Martin Brundle will reach a milestone in his Formula One career at the Canadian Grand Prix. The race, which takes place next Sunday (16th June) at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, will mark the Benson and Hedges Total Jordan Peugeot...
Martin Brundle will reach a milestone in his Formula One career at the Canadian Grand Prix. The race, which takes place next Sunday (16th June) at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, will mark the Benson and Hedges Total Jordan Peugeot driver's 150th Grand Prix start. Of the current crop of Fl drivers only Gerhard Berger can better that tally. Brundle has driven for a total of eight teams during the course of his Fl career, and accumulated 91 World Championship Points. One of the most experienced drivers in the paddock, the amiable Briton is also one of the most respected; he is a leading figure in the Grand Prix Drivers' Association and sits on the Board of the British Racing Drivers' Club.
Martin made his Grand Prix debut at the Brazilian Grand Prix on 25th March 1984. A lot has changed in the sport since he lined his Tyrrell-Ford up on the grid in Jacarepagua, not least the cars themselves. "They are much faster now" says Martin. "Even with the recent changes to slow them down I suspect my Jordan-Peugeot is at least 10 seconds a lap faster than the car I drove in 1984. Without any doubt though the biggest change is in tyre technology; the grip and stability which we get from the tyres now, at all speeds. After that it would be the aerodynamics; the amount of downforce which the cars generate and the ability to control that downforce.
"Engine horsepower has changed enormously; the first Fl car I raced had 545hp, the Tyrrell-Renault Turbo I qualified with in Adelaide `86 had 1250hp. Now we have around 700hp, having passed through the 600s early last year when 3-litre engines were reintroduced. It hasn't directly affected the lap times in the same way as the tyres and aerodynamics though - which shows that grip is more important than grunt.
"The modern F1 car is much more reliable; it's more likely to be the driver who gives up first, not the equipment. We used to have to protect the car, certainly in the early stages of the race. You started on full tanks and, with 220 or 230 litres on board, it was very heavy. That meant taking extra care of the clutch and brakes, and particularly the manual gearboxes. There is a completely different approach to the race these days. The most you can get into the tanks is about 140 litres, so it's more a series of sprints between pitstops. That's why the drivers have had to become much fitter and much stronger.
"In fact Formula One is a very different discipline now from the driver's point of view. The amount of technology involved is incredible and the depth of information available is vast in comparison to my early days. You can't run and hide now; every movement of every shock absorber, every pedal, every change of pressure or temperature - it's all radioed back to the pits on a data burst through the telemetry. You can overlay any item of information you want - from lap to lap, from driver to driver. Whether you spin off the track, or do something particularly special; it's right there for the whole world to see. That makes the pressure much greater. In fact the pressure is ... it's almost too much. For everybody. Every team has to win and of course only one team will. It's understandable because there is so much more money involved in the sport these days and the sponsors need a return for their investment. The whole commercial aspect has become much more important and standards are far higher too; it's a slicker operation all round. Our sponsors will entertain hundreds of guests at each race now. At the 1994 French Grand Prix I addressed 3000 Peugeot guests - all in one go, Quite amazing! It's not often you stand up and talk in front of that many people, "The worldwide popularity of Fl has grown incredibly over the past decade which is largely down to the increased media exposure. The press have access to far more information these days, and as a result the public have a much better feel for the sport. The TV coverage is very different now. In-car cameras enable the viewers to sit in with the driver, looking over his shoulder. All you need is some kind of 0-force in your sofa, and you've got virtual reality. I do think the sport lacks a bit of glamour now though. The paddocks are so quiet - probably because so few people allowed in! In a way that's nice because it wakes it easier to work, but in another way it can make life a bit dull I think a first time visitor to a Grand Prix would be quite surprised about how dull the paddock actually is! We're all working too hard now - there's not so much time to have fun.
"We've gone through various phases as far as drivers are concerned, In the late `80s there were a lot of big personalities in Fl. Names like Rosberg, Mansell, Prost, Lauda, Piquet, Senna; they were all very, very strong characters, and there was perhaps a tension and a lack of friendliness that is much less apparent today. I think I prefer the bunch we have now more than at any other time in my career. Without doubt the GPDA has helped; it's pulled us together more.
"There have been highs and lows over the course of the past 12 years. My best moment was standing on the podium at Silverstone in `92. Mansell had won the race and I finished third. The support of the British crowd was absolutely amazing, It was an incredibly feeling. The worst; the day Senna died was pretty grim and will stick in my mind forever, Smashing up my legs in Dallas in 1984 is fairly high up on my list of `worst moments' as well",
Brundle will begin his 150th GP celebrations with a visit to the Indy car race in Detroit, "I'm going to have a few beers with my old mate `Billy' Blundell on the way over to Canada. I promised him I'd go over and give him some moral support as soon as I got the opportunity, After his performance in Michigan though, I think he should be coming to Montreal to support me!" How will Brundle be celebrating his 150th Grand Prix? "Hopefully with some points!" he says: And after more than 12 years in Formula One what does he miss most from the early days? "My age!"
Silverstone test: 5th - 6th June
1.Martin Brundle (B&H Total Jordan Peugeot) 1'28.99 2.Jean Alesi (Benetton-Renault) 1'29.74 3.Gerhard Berger (Benetton-Renault) 1'29.57 4.Mika Salo (Tyrrell-Yamaha) 1'30.07 5.Emanuel Collard (Tyrrell-Yamaha) 1'32.14 6.Riccardo Rossett (Arrows-Hart) 1'32.76 7.Vincenzo Sospiri (Benetton-Renault) 1'40.05
-- Stephen M Baines
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