EMER­SON FIT­TI­PALDI

ON A TENSE IN­TRA-TEAM BAT­TLE

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS - EMER­SON FIT­TI­PALDI

The dou­ble world cham­pion writes ex­clu­sively for F1 Rac­ing

We’re about to en­joy two grands prix that will be ex­cit­ing for slightly dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Aus­tria, re­turn­ing to the cal­en­dar for the first time in ten years, will have an el­e­ment of mys­tery, be­cause what­ever data the teams pos­sessed will now be long out of date. This will cer­tainly fo­cus their minds!

They’ll need to be fast straight out of the box and learn as much as they can in the short prac­tise time they have avail­able. For­tu­nately, the Red Bull Ring is quite a short track, and there aren’t any re­ally fast cor­ners, so the key to suc­cess is get­ting the brak­ing and trac­tion right. That comes partly through me­chan­i­cal setup and partly through the driver hav­ing to­tal con­cen­tra­tion – these new cars are a hand­ful when they lose grip, and all that torque can re­ally ruin the tyres if you drive with­out fi­nesse. Depend­ing on how slip­pery the sur­face is, we could have an­other race like Bahrain…

Sil­ver­stone is a very dif­fer­ent chal­lenge – a fast and flow­ing cir­cuit where the cars spend much longer at full throt­tle. The sen­sa­tion of speed here is a joy for both the driv­ers and the spec­ta­tors – I loved it dur­ing my own time in the cock­pit and the driv­ers of to­day feel the same. Here is a cir­cuit that’s changed through the years but has still re­tained its char­ac­ter.

I don’t need a crys­tal ball to see which car will win these forth­com­ing races, though. Red Bull’s car has a lot of down­force, but Mercedes have the strong­est pack­age, and the team’s pol­icy of giv­ing their driv­ers equal sta­tus has cre­ated a very com­pet­i­tive sit­u­a­tion.

The events of Monaco un­der­lined the tiny mar­gins be­tween win­ning and los­ing, when you have two sim­i­larly gifted people in equal ma­chin­ery. Pole is never more im­por­tant than in the Prin­ci­pal­ity, where the track is so nar­row, twisty and slip­pery. If you start from pole there you have a 90 per cent chance of win­ning.

People have asked me if I thought Nico Ros­berg de­lib­er­ately went off-track in Q3 to force a yel­low flag and de­fend pole po­si­tion. Well, it’s hard to judge, even if you have ac­cess to the teleme­try. You can say he had the means, mo­tive and the op­por­tu­nity, and that the out­come was ben­e­fi­cial for him – but this in it­self does not prove any­thing. Even with the teleme­try, all you can say for sure is that he took a slightly dif­fer­ent line out of Casino Square and braked later for the cor­ner.

You need to be very fo­cused at Monaco be­cause ev­ery­thing comes at you so quickly, and the longer you’re driv­ing the more likely you are to lose con­cen­tra­tion and make a mis­take. It’s rare for people with the talent and fo­cus of F1 driv­ers to do this, but it can hap­pen. Jack Brab­ham, whose re­cent pass­ing we all mourn, went off on the last lap while leading in 1970 – and this year Este­ban Gu­tiér­rez clipped the bar­rier in the same area, and that was the end of the race for him.

Even with the high-pres­sure sit­u­a­tion that’s de­vel­op­ing be­tween Lewis and Nico, they’re mak­ing very few mis­takes. As I sit down to write this, just be­fore the Cana­dian GP, a Mercedes has won ev­ery grand prix this year. It’s dif­fi­cult not to re­late this to the sce­nario in 1988, when McLaren won ev­ery grand prix bar one with Alain Prost and Ayr­ton Senna. People for­get how dra­matic that sea­son was, even though McLaren had the dom­i­nant car. We saw two great driv­ers fight­ing it out in equal ma­chin­ery, and given equal sta­tus by their team. This is how it should be.

In a few weeks I’ll be re­turn­ing to the cock­pit my­self, at the Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed. I al­ways look for­ward to this event be­cause the sun usu­ally shines and it’s a great chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones. You see cars from the past, present and fu­ture. My youngest son is com­ing, too, and he’s very ex­cited.

Last year I was very in­ter­ested in the land speed record dis­play, and I was fas­ci­nated to speak to the guys be­hind the Blood­hound SSC project, and its pi­lot, Andy Green. They’re aim­ing to hit 1,000mph, and al­though the car is jet-pow­ered, the fuel pump for the af­ter­burner is ac­tu­ally a Cos­worth F1 en­gine – it was the only thing pow­er­ful enough for their pur­poses.

I’ll have a Cos­worth en­gine be­hind me, too, be­cause I’ll be re­united with the McLaren M23 – my cham­pi­onship-win­ning car from 40 years ago. It will be in­ter­est­ing to drive it again af­ter all these years. I’m so glad that these his­toric cars aren’t just static dis­plays in a mu­seum, and that com­pa­nies such as McLaren keep them in as-new con­di­tion so that ev­ery­one can en­joy the sight and sound of them in ac­tion. See you there!

Hamil­ton and Ros­berg are demon­strat­ing the kind of dom­i­na­tion of a sea­son last shown by Senna and Prost for McLaren in 1988

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.