Interview with GP2 Caterham’s Phill Spencer
This year’s GP2 series has inspired some great overtaking in corners, rather than on the KERS/DRS assisted straights in Formula 1. Caterham GP2 driver and F1 Reserve driver Alexander Rossi has adapted well to both series with an incredible degree of maturity. In addition their second driver Sergio Canamasas will completed straight-line aero tests for the F1 team in just two days time. To see how the Caterham GP2 team has been finding this year, Trent Price caught up with Caterham GP2 Team Manager Phill Spencer to talk about new circuits, Alexander Rossi, GP2 driver ethics and the logistics of fitting within the Formula 1 calendar.
What was it like racing in Malaysia for the first time this year? Was it a big leap from your perspective as Team Manager?
I’ve race a Sepang many times with F1, A1and GP2 as a Chief Mechanic and now as a TM. I love the place. The heat is good for my old aching body!
I was incredibly surprised with the cramped conditions all the GP2 teams had to work with at Sepang. The plastic tents mustn’t have given you much relief in-between races?
Most teams are used to conditions like we have in Sepang. We have to work out of awnings when we are in Europe. We only have the use of garages in Bahrain, Silverstone, Spa and Abu Dhabi. In Sepang we even have air conditioning!
I’ve been impressed with Alexander Rossi’s maturity this year. He didn’t let a poor qualifying affect his game and was superb in the Barcelona Feature Race – passing six cars on the first lap. He was very measured from thereon, where other driver’s could’ve gotten a bit excited and cooked their tyres. Does his mentality surprise you?
For a young lad he does have an older head on his shoulders. He is very calm, even when he speaks on the radio.
Even in the Sprint race, he patiently stalked Kevin Ceccon to a point where he cooked his tyres. I thought Rossi was then unlucky to lock up trying passing Cecotto. Did the lock up affect pace in the last two laps?
Yes it did.
Alexander’s lock-up did enable Sergio to catch up to the train and execute a great move around the outside of Rio Haryanto then Daniel Abt on a tricky corner where you don’t usually see passing. Did that impress everyone in the team?
It was one of Sergio’s better races. He looked after his tyres so well. Even people on our F1 team that were watching the race were impressed.
I’ve been told by drivers in the F1 support categories that the F1 marble build-up makes it incredibly difficult if you go off-line and it takes a few laps to get the balance back. Is this something your drivers have spoken about?
It does happen in GP2 but it’s not as bad as F1. The GP2 tyre is different to F1. We don’t use tyre warmers so GP2 drivers are used to having to work the tyres.
In terms of Caterham’s Driver Development program, does the GP2 team for example stay in much contact with the Formula One and the Fortec Formula Renault NEC Team? Is Matt Parry on your radar?
Caterham GP2 and F1 are in the same factory so we have a great relationship with all the team members and drivers. All CaterhamAcademy drivers visit the factory and attend races with the two teams… We all follow Matt’s progress and look forward to him eventually becoming a GP2 driver with our team.
Sergio was unfortunate to lose his rear wing in the sprint after being collected from behind by Rio. It was the same in the feature race after avoiding much of the start line chaos. I understand the penalty given to Rio Haryanto in the Sprint race, but I’d argue Rio’s was a forced error where Johnny Cecotto’s was one of intimidation. Are you surprised more isn’t being done?
The Stewards and Race Director try to be as consistent as possible when it comes to penalising drivers. All I can say is Cecotto is ‘special’.
How was Monaco? Both from a logistical and strategic perspective?
We were issued with a strict set of instructions from the organisers regarding truck movements etc. Just make sure you have a big Quad to haul all the equipment to and from the pits… and believe me we did!
Phill, thanks very much for your time and all the best for the rest of the year!
Images courtesy of EQ8 Caterham Racing and Octane Photographic
Trent Price is an amateur race driver, former V8 race coach and FIA Accredited journalist from Melbourne, Australia. A former Race Editor for GP Week and contributor for ESPN, Trent is now the Editor of the WEC/Formula E magazine E-Racing; www.e-racingmag.com