Badger got a chance to chat with Sky F1 presenter Anthony Davidson at their 3D demonstration event at London’s Groucho Club last week.
Other than running the Sky Pad and commentating on practice sessions Davidson currently drives sports cars for the Toyota factory team in the Le Mans 24 Hours and the World Endurance Championship.
He had a huge accident in last year’s race when his TS030 was launched into the air after a collision with Piergiuseppe Perazzini’s Ferrari 458 on the Mulsanne Straight. The accident left Davidson with a broken back – however we are glad to say that he is once again fighting fit and is looking forward to racing again for Toyota at the WEC race at Silverstone this April.
Other than sports cars Davidson also has a long-standing relationship with the Mercedes AMG F1 team and drives their simulator, whilst also having driven in F1 for Minardi, Honda and Super Aguri.
An impressive CV we think you’ll agree!
Badger GP – Thanks for joining us. We’re at the Sky 3D screening event, we’ve seen 5 to 10 minutes of it. What are your first impressions?
Anthony Davidson – It was a good experience, I think we all kind of felt the same. I didn’t know what to expect, however I have seen F1 in 3D, at Abu Dhabi a couple of years ago.
LG were doing something and they showed a couple of clips of F1 in 3D, and it looked good then. But I didn’t know how it was going to look live. The images that we’ve just been seeing blew me away, by the fact that you can see all the contours of the track and little details that I always point out doing the commentary alongside Crofty on a Friday and Saturday.
It’s there for everyone to see, stuff like that is a nice touch.
BGP – What we’ve seen at Barcelona with the elevation change on the main straight, which I knew had a dip in it, but with the 3D you really see the cars disappear and then pop out. It’s very difficult to explain other than it looks like real life maybe?
AD – It is, now you know how hard it is for us!
That’s the thing; there is a good reason that a lot of the teams use 3D for their simulators. It just gives you that extra aspect and I think for us watching just now, seeing that dip going into Turn 1. I know that’s there. It’s always been there, it’s not like it’s suddenly appeared but in 3D it brings the circuit to life. That is what I was really happy to see.
BGP - Interesting you mention about teams going to 3D for their simulators. Who is doing that?
AD – I think McLaren have been using 3D for quite some time. That technology and concept is catching on.
BGP – And you think that will go through the paddock?
AD – Yes. I think that obviously the simulators are quite expensive and not every team can afford to run one, but now that general testing is very limited teams are naturally going to find a way to spend their money wisely. Running a simulator is almost vital. I think Lotus is the latest team to invest in, and develop, their own simulator.
BGP – Speaking of teams and drivers for this year, who has impressed you so far?
AD – Well, I think because the regulations have stayed pretty much the same, we are going to see the same teams up there at the sharp end.
I think you’d be a fool to discount someone like Red Bull, they are going to be right up there. I think the same teams that we saw at the tail end of last year will be as strong, or even stronger.
Will we see the competition close up even more from where we were? Probably, I hope so, but you never put it past someone like Newey to come up with something even more special. Hopefully we’ll see teams like Mercedes with Lewis behind the wheel drag the team further up the grid and mix it at the sharp end with all the others, but I think for me it will still be Red Bull at the front.
Ferrari will be up there with the like of Alonso at the wheel, and then you are going to have Lotus probably stronger than where they ended last year. I can imagine them being further towards the front.
BGP – They have talked about targeting third place, haven’t they?
AD – Yes, exactly, and I think they have good reason to as well. They do a great job and with a team that hasn’t got the same funding as team like Ferrari, or Red Bull.
They’re going to start the year strong and maybe it’s going to peter out as the year goes on. But I think from last year they did the best job if you look at everyones budgets and what they had available.
I think their rates of progress and the fact they won a race quite late into the season goes to show that they are still on the up. So that is the one team that excites me the most on the grid. I would say that it’s still going to be Red Bull leading the way.
BGP - And of the crop of new drivers; anyone looking good to you?
AD – I’m looking forward to seeing Valtteri Bottas. I think he’s the one that everyone should have their eye on at the start of the year and I think he’s going to get stronger as the year develops as well.
I’ve been in that position myself where I’ve been out of racing for a while and he might be a bit rusty to start of with. We might see a few silly errors, but later on in the year is when we have to start analysing his race-craft, his speed. But from what I have heard, everyone at Williams are impressed by him and that’s why he’s there.
BGP – We’re interested to see him. He’s a bit of an in house favourite.
AD – If he’s got the car to do it as well I’ve just got a feeling, from watching on Fridays, that he’s potentially a safer pair of hands than Maldonado. He might not have Maldonado’s ultimate speed on Maldonado’s day but he might be that extra constancy that the team are looking for, coupled with matching the speed of Pastor sometimes. Who knows? It might be a great recipe.
BGP - What’s your feeling on the first views of the new Williams? There’s a lot of interesting stuff on there it seems.
AD – I think they have pushed the boundaries on the exhaust, but that is what you need to do. That is where most, if not all, the speed is coming from in a modern F1 car. I know that they have tightened up the rules but teams are finding their way around it with the mapping of the engines. That is going to be a big talking point, especially at the start of the year. It came on leaps and bounds last year and that is only going to develop further throughout this season.
Teams that can exploit that to the maximum and stay just within the regulations – or not get caught – are going to have the fastest car. It doesn’t just give you lap time, it helps save your tyres as well, and that is going to be a key factor of this year – looking after those purposely designed fragile tyres.
BGP - We’ve seen, with the tyres, there has been a lot of rumblings of discontent from teams and drivers about how quickly the new Pirellis are ‘going off’. There has also been a little bit of talk about how cold and unrepresentative places like Jerez and Barcelona can be. Is it maybe time in your view for a test somewhere warmer?
AD – It’s never that easy. Remember that we used to go to Bahrain winter testing, and they would rock up and get there just after a dust storm, meaning there would be dust all over the track.
Even though they had the temperatures, and they are on a very demanding, and representative, track of one of the early races on that same aero package or similar, it would bear no resemblance at all when they actually came to race time. The track would have changed beyond what it was like for the test.
At the beginning of the year you don’t understand the tyres that well, or your car, and the drivers haven’t worked out how to get the best out of them, in conditions that are going to push the tyre further than what you are going to see in any of the early races.
That is exactly what they had in Jerez and then Barcelona, so I just think that you jump in at the deep end and this is the worst case scenario. If you can then fathom how to get the best out of them you’re going to be winning races early on and for me that is great, because it means that teams like Sauber, Williams and Lotus have a chance of winning like we saw at the beginning of last year.
Look what happened at the beginning of last year – everyone was complaining that ‘it was a disaster, a nightmare’. They were saying ‘we can’t get them working’ they were ‘going off’. We saw 4/5 pitstops in the early races and it was thought that this was for the long term.
By the end of the year they looked like they had actually changed the tyre compound, it changed that much. The tyres hadn’t changed – it’s just the teams had worked their way around it. So did the drivers. And the cars developed – they got grippier, the downforce improved and that always helps tyre wear.
I’m excited to see such vulnerable tyres at the beginning because it make the engineers jobs difficult. At the end of the day they have all got the same tyre and it shouldn’t be easy.
BGP - Going back to Sky for a second; other than the 3D, which we may or may not see depending on the hand of Bernie, what can we expect to change? What’s staying the same on your coverage this year?
AD – Well, we have some things for the Sky Pad lined up.
BGP – Angry Birds?
AD – I’m no good at Angry Birds, never been good at that! Thankfully I’ll be talking about F1 on the Sky Pad!
We’ve got some exciting things and we’ll be able to see that in due course. It’s going to be me there now that Georgie is not around.
BGP – Will you be on your own?
AD – I’ll be sometimes on my own. Sometimes we’ll be getting other people along, and we’re going to try to sort of open it up a bit more, so that is quite cool.
It’s going to work quite well and now people are into the fact that the Sky Pad is there to stay. It actually does enhance the coverage, where as in the beginning F1 fans weren’t quite sure about it. By the end of the year, with the amount of footage that we had available – and once people settled down and they were used to it being there. It actually added a lot to the content I think.
This year it’s going to come on even more, so that is exciting. I’ll still be doing the commentary alongside Crofty for the practice sessions. Him and Martin will be still working together for the commentary itself, and maybe I’ll be in the paddock a bit more with Johnny and Lazers.
It’s pretty much the same but I think going into this year we’re all a lot more confident. The coverage will be even better, there is a lot more on offer. I think the fans will enjoy watching.
BGP – Are you looking forward to pieces to camera in 3D?
AD – At least I’m thin – I don’t have to be careful of how I stand!
Remember though this is a one off. It’s great to see and I’m enjoying watching the coverage today. It’s the FOM footage that we’re still going to be airing when it comes to the races.
BGP- One final question, and it’s a bit of a Badger niche; what is your favourite cheese?
AD – My favourite cheese? That is a very, very odd question. I think I’m going to go for Roquefort, actually.
BGP – Martin Brundle went for Stilton
AD – Oh did he? Roquefort for me you see.