THE bright lights and glamour of Monte Carlo and the thrills and spills of Formula One may seem like a million miles away from the north coast, but for one of the sport’s mainstays over the last four decades it is where it all began.
Car designer Gary Anderson returned to his home town of Coleraine last week for a special ‘On the Podium’ chat show organised by local company NI Live Events.
Times Sport caught up with Anderson before the show to chat about how he became inolved in the sport, the changes he has witnessed since the 1970s and whether anyone will end Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel’s dominance.
“When I first went to England I was working on a building site, then through one thing or another I met up with someone from Brands Hatch racing school and I suddenly realised that it was something I could do, I would enjoy doing and I would want to do and when you get that you follow your career,” explained Anderson.
“I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world, sometimes it was only and airport, a hotel room, an airport and back home again, but I’ve never travelled anything like I’ve done now if I hadn’t been involved in Formula One.
“I’ve met some really great people and made some really good friends in the 40 odd years I’ve been involved in the sport and I wouldn’t change a day of it.
“In the Seventies it was a racing team going racing in a sport which happened to be called Formula One. Teams were very small and built their own cars, this was where I learned about designing cars.
“It got a bit more sophisticated in the Eighties and so on since then, which is the same as any business. But from 1973 I have saw some horrendous changes from me driving the truck to races to looking after a car on my own to now were it would be physically impossible to do that.
“It has been fantastic. The time I enjoyed the most was the Nineties when I was designing the Jordan. You always forget the bad times, but the good outweighed the bad.
“Eddie was a bit of a character. I first met him in 1982 and we’ve known each other fairly well since then.
“Eddie hasn’t changed which is good because everyone has to be themselves. I hate artificial people. No matter who you are you have to do your best and Eddie does that. He does it his way, he’s not a scripted person and that’s great as he shoots from the hip and so do I, we meet up quite well in the middle somewhere which is quite good fun.
“There’s as many characters in the sport now as there was in the past but unfortunately they try and do things a bit quieter now. The media has got so big now that if you blink the wrong way it’s round the world within a few seconds.
“In the past if something was found out it was weeks after it happened.
“But there are a few characters still involved in the sport nowand they still want to have a bit of fun like the James Hunt’s used to do, but it’s a big discipline now to have respect for your team.”
One of those characters is Kimi Raikkonen and Anderson is interested to see how his move to Ferrari will pan out.
“Raikkonen and Alonso could click and be really good or not and I think it might be the or not in my book because Alonso is very different from Kimi,” he said.
“The big problem for me is that they’re very much at the same stage in their career, both of them very much want to win another World Championship. So the outlook for the team is they have two drivers trying to achieve the same goal.
“There was no problem with that under Alonso and Massa. I always tried to base our team on an experienced guy and a young guy.
“Ferrari could reap the rewards for it or they could end up tripping over themselves.”
Either way they are going to have their work cut out to end Vettel’s dominance. He’s on the verge of a fourth world title and Anderson said he is annoyed the German doesn’t get the repsect he deserves from some quarters.
“I get really annoyed when I hear people booing Vettel because like him or loathe him he deserves the respect of a three-time World Champion,” said Anderson. “You look at the races he has won and the pole positions he has secured you don’t do that by luck.
“He’s in a very good car, but so is Mark Webber, who is rated a very good driver, but he beats him comprehensively. They have also worked with Adrian Newey and the design team to help take the car where it needed to go and you need all those pieces of the jigsaw.
“I don’t look at it that Red Bull have a secret weapon and Vettel is a slouch.
“This is the fifth year of a set of regulations and normally when it gets to this sort of time everyone has honed in on the solution to the problem, but Red Bull have honed into it a bit better.
“Vettel drives the car that suits the design. Some drivers are like trying to eat a bowl of soup with a fork, that’s very difficult to do, but that’s what they are doing, they are not driving in within the constraints of the design.
“Unless something dramatically goes wrong he’s got another world title in the bag.
“We all want it to be a tight championship, but from my point of view I have to respect what he is doing and what the team are doing and if he does win it he is a deserved winner.
“It’s certainly won’t be by luck. That will be four Driver’s Championships and four Constructor’s Championships for Vettel and Red Bull which is no easy feat.”
Anderson will be watching the title race unfold as part of his media work for the BBC which he is thoroughly enjoying.
“I used to hate the media now I love them and the teams hate me,” he joked.
“Formula One is all about total commitment you’re working 16 hours a day seven days a week and I just didn’t want to do that anymore.
“So I went in to semi-retirement, but I had no idea what I was going to do. RTE called me up and I started working with them in 2004 and it has developed since then.
“It’s a job and it keeps me involved with the sport, but I want to bring to the public the things they don’t really understand because the viewer and the spectator is the reason Formula One is there.
“I believe that they deserve more and my objective is to bring that to then if I can and for them to sit down on a Sunday afternoon and wonder what that was about.”