Ross Brawn Q&A

After slipping behind McLaren Ferrari was under massive pressure going into its home race in Italy, but the team hit back in Monza as Michael Schumacher took pole and scored a convincing win. Mika Hakkinen's advantage has been reduced to two points with just three races remaining, and now everything is up for grabs. Adam Cooper spoke to Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn about Schumacher's win - and this weekend's race at Indianapolis.

Ross Brawn Q&A

Q: The team has had a hard time recently. What's the verdict on the victory?
"It's a great result. It was a tough weekend, because there's been a lot of pressure on the guys, it was our home GP, and we'd slipped behind the championships, so it just shows how good they all are, and I'm very proud of them. They've come back from a difficult situation, the drivers and the team. It's an incredible result."

Q: What sort of work has been going on at Maranello in the last two weeks?
"There's always a lot of work going on at Maranello. I think we knew where we were a little bit weak in terms of the car's performance in a race so we've been concentrating on that very hard. Rear tyre degradation has been a bit higher than our competitor's, so even when we've been able to do a qualifying lap there's always been a doubt as to whether the tyre's going to be there for the race. We've been working on geometry and other things to try and improve that, and I think we've seen some signs. It was better, although I have to say that tyres were not such a big issue, particularly with the safety car period we had, so I wouldn't like to say that we truly cured it. But it certainly seems to be a lot better."

Q: There's been a trend over the last couple of years that when you have pole or two cars on the front row it all goes wrong on race day. Did you think you had every eventuality covered this time?
"Pretty much so, yes. Obviously Rubens didn't make a good start, which was going to make his race difficult. And then Frentzen hit him from behind, and you can't really plan for that. Rubens had a very good car, and I'm sure he would have brought home some points. It is a bit of a classic one-stop circuit, so there's not a lot you can do."

Q: Obviously the long safety car period changed everything. How difficult was it to adjust your plans?
"It's pretty trivial to be honest. The engineers who are in charge of the engine tell us what the new lap prediction is on the fuel we saved because of the safety car, and you just adjust the fuelling figures and all the rest of it, so there's nothing trick."

Q: So roughly how many laps later could you stop because of fuel saved behind the safety car?
"I can't tell you that. It's classified!"

Q: Obviously the safety car coming out played into your hands, but speaking impartially, do you think it was the right decision?
"I don't think that really changed the situation. The medical staff were able to get there and deal with it as best they could regardless of what was happening, so I don't think that would have made any difference. It's always a shame when so many cars go out of a race that soon. But I guess this is the way F1 is going to be run, and we all know that's the way it is. If you're going to get involved in accidents on the first corner too much, you don't get a second chance. We've suffered from that for a couple of races."

Q: So you got the payback for Austria and Germany?
"In a kind of way we did, but Michael had taken the lead anyway, and he'd made a good start. But we lost Rubens."

Q: But doesn't the fact that a fifth of the race was run under the safety car suggest that it was a marginal decision?
"I guess you could run half the race under the safety car. There's nothing to say how much of the race can be run that way. I guess when the decision was made to bring the safety car out, not all the facts were apparent. I don't know if Charlie (Whiting) would have made a different decision if he'd known how long the car was going to be out. What he saw was a lot of cars in the gravel that looked like they could be cleared away in two or three laps. But unfortunately there were other circumstances."

Q: What have you learned from your simulations of Indianapolis - is set-up going to be a massive compromise?
"It's a little bit twisty, and I don't know how sensitive the infield is going to be to downforce. But yes, this is the longest straight we have in F1, or effectively the longest straight, because the banking is flat out. So it's going to be interesting finding the compromise, because it will be a compromise circuit - a bit like Hockenheim, where you can't run any wing through the stadium, and you do the best job you can with no wing. I suspect that it's going to be what it's like."

Q: Do you think it's going to be much harder to adjust to than a typical new circuit, like Malaysia last year? It's got such special characteristics that everyone will be learning on Friday and Saturday.
"It will be different. The banking is going to throw up a different challenge. We've done as much as we can to anticipate what's going to happen on the banking, but you never truly know. Like every other team we've spoken to people in Indy and Indy Lights who we know, to ask what they do, so that's an interesting area."

Q: Are tyres going to be an issue?
"Honestly I don't know. I don't know what the tarmac's like, but it's going to be quite warm there by the looks of things."

Q: But in terms of the forces they undergo round the banked corner?
"Yes, that could be an issue. I think Bridgestone are very nervous about that, and I think they're going to be very cautious with the tyre pressures to make sure that we don't have any problems."

Q: Any worries about certain components coming under loads that we don't normally see?
"Not really. From a car point of view the loads will be no higher than we see in other circumstances. The problem with the tyre is that it's under high load for a very long period - on the banking there's going to be four or five seconds of stress on the tyres. On the chassis it doesn't matter how long the loads are applied, because there's nothing to fatigue or stress so much. But of course with the tyre under heavy load for 4-5 seconds, you can have problems. But I think Bridgestone have done their homework."

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