MENTAL CHALLENGE UP; SATISFACTION DOWN
ew people are better qualified to comment
on the development of F1 cars over the
past 30 years than Martin Brundle, who
competed at the top level from 1984 to ’96,
through various eras of engine configuration.
Since he stopped racing, his job as an
expert TV commentator has given him a
unique opportunity to stay in touch. He’s
regularly driven contemporary F1 cars,
most recently the 2015 Force India-Mercedes VJM08 at Silverstone in April.
“I’m 56 years old and I haven’t started
a grand prix since 1996,” he says. “I’ve
driven a car every year since then, but I
shouldn’t be able to jump in an F1 car and
feel on top of it. But, for example, driving
the 2011 Red Bull RB7 – a 2.4-liter, V8 car
with a blown diffuser – I felt that I could
master it within a lap or two. I thought it
lacked torque. Yes, it made more noise than
a current car, but it was just white noise,
painful noise, not a nice V8 rumbling noise.
“I came to a very clear conclusion after
driving the Force India this year. They’re
more difficult to drive than the 2. 4 V8s.
They’re less satisfying as cars, because they
just don’t have the grip, so you can’t nail a
corner like Copse, and they’re less physical,
because they don’t have that grip. But
they are mentally far more challenging
than anything I’ve ever driven; it’s just a
humongous amount of mental workload.
“It’s amazing how effective they are.
Even in just a 100km (60-mile) test, I could
adjust some of the key things on the
VETTED BY A VET
Former Formula 1 racer Martin Brundle has carved out an illustrious TV career, but still
samples modern F1 cars when he can. So what are his thoughts on 2015’s machinery?
WHAT’s IT LIKE, MARTIN?
steering wheel – brake-by-wire, the mapping
– and feel the difference. They are immense
pieces of kit. I probably only touched on
10-20 percent of it. I think there were
between 35 and 45 controls on the steering
wheel, and some of them have sub menus...
“Of course, once you’ve driven for a few
days, that starts to become second nature.
But you still have the incredible situation
where I think both Jenson Button and
Lewis Hamilton have been told to do
something and they’ve both had to radio
back, ‘I don’t know where that is; which one
is that?’ I think it’s too much in that respect.
“These engines, with the way they use
the electrical motor to fill in all the torque
JORDAN SWAN SONG
Driving for Jordan-Peugeot, Brundle’s final
F1 season included a
fifth-place in his last
start, the Japanese
Grand Prix at Suzuka.
McLAREN & MONAcO
Nine DNFs in the
Brundle did finish
second in the Monaco
GP. Along with Italy
’92, it was the best F1
result he was actually
allowed to keep...
BENETTON PODIUM SPREE
After moving to Jaguar’s Group C
team, Brundle returned to F1 with
Brabham in ’91. He joined Benetton
in ’92, taking five podiums as
teammate to Michael Schumacher.
gaps, it’s just a linear delivery. So you
don’t get that variance of nothing...then
everything. It felt less powerful than the
old turbos, and clearly it was less
powerful than what we used to have in
qualifying. The only way you’d know this
was a turbo is on lift off, where you hear
the turbo spinning round.
“I came away utterly clear. They’re less
physical, more mentally challenging, less
satisfying, but more difficult to drive. You
have to find the limit of the amount of
throttle that you put in, so that you always
leave yourself time – as soon as you
overwhelm the rear tires it’s too late, as I
found out once by spinning it. You’ve sent
too much torque into the system. Under
your right foot is the ability to spin off at
all times. And that wasn’t the case before.
“I spun the Force India because we put
two GoPro cameras in critical places – one
on the mandatory flat section on the front
wing. Tom McCullough [chief engineer]
came up to me and said, ‘You need to be
careful on this run, because that is the
most critical part of the car.’ Unbeknown
to me, they also put one on the rear wing.
I went out, talking away on the mic, put my
foot on the throttle, and I just spun. If two
GoPros can destabilize a car that much,
what does following another car do?
“Think of Nico Rosberg following Lewis
in the Chinese GP: ‘I don’t want to get any
closer, it’s damaging my front tires.’ And
Nico was 3.5sec behind him...”
Less physical, more mentally
challenging, less satisfying,
but more difficult to drive”