Martin Brundle


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    I started following F1 in about 1996 and so I saw Martin’s final season in F1, although at the time I was pretty young and remember very little!

    My question is, how good was Brundle? We all know and love his commentary, but should he have won races? Should he have won championships? Was it a case of wrong place wrong time? OR was Martin simply an average racer? I’ve never really known – obviously he knows his stuff and is an excellent commentator, but was he as good a driver as a commentator? Would be interested to know your opinions!



    Brundle himself admits he underperformed. He was a little unlucky with injuries, having had a couple of big crashes, but he never really looked like an upper echelon driver – consistent and fairly quick, a slightly worse version of Nick Heidfeld.

    Brundle rarely had a car truly capable of winning a race – 1992 in Benetton, when he was close to a match for the young Schumacher, was the closest he came, and the only Benetton win that year (Spa) was caused by a mixture of rain and a misfiring Renault engine.

    I think Brundle would have won races with Benetton in subsequent years had they not dropped him in favour of Patrese.



    Some call Brundle the best driver to never win a race (others say Nick Heidfeld, of course). He should have won a race or two really, but he was unlucky. If the rumours that Schumacher wanted him at Ferrari are true, he may have even won the championship. But as things went, it was always unlikely.



    His cars were never the best, Tyrrell 84-86 Zakspeed(they were good :/) 1987 no where in 88, a dieing Brabham team 89 no where in 90 Brabham again in 1991, Benetton in 1992 his best car yet, Ligier 93. Mclaren in 94 when they were in a poor spell Ligier for 95 but kept swapping seats with Suzuki due to the honda engines and Jordan in 1996, he did well despite never really having a good car



    @icthyes i’ve never heard of Schumacher wanting Brundle at Ferrari – in fact, i’ve only heard the opposite that he didn’t want Brundle at Benetton as he was too fast! Was he seriously linked with Ferrari then?

    @ilanin do you think that Brundle genuinely thinks he underperformed? Or is that just a racers excuse?

    I might add, his biography, working the wheel is a fantastic read if you haven’t already read it



    I don’t think it’s right to write him off as an “average driver” – he ran Ayrton Senna close in the 1983 British F3 championship, how does that make an “average driver”?

    He broke both ankles in a crash at Dallas Grand Prix 1984, perhaps he was “never the same” after that?

    Also, the closest thing he got to being in a consistently front-running team was in 1992 at Benneton – alongside M. Schumacher, and we all know how Schumacher treated his team-mates…

    I would definitely rank him as the best driver not to win a race.



    @sw6569 I only read it on a discussion forum once, I’ve never seen any link to it. Maybe they made it up.



    I’d compare and contrast Martin with Nigel – I think their main differences were with ego and commitment (including ambition). I think if Martin would have had the same drive Nigel did to be ‘the best’ and F1 World Champion, he certainly had enough driving talent to come close or equal Nigel’s F1 career.



    Well this is what Brundle himself had to say when asked about his career:

    I was always bemused as to why you never landed a really front-running car for the majority of your career, when your performances seemed to warrant one. If you were to have your career again, would you do anything differently?

    Tim F, UK

    Given that I matched the three great drivers of my generation – Senna, Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen – in the same cars on the same day, it is clear I underperformed my potential as an F1 driver.

    There are a few reasons. Smashing my legs up in 1984 derailed my career progress, fundamentally compromised my fitness training programme and, most importantly, prevented me from left-foot braking when it was virtually essential in F1.

    I am also guilty of not having had a 100% focus on F1 at all times and I should have engaged a more aggressive manager.

    I have to balance that with my achievements with 10 podiums and clearly somebody felt I was worth employing and paying over a 12-year period. I was also lucky to survive three crashes where my chances were pretty slim. All in all I guess I wouldn’t change anything in that respect.




    @tomd11 cheers for the link, I have actually read that before but i’d forgotten about it.

    I had a suspicion that Brundle was a hidden talent and it always confused me as to how he never got the drives he deserved. I think also that he seemed to suffer from arguably the most competitive driver field that F1 has ever had (only this season really compares in my opinion).

    From statistical (I didn’t see the races so i don’t know the real reasons) comparison, Hakkinen beat him fairly comprehensively when both cars finished and he seemed to have the upper hand over Blundell – but not as much as I was expecting (given that I also have fairly low opinions of Blundell).

    In his earlier career he seemed to perform well against Bellof too. It seems really hard to define when Martin’s peak was, and if it was ever during F1 – as arguably his greatest season as a driver was winning the sports car championship. Does anyone have any footage of martin in Le Mans or in the sports car championship?



    “I should have engaged a more aggressive manager” – that’s the telling part for me. Arguably it was contacts that helped him to his most competitive F1 drive, as Ross Brawn and Tom Walkinshaw from the Jaguar sportscar team were involved at Benetton in ’92.

    He never had the benefit of continuity – seemed to move teams each year – so he’d be holding out for a drive all winter (most spectacularly with McLaren), miss out on the pre-season, then make a slow start to the season, and only hit his stride once the best drives (and his own one) were gone…

    I was always impressed how he seemed to apply this experience to managing another driver. He helped keep David Coulthard secure at McLaren for year after year, then into a key role at Red Bull.

    Seemed a bright and resourceful driver, and a proper all-rounder, with a great record in sportscars, and tried other things like rallies and IROC in the States. Someone mentioned Nick Heidfeld, and I’d agree – MB often qualified behind his team-mate but would match or beat him in the race. But equally he’d get stuck, or hit, in the midfield.



    @sw6569 I don’t think “underperformed” is an excuse, it’s more of an admission. I underperformed at school, but I never said that at the time, it was always my dog’s fault for messing on my homework, or my parents fault for shouting at me consistently.. if I said I’d underperformed, I would be admitting I wasn’t good enough..

    ( I actually was called in to an “underperformers” meeting once during my GSCE’s with 20 other kids in the year, I’m something of a specialist on the subject :) )

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