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Jonathan Legard Q&A

BBC Formula 1 commentator Jonathan Legard

The BBC Formula 1 team will be answering your questions in a new series for the website this year.

This week, commentator Jonathan Legard is the one called in for questioning. Thank you for all your e-mails, a selection of which Jonathan answers below.

After three races, which driver has impressed you the most and why?
Anees, UK

It's a close run thing between Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, whose overtaking and aggression has been impressive, particularly in Malaysia where he charged his way through the field.

But I think that Vettel just edges it, not least for that stunning pole position in Australia. Every time Vettel has been called upon to do something special he's done it, and if he had the reliability then he'd be a clear championship leader. He's just picked up from where he left off last year.

Do you see any of the rookie drivers as potential championship contenders for the future?
guitardom89, UK

I'm almost stating the obvious by picking Nico Hulkenberg of Williams. The German has a great CV and ranks alongside someone like Lewis Hamilton for his performances in junior formulae.

Hulkenberg's qualifying in Malaysia, where he finished fifth, showed his mettle. He has an experienced manager in Willi Weber, who also looks after Michael Schumacher, and you can see Hulkenberg, out of all the new drivers, going all the way to the top.

Jonathan, I'm interested to know your thoughts on the rather modest title challenge of Michael Schumacher, the poor man looks a shadow of his former self and a little out of his depth.
Patrick Cronin, UK

I agree that it has been a modest title challenge so far and we absolutely haven't seen the best of him.

Michael Schumacher is forced out of the Malaysian Grand Prix
Schumacher was forced out of the Malaysian Grand Prix on lap 10

But I'm also wondering if we are expecting too much? He's been away for three years; Formula 1 has moved on and no matter how brilliant you are it takes a bit of time to get back into the swing of things.

I also wonder how different it would be if Schumacher was in a Red Bull or a Ferrari. If Mercedes are able to bridge the gap to the front then I would never rule Schumacher out of winning races.

Whether he can then be a championship contender depends on how quickly he can get up to speed and how much of a gap the 41-year-old has to bridge in the drivers' standings.

It seems Red Bull will run away with the championship this year. Can Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren catch up with the ominous pace of Red Bull? If yes, when?
Pradosh Choudhury, India

Yes, they can. If you look back at last season, McLaren recovered from a shocking start and Red Bull caught up Brawn, who looked to be running away with the championship in the first half of the year. But with such limitations on testing the development race is going to be just as important as the race on the track.

Red Bull will have competition though it's difficult to say when. If the Red Bulls had been reliable, they would be leading the championship by now.

In Malaysia, the Ferrari-powered Saubers of Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi had engine problems as did Fernando Alonso's Ferrari during the race. Do you think Ferrari's engine reliability will be an issue?
Euan Wark, Scotland

Ferrari have admitted they are concerned about engine reliability, but also clarified that Alonso's problem in Malaysia was unrelated to those of the Saubers. Both Alonso and Felipe Massa changed the engines in their Ferraris before the rigours of the Bahrain Grand Prix as the team know how vital reliability is.

Alonso has only lost one of his allocation of eight engines this season, as has Red Bull's Mark Webber. It's worth remembering that last season Sebastian Vettel didn't have any new engines to call on for the final four races but he still won two of those.

Engine reliability is not a big issue for Ferrari yet but it could be different if there's another failure at the next race in China.

Hi Jonathan, there's a lot of scientific and technical information that the average viewer, like myself, doesn't understand about a Formula 1 car. How much more is there to a race than what we see?
Alex Smith, UK

Plenty, because F1 cars are such highly complex and sensitive pieces of machinery made up of thousands of parts which all need to work in harmony. I think you have to strike a balance on the BBC programme between Tomorrow's World and sports commentary. We don't want to blind people with science as we aim to talk about the personalities of the drivers and teams as well as the car's performance.

Hi Jonathan, Since your return to F1 last year, how have you found the transition from radio to TV F1 commentating? I think it was John Motson who described the move from radio to TV as the most difficult aspect of his career. Keep up the good work!
Joe, United Kingdom

I did eight years of radio commentary and it is a very different discipline to television commentating. On the radio you are painting the pictures while on television the skill is to measure the words and the information to fit the images whilst still reading the race and being ready to react.

You can run the risk of discussing the times of the car and then there are bits of cars flying up in the air and you have to work out what's happened to which driver and where it is, so it's very different.

Out of all the F1 races you have commentated at, which is your all time favourite?
Steffanie, England

Jarno Trulli of Lotus
Jarno Trulli's experience has helped Lotus in their debut season

It's another close call between Belgium 1998 and Brazil 2009 when Jenson Button won the championship when it seemed most unlikely that he would do so.

In Spa, there was rain, a massive first-lap collision, accidents and incidents were happening all the time while, off-track, Michael Schumacher was threatening David Coulthard.

Ultimately, Damon Hill won for Eddie Jordan's team for the first time from his team-mate Ralf Schumacher. Everything was happening and you had to have eyes everywhere on the track, so it's Belgium '98.

Is there any added advantage of seeing the race from the commentary box compared to anywhere else at the track or on the TV?
Rayhan Chouglay, England

The commentary box is usually on the pit straight so you can see into the garages, what's happening at the pit-stops and where people are on the track. The commentary box also has all the timing screens, which you don't have anywhere else on the track or on the television.

I would feel slightly detached if I wasn't near the pit straight during the race and that's something I have to get used to at Monaco and Canada where they are in different positions.

What preparation do you do and how much do you carry out before each grand prix?
Oliver B, United Kingdom

Before each grand prix weekend, I'll review the race from the previous year, read all the reports and I update my notes on all the teams and drivers' best races and any points of interest for the upcoming race.

That process continues over the weekend, as I watch practice and then talk to the teams, drivers, engineers, tyre supplier Bridgestone and race director Charlie Whiting. I am a human sponge for information for the weekend!

From a commentary perspective is it easier to read races now that there are less pit stops to muddle the order and have you found races more or less enjoyable to call without refuelling?
Chris Ward, UK

The ban on refuelling has made it simpler in a way as most teams just stop once during a race, but the downside of that is that races can become too straightforward as the procession in Bahrain.

Another downside is that you lose out on some of the pit-stop drama and the spell of overtaking when the cars rejoin from the pits in the chase to the line.

That said, I thought Malaysia was a good race, it didn't have all the drama of Australia, but it had a lot happening with plenty of overtaking and some interesting showings from minor players like Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari.

Which of the new teams has the best driver line-up and which can be competitive in the latter part of the season?
Patrick Carney, United Kingdom

I'm most impressed by Lotus at the moment. They've got experienced drivers in Heikki Kovalainen, who seems more determined than ever, and Jarno Trulli, and the technical expertise of Mike Gascoyne will be absolutely crucial as the season develops.

Hispania and Virgin have started on the back foot and are still learning on the job. They are definitely making progress but they have a big task ahead of them to close up and be competitive in the second half of the season. I think the experience of Lotus will count for more.

Jaime Alguersuari impressed against Michael Schumacher in Melbourne and did well to finish in the points in Malaysia, so do you think he is an emerging talent?
Matthew McMahon, Ireland

At times last season, we wondered if Toro Rosso would keep Alguesuari on, but he has started 2010 really impressively. At 19 he came into F1 as the youngest driver in the history of the sport when he made his debut in Hungary last season and at times it seemed a bit too much, too soon.

So far this season, he's out-raced his team-mate Sebastien Buemi in all three races, he did really well against Michael Schumacher in Australia and he did really well to pick up his first points in Malaysia. It'll be interesting to see how he performs on tracks that he knows because for the first few races he hadn't driven them before in an F1 car.

Do you think Robert Kubica will win any races this year, and possibly challenge for the drivers championship?
Robert Upton, UK

Never rule out anyone winning in F1 - just think of Olivier Panis winning for Ligier in Monaco in 1996 and Sebastian Vettel for Toro Rosso in 2008 - and especially don't rule out someone as talented as Robert Kubica.

Robert Kubica
Renault's Kubica is seventh in the drivers championship

Renault also look as though they're on top of the aero problems that have bedevilled them for the last few years.

The form book suggests it will be a tall order for Kubica to win with at least four teams quicker than Renault, but if there is a chance to win then he'll be in a position to do so.

Jonathan, if you could bring one major technical innovation from the past, and put it back on today's F1 cars, what would it be?
Andy Carr, England

Good question. I'm never one to hark back to the 'good old days' and I'm always looking forward - and that's the way it is in F1. Having said that, I wanted slick tyres and low-fuel qualifying back and I've got my wish this season.

If anything could be added, perhaps the powers that be could investigate the possibility of a revs boost with a set number of chances to use it over a race to improve overtaking.

Hi Jonathan, as I am someone who is looking to be a commentator after finishing secondary school this year, I was wondering how do you approach the first lap of the race? When the lights go off do you focus on the track, the monitor or both?
Callum Patterson, Scotland

I always watch the monitor because that's what everyone at home is watching too. It means that I'm only talking about what people can see rather than following my own eyes. On the first lap, I try to look out for key moves initially at the front. If you look back to Australia this year and Alonso's spin that had implications for those following.

There is often too much happening off the start to follow everything and if I tried to do that then I could end up missing a move that's happening at the front. We are also often at the mercy of the TV director who is in charge of the 'world feed' provided by Formula One Management and replays and on-board shots can fill in details that we didn't see at first glance.

Good luck with the commentary, Callum. My advice would be to get involved in local, student or hospital radio and get practising and learning as there is no substitute for experience.

Jonathan Legard was talking to Sarah Holt.

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see also
Vettel storms to Malaysian GP win
04 Apr 10 |  Formula 1
Button wins dramatic Australia GP
28 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso triumphs as Vettel fades
14 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Jake Humphrey Q&A
02 Apr 10 |  Formula 1
David Coulthard Q&A
29 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Mark Webber Q&A
19 Mar 10 |  Formula 1
Eddie Jordan Q&A
12 Mar 10 |  Formula 1

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