Marc Priestly Opinions

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Speaking exclusively to Lord Ping, former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley has admitted that even Jos Verstappen won’t be able to convince Max Verstappen to stay in F1.

Priestley, who spent 10 years at the top of the sport, has also noted that Daniel Ricciardo has made poor career decisions following his feud with Jacques Villeneuve.

The former mechanic has also hypothesised that Michael Schumacher would be running the sport if it wasn’t for his accident and remembered David Coulthard’s time as a party animal.

  • Jos Verstappen won’t be able to convince Max Verstappen to stay in F1

  • Daniel Ricciardo has made poor career decisions

  • Michael Schumacher would be running F1 if it wasn’t for his accident

  • David Coulthard was a party animal


Q: Has George Russell had favourable treatment over Lewis Hamilton?

MP: “I get messages every single day on social media full of conspiracy theories at the moment about Lewis and Mercedes. My answer to almost all of them is, why on earth would Mercedes want to sabotage one of their own drivers? Even if they are leaving, they want good results.

“Those good results are not just for Lewis, they're for the team, they're for the team's brand partners, they generate an income. I can't think of any reason why Mercedes would have any interest in sabotaging Lewis.

“It may well be that his tyres were at the wrong temperature, sometimes that happens. Maybe it was a bit of human error, maybe they went on into the blankets a little bit late. These things happen. 

“But because Lewis obviously mentioned it and because there's been this little bit of disappointment and therefore there seems to be animosity at times. 

“I think it quickly erupts in the online world into a conspiracy. But I don't buy it at all. I can't see why they would want to do it.”

Q: What do you make of Lewis Hamilton’s fed up attitude in interviews of late?

MP: “One thing I do know about Lewis is that he's a very emotional character. He wears his heart on his sleeve. When he's winning and he's feeling great, you know about it. But when he's not feeling great, he's not winning. You also know about it. You can't hide it. 

“I suspect these are genuine feelings of his. He'll be having these thoughts in his own mind, I'm sure, because he's human like the rest of us. 

“He'll be starting to question if he got a wrong strategy call and if George was favoured in a certain set of circumstances? But I just don't buy it. Having been on the team side of this, you just wouldn't do it. It's a very difficult and risky game to play. 

“From a Mercedes point of view, they don't really care if Lewis wins a race or George wins a race. They just want to win a race. I also think when we really boil this down, and I'm sure if Lewis stops and thinks about this as the team will be the same, there's a huge amount of respect between Lewis and Mercedes and Toto Wolff and the team in general. 

“Having said that, I think there's going to be little ups and downs this year because they really are struggling and I think Lewis is also struggling himself. I think he even said that at the weekend. 

“When you factor in just continuous disappointment, particularly when Lewis had an off weekend, and in Canada, he even talked about his own performance not being good enough. 

“I know that when that happens, Lewis beats himself up a little bit. He can be a bit hard on himself, and he can sort of disappear into himself a little bit. 

‘So there might have been a bit of that coming out and he might have said some things he knows are probably not the truth. I'm fairly sure when he stops and thinks about it, he will know that that's not the case.

“I'm sure by the time they do get to the end of this relationship, certainly the working relationship, as the season rolls on, you'll see that outpouring of respect that both parties have for each other.”

Q: Is George Russell now becoming the main man at Mercedes over Lewis Hamilton?

MP: “George Russell is now becoming the main man at Mercedes and I think that's natural, he's the future in regards to those two. He is the future. 

“He's the continuity for next year. So that would make perfect sense. But I also think on track that George is doing incredibly well. For all the talk when Lewis is maybe underperforming at times, let's not forget George is often at times overperforming.

“He's maybe not getting the respect for some of that that he deserves at times. So I think George is something of an underrated driver to some extent. 

“He's not the superstar. He's not this sort of showy, glitzy, glamorous guy that Lewis is. But I think in the car, he's definitely more comfortable with that Mercedes than Lewis is. 

“That doesn't mean that a lot of Formula 1 fans look at results and they say, well, George has beaten Lewis consistently this year, therefore he's a better driver, or that Lewis has lost it or whatever. It doesn't work that way.

“It's Formula 1 and the Formula 1 cars are really nuanced and because Mercedes have been chasing these struggles around with their cars, they've had to change things a lot, tweak things a lot, redesign cars midway through seasons and I think they've ended up in a place that seems to suit George's driving style much more than it does Lewis's.

“That is fine because George is the one staying and I suspect if Lewis was staying, there'd be a bit more focus on trying to shift it back towards a Lewis type of style. 

“But I don't see this as anything deeper, anything bigger than a natural shift towards the future of Mercedes, which lies in the hands of George Russell and not Lewis Hamilton.”

Q: Could Max Verstappen walk away from F1?

MP: “I’m not sure if Max Verstappen could walk away from F1, but I think most drivers, a bit like we've seen with Fernando Alonso, want to go and try things like Le Mans which is a huge race. 

”Max has made some comments about needing to sort out some of the rules and regulations around it before he's willing to give it a go. But he would have nothing to prove.

“If he left Formula 1 he could just go and explore the types of driving that he finds fun. When Kimi Raikkonen stepped away from Formula 1, he had a go at things like NASCAR and rallying. He was never going to become world champion in any of those, but he massively enjoyed it and had loads of fun. And I suspect at that point in your career, why not? 

“Max Verstappen, if and when he decides to sort of hang up his Formula 1 gloves, I can see him trying something like Le Mans. I don't know whether he'd ever go to IndyCar because I think it would be a bit too similar perhaps. But it might be the fun stuff. 

“It might be the rallying and it might be the Le Mans and who knows, maybe even bikes. I mean, he can do whatever he wants. 

“But he's definitely not got the same motivation to beat records that maybe a driver like Lewis might have.”

Q: Could Jos Verstappen be the one to persuade Max Verstappen to stay in F1?

MP: “I don't think that anyone will be able to persuade Max. Even Jos. I don't think would persuade Max to do something he doesn't want to do. 

“They're quite strong minded and he knows what he wants and he's built himself into a position that he can almost do what he wants to some extent. 

“He's got an amazing number of titles already, this year he's almost certainly going to get another one I'm sure he'll be in a really strong position next year to tick that box again if everything goes well so if he did decide to leave the sport you know that stage i mean what a wonderful place to leave it as well.”

Q: What do you make of the feud between Daniel Ricciardo and Jacques Villeneuve?

MP: “Jacques Villeneuve does like to sort of drop a grenade in the middle of a conversation.

“Having said that, he was very brutal. He didn't mix his words. He said exactly what he was thinking. It's partly his job because he's a pundit now so he's there to give opinions and he gave his opinion. So I respect that.

“A lot of fans will have looked at that and said that it's quite harsh, but he's probably saying what a lot of us have been thinking to some extent.

“My own personal opinions are slightly different. I definitely think Daniel has underperformed. I think he's made some poor decisions in terms of career, but I don't think that he doesn't deserve a shot or a great chance in Formula 1 to get back to where he was.

“I think he did have a huge talent and was in a really great place, particularly around those Red Bull years. I sort of disagreed with Jacques on that.

“I thought he had the capability to go on and really deliver in that environment. But of course, he was up against Max Verstappen and I don't think he wanted to continue doing that forevermore.

“So he decided to try and break away, but it just hasn't worked for him. So I think he's an amazing talent. I don't think he's an untalented driver. I think he's really talented.

“There may well be some truth that his personality and character has kept his hopes alive for a bit longer, but he's also very hardworking and the team, particularly at Red Bull, have seen enough behind the scenes that we don't see as fans to give him that new shot. 

“Jacques Villeneuve won't have seen what's happened behind the scenes and how he works with the engineers and how he's got on in tests and things. The team has that insight and information and you have to trust that.”

Q: How could Ferrari look in 2026 with the new regulations and Adrian Newey on board?

MP: “One of the things Adrian's consistently very good at is looking at a set of regulations and seeing opportunity in them. If you're Red Bull, which at the moment he still is, you could easily say, well, we've dominated this era of regulations and the change is potentially a threat to that.

“They’ve nailed the way the cars work right now. No one can argue with that. So to then go and change the rules, you could easily be quite upset at Red Bull and say, well, they've moved the goalposts or pulled the rug from under our feet - but Adrian doesn't think like that. 

“Adrian sees a massive set of opportunities there. And I think he will revel in the fact that it's such a big change, because it's engine and chassis together, which is huge. I think he'll see new opportunities there, particularly a team like Ferrari that produces both.

“To be across both of those and integrate them a little bit like Mercedes did at the beginning of the hybrid era. He'll see an opportunity there and that’s it's mouthwatering for me. 

“I think it's a real opportunity and there is real excitement for me around that. He hasn't even announced that he's going to Ferrari, but if that's where he ends up, I can see another era where Adrian Newey can really show what he brings to this sport.”

Q: Was F1 more exciting during your time in the sport?

MP: “if you think about the era as a hybrid era, for example, there have been really competitive moments in that. We're in one right now. 

“But there's also been areas when it's been years when it's been utterly dominated by one team and drivers. So it really often comes down to the end of a stable set of regulations.

“When everybody gradually converges, when things haven't been changed for that long, people begin to figure out the loopholes. They begin to copy each other and see the solutions that other teams are doing And that's when it gets most competitive. So it's always been the same. 

“I remember back at the end of the V8 era, it was exactly the same. The engines all got really competitive. The teams became really close. Just before the hybrid era, it was pretty much the same. So it always goes this way. 

“it's difficult to compare the eras of cars and of regulations. It was very different. I mean, I went through spells of refuelling in races which was completely different. 

“So I guess it's just not a straight comparison, also, times move on. The cars have got so much bigger now, which I don't like. But what comes with that is this massively improved safety, which nobody can argue with. So it's just a very different era and difficult to compare, I guess.”

Q: What do you remember of being tasked to find grid girls during you time in the sport?

MP: “This was back in my sort of Formula 3 days, which was much more low-key. Effectively they didn't provide grid girls.

“It was just a sort of a funny thing that on a Saturday night when all of the teams, which was almost all male young lads as it was I was I was a late teenager, would go out on and if you met people in the bars and nightclubs around the town, one of the little games was to try and encourage somebody to come and be your grid girl the next afternoon. 

“So there's all sorts of tales and funny stories, most of which I could never tell you. But that was the era. If you think about the racing drivers of the sort of the seventies, eighties, nineties it was just so different. 

“The whole world was so different and everybody behaved and operated differently. Formula 1 would have been exactly the same when you look at the James Hunts of this world.

“The party animals that were then getting behind the wheel of a racing car. Obviously, those things can't happen anymore, and rightly so. But back then, the world was a very different place. “So these kinds of things happened andI think it was the same whether you were a driver or a mechanic and engineer, you still had a huge amount of fun.

“It was a very different sort of fun than we generally have today. But it was a huge amount of fun and you could sort of get away with it back then.”

Q: Which driver got along the best with the grid girls?

MP: “There were some drivers that got on particularly well with the grid girls, when I first started in Formula 1, David Coulthard was a real party animal.

“I actually remember David used to organise a lot of parties for us as the team, they were extravagant parties, there was a lot of money floating around back then.

“There were no camera phones so whatever happened at those parties generally stayed there. 

“I remember a very young racing driver of the name of Jenson Button coming into this sport incredibly young and sort of falling under the wing of David Coulthard, who utterly led him astray.

“His baptism into the sport as an F1 driver was under the sort of stewardship of David Coulthard, who had been around the block a couple of times. 

“He was a very good driver, but also knew how to enjoy himself. I think a lot of that rubbed off on Jenson.”

Q: Which current drivers could fall into the party animal bracket?

MP: “In terms of more recent drivers, I think Kimi Raikkonen was probably the last guy that really went out on a limb and openly enjoyed himself without a care in the world.

“I respected that because he was just being himself. He wasn't going to be moulded into the sort of corporate driver that we see a lot of today. I have respect for that. So I think he was the last of that era of drivers.

“The drivers that we have today, like Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, they know how to have fun, they know how to enjoy themselves, they've just got to be a little bit more sensible about how, when and where they do it.

“That's just the same in the whole world isn't it, it's not just Formula 1.”

Q: What did you make of the contract extension of Sergio Perez?

MP: “If you read between the lines of the wording of that contract announcement for Sergio Perez, I'm not sure it really is a two-year contract extension. 

“They've only really confirmed him for next year. So I'm fairly sure there are get-out clauses. Naturally, there would be get-out clauses for probably both sides of the party should performance targets not be met.

“But I think the reason they've extended, at least for 2025, is that, iit keeps the harmony within the team. What I mean by that is that it probably keeps Max Verstappen and his team happy.

“Bringing somebody in before the last year of this stable set of regulations where the team at Red Bull have really dominated, to bring somebody in and change it up has the possibility to destabilise what they have right now is one incredible driver in Max Verstappen.

“We've seen it over and over again that bringing in a new driver, sometimes for no fault of their own, you might just destabilise the one thing that is your biggest strength. 

“So I suspect the continuity in this last set of regulations of this cycle is probably worth something. 

“The problem with that is that if you do want to make a change, you're going into a brand new set of regulations in 26 where everything is different, potentially with at least one new driver.

“That also clearly could be quite destabilising. So Red Bull have got themselves in a slightly tricky position here with driver contracts going into a real big shift. We don't really know what Max Verstappen is going to do. There's still a lot of talk that he could well move on for 2026 himself. 

“So Red Bull could find themselves in a position where they might need two new drivers at a point where everything about the car and engine is changing.”

Q: Are Red Bull prioritising Max Vertstappen over winning the Constructors’ Championship?

MP: “Ferrari and McLaren are coming for Red Bull and they've both got two drivers perfectly capable of scoring big points. Red Bull don't have that. 

“In the background of all of this is the idea that Red Bull clearly would love to hang on to Max Verstappen for 2026 and beyond so keeping him happy is possibly further up their priority list.

“They may well lose out on the Constructors World Championship this year because of this unless Sergio can pick up those results quite drastically. 

“Red Bull can't be carried just by Verstappen, not when they've got close competition now with two teams with two scoring drivers each. So it is a strange situation. 

“They have found themselves in this tricky spot where everything centres around Max. He is their golden ticket right now. So I guess they've got to prioritise keeping him and keeping him happy. Maybe they're having to trade off a potential Constructors Championship to do that.

“It is a strange one, but equally, I don't know what the alternative was to signing Sergio Perez again for 2025. The obvious one is Carlos Sainz, but they don't want to do that because we know the relationship between him and Max, they worked together wasn't great and that's exactly what I'm talking about. 

“They don't want to destabilise that. So they could have put one of the younger drivers in, but I guess it's a risk. They know what they get with Sergio and although the results in recent weeks have been awful for Sergio, we also know that he can on occasions when he gets it right. 

“We can’t forget that Red Bull have struggled generally with their car over the last few weeks. If we get back into more traditional circuits, which the next three races are, probably you're going to see Sergio a lot closer.

“If they can get him in the top three or four, that's probably enough if Max is winning.”

Q: Did you ever see a team prioritise a single driver over a Constructors’ Championship?

MP: “Generally, you very rarely have to make a distinction between the two because if you've got a driver in the running for the Drivers World Championship, you've clearly got a fast car and therefore you should have another driver who's at least there or thereabouts. 

“The sort of big accolade is always with the driver. The Drivers’ World Champion is the one that gets the most publicity. But from a team perspective, the Constructors' World Championship brings you income and it brings you a lot of personal benefits as a team.

“But it's very rare that I can ever think of a situation where you have to choose one or the other. This Red Bull situation we're just talking about is quite unusual. Normally, if you've got one driver in the mix for the world title, the other one is not that far behind.

“If he is far behind, you've somewhere in the line made some poor decisions.”

Q: What was Michael Schumacher like on a night out during his time in F1?

MP: “I had a lot of good nights out. Not necessarily with Michael, but certainly nights where Michael was there. He was a really selfish character, being supremely fit and focused in terms of his preparation for driving the car, but he also knew how to enjoy himself on a night out.

“The story of me throwing a Bacardi and coke is testament to that. But my biggest memory of Michael is just the relentless nature of his competitive streak. 

“He was always, for many years at least, the one thing stopping us from winning the title. With Kimi Raikkonen at least, we took the championship in 2003 down to the wire with him before Michael ended up winning it. 

“But I always remember the competition was so good natured, between not just Michael and us, but the whole Ferrari team and us, we had a really good relationship in that.

“I'm in the back of half of Michael Schumacher's celebratory team photos because at one point, the banter between us was so good andI used to sneak into the back in my McLaren uniform, but just before they took the big team picture, which they did every time he won,

“I'd leap up in the back of the shot. In the end it became such a running joke that the Ferrari guys would come and get me and say, look, we're taking the picture soon. Do you want to come? And they'd put a step behind everybody so I could suddenly leap up at the last minute and be in the picture. 

“And at the end of the season, they actually presented me with all of the team photos from the year with a little circle around me in the background of all of them.

“Hilariously when Michael Schumacher's biography came out, I was straight down the shop to go and find it because I couldn't wait to read it and on the back cover is a picture of a team photo of him winning a race with me in the back of the shop.

“It was a good fun time and it was always really sort of well-mannered and good-natured but really tough competition.”

Q: If things were different, what role could you see Michael Schumacher doing in the sport now?

MP: “What would Michael Schumacher be doing in the sport now? I honestly don't know. I don't know the answer. I think he had the potential to do whatever he wanted in terms that any broadcaster would love to have him.

“He also always struck me, I don't know anything about what he would think, but it always struck me as somebody who could end up being a future leader of the sport you know so either with a team principal or maybe sort of you know running you know F1 itself or the FIA or something along those lines.

“He had such good leadership qualities and has such a strong legacy within the sport you know I always felt like he if he wanted to he could go on and help shape the way the sport looks well into the future. He shaped it anyway in what he did. 

“He changed what it was to be a Formula 1 driver in the way he prepared himself in the fitness levels, the training and the number of laps he did in testing and just this relentless pursuit of greatness. 

“He already changed what Formula 1 looked like from his driving abilities. He could have gone on to do more of that if he wanted to from a regulatory perspective or a management perspective, I've got no doubt. 

“I don't know from his point of view, whether he had any desire to do that, because he may well have just wanted to retire back into family life like many do. But he'd already given so much to the sport. 

“He certainly didn't owe the sport anything. But I think he had the potential and the opportunity to do whatever he wanted with it.”

Q: What is it like to record lines for the official F1 video game?

MP: “it's all done in a fairly condensed period. This is my third version of the game that I've done. The biggest input was in the first version that I did, because of course, we had to re-record everything.

“It was something like 30,000 lines of dialogue, a huge number. So I was in the studio for hours for several days multiple weeks of days at a time. 

“So it was recording everything that's basically ever been said in that game I had to put my voice to. Since then, it's just updates and it's new drivers and new lines that we want to add into the game. But we have changed a lot of it. 

“One of the things we have changed is that I now record my lines through a genuine F1 headset with an F1 microphone to the same headset we use on the pit wall.

“We used to record into a studio mic and get a really clean sound. Now it’s a lot more genuine and authentic, not a clean sound.

“You get a little bit of ruffling noise because the mic is up against your lips. I also have got them to play the sound of an F1 car going around the track constantly on a loop in my ears when I'm recording, it makes me feel like I have to sort of talk over it. 

“So I have to exaggerate my voice a little bit to speak over the sound of the F1 car, because that's what you'd be doing if you were sat on the pit wall. 

“It's all these little tiny details that we're just trying to make it as authentic as it can be and more and more realistic, which is obviously the point of the game. So I've loved doing it. 

“The feedback from fans has been great, although I do get a lot of people screaming at me saying, can you stop telling me to box for new tires? I know I need new tires.

“I love that I get a lot of clips sent to me on Twitter of people shouting and screaming and swearing at me, but it's all good nature. I love receiving them. They make me laugh a lot. 

“There's some really cool things in the game, little hidden gems that we record in there. I know because the reason they've employed me to do this is because I've obviously got genuine, authentic experience of working in a team like this.

“For example, some of the sort of celebratory lines when you win a championship, when in the old days they were written down as: ‘congratulations, you're world champion’.

“You'd never actually, that's not how it would be. You'd be going crazy if you just won the world championship. So there's a few lines in there where I've said to them, look, just open the mic and let me do it how I would do it if I was generally sitting on the pit wall.

“I've done it and just gone crazy and shouting my head off and celebrating, singing and all sorts of this stuff. 

“It doesn't pop up very frequently, they're buried in there with a low level of probability of coming up. But they will crop up and people see them. It’s the same when you lose, when you have a terrible race. 

“I've gotten brutal on some of these closing lines at the end of a terrible qualifying lap, it's all good fun. I love doing it, but the whole point is we're trying to make it more and more authentic 

“Every time we do it we add in more and more things and tweak other things, the whole point of a game like this or the SIM is to be as close to reality as you can get with the technology you have and we're always trying to improve that.”

Q: Max Verstappen plays the F1 game, how does it feel to be directing him on what to do?

MP: “The idea of my directing Max Verstappen, It's hilarious. Somebody sent me a clip recently of Lando Norris playing F1 2024 for the first time, he posted a clip of me basically telling him off which is very funny.

“I love the fact that I get to do it. I play the game, my kids play the game. So it's a real privilege to be able to do it. Even the F1 drivers are playing it. It's fantastic. 

“I'm a tiny part of this process. There's a huge machine that's behind this that makes it happen and a huge amount of work goes into it. 

“It’s hard to appreciate the extent of what little tiny details we're always trying to do to improve this. But we are, even just subconsciously, gradually you start to feel that it's getting better and better and better. And long may that continue.

“We've definitely done the ‘Fernando is faster than you’ that's in there somewhere. You know that there's a lot of really good interesting stuff which you know you might not find until the 100th time you played the game, but the fact that it’s in there somewhere is what I love.”


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