Ask Nigel Roebuck: November 6

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 Autosport.com 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

Ask Nigel Roebuck: November 6

Send your questions to AskNigel@haynet.com.


Dear Adam,

I think it's a good decision by Niki Lauda. Yes, undoubtedly the Jaguar team will want for experience, particularly in the testing department, but although Mark Webber has only one season of F1 behind him, he is known to be 'good on feedback', and certainly impressed the people at Minardi as a driver who knows what he wants in a car.

As for Antonio Pizzonia, well, this will be his first season in F1, but remember that already he has logged a huge number of testing miles with Williams, and greatly impressed Patrick Head, which is always a good sign.

I'll admit that, between them, the two new drivers hardly add up to 'experienced', but frankly I think the time had come for a sweep-out at Jaguar. Eddie Irvine, we know, remains very capable, but Lauda - and Bobby Rahal before him - many a time complained about Eddie's poor effect on the team's motivation. When times are bad - and, God knows, they have been bad - what you need is a driver who thinks positively, who can gee up team personnel, and raise their morale. And Irvine, for all his undoubted qualities, is hardly that.

Pedro de la Rosa has sometimes shown flashes of real speed, but I think the jury is in now, and their verdict is that he is a good journeyman, but will never amount to anything more.

As yet, of course, we know nothing about the Jaguar R4. Common sense tells you that, whatever else, it simply has to be better than the R3, which, in early guise, had about as much rigidity as a wet flannel. There again, this time last year we were saying that the R3 had to be better than the R2!

Still, I'd have a bet - albeit not a huge one - that Jaguar will be in significantly better shape in 2003, and I think changing both drivers was a good beginning.



Dear Dino,

Nico's test in the Williams is a reward, from BMW, for winning the inaugural Formula BMW Championship, which he did consummately this season, with nine victories in 20 races. Clearly another second-generation F1 driver is on the way. At 17, the kid is obviously quite a prospect.

His old man has been a good friend of mine for more than 20 years now, and, to be honest, relating my memories of Keke would run to something close to a book. What I will say of him is that I would very happily sit next to him on a flight to Australia, sure in the knowledge that at no stage would I be bored.

Why? Because he is that rarest of creatures, an extrovert Finn, and absolutely marvellous company. For one thing, he has one of the best senses of humour I have ever come across, dry and irreverent; for another, he can talk about all manner of things, and not only motor racing; for another yet, he is completely honest, a man I would trust without hesitation. The only problem for either of us on the flight, indeed, would be growing irritation - it is a long way, after all - at no longer being allowed to smoke on aeroplanes!

Friendship aside, Keke was also the sort of racing driver journalists flock to, always straightforward, always ready with 'a good quote', always willing to tell a story against himself - and, trust me, you don't get many of those to the pound in an F1 paddock. He was, I believe, one of the fastest grand prix drivers there has ever been, and also among the most spectacular.

All that being so, why was his final season, with McLaren, a disappointment? More than anything, I think, because the car fundamentally didn't suit his style. Rosberg was always one of those who left his braking to the very latest, then pitched it into the corner, sorting it out with steering and throttle inputs all the way through. Like Juan Pablo Montoya, he was a man who hated understeer, and McLarens of that era were inevitably - and understandably - tailored to the tastes of Alain Prost.

When I asked Keke about the turbocharged McLaren-TAG MP4-2, and that 1986 season, this is what he said. "No bloody front end! Loads of understeer - a Prost car, and I never could drive it properly. For nearly all that season, I was never within 20 percent of my limit - the car wouldn't let me get nearer than that. Only Alain - and, to a lesser extent, Lauda - could drive it.

"Alain's technique was completely different from anyone else's: he was early on the brakes, but never heavy on them, and kept them on as he turned into the apex. It was smooth - and also easy on brakes and tyres. Amazing. Maybe the technique came out of his early days at Renault, when long throttle lag was a real problem.

"Don't think for a second I'm criticising Alain," Keke stressed. "I'd never do that. He was the best driver I ever raced against, no question about it. I have absolutely no idea how he was so quick in that car - when I tried to copy his way of driving, I just went slower!"

Rosberg's final season was frustrating, he freely admits. Technical director John Barnard had little patience with his problems, feeling that everyone should drive like Prost. But one day at Brands Hatch, during testing, he relented, and together he and Keke set about dialling out the understeer.

"And it worked!" Keke chuckled. "How we did it, I don't know to this day, and we were never able to do it again. That day Mansell's Williams-Honda was quickest, then me, then Alain. I was so happy! Then we went back to Brands for the race, and could we get rid of the understeer? No bloody way.

"The only other time I really enjoyed driving that car was at Adelaide, my last race. It wasn't good in qualifying, and it blew up after one lap in the race day warm-up. But in that one lap I knew it was transformed, that the understeer was gone. Don't ask me why, because we hadn't touched the set-up. Just change the engine, I said to Ron Dennis, and don't touch anything else. I'm telling you, it's perfect."

So it was. In the race Rosberg was into the lead by lap seven, and left everyone behind until a rear tyre failed in the late stages. "Usually we ran 3.2 bar in the races that year, but for most of that afternoon I was at minimum, 2.8, and it would have been one of the easiest wins of my career. That car was perfect.

"Mind you," he added, "it's just as well that tyre did puncture, because I certainly wouldn't have finished the race, and might have had a huge accident: I found out afterwards that my brake discs were literally breaking up. So I don't have bad memories of my last race at all. I think I drove well, and I walked away."



Dear Andreas,

At a 1986 press conference in Maranello, I asked Enzo Ferrari if it were true that he had had discussions with Ayrton Senna about a future contract.

The Old Man cackled with laughter, indicating that the talks hadn't got very far. "The driver's financial demands," he said, "were imaginativo!"

Two years later, of course, Enzo was gone, and new hands steered the course of his company. In time, massive funding from Fiat, plus major sponsorship from Marlboro and others, made Ferrari far and away the richest team in F1, and I have few doubts that eventually Senna would have gone there.

It never came to be, though. Forgive me, but I must say I love your suggestion that maybe Ayrton might have secretly tested a Ferrari F1 car! Believe me, the way the bush telegraph is in Italy, if he'd so much as walked through the gates of the factory, it would have on the news within five minutes...

Late in 1994, the season in which Senna was killed at Imola, there was a most touching ceremony in his memory on race morning at Suzuka. Countless banners bearing his name and image were held aloft, I remember, and one which especially caught my eye was of a then current Ferrari 412, bearing the number 27, but with Ayrton's yellow helmet in the cockpit. 'Ayrton, we dream for ever,' read the words beneath.

Although his name was endlessly linked with Ferrari, Senna, other team owners always believed, merely used the rumours to get a better deal for himself at McLaren or Williams or wherever, and certainly he learned a lesson from Alain Prost's Maranello experiences. Whatever their personal differences, Ayrton well understood that, professionally, Alain's approach to his work was very similar to his own. "If he couldn't make it work," he confided to a close friend, "that's not a very good sign."

Prost, however, admits that he always thought an F1 career somehow incomplete without a spell at Ferrari, and virtually every other driver of consequence has said the same. "You don't go there because you believe you will win all the time," Didier Pironi once said. "You go there because they ask, and you can't refuse."

Later in his career Senna, though, did refuse, and more than once, because his entire raison d'etre was winning all the time, and at that time Ferrari did not have a competitive car. Even on Ayrton, though, the name worked its spell. "I will end my career there," he said to Adriane Galisteu, his girlfriend during the last year of his life. "Even if Ferrari's car is as slow as a Volkswagen Beetle, I still want to be driving it in my last race, on my last lap. Ferrari is the myth of F1, the tradition, the soul, the passion."



Dear Luke,

No, I don't see the teams' running their third drivers in Friday morning pre-practice testing next year as a precursor to their eventually running a third car in the races. It's by no means impossible that one day some teams will enter three cars in the races, but the teams most likely to do that - Ferrari, Williams, McLaren, etc - are unlikely to be involved in this Friday testing next year, because it will be open only to teams undertaking not to run more than 10 days of regular testing between March and November. And I can't see the major teams going for that, frankly.

Yes, Paul Stoddart has talked of putting local drivers in his cars during these Friday morning sessions, but I can't honestly envisage a situation in which 'wild card' racers would be allowed into the grands prix. You're probably right that it would raise local interest - but I think you can be fairly sure it would do the same for the hackles of the regular F1 drivers, who wouldn't care to be in the same race as some club racer who'd managed to get together a few quid for a drive. How, for a start, would these 'wild card' racers qualify for the Superlicence without which no one can take part in a grand prix?



Dear Kate,

In fact, we've had a roughly similar situation in motor racing for some considerable time now, in the sense that at most grands prix there is also a Formula 3000 race - and the idea behind F3000 was that it should do exactly as you suggest: act as a feeder series for F1. In that regard it's been reasonably successful, too - it was in F3000, after all, that we first took notice of Juan Pablo Montoya, and if you want to go right back to the early days of F3000, in the late '80s, the dominant driver was one Jean Alesi.

I take your point, though. In an ideal world, perhaps we'd have F3 on the menu, as well, as a sort of 125cc equivalent. But how many F3 teams could afford to follow the schedule of F1? It's a problem for a great many F3000 teams, after all - indeed, it's becoming a problem for quite a few F1 teams...



Dear Bill

At the time of Jimmy Clark's death, Alain Prost was 13 years old, playing around with karts. "I saw Jim as someone fantastic," Alain told me once, "so much better than anyone else, so smooth, so easy. Something I have always admired is a guy who's really quick, but doesn't look it. Stewart was the same, but I think maybe Jim was the best ever."

Clark's contemporaries had no doubts. For them, his death was almost beyond comprehension. "People used to get killed quite often back then," recalls former Ferrari team leader Chris Amon, "but when...it happened to Jimmy, we were all shattered. Of course we grieved - but you always felt grief. With him there was another dimension, a selfish thing, if you like. Jimmy's death frightened us. If it could happen to him, what chance did the rest of us have? I think we all felt that. It seemed we'd lost our leader..."

He was indeed their leader. Think of 1965: 10 races in the World Championship, your six best results to count. At the Nurburgring Clark took his sixth win, putting a seal on the title by early August.

The race was actually the seventh of the year, but Jimmy had missed the Monaco Grand Prix - he was in Indianapolis that weekend, winning the 500.

His performances at Indianapolis always seemed to me proof of Clark's real stamp. In terms of versatility, he was the equal of Stirling Moss and Mario Andretti - he could drive anything, and drive it brilliantly.

I agree with you entirely, Bill, that it's unfortunate that Jimmy's memory is inevitably shackled to the 1.5-litre era of F1, for he won both his World Championships in those years. These were hardly Grand Prix cars for the gods, and I thought we saw him at his very greatest in 1967, when he was at the wheel of the Lotus 49, with new Cosworth DFV engine. Yes, it had more power than anything else, but in the early days of the DFV, that power came in with a sudden belt, and the 49, too, was a willful thing at the beginning. The combination was something that needed to be tamed - and Clark, of course, was the man to do it.

He did so much else, though, didn't he? After finishing second at Indy at his first attempt, in 1963, a few weeks later he beat Foyt, Parnelli Jones and all the Indycar stars of the day at Milwaukee, a one-mile oval, and quite outside his experience.

Jimmy was also a superb sports car driver. In the little Lotus 23, he ran away from the field, including all the works Ferraris, in the early laps of the 1962 Nurburgring 1000Kms, because the conditions were treacherous and because...this was the Nurburgring, and he was Jimmy Clark! Later, he greatly flattered the awful Lotus 30, a treacherous car if ever there was one, and I remember him one year driving Peter Westbury's Felday sports car in the Guards Trophy at Brands Hatch - simply because the idea appealed to him.

In just the same way, while the rest of the F1 brigade flew back to Europe after the last grand prix of 1967, in Mexico, Clark (who won the race, incidentally) stayed the other side of the water, and the following weekend drove a Holman-Moody Ford in the NASCAR race at Rockingham. Why? Because he'd been invited to drive it, and, again, the idea appealed to him. In a field of 44, he was running 12th when the car broke.

As for touring cars...I have no interest whatever in touring cars these days - indeed, I always say that I last enjoyed it when Jimmy was racing the factory Lotus Cortinas in 1963 and '64, cornering the car in outrageous opposite-lock slides, inside front wheel a foot off the deck, as he strove to keep with the Galaxies.

It was a Lotus Cortina, too, that he drove in the 1966 RAC Rally, and although he eventually crashed out, his speed and talent made a tremendous impression the rally regulars. The late Roger Clark, very much the king of British rallying in those days, was his team-mate in the event, and I once asked him about Jimmy's showing. "Unbelievable," said Roger. "No experience of that kind of event at all - and on some stages he was quicker than I was! If he'd done a few more rallies, I'd have been the second Clark in the business..."

So, you're right. Jimmy could do it all, and everything came so easily to him. There has been no one better.

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