Q & A with Ross Brawn

It has been a very busy and stressful few months for Ross Brawn, but in the end the Briton could celebrate a happy ending with the conclusion of a deal to save the Honda Racing team

Q & A with Ross Brawn

With the immediate future now secure and with a car that seems quick out of the box, Brawn and his team could not be more thrilled.

Autosport.com heard from the team boss about his work during the last months and about Brawn GP's future.

Q. What are your feelings about the new car?

Ross Brawn: Very good. It seems to be doing what we expected. The drivers have got positive reports on the car, and so far it has been reasonably reliable. We had a small gearbox problem yesterday, but it is all running pretty well.

Q. What are you running here in terms of fuel?

RB: We are preparing for the race. We are running in normal race conditions. We started some long runs with Jenson yesterday, but we had a gearbox problem, and I hope we can do some long runs with Rubens this afternoon.

Q. Why are you so quick after months of being unsure about your future?

RB: It's 15 months of work. We said that we were sacrificing last year to concentrate on this car, and what you see is what we said we would do. So it is perfectly rational in my mind. But that is what we have.

Q. What is your reaction to the fact that last night some people from Mercedes-Benz said they could not believe the speed of the car?

RB: I didn't have that conversation. We are working very well with the Mercedes people. They have been incredibly supportive in this difficult period because there were periods when the future of the team was uncertain, and they have been nothing but exemplary in supporting our efforts to help the team survive. And on the engineering side, the teams have slotted together very well, they are working together extremely well.

Q. Are you still looking for sponsors?

RB: Well, we've passed the first hurdle which was to get to Melbourne. And now we have to build for the future. That is the next challenge: to create a long-term future for the team.

Q. Is the Mercedes-Benz deal for just one year?

RB: I don't want to comment on that.

Q. What was the event that finally made it possible for the deal to happen?

RB: Well, Honda finally reached a decision. And Honda considered all their possibilities, and I am very glad that they favoured this choice. The decision was made in the board meeting at Honda at February.

Q. How are you finding life as a team owner?

RB: It is not so different actually, it is the same problems.

Q. Is this a short-term solution, or is this for the long haul?

RB: This is a medium-term solution at the moment. We need to find a long-term solution.

Q. So you are still looking for a buyer for the long term?

RB: Not necessarily, but we need to find a solution for the long term.

Q. You've been in some stressful situations over the years, with numerous champion fights. How stressful have the last few months been?

RB: It's been very trying for the whole team. It has been trying for the staff because it has not always been possible to share with them everything that has been happening. Of course, in these days of the Internet, there seems to be a new rumour (every day). They have been fantastic in terms of their devotion to getting the car out.

And it has been stressful for the management. If we hadn't stayed together as a group, myself, Nick Fry, Nigel Kerr, Caroline McGrory, John Marsden, if we hadn't stayed together it would have been very difficult to achieve because there have been some very black days in trying to keep this team alive. I'm glad to say here we are and we are going to Melbourne, so it is fantastic.

Q. Was the management buyout and your ownership of the team the preferred option, or were there some other buyers on the table?

RB: Honda had to consider all possibilities. They assessed all the options they had and I am glad to say they came down in favour of my purchase of the team.

Q. What is Nick Fry's position at the team?

RB: Nick has been a key member of the team. He retains his position as CEO and will be a vital member for the future. Nick's position hasn't changed, despite the speculation, and he has been a vital part of putting this all together.

Q. Speaking of drivers, what was your thinking in signing Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello?

RB: Jenson we made a commitment to last year, and we are very happy with that commitment. And if we could we wanted to respect that commitment. So Jenson was an automatic choice if we carried on.

I was very impressed with Bruno (Senna). I thought he did a great job in testing, but the lack of testing and the challenge we are going to face made Rubens the preferred choice. I think Rubens has still got a huge amount left in him. He has showed incredible enthusiasm and commitment this winter, and I am very excited to be working with both drivers. It was a need to have Rubens' experience and his speed, because I think he is very quick.

Q. But it's unfortunate for Bruno, isn't it, because now he is left with no drive in any series?

RB: Yes. We made no commitments with Bruno. We kept in touch and he did the test, but the circumstances worked against him.

Q. So looking ahead to Melbourne, what shape are the team in?

RB: Well, glad to be at the first race. That wasn't a certainty up until a few weeks ago. We have a good car and the issue will be building in reliability and building in the team performance because the boys have only got this test. We start race simulation and pitstop practice tomorrow.

They have been practicing back at the factory, but working with the car is crucial. So it will be a big challenge but the fact we are there is a major achievement. That will get forgotten very quickly and our results will have to be the thing that will speak for us.

Q. How difficult was it to go from the Honda engine to the Mercedes-Benz engine in such a short time?

RB: It was difficult. I cannot thank Mercedes-Benz enough. In fact, both Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz were exceptional in the support they offered, but it came down to the fact that the Mercedes-Benz engine fitted our chassis more easily than the Ferrari engine. Once we made that decision around Christmas time, the Mercedes-Benz people were fantastic in supporting the project.

But it was a credit to our staff that they have done it. If you look at the car, it looks like it was designed for it. So, there are some things that are not quite right and we would not do it that way if we had started with the engine, but the number of compromises are small and it looks okay.

Q. And the gearbox - is it a Honda one of a Mercedes-Benz?

RB: It is our own gearbox. We converted the gearbox to mount on the Mercedes-Benz engine because all the rear suspension, we wanted to carry that over. I don't think Mercedes-Benz could have supplied a gearbox even if we wanted them to, but we wanted to stick with our own gearbox.

Q. And KERS?

RB: We don't have KERS. That may be something for later in the season, but with the time we have had available, quite frankly, we have not considered KERS.

Q. Do you know how many people from this present team you will keep?

RB: The majority. It is fair to say we will have to look at the size of the team because we have gone from a manufacturer to a privateer, but the majority of people will continue with the team. It is not going to be an easy process, but I think everybody in the team understands the situation and the team survives - and it will give a career to a majority of people.

Q. So the numbers you will keep are...?

RB: I don't want to comment at the moment, but it will be the majority of the staff.

Q. Does the colour of the car on the track mean something about the sponsors you might have?

RB: No. It is just, how do I describe it, a benign neutral colour scheme that leaves plenty of potential for the future. Now we have got over the first hurdle of securing the medium term of the team, we now have to look at the long term and try and find partners and sponsors to support the team. We are completely flexible on what we do in the future, but I hope we will have proper long term planning and proper structure for the team going forward.

Q. But will you need sponsors for during the season?

RB: I don't want to comment on the commercial situation for the team, but we are comfortable for the season and it is the longer term we need to look for.

Q. The car looks quick out of the box. Are there resources available to develop it during the season?

RB: Absolutely. I think it is essential that we display performance through the whole year, and there is no reason why we cannot. The guys are already working on the upgrade for Barcelona, that is in the wind tunnel at the moment, and we plan to keep pushing hard on the car.

Q. And how tight will things be for Melbourne in terms of spare parts?

RB: Oh, pretty tight. Honda were kind enough to grant a budget for January and February, but it is not what I would call a normal racing budget. So, we have to recover now going forward - and it means it will be tight in the first couple of races. But I think we will manage.

Q. You've gone from being an engineer to being an entrepreneur. How big a risk are you taking here?

RB: If I am frank, there were no choices. If the management group, because it is not just myself, had not taken this task on, there would be no team. Then all of the staff would have been made redundant. So, this gives us an opportunity.

It wasn't a difficult choice in that respect. Things can go wrong, but we are optimistic and if we can capitalize on the performance of the car, and the car looks good, then I think the team have got a future. If the car was poor then we only have ourselves to blame.

Q. What about the prospect of being in front of the works Mercedes-Benz team?

RB: It is not a comment I want to make. Our ambition is to be in front of everyone, whoever it is. That is our ambition - we have no specific interest in who it might be. We just want to do as well as we can.

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