With one of his drivers on pole position and the other 14th, Ross Brawn endured mixed emotions after qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
With Jenson Button's poor grid slot potentially opening up the title battle with his team-mate and pole-man Rubens Barrichello, their team boss talked about that pivotal decision to stay on wets in Q2, where he would like the championship settled and why he remains relaxed in spite of his team being on the brink of F1 glory.
Q. On one hand a perfect qualifying session and on the other hand not quite so good.
Ross Brawn: No. Definitely mixed fortunes. I think we were lucky with Rubens in Q2, we got it wrong with the tires. He managed to scrape through and Jenson didn't. Obviously it's disappointing because I think we had a good car today. When we had everything lined up you could see what Rubens could do in Q3. Fantastic job by Rubens.
Q. The call on the tires at the end of Q2, did that come from the drivers, the race engineer or yourself?
RB: Ultimately it is my call to decide what to do and we could see people going on intermediates but their first few laps didn't look good. I thought we could get through Q2 without having to do it, because it was a risk if anything had gone wrong. It was my call in the end.
Q. That stroke of luck that Rubens got, he then turned into a really impressive performance in Q3...
RB: Yes it was fantastic. We know in these conditions he is quite exceptional and I think the choice of tire was easier in the final qualifying but it was still debatable whether we wanted to fit a second set of intermediates during the session. He called it and said he wanted to stay on the set he was on, which I think was absolutely the right decision. Stunning lap.
Q. What can you expect Jenson Button to do from 14th? What's the forecast for the race? Can he finish in the points?
RB: I think he can. The car is pretty good here this weekend, we saw in the dry we were good, we saw in most of the wet conditions we were good. Just for some reason that set of tires in Q2 he had a massive amount of understeer and that was unexpected. I know we didn't make a great tire call but Mark [Webber] did a 1m20.8s on the same tires at the end of the stint and we were 1m23s/24s so clearly we had something wrong.
Q. From this position do you anticipate the championship race going down to Abu Dhabi?
RB: As long as it is between our two drivers I would be very happy with that. That's the key element. It would be fantastic if it went to Abu Dhabi between Jenson and Rubens - I think that would make a fantastic final to the season.
Q. Do you think Jenson has been too conservative in the second half of the season?
RB: I don't know whether he is conservative or whether he has not got the car working as well. It's a difficult judgement. Let's hope we can go in to the last race with our two drivers fighting for the championship, I think that would be a fitting finale to the season.
Q. How do you account for Rubens coming back so strongly in the second half of the season?
RB: He wasn't that far behind in the first half, some races just didn't go well for him. What I saw in the first half of the season was that there were occasions in the middle of the race when he didn't have the pace. What I've seen in the second half, as we saw in Valencia and Monza, he has now got the pace in the middle of the race and that is where he seems to have changed. Now whether that is because we are finding better set-ups or what, I don't know. There is no single thing that you can say made a difference. We changed the brake material that he was using during the year, which we think probably helped. Because the one he was using was a bit too aggressive so this calmed things down a bit. I think it's just a fine balance with both drivers in the team and it's swinging a bit more towards Rubens at the moment.
Q. In the middle of Q2 when you realised that Jenson was not producing the lap times, would it not have been better to go with another set of wets or go for the intermediates like Nico Rosberg did?
RB: A fresh set of wets for us would have been the safest thing. But of course we missed that point where we could do that and then we started getting bumped, and it became very painful to watch. It was too late then to make a change and Jenson thought he could still find a lap. So we cooled the tires down and went for a lap and it just wasn't there.
Q. Are you concerned that where Jenson is on the grid he has some pretty inexperienced people around him?
RB: There is a risk. Jenson is pretty experienced and he knows he is going to have to be sensible. But there is nothing we can do about that. It is the same risk that Sebastian [Vettel] faces as well. So he has got the same problem. I'm not sure that [Tonio] Liuzzi will make it to the grid so therefore you have got Jenson and Sebastian next to each other trying to find their way through the lesser experienced drivers.
Q. How much more stressful would tonight be if Vettel was on the front row?
RB: It would be very stressful. We all know the numbers but it can happen. We all know the permutations. For us it would be fantastic to go to the last race with our two drivers fighting for the championship. That's what we would like to achieve tomorrow if possible. But obviously Sebastian's qualifying position has not helped his challenge. Jenson's not in a much better position either.
Q. If it's dry tomorrow do you think Rubens will have his hands full with Webber?
RB: Absolutely. Mark did a very good long run on the prime yesterday. His options went away a bit, but his prime run was very impressive. We were a few tenths off of that. We made some changes overnight that we thought would help but we never got an opportunity to try them. But I don't know how his set-up has changed since Friday given the conditions. But the forecast is still for rain tomorrow so we will see what happens.
Q. So did you take a risk with downforce strategy or did you go conservative?
RB: We're heavy-ish but we are in the dry range, the top end of the dry range.
Q. How did Jenson react after Q2?
RB: He was very frustrated. He knows it's a missed opportunity with Sebastian so far back, so it's been compounded. Very, very frustrated.
Q. Barrichello's race engineer Jock Clear's message shows one side of the garage is fiercely competitive to the other. Is that okay with you?
RB: Yes. It's up to me to control that. We all know Jock gets pretty excited, but Shov [Andrew Shovlin], Jenson's race engineer, gets on with it in his own quiet way. He is just as competitive, and perhaps not as demonstrative in the way he approaches things. But no there is a natural competition between both sides of the garage and it starts with the drivers and goes through members of the team. But in the end they have all got to do what is in the best interests of the team, and they know that. It's good to see some enthusiasm.
Q. How much of a new experience is it for you, after years of the one-sided Michael Schumacher approach?
RB: Ferrari is a totally different experience, it has different pressures and a different environment. I loved my time there, but it is different. I don't have to answer to anybody here and we will run the championships as we want to run them. There is huge pressure at Ferrari and in many ways that's why we took the approach we did at Ferrari, which I think was absolutely the right approach. We have just got to make sure we don't lose the championship because two drivers are fighting for it, as you know happened [with McLaren] two years ago.
Q. Which feels better, winning a championship as a technical director or as an owner?
RB: This one, if we can do it, will be very special because of the circumstances surrounding it. The difficulties we faced over the winter, the trauma of keeping this team going. We will face massive challenges in the future to maintain this competitive position, but I think from the dark days of the winter this will be very, very special. It will be unique for me anyway, and probably not something I truly expected to happen again after those wonderful times at Ferrari.
Q. So the best scenario possible for you is to win the manufacturers' title tomorrow, and then your drivers fight out the title in two weeks time at Abu Dhabi?
RB: That would be the best scenario.
Q. You would prefer it to go to the last round or would you prefer to get it wrapped up tomorrow?
RB: No. If it's just our two drivers then I would be very happy to take it to the last round. Obviously I would prefer that to having it still completely open to the last race. That would be not so much fun.
Q. Do you know what would have happened if qualifying hadn't been able to continue after Q2 today?
RB: I think there was a precedent, where they did it on Sunday morning. I think it would have been either based on Q1, or they would have run it again tomorrow morning.