Interview: Formula 1 according to Duurt Dijkman

There are few people who follow motorsport with such enthusiasm, passion and commitment as Duurt Dijkman the man behind @MsportXtra Twitter account that is fast becoming the ‘one-stop-shop’ for motorsport news.

These past two weeks @MsportXtra has provided intensive and non-stop coverage from Formula 1 preseason testing in Barcelona, little escapes Duurt and his network of pros, fans and friends who he taps into for the ‘extra’ bit of information he manages to find and share with his 5000 plus followers.

In the wake of preseason testing and with the F1 season opener a couple of weeks away, we cornered Duurt to find out what he has learnt from the recent eight days in Spain.

What is the Formula 1 pecking order heading to Melbourne?
DD: Starting off with a tough one. After keeping track of testing for a number of years now, one thing is clear: lap times aren’t important, mileage is. The more laps you run, the more data you gather and that’s the most important thing. That said, after 8 days of testing, Mercedes did a total of 1102 laps or 5129.81km which means they have gathered a lot of data. Ferrari were second with 997 laps (4641.035km) so it is expected that they have their stuff in order as well. Still, Ferrari had some issues to work out so to give you a pecking order, I would still go with Ferrari because I think they can fix the issues they had and perhaps hold a few tenths on Mercedes.

The “Silver Arrows” are a close second, with a newly Honda powered Red Bull in third. I think that because of the development rate capabilities the Red Bull team have shown us year after year. Then it is a difficult one, between Toro Rosso, McLaren, Alfa Romeo and even Renault. Then I would go with either Haas or Racing Point (who supposedly will arrive in Melbourne with a large update) and last but not least we have the Williams team, purely because they just didn’t have enough time to really test the new car. They only did 567 laps in total (2639.385km) and that is a large gap to the other teams.

Who or what surprised you the most?
DD: There were a few surprises, both positive and negative. Let’s start with the negative which we can’t deny. Williams. Such a historic team with a great name in the sport was already struggling for a few years with their lowest point in 2018. One would think with all the changes within the team and a brand new line-up, they would want to start the year on a positive note but sadly didn’t manage to get the car to Barcelona on time and they just didn’t have all the parts needed to put a representative car on the track.

Luckily they got a little present from F1 and could do an “extra” filming day between the two weeks of testing which they could use for a proper shakedown of the car. In the second week of testing, they’ve put in the mileage (567 laps) but were clearly down on testing and not having enough spare parts with them again, really hurt them on the final day. I really hope they will have a better year than in 2018.
Then there is a positive surprise. Toro Rosso. They have done the fourth most number of laps (935 in total) and topped the charts on occasion. They have run with great reliability and even rookie Alex Albon managed more laps than teammate Daniil Kvyat (489 to 446) which is a great start for the new boy in F1.

Toro Rosso strengthened their partnership with Red Bull and this synergy has resulted in ‘tech sharing’ between the sister teams. Politics might prevent the Faenza based team from beating the senior team but I give them a great chance to do really well in 2019.

What about sandbagging and Mercedes keeping their powder dry?
DD: I noticed this year that everybody was sandbagging to certain extent. Nobody really showed their cards and even on the final day, where Ferrari was the fastest, Mercedes bolted on a set of C5 tyres and came within 0.003 of a second compared to the best effort by Ferrari, as if they wanted to prove a point. Funny enough, a lot of different drivers from different teams, managed to do a 1:16, which surprised me. Nobody did a pure qualy run as they would do during race weekend and if you then look at the sector times and see what could have been done, times in the mid to high 1:15s would not be unthinkable.

What surprised me about Mercedes was that they had two completely different concepts for each week of testing. And with completely different I mean the nose, suspension, bargeboards, engine-cover, rear-wing and who knows what was different beneath the skin. Mercedes claim they planned the two concepts to see which one would work the best BUT after testing both options, they could also opt to use one concept on one circuit and the other on other circuits, depending on what will be asked of the car. If you have enough money to spend, this is how you do it I guess.

Tell readers about MsportXtra?
DD: Each year, being the guy behind #MsportXtra, I always try to share my passion for the sport as a whole but also give a little “extra” to fans with my new website (www.msportxtra.com ) but also to try and find answers to questions the fans might have. I know what it’s like to be a “new” fan and not know all that involves in our beautiful sport, so no question is stupid to ask. In doing so, I always keep track of my social media statistics so it gives me a great way of knowing where I stand and how I’m doing because if nobody would care about what I do, then what’s the point in continuing?

That said, this year, February 2019 will go in the books as a month of records. I have reached 2,540,432 people with my tweets this past month. Including testing, I’ve sent out a staggering 2415 tweets and 28,492 people have visited my twitter-profile. I also been mentioned 2866 times in February. Those numbers don’t lie and tell me that there is still a need for someone like me to continue doing this.

How did MsportXtra begin and how did it evolve?
DD: To tell you about MsportXtra, I have to start from the beginning. Testing of F1 in 2011, I was “just a fan” trying to find ways to find out what was going on during testing. I found a website that did a live commentary through their website. In those days you could log-in with Facebook and enter a chatroom on the website to discuss things with other fans. At that point I found two other websites which did the same and all three combined gave me a much better picture of what was going on at the track.

I started to combine the info and posted it into the chatroom and in return, people started to wonder if I was at the track and why I knew so much while it wasn’t always mentioned on the website on which I was logged in to. After a week of testing, I got a very nice email from the owner of the website with the request that I didn’t fill up their chatroom and let their people, who were in the media room, do their work. They were slightly pissed off with me. That gave me the idea of doing something myself and since social media was up and coming in motorsport, in 2012, ‘Formula1extra’ was born.

I created the #HappyTesting hashtag and started sharing whatever I could find about testing. I started getting tips from websites that had a timing screen and little by little, I found all kinds of ways to gather info to share with those that couldn’t be at the track but wanted to know what was going on. As time passed by and my follower count grew, so did the interest in testing and since social media became more and more important as THE way to share info, I found followers that were attending testing and were willing to help out by sending me pictures so that I could create a better picture of what happened.

Early 2015, when FOM got really forceful towards any website or social media account that used anything remotely connected to F1 and started to shut down many websites, sadly including my Twitter account. I couldn’t change anything in time and all the work I’ve put into it and all the connections I’ve build were gone. Just like that.

Now, I’m a person that, once having a goal, doesn’t step back and lay down so I started a new account, called MsportXtra which means what it says. Motorsport Extra with which I cover as many motorsport categories as I can and always try to give a little extra to the fans. It turned out a lot of fans were missing Formula1extra and through the great social media, word came out I started over and half of the number of followers I had, came to MsportXtra and from there it kept on growing.

Being a person that always wants to help others the best I can, I thought of an idea to connect different websites, vlogs, blogs and whatnot together so I created a network of partners (GrandPrix247 included) The network consists of 24 partners at the moment and it ranges from motorsport websites to drivers and even a large team from England, competing in VWcuup, BTCC, GinettaGT4 and other categories. I will try and use my connections and global reach to give the partners “extra” exposure and in return, my logo is on their websites and even on some cars.

With the start of 2019, also turning a new leaf in the history of MsportXtra as I’ve launched a brand new website that is so user-friendly and has only what fans want, namely: a homepage that shows the latest news, a calendar that shows everything I cover throughout the year plus a weekend outlook that contains timetables and official links to live-timings or live-streams if available. As an “extra”, there is a partner page on which all current 24 partners are shown and can be reached by clicking on their logo. No ads, no fuss, just what you need.

What about the future?
DD: Nobody has a crystal ball so plans might always need altering. But for now, I want to keep growing as a brand, keep helping out fans and partners and if my website takes off as I hope it will, companies might want to join in the fun and engage with a banner on the site. If that happens and I can get enough out of it to maintain myself and my kids, THEN I will switch it from being a hobby (that got slightly out of hand) into real work. Companies then get my website as a platform for their business but that always remains on the surface as all my partnerships will remain as is. Quid Quo Pro.

Mercedes or Ferrari?
DD: As a fan of the sport and not just one team or driver, I find it hard to answer such questions. Both teams have their upsides and downsides. With always being on social media in one form or another, I have to go with Mercedes, not only because they follow me, but they are more engaging with fans. Ferrari is starting to find their way around social media as well but are often still very political or quiet.

Vettel or Leclerc?
DD: Another tough one. Both are very down-to-earth, which I love. Vettel is an established name in F1 but Leclerc is a rising boy in the sport who has done some awesome things. For experience, I would go with Vettel but Leclerc being very open, honest and a promise for the future, he’s also one to keep an eye on.

Verstappen or Gasly?
DD: Being Dutch, it is expected that I would choose Verstappen. Nothing is further from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I still choose Verstappen but for other reasons. I’ve seen what Gasly did in lower categories and in SuperFormula. I also have seen him at Toro Rosso last year and he did very good work and is able to accomplish great things in his future career. But somehow I’m missing the X-factor that Verstappen has.

New fans don’t always understand the concept of having an X-factor but there aren’t many drivers that have it. Senna had it, so did Schumacher. Alonso also has it and I see it in Verstappen aswell. being able to do more with a car than what is capable to do. He’s only in his fifth season of F1 but what he has shown so far is extraordinary and I don’t just mean his overtaking skills. It is also his driving style, his tyre-management and the capability of driving “around” a problem as he has shown a few times in the past few years. That’s why I choose him.

In closing, anything you wish to add?
DD: Just follow @MsportXtra on Twitter, keep an eye out on the MsportXtra logo, if you have some news in regards to any motorsport, let me know and as I always do…. share the passion. Thank you for this interview, it was a lot of fun and I hope I gave a more insightful way of how I look at things