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Q&A with technical guru Gary Anderson
Thursday 15th March 2012, 21:08 by Daniel Chalmers
The F1 Times talks to ex-Brabham, Jordan and Jaguar man Gary Anderson about the new season and what we can expect.
Q. Firstly lets talk about Ferrari as they have been the big story from testing. What are their main problems?
Gary Anderson: The main problem you see from outside is that the car is really aggressive on the tyres. It's OK for a lap or two laps then you can see it starting to deteriorate dramatically. It looks as though it gets to the point where the front end gives up and because the front end gives up, it eats up the rear tyres. They've definitely got a lot of work to do in that area. The real reasons are the balance of the car from the aerodynamics is not really that consistent and they are really struggling to get a sort of balance for the low speed corners to the high speed corners that protects the tyres. I don't think they have one problem, they’ve got have quite a few problems.
Q. Can Ferrari recover to win races like McLaren did with their car back in 2009?
GA: I believe so but I think it will be tougher than that.
For me they sort of concentrated on the icing on the cake and they haven’t got the cake right yet. They have got very good icing but the cake itself is s***. They need to go back to the development of the car and make sure they have the basic car and then put the icing on top of it. The icing at best is worth a couple of tenths of a second but they’ve lost a lot more time in the fundamentals of the car not working as a unit.
I think that after this test [Barcelona] it didn’t look as though they were overcoming their problems looking at the car on track. Will they fix it before Melbourne? Melbourne will be a slightly different circuit as they are more open/low speed corners than high speed corners so I think the car will be better in Melbourne but I don’t think it will be good. Then Malaysia will be somewhere that will show up the problems again. They’ve got a lot of work to do.
Q. Recently we have seen the F-duct, blown diffusers and the reactive ride height all banned. All are good innovations. Is innovation now far too limited?
GA: I don’t know if it’s too limited. You know we’ve seen things that are applied to a Formula 1 car and the problem is in 6 months time most of the teams will have copied it and got their derivative working. There will always be something that will allow that to happen and it gets smaller and the return gets smaller.
I suppose do we want to see competitive racing with cars that are all the same. If you play golf or tennis. You play with the same ball, the weight of the racquet or whatever the weight of the golf club. You play with the same set of tools and Formula 1 if it wasn’t controlled at all somebody would have a set of tools that’s much better. If you had a 5 kilo golf club you would drive the ball 500 metres or something and you don’t want that in Formula 1 really.
I think you want to see competition controlled well and controlled closely. There is still a lot of room for engineering innovation but it’s just that the returns get smaller and smaller and smaller. And the big teams will always out-perform the small teams. I think the big teams will always get it right and the small teams will struggle.
I think its correct to control it a little bit but what I do disagree with is whenever the money is spent on doing something i.e like the exhaust blown diffusers last year. They weren’t causing any harm so why not just leave them alone and leave them in the regulations and just say well you can’t have any engine mapping or put any fuel in during the overrun. Just leave that alone and don’t change it because change costs money.
Q. What area of development is going to be the most decisive in 2012?
GA: Aero, yeah. Aerodynamics are the thing that will outweigh anything else on a racing car as far as performance is concerned. You have to have the mechanical packages underneath working well. But a mechanical package will only lose you a race but it won’t necessarily win you a race just because of the reliability or using the tyres too much. You want the car to be working well mechanically but aerodynamics are the big thing on a racing car.
Q. What do you think of the ban on in-season testing? Is that a good thing?
GA: This year we are getting a test before Barcelona (in Mugello) and I think that’s a good thing. Organised tests during the season I think is good. The good thing we did was to stop bloody having a test with two or three cars there as the big teams could just do so many more things than the small teams. You limit it to one car and x days and it’s your choice whether to go or not. And most teams can afford it and I would be doing do the same. I would have the Mugello test before Barcelona and probably have another one sometime mid-season and then say that’s it. On some of those days at those tests you would have to run a new driver that’s not competed in Formula 1. Have a little bit of young driver breeding time as we’re not doing that anymore.
So more testing, more young driver usage but still at those tests still allow your professional drivers to have a day each too.
Q. Many people have said that 2012 is going to be close. How much time do you think will cover the grid excluding Marussia and HRT?
GA: I think Caterham are looking as though they are going to be, instead of being four seconds behind like they were last year, it’s going to be more like three. I think it has closed up by probably at least half a second, maybe even a bit more than that, maybe a second. So you could be looking now at 1st to 18th being covered by less than two seconds. Because of the way we have qualifying it might not work like that because the usage of the tyres change. It will still be close but the best time you will see it is probably in third practice.
Q. You have been working as a pundit for the last few years, do you miss working in F1?
GA: I am 61 in March, and you’ve got have to devote a huge amount of time and energy. I have two grandsons and I want to spend some time with them. This keeps me involved in the sport well enough.
I still love the challenge of engineering and I am actually working with somebody at the minute on a concept for a MotoGP bike. It’s just a thing that somebody asked me to look at and to give them some ideas. It’s not a huge commitment thing.
Q. Over the whole of your career what is your best achievement?
GA: I think with Eddie getting the 1991 season and Jordan GP set up from absolutely nothing putting a team together and then doing that and getting the team running. Then looking through the people that have gone through Jordan as engineers and seeing where they are now. Last year five of the technical directors in the F1 teams were people that I brought into the sport, and that’s a nice feeling that you watched their careers develop and that’s great pride.
Q. Obviously Jordan is now Force India, do you have pride in seeing how well they are doing?
GA: Yes, my son in law works with Force India and I am big supporter from the outside. A lot of the people there are still the people who worked there from way back.
Yes, I don’t think I am biased towards the team by any means but I do think even though the factory has changed a lot you still get that feeling when go to the factory and there’s home there somewhere.
Q. Who is the best driver you have ever worked with?
GA: Two drivers I would say stand out for me. Rubens Barrichello, great guy and a lovely person and Roberto Moreno who raced in Formula 3000 for me. Two Brazilians and they are just excellent people, excellent engineering feedback. Everything an engineer wants and they were good guys to go for a beer with, never mind driving a racing car.
Q. How much of a difference does good driver feedback make?
GA: It’s huge. The message that the driver is giving back to you, you can get a lot from telemetry and data and that’s all great, but you have to remember that they [the drivers] are human beings and not computers. If you can satisfy that human being’s needs that will make him go quicker.
When I was given feedback from a driver I always felt that was more important. If he is happy with what he has got then he will get the most out of the car.
Q. Williams have got two rookie drivers, how much of a disadvantage could that be for them?
GA: Again, I always do like young drivers. Force India have got two rookie drivers and Toro Rosso have got two rookie drivers. I always like young drivers. They do go out and wring its neck. If you adjust a car to find two extra tenths of a second they will go and find it. Sometimes an over experienced driver, he’s trying to find something we haven’t got because he did things differently at a team like Williams or McLaren when he used to drive for them and that's not how it should be.
Q. Who is your tip to win the Drivers' title?
GA: I think my tip for the title is Jenson Button. I think the car looks good, it’s consistent and Button is at a good point in his mind and his career and I don’t see any reason why not.
Q. And the Constructors'?
GA: Difficult one but I think McLaren.
Q. So you think Red Bull will be beaten?
GA: I have a feeling in my waters. I don’t think Red Bull will lie down very easily but I think McLaren are having the best start with the car they have got now.