F1 chief Ross Brawn has predicted how he thinks the 2019 season will shape up while talking about Max Verstappen, Red Bull/Honda partnership, Charles Leclerc/Sebastian Vettel pairing and more.
The 2019 season will have multiple firsts including a big pairing of Leclerc and Vettel at Ferrari – something the Italian manufacturer has rarely done by putting a F1 world champion with a young talent who has had only season behind him.
Despite the lack of experience, Brawn has high hopes from Leclerc like everybody else and feels the Monegasque wouldn’t bow down to Vettel even if the German is a four-time champion if he has the upperhand.
“Leclerc has been pretty impressive,” said Brawn in a note on F1 website. “He’s not had a tough reference yet and that will come in 2019. Being at Ferrari brings enormous pressure and he’ll have the pressure of racing against a world champion, a multi-world champion, so he’s going to have a pretty challenging year.
“But from what I have seen so far, I expect him to do a very respectable job. F1 has some very exciting prospects coming in. We have lost Fernando Alonso, but we have Leclerc being put into Ferrari, Gasly in at Red Bull and George Russell, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon stepping up.
“There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on and I think Leclerc is probably at the head of that generation.” On Ferrari team dynamics, Brawn added: “I don’t imagine Charles Leclerc is going to be quite as accommodating as Kimi was on occasions.
“Kimi is his own man, don’t get me wrong, but I think Kimi knew what the lay of the land was in the team. Seb had a mixed 2018. He’s had some very good performances, and played a big part in taking the team forward, but in the end, Seb and the team didn’t deliver.
“They had a strong year but they have got to make that next step and deliver – and that’s Seb and the team. I don’t know the dynamic or chemistry in the team or Seb’s relationship in the team or how that all works. He made one or two errors, which is unfortunate but with drivers, that can happen.
“The team seemed to make a wrong turn technically for several races and then they came back again to an older spec which corrected their form. As a driver you have to be involved with those things, you can’t be a neutral passenger.
“I recall when I was at Ferrari, if we had something we were uncertain about, Michael [Schumacher] would be banging my door down to talk about it and spend time with the engineers and work until he got himself comfortable with what was going on.
“That motivates a team and can be a catalyst for people to look at things in a different way or different perspective. The difference between success and failure is often down to small things. I don’t think he or the team need to change things dramatically, they just need that final bit of polish to get off the line.”
Moving on to Red Bull and Honda, Brawn had positive saying for the new partnership as being talked by the two parties as well. The former team boss reckons, the ‘works’ status for Red Bull will be a boost than being a customer of a manufacturer.
“Honda teaming up with Red Bull will be positive because Red Bull become a full works team,” he said. “They haven’t been that I since their Jaguar days. They have had a very good relationship, most of the time, with their engine supplier, particularly during their successful world championships with Renault.
“It’s always a different challenge when you are a works team with an engine manufacturer. You have to hold hands and you have got to jump in together, work together, and be as one and that is the strength of that opportunity.
“It’s something I have always focused on because it really does give you some great chances. Red Bull have now got to grasp that opportunity with Honda and get back into the really sharp end. They have to become a championship contender again.”
Continuing from his blogs during the season, Brawn has nothing but praise for Verstappen – reiterating his stance of calling the Dutchman as ‘future’ F1 champion. He felt the 2018 season was another step especially the way he bounced back from early troubles.
“It’s easy to forget how young he is,” Brawn said. “If you think of yourself at that age, with the exposure and pressure, what he is doing is pretty special. What we are seeing with Max is a great maturing of his approach, losing none of his speed and aggression but just being a bit more tempered in terms of how he attacks things.
“2018 was another big step forward for Max. In the right car and right team, he’s world champion material for sure. Max will be the known reference in the team in 2019. That is always helpful in a team to have that continuity, if you have a troublesome car or you have some things to sort out, knowing the driver, knowing how to qualify what he says is very helpful. So I think it is great for the team.”
Lastly, Brawn spoke highly of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton as well with the British driver only getting better and better as years go by. As a wine lover, Brawn felt Hamilton ‘seems to be in his peak drinking moment – nicely mature, but not too old’.