Fry stirs up Honda

by Rob Widdows on 23rd April 2008

I set out, the other day, to talk to two of the Fat Cats of Formula 1. It was only a partial success.

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I wanted to talk to Nick Fry (above) from the Honda team and to Christian Horner (below) from Red Bull Racing. I succeeded in the former and dismally failed in the latter.
Nick Fry because I wanted to know more about the arrival of Ross Brawn in the team and Christian Horner because of the progress that Adrian Newey is clearly making with the 2008 car.

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By the time I’d got myself organised and had an interesting chat with Fry, I had missed Horner. Quite understandably he’d given up waiting and probably had far better things to do with his time just ahead of the European season. Problem is, will he ever speak to me again? Have I gone into the black book of people who wasted his time? Hope not, as he’s an articulate bloke and his team is showing all the signs of moving up the order. Anyway, I apologised, and will wait a decent interval before knocking on his door again.

I like Nick Fry because, it seems to me, he has taken a lot of flak over the disappointing performance of the Honda Grand Prix team and yet he always seems so positive and upbeat about life. He came to Formula 1 from the motor industry, not an easy move, as things change a lot more rapidly in racing than ever they do in industry. He climbed the corporate ladder at Ford with almost indecent haste but his move to the whirlwind of F1 coincided with a dreadful time for the Honda team and somebody had to take the blame. The wacky ‘earth dream’ livery for the cars hardly helped the team’s predicament.

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Things are looking up, however, for Fry and some of this is undoubtedly down to his recruitment of the highly respected Brawn. Will he be the miracle cure for all their woes?

“The effect Ross has had on the team is nothing, and everything, depending which way you look at it,” says Fry. “Over the past year or so we’d been building up a very good engineering team so we had already made progress and let’s not forget that this year’s car was designed before Ross joined us. However, and this is a very, very big however, when Ross arrived he gave us all huge confidence, and that is so important. Without him, we might have begun to panic, but he is turning our natural optimism into a reality. He has helped us to focus on getting the basics working properly, he has laid a steady hand on the tiller, and – because of his past achievements – he has instilled more confidence into the people who work for him. I was absolutely singular in pursuing, and then hiring, Ross – he can definitely do for us what he did for Ferrari. We’re not there yet, but we will be in the top 10 in the next few races.”

So the much publicised recruitment drive of last year was worth all the stress and controversy?

“I interviewed more people from other teams than I can possibly tell you,” he smiles, “including a couple that became very public. If our dining room walls had ears then they would have a great story to tell, with the number of people who passed through there, but I’d made up my mind that Ross was the right person to get the job done. Given time, I have no doubt at all that we can be competing for the world championship. We’ve already seen what he can do, we have new aero packages, and there is no fallback plan. We are on our way, and I am absolutely convinced we will build from here.”

Nick Fry also has a feeling for the history of Grand Prix racing. He’s read Motor Sport since he was a teenager and says he always will. That’s good. And he likes Spa and Monza. “Yes, the sport has to retain some of its heritage,” he says, “and I can still get misty-eyed at Monza, even on a wet Wednesday. Formula 1 would be much the poorer for losing those European circuits and I can never see that happening.” Let’s hope he’s right.

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