TG catches up with Martin Brundle

Sam Philip sits down with Sky’s new man to discuss Vettel’s temper, Ferrari’s F1 woes, and racing for Nissan with his son at this year’s Le Mans… 

TG: So Martin – for you, what’s been the biggest surprise of the F1 season so far?

MB: Red Bull’s performance – or lack of – compared to the past two years. But when you look at how the regulations have changed, it’s almost like they were designed to slow the Red Bulls down. Doubling the torsional stiffness of the front wings – the way Red Bull were ‘flying’ their car down the track with lots of rake, nose close to the ground, exhausts helping to sort the high rear ride height out, it’s all been taken away from them.

The rest of it is pretty much as it was shaping up in pre-season testing. It’s very close at the front, and the midfield’s strong enough to steal some great results, just as we saw with Perez in Kuala Lumpur. The negative surprise is that the Ferrari’s a bit… grim. That, and the pace of the Mercedes in the race. The positive surprise is the midfield – the Sauber, Toro Rosso, Force India, Williams…

How long before we see Perez in a Ferrari?

I think we have to assume that Massa won’t be there [at Ferrari] in 2013. Perez has got a great chance – there are a lot of good kids out there though. There’s a bit of a changing of the guard. We’ve lost Rubens, I don’t know where Michael Schumacher is at, but there’s a hundred kids totally prepared – mentally, physically, nutritionally, technically – to step into an F1 car. Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo and Romain Grosjean, those guys can step straight up to the plate.

Who’s going to do well at the Chinese Grand Prix?

Well, you’ve got that big back straight, which should suit the Mercedes very well. There’s often changeable weather conditions, so I think it’s entirely unpredictable again. But the team that looks like it’s got the best package, weekend by weekend, is McLaren. They look like they’re best sorted.

You can’t underestimate that Lotus. Raikkonen could, and should, have been on pole in Sepang, and talking to the Lotus boys, they say they just put it on the track and make very few changes. It’s one of those cars that’s clearly quite benign aerodynamically and well-balanced. That means it’s going to work well in all conditions and on all the tracks.

Which race are you most looking forward to this year?

I love Monaco as a race to commentate on. And the British Grand Prix. I’ve been to more than half the Grand Prix races in history, I was working out the other day. I enjoy them all, but particularly Monaco, Silverstone and Spa. I could leave Korea, I could leave China…

Of the current F1 grid, who would be your perfect two-driver team?

I would have Vettel and Alonso. Or Vettel and Hamilton. We’ve tried Hamilton and Alonso [at McLaren in 2007], it doesn’t work.

Did you think Vettel was right to criticise back markers after Sepang?

No, that’s just an angry man who hasn’t got a front-running car at the moment. I thought it looked a bit clumsy. Vettel didn’t leave enough room. We saw it in the Indian Grand Prix last year as well, when Karthikeyan half-heartedly yields – you’ve either got to stay on the racing line and go for it, then let them [the faster cars] through on the way out, or you yield completely. Karthikeyan kind of gets out the way, and that’s why they keep running into him. He’s got to be more decisive in what he does. I can see why they’re frustrated with him. But Vettel was a bit clumsy.

Is the problem that the teams at the back are too slow?

They always have been. Somebody’s got to be at the front, somebody’s got to be at the back. The HRT is particularly poor at the moment, and it confuses me why in year three it’s worse than it was in year one. The rest of them are OK, and they’ve got pro drivers in them. It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other, but I thought it was a bit rich of Vettel to call him [Karthikeyan] an idiot. He’s just frustrated.

So – 22 years after winning the Le Mans 24 Hours, you’re heading back this year in a Nissan LMP2 car with your son Alex racing alongside you. What sort of result are you hoping for?

It’s an unexpected privilege and pleasure for me to be going back to Le Mans. You’ve got to take Le Mans very seriously because it’s super-fast and it’s hard racing. The cars are very fast. We’re in the second category but these LMP2 cars are quicker than a lot of the Le Mans cars I drove. You’ve got Minassian, Sarrazin, Buemi, a lot of good kids in that category. If we could get on the podium or win the LMP2 class, I’d be ecstatic.

How are you getting fit?

I’ve lost three kilos, I’m in good nick. I was fast in the test. I’m jumping in a Radical when I can. I’m in the gym at Grands Prix with Coulthard every morning I get the chance.

How are you getting ready for the 3am stint?

I’ll just put the kids in the car. If it’s dark or wet, I’m not driving it. But really, it’s not a problem. You go faster at night at Le Mans than in the day. My eyesight’s good, but I think it’s the one area my age will show – you can’t laser that back in. But Le Mans has a very short night – just four, four and a half hours of darkness.

Who’s going to be quicker – you or Alex?

Alex is going to be quicker, thank goodness. If he wasn’t, he’d be getting fired. He’s 30 years younger than me, he’s fitter and brighter. But I’m quick enough that he has to keep checking my times.

You’ll be on track at Le Mans with the Nissan DeltaWing car. What do you make of it?

My concern is that it’ll be too fast. It’s got low drag, I think it’ll be a real nuisance for us, because it’ll be faster in different places. The people who put that together are smart people – I heard it’s pulling over three lateral g already. It’s not allowed to win anything [the DeltaWing is racing in its own category] but I bet you it’ll be surprisingly quick. It’s going to be a bloody nuisance. It’ll be the same speed as us but in different places.

I think it’s a very bold adventure, and I’m looking forward to seeing it out on track. It’s fascinating. It gets attention and media outside of petrolheads, and that’s good for motorsports. Tell me that every single fan that’s at Le Mans this year won’t be watching its progress very closely, because it’s so unusual. People need to break out of their mental moulds and understand that things move on.

Finally, who’s your money on for the F1 drivers’ title this year?

I could see Hamilton winning the title this year. But I’m not a betting man. I’ve been around this business too long to waste good money betting on racing drivers. That’s a wild guess, it could be anyone. Who would have thought Fernando Alonso would be leading the championship after two races? We thought they were going to get thrashed by the midfield… which, to an extent, if it wasn’t for Alonso, they would be. I sense McLaren have got a really good package, and Lewis is hungry to get back on the championship trail.

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Have to agree with most of that except I think Button will win the title.

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good luck the Brundle family at Le Mans.
good to see, that he helping his son try
to make it to F1.
also on good term, still with the BBC and TG.

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I’d love to see Schumi and Raikonnen battling for the top spot. I hope Webber does well too.

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You comment “Karthikeyan kind of gets out the way, and that’s why they keep running into him.” and then say it is a bit rich that Vettel calls him an idiot. Karthikeyan is a professional backmarker who should know what a blue flag is. The words in the comment “and that’s why they keep running into him.” indicates that he is a serial offender. I fail to see how that makes him anything but an idiot. I would not trust him with a paper airplane in a shoebox. Vettel calling him an idiot was a bit more restrained than Massa chasing Hamilton for an explanation on why his McLaren was trying to mate with the Ferrari that Massa was driving on many occasions last year.

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Hamilton has what it takes to win it all again if he can keep his head on straight. I think that if he realizes that 2 podiums in 2 races is great he will win

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Mercedes don’t have a chance at winning until they learn how to save those tires. From what it looks like now that is a long way into the future.

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Honestly, I say one of the lotus(guess who!!) will be in top 3 this season. Also, Alonso is #$%^& HUNGRY for another championship.

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raikkonen is doing much better than his teamie in the races,seen as he has done more than three laps in race this year.that lotus looks miles better than last years renault,so hopefully the lotus will do extremely well

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I can’t wait to see how the Deltawing does. A real buzz, more so than the hybrids. No believer yet, but I’ll joyfully eat humble pie.

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Oh, and I’m beginning to think F1’s had it. There was a joy to be had in developing a good car, there’s none in complying with yet another minute rulechange. The rules about cardesign should be far more rigorous yet a lot simpler.

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Take note in which driver Brundle selects first in his dream team: Vettel, aka the best driver on the grid by a freaking mile!

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Hamilton is the most-skilled driver of the lot, and with that car I can see why Brundle would choose him. On talent alone he’d win, but something tells me that Button will be more consistent.

Button is my choice. McLaren will win Constructor’s rather easily.

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It’s got to be Raikonnen or Hamilton. In China Hamilton will give Jenson another whooping! But Raikonnen will be the dark horse, slowly homing in on the top spot. Also webber however I lost faith in him after Korea 2010, that was the moment when he lost faith in himself, also fingers crossed he can regain similar form. Such an interesting season, 2 races in and I love it more than 2010 and 2011 seasons combined. Let the best come out on top.

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I think if Ferrari can improve their car then Alonso will win the championship. Look how well he did last season in a car that really wasn’t up to scratch.

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I hope Alonso win’s the championship this year as he races his heart out in every races with a car that isn’t that good to driver, I hope the Ferrari team can improve the car to give him that chance because it’s not the driver that’s lacking speed, he’s the best all round driver out there.

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I hope Webber is near the top all yr but I think it’s going to be one of the McLaren boys that take it out this yr. I also hope Alonso gets a better car, he deserves it.

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That comment about hamilton whooping button is total nonsense.Button is a more complete driver to hamilton just as he showed last year . and did lewis whoop jensons arse at Melbourne…….Errrrr no he didnt, i rest my case…

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Hamilton for the title and i agree entirly vettels fault entirly for the collision yes your lapping someone but theres no need to be so aggressive when passing the overtake on the HRT was like the collision with Webber in 2010 in turkey.

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I agree with Martin, Lewis Hamilton has a great chance of winning this year. Alonso and Hamilton are the best two racers in my opinion but the McClaren car is far superior this season.

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@johnny f1ve: Are you saying that Raikonnen will be the Lotus challenging for the title?

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Knock hill in Scotland as just got a licence to run their course both ways. I know someone who as driven a sprint car in both directions and says it is a totally different driven the other way. What about that to spice up F1. All driven clockwise one year and anti clockwise the next year. Monza or Spa would be great to see. why not recommend it to Bernie. He would only need half as many places to race.

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Most people are speculating about how long it is before Perez joins Ferrari but Im more interested in how long before Coulthard Joins Martin at Sky F1 And maybe even Eddie also as BBC are definatly struggling to get the buzz going again.

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Good luck with LM, Martin! We miss you on the Beeb!

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It was along time coming. Nice guy Nico deserved the win. He drove a fantastic lap in Q3 and being in front he got away clean and fast even from Schumi. Although I am a McLaren fan I am happy for him. Vettel is acting like a spoilt brat. The championship is wide open. I hope Ferrari gets their car in order which would make it more exciting in the front.

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The Nissan Delta Wing is simply a copy of the 700-horse, carbureted Chevy 5.7 liter V8 3 wheeled Vigilante designed and built by Aerospace engineer Bob Keyes. Top speed in top trim of about 265 mph – the Vigillante’s hull stretches 17 feet from nose to tail, with a fighter-like body composed from kevlar, honeycombed aluminum, and carbon fiber – Driver and passenger gain entry to the eight-foot cockpit through a gull-winged hatch – gross vehicle weight is 1,480 pounds, which rates it as a motorcycle according to Federal Standards. No emissions in other words. It runs dual straight pipes. It’ll out-sprint a Diablo VT to 60, snack on F-50s in the quarter, and gun down the mighty McLaren LM along the straightaways. It also pulls one+ full G on the skid pad of your choice. Nil to 60 passes in about three-flat. The quarter disappears in 10.

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