Following the first two pre-season tests in Valencia and Jerez, we spoke to Team Principal Ross Brawn to find out how the MGP W02 car is progressing.
What is your summary of the week in Jerez?
The second pre-season test in Jerez was extremely useful. Our priorities at this stage are improving the reliability of the new car, working with the KERS system, and developing our understanding of the Pirelli tyres. We had good reliability for the middle two days which allowed us to accumulate mileage and collect a lot of data to study ahead of the next test in Barcelona this weekend.
You spoke of ‘issues’ to be resolved to maximise track time at the final tests. What are these?
Reliability is our main challenge at the moment. Although we have completed the third highest mileage of any team with our new car (a total of 2310km), our level of reliability is not where it needs to be yet. It’s the normal pre-season process really, checking the components, ensuring that everything works together, with the added challenge of KERS and the new tyres. We have experienced our share of teething problems with the MGP W02 but we have solutions in the pipeline to resolve them.
The drivers reported a good feeling after their first experience of the car in Valencia. Is this still the case?
Both Michael and Nico immediately felt comfortable in the car and this remains the case. Michael had the better of the reliability in Jerez where he completed 226 laps in total, and this has provided us with a wealth of data to study prior to Barcelona. Nico was slightly unfortunate with the issues that we faced on his running days but still achieved some good work and will have better days to come in Barcelona and Bahrain.
Michael set the fastest time on Friday and was second fastest on Saturday. Was this a glory run or a legitimate time?
There is little point to wasting precious track time on low-fuel ‘glory’ runs when there is far more important work to complete. As Michael pointed out in Jerez, it was not a particularly low-fuel run, and we are keeping our heads down and concentrating on our own programme. Only each team knows the truth about its performance during the pre-season period, and knowing all the facts, I am satisfied with our progress over the first two tests.
How has the adaptation to the new devices for 2011 (KERS and Adjustable Rear Wing) gone so far?
KERS is one of the biggest challenges that we face this season. The system is completely new to the team, although not to Mercedes whose system was the first to win a Grand Prix in the 2009 season. Both the team and our drivers are working very hard to get to grips with KERS but it is a very complex technology. We need to understand how to use it and how to get the most from it, and this will be an ongoing process.
With the adjustable rear wing, we were the only team to run a version of the system in Abu Dhabi last year and were able to put a lot of miles on it. The technology has carried over to the current car and we have a new rear wing coming which will bring further improvements. Michael and Nico have got used the new device very easily and are quite comfortable with its operation. Along with the other teams, we ran with the FIA system code for the first time over the weekend in Jerez which went very well.
You have spoken about the development steps to come before Bahrain. What is your assessment of the car's performance so far and is everything on track for these upgrades?
We made a deliberate decision towards the end of last year to have a very ‘plain’ car for the first tests and a significant upgrade for the first race in Bahrain. With the Pirelli tyres, and the return of KERS, we wanted to make sure that our new car was ready for the first test and this was certainly the correct decision.
The final features for the Bahrain upgrade were confirmed recently and we are comfortable with the performance step that these developments will bring. Our current package includes some compromises, and we know that there is more performance to come from the car. Of course, we don’t know where the other teams are, and what they have planned in terms of development. No-one will have the full picture until the racing starts in Bahrain.