Motor racing-Honda more of a challenge than Ferrari, says Brawn

LONDON, Nov 12 (Reuters) Ross Brawn said he decided to join Honda as team boss rather than return to Ferrari because he wanted more of a challenge than the Formula One champions could offer.

''The fact that Ferrari wasn't in crisis made it less attractive to me,'' the Briton said in a conference call on Monday after the Japanese team announced that he would be joining them at the end of the month.

''They've done well and will do well and have got a good structure there to go forward with. My job now is to beat them.'' Brawn was a key part of Ferrari's success during a golden period for the Italian team, serving as technical director and chief strategist while Michael Schumacher dominated the track.

The 52-year-old won six constructors' championships in a row from 1999 to 2004 but started a year's sabbatical at the end of 2006 when Schumacher retired.

Ferrari, embroiled in a spying controversy that led to rivals McLaren being stripped of all their constructors' points, won both titles this year with Finland's Kimi Raikkonen taking the drivers' crown.

Honda, winners of the Hungarian Grand Prix with Briton Jenson Button in 2006, had an abject year and scored just six points in 17 races. Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, a winner at Ferrari with Brawn, drew a complete blank.

''The 12 months away helped me focus a bit on what I enjoyed about racing, what aspects I enjoy,'' said Brawn.

''I miss the racing a lot. I miss the sport, I miss the teamwork, I miss being a part of a group of people who achieve something that is very difficult but when achieved is very rewarding.'' ''I had a wonderful year but you can only indulge yourself for so long.'' COMFORTABLE GLOVE Brawn had been talking to Ferrari about the possibility of returning but concluded that it would be too much like ''putting on a very comfortable glove'' to go back to Maranello.

''I just wasn't getting a feeling that there was a strong enough challenge for me at Ferrari,'' he said.

''And there are some personal considerations, having been based in the UK for a year and got to know my family again, it would have taken quite a special set of circumstances to go back to Ferrari.'' Nick Fry, who will hand over his team principal role while remaining as chief executive in charge of commercial matters for the British-based team, said he had pursued Brawn 'like a terrier' for the past seven months.

He added that Button had welcomed the news as ''the best thing that has happened in a long time''.

Brawn expressed full confidence in both drivers, saying they were as good as anyone and it was now up to Honda to give them the tools to do the job.

He would not be drawn on how long that might take but dismissed talk of a 'cultural chasm' between the British and Japanese operations.

''It may be that we will get lucky and things will turn around very quickly, it may take a bit longer,'' he said. ''But I think the resources here will match anything I was used to in the past.'' Brawn, who revealed that his pay will be performance related, visited the factory for the first time on Monday and said he hoped to nurture talent in the team: ''I don't want to take a hatchet to what's here already,'' he said.

Reuters AB DB2108

Story first published: Monday, November 12, 2007, 21:36 [IST]
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