“Formula 1 is a closed book in my mind” – Anthony Davidson


Anthony Davidson, Keith Collantine, 2010

Former F1 driver Anthony Davidson says the sport is a “closed book” for him now and he’s focussed on winning the Le Mans 24 Hours.

I spoke to the ex-Super Aguri driver today who said he was keen to see the proposed world sports car championship go ahead – and feels it’s just as good as F1 in many ways.

I also had a rare opportunity to race karts with him and examine the driving style of a world-class racer at close quarters.

A different world championship

Since contesting his final F1 race at the Circuit de Catalunya two years ago, Anthony Davidson has branched out into sports car racing. He feels it has a lot in common with Formula 1:

For some reason it doesn’t have the same following that Formula 1 does. Now I’m involved in it and I’ve seen how competitive it is I don’t see why because we have manufacturers involved and we have professional drivers that have been in Formula 1. And, arguably, who still deserve a place in Formula 1.

It’s strange. It’s something that I think about a lot that in so many ways it’s just as good as Formula 1 and the show is just as good as well. It’s a really great category to be involved in.
Anthony Davidson

Wind back the clock 20 years or more and sports car racing had its own world championship and several top drivers competed in both.

Now plans are afoot to revive the world championship for sports car racing and Davidson is firmly in favour of the move:

I really hope it happens. For me, anything that has the title “world championship” is appealing. Everyone wants to be world champion in their chosen category. It’s something I’m all for and would love the chance to compete in a world championship.
Anthony Davidson

“Formula 1 is a closed book”

When I ask the inevitable question about whether he might make a return to F1 he exhales and says:

You can never say no – and you can never say never – to that opportunity. But I think it’s quite slim these days.

And, like I say, I am fully focussed on sports cars now and I’ve got a great drive with Peugeot. Particularly after the defeat at Le Mans this year, when it was looking so good, it makes me even more eager to come back and get that victory under my belt. It would be without doubt the biggest thing I’d ever won and I’d consider it my biggest achievement ever, even more so than being in Formula 1.

In my mind, Formula 1 is a closed book. But, if the opportunity ever came up again I would definitely consider it. For now, I’ve always been 100% focussed on the task in hand, and the task in hand now is winning Le Mans.
Anthony Davidson

It’s clear his new found enthusiasm for sports car racing is sincere. He explains how since leaving Super Aguri he’s set himself the goal of winning the Le Mans 24 Hours:

Since Formula 1 ended [for me] I was in contact with Peugeot. I’d already done a few GT races with Prodrive and I knew there was more to life than Formula 1.

After F1 came to an end Serge Saulnier invited me to a test at Paul Ricard. I had no idea what an LMP1 car would feel like to drive, especially a diesel.

I went along and it was a very professional outfit, very impressive, the speed of the car was very good and I really enjoyed myself around a circuit I knew. I was pleasantly surprised with how close an LMP1 car felt – not just in speed, but all the controls, all the technological advancements that go along with a car like that – it felt very much like home to me.

So it was something I stored in my mind which I definitely wanted to do in the future. At the time it didn’t come to anything because of the circumstances, and I was still chasing Formula 1 at the time.

I ended up doing Le Mans with Prodrive again but this time in the Aston and it was a great experience. From that moment I knew I had to get into the best car to give me a chance of winning the race outright.

I set myself the goal for at least the next ten years of trying to win Le Mans. And I’ve now turned all my attention to that and happily stepped away from Formula 1 to achieve that.

I’m not missing it at all. I’m enjoying doing the radio work [for BBC Radio 5] and talking about Formula 1. It’s fascinating to see the rate of progress and the technology involved with F1.

But the LMP cars are on a par with what we had in Formula 1 just a couple of years ago with traction control and all the other electronic advancements that we have to play with. It’s a fascinating world and something I can really fall back on my previous experience of years as a test driver and the races that I did in 2007 and 2008.

So it’s very familiar and something I’m absolutely enjoying. They’re proper cars with proper teams. If Peugeot wanted to do Formula 1 they could easily do that. It’s just that they choose to do Le Mans.
Anthony Davidson

Turbodiesels and closed cockpits

Davidson races Peugeot’s turbodiesel-powered 908 while several other LMP1 cars use petrol engines.

This is just one example of technical diversity in sports car racing, which seems to offer more opportunities for teams to do something different than the ever more tightly-regulated world of F1:

I think you do see [technical diversity] in Formula 1 still, it’s just in a very clever way and a secretive way. It’s not as apparent as in sports cars – F1 cars all look similar and sound similar, because they’re all governed by the rules very heavily.

And it’s the same rules for everyone. Whereas the thing that makes sports cars great is that there’s diversity in the regulations for different types of engine and chassis and aero configurations. For example, open car or closed car – those things really open up diversity and the fans can actually see differences between the cars.

Driving a diesel is a great experience in its own right and I’m really glad that I’ve done that in my career. It’s very hard to explain to the general public – and other drivers, even – that there’s a definite skill in driving a turbo engine and it’s a bit of an animal you have to fight with. Which makes it even harder in tricky conditions like a street circuit or rain. It gives a good test of your ability.
Anthony Davidson

I meet him at a media event to promote the upcoming Silverstone 1,000km LMS race. He’s positive about the new-look track which F1 raced on for the first time this year:

I’ve driven the new Silverstone on a simulator and in a road car a couple of times. But it’s going to be a completely different experience with the LMP car.

I’ve been talking to the guys at Populous and I think they’ve done a really good job with the circuit. I think there could be more to come in the future as well, which is exciting.

Circuit design is something I’ve always been fascinated by. Even as a kid I would draw circuits in my school book – and racing cars, of course!
Anthony Davidson

See (here and here for F1 Fanatic’s earlier interviews with Populous.)


Anthony Davidson, 2010

Shortly before the interview I went up against Davidson on the Daytona Sandown Park kart track. Drivers and journalists were paired together for a one-hour race – me sharing a kart with Nigel Mansell’s son Leo.

I took the start from the middle of the pack while Davidson streaked away from pole position. Towards the end of my half-hour stint he lapped me with little difficulty. But that gave me the chance to watch his driving style closely.

He was fabulously smooth around Sandown’s many hairpins, carrying speeds I couldn’t dream of into the corners without allowing the kart to slide.

He chalked up the fastest lap of the day on his 14th tour. And he was incredibly consistent too – look at this sequence of laps beginning with his best of the day:

14. 49.979s
15. 49.999s
16. 50.018s
17. 50.081s
18. 50.090s

How does he do it? Here’s a tip from the mouth of the 1994 British Junior 100B and ICA kart champion:

It’s all about keeping momentum. It’s the same as driving any racing car, but even more so with karts because they’re very snappy.

As soon as you make a mistake they’ll snap on you and you lose all momentum. At least in a racing car you’ve got a lot more power to get you out of a situation.

But I’ve always loved karts. It feels like coming back home when I get into a kart.
Anthony Davidson

His real home race this year takes place on the same weekend as the Italian Grand Prix (11-12th September). Davidson will be joined by several other ex-F1 drivers including Nigel Mansell, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jean Alesi.

Images (C) F1Fanatic.co.uk

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62 comments on “Formula 1 is a closed book in my mind” – Anthony Davidson

  1. Magnificent Geoffrey said on 25th August 2010, 23:46

    Poor Ant. Such a nice bloke and a great driver who just never got a decent chance in F1. I remember him consistently sticking that BAR on P1 during Friday Practice sessions in 2004 and thinking ‘surely someone’s going to snap this guy up next year’ and it never eventuated. His only race for BAR, the best car he ever had the chance to race, ended after just a couple of laps if I remember correctly – what shocking luck.

    I had my fingers crossed for someone at HRT or Virgin would give him a race seat for this year, but as with most things in this sport, if you don’t have the money, you aren’t going anywhere. At least through his commentary, Ant has earned more respect from the fans than quite a few of the current drivers on the grid. And he did still get to race in the Formula 1 World Championship – that’s something not many drivers will ever get to put down on their C.V.

    • Ant came in for quite a bit of stick this year when he hit that Corvette at Le Mans, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt his career prospects much, either as a driver or a commentator/consultant…

      He seems to be an okay guy and I follow his Tweets, hope he is at least as successful as Brundle was in sportscars and this paves a way for a future F1 drive…

      • But Davidson didn’t hit or even touch the Corvette at all! Collard in the Corvette didn’t cover his position in the Porsche Curves and just got caught out by Anthony dashing past because Collard left space and he thought he had seen him!

  2. Subaru_STi said on 25th August 2010, 23:47

    I just got back from a race at an absalute monsoon soaked Sandown Park, and the guys there where talking about the visit (i even pinched some muffins that where on offer! lol), such a shame i missed out being there earlier i would have loved to sneak in some quick chats and seen the racing.

  3. Nick said on 26th August 2010, 0:21

    Can’t think of a more intelligent, eloquent, humble, witty F1 driver than ANT, ever. He is such a good commentator too, by contrast I can’t believe the BBC use that Legard guy who understands Motorsport less than my 10 year old son.

  4. Jonathan said on 26th August 2010, 4:52

    IMO, Ant is one of the most underrated F1 drivers out there.

  5. BasCB said on 26th August 2010, 6:34

    Very nice interview, Keith. Keep up the good work Ant!

    Although it is a shame he never got a good chance in a decent F1 car, his radio work is top notch and i would love a sportscar world championship to build a great reputation.

    I do think HounslowBusGarage is right, about it needing a Bernie like figure to give that series a good chance.

  6. Bleu said on 26th August 2010, 7:33

    Before Heidfeld took the job I felt that Davidson would have been ideal for the Pirelli test driver job – known as good test driver and not contracted in any team right now.

    But good to see that he has now other ambitions in racing and F1 is not all for him. Hopefully he can win Le Mans some day.

    • No, he’s done his days of F1 tyre testing, Michelin really rated him. In fact his triple stinted tyres from Le Mans were taken for their own museum!

  7. Eddie Irvine said on 26th August 2010, 9:27

    Very nice post keith ! I am very pleased, Ant is one of my favourite drivers, I really wish to see him even with a Virgin or Lotus racing again in F1.

  8. WarfieldF1 said on 26th August 2010, 9:30

    good interview Keith, with one of the best little drivers around.
    You should do Le Mans some year it doesnt clash with F1 Keith, its a stunning weekend.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th August 2010, 11:11

      Yeah I think I missed my chance for that last year. But then last year’s race wasn’t very good so perhaps not.

      The motor racing calendar would be so much better if Le Mans and the Indy 500 fell on non-F1 weekends. And all world champions were required to participate or face losing their superlicences…

  9. Rahim RG said on 26th August 2010, 9:52

    Really Touched by the interview….
    Great Job Keith…

  10. bosyber said on 26th August 2010, 10:10

    Very good interview Keith, and well presented too! Hope you just returned from a great honeymoon with your wife, refreshed to give us F1 in the best way imaginable.

    I remember feeling my ring like you do on the picture for the first month too before I got used to it :)

  11. Alex Bkk said on 26th August 2010, 11:45

    “Davidson races Peugeot’s turbodiesel-powered 908 while several other LMP1 cars use petrol engines.

    This is just one example of technical diversity in sports car racing, which seems to offer more opportunities for teams to do something different than the ever more tightly-regulated world of F1:”

    One of the best observations of the season.
    Earlier in this post James hunt’s name came up and I remember him responding to a question regarding CART racing. His comments were that it’s Club Racing. My best guess has always been that his comments at that time were based on the spec series racecrafting regulations involved in the series.

    F1 needs more diversity and fewer regulations before it becomes the epitome of Club Racing.

  12. Ronman (@ronman) said on 26th August 2010, 12:47

    Great Interview Keith… You lucky &*(^*^&% you raced with those guys???? great stuff and keep it coming…

  13. John H said on 26th August 2010, 15:50

    Nice one Keith. Gotta love Ant. Linked off the BBC sport website too:


    Although, f1fanatic seems to be listed as autosport… boo.

  14. Bullfrog said on 27th August 2010, 12:49

    Welcome back Keith – hope you’re enjoying every minute of married life.

    I enjoyed reading this. I like the way you introduce each section, then just let the driver have his say. I’d imagine that’s easier with a good communicator like Anthony than, say, Raikkonen…

    Some nice details too, about driving style and the observation about driving turbos, which will matter again in F1 in a couple of years – I guess some turbos will be more driveable than others.

  15. I’ll be honest – I was secretly hoping all along last years silly season we wouldn’t lose Ant to F1 because he’s so great in the commentary, miles better than Brundle. It’s selfish, but I need him! :P

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