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EXCLUSIVE Gary Anderson - Q&A

9 March 2013

BBC Sport F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson offer his views ahead of the 2013 F1 season opener in Australia...


Crash.net:
Gary, you have an expanded brief this season with the BBC and will now work across TV, radio and online. Are you looking forward to that?

Gary Anderson:
I am - we really want to bring as much technical stuff to the people that want to know as we can. The radio is a great medium for that and doing BBC2 for the Friday practices and Saturday morning practice is also a great medium for it. There is so much that goes on during practice that is about the car and about the work load. We all love qualifying and the racing, but that is never just down to the guy driving the wheels off it. In the background a lot of work goes on before then. It will be nice to bring some more of that to it and explain what goes on. Whenever we do qualifying and the race on TV there really isn't enough time [to focus much on technical stuff] as the spectacle is big enough and so this is a mechanism to try and bring more of that to the show.

Crash.net:
We have had all three pre-season tests now. I know it is not easy to make judgements from testing. But in your expert opinion, who is looking good?

Gary Anderson:
It is tough [to make any judgements]. I went to the Jerez test and I went to the last Barcelona test. I missed the one in the middle.

But if you just take the last Barcelona test, the Mercedes car was obviously quick and the lap times were good. You can't look at them and think, 'They were quick but slow,' if you get my gist. They were almost two seconds quicker than last year's test. I think Mercedes at the beginning of this year will be very strong. They need to show that they can maintain that development all the way through the year now. They need to show they can do well and do a good job in the championships.

But the Red Bull still looks very good on the track [too]. It is very stable and I am sure whenever they get to push for a lap time the car will be right up there. I do think however, it is going to be very close.

If I was a betting man, I would say right now, it is [Fernando] Alonso for the [Drivers'] championship just because of his true, real determination that we saw last year. We hadn't seen that before in him and I think we will see a bit more of it this year. Red Bull Racing is my tip for the Constructors' because the two drivers they have will score good points all the time. The car is very good. But it wouldn't surprise me if I am sitting here again in November and one of the Mercedes drivers has won the drivers' title and Mercedes has won the Constructors' because if they can do the job, as good as I think the car is right now, there is no reason why that can't happen.

Crash.net:
Alonso and Ferrari came close last year to winning the drivers' title - and in 2010. What do they need to do differently? Do they need to do anything differently?

Gary Anderson:
They need to do a better car. Alonso drove a car last year and had results out of it that weren't anywhere near what the car's level should have been. He was driving well above the car. I think we can see another step there. He is a shrewd character. [Sebastian] Vettel and Alonso are very similar in my book. They go away and come back better people. They dig deep and they look better at the start of each year. I don't know if it is mental confidence, or just physical confidence or physical fitness, whatever. There is something in there that they are able to do. We saw that with Alonso last year. He had a spring in his step. He was in a different world. Yes, he lost the world championship, but at the end of the day it was only by a few points and at the end of a season in which Ferrari shouldn't really have been able to do what they did. The [2013 Ferrari] car looks a lot better and is a lot better on the track. It looks a lot better on lap time. It looks a lot more comfortable to drive. There is still work to do to move it forward but with Alonso's determination, for me, he will be scoring big points every weekend. Last year he scored good points most weekends and had the odd benefit. But this year he will justifiably take them because of a true competitive level.

Crash.net:
Do you think the Pirelli tyres will play as big a role in 2013?

Gary Anderson:
They will and personally I think there is a good chance the grid will be more representative as far as the true performance of the car. That's because the warm-up of the tyre is better. Last year we had a lot of problems with people complaining about the warm-up and sometimes people slipped up and down the grid a bit because of that. So the grid should be more stable.

In the races however, it definitely looks like there will be big decisions to make on the pit wall as far as strategy is concerned. I keep saying strategy is a living thing. It is alright having a big plan. But recognise when that plan is going wrong. With so many people last year I was watching and it was so frustrating how they just stuck to their plans and then paid the price. [Kimi] Raikkonen lost a couple of races, I think, because the team dragged its feet in making a decision. There were decisions that could have been made that were better. Yes, you can end up with egg on your face. But it is very easy not to make a decision. But it can also be very rewarding if you do make a decision and it is right. That is why I say strategy is a living thing. You have got to be on the pit wall with your finger in the air and if it gets wet it is raining! Do something about it. You don't have to phone somebody else to find out it is raining.

Crash.net:
This will be the third year with the Drag Reduction System [DRS]. Do you like it?

Gary Anderson:
I don't like it. I don't like anything that is artificial. We are tackling the ability to race in the wrong way. It is like going skiing knowing you are going to break your leg and putting a plaster on before you go. I genuinely believe the cars should have a lot less downforce and that is quite easy to achieve with a major regulation change and could have been done for 2014, when there are major changes.

We also need a lot more tyre. Basically you increase the cornering speed up to 180-200 km/h by having more tyre. You [also] decrease corning speed above that so it is safer and you don't need as much run-off areas and such. You increase the ability for people to overtake because the cars are not so aerodynamically influenced. You decrease the ability for the big teams to get away from the small teams because with the tyres everyone just buys them and puts them on the car. You simplify a lot of things. A front wing assembly at the moment, for example, is so complicated it costs a £100,000 to make one. That is stupid. By re-writing the rules you bring that back down to a practical figure. So you save money, you make it safer and you make the racing better. You give everybody the same opportunity with the tyres to go racing. I can't find a negative.

DRS is just a patch on top of a problem - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. This year it will only really be used in the DRS zone. Does that matter as such? Not really because in qualifying you never really saw it. It was just part of the lap time. The lap time should be half a second, maybe three quarters of a second slower in Q because of no DRS. But that will disappear into the undergrowth somewhere and we will have one or two positions on the track when you can use it in the race. For me that is a bit artificial if you get within one second of somebody...

Maybe it should be if you are going to have that type of advantage, you can only use it 20 times a race or something. Then you can use it to your advantage – you can use it for lap time or anywhere you want. You could have the same in qualifying. You could use it say 10 times in each session and you could save it all up for the last run if you want to - and put all your eggs in one basket - or you could use it a bit on your first run and then a bit on the second. You make decisions then. For me that would be the right thing. You can catch somebody in the race because you could use it every bit on one lap. I wouldn't publicise how many times someone has used it either. I'd keep that a secret so you didn't know and then it keeps the drivers' and teams all guessing.

Crash.net:
Is that the way forward then?

Gary Anderson:
If you are going to have an overtaking tool - and DRS is the thing we have at the minute - there is much better ways to use it than we are doing now. I am not a great believer in overtaking tools. I like pure racing. For me it should be a strategic thing on the car like running the engine map at full power for three or four laps to catch somebody. You use it strategically, not just in that zone. For me that would be the best way to utilise it. You could do lots of things. But at the end of the day it is there and so I am just saying: 'Let us focus on that and how do we make it better.'

Crash.net:
Moving on, do you think the midfield pack will still be as tight?

Gary Anderson:
It will be. I haven't really seen that the midfield teams have stepped forward - and I count five teams as being at the front and that leaves six, with four in the midfield [and two at the back]. I don't think they have shown any signs of being an aggravation for the guys up front. They will be now and again obviously. That is a case of them doing the job right and the other guys doing it wrong. But I haven't seen anything that makes me think yet there is six big teams now. The fight at the front will be tight and the midfield will be tight. I think the fight between Caterham and Marussia will be tight this year too.

Crash.net:
Which team from the midfield is likely to trouble the top five most?

Gary Anderson:
I'd have to say if I was picking a team, and it is not just necessarily a team, Nico Hulkenberg and Sauber would be my bet. Nico is a fantastic driver and if they have an equal car to some of the others, he will put it up there. He got his confidence up last year and it is still there. But as I say, it is not just the team. If he was in a Force India still, I would say the same. I am not sure the Sauber is quite good enough at the minute. It looks like it is lacking a bit of grip. It is moving a lot. It has an understeer. Time will tell if they can get rid of that. But that is the one I would keep an eye on.

Crash.net:
Nico was sensational in Brazil at the end of 2012 wasn't he...?

Gary Anderson:
He was sensational in those tricky conditions but you have to give him the tools to do the job. The Force India and Nico were great there. It just shows he should have maybe have had an opportunity to go to a bigger team. But commercial reasons or whatever meant he is there [and with Sauber]. You have got to say Ferrari must be looking at him a little bit for the future to replace Felipe Massa. He is an ideal candidate. I think the future is bright for him.

Crash.net:
Finally, looking at the two backmarkers, Caterham and Marussia, what do they need to do in 2013?

Gary Anderson:
I am a little disappointed that it is not closer. This is their fourth year going into it now and the fourth year of fairly stable regulations. They should have got on top of it a bit more. Marussia seem to have moved forward, as far as Caterham is concerned, but I don't think the two of them have moved forward much in terms of from the back of the field. They have just got closer together. The Marussia on track looks a nice car. It lacks downforce and it lacks grip. But the drivers are able to drive it consistently within what they have got. The Caterham looks like it hasn't got the downforce, but it also doesn't have the balance. It is a bit of an adventure. What would I rather have? The Marussia, I suppose. There are lots of aerodynamic tweaks and things that they don't have and other cars do have. They should progressively go forward a little bit as they add them on. At Caterham they can only optimise the bits because most of them are already on there. It is going to be a tough task for both of them to close up. The battle for tenth is going to be just as important as the battle for first and second. It is good to see all these little wars going on down the grid.


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