- Top Ten - Interviewees
Sweet talkin' guysAndrew Marriott April 19, 2010
Sir Jackie Stewart
The Scottish three-times championship really is Mr Rent-a- quote, but though opinionated, he's always relevant and extremely fluent. He's absolutely brilliant at mentioning his sponsors but always in a very subtle way, not like some of the Americans I've interviewed. He's still very current with what is happening with Formula One and sometimes he has some very strident views. We may not agree with them all but they are always good points well made. I first interviewed him in 1962 and he was already competent talker then. He manages to drop your name in the interview to make you feel good.
Finns have a reputation for being quiet and not saying much, Kimi Raikkonen being the absolute champion at this. Mika Hakkinen was pretty bad in the early days of his career but Heikki is bordering on the garrulous. At grands prix, after the qualifying and the race, all the drivers have to attend "the bull pen" television interview area. There are usually about thirty cameras there and the drivers give interviews to different sections. After all the other drivers have gone Heikki is still there giving a detailed account of the race.
OK so he's not everyone's cup of tea, and he's given some interviewers short shrift and I suspect there are a few he won't even acknowledge. But he's always been brilliant with me. He really knows how to work the camera. For instance he'll talk to you but when he wants to make a very strong point he'll turn and look right down the lens. It's a very good technique. But he can be a little playful. I did an interview with him at Donington once and he started, out of camera shot, pulling the cable of the microphone so I was having problems holding on to it. Afterwards he collapsed with laughter. Better though than motorbike ace Barry Sheene, he actually grabbed my balls once in a live interview for ITV World of Sport.
I am, of course, infamous for the ITV World of Sport interview at the Swedish Grand Prix which featured in the very first It'll be Alright. If you remember there were all kinds of technical issues and according to host Dennis Norden, the interview never happened because the satellite time ran out. Actually that's not true, the interview did go ahead. However, the fact that Mario hung around for 20 minutes or so while the problems were sorted shows what a top guy he is. I interviewed him just the other week at the Motor Sport Hall of Fame and as always he gives great answers and shows tremendous patience.
I used to interview David at various Mobil functions and always found him particularly good at explaining Formula One to the layman. He's always been very lucid and taken time to get his point across. But I guess its paid dividends because now he's got the BBC pundit job alongside Eddie Jordan, and I think it's a great combination. Had he not worked hard at TV interviews earlier in his career he probably wouldn't have got on the short list for the Beeb job. It's strange a lot of the best interviewees seem to be Scottish; from the sportscar world Allan McNish is absolutely brilliant.
From a former Red Bull driver to a current star of the team, this young German is always a pleasure to interview. Although he's in a world where PR-speak rules, Sebastian always comes out with good stuff and can be controversial at times. He smiles a lot and his English is outstandingly good. Of course he's a fan of English humour. Germans have got the reputation for being a little dour - but Sebastian is an eloquent breath of fresh air. In fact if he hadn't made it as a driver, he would be a great PR man.
I can't include one Red Bull driver in this list without adding his team-mate. I've known Mark from his Formula Ford days; I've been to interview him at his home but equally had to grab interviews with him on the run for Silverstone TV. He always gives you the time, he's forthright, disarmingly honest and you get absolutely no bull. I suppose in a way he's a typical Aussie. I think his personality comes across well in the interviews. Top bloke.
Getting hold of Ayrton for an interview was always a challenge. At one particular Australian Grand Prix we had arranged to talk to him the morning after the race, an in-depth look at the past season for Sky Sports. We waited for four hours, he'd forgotten he had an appointment to fly in an Australian Air Force F16 jet, which he found more appealing than talking to me. But when you did get him you often had some fantastic stuff, sometimes he'd go off on a complete tangent but it was always insightful. Post qualifying he'd be in the debriefs longer than anyone else. But if you waited for three hours or so after the session he's come out, and knew you were serious because you'd waited a long time. It was always worth it.
It shows you are getting old when you've interviewed not only the son, the father before him but also the grandfather. Yes I've thrust a microphone in front of Graham, Damon and recently Joss. I still remember being interviewed by Graham at a grand prix two weeks after I'd written something to which he took offence. He didn't actually interview me; it was more what you'd call a verbal assault! His son Damon has become a superb talker - intelligent, eloquent in the extreme and he now makes a brilliant spokesman for Silverstone and the BRDC.
Sir Stirling Moss
My last, but certainly by no means least, great top 10 Formula One interviewee has to be the maestro himself, Stirling Moss. He must have given more interviews than any other Formula One driver, yet he still exudes that wonderful love he has for the sport. It's fantastic to talk to him about any of the six decades of racing in which he has been involved. Although much of it has been documented, he still comes out with some great lines. Rest assured, old boy, you'll probably get a mention of how they chased "the birds". I had the privilege of interviewing him some years ago at a revival of the Bahamas Speed Weeks and he had with him the diaries he wrote at the time. It was absolutely fascinating stuff.
Andrew Marriott is a freelance motorsport commentator and journalist