GP Betting: Chinese GP and the f-word
Now he's back with another gizmo -- the 'F duct' -- and he's got the rest of the grid using the 'F' word about it.
The Mercedes new 'F-Duct' offers blistering speed and Ralph Ellis asks: can that advantage be turned into points in this weekends Chinese Grand Prix?
When it comes to cracking ideas, the only inventors who can claim to be better than Ross Brawn are Wallace and Gromit.
It's now three years since Brawn took the Formula One world by storm when his 'blown diffuser' catapulted Jenson Button to the world title. Now he's back with another gizmo -- the 'F duct' -- and he's got the rest of the grid using the 'F' word about it.
Just like with the diffuser, the default response of other teams to seeing an innovative bit of technology isn't to design their own version, but to call for the lawyers and have it declared illegal. The FIA's technical head Charlie Whiting has already approved it twice, but that isn't stopping the debate. Other teams want a third ruling this weekend.
So far those arguments have pretty much rumbled in the background because Brawn's Mercedes team haven't taken too much advantage of it. In 2009 Button used his technology to get a flying start in the drivers' championship, but Mercedes have failed to cash in this time.
Their car has been highly competitive in qualifying, with Michael Schumacher delivering his best performances since the team's director Norbert Haug persuaded him out of retirement in 2010. The German legend has been fourth and then third on the grid, but not done better than a single point gained for finishing tenth in Malaysia. Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg has twice lined up in seventh spot, but failed to deliver in the race on both occasions.
Brawn puts that down to a Formula One equivalent of wearing the wrong trousers. It's because they have failed to manage their tyres properly in differing climates, he says, and believes that the issues have been identified and solved before China this weekend.
"Our qualifying speed tells us the fundamentals of performance are there," says Brawn (possibly before taking a slice of Wensleydale).
"You can't do the lap times if you don't have enough downforce, horsepower or a good chassis. We have plans and actions in place to improve our tyre management."
If he's right, then the two Mercedes drivers are cracking value this weekend! Schumacher is [2.92] to nudge into the top three in qualifying, and [6.4] to follow that up with a podium finish on Sunday.
The rain in Malaysia means we still don't know for sure which cars are quickest this season. The McLaren is obviously fast thanks to their different nose design, the Red Bulls have definitely lost their big advantage, and are as long as [3.35] to provide the winning car.
This weekend the forecast for Shanghai says cloudy but dry and by Monday we'll know far more about whether Schumacher will be a contender for the drivers' title again.
As Ross Brown might say, and Wallace and Gromit definitely would, it promises to be A Grand Day Out!
Five things you might not know about Norbert Haug
1. Born November 1952 in the small South German town of Engelsbrand, his dad was a big motor sport fan who introduced Norbert to his passion.
2. As a teenager he volunteered to do unpaid work on the local paper in the nearby town of Pforzheim, then joined as a trainee reporter. As soon as he'd qualified he moved into covering motor sports, and by 1988 was deputy editor of Motor und Sport magazine.
3. He also raced cars as a hobby. He finished second in the 1985 24 hours Nurburgring.
4. He switched sides from writing about the sport to earning his living in it when he joined Mercedes as head of motor racing in 1990. His first move was to insist that all cars linked to the company were painted silver.
5. He was the force behind persuading Michael Schumacher to come out of retirement after Mercedes bought the Brawn team - the two had become close friends when Schumacher regularly took him to after race Ferari parties.