When you're the number two driver for Formula 3000 team Arden, there's not much expectation laid on you. At the end of last year, team boss Christian Horner chased hard after Vitantonio Liuzzi to lead his efforts in claiming back to back titles for the young team, seeing the Italian as the next star of F3000 and wanting to prove to everyone that the title brought home by Swede Bjorn Wirdheim wasn't a one off. Liuzzi wanted to race with the hot team of the series, and the deal came together quickly. After that Horner cast around for the second driver, and although he tested a few drivers there weren't that many who were able to drive and also had the budget to be there. From a short list he picked Dutchman Robert Doornbos, signed him to the usual two year option deal, and hoped that he'd made the right choice - there wasn't much to go on with his record, but he put his trust in his team to get ‘that Doorknobs guy', as he became known in the paddock, through.
Doornbos set about proving his worth - he immediately gelled in with the team, who were impressed by his fitness (Doornbos lives in Viareggio, Italy because his fitness trainer is there, which makes it easier for him to train every day), personality and eagerness to learn. And, bizarrely, Doornbos and Liuzzi hit it off too - not in the token we're teammates and we're also friends way that usually lasts until the media are looking the other way before the knives are stuck in, but in a genuine sense of camaraderie and admiration for each other.
Horner, who had last seen this situation with Wirdheim and team leader Tomas Enge, was quietly hopeful that he'd put the right package together again. The results show that he did: Liuzzi took seven wins and the title, and importantly Doornbos got four podiums, including the top step in a crushing victory in Spa, on the way to third place in the Championship - a much better result than even Horner could have hoped for at the start of the year.
"I want to do what Bjorn did," Doornbos said at Belgium, after his breathtaking win, "to get a few podiums and learn all the tracks, maybe get a win - that's come now! - and set myself up for the [F3000] title next year before looking at how to get into Formula One."
That last ambition was achieved a little earlier than anyone expected.
When the Jordan team learnt that the budget for the remainder of the season might not be forthcoming from Giorgio Pantano's management, they made a call - it came from out of the blue, but the Dutchman's team hit the road running. "Marco (Zecchi, Doornbos' manager) and my sister started working on it right away," Doornbos reflected, smiling widely behind his large, Elvis styled sunglasses around the back of the Jordan office in the Shanghai pits. "I was in Monza for the last round, and then I went back to my training camp. I was calling my manager six times a day saying ‘what are we going to do?' He said ‘don't worry, just train and do your thing as normal, and I'll give you a call.'
"I was sitting there wondering what am I going to do, so I went to Holland to visit some friends, because during the season I have no time for that. I took my car and went back, but in Germany or Switzerland I got a phone call from my sister, who said ‘you'd better hurry up because tomorrow you have to fly to England' and then hung up the phone! I was thinking wow, what is it, and then Marco called and said ‘yeah, you've got a seat fitting in Jordan, the plane leaves Amsterdam at 9:00am, so you better push!' I had a big smile on my face in the car and I really pushed, but I thought it would be for a test, maybe for later in October, and then he called and said ‘now we have to sort out the visa because we're going to China!'
"I hadn't even met Eddie Jordan yet, but obviously Marco's good friends with Ian (Phillips, Jordan's Director of Business Affairs) and Eddie and they trusted me - it's good that I was in F3000 because they already knew me, they saw my races. I went over to England and they were really friendly and they made a seat, although it's not very comfortable because I'm a bit taller than Timo and Nick so I'm just sitting in the carbon shell, but it was comfortable enough to do the job.
"In the beginning I was a bit nervous - really excited, but also a bit nervous - is it a good way to do your first ever Formula One test, straight away and on a Grand Prix weekend? Obviously no one has done it before, and I spoke with Tonio [Liuzzi] about his Formula One test with Williams and Sauber, and he said ‘it was quite easy - you have to think about the car, but forget it is Formula One and just drive it and enjoy it.' And then I came here relaxed, with a big smile, and also it was my birthday and I thought this is the best present ever, and a mega opportunity also to learn three new tracks and get some mileage in. It just went really well."
DC: Liuzzi thinks everything is easy, though! So you just jumped on a plane and got here Wednesday?
Doornbos: "Wednesday, and I got introduced to all the mechanics and my engineers and I was off to walk the circuit straight away. It was not a problem to learn the track because in F3000 all the circuits were new to me too, and then we did the test."
DC: Well, this track is so new they don't even have it on the PlayStation yet...
Doornbos: "Yeah, that was a real shame because I was really looking for it but nothing, nothing! For Suzuka and Brazil, I will spend some time on the PlayStation for sure! It's incredible how realistic it is sometimes!"
DC: When you got to Shanghai, did you have to do any press engagements or anything like that?
Doornbos: "We had my birthday on Thursday night and went out with the Dutch press, and they brought some champagne for the table which was really nice, and everyone was in a good mood because for a long time there hasn't been anyone Dutch in Formula One."
DC: Friday morning you woke up, and I guess the first thing you thought was ‘I'm going to sit in a Formula One car today.'
Doornbos: "I woke up earlier than any of the mechanics here, I think, because I was at the track at eight o'clock and most of them weren't even there yet! They saw me sitting in the garage and said ‘okay Doorknobs, are you motivated for today?' I said ‘yeah, I couldn't sleep anymore, I have to drive the car now!' I think that put a bit of a smile on their faces! I had to do the job in the car, but I think every lap I was quicker pretty much straight away on the pace of Timo, so that was good."
DC: What was your first flying lap like?
Doornbos: "For the installation lap, I went on the radio and asked 'can I go flat one more time, just to try it?', and they said 'sure, sure', and that is the best feeling to go flat out of the pitlane, but because of the brakes I couldn't push. On my first flying lap when I really … you know the long back straight? I just arrived at 200 metres and I thought why not? So I just hit it as hard as I can and see what happens, and that was a really nice experience because it really stops so quick - stepping on the brakes is like running into a door! I actually had to accelerate to reach the corner - it was a bit pathetic really! But I built up to it, and later I was braking at the same points as Timo (Glock), so that was quite good."
DC: You said yesterday that the speed wasn't the most amazing thing - it was the brakes.
Doornbos: "Yeah, you can compare if you arrive after 320 km/h on the straight and just hit it as hard as you can - if you don't expect it, it's really something! The brakes were really nice for the first few laps, and by the end they are still nice but you are used to it, you expect them to be there at the corners. And also the steering wheel was really light compared to F3000 – I went on the radio and said 'I think something is wrong because I can't get a good feeling from the car', but they said 'no, no, it's just how light it is', and in the end I got used to it. Physically I think it's less tiring that Formula 3000."
DC: Tonio and Bjorn said the same – the F3000 car is so heavy…
Doornbos: "You should have seen me after the first [F3000] test day in Jerez - I came back to the hotel after my first test with Arden and I couldn't move my arms anymore!"
DC: What did Jordan expect from you? Normally the third guy just tests tyres.
Doornbos: "Yeah, it was obviously a difficult situation to be in, and when I came here even Eddie said to me 'we're not expecting you to break the track record here - it's your first time in a Formula One car, you haven't done a shakedown test or anything, so just go out there and learn, improve, and we'll see what we can do in the second session'. Basically they had no idea what to do with me, but after the first session we had a meeting, another briefing, and they said ‘okay, we cancelled the programme we had planned because you have learnt the car already - you're on the pace and you get some data for us.'
"So we started doing that in the afternoon, but unfortunately the engine got less and less and blew up at the third outing, but I've experienced that as well now. They said normally in the programme they will let me get familiar with the circuit before tyre testing for the guys, hard and soft compound, and one light run with low fuel - you saw [on Saturday morning, during practice] with Nick (Heidfeld) he took out forty kilos and he went two seconds quicker, so ten kilos is half a second. They wanted to do that with me too for the last outing but the engine blew up, and it's a shame we didn't do it because if I had gone two seconds quicker I would have done Nick's times."
DC: How is your neck?
Doornbos: "Good - the sessions were no problem at all, and obviously the arms are light - last night I was really cool saying to everyone I had no pain, but this morning I woke up and just the one to the front" - he nods his head forwards violently - "is hurting because of the braking forces, and you have to get used to that. I did my practice in Italy for left and right, and you can train as much as you like, but you've got to drive the car to get used to it."
DC: Was your head moving around in the car much?
Doornbos: "No, no, no - I had no problem. Sometimes drivers ask for fanny tape or whatever you call it, fanny foam the mechanics were calling it (padding on the sidepod against the helmet to cushion the blows), but I was quite well prepared physically and there was no problem."
DC: How different are the debriefs in F1, compared to F3000?
Doornbos: "A lot, really, because you jump out of the car - and my session [in China] was cut short by half an hour or something - but from three to seven o'clock I was only talking to people from Bridgestone and Cosworth, my engineers, the mechanics for problems with the seat, and before I knew it, it was time to go for the drivers' briefing, so that's a lot different. It's a real job, you arrive really early in the morning and you leave quite late in the evening. But it's fun - in F3000 you're so bored most of the time that I used to fall asleep, and Tonio as well, and just wait for the races!"
DC: So what have you been doing since then?
Doornbos: "It's like being at college here - there's so much to learn! I've been to all the briefings so far, and it was a bit disappointing to arrive at the circuit this morning and not drive the car, but it's quite interesting to learn the differences between hard and soft compounds - obviously in Formula 3000 there is only one tyre and you just have to go for it. And I've been to a drivers' briefing - it was nice to see my name there, under Michael Schumacher as well!"
DC: What was the drivers' briefing like?
Doornbos: "Different to F3000! In F3000, Charlie [Whiting] comes in and says 'guys, last race excellent job, any complaints? No? Okay, do the same this week – bye'. In F1, it was like a bunch of old women moaning - they were really like ‘oh, I think the guy with the blue flag was a bit too slow', or [Juan Pablo] Montoya went ‘the entry into the pitlane - some people are cutting it' - they really give Charlie a hard time, but it was funny to listen and to be there."
DC: Did you say anything?
Doornbos: "No, I kept quiet! Charlie said, ‘obviously there are some new faces around here' - because he knew me from F3000 - and [Kimi] Raikkonen I knew, because we did an Alpinestar event at Magny Cours with the motorbikes, and he said ‘hey, I watched your first day, did you enjoy it?' And also [Ricardo] Zonta is a friend, so it was quite fun to be a part of it."
DC: Motor racing is a bit like school - sometimes you repeat a year, sometimes you jump a level, and there are all these guys going back and forth around each other.
Doornbos: "Yeah, sometimes you move too quick, like Chris [Klien] - in the European [F3] Championship, the last race was Magny Cours, and the last podium was Glock, myself and Christian Klien, and it was quite funny to be back with them. But I think maybe [Klien] got pushed a bit too fast."
DC: I think you've got a good thing here, and maybe it's what Christian should have done - come in and learn the cars, learn the tracks, learn the team, learn the drivers before stepping up.
Doornbos: "Yeah, it's a great option - I can offer that I know 80% of the Formula One tracks, with three flyaways and ten in Europe - it's a big advantage. And I can learn a lot, and you do learn a lot - I'm really exhausted in the hotel because there's so much information. For example, the steering wheel: when I left the factory they gave me thirty pages just about the steering wheel, and for thirteen hours on the plane I was just reading and reading, but it's interesting, and much more fun than school! It's really cool!"
DC: Have they had you doing any PR stuff?
Doornbos: "I just came back from the Paddock Club, where there were many sponsors' guests who were doing a Q&A with me, and they said I was a new signing and also that I was the first driver to do a flying lap of the circuit - I didn't know that, and they told me upstairs. It was good, I answered the questions - the circuit obviously is great, you don't need to lie about that, and the team had a warm welcome for me. In the end they said 'okay, Robert will be here if you want a signature', and I thought maybe four or five guys would stand up; but the whole room stood up - eighty people with caps! So I said, here we go... But it was a great experience - the last couple of days have been incredible!"
DC: By the way, why are you registered as a Monegasque with the FIA?
Doornbos: "Because the license is from the Automobile Club of Monaco, and I asked for a superlicence there. [FIA president] Max Mosley brought it himself personally, because there was no time to collect it before flying [to Shanghai], and I guess they wrote down the licence number and it was from Monaco, but obviously I am Dutch.
"In Spa, when I won the race, there was the national anthem of Monaco, and I was just waiting and wondering is it finished already, because I've never heard the song before! But in the end the Dutch people understood, and next year for sure I'll try to get a Dutch licence! Jenson [Button] said he had the same problem, but then he asked for a British one in the hope that he wins a race, because it is pretty sad if they don't have the right national anthem!"
DC: The Dutch have a history of supporting their drivers avidly, which some other countries don't - there is still talk about Jos Verstappen, of course, but perhaps this will put your name forward.
Doornbos: "It's good, and also the international press is starting to take notice, and they can now pronounce my name right, which is good - it's not Doorknobs, it's really Doornbos! I'll see how it goes - I already feel comfortable in the car, and that's a start."
DC: After the press conference in Spa, you said you are planning to win the F3000 Championship next season. But with F3000 now gone and GP2 set to replace it, how does it affect your future plans?
Doornbos: "I would have set out for a Championship, definitely, if the car would have been the same - I'm sure if I had done another year with Arden with the car like it is now I might have had a season like Tonio had, really dominate like Bjorn and Tonio, because you know the car - it's such a difference if you know the car. Since Spa, I've had a huge confidence boost in the car, and at Monza I qualified third and finished on the podium as well. It's all about confidence in that series, and I think I would have done a great job because I know all the circuits.
"But Formula 3000 is finished and GP2 is starting, and Christian [Horner] said that it's not really fair to say we're going for the title because it's a new car, although I think Arden are a great team and will find the right set up straight away, but you can be unlucky with mechanical failures or whatever - you never know, because it's new series. There was an option in the contract that if it's possible to go to Formula One, I can go to Formula One, and it's a good start now, so we'll talk at the end of the month. Christian is also playing a bit with Formula One, and he said if you are finished playing with it we'll talk about what we can do for next year."
DC: I don't think Arden have decided yet if they are doing GP2.
Doornbos: "Yeah, that's why he was quite happy to see me on the plane here as well - we were on the same flight and he said 'I am busy in Formula One as well. But if we do Formula One, we might want to do GP2 next to it'. I said I'd prefer if he only does GP2 if I stay, because it's quite difficult to run a second team. The team is great - like it is now, it works, and he knows that as well. But we'll see after Brazil - maybe if I do a really good job we can get into Formula One and stay here."
When Timo Glock boarded the plane for Montreal last Wednesday, ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix, he was the official third driver for Jordan Grand Prix – a better position than most racers his age could hope for, but about as far away from the main event as you can be and still be in the same paddock – and he was thinking about how to improve his already impressive form in his tyre testing duties. When he boarded the plane for Indianapolis a few days later, he was a points-scoring Formula One driver who had been mentioned in newspapers, magazines and television news reports around the world. A lot can happen to you over a weekend, if you're in the right place at the right time.
Glock woke up earlier than usual for his day in the office – Montreal being five or six hours behind Europe meant that the weekend's events were held earlier in the day so as to make reporting deadlines achievable as well as to improve the television timings, with the European Football Championships just beginning posing competition to the increasingly one sided race series. He had spent the day before sitting in the paddock chatting to the occasional German journalist, but most of the interest, as usual, was with the team's race drivers, Giorgio Pantano and Nick Heidfeld.
The Canadian pits have space for three cars but only two exits, which meant that the teams who were running third drivers had to have the third car running from the pitlane outside their garage. Jordan, however, was missing a driver – Pantano had not turned up in the paddock that morning, and Glock was running from inside the yellow garage.
All enquiries as to the Italian's whereabouts were met with an innocuous comment about a personal problem Pantano was going through, and that the team was hopeful he would be able to rectify it and reappear in time for the second session. His Jordan colleagues ran their respective programmes and tried not to think about the missing driver, concentrating on the tasks at hand.
Glock was in the garage, out of the warm Canadian summer sunshine, for the second session too. The unofficial comments came – Pantano had financial problems and was trying to sort them out with his manager, who was back in Europe. Other comments mentioned a rift between the driver's father and the manager. Either way, Pantano was not to be seen in the paddock for the rest of the day.
The Italian's absence meant that his young German teammate was much more noticeable in the paddock than at any time over the year. Glock just went about his programme, and left the politics to the politicians. "I'm really just concentrating on my job," he commented later that afternoon, sitting forward in his chair in the Jordan enclosure behind the pitlane complex, "I don't know what's going on, and for me it was important to make my job as good as possible, and then we will see what is happening.
"At the beginning it was a little bit difficult, because every press guy came and said 'what's going on, what's going on?' - I don't know, but we will see what happens tomorrow, I guess."
If Pantano's absence was a distraction then Glock didn't show it – he ran his normal programme without any noticeable problems. "I had six laps here to learn the track in Canada, and then on with the tyre programme! It's difficult, but that's the job, and you have to do your best. The normal programme is to go out for five laps on a baseline run, look for the set up of the car and maybe change things, then go out for two timed laps to see if it's better or not.
"And then you start with the programme; usually you go out for three laps with the soft tyres versus three laps with the hard tyre, and then that's the end of the session. And in the second one we do two long runs with both sets of tyres, and in the end if we have enough time we do maybe one qualifying run, and that's normally the programme. Sometimes if we have new wings we might test them for Giorgio and Nick, but the normal plan is just to do the tyre test, the tyre programme."
DC: How are you doing with the new tyres? It's quite hard to work out how to get the most out of them
Glock: "Yeah, that's difficult between the different tyres. The biggest problem was Malaysia for me; when you go out the outlap is too fast, so you lose the grip on the last sector. It's difficult to find the right way, and to know to go out on a slow outlap and then push hard on this one lap, because you have only one lap with the tyre. And it's difficult to find the best compromise."
DC: What would you say your longest distance has been so far this season?
Glock: "The most laps I did was fifteen, and here in Canada was thirteen laps, and that's the longest that you can do on a Friday test because you lose too much time if you go longer. Normally the reason for fifteen laps is (race) strategy."
DC: Have you ever done a race distance in a Formula One car? You would have to be in the car for at least an hour and a half.
Glock: "No – in Germany for the Euroseries it was thirty minutes! No, not really a race distance – in testing I did 500 kilometres in one day and it was not a problem, so I think it's not a problem to drive in the race. Except we don't get a break!"
Glock is just twenty two years old, and for the last two years he has been competing in the German Formula 3 Euroseries Championship. In 2002 he came third, and last year he came fifth after scoring no points for five rounds in the middle of the year due to tyre problems; he and his manager parlayed this into a test drive with Jordan. Christian Klien came second last year, and is a race driver for Jaguar. Ryan Briscoe won the Championship, and is the fourth driver for Toyota. It's funny how motorsports work sometimes.
Eddie Jordan told Glock that what impressed him were some of his race performances. One notable example: the race in Pau started off poorly, with Glock qualifying in a lowly seventeenth before powering through the grid on a storm swept race day, taking a podium with a masterful drive to a third place finish.
The first time Glock tested with Jordan he had a shunt after thirty laps – thankfully for him Bas Leinders had crashed the car on his first lap out of the pits earlier in the day, which took a little of the heat off the German, and a problem was found shortly after with the handling of the car. Nevertheless Glock went around and apologised personally to each of the mechanics in the Jordan pit.
He signed a deal with Jordan at the end of January, just after Pantano joined the team, with the pair undergoing just five days testing on three circuits before his race weekend debut in Melbourne. Leinders was offered, and accepted, the third driver spot with Minardi.
Outside of the seven Friday sessions, Glock has only had some aerodynamic tests and then a further two days in Paul Ricard. "The two days in Paul Ricard was really important for me, to get another thousand kilometres was really important, because every time you get in the car on Friday it's really a short time, and the biggest problem for me is I have to learn nearly all the tracks."
DC: You only get two hours running each race weekend, and learning the circuit takes away time from doing your programme. But after these seven sessions how are you feeling about your job at Jordan?
Glock: "It's not far away when you compare it with Giorgio, but with Nick it's a bit difficult because he's had five years in Formula One. I think when you compare with Nick the lap times are okay, it's not too bad, and even better when I compare with Giorgio, which is the best I can compare to - although every race he does sixty laps or more, which is a lot and you learn so much in races. But I think I'm satisfied with the start of the season."
DC: Some in the paddock think you might be too young and should be doing something else. What do you think?
Glock: "I don't think I'm too young – I think I'm the right age. And you can see it in Kimi Raikkonen, who is the best example; he came from Formula Renault when he was, I don't know, 21? And you can see that it was not too young. I think it's a good way to learn slowly about Formula One, these Friday tests - you learn all the circuits, and I think it's a good way to go in."
DC: Being a German, do you have any heroes? Michael Schumacher is now 35 - was he a hero of yours growing up?
Glock: "My heroes were Ayrton Senna and, at the moment, Michael Schumacher, because he's done the best job in the last five or six years, and when you look he's won the Championship six times and he's rated to win again, and that's impressive. When you look at the free practice, he will go out maybe three times and drive a second faster than everyone else in the first practice – that's like a machine, it's unbelievable!
"I looked at it in Melbourne, and he was in the pits and then drove out, and he did his outlap, red, red, red then bang – one second faster – the next one red, red, red, bang and then in, and that's all. And I sat down and thought, what's going on? Unbelievable! But he's had a lot of hours in the car, a lot of kilometres in the car, he's got a lot of experience, and that's important to be able to do it like Michael Schumacher."
DC: So have you ever actually spoken to Michael?
Glock: "No, never! But I have to speak with Ralf [Schumacher] today (in the drivers' briefing), because he blocked me seven times in free practice in the last session, at the hairpin, casino – he got the blue flag seven times! It was at the end of the session, and I was going 'come on – get out of the way!' When he left the box and got to the second corner he crossed the line in front of [Takuma] Sato, and Sato had to brake, straight out in front. So it will be interesting in the drivers' briefing – sometimes it gets a little bit crazy!"
It did get a little crazy, and Glock didn't have his opportunity to take Schumacher Junior to task for his careless driving that morning – in a meeting that ran for about an hour and a half both Schumachers and Rubens Barrichello launched into an attack on Takuma Sato, at great length, for his overtaking maneuver on the Brazilian at the last race in Germany. Glock, considering discretion the better part of valour, kept his comments to himself and, after a quick discussion with team boss Eddie Jordan about the meeting, went back to his hotel for an early night.
The phone rang in Timo Glock's hotel room at 6:30am, with someone from the team making sure he was awake and almost ready to leave. With the first session starting at 8:00am that was to be expected, and Glock was cleaning his teeth when the call came through. What wasn't expected was that the call was to inform him that he would be driving in these sessions.
"It was a bit hard in the morning because I came to the track and the guys said 'you're going to drive today' and I just said 'oh shit!'" Glock laughed out loud as he recalled the day's hectic events, wide eyed with wonder at what was happening all around him. "Yesterday I didn't believe it and I thought 'okay, we'll just see what's going on with Giorgio' – and now they said 'you've got to drive!' With free practice then qualifying – the qualifying was not perfect – then after that all the TV interviews, especially the German guys, it was a bit heavy today. But that's okay."
Glock was coming into the circuit anyway, but suddenly he was going to be doing more than hanging around and waiting for the team engineering meetings. He was steered through to the garage where the mechanics had changed the settings in Pantano's car for him ("the engineer said I have to drive with that car - I'm not sure if that's a rule, but we did it") and which was under the control of Pantano's race engineer. It was all a bit of a culture shock for the young driver.
"I think on a normal weekend when you've got more experience, it's normal to go into practice on a Saturday, but today it was a little bit difficult because they called me at six thirty, and at eight o'clock I have to be in the car. It's amazing! It was a little bit difficult to put it out of my head and say 'okay do your job'. It was not too bad in the first practice, but it was a little bit difficult to find the right way, and to set up the car for the qualifying, because I have no experience for that and for one qualifying lap. That was really difficult, in qualifying."
DC: Your qualifying lap looked a bit ragged on the television onboard view...
Glock: "Yeah, I looked at it together with Nick in the office, and the first qualifying was horrible – I was maybe a little bit too aggressive with the car - and for the second lap we did a few changes in between and it was a little bit better, but the car was still nervous over the kerbs. It was interesting because Nick had the cockpit camera for his second run as well and we overlaid it – I was fighting it everywhere" - Glock's hands roll back and forth violently - "and Nick was easy, easy" - he indicates smooth driving with his hands.
"I think that's the experience of Nick – he did a perfect job today and a really good lap, and that's the problem – I need more and more qualifying laps to learn about them. It's difficult – last year in Formula 3 we had thirty minutes for qualifying, and you could go anytime and you have more laps than in Formula One, so it was a bit difficult."
DC: You went out and did your lap and then Nick followed straight after and bang – one second faster. Was that demoralising at all? How did you feel about that?
Glock: "Yeah it was shit! Normally the target is maybe three, four, five tenths slower than Nick, but when you look at the TV and how nervous the car was at the rear, that was a big problem – it cost us a lot of time. But I think you have to have experience of the one lap qualifying, and I just said okay, don't crash the car and be cool on the lap - I think it's better when you don't crash the car and are one second slower, because it's not a good picture to be in the wall on your first qualifying! You have your chances in the race, to find the rhythm and do a good race, and look for a lot of experience."
DC: And you're ahead of Sato...
Glock: "Yeah! But I think maybe he'll overtake me at the start!"
The sessions went reasonably well for Glock, although like all of the junior Bridgestone team drivers he was struck by a problem with the front tyres because of the drop in temperature – he changed his set up to get some heat into the tyres, and was then caught out later in qualifying when the temperature rose. It was just another challenge for a driver learning about set up on a Formula One car on his race debut weekend.
"Normally I do tyre tests for the cars, and I've never had the chance to set up the car for my driving style. That was a problem – and we did not have enough time for that – and there are all these small things, which in the end are worth maybe a second. For sure I need more experience, and next time maybe I'll go a little easier and a little cooler in the qualifying, because I was for sure a bit nervous in the qualifying lap. I think that's normal."
DC: Next time? Does this mean you think you'll get another drive?
Glock: "We will see – I think the decision is next week, and we will see for Indy, but I don't know what's going on for next week."
DC: It must be a little tough, because while you must be excited to have a race drive this quickly I'm sure you must be a little sad for Giorgio
Glock: "Yeah for sure, because we are good friends – we had a lot of fun in the first races. And it's bad to go in the car because he was the race driver and now he has big problems, and you can see how fast it is in Formula One – to get in it's a long way, but to go out it is really fast; it's one day. That was hard to see and it's bad, and I hope he'll come back."
DC: You were driving Giorgio's car today – was there any difference driving that compared to your usual car?
Glock: "Normally it's not different because it's in the same car, but on Friday we had my car, the T-car, with no problems and I was pretty good over the kerbs. We changed it and had the same set up (put onto Giorgio's car) and now we have a big problem with the rear, and so we have to look now at the car to see if anything is wrong, but I don't think so because it's the same set up. I think the problem, and I said it to the engineer, is that I was too nervous and was too aggressive on the first qualifying lap, and maybe for the second one I was too soft, too easy, you know? You have to find the good compromise, and that's the problem – I haven't got enough experience."
DC: Has it sunk in at all yet? I have no idea how it feels to be sitting where you are
Glock bursts out laughing. "I don't know! It's... difficult to say... I think I'll go back to the hotel early, go to sleep early, and have to be cool for tomorrow. But I have no plan how to manage the day tomorrow – we will see, and go on to the race and see what happens – that's the easiest way, or the best way, to do it.
Eddie Jordan, of course, wasn't going to stay far from the media when there was a big story happening in his team. "Timo's a great young driver," he noted earlier in the day, "and anything could happen here. I think he's a chance for a top ten finish."
"Eddie said that?" Glock boggled later when this was put to him. "Maybe if it's raining tomorrow, because I had some good tests in Silverstone in wet conditions, but I think it's a little bit difficult for tomorrow!"
DC: Michael didn't get points in his first race, so maybe you could beat him!
Glock laughs again. "Yeah, maybe! Yeah, but points are only possible when it's a completely crazy race with a lot of crashes - then it's possible to go into the top ten. But tomorrow my target is to look for the first two laps because I think it's a little bit crazy in those first two laps, and maybe I can drive the race near Nick. So that is the target, to be close to Nick – but I don't know how the car is for the distance tomorrow – normally it's good, the long run on Friday (in the T-car) was good, but now we have some oversteer and it's interesting to see it in the race tomorrow."
It was early on Sunday morning that it all sunk in, that he realised he was about to fulfill a long held dream of being a Formula One race driver. And it was about this time that the nerves set in. "The morning was a big problem for me because I was so nervous," Glock chuckled on Sunday afternoon as he recalled the goings on of one of the longest days of his young life, "and it was a long time because I was at the circuit at eight o'clock, and there was a long wait for twelve o'clock and the race.
"I was so nervous I couldn't eat anything! And I was drinking, drinking, drinking, but when I went out for the first time in the car and drove to the grid I wasn't nervous any more, and I said 'now you are ready for a race'. But the problem was I left the car and I was really hungry, because I wasn't nervous anymore!"
Glock also finally got to meet his hero, who was now to be, at least nominally, his rival. In the drivers' briefing on Sunday morning, Michael Schumacher asked him if he was going to race, and then after the drivers' parade later the day the World Champion came up to the Jordan motorhome to see the younger German and wish him well, telling him to "just have a good race, and have fun." Jenson Button also came over to wish him luck while he was waiting for an interview with RTL next to Ralf Schumacher. He didn't mention the poor lap on Friday, which now seemed about half a year ago.
And then, at last, there was the race.
"Yeah, it was not bad – the start was really good, and the first lap was not bad but I crashed (with a wayward Christian Klien) and hit the front wing, and that was the biggest problem for the first stint. There was a lot of understeer and I lost a lot of time; it was difficult to find the right way because you haven't got enough brake, power and front grip for the fast corners or the chicanes – I lost a lot of time to Nick, and there was a big gap before the first pitstop."
Glock finished the first lap in tenth before being overtaken by his teammate on the next, and then lost a place per lap before stabilising his drive. He was fifteenth after his first pitstop on lap 17, moving up a place when Heidfeld was delayed after hitting his fuel man in the pits.
"We changed the front wing in the first pitstop, which cost a lot of time, and after the first pitstop we had exactly the opposite – we had a lot of oversteer like in the qualifying. It was difficult to find a rhythm, and then you have to look in the mirrors all the time for the fast guys to let them through and get out of the way, and it was a bit difficult to find the right way and the best compromise. I think I lost a bit of time there."
Glock had a big moment when the rear end of the car locked up just as race leader Ralf Schumacher was coming up to lap him at the hairpin on lap 27, and continued on to his second stop on lap 44.
"In the second pitstop we changed the front wing with less downforce to get a better car for the last laps, and it was better but I lost a bit of power fifteen laps from the end – I don't know if it was the engine, but it sounded a bit different and I don't know what was the problem – I have to ask the guys in the meeting later. That was a big problem to save the engine, and to save the gap to Nick – it was, after the crash with Christian Klien, a big problem."
Klien, a lap down on Glock, wanted to unlap himself on lap 67 – Glock was prepared to let him through on the straight, but Klien tried to overtake at the chicane, spinning and taking Glock with him. Both cars continued after the spin, and Glock finished 11th on track, 0.3 of a second ahead of Heidfeld.
DC: You had two incidents with Klien, and you guys used to race each other in Formula 3. What's it like facing up to him in the big game?
Glock: "Yeah it's good – it's better to crash with him than with Michael Schumacher, because he was in the front! It was a little bit funny, but the good thing was we could drive to the end."
DC: When you damaged the wing, did the team allow you to make the decision to stay out?
Glock: "Yeah. I asked the guys, because I had so much understeer, and I said 'look at my wing because I can't see it, and I don't feel anything at the front' – they looked at the wing and said go, go, go, it's only a small flap – but it was a big problem. So the lap times came back a little towards the end because I changed the TC a little bit to get more oversteer on the exit, and that was good and the lap times weren't bad at the end, and we changed the wing at the first pitstop."
During the interview on Sunday, Glock sat with his overalls rolled down and his Nomex undershirt on, which revealed some strange padding underneath on his arms – afterwards he rolled his sleeves up and pulled the taped on padding off his arms, wincing as he did so, to reveal his already deeply bruised arms below.
"We had a new carbon seat in the car at the Nurburgring, and it feels good for Friday tests, but not for race distances," Glock explained. "My right arm and leg were completely numb at the end, and I can't feel it – I drove at the end (of the race) with just my left arm! The problem is I have two different lengths on my legs, and when you make a seat you think that's okay, but then you go for the race with the seat – I don't know what we've got to change, but it's a big problem over a race distance."
DC: Now that you have 'Timo Glock: Race 1' in the history books do you feel any different?
Glock: "No, only that normally on Saturday and Sunday I have an easy life, and that changed a little bit! It's a big difference, and a lot of work to do for the car, with the press – but it's funny, it's good, it's nice work. I love it!"
DC: And what happens from now? Do you know what will be happened, for instance, in Indy?
Glock: "I don't know – we will see what is the decision for next week, but my feeling is I go on Friday in the car and test, and I hope that Giorgio comes back because he is a good friend and I think it's the right way to think that he comes back, not hoping that he can't come back – I think that is the wrong way. I have to think that hopefully he will come back because he is a guy of the team, and it's important that he comes back."
DC: Have you spoken to him?
Glock: "No. I think I will see him tonight or tomorrow."
Eddie Jordan was in no doubt about the quality of the drive he had just witnessed from his latest driver. "Well we were talking about Michael Schumacher, and I remember his first race; he kind of covered himself in glory in qualifying but there was a problem or he damaged the clutch or whatever, it doesn't matter, but he didn't last past the first corner. I think what stands out about Timo is that he fought hard in the first corner, damaged his nose but kept going towards the end of the race when he must have been suffering.
"This is a car he's never driven before, and he fought with Klien even though he was a lap ahead - Klien and he fought for the championship in Formula 3 last year, so there was a little bit of a needle there. Overall when the dust settles I have to say it was a very memorable Grand Prix for him, and it's something that I said to him in the motorhome, that whatever happens you never, ever forget your first race, and the fact that he finished it, did everything that he said he was going to do, fought at the end with Nick so that he stayed in front when it would have been easy to let him go, and with the agro between him and Klien.
"I'm very pleased that he finished, and I think it was as good a debut as you can ever find, in a car that clearly is getting better but is not a points winner yet. I think the team was a little bit unlucky, with the hose not coming off properly - at the time we were running Nick ahead of [Giancarlo Fisichella] and the Toyota cars, and as a result of that maybe today we could have squeezed some points. But that's life – you have two cars finish, the team is, very slowly, getting better and it's consistent progress – maybe it's not enough, but we have something to look forward to with the new engine for Silverstone."
After the race Glock, Heidfeld and Jordan all went to the Cirque de Soleil, the world famous Montreal-based performance troupe whose charity was the subject of the Bahraini sponsorship on the yellow cars over the weekend, for a little relaxation ahead of a big training exercise that the drivers were to embark upon in the few days, between the Canadian and US races.
Meanwhile, back at the track it was revealed that the scrutineers had found potential problems with the air ducts on both of the Williams and Toyota cars, reporting the breaches to the race stewards for their deliberation. Jordan's spokeswoman Helen Temple was trying to get through to her trio without much success, and finally the stewards announced that all four cars under investigation were to be thrown out from the results due to over-sized ducts.
Ralf Schumacher's second, Juan Pablo Montoya's fifth, Cristiano da Matta's eighth and Olivier Panis' tenth place finishes were all stripped. Timo Glock not only finished in the top ten, he earnt two points for seventh, with teammate Nick Heidfeld following up for the final point.
When he was finally reached via his mobile phone, Eddie Jordan, as ever, put his own unique spin on the result. "Timo has joined an exclusive group of drivers who have scored points in their first race," he noted, "and I think there have been only six of them since Jordan has been in Formula One, and that they've all been Jordan drivers – even Mark Webber drove for Jordan in Formula 3000. So all the drivers who have done it in the last fifteen years have been Jordan drivers!"
Glock himself could scarcely stop laughing. "It's just unbelievable, a perfect day!" he roared over the sound of the music behind him. "The team did a really good job, and I'm really happy for the team and for where that puts us in the Championship. It's just perfect – it couldn't be better! Eddie said I'll have a top ten finish, and now it's proven to be true!"
He then went back to watching the highwire act at the circus – and after the weekend he'd just lived through, he must have known how the acrobats feel, so high up above the ground, better than anyone else in the audience.
Giorgio Pantano is a very happy man. It might seem a statement of the obvious to say that someone who has achieved a lifetime ambition would be pleased with himself, but compared even to the other drivers who have found a seat in the big game this year (Christian Klien and Gianmaria Bruni) he seemed almost goofily ecstatic. Pantano (pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable; PAN tano) looked to be in a blissful state of disbelief all weekend in the Melbourne paddock, a permanent smile creasing his face as he looked at anyone who walked near him, and a had a hello for anyone who returned his glance. Considering his past, he's earnt the right to be pleased.
After three years in Formula 3000 many people thought Pantano's Formula One career had sailed by him; no one succeeds in the junior category in their first year, but if a driver hasn't won it in his second, then the men who count tend to look elsewhere. The talent was always there - winning the German Formula Three title isn't something that comes lightly - but the problems (both financial and vehicular) continued, and his career started to look like it was sliding away from him.
Until December, that is. Jordan were negotiating with Jos Verstappen for their second seat, but Pantano's manager kept calling the team, just in case. And when the former deal fell through it was a simple matter to put everything in place to push the Italian into a pair of yellow overalls. Did he ever think he'd never make that final step up? "Yes, for sure!" Pantano laughs as he recalls his time on tenterhooks, so far from the fierce white Australian sun he was basking in on the Thursday before his Formula One race debut.
"It was quite hard to come here, but finally we could find the solution. We found it with Eddie [Jordan] to be in his team, to find an agreement and do this. I was so happy about the confirmation to have the seat! I wasn't so excited or drinking champagne - I was just happy, because I wanted to be sure I could be in Formula One."
And now, after years in the wilderness, he is.
"For sure it feels quite exciting for the moment," he smiles behind his sunglasses, looking around the area where he was sitting, behind the pit that has his name over the door to the pitlane. "I'll feel quite nervous until the race starts, but for sure it was a dream for many years, and now it's come. I've had just five days before coming here, and I think I'm not really ready; we need some more time on the car.
"Probably the feeling with the car is nearly there, but we can try and do our best now, especially this weekend, because we've done not a lot of testing, and we can see that. For sure I think for me Jordan is a good team to be with for my first year, and I think this is a team where I can learn quite quickly, and where I can come quite quickly on a high level."
DC: What would you say your expectations are?
Pantano: I think just be in the race, be there at the end.
DC: And for the whole season?
Pantano: Pfft, we can see the first race and then start to make some decisions, we can think about the others after.
DC: Every driver has as their first job to beat their teammate - that's a pretty tough call for you.
Pantano: Yeah, because I have quite a good teammate with good experience, good feedback also I think, and to beat him would be quite good for me - I can for sure see this situation.
DC: Nick Heidfeld's quite a quick driver with a lot of experience - how do you think you're going to stack up against him?
Pantano: You know I just need time in the car, I need to get a feeling for it, because Formula One is not easy; it is something very different from the other cars because there is so much to learn, not just to understanding the other drivers or feel the power and the braking. There are many things you need to understand.
DC: We talked about your expectations, like everyone has done a million times, but you are very new to this; how do you actually know what can be achieved? Do you talk to Nick and he says this is what we're going to do?
Pantano: I don't spend a lot of time with him; I think in the future we will do that, and we can start also today to do something like that. I think it's not a problem to talk with Nick. At the moment it's difficult for me to say how something is going better, how something is not good, because I don't have really a good feeling with the car; I need really more time in the car.
DC: How do you think the teammate thing will go here in comparison to Formula 3000? There are a lot of sharks here.
Pantano: Yeah, it's a bit different! For sure we need to work out this situation, but we can manage it; no doubt about it.
DC: Last year in the 3000 paddock you would be kicking a soccer ball around or riding your scooter up and down - there won't be anymore of that stuff.
Pantano: Yeah I know, but I think I can have the same feeling with the mechanics as in 3000, I don't think that's any different to here; you maybe can't kick a football or play around with a scooter, but the feeling with the mechanics can be the same for sure.
DC: You were in Formula 3000 for three years and were fast but had a bit of bad luck, but you've finally made it here whereas Wirdheim's testing, Bourdais is in CART - is it kind of odd to see that?
Pantano: I don't compare myself with other drivers, I just... we are here now, and I have to think about here now - I don't compare myself with other drivers. I'm different; I'm not these other drivers.
DC: You came in with some sponsors of course, as most drivers do now - who are your sponsors just out of interest?
Pantano: There are a few sponsors, but if I'm honest I don't know who they are! I know the name, but I only know just a little bit what they do.
DC: So how does that work out - is it something your manager arranged?
Pantano: I think he just found the money for me to come in this situation, but it doesn't make me feel bad about this, to come here with money; Formula One is going like this at the moment (smiles). For sure Eddie would like to have me on the team, and I feel happy about that.
DC: Do you think Jordan might be the best fit for you considering where you are in your career?
Pantano: For sure - it is one of the teams that can win a race, and if we have to compare with others Jordan has won races, even last year! When the people are saying the car is not good they say not good things about Jordan, but they won a race. I think this year they are coming back, for sure they are coming back, and I am feeling very good about that; they want to come back for sure.
DC: The Formula One drivers now are incredibly fit: how much of a difference is there for that between 3000 and here?
Pantano: At the moment I am doing the same exercise, because for Formula 3000 it was probably too much for what I do, and I know here the hard thing to do is the neck and the more you can work at the gym the more you need to drive the car, because there you can really help your neck.
DC: So really the best fitness plan is to drive the car?
Pantano: Yes, for the neck, but for the rest no.
DC: For how fit you need to be in Formula One, are you at 100% yet?
Pantano: Probably not; maybe in Bahrain I will be 100%. Probably more than 100%!
DC: How do you find the difference between a 3000 car, which you know so well, and a Formula One car?
Pantano: It's another way, another situation for sure. It's entirely another car, and you cannot compare; there is not another similar car to Formula One. The most difference you can find on the braking and the power, especially on how quick you go through the corner compared to the other cars. That makes the difference. But the braking tested me quite a lot.
DC: How hard is it to come to grips with that? You have to come so deep into a corner in these cars, and that must take some time to get used to.
Pantano: Yes, for sure! I don't know how long, but I think I am nearly there to understand all this.
DC: You've signed the contracts, driven the car, you're wearing the shirt, but do you think it's sunk in yet that you are actually a Grand Prix driver now? Do you feel like a Grand Prix driver yet?
Pantano: Not yet if I'm being honest; not yet. Probably on the race on Sunday I will feel that; it is still just incredible to be here. I'm quite excited about that now! It's quite surprising to be there on the race on Sunday, when usually I watch it on the television! But now it's me who has to show my abilities with the car; it's just me. I think the team have to make me have the best feeling to go the best way and have the best situation. And we will try to finish the race and to do the best we can.