SY­MONDS SPEAKS OUT

On ‘Crash­gate’, Senna and mak­ing Wil­liams win­ners

F1 Racing - - FRONT PAGE - POR­TRAITS DREW GIB­SON

There’s a cer­tain irony that won’t have es­caped Pat Sy­monds as he walks into the Wil­liams Con­fer­ence Cen­tre for lunch. Scat­tered all around are cars and pic­tures reect­ing Wil­liams suc­cess with the Roth­mans-spon­sored ma­chines that must have been the bane of Sy­monds’ life a few decades ago. And yet, his time with Benet­ton and Michael Schu­macher was just one sec­tor of a ca­reer that has seen many mem­o­rable highs and one des­per­ate per­sonal low.

Say­ing that, lessons from 2008’s ‘Crash­gate’ have added to a depth of ex­pe­ri­ence that has no equal in F1. When the FIA holds press con­fer­ences for team rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the Fri­day of each race week­end, those with Sy­monds on the panel are un­miss­able. His elo­quent de­scrip­tions demon­strate the breadth of his un­der­stand­ing, while he can speak with clar­ity on the most com­plex tech­ni­cal mat­ters. And now we have an hour or so of reec­tion, purely for F1 Rac­ing. Mau­rice Hamil­ton: When you were at Royale, and Hawke be­fore that, in the late 1970s, did you ac­tu­ally de­sign the en­tire For­mula Ford car? Pat Sy­monds: Yes. You’ve got to re­mem­ber there was only one per­son de­sign­ing any­thing in those days, par­tic­u­larly in a small com­pany. I drew ev­ery part that needed to be drawn; all the lay­outs; ev­ery­thing. I used to draw it, as­sist in mak­ing and build­ing it, drive to the cir­cuit, be a me­chanic – do ev­ery­thing ex­cept drive the bloody rac­ing car! That’s the way it was then. MH: What a way to start; a bit of ev­ery­thing; sus­pen­sion, en­gine, chas­sis. There were no aero­dy­nam­ics then. So what about body shape? PS: It was all done by eye. We didn’t use a wind­tun­nel – I mean, we didn’t even have com­put­ers then. I grad­u­ated in 1976 and the PC didn’t come out un­til 1981. We knew about com­put­ers – but they were some­thing you used in univer­sity. De­pend­ing on the type of com­puter, you ei­ther pre­pared your job on punch tape or on a deck of cards – which, at some point, you’d drop and have to shuf­fle and put them all back in. You’d put your job in and come back three days later for the re­sults. It would say: ‘Er­ror on line 10’ – and you’d start again. MH: And that would be done in sec­onds now? PS: You’d hardly no­tice it’s been done. Hawke was a fan­tas­tic ground­ing be­cause we used to make a lot of parts there; we had a re­ally good ma­chine shop. We did fab­ri­ca­tion and made an F3 car, so I learnt about mono­co­ques and things like that. There was a Por­tak­abin with a draw­ing board, and that was my of­fice. Hawke was owned by Bri­tish United Air Fer­ries and we’d get in­volved with the air­craft, tting ac­ci­dent data recorders and stuff like that. You saw how things were made, which you didn’t learn at univer­sity.

I then went to work for Royale. It was dif­fer­ent be­cause they didn’t man­u­fac­ture any­thing. You’d de­sign the car and Arch Mo­tors made the chas­sis, Spe­cialised Mould­ings did the body­work, Sabre Fab­ri­ca­tions – which be­came Rey­nard – did sus­pen­sion parts, and so on.

“Once Flavio has as­sessed peo­ple and trusts them, he gives them au­ton­omy. He seemed to think I knew what I was do­ing”

That meant you had to de­sign a lit­tle bit bet­ter be­cause other peo­ple were mak­ing the parts. So, rather than a sketch that you’d take into the work­shop and say: ‘Yeah, just do it like this’, it was dif­fer­ent at Royale. But, to be hon­est, I never thought that any of this would be a ca­reer. It was a three-year project, and that was sup­posed to be it be­fore I went into the mo­tor in­dus­try.

I’d met Rory Byrne and he had moved on to Tole­man. I knew [Tole­man boss] Alex Hawkridge quite well and we got on. Many of the pre­vi­ous guys were in­tu­itive de­sign­ers. I’d done a Masters De­gree in Au­to­mo­tive Engi­neer­ing and there weren’t many like me around. Alex quite liked that. When he de­cided that Tole­man were go­ing to build a F1 car, he in­vited me to join Rory. MH: Al­though a back-of-the-grid F1 team ini­tially, Tole­man must still have seemed like an ex­cit­ing place for a young guy to be? PS: It was. I started on 2 Jan­uary 1981 as em­ployee num­ber 20. That’s all they had. They’d run their cham­pi­onship-win­ning F2 car with a Hart turbo en­gine and that looked fan­tas­tic. Then we de­cided, be­cause we knew so much more than every­one else who’d ever been in­volved in any­thing, we’d have our own tyres by go­ing with Pirelli. Why not? We were just so am­bi­tious you can­not be­lieve it.

It soon be­came ob­vi­ous we had to get in a wind­tun­nel. I was charged with nd­ing a wind­tun­nel and work­ing out how to make mod­els and things like that. I was also race en­gi­neer. I think my ti­tle was R&D en­gi­neer. What­ever the ti­tle was, you just did ev­ery­thing. MH: Tole­man were mov­ing for­ward, scor­ing their rst points at the 1983 Dutch GP. But I guess a big mo­ment for you was when Senna ar­rived at the start of the fol­low­ing sea­son? PS: Alex is a for­ward thinker, a risk taker, and he went af­ter Senna. With re­spect to Derek War­wick and Brian Hen­ton, we could see this was a ma­jor step-change hav­ing Ayr­ton drive for us.

Mov­ing to Miche­lin for the 1984 car, the TG184, was a mas­sive step for­ward. But one of the draw­backs of go­ing with Miche­lin was that Ron Den­nis wouldn’t let us have the lat­est tyres. But in Monaco it was wet – and there was no older-spec wet tyre. It was sud­denly a level play­ing eld. And we all know what Ayr­ton did there; nish­ing sec­ond and al­most win­ning. We re­ally grew up that year. MH: You said it was a step-change with Ayr­ton. I guess you’re re­fer­ring to ap­pre­ci­at­ing the breadth of his men­tal ca­pac­ity; his abil­ity to think of so much de­tail while driv­ing quickly. PS: Ex­actly. We didn’t have any in­stru­men­ta­tion on the cars: we had a rev counter and tem­per­a­ture gauge and that was it. When we were try­ing to work out gear ra­tios, we wanted the driver to tell us what the revs were at a given point. I re­mem­ber telling Derek that we needed to know what the min­i­mum revs were in a par­tic­u­lar cor­ner and he said: “I can’t tell you that – I’m way too busy at that point.”

Ayr­ton would tell you the revs in ev­ery cor­ner; he’d tell you what the tem­per­a­ture was, how the car was han­dling, what the tyres looked like and what the en­gine sounded like be­cause our main bit of ‘in­stru­men­ta­tion’ was the ac­tual noise. It was sec­ond na­ture to him. On top of that, he had an un­canny abil­ity to drive around cor­ners fast… MH: I re­mem­ber see­ing him at the end of his sec­ond race with you at Kyalami. The press room looked right down on parc fermé and he had to be lifted from the car. I know the TG183 was heavy [the 184 did not ar­rive un­til later in the sea­son], but Ayr­ton wasn’t t, was he? PS: That was the one area where he let him­self down. He was so supremely condent in his abil­ity that he didn’t ac­tu­ally pay at­ten­tion to de­tail. I think it was a real shock to him and, of course, we rarely did race dis­tances in tests be­cause the cars of­ten weren’t re­li­able enough. It took a long while to get his tness up. MH: You re­ferred to Monaco, which is well doc­u­mented. But I re­mem­ber you telling me later that – and you see it very briey on the Senna lm – Ayr­ton clipped the kerb at the Har­bour Chi­cane with the right-front. He smacked it in quite a big way, didn’t he? PS: Ab­so­lutely. It was pull-rod sus­pen­sion with rock­ers down at the bot­tom, and he cracked one, which we found when we took the car apart. Would the car have nished? We’ll never know.

But, at the time, it was an­other in­di­ca­tion that we’d grown up as a team, typied by my

emo­tions af­ter­wards. For days I wasn’t sure whether I was just so happy we nished sec­ond or so pissed off that we hadn’t nished rst. Ul­ti­mately, I was pissed off. MH: As you say, this was the start of Tole­man re­ally mov­ing for­ward. There was a lot of re­struc­tur­ing, in­clud­ing the pur­chase of the team by Benet­ton and, I guess from your point of view, the ar­rival of Flavio Bri­a­tore on your doorstep. What on earth did you make of him? PS: We had no idea he was com­ing; no idea who he was. The rst race that year (1989) was Rio. We had a lit­tle hut we used for engi­neer­ing meet­ings. Flavio just ar­rived – from nowhere as far as we were con­cerned – for this race. He walks in with an­other guy, sits down and starts chat­ting. This other guy was clearly em­bar­rassed be­cause he re­alised we were in the mid­dle of a meet­ing. He said to Flavio: “Are we dis­turb­ing these chaps?” Flavio said: “Oh, don’t worry about them. They’re just engi­neers.” I thought: ‘Hmm… I’m not go­ing to get on with this guy.’ We then dis­cov­ered he sold pullovers – which is not be­ing very kind be­cause he’d ac­tu­ally set up a pretty ef­fec­tive net­work of Benet­ton fran­chises in Amer­ica – but he wasn’t a racer.

For a while, we didn’t re­ally have much to do with each other but then Flavio started to get quite in­ter­ested in ev­ery­thing. The thing about Flavio is that once he has as­sessed peo­ple and trusts them, he gives them au­ton­omy. He seemed to think I knew what I was do­ing, so he let me get on with it. We worked well to­gether for a long while. Flavio is a fab­u­lous lat­eral thinker and that’s what you need in this busi­ness. I can’t say he was the same with every­one, but I al­ways felt I knew where I was with him. And I knew he’d never stab me in the back. But, equally, I knew one day he might stab me in the front. And if he did, so be it. I wasn’t both­ered. We got on al­right. MH: Flavio was a prime mover in snatch­ing Michael Schu­macher away from Jor­dan just af­ter his F1 de­but in Au­gust 1991 and hav­ing him sign for Benet­ton. How did that re­la­tion­ship de­velop? PS: Michael is still my favourite of all time, both as a driver and as a per­son. I think the world of him. As soon as we got to know each other, there was im­plicit mu­tual trust. A com­pletely de­cent man – against all im­pres­sions cre­ated by the Bri­tish press, par­tic­u­larly in ’94 with the bat­tle against Da­mon Hill when the me­dia turned

“Michael is the nicest guy I ever worked with; a team man through and through… a good hu­man be­ing”

against him. He re­sponded to that in a neg­a­tive way, but, in re­al­ity he is the nicest guy I ever worked with; a team man through and through.

Ayr­ton was a great driver, but he barely knew the name of his me­chan­ics. Michael didn’t just know his me­chan­ics, he knew the names of their wives, he knew their kids. He’d ar­rive on Thurs­day, go round the garage, talk to the guys and ask how lit­tle Johnny was get­ting on at school. He re­mem­bered ev­ery­thing. And while that may have helped build the team round him, I don’t think that’s why he did it. I be­lieve he was gen­uinely in­ter­ested. Only a few peo­ple know he’s quite a phi­lan­thropist but that’s not in the pub­lic do­main. I think it justies my state­ment that he’s a good hu­man be­ing. MH: To­wards the end of ’93, Michael’s sec­ond full sea­son with Benet­ton, you had a fully ac­tive car. Was that one of the most ad­vanced cars you’ve worked on? PS: To this day, yes. It was pretty so­phis­ti­cated, much more than, say, the McLaren sys­tem. It was sim­i­lar to Wil­liams but maybe not quite as so­phis­ti­cated as Lo­tus. But it also had four-wheel steer. It was in­ter­est­ing be­cause our driv­ers were Michael and Ric­cardo Pa­trese; what you might call the rst of the PlayS­ta­tion gen­er­a­tion against the last of the deck-of-cards gen­er­a­tion. Ric­cardo just hated ev­ery­thing about the ac­tive car and the four-wheel steer, which had an un­nat­u­ral feel. Michael wasn’t tech­ni­cal. He wasn’t a math­e­ma­ti­cian or a physi­cist or an en­gi­neer, but he knew damn well that if that gizmo made the

car go faster then he wanted to ex­ploit it to the max­i­mum. He got re­ally in­volved in it.

I’d started the project dur­ing a short pe­riod at Rey­nard – a group of us had left be­cause we didn’t like the way things were go­ing un­der Flavio – but we came back to Benet­ton and got in­volved with some Ford guys who were re­ally in­ter­ested in what we were do­ing. The idea was to in­tro­duce the four-wheel steer in ’94 and we’d done a fair bit of the de­sign and rig test­ing. Then we were told mid­way through 1993 that these driver aids would be banned at the end of the sea­son. So we de­cided to race it as soon as pos­si­ble be­cause it was bloody good.

It was a stun­ningly so­phis­ti­cated sys­tem. It knew where it was on the cir­cuit, which cor­ner it was in. It would then sense that the driver was ac­tu­ally turn­ing into the cor­ner, so it would help him turn in. Then it would look at whether the car was un­der­steer­ing or over­steer­ing, and it would ad­just it­self to cor­rect that. Then it would set it­self up to get max­i­mum trac­tion out of the cor­ner. It was a fab­u­lous bit of kit.

Michael loved it. You could talk to him about how you set it up and he’d fol­low it. He didn’t want to know the equa­tion, but he wanted to know what the graph looked like, the out­put if you like, and how he could ex­ploit that. I re­ally en­joyed work­ing with him on car setup be­cause he gave you the feed­back you wanted – and it was al­ways hon­est feed­back. If he didn’t know, he’d say so. But he had a damn good mem­ory. We’d be at some­where like Spa and he’d say: “At Turn 6 it’s do­ing this. D’you re­mem­ber when we were at Imola, it was just like that and, if I’m right, we did this and that sorted it.” I’d have a quick look at the records – and his re­call of a pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence would be right. MH: Talk­ing about a pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence prompts me to ask about the sus­pi­cion in 1994 over items re­main­ing on your soft­ware from the pre­vi­ous year. What was the story be­hind that? PS: I think we should start with the ’94 car it­self. The rst time Michael drove it in test­ing, he as good as said we were go­ing to win the world cham­pi­onship with this. It was a won­der­ful car. Al­though it was an en­tirely pas­sive car, it owed an aw­ful lot to the ac­tive tech­nol­ogy be­cause we’d learnt how to model sus­pen­sions and things like that. But it suf­fered an aw­ful lot af­ter Imola when [as a re­ac­tion to Senna’s fa­tal ac­ci­dent] they brought in all the re­stric­tions. It had fan­tas­tic down­force but they cut the dif­fuser off, put the plank on – all these sort of things. But that’s a dif­fer­ent bit of the story. There was con­tro­versy over launch con­trol be­cause, in this fully au­to­matic car we’d been run­ning in ’93, one of the things it had was an in­cred­i­bly so­phis­ti­cated launch con­trol, so good that we’d just pick up places off the grid.

This was in the days be­fore stan­dard ECUs: in fact, we used to build our own chas­sis con­troller. At one par­tic­u­lar race, the FIA found there was a way of set­ting up the launch con­trol which was banned. I said: “I can’t be­lieve it: let’s have a look at the start.” As it hap­pened, and it was bloody lucky re­ally, it was such an ab­so­lutely shit start that it was ob­vi­ous it wasn’t an au­to­matic start. The FIA scru­ti­neer came to the fac­tory and we looked at the data to­gether. I thought: ‘Thank God for that. At least it shows it’s not there. That’s the end of that.’

But, of course, it turned into a huge witch hunt. It was my car; I was the race en­gi­neer and I am con­vinced there was noth­ing on that car. But that was a long time ago and, as I get older, I ques­tion my­self: was there some­thing that I didn’t know about? Was some­one do­ing some­thing that I didn’t know about? I don’t think so, be­cause I saw the data, par­tic­u­larly on that day when it all blew up and I saw that ac­tu­ally it was a re­ally shit start. So I would like to think that I did know what was go­ing on – and there wasn’t any­thing there. But I al­ways have a lit­tle nag­ging doubt in my mind be­cause I have to say, with things like that, if some­one wanted to keep it from me, it wouldn’t have been im­pos­si­ble. MH: You’ve spo­ken about Michael in glow­ing terms. How was your re­la­tion­ship with Fer­nando Alonso, par­tic­u­larly in 2005 and 2006? PS: It was a good pe­riod. Fer­nando was – and is – a fab­u­lous driver. He seems so laid back, but his at­ten­tion to de­tail is stun­ning. He’d sit in a brieng and you’d think: ‘Oh, he hasn’t lis­tened to that.’ And then he’d ask you a ques­tion that re­ally showed not only had he lis­tened but he’d also un­der­stood ev­ery­thing and thought about the next stage. He was a re­ally quick driver who some­how used to nd some­thing else if there was a sniff of vic­tory. I ad­mired that, but at the same time I used to nd it a bit frus­trat­ing be­cause I’d think: ‘Why doesn’t he do it all the time?’ Fer­nando was al­ways 99 per cent but then there seemed to be this ex­tra per cent when there was some­thing to be gained.

But he wasn’t a team man like Michael and, from time to time, that would re­ally up­set peo­ple. At Suzuka in ’05, just as he was about to win the cham­pi­onship, he came out with all this stuff about not hav­ing any sup­port in this team. That de­stroyed the team; every­one was just so up­set. It was like: “Why did you say that? You knew we were do­ing ev­ery­thing we could.”

The one cir­cuit Fer­nando was never any good at was In­di­anapo­lis, and that’s where, in ’06, Gian­carlo Fisichella beat him. He beat him be­cause Fer­nando didn’t drive very well.

Fer­nando came on the ra­dio as he crossed the line and said: “I bet you’re all happy that I got beaten by Fisichella” – or some­thing like that. And you think: ‘Bloody hell! What is the mat­ter with this guy?’ Say­ing that, I have the ut­most re­spect for him and I’d love to have him in a Wil­liams. But we didn’t have the close­ness of re­la­tion­ship that I’ve had with other driv­ers. MH: Re­nault at the time seemed to be a very close-knit lit­tle unit…. PS: That goes back to Benet­ton. It was some­thing we re­ally had. In the days when Michael was with us and we couldn’t run [be­cause of to­bacco ad­ver­tis­ing re­stric­tions] ‘Mild Seven’ on the car, we had ‘Team Spirit’. That wasn’t a co­in­ci­dence. It’s an ethos; one I’m work­ing on here be­cause it means a lot to me. MH: On the sub­ject of team ethos, I don’t know how much you want to talk about Sin­ga­pore ’08, but ob­vi­ously the team was torn apart by that. PS: It was. MH: And your life was ter­ri­bly torn apart by it too? PS: Yes. MH: How do you reect on it now? PS: I think it was an ab­ject les­son in life. It doesn’t mat­ter how many good things you do in your life, you do one bad thing and that’s what you’re re­mem­bered for. You know, you can be the best driver in the world, driv­ing along the road, make a mis­take – and you can kill your­self.

I have al­ways been com­pletely hon­est about the whole af­fair. Ev­ery word I’ve ever said about it is the truth – and I would say I’m the only per­son who has ever told the truth about it. I can live with my­self. I wish I’d never done it. I wish I knew the whole story, be­cause there are bits of it that I’m not sure I com­pletely un­der­stand or know where it all came from. Other peo­ple have lied com­pletely and ut­terly about it. But I think now, how­ever many years later, every­one knows that I told the truth. I think every­one has re­spect for me for do­ing that, even if they would never agree with the mis­take I made in do­ing it.

I re­cently had a long chat with Max Mosley and also with Jean Todt. These guys know what went on. They know I took a bul­let for oth­ers and

“I re­ally have paid for my mis­take, but I think the change of life it brought about didn’t do me any harm”

I hope the peo­ple re­spect me for that, even if, as I say, they don’t like the mis­take I made.

In terms of the mis­take it was an enor­mous er­ror of judge­ment more than any­thing else. As you know, there is an aw­ful lot of games­man­ship in F1; there is an aw­ful lot of stretch­ing of rules and so on. At the time, while I knew it wasn’t right, in my mind it wasn’t as bad as other peo­ple made out. It was a bit of ul­ti­mate games­man­ship.

The fact that some mo­ronic driver can’t even drive into the wall in a safe man­ner is noth­ing to do with me. That is not what the plan was. So… yes, it’s dif­fi­cult. And I re­ally have paid for it. But, you know, I’m a per­fectly happy per­son now. I’ve got a great job and I re­ally en­joy what I’m do­ing. I also think the change of life that brought about didn’t do me any harm. MH: I was go­ing to ask if you nd, as time goes by, that your ap­pre­ci­a­tion of life and all the things around you that mean a lot – your fam­ily, your work and so on – are put into per­spec­tive by some­thing like this? That pe­riod of think­ing about it must have done ex­actly that for you. PS: It did. I was very, very de­pressed af­ter­wards. My wife was fan­tas­tic; she helped me through it all and said: “Come on, you can do it again.” I got into writ­ing which I thor­oughly en­joyed do­ing. MH: Yes, I’d no­ticed. I have to say I’m glad you’re back engi­neer­ing again be­cause hav­ing you as a writer was a worry for the likes of me! PS: [Laughs]. Also, work­ing as a con­sul­tant, I got in­volved in non-mo­tor­sport projects that,

“I did en­joy Marus­sia, but it was frus­trat­ing be­cause there wasn’t the bud­get to do the job prop­erly”

as an en­gi­neer, I found fas­ci­nat­ing. If you ask me what’s my pas­sion, my rst an­swer might be mo­tor­sport or engi­neer­ing. But if I stop and think about it, my rst pas­sion is learn­ing. That’s what I love. I’m a to­tal and ut­ter nerd. The in­ter­net was in­vented for me. MH: What about the pe­riod with Marus­sia? That must have put a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on things? PS: Boy, I learned a lot there. It re­ally was back to ba­sics. When I left Re­nault, it was quite spe­cialised. We’d gone to this two tech­ni­cal direc­tor type of thing – Bob Bell looked af­ter aero and the fac­tory and I fo­cused on the rac­ing. It was ex­pand­ing and I was los­ing touch.

So I go to Marus­sia and I’m think­ing: ‘Jeez, there’s plenty to do. Let’s get on with it.’ From get­ting in­volved with the lay­out of the de­sign of­fice to achiev­ing the best com­mu­ni­ca­tions, to de­tails of CFD against tun­nel test­ing; I learned a lot. I did en­joy it, but it was frus­trat­ing be­cause I knew there was never go­ing to be the bud­get to do the job prop­erly. But I’d like to think I left the place in a much bet­ter state than I found it. MH: The re­sults tend to prove ex­actly that. We’re talk­ing about your vast ex­pe­ri­ence com­ing into play, both at Marus­sia and now here at Wil­liams. PS: Yes. When Wil­liams rst asked me to join them, I spoke to Frank and Pa­trick Head, and Adam Parr. But I couldn’t quite see how it would work. I had a bit of an idea of what might need do­ing, but it just didn’t seem that any­one agreed with me and noth­ing came of it.

I got more and more in­volved with Marus­sia and then there was a sea change at Wil­liams, ini­ti­ated by Mike O’Driscoll, the CEO who, I have to say, is a stun­ningly im­pres­sive char­ac­ter. He and Claire Wil­liams got to­gether and said: “Well, we can’t pol­ish this any more, we’ve got to change it.” They went look­ing for some­one to help them do it. I was the one who agreed, I guess.

I’m thor­oughly en­joy­ing it here. It’s a fab­u­lous team with won­der­ful fa­cil­i­ties and a lot of re­ally good peo­ple. And, at last, that will­ing­ness to change; I think that’s where, pre­vi­ously, it hadn’t worked be­cause it was quite an old fash­ioned com­pany with enor­mous blame cul­ture… the sort of things that just don’t work these days. I’d like to think I’ve man­aged to change some of those at­ti­tudes.

Last year, when I ar­rived, there were bits go­ing on the car at ev­ery race that didn’t work be­cause there was this blind panic about hav­ing to make the car quicker. I’m proud this year that, with one ex­cep­tion, ev­ery sin­gle bit we’ve put on the car has made it go faster. And the one ex­cep­tion was a very de­lib­er­ate ‘Let’s take this to the limit and see.’ We went over the limit and it didn’t work. But we learned from it; we re­vised our tech­niques a lit­tle. It’s that in­tegrity of engi­neer­ing that I think we needed here.

Don’t get me wrong, the Mercedes en­gine was def­i­nitely a big at­trac­tion in com­ing here. But the fact is that last year we had a Re­nault en­gine; a Re­nault en­gine won the cham­pi­onship and we fin­ished ninth. This year we’ve got a Mercedes en­gine and we’re in front of two other Mercedes teams who were signicantly bet­ter than us last year. Our stars have aligned, but we’ve worked for it as well with good prag­matic de­ci­sions. MH: Get­ting back to what we said be­fore, you’re pulling in this fan­tas­tic breadth of knowl­edge… PS: Ex­actly. I can have a very mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sion with my aero­dy­nam­ics group. Aero has moved on since I did it, but I can keep abreast of it. I know what they’re do­ing, I can chal­lenge them, I can come up with daft ideas. I try not to mi­cro-man­age; I want to take the big­ger view. It’s been hard this past year be­cause there’s been a lot to put in place, but I can see light at the end of the tun­nel. The team have re­gained their de­sire to win and their self-be­lief. MH: It’s been great to catch up, Pat. Many thanks. PS: A plea­sure.

Senna’s per­for­mance at the 1984 Monaco GP is the stuff of leg­end. But as Sy­monds re­veals, if the race had not been red-flagged, Senna may not have fin­ished af­ter crack­ing the sus­pen­sion on his Tole­man

Af­ter a bad start, Sy­monds grew to ad­mire Benet­ton boss Bri­a­tore for his lat­eral think­ing

Michael Schu­macher at Spa in 1994 at the peak of his ti­tle bat­tle with Da­mon Hill. He was dis­qual­i­fied af­ter his Benet­ton’s ride height was deemed to be too low, and Hill in­her­ited the win

“Fer­nando is a fab­u­lous driver… but he wasn’t a team man and, from time to time, would re­ally up­set peo­ple”

Af­ter be­ing dropped by Re­nault in 2009, Nel­son Pi­quet Jr told the FIA he had de­lib­er­ately crashed his R28 at the 2008 Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix on the in­struc­tions of his team. The en­su­ing furore was dubbed ‘Crash­gate’ and re­sulted in a five-year ban from F1 for Sy­monds and a life­time ban for team boss Flavio Bri­a­tore

Bot­tas, at the wheel of a resur­gent Wil­liams, leads McLaren’s Kevin Mag­nussen at this year’s Span­ish Grand Prix

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