Thursday, August 11, 2005


F1 Racing magazine's Grand Prix editor and former Williams team manager Peter Windsor gives us his unique insight into four of the key talking points ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix.

Peter explains what the teams do to prepare for a brand new event, gives his opinion on the new generation of F1 circuits, assesses the relative performance of the title protagonists and advises BAR to hold fire in case Jenson Button finds a way out of his Williams contract.

How do grand prix teams prepare for a new circuit like Turkey when they can’t test on it before the race weekend?

The Turkish organisers have supplied all the teams with detailed maps of the circuit. In addition, all the major teams will have been taking GPS graphics of the site over the past couple of months.

By now, most of the teams will have very accurate simulations of the track and some of the drivers will have ‘driven’ the race on simulators at their team’s headquarters.

Some teams have better simulators than others, of course, and some drivers (like Kimi Raikkonen, for example) prefer to drive real laps rather than mess around with computer graphics.

This approach worked for Kimi at Shanghai last year so I imagine he will be happy to race simulation-free in Turkey, too!

Decent drivers, remember, should be able to learn any circuit within, say, six laps.

From what I gather, the downforce/chassis demands of Turkey are about the same as Hockenheim’s.

The only unanswered questions prior to the race will be to do with kerb height and the ‘evolution’ of the track surface over the course of the weekend.

Of the all-new and revamped circuits to have come along in the last ten years, which are your favourite and least favourite?

This is a very difficult question to answer if only because one track tends to blend in to another in this mega-long season of ours.

You can stand in the paddock at Shanghai or Bahrain or Malaysia and have no idea at all about which country you’re actually in.

From the inside looking out, they are all basically the same.

Having said that, Sepang (Malaysia) is in my opinion a great race track hurt only by the intense heat of the country – which is my way of saying that I don’t get out on the corners enough because it’s just too hot.

I think Hermann Tilke did a great job in Shanghai (even though the commute from the city is a complete nightmare); Bahrain works pretty well, too, although you feel very cut-off in the media centre there because you cannot see one centimetre of the track from its air-conditioned confines.

I think the modern Spa circuit is a great example of how you can improve safety without ruining the essence of a race track.

My two least favourites are the German circuits – Nurburgring and Hockenheim. Neither of them have real character or flow and the Nurburgring, of course, is just a shadow of its great former self. Hockenheim I’ve never liked because of its Jim Clark connotations.

Do you think that if Fernando Alonso wins the championship it will be because McLaren 'lost it' for Kimi Raikkonen?

One could say that only if Kimi had driven a much better season than Fernando – and, so far, I don’t think he has.

For example, they have both made the same number of unforced errors (Fernando hit the wall in Canada and messed up his qualifying lap in Hungary; Kimi stalled his engine in Australia and ruined his qualifying lap in Bahrain); in the remaining events, both have maximized the package at their disposal.

So far as teams go, there’s no doubt that Renault has done the better job. The balance is there to be ‘optimized’, as the McLaren men would say – and that balance is reliability versus pace.

The Renault is not as quick as the McLaren but it is faster than any other car on the grid, enabling Fernando to win whenever the McLarens have struck trouble. Which, to date, has been too often.

Yes, Kimi appears to be the faster driver – but that is mainly because he is in the faster car.

Fernando, equally, has driven the Renault almost to the maximum. If he wins the championship it will be because he has made the most of a championship-winning car.

If you were BAR would you cut your losses and look for a Jenson Button replacement to partner Rubens Barrichello?

Another difficult question because (as was the case with Williams a few weeks ago!) I would like to think that I wouldn’t have allowed Jenson to have got himself in this mess in the first place.

On balance, I would keep the seat open for Jenson on the basis that you can’t force a racing driver to work for a team for which he has no feel.

Frank Williams may say that he is going to enforce his contract but, ultimately, he would lose the argument in a European Court of Appeal if Jenson – Jenson, not BAR – was prepared to pay Frank ‘adequate’ compensation (Reutemann vs Chapman, 1979).

Because I can’t imagine for a minute that Jenson will spend any of his own money on this, however, one has to say that Frank is currently in a relatively strong position – with emphasis on the ‘current’.

In my opinion BAR should therefore be in no rush to fill the seat not occupied by Rubens Barrichello. They will either have Jenson or they won’t and they should await that decision.

If they don’t have him, take your pick from Alex Wurz, Mark Webber, Pedro de la Rosa, Nick Heidfeld, Taku Sato, Anthony Davidson, Heikki Kovalainen, Adam Carroll, etc, etc. All would do a good job in a quick car like the BAR-Honda and all of them are more or less available.

BAR should have the confidence to wait…just as Jenson should have had the confidence 12 months ago not to commit himself to something in the vague middle distance.

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