Which of the rookie drivers will make the biggest impact?“Paul di Resta’s a much stronger prospect for me. I’ve known him for some time, I watched him in DTM and in the lower formulas. He did a good job as third driver for Force India last season. And they must have seen something in him to give him the opportunity.”
What about the rookie teams? Will HRT, Virgin or Team Lotus step up?“I didn’t think they’d all make it to year two, to be honest; if they all get through this season then maybe they’ll be with us for the long term. Trouble is, the gap from the bottom three teams up to Torro Rosso and Force India is still wide; they’ll need to make a quantum leap to bridge it.”
Do you think driver-adjustable rear wings will make for more overtaking? If not, how would you spice up the sport?“I don’t think so. But then we have to be clear about what kind of racing we want to watch every weekend. It makes no sense to have a qualifying formula that automatically puts the slower guys behind the faster ones, and then complain when there’s a lack of overtaking.
“If you want to change that without changing the qualifying set-up, you could think about ballast – the system they use in touring cars. But whatever you do is going to be artificial; it’s always going to skew the natural order of the race.”
How long before Ross Brawn and Mercedes GP win a race?“The framework’s there for them now. Signing Bob Bell [Mercedes GP’s new technical director] will make a big difference; that’s a real shift in the Formula 1 landscape, and it’ll free Ross’s hand to have greater input elsewhere.”
Who do you expect to disappoint in 2011?“Massa’s the obvious one. Word is, he’s still in that Ferrari for three reasons: because he’s managed by Jean Todt’s son, because of the accident at Hungary, and because Alonso intervened to prevent Ferrari signing Kubica as a number two driver. Maybe Fernando thinks Robert’s a bit too quick.”
Is this really a golden era for the sport?“I believe so. I watched 19 races last year and didn’t know who would be driver’s champion until mid-way through the 19th race. And I can’t remember that ever happening before. It was a fascinating year.”
Finally, what will F1 look like in 10 years’ time, where will it be racing, and will we have another multi-title-winning driver like Michael Schumacher?
“We’ve already seen races like Magny Cours bite the dust. I’d expect a couple more European venues to eventually get the chop – possibly the Nürburgring or Barcelona – in favour of a Russian grand prix. There’s also going to have to be some downsizing of the calendar; 19 or 20 races a season is too many and it’s not sustainable. As for another Schumacher, I think Vettel could be the closest we’ll get, especially if he continues to improve at this rate.”
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