Whitmarsh excited by F1's future, as Mansell rues 'boring' Abu Dhabi
17 November 2010
Following the conclusion of what has been lauded as one of the most thrillingly unpredictable title campaigns in years, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has forecast 'some great seasons ahead' for F1 – but former world champion Nigel Mansell has lamented an overtaking-free Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale last weekend that he slated as 'very boring'.
For the third time in four years in the top flight, the destiny of the laurels was resolved only in the very last race, but the fact that as many as four drivers remained in contention arriving in Abu Dhabi was history-making. Although the off-track controversies remained in part, on the whole the focus was on the action that took place on the circuit, and an epic five-way title scrap for the majority of the campaign. Long, says Whitmarsh, may that trend continue.
“We have a fantastic sport, the pinnacle of motor racing, with the best cars in the world and the best drivers competing,” the Englishman is quoted as having said by the Press Association. “This year we have concentrated on what is happening on the track, not what is happening in the paddock, and that has to be good for the sport.
“People were getting fed up of the polemics, but the teams are now working together better than they have done in trying to balance off the views and opinions. There's a different atmosphere in the paddock, and a lot of people have contributed to that because the teams have recognised that if the sport is going to get bigger and better we have to work together, and that's what we're trying to do now.
“Of course, we're immensely competitive, so it could be very easy for these truces and co-operations to fall apart, but the signs are good and we're going to have some great seasons ahead of us. In addition, if you've stability and clear regulations that are administered correctly, then the drivers can do what comes naturally to them. They are great, gifted drivers, and although we can't guarantee it, there's no reason why next year's championship cannot be as good, if not even better than this year.”
One aspect that the 52-year-old assuredly would change, however, is the outcome, with McLaren winding up runners-up to Red Bull Racing in the final F1 2010 constructors' standings, and former world champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button managing only fourth and fifth respectively in the drivers' chase. It is now twelve years since the Woking-based outfit last prevailed in the teams' battle – an unflattering statistic that Whitmarsh is eager to stop in its tracks.
“Anyone who doesn't consider McLaren a serious contender next year would be foolish, but we can't guarantee anything,” he cautioned. “We have two great drivers – we've got the driver line-up right – so it's down to us as a team to do a better job, and that's what we are going to try and do.”
Mansell, meanwhile, was unable to hide his disappointment at the lack of excitement in Abu Dhabi – around a circuit that was supposed to have been specifically-designed to encourage overtaking – particularly with regard to the evident difficulty that Fernando Alonso experienced in trying to fight his way past Renault rookie Vitaly Petrov, a situation that played a key role in costing the Ferrari star a third career crown.
Whilst branding the race something of an anti-climax, however, Williams' 1992 title-winner was quick to heap praise upon the sport's newest and youngest-ever world champion Sebastian Vettel, who was ultimately the architect of an improbable success story at Yas Marina courtesy of a flawless lights-to-flag victory when the pressure and stakes were at their very highest.
“The two protagonists, Alonso with Ferrari and Mark [Webber], just didn't pass anybody,” blasted Mansell – a prolific and ballsy overtaker back in his day – in an interview with the Daily Mail. “It was a very boring race. You should always be able to overtake. I don't understand it. Alonso is known for his charging, and to have a car which seems to be quicker than the car in front and not being able to overtake doesn't make sense.
“It is very easy to comment after the event, but the biggest mistake was when Ferrari responded to Webber's pit-stop. They should have stayed out and only responded to Sebastian, and I think had they done that, there would have been a different outcome.
“Sebastian did an absolutely fantastic job – he did all he could do, which was to get pole position and win the race. He is a great world champion, the youngest one ever and Red Bull did the double. And don't underestimate what Mark did. He did a fantastic job, and hopefully he'll get another chance next year.”