In this episode of the Car and Bike Show, Formula One drivers Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg talk to us about the Indian GP and the big changes to their teams next year. We bring you the detailed review of the SsangYong Rexton launched by Mahindra in India.
Here is the full transcript of the show. See the video of the full show here.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: A very warm welcome to all our viewers here on CNB. It is a special episode because it’s a special weekend. Formula One is rolling into town and it’s all set to really takeoff; all the action, all the excitement, ready to unfurl at the Buddh International Circuit this weekend.
So we’ll be tracking that very closely. But it’s not just about the race. It’s also so much that happens around it. We always bring you a little bit of a behind-the-scenes peek at what’s going on, some of the action, some of the preparation for the race. And you know what, before the actual action begins on the track, so many people sort of come in, there are so many people who are bringing this all together and then, of course, you got the drivers, who have lots of fans here in India.
One such driver –a former world champion with over fourteen wins and someone who doesn’t really need an introduction is joining us right now. A warm CNB welcome to McLaren’s Jenson Button. Great to have you with us, Jenson. Thank you so much for speaking to us. Got to start by asking you first up, just what it is like to come back to India for the second race here?
Jenson Button (F1 World Champion, Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes): My first experience was last year in India, and didn’t really know what to expect. But the first thing I realize when I came out of the airport-- two things, one, the driving on the road is different to what I’m used to. Yeah, it’s quite crazy being on the roads. And for me, it was a real shock. The second was the color. You know, there are so many colors everywhere. I love that about India. The third was the food. I really do love the food here. As you said, I went for a curry last night, which was just amazing. It really was. So that’s one of my favorite things about India and also how everyone is very friendly.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Let me also get a sense of how the season’s been for you. I mean, it’s been a season of ups and downs of course; but what are the special moments, you know, things that you want to recount for us?
Jenson Button: Yeah, it’s been a tricky season with some very good races; but also some very bad races. So it’s been a real rollercoaster this season. But the wins obviously stand out; the two wins I’ve had. The last one at Spa in Belgium, really meant a lot to me because that’s the circuit I’ve always wanted to do well at. It’s a real driver circuit, a real fast flowing circuit. A little bit of the Buddh Circuit here is being based on Spa.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Yeah.
Jenson Button: It’s a very special circuit for me; so to win there was great. The downs -- probably around the Canada time -- I was really struggling with the car whereas my teammate was winning the race. He did a great job.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Yeah.
Jenson Button: And that just proved the car was working. He could get it to work whereas I was struggling with it. So that was a difficult time for me.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: I want to talk to you a little bit more about the strategy on the race, but before that for our viewers, let’s quickly talk about the changes that have been made to the Buddh Circuit in preparation for the second Indian Grand Prix.
BUDDH INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT
After a successful first edition of the Indian Grand Prix, the organizers have had to make only minor changes to the track at the Buddh Circuit for season two. The green cover around the racetrack has been drastically improved to reduce the dust in the air and also for cosmetic value. To keep the track dust-free, sweepers with special trucks that spray water have been working over time. The final few days will see special dust-busters imported from Bahrain for cleaning up the track. India’s inaugural Formula One race was won by Sebastian Vettel, who was winning practically every race last year. But one incident during qualifying was perhaps the only glitch in what was an otherwise perfect race--Felipe Massa broke his suspension and had to retire after he bumped into the curb on one of the turns.
Farhan Vohra (General Manager, Race Operations, JPSI): The curb on turn eight where he broke the suspension for this first time has now actually been made longer. Drivers were sort of shortcutting the chicane. And to avoid that problem, we have an additional curb behind the regular curbs, which is called as sausage curb.
The height of the newly installed curb is in accordance with the requirements of FIM, which is the world governing body of motorcycle racing. The Buddh International Circuit is hoping to host a MotoGP as early as next year.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: The other thing, which sometimes gets a little bit lost on Formula One fans or we don’t know enough about, is the involvement you have with the team.
Jenson Button: Yeah.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: I mean, even now at McLaren. It’s not just that you come in and you race. You’re involved with what’s happening at the MTC. Tell us about that. Tell us about how important it is for you to do that as well.
Jenson Button: Yeah. Obviously, the best part of our job is to drive a Formula One car, that’s the bit we love. But, we also know that there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that we need to do. The important work for us is driving the stimulator, which is basically like a computer game but very high-tech. We do a lot of our setup work that, you know, we sit inside the car and it moves and you got a massive surround TV and 3D goggles and what have you. And we do a lot of our setout works. We test in there before and after every race. But also we spent time at the factory, talking through the car and future developments and ideas and what we think we need to improve on. So we do a lot of that with the team. And for me that’s an important part, because I really enjoy working with the team. I like feeling like part of the team, not someone who jumps in the car on the weekends. I want to develop a car around me because that works best for me. So I’ve enjoyed my involvement with the McLaren. And when I first arrived, I wasn’t sure how it was going to be, you know, being with my previous team for seven years.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Yeah.
Jenson Button: But I feel so at home. And I felt so at home very early on with this team. So, yeah, this is the place for me and I can see a very long future with McLaren.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: They would be happy to hear that--British car, British driver, that’s a nice combination as well. The MTC, nice place to actually go and do some of that work as well, isn’t it? I got a chance to visit early this year--
Jenson Button: Yeah.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: -- and it’s pretty cool.
Jenson Button: Yeah, if you ever get the chance to see or have time to look on the internet, the place that we work, it’s pretty phenomenal. It’s a great location, and a beautiful building. Obviously, the most important thing is what goes on inside, not what the building looks like.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: You mentioned the best part of the job was to be able to drive the Formula One car.
Jenson Button: Mm-Hm.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Second best part, the sports cars as well -- the McLaren MP4-12C and now you’ve got the P1.
Jenson Button: The road car. Yeah, but I haven’t got one yet. But--
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Have you driven one yet? Have you--
Jenson Button: I do have a McLaren, which I’m very lucky for, a 12C, in Monaco where I live, a white one. Yeah, I don’t drive it very often to be fact. I normally land--
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: You need someone to run it for you every now and then.
Jenson Button: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Charge the battery out, yeah.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Yeah, keep it running.
Jenson Button: I’ve got people to look after it. But, yeah, we’re very lucky; we’ve been given lovely cars. We’re very spoiled. But we do work hard as well.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: No, I asked this because there’s so much anticipation now the P1, so--
Jenson Button: Yeah.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: --exciting stuff for sure.
Jenson Button: Yeah. I mean, 12C is a super car. And it’s, for me, the best handling super car. And I’m not just saying that because I work for McLaren, it is fantastic. And we’ve actually had involvement with developing it. And there’s a new one coming out which is basically, it’s like a Hypercar really, Seven to eight hundred horsepower, and it’s got more down force. So it’s help me have grip than most GT cars.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Next season. Let’s quickly talk about what we can expect, what we should look forward to as well when it comes to next year. What do you have up you sleeve?
Jenson Button: Well, I was at the factory a couple of days ago and saw the new car. And it’s looking good. There’s--
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Tell us all about it.
Jenson Button: Yeah, it’s looking good. But there is a lot more development needed still. We still have few months to go before we release the car in February. But there is obviously a change in the team. Lewis has decided that he wants to go somewhere else to race next year, which for the team, I think was a surprise. You know, he’s achieved a lot with this team.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: For a lot of us I think was the surprise.
Jenson Button: Yeah. Yeah. Well, for me it was well. But, sometimes there is change and you learn to live with that. And we have obviously Sergio, is how you pronounce his name, I think.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Yeah.
Jenson Button: Joining the team next year, which I think is exciting for the team. It’s a new start in a way. He is very young.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Mm-Hm.
Jenson Button: He seems talented. And willing to learn, and that’s very important in this sport. So, yeah, I’m forward to working with him. I really don’t know how it’s going to be. But it’s a--
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Sure.
Jenson Button: --it’s a big challenge for him and it’s a big opportunity for him with McLaren and hopefully he will embrace that.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: But it’s important to have a partner or the second driver has to be someone who challenges you in many ways, isn’t it?
Jenson Button: Yeah, definitely. I mean, with Lewis, that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come to McLaren, you know, to have a very competitive teammate, also a world champion. He is extremely fast over one lap; Lewis is probably the fastest driver consistently over a season. There’s obviously more to it than just qualifying. It’s been challenging for me, but also great. You know, we’ve had a great partnership. We found each other on the circuit. W found ourselves wheel to wheel a lot on the circuit, a lot of good fights, which is great. And, yeah, I have enjoyed our time together, but as I said, things to come to an end and people move on, so.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: All the very best from all of us at CNB, it’s going to be a great race and we’ll certainly be rooting for you. Thanks for joining for us.
All right, so Jenson Button, all set as far as the Indian Grand Prix is concern, and lots to look forward to the next year with a new partner. Lewis Hamilton moving of course to team Mercedes GP. Now, we, of course, will talk about something that we mentioned very briefly on the program last week. And we’re not losing sight of what’s going on in the market pre-Diwali. The Mahindra Ssangyong Rexton is here. And they’re officially, of course, calling it just the Ssangyong Rexton by Mahindra. Lots to take you through; because with great pricing, it very attractive in its own class. Here are all the details.
It was in November 2010 that we first showed you this car. The Rexton has been one of Ssangyong’s best sellers globally and with good reason. Its pedigree is solid, courtesy a Mercedes Benz derived design, chassis and powertrain. And earlier this year we told you that it will be this car that Mahindra will debut in India as the first Ssangyong offering here. That is indeed why there has been a delay in bringing the brand into our market; and we believe that was a smart move. The first Ssangyong in India had to be impressive, attractive and capable. The new revised third-gen Rexton W is indeed all of those things.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Now the previous Ssangyong Rexton, the one we’ve showed you on the program, the W289 as it was called internally, is so different from this car, I mean I paused there because it was almost something I wouldn’t have expected. Somebody said, look here is the car, we’re going to face lift it, this is not what I would have expected, because the W290, as this one is called, can certainly go ahead and enter itself into a beauty pageant if it wants to. The previous car, not so much. There’s good metal work in the hood, we just showed you this car from the Paris Motor Show last week on the program. So I don’t really need to go on about it. The Mercedes inspired front grill works for the shape. Headlamp cluster; again, just so temporary. Nice little barrel here, which has the Rexton badging inside it.
Now this element, which is just a parking light, I’m told, it’s nice, because it’s a departure from the typical LEDs you’re seeing in practically every car these days. So it would have been a departure from that, however it’s not a daytime running light. I would like to see it become one because then it would, sort of, become a signature of the Rexton, if you will.
Mahindra has chosen not to call this the Mahindra Rexton and they just said - all right, we’re going to go with Ssangyong, bring it into the market, and create like a premium brand. So it’s like the Toyota Lexus, you got Mahindra and you got Ssangyong. Fine, no problem. RX7, that’s the model. So RX5 would be the manual. This could have gone somewhere along the side but all right, I’ll leave with that. AWD all-wheel-drive is standard, it’s not going to be optional and so do I really need to see that here; again, could have been somewhere on the front fender. You’ve already got RX7, by the way, on the front fender as well. AT tells you this is automatic, all right. Rexton, the way the name is embossed back here, it’s always been like that with the Rexton. So I’m okay with that because it’s like a signature and then you got, ‘by Mahindra’.
Well you know like I said, I don’t think you need to drive that point home. These cars will be selling out of Mahindra dealerships anyway.
And that is the plan. First Delhi and Mumbai, and then Bangalore and then by Diwali, dealers in five other cities will start selling the Rexton. A separates space is being created to house Ssangyong branded products within existing dealerships. Again, we think that’s a smart move, trying to create a parallel network would have been a waste of money.
The RX7 has a powerful engine and its figures do justice to its bulk. The specs, in fact, seemed adequate when compare to others in this class. The auto has tiptronic options, which needs to be engage before you can engage the gears from the plus/minus buttons on the steering wheel. The automatic gearbox is also adequate, though it could have been a bit more responsive. The initial pickup also has the engine sounding more labored than it really is. But the gearshifts are fairly smooth and cruising in higher speed is also great.
The Rexton RX5 is lower-spec manual variant, which has the same engine block though tuned to deliver lower output.
Having spent a fair amount of time with the older car and knowing the fact that there aren’t huge mechanical changes or powertrain changes, I wasn’t really expecting a very difficult ride or very different feel and I have to say that the work that’s been done on the suspension as well as the chassis settings seems to have come through in terms of improving the overall right quality; handlings not too bad too. While, of course, there is body roll, there isn’t as much as I remember or as much as I had expected. So that’s something that will go down well in the segment because most of these vehicles, which are operating in the space, are all plagued by this body roll problem. That’s something that you’ll like about the Rexton for sure.
It also has a nice, sort of, presence on the road and again that’s something that will go down well with the Indian buyers. The part that I’m not too thrilled about though, is that the steering, while it’s very smooth and lot of buyers might like that, for me it’s too much plane. It has just got a very loose feel, and I would prefer more feedback. A little bit more stiffness gives you a little sense of accuracy and precession that, I think, is lacking.
The car comes with front and side airbags and ABS standard. The RX 7 additionally has hill descent control, speed sensitive power steering and stability control. The RX7’s all-wheel drive is on demand, which is again a plus. You also get cruise control, auto headlamps, and wipers and sunroof only on the RX7.
The Rexton is a good start and especially given its prices, we believe it will establish the brand quite well in the Indian market. We hope Mahindra adds more cities and gets more Rextons out on our roads soon enough. And yes, we also hope it brings in the Korando C equally quickly.
NICO ROSBERG ON FORMULA ONE:
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: This time we’ve got another Formula One driver for you joining us on the program. Now we spoke earlier with Jenson about what it’s going to be like once Lewis leaves the team and he gets in a new teammate in Sergio. Well, the team that gets affected besides McLaren is, of course, Mercedes GP, where Lewis Hamilton is moving to, and his future teammate is getting ready to welcome him. I’m of course now referring to Nico Rosberg, who will see Lewis Hamilton step in after Michael Schumacher retires at the end of the season. Now they know each other, they’ve been go-karting with each other at the age of fourteen. So, I started by asking him, what that expectation is going to be like on that future partnership.
The announcements that have happened in terms of the change of drivers, big announcements, the fact that Michael retires, the fact that Lewis comes in; How do you, sort of, look at all this from an individual point of you?
Nico Rosberg (Driver, Mercedes Amg Petronas F1): Well, I enjoyed working with Michael, it was a great time, very good experience for me also, very challenging and I’m glad that I manage to beat him for the three years, which is nice. And at the same time now I also look forward to new challenge and with Lewis coming in. I know Lewis very well. We used to drive together in go-karts, we were teammates.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Yes.
Nico Rosberg: When we’re fourteen years old. So we’re really good friends at the time, so friends now. And it’s going to be great with him. And he’s definitely one of the best in the sport at the moment. So it will be good to measure myself against him.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: The reason I asked you that is because, as you mentioned, I mean with Michael, there was all this huge baggage of him being the seventh time world champion. He’s obviously senior to you and you would probably want to learn a lot from him. With Lewis, it is a different dynamic; I mean, like you mentioned, you’ve known him for so many years now. Do you think that will change your approach to how you compete with each other?
Nico Rosberg: No, I don’t think. Teammate is teammate, you know, and one of the most important things in F1 is to beat your teammate. So I think I’ll be able to learn from Lewis too, just as Lewis will be able to learn from me. You know, you always exchange with teammates and work together in a way too, because in the end we’re employees to Mercedes and we want to do the best possible job for Mercedes.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: And that’s the thing; a lot of times whether it’s the fans or particularly the media, we end up missing that point, isn’t it? That’s when you talk about this face that you want to compete with each other, it’s good for the team. Most people see it as rivalry, but that’s not what it is.
Nico Rosberg: Well it’s also rivalry.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: No, you know what I mean though--
Nico Rosberg: But mainly it’s--
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: It’s good for the team.
Nico Rosberg: --for the team because you push each other; if you are really driving at a high-level, the other guy is always going to be doing something better. So you can pick that out and try and do that yourself, and that will bring your level up, and then the other guy is going to be like, oh, he has moved up, I need to too. That just continuously raises the game.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: But how did you manage to tackle that pressure that was on you when it was someone like Michael Schumacher who was your teammate. You know, I mean, everybody spoke about how well you’ve raced and how, like as you mention, you know you did better than him in this three years. Going into it, what was your approach?
Nico Rosberg: Yeah, well it was very different--
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: I know he’s a legend right, so--
Nico Rosberg: Yeah, of course. And I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that I was going to do a good job. I was confident of that; but how that would be compared to him, no idea, and that’s why now looking back, I’m like whoa that’s cool that I managed to beat him in the three years, I’m very happy with that.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: The fact that you get to spend time with someone like that, um, not just on the track but even off the track; what do you sort of learn from a person like that?
Nico Rosberg: Well, you can see why he’s the seven-time world champion. He just did a good job with all the different aspects, which is important to being a good racing driver. And yeah, I’m also a person who tries to do well in everything, not just drive fast. So again, I think we were exchanging well and learning from each other.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: And you think that it’s a similar sort of experience for the team as well, I mean you’ve got a legendry team principal as well?
Nico Rosberg: Yeah, that’s another person that I enjoy working with.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Yeah.
Nico Rosberg: --with Ross but also Robert.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: Yeah.
Nico Rosberg: Yeah, there are people who had lot of success in the sports and it’s great to see how they approach their job and how they work with people and everything is very good.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar: That is our Formula One special here on CNB. We hope you enjoyed it because we all certainly enjoyed putting it together for you. A lot of people work really hard on this one. So the entire team thanks you for watching and also would like to wish you for this festive season. Now we get back into CNB mode next work, and we’ve got lots of bikes for you on the program. Bajaj Pulsar 200 NS is one of them. And I will see you on the program next week. Until then, please wear your seatbelts.
(This episode of the Car and Bike Show aired on October 27, 2012)