Ross Brawn’s team has been in the eye of the storm lately, what with the protests over the double diffuser and the criticisms of people like Flavio Briatore. Brawn is a thick skinned individual, but he will have felt the personal attacks of Ferrari’s lawyer in the appeal court hearing last week.
Of course he’s been around long enough to know that you take the heat when you are the team to beat, he’s been in that situation at Benetton and Ferrari and controversy has been in the air in those times too. He’s a big man, he can take the heat.
In Shanghai, the Brawns did not go all that well in the low fuel 2nd part of qualifying and then did not take the front row of the grid, mainly because they chose to run more fuel than their opposition.
The two Red Bulls and Fernando Alonso’s Renault opted to run a lighter fuel load and got in front of the Brawns as a result. In the race, however, the Brawn is still going to be the fastest car and should be able to hit the front by staying out 6 laps longer than Vettel and Webber at the end of the first stint. That is when we will see the mega lap times as we did from Button in Sepang. Either of the two Brawn cars could win this race as Barrichello has more than matched his team mate this weekend so far.
But Ross has to make sure his cars don’t lose track position at the start and that they are within a few seconds of Vettel when he pits around lap 12 or 13. If Webber holds them up that strategy could be tested.
What happened to your pace in the second part of qualifying?
“We had a bit of a problem with some settings on the car, it’s not quite right in some parts of the track. We have a problem with the suspension topping out and as the grip has improved it’s been getting worse because we haven’t got enough rear suspension travel. It’s a legacy of fitting the Mercedes Benz engine because we had to lift the gearbox up to fit the engine and it’s causing a few problems.
“So when we went out on low fuel with new tyres in the middle part of qualifying, we didn’t get the temperature in the tyres. It wasn’t particularly critical but I think we got a bit confused in where we really were because Red Bull were really quick and we weren’t.”
Did you underestimate the likely speed of the Red Bulls in Q3?
“No our view is that we can run a good race on a two stop strategy, a three stop has higher risks, there was no point in doing a three stop strategy in our position. The problem will come as we get caught up at the start, there’s no doubt some risks. Three stops is a little quicker than two, but you need a clean race, no safety cars at the wrong time. That’s why we were a little more conservative.”
So how do you feel your tactics will work out in the race?
“If you take fuel into consideration we still look the quickest, but the difficulty will be getting in the right place at the right time. I imagine that the light fuelled teams will start on the option [soft tyre] and the last 6 or 7 laps of that will be interesting to see what happens.
How tough is it to manage the soft tyre here?
“There is an issue to get it up to temperature and get it working, but once you do the tyre is very stressed here, there are some corners here that give the tyre a really hard time, so it seems to be a compund which is hard to warm up and then is not durable. The other one takes a couple of laps to get warm then its fine, really durable.”
What have Honda said about your success this season?
“They have been very complementary. I have had some really nice letters from Fukui-san since the start of the season. They are frustrated they can’t be part of it.”