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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 11:05 pm 
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I thought it may be of interest to the forum members for me to share some comments from a talk Jock Clear (Ex Mercedes, BAR, Honda, Brawn GP, Williams, Benetton, Leyton House/March and Lotus) gave to iMech E members in Salisbury this evening.

The topic of his lecture was 'Engineering a World Champion,' specifically the role of the race engineer being a conduit between the driver and engineering staff. Decoding his information and providing data for the technical staff to work with, as well as ensuring the driver can overcome his limits by challenging his perceptions and what he is trying to do.

An example was given of his effective, 'coaching' of Lewis Hamilton to brake past the 'bump' into the first corner at Monaco, something Nico Rosberg had mastered but something that was not within Lewis' perception of possible. Eventually Clear persuaded Lewis that it was plausible and he did it, gaining a tenth per lap.

The feel of the lecture was quite 'soft,' little engineering detail but a focus on the human element of managing a world champion driver and the ability of a world champion driver to manage his team and rally them and the car development behind him. In this respect he couldn't speak highly enough of Michael Schumacher, Lewis, Vettel and Alonso. Men he marked as being truly phenomenally talented and able to direct, inspire and encourage their teams. Also he mentioned how the best champions have this 'edge' to them. Lewis and Alonso's attitude, Schumacher ruthlessness and Vettel's quirkiness. He said, 'If you are too nice, it's a bad sign.' Despite that, he stated that Damon Hill and Jenson Button are 'as worthy champions as anyone else, they channeled everything when they saw their chance....' Indicating perhaps that it is the intensity of focus that separates an all-time great from a world beater.

On the question of 'Car or Driver?' He believes it's one and the same as the driver dictates the development, the best drivers end up in the best cars for a reason. I asked him if he could think of a driver who hadn't delivered who maybe could have.... He said 'no, the best drivers get into the best positions.' The only possible exception was Rubens Barrichello, who was in his words; lazy. Interestingly regarding Nico, Clear believes he will never be world champion, he saw him across the table from Schumacher for three years and saw how he focused on the data of Schumacher's driving rather then his demeanor. How Rosberg couldn't echo Schumacher's personality. He will never be able to galvanize a team behind him, despite having natural ability up there with anyone.

A truly fascinating night, and what a gentleman Clear is. All the best to him at Ferrari, he is really looking forward to working with 'The Real Deal' Vettel and someone who 'Should be interesting to work with' Raikonnen.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 12:13 am 
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Very interesting and thanks for posting. It's always nice to get some real insights from people who have actually been on the inside!

Fascinating to see how important he thinks the psychological / human element is above actual driving ability. Not a view you'd usually see espoused, but Clear certainly has a right to be regarded as knowing what he's talking about.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 6:45 pm 
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I could never reconcile how Jock Clear had made all of those comments about Schumacher - when Clear was race engineer for Villeneuve - and then quite happily worked with Schumacher at Mercedes. And I'm not sure that we really have to take his word for anything if it's just an opinion. I'd sooner take notice of Eddie Jordan.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 7:05 pm 
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flyboy10 wrote:
I could never reconcile how Jock Clear had made all of those comments about Schumacher - when Clear was race engineer for Villeneuve - and then quite happily worked with Schumacher at Mercedes. And I'm not sure that we really have to take his word for anything if it's just an opinion. I'd sooner take notice of Eddie Jordan.


Interesting that you mention this.

Jock made it perfectly clear that he at no point agreed with his 'racing ethics' and that he did not want to work with Schumacher when he joined Mercedes because of the Villeneuve experience in 1997. However, after a year with Nico (who he didn't get on with) he happily became his race engineer, warmed to him and then grew to respect his talent and out of car manner during their three years in the team.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 7:29 pm 
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flyboy10 wrote:
I could never reconcile how Jock Clear had made all of those comments about Schumacher - when Clear was race engineer for Villeneuve - and then quite happily worked with Schumacher at Mercedes. And I'm not sure that we really have to take his word for anything if it's just an opinion. I'd sooner take notice of Eddie Jordan.


Depends what on. It would be daft to take Jordan's opinion on how certain drivers work in a team over someone who has actually worked with them in a team. Clear is obviously going to know a lot more about Rosberg than Jordan.

Obviously as you said it is just opinion, all be it an informed one.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 6:42 am 
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Great post, thanks for the insight. He has worked in so many garages with so many top drivers directly or on the other side of the garage. One question, was he saying that Rubens had the talent but was lazy and hence HE is the one driver who possibly should have left with championships?

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 5:45 pm 
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lamo wrote:
Great post, thanks for the insight. He has worked in so many garages with so many top drivers directly or on the other side of the garage. One question, was he saying that Rubens had the talent but was lazy and hence HE is the one driver who possibly should have left with championships?


Jock credited Rubens for being as quick as Jenson towards the end of 2009 but that was due to Rubens realising his one chance of the title was slipping away, so he upped his game too late. Ruben's was not as serious about his fitness as Jenson, he would turn up to races a few pounds heavier then the last, it was almost as if when he saw they had an advantage he relaxed rather then immediately focus his efforts. Jenson therefore had the immediate advantage.

Jock described how in the off season before Brawn GP happened Rubens was fired up to do whatever he could to help the team, he was on the phone eagerly stating he would be there as soon as needed. Once he signed his contract he was invited into the factory on a thursday to get his seat fitting done, the response: "Oh, errrrrrrrrrrr.... Can we make it Friday? I have plans on Thursday."

He had the talent to match world champions, but lacked the professionalism required to maximise his potential. Had he approached 2009 differently it could easily have been his name on the trophy.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 10:07 pm 
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Colinjb wrote:
Interestingly regarding Nico, Clear believes he will never be world champion, he saw him across the table from Schumacher for three years and saw how he focused on the data of Schumacher's driving rather then his demeanor. How Rosberg couldn't echo Schumacher's personality. He will never be able to galvanize a team behind him, despite having natural ability up there with anyone.

Dammit, why does this not even surprise me.

I always felt that he lacked a little something.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 11:24 pm 
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Some further insight, he asked for people to name drivers who looked to be capable but never did. Two names stood out from his experience:

Jean Alesi
Juan Pablo Montoya.

Again, he raved about their natural ability. But, he didn't split hairs: Montoya was 'thick as mince....' So no judgement, no deeper process. Therefore he had no chance.

Alesi was hamstrung by his emotion, which reduced him to the same level as Montoya.

Now, one of the contradictions I saw in Clear's reasoning (which I have been mulling over all day) is his forthrightness about these two, yet Kimi Raikkonen is a world champion...... And he doesn't see him on the same level as Vettel/Schumacher/Alonso/Hamilton.

Now, does that put him in the same bracket as Hill/Button?

The great thing about these evenings, they can give as many questions as answers....... But still, an honour to have the insight.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 07, 2015 10:11 am 
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I was thinking about Clear's comments about Barrichello, and I think I would have asked a follow-up question had I been present. Why does Clear think Barrichello was lazy? Was he lazy or had he become lazy, through having been a number 2 driver for far too many years?

The example of the seat fitting is a very poor one to illustrate laziness. The example doesn't tell us why the seat fitting was supposed to be on the Thursday, nor what importance his previously arranged engagement on the Thursday carried.
Let's turn the situation that Clear describes around, in view of what he told you about Schumacher or Alonso: would Clear have been impressed if Barrichello hadn't asked nicely, but firmly said "no, I'm engaged otherwise on Thursday, I'll be there on Wednesday/Friday"?

Another question for him that I would have had, is whether a driver like Barrichello could ever have had a chance in a team with Schumacher, in view of what Clear thinks are characteristics that mark the champions.

I like your question about Räikkönen. I believe that Kimi himself gave a partial answer as to why he isn't the same as Vettel/Schumacher/Alonso/Hamilton; after becoming world champion, he said that he had achieved what he said he set out to do, and that he really drives in F1 because he likes it. I think Räikkönen wouldn't be substantially different a person had he succeeded in winning the 2003 and 2005 championships also, and not "just" the 2007 one.

A final question I would have hoped to have put to Clear, is to what level the race engineers are aware of what the teams actually want the drivers to be and achieve. In other words, would I believe him if he were to tell me that Schumacher wasn't the number 1 driver, or would I just burst out laughing and having to apologize to him? :]

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2015 10:32 pm 
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Was this filmed? I just looked for it on YouTube but couldn't find anything.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2015 6:33 pm 
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myattitude wrote:
Was this filmed? I just looked for it on YouTube but couldn't find anything.


It wasn't filmed. It was a ticket only event for members of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2015 10:46 pm 
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Colinjb wrote:
myattitude wrote:
Was this filmed? I just looked for it on YouTube but couldn't find anything.


It wasn't filmed. It was a ticket only event for members of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

Oh that's a shame, sounds like a terrifically insightful event. Glad you enjoyed it :)


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2015 11:07 pm 
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F1 personnel tend to be a lot more honest and give more away when a camera isn't infront of them. Especially when they are out of employment or are speaking about teams they no longer work for.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2015 3:57 am 
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Thanks for the notes. Always interesting to hear stuff like this. Be it from team principals or race engineers or anyone else in the know a little bit.

Pity they didn't record it. I've seen plenty of lectures and events like this on youtube for many, many subjects. I usually listen to them when at work and just doing desk stuff. Nearly always intriguing.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:19 am 
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Montoya was "thick as mince" :lol:

Maybe Jock witnessed the cameraman incident live. Didn't JPM also get into a fist fight with his man JV?

He was certainly no Plato, I think that was part of his charm. Balls to the wall racer, probably wouldn't have made those moves on Schumacher if he was the measured and thoughtful type. I do think his temperament is what stopped him from winning WDCs though. Very much a "live for the moment" racer. The Michael Schumachers of the world always have that edge.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 11, 2015 6:42 am 
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Montoya's so called "lack of intelligence" is a bit overstated IMO. Well perhaps not his stupidity, but rather of how it effected his career.

It was not his stupidity which caused his car to fail at Austria 2003 and Japan 2003 when he was leading.

Quote:
Interestingly regarding Nico, Clear believes he will never be world champion... He will never be able to galvanize a team behind him, despite having natural ability up there with anyone.

Well at least he has the most important aspect of an F1 driver, natural talent. Any other problem is much easier to fix.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 13, 2015 6:36 pm 
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Really worthwhile and informative post!
I remember years ago reading from a sports psychologist in F1 that you could not teach a driver to take a corner faster, you could only change his perception of a corner. Jock Clear confirmed this view on the Nico-Lewis Monaco bump.
Thanks for this.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 13, 2015 6:52 pm 
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Colinjb wrote:
Some further insight, he asked for people to name drivers who looked to be capable but never did. Two names stood out from his experience:

Jean Alesi
Juan Pablo Montoya.

Again, he raved about their natural ability. But, he didn't split hairs: Montoya was 'thick as mince....' So no judgement, no deeper process. Therefore he had no chance.

Alesi was hamstrung by his emotion, which reduced him to the same level as Montoya.

Now, one of the contradictions I saw in Clear's reasoning (which I have been mulling over all day) is his forthrightness about these two, yet Kimi Raikkonen is a world champion...... And he doesn't see him on the same level as Vettel/Schumacher/Alonso/Hamilton.

Now, does that put him in the same bracket as Hill/Button?

The great thing about these evenings, they can give as many questions as answers....... But still, an honour to have the insight.


Agreed, very interesting insights about Alesi and Montoya. In my ratings comparisons I found that Alesi was at about the same level as Berger from 1992-1997, well below top-rated drivers and slower than popularly perceived. Berger after 1991 was never as fast as his early promise 1987-1990 and himself said Ï was always lazy and gauged my speed by my team-mate!"

The lack of racing intelligence Clear mentions about Montoya was glaringly apparent in two races when he sulked (at Williams), slowed right down and became involved in other's accidents. He was more concerned with beating team-mate Ralf than with the team, championship or his own career. I was appalled at the stupidity and waste of such natural speed and talent.

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Last edited by POBRatings on Sun Dec 13, 2015 7:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 13, 2015 7:15 pm 
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These insights shared by the OP are so valuable. In the 1980s I was fortunate to spend some weekends with an ex-Alfa Romeo chief mechanic, Giulio Ramponi, who had retired to South Afrca in 1968. Ramponi joined Alfa in 1918 as an apprentice, by 1924 was chief tester and riding mech to number one driver Antonio Ascari and worked with Nuvolari, Varzi and Caracciola in the early thirties, and was instrumental in getting Richard Seaman his drive with Mercedes-Benz in 1937.

Being an anorak-clad enthusiast I had prepared pages of questions, and had the luxury of long enjoyable hours listening to Giulio R sharing his knowledge, insights and acute memory, even though he was then over 80. I posted a piece on my blog on Ramponi's views. On driver differences they were virtually the same as Jock Clear's, usually character-based assessments that made the difference.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 15, 2015 5:47 am 
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Thank you so much for your post.

I use to have an F1 blog in which I always tried to discuss the exact aspects of F1 that Clear cleared (LOL).

It is fascinating to have such a first person account of how drivers do their thing and the different aspects of driving which actually influence more or less the outcome of a race or a championship.

You see, Clear always praised Barrichello to the media. I would never have guessed that that would be his honest opinion about Rubens, though I tend to read the words you've written quoting him less lightly than they were in the context he probably said them.

Nevertheless, I think that everybody agrees that Rubens never had the edge to be the champion and 2009 was the definitve answer if anyone was in doubt, not taking away the merit of Jenson who really nailed it good when he had the chance.

The thing about his fitness is strange really but it makes sense. I remember in the winter of 2008/09, Rubens was fit as ever. He lost a lot of weight to be ready to drive should a seat become available. But he really put some pounds during the season. Maybe he did not really have the will to be champion after 17 years going through so much fairy cakes and good stuff.

I am sure though that had Rubens driven for Brawn when he was at his peak (to me, his absolute peak was reached in 1999 with Steward. Rubens was a beast back then) he would easily clinch the championship. Unfortunately, Ferrari was the one single thing that kept Rubens from being a world champion in my view if we can elect something outside himself.

Anyways, thank you so much. I'm a huge fan of Rubens and I love to know exactly how good or bad he was and is.


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