by Rob Wilkins

Murray Walker needs no introduction. 'The Voice of F1' is famous the world over and is incredibly well liked. Murray was at The Raceway in London earlier this week as BMW confirmed that, not only would Nigel Mansell's sons, Greg and Leo, race in the Formula BMW UK Championship in 2006, but that the 1992 F1 world champion would become an ambassador for the series'. Crash.net Radio caught up with Murray following the news and got his thoughts on that and much, much more...

Q:
Murray, Nigel Mansell was confirmed as the ambassador for the FBMW championship today. That's exciting news, isn't it?

Murray Walker:
Yes it is. It is an outstanding championship because BMW, as a major motorsport company, have put there money where there mouth is in generating this new single-seater formula. It is in Britain, it's in Germany, it's in America and it's in Asia. Then they have the World Finals in Bahrain this coming weekend.

Getting Nigel Mansell to be the ambassador is a very considerable coup for them. But they have got one problem and that is that some people are bound to think that, because Nigel is the ambassador and because his two sons are driving, that they will get preferential treatment.

I am totally unbiased in this area, and I have made it my business to find out what the situation is. There is absolutely no doubt they will not get preferential treatment. They all have to use the same tyres, they all have to use the same engines and they all have to use same cars [in FBMW].

I had an open mind about Leo and Greg before I came here today. I know them well, because they have grown up in my time with Nigel, and I wondered whether they had got genuine talent or not. But today at The Raceway they demonstrated, albeit in karts, that they have got very real talent. They have been out in Formula BMW cars and they have been quicker at Pembrey than anybody else has been, so we could have a very exciting prospect ahead of us.

Q:
I was going to say that, in Formula One at the moment, we have Jenson Button and David Coulthard but, looking to the next generation, it is quite something to think we might have another Mansell - or two - coming up!

MW:
It is very easy to count chickens before they are hatched, especially when you want them to be hatched, but there has never been anyone like Nigel Mansell in the history of the sport in Britain in getting the public by the throat and getting them right behind him. Everybody will want the young Mansells to win.

But they have got a colossal problem, because their names are not Greg and Leo Smith, they are Greg and Leo Mansell. The public will have an enormous expectation of them, and all the people they are driving against will be determined to beat them so they can say 'I have beaten the Mansells'. But then that is just an extra hazard they have got to overcome, hopefully on their way to the top.

They have got long way to go. They have been though karts, they have done a couple of years there and they are going to be in Formula BMW in 2006. I can see them actually getting into F3 pretty quickly because, whilst having the Mansell name is a bit of a disadvantage in some ways, it is a very considerable advantage in others. First of all, they have got dad to tell them how to do it - and Nigel will not be backwards in being forward in telling them how to do it - and, secondly, Nigel is not exactly short of a bob or two. If it means spending a bit of money to help the boys get ahead, he will do it - and there are all the contacts in the world to help them. So, if they have got the talent, they will get there - and probably much quicker than most people could.

Q:
Obviously, next year, Nico Rosberg is going to be stepping up to drive for Williams. He is a similar age to Leo and Greg, so they are a bit behind. Can they make it up?

MW:
Yes, they can do. I think Rosberg is 20 years old now and he is in Formula One with Williams in 2006 and, as you rightly point out, Leo is 20, which is Rosberg's age - and Greg is only two years younger. If you take Lewis Hamilton, the chap who has been nurtured by McLaren, as a yardstick, he has got to GP2 in 2006 and he has got there very quickly indeed. If you look at the Mansells, they could hopefully have a year in Formula BMW, a year in F3, a year in GP2, so that would be 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2009, if all goes well, either or both of them they could be in Formula One - but they could, of course, meet a lot of problems on the way.

Q:
What do you expect from them in Formula BMW in 2006?

MW:
It is a very difficult question to answer. I haven't seen them racing in karts except here today at The Raceway and, without wishing to sound unkind, the opposition [from the members of the media] hasn't been the highest [laughs]. But they have done extremely well. They went very quickly at Pembrey when they did a test there. They went extremely quick - in fact, they went quicker than anyone else has been at Pembrey in Formula BMW. I think they have got the talent and I think they could get the job done, but we will just have to wait and see.

Q:
Moving on, you did the commentary for the Grand Prix Masters race a month or so ago. Are there plans to do any more with the GPM series in 2006 or is that all up in the air at the moment?

MW:
It is sort of up in the air. I think they want me to do it, and I enjoyed myself enormously at Kyalami, but I keep on saying to myself 'look, you stopped in 2001 because you had been doing it for 53 years and you wanted to go out with dignity, when you felt you were ahead rather than behind. Is it sensible to start again and risk making a fool of yourself and having everybody laugh at you?'.

Like everyone else, I have got my pride. At the moment, the head is in charge and it is a bit unlikely. But I can be very emotional and it wouldn't surprise me if the heart won out and I did it. So I can't tell you at the moment, but we will wait and see.

Q:
Obviously, it must be appealing that, unlike F1, there are a lot less races - instead of the 19 that make up the F1 season, there are only going to be probably six or seven for the Grand Prix Masters?

MW:
Yes, Formula One these days is a test of your stamina, because you start in March and finish in late October, early November. There is an awful lot of long hauls - three long hauls at the beginning, three long hauls at the end and two in the middle. It is enormously demanding. You are right that the Grand Prix Masters is just six races, three long hauls and three in Europe and that is something I keep saying to myself on the plus side... who knows!

Q:
Formula One in 2006, what are your predictions and thoughts?

MW:
Well, the prospects are enormously exciting. First of all, everybody is going to be in new motor cars because they are all going to be using 2.4 litre V8 engines, except Toro Rosso [formerly Minardi].

Ferrari will get it right this year, because Bridgestone are back at what they are doing best - that is three sprint races as opposed to one long race with tyres being allowed to be changed again.

Michael Schumacher will be very hungry to prove that he is still the best - as, in my opinion, he is. But then you have got [Fernando] Alonso, you've got [Kimi] Raikkonen, you've got Jenson Button, you've got [Juan Pablo] Montoya - they are all potential winners. They are all starting off in new motor cars. There is going to be a lot of change in terms of different teams using different tyres. Is the Cosworth engine going to be good enough? I think it is. How is [Jacques] Villeneuve going to go in a motor car that, hopefully, will better than he has had in the past?

I think it is going to be an enormously interesting, exciting and totally unpredictable season, which is why, unusually, I am not prepared to make any forecasts.

Q:
You can't see Alonso successfully defending his title then?

MW:
Well, of course, I can, but that is going to depend on how good the Renault is - and it is a new Renault. Let us not forget, either, that Kimi Raikkonen only got beaten by a hair's breath [in 2005], and it depends on how good the new Mercedes engine is and how good the new revised McLaren is. Montoya will be anxious to show he can beat Raikkonen, not only regularly, but enough to win the world championship. So the prospects really are terrific and it really is impossible to say what is going to happen.

Q:
Thanks for your time, Murray.

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