There are things that just happen once in your life, and one of them is that a great character in the Formula 1 world, grants you an exclusive interview.
We have been very lucky that “Charlie Whiting” has found some time between the races in Canada and Valencia to answer some questions for this humble blog.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, lets know better @Charlie_Whiting
Today we have with us one of the most important people in the (fake) Formula 1 world. The Fake Charlie Whiting has granted us an exclusive interview and so we will understand better his opinion about F1 and other aspects of his character…
If you follow Formula 1 news on Twitter, you probably know the “parallel-world” of “Fakes”; maybe the “boss” of them and one of the most interesting to follow, is our beloved Fake Charlie Whiting.
Those of you who already know him will enjoy a little more his sense of humor and wisdom, those who don’t know him yet, are going to discover a great character.
Hello Mr. Whiting, (may I say Charlie?), many thanks for coming and have a coffee with us. We would like to ask you some questions about you and F1 and of course, we would be very glad to know your point of view about some topics, for sure you’re a very influential person in the sport, so your opinions are always something that we have to keep in mind.
Q1.- First of all, we don’t want to ruin any mystery, but would also want to know a little bit more about you, your hobbies… We saw via Twitter you had a great time going to the Canadian GP, carrying a huge camera, sharing lots of great pics with us fans (we appreciate that!): is that a hint about your job in real life? We would also like to thank you for making F1 much more entertaining with your funny and clever comments, we really appreciate them. Sometimes, a lot more than the real Charlie’s…
[FCW].- Well, obviously one of my greatest passions in life is Formula 1. I have been into photography for many years, and began to enjoy shooting F1 races. As time went on, I upgraded my equipment, as well as the strength of the friends I’d bring with me to races to carry my gear. But I do it as an amateur, and am very proud to have contributed many photos to the Wikipedia pages for F1 over the years.
I love motorsports, and track my cars whenever I can. I also enjoy racing in Formula Van Diemens at Mosport.
As far as my Twitter activities, well that largely came out of being in the Eastern Standard time zone and being up at 3am for Quali and Races. I’m a big believer in watching the events live. Having live timing adds an important dimension to the race. But sitting at home alone at 3am is a bit lonely. That’s where Fake Charlie Whiting came in. It offered me a way to share my observations with other F1 fans around the world. And before I knew it, Fake Charlie was a bit of a minor celebrity.
Q2.- You both, the real and the fake character, have attended the Canadian GP, and as you tweeted, you met some of the real Formula 1 people, journalists, drivers like Chandhok… They knew about you, and some were even your followers. Apparently, even the REAL Whiting knows about you too! How do you feel being a “celebrity” in the paddock, is that a big responsibility?
[FCW].- This year’s Canadian Grand Prix was pretty special for me. I’ve gone to this race for many years, and was very much looking forward to having a “tweet-up” with other folks I’ve met online. When @willbuxton arranged the pub night on Saturday, I was thrilled to finally meet him. But when I met @karunchandhok, I was blown away when he told me that I’m huge on the paddock, and that he had told the real Charlie Whiting that very day about me. I was really hoping I’d get to meet the real Charlie Whiting, but that will remain a future goal.
I’ve tried to be very careful to always be respectful in my tweets. I love this sport, and genuinely respect everyone in it. There are some characters, and situations that do deserve to be satired though. Sometimes the sport takes itself a bit too seriously, and I’d like to think Fake Charlie helps to take some of the tension away. And everyone can take a bit of ribbing from time to time.
That said, I did feel a bit bad about calling Mike Gascoyne “Frodo”. I’m not a tall lad myself, so I felt it wasn’t offside. I couldn’t help myself when I saw EJ looking like a giant when he stood next to Mike.
Q3.- Charlie, what do you think it’s being more harmful to F1, politics, the restrictions in free development of cars and engines, the FIA (including yourself) and its inconsistency?
[FCW].- Well, F1 is a multi billion dollar sport, and whenever that much money is in play, there will be major league politics. It’s unavoidable. But I think the FIA and its stewardship of the technical spirit of the sport must be very careful not to shift too far away from the need to clearly be the pinnacle of motorsport. F1 engines have a sound you feel. The need to reduce costs is real, and I hated seeing BMW, Toyota and Honda leave the sport because of economic challenges. But even for teams like Williams who exist only to race, it’s a tough environment. So requiring the use of fewer engines and gearboxes is a good move. But the severe limits on testing are hurting our next crop of F1 stars. The sport needs to keep its magic.
Q4.- The 107% rule wasn’t applied to one of the Virgins (the cars, of course) the last GP, when some “exceptions” to it, not really written down in the rule, were considered. Actually, the 107% it’s been only applied once, against both HRT’s. Is it specifically designed for Hispania?
[FCW].- I’ve never met a Virgin I wasn’t willing to give accomodation to. But seriously, the 107% rule is an important one. I’ve commented about HRT being able to get to the airport early on race weekends because of this rule. The margin between the fastest and the slowest cars must be managed. Even in the junior racing I’ve done, it’s dangerous and bothersome when you have a huge disparity. So 107% keeps the backmarkers focused on building competitive cars, even if they’re competing for 21st and 22nd place.
Q5.- So, your friend Bernd Mayländer, finished last year as the driver leading the most laps in the Championship, he even won the Monaco GP!!. At the moment in the 2011 season he’s second after Sebastian Vettel. Considering that Bernd is very good in wet races, for sure he always leads when the track condition makes it impossible to the other drivers and nobody can pass him (only Lewis did once, but it was a dry race)… Do you think he will win again the “Most Led Laps Championship”? Should FIA allow him to compete? Is he locked (again) inside the Safety Car?
[FCW].- First of all, I’m fining you 5000 Euros for your indescriminate use of “for sure”. Yes, Bernd is doing a great job in the SC. He was becoming quite a good Sudoku player until Montreal interrupted his work. I have mixed feelings about the Safety Car use in Montreal. I think we should have started the race without it, but I definitely think it was necessary as conditions worsened. There’s no worry that he’ll jump from the Safety Car to an F1 race seat. He can’t drive without his Lady Gaga music playing, and no team would allow that.
And I never fail to laugh when one of the teams has a radio communication telling the driver that “the Safety Car window is open” because Bernd runs like a madman to the car to check the windows.
Q6.- We had two forty-something drivers at the Canadian GP, what do you think about this? Are they as competitive as the youngsters? In short, would Schumacher win the WDC driving a RB7?
[FCW].- Well, if you’re calling a forty-something guy too old, then I’m going to revoke your credentials. Whether a driver in his 40s is as competitive as a guy in his 20s in the same car is an unanswerable question. Or is it? Nico Rosberg, aka Britney, has been a great benchmark to compare Michael against. Nico is quick, consistent and has great hair. And he has consistently had the better of Michael. It is a young man’s sport.
I think if you replaced Mark Webber with Michael Schumacher, we’d see German F1 viewership increase significantly, but we’d still have the Finger-meister, Sebastian Vettel leading the WDC.
Q7.- And now, what do you think about Hamilton’s driving, his “antics” and the possibility to see him driving for RB?
[FCW].- His driving, at times, has been a “fricken joke”. But at other times, it’s been inspired and amazing. I think this is a case of his passion and youth getting ahead of his talent. He’s made some poor decisions in some corners, but he’s a hell of a racer, and is great fun to watch. My biggest concern is that chin strap beard he’s sporting.
Whether he drives for Red Bull eventually is another open question. It would be a great spectacle to see him partnered with Vettel. But imagine Vettel in a Ferrari with Alonso with Hamilton leading Red Bull with Kubica. Wait, that’s silly season speculation. But I am seriously hopeful that Rober Kubica will come back to us in full form. He’s a top talent.
Q8.- How many calls with questions did you receive from Mclaren during the races in this season? Which one was the strangest?
[FCW].- I have McLaren on my blocked caller list. I’ve had it that way since Ron Dennis tried to pay the $100M fine with “collectable Pokemon cards”.
Q9.- In the last days the FIA made public a document speaking about the use and control of “performance-enhancing drugs”. What do you think about the anti-doping control for drivers? Would Bernd have to pass them himself? Wouldn’t that be a problem? Do you think drinking Red-Bull can be considered as doping?
[FCW].- It’s a good move, and one that I really don’t expect to have any kind of effect on F1. Having met lots of drivers, I see the lifestyle the seriously committed ones live. And their dining and training habits are incredible. I recall a few years ago in Montreal seeing Robert Kubica at a team dinner at a great Steak house. This was when he was driving for BMW. In fact, it was the year he had the huge shunt at the hairpin. I think he was eating rice cakes and celery to keep his weight down, so watching us eat steaks as thick as your fist takes discipline. He did leave early though. Probably to train. Or have eat half a rice cake.
As for Red Bull, well if it’s good enough for Thai truck drivers, then it’s good enough for F1. But I can tell you from personal experience that mixing Red Bull, Tequila and Vodka is worthy of a Superlicense suspension.
Q10.- Speaking about regulations, which one of the current rules do you feel is the most absurd? Which one would you scrap, and which one add?
[FCW].- I really, really dislike DRS. If we were able to perfectly calculate the length of the usage window so that it neutralized the advantage the lead car has, then I’d like it. But Turkey, as well as other races, demonstrated that it’s given a huge advantage to the pilot in the rear. I don’t like contrivances, and the current tire wear is often used as a comparision, but I feel that’s an unfair comparison. Everyone has the same tires, and must manage them. The driver leading a DRS-enabled follower is massively disadvantaged.
I’m also not a big fan of KERS. For a sport that is trying to reduce cost, it seems absurd to have this new complex and tightly controlled technology introduced.
Q11.- Ok, Charlie, you know people are speaking all the time around the paddock, on the internet, on Twitter, etc… they’re sick, and there are rumours telling that Ecclestone has been in these business since the Flinstones. Is he really from the Stone Age?
[FCW].- That’s silly. Bernie isn’t from the Stone Age. Bernie owns the commercial rights to Stone because he was there when all of it was being invented. Clever lad.
Q12.- We saw you drove a certain brand of cars featuring a certain black prancing horse on its shield to the Canadian GP. Some team principals like @fakeWhitmarsh already expressed their concerns about it. Do you think that could cast any shadow on your credibility and impartiality?
[FCW].- My fake impartiality and my fake credibility are completely safe. I’m a fan of the sport. I’ve had the good fortune to drive many of the brands in the sport. My wife has a Mercedes, and my daily driver is a 911 C2S. In my defense of my impartiality, I’d like to point out I was wearing a Minardi hat, a Williams t-shirt and I offered directions to 2 Virgins at the circuit.
I find it hard to actually cheer for any one team or driver at a race. What I am looking for, is a great competition. I love seeing a car and driver outperform expectations. Those magical moments are rare, but when they happen, they are magic. There are drivers I feel are extra special. Mark Webber is one. As an “elder statesman” of the sport, he’s an important and honest voice. His handling of Bahrain was particularly praise-worthy. Even if some of his starts have been, as he would say, “shit”.
Q13.- Well , Charlie the last but not the least important question: what was the best present (from the teams) that you got at the end of the last season and which diver send it? Was it flexible maybe, like some bendy wings we could see last year?
[FCW].- I got a lovely bronze statue of Vettel’s finger. I use it to open walnuts. Fernando sent me a statue of his eyebrows with a lovely letter begging me to revoke Petrov’s Superlicense and asking me to introduce DRS. And Lewis sent me a CD with some kind of cat music on it.
Dear Charlie, thanks a lot for your patience with us, mere F1 fans. We feel really honored for having you at our humble blog, and are really pleased for knowing a little bit more about the person behind the character (and what a character Whiting is!).
Cheers, and thanks again for everything. We hope we’re not under any investigation after this interview…
[FCW].- Because of some of your comments, I must refer you to the Stewards, but I suspect any sanctions will be minor. You do good work for the sport.
All the pictures are from “ph-stop” under “creative commons” license.