Brands Hatch, 22nd July - Ferrari's Formula 1 Technical Director, Ross Brawn, took time out today to visit the Ferrari Festival at Brands Hatch, the first day of a weekend dedicated to the manufacturer that has seen the largest gathering of...
Brands Hatch, 22nd July - Ferrari's Formula 1 Technical Director, Ross Brawn, took time out today to visit the Ferrari Festival at Brands Hatch, the first day of a weekend dedicated to the manufacturer that has seen the largest gathering of Ferrari cars and enthusiasts ever assembled in the UK. Talking of his experience working for Ferrari, Brawn reflected on the significance of such a turn-out of cars reflecting some 50 years of Ferrari production and racing heritage. "There's a lot of history in Ferrari - it suddenly hits you when you go to Maranello. There are little bits and pieces all around you that remind you of what the company has achieved in the distant and not-so-distant past. Just consider that I'm working now with people who have helped write Ferrari's history by winning the last three or four championships - it's something you just can't forget."
Looking around at the paddock at some of the older cars taking part in the Shell Historic Ferrari-Maserati Challenge, Ross commented on the development in racing car design, from the functional yet beautiful designs of the early single seaters up to the 1990 Prost car and the 1999 Schumacher car that were involved in display laps. "When we design a car, we try to keep a sense aesthetics in mind. When aerodynamics were understood in the 1970s, the cars really changed, because then you had to design a car purely for aerodynamic purposes around the aerodynamic package. The result was that the cars became very boxy and square because there were so many limitations. But we do try to keep the cars looking as good as possible -we are enthusiasts so we do like a car to look nice, but it is difficult, because function is everything, and form comes after the looks."
So far this season, the F2001 has proved to be a success from both points of view. "It's been a tremendous season so far. Michael's finished first or second in every race except for Imola. We've got a very good car this year, and there are no races we should be afraid of. Silverstone was difficult, because we don't test there very often and I think it was going to be our most difficult race of the year, and that's behind us now. We're looking forward to the rest of the season, but with caution.
"There is still quite a question mark hanging over the next six races - that equals 60 points in the Drivers' Championship and until it's done, no-one can afford to relax. Judging on competitiveness, Williams are very strong on the high-speed circuits. We've just finished the Monza tests, and Williams were clearly the quickest there and I'm sure they'll be very strong at Hockenheim next week. Unfortunately Michael had an incident on the first day, but with Rubens I think we were in reasonable shape. Having said that, if Williams score points, that's not such a worry for us, because they're points away from McLaren."
McLaren's win at Silverstone saw Hakkinen back on form, a fact that pleases Brawn on a personal level. "He's had a dreadful season. Up until the Silverstone race he'd only scored 9 points, and for a World Champion to have so few this far into the season is a travesty. You can see how it affects him. There were a couple of races where he was lacklustre, but then he's showed again at Silverstone what a tremendous driver he is. I think he's the one guy that Michael really respects as an equal in the Formula 1 field at the moment."
With Williams clearly in competitive form, we asked Ferrari's Technical Director how he would see a head-to-head between Michael and his brother in a race. "I think there is a relationship there which must affect both their judgements in some way. I can't honestly say how it affects their judgements, but when you're challenging your brother for a difficult position in a corner it must enter your thought process. They've always been very very competitive with one another - I don't think they're going to do anything stupid, but I'm sure we're going to have many duels ahead us between the two!"
The Ferrari Festival coincides with celebrations for the 75th anniversary of Brands Hatch, one of the race tracks Brawn attended as a Formula 1 engineer in his formative years. "My career started in 1976 when Brands and Silverstone were alternating and I recall doing a Race of Champions here one year. One of the most memorable things was getting stuck in traffic going through London on the way home - it was even worse than Silverstone! Brands was a place we looked forward to - it was a very tough track to set up a car on. It's what I would describe as a three-dimensional track, what with Paddock (the blind right-hand bend at the end of the straight) and the downhill and uphill sections. It presented different problems compared to normal tracks so it was a challenge to get a car set up correctly. So I'm pleased I've had the chance of remaking my acquaintance with the track!"