Mike Gascoyne has led Lotus Racing to 10th place in the standings this year, but the team is aiming for much more from next season. Gascoyne speaks about Lotus', and his own, future in Formula 1.
Q. You recently announced that you had extended your contract with Lotus for another five years. Was that something you always wanted to do?
Mike Gascoyne: The deal was sort of done quite a while ago, but we did not announce it for various reasons. It was always the intention, having set the team up from scratch, to stay here permanently. I've come back to Norfolk, which is where I grew up, and it is a nice part of the world to be. So the contract extension was a natural progression.
Q. Do you feel totally settled and comfortable in this latest chapter of your career?
MG: Yes, because of the nature of the challenge as a new team, and having started it from scratch, plus the team of people you have built up which are a bunch I know well. Then there is the GP2 project, which I am managing as well. It is great to be doing what you know and what you are good at, and also with lots of fresh challenges involved in it. And that keeps you fresh and motivated.
Q. The impression from the outside is that you are more central to this team than you were at Toyota and Renault. Would you agree?
MG: I think at Renault I felt very much at home. I worked with Flavio [Briatore] very, very closely at Renault. We traveled a lot, and a lot of the deals we did there we did together. When Fernando [Alonso] first came in, Flavio and I talked to him together, for example.
Certainly at places like Toyota you were the hired gun, if you like. I think the role at Toyota – it was like being the sheriff in the border town. They wanted you to shoot the outlaws – but once you had got it all under control they didn't want you going around shooting people anymore. So they get rid of you. At Toyota, they wanted you to fix their problems but long term you were not the sort of person they wanted.
Here at Lotus it is very different. Although I was always accused of being only a manager and not doing the engineering side, I used to go to all the technical meetings, run all the technical meetings – and at Lotus, people like [the incoming] Mark Smith, Dieter [Gass], Jody [Eggington] – they are freer as I don't really do that as much. I am so busy doing other things, that I would only be dipping in and out and that would not be effective. So they now take that responsibility on.
But the good thing is you know they are people doing it exactly the way you would have done, but bringing a fresher, younger perspective to it. So, I am very confident to let them get on and manage their areas independent to me, and keep me briefed as to what is happening. But then obviously, I am looking far longer distance in terms of drivers, other formulas, driver development programs – strategy moves for the team, like gearbox and engine contracts. I am spending a lot more time doing those sorts of things.
Q. Do you feel a strong emotional bond to this team, having been there from day one?
MG: Yes, I think you feel it is your team. When you look back to only a year ago and we were two weeks into the project in any empty factory, it is still an interesting leap to have gotten here.
We are setting up the GP2 team now, and it is funny having Bruno Michel, who I have known for a very long time, telling us to get good people as it is a big job. Well, compared to what we had to do a year ago, it is trivial! You feel very much at home. It is easy to go into work every day.
Q. Do you feel that this will be the last team of your career?
MG: Yes. I think it has been no secret that I intend to do other things outside motor racing. I would very much like to have an involvement at the team more long-term than this latest contract, but that will probably just develop into a management consultant role. So I would like to retain links with the sport and the team in the much longer term, and there will be no option of working for another team now. But there are a hell of a lot of places on this planet to visit and a lot of things to see and do. If you have the opportunity you want to make sure that you get on and do them.
Q. In the build-up to the Japanese Grand Prix the team announced its technical tie-up with Red Bull Racing for gearbox/transmission. How important a step for the team was that?
MG: I think nowadays, especially the smaller teams, they have to look for a complete power train supply. It really makes no sense, when you have got a limited head count, when you have got limited resources, you simply have got to make sure that the resources you have got are going into the bang-for-buck areas. Obviously with Concorde Agreement there is a limit in what you can buy in, but the major bits you can – which is effectively power train, you have to buy them in. Either you have a manufacturer back-up that supplies your engine and you do the gearbox, or you buy both in.
The disappointment of 2010 was that with the package we had, that one part of that was desperately unreliable. So it was very, very important that we put that right for 2011 and also take a step forward.
There were various people able to offer solutions, but with a 2010 gearbox layout, which would not have been able to accommodate the suspension layout that we are looking at. Red Bull Racing was able to offer us that, with very up-to-date technology, a very lightweight package – and with the rear suspension layout we wanted – plus integrated with the engine direction we are going.
So it doesn't just solve the problem, it also takes a step forward. The bottom line is that a large proportion of the mechanical part of the car, you know you are at cutting edge, so it is great as it takes it all out of the program and the design resource you have got means you can focus on the bits to make the car go quicker.
Q. So you are going to go down the pull-rod suspension layout for 2011?
Q. And a bit of a challenge for you as you effectively have the same rear-end package as Adrian Newey...
MG: Several people have said, is this Adrian Newey vs. Mike Gascoyne? You sort of think about it and then reply that he has a few advantages on me, in that he has had a few years at Red Bull, it wasn't a new team when he started and their budget is fairly significantly different. And they have had seven or eight years to have a crack at it.
But, at the end of the day, if you have the same drive train, and the drivers of the right standard, then if you are not as quick as them it's because the car is not as good. So best you get on and make it as good, because that is the job.