In this round, Bernie Ecclestone sits down with Force India boss Vijay Mallya to talk about Mallya’s taking over Spyker, who Vijay would sign if he could (and the fact that the big teams have more than twice his budget) and a host of other items.
It’s all here. But we’ll start with that infamous Monaco moment:
Q: Well, it obviously worked, even if it took some time to reach the road to success. Vijay, is that one of the reasons you havenâ€™t been satisfied with your team until this season?
VM: Well, 2008 did not count as there wasnâ€™t any time to make changes. Basically we used the old Spyker chassis with a new name. At the beginning I thought to myself â€˜oh my god, we are so way behind!â€™ But that year was an important learning phase to make the right decisions. I replaced the management and the key technicians and in 2009 we were much more competitive, at least on certain tracks like Spa and Monza. We made it to the podium and my guess is that we could even have won in Spa. This season weâ€™ve made another huge leap forward. So everything is going in the right direction. We should now be able to get into the points at every race on our own strength.
BE: In Monaco in 2008 I cried with Vijay. That was the race when Adrian Sutil was looking like a certain fourth and then Kimi Raikkonen hit him from behind into the barriers. That almost tore my heart apart.
That’s a money quote. Really, I mean, Bernie is not the cold-hearted, evil-tempered beast we all thought. He’s just a tender old guy with a soft spot for Adrian Sutil.
I actually think Vijay’s answer to a question about Sutil is pretty interesting, too:
Q: What are your thoughts on your driver Adrian Sutil?
VM: I should say that Adrian is the very best friend of Lewis Hamilton. They raced in Formula Three and were nearly at the same level of performance. Lewis started his Formula One career with McLaren, and Adrian with Spyker. That basically says it all. Adrian has got a lot of potential and is extremely quick, but Lewis could show his talents straight away in a McLaren, whereas Adrian was suffering at the back end of the field with Spyker. He did not really get the chance to show his qualities, as the Spyker was extremely difficult to drive. But now he can show his full capabilities.
Is it just me, or is that a strange way to start that answer. “Hey, Adrian’s best friends with Lewis! See! He’s …” Well, frankly, I’m not sure what that is supposed to tell me. Maybe that the Force India car is cruddy, so don’t blame Sutil?
Mallya does show he’s got some smarts, though:
Q: If you could have your pick of the drivers, who would you sign?
VM: Thatâ€™s an easy pick! Iâ€™d immediately sign Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
BE: A very good choice.
VM: Just because both of them are at their peak. I have my own experience of Vettel. For most races in 2008 we competed against ourselves, and maybe Toro Rosso. This was the reason why I had an eye on Vettel. And what did he do in Monza at a wet race? He won it! That was very impressive and I walked over to Toro Rosso to congratulate him. They celebrated together with me. I told myself on that very day that I would celebrate the victory of a race myself one day.
BE: Vettel is such a nice young guy. I said to him, right before his very first free practice in Istanbul in his BMW Sauber, that he had received his super licence just temporarily, so donâ€™t screw up but justify our trust in you. The next thing I saw was his name on the very top of the timesheets. Then I thought to myself that this boy, only 18 years-old, is a sensation.
There’s some other good stuff. But lest you worry that Bernie really has gone soft and doesn’t say anything that could be considered insensitive or show that he still talks to hear his brain rattle, there’s this:
Q: What should we expect from the first Indian Grand Prix in 2011?
BE: A lot of curryâ€¦ (laughs)
VM: More spectators than you have ever seen for an event. Amazing fans who will bring their love and show their enthusiasm for Formula One.
BE: What I have encountered in India, when Iâ€™ve been there, is that even the poorest people donâ€™t show any form of envy. They give from the bottom of their hearts.
Ah, broad stereotyping. You and Bernie are such pals.