SHANGHAI, April 16 (Reuters) - Of the many Formula One victories that Ross Brawn has celebrated over an extraordinary career spanning several decades, Nico Rosberg’s first with Mercedes in China offered a particular satisfaction.
The burly, bespectacled Briton, who followed Michael Schumacher from Benetton to Ferrari as technical director and then won a title with his own Brawn team in 2009 before it became Mercedes, was barely a toddler when Mercedes last won a grand prix as a works team.
“As someone reminded me, I was one year old when we last won a race,” the 57-year-old told reporters after Sunday’s triumph.
“So it is a very special victory and made all the sweeter because it is Nico’s first. And I am really delighted, because I told him once that it was my ambition to help him win his first race and we’ve achieved it.”
A keen Manchester United supporter, born in the city in 1954, Brawn entered Formula One as a machinist and then aerodynamicist with Williams in 1978 - four years before Nico’s Finnish father Keke became world champion with the team.
Seven times world champion Schumacher won 91 races with Benetton and Ferrari, all of them under Brawn’s watchful eye, and may add to his tally with Mercedes if his fellow-German’s success proves a true measure of the car’s potential.
That, with the 20 race season barely started, and three different winners in three races, is the million dollar question.
“It’s so difficult to judge,” said Brawn, mindful that Mercedes had scored just one point in the first two races after struggling with tyre wear and a very narrow window of performance.
”Did everyone else get it wrong and we got it right or did everyone get it right? Is it a fair measure of where we are? I don’t know.
“But the fact that we’ve been close in qualifying in the first three races gives me encouragement. It was just the perfect race for us... and I suspect it wasn’t for others. So we are going to turn as many races as we can into perfect races.”
The accepted view before Shanghai was that the Mercedes was a quick qualifier but still lacked the sticking power in a race to be a real contender.
When Rosberg secured the first pole of his career, at the 111th attempt, with 43-year-old Schumacher alongside on the front row for the first time since he was at Ferrari in 2006, the paddock pundits agreed that was probably as good as it would get for the ‘Silver Arrows’.
Instead, Rosberg roared away into the distance in Shanghai and the car was so smooth on its tyres that at the end of the race, the 26-year-old still had a spare unused set sitting on a shelf in the garage.
“I think we just hit the sweet spot with the tyres, we got the setup right, we worked very hard at making sure that we looked after the tyres and the engineers and drivers did a great job of just keeping the car and the tyres in that window where it works really well,” Brawn added.
The standard wisdom in Formula One holds that winning a race or title generally opens the floodgates. There are plenty of examples of that happening, just as there are cases of the opposite.
Brawn suspected there would be quite a few more even if Rosberg, who speaks a fistful of languages fluently and turned down a place to study engineering at university to go racing, was not one to get overly excited.
“He’s pretty composed anyway but it will be fascinating to watch, to see what this does with Nico, his approach,” commented the Briton, whose team turned compatriot Jenson Button into a champion in 2009.
“I have to say he’s very professional, very composed anyway. So I don’t expect a huge change but certainly it will be a boost for him.” (Editing by John O‘Brien)