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Brawn gets ambitious for 2011 and talks of his exit
Brawn gets ambitious for 2011 and talks of his exit
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Oct 2010   |  12:42 pm GMT  |  102 comments

There is an interesting interview with Ross Brawn in today’s Gazzetta dello Sport, in which he says that he believes Mercedes will have a car to challenge for the championship next year and confirms that “Mercedes will be my last team.”

He also tips Fernando Alonso to win the world championship this year, reiterating the admiration he has for the Spaniard, whom he tried hard to sign for Honda in late 2008.

Brawn: Going for it in 2011 (Darren Heath)

Having won 16 world championships with Benetton, Ferrari and then the crowning glory of world titles with his own team, Brawn is now engaged in a new challenge with Mercedes. At 55, having enjoyed so much success and with over £40 million in the bank from past earnings plus the sale of his team last year, Brawn’s challenge will be to continue to find motivation.

The difficulties of this season should provide that going into 2011, but it is interesting that he’s already started talking about an exit. He may stay with Mercedes for five or ten more years, but he’s saying that he won’t take on another project after this. What more is there to achieve when you’ve done what he’s done?

As a general rule, manufacturers running their own teams have been lacking in success; BMW, Toyota, Honda all failed to challenge. Renault won the title in 2005 and 2006, but since then it’s been Ferrari, McLaren in partnership with Mercedes and the new generation of customer teams like Brawn and Red Bull.

Mercedes have staked quite a bit reputationally on this project and after a difficult first season, they need to show that this model is workable. They need some strong results next year or the tensions will rise internally within Mercedes.

As always in racing, managing expectations is crucial and I got the sense that expectations were managed with the Mercedes board going into this project, given the resource restrictions the team was operating under in 2009, but still the actual performance has been a disappointment.

Brawn repeats the mantra that the forced downsizing of the team as it went from Honda to Brawn in early 2009 led to an under-resourced design team and a conservative, unambitious 2010 car. For 2011, with the support of Mercedes he says, “We have a group of young engineers who want to show their value and we will go back to being ambitious.”

He says that the main thing the team gets from Mercedes parent company Daimler is not people but resources; especially in CFD support, simulator and vehicle dynamics.

As for Michael Schumacher, Brawn affirms that he is 100% certain that the German will continue to race for Mercedes in 2011 and says “I expect that in 2011 he will come back much stronger.”

Interestingly Brawn says that he has been surprised by the performance of Nico Rosberg, who has turned out to be “far stronger than I imagined. He has had an exceptional year.” I hear that there will be some changes next year with regard to Rosberg’s race engineering team at the track.

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i don’t have a lot of confidence in the engineering at Brawn / Merc. For 2 years they have had problems with getting the best form the tyres. Other teams seem to be able to do it. I think they are missing Reubens technical prowess. Doesn’t say much for Rosberg and Schumi.

I think F1 would be better off without the big car manufacturers. They make F1 unstable. They raise costs with little benefit to the racing and can pull out of the sport at the drop of the hat. Bring back the kit car era!


Oh, you mean that period in the ’70s and ’80s when cars routinely failed to pre-qualify and there would be a massive performance gap across the field, forcing teams to specialize towards certain specific kinds of tracks? That sounds awesome!

I’m with you that manufacturers like Toyota didn’t help the sport by burning money. But getting some works support from a manufacturer can do wonders. Look at Force India this year. Jordan’s last win came with works support from Ford. Plus, what do you call McLaren (road car division) and Williams (Hybrid-car technologies) if not manufacturers?


I disagree, with wins at Monza and Singapore the Ferrari has shown is can be strong in both extreme high and low downforce tracks so the development hours have paid off in a big way and I have no reason to think it won’t perform well in the remaining 3 races.. Add to that Alonso has the full support of his team and more importantly team-mate and Alonso is right in there with a chance.. Let’s not forget he has been to the top of the mountain before and that counts for something..


Ive always been interested in anything Ross Brawn has had to say, until he said Alonso would win the WDC.

I do agree that Alonso is the best driver in the championship,however it’s “Webber for me”, looks like someone been feeding him raw meat, he has a mean focused look about him this year.


Ever since he put it on pole at Sepang, back in April, but Vettel snuck through on the inside to pass him into the first corner!



I have to comment on the excellent diplomatic skills of Ross which also keeps his team on a smooth and easy working relationships –

Ross says – ” He has been surprised by the performance of Nico Rosberg, who has turned out to be “far stronger than I imagined. He has had an exceptional year.”

A true diplomat.

OK …. Others may say he’s beaten Michael but Ross understands the cost of stepping away from the diplomatic talk or actions – unlike a lot of other Manager’s or teams.


Indeed good question: how stable is Brawn’s motivation?

– 16 WDCs

– 2 with his own team

– millions in the bank

The last thing Brawn would be interested in is convincing Mercedes how to run “a winning F1 team”

Off topic question James: what do you make of Jean Eric Vergne?


Brazil has always been a Webber track. Remember he once qualified 2nd in a Jaguar! Now it is a red bull track too so to win the world championship he will need to finish here and take advantage of this advantage.


Wasnt it a drying track back then in the Jag? Superb performance! Why is it that Mark goes so well at this track?


Makes you wonder if part of Mercedes determination to succeed next year is their desire to hang on to Nico.

A little bit more in-season testing or more track time over the grand prix weekends could help us evaluate driver’s relative performance, especially the young guns.

If the changes next year do not suit either Schumi’s or Nico’s driving styles Ross may step out of the limelight and take up a more supporting role within Mercedes. Can’t imagine he wants to repeat those painful Honda years.


It’s amazing that Brawn didn’t recognize Nico Rosberg’s talent before now – his time at Williams was superb, dragging the car to consistent 4ths, 5th’s and 6th’s above many other superior cars.

He for me is up there with Hamilton and Vettel.


as pointed out in the comment above, he was demolished by Webber when they were teammates at Williams….


Rosberg has had a very good year, but to put it into perspective Webber trounced him in qualifying and races when they were in the same team.


It was Rosberg’s first year in F1, and it’s an exaggeration to say Webber trounced him.

Mark: 2xP6, P8, P9, 2xP10 = 7pts

Nico: 2xP7, P9, 2xP10 = 4pts


It remains to be seen whether Mercedes can overcome the “coporate kiss of death” that large auto manufacturers appear fated to endure.

I just wonder how much they interfere with Ross Brawn’s managing.

Large companies like that should remain engine suppliers.

Now if my favorite team, Williams, had a Mercedes engine ……

PS: fav driver is Jenson!


I’d love to see Williams back up there. I think they need a manufacturer backed works engine.

Maybe Honda (yes I did see what happened when they had their own team). Honda is as much a part of f1 as an engine supplier as anyone else. Or maybe Porsche come in under the new rules.


I think there is an existing link with Porsche and Williams’ KERS [?]

I hope the new regs and cost containment gives a big boost to Williams.

Cosworth also still have to show what they can do – after all they were caught out by the FOTA-FIA armistice arrangement at the end of 2009.

Seeing Williams at the top of the timesheets for a while at Yeongam today brought back such great memories.


In the past Michael Schumacher’s strength/ weakness is that he could always drive around problems in the car and get a lap out of it yet this year he has been unable to do so..

Is the car/ tyre issues that bad or has he lost something..?

I personally think if he were allowed more testing as he was previously we would see much better performances..


Hee seemed able to do this with “Twitchy” or “Pointy” cars where his skill could control a car like that on the limit & keep it on the track lap after lap, but when you have understeer there is nothing the driver can do to make the nose turn in more, so he is unable to drive around the problem.

That’s my theory anyway 🙂


That’s a very solid theory, makes a lot of sense.. I must say I’m inclined to agree with you.. Nice one..!


Couldn’t agree more.

Also, this was a car designed with Jenson in mind, who like its very understeery…


So the money is on Alonso to win this year?

Interesting statement from Brawn,i wouldn,t disagree with it however.


I think people are underestimating Webber’s current mindset.

Sure Alonso may win, but Mark just LOOKS like the champ this year – and I hope does win. His drivers in Hungary and Monaco were equal to anything produced by the acclaimed best ever in the sport.

Remember how Jenson was rubbished for so long even during his 2009 championship winning season?


There is not even 1% chance of Mercedes winning any of the 2 titles next year. 3 teams have to under deliver at the same time for that (Ferrari/McLaren/RedBull). Add to that that Alonso and Hamilton are probably the best drivers and are with the opposition


I agree with you until your ranking of Lewis alongside Fernando.

Lewis has not reached Alonso’s level just yet – maybe never.

Lewis belongs with the others, El Nano is right now up there on his own.


That’s a very big call considering the tools Mercedes have at their disposal.. I wouldn’t write them off at this stage..



Your last comment about Rosberg’s engineering team being changed for next year concerns me. Will this be Schu exercising his clout to ensure that Nico is thrown an imperial unit spanner and told to get on with it by himself!



James they say it’s 15% driver and 85% car.

And a guy like Ross Brawn earned a LOT less than an average driver over the years despite he arguably contributed more than the drivers.

I am curious what is your view on that?


Well, without the last 15% the car isn’t even going to leave the pit lane, forget winning races! Frankly I think it takes a lot more skill to read a track and outfox another driver at 200 km/h than it does to crunch numbers and make inspired designs on a drafting board.


TAnd without the 85% even Schumacher would get nowhere.

I think it is impossible to compare completely two different skill sets. Scientific engineering vs sports. How can you possibly say it takes a lot more skills to drive then designing a car made of 2000 components?

But the salaries are not decided by what is more difficult to do. Pairs Hilton get paid more then some scientist for releasing some adult video.

It’s all about demand and supply.


I’ve never been impressed by the Honda/Brawn design capabilities. They never made a decent car while it was Honda and the Brawn was a pure bit of opportunism, allied to an excellent driving team. The moment the other teams got a grip on the trick diffuser, they fell back and back, not an idea in sight. This year’s car has simply reverted to the Honda standard and unless Mercedes have pumped enough talent into the design team, that’s all we can expect next year, too.

It seems that even when they are shown the F-duct and the blown diffusers, they still can’t make them work decently.

Ross can do all the clever management and strategy he is undoubtedly capable of but without some inspirational CAD-work, they’ll stay where they are.


Ross is just one of those golden guys in F1 that seems to quite a lot of success wherever he has been in his senior days.


didn’t he start at Williams? Just how many of the top F1 people of late actually started there.

I think Frank had a factory producing these guys in the 80s/90s didnt he.


Yes he started at Williams



I can only hope that Schumacher will not get Rosberg’s race engineer. I know that Nico has more experienced engineer and Schumacher has the decent Andy Shovlin who though is not as experienced as Jock Clear. It would not be fair if next year Clear works with Michael and Rosberg gets somebody else. Schumacher is experienced enough to handle all the problems he has had this year. Nico is not so experienced so he needs Jock Clear.

I would also like to add that some time ago you said that you expect Mercedes to perform well as they are well prepared to this ressource restriction era. That includes the downsizing of the team and the ressource restrictions in general. But I get the impression that Mercedes has the same problem as Mclaren. Their updates just does not work right on. If I remember correctly, somebody from Mercedes team said that they need new and talented employees. So the question is – where they will get them and if these new people can influence the work on the 2011 car?

Theoretically they can do something for 2011 project as we have seen this year that James Key went from Force India to Sauber and Sauber progressed really well (of course I do not know if arrival of Key was the key element).

If somebody wants to comment on this, I would be happy to read peoples comments.


Jock Clear was moved away from Car #3 (which is Schumacher’s) by Ross himself, as soon as Schumi was signed up.. reason? Jock was Villenea’s engineer and there could have been fireworks there .. 🙂


I know that Clear was Villeneuves engineer and I agree that it is hard to imagine Michael and Jock working together. But then it is also interesting what changes are planned. It is possible that Nico will get even better race engineering team (Clear will stay but others will change).

Maybe it is not so important but I have read many times that Rob Smedley was one of the main reasons why Massa got better and better so engineers do play a part.

It would also be interesting to know if Michaels crew will change.


I think we overlooked the fact that guys in F1 are extremely professional and surely they can work with anyone.


I agree that guys in F1 are extremely professional. But sometimes your race engineer and the whole crew can play a part. There are situations where it is important.

I guess that Alonso can work with anyone because sometimes he doesn’t even want anyone to interfere in his driving. But drivers are different. Someone needs support and advice, the others not so much.


A very interesting article. I would agree that this probably should be his last team – not much left to prove is there, but surely the challenge of building up a ‘works’ team, after the struggles of Honda, and the surprise of Brawn must be just up Ross’ street. His people management skills and knowledge of how things are done are probably the best there are. As to his saying this is his last team, dare I suggest that it would take someone special to fill Mr. Eccelstone’s shoes…..

As regarding his comment on Rosberg, I’m sure that this will raise Rosberg’s stock quite a lot. Rosberg has, to my knowledge, not thrown the toys out of the pram – imagine being told that your teammate this year will be a seven times world champion. But now I’m guessing he wakes up with a big grin on his face every morning – he’s shown consistent form over his teammate all year, and not shouted too much about it either. It will be very interesting to see how equal they will be next year, with a lot more development going on. Watch out for these two next year, and they may still throw in surprises this year as well.

Great article, thank you.


I would put Rosberg and Kubica up there as two of the best drivers this year.


It’s interesting to see that Ross is confident for next season and promising big things.

James – I wonder how much this is genuine belief, or how much it’s influenced by the sporting and commercial pressures behind him… can he really say anything else? Surely anything less than a public commitment to fight for victories and a shot at the title next year would be unacceptable considering the investment from Mercedes?

However, if this isn’t just lip-service, what are the chances of Mercedes achieving what would be a monumental turn-around?

My understanding of the regulation changes for next year could be more detailed but I believe there are 3 major technical areas that could provide pivot-points for success/failure in 2011: the banning of double-diffusers, the return of KERS and a change to Pirelli tyres.

Let’s break this analysis down. The front running teams are now Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, so it’s fair to say that these three teams will start with the best development platform for next year (regulation changes aside).

Having binned their 2010 development programme in favour of 2011 some time ago, it’s very difficult to speculate as to how much ground Mercedes could make up but they will certainly have a slight advantage over the top 3, who are embroiled in the closest of championship battles. Ferrari are a strong indicator of previous form in this area, having focused early on the 2010 car during 2009 and then having what was arguably the fastest car out of the box this year, albeit briefly. However, the results from 2009 also show that Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton grossed the most points from the second half of the season, so the starting platform itself must have been reasonably competitive.

Mercedes, however, finished a startling 20 seconds behind an ailing Lewis Hamilton in Japan and a full minute behind the winning Red Bull, an average of around a second per lap slower. Granted this was at Suzuka, a track at which Red Bull showed a clear pace differential over the entire field but it was also one of Mercedes’ strongest showings of the season, with Schumacher and Rosberg running 6th and 7th for much of the race.

Such is the enormity of the task ahead that the early focus on 2011 surely won’t be close to enough by itself.

So, what of the three key technical areas?

Any significant regulation change, especially in such a fundamental area as aerodynamics, is likely to provide opportunities for some very smart solutions and hence, the chance to claw back that speed disadvantage. Without a degree in CFD or a friendly techie to call on, speculation as to what the engineers will be looking at is meaningless, especially as the last time we saw competitive single-diffuser designs was back in 2008 and we’re now into the domain of the blown variety. However, it was Brawn in 2009 that spotted the potential of the double-diffuser solution, which won his team both championships in the end, so he has form here. Could it work going other way? It’s possible. Although I suspect only a brave man would bet against an Adrian Newey car being the most aerodynamically efficient on the grid in 2011.

As for KERS, Ferrari and particularly McLaren have a clear advantage with this system, having run it for an entire season in 2009. A whole season’s worth of data contributing to efficiency, reliability, weight distribution etc. may actually provide these two teams with the chance to steal an early lead on the Red Bulls, perhaps more so given Newey’s track-record of teething problems with cars that have often pushed the development envelope at the start of the season. Mercedes’ chances of making up ground due to the introduction of KERS? Slim.

Finally the tyres. What Pirelli have in store for 2011 is totally unknown and all the teams will start from a level playing field in terms of the information they are provided to base their designs around. Nick Heidfeld and Pedro DLR may have some useful hints to discuss over lunch but there are so many variables that can affect a car’s relationship with its tyres that surely all teams will be in the dark until their first tests. Perhaps a better question might be: how will the drivers be effected? Well, Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa should be jumping for joy at the chance to wipe the slate clean after blaming a lack of synergy with the current Bridgestone incumbents for poor raw pace in 2010. From that respect, Mercedes might have more to gain than any other team… a fired-up Michael Schumacher, comfortable in a car that he can put where he wants, is an exciting prospect, however likely or unlikely. But that aside, it will be the same for everyone, so it’s arguable that a major gain over the top 3 would be more through luck than judgement.

In essence, perhaps Mercedes’ struggle for success will be characterised by the same challenges that blighted Honda, Toyota, BMW and co. in that it’s incredibly difficult to acquire winning engineering talent in F1. Given the current economic climate, there is no suggestion that Mercedes are trying to ‘buy success’ but even with limitless resource, how can one buy an Adrian Newey? Talent in F1 is nurtured through working with a small group of elite engineers that have seen the evolution of aerodynamics and engineering in the sport over a period of 25 years. Mercedes have a huge jewel in their crown in Ross Brawn but to compete with the top 3, these bright sparks that Brawn mentions will have to be exceptional. Assuming that they are relatively inexperienced in F1, when have fresh engineers dropped in to the sport and really challenged the old guard? That’s a genuine question that I’d like an answer to.

However, if the original question is whether or not Ross Brawn really believes Mercedes can achieve big things in 2011, then a default answer of ‘yes’ has to prevail. He’s achieved everything else he ever set out to do, so I believe him and I presume he believes himself too.


I have to disagree concerning your observation that Ferrari and McLaren will be miles ahead on KERS –

Admittedly Ferrari has the biggest budget of the teams but ……

The original KERS will be nothing like the new KERS – the latest will be vastly superior and provide some thing like a massive push to pass – what comes out next year I have no idea … but it will be a far better system.

Additionally, Williams has developed a complete new Company and excellent compact systems ( check he web ) and worked with Porsche so when Ross talks about additional resources then he’s meaning the vast weight of the THE WHOLE OF DIAMLER BENZ and it’s not just for racing – New KERS will be mega important for the car industry in the future therefore this is one area where Mercedes and the big manufacturers have a massive advantage over the smaller teams. Whether McLaren want or gets the Merc KERS is a totally different question – who knows at this time ?????????


I did read a comment from Sam Michael where he said that Williams’ flywheel technology cannot be efficiently packaged for F1, so the Williams car would use battery storage.


Agreed Frank says a flywheel system would make a F1 car a doubledecker bus so they are developing a smaller battery system, but I was trying to highlight that the massive resources that Merc has must eventually prove a benefit with a huge company testing multiple avenues.


I’m pretty sure mclaren was using the mercedes system weren’t they James. There was a video online where norbert haug was explaining how it worked (unless I just have a bad memory) 🙂

Might have been one of the bbc online items


My understanding is that as a minimum, there is a lot of Mercedes money in the 2009 McLaren KERS. Despite Mark M’s comment, I think you are right. Mercedes was already doing a lot of work on this for road cars, particularly in areas such as lithium ion battery technology. There was an obvious pay off for the road car program and Mercedes-Benz’s brand values to use KERS even though it was marginal in terms of lap time benefit in race conditions.


The system is all mclaren developed by a part of the mclaren group it was displayed at the brands hatch round of the dtm last year the system is tiny and it is amazing it can produce the power it does


I think a large part of Honda’s failure was in their management and team structure although I believe they would have still won the championship last year if Honda stayed in the sport and a Honda engine was used in the back of the car. Adrian Newey is a great aerodynamicist, but if put in a team without a lot of freedom and power, he is just another engineer/designer.


Changes to Rosberg’s race engineering team = Schumacher wants them?

Or am I being too cynical and suspicious?!


same old ross , always the politician

ferrrari driver to win the WDC ? wasn’t an interview with an italian publication perchance , lol


If you remember, during 2008 season Ross repeatedly stated that Alonso is the best driver on the grid. And he was in Renault back then.


perhaps he was …in 2008

couple of rookies called vettel and hamilton just learning their trade ….wait a moment , alonso couldn’t beat hamilton in 2007 could he

in any case , what’s that gotr to do with alonso winning the WDC in 2010 ?


Wait a minute, Alonso couldn’t beat Hamilton + Ron Dennis the Boss——how could he have been able to do it?


Currenlty in Italy and I have read the Gazzetta article and a couple of interviews in the Italian television.

Brawn looks very confortable about the 2011 Mercedes car and he has talked about the full integration that Mercedes has put into the design of the 2011 car.

Rumours in Italy talking about a similar approach but a much more sophisticated and expensive CFD study, similar to Virgin with an entire team to develop the actual car the old fashion way as well.

It will be interesting to see the results next season.

He is talking as well how much involvement has MS int he design and development of the car compare to JB, he say that it is not the amount of time spent but the actual involvement in the fine details and in the refinement of the concept/design/manufacturing of the car


Rosberg, very quietly, proved he’s worth his own weight in gold this season. And at the same time unintentionally delivered ‘go home’ message to Michael.


what changes are there going to be to rosberg engineering team next season? more support or less?



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