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GP Week : Issue 132
F1 FEATURE >> Do you have any thoughts about allowing bright ideas that were subsequently identified as illegal? If you look at the double diffuser, that was a really clever idea to overcome a change of rules that prevented teams from having them. When the rules were changed, everyone thought that was impossible. Three teams independently found a way around that. Whilst it was a loophole, it was definitely legal. It was challenged by the teams that hadn’t thought of it, but I thought it was a very clever thing. Going on to the blown diffusers, we have always known that the exhaust plume will affect the aerodynamics in some way. Provided that we were always satisfied that any aerodynamic effect was secondary to the main purpose of the exhausts, we were happy. Once teams started moving the exhaust down to the area in front of the rear wheels, it still didn’t bother us too much because we had no idea what the end result was going to be. The end result was that they used the engine for aerodynamic reasons by mapping engines purely for aero. Then it had to stop because it was quite evident that the exhaust was being used to influence the aero. In fact, at times it was its primary purpose and that’s where the discussion became difficult. It’s not helpful to go into the detail of it, but we have it sorted out for next year. People usually ask drivers about their retirement. When will it be time for Charlie to call it a day? Either when I’m told to, or when I think I’ve outlived my usefulness! I’m 58 now and depending on everything I would probably like to take it a little bit easier in my middle-to-late 60s, given the choice. Do you think you need a thick skin for this job? Yeah! Are you often under pressure from the teams to intervene, change the rules, or stop races? Yeah yeah. In Korea, when it was getting dark, one of the teams wanted the race stopped because it was getting dark. It was really because their driver had a dark visor! It wasn’t too bad and he was the only one complaining. But he was leading and it was in his interest. We have to be able to see through this – the biased questions being asked for spurious reasons. Any funny things that never became public and you could share with us? You attended all the drivers’ briefings from 1988 onwards... I remember once in Spain, in the days when we used to have the opportunity to have an extra practice session on Sundays, when it was wet and all other sessions had been dry. So one driver asked what we would do. And I said: “If we need to do this, we would do it between 11 and 11.15 etc etc” and another driver raised his hand and said “What’s going to happen if it rains this morning?” And I said “Damon” – oops, I gave it away – “Damon you were not listening were you?” and all the other drivers started to laugh. It was quite amusing. Sometimes we have a few laughs! Has your loyalty to Bernie and the FIA ever been tested? Some people felt that I might come under pressure from Bernie, for example, to stop a race or to pull out a safety car because the race was boring. First of all, that has never happened and I’m absolutely confident it never would, because Bernie doesn’t do that. But that was the perception, that I was susceptible to that kind of pressure. But I can say hand on heart that has never happened and never will. A few times, people have said “why did you send out the Safety Car out” and so on. I’m not in the habit of justifying reasons to put out a safety car because I don’t believe that we have to. It should be fairly obvious. People occasionally have different opinions. I cannot keep everyone happy all the time. I’m pretty happy with most of the decisions we have made. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, there are a few that could have been done better but everyone must have felt that from time to time.