Exclusive interview - Super Aguri's Anthony Davidson 13 Mar 2008
With matters looking so bleak over the winter, in the end it was a proverbial last-minute white knight rescue that saved Super Aguri and enabled the struggling Japanese team to join the other squads in Australia this weekend.
Understandably, for everyone at Super Aguri there is an overwhelming feeling of relief that they made it to the Melbourne paddock. And for the moment, the joy of having survived is enough to see them through. But in the long term, driver Anthony Davidson is confident they will be able to improve their performances over the course of the season to try and come close to rivalling their 2007 success
Q: You are jumping stone cold into the season. How does it feel, knowing that all the other teams have been testing extensively over the winter?
Anthony Davidson: Yes, its a stone-cold start. I have done only one test day this year, Taku (Takuma Sato) has done two which means that the team has done only three days since Brazil which again means that we are pretty much out of practice. But I am sure the team will step up to their chance. For a little while, it looked as if we wouldnt be here - the future looked very doubtful. I would have said during those weeks that we had at best a 10-20 percent chance of flying out to Melbourne. I dont know how it exactly happened but here we are. And boy, it is a big relief! For sure we are not looking for performance for this race - or the following two. But when we head back for the European season it should improve.
Q: With your future in doubt, you must have developed a Plan B for your career during the last few weeks. Can you share that alternative?
AD: I cannot disclose what my Plan B was - all I can tell you is that it is much better that I am in Formula One. That is for sure.
Q: How frustrating have the last few weeks been, not knowing if you have a future in Formula One racing?
AD: It has been a really tough time. It has been hard to keep motivated for training and it has been very hard for the mind to come to terms with the fact that you might not be in Formula One anymore. Especially after a good season last year - for me and the team.
Q: What did the team management communicate to you over the past few weeks about the teams situation?
AD: There was not much info on the situation of the team. Basically hints came when speaking of the flight situation but that was only guessing. I think in this situation of do or die, the drivers were not the teams main concern. Of course it concerned my personal future but then again you cannot be so selfish in such a calamity to focus on yourself when a much bigger picture is going on. Everybody in the team - the mechanics, the team personal, the management and, yes, the drivers - were all wondering what is going to happen with the team, whether their jobs will be safe. When we finally got the green light, it took a load off everybodys minds.
Q: If the team did survive, was it always clear that you would keep your drive?
AD: I always knew all along that if the team did survive I would be driving. The question was only ever whether the team would live or not. So from this perspective I didnt have to panic. All these stories about paying drivers was never a concern for me as I got a clear signal that if the team got here, I would be here.
Q: How did it feel knowing that everybody was testing while you stayed at home?
AD: It was horrible. I remember when I was a test driver and could not get in the car it was already bad. But this winter it was the worst - knowing I was to miss out on vital experience with the new technical regulations. From that one test day that I did, I know I cannot expect a great performance of the car. Indeed, there are a lot of question marks, but tomorrow we should see more clearly where we stand. My guess is that we will be last on the grid - easily. That might sound worse than it really is but it is just a result of the lack of testing. Here and in Malaysia we are just here to be here! We have shown in the past that we can develop the car during a running season so I trust that we can pull it off another time.
Q: So what is the state of the car right now?
AD: Everybody has been developing and we have stayed completely stable. The car is the one we tested in Jerez at the beginning of December, so we are lacking three months of development on the track. And Takuma and myself have done very little driving without traction control, so realistically we have to improve car and drivers. Speaking of the car it seems to be very hard on the rear tyres and we are struggling with the aero side - all in all the things that small teams generally struggle with, combined with the lack of test mileage.
Q: Will the team be in for the whole season. They must have indicated that to their drivers?
AD: The indication is that it is. That is good enough for me.