US GP: Thursday press conference, part 1

Present: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) Ross Brawn (Ferrari technical director) Q: Ross, in Canada we saw the two Ferraris racing against one another. Now, I know that they are not meant to not race one another but is there a slight change of ...


Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari)
Ross Brawn (Ferrari technical director)

Q: Ross, in Canada we saw the two Ferraris racing against one another. Now, I know that they are not meant to not race one another but is there a slight change of philosophy that they are allowed to race one another, given that the team is so far ahead of everyone else?

Ross Brawn: I don't think it's a particular recent change of philosophy. It's been an open situation for a couple of years now, I guess, since the FIA made it clear that they wanted the teams to take a different approach. Since the FIA clarified the situation we've had an open approach between the two drivers. Their instructions are clear - don't knock each other off but you're free to do what you can and is sensible. I went to the Ferrari day in Mugello last year and there were four Ferraris circulating and they all came back with little dings in them and bodywork damage so I figured that what they were doing on Sunday was nothing compared with what they did in Mugello last year, so I wasn't too worried. They were all touching each other and (that created) little battle scars everywhere.

Q: Was it a sight that you relished on Sunday?

RBr: It made me a little bit anxious because you could see all the scenarios and if the drivers had tangled then two lead Ferraris (would have been) out of the race. That would have made a good headline. So you get a little bit anxious but the drivers knew each other's strategies and they were free to race each other. I have to find it amusing rather than frustrating, but I had a journalist come up to me after the race and say 'why didn't you let Rubens past, because you spoiled the race by not letting him past?' And I said 'well hang on, most of the time you are criticising us for not letting the drivers race. Now you are telling us you should let one driver past the other.' We do our best and I think it was exciting. Rubens knew he had a little less fuel than Michael. He had to try and get past if he was going to beat Michael, and Michael managed to keep him behind.

Q: Rubens, was it a little frustrating not being able to get past?

Rubens Barrichello: Yeah, in a way, because, as Ross said, I knew that Michael at least had one more lap than I did because I didn't want to ask too much, because there are so many ways you can go after the first pit stop but I knew he had a little bit more than I did. I had only one real chance. Michael was fair keeping his line and I came on the inside. I thought for one moment that I had him, because I was alongside. But I had that time with DC, with Coulthard a couple of years back when he went on the outside and he pushed me to the outside as well so we both went straight. So at that time I said I would do my best to brake as late as possible, try to overtake him but I will manage to do the chicane because that's when it matters, because if Michael goes straight on, then I will take the chicane, he will eventually have to let me by and, having that in mind, I had a little bit lower grip than him on the inside and he managed to hold sideways to make the chicane. But it was very much on the limit and I don't think I could have done anything different. I tried my best to get him at that time.

Q: Is it frustrating to be racing, to be in the same team and be trying to beat Michael Schumacher?

RBa:: No, no. Have you ever seen somebody trying to overtake Michael as a team-mate? Never. So I am the first one so I must be proud of that. There are so many variables. When you get out of the car... with the journalists, there are so many controversies and so many things that go on. I don't really care about that. I just am there to race for myself, to race for Ferrari, to have fun, and I've had a lot of fun. It was frustrating at the end because if I could have gone past Michael I think I could have (pulled away at) at least three or four tenths a lap. I was quicker. So by that amount I would have won the race. But that's racing. I wasn't asking him to let me by anyway, so it was good racing.

Q: And yet to finish first and second from sixth and seventh on the grid, it makes people begin to wonder that you can do it from anywhere.

RBa: I don't think so because we were actually thinking where the hell they came with those times. We were more than a second behind and yet some time during the weekend we were more than a second ahead. All of a sudden, we were a second behind so it made us wonder a little bit what was going on. But we have a fantastic car for every circuit, there's no doubt about it, so it was just good to see that we were on the pace but we had to keep working very hard. I managed to pass Kimi, then I caught up with Michael quite rapidly and then we started to see people going into the pits so I thought, 'oh, it's going to be a good afternoon'.

Q: Ross, on another subject, what are your thoughts on the new qualifying system that is supposed to be used at the British Grand Prix?

RBr: I think it's very difficult to find a format which is perfect for everybody. I think we all have our ideas and this is a format that has been proposed by Bernie, so really he's got to take responsibility for it if it doesn't work. And he is the promoter of Formula One, so we have to do our best to try and help the promoter put on as good a show as possible, and in that respect we support it. There was some detail to sort out, there were some detailed points that if they hadn't been resolved would have made it difficult, so therefore we stuck out a little bit for the detail, but once that detail was sorted we were happy to support it. So it's going to be interesting to see. It will mean that we're back to running whatever fuel we want in the race and the cars will be qualifying with their minimum weight, so that's interesting. My only concern is to make sure that we present the accumulative or aggregate system properly to the people at the track.

I think it's easy for a TV viewer to follow what's going on because of technology - or it should be - but I'm concerned that the people in the grandstands know what's going on, so it's very important that we get the message across to them where everyone is and what their situation is because it will be a shame if the people at the track can't follow what's going on in qualifying. But certainly we will be back to the spectacle of having all the cars out on the track. There will be all the arguments about yellow flags and 'he slowed me up' and 'he did that' and 'he did the other...' which is all part of the fun of qualifying and it's what used to make it so entertaining a couple of years ago. And certainly the cars should be running more often with the need to run in the two sessions and the limitation on the number of laps in each session. I think it should be interesting. I'm a little concerned that we don't keep making too many changes. I think it doesn't reflect well on Formula One. This is our third format of qualifying this year and I really hope we get it right this time, because I don't think it's a good thing that we keep changing the format of racing.

Q: Ross, you mentioned 'the detail.' Would the detail be related to the size of fuel tanks and Ferrari's concern?

RBr: No, it wasn't really. We tried to put that to one side because I think everybody has small fuel tanks now so I don't think anybody's going to be particularly disadvantaged or advantaged, given an advantage with the change of regulation. It was detail things like the number of sets of tyres, that sort of detail which to us was important and if it wasn't sorted out, could make the qualifying a bit silly. Originally there were only two sets of tyres, one for each session. It was logical that if we were going to have two runs in each session we should have four sets of tyres, so we just wanted that sort of detail sorted out before we put our signature to it and when that was resolved then I think there was another point that the cars were not going to be retrieved between the two sessions. If you fell off in the first session, your car had to stay out there which didn't seem logical - you know, we're trying to put a show on and we want the cars to be running as much as possible, so the driver makes a mistake... he can go out in the first session, do a safe lap and then go for a really strong lap and if he spins off, he knows his car is going to be brought back and he has another go in the second session. So that sort of thing seemed to us to be more logical and I think when we had another debate about it, the other teams agreed and we were able to find a solution.

Q: Rubens, what are your feelings about it? Looking forward to it?

RBa: I look forward to it. As Ross mentioned, I don't like to see things being changed too often because it looks like we don't know what's going on. For the public, it looks even worse. The only thing I'm not too sure about is the aggregate, because it's something that it's the ultimate that counts, even though you can go back to your bad thing, or I could have done a little bit better. You know the aggregate thing is a little... you know the time will vary too much so maybe the guy won't be first and he's going to be third but he's the faster one, and he's going to overtake on the racing track. But that's too new for me, I don't know if I like it.

Q: Ross, you mentioned that you were slightly concerned when Rubens was behind Michael in the race and we all know that Ferrari have had some criticism in the past for so-called team orders or whatever. How do you draw the fine line between telling the boys not to run into one another, and equally abiding by the regulation not to apply team orders? How small is that gap and what is your philosophy in terms of how hard they can race one another?

RBr: In our case -- and I can't judge for other teams -- Michael and Rubens have a very good relationship, so we don't need to say very much to them. They know that they don't want to see each other out of the race, but they are going to push as hard as they can without overstepping the mark. So it's really up their judgement, what that limit is. They may make a mistake. It's a difficult task out there and a driver may make a genuine mistake but I wouldn't expect our drivers, for instance, to try and put the other driver off the track in an attempt to make an overtaking manoeuvre. If Rubens had 'done a Sato' on Michael I would have been pretty upset, so that to me would have been too much, whereas what Rubens did in Canada was fine and I expect Michael to do the same to him, and maybe be even a little bit more aggressive. But as Rubens explained his approach, it was to try and force Michael to take the chicane and that's fine as well. But in this case we didn't say anything to the drivers. We'd had a pre-race briefing as we always do and said -- I think our motto is -- go fast and don't crash, and that's all we ask them to do. But there will be occasions when they'll trip over each other. We've been fortunate that it hasn't happened, and I think there's a huge respect from both of them for each other. I think if there was a problem they'd understand it. It's a pretty low key thing with us, I must say.

Q: Regarding Michael's success and domination in this series, simply put is it man and machine or is the man a machine?

RBr: I think it's a combination of all elements -- I would say that because I'm responsible for the cars, but it's a combination of all the elements, including Rubens, Rubens has tremendous input to the team and the work he does in testing and the work he does at the races is also a contributory factor to the results Michael gets which is why Michael is so enthusiastic about keeping Rubens in the team, so it's a huge number of elements and we're fortunate that all those elements have come together at one time. It's a very good car, we built up very good partners with Bridgestone, Shell, lots of companies are part of the Ferrari package and it's just all clicking at the moment. On top of that, we've got the best driver -- certainly the most successful driver in the history of Formula One and the best driver I've ever known in Formula One, so you put all those elements together. Michael's got huge enthusiasm this year, as enthusiastic as I've ever seen him, which is uncanny for the time he's been in Formula One and the long period of success he's had.

I was really pleased to see how frustrated he was after Monaco. It's well documented that he threw his helmet around the garage. I don't mind that. I think that if the guy is not frustrated after what he's been able to achieve it shows how hungry and how motivated he is, but it's in a nice way. That's fine if it happens in a race like that, but it doesn't come out as a negative thing any other time. But to see a driver frustrated after the race is always a good sign. So he's still incredibly and incredibly motivated and, like Rubens, a great team player and he understands the value of that and understands that it is a team effort. He's very, very good in that respect.

RBa: After all the years that I've had with Michael it's just as Ross said - he's very enthusiastic and he's doing so well. It makes me proud to be racing against him because I'm racing against the best and I'm only getting better as well. You may ask why at the end of the season I was closer to him than I was to some extent two races ago when I was experimenting new things. I think Michael had them all sorted - left foot braking, right foot braking, all sorts of things that I've been doing, and Michael has been really on the ball since the beginning of the season with the car, and has been doing so well. I feel that I'm closer now. I feel that I had a chance to be in front of him in qualifying in Canada if it wasn't for a mistake, but because of my new way of taking things there is no ifs. You still have to go out there and enjoy the fortune of taking the best.

Q: You referred earlier to 'doing a Sato.' By that, do you mean that he was out of order for what he was trying to do (at the Nürburgring) and do you also mean that Rubens can overtake Michael as long as he doesn't take any risks?

RBr: I think it's very easy for us, when we have the benefit of the helicopter shots and all the television coverage, to make a judgement on an overtaking manoeuvre. I accept that if you take that panoramic shot of Sato coming up the inside of Rubens it does look a bit strange. It looks like Rubens just turns into Sato, but what you have to realise is that these guys are sat in a survival cell with that level of vision and two small mirrors and when you're braking, it's a pretty violent activity to brake and turn into a corner. When you start that action, you make a judgement on the guy behind you and whether he's likely to be there or not, and Rubens, I'm sure, looked in the mirror, saw where he was and started to brake and turn into the corner. If you're going to make that sort of manoeuvre, you've got to make sure the guy in front knows you're there because he will turn into you because he doesn't know you're there and it's impossible for the guys in Formula One cars to know that you're there.

So one of the criteria when you're going to overtake somebody (is) you've got to make sure he knows that you're there or else he'll turn into you because he simply doesn't know that you're there. I think Sato was never able to show to Rubens that he was there and that he was going to try and overtake. In my view, it was Sato's responsibility, Sato's fault. Rubens and Michael know that if you make an overtaking manoeuvre you've got to make sure the guy knows you're there. To come from such a long way back really gave Rubens no indication that there was a car there, and as it happens, Sato was the one who came out of it worst but I'd be feeling particularly aggrieved if Rubens had suffered. That was my take on the situation.

Q: Ross, on another subject, in Canada we had two teams declared outside the regulations after the race, very unusual to have two teams in one race fall foul of the same technical regulation, 11.1, I think it is. Can you tell us in your view whether there's anything ambiguous or strange about that regulation, and what are your thoughts on the Williams and Toyota problems in general?

RBr: (Ross's mobile phone rings). Someone is just about to tell me, I think. (Laughter)

RBa: I'll say hello to Mom. (Answers mobile phone). Ross is in a meeting. (Laughter) Who is that? Hello, Rory (Byrne, Ferrari chief designer). It's Rory. Hi, I'm with Ross in a press conference. (Laughter) I'm doing fine, I'm doing fine, Rory. (Laughter) Everyone is just having a laugh because -- you want me to go outside with Ross for a meeting? (Laughter) Ross is going to call you back in five minutes, gentlemen, please, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Rory. Bye.

RBr: I'll turn it off.

Q: Can you remember the question?

RBr: Yes, I think so. No, the regulation is quite clear. There's a dimension, maximum dimension from the inside rim of the wheel to the inside face of any brake duct, and I think it's 120 millimeters. So there's no ambiguity about the regulation. And I honestly can't comment on how they arrived at their problem. Obviously, Canada is a track where everyone runs the maximum brake ducts they have. So it's a place where we have the biggest brake ducts probably for most of the year. So if you're going to fall foul of that particular regulation, it's the track where you're most likely to do it. Traditionally, it's a track, quite honestly, where the FIA measures the brake ducts because everyone is on the maximum limit. I don't know how it happened, and it was a little bit sad for Formula One really because I think Williams had their best race of the year, and to end like that was not a particularly good thing for Formula One. But I'm sure Williams will be examining their methods of checking. But terribly complex things, Formula One cars and, what may seem like a stupid mistake can happen. So, you know, they have my sympathy because, you know, we find there are problems here and there but luckily so far our systems have always caught them. But they are terribly complex things, and you can get caught out.

Q: Sam Michael said categorically the mistake was not performance-enhancing. Would you agree with that, bearing in mind what you just said about Canada?

RBr: I'm sure they didn't do it because they wanted to gain performance. Whether it was performance enhancing or not, I don't know. I'm sure they didn't do it willingly thinking that we need to have more brake-cooling, and therefore we'll make the brake ducts bigger than they should be. I'm sure it was a genuine mistake. I wouldn't imagine for a moment they would do that. But it's largely irrelevant whether it's performance enhancing or not. It was quite a lot too big from what I understand.

Q: Rubens, two years ago we talked a little bit about the controversial finish there, but did that take you by surprise, Michael's actions, and did it strengthen your bond as teammates?

RBa: The race? Here? Well, we've talked about that so much already. But yes, as it looked, we were both in a way surprised. It was kind of a go, not go, wait, just do this and that and then finally, I think it was just a reversal what has happened in Austria. So you could say that.

Q: Did it strengthen the bond between you?

RBa: No, I just feel I won Austria and he won Indianapolis, that's all.

RBr: I think one of the things I'm proud of in our team is that periods of adversity do strengthen the group, they don't seem to split the group. I think that's the important thing. I know they exist in other teams, but the team becomes more insular with adversity. I'm proud to say I don't think you'll find anyone at Ferrari talking outside the group about responsibility or blame for problems we may have. It does happen within the group because we have to do that as part of the process to improve. But you don't get it outside the group and I think that's a very important asset for Ferrari and one of the principles we try and run our team on.

Q: What about the rumors that you might be the new team principal of Ferrari, and what does that mean to your team?

RBr: I think with Jean's new role as the boss of Ferrari, then, of course, there was naturally speculation about what would happen below him. And Jean's taken responsibility for the road car side as well as the racing car side. For us, that's a very good thing, because with our president's extra commitments, both in the Fiat group and Confindustria, it was clear that Luca di Montezemolo would not be able to devote as much time to Ferrari as he had been in the past. Therefore, there was a hole appearing, particularly with the road car group and the options were to fill that with someone new or to try and make some adjustments internally. I think it's much better to try and make adjustments internally. I think Jean deserved the position, I think he's shown as a boss of Ferrari racing that he's a very capable guy, so I think he deserved the position.

From my perspective, it means we have someone in charge of Ferrari who I know and respect and can work with. So it's a very good thing for us in racing. There is no change in the position of team principal, Jean will still hold that. But myself, Stefano Domenicali, Nigel Stepney, several people at the factory will be taking on extra responsibility to cover some of the areas which Jean is no longer responsible for. I must say I enjoy the engineering, I enjoy the racing side and I don't want things to interfere with that too much. I went to a team principals' meeting, I think, in Nürburgring or one of the earlier races and talked about qualifying, and it occupied three or four hours on a Saturday afternoon. Well, I simply don't have that time at the moment, at least. So it's important that I don't get too distracted from what I'm here for and what I actually enjoy doing. But we're all going to merge, we're all going to move a little bit, we're all going to take on some extra responsibilities to cover the hole that Jean's left in some respects, but Jean will always be there on the racing side as a team principal. So I don't think it's going to change very much, and we're pleased about that because I don't want to have to work for someone else.

Part 2


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Luca di Montezemolo , Ross Brawn
Teams Ferrari , Williams