but would come on strong later in the year. The fact the top three teams are taking points off each other, could that help you later in the year?

NF: I think that when you have a strong car you do have to capitalise at the beginning of the year, because inevitably everything comes together - as people understand the rules and people get their act together with new cars. Last year we did that, and it was a good job we did because the others caught up strongly towards the end. I think the beauty at the moment is that there are seven drivers who are very close to each other in the championship, and the Constructors' Championship sees no-one ahead. That is going to make for a great year, and it helps us.

Q. Do you feel you have the potential to lift the pace of your car up to where Red Bull Racing is?

NF: I think we've got an extremely strong team, and anyone who underestimates us is fairly foolish. We've got excellent people. I would say we still have the best technical leader in Ross, we have the best manufacturer and engine provider in F1, and we have two phenomenal drivers. All of that means that we are going to be strong, and we have the tools in terms of the money to do a very good job. I am very optimistic. We will be strong this year. Whether we can win it, who knows, but I think we will be there or thereabout.

Q. We've had three very different races this year - the borefest of Bahrain, the spectacle of Australia and the more normal Malaysian GP. Which is the real picture of the 2010?

NF: I thought Malaysia was very encouraging - for a dry race in normal conditions. I thought the racing was great fun to watch. And although the race at the front was pretty steady. Right through the field there was a lot of overtaking and a lot of excitement, and I was entertained - and I hope the public were. This is what we are going to see more and more of this year, and it does augur well.

Q. It appears that the lack of refuelling gives drivers options?

NF: I think having a number of different divisions does make it interesting at the moment. Clearly the guys who are new to the sport have got a lot of work to do to catch up to the middle or the front, but they can have a great race which is great for television and good to watch. Those in the middle can do the same, as can those at the front. There is a lot going on which is just great fun - which keeps going on right through the race which is important. We don't want people to turn off after three laps!

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