Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

           

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Stefan Johansson Monaco 1985 Ferrari.jpg

The Blog

SJ chats with Jan Tegler: the F1 revolution & Lewis Hamilton’s off-track lifestyle

Stefan Johansson

f1-abu-dhabi-gp-2015-stefan-johansson

JT – Last week Motorsport.com ran commentary from you on the current problems of Formula One and motorsport in general, and your proposed solutions.

Stefan Johansson's F1 revolution, Part 1 - Problems in philosophy

Your views were overwhelmingly well received, echoing many of the issues we’ve discussed in this Blog over the years.

SJ – Yes, it was great to have the positive feedback. I think everyone feels the same way, the last few major rule changes have definitely sent F1 in the wrong direction. My proposal is only one of many out there and it’s only a generalization of some of the basic things that I feel we really need to have a close look at.

Rather than attacking Formula One’s fundamental problems it seems the focus is either on being politically correct or some form of band aid solution in order to spice up the show. Apparently they were discussing changes including refueling? How many times have we been down that road and what good would going back to refueling do? If this is the best they can come up with it will only prolong the pain before the inevitable will happen. 

Bringing back refueling would just add more cost to something that is already straining the limits financially for most of its participants. New fuel rigs would be exorbitantly expensive. Anyway, it’s an irrelevant argument as it’s nothing more than another poor band aid to a much more fundamental problem.

f1-renault-1.6-turbo-engine-designboom

JT – Apparently F1’s four manufacturers have a preliminary agreement in place this week to reduce engine supply costs and guarantee that no team is left without power units in exchange for keeping the current V6 turbo formula until at least 2020. The manufacturers were solidly against the less expensive independent or “customer” engine that had been proposed. To cut costs the manufacturers are said to be planning for more standardized parts in the makeup of their respective power units by 2018. Do you think this will be of help?

SJ – It will help the customer teams of course. It will drop the cost by about $6 million apparently, which is great, but in the end it amounts to less than 10 percent of even the smallest team’s budget. No one seems to want to rock the boat and really attack the problems from the bottom up. All we see are little snippets of this or that in the interest of either improving the show or reduce the costs. As I’ve said over and over, I don’t believe you can have a democratic system of governing F1. It just doesn’t work.

The rules being talked about for 2017 are just nuanced adaptations of the ridiculously costly format they use now but they’re enough to make team budgets go through the roof again as they reset. The big teams will spend a fortune and the small teams will struggle even more as they will all have to basically design brand new cars to suit the new rules.

If things continue as they are F1 could end up like DTM (the German Touring Car Championship) - run by three or four manufacturers with six spec cars from each brand using their respective engines and drivers chosen by the automakers.

f1-spanish-gp-2015-nico-hulkenberg-sahara-force-india-f1-with-fans

JT – The madness we’ve been talking about in the blog here for at least three years now is unquestionably harming F1 and racing in general. Fans have strongly expressed their displeasure and, worryingly, that fan base is aging. Younger racing fans are not being made in significant enough numbers to replace those that will depart in coming years.

SJ – That’s an interesting feature of all this. I don’t know the exact data on this, but if you read the racing blogs and comments from fans you realize that basically it’s the racing “anoraks” who are still engaged. You rarely hear a comment from 20-year-olds or teenagers. Fans are getting older and the younger generations seems completely detached from racing, not just F1.

JT – Ironically, that’s occurring at a time when modern motorsport - particularly Formula One - is more technologically complex and technologically-driven than ever. It demonstrates that despite the fascination of younger consumers with technology, they don’t view technology in racing as relevant or interesting.

SJ – Exactly, the entertainment side of F1 is difficult and very complicated right now. Think about it. The drivers are in ultra-complex, ultra-sophisticated cars now yet they get radio messages from their teams in the pits telling them to drive way below the limit to save the tires. Engineering is taking the driver right out of the equation.

2015-usgp- ferrari

That’s why when F1 has a race affected by weather like we had in Austin (USGP) last year the racing suddenly improves. The teams probably had every scenario for a dry race already mapped out and simulated in minute detail. But it was such a terrible weekend weather-wise that no one could simulate the race beforehand and plan for every eventuality. That’s why it became a good race. It was unpredictable.

The racing doesn’t have to go back to what it was 30 years ago but somehow the driver has to be brought back to the center of it. When you can take an 18-year-old test driver, bolt him into an F1 car and he’s within two-tenths of Fernando Alonso’s best time in less than 20 laps, something is seriously wrong.

Sadly, this world of political correctness we now live in has well and truly found its way into Formula 1 and motor racing in general. In the interest of saving a planet that’s been around for something like four billion years we have super-efficient engines - but at a cost that is about to drive half the F1 grid out of business.

We now have race cars that are incredibly sophisticated and advanced technically, but as a result, they are boring to watch as the drivers don’t have to fight the car to get the most out of it. That’s done by the engineers in the pit lane - again, at a cost that is mind boggling to anyone outside of F1.

cota-f1

We have race-tracks which are so sanitized that there is literally no punishment for going over the limit. All this has crept in little by little over a period of time. So now we are in a situation where we have to create artificial ways to “improve” the show. This is done by creating even more expensive and complicated systems, and worse of all, by mandating a tire that essentially is bad from the beginning.

Think about it, all this insane money is being spent on producing amazing cars that can then only be driven at 80 percent or less of their potential. It’s a bit like buying the most beautiful Siamese cat in the world then taking it home and strangling it!  None of it makes any sense.

Somewhere along the way it seems that everyone forgot what it is that makes motor racing so attractive to a lot of people around the world, to watch a group of the most talented and brave young men in the world, fighting each other in cars that are visibly fast and outrageously difficult to handle. I don’t care what anyone says, the gladiatorial aspect of our sport is definitely one the main things that people associate with auto racing in general.

Lewis-Hamilton-GQ

JT – There’s been much made of Lewis Hamilton’s off-track lifestyle and activities lately. Your view is that he’s simply doing what drivers have done over many eras of the sport, correct?

SJ – As far as I’m concerned, if we didn’t have Lewis enjoying his life away from F1 we’d have no one interesting to talk about off-track. He does a flawless job on the race track and has the guts to do his own thing and live his own life away from it.

I think it’s great. Really, he’s getting better and better each year and I don’t think he’s even close to hitting his peak just yet. He’s one of the very rare drivers capable of digging a little bit deeper when it really matters. The fact that he’s able to combine that with his very high profile private life makes him a true Mega star. We haven’t had a World Champion that had the level of publicity that Lewis is getting in a very long time. I’m sure both his team and F1 in general are grateful.

Felix-Rosenqvist-f3

JT – You have been helping current FIA F3 champion and fellow Swede Felix Rosenqvist. Any news on his plans for 2016?

SJ – He’s going to drive a PC (prototype challenge) car with Starworks Motorsports at the upcoming Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. He’s working hard to find the right place for 2016, looking at a range of alternatives. But unfortunately, unless you have a decent budget to bring there is not a lot you can do. It’s a sign of the times today.

ford-gt-imsa

JT – Speaking of Daytona, there will be a number of significant debuts at the 24 Hours including the first race for the new Ford GT program. What are your thoughts on their effort?

SJ – It looks very impressive. There’s the BoP (balance of performance) under which everyone has to work but if it weren’t for that I think the car would be blindingly quick. They will do well.

I really wish sports car racing could come up with a better formula than the BoP. I was chatting with Sebastian Bourdais recently and he’s in agreement with my contention that we should just un-restrict the GTLM cars and they would easily go ten seconds per lap quicker than they do now with the restrictors they have to use.

Give them just a little bit more aero and better tires and they would be awesome. If the ACO wants to get lap times at Le Mans back into the high 3 minute-30s/low 3:40s, the GTLM cars are already doing high 40s. You’d be in the 30s in no time if you just took the restrictors off those cars.

SJ chats with Jan Tegler: Abu Dhabi GP, Felix Rosenqvist's GP2 test, Haas F1 & IndyCar

Stefan Johansson

Abu Dhabi GP 2015 - Rosberg.jpg

Jan Tegler – The F1 season concluded with the recent Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg beat teammate and 2015 World Champion Lewis Hamilton for his third consecutive win. You were on hand at Yas Marina, what was your impression of the race and the championship this year?

Stefan Johansson – It was a typical Yas Marina race I would say, this track doesn’t seem to lend itself to great racing for some reason. The combination of its layout and the aerodynamics of the current F1 cars makes it very difficult to get close enough to someone to get a good run on them.

The season overall was pretty much as expected with just a few exceptions. Mercedes totally dominated the competition again. Lewis did a superb job the whole year until he won the championship (at the USGP). What happened after that is hard to say, whether it was his performance falling off or maybe Nico found the magic bullet on his car set up towards the end of the year. We won’t know that until next season starts I suppose.

I think Ferrari had a better year than many people expected. Aside from that, Force India would be the team that stands out. I think they did a fantastic job under the circumstances they were in. They were probably the only team that made a really big improvement over the course of the season. And as critical as I’ve been of Sergio Perez in the past, I thought he did a very good job and blossomed together with the team. He made [Nico] Hulkenberg look pretty average in a lot of the races from mid-season forward.

Also, you have to admit that Max Verstappen did a very good job as a rookie. The Toro Rosso car was obviously very good too because Carlos Sainz was equally quick in the car as well. He just had a lot of bad luck. Had his luck held, I think he would have had equal results with Verstappen. 

JT – What did you think of the quality of racing in F1 in general in 2015?

SJ – In a lot of ways it’s the same as it’s always been. Out of the whole season you get maybe four races that are exciting, usually when something happens that’s unexpected – when weather conditions are weird or something else unpredictable influences the racing. But if things are as normal, i.e. racing on a Tilke-designed circuit with normal weather conditions, the races are mostly processional events.

Unfortunately, F1 has become an engineering race. It has always been about technology of course so someone’s always going to have an edge. But now engineering is at such a premium that if you get one thing wrong with design of your car, or it’s not fully optimized, there’s no way to recover quickly. It’s fascinating if you’re an engineer and also as a driver inside the sport to be part of this never ending development war, but it doesn’t make the racing compelling for the fans.

JT - You remained in Abu Dhabi for the week following the grand prix to be on hand for the GP2 test with 2015 F3 champion and Macau GP-winner Felix Rosenqvist. Felix had a fairly good test and seeing the GP2 series up close again gave you an interesting perspective.

SJ – Yes, to start with, the cost is very high for a feeder series, something like $2 million per year in competitive team. Stoffel Vandoorne absolutely cleaned up this year (Vandoorne captured the 2015 GP2 championship by a wide margin) and will end up doing Super Formula in Japan next year under a testing contract (Vandoorne is part of McLaren’s Young Driver Program). But those contracts have little meaning these days.

Another thing that struck me while attending the test was the tire situation in GP2. They are using Pirellis just like in F1 and for some reason that is beyond me whoever is in charge of the series has decided the GP2 tires should mimic the characteristics of the F1 tires.

Basically, the tires are good for about 5 hot laps then they just fall of a cliff. So all these young drivers who need as much seat time as they can get and need to hone their race craft by racing hard from start to finish are basically cruising around - several seconds off the pace - for most of the race trying to save their tires. It doesn’t make any sense to me on any level and I feel sorry for these guys. I spoke to a couple of the current GP2 stars and they all agree. One of them is 20 years old and very promising and he told me he’s sitting there in the middle of a race asking himself if this is really what he was hoping to do when he became a professional driver, cruising around at eighty percent just to make it to the end of the race?

JT- So, if you have to spend two years in GP2 to have a chance of winning the Championship - which equates to around $4 million - and have very little to show for it at the end of the day, what do you do as a driver?

SJ - It’s a big dilemma. I talked to several driver managers and F1 managers while in Abu Dhabi and it seems the general consensus is that most of them have in fact given up on the idea of pushing their drivers all the way to F1.

The path to get there is too expensive and it’s getting more and more difficult to find sponsorship for both the teams and the drivers. Instead people are starting to focus on DTM and sports cars as alternative routes for a career as a professional driver. It’s a sad situation when even the people in F1 admit that the best drivers don’t have a chance to ever drive an F1 car, or at least not race one.

The only open wheel series that makes any sense in my opinion right now is IndyCar. There is a good ladder system in place in America where the winner in the Indy Lights Championship will get a good portion of the budget towards an Indycar program plus a guaranteed drive in the Indy 500 as the reward for winning the series.

The racing is outstanding in Indycar. Every race goes down to the wire and you can never count out anyone until after the last pitstop. Six drivers had a chance to win the Championship going into the last round this year, I don’t know any other series that comes even close to that. But as I’ve said so many times, unfortunately the IndyCar people don’t seem know what a great product they have and they certainly don’t know how to market it.

JT- So, if you have to spend two years in GP2 to have a chance of winning the Championship - which equates to around $4 million - and have very little to show for it at the end of the day, what do you do as a driver?

SJ - It’s a big dilemma. I talked to several driver managers and F1 managers while in Abu Dhabi and it seems the general consensus is that most of them have in fact given up on the idea of pushing their drivers all the way to F1.

The path to get there is too expensive and it’s getting more and more difficult to find sponsorship for both the teams and the drivers. Instead people are starting to focus on DTM and sports cars as alternative routes for a career as a professional driver. It’s a sad situation when even the people in F1 admit that the best drivers don’t have a chance to ever drive an F1 car, or at least not race one.

The only open wheel series that makes any sense in my opinion right now is IndyCar. There is a good ladder system in place in America where the winner in the Indy Lights Championship will get a good portion of the budget towards an Indycar program plus a guaranteed drive in the Indy 500 as the reward for winning the series.

The racing is outstanding in Indycar. Every race goes down to the wire and you can never count out anyone until after the last pitstop. Six drivers had a chance to win the Championship going into the last round this year, I don’t know any other series that comes even close to that. But as I’ve said so many times, unfortunately the IndyCar people don’t seem know what a great product they have and they certainly don’t know how to market it.

JT – In off-season Formula One news, several ex-F1 team principals including Colin Kolles, Norbert Haug and David Richards have suggested that Gene Haas’ new American F1 team, Haas F1 is in for a “rude awakening”. They contend that Haas will face financial strains quickly, struggle to find sponsorship and have problems a result of their operation being split between England, Italy and the UK.

David Richards said, “It's December now and the first test is at the end of February, but we haven't seen anything yet. We haven't seen the little snippet picture you normally see of a wind tunnel model. I haven't really heard of a group of people behind it all either. It's been very quiet and they definitely have a rude awakening coming up about what F1 is.”

What are your thoughts?

SJ – I think Haas has actually done his homework remarkably well. So far, I’d say everything they’ve done has been done the right way. By going the route of shared resources they are reducing the financial strains. If you can outsource aspects of the operation, why not do that? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel with every single part of the car as most teams do. All the other start-up teams and even the smaller teams that have been bought by various entities over the years, they all have their own facilities and they choose to build everything themselves.

I actually think Haas F1 could surprise a few people. They have the powertrain sorted (with Ferrari) which is crucial these days. If they keep their package relatively simple I think they could do a very good job and I have a feeling they may do a lot better than people seem to think.

JT – Revisiting the subject of McLaren Honda’s lack of form, do you think they will make progress and be competitive in 2016?

SJ – Yes, I think they will make a big leap next year. Their performance has been so bad in 2015 that it’s not going to be difficult for them to make a pretty giant gain. With their combined resources I am sure they will bypass a number of teams to get back to being one of the top five teams easily.

I think they’ll be regular points-scorers next year but then of course the closer you get to the front, the harder it gets to be a regular winner like they used to be.

JT – The FIA recently released the latest update to its controversial Driver Ratings. The update applies to 2016 and has come under heavy criticism. Well known sports car stars like Scott Pruett have had their ratings downgraded (from Gold to Silver in Pruett’s case). Many, including pro drivers, have opined that the FIA’s system is flawed, open to manipulation and is hurting the careers of both experienced and up-and-coming drivers. What’s your view?

SJ – I think they should throw the whole ratings system out the window. The main purpose of that ratings system when it first came out was to give gentlemen drivers with funding a chance to race and to help teams attract funding. It was also supposed to generate bigger grids.

But all of that tends to work itself out naturally just as it always has. Now all of the teams are vacuuming the market for 18-year-old drivers with talent and a bit of money who haven’t been graded yet. So the purpose of their idea is completely out the window. In the process, there are a lot of unfortunate guys who are now Gold rated that simply can’t get a drive as the rules require at least one Silver driver per car. Their careers are completely screwed up. Most have little chance of getting a drive anywhere.

As a result, you wouldn’t believe the lengths some of these drivers go to get downgraded to Silver. You need a degree in understanding the system to know how to submit the 30-some pages of evidence they send to the FIA, making the case why they should be a Silver, not a Gold driver. 

The bottom line is, driver ratings should be thrown out. It was dumb idea to begin with and it didn’t exist in prior decades and there was never a problem. A journalist I was speaking with said, “But what about gentlemen drivers? They want to have a certain amount of seat time.”

I replied that it will sort itself out naturally. If a team only puts a gentleman driver in for half an hour under a full course yellow, that driver won’t be happy and he’ll leave that team for another. If he is happy with the decision the team made then there is no problem to begin with. The free market will always work these things out by themselves. The more rules or gimmicks you put in place the more complicated it gets and it rarely ever works.

The rich guys have always been around in racing. They’ve always funded teams and naturally they like to surround themselves with guys that make them look good. This is completely normal. They race for a while then they either get bored or the money runs out and there’s another one that comes along. It’s never been any different, particularly in sports cars – it’s always been a mixture between manufacturers and rich guys.

Seldom do you see a big sponsor that entirely funds a privateer team with pro drivers. Rebellion is like that in WEC but they’re the exception. Even when you have a team like that, most of the time the owner is driving one of the cars and funds the rest of the program.  There are plenty of teams in sports car racing that operate this way, and always have been, long before the driver ratings system was put in place.

For most private teams in any category of racing, it’s a matter of survival today. The manufacturers are throwing obscene money at every level, whether it’s F1, WEC, etc. The money’s getting completely out of hand. The rest are trying to keep up and are picking up the straws. The cost for those who aren’t manufacturers is so high now that it’s just about impossible for any privateer team to make decent money. If you can get by and break even you’ve done a pretty good job.

JT – IndyCar named a new president of Competition and Operations in November. Jay Frye was tapped to fill the role vacated by Derrick Walker in August (Walker has now taken the helm at SCCA Pro). Any thoughts on the change?

SJ – It’s hard to say. All of this is just moving pieces around in small circles. Personally I don’t think there’s that much wrong with the Competition and Operations to begin with. What IndyCar needs to do more than anything is to have a good look at the bigger picture and figure out how to market itself. They have the best competition of any racing series in the world in my opinion but they are still struggling to get a decent TV audience.

I think all of their effort should be put on marketing and figuring out how to attract a much broader audience. The rest of the package is adequate. Whatever they’re doing now is just polishing and fine-tuning what’s already a good product.

JT – Audi has been testing their latest R18 e-tron Quattro LMP1 racer, updated for 2016. Both Porsche and Audi have confirmed that their efforts at Le Mans in 2016 will be scaled back to two cars apiece for the 24 hour race. Toyota meanwhile is at work on their 2016 P1 car, a platform that will move up to the 8-megajoule class with a new turbocharged engine replacing the TS040 Hybrid’s naturally-aspirated V8. What do you think of these developments and what of Nissan?

SJ – Audi’s gap to Porsche wasn’t particularly big this year. Yes, Porsche dominated but I think Audi’s new car looks like a weapon. These P1s are the coolest looking cars out there. The Audi looks so aggressive and futuristic like a race should. I love it.

It’s hard to say if Toyota has the right combination to get back to the front. I guess it depends on whether they’re willing to invest the same kind of money Audi and Porsche are investing, which is now in F1 territory.

It looks like Nissan are definitely going ahead with the project (the GTR-LM) again. They seem to be committed for 2016 so I guess we’ll see what they come up with. I don’t think the car will ever be competitive though. They will probably close the gap which is not hard considering how far behind they were this year but they will never be in a position to win.

SJ chats with Jan Tegler: Hamilton's 3rd world championship, Mexican GP & 2016 IndyCar

Stefan Johansson

MexicanGP-Bandera.jpg

Jan Tegler – Since we last chatted five Grands Prix have taken place including Monza, Singapore, Japan, Russia, the United States GP and the Mexican GP. Lewis Hamilton wrapped up his third world championship after taking victory at Circuit of the Americas. The rain-affected race proved far more interesting than most of the season’s rounds with multiple lead changes, passing and even controversial actions such as the incidents between Hamilton & Rosberg and Ricciardo & Hulkenberg. What did you think of the race and Hamilton’s championship victory.

Stefan Johansson The race turned out to be very entertaining to watch as is nearly always the case when there are unexpected circumstances. With less practice than normal and when the weekend doesn’t go to plan under race conditions drivers and teams have to improvise. That’s a big departure from the typical weekend where everything is planned and perfect down to the lap both from the schedule to the engineering. All of that planning tends to make the races boring.

The cars are so optimized and the teams spend so much time in their simulators exploring the expected conditions that there’s very little possibility for deviation. The drivers and teams generally hit their marks and do most things right. But if the planning goes out the window due to unexpected circumstances that changes things and often makes for much better racing.

Obviously Hamilton has been the class of the field this year, riding a wave of confidence. When great sportsmen hit that kind of stride where they almost can’t do anything wrong, every move they make sticks. The move in Austin at the start where he passed Rosberg could just as easily have gone wrong either resulting in a puncture for him or knocking off the front-wing endplate. But that didn’t happen.

You’re either the windshield or the bug and when things are going your way it’s almost unstoppable. The next season you can do everything in the same way but every time you make a move it goes wrong. Then you start thinking about it and you hesitate for even a fraction of a second and your timing is off and it all goes away.

If you look at what happened between Hamilton and Rosberg I think it was more Rosberg’s fault than Hamilton’s. He got a poor start and Hamilton was already alongside him on the inside by the time they arrived at the corner. It was foolish of Rosberg to try and defend the corner on the outside. Because Hamilton braked a bit too late he missed the apex. If Rosberg hadn’t tried to defend he could have done the over-under and gone back by him.

That’s easy for me to say though. It’s a typical grandstand comment but on a wet track alongside another competitor, being on the outside isn’t the smartest place to be.

I think in part it’s the nature of the tracks Formula One races on now. There is no track limit anymore so people never give up a corner. In the past, on a track where there was no runoff area or a wall or some other defined obstacle beyond the pavement, at a certain point you had to give up and let the other driver go because you’d never make the corner.

Now drivers just keep going across the track limit out to the runoff and keep their foot in it. If they don’t have contact with another driver they just carry on and don’t even lose a position. I think this is causing a lot of weird accidents and is the main reason for all the low-percentage moves that people are trying to pull. Even top guys like Raikkonen are trying odd things like he did in Russia with [Valtteri] Bottas and then Bottas did the same to him in Mexico. It’s not really the drivers fault because you always push as far as you can until reach the limit, unfortunately the limit now is some undefined space about 3-4 car lengths outside the actual track limit in some cases. It even looks weird when you watch a car that is so far off the track you can barely see the actual track sometimes.

US-Grand-Prix-2015-Result.jpg

JT – The battle between Hamilton and Rosberg for the championship this year was not as close as it was last year and didn’t seem as impassioned either. There were instances when their differences were aired but certainly nothing like the fireworks between other teammates we’ve seen in the past.

You recalled when Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell were battling in the late 1980s while driving for Williams. It was one of the most intense rivalries F1 has seen. I thought you put the blandness of the Hamilton/Rosberg rivalry in hilarious context when you said…

 “Nico gave up mentally to fight the war…Piquet resorted to calling Mansell’s wife the ugliest woman in the world.”

SJ – Yes, that’s what I mean. In 2014, there was certainly a lot more hate on display between Nico and Lewis. This year it’s all sort of been a bit polite with both guys saying the other did “a great job.”

When you’re that close to a teammate in terms of competitiveness and you can’t beat him any other way you’ve got to figure out something that will tip the balance. You have to try to undermine their confidence or get them off balance psychologically somehow. That’s what Nelson did so effectively. He was ruthless, not only with Mansell but with Senna as well, calling him all sorts of things. He didn’t care. He’d do whatever it took unsettle his rivals mentally. It sort of worked and it definitely got under their skin.

To be a great driver you need ego and relentless drive. That’s why you don’t quite have the epic battles today that F1 used to have. Mansell, Senna, Prost, Piquet, Lauda, Schumacher – they were brutal, every one of them, ego-maniacs of epic proportions in their own different ways. You have to be like that to be at the top level. That’s missing today. You don’t feel it. Alonso seems to me the only one left from that era where you resort to anything to win.

JT – To your point about Rosberg giving up the fight mentally, he seemed in much better form at the Mexican GP. He won, qualified on pole and set that fastest lap of the race. It appears that after being released from the pressure of the championship fight he performed better.

SJ – It was a flawless weekend really. He didn’t put a foot wrong but it’s the psychology that’s so important. Ninety percent of the results you get to the top level of racing are inside your head. Maybe there was something about the pressure being off?

Nico was unlucky this year with car failures. And however it happened in Austin, he got caught out. He said it was a gust of wind that caused him to go off track. That has happened. I know how it affects a car although I’ve never really had it affect a car in a slow corner where you exit the corner almost in first gear where he lost it. At high speed the cars are very sensitive to wind.

JT – Sebastian Vettel had a fraught race in Mexico after first lap contact with Daniel Ricciardo. It seemed that he was overdriving his Ferrari.

SJ – Obviously, the track in Mexico is very tricky. The grip-level has always been very low there. I remember when we raced there in CART it was really tricky conditions with the altitude as well.

But I thought Vettel’s problems were due to a combination of things. Maybe his car was affected a bit from the contact with Ricciardo. His crash looked weird, almost like his brakes failed when he went straight off the track and hit the wall. He said it was driver error which I thought was a bit strange. But obviously he had to charge pretty hard to recover positions and he was frustrated. In fairness to him though he’s barely made a mistake all season.

JT – Do you think pressure from teammates contributes to low percentage moves whether you take the example of Raikkonen and Vettel at Ferarri or Ricciardo and Kvyat at Red Bull Racing?

SJ – I think that’s a part of it no doubt but I think it has more to do with the track layouts and how these new run off areas are designed. Very rarely in the past did you have a guy defend a corner on the outside or try to make a pass around the outside. Now it seems like part of the game. Even if you can’t hold the corner you just go wide and through the runoff area. If you don’t make it you try again the next lap whereas in the past they would have had to pull you off the Armco.

I think [Hermann] Tilke and the FIA between them have totally ruined the racing with these idiotic runoff areas. At some level there has to be a punishment for going over the limit, something with enough consequences that you understand you cannot go beyond the track without a level of risk involved.

Now, you also have a different guy at every race as a steward and because of this there’s no consistency. At some races there are penalties, at others there are no penalties at all for more or less the same action. It all depends on who’s in the control tower. There should be the same guy, or team, at every race who communicates with the drivers before and after each race telling them where the limits are and that if they violate them more than once they get a penalty. This should be someone that everyone respect and trusts, who is consistent and who lets you know where you stand and how far you can push it. That way there will soon be a pattern developed where every driver knows where the limit is.

Regardless, the track limits issue should be punished by the track itself, not by a guy in a blue shirt watching a TV screen in a control tower.

JT – The second half of the season hasn’t proven to be any better for McLaren-Honda than the first half. The team is second to last in the championship standings ahead of only the Manor outfit. Fernando Alonso retired on the first lap of the Mexican Grand Prix and both drivers struggle to finish near the top ten when the cars do complete a race. The 2015 season looks like a write-off for the team and the drivers. Once again, Alonso is in the wrong team at the wrong time. Can they turn the corner for 2016?

SJ – I still believe they’ll make big progress next year. I don’t mean that they’ll be winning races but when you’re so far off it’s not difficult to make a giant leap forward. It’s only when you get to the last five percent that it starts to get tricky.

The real problem is this incredibly complicated engine formula that F1 has with penalties for this and that, and you’re not allowed to do any development. It continues to make no sense to me. The development ban was initially implemented to keep the cost at a sensible level, but that concept is already completely broken. The manufacturers have spent so much money on these engines it’s obscene. Why not just let them carry on developing them and at least be able to fix them? It’s ridiculous to have a formula where there’s only one successful engine and the others are not permitted to do the development they obviously need to become competitive.

Yet you can bolt 500 new pieces on to the chassis every weekend if you want. The top teams do that of course, with crates of aero-parts flown in everyday in a never-ending development war with their chassis but you still can’t touch the engine. It’s nonsense. If you were allowed to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the engines as you are on the chassis, I am sure that Renault, Honda and Ferrari would all be better - maybe not as good as the Mercedes but certainly a lot closer.

With these rules if you don’t get the engine right out of the box there’s really almost no way to catch up and you’re just screwed. If your engine is as wrong as the Honda is, what do you do? You’re only allowed X-amount of upgrades. On top of that, you’re not allowed to go testing.

JT – In related news the FIA recently put forth a proposal for a "low budget" client engine for 2017 - a power unit essentially similar to the turbo V6 engines used in IndyCar currently. Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA have also proposed fixed price engines and gearboxes for client teams. The engine manufacturers and teams were in support of the ideas with the exception of Ferrari which used its veto power to kill the proposal for the moment. What do you think of this “client engine” idea?

SJ – If they could find a formula that provided reasonable parity I think it’s absolutely the way to go. There has to be a cheaper alternative for smaller teams to be able to compete.

Ferrari’s veto isn’t surprising of course and it’s an example of the core problem. As I’ve said so many times, F1 used to be run as a benevolent dictatorship and things worked. When Max Mosley or Bernie Ecclestone saw things moving in the wrong direction they’d make changes. Everybody would scream bloody murder and they’d back off 20 or 30 percent and everybody was happy and they got on with it.

Now F1 is a democracy with primarily the engineers making up the technical regulations. That’s the worst mistake they’ve ever made. F1 is now incomprehensibly complicated and as a result also incomprehensibly expensive. If F1 is absolutely the pinnacle of technology so what?

Racing should be about brave young heroes driving these cars on the limit. People don’t get excited by F1 anymore because they can see that there’s no challenge to driving the cars now. They’re on rails all the time. The drivers don’t really have to fight them. The fans can see this.

JT – Where does F1 go from here? Can it improve? Will it?

SJ – That’s very hard to answer because there are so many moving parts to it now. There is the possibility of a radical transformation which would be to make the sport a lot simpler. Max Mosley was sounding the alarm on costs four years before he left F1. He could see it getting completely out of hand and he was completely right. No one can afford it anymore.

No one used to complain about the money they were receiving from FOM (Formula One Management). Now the teams take FOM to the European Court. That’s because everybody is counting on the money from Bernie. That’s the only money they’re getting really or certainly the main source. No one really gets sponsorship of any substance anymore. The manufacturers have their money of course as does Red Bull. The rest are struggling. McLaren is funded by Honda obviously but they barely have one commercial sponsor left on the car.

The only way Formula One can right itself is if they get back to a more dictatorial method of control where FOM and the FIA between them set a very strict set of rules with no manufacturers or teams involved. And a winning budget should in my opinion be $100 to $150 million at most. You should be able to be competitive for $50 million. Now the guys that make up the show are spending close to $100 million, to finish last!

It’s hard to see anything changing next year or in the near term though as long as the sport is run as it is.

JT – Formula One has changed along with technology obviously and that’s one reason why it isn’t the same as it used to be. But you have said that the technology has changed more than just the cars. It has changed the drivers fundamentally too.

SJ – Definitely, the way drivers develop is quite different now. Everybody was going on and on about how young [Max] Verstappen was coming into the series and how it was crazy. But the circumstances are different today. Kids develop quicker because of all the technological tools that they have available to them whatever they do in life, not just in racing but life in general. There is so much information and so many tools to develop a certain skill set, whatever it is you may be into, all available instantly.

Take a 17 year old driver today – in a way that kid probably has more experience than a 26 or 27 year old had 20 or 30 years ago with all of the simulator time they’re able to get. Back then the first time you sat in an F1 car was really the first time you sat in an F1 car. Now when you go for your first test you’ve had a month in a simulator already and you know the track and the car inside out. The simulator is exactly like the real thing and you’ve probably hit the wall 40 times in the simulator before you get to the real track. All of the hard learning is mostly done.

That brings me back to race craft or the lack of it in today’s drivers. It’s atrocious. They can all drive quick because they get so much practice but when it comes to racing a lot of them are clueless. Only a handful of them understand how to race well.

With all the data available now a driver can literally pinpoint where he’s slow. So you can take a pretty average driver and make them good. I wish I’d had a data printout when I was teammates with Senna or Prost to figure out where the hell they were making up the time. But we had nothing. You had to go out and wing it. If you were lucky you could follow another driver and maybe learn something in one corner or another but that was it. There wasn’t much point in asking because if you were close enough they would lie to you anyway, and vice versa I might add.

But even with the data and the other tools they have now, you can’t make a driver great. That’s where the difference is between the few guys at the top and the paying drivers. All the drivers in F1 today are very good, there’s no doubt about that. But are they best overall, I don’t know. You can make an average driver good today, but the great one’s will always be great and they would be great with or without all the tools available to them. The sad part is that a lot of the guys today that have the potential to become great simply fall by the wayside before they get the chance to measure themselves against the best.

JT – The American Haas F1 Team recently announced its driver lineup featuring Frenchman Romain Grosjean and Mexican Esteban Gutierrez. It seems sensible that a new team would want to hire drives with experience. Also, as Haas is sort of a Ferrari junior team, the selection of Gutierrez isn’t surprising. But some have complained that the team should have hired an American driver for one of the seats. What’s your take?

SJ – I guess the criticism is to be expected. It’s always that way with teams from a certain nationality and questions about why drivers from the country a team is based in aren’t hired. I think Haas did the right thing in this case.

To be honest, I don’t think it would be fair for [Alexander] Rossi or an American rookie to go racing with a brand new team in its first year. Remember when Toyota was in F1? I don’t know how many drivers they went through before they pulled out. They never were competitive really. It’s been the same with so many drivers cycling through Toro Rosso in the early years too.

As a first year entrant in a new series Haas just wants to do the best job they can at this stage. Once they gain experience and if they become competitive that’s a different story. But right now they have a steep learning curve ahead of them. Having the best combination of experience and speed they can find is important.

As far as the Gutierrez choice, I know Ferrari is quite impressed with him. He’s done a fantastic job apparently in the simulator for them. He’s super quick and gives good feedback.

JT – There is ongoing speculation about what Red Bull Racing will do for 2016. Apparently Ron Dennis is opposed to them using Honda power units and is trying to block that option. Do you think Red Bull leaving F1 is a possibility?

SJ – They could pull out but apparently there is a big penalty if they do. But I do think it’s a definite possibility. Red Bull is not a racing team first and foremost, they are involved in all sorts of activities today, all based around the Red Bull brand which of course started it’s life as an energy drink. F1 is only one of many different activities they are involved in, albeit maybe the most important and most visible. But if Mr. Mateschitz wakes up on the wrong side of the bed he could very easily pull the plug on the whole program, his life won’t change. This is the difference from Ferrari, McLaren and Williams for example, their entire existence is based around F1 and racing.

JT – With Formula One’s ongoing difficulties it’s all the more frustrating that IndyCar - which has a great product on-track - doesn’t promote its product off track. If they did you would assume it might be possible to win over some of the fans who are disillusioned with F1 right now.

SJ – How many years have we talked about this? IndyCar keeps tinkering with the cars and race formats and completely ignores the marketing. That’s the one thing they really need to focus on. They already have the best racing in the world in my opinion.

I saw Derrick Walker’s development plan for the future of IndyCar recently. There wasn’t one sentence in the whole plan that touched on marketing, not a word. The teams have already spent stupid money on these aero-kits for very little benefit.

Again, if they put together a $25 million prize fund for winning the championship, the Indy 500, a street course, a road course and the final race for example, you could take out an insurance policy that would cost a fraction of the full amount if anyone managed to hit all the milestones. The level of publicity they could get out of the fact that this is a championship with $25 million at stake would be great. They need to pump up the marketing in some way but there’s been nothing. All they seem to worry about is the comments from the existing fans, which is valuable, but I think most of them would show up no matter what because they are die hard Indycar fans. It’s the millions of people that are unaware of what a phenomenal product Indycar is that they need to somehow get interested.

JT – The 2016 IndyCar schedule is now out and includes three new rounds – Road America, Phoenix and Boston. Road America and Phoenix return after a few years of absence while the Boston street circuit is entirely new.

SJ – They’re all exciting venues. The street races we know work well, in any form or racing they are always popular because you bring the race to the people, not the other way around. The cities come alive so Boston could be a fantastic place for a race. I think Road America will be good because it’s probably the best track in America and I think the fans there will embrace it. I think a lot of hardcore fans will travel to see it as well. They can appreciate how hard the drivers work to drive that track.

JT – In the WEC, Porsche wrapped up the manufacturers championship at last weekend’s Six Hours of Shanghai round. Their performance has been head and shoulders above the rest all year.

SJ – They obviously have a better car than Audi and Toyota and have had all year. Audi has sort of hung in there more because of clever race strategy than anything. But they’ve never really been on the pace.