14 March 2013
Tom Clarkson speaks to Crash.net's Rob Wilkins at the London press launch for the BBC's 2013 F1 coverage...
F1 journalist and broadcaster Tom Clarkson will join the BBC's television presentation team in 2013 as a pit lane reporter alongside Lee McKenzie. Here he gives his thoughts and opinions ahead of this weekend's season opener in Australia...
Tom, congratulations on your new role with the BBC, you must be looking forward to getting stuck in?
I am indeed. I am very excited about it and what a brilliant year to be joining the BBC F1 team because we have obviously got [nine] live races and the practice sessions [on BBC2 now]. I think it is going to be a stunning season of action. We had seven different winners in the first seven races last year and I can see that - and perhaps more - happening this year because rule stability pushes all the cars closer together. It is all very exciting.
Last year the title fight went right to the wire. Do you think that could happen again?
Yes, I do, absolutely. As I was just saying, I think with rule stability the cars are pushed closer together and then it becomes much more of a drivers' championship. I think we will see the best drivers getting the best results and that is not always the case in F1 obviously. We will see the [Lewis] Hamilton's and the [Fernando] Alonso's and the [Sebastian] Vettel's all hammering it out at the front. Personally I believe it will be one of the best season's ever. Bring it on!
Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel have taken the honours for the last three years, can they do it for a fourth time in 2013?
I think they will win the Constructors' Championship because the cars will be close together in terms of performance and then, you have just got to work out which is the stronger driver pairing on the grid and for me that is still Vettel and [Mark] Webber. Webber's experience and ability to sort a car is vital to that team and Vettel is blindingly quick - we have seen that over and over again. I see them doing the Constructors' Championship then...
As for the Drivers' Championship, my tip for the top, if you like, is Alonso. He got that shed of a Ferrari within three points of Vettel last year and the signs are that this year's Ferrari is much more competitive. He is mega consistent and will bang in a few wins and should take the title at the end of the day.
Is it 'do or die' for Ferrari and Alonso this year?
They are putting a lot into this season. It is significant that Rory Byrne is taking over the 2014 project because that frees up technical director, Pat Fry, to focus on 2013. It means he can develop the car right the way through to the end of the season. That is important for their championship chances because we could get to the start of the European season and I think the teams from mid-grid downwards, if they are not in the mix, they will probably cut short development on this year's car and focus on 2014 [when there is a major regulation change]. Alonso has the luxury of having a car that should be developed all year. But next year is still another opportunity for them. I don't see it as 'do or die' or if it doesn't happen now Alonso will start throwing his toys around. He loves being a Ferrari driver - maybe it is the latin temperament coming through. He is much better suited to the Ferrari environment than any British team.
Felipe Massa ended 2012 strong. That is a good sign for Ferrari too...
It is indeed. Let's not forget he out-qualified Alonso for the last two races, if we disregard the gearbox seal being broken in Austin. But he did actually out-qualify Fernando there. It is great to see Massa back on track [after an awful start to last season] and he does have a good record against these top drivers. If he has carried that momentum through the winter, which I think he has, he will be up there. If you look at testing, he seems much happier in himself and much more relaxed around the team. It is going to be a strong team. But I don't think it is as strong a line-up as Vettel and Webber.
It is common to talk about the favourites for the title. But who do you think is an outside bet for it? Who or what team is a 'dark horse'?
Outside bets? Well, Lewis [Hamilton] is going to be 'there or there abouts'. He said a month ago all he wanted this year was to be within punching distance of the front runners and then he can do the rest. Lewis will win races and if you are winning races then by definition you are potentially a championship contender. He is one then.
But the team that I reckon will make a big step forward this year is Williams. They have got a good driver line-up. Stronger than last year. I think [Valtteri] Bottas is Finland's next [F1] world champion. There were also signs at the end of 2012 that [Pastor] Maldonado is calming down a bit and is less impetuous. The car also looks quick. They have got limited resources but they seem to have invested it in the right places. The Coanda exhaust is a big area of gain for them when other teams made that gain last year. So, watch out for Williams!
Final question, DRS – do you like it or not?
Can I sit on the fence on that one? When you get to places like Abu Dhabi, DRS is vital. Let's cast our minds back to 2010, when Alonso couldn't overtake anybody and Vitay Petrov in particular. At circuits like that it is important. But at other places where overtaking is possible anyway, I feel, and really wish, it wasn't there. The skill in overtaking and setting up an overtaking manoeuvre three corners before you actually do it is an integral part of being a racing driver and of course with DRS you no longer have to think like that. A bit of both is my answer to that one then!
Tagged as: Ferrari , Williams , Sebastian Vettel , Webber , Red Bull Racing , Fernando Alonso , BBC , Maldonado , bottas , Clarkson , Tom Clarkson
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