In the second of a two-part interview with ex-F1 driver Mark Blundell, the Brit talks exclusively to Crash dot Net about the tyre war, his top five teams of 2001 and a lot more....

Q:
If you had to pick out your top five teams, who would they be, and why?

Mark Blundell:
My top five teams of the 2001 F1 season would have to be Ferrari, then Williams, Sauber, McLaren and Jordan - although this last one is a tough one.

Q:
And why?

MB:
Ferrari have to be top because they were outstanding all year and retained the constructors' title with four races to go. That says it all really.

Williams did well too - to progress so much - and, while admittedly there were a few glitches, it's great to see them back to their best.

Sauber, I think, shocked everyone - not so much with their early season form, but more with the fact they maintained that level of performance throughout the year. It was great to see a little team do so well.

I put McLaren fourth because, in my mind, they made too many mistakes for a team of their calibre. At certain times though, they had a lot going on - what with the Newey situation, Hakkinen retiring and so on - but I am sure they will bounce back in 2002.

Last of the five is Jordan. They had quite an up and down year and, while they haven't quite reached the big boy stage, they're certainly still knocking on the door. Trulli's qualifying performance's were a definite highlight for the Silverstone-based team.

Q:
Which team or teams were the biggest disappointment in 2001?

MB:
For me - for much the same reason as I said Eddie Irvine was the most disappointing driver - it would have to be Benetton. At the start of the year, expectations were really, really high, but they never really delivered. It was only in the second half of the year that the team started to get better, which will give them all some hope for 2002, but disappointing in 2001 nevertheless.

Q:
Which team surprised you most?

MB:
That's an easy one. Sauber had to be the biggest surprise of 2001. A great effort and fourth in the constructors' championship against some far better funded teams, such as Jaguar, BAR and Benetton, was a fantastic achievement.

Q:
Which was, for you, the best looking car?

MB:
Ferrari. It was a lovely car, conceptually it was good, it was innovative and red is always sexy!

Q:
Which race or races were the most memorable this year?

MB:
Brazil was good thanks to Juan Pablo Montoya's move on Michael Schumacher, as was Imola and the manner in which Ralf Schumacher dominated it. Finally, I really enjoyed the Italian GP and seeing JPM take his maiden F1 win.

Q:
What did you make of the tyre war?

MB:
Michelin came in and did a great job. They put the pressure on Bridgestone really quickly and, while evidently at times they lacked the required circuit data, to win GPs in their first year back is no small deal.

Q:
Is a tyre war good for F1?

MB:
Yeah, it's healthy. F1 is about competition, so the more competition the better. Greater competition leads to more rivalry, and more rivalry to better racing, and better racing to more entertainment, which, after all, is what F1 is all about.

Q:
Do you see Michelin being closer in 2002, especially now they have two top teams with McLaren joining Williams.

MB:
Definitely. Michelin will be a lot better next year, and McLaren's arrival will be a big help. It is another string to [Pierre] Dupasquier's bow, and bad news for Bridgestone.

Q:
Looking ahead to 2002, give us some predictions - Drivers' champion? Winning constructor?

MB:
Ferrari will be strong out of the box and, if they run with their older car, they will also be more reliable. Whether or not it will have the performance is another question. McLaren will have the bit between their teeth following 2001 and will be eager to get off to a good start. Williams should also make more progress, and it will be interesting to see if Sauber can maintain this year's form. Of the rest, Jaguar and Benetton will be hoping to move up a gear and, at Jordan and BAR, both teams will again be battling for Honda's affections.

Q:
Prost GP has recently gone into receivership. How do you feel about this? What does this tell us about modern F1?

MB:
It's a great shame. When Alain Prost started, he stepped in at a time when the economy was getting worse and so he had an uphill task from the off. It's a sad state of affairs, of course, but F1 has seen it all before and will no doubt see it again.

Q:
Looking beyond 2002, how do you see F1 developing? Will Premier1 GP be a problem? Will the new manufacturers' backed [GPWC] series, if it takes off, kill F1? Or, if there is F1 and GPWC, will this have the same kind of effect on single-seater racing in Europe as the IRL/CART split in America?

MB:
If the car manufacturers' series takes off, I think that it will be the death of F1 - mainly because F1 is now made up of mostly manufacturers. The situation, though, is highly complex, highly political and it's a way down the line yet to being an issue.

As regards Premier1 GP, if it takes off then it will be yet another competing single-seater series. The big deal with that is what will it produce on the race track? The idea of trying to cross-reference motor racing fans and football fans is a novel one, but whether it works or not, only time will tell. The be-all-and-end-all, though, will be whether it produces great races. If it does, I am sure it will survive - if it doesn't, then it's in big trouble.

Q:
Will there be F1 after Bernie Ecclestone?

MB:
Yeah - it is no different to a driver leaving. The series is bigger than anyone individual. Will it stay the same? I'm doubtful as, whenever the top brass changes, it inevitably leads to change in style. But F1 will survive. It's very big and growing all the time.