Q. How is it going for Team Lotus in its second year?
A. Pretty much as we expected. Really, the first season was about securing 10th place in the series. And not just securing 10th place, but building up the team so that you were this year not just the team racing at the back again, but you were going to be a Formula One team, a proper one. So for us it was about putting much more effort into the next year’s car, building up the team, building up the factory so that you could challenge the existing teams.
And so I think as a team we are racing. We are not just driving around at the back. And that was the aim for this year. We’ve got another little bit to go. But I think we have made the step.
Q. What is it like as chief technical officer in a team where you start out at the bottom, whereas before you were winning races or challenging for podiums?
A. I think it is a unique challenge and one that, to be honest, I am enjoying immensely. You get a much more personal sense of belonging in the team. I was there in my study at home when it was a team of one person and it was just me putting plans together. And that is something that you never think you will get a chance to do, or will even manage to do. And to have done that in modern Formula One is a very unique thing.
What is nice about the whole thing is that we have this mix of being a fresh, young sort of innovative team, Tony [Fernandes] and the shareholders really pushing to embrace the social media and do things differently, be very open, but with a sort of core of experienced people who have done it, worked together before, know how to really gel, and now starting to get some very serious partners and sponsors. Combined with the Team Lotus name and heritage, I think we’ve got a really interesting mix, and the fans are reacting on that as well.
Q. In fact, even if this one is a new team, could it be said that you have always specialized in rebuilding teams, rather than joining established ones?
A. A lot of the top technical directors just move around that top circle of teams, and of course, inherently, they always remain fairly successful. Whereas my career has been built on the go-to guy when you’re eighth, ninth, tenth and you want to become third....
It has been said, “Mike has never won a world championship as a technical director.” Well, in some ways it is because I have always been head-hunted. There’s more teams that aren’t winning than are. And actually what happens is that every time it’s always been the one down at the bottom that’s coming along saying: ‘Mike here is an offer, come along and do that job.’ And it’s a job I really quite enjoy.
But it is different now. In those jobs you are always sort of the hired gun. And I always used to describe it as the border town that gets the sheriff to come in and clean out the outlaws. And once they have got rid of all the outlaws you don’t need him anymore and he moves on to the next sort of lawless town, and that has sort of been my career.
I think now there is much more of a sense of belonging and it being my team. I certainly will retire at this team. Now it is a sense of belonging and wanting to take the team all the way. I think for me it will be a tremendous sense of satisfaction to have taken the team from one bloke sitting on his own in an office to the winner’s podium. NY Times