Features - News Feature
SEPTEMBER 1, 1993
The Formula 1 stars of tomorrow
BY JOE SAWARD
Ron Dennis is the boss of McLaren, the most successful F1 team in the last 10 years. He will not name names, but he will explain why: "It is not because I don't have views, it is because any team owner or manager can, by way of expressing honest views, supplement to or detract from a young driver's career. I have a strong desire to see young drivers succeed, but I think the best way to contribute to that is through our contribution to the Autosport Award project, which sees impartial people making an assessment of a young person's performance and giving support in the next step of their career.
"It would be inappropriate and unfair for me to base an opinion on a driver as the result of reading motorsport magazines, because so often a driver's performance is linked to the competence of the team and his equipment."
"Senna combines intelligence with skill, passion, animal cunning and shrewdness. He has a combination of many things and he is very focussed. I think he ranks with some of the great divers in motor racing history, alongside Jim Clark or Juan-Manuel Fangio. He is a unique individual and the next great driver to come along will not necessarily have the same attributes in the same proportions as he does.
"It's very difficult to say who the stars of tomorrow will be because equipment plays such an important role in F3000 and F3. One has to know what to look for; one has to attend races and watch the way people drive.
"I think there are a number of over-rated people in F1 who are being cited as stars. There is a lot more to it than just the odd good performance."
Ken Tyrrell is a man who has gained a reputation for bringing new talent into F1 in the last 25 years. Who does he think are the stars of tomorrow?
"I think what we have seen of Rubens Barrichello this year indicates that he is going to be a frontrunner in the future. I also think young Fittipaldi is going to be a front runner and Ukyo Katayama is going to be quick, and almost certainly he will be the most successful Japanese driver. Perhaps we have to look to some of the F3000 runners as well. There are several potential GP drivers there: Gil de Ferran seems to have the sort of talent required and so does Pedro Lamy, but you never know if you have another Prost or another Senna until they have actually taken part in Grands Prix. It's one of the problems of recruiting young drivers, you don't know if they are going to take to it until they are in it."
Frank Williams is the man who has put together the best F1 package for the last couple of years, what does he think?
"All I ever really do is look at race results on an annual basis and see who has won the most races in any category," he says. "I have an 18-year-old son who is infinitely better informed than I am about this sort of thing. I am not a good team manager! I always wait for guys to emerge rather than follow them. If a guy wins Formula 3000 I think: "I'd better have a look at him". In F1 now I like the look of Karl Wendlinger, JJ Lehto, Rubens Barrichello and Mika Hakkinen. All those guys could be good, but you never know until you put them in a winning car.
"I don't get around races as much as I should these days, for selfish reasons, but I do watch racing on television. I think David Coulthard is very good. He's a natural. Paul Tracy is hot. He's either like Gilles Villeneuve and is going to have a big one or he could be brilliant.
"I am told Emmanuel Collard is pretty good and could be terrific, but he hasn't done anything this year. That's F3000 for you, you have got to have the right equipment and the right guys running the show."
"Schumacher and Barrichello will be very strong and I have a great belief in Jean Alesi if he is properly handled and looked after. Wendlinger seems to be doing a good job and Lehto on his day. It is difficult to equate Damon Hill because he doesn't have much time and Hakkinen because I think it was the wrong decision for him not to drive this year.
"There are lots and lots of people on the horizon, new guys who given decent cars and good opportunities will do a good job. I am looking at one or two people in F3000 and I have a good feeling about them, but there are only 13 teams in F1 now and it is very difficult for a new driver to break in.
"On top of that if I say someone outside F1 is going to do well, other people will start looking at him. Why should I find stars for other people?
"Today's technical directors, blokes like myself, Patrick Head and Harvey Postlethwaite started at the bottom. There wasn't the technology you have now and we covered all areas ourselves. It was a wonderful overall grounding. Today there are lots of specialists, but technical directors are few and far between. There are a lot of clever engineers around but they are never going to be technical directors because they haven't got the character you need. The job is about keeping things on the rails and having an absolute determination to get from A to B, because that is what you have decided. It's about drive and toughness. You cannot learn that. I look for new faces and the only ones I can see coming up with that kind of overall view and experience - and time is important - is someone like Gary Anderson of Jordan and maybe Mike Coughlan at Tyrrell.
Robin Herd is another engineer from the old school, although he is now managing-director of Larrousse. Does he know who are the F1 engineering stars of the future?
"Yes," he smiles. "They are working for Larrousse UK Ltd and I'm not going to tell you who they are. I am sure that Patrick Head won't tell you who are the good guys at Williams. When I started we designed the whole car. The mechanics did a lot of design from their imagination and we literally did designs on the back of cigarette packets. Ideas and ingenuity were really very important.
"These days things are much more complicated. You have a massive groups of people involved, so what has really become important is the ability to organise engineers. That is where Patrick (Head) is exceptional. I think Tino Belli is very good at that.
What does Patrick Head himself think?
"To be a leading F1 engineer you need to be a lot more than just a good engineer. It requires a very high level of commitment and determination to succeed. It is not necessarily egotism you need, it is a desire to have your opinion heard above others. The problem in the F1 engineering environment is that you have to make one decision from all the different options available. If that is done by a committee, it may not be the best. Three people may have three opinions and the one that holds will be the one with the strongest personality. I don't think that is the right way to operate.
"I think it will always be the case that a successful team will need someone in my position or John Barnard's, someone who's only interest is to get the best possible result. There are some good guys coming along, Adrian Newey is 32-33 and, undoubtedly, has a great future ahead of him and I think the last five years should have given good opportunities to a number of very good engineers to get a lot of experience. We just have to see who emerges."