Between them they started over 400 Grands Prix and caused an enormous crash at the start of the Australian Grand Prix 15 years ago.
Now Martin Brundle and David Coulthard will be talking to 50 million English-speaking F1 fans every race weekend as they take over commentary duties at the BBC.
Speaking to F1 Fanatic at the BBC Television Centre in London Brundle said: “I think we’ve just scratched the surface of David’s understanding and knowledge and eloquence around F1. I’m looking forward to hearing it as much as sharing it.
“I’m not going to suddenly pretend I suddenly don’t know anything about Formula 1 any more. I’ll do the shouty bit but we’ll debate things, we’ll disagree on things, we’ll tell the story, hopefully, in an informative and entertaining way, and I’m really motivated by it.”
Sure enough, the two have very different views on what’s going to be the big talking point of the year.
“The tyres are the same for everybody”
Brundle expects the switch to Pirelli tyres to play the biggest role in determining car performance but Coulthard sees it differently:
“The way I see it is the tyres are the same for everybody. They’ve got two choices of tyre, Pirelli will obviously have designed those tyres based around the cars they’ve had available to them for testing. They’ve had an old Toyota Formula 1 car and some GP2 cars for testing.
“But what they deliver to the race track will be the same for everyone. A good car will exploit the potential of that tyre, whether it’s a Pirelli or a Bridgestone. There’s no question that certain cars have a particularly characteristic movement and they interact with suspension or geometries of individual cars.”
Coulthard expects the rear wings to play a major role this year:
“What I think is going to be a bigger influence is how efficient people make their slot gap openers. How predictable that is for the driver, the variation in how the airflow re-attached. That will come down to research in the wind-tunnel, things like that.
“I don’t see the tyres as being the biggest deciding factor between the teams because they’re all the same. How those cars interact with the tyres will be different. But, presuming they’ve all got their models working well, it will be the other gizmos and gadgets that make a difference: downforce, drag and so on.”
Although there have been suggestions the Pirelli tyres will degrade extremely quickly, forcing drivers to make up to four pit stops, Coulthard doesn’t see that happening:
“Of course there will be degradation on the tyres and Pirelli are very hopeful about trying to create a drop-off. And I think that’s a good thing.
“We saw it at Canada with the Bridgestones, we all were supportive of having tyres with a bigger variation. Then the driver has to commit to how does he handle the degradation and everything.
“But it remains to be seen whether these are just tyres that are falling to pieces – which I would be surprised about – versus tyres that the actual properties change as the tyre wears and it loses grip.”
Coulthard doesn’t foresee any difficulty explaining the new Drag Reduction System – which can only be activated at certain times on certain parts of the circuit – to viewers:
“They’re not complicated. They might be to people who are not involved in Formula 1 for 20 years or whatever I’ve been.
“I’ve been involved in Formula 1 for 18 years now test driving and racing, and it makes it pretty logical to me what’s going to be interesting is using all of the tools the BBC use to explain it to the public in a way that they get it straight away.”
Rear wings worth ’70 or 80 horsepower’
Brundle adds that he expects the wings will provide a significant performance boost:
“The FIA haven’t finalised exactly when you’ll be able to open the slot gap in your rear wing and how long for. I think they’ll fine-tune that depending on how many straights there are on a race track and how long those straights are. There’s a fudge factor that’s going into this.
“But, fundamentally, you open the slot gap by 40mm and you’re going to go faster. I’m told by a couple of F1 people who should know that it’s the equivalent of 70 or 80 horsepower which is the power of a little mini shopping car or something.
“I just hope it doesn’t end up being artificial, and being a slam dun for the driver behind.”
But unlike Coulthard, Brundle doesn’t believe the wings will be the big talking point of the year: “I think it’s all going to be completely overridden by the Pirelli tyres.”
“I’ve done my apprenticeship”
And he’s not much moved by concerns that BBC’s commentary team will suffer for having two former racing drivers without a journalist: “Was Murray Walker a journalist? A classically-trained journalist? I don’t think so.”
He adds: “I’ve had 14 years now as a commentator. I’ve been talking into cameras for 35 years as a racing driver. So I think I know a lot about Formula 1 and I now know a lot about broadcasting.
“I think I’ve done my apprenticeship. I also write 60,000 words a year as a journalist. I can write a mean column if I want to.
“Our job is to explain what’s going on in a highly complex, fast-moving sport to well north of 50 million English-speaking people around the world. I feel very well qualified to do that.”
Brundle believes this year’s races will be “harder to keep hold of” than they were last season:
“Which is a good thing because last year’s they’d get off the line, you knew they were going to stop once, and it was quite easy to predict the race thereafter.”
This year he expects “a little bit of unpredictability. I think it’s going to be very exciting.”
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