John Surtees Q&A -- The Season So Far London, England (November 29, 2006) -- With the first four rounds of the 2006-07 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport completed, A1 Team Great Britain is riding high from the field of 23 participating countries, ...
John Surtees Q&A -- The Season So Far
London, England (November 29, 2006) -- With the first four rounds of the 2006-07 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport completed, A1 Team Great Britain is riding high from the field of 23 participating countries, sitting second overall in the A1GP Nations Standings trailing current series leaders Germany by just six points, 37-31.
Proving to be as consistent a force as it was last season on the way to an inaugural third place points finish, the British team is the only nation this season to have scored in every Feature race with Oliver Jarvis and Robbie Kerr collecting back-to-back Feature podiums, both second places, in China and Malaysia respectively.
A1 Team Great Britain Team Principal, John Surtees, the only man to have won World Championships on two wheels and four, took time out from preparations for Round 5 in Indonesia next weekend, 8th -- 10th December, to review the British team's progress.
Q: Four races into the new season of A1GP, are you satisfied with the progress of A1 Team GBR to-date?
John Surtees (JS): "Yes! I think the team has come together extremely well. We've not necessarily had the best of fortune but at the same time we've come home with some sound results. We were plagued with some technical problems in the first couple of races, not of our making, which required a lot of additional work but we came through them. It obviously disrupted our preparations a little but all things considered our drivers, Darren (Manning), Oliver (Jarvis) and Robbie (Kerr) have all performed very well in the race seat!"
Q: With continuity usually a bonus in motorsport, was the team disadvantaged to run three different drivers over the first three events?
JS: "To be honest we didn't really have any option for the first race. Our regular driver, Robbie, wasn't available for Zandvoort so Darren came in, picking up where he had left off at the final round of last season in China. Robbie was back for the Czech Republic and Oliver we opted to run in Beijing as it was a new track for everyone, and therefore more of a level playing field, so we wanted to get the benefit of the additional rookie hour although events didn't transpire that way with the circuit issues swallowing valuable track time!
"I think to an extent running the three different drivers over the first three events actually helped the team. The engineers reported that the feedback they were receiving from Oliver in the rookie sessions was very good and that helped develop a set-up for the other drivers in their races. We probably emerged stronger as a result."
Q: What will be the defining factor in selecting the driver for future races given the likes of Oliver and Robbie have both proved themselves as front-runners in the series?
JS: "Well the factor that doesn't come into it from an A1GP perspective is what programmes the drivers put together for the 2007 regular season. Obviously the A1GP calendar will clash with other formulas and potential pre-season test schedules. It's really then a question of who will be available for A1GP duty!
"Robbie is a contracted driver and we have an arrangement that when he's available we have the use of Oliver's services as well. I still think there's some potential to continue with what we've been doing. For as long as Oliver is qualified to run the rookie session, if we're competing at a brand new circuit then it may be more appropriate for the team to have him run those races having taken full advantage of the rookie hour."
Q: Were you surprised by Oliver Jarvis' competitiveness as a rookie in scoring the team's first podium of the season in China earlier this month?
JS: "Oliver was faced with the challenge of being a new driver on a new circuit. We chose to run him in China as we felt we could benefit from the rookie session but of course that turned out not to be the case with the first sessions being cancelled for track modifications. He was ultimately dropped in at the deep end with very little practice but drove a very sound race to come home second for our first podium. It was a mature drive, there were no fireworks, he kept out of trouble and we were delighted with the end result!"
Q: With Robbie Kerr following up with his own podium in Malaysia last time out, how far is A1 Team GBR from scoring its maiden win and is there a track coming up where you feel it could and should be achieved?
JS: "Well you've got to remember that in Indonesia last year Robbie put the British car on pole for the Sprint race! He was extremely quick throughout the Feature and it was only due to mistakes made by the team that he didn't record a win. We head back to Indonesia next week so obviously that's a track where it could be real possibility.
"I don't think you can rule out any of the races though as we've been competitive everywhere. There's even a question mark over whether we should have got the win last time out in Malaysia. The team would contend that the German squad infringed the rules with their push start in the pits during the Feature race, Hulkenberg subsequently took the win ahead of Robbie in the British car!"
Q: What's the single biggest thing that's surprised you about this season's A1GP competition?
JS: "The biggest surprise was how successful the first event was! I think Zandvoort was an incredible testimony to what A1GP can achieve. People supported the Dutch flag and the fact that Jos Verstappen didn't race proved not to be an issue in the end of the day. Supporting your nation, that's simply got to be the strength of A1GP. That's something we have to build upon. We have to make sure that people come to races and support their teams.
"It should also be remembered that China, despite the problems with the track layout in Beijing, created another first for both A1GP and motorsport marking the first time an international race had been held in the capital city. Other surprises include the strength of the competition, there are some very talented young drivers competing this season and that's reflected in the fact that nobody's running away with the championship this year. It's been a very open championship so-far, there have been some exciting races and it could go all the way down to the wire!"
Q: With the final round of the 2006-07 A1GP season taking place on home soil at Brands Hatch in April, what can the British crowd expect to see this time round and based on the experience of last year's race, what are your expectations for the weekend?
JS: "I think the crowd can expect to see us making a damn good effort to win! We'll be trying our up most to ensure that our driver and team have all the tools in place to get the job done. I'm sure we'll be competitive, we certainly were at the opening race last year and I'm confident we'll be even more so on our return to Brands Hatch!