Most eyes were on Mercedes GP and Michael Schumacher on the first day of testing at Valencia on Monday. And neither the driver nor the team disappointed, showing strong pace straight away. We talked to team boss Ross Brawn about the first impressions of the car and about Schumacher's performance.
Q. The first test does not give you an answer as to whether your car is a title winner or not, but it can give you an idea of what kind of season you may have. What is your impression after the first day of running?
Ross Brawn: OK, I don't think we have got a full picture. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the car. The drivers are reasonably happy with the balance. This is not a great track for really assessing the car, but it is a useful start. Nothing suggests that there is anything strange but it is far too early to judge how all the cars compare.
Q. Do you think that picture will remain for all the four tests, because the spread of fuel now runs between 10kg and around 160kg?
RB: Yes, the spread of fuel will be much bigger. We ran a few fuel loads today to check a few things, but tomorrow and Wednesday we will want to do much more work on the range of fuel loads to find any issues we have low fuel with pick-up, high fuel with brakes. Those sort of things. So it will be much more difficult to judge, particularly in testing, where everybody is.
Q. Why is this circuit so bad to find out what the performance of the car is?
RB: It's not got a great range of corners. It is all second and third gear. Turn 1 is a little bit quicker, then you have got Turn 10 which is a quick corner but it is very short. So, you haven't got a great range of corners really.
Q. Michael's first day back in the car which has attracted a lot of attention, are you impressed with the times he was setting?
RB: Yes. They were OK. It was good to run both drivers today because Nico (Rosberg) had some difficulty with his driving position and we are going to fix that tonight. So the picture of Nico's situation was clouded because of that, so we know the fuel loads between the two drivers and I think it was good.
Effectively we had one driver who didn't fit the car properly and one who hadn't driven for three years so it was a starting day. It was a day to get things moving. There is clearly nothing wrong but as always until you get to the really sharp end of it, where a few tenths matter it is impossible to judge but there is absolutely no reason not to think that things are good.
Q. Michael said he felt like a kid with a new toy today.
RB: Yes, he was very enthusiastic. It was good to see the enthusiasm.
Q. No great surprises though.
RB: It would have been more of a surprise for me if he hadn't been where he is today – so it was just confirmation really of what we both thought, that Michael should be competitive.
Q. Michael said it took him back to 1991, did you have any memories?
RB: Not particularly. One thing that came through was Michael's precision about what is going on in the car. He has great clarity of reasoning in what he does and that is nice to work with again. It was a bit like old days but not as far back as '91.
Q. What about your competitors, can you take anything away from today?
RB: No, it is very difficult to judge. I think you can see people that don't have problems. I mean Ferrari have clearly got a good car, looks like the Sauber is a reasonable car, maybe Renault and Williams have got a few issues but it is far too early to say.
I think we need a few days here. Even at the end of all this testing, presumably you will be able to judge what cars do with no fuel in, because eventually everybody will take the fuel out and that will be the reference point but testing is notoriously difficult. You remember us last year, there were all sorts of theories and reasons.
Q. Were you surprised how quickly Michael was on the pace, I think it was on his fifth lap he was in Rosberg's range already?
RB: First of all, I don't think Nico's was representative because of the difficulties he had in the car and I wasn't surprised, but it was good to see. We all know how quickly Michael used to do it. We are all optimistic, as am sure that he is, that there is a lot more to come. He has had one or two sessions but he hasn't driven a Formula 1 car seriously for three years, so it is pretty encouraging.
Q. I imagine you were delighted to see Felipe Massa back today, bearing in mind how concerned you were following his accident last year.
RB: Yes. I followed it quietly behind the scenes with Stefano, who kept me well informed. I had a few conversations with Felipe when he first came back. I am obviously delighted, because he is a genuinely nice guy. He is very competitive, but genuinely nice and it would have been difficult to come to terms with on our side as well as his if he hadn't been able to make this comeback. But clearly he is well fired up and probably the break has done him a little bit of good.