This weekend, Silverstone hosts round eight of the 2013 Formula One World Championship, and last night, Sky Sports F1 HD gave F1B the opportunity to speak to David Croft about all things British Grand Prix. I was dying to know who Crofty is tipping for the win this weekend, and I also wanted to get his take on Testgate – here’s what he had to say…
With four Brits lining up on the grid for their home Grand Prix this weekend, the first thing I did was ask Crofty if he thinks there is a chance we’ll see a British driver on the top step of the podium come the end of the race on Sunday and if not, who he thinks will win this weekend.
“Statistically there’s a chance because there’s four of them up there. Of the four, with all due respect to Max Chilton, it’s probably not going to be him, and with all due respect to Jenson Button, it’s probably not going to be him either – we’ve never seen Jenson on the podium at Silverstone before – it’s a real shame, but I can’t see his Silverstone woes getting any better with the car that he’s got. Which leaves Paul di Resta and Lewis Hamilton. If Paul can qualify in the top ten I’ve think he’s set for an excellent race as I think Force India have done a really good job this year with that car and Paul’s driving better than I’ve ever seen him drive in Formula One. But you’ve got to say Lewis Hamilton is the favourite of the four, purely and simply because Mercedes is the faster car and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Lewis on pole. Will that car be good enough to win the race? It depends – have they corrected their problems and put right their achilles heel this season, which has been the overheating of the rear tyre? They’ve had three days extra testing than most teams to go and put those right, so what did they learn, if anything at that Barcelona test? And now that they’ve had their reprimand and their suspension from the Young Driver Test, they’ve got nothing to lose by going out and showing how good the car is. The fact that the temperatures will be in the low 20s at Silverstone, maybe hovering over the 30 mark in terms of the tarmac temperature, and the fact that Pirelli are bringing the two hardest compounds, the medium and the hard, that will certainly help Mercedes who looked to have got the problem sorted out to an extent in Monaco, and also in Canada, but we don’t know in terms of the medium and hard whether they’re going to be competitive on it. Personally, this weekend I think Lewis has got an excellent chance of pole, as does Nico, as their car has been the fastest car over one lap, but I’m struggling to find a reason why Red Bull won’t win the British Grand Prix this weekend – they have been mighty at Silverstone in the past few years, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Sebastian or Mark on the top step of the podium.”
Next I tell Crofty about the F1B staff picks, (to which he congratulates me on predicting the podium in Australia!), but like I tell him, it’s all been downhill from there (well ever since Grace stole my crystal ball and failed to return it – but we won’t go into that), and I tell him I will probably regret picking Alonso for the win come Sunday afternoon. Crofty’s response to this is: “the trouble with Alonso is he’s got to qualify on the front two rows and I don’t think he will, because I think Mercedes and Red Bull will cover the front two rows. Once you start qualifying fifth, you’re wasting a lot of time trying to get past fourth and third before you can have a crack at second or first. If Ferrari don’t find pace on Saturday their title chance is going to falter and it’s a shame because I don’t think Alonso is driving badly.”
Talking of championships. I was keen to find out what Crofty thought on the comments Lewis Hamilton made about running out of time to add to his one world title – I mean, he is still only 28 years old. I asked Crofty whether he thinks he’s right to worry as it’s clearly obvious we are now into the ‘Vettel era’ in Formula One. I was keen to know whether Crofty sees Hamilton winning again or whether he missed that chance by staying at McLaren as long as he did.
“I think we’re slap bang in the middle of the Vettel era at the moment and it amazes me that he has won so much at his age. He’s 26 next Wednesday – in a week’s time we’ll be singing ‘Happy 26th Birthday’ to Sebastian Vettel and he’s already got three world titles in the bag. But he is driving a very good car and for a very good team. This is what we expected of Lewis, but McLaren didn’t give him the car and circumstances didn’t allow him to add to that one world title. He could easily have won it in his first year, and I still think that somewhere deep down he’s regretting the fact that he stayed out in China, didn’t come in to change his tyres and when he did it was too late and he got stuck in the gravel because he had no grip left. But will we see Hamilton win again? I think we will, I think he’ll be world champion again and I think next season, we press a reset button in Formula One as we’re coming to the end of the V8 era. From next year it’s V6’s, it’s 1.6 litre turbos and it’s power units and Energy Recovery Systems. It’s all going to be about which power unit is the best and Red Bull might not have the upper hand, it might be that Mercedes might give Lewis a very good power unit and an excellent chance to go out there and be world champion again. But, I could be wrong, Ferrari might have the best power unit, who knows at this moment in time. I do think we press a reset button next year and because of that, I don’t think Lewis Hamilton should worry too much – he will have, at times in his career to come, a car capable of giving him the world championship – he has the talent and I don’t see any reason why he won’t become a two or three time world champion. I said when he won his world championship when I was on 5Live that when he retires he’ll be a three-time world champion and I still don’t think we’re running out of time to see that.”
Next on my list of questions for Crofty was the news that Silverstone so far isn’t a sell-out – why does Crofty think this is and should the British fans be worried that it may have an impact on the future of the race?
“I’ve been getting so many tweets from people in the last few weeks saying ‘I’m not surprised Silverstone isn’t a sell-out, it’s far too expensive’. Now I could be really unpopular for saying this but I don’t think it’s far too expensive – it is pricy, and there are far cheaper races – you can go to Malaysia and it’ll cost you a tenner to see the racing for the weekend, but the Malaysian Grand Prix is subsidised by the Malaysian government and the British Grand Prix isn’t subsidised by anybody. The Silverstone circuit and the BRDC have to foot the bill and they have to find a ticket pricing policy that means people aren’t priced out too much, but yet they can still meet the fees that they have to pay Formula One Management. I do think they try desperately hard to keep the tickets as reasonably priced as possible. They do their best to lay on a spectacle for the fans at what I think is a great track and I would hate to see Silverstone disappear off the calendar and I hate the fact it might not be full this weekend. I want to see as many fans there as possible – I love our home Grand Prix and I love talking to all the fans when we go there. I think if you want something and want to be proud of something, you have to go and support it. It’s like, I can choose to buy my sausages at a supermarket for instance, but I don’t, I choose to buy my sausages at a local organic farm shop down the road – they cost more money, but they’re better for me and they’re nicer, they’re tastier and they’re fresher – I would rather support local industries and it’s the same with the British Grand Prix. Why go and support races all around the world when we’ve got one of the best races on our doorstep and we should be proud of it, it’s where the championship all started – it’s the home of the world championship. I never thought I would compare the British Grand Prix to sausages, but I think you know where I’m coming from…”
I never thought I would hear Crofty compare the British Grand Prix to sausages either, but he has got a point – if you want to go to a race, in particular your home Grand Prix, you will pay to go (so it’s just people like me then that are letting my country down by choosing to spend even more money to go to Singapore in September!)
For those of you not in the UK, then you may not agree with what Crofty says next, but it certainly proves his passion for his home GP: “The British fans are the best fans in the world, bar none. They’re the most passionate, and they’re the fairest – they will cheer as loudly for Kimi Raikkonen winning the British Grand Prix as they will for Lewis Hamilton and I do think that’s unique and I love every single bit of the British Grand Prix, it’s one of my favourite weekends of the year – motorsport and non motorsport.”
Next up we spoke about the possibility of new races on the calendar from 2014 and we wanted to know what races should be dropped in favour of new races in New Jersey and Sochi in Russia. Crofty was quick to mention Korea dropping off the calendar, which I think we can all agree on going – but like he said, they pay the fee to host the race – so what other races could we lose in the future? And what country would Crofty like to see Formula One race in?
“I don’t think we’re going to get more than 20 races next year – I don’t think the teams want that. Bernie Ecclestone told Martin Brundle last year that in a few years time there would only be four European races, which would be a real shame to lose four of the eight which we have got. So you’d assume then of those four that Silverstone, Monaco and Monza would stay and probably Germany as well as I don’t see it disappearing from the calendar, not when we have Mercedes in the sport and so many German drivers. So do we lose Spa or Barcelona from the calendar? Do we lose Hungary, which is a popular race on the calendar – but which goes? I personally would love to see a Mexican race as there is an appetite for motorsport in Mexico and a desire to see Formula One. New Jersey, if it happens, I think it will be fantastic – to race in the backdrop of Manhattan. But there are an awful lot of logistics to be sorted before that race happens there. Austin was a welcome addition to the calendar last year and that city embraced Formula One like never before, it was fantastic. What has to make way – China? I honestly do not know, but of all those that have been touted, Russia included, as potential venues for Formula One in the future, I have to say Mexico is the one that excites me the most.”
Following on from this, I was keen to ask Crofty what he thought about Bahrain potentially being the opening race of the season in 2014…
“Logistically it makes sense because it is not as far as Australia and also it is better TV time. There are a lot of die hard fans who would say ‘Crofty you’re wrong here, we like getting up in the middle of the night for the opening race of the season'” (and as I point out, we have to do it at some point anyway), “but I personally think from a time perspective, for TV broadcasters around Europe, for fans watching, especially those watching because it is the first race of the year, Bahrain makes more sense, but you lose that special atmosphere that Australia brings to the first race of the season. The drivers love the start to the year they get down in Melbourne – the place goes mad for Formula One in a fashion that Bahrain doesn’t do. Looking at logistics and with testing the new power units, and with getting everything to the first race, I think it makes a lot of sense, but it would be a shame to lose a massive celebration that you get with the first race down in Australia. Personally I would like to see it start in Australia, but I can see the logic.”
Finally, I had to bring up Testgate. I asked Crofty if Mercedes’ ban from the Young Driver Test will hurt the team or whether using Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Pirelli’s secret test outweighs this, despite the fact they didn’t have a programme in Barcelona like they had planned for July’s test.
“I don’t think it outweighs the Young Driver Test, because that test was organised by Pirelli. Pirelli would have been telling Mercedes what runs they would have to do and organising the compounds. It would be organised around tyres, it is a tyre test. At the Young Driver Test, you as a team have the option to decide what you want, for when you want and for how long you want and that’s not what you get at a tyre test. Yes, there’s a certain benefit to running around a track, and that’s one of the reasons why Mercedes received a punishment, but I think there is more benefit to be had if you’re trying out new parts and you’re developing new parts if you’re running them in the Young Driver Test, even if you’re not using your race drivers.”
Fascinating insight from Crofty. And returning our focus to the British Grand Prix, will he be right – will Hamilton be on pole? Will we see a Red Bull driver on the top step of the podium?
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