Derek Warwick on AUTOSPORT.com

Derek Warwick retired from the BTCC at the end of the 1998 season, and now concentrates on running his business and the works Vauxhall team, which has started the season in fine form. Last month he paid a visit to Silverstone for the British GP, where he saw dozens of old friends and had a good look at the current F1 scene. Adam Cooper caught up with the former World Sportscar champion

Derek Warwick on AUTOSPORT.com

Q: Do you miss F1 when you see the cars again?

"I haven't really thought about it or missed it all - until Silverstone. I have to say listening to those cars going round, that noise, the speed, going into the paddock and seeing all the old faces - I miss it like hell, I really do. But that's life, and I've moved on. I'm very busy at the moment. I've moved house, and I'm doing millions of things. We have six garages, employ 200 people, we run the works BTCC Vauxhalls and we're going a lot better this year."

Q: Are you officially retired from driving?

"I have never used, and will never use, that word. I haven't raced now for nearly 18 months, and that will probably go on to the end of my time. But I will never retire from anything!"

Q: So what would you do if something came up?

"There's no way that you will get me into a racing car again. I know that if I take one step, I should need two steps. And I don't have the time to put behind being a professional racing driver. If I look at my time in touring cars, basically I played at it. I was a professional racing driver for the weekend. And you shouldn't do that. I see that as a big failing or mistake, and I wish I hadn't had that part of my life. But anyway, that's the way it is. In order to compete at any level of motor sport you have to be a full-on professional, and I didn't do that."

Q: Would you accept an invitation to Goodwood or something like that?

"I never really had an interest of desire to drive old cars. I was lucky enough to get out of them in one piece. I don't really want to get back in them. That may change as life goes on, but at the moment I have no desire to drive old cars. I'm pretty busy running my business, and pretty busy running my race team, and the little time I've got left, I have to and want to spend it with my family. That's how I've been all my life and that's how I still am. I haven't really got any weekends free."

Q: Are you pleased with the BTCC form?

"We've had a bit of a change in the team - a redirection I should say - and put in some new engineering staff. We have Ludovic Lacroix heading up design, and the car is a lot quicker this year. We have a very, very good race pace. We're using the car well, and we have a great race team. It's a little easier than it has been over the past three years. Let's make no mistake - the past three years have been very difficult for us. We've nabbed a few wins here and there by good fortune, and I have to say we are now quick because we are quick, and not because we are lucky. And that gives us a good feeling."

Q: What do you think of F1 this year - Michael or Mika?

"I don't think I've changed from my views at the start of the season. And that is Michael is without doubt the best driver in F1, in terms of his speed and his thinking. The guy is on a different level. I'm not talking about whether you like him, or his character or whatever, although I do like him and I like everything about him. To me there's a first division that has Mika and Michael in it, then there's a second division with Ralf at the start of it, and maybe David, Jacques and people like that. But there is a level change between that group of drivers."

Q: Why are Michael and Mika so far ahead of the rest?

"From the outside, and without being involved in it, I have to say that there are drivers out there at the moment that are going down various roads, who really need somebody pull them back. Take someone like David. I think he could easily be in Division One with Mika and Michael, but at the moment he's going down this road. He doesn't know he's going down this road and it looks to me like he needs to take one step back, take a little bit of a diversion, a little bit of a different philosophy. I think we've seen flashes of brilliance with him that can come again. It's a shame really that somebody can't do that with him."

Q: What do you think of Jenson Button?

"He really is the luckiest so-and-so in the world, and he is one of the few people I'm a little jealous of! And also amazed. He looks like he's going to be something special, but you have to say that if he is going to be special, then he has to keep the momentum going. I've seen it a thousand times with young drivers coming into F1 or any other form of motor racing, not able to keep that momentum going, because they start falling into the traps. Reading that they are the greatest driver or the new Ayrton Senna, the motorhomes, travelling first class... Only the really good drivers come out the other side. The teams spend millions and millions of pounds, and sometimes they are so inexperienced at doing something a little bit different and getting more out of their drivers. At the end of the day if their driver's pissed off, he's a tenth slower. And what would Ferrari pay for a tenth of a second? If I had a tenth of a second in my pocket today, Ferrari would write a cheque for whatever I want."

Q: So are you talking about something like Frentzen's transformation when he went from Williams to Jordan?

"Absolutely. I think everybody should be standing back and looking at that whole situation and saying it's that times every driver in the pitlane. Although some people don't need it - people like Michael and probably Ralf."

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