I recently met a young (17 year old) Englishman who just might be the next Nigel Mansell. Nigel won 34 Formula Ford races in 1977 but no-one seriously rated him: he came from Birmingham, he had no money behind him and he said things as they were rather than as people wanted to hear them. Enaam Ahmed, who is of Pakistani descent, which is about as far from the motor racing mainstream as… Birmingham…also lacks the big finance. And, like Nigel in ’77, Enaam has also just blitzed a season. In his case it is the BRDC F3 Championship, a B-division of F3 that many of the “experts” will tell you is not particularly competitive or demanding. I would counter that is is still, withal, a series that is out there to be won.
To help move his season along, Enaam worked on the shop floor at Carlin – just as Nigel in 1979 drove a van for Team Lotus – and when Enaam wasn’t doing that – or winning British F3 races – he was writing letters to sponsors and investors, just as Nigel always used to post his ten-a-day. Ahmed isn’t racing British F3 because he necessarily wants to; he’s racing there because that was as much as his budget would allow. On the back of this success he of course wants to graduate to FIA F3, and to show his talent amongst better-known names – but that isn’t going to happen unless he raises the £900,000-or-so required for a full season in 2018 . Nigel and Rosanne re-mortgaged their house to pay for Nigel’s five F3 races in 1978; Enaam’s parents are looking to do the same.
Anyway, I was impressed by Enaam when I met him. He thinks logically, he comes over well and he is self-critical – which isn’t easy when you’re a 17 year old who has just won 12 F3 races in six months. I don’t know if he’s going to win Grands Prix one day but I can say there are no signs that this isn’t going to happen. He’s won the Junior World and European kart championships and now he’s dominated his British F3 season. He knows how to squeeze the brake pedal and when to rotate a car and he drives with his fingertips, not with his wrists.
So judge for yourself. We shot this interview in the offices of Motorsport.com. I think it gives a reasonable insight into what Mr Enaam Ahmed is all about. !– WGCCxxx —
The Spa-Monza double-header always poses a question: fly or drive? This year I chose the latter option and took the opportunity to visit some of the people and places I’ve always wanted to meet (or re-visit). Near Parma, for example, I called on the former Ferrari engineer, Enrique Scalabroni. He and his partner live in this gorgeous villa in the mountains. Enrique hits golf balls in the early morning – he’s surprisingly good – and works during the day from his office in the main part of the building. The thought occurs, as you sit outside at night, feasting on pasta, home-grown tomatoes and local white, that there aren’t too many places more delicious than this.
I had a schedule to keep, however, so I was off the next morning to see my friends at Prema Powerteam, the Italian race team founded in the early 1980s by Angelo Rosin and Giorgio Piccolo. Today, Prema have few rivals: in terms of single-seater race wins and championships, Prema are simply world-class. In F2 this year, Prema’s Charles Leclerc has been a revelation – a driver not only of immense skill and feel but also a human of courage and depth. Here’s a video I put together around a chat with Charles just before the Monza weekend:
New regulations for 2017 mean new F1 cars from all the teams. At first glance, thanks to tighter restrictions dictating front- and rear-wing shape, they’re looking ever-more similar; delve deeper, as Craig Scarborough does in the adjoining videos, and significant differences between the cars are still apparent. With their wider Pirelli tyres and increased downforce, the 2017 cars will be much quicker around corners and will require shorter braking distances; on the downside, they’re much heavier – to the absurd realm of actually weighing more than my road car; they’ll be slower on the straights; and they will promote fewer overtaking opportunities. Why the latter? Members of the F1 rule-making committee merely reply: “It wasn’t one of our considerations this time around. We were simply commissioned to make the cars quicker.”
That bout of hand-washing aside, here’s a look at some of the new cars testing at Barcelona this week:
I’m very pleased to announce that we are auctioning a number of unique F1-related items in aid of charity. The catalyst for the fund-raising is a little girl I know who is battling cerebral palsy. She plays in the school band, she laughs and screams with the others…but most of the time she’s either in a wheelchair or walking with splints. In order to raise money for her upcoming (very expensive) operations and treatment, I approached several of my friends at the British GP last year. The question was simple: could they please donate a personal item to auction in a good cause? I told them about nine-year-old Caya Newman, who lives near me, and I told them of our plan, together with CharityStars and Bonhams, to display the items on-line initially (for global bidding) and then to auction them at an event in the gorgeous classic car showrooms of Joe Macari (www.joemacari.com). The items will go to the highest bidders, be they on-line or “live” on the night.
The response from the drivers and several team people was brilliant – as you will see if you go to the auction site via the following link:
And I was very touched by the trouble taken by all the F1 people. Virtually all of them are obligated to other charity commitments via their teams and are therefore under a lot of pressure not to support one-off fund-raisers like this. The Ferrari drivers, for example, are specifically obliged to centralise all requests through their PR/media department, so I hope I’m not dropping Seb and Kimi in it when I tell you that both of them asked me to see them immediately after specific races in order to give me signed items within a few minutes of climbing from their cars – before anyone could stop them, in other words. Lewis Hamilton signed a pair of his 2016 gloves but has also gone to the trouble of having them framed; Damon Hill wanted to ensure that the overalls he gave me were from his World Championship-winning 1996 season; Daniel Ricciardo’s overalls are from 2014 – when he began to win; and Pirelli, brilliantly, have been supportive from Day One.
I have no idea how much we’ll raise – auctions are always a bit of an unknown – but I’m hoping it’ll be enough to help not only Caya’s family but also two other charities (namely WellChild, who support the families of sick children) and Damon Hill’s Halow Project, which supports those with learning disabilities.
I’m hoping, too, that we can make this an annual thing – a chance to help some kids, to have a nice party at Joe’s and to enable some very personal and authentic F1 items to be out there in the bidding world.
I’d like to say a very big thankyou to all the people who have contributed items for auction and also to Pirelli, Joe Macari, CharityStars (who have put together the on-line aspect of the auction), Bonhams, WellChild and Halow. And also to Caya Newman for being such a star. That’s her on the right, with Jack Windsor very cheekily sitting it out.
Time for another F1 tech update with the excellent Craig Scarborough. Although many of the mid-field teams are now concentrating on their 2017 cars, development continues unabated at the sharp end of the grid. Here are some separate thoughts on Mercedes, Red Bull-Renault, Ferrari and McLaren-Honda, with the final video focussing on the remaining teams.
Drawings: Craig Scarborough; Images: LAT Photographic