How the Beeb tempted EJ back to F1

After four seasons away, Eddie Jordan will be a Grand Prix regular again

his month’s Australian Grand Prix sees BBC TV’s first coverage of a Formula 1 race for 12 years, and Eddie Jordan will be there, talking to camera, as one of the team. And now, after initial misgivings, he’s raring to go.

“When the BBC first came after me, I said no. After four seasons away from F1, no way did I want to go hiking around the world again. Freedom’s the thing, not contractual obligations. But they kept on at me, and the more I thought about it, the more I started to get keen. Ex-drivers have often been used by TV, and of course we’ve got DC [David Coulthard] on board. But I don’t think an ex-team boss has done it before. A driver can only tell what he sees, but a team boss thinks on a different level. He knows what gets said, and what gets decided, after the driver has left the debrief. Drivers don’t sit in on appeals and stewards’ meetings. They don’t decide on strategy, or when to change engines, or how to structure the budget, or when to go after one sponsor instead of another.

“I’m just going to be myself. You won’t hear me putting on a fancy BBC accent. I sound like what I am, a boy from Dublin, and that’s not going to change. I’ll have to cut out the swearing, though. I know some of my old mates in Ireland are taking bets on whether I’ll make it to the end of the season, but I can always switch the swearing off.

“I don’t want to give any secrets away about how it’s all going to work – you’ll have to watch Albert Park to find out – but the BBC bosses, Niall Sloane and Mark Wilkin, want me to focus on people. Bernie’s agreed to do a bit with me from every race. He’s the worst man in the world to interview, but at least I’ve been around the block with him, I know how he operates. I want to talk to people who matter: Max [Mosley], Luca [di Montezemolo], Ron [Dennis], Frank [Williams].

“F1 this year is going to be a three-part political drama starring Max, Bernie and Luca, as chairman of FOTA. A struggle for power. It’s going to be fun to watch. Anybody who thinks that Luca’s got it all sorted out doesn’t know how hard Bernie can be. His technique is to throw a depth-charge into an argument and cause total chaos and confusion, while he quietly goes about his business and gets what he really wants. And what he wants is to have the Concorde Agreement signed, and the Concorde Agreement has to be very specific about costs. It’ll be signed very soon, you mark my words.

“I’m in favour of unifying as much as possible in F1. It should be each team’s chassis, and each team’s engine, and each team’s aerodynamic package, but apart from that they should save money by sharing everything. Why do 10 teams all have to spend time and money designing and making their own, say, brake pedals? What’s wrong with having a standard brake pedal? Nobody watching the race, or watching the TV, can see any difference. Nobody complains about having standard tyres. Why not utilise the same logic to make Formula 1 more sustainable?

“With the world economic situation, do I think there’ll be fewer races? No, I don’t. Do I think more of them will be in strange places? Yes, I do. Does it upset me that there won’t be a French GP, or a Canadian GP? Absolutely. I’m furious. You can’t call yourself a World Championship if you don’t have a race in North America.

“On the track this year, without doubt the racing will be between the old guard, Ferrari and McLaren. And BMW: they need to step up to the plate a bit, and my guess is they will. You’d assume they’ll be the first to get KERS really working for them. And it’ll be interesting to see how Alonso goes. Some see him as the best driver in F1 at the moment, but there are so many good kids out there.

“That’s the main thing that’s persuaded me back to follow F1. Have we ever had a time with so many young drivers so tightly grouped, in terms of talent? I’m hugely impressed with Vettel. And Hamilton, of course. And I love Massa. Kovalainen’s been a bit of a disappointment so far. Then you’ve got Kubica – he’s mentally come of age now, he’s ready to take on the fight for the title. And don’t forget ex-Jordan driver Nick Heidfeld. Everybody thought he was dead and buried, but not me.

“It’s the most exciting time to be coming back to F1. With such a huge and dramatic change in the regulations, somebody is going to get it very right very quickly, and somebody else is going to get it very wrong very quickly. We won’t know which is which until Australia.”