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    Picking the Brains of Ross Brawn

    Hereafter a great intervew of Ross Braw recorded this spring for Autosport.com (available to the subcribers website only). I have wanted to share it for a long time but I did not found the time ever since. I think it is an appropriate moment to post it, as Ross Brawn will start a new chapter of his carrier with Honda and Michael Schumacher is back in a F1 cockpit, as he is currently testing for the Scuderia.
    The British engineer talks among others about F1, motorport, Ferrari and of course Michael Schumacher. I hope you will enjoy this interview as much as I did.

    INTERVIEW
    Picking the Brains of Ross Brawn

    The man who sat on the pit wall for all seven of Schumacher's titles is taking a year off from F1. But a fortnight ago Ross Brawn made a rare public appearance - and he was in the mood to reminisce. Autosport.com brings the full transcript from the evening

    By Damien Smith
    Autosport magazine editor in chief


    Ross Brawn may be on a sabbatical from Formula One this year, but it seems the former Ferrari technical director just cannot keep away from the fix that is motor racing.

    He has stayed away from the paddock so far, but he is keeping in close touch with friends from the sport and industry figures while enjoying a bit of rest and relaxation.

    A fortnight ago, Brawn headed a networking dinner for the Motorsport Industry Association in England. Clearly well rested, and with his batteries fully charged, he admitted that he was far from tired of motor racing - and he was actually missing it.

    "Racing has been such a large part of my life, you can't just stop it and not feel it," he said. "All sorts of elements - the work in the factory, being part of the process of putting together a car, a package and a team; and then the racing itself at the track.

    "But there is a price to pay. If you want to be involved at the level you need to be at Ferrari, it's a massive commitment. So I'm also enjoying a bit of freedom for once."

    So with Brawn in high spirits, and chatting among many of his friends from the industry, his answers from an on-stage Q&A provide a fascinating look back at his career - and some choice words about the state of the sport now.

    Q: Why did you choose to take a sabbatical?

    Ross Brawn: "In 2004 we had such a fantastic year and it almost got to the point where I thought that's as good as it gets. It's hard to think that we can do a lot better than that. And 2006 was also ten years at Ferrari. It was coming to the stage where I was having to look for some fresh challenges, either within Ferrari or outside of Ferrari.

    "A few things happened in my life that made me think that I ought to take the chance to do a few things I'd never had time to do. Racing, and certainly F1, is a full-on job, there's no half-way house. So I concluded I really wanted to take a year out, to have a break from Ferrari, a break from F1 and just really reflect on my career, what I'd been involved in and what I'd like to be involved in in the future.

    "From that point in 2004 it took a while for me to convince Ferrari that this was my intention, but we gradually started to put together the team to take over and I'm pleased at the job they are doing and I feel a little less guilty at leaving because they are still winning races."

    Q: So there is no guarantee you will stay in either racing or at Ferrari? It's a genuine period of reflection?

    Brawn: "It is. I felt that if I spent the year deliberating about what I will do, it's not a year off. So Ferrari very kindly agreed to get together in July, which I'd like to do, and talk about the future and see if there's a position I'd like to do and be interested in.

    "There are no guarantees on either side, but I had a wonderful time. I feel a lot of loyalty towards Ferrari, so we'll meet in July, see how things are and made a decision from there."

    Q: Tell me about the 'four-legged stool' at Ferrari...

    Brawn: "Ferrari is a unique team. The media interest and the fan interest puts a huge amount of pressure on the people who work there. It can cause almost subversive pressures within the team if it's not handled properly.

    "Each day I was there I would receive a file from the press and PR department. When there was no race on it would be a 50-page file, if there was a race on it would be a 200-page file of all the press clippings generated about what was happening at Ferrari. It was very crucial to some parts of Ferrari how they presented themselves to the media and how they were perceived. To a group of us that was not the prime objective. The prime objective was to go and win races.

    "We formed a group, not intentionally, but by necessity. There was myself, Rory Byrne, Jean Todt, and Michael Schumacher. We just put those other things to one side and said we have a task here. We've got to avoid being distracted by these items and concentrate on the job in hand. That formed a united group that I wouldn't say was impenetrable - that is the wrong word to use - but it couldn't be divided.

    "When times were difficult it might have been easy to peel someone out of the organisation who wasn't together in that way, but you couldn't separate those [four] people. So if you wanted to take on and contest how Ferrari should be run, you were taking on four people, not just one individual. And that brought good continuity and trust in the people.

    "The staff really welcomed this consistency of management they were beginning to get because they'd been used to years of one guy being in charge, then his authority was undermined and someone else would come in.

    "They'd had a torrid period, 21 years I think between drivers' championships. But we didn't care about that side of things. We cared about the job, about trying to succeed, but not about all these periphery items that seemed to be very high on the priority list for so many people at Ferrari. We got on with the job and that helped to bring results.

    "The people at Ferrari, the staff, are fantastic. Very skilled, very dedicated, very passionate. But they just wanted some stability at the top and consistency of direction to get on with what they do."

    Q: How Italian are the 1000 employees?

    "When we went there we had to make quite a few rapid introductions to try and stabilise the situation. There were a lot of areas where the team was not strong enough and we had to draw on the UK's motorsport valley. So we brought quite a number of people in.

    "But after a period we were able to start to grow internally, which was very pleasing because the standard of people coming through were very good. To be frank it gave a more harmonious structure. We were able to build a culture. People knew they had an opportunity if they showed ability and application, and they could move through the organisation.

    "There had been a fractious period within the English group before I arrived under John Barnard. There was a lot of anxiety and mistrust when I arrived, but that soon started to build. I would think now there is a small percentage of specialist engineers and technicians on the racing side, but the vast majority of staff are of Italian origin."

    Q: You are not a university graduate, are you? You are an incomplete HNC... You started in motorsport as a machinist.

    Brawn: "I did a mechanical engineering apprenticeship at Harwell and then I went on to start an HNC, still funded by Harwell. My parents lived in Reading and I found an advertisement for Frank Williams Grand Prix, which were based in Reading at that time. I went along and was interviewed by Patrick Head.

    "They were looking for a machinist which was one of the things I'd done at Harwell. I obviously hadn't convinced Patrick completely because I didn't get a response for four months! I failed to get the job. But then I got a call from Patrick saying would I like the position.

    "I thought, 'well I'll go and do it for a year and then I'll go back to what I should be doing.' And of course that was 30 years ago. But the funny thing was that somebody had been offered the job and turned it down. So that guy, if ever I find him, I owe him at least a pint of beer! That was my start in motor racing."

    Q: Was there a large workforce there at the time?

    Brawn: "Well, it was quite small at that stage. Frank lost control of the company to Walter Wolf and I went to do Formula Three for a year, where I did mechanising, driving the truck and all sorts of things. Then I went back to Williams when Frank reformed in Didcot in the famous carpet factory.

    "There were 11 people when I rejoined. That really was the stage when you had to do everything. I was machining pieces, fitting them to the car, driving them in a truck to the tests, mechanising at the track. That was the FW06, which was a good car and then 18 months or so later we did the FW07. Frank Dernie joined about the same time. The company grew very rapidly from the 11 people to 200 when I left, and won two world championships. So it was a great education."

    Q: It couldn't happen now, could it?

    Brawn: "I get lots of enthusiastic engineers asking me what sort of qualifications they need and what career path they should take into F1, and I say certainly not the one I took because you couldn't do it these days. It's just not feasible, the organisations are so big.

    "You can't get your foot in the door without a reasonable set of qualifications. But we want the whole spread of people, not just the geniuses. You can only manage one or two geniuses in an organisation. You want a lot of good quality, sound engineers who can support a system. The Italian universities used to come to us and say this guy is a real superstar, and I would say, yeah but what about the guys who are going to do the work?"

    Q: You left F1 and went to TWR. Was it like being let loose in a candy factory?

    Brawn: "I'd worked at Arrows for three years, finishing with the 1988 season. Arrows was a great little team in those days but it had no money. There's nothing more frustrating in F1 than not having the resources.

    "We did quite good cars over the winter, but as soon as we started to run them there were no funds to develop them. So you'd see the car show some promise, but then have a frustrating year trying to keep up with it while everyone else was moving forward.

    "We had Eddie Cheever and Derek Warwick at the time, who were also driving for Tom Walkinshaw. They were full of praise for Tom, who was a very determined and ambitious guy. He approached me and said he wanted to do F1 racing, but before he could do that he wanted me to support the sportscar programme.

    "It was like opening a candy shop with no-one there. I was used to a regime of very strict regulations in F1 where everything was covered and was so restrictive. Suddenly I opened this rule book and there were about half a dozen regulations. It was such a great opportunity. So we built a Formula 1 car and clothed it in sportscar bodywork. There were some objections, but we were careful with our interpretation...

    "I don't think there are any XJR14s left. Tom was always the entrepreneurial businessman and he cut them up and put Mazda engines in them and sold them to Mazda. It was a very pretty little car. It started the season three and a half seconds quicker than the opposition. That gap did decline because Tom wouldn't spend any money on it when he saw how far it was ahead.

    "Anyway, two things happened during that season. One was that we became aware of a driver called Michael Schumacher. And secondly Tom got involved in Benetton with a view to purchasing the team in 1991 and 1992.

    "Schumacher was with Sauber Mercedes and he was the only guy who gave us a hard time in sportscars. They had (Heinz-Harald) Frentzen, they had (Karl) Wendlinger, (Jochen) Mass and a few other guys, but he was the only one who gave us a hard time. He was outstanding because he was smooth, he used less fuel than the other guys, he was quicker. What I couldn't believe is that they didn't keep him in the car.

    "There was some democratic process in the team where he only got one of the three stints in a race. We were relieved he didn't drive that much, but it did make us aware of Michael Schumacher. So when we got into F1 Tom instigated capturing Michael Schumacher. If we'd been on our toes we would have stopped even that one drive for Jordan. Eddie wasn't convinced and didn't give him a contract, and Tom - who was fairly aggressive about these things - stepped in and took him away from him."

    Q: Tell us about Benetton and Schumacher?

    Brawn: "It was very obvious from the beginning he was special. People ask me about the qualities of Michael and the first thing you know is the rare talent, the speed - and what appears to be the effortless speed. I think a lot had to do with his character and his training at Mercedes. He'd been through this Mercedes drivers' school, which was a good initiative and it's a shame there's not more of it.

    "He had terrific application. So when you take that raw talent, which is pretty rare, and you mix it with that application, that tremendous commitment and passion for the team spirit of F1.

    "He was a guy who loved to win, but he also loved to win as a team. He took extra satisfaction from winning as a group. You put all those things together and that is why he was so exceptional. Take one of those things away and he wouldn't have been the complete deal."

    Q: And it lasted right to the end, didn't it?

    Brawn: "Yes, that didn't change. Pressure on Michael's time and commitment to other things did change, but his passion for driving the car didn't. I know he would have driven for a fraction of what he was earning. Money wasn't the incentive, it was a nice bonus on the side. His manager was strong in the negotiations, but the passion was for the racing.

    "I often comment that I could ring him up and say 'look Michael, something has come up and we need you testing tomorrow'. He would drop everything and be there. He wouldn't even contest it. In fact you knew he would be pleased that he wasn't doing something that he'd planned. He'd be driving the car.

    "And that unfortunately isn't that common among F1 drivers. Some of them whinge, you have to twist their arm and explain why it is so important to get them there. Which is surprising really when you consider the level of competitiveness needed."

    Q: Why was Michael so unpopular in the press?

    Brawn: "The Red Baron. There is a tough, harsh side to Michael, which is in a way his defensive mechanism and is his way of dealing with certain aspects of the sport.

    "He never actually complained about another driver's behaviour on the track. He had this view that it was a tough business. You have to give everything and give no quarter. He did that and sometimes he overstepped the mark. He knew he had overstepped it and it was never discussed because you didn't need to. He knew that his competitive spirit had got the better of him.

    "But you wouldn't have it any other way because that was the make up of the guy and that was why he was so special. So you had to live with those odd occasions when things didn't go quite as nicely as you wanted because it was a whole package.

    "The odd glitch, he would reflect on it. But it was like a reaction. He was so competitive, so committed to himself and the team around him. He so much wanted to win that there were occasions when he had a knee-jerk reaction."

    Q: You left Jaguar learning a lot about race strategy...

    Brawn: "Sportscar racing was strategy racing, with fuel stops and tyre stops. Really how we know F1 now was sportscar racing, certainly when I was involved in the late 1980s. So I was lucky because I walked into Jaguar and there was a whole team of guys there who were used to strategic racing.

    "Alistair McQueen was the strategy guy at Jaguar, a very clever guy who had years of experience of the strategies involved in motor racing, so I was able to pick it up from Alistair very quickly."

    Q: Was that your first exposure to it?

    Brawn: "It was really. There had been dalliances with it in F1. There was the tyre issue when you wanted to change tyres, but the refuelling and the race strategic side was much stronger and became more important in the early 1990s.

    "I was a little bit shocked because, quite frankly, we were applying quite straightforward strategies to races and other people didn't seem to be following a very logical path. This kind of reputation of black magic appeared that was not correct because it was relatively straightforward, logical strategies.

    "In those days refuel rates were very slow and you could actually carry fuel in the car and come into the pits with fuel in the car and save time in the pit stop. The car was naturally slower carrying a bit more fuel but that was compensated by the much shorter pit stop because it took so long to put fuel in the car. We had a couple of years taking advantage of that situation and nobody cottoned on. Now everybody is at a very high level. It was an advantage we enjoyed for only a year or two."

    Q: You enjoyed that element, didn't you?

    Brawn: "Yes, I liked the fact that the team became involved in the race. Before that the race would start, you wished the driver all the best and of he'd go. He'd run the race and you'd try and give him advice during the race about what he might do, but really the race was only down to him.

    "But race strategy brought in the engineers, the technicians and the pit crew. Suddenly instead of having an agonising two hours on the pit wall you were involved, and it was much more exciting. I enjoyed it a lot. Frustrating at times, but often things would come together which would give you a lot of satisfaction.

    "But I very rarely made an impulsive decision on the pit wall. All the best decisions were ones that had been preconceived and planned. There might have been a change of strategy in the race - maybe something would happen and you would move to another strategy - but there was never a case of, 'I think I'll do that'.

    "There were plans for A, B, C and D and as the race evolved maybe plan A wasn't working, but you could see how plan C would work and it was just a case of having the confidence to move to those strategies.

    "So the best races were the ones where everything has come together, where maybe you have planned for something a bit differently or evolved to a different strategy, but it's all been pre-planned. I hate it when I have to make impulsive decisions on the pitfall."

    Q: Pat Symonds said something very similar to us last year. And you can learn to read what other people can do?

    Brawn: "You do get a characteristic. Your car works in a certain way, or you are perhaps an aggressive team or a conservative team. So you do tend to see the trends of the teams and how they work their tyres.

    "It was more difficult when there were the two different tyre suppliers because you were trying to understand the characteristics of your own tyres and how they would evolve during a race, but also understand the characteristics of the other tyres, in my case the Michelins. Therefore you were not only trying to find the best strategy for your own tyres, you were also trying to find the best strategy against the other supplier.

    "Sometimes you would have strategies that were not the quickest, but would put you in a defensive position against the other guys. If you were leading a race, and you knew they were going to get quicker towards the end of a stint, then you had to defend that position. So there were quite a lot of aspects to strategy, but it is true that you could sometimes see teams move in one direction and one in another."

    Q: Was there one team that was always predictable?

    Brawn: "Not me I hope. McLaren are very corporate and they seem to have [a view that] there are numbers that add up and this is what we are going to do. We'd do that but also we'd put in a few factors that... what would happen if we did this and how would it confuse the opposition. If you look back at Magny-Cours a few years ago we did four pit stops."

    Q: Tell us the story...

    Brawn: "We had a very quick car on race set-up, but it wasn't quite so strong for qualifying. Luca Baldisseri who did all the number crunching for me, mentioned in our race strategy briefing that four pit stops didn't look stupid because Magny-Cours has a very short pit stop time. We got stuck behind Alonso and it was a case of having nothing to lose.

    "If we followed the same strategy we knew we weren't going to overtake, so I said let's throw four pit stops. And because Michael then had some free track because he was out of phase with the other cars, he was able to use the full performance of the car. And when all the pit stops were done he was in front."

    Q: Are you calling in more games and gizmos to decide strategy?

    Brawn: "There is quite a lot of simulation software that we use. I feel you get a flavour and a feeling for what is going, so I didn't like to get too many people involved because they'd all come to a similar solution.

    "Luca Baldisseri in the latter years used to do all the modelling and I kind of knew Luca would move in one direction and I would balance it a little in the other direction. And over a period of time, if you get a fair percentage right, that's as good as it can be.

    "There is an engineering base to strategy, but there is also a psychological aspect and this cannot be ignored. Putting pressure on our team, throwing a curve ball in there to see if you can get a reaction can sometimes work. It is a set of numbers but there are sometimes some variables."

    Q: Did you call both cars at the same time?

    Brawn: "I made the decisions. The engineers used to follow their cars and have a mainline of communication with them, and I'd be working on the pit wall with Luca studying how the race was developing and putting all the numbers in, seeing how the gaps looked. And I would instruct the engineers when to call their cars."

    Q: In your conversations with the drivers, was Michael cool customer?

    Brawn: "Yes. He didn't say a huge amount, except when it was an easy race. Then he would want to talk about things and you really had to tell him to shut up and get on with driving the car. That would be the most dangerous time.

    "I can remember several races when he dropped the car and fell off the track because he'd lost his rhythm because it had become too easy. At Indianapolis one year he was leading the race quite comfortably and he came on the radio and said, 'you've got the pit board wrong'. We said 'why?' And he said because I've just set the fastest lap. We said no you haven't. He said yes I have, I've just seen it on the TV screen. What he hadn't seen was that it was Ralf Schumacher, not Michael Schumacher!"

    Q: What was your response?

    Brawn: "We had a good giggle about it because we suddenly realised what was going on. We did suggest he focus on the job! But it was always a conversation at this sort of level. You always spoke to Michael as if you were having a telephone conversation. He was never breathless, never seemed to be exerting himself. You would never guess he was in a car doing what he was doing. You had to be sensible when you spoke to him.

    "If you spoke to him in the middle of a corner it was a bit tough. But he had this spare capacity to drive a car at its limit and still be able to understand what he could do with the car, consider the race and talk to us on the pit wall. And I think it was that spare capacity that got him into trouble sometimes because he'd start to think about other things going on in the race rather than focus. It didn't take everything he had to drive an F1 car."

    Q: How flexible should the floor of an F1 car be?

    Brawn: "That's an incriminating question! There's a set of technical regulations that have evolved over the years and it is up to the teams to take as competitive an interpretation of those regulations as they can, because if you don't you're losing out to your competitors. One of the regulations states that the bodywork must be rigid. Now, there is no way it's rigid, everything deflects under load.

    "Then it becomes a question of what is the acceptable level of deflection under load. There are a series of tests with the FIA to measure the deflection of wings and floors. They put a load on and if the floor only deflects a certain amount they are happy.

    "What has happened, quite frankly, over the years is that teams have understood the benefit of allowing the floors to move in a beneficial way, and the FIA has not been testing for it. And now they have realised teams are taking advantage of this to enhance the performance of the cars and they are trying to clamp down on it.

    "So for Barcelona there are a whole new series of tests. There has to be a test to make it fair. If a scrutineer just comes to a car and say that is not stiff enough, how do you know he is going to another car and applying the same test? So the tests for the next race are far more stringent."

    Q: The stewards have an impossible job, don't they?

    Brawn: "The FIA has two or three very sensible guys trying to manage the situation and every team has 50 guys looking at it from the other way."

    Q: Everyone goes down different routes, but they are still so close. It raises the question of what drives the teams on, doesn't it?

    Brawn: "If you took ten separate engineering organisations and said, build a F1 car to these rules and then put them all back together again you'd have cars that varied by several seconds, I'm sure of it. What happens now is that we have cars with different engines, the same tyres now, different drivers, different designers, different brakes - and yet you go to a race and you are within a tenth of a second or so of your competitor.

    "In a way that is illogical because they are complex engineering devices. Why are they so close? I think the reason is the development and response of the team varies depending on how competitive they are. And that variance of response equalises things out.

    "Here you are, two or three tenths ahead of the opposition, now you want to improve the performance, you know you have to. But you don't make those risky decisions to introduce something new to the car until it is really well proven because reliability is your priority.

    "If you are two or three seconds behind, reliability is important but you have more priority on performance. It's a peculiar process but it seems to level all the teams out. There is no other logic to explain how it ends up as it ends up. It's uncanny, but it's because we all drive each other along."

    Q: Let's look to the future. What do you think about regenerative braking?

    Brawn: "What F1 has is a huge response rate to whatever it's objectives are. So if there is a new design of wing allowed in the regulations, teams would pour in millions of pounds to develop a new wing because it would be a competitive element of the package and you would have to devote a lot of resources to get that wing developed and get it on the car. It's the same with any technology that is introduced to F1.

    "You cannot compete unless every aspect of the car is as good as you can make it. If regenerative braking was allowed tomorrow and the numbers stacked up where the weight of the systems meant that theoretically you could gain performance, then every team would pour money into developing a system. So the argument goes that that's a positive thing for the automotive industry, for efficiencies because the technologies that come from that intense development can spin off back into the automotive industry.

    "The difficulty in my perception is what is the right technologies to be using? On the one hand we have control tyres and standard ECUs, which are a frozen design for five years that is all in the interests of saving money. And then we are going to drop in this new technology which is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

    "Now that can be admirable if that technology can be identified as being useful in the future, but my problem is that I'm not sure that regenerative braking is the prime element to be introduced into F1 to take advantage of a development programme that F1 can generate. Personally I think there are more attractive options which for more ecological reasons could be more attractive for F1."

    Q: Like efficiency?

    Brawn: "Well efficiency is always prime. If you can improve the efficiency of the vehicle and that technology is transferable, then it will always be a benefit.

    "I think the thing to avoid is the old days and a certain fuel capacity, because that caused some funny races where drivers were driving to save fuel but maybe you could have a maximum fuel flow rate or you could have some maximum energy usage at peak times and you could start to get back into efficiency.

    "We have an engine now with limited rpm, what would happen if we said we would control the amount of fuel available in an intelligent way and then you could do what you like. It could be diesel, bio-fuel, you could turbo or supercharge it. Would that generate technologies that were more applicable and relevant to the automotive future?

    "And I think that is the argument that has not been explored properly. Regenerative braking is something that sounds like an attractive option, and it's proven in the transport world to be applicable in certain circumstances like underground trains and devices of that sort. But I think engineers find efficiency highly exciting."

    Q: Do you think Williams can ever achieve F1 success again?

    Brawn: "I'd love Williams to be successful again. It's the team I started motorsport with and I've got a lot of feeling for Frank and Patrick.

    "I think it needs a rethink for how they approach motor racing. I think the competition from teams like Ferrari, McLaren and BMW is very strong, and I think Williams needs a rethink to how they approach motor racing. They can do it because Frank and Patrick are very capable people, but I think it needs a restructuring there."

    Q: What about B-teams like Prodrive?

    Brawn: "It's attractive in some senses because it does allow a new team to go racing without any investment in the technology, and allows them to piggy back on the back of an existing team. But that doesn't help because the rate card, the sponsorship side, is much lower than a team that is doing all of the technology.

    "So say McLaren is the hot team and they give a B-team to Prodrive, the sponsorship rate will be much lower than it will be for Frank [Williams]. Where's the money going and will it be a spiral that will damage the independent teams, which I think are important to F1?"

    Q: How would you like the F1 technical regs to go?

    Brawn: "I think one of the cul de sacs we've gone down is with aerodynamics and these cars cannot race each other any more. Unless the guy in front makes a mistake or has a problem with the tyres, the cars are far too sensitive.

    "The car behind is too affected by the flow from the car in front and it's getting worse with all these little appendages that we have on the car, because of the methodology to develop the car to be more intense. We've got these tiny devices everywhere, but they seem to be quite sensitive to the flow regime and influenced by the cars in front.

    "So we've gone down this cul de sac where these cars can't race each other. I think the first thing we've got to do is come out with this aerodynamic package, which is something that will allow the designers to develop the cars and make sure the cars can race and follow each other. That is the first thing that I would do.

    "I think technical freedom is generally a good thing. I think car speeds need to be controlled, we can't have cars too fast because of the safety standards of the circuits then become inadequate. But I think the technical rules can be reasonably open.

    "It's not a popular view, but my view is that the budgets in F1 are controlled by the commercial viability - nothing else. The teams will spend what they can generate in sponsorship. If F1 is not really attractive then the sponsorship levels will go down and they won't spend as much."

    Q: So the FIA trying to make it cost effective is a forlorn hope?

    Brawn: "It's difficult, I always feel that there should be some consideration for the smaller teams that they can at least turn up and put on a respectable job. I don't think that you want to introduce technology that is so expensive that they can't even get a car onto the grid. Standard formulae, even with top name drivers in, is not as exciting as Formula One.

    "It can be exciting racing but it doesn't have the added aurora of F1. In F1 you get a great driver in a mediocre car and a mediocre driver in a great car and they are racing each other. That to me, is why F1 is a spectacle."

    Q: What is your favourite racing car?

    Brawn: "I think the Williams cars, the FW07 and 08B, were nice cars. They very aerodynamically efficient but they looked nice - they were smart and didn't have all those appendages that have grown over the years.

    "I think your best car is the one that is still to come. There is this adage in F1 that it's best not to look back. So I've not sat down and thought about the car that would stand out for me.

    "The 2004 car where we able to win 15 of the 17 races was an exceptional car - a great car. But I've been lucky to be involved in a number of very good cars down the years. The last car I designed was the Jaguar XJR14. That was a car which I came up with all the answers for. So that was special, but the best one is one I've yet to be involved with."

    Q: Would you ever work for another F1 team?

    Brawn: "Never say never. I do have a particular passion for Ferrari. I enjoyed things there, which I don't think I could have enjoyed with the other teams. It would be hard to work for another team - but never say never."

    Q: What about life after F1 and motorsport?

    Brawn: "I met someone today who works in the Americas Cup. The technology and at least the philosophy of the technology works between the two challenges. Americas Cup in many ways is a very highly technical sport and it's an engineering challenge as well as a human challenge. And that could be an interesting project to be involved with.

    "In terms of racing I'd only ever want to do F1. It's one of the few formulas left where there is still that engineering challenge. In other categories there are restrictions which for an engineer - don't make it very exciting."

    Q: What about the rumours of a Schumacher-Brawn dream team?

    Brawn: "Not true. At least not from my side. I also think that Michael is too sensible to get involved in that."

    Q: Where is the best place to fish in the UK?

    Brawn: "We have a lovely day in June with some of my friends in F1. Mario Illien, Karl Heinz Zimmerman, Michael's got an invite this year and we fish on the Nadder in Wiltshire. That's a great day, because I meet friends from F1 - and we don't talk about it all day. It's a day for a nice lunch and some fishing."

    Q: Is it true that you watched the first race of the season in New Zealand?

    Brawn: "As part of my world travels I went to New Zealand for six weeks. Of course the first race took part while I was still in New Zealand and I was deliberating whether I wanted to watch the race or not. It was new experience for me to watch a race on TV.

    "We were staying in a lodge in New Zealand that had no TV, no internet and there was a pub, five miles down the road, which had TV screens and my daughter inquired if they were showing the race. So we walked in and the pub had been bought by an Englishman a few months before. He was a big F1 fan. And as I walked in he said: 'I'd have been less surprised if Elvis Presley had walked in.' So we sat and watched the GP together."

    Q: So what it is like watching races on television?

    Brawn: "It's definitely a new experience for me to watch it with a different perspective, and also with the quality of commentators on English TV.

    "I sympathise with you - it's a very frustrating business to watch F1 on British TV. We're used to having all the data and all the split times and we can see the race developing. What's clear when you watch it on the TV is that you don't get that information.

    "Our commentators don't seem very good at conveying what is going on. It's very frustrating to watch a race and not have that information which is available to everyone at the track. So condolences for that.""

    Q: Why are McLaren so good this year and why have Renault fallen behind?

    Brawn: "I think the answer to both the McLaren and Renault issue is the tyres. It is not easy to change tyre suppliers, to move to a different set of philosophies to understand how the tyres are working. I think the McLaren is more suited to the tyres and have interpreted what is needed for the tyres better than Renault have managed to do.

    "If you look at Renault and its car from last year - it was quite an unusual car in terms of weight distribution and the way they used the tyres. By working with Michelin they achieved the results and the transition from Michelin to Bridgestone hasn't been sorted yet. But I think they will get there - and will get it sorted."

    Q: What do you think about Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa's achievements this year?

    Brawn: "If it continues then it will be an interesting challenge for both teams to manage that situation. It's often discussed that Michael had this special arrangement where he got priority at Ferrari the whole time. He was the one that was the most capable of winning the world championship and was able at taking up the challenge of winning it.

    "If Hamilton and Massa go ahead in the world championship stakes then it will be interesting for the teams to manage that situation. I think they are paid about 10 per cent of what the number ones are! So it's intriguing.

    "I think it's more difficult for McLaren because they have a proven world champion and they have got a guy in fantastic form and if it keeps on going like this - do you go with the guy who is showing huge potential, but not proved it - or do you go with a guy who has won two world championships? It's a tough challenge for McLaren."

    Q: In terms of motorsport education, how does Britain's Motorsport Valley compare to Italy?

    Brawn: "I think the UK is doing very well and I was encouraged to hear about the progress that has been made in educational courses which are linked to motorsport.

    "I think what is important is that there is a realistic view given to students who enter those sorts of course that the opportunity in motorsport is limited and not everyone who is successful in their course is going to find a career in motorsport. But it is a fantastic range of disciplines.

    "An engineering degree with the added excitement of motorsport wrapped up in there - it is perhaps more relevant than other engineering degrees and can be applied afterwards. In the ten years I've been away from England, those courses have grown considerably.

    "I think Cranfield was only just starting when I left the UK. Now Italy doesn't have anything of that sort, so in many ways the UK has a stronger educational base in motorsport than Italy has. The opportunities in Italy are also a lot more limited - there's Ferrari, Dallara and Toro Rosso. So the demands for staff are less, so perhaps it's more difficult to have specialist courses over there.

    "But I still think motorsport can be used as a catalyst to get people involved in engineering, even if the ultimate result is not a career in motor racing. At Ferrari we had quite a lot of involvement in universities.

    "What Ferrari did have was it own technical college - which was the Enzo Ferrari School. It taught 14-19 year olds a simple mechanical engineering apprenticeship and that was to provide staff for the car factory and the racing team and its electronic guys, assembly mechanics.

    "That was government funded and was shaped around the requirements of Ferrari but it wasn't in the high academic levels that we see over here. I think the UK has taken a great lead in that.

    Re: Picking the Brains of Ross Brawn

    I need to print this out. It hurts my eyes staring at the computer screen!

    Re: Picking the Brains of Ross Brawn

    Thanks.. I enjoyed that article very much

    Re: Picking the Brains of Ross Brawn

    Ziggy, THANK YOU. It was a wonderful interview.

    Re: Picking the Brains of Ross Brawn

    Thank you sir!

     
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