Ask Nigel Roebuck: December 10

Our Grand Prix Editor Nigel Roebuck answers your questions every Wednesday. So if you want his opinion on any motorsport matter drop us an e-mail here at and we'll forward on a selection to him. Nigel won't be able to answer all your questions, but we'll publish his answers here every week. Send your questions to

Ask Nigel Roebuck: December 10

Dear Chris,

My reaction to Jaguar's decision to replace Wilson with Klien is that I feel very sorry for Justin. It's true that he didn't set the world on fire during his brief spell with the team this year, but he didn't have the greatest reliability, and five races in a strange car at the back end of a season were always going to be tough.

In fact, even before Wilson replaced Antonio Pizzonia in the team, I was hearing suggestions that, for marketing reasons, Jaguar were looking for a German driver to go in with Mark Webber in 2004. No one really fitted the bill, though, and Alex Wurz, an Austrian, came into the picture. Then, a couple of weeks ago, McLaren confirmed that he was to undertake a third season as the team's main test driver, and it wasn't long before Jaguar announced that Klien was to be Mark Webber's team mate next year.

Klien's results in F3 have been impressive, no question about it, and so also, apparently, was his maiden test in the Jaguar - it must have been, for it was very soon afterwards that the contract was signed.

Jaguar have stressed that Klien is in the team on merit, and not because he brings Red Bull money with him. As I say, I don't doubt his potential, but it's perhaps a little disingenuous to pretend that budgetary considerations - said in this case to be adjacent to €10m - did not play a part in their thinking.

It may be hard, as people were saying at the AUTOSPORT Awards the other night, to grasp the idea of a Ford-owned team taking a paying driver, but the Jaguar budget has been extremely tight for a long time now, and we've known for quite a while that this was what they were looking for. If Klien has the talent to go with it, they've landed on their feet, haven't they?

It seems pretty obvious that Klien is a very talented young driver, who may - who knows - one day prove to be a superstar. As you suggest, though, a year ago we were thinking that of Pizzonia, who had greatly impressed Williams in testing, but made little impression when he raced the Jaguar.

Dear Nathaniel,

It's a good point you make. Niki Lauda did indeed pay for his first F1 drive, with March, and also for his second, with BRM, for that matter. I won't say he was unwelcome because of it, but it's true that one or two people were a little scornful at the time, and that seemed unfair, because 'pay drivers' were hardly a new phenomenon in F1. That said, the practice of choosing drivers on the basis of budget, rather than talent, was perhaps rather less common than is the case today.

Niki had a pretty middling debut season with March, and in terms of results his year with BRM wasn't a lot better, but the car at least allowed him to show his talent - to the extent that for 1974 he was signed by Ferrari! Now he was being paid, of course, although initially not very much; the crucial thing was that he was on his way. He won a couple of Grands Prix in '74, and went on to dominate the World Championship the following year, so you'd have to say it was money very well spent...

Off the top of my head, no, I can't think of a more talented 'pay driver' than Lauda. In the case of some, I can never really understand why they're doing it - they clearly don't have the talent to succeed, so why are they wasting their time? Niki had the ability, without question, and in his case buying a drive was simply a matter of speeding up a process which almost certainly would have happened, anyway.

Dear Deane,

Jarama per se was not a great race circuit - and nothing at all compared with Barcelona's Montjuich Park, its contemporary in the early-mid '70s.

For all that, though, it is not a place without some history. It was there in 1974, for example, that I saw Niki Lauda win his first Grand Prix, at the wheel of the Ferrari 312B3. And it was also at Jarama in 1980 - the scene, incidentally, of one of the bloodiest battles of the Spanish Civil War - that we witnessed the beginnings of the FISA/FOCA War, with the 'grandee teams' - Ferrari, Renault, Alfa Romeo - withdrawing from the race.

Ask most people what they think of first at the mention of Jarama, though, and chances are they'll immediately recall the incredible race there in 1981, the last time the circuit hosted the Spanish Grand Prix.

A fortnight earlier, at Monaco, Gilles Villeneuve had won against the odds, in the Ferrari 126CK. This was the first turbocharged car to come out of Maranello, and if it had distinctly more power than most of its opposition (all of which, save Renault, was still running normally-aspirated engines), it had perhaps the most agricultural chassis in living memory. Grunt but no grip, in other words.

No one quite knew how Villeneuve had managed to get it on to the front row at Monaco, let alone win with it. His team-mate Didier Pironi had qualified 17th, and was lapped by Gilles in the course of the race.

Jarama had a decent pit straight, but was otherwise nearly all fiddly little corners. In qualifying, although six places ahead of Pironi, Villeneuve could do no better than seventh, and was despondent when I talked to him afterwards.

"We have a fantastic engine, the best facilities, Fiorano, and all the rest of it - and this chassis is terrible! You put on new tyres, and it's OK for four laps. After that, forget it. It's just like a red Cadillac, wallowing all over the place."

He shrugged in resignation, but then the grin came back. "The amazing thing about the chassis, though, is that it's so forgiving. I can get so sideways I'm almost looking over the roll-over bar - and still it comes back! But I'd sooner have it vicious - with some grip..."

Away from the grid he played his high card to perfection. One of the great starters of all time, he insisted there was no secret to his technique: it was simply a matter of keeping the revs steady at 11,000 (a lot for those days), then slipping your foot sideways off the clutch pedal at the appropriate moment. Wasn't that what everyone did?

Given the Ferrari's acceleration, you needed to be alert in the opening seconds, for others around you were not going forward at the same rate. Before the first turn, Gilles had found a path by Bruno Giacomelli, Alain Prost, John Watson and Jacques Laffite. Only the Williams of Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann were ahead, and at the end of the first lap he powered past Carlos.

Alan, though, was gone. And had he not most untypically gone off the road on lap 14, the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix would not have passed into legend. For the next 66 laps Villeneuve would face unrelenting pressure, first from Reutemann, then from Laffite.

The closing stages were unforgettable. No tyre changes in those days, and by now the Ferrari was hobbled, its Michelins finished. In tandem circulated Villeneuve, Laffite, Reutemann - and two late additions to the game, Watson and Elio de Angelis. Ferrari led Ligier, Williams, McLaren and Lotus.

Gordon Murray walked the circuit that afternoon. Bored with confinement to the pits, the Brabham designer wanted to watch a race from the trackside, and a good one he chose. "That," he said to me afterwards, "was the greatest drive I have ever seen by any driver. You can't believe how evil that Ferrari was! With all that pressure on him, Villeneuve never made a single mistake."

Every lap it was the same. Gilles would pull away down the pit straight, and through the endless tight little turns Jacques or Carlos would claw it back again. It was that way right to the flag. A second and a bit covered all five of them.

Watson later said it had been a ridiculous race, with that Ferrari holding them all up. "He's right," grinned Villeneuve. "I can't argue with him." Pause. "I don't why they didn't all pass me..."

I have no particular sadness that Jarama is to be torn up, for it was hardly a memorable circuit. But that particular day there I'll remember always.

Dear Mark,

Rosberg Jr and Piquet Jr tested for Williams at Jerez last week, and both acquitted themselves very well, I'm told. Nico was quicker, and perhaps the more impressive of the two, but I don't doubt that Nelsinho will also be in F1 before long. In F3 they have both shown very well in 2003.

You're right, though, when you say that rarely are the sons of famous racing drivers quite the equal of their fathers. Although Jacques Villeneuve has won more Grands Prix than Gilles, and Damon Hill more than Graham, the perception - rightly or wrongly - is that they didn't quite match up. Actually, I think this is more true of the Villeneuves than the Hills, but that's just a personal opinion.

It's not always true, of course, that the son is shaded by the father. Alberto Ascari, for example, was better even than Antonio - but there the dynasty ended, for Alberto's son, Tonino, briefly dabbled with racing, but never showed any sign of making the grade.

As far as Nico and Nelsinho are concerned, it's way too early to have any clear idea of how far they will go, but it seems evident that both have considerable natural talent, and it remains to be seen if one, or both, can eventually become World Champion, as did Keke and Nelson.

As an aside, one can only hope that the sons get along rather better than the fathers did...

Dear Leo,

One evening years ago, over a cognac or two, Denis Jenkinson was reminiscing about the Mille Miglia. "I've often thought," he said, "what fun it would have been to do it in a Porsche 917."

Driven by whom? I asked. Rodriguez? Siffert? "No, no," he replied. "Given a choice, I'd have chosen Brian Redman. He was as quick as they were, and far more intelligent. With Brian, there'd have been much more chance of getting to the finish..."

There is, I think, a case to be made for proposing Brian Redman as the most underrated racing driver this sport has known. True, he drove in only a dozen Grands Prix, but then it was always important to Brian that racing be fun, as well as a living, and even back in 1974, when last he drove an F1 car, he thought the paddock a touch precious.

It wasn't that Redman lacked the ability to hack it in F1. On the contrary, he finished third in his first Grand Prix, at Jarama in 1968, and in the rains of Monaco in 1972, subbing for Peter Revson at McLaren, he was fifth, in the process trouncing team leader Denny Hulme.

Although Redman made his name primarily as a sports car driver, his prowess in single-seaters was amply displayed in Formula 5000, notably in America, where he defeated arch-rival Mario Andretti more often than not. "A good professional," is probably how he would describe himself; he was much more than that.

Brian has lived in Florida for more than 20 years, but his Lancastrian accent is happily intact, and complements a wonderfully dry wit. Now 66, he looks remarkably well on it, and the once cruel scars on his face - legacy of an accident at the 1971 Targa Florio - have faded to nothing, absorbed into a deep tan. I asked him about the Porsche 908/3 in which he crashed that day.

"I first saw the car, at Weissach, at Porsche's Christmas party. This thing was in a corner, under a sheet. 'Herr Redman, you would like to look at the new 908/3?' I said yes, I would, and I took the sheet off. Then I took the front bodywork off, and sat in the car - and saw that my feet were in front of the front wheels! I got out, and Helmut Flegl said, 'So, Herr Redman, so what do you think of the 908/3?' I said, 'It looks like a bloody good car. For Douglas Bader...'

"Before the start of the Targa, I was advised that if I was going to have a shunt, I should have it on the left side of the car - because the fuel tank was on the right! Seppi (Siffert) had crashed it in practice, and although they repaired it, the steering broke on the first lap. I hit a wall. On the right, of course.

"I was on fire from head to foot, and couldn't see anything. I somehow got out of the car, and ran across the road, but it was 45 minutes before the helicopter came. Then they couldn't land anywhere, then they couldn't find me... Finally they took me to the wrong hospital, and nobody knew where I was. I was there 12 hours, without being able to talk to anybody - and without being able to see. Not a pleasant experience."

Redman had first come to national prominence in 1965, winning endlessly in a lightweight E-Type, entered by Red Rose Motors of Chester, which was owned by Charles Bridges. The following year Bridges bought a new Lola T70 for Brian to race, which he did with distinction, and in 1967 another member of the family took him into single-seaters.

"What a family that was... When Charles got out of racing, at the end of 1966, his brother David says to me, 'D'you want to drive Formula 2, spud?' - he always called me 'spud', for some reason. Yes, I said, what's the deal? He says, 'I'll give you 30 pound a week, guaranteed for a year.' Right, I said.

"He never came to a single race! We'd be away for a month, racing all over Europe, and we'd get back. He'd be sitting there, 10 o'clock in the morning, having a glass of whisky. 'Hello, spud! Where've you been?' 'Well, I've been to Barcelona, and the Eifel race at the Nurburgring, and so on...' 'Eeh, that were a grand trip. How did you do?' I said, 'Well, we were fourth here, and sixth there...' 'Eeh, well, that's all right, then. Where are you going next?' Very casual it was, really."

That same year, 1967, took Redman to Spa for the first time, there to share a Ford GT40 with Peter Sutcliffe in the 1000Kms. "Red Rose Motors paid for me to drive with Peter. You know how much? Sixty pounds!"

Twelve months on, and now a member of John Wyer's legendary JW Automotive squad, Redman won the Spa 1000Kms in a GT40, partnering Jacky Ickx, but when he returned, a fortnight later, to drive a Cooper in the Belgian Grand Prix, a horrifying accident awaited. At Les Combes, the left-hander at the top of the hill, his car's front suspension broke.

"I went over the Armco, and as I did so, my right arm was trapped between the car and the barrier. As it turned out, I was very lucky not to lose it. Big one, that. When the car landed, it hit a Vauxhall Cresta that someone had thoughtfully parked there. I suppose he probably thought it was out of reach..."

For all that, Brian adored the 'old' Spa. "I thought it was the most difficult circuit, because mentally it was so hard, simply because the corners were so fast. I got more satisfaction from a good race there than anywhere else. And generally it was a lucky circuit for me: I think I won five times there."

Years later, the accident at Les Combes was to pay dividends of a kind. In the 1972 Spa 1000Kms, Redman was leading in a factory Ferrari 312P, but Ronnie Peterson's similar car was closing. "After my shunt at Les Combes, I always took an odd line there, went in early, to give myself more room. I saw all this activity, which always means an accident round the corner or something, and I backed off and just got round. It was raining at that part of the circuit, and the activity was people putting umbrellas up. And Ronnie never made it - he went right round the corner on the barrier. We won."

In my mind, though, Redman is synonymous more with Porsche than any other marque, and doubtless his remarkable lack of ego was appreciated there, as it was elsewhere. "When I first drove for them, in 1969, they were running five 908s, and 10 drivers. And after the first race, at Daytona, they asked me if I wanted to be the number one in my own car, or drive with Siffert. I knew, in going with Seppi, that I'd be the number two, but I just thought we'd win more races that way, so it didn't bother

He got on famously with the mercurial Siffert, but admits that the partnership was not without its frustrations. "Seppi only had one speed - flat out all the time. We had a four-lap lead at Le Mans in 1970, and when he missed a gear, right in front of the pits...that was mildly distressing!

"The 917 evolved into a very good car, but at first it was terrifying. Very early on, I got a call from Porsche to come and test it, and I thought, 'Hmmmm, they've got 10 drivers in the team - why do they want me?' So I said I had some very important business, but I'd see if I could put it off, and I'd call them back in an hour. I rang Siffert: 'Seppi, have you tested the 917 yet?' 'No, no, Brian. Not me. We let the others find out what breaks first!'

"I drove one in practice at Le Mans in '69, and it was the fastest I ever went there - 238mph. But it was all over the road; on Mulsanne you were constantly having to correct the steering, and you just hoped that when you arrived at the kink you were on the right side of the road... If you weren't, you had to brake!

"The spaceframe of the original 917 was pressurised, gas-filled, so that if the gauge lost more than so much pressure, you knew you had a crack. When that happened, they'd go round all the joints with a cigarette lighter!"

Redman rocked with laughter at the memory. "Times have changed a bit, haven't they?"

Hope that gives some flavour of a wonderful bloke - and a fantastic racing driver.

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