This morning reigning champions Tornado launched their 2013 contender at the Paul Ricard circuit. At the launch we sat down with team principal Tobias to get his thoughts.
FF1M: The long winter is nearly over and we’re almost ready to begin pre season testing, how are you feeling coming into the new season after such a dominant campaign last season?
Tobias: Overall I am feeling very excited but also a little nervous at the same time. Last season in all honesty we weren’t as dominant as the final championship standings suggested. Willows and Fernando Alonso in particular had the more superior package especially towards the end of the season. Had Alonso not made so many big mistakes in the first half of the season as well as better reliability, the championship would have been a heck of a lot closer. This season we now have to try and defend the constructors title which is something we as a team have not achieved in FF1M so far. I just hope that bad omen doesn’t strike during the course of this season like it did as dramatically in 2003 haha.
FF1M: Despite last seasons success you come into the season with a brand new lineup, what led you to this decision?
Tobias: It was a very tough decision to let both Lewis and Daniel switch to rival teams. Both of them did an immaculate job last year to secure our fourth constructors title, for Lewis to claim his third world drivers championship and Daniel to achieve his first two grand prix wins at Silverstone and Budapest after some stellar performances.
Ultimately though, the decision to replace them both was largely put down to the new regulations and the drivers themselves wanting a new challenge. In hindsight, had TornadoF1 not been crowned champions last season, chances are both drivers will have stayed around as they were initially signed up to make amends for the team’s heartbreak in the 2011 season finale that resulted in us losing out to Pedersen by 2 points after leading for much of that particular season. Since they achieved this goal in their first year at the team, both drivers felt their work was already completed here and so therefore decided to pursue other similar challenges and goals with other FF1M teams. Due to this being the case, the team opted not to extend either driver’s contracts, especially in the event of having to ‘over-pay’ for both drivers to remain that would have eaten into the team’s car development budget.
Now moving on to our brand new driver line-up of Romain Grosjean and Jean-Eric Vergne, I feel both drivers have great potential do well in the future. Romain managing to score nearly double the points of his then teammate at FJR, Kimi Raikkonen who is a veteran and former race winner of ours, was quite an achievement that I believe went largely unnoticed. Then for his fellow French compatriot and new teammate, Jean-Eric Vergne, he’s still a young driver that can bring a lot to the table. Although he didn’t have the best of rookie seasons that was largely down to the GRM being a rather slow and uncompetitive car, he gained a lot more consistency, confidence and speed as the season wore on that enabled him to get the measure of Sebastien Buemi. In addition to that, JEV has been highly successful in the lower categories prior to FF1M. Such as his Fantasy Formula Renault title in 2011.
Then finally to answer your question, I believe there is great chemistry between the French duo and that will lead to efficient and effective team and car development that should land us in good stead for the upcoming seasons, including this year.
FF1M: What are you most looking forward to this season and what are your aims for the season ahead?
Tobias: I’m just really excited for pre-season to get underway! Let alone the first race! Ultimately, I’m really excited to find out where our team will rank for the current season with the changes enforced by the AFIA. In terms of confidence of though, for winning the title this year, I am not as confident as I was at the beginning of 2012. New regulations always tend to bring massive changes to the pecking order and as reigning champions, we have every reason to be nervous. Using a customer engine will hamper us in qualifying in particular, an all new driver line-up that always poses a few risks and of course, seeing how the opposition fair. I feel like the teams who decided to cease their development on their 2012 cars very early in the season will likely have a head start in terms of car development.
Target-wise, I have to be realistic and say most likely this will be a re-developing year for the team however that does not mean to say we can’t win a race or two at circuits that should suit our car.
I believe FJR will bounce back to winning ways with Lewis in a works Honda outfit, Sean Connery Motorshhh (or whatever the hell they are now called) will be very strong, Vettel and Shake n’ Bake should be more competitive after a dismal 2012. Willows will be very fast out of the gates with arguably the very quick Mercedes power plant as well as featuring one of the strongest driver pairings in the field. Exolite are a real dark-horse too and are not to be discounted. I’m really looking forward to seeing how all these teams and others fare. I believe every team has become stronger in certain areas and this is what will make 2013 a hotly contested year.
Top 4 and both drivers to achieve their maiden grand prix victories would be more than satisfactory for the team. Challenging for the title throughout the year will be difficult but should we retain the constructors, it’ll feel even better than all our previous 4 combined.