In the hot seat -- Derek Warwick

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He caned his Renault 5 Turbo 2 but Derek Warwick hated the RE60, was never going to finish Brands in ’82 and got through the dark days of ’91 thanks to his mum

Who do you consider to be the best driver you raced against on the ovals, and are there any others from that scene who you think could have made it to Formula One as you did? — Martin Ritson, Aldershot

There were certain drivers who were around when I raced Formula Two Superstox, people like Dave Pierce, who was probably the best overall driver in terms of smoothness, finishing and always being top of the points. There were others like Geoff Goddard who was something a bit special, but whether or not they’d have applied themselves to circuit racing…

How were you able to race in second place in the 1982 British Grand Prix when the Toleman was hardly capable of running in the top 12 before or after? Was it kosher? –Tim Harrison, Horsham

I have to admit it — we were on half tanks. We were having problems with sponsors and we needed to make a big splash. But because the race set-up was so good, and the Pirelli tyres worked so well on that day, I think we could have finished well in the points even if we’d filled the car up, so I think it was a mistake. Right up until the point I ran out of petrol I was thinking, “Really, they’ve filled this car up and I’m going to finish and win this race!” But unfortunately it wasn’t to be.

It’s been said that you and Eddie Cheever thought you didn’t like each other until you teamed up in sportscars, but after that you became firm friends. Is this true? — Nick Govus, via e-mail

Eddie and I had always clashed. We started off in ’86 with Jaguar. We were both sat in a sauna in St Moritz doing a training course and I said to him, “You know, Eddie, I’m surprised that you signed for Jaguar as number two to me”. And he looked at me and said, “I’ve signed as number one — you are number two to me“. Within seconds we were out of the sauna and running for the telephone to talk to Tom Walkinshaw! We raced together for three more years at Arrows and when Paul (Warwick) died he spent a lot of time ringing me up and talking to me. The stronger bond between us actually came at Arrows — though we did have a couple of punch-ups as well!

What was it like being World Sportscar Champion for two hours in 1986, and then when you finally won it in 1992 the series being canned? — Christopher Martin, Fife

In the last race at Fuji in ’86 we would have been champions had we not got that misfire. It was a great feeling, though deep down we knew we weren’t really the champions — we were just trying to blag our way (there was some confusion over lap scoring). We knew what was going on — that Bell and Stuck were really the champions. When I won in ’92 it was massive for me — we had a great season; I had good teammates. It collapsed afterwards but that was a good year with world-class drivers and it meant a lot to me.

How difficult was it for you to carry on after your brother Paul’s fatal accident? Did it affect your driving or your approach? — Alec Cuthbert, Sutherland

It was massively difficult, because I’d made promises after Paul’s death to the family that I would stop. I thought that was the right thing to do at the time during that mourning period. Because of the press attention, we agreed with Tom (Walkinshaw) to take the car away to the Osterreichring to see whether I had it in me. I sat the family down and said I had to find out whether I wanted to carry on, and it was quite surprising really. My mother always supported her family and didn’t have an opinion on anything, but said to the family, “Look, Derek’s a great race driver and we have to honour the fact that he may still want to race”. That was quite an eye-opener. It was a tough time. Paul was not just a brother: he was a friend, a racing colleague, my hero, my future. At the end of the day we were trying some new dampers and one of them broke or seized and it threw me off at the Boschkurve — never hit anything, just stopped in the gravel trap. I got out of the car, went back to the hotel and just cried my eyes out. Never slept the whole night. Eventually I got up and looked at myself in the mirror and said to myself, “I have to either get on with it or stop”. In the morning I came to the circuit, got in the car, broke the record, had a fantastic day and carried on.

If you had really given Michael Schumacher a good hiding at the Nürburgring in 1991, do you think he’d have been more considerate on the track in the years since then? — Rosie Robertson, Surrey

No. I think he was too arrogant. He was obviously on a suspension if he didn’t come and say sorry to me the next day, but it was the most unbelievable ‘sorry’, in the circumstances, that I could have imagined. He must have realised that my brother had just died but there was no compassion. But, you know, that’s why he’s such a great driver. I don’t bear him any grudges. That’s what happens when exceptional people come along — they’re very blind to what’s going on around them.

I own a Renault 5 Turbo 2 with the first owner listed as being a certain D. Warwick. Was this one of the perks of racing for Renault in F1 in the ’80s? — Paul Constantine, via e-mail

Yes it was! I had several cars from Renault and this mid-engined Turbo 2 was my favourite. You can tell him also that I gave that car shit! I used to drive that thing flat-out everywhere, handbrake turns, 360s. And he’ll be proud to know that I drove that thing to its maximum and at the time it was the most fantastic car I had ever owned in my life!

What was it like sharing with Peter Brock at Bathurst in 1997, and was that your touring car highlight? — Paul Barry, Sydney

Well, I don’t think I had any highlights in touring cars! I went about it the wrong way. I treated my time in touring cars as a weekend hobby against professional drivers and I gave it the wrong approach. Peter Brock is an absolute legend and my time with him was fantastic. One day I was sat with Peter and before us there were 500 people queuing in front of what I thought was my table, but a lot of them would actually pull the poster away after Peter had signed it because they didn’t want me to deface it!

Have you ever considered taking part in historic racing such as the Goodwood Revival? — Dave Smith, Widmer End

I’ve never had the time or the inclination to climb back into a car — maybe an ’85 Renault — that was too dangerous to drive back then, let alone climb back into the f***ing thing now! Historics doesn’t excite me — I look at them and I’m bored by them. I love technology and I love just looking at modern stuff.

You turned down Williams for 1985 to stay at Renault and the Williams drive went to Nigel Mansell… — James Davies, Horley

It was right to stay with Renault: the ’84 car was good; you needed to be with a manufacturer. They then offered me a fortune to stay for ’85. When I made that decision I didn’t know that we were going to lose the top four or five people from the team. And in came some guy from Renault production who didn’t know his arse from his elbow. But I don’t lose any sleep over it: I’m alive, I’ve earned well, I’m very happy with my life and I’m very proud of some of the things I’ve done.

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