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29 October 2014

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You are in: Norfolk > Sport > Sports Features > Interview: F1's Mike Gascoyne

Mike Gascoyne. Credit: Peter J Fox/Crash Media

Mike Gascoyne at Silverstone

Interview: F1's Mike Gascoyne

The drivers on the Formula 1 circuit are the ones who attract the headlines, but behind each man at the wheel is a huge team of talent. Norfolk's Mike Gascoyne is chief technical officer at Spyker - which has just finished in the top 10.

Mike Gascoyne has spent most of his working life in Formula 1. He was brought up in Catton on the outskirts of Norwich and went to Wymondham College before going to study at Cambridge University.

Aerodynamics is his main area of expertise and after working for McLaren, Jordan, Renault and Tyrell, he became the technical director for the Toyota F1 team before being appointed as Spyker's chief technical officer at the start of the 2006/7 season.

Now the team has new investment and a new name, Force India, for the next F1 season.

BBC Radio Norfolk's editor and Formula One enthusiast David Clayton went to talk to Mike Gascoyne at the Spyker factory, just over the road from the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire.

Before we talk about Spyker's season, do you think this has been a good year for Formula One's image?

Well, I suppose the old saying that any press is good press, and F1 has had a huge amount of press with the spy scandal. Inherently it's obviously not good.

David Clayton interviews Mike Gascoyne.

David Clayton interviews Mike Gascoyne

It’s a very difficult situation - if someone's transgressed the rules then it has to be looked at. The question is with such a severe penalty both financially and exclusion from the championship, did what happened merit that penalty?

I mean, it's not for me to say, the FIA makes that decision. What I would say is that there is a perception in F1 in general that there is a problem with these rules being enforced in an even-handed manner.

If that's the penalty for this transgression, that's fine as long as whoever does it at that level - everyone gets the same penalty and I don't think in F1 that there's a belief that that is the case at the moment.

So, a good season for Spyker in the sense you've got a point?

Yes, when we started the season we were very honest, we had new owners. The team was previously Midland, before that. The last couple of years of being Jordan, it had really no investment and was all but down and out.

We said this was always going to be a re-building year and we didn't expect to score a point so it's nice to have done so.

We wanted to finish in the top 10 and thankfully McLaren's exclusion meant we did that by default and that is important to us financially.

So we ended the season and we scored one point which is a lot more than zero points although the difference technically is only one, it feels a lot different for the team.

Also, we've got new owners now in Vijay Mallya and the Mol family so we're being renamed Force India Formula One Team which I think is very exciting - a very committed new owner.

The whole Indian sub-continent is booming from an economical point of view and I think it's very good news for the team financially, so we end the year in a lot better position than we started it.

And the cars themselves? You came in charged with getting the Spykers moving a bit faster. They've got a top engine behind them - the Ferrari engine - but they're not going as fast as Ferraris, but you have moved the pace up a bit, haven't you?

Yes, we introduced the B Spec car two-thirds of the way through the season. Although we had very limited resources to do that we did make a step forward and we had a couple of good races with it culminating in the Japanese Grand Prix.

B Spec car. Credit: Peter J Fox/Crash Media Group.

The B Spec car

I think for the smallest team on the grid to go to the Japanese Grand Prix, score a point and finish in front of both works Toyotas and works Hondas is a pretty impressive effort.

I think we joked that those two teams - if you took their driver bill it is actually greater than our budget in total.

I think that's something we can be proud of and we did move the team forward which some of the works teams like Honda struggled to do throughout the year.

So we showed we know what we're doing and we've got a lot more resources before the start of next year and I'm confident by the middle of next year we can really move forward.

Where do you think you'll be batting next season? Whereabouts on the grid? Will you always be bringing up the rear like you have this time?

No, I don't think so and certainly not by the end of next year. I think we'll start, hopefully having made a bit more progress, so we'll be looking to get the odd car out of the first period of qualifying and qualifying around the 14th or 15th area and build on that.

I hope by the end of next year we'll be a team that can be racing for 8th to 12th spot at the end of the race and be a good mid-field competitive team. I think with the budget and our new owners that's something that's very achievable.

Does your budget mean you go and get some faster drivers or are you happy with the ones you've got?

Adrian Sutil did a very good job for us.

But he's been linked with other teams.

Yeah, but we have him under contract and the new owners have said that we want to keep Adrian so that's not an issue.

The contract we have... the options are all on our side. So the plan is to keep Adrian.

Sakon (Yamamoto) did a good workman-like job in the second-half of the year when he came in - a very nice, professional lad.

Christijan Albers obviously struggled in the first part of the year so we replaced him.

There were some sponsor issues but I think the new owners have realised if you want to move forward you can't do that with rookie drivers, you've got to have experienced drivers.

One of the very positive things in the Barcelona test in three weeks' time - we'll be testing three very experienced drivers: Christian Klien, Antonio Liuzzi as well, possibly at the Jerez test. After that, some other experienced drivers but certainly we won't be taking a paid driver in the other seat.

Markus Winkelhock. Spyker F1 & Peter J. Fox/Crash.

Markus Winkelhock at Nurburgring

We'll be putting someone with several years of experience in F1, which is something that's very positive for us.

Alonso might be free!

That's possibly a little beyond our budget! But we'll see. I'd like to think if he did drive for us we'd handle him a little better than his previous team did!

What's been the highlight for Spyker this season apart from getting that point? Is there any part of the year when you felt the tables had turned and you'd got on top of it?

I think the high point has to be the Nurburgring Grand Prix. Markus Winkelhock drove for us there.

We made the right call at the start of the race and by lap two from last on the grid he was leading the Grand Prix by 30 seconds which is a fairly good achievement.

It was perhaps the only Grand Prix Markus is going to do and it was his home Grand Prix and it was the last Grand Prix his father drove before being tragically killed in a sports car race.

That was a nice little bit of history and Markus is a very nice guy - he's worked with the team as our reserve driver.

A nice, professional guy and very pleasant so to see him leading his home Grand Prix.

I think the nicest moment for me actually was after the race - they replayed the highlights of the Grand Prix. You can sit in the motorhome and watch it.

To see Markus sitting there as he overtook Raikkonen for the lead - he was pointing at the screen going, "That's me, that's me!".

I pointed out, "You should know that, you were sitting in it at the time," but it hadn't really sunk in to him, but there he was leading his GP.

I think there's a statistic that says after McLaren and Ferrari, the third most laps lead in a Grand Prix is Spyker, which just goes to prove that statistics can lie but that's a nice statistic to have.

last updated: 29/10/07

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