Joe Saward has been informing and entertaining Formula One fans for over two decades. Joe’s reports and musings on his blog are insightful and honest. He took a few moments out of his busy schedule to answer questions that have been on many fans’ minds.
Williams F1 have been in a long, depressing slump. Do you see the team turning around within the next two to three seasons? What needs to change?
- I hope that Williams will have a turnaround. It is one of the great F1 teams and it is sad to see it in such difficulties. I am not on the inside at Grove but my feeling is that Frank Williams has allowed others to run the show and they are not in the same league when it comes to passion and expertise. This is important in a racing team. A team must be willing to follow its leader anywhere and I get the impression that if the current management asked the team to march off a cliff they would politely say "After you", rather than follow without question. I also believe that a technical director needs to be an aerodynamicist, if only so that he can understand when his staff are heading in the wrong direction.
The Bahrain GP was canceled recently due to safety issues stemming from civil unrest. Should countries hosting races pass a political litmus test, i.e. no political prisoners, no use of live ammo on peaceful protesters, etc.? Where should the line be drawn?
- I do not think it is for F1 to judge countries. That is a can of worms. The line should be drawn, based on common sense. Bahrain seemed like a perfectly sensible place to be racing. They seemed keen to develop and progress. We were aware that there were problems under the surface but the real damage done was in the reaction to the protests. F1 should not go back as there is nothing to be gained from an association with people who have no respect for the rights of others. One can say the same thing about other places that F1 visits but until the problems blow up it is hard to make a judgment.
What is going on with Red Bull and their KERS difficulties?
- I suspect that they have pushed the design to the limit and now have to work out how to make it reliable.
You have attended every race since 1988. What are your three favorite venues (past or present)? Why do you like them?
- That is not an easy answer. I love Spa because it is Spa. It is full of history and a great race track, even if the weather can be a bit horrible from time to time. In the sunshine it is wonderful. I love Monza for the same reasons. They say that when you go to heaven and ask the way to the nearest race track, St. Peter will say: "Follow the signs for Monza". I love Montreal because it is just a great combination of the city and the race track (along the same lines as Adelaide and Melbourne). I can think of about 10 other tracks I'd like to add, but a list of three is a list of three...
Who is currently the most underrated driver (active or reserve)?
- Tonio Liuzzi
Can anything be done to encourage teams to hire drivers on talent rather than how much sponsorship money they can bring?
- It has always been the way. The good news is that the best drivers always attract money. There are lots of middle-ranking guys who are "good enough" but do not make it because of money, but the real stars always come through.
Is there a bright future for kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) and drag reduction system (DRS) in F1?
- Absolutely. KERS is essential for the future of F1 and the next generation of the system will be 10 times more powerful than today. The car companies love this kind of development and this is why F1 must go down this path. It has to be relevant and sustainable to survive. It is not enough these days just to go racing. The sport needs to give something to the automotive industry.
From reader F1O: You are admired for your (sometimes brutal) honesty in your coverage. Have you ever gotten into hot water with a team or driver for what you wrote? If so, how did you deal with the situation so that you could continue getting valuable information from that driver or team?
- I have often fallen out with teams over the coverage, but as long as they feel that I am being fair then they do not generally mind. Sometimes they even listen! There is no point in being wishy-washy or dishonest in the sport. If you do not have opinions why would anyone want to read what you write? If you are dishonest you will not survive long as a journalist. Credibility (and very large readership numbers) open doors and get the right mobile phone numbers.
Kiwi Chris Amon (11 podiums, 5 pole positions) is often mentioned as the best F1 driver to never win a race. How does Nick Heidfeld (13 podiums, 1 pole position) compare?
- I have a problem putting Nick at the same level as Amon. Added to which statistics these days are all skewed as there are many more races, so the achievements cannot really be compared.
Why do you love Formula One?
- I came to F1 33 years ago, when it first started appearing on British TV (in black and white) and I was fascinated. I wanted to know what motivated people to risk their lives by racing round and round in circles. I have since discovered that every driver has different motivations, all of them interesting. I love the people involved. They are people who do things, rather than just talking about it. They get up and do it. That is exciting. I love the brilliance of the engineers and the skill of the drivers. I love the travel, although there are downsides in that. It is just a great life, a great sport and all I can tell you is that there is never a morning when I wake up and don't want to get out of bed. When we are kids we sometimes dream of running away and joining the circus, I like to think that I did it!