I wandered lonely as a cloud in the paddock of the Circuito Estoril when all at once I saw Nick Padmore and a black and gold Lotus in the pits (and also a green and white Williams). Beside the pit lane, beneath the garage roof, driver coaching and consuming coffee in the breeze.
Just to explain: I have a strange habit of picking flowers around the paddock in Estoril. Flowers grow everywhere in Portugal and they smell so nice. You can also smell petrol and engine oil in the paddock, I love that. Meeting Nick Padmore and watching him drive the Williams FW07C was really exciting. I felt that familiar rush of adrenalin I’d get when Formula 1 used to race and test in Portugal. So naturally I had to catch up with Nick and ask him few questions.
iberianmph.com: First of all, the obvious obligatory Goodwood Members’ Meeting (the Bruce McLaren Trophy Can-Am race victory and a new overall lap record) question: how did that win feel? The car, Team Surtees Lola T70 Spyder, seemed like a pretty physical thing to drive, at least from the outside…
Padsta: Just awesome! Goodwood is a very special place to me. I first started coaching drivers there in 1996 thanks to Peter Gethin. The race was just so much fun. After I had a rubbish start I just had to get on with it. The car is a real beast with a lot of power and torque. But very predictable and fun! I’m amazed by the amount of people send their congrats. Just awesome.
iberianmph.com: We’re hearing the 1983 Tyrrell is your favourite race car. Have you got any new favourites?
Padsta: Yes, my new favourite has to be the Williams FW07C. It has an Amazing amount of grip. I’ve been blessed to have driven 9 F1 cars from 1971-1983. But you still can’t beat a Historic Mini Cooper S. That car requires everything to keep it flying!
iberianmph.com: Monaco, 2014, Historic Grand Prix… Driving the Wolf on the narrow streets the principality and so close to the barriers… Is it as competitive as with modern F1, how hard is everyone pushing? After all, old F1 machinery is not hugely safe but still very expensive to wreck.
Padsta: In every championship the first 10 or so are pushing hard and making it very competitive. Now, for Monaco which is so tight you just can’t afford to slip up as it will be pretty expensive. That was a fantastic experience and one I hope to repeat.
iberianmph.com: Ground effect vs no ground effect F1 cars: they say ground effect cars are not very kind to the drivers and require a fat wallet to sit on. True or false? How does it feel when the ground effect kicks in?
Padsta: Ground effect is very impressive. You have to be very committed to have the skirts working. So in a fast corner the car is asking you to push the throttle down more and more. It’s a very different feeling as the centre of the car is sucking the Tarmac off! Non ground effect cars are a lot more sideways as the rear brakes traction quite easily. The other good thing about ground effect is the braking. You can hit the brakes so hard at the first point and its stops very quickly.
iberianmph.com: What’s the inspiration for your helmet design?
Padsta: My crash helmet design comes from my Dad’s. He’s had green/blue on his helmets and cars since the 60s so it had to be done really. The tear drops come from Jean Alesi.
iberianmph.com: Driver coaching is quite an intriguing subject. What’s your approach to it?
Padsta: I love it! It’s just so cool. I really enjoy the phycology of it. Building the confidence in a new driver takes time but once it’s there it just grows. I’m very busy with coaching in lots of different cars.