Bradley Downton, of course the team principal of Downton F1 Team. He is joining me to give his inside view on the teams, and will help me to run the rule over the stats in the hope of giving an idea of who will be fast in Australia, and who will be working hard to get things right for the season ahead.
BD: Franklin have shown they really planned last year well. They developed enough to just give them title but focused enough on this year to actually still be in contention. I'm impressed, and certainly would never rule them out.
GA: I think you have hit the nail on the head there, they have really shown themselves to be capable of balancing research and development, so do you think they will win the championship again, even though you took their driver?
BD: I'm not sure they'll be far off, but Liverpool and Rossi are looking very strong, if not stronger. They'll have to work harder this year for it. I think the loss of Nathaniel will hurt - he's a quality driver - but Enrique really proved himself in the Ingram, although didn't really do that well in the Franklin in Mexico. Maybe the pressure will get to him at the start?
GA: Ruiz looked the real deal for Ingram, but so many times we've seen drivers make good cars look great, but haven't made great cars unbeatable. I think we will just go in championship order for this, so what do you think of Team 23 this year? You
are providing them engines, so why are they so far behind compared to last year?
BD: As I mentioned to Neil earlier, we have experienced some issues with the engine. The speed is there, but away from the grid and out of the corners there is a bit of hesitation, that isn't helping their cause. As for why they're so far back, some of their new idea's haven't worked. We're working with them to try and solve both the engine and aero side of things but they've gone really complicated.
GA: That was my first impression of the car as well, that they have gone in a very sophisticated direction, which when it works will be very competitive I'm sure, but it is a question of time, how long before they unlock the potential. What about Liverpool? Last year they were good but not great in their Mathershaw guise, but this year they have set the pace. Genuine contenders or merely glory runs in the test?
BD: Absolute genuine contenders. They are nearly two tenths clear of the rest, of that I am sure.
GA: That's interesting you say that, do you think they are going to have the funding and resources to keep in front, or do you think they will be falling behind due to their apparent lack of development last season - could it be the case that they
didn't develop last season because, to put it bluntly, they couldn't afford to?
BD: I think they saved last season to develop this year, which has so far paid off handsomely. Whether they can keep up, I'm not sure. I certainly know they have the money to develop, it's about whether the developments work.
GA: You have had a good relationship with the Liverpool team so far. What has been the reason for you both getting on so well? Robert says he finds you one of the real racers on the grid, and that if he were to be beaten, you would be his
preference to take to the front.
BD: I think me and Robert get on so well because we have very similar ideals. We have similar methods of running teams and we just seem to get on very well. I'd agree with the second point, it would be best if I was the one in front (laughs)
GA: Well, I'm sure he won't be agreeing with you there at least! I think now is a good time to talk about Lucas Grand Prix. They have had a mixed test, do you think they will be as far forward this year, or is there going to be a period of regrowth required?
BD: I wouldn't be surprised if we saw the same this year again from Lucas to be honest. A midfield start but they'll then improve throughout the season and be at the front towards the end.
GA: They will certainly be working hard to ensure that is the case, I'm sure. Now, I think we must talk about one of the success stories of the test, Scuderia Rossi and their pace. Have you been surprised by such a significant jump up the field?
BD: We saw last year that Rossi showed flashes of brilliant speed, but it never lasted. I think it's clear now why. They have obviously focused majorly on this season, and good for them. They are - along with Franklin - the closest challengers to Liverpool, and with young Giodano now with a season under his belt, he's got to be an outside bet for the title.
GA: I can't disagree with you there, Giodano has been looking good, and Domenicalli has been strong as well. Ominous signs from the Italians. Now, our attention must move to the Peugeot team. They have spent a lot of money after rebranding the former Meteor Motorsport team, and this seems to have given them a quick car, but do you think the consistency is there?
BD: Peugeot - and the famous Lewis Ellington. Where do we start? They have two great but relatively unknown drivers. Between them they have a race win and a second place, but only 6 races in total! They clearly have a solid car and two quick drivers, but do they have the experience required to fight at the front? That'll be the main factor in Peugeot's season.
GA: Very good points there, I think Lewis will do well, but will he be able to work with the team to push forward? I don't know. We now go into the second half of last year's standings, and Westwood. They've got new engines and things have changed
massively for them team. How do you see them getting on?
BD: Westwood followed us down the route of building their own engine. It's a very brave decision - I hope they knew what they were taking on - because we worked it out and we knew it would be tough. Westwood haven't had the best pre-season, in fact they really seem to have struggled. Signing Kinnumen was a great move - he performed well in a less than average Fun last year - but I'm confused at the choice of Boston over Bacon. There are obviously reason though, perhaps financial, who
knows. I think they're in for a difficult season.
GA: Very interesting, it seems you don't fancy their chances, and if I'm being honest, there is hard work ahead for the Southampton based team. What about Fun? They have blown hot and cold, but they have shown good potential to move up the
field. What do you think will be the outcome?
BD: Ah Fun. They've so far been our biggest challengers, at least they were last year. So far this season it seems we're not far apart again! They've lost Kinnumen but signed two very strong drivers in Dwyer and Agostini. I think they'll move up, but I'm not sure how far.
GA: They will certainly be around there somewhere, but where we may not know for some time. Now, this is the bit I've been looking forward to for a while. Downton. You started slowly, you spoke of an ultimatum to your team members at first.
Just how true is this? Is this really the best way to motivate your team?
BD: Probably not, but it's the best way to motivate MY team in a time like that. They were all really down about our first day and letting it get to them, so I had to motivate them. I mean, I was disappointed as well with our first two days but knew we were
better. The last two days were promising and from the looks of things we seem to be solidly in the midfield, which is a mega improvement from last year being at the back. I'd be happy to miss out on a podium this year if we could finish 8th or higher in the Championship. But like I said, if we don't it'll be curtains. I don't like pumping money into something that doesn't go well. I hate seeing my cars carrying our logo's and supported by our sponsors and fans trundling round at the back, it's not fair on
anyone. We've made the huge decision this year of building our own engines - although that was always the idea following
the first season - and signing the reigning Champion. It's a real sign of intent we want to improve. Because we really do. Marcus and Nathaniel are one of the strongest pairings on the grid and I'm sure they'll lead us to a strong season.
GA: You've certainly answered that question! I personally think the car has a lot of potential, but do you have concerns that your very public financial issues last season could come back to haunt you?
BD: Haha, simply? Yes. It's no secret we're kind of completely out of money. That'll hurt in development of this season's car because well - we have no money to do anything with! We are however currently in talks with someone to lend us some money to develop, so watch this space, I'm hoping for at least one car in the top 10 in Qualifying!
GA: Last year you were up against Ingram a lot of the time, where abouts do you think they will be?
BD: Thanks for reminding me I was at the back... Ingram have improved, substantially, and personally I think they've passed us. Campos is a brilliant little driver and while Milkovich is an unknown quantity - whom I'll admit I wasn't confident on beforehand - he showed well in testing, actually setting their fastest lap by nearly three tenths. I'm hoping our experience can overcome them however, but they're solidly in the midfield this year.
GA: You said you were at the back, not me [laughs]. I think for this final bit we will talk about the new teams. How do you think Force Australia and Warrior will firstly compare, and secondly get on against the established runners?
BD: I admire them for their efforts and they have both done fantastically well to get cars out and very very close to the back of the established runners. I'll be surprised if they can regularly challenge and beat any of them this season however. It also initially looked like Force Australia had a significant upper hand over Warrior, but late in the test Warrior really showed pace and it threw a spanner in the works. I think it'll be a brilliant battle between the two.
GA: Well, that concludes this final testing analysis of the pre season, thanks Bradley for joining me, and I look forward to seeing you all bright and early in Australia!