So the summer break in Formula 1 is finished, and we thought at Tertulias that a great way to celebrate it would be this, having the pleasure and honor to interview one of the greatest sources of fun on Twitter for F1 fans: the fake McLaren team principal @FakeWhitmarsh.
We really hope you have the same fun reading as we had preparing this interview. Enjoy.
Following the Formula 1 championship is sometimes stressful, especially during some seasons where politics and everything surrounding the sport make it look a little bit less real, and a lot more like show-business. But then, you find some relief and extra fun via other sources. Twitter is one of them, and specifically, some twitter personalities (I’d say even celebrities) that make you enjoy F1 so much more. @FakeWhitmarsh is one of them, an absolute essential for every F1 fan on twitter, an infinite source of fun and great, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes cheeky, always interesting tweets and opinions. We have now the pleasure and honour of interviewing him for Tertulias de Fórmula 1.
Hello, Mr. Whitmarsh, and welcome to Tertulias de Fórmula 1. First of all, many thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, being McLaren’s fake team principal, and FOTA’s fake chairman must be really time consuming. We would also love to know something more about the real person behind the fake Whitmarsh. Without ruining any mystery, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
First of all, don’t let Ron know I’m speaking to a web page newspaper (he still doesn’t understand the full concept of ‘blogs’), he’s blaming our recent form on ‘distractions’, he found my twitter feed and he thought I was leaking information…
Mr Whitmarsh parody is a long time follower of F1, back in the days when drivers were allowed to overtake without having to apologise afterwards, when ‘Abu Dhabi’ was the name of the current summer hit song and Newey’s cars had a 50% chance of actually finishing a race.
Some may ponder my origins, I tweet both in English and Spanish, I had to take an intensive ‘Spanish for team principles’ course in Madrid in 2007, I liked it so much I stayed; let’s just say I’m an ex-pat living in Spain who sometimes dons a multi-coloured woollen skirt…
After everything that happened on 2007, and all the media bias both here and in the United Kingdom, McLaren doesn’t have the best press in Spain. I believe you were already living here that year, what is the perspective and view on that matter for someone British like you, living abroad?
It’s a very touchy subject amongst our Castilian counterparts; I was indeed in Spain in 2007 and unfortunately had to live through this experience with the unbiased and completely impartial Lobato and Gonzalo (the Spanish F1 commentators). I defended McLaren’s position, there would never be a number 1 driver in our team, the truth is that no one thought Hamilton would start so strongly, Alonso was ruffled and consequently beaten by a rookie. He took it hard, Spain took it hard and our toilet door got the worst of it. Spain likes creating villains, Schumacher used to get the brunt of it but now Hamilton has stepped up as the public enemy number 1, it just makes all of those HAM-ALO overtakes just that little bit sweeter. It’s fun comparing the BBC’s conclusions of the race with my friends ‘La Sexta’s’ inspired outcome; sometimes I think we weren’t watching the same one… Anyway, Spain aren’t the only collective that detests Lewis.
So we are mid-season now, and after winning four races already, it seems the MP4-26 (some people call it MP4-RB7) is losing some ground now. Can you tell us the reasons behind that? Also, at Silverstone, the off-throttle ban seemed to hit McLaren specially hard, but surprisingly, some staff at your team (like @RealSimonB) seemed excited about limiting off-throttle -even before Spanish GP, when it was supposed to apply first- A little bit of a miscalculation here?
Firstly, at McLaren we never copy anyone, we may replicate other teams development paths to a very likening degree, but never copy. The MP4-26 has a design flaw, we’ve crunched all our numbers based on British summer weather, anything above 20ºC and a dry track hurts our tyres. We should have gone with Bernie’s idea all along. Truth is, the blown diffuser and off-throttle blowing is what really what makes our car fast, the curvy side pods was Nicole Schweiger’s idea, she thought it would look pretty.
McLaren have shown time and time again that we are the strongest team at developing in season, with Red Bull seemingly moving more and more resources to 2012 and Massa showing us all how not to drive an F1 car, 2nd in the constructors is the best we can hope for.
After a dominant beginning of season for Red Bull and Vettel with 6 victories, McLaren is now the second most successful team with 4 victories. Who do you think is using the biggest and most powerful calculator, Sebastian Vettel or Simon Fuller?
Fuller, for sure, anyway you’ve seen what happens to Vettel when he starts multitasking inside the cockpit.
As we said before, it’s being a year full of issues off the track (the off-throttle saga, Bahrain, etc.), which rarely is good news for Formula 1, though it’s not uncommon on recent years either. What has been more taxing this year so far, your position at McLaren or the one at FOTA? I hope they’re both paid jobs…
They are both very demanding jobs; with one I have to deal with grumpy, overpaid and very demanding individuals, the other I have to deal with racing drivers, who are generally unbalanced and bipolar (complaining of a rubbish car one day, winning the next). I get paid well at McLaren, but at FOTA each team contributes to the Association what they see fit; Red Bull brings the fizzy drinks, Ferrari the pasta, Force India the beer and Virgin Racing, well, lets just leave that one out…
FOTA is basically an excuse to get together on weekends and bitch about Charlie and we jokingly simulate races of a GP2 car against HRT in the current circuit (GP2 winning 11-0); nothing really productive comes out of it, we can never make up our minds, we need Bernie for that.
We had the pleasure to interview @Charlie_Whiting recently here at Tertulias, and he insinuated (in fact, he stated) that you may or may not have tried to pay 2007’s fine for the Spygate using Pokemon’s cards. Can you confirm that? These days, it seems clear that Ferrari is no more the team to spy… I mean, to copy… I mean, to be “inspired” by. Have you taken measures at McLaren to assure nothing like that happens again? (i.e. buying some more photocopiers and multi-function printers at Woking headquarters)
@Charlie_Whiting is just sore that he drives a Ferrari and he rejected our ‘gift’ of a MP4-12C, which is clearly faster. It’s true that we inherited a large collection of Pokemon cards from Alonso – he stormed out after Brazil never to return, leaving this card collection and his industrial size eyebrow clippers in his room – we are due to start payments as soon as the loan comes through (we’re just biding our time to see what comes of Bernie’s ‘problems’)…
Concerning these spying allegations, we never spied on anyone; maybe occasionally we probed material obtained through inconspicuous means, but never spying (no longer are our employees allowed to own a photocopier fidelity card). But we weren’t the first to do so, and neither will we be the last. Just the other day I had to confiscate Horner’s iPhone after he was taking a photo of our coffee machine.
What are your thoughts on the current Adrian Newey’s -a McLaren ex-employee- designs dominance at F1? Interesting that during the period he was working for McLaren, his cars didn’t look as strong as now at all…
It’s a strange feeling when I see Adrian’s car do well, the fact is we taught him everything he knows. He just couldn’t get it right with us so we decided we no longer needed his help, I hope his teeth rot and fall out with all that Red Bull he drinks. No hard feelings.
If you would have to make a ranking of the current 5 top-drivers, which one would it be? Many people thought Jenson Button would be crushed by Hamilton at McLaren, but that has hardly been the case. How do you rate Button’s work so far? And please, let us both try to leave Michibata out of the answer…
Top 5 drivers:
2. Vettel (he still needs to win a race like Hamilton in Germany or Button in Hungary to be in the same league as ALO-HAM)
(special mention to Kamui Kobayashi, I would love to see him in a preforming car)
So we have now heard this awesome radio conversations between teams and drivers: “faster than you”, “maintain the gap”. Is “save fuel” the equivalent at McLaren?
I think we have made it very obvious this year that our racing drivers are allowed to race, even though this weekend I nearly choked on my earl grey when they kissed each other in the opening lap…
I think it’s sad seeing team orders in this sport, especially so early in the season. Yes they are now legal, but one of the main reasons my loyalty lies with McLaren is their policy to have complete parity within the team.
Let’s talk about Hamilton. It seems he has been all over the place recently: lots of accidents, frequent visits to the stewards, reiterated “I didn’t say that” to his own declarations, persisting rumours concerning Red Bull… Don’t you think that, for someone who swore loyalty to his team so many times in the past, these not-so-subtle threats don’t look very elegant? Is it maybe the bottom-line here: when will McLaren fight for the Championship again?
Yes, Lewis is slightly bi-polar, but as I’ve mentioned on numerous and numerous occasions, he is a very passionate racing driver. We just need to make sure he has a good car, nurse him through tyre wear and keep his fiancée out of the garage for the most time possible. Lewis will never go to Red Bull, he knows that they are nothing without Newey, and Newey gets bored very easily and will most likely drop everything to go design a boat or race cars. There are very few teams in F1 with the sole purpose just to win races and not sell their product (although the financial gains of the latter are very much welcomed), I don’t think we can include Red Bull in this list.
I digress, I think the remaining half of the season should be used just for us to make Vettel and Red Bull look bad, they needn’t win any of the remaining races and would still have the constructor and driver championship, unless they repeatedly made stupid mistakes in each of the remaining races… We might just have to forget about his one and move on to 2012.
It was a weird situation last years’: the two main things to copy were Red Bull’s exhaust blown diffusers, and McLaren’s F-Duct. You only had to copy one of them, while Ferrari had to copy both. And even so, Alonso nearly won the Championship, but none of your drivers were so close to it. Is Ferrari developing cars better during the year than McLaren? Even if “developing” really means “copying” here…
You fail to mention that we came 2nd in the constructors championship, only 44 points behind those energy drink makers, with Ferrari a further 58 behind us. So had we chosen a number 1 driver, like Ferrari, we would have most likely been a lot closer, but this is not in McLaren’s DNA. Let’s wait to see who comes out strongest in the 2nd part of the season, even though Ferrari is already getting its excuses ready.
Little known fact, this is how the F-duct got its name.
Replacing Ron Dennis, a legend in motorsport management (though not really beloved around here by many after 2007) must have been a hard task. There are some recent talks around the paddock questioning your position at McLaren, as it always happens when a big team is not winning championships (ask @FakeDomenicali about it…). How do you feel about them?
I think after winning 3 of the past 5 races, and what is looking to be a turn of the tides, my position at McLaren is safe. As I mentioned in my twitter feed, F1 is not football, we don’t play musical chairs with our management team after a slight ‘blip’ in results; we are professionals, albeit, some of us…
What are your views on the future of Formula 1 and its regulations? Do you like the 2014 V6 engines proposed? Would you like to see more things free to develop, or do you think cost-cutting and freezing and homologating parts is the right way to go? Do you agree with Montezemolo and Domenicali when they said aerodynamics should have a smaller impact in an F1 car?
I’m all for drastic rule changes, it makes everyone go back to the drawing board and levels the playing field, sometimes… Formula 1 will always be Formula 1, no matter what engine they decide to use; I’m not even against the use of electric engines in the pitlane. But I am against artificial racing, I think these Pirelli tyres – whose sole purpose is to auto-destruct after a given amount number of laps – don’t belong in F1. I don’t think it’s easy to mix ‘green’, ‘cost-sensitive’, ‘high-tech’ and ‘crowd-pleasing’ in a single package although I think we are nearly there. DRS is great when properly implemented and KERS is something I think F1 should really embrace long term.
And finally, when are we going to have an equivalent to Ferrari’s Horse Whisperer (one of the better sources for amusement and fun between F1 teams) at McLaren? Could Eddie Jordan be the man for that job?
We are far too serious a team to masquerade as a horse to whinge about rumours and happenings. Anyway, Lewis Hamilton brings us all the comic relief we need. And I don’t think Eddie Jordan would be the best man for that job, especially not after this piece.
Thanks for everything, Martin. We feel really honoured for having you here at our blog. Your comments are truly appreciated on Twitter, and you can consider Tertulias de Fórmula 1 your own home. Actually, it would be great to have your opinions, thoughts and texts here anytime you want to. Those would be great news for all of us! (if all the busy work between McLaren and FOTA leaves you a little bit of time for us, of course ;-))
Thank you, it’s been fun!! You’ve not seen the last of me here!!