Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's third driver Anthony Davidson has really caught the eye on Fridays -- but how does he see his role within the team? Q: As third driver at Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda you are allowed to participate in both hour-long Free...
Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's third driver Anthony Davidson has really caught the eye on Fridays -- but how does he see his role within the team?
Q: As third driver at Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda you are allowed to participate in both hour-long Free Practice sessions on the Friday before all Grands Prix; what is your role on these Fridays and what are trying to achieve?
Anthony Davidson: From the team's perspective my job is to evaluate the tyres for the weekend to the best of my ability. On Friday night the team has to make a decision on which of the two compound options we wish to use on Saturday and Sunday. Basically that's down to me. Both Jenson and Takuma are limited on mileage on Fridays whereas I can do as many laps as I want. It's a big responsibility but it's just one of the run-of-the-mill things we do in general testing, so it's pretty easy especially when we at circuits I know. It's most tricky when the track is changing a lot as it does in somewhere such as Monte Carlo.
Q: Presumably you have to complete a mix of short and long runs on both tyre options to evaluate their respective speeds not only over one lap for qualifying but also over a longer runs in readiness for the Grand Prix?
AD: Definitely, we have to look at performance in the short run as well as the longevity of the tyre.
Q: Judging by the impressive lap times you've shown on Fridays, you are allowed to push as hard as you like?
AD: With no mileage issues, I'm given a few extra rpm than either Jenson or Taku are given on Friday which is probably worth a couple of tenths? but often I'm carrying more fuel. So when I'm second fastest at somewhere like Indianapolis that's a genuinely good day. I do have more new tyre runs, so perhaps that flatters me a bit but, there again, I do have to learn most of the circuits.
Q: Looking at your pacesetting performances at place like Bahrain and Monte Carlo as well as at Indy, you seem to come to grips with unfamiliar venues pretty quickly?
AD: That's one of my strengths. In fact other than Barcelona and Silverstone, all the other tracks have been new.
Q: So how do you learn a new track from scratch?
AD: I start by playing the computer game just to get a general idea on where the circuit goes. Then I will have a look at both the data from last year to see the actual speeds, gears and G-loading and the on-board film footage - that helps a great deal as you can see the lines and listen for the gear-changes. Next I'll talk to the drivers - Jenson's been really helpful here. That said it's in his interests that I'm fast so the team can get a proper tyre evaluation done. After this I'll then go out onto the circuit on Wednesday or Thursday with Jenson or Taku. Going on a scooter is best as you're up high and in the open which gives you a good perspective of the corners. So, by the time I finally get out there in the car, the whole thing already makes sense.
Q: Armed with all this background information, how many laps does it then take you to get fully up to speed?
AD: That's pretty hard to judge because as you get more familiar with the track so the first set of tyres start to go off. There's a massive performance difference between laps one and five but it's important to learn as much as possible when the tyres are past their best so you can get the most out of the next new set.
Q: Looking at the races so far, your pace through the unique and challenging streets of Monaco must have been a real high spot. You were second fastest on the opening day, only eclipsed by Michael Schumacher.
AD: Monte Carlo, of course was really good but the Nurburgring was pretty stunning, too. I'd never seen the place before and my first timed lap was only a tenth of Jenson's first flying lap and I actually ended the first session as the fastest. That was a real mega day. Indy was outstanding and the second session there was probably my best of the year. But, going back to Monaco, a lot of people were a bit sceptical about my ability of coming to terms with the track but I found it really easy and very enjoyable. So there have been quite a few really good moments.
Q: Is there a balancing act between your personal ambitions and those of the team? Clearly you want to maximise these high-profile Free Practice sessions to impress potential employers elsewhere in the F1 pit-lane but you still have an important role to play at Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda.
AD: Obviously I want to do as good a job as I can for the team but that goes hand-in-hand with doing as good a job as I can for me. Of course, I'd love the team to allow me to do a low fuel run on Friday as that would be really beneficial to Anthony Davidson but it's not relevant to the team's programme and could even hinder its performance for the rest of the weekend as it would give other teams a clue as to our full potential.
Q: You must feel frustrated about going home on a Friday night while the rest of the team gears up for qualifying and the Grand Prix.
AD: No, not really. I take pride in the work I do both on Fridays and during general testing.
Q: You obviously have a good relationship with both Jenson and Taku.
AD: It's brilliant. They're both so good. I can ask them anything and they'll be open to me. We all know where we stand; they know I'm hunting for a full-time drive in F1 for next year and they're almost helping me by saying good things. They don't need to go out of their way to help me, but they do.
Q: Looking back at the two Grands Prix you did for Minardi back in 2003, do you see those as missed opportunities or just another part of your graduation to a full-time berth in F1?
AD: Considering the lack of time I had in the car I think I did a good job. People at the time thought it was okay but, now we know how good Mark Webber is, I think I did I pretty well. I did a faster race lap than Mark in Hungary and qualified within half a second of him at Spa and then sat on his gearbox in the race.
Q: Having raced at both the Hungaroring and Spa you now must be looking forward to returning to both those circuits?
AD: Yes, I'm looking forward to going back to tracks I know such as those two and Monza. There are some good ones coming up and I'm particularly looking forward to Spa - for lots of reasons that should be quite interesting.