ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 40 Email to Friend   Printable Version

Atlas F1   Ross Brawn:
We are almost There

  by Roger Horton, England

If Ferrari win the World Championship, this weekend or in the next and final round, much credit will be given to the strategic master Ross Brawn. Roger Horton brings the words of the illustrious Technical Director after the victory at the United States Grand Prix

Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher could be just days away from accomplishing the goal he set for himself, when he came to Ferrari way back at the start of the 1996 season - to be the first Ferrari World Champion since Jody Scheckter won the title for the Maranello based team in 1979.

Schumacher and Brawn happy after winning at IndyNothing can be taken for granted in Formula One, and certainly no one at Ferrari are celebrating yet, perhaps remembering, all too painfully, that they have stumbled at the final hurdle each time over the past three years.

This time, though, Ferrari have two bites of the cherry, and the odds have to be heavily in their favour that at last they will get the job done this time around.

Speaking just before the last race at Indianapolis, Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn gave an insight into the type of effort that Ferrari has made this year to get them to this point in the championship.

"We have about forty five engineers working on our Formula One project, so they are all going to have to find things to do," Brawn told Atlas F1. "So from the first race to this race (Indianapolis) we have had new rear suspension geometry, we have a constant weight saving programme, quite a lot of changes aerodynamically. We have a 50 percent model running in our wind tunnel at our own facility in Italy, and that runs twenty four hours a day now.

"That produces an awful lot of data and development. We have a new front wing since the beginning of the season, we have new rear wings, a new under body, and they tend to get changed two or three times during the season in the normal process of development.

"We are on our C version of engines this weekend for qualifying and we started on the A version, and there has been A1 and A2, and B1 and B2 and now we are on C1 for qualifying and B2 for racing. So it's pretty impressive the way the car has been developed during the season - it's my estimation that we are about a second a lap quicker now then when we started."

Brawn also revealed that they had built nine cars so far for the season. Ferrari are currently taking four cars to each race, with one chassis as a spare. They keep two cars for testing in Italy plus one spare, and there is always one spare in the background in case it is needed. "Michael didn't help us at the beginning of the season because we were a bit short on chassis at the first two races and he crashed at both those first two events, and we were desperately rebuilding chassis just to keep up," Brawn says, smiling.

Unusually for Ferrari, they were ahead throughout most of the year, and Ross Brawn gives an insight into just how being ahead in the points affects the team's thinking. "When you are behind you tend to work harder to catch up, and when you are ahead you tend to - not relax - but you tend to consolidate a bit, and so it tends to self-level when you have got two or three very strong teams trying to beat each other. The team in front want to maintain their reliability, they are more reluctant to try new things."

Brawn also admits that during their mid-season slump, the team "got a bit tight" and didn't work as well as they might have done. In Hungary and Belgium, the team was well beaten in a straight fight and everyone was affected. Monza was, of course, the big turn around, so what exactly changed between Spa and the Italian race? "That's a very good question," he says with a smile.

"At Spa we just didn't get the car set up properly, and everyone's responsible for that - the engineers, the drivers, myself. We just didn't get the car to work properly around Spa. Then we went away and had a think about it, found some better solutions for the set up at Monza and from day one the car was very good.

"So technically there were no changes really. There are so many variables on a Formula One car that you just need to get a few of them wrong and you are two or three tenths off the pace and that's enough to set you back. So there was no fundamental technical changes, just perhaps just a difference in the way we approached it."

Brawn admits to being taken by surprise by Schumacher's rather dramatic show of emotions during the Monza post-race press conference. "I hadn't realised that it was bottled up so tightly," The Briton says, although he stresses that Schumacher had not let the pressure he felt affect the way he worked with the team. "I think it did Michael's confidence a lot of good; he had a middle season that was pretty indifferent, partly our fault, partly through getting involved in accidents, so he went through a difficult period, and then we had two races where he finished second to Hakkinen.

"I think Spa hurt as well, because he was leading for so long that there were periods of the race when naturally he thought - I have won this, every driver does - and then we lost in the end, so that was tough. And then Monza he just dominated from Friday, ran a perfect race, and it's done his confidence a huge amount of good, so his spirits are very high, and Hakkinen now realizes that he can be beaten in a straight race again."

Obviously the pressure of losing such a commanding position in the championship had got to everyone, including the normally calm and collected Brawn, as he freely admits: "A number of times, yes, it effects all the team. The pleasing thing about Monza is the way the whole team performed."

Now, courtesy of Mika Hakkinen's blown engine at Indianapolis, Ferrari have a golden opportunity to wrap up the titles in Japan and fulfil the dream they have all worked so hard for, and for such a long time.

Roger Horton© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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