Podcast

Miller could be ‘one of the best’: Schwantz

Kevin Schwantz, the 1993 500cc world champion, has lavished praise on Australian MotoGP rider Jack Miller ahead of his home Grand Prix, saying the 21-year-old Australian has all of the attributes to make it to the top of MotoGP.

Miller took his maiden premier-class victory when he won in dreadful conditions at the Dutch TT in June, becoming the first Australian MotoGP race-winner since Casey Stoner won at Phillip Island in 2012, the penultimate race before his retirement.

Ahead of this weekend’s Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island, Schwantz, who won the premier-class title 23 years ago for Suzuki, told the ‘Keeping Track’ podcast that Miller has big things ahead of him.

“I really like Jack and I think he’s got the talent to be one of the best,” Schwantz said.

“It was great to see him win in Assen and I’m sure that really helped his confidence, and it’ll be interesting to see him back, even more so at Phillip Island. He’s got to remember when he gets there that there’s going to be all the pressure of a home Grand Prix and not let that get to him, but I think that Jack has got a really bright future.”

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Schwantz, who won 25 Grands Prix for Suzuki between 1998-94, also spoke about the maturation of Marc Marquez, who won his third MotoGP world title in the past four seasons after taking victory in last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

“Whoever he’s working with, whatever he’s doing race strategy-wise, he’s a whole lot smarter racer than he was in the beginning,” Schwantz said.

“Fast is one thing, but to be able to assess ‘I’ve got something I can win with’ and go for it, or ‘I don’t have anything I can win with and I need to just get some points’, that’s a hard thing to figure out. That’s one of the things that makes Marquez so exciting to watch, because he thinks every race he starts he has the opportunity or the possibility to win it. I’m impressed with Marc Marquez so far this season.”

Schwantz also spoke about Suzuki’s return to the winner’s circle this season, while ‘Keeping Track’ previewed all the action at this weekend’s Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix with MotoGP race-winner and Fox Sports analyst, Chris Vermeulen.

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Australia could be ‘a Miller event’: Doohan

Australia’s five-time 500cc world motorcycle champion Mick Doohan says Phillip Island’s unpredictable weather could play right into compatriot Jack Miller’s hands at this month’s Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Miller, 21, broke through for a memorable maiden MotoGP win in dreadful conditions at the Dutch TT at Assen in June, and Doohan says the Honda rider is capable of adding to that success at home in what has been an unpredictable season.

Speaking to the ‘Keeping Track’ podcast, Doohan said he expects Miller, who has missed recent Grands Prix in Austria, the Czech Republic, San Marino and Aragon with multiple injuries, to race with the front-runners at the Island.

“The way the weather has been in Victoria over the past few weeks and with the Grand Prix not too far away, it could actually open it up to being a Miller event,” Doohan said.

“I’m sure he’s going to dig deep and try to give his best performance here in Australia at the Island. This type of circuit here with the layout might actually fall into his hands, and might actually show that he’s capable of running in the dry with these guys. Eight (different) winners so far this year … you never know what’s going to happen.”

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Doohan also praised the longevity and enthusiasm of 37-year-old Valentino Rossi, with the Italian superstar sitting second in the title race for Yamaha in his 20th world championship season.

“I haven’t seen him this enthusiastic about going racing since I first saw him come into MotoGP – he’s not getting any younger, but he’s not getting any slower,” Doohan said.

“I’ve got no idea why he’s that keen to be pushing himself this far after 20 years at the top end of the sport, but whatever it is, it’s good for the sport. He’s certainly why everyone turns on the television or shows up at the gate to buy a ticket.”

In an extensive interview with ‘Keeping Track’, Doohan talked about why Jorge Lorenzo’s move away from Yamaha and as Rossi’s teammate to Ducati in 2017 will benefit him, and why Marc Marquez has been able to build a 52-point championship lead with four races remaining this season.

Miller’s eyes on the Island

Australian MotoGP race-winner Jack Miller says sitting out this weekend’s Aragon Grand Prix gives him the best possible chance to be fit for his home race at Phillip Island next month.

The 21-year-old from Townsville stunned the MotoGP paddock with his maiden premier-class win in atrocious conditions at Assen in the Netherlands in June this year, but has missed three of the past four races after suffering back, wrist and hand injuries after a heavy crash at the Austrian Grand Prix in August.

Miller will sit out this weekend in Aragon to ensure he’s fully fit to tackle the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi on October 16, which comes the week before the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Phillip Island on October 23.

Speaking to the ‘Keeping Track’ podcast, the Honda rider said being able to compete in his home race was a priority with just five Grands Prix remaining this season.

“The hand is the main issue at the moment, but I’ve still got three broken vertebraes in my back as well,” Miller said.

“Not riding 100 per cent fit with all of the injuries I’ve got at the moment seems like an unnecessary risk. We’re not fighting for the championship – we’re always fighting to be at the front, but if you’re not 100 per cent fit it adds another element of danger into an already dangerous sport.

“We decided to sit out (at Aragon) to try to be as ready as possible by the time I get to Phillip Island for my home race. It’s one of my favourite tracks and somewhere I believe we can be really good at.”

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Miller became the first rider for an independent team to win a Grand Prix in 10 years when he took victory at Assen, and said the breakthrough result in just his second MotoGP season has cemented his standing in the sport.

“I think the whole year this year, the perception has changed a lot,” he said.

“I think people understand that my work ethic is the same as the other guys, that we are working as hard as any other guy and we do deserve to be there in the class of MotoGP, it’s not because I’m lucky.”

In an extensive interview with ‘Keeping Track’, Miller talked about his ‘shoey’ celebration that has since been emulated by the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Valentino Rossi, the influence rival rider Cal Crutchlow has had on his career, and his hopes ahead of the Phillip Island round next month.

Keeping Track #48: Ricciardo’s future is Ferrari, says Jones

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 19: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing sits in his car in the garage during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on June 19, 2015 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Australia’s 1980 Formula One world champion Alan Jones has high hopes that Daniel Ricciardo’s Formula One future is with Ferrari as teammate to four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Ricciardo and Vettel spent 2014 as teammates at Red Bull Racing, with Ricciardo having the upper hand over reigning world champion Vettel, and winning three Grands Prix in Canada, Hungary and Belgium.

Vettel jumped to Ferrari last season and finished third in the world championship behind Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, but Jones feels Ricciardo could be reunited with Vettel as a replacement for Kimi Raikkonen at the sport’s most iconic team.

Speaking to the ‘Keeping Track’ podcast, Jones said: “Kimi’s a little bit lucky to (still) be there, but I think Ferrari have done the right thing.

“They’ve obviously got plans for what they’re going to do next year, which I hope is going to be Daniel Ricciardo.

“They’re probably thinking ‘stick with the known factor, we’ve got Vettel, we’ve got Kimi’. (Kimi) does on occasion put up a good race, so I think they’ve done the right thing.

“But in terms of Daniel, I’m really confident (and) hopeful that he’ll land that Ferrari seat next year.”

With the 2016 season set to roar into life with the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix this weekend in Melbourne, Jones believes Mercedes won’t have it all their own way this year as they attempt to annex a hat-trick of drivers’ and constructors’ titles.

“I think Mercedes are doing their old tricks – I think they’ve been sandbagging, and I think they’ve been doing laps (in testing) with full tanks (of fuel) and so on,” he said.

“But I think even they will admit that they’re a little bit wary of Ferrari. At the end of the day I still think it’s going to be Mercedes, but I’m hoping that Ferrari are going to take it to them.”

Episode 48 of ‘Keeping Track’ also spoke to two-time Australian Grand Prix winner David Coulthard, along with Geelong AFL captain and event ambassador to the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix, Joel Selwood.

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Keeping Track #47: Ecclestone says F1 ‘happy’ with Melbourne

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 14: Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing drives during final practice for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 14, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)Bernie Ecclestone has declared himself “happy” with Melbourne’s long-standing relationship with Formula One, with the Albert Park circuit set to host its 21st world championship Australian Grand Prix from March 17-20.

In an exclusive interview, the chief executive officer of Formula One Management told the ‘Keeping Track’ podcast that he was personally keen to secure the future of the race in Melbourne until 2023 before the retirement of Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Ron Walker last year.

“This is something I’d agreed with (Walker) – we got it signed so I’m very happy,” Ecclestone said.

“We’ve sort of become friends (with Melbourne). It’s been one of those sort of nice friendly relationships – it’s worked well, and everybody’s been happy. I’ve trusted the people completely and they’ve sort of trusted me, so it’s the best way to run a business.”

Ecclestone also endorsed Australian Daniel Ricciardo as an ideal international ambassador for the sport, saying the Red Bull Racing driver “has been super”.

“We need 10 more Ricciardos,” Ecclestone added.

Ecclestone also spoke about the expansion of the F1 calendar to a record 21 races this season, Ferrari’s quest to challenge Mercedes in 2016, and who he feels is Lewis Hamilton’s biggest challenger as the British driver chases a third consecutive world title.

Episode 47 of the podcast also reviews Formula One testing from Spain with Peter Windsor.

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Keeping Track #46: ‘Jet fighter’ cockpits coming to F1, says Wurz

Mercedes haloFormula One cars will feature canopies in the not-too-distant future – that’s the view of Alex Wurz, the Austrian former F1 racer and Le Mans 24 Hour winner who is now chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, the body that represents drivers in the sport.

F1 is set to move away from traditional open-cockpit cars in 2017, when a ‘halo’ head protection device pioneered by Mercedes will become mandatory on all cars. The move comes in the wake of the deaths of Marussia F1 driver Jules Bianchi and former F1 driver and Indycar racer Justin Wilson in the past 12 months, both of whom suffered fatal head injuries from racing incidents.

Speaking to the ‘Keeping Track’ podcast, Wurz says he foresees the ‘halo’ system being replaced by something that offers drivers even more protection against potential head injuries before too long.

“In a few years’ time we’re going to move to jet fighter canopies, which for my taste is going to look really cool,” he said.

“It’s even maybe a safer option, but it’s not as implementable in the shorter-term as the halo system.

“All of the teams have 100 per cent agreed that the halo system is the one that is the fastest in its implementation and it doesn’t have any drawbacks. That’s maybe going to make the cars 7-8kg heavier, but it’s definitely a big step towards further safety in F1.”

Australian F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo has been a vocal advocate of greater head protection for drivers, and Wurz said the Red Bull Racing ace isn’t alone in his views.

“In a meeting, we asked the drivers specifically who is against head protection and who is in favour of it, and of the 95 per cent of drivers who were at this meeting said ‘yes, we have to go and make Formula One safer and go with the extra head protection’,” Wurz said.

“At no point do I see that the racing must be dangerous to be attractive. Racing must be competitive, it must be exciting, but I don’t see any aspect that danger has to be present in F1.”

Wurz also spoke of the adjustment period drivers will face getting accustomed to the new ‘halo’ system for 2017, while ‘Keeping Track’ also reviewed last week’s pre-season test in Spain, and assessed the fledgling days of the new American Haas F1 Team, which will make its debut in Melbourne this month.

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Keeping Track #45: Ricciardo preaches caution

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 24: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing talks with team mates during Formula One Testing at the Red Bull Ring on June 24, 2015 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images)

Daniel Ricciardo says last year’s struggles following a breakout 2014 season have seen him adopt a conservative approach for this year, which kicks off with next month’s Formula One Rolex Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Ricciardo’s star rose dramatically in 2014, when the Australian won three Grands Prix in his debut season at Red Bull Racing alongside teammate and reigning F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel en route to finishing third in the world championship.

Last season, with Red Bull struggling with Renault’s engines and Mercedes streeting the field, Ricciardo could only manage two podium finishes, and finished eighth in the world championship.

Speaking to the ‘Keeping Track’ podcast, Ricciardo says last year’s disappointment has seen him adopt a cautious mindset ahead of the new campaign.

“You erase any targets in a way – deep down I know what my goals are, but you don’t set them right there in front of you,” Ricciardo said.

“It makes the approach in my mind a bit more conservative, but on the flipside, it makes you more hungry to get back to the success. I only had a couple of podiums last year, but when I stood up there, I really made sure I soaked up every second I was up on that podium. It certainly makes you appreciate it.”

Ricciardo says opening the new season at home is a privilege, and one that he never takes for granted, no matter how heavy his workload is leading into his home GP.

“The first year, you get in the car and you’re exhausted, and it’s only Friday,” he remembered.

“That’s managing the more stressful side of racing at home, but it’s awesome having all of that extra support to start the season there. It makes me even more motivated to get going and make sure I arrive in Melbourne in the right shape and in the right frame of mind.”

Ricciardo also weighed in on the subject of closed cockpits potentially making an entrance into F1 as early as 2017, while ‘Keeping Track’ also spoke to Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams ahead of the new season.

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