Jean-Louis Schlesser is backing Fernando Alonso to win the F1 2012 drivers' title and he believes the Spaniard will be 'hard to beat' in the second half of the season, which gets underway next week in Belgium.
The former Williams F1 test driver in the 1980s and two-time Dakar Rally winner was speaking while in the UK last weekend at the Castle Combe Rallyday, where he was a guest of honour at the Cooper Tires stand. He added, though, that with nine races left the outcome is by no means certain.
“It is very difficult [to say who will win this season in F1]. But if you look at the consistency, I think Alonso will be very hard to beat,” Schlesser said in an interview for the official Rallyday podcast
. “The capacity of Ferrari to react this year looks like it is better than in the past.
“We will have to see though [if he does it], because the championship is only about halfway through roughly.
“It is very difficult to say [who will ultimately win] – very, very difficult. It could be that one team, which is now say third or fourth, could be in the front for some races, and then it changes all the competition again. Many different drivers have won races [this year]. It is going to depend on the weather, it will depend on the tyres - some cars use the tyres better than others. We have to see.”
Schlesser meanwhile added that he is enjoying F1 more following the introduction of DRS in 2011: “It is more interesting now because they can pass with the movable rear wing. It would maybe be more interesting if they would have a big engine though, with no assistance - that would be much, much harder to drive. But today it is like this. So we have to follow the progress and the technology,” he remarked.
Schlesser is something of a legend in motor racing and as well as his period at Williams and his victories in the Dakar Rally in 1999 and 2000, he also achieved success in a number of different motorsports disciplines. He jointly won the French Formula 3 Championship with a certain Alain Prost in 1978, and went on to win the French Touring Car Championship in 1985 and the World Sportscar Championship in 1989 and 1990 with Mercedes.
As for his own period working in F1, Schlesser looks back on it with fondness, even if he did only get to race in one event when he subbed for Nigel Mansell at the Italian Grand Prix in 1988 - not that he finished. A collision with Ayrton Senna late on deprived the Brazilian of victory and ultimately stopped McLaren taking a clean sweep of wins that season [to see footage of the incident from YouTube – CLICK HERE
“[What happened at Monza] was very famous because of the problem with Ayrton Senna,” Schlesser recalled. “At the end of the day the problem was I could brake earlier to not have this problem [the collision], but also, if Ayrton had waited just a little bit to pass, again we would not have the accident. It is like this.
“[Still] I drove for many years as a test driver for Williams and it was good. F1 was also very good at that time.
“We, Williams, were not lucky though, as we didn't have the very high powered engine [and we had to make do with the Judd]. But the experience was okay because in between I drove the Mercedes [in the World Sportscar Championship]. F1 is something, but sportscars is also something.
“The problem at that time was that I was paid to drive and do my job and my passion - and the other way, many drivers had to pay for driving in F1. That was not my case,” he added.