LONDON, (Reuters)- Ross Brawn, the man who helped mastermind so many of Michael Schumacher’s finest moments in Formula One, said the seven-times champion will be a winner again this season once Mercedes give him a good enough car.
In an interview with Reuters at a floating lifeboat station on the River Thames, where he was launching a fund-raising challenge, Mercedes team principal Brawn was optimistic about the 41-year-old German’s prospects after a tough start to his comeback year.
He added that it was only a matter of time before Schumacher’s team mate Nico Rosberg took his first win and applauded world champion Jenson Button’s strong showing at McLaren after leaving Brawn.
“It would be foolish to say he (Schumacher) is where he wants to be but he’s very determined to succeed and I think these frustrations are just going to make him try even harder,” said Brawn.
Schumacher has been outqualified and beaten by fellow German Rosberg in all four races so far but will have a different chassis at next week’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
“The one (chassis) he had got damaged during the first few races and we repaired it as best we could at the races,” said Brawn, removing his orange life-jacket after stepping off a lifeboat onto a jetty by London’s Waterloo bridge.
“Now we are back at base we are going to re-introduce the test chassis and he will be using that in Barcelona.
“We want to eliminate any doubt because obviously Michael has come back, he’s trying to find his references and is trying to work out how to approach things,” he explained.
Rosberg will stick with the chassis that has taken him to two podiums in a row but will also benefit from a major revamp for the first race of the season in Europe.
The wheelbase on both cars has been changed to improve weight distribution and there is a big aerodynamic upgrade too.
Schumacher finished 10th in the latest race in China, while Rosberg was third and led early on, and some have expressed concern that he is finding it hard to get back up to speed.
Brawn said both driver and team had work to do but there was no panic, only frustration.
“Undoubtedly these tyres are a bit different to what he’s used to,” said Brawn. “Maybe, with the car and the tyres, it’s not towards the way he likes to have a car which is very responsive and very sharp. We haven’t been able to provide him with that yet.”
“We’ve not had a fantastic start but we are still in there because no-one else is really dominating either,” he added, the platform swaying gently against the wash of passing boats. “There is still plenty of opportunity.
“I was frustrated at the weekend (in China) because Nico could have won that race,” continued Brawn. “He made one mistake in very difficult circumstances.
“He’s very close to winning a race, just needs things to fall into place…but that will come. I’m sure he will definitely do it and I think Michael will when we get the car sorted,” said Brawn.
“He is so determined and you can see that in his driving,” added Brawn, a keen sea angler whose holiday home in Cornwall is right next to a lifeboat slip.
“The bits where it’s not quite working are not because of (lack of) skill or bravery, it’s because the technique needs tuning and the car needs tuning.
“It’s odd places where he’s losing time and that’s why we think he’ll sort it out and we’ll sort it out and get to where we need to.”
Brawn said the team’s own analysis of the three races up to China had shown that Schumacher was getting progressively stronger and closer to Rosberg.
Button, who won six of the first seven races in 2009 before fading in the second half of the year, has won twice in four starts for McLaren.
Some commentators had warned him he was making a mistake in leaving Brawn for the ‘Lions’ Den’, a team seen as being dominated by his fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton, but Brawn said Button was showing his true character again.
“He’s taken a really intelligent approach this year,” he said. “He’s highly skilled, we know that. If Jenson starts with the Jenson we had in the first half of last year then he’s going to be very strong.”
“Really the second half (of 2009) came from certain pressures that were building with the championship and so on and wasn’t the natural Jenson. What we are seeing again is the natural Jenson.
“He’s not looked necessarily quicker than Lewis, but he’s doing a better job and he’s getting the results.”