Following the legend that is Murray Walker makes being the lead commentator for the English speaking F1 world one of the hardest jobs around, several have tried including James Allen, Johnathon Legard and Martin Brundle.
Now the task belongs to David Croft, better known as ‘Crofty’, he along with Martin Brundle describe the action as it happens for Britain’s designated TV channel Sky Sports F1.
Returning from the desert of Abu Dhabi, where Sebastian Vettel claimed another superb victory, Crofty agreed to take some questions on the hot topics currently in F1 and more, here’s what he had to say.
Q. As Sebastian Vettel’s winning streak continues in Abu Dhabi, how would you compare this championship winning season to his previous three?
DC: “I think that this has been his most dominant season to date, easy to say when you look at the two seasons when he won the title at the last race but even compared to 2011 this has been outstanding.
“It’s true that he had more Pole positions in 2011, this year he’s had to share that with Mark Webber and the two Mercedes. But he’s been on the front row at least since Silverstone, a race that he would have comfortably won had his car not failed him for once. He would have won Hungary too had he not come out of the pits behind Jenson Button who was running a longer first stint. Those 10 laps allowed Lewis Hamilton to build a lead, but the Red Bull on that day was the faster car.
“I do believe that the change in tyre construction helped Red Bull, a fact that even Adrian Newey acknowledges, but to record 11 wins at the time of writing (Only Austin and Interlagos to go) and to beat his team mate by over half a minute in the last Grand Prix, his 2nd win by a
margin of 30 seconds or more this year, is sensational.
“Arguments prevail as to his ultimate talent compared to the car itself, but the Red Bull isn’t always the best car, he just turns it into a winning machine, consistently and constantly. I think if you look at some races, Germany especially, this year, you can see that he’s
maturing and improving with it.
“Obviously the counter argument for that is Malaysia, but the seeds of Multi 21 were sown long before Sepang and in Seb’s mind, Mark had it coming to him, hence his decision to go against the team plan and not to back down afterwards
“It’s his best season for me but I understand that that hasn’t proved popular with some sections of the F1 fan community.”
Q. One thing he’s had to deal with this year is the booing and the questions over his ability, do you think there’s any justification over the questions, and what could Seb do to answer those critics?
DC: “Given that F1 is a team sport where a drivers results are as dependent on the actions of his team and the ability of the machine he’s driving, as much as his own talent, you will always have a discussion as to just how good a particular driver really is.
“What does Seb have to do to answer the critics? Nothing more than he’s doing really. It would be churlish of me to suggest that he doesn’t take any notice of the boos or those criticising him, of course he does, he’s human. But his job is to win races and Championships for his employers, something he’s doing pretty well at the moment, so he’s
answering those questions about his ability and answering his critics in the only way he can.
“His reaction to winning the title, the doughnuts, the bowing before his car, the tears too, that showed those who like to criticise a side of him that is more human, more emotional, more like that guy we have come to know ever since he first set foot in the Paddock. As good a
piece of PR as Seb could get, only it wasn’t done for PR, it was the actions of a man who has to deal with intense pressure day in day, showing what it means to him to achieve what he’s just achieved and showing that when the pressure is released, he’s actually quite a fun
guy to be around.”
Q. How would you feel if you were Daniel Ricciardo now seeing what Seb is doing knowing what he has to come in 2014?
DC: “I’d say ‘bring it on’ or something in that vain. Daniel is a fine driver with an outstanding opportunity that most would give their right arm for. Despite the fact that his future team
mate has just won a 4th world title, this is no time for negativity, nor is it time to be fearful.
“The pressure won’t be on him from the start, although from the mid way point of next season he’ll be expected to be pulling his weight when it comes to constructors points. So he should be prepared for a season of immense hard work and dedication, prepare to repeat that every year that follows, prepare for the fact that he’ll be racing more in the spotlight than ever before, and plot a way to rise to the top.
“All of which I’m sure sank in a long long time ago, he’s a clever bloke is Daniel Ricciardo, and a top guy to spend some time with too.”
Q. Kimi Raikkonen’s been in the news a lot this year; firstly your thoughts on his move to Ferrari? Will it work and why do you think he chose them over say Red Bull?
DC: “What do I think of the move? I think it’s brilliant. It either produces a successful season for Ferrari, which might not be a bad thing for F1 in general. Or the two drivers do well,
but not enough to beat their competition which puts pressure on the Ferrari hierarchy, which should make for a few stories, or we get enough fireworks to wake the ghost of Guy Fawkes which should make for even more stories.
“I think that with Fernando Alonso seemingly looking for a move to McLaren still, we might only get one season of the two together and we should make the most of it. Kimi will be fine on the track, it’s just off it where there might be an issue.
“And why did he go to Ferrari not Red Bull? Because at the end of the day, the men at the top of Red Bull wanted one of their young drivers, not Kimi.”
Q. Secondly his recent spat with Lotus, do you think that could lead to questions over his overall motivation in F1?
DC: “I don’t think his motiviation for F1 has dropped one little bit.
“Given that he hasn’t been paid all season, and according to what’s been spoken, it was the same last year, his results have been tremendous. He still loves racing, there’s no doubt about that. It’s wrong that he hasn’t been paid, obviously he can cope given that he’s hardly struggling for money, but if you want someone to do the best job for you, you should make sure that they get what they’re promised.
“And I can’t see his monthly pay cheque being late at his new employers”
Q. What are your thoughts on McLaren, a difficult year this year, can they rebound in 2014 and are you concerned they may step back again with Honda in 2015?
DC: “It’s been an awful year for McLaren, one that even without the advantage of hindsight seems that they should have seen coming. Forget the stat about this being the first year without a podium since 1980, it could well be the first year without a top 4
finish since 1966!
“Can they bounce back? Of course, but they must realise not only why they made such bad errors with the design of this years car, but then compounded those errors by not reacting soon enough to the problem.
“It might only be until 2015 that McLaren return to the sort of form that we expect from them. The tie up with Honda is a massive for many many reasons.”
Q. Last week you were in Abu Dhabi, a very impressive facility if not an impressive track, what is your opinion on the level of facilities vs. standard of the track debate?
DC: “DRS has saved Abu Dhabi. It’s a wonderful facility but let’s face it, overtaking wasn’t exactly high on the agenda for the first year, just ask Fernando Alonso! But it’s certainly set the benchmark for facilities, both for the fans, the media and more importantly the teams. Air conditioned garages anyone! I’ve even got a window in the commentary box, that you can see the pit straight from, blimey if the boys who designed the commentary boxes in India could see that, they’d be amazed!
“Seriously though, every new track should be designed with overtaking in mind and I’m sure that Herman Tilke takes that into account. But is it the fault of the tracks that overtaking can be hard? Or the fault of those that shape the regulations and allow the turbulent air that comes off an F1 car, which necessitates the introduction of DRS, to allow cars to get close enough to try and overtake?
“After all, we love Suzuka, but overtaking there can be just as hard, if not harder, than Austin. It’s just that if you make a mistake at Austin you’re likely to be able to get away with it, at Suzuka you can’t.
“Maybe the biggest criticism of the new circuits is that they can be a bit too similar, so should we have more than one company designing them? Now there’s a topic for discussion.”
Q. Next is Austin, how far do you think an impressive track like COTA can go to helping F1 succeed in the States?
DC: “Well unlike before, F1 now has a track to race on in the USA that is there because of F1. As much as I liked going to Indianapolis and as much as I’d love to see another Vegas GP, Formula 1 needs it’s own track and Austin is perfect. A perfect location that embraced the sport when we went last year, and a track that in time should give us plenty of terrific races with a bit of luck.
“But the fact that despite all the talk, New Jersey seems like missing out again next year and Mexico looks like dropping off the calendar too is a big shame. The momentum is there and needs building on, F1 is popular in the states, not to the extent of Indycar or NASCAR but it has a big fan base and whilst Austin and it’s success is a start, it’s only the start. The sport needs at least one more race in the US and fingers crossed, in time, Mexico too.”
Q. With all the changes coming for 2014, what are your expectations for the new V6 era and do you have any worries?
DC: “I try not to have big expectations in life, that way I never get too disappointed.
“The last I heard from a man associated with the new Powerunits, was that the main influence in performance of the cars would be 50/50 next season, aero to engine. Which could be a good thing, unless one particular Powerunit is infinitely better than the two others.
“Other than that we don’t really know how it’s going to pan out and we won’t know until we start testing the cars. But the torque is going to be far more extreme than we have at present, I don’t worry about how the Powerunits will sound, but I do hope that they will be reliable. I don’t want to see only half a dozen cars finish each race."
Q. Finally you’re coming to the end of the second year of Sky’s coverage of F1, what do you think the new channel and coverage has brought to British F1 fans that BBC and ITV didn’t have?
DC: “You answered this yourself. A new channel? As a fan, you know that Sky F1 will be at every race, and will be on air for every session of each GP. A channel where you can see GP2 and GP3 as well, and a host of other programming away from the race weekend, including of course, the F1 show.
“What have we done this year that we didn’t do in the first year? Well we brought the Sky Pad into the Paddock so that the drivers could analyse themsleves – did you see Alonso in Korea talk us through his starts? Just brilliant. We brought fans live coverage of the final pre-season test at Barcelona, in 3D as well, the first time you could see live action from a test. And we introduced a host of features that I hope gave you all a greater insight into a sport you love.
“And don’t forget #AskCrofty which has been very popular with the viewers since we introduced it. We’ve got plans to make that even more interactive with the post race show next season.
“I’ve loved the first two years with Sky, working and traveling to every race with the best bunch of people you could wish to spend your year with. Bring on 2014!”
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