Brazilian GP: Friday press conference (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1 Q: Ross, you had an unusually poor season by Ferrari standards last year. You've come back very strongly this season. What, as you approach the final race, were the key factors in addressing last year's problems and...

Continued from Part 1

Q: Ross, you had an unusually poor season by Ferrari standards last year. You've come back very strongly this season. What, as you approach the final race, were the key factors in addressing last year's problems and reversing them, and what impact did switching to a V8 have on design philosophy?

Ross Brawn: I understand Patrick's point of view with his team; we had a bad year but we've had good years with the same group of people, so we didn't look towards making radical changes within the team, we just looked at where we felt we hadn't made enough progress and just set higher targets, higher objectives for those areas and gave the people more resource to achieve it. There were some areas where we perhaps didn't feel we'd made a big enough step between 2004 and 2005 and we moved resource within the company to those areas to strengthen them.

I think the other thing was that it's a fact that the one race tyre didn't suit our philosophy, didn't suit the tyre company's philosophy and that didn't help either so the change back to multi-tyre races was a help for us. V8-wise, obviously there's a packaging exercise which is quite different. Tyres generally this year... it's difficult to compare last year because of the one race tyre, but compared to 2004, we draw the comparisons, we're obviously running softer this year than we were able to do in 2004. It's not made a dramatic difference in the approach to the car, but obviously the V8's a bit less fuel consumption, the driver's on the throttle longer so it's not as much as you might think, but the rest is really just down to packaging.

Q: Pat, this year we've seen cars do one or two laps on a Friday morning and maybe 15 or so in the afternoon. Next year, what will we see on average, how many laps will a driver do on a Friday?

Pat Symonds: Well, I don't think there's much to hold us back on a Friday. We've got adequate tyres and we're obviously not eating into race engine life, so there's no reason why our one and a half hour session shouldn't be pretty full. I think there are a few circuits where circuit conditions are not very good at the start of running, so maybe it will be a little bit quiet at the beginning of P1, but we are certainly going to see a lot more action and a lot more interest on Fridays next year than we've seen for the last few years.

Q: Ross, Ferrari and Michael have been the dominant forces in Formula One since 2000, pretty much. Could you explain how you've put that together, what team structures you've had to make that work and also how important Michael has been to that success?

Ross Brawn: Well, I don't think anyone puts a team together with the objective of dominating it. It would be presumptuous to say that. You put a team together to try and win a race and then when you win a race, you try and win another race and then you win enough races you win a championship and it goes from there. I think in our case, we've got a great group of people who have been exceptional in all their areas: the design group, the aero group, the chassis group and we've been fortunate to put all the right people together at the right time. Michael's been a key element, because he's been such a great example to people of the commitment and team spirit, team player that he is. So he's not a guy who comes to the factory and says you must do this or you must do that. He will come to the factory and thank people for what they've done. He will come to the factory and try and explain what the car's doing, and he will demonstrate his commitment and expect people to do the same.

He's been an inspirational figure, I would say, much more than someone who has an active role in the functioning of the team, but for him to come to the factory and talk to the designers and people like that means a huge amount to them and he's been very good in that respect. He loves being part of the team, which I think is important as well. He's enjoyed and probably continues to enjoy his time with Ferrari. But I've seen drivers come and go and most of them are looking after Number One. I think Michael's unusual in that he's just as concerned about the team and how it works and the wellbeing of the team as anyone, so I think that's one of his strengths, for sure, over the years.

Q: Ross, from around mid-season you seemed to make a big jump in performance -- could you talk us through the significant development steps responsible for that?

Ross Brawn: These are very long answers! (laughs) I don't think there was such a dramatic change. I said at the start of the season that I thought we had a good car, but that we didn't make good use of it. We had a bit of a tardy pit stop in Bahrain and lost the race to Fernando by a very small margin, we made a bad tyre choice in Australia, but when they did actually start to work Michael was very quick, so I think we had a very good car in the early part of the year and we just put everything together from mid-season onwards. I must complement the guys at Ferrari on the progress made this year, as well. I think the rate of progress during the year has been the highest I've seen whilst I've been there and the failings in 2005 certainly wounded their pride and I think the effort made this year was quite exceptional. But it has been a very good car all year and I think it is just that we started to put all the bits together from mid-season.

Q: Ross what will you take home as your best memory of working with Michael?

Ross Brawn: I think his composure his exceptional. He never loses control with the team, with the people he works with; he never loses his temper. He is quite a firm character as he has to be, but he has always got composure both in and out of the car that is I think quite exceptional and, on top of that, I think his sheer speed. I mean all of the attributes that he has mean nothing if you don't have the sheer speed that he has so... that's two things!

Q: Is there one event in particular that you will treasure?

Ross Brawn: Not really; with Michael there have been many. It is very difficult to pick out individual events because there has been such an accumulation of them. I can't pick out anything specifically, no.

Q: Ross, obviously Michael would be in a better situation this weekend, but for a couple of own goals in Monaco and Hungary. Do you think that with the benefit of hindsight that Michael could have won in Monaco from row two or three and given the chance to do Hungary again would you have called the strategy differently in the last few laps?

Ross Brawn: Well I do think hindsight is perfect vision and I think you look at the season overall you look at where you can improve for the future and the decisions that you make and undoubtedly in Hungary I wish I had told him to back off and take it easy in those last three laps so it is easy to look back and say 'should have done this or that'. All you can do is take a balanced view over the whole season and look at the times when you made the right decisions and got things right and if that's a reasonably decent percentage over the times you got it wrong, you can be satisfied. I don't believe anyone gets it right all the time and we are in the fortunate position at the front and under close scrutiny all the time so perhaps our howlers show up a bit more, but I am pretty happy with the season and the fact that we are in this situation now being ten points behind is not just a reflection on Suzuka but on other things we didn't quite get right during the year.

We didn't make a strong enough start and that's why we are in this position now because I think for a large part of the season we had the upper hand and the championship is in the balance and favouring Renault because we didn't have such a strong start to the season, but I don't speculate on 'what ifs?' because racing is not like that. It is just so difficult that you can find lots of instances where you wish had done that or might have done this and you just have to take a view over a period of time.

Q: Patrick and Christian, a question each -- Patrick has it crossed your mind that you missed an opportunity once to sign Michael Schumacher and run him? And Christian has it crossed your mind to persuade him out of retirement?

Patrick Head: Well, we would have been delighted to run him at any time, but I can't remember at any time that we were in any discussion with him about that and I think when he moved from Benetton to Ferrari he was well settled there, but as Ross says he has been a remarkable driver and, for us, a remarkable opponent and obviously we brushed shoulders with him in a way in 1994 and 1997. We came off worst in 1994 and best in 1997 and in 2003 we were sort of challenging we fell away at the end of the year, but he has been an opponent of the Williams team over a long period and obviously in recent time he has been dominant 'über alles', you could say. He has had an admirable career.

I was very impressed I have to say when I was in England I watched the race in Japan at six o'clock in the morning and when the race finished, whenever it was, at a quarter to eight, I was so impressed him go round all of the Ferrari team in the garage and walk across to the pit wall and I think to myself we have had many drivers who have been world champions, but I cant think of one of them who would have done that. And I think that aspect of Michael is the aspect that makes him a team builder or a team creator. As Ross says, when he comes to the factory, he doesn't decide how the car should be designed, but he is quite clearly an inspiration to those around him.

Christian Horner: I think that Michael is the ultimate professional for all the reasons that these gentlemen have already covered. He set the standard for so long and the sign of a true sportsman champion is to do it over a sustained period of time and he has done exactly that and even when you look closely at his performances, even today, his first flying lap, top of the time-sheets, he is still operating at a level that (proves) he is still one of the best in the world and it has been a privilege in action over the last couple of years and the sport is now moving into a new era. There are some exciting youngsters coming through, but I think it is going to be a long time before the sport sees a driver of that calibre over such a sustained period as Michael has achieved.

Patrick Head: I think one thing that makes me smile is that -- although I don't think the occasion occurred -- I think Frank might have looked as if he was sucking on a lemon if he'd been negotiating Michael's salary with him, if that had ever occurred, but I don't think the situation ever arose. Or if it did Frank didn't tell me about it!

Q: Ross, in what role will Michael be useful to you next season?

Ross Brawn: I think Michael should take a little bit of time away from the business to reflect on what his ambitions are for the next part of his life. He has had a very clear programme with racing. We all have to be self-motivated, but we know we have to go to the next race and we have to be ready for it and your programme is mapped out for you pretty clearly each season and I think Michael now has to reflect on what his ambitions are for the next period of his life and how that can fit into Ferrari. I think he has a huge amount to give to Ferrari still, but I'm not sure personally that it will be in any kind of driving role. I think these cars are difficult to drive and to be able to drive them you have to be very fit and capable physically to drive them and even with the fitness regimes they have the drivers start the season with the first test and their necks are aching and their heads are falling off, they are finding it a struggle.

So it is not a sort of situation where a driver can just pop in and have a go in a car and give you a diagnosis and then go again. I don't think that is very practical. So I don't think there will be any role of that sort with Michael. But he works so well with the engineers and he understands the way things work there could be a technical benefit in that area and obviously commercially there is huge potential for Michael and Ferrari both on the racing and on the road car side, so I think the best thing is that he needs now to reflect on the end of his career and see what he wants to do next. I don't think it is clear to him and he needs some time away to arrive at that conclusion.

Q: Pat, you worked with Michael in the early part of his career and Fernando in his -- do you think that Fernando has what it takes to emulate if not break the records set by Michael?

Pat Symonds: I think to answer 'has he got what it takes?' -- yes, he has. I think there are many similarities between Michael and Fernando. Those similarities are as Ross said beyond just being able to drive a car fast. I think both are very good at reading a race. They know when to go quickly and when to look after things so he has the capability of doing it. But one of the interesting things about any competitive sport is that performance is relative and, not taking anything away from the achievements of Ferrari or Michael, but I think the rest of us were really asleep for a few years and if that were to happen again then, yes, maybe Fernando can do it, but I think the level of competitiveness in Formula One now is such that it's unlikely to happen. Cars are more reliable -- you don't get the lucky breaks that sometimes you used to get. I think it will be a long long while before we see the many records that Michael has set being approached, let alone broken.

Q: Pat, given that you've had a very close championship battle this year with Ferrari and something very similar last year with McLaren, could you characterise how those two campaigns have been fought and if there are any similarities or were they very different?

Pat Symonds: They are subtly different. I think that last year, in many ways, it was a much easier fight for us. Our opponent had certain characteristics that we knew how to handle and in the latter part of the year, probably not right at the end, but certainly through most of late summer, they had a much quicker car than us, but not a terribly reliable one. It meant that we could take quite a conservative approach, we could take our wins when they came, we could take second places when the wins weren't there and it was really a little bit easier, I think, than this year because Ferrari and Michael have been pushing us hard right through the year.

As Ross said, I think their start to the year wasn't quite so good; I think we were up and running as a team right from race one. I don't think our car was any better, and of course race one was a very very close race and I think that shows the performance was very similar. Ferrari have once again had very good reliability, so we have not been looking to pick up points in that direction, so we've been pushed a lot harder, we've had to be a lot more aggressive this year. It's been good fun though, I've enjoyed it.

-credit: fia

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Ross Brawn , Patrick Head
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Benetton Formula