Ross Brawn: Michael's better than ever

It might not have been very exciting to watch, but Ferrari's victory in Hungary was the most crushing demonstration we've seen this year from the team, and showed that all those in the chasing pack still have much to do. For technical director Ross Brawn in particular the victory made up for a disastrous race at the same venue last season. Adam Cooper spoke to the Englishman

Ross Brawn: Michael's better than ever

With the hard bit done it now looks like the rest of the season will be an extended victory lap for Ferrari, with Monza undoubtedly likely to be the setting for the biggest party. It's all been quite similar to 2002, despite the change in the points system last year that was designed to keep the title battles alive a bit longer.

"Even with the new points system we've won the constructors' by Hungary, and a Ferrari driver is definitely World Champion - we just don't know which one!," said Ross Brawn after the race. "Michael deserves it. He's driving better than he's ever done in his career, and his whole approach and attitude and demeanour is as good as I've ever seen."

Hungary looked so easy from the outside, and the only thing that could have gone wrong was the start. Fortunately for Ferrari the BAR guys on the second row seemed to be asleep, and the Renaults were too far behind to get in amongst the red cars. Having seen Michael's practice times on a race run the opposition knew that it could all be over by the first corner.

"Michael did a stint on Saturday morning that was really impressive, so I knew we should be in good shape for the race. The start was critical, and when we made the start then we just began to build on it. The tyre is such a big step from what we had before. I'm really impressed."

What really made this victory sweet was what happened last year. Bridgestone got its sums wrong, and Michael finished a lapped seventh, while a spectacular suspension failure for Barrichello didn't help. It was the team's worst day of the 2003 season.

"Sometimes I think we need those wake-up calls. It's a sweet and sour business. Too much of the sweet all the time takes the edge off. It was good to have a bit of pain last year, and I had to come on the radio and tell Michael there were blue flags to let the leader past, which was not a very pleasant thing to do. This year he was complaining about blue flags for other people."

There was a bit of a scare, of course, for the TV cameras spent a lot of time focussing on some frantic work on the Ferrari fuel rigs. It says a lot about the race that a couple of blokes with screwdrivers provided more interesting viewing than the cars on the track, but it did at least build up some tension.

"We had a frangible coupling leak, so we have to investigate what happened. We had a little period when a safety car would have been very embarrassing! But luckily it didn't come. They swapped the pieces on both rigs to be sure. We don't know whether it was our fault or a rig fault, but it created a few anxious minutes."

Interestingly Rubens had gone for the softer Bridgestone tyre, although Ross says that was not a hugely significant decision.

"There's not a big difference between the two compounds. He just preferred the feel of that tyre, and Michael preferred the other. Of course you don't know what's going to happen on Sunday, but Bridgestone have a lot of very small steps, so it's not like one was super hard and one was super soft. They're both very similar"

The fact that Rubens stopped a lap earlier would suggest that he'd had serious hopes of getting pole, and on Saturday he certainly thus more than a little annoyed to miss out.

"Yes. They're racing each other. Progressively during the race we were telling them to turn the engine down a bit and long after things, but they were still racing each other to the end. Rubens was keeping Michael honest all the way."

The good news for the opposition is that the huge advantage seen in Hungary might not necessarily be seen at the remaining venues. The Budapest tyre was very much designed for the special quirks of the track.

"It was specific for here, for this type of circuit. I don't know whether we'll see that type of benefit for the next few races. Because of the lack of testing we had before we came here we've got to try and evaluate it now for other circuits and see what we can do."

With Michael's title now a formality, the challenge now is for him - or at least the team - to win the rest of the races.

"That would be astonishing. But you need pressure in some ways. After 2002 we learned a few lessons, and we're going to keep the pressure on."

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