Fresh from their drivers and constructors championship wins, Tornado’s team boss and part-time commentator Tobias sits down with FF1M’s lead commentator James Brickles to reflect on his success as well as looking forward to what he believes will be a highly competitive 2016 season.
Q: First of all, congratulations on winning both the drivers and constructors championship in 2015. Looking back, how would you rate it compared to other championship wins?
A: Thank you very much! Overall, it was definitely one of, if not, the most satisfying championship wins in the Tornado team’s career. There were certainly some big strategy calls to make throughout the individual races, a combination consisting of selecting the best possible tyre, ERS setting, and car setup for each venue. We certainly haven’t had this much depth of strategy calling in FF1M before.
I relished the challenge of trying perfect this in 2015, especially after a tough 2014 season which was a learning curve. A lot of prep during that year went into 2015 as soon as it became apparent that was an unwinnable season, which came very early on, so to see all that hard work pay off after the initial plunge of taking on the manufacturer reigns of Climax felt ever so sweet. Fernando was super consistent and Tomas proving he has what it takes to follow in his footsteps was promising to see. 2015 was the best season in my book since the 2008 season, the first where our team achieved the double. That was a thrilling experience too winning it with Jenson.
Q: Were you surprised to see Shake ‘n’ Bake struggle so much during the 2nd half of last season?
A: Just like the rest of the FF1M paddock, we knew during the first half of 2015 they suffered massively from unreliability. However whenever their car didn’t let go, Sebastian would more often than not take victory. We were confident that whilst the Megatron was overpowered, the Climax was under-baked in that area simultaneously.
I’ll freely admit now that at the halfway point, as soon as Seb took the championship lead and his fourth consecutive win at Road America, we had no choice but to go more aggressive in the season’s second half to react. We were anticipating the Shake ‘n’ Bake to be just as competitive. The continuation of their unreliability wasn’t too surprising however, it was their drop off in speed which really baffled us. Perhaps Courtney started developing Shake ‘n’ Bake’s new car early? That’s what we believe to be the likely cause.
Q: Looking forward to 2016, Tomas Gonzalez will be partnered by Sergio Perez, one of three drivers from the Class of 2010 alongside Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean. What were the main reasons for signing Checo?
A: Initially going into the silly season, Checo wasn’t at the epicentre of our radar funnily enough. There were certain developments that led myself and the team to make the final decision to sign him. Certain other drivers that were at the top of our shortlist were not being entirely reasonable with wage demands, one of the reasons why we will be seeing Fernando plodding around in an Exolite this season. It’s a shame we weren’t able to agree a new deal for the newly crowned triple champion, however that’s the way it goes and he probably wanted a new challenge.
Checo when we approached him was sizeably more open to negotiations. For example, we have acquired an array of new Mexican sponsors that you’ll be seeing on our new liver, but to call Checo another ‘pay driver’ would be hugely unfair. He was one of the unsung heroes of the last two seasons. Scoring more points than the likes of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean in what were poor cars is no mean feat. Hopefully this year we can provide him with a decent enough car for him to fight at the sharp end of the grid.
Q: How do you reckon the two will fare as teammates because we saw Tomas and Fernando getting a bit too close, most notably at Hungary?
A: Yes, very much so. Although I obviously don’t want this to re-occur like it did in Hungary last year, I have an inkling on a day or two, Checo and Tomas will get too close for comfort. Fortunately that race we still somehow got a double podium. Next time though, the consequences may be more significant. These two collided at Monza last year so anything is possible. I expect results wise it’ll be very close between the pair on balance. I expect Checo’s greater experience will lead to more consistency, but Tomas on his best days can be lightning quick. It’ll be very close on who ends up with more points.
Q: With Mitchell returning to Mugen for 2016, this leaves you with two customers. How will that affect development of the Climax powerplant?
A: Long story short, not in the slightest. We still have as many as two customer teams, two more than the likes of Judd and Ilmor, and both of whom won a race each in 2015 with Meister claiming a surprise 2nd place in the WCC. In some ways, seeing these teams win their own races felt as if it was our own team on the top step. It further cemented how far the Climax engine has come after a winless 2014.
We aim to produce a top-notch Climax engine that’ll help not only strengthen our own team, but our two loyal customer teams too where they can aim to add to their single victories of last season. In addition, only supplying two other teams is a better balance for us and FF1M as a sport too. There is certainly less of a strain not having to supply Mitchell knowing their history with engine suppliers. Toyota can back that up!
Q: Looking into the feeder categories, Vaino Kimminen is looking good for the 2015-16 FF2M Asia championship. How long before we see him in FF1M?
A: We will certainly be seeing him make his FF1M debut in 2017 if he keeps up his current form and development rate. I think it’s more of a question of will he be racing in a Tornado or another team. Either way at this point, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t on next year’s grid, something of which both Checo and Tomas will be completely aware of.
Q: And lastly, who do you see as your main challengers this season?
A: You have certainly saved the toughest question till last! This season is really tricky to call. I think the Mitchell of Hamilton and Rosberg for Pedersen will be strong. The Mugen engine is certainly no slouch and is a formidable rival for the Climax to contend with. As much as I have criticised Exolite in the past for their complacent approach to FF1M, their incredibly strong driver duo combined with a Megatron powerplant and rather evidently starting work on their 2016 car early should ensure them a much stronger season than in recent times. FJR will be stronger but perhaps not enough to challenge for the title. If the Climax can maintain its upward development trajectory, then not only ourselves but Meister in particular can be in the mix too. Gojira will once again outperform expectations. The goal for us is of course to retain the constructors, something that Tornado hasn’t achieved in its history. However, a top three finish I would still see as a respectable result, especially if our car isn’t quite up to the challenge and we just consistently maximise our finishing positions for what the car will allow each race. Whoever the eventual champions are, it’s going to be a lot closer than 2015.