Badger’s Sarah Merritt caught up with Sky’s Simon Lazenby at the Autosports Show recently and had a quick chat about his highlight of 2016, and predictions for 2017.

On my wanders around the NEC at the Autosport Show recently, I encountered a more hirsute-looking than normal Simon Lazenby, who had been lured out of an off-season hibernation for the day, and I managed to grab time with him for our annual catch-up!

Sarah Merritt: So Simon, what have you been doing since we last saw you on our television screens in November?

Simon Lazenby: Well, growing this ridiculous beard! (Simon is sporting some additional facial hair to his normal look, but assures us it is temporary) I’ve been looking after baby number one, whilst baby number two is with her mum, so childcare! I’m taking my son down the golf course every second day because he’s mad for it. It’s him that drags me rather than the other way round – Dinosaur Golf, although he gets very scared by the Velociraptors there.

SM: Maybe you should take Damon there, he loves his golf?

SL: Yes, he might be scared of the dinosaurs himself!

SM: Last year when we met here and talked I asked you about your predictions for the year – do you remember what you said?

SL: No…

SM: You said that Ferrari were going to be better and do really well…

SL: Well they started well, and then they faded…there was hope.

SM: So sum up the year for me – was there a “moment of the year”?

SL: Brazil, definitely. I think it was everyone’s – just to see that little genius drive so well in the wet and school some of the other drivers. He just is a pure racer.

SM: Where were you watching from?

SL: I was watching from in the pits and I was super-excited – it was just amazing, and that’s what you want to watch these things for. It brings back memories of Senna in his Toleman, and that drive at Donington…it was just brilliant, wasn’t it?

Photo: Sky Sports F1

SM: And the Sky F1 team themselves? I know you all get on really well travelling with your colleagues…

SL: (Laughing) “That Ted Kravitz…that’s the last time I buy him a Caipirinha, he’s off the Christmas card list! (Simon is referring to a recent interview with Ted Kravitz that you can read here)

As well as the hard work, we have some fun, as you know, because you’ve been there as we’ve been in the Amber Lounge together! We are pretty tight, I have to say, and it gets tighter year-on-year because, yes, the team has been scaled back a little bit, but all that means is that the people that you travel with are closer.

We get on each other’s nerves occasionally, but I know the team as well as I know my closest friends, and that’s great – I really hope that’s how it comes on across on TV, because it’s certainly how it feels.

SM: Now, let’s cover Social Media and Fan Engagement. You and the Sky team, you talk to lots of fans, not just me – you always stop and talk to us at races, and interact online, something that I think is really important, and I think it is becoming more so. What are your thoughts on that?

SL: I do think it’s important, and it’s ever changing. We get our fair share of critics and our fair share of fans – I think it’s important to engage with them, and Twitter is a way to do that. I’m not particularly good at it – I need to do more, and I think I say this to you every year, that I’ll try to tweet more!

SM: Yes you must! Also on that note, do you think there might be any plans (hint hint) to perhaps bring back a more interactive F1 Show, instead of one where we can’t get involved? It strikes me that if you’re at the races, and there are fans there too, there’s an opportunity to do more involving them? We are there and we are free!

SL: I’ll take that on board. You know that we’ve done a couple of Facebook Live sessions, as you’ve been on one, and we have a very dedicated online fan base who want to engage. I’ll put it to the boss.

SM: Lastly, I’m going to ask you again, and give you another chance as they weren’t so great last year, what are your predictions for the year ahead? We have new 2017 regulations, reliability, tyres, and rookies, all in the mix. What do you think is going to happen?

SL: Right. It’s probably going to be Lewis, but I’m not going to say that…I’m going to go for one of the Red Bull boys, and I’m going to stick my flag in the ground and say Daniel Ricciardo. I think everybody is talking about Max, but Dan is a proven talent, he’s had the extra couple of years in the Red Bull, he’s got first run at testing as far as I understand, and he would be a magnificent World Champion – imagine that 1000 watt smile, it would be just what we need. So let’s say that, and we’ll have this conversation again next year, and see how right I was!

And with that, Simon is off to his next engagement, and to swiftly remove his winter beard. Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter – @SimonLazenbySky  – and see if he keeps his word to tweet more often!

Many thanks to Simon, as always, for indulging me on behalf of Badger!