Ross Brawn: Hooked on the passion

Ross Brawn: Hooked on the passion

02/11/2006

Dressed in uncharacteristic ‘civvies’, including a patriotic red, white and blue checked shirt, Ross Brawn, sat back in his chair underneath the awning of the Ferrari motorhome at Monza. A few minutes earlier he had finally confirmed that the recent speculation was correct, that he was preparing to stand down, to follow Michael Schumacher out of the gates of the Ferrari F1 team, and get on with the rest of his life.

The announcement left things open, with Brawn revealing that there would be a meeting next summer, to discuss whether the Englishman might return to the Italian team, perhaps taking control.

In the meantime however, there was that little matter of retirement, be it permanent or, as they say, temporary. Away from the excitement, the glamour, the split-second thrill of F1, how will one of the sport’s great tacticians spend his time?

"We have a programme that takes us through to the middle of next year," he told Bob Constanduros. "We’re going to New York in December, we’re going to Argentina in January, the Seychelles in February and then we have a six week tour of New Zealand in March and April, to keep our mind off the first race!

"I have very kindly had an invite to come and watch the first race," he admits, "but I don’t think I will be doing that."

After a brief pause, a smile crosses his face; "Then I’m going to Russia in the summer on a fishing expedition and a couple of trips to the States, lots of offers, very kind offers from friends and people I know in different parts of the world so we’re got the first third/half of next year planned and then we will see how it goes from there."

"So the fish of the world need to be warned, do they!" jokes Bob

"Well, you know you always have to have a theme when you go on these world tours," laughs Brawn, "and the theme is to find somewhere to fish for a few days each time we go, and Jean (his wife) is glad that she’s used to having to amuse herself on occasions.

"When we’re in New Zealand, the girls and their husbands are coming and the boys have been converted to fishing as well, so I’m taking the boys off for a few days fishing on various occasions and the girls are going off whale-watching and white water rafting and all the rest of it so it’s going to be tremendous."

Outside, an engine kicks into life, the Monza crowd cheers, anticipating the arrival of the dream team, of which Brawn is a prized member.

"When did you decide on your own future?" asks Bob.

"I renewed my last two years with Ferrari, years nine and ten; when I renewed, I mentioned to Jean (Todt) it would quite possibly be the last contract I wanted to do because it was ten years," he replies. "There was a little bit of let’s say consideration that I had been ten years – I’ve never been anywhere for ten years before. I’ve never been in a team for that long. If you’d asked me before I joined Ferrari, are you going to be here in ten years time, I would have thought that was highly unlikely, so when I renewed my contract, I mentioned to Jean that I’m not sure I’m going to go beyond this, but it really wasn’t something to talk about until we got nearer the time, and then during 2006 we talked about it again and in early 2006, I was really seriously thinking of taking a break for a year or longer.

"We had succession plans in place," he continues, "so we had to really start to consolidate those and inform the people who needed to know, and start the plan for everyone to develop their roles to take over. We very much wanted an organic growth from within the company. I think people like Aldo Costa, Stefano Domenicali, Mario Almondo, Nikolas Tombazis – all those people are starting to need a bit more head room and I think it’s a great thing for them. They all know each other well and they should all be able to work together very well, so I really hope Ferrari can do well. I would feel guilty if Ferrari started to suffer too much. It is my team still and I’m not going anywhere else so it will remain my team for the foreseeable future."

Nonetheless, next year’s meeting, suggests that Brawn is not entirely out of the Ferrari picture, that there is a (Ferrari) escape plan in case he needs to return and sort them out.

"Not sort them out," he laughs. "I need a fresh challenge as well. I think I need to… I’ve done this particular job for a long time. Ferrari were kind enough to make me some offers but I needed a break and maybe if those offers are still around in 12 months it’s something to talk about but I think Ferrari needs to get a perspective on where it is then and I need to get a perspective, but it will be the team that’s closest to my heart, that’s for sure."

The team is facing some major changes, with some predicting another ‘ice age’, a period in the F1 wilderness, while others believe we are about to witness a whole new chapter in the history of the Maranello outfit. Nonetheless, does Brawn feel the current team has got ‘stale’.

"I don’t think it has, really," he replies. "I think that there’s such an aggression within the team to do well, such a commitment, that I think once they tasted success in the late ’90s, once the team saw that they could do it, there’s a tremendous passion to succeed and you’ve just got channel it, you’ve got to make sure that passion and commitment and aggression in a good sense is all channelled in the right way and you have a tremendously powerful team at Ferrari.

"We’re here talking on the Ferrari day; you don’t have this sort of event for other teams. I don’t know how many thousand people there are here today but they have just come here to say thanks to the team and goodbye to Michael. That passion invigorates everyone in the team: the mechanics, the guys who clean the factory, everybody feels the passion of working at Ferrari and it’s a tremendously potent force it you use it properly. You don’t get stale!"

And with that he’s off, reuniting with Michael, Felipe, Luca, Marc, Paulo, Jean and Luca di Montezemolo, as the dream team pays one last farewell to its fans.

The fish might have plenty to worry about in the months ahead, but watching Ross sdalute the packed stands, clearly moved by the Tifosi adulation, he’s just as hooked.

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