05/07/2012

FOTA Fan Forum

On Tuesday i got the privilege of attending the FOTA fan forum at the Williams conference centre in Grove, England. The event was my second fan forum after i was lucky enough to be present at one last year which was held at the McLaren technology centre; you can read about my previous experience here.

(The beautiful "pit-stop hedge" outside the conference centre, click to enlarge)

Similarly to last year, the event was split into three parts:

Section one - introduction: Pastor Maldonado (Williams) and Sir Frank Williams (Williams - obviously!).

Section two - team principles: Robert Fernley (Force India), Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren) and Ross Brawn (Mercedes).

(The team principles panel; Bob Fernley on the left representing Sahara Force India, click to enlarge)

Section three - legends: Derek Warwick (retired in 1993 at Footwork), John Watson (retired in 1985 at McLaren) and Patrick Head (retired in 2011 at Williams, although he still has minor involvement with the team).

As this is a blog on Indian Motorsport, i will focus mainly on Robert Fernley (deputy team principle of Sahara Force India), however if you have any other specific questions for me about the day, contact me here or on twitter (@f1peter27). Having said that, the forum - or rather the place (Williams) - has another connection to Indian Motorsport, can you figure it out? I'll discuss it later :-)

The first thing Robert mentioned was the recent performance of Sahara Force India with particular reference to the most recent GP in Valencia. He stated that in previous seasons 5th and 7th would have been a fantastic result for the team, but they actually came away from Spain disappointed, as more was possible. Although this could be viewed as a positive thing, it shows the massive steps forward the team have made since their debut season in 2008.

Following a question about the resource restriction agreement, Robert stated that some teams have done "a great job" in bringing costs down as per the agreement; specifically picking out McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari.

The most interesting moment from Robert was on the subject of drivers. The discussion was about smaller teams being proving grounds in terms of driver talent for the top teams. Robert stated that Sahara Force India have "two wonderful drivers, but wouldn't want to get in the way of them moving to top teams". Although he did point out that the team would want commercial compensation should one of the drivers be poached by one of the bigger teams.

Additional soundbites from Robert, about F1 in general were that: "Formula One is in the best position it has been in for a while" and that he is "hoping to have eight or nine winners during the season" mentioning that it could be Sahara Force India's turn.

(Bob Fernley in discussion, click to enlarge)

Unfortunately i did not get to speak with Robert on a personal level like last year which was a disappointment - nevertheless the event was very interesting, can not wait for next years which hopefully i will be able to attend.

As i mentioned above, there is another connection with Indian motorsport at Williams; did you figure it out? Bravo to those of you who remembered that Narain Karthikeyan was a test driver for Williams in 2006 & 2007!

Before the forum actually began, fans were able to look round the Williams factory and i managed to get to get a photo with the FW28, the 2006 car which Narain Karthikeyan drove in testing - i'll leave you with that image:

(The FW28; notice the Tata sponsorship on the nosecone? That's from Narain! Click to enlarge)

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