Brawn has ‘no problem’ with Wolff despite book claims

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Former Mercedes Formula 1 team principal Ross Brawn says he has “no problem” with executive director Toto Wolff, despite revealing last month that a lack of trust with the Austrian prompted him to resign from his position.

Brawn took on the team principal role at Mercedes following the German manufacturer’s purchase of his eponymous operation, Brawn GP, at the end of 2009.

Brawn resigned following the 2013 season due to an alleged lack of trust with Wolff and non-executive director Niki Lauda, as revealed in his new book Total Competition.

With speculation suggesting that Brawn could be set to return to F1 in a sporting role in the future, Wolff has said that he would welcome the Briton’s presence in the paddock.

Speaking to The Guardian, Brawn said that he has no problem with Wolff, instead understanding that professional conflicts are part and parcel of competition.

“There’s no problem between me and Toto now. Formula 1 is a tough business and you cross swords with many people,” Brawn said.

“But I always wanted to compete with someone on a Sunday and have a glass of wine with them afterwards. Same with Mercedes.

“I may not agree with everything they do but I want us to have a decent relationship.

“I’ve since seen Toto socially several times.”

Despite leaving the team before any of its championship wins, Brawn is considered by Mercedes to have been integral to its success in the V6 turbo era since 2014.

Simply winning another title was not enough reason for Brawn to stay, though, having already won numerous titles with Benetton, Ferrari, and his own team in 2009.

“The book helped me realize I was as much responsible for events as they were. It had run its course and the motivation I once had didn’t exist any more,” Brawn said.

“Just winning another world championship was not a reason for me to stay. But I had lots of good friends and felt sensitive towards Lewis because I had persuaded him to go to Mercedes.

“But the team was in very good shape and all the signs were that 2014 would be a winning year. So it proved.”

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
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Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”