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NOVEMBER 16, 2012

Whitmarsh in fine form

By Tony Dodgins (@TonyDodgins)

McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh offered a number of common sense answers rather than mere politically correct PR to a succession of press conference questions asked of team principals in Austin.

The low-grip track surface at Circuit of the Americas was a shock to a number of drivers, including Nico Hulkenberg, who radioed in that it was worse than driving in the rain during the opening minutes of first free practice.

The previously unused surface will obviously rubber-in as the weekend developes but has been exacerbated by a conservative tyre choice from Pirelli, with the hard and medium compound tyres given to teams for F1's return to the US.

"I think we probably feel a lot happier with the tyres than we did at Indianapolis a few years ago..." Whitmarsh said, a reference to 2005 when a problem with the Michelins on offer resulted in a six-car race of Bridgestone-shod cars which all but provoked a riot. Pirelli has made the point that choices were made more than two months ago with little track data available and given F1's recent history in the US can hardly be blamed for playing it safe.

Another question concerned Bernie Ecclestone's advice to the Mexicans, who are keen for a return to the F1 calendar for the first time since 1992. "The Americans have done a super job here and I couldn't ask for more," Ecclestone said. "I've told the Mexicans that all they've got to do is build something to the same standard and they're in business!"

Which prompted questions as to whether it was necessary for all grand prix tracks to meet the same standard to guarantee a place on the calendar.

"Maybe we should ask the same question in a week's time!" Whitmarsh smiled, a reference to the huge contrast that the delapidated Interlagos will present the F1 paddock with seven days hence...

Then, with his colleagues offering 'it has ever been thus' type answers to the question of whether F1 has become too pay driver dependent, Whitmarsh said: "There are too many teams relying on pay drivers, too great a proportion in my opinion, so we have to work harder to improve the financial health of the sport."

He didn't say in as many words that too much money was disappearing out of F1, but thank heavens for plain speaking...