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EXCLUSIVE Ben Edwards - Q&A

10 March 2013

BBC Sport F1 lead commentator Ben Edwards gives his thoughts and opinions ahead of the 2013 F1 season opener in Australia...



Crash.net:
Ben, what general conclusions can we make from winter testing?

Ben Edwards:
Well stick the tail on the donkey! It is difficult to make any conclusions from testing. Obviously Mercedes had a great Barcelona test and I am really pleased for them. We all want to see Lewis [Hamilton] up there and fighting with a car that is capable of winning and it does look like they are certainly in a better position than at the end of last year. It is interesting because they started last year quite well with [Michael] Schumacher and [Nico] Rosberg. But I think that was maybe also partly because of the underperformance of Ferrari and Red Bull Racing. Whereas this time they look like they will all be very even. What we do know is that it is going to be mighty close and that is what really excites me. From a viewing point of view and from a spectators' point of view you just want lots of cars fighting for pole position and fighting for race wins. I think we will get that.

Crash.net:
It was very open last season, especially at the start, with seven different winners from the first seven races. Do you think we will get that again in 2013?

Ben Edwards:
I don't think we will get that in quite the same way. I do think we will see different teams capable of winning races on different days but I don't see the same random element that we had last year. The tyres will be a major factor again and how you work those tyres will be important again. However I am not sure there will be quite the same confusion over tyre warm-up that we had in qualifying last year. That means the cars will probably qualify relatively in order of their correct race pace, but then it will be about clever strategy to make sure you use the tyres well. But I don't see there being quite the variety we had at the beginning of last year.

Crash.net:
This will be the third year with the Drag Reduction System [DRS]. Do you think it has been a success?

Ben Edwards:
Yeah, I like it. I am one of those that is pro because having driven a single-seater at a very low level myself, but a car with wings, I know how frustrating it is following another car through a corner. You can effectively do the same speed as the guy ahead, but you lose performance behind him because the 'wash' of his car means that your car has less grip. As a result you immediately lose ground on him coming onto the next straight. For me all DRS does is give you that back again. If you were dealing with a car that had no wings, like a Formula Ford car or an old F1 car you didn't have that problem and you didn't need that help. If you look at back at Austin in particular, that was a classic race where Lewis was bearing down on Sebastian [Vettel] and it was a fabulous race between the two of them. Then Sebastian got a little tripped up by a backmarker, but the move was only completed because Lewis could use DRS as well. It was a great race and in a way the right man won on the day as Lewis seemed to have the greater pace. It would have been deeply frustrating if he had just sat behind Sebastian, even after Seb had been held up. So, for me, DRS is a good thing.

Crash.net:
Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel won the titles for a third year in a row in 2012. Can they make it four in 2013 - it is a big ask isn't it?

Ben Edwards:
It is, but I think they can because they have been the supreme team under the current regulations. Brawn won in 2009 but Red Bull Racing were the nearest challengers - and once they got the double diffuser up and running they were arguably quicker than Brawn. At the beginning of last year they struggled when the exhaust blown diffusers were banned, but they came back. It was amazing how they came back. They just seem to have such a handle on these regulations. It might all change next year because there are new regulations. However right now I still believe they are going to be hard to beat and Vettel is on such a crest of a wave. Michael Schumacher managed to do it in the early 2000's [and won four titles in a row. In fact he did five]. Why can't Sebastian do it? He would love to emulate what Schumacher did.

Crash.net:
Fernando Alonso and Ferrari came close again last year. What do they need to do to go all the way?

Ben Edwards:
Fernando doesn't need to do anything different. He drove a perfect season from my point of view last year. You don't often get seasons like that and I think he would be the first to admit it. But what let him down was the car. We know that and particularly in the early part of the year, before the Barcelona race. So, it is clear what they need. They need the car to be competitive from the word go and looking at testing it looks like they have that. I am not sure, however, that it will be quite what they need throughout the whole year. Let's see. They are making progress and technically they will be stronger this year than they were. But I still think it is a bit of an evolution that they are going through at Ferrari. They have come from somewhere that wasn't very good, with problems with the wind tunnel and so on. They have made a lot of strides forward. But I am not 100 per cent sure they are quite ready yet technically, to be at the same level as Red Bull.

Crash.net:
Looking at McLaren, has Jenson Button got what it takes to lead them to success?

Ben Edwards:
I think he has - and we know he has. He has done it before in 2009. But what 2009 tells us and also what we saw last year, is that Jenson needs the car to be exactly where he needs it. It needs to be in a narrow window of set-up and when he has got the car to his liking he is amazing, he is unbeatable. It is not common however, to have a car that good at 19 different race tracks. It might be great at three or four of them, but at one or two it will be a bit difficult and they will have to scratch their heads and he is going to have to hustle it. That was where Lewis was so strong with McLaren. He could hustle the car and get a time out of it that it perhaps didn't deserve to have. Jenson struggles with that a bit more. I don't think the pressure is on Jenson. He knows what he can do and he can win this championship. The pressure is on McLaren. The pressure is on them to provide him with a car that is in that window of opportunity. If they can do that he can definitely win the title.

Crash.net:
Will Lewis get frustrated if McLaren are winning and Mercedes are struggling like they were in 2012?

Ben Edwards:
No, I don't think he has set his expectations very high. He is in a good place in his head at the moment. He is relaxed and confident. He knows what he can do and he is looking to the future. He is also going to push the team hard to try and beat the likes of McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull and I think he will win races and if he wins enough of them he can challenge for the championship. I don't see the team necessarily being strong enough this year though to win the championship. Lewis is an amazing talent, but there will be a few teething problems where miscommunication or not quite understanding each other costs them because it takes time for a team and a driver to learn how each other work. There might be a couple of missed opportunities, and ultimately that means he probably won't win the championship. But who knows.

Crash.net:
Lotus and Williams both won races last season. Will they win again?

Ben Edwards:
I think they can and Lotus particularly, at the right circuits, and with the right situation with temperatures, and tyre wear, and I think they will be good on tyre wear, could get some wins. Kimi [Raikkonen] has no rust on him anymore. Romain [Grosjean] should be very strong this year too. It is make or break for him. My optimism says it is going to be make rather than break. I think he can address those issues on the opening laps and if he can, his qualifying in the early part of last year, and his race performances, show he is going to be very competitive. Lotus is then a team that can win races. I am not sure if they will be able to sustain it for the whole duration though. The budget of the top three teams is big and I don't think Lotus can quite compete with that in terms of the development required, especially as all the teams are going to be looking at 2014 and the new rules. I feel that Lotus might have to dive out of the development race a bit earlier than some and that is going to hurt them. But look for them in the early part of the year. Look for them getting in a few giant killing performances then.

Crash.net:
Let's look at the other end of the grid. Are Marussia and Caterham delivering what they need to be?

Ben Edwards:
No. For me, Caterham, in particular, are not delivering what they need to be delivering. Marussia are doing okay based on what they have in terms of technology and in terms of budget. But to be honest, neither is delivering what they should be. They need to be closer in the times. Okay they might still be at the back, but that time difference between them and say Toro Rosso is still too great. There is a lot of work to be done. But what I do think is it could be quite exciting between those two teams at the back this year. Jules Bianchi at Marussia is quite exciting. He is a talent. He will bring Max Chilton along with him and Caterham might have a bit of a tough time sometimes coping with Marussia and on itself that should be quite interesting. But clearly both teams need to step up and that is not easy at the moment with the lack of funding at that end of the grid.

Crash.net:
Final question, this will be your second year in the commentary booth with David Coulthard. Are you looking forward to working with him again and do you think you have gelled well now?

Ben Edwards:
It is like anything, it is a relationship that grows the more you do it. I was so happy with the way it began, but it definitely got better and developed as we understood each other better. I really felt we had a good rapport going throughout the year and it sort of got stronger and stronger. So, yeah, I am relishing getting back in the 'box again and working with DC and everyone else in the team. It is a great team and I am really privileged to be part of this team. It is phenomenal. I play my part - but it is a team and I think it is a great team.


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