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.
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.