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FEBRUARY 3, 2011

Launch feature: An interview with Ross Brawn

An interview with Mercedes GP Team Principal Ross Brawn.

Q: Do you feel under pressure to perform this year?

There's always a lot of pressure both internally from ourselves and from the company - we are part of a very important brand so we want to do well. But most of the pressure comes internally - we are all very competitive; the drivers, myself, the team.

Q: Will you all have to copy the Renault exhaust?

I don't think so. You will see a number of teams with different solutions before we get to Bahrain. Ferrari was hinting that they had some options. There are some solutions you can do to get the benefit of exhaust energy.

Q: Nico talked about the unity between the chassis and engine sides. Was that a real concern last year? And how have you solved it?

It was not a concern, it just takes time for people to get to know each other. And it takes each new car, particularly the concept of the new car, for the people to work together. So there was a strong desire and willingness from the two companies, but as time goes on it welds together. I can see that moving very strongly in a good direction. It is one of the things I have been pleased about in the birth and design of this car.

Q: What are the goals for the season?

You don't have comparative data because you don't know what the other teams have done. You know what you have achieved yourself. With this car we have moved a good step forward in terms of the structure, the weight, the centre of gravity. We have recovered a lot of the aerodynamic performance that was lost from the regulations. Things like the unity of the design groups - we've got a second season with the drivers and that helps. Everything is just coming together and moving in the right direction. You never know if someone is going to make a strong breakthrough but I'm comfortable that we have made real progress over the past six months. This car is the culmination of it.

Q: What are your Impressions of the new Ferrari and Red Bull?

I've not seen anything dramatic on them but I suspect as with all top teams you are going to see a very different car in Bahrain. In the period between now and then most of the teams are going to come out with their first major update. That is the case with us. What we are focusing on at the moment is reliability, which was not great today, and getting the KERS system functioning, which is completely new for us as a team but not for many of our engineers. In the Barcelona and Bahrain tests you will see the things that I call the real performance steps. It will be the same for Ferrari and Red Bull.

Q: Midway through last year you identified specific car problems. Have you fixed them?

We've definitely made progress. There are certain things you can never have too much of. This car has a lower center of gravity than last year's car and that's an obvious thing a racing car has to have, but we didn't do a very good job in that area last year. The foundations of this car are much better.

What none of us know is a reference point now for these new aerodynamic regulations. And how we will use the tyres because those are the two uncertainties at the moment. We will see over the tests and first few races who has found the best solutions.

Q: Are there any loopholes you can see in the other cars?

Not personally. All of my engineers will be poring over the photographs, as will all the F1 engineers. The normal process is that when the cars are launched, lots of photographs are taken, and studied. I don't see anything dramatic at the moment, so I don't see any major controversy looming, but there is bound to be questions asked about various features on cars, and the FIA will clarify their opinion.

Q: Are you worried that today's frustrating start is a bad omen for the season?

I have had cars that take off great and then become troublesome, and troublesome cars that become great. We need to do more running before we understand where we are.

Q: What is your view on KERS?

During 2009 McLaren won a race with KERS. At the start of 2009 it was a big challenge for those teams running KERS. Ourselves and Red Bull, who also did not have KERS, had a much easier time at the beginning of the season while people were sorting their systems out. Our view now is that the system is fairly mature and well understood. With a greater understanding of how it functions we have been able to package it into the car much more effectively than we would have done in 2009. For us the time is right.

Many times in 2009 the start performance of KERS cars was pretty dramatic. Without KERS in 2011, even if you have a strong qualifying performance, you are going to have problems at the start. We have one of the better systems in the pit lane.