MY GREATEST TEAM-MATE
The former grand prix racer reflects on driving with Martin Brundle at Brabham and Ligier
Give a racing driver the choice of an ideal team-mate to work alongside and many would choose someone who won’t challenge their position in the team, and will flatter their own performances.
Even the best drivers aren’t immune – take Ayrton Senna, who vetoed working with Derek Warwick at Lotus in 1986 and instead drove alongside the inexperienced Johnny Dumfries.
But while a team-mate can be a driver’s greatest rival, they can also be a great resource to learn from, as Mark Blundell found while working with Martin Brundle.
Perhaps his choice of Brundle should come as little surprise given the number of times their careers intertwined. The ‘Brundell Brothers’ were founding partners in the 2MB management agency before Blundell took sole charge, and colleagues on ITV’S Formula 1 coverage during the late 1990s. Before that they were F1 team-mates at Brabham and Ligier, where they were evenly matched and spurred one another on.
“I learned a lot from Martin because we were at different stages of our career,” reflects Blundell, seven years Brundle’s junior. “We were obviously different ages, but at the same time I could relate to him and I understood exactly how he went about his business.”
Blundell had raced for Nissan in Group C against Brundle in 1990, when Brundle was the standout driver in a tough year for Jaguar, so he knew what he was up against when they faced off at struggling Brabham the following season. Blundell suffered the indignity of failing to pre-qualify at Suzuka on engine-builder Yamaha’s home turf, and each managed one points score. Brundle’s fifth place in Japan put him slightly ahead of Blundell’s sixth in Belgium.
“We had a very interesting relationship because we were extremely close and there was a massive amount of respect between us, but when it came to it on the circuit it was very much dog eat dog,” says Blundell.
Since Brabham was in financial trouble, Brundle moved to Tom Walkinshaw-managed Benetton in 1992, while Blundell spent the year in the background testing for Mclaren, although he also won Le Mans with Peugeot.
They were reunited at Ligier in 1993, and the JS39 was a much more competitive proposition than the Brabham had been. Benefiting from Renault V10 power meant they were points contenders whenever the car was reliable.
Blundell scored two podiums (Kyalami and Hockenheim) to Brundle’s one (Imola), but finished seventh four times and finished three places behind him in the standings.
“With me and him it was pretty level pegging most of the time,” says Blundell. “If you looked at the data we would do similar lap times but go about it a very different way, how we applied the brake and the throttle and turned right and left.
“I learned a great deal about making a team work for you as opposed to thinking they work for you. There’s just as much work has to go on outside the car as there is inside the car.
“He probably taught me more about the politics of the sport than the actual sport itself. You only have to watch and understand, and from that you can learn a huge amount.”
“With him it was pretty level most of the time”
Blundell’s relationship with Brundle (left) stretched beyond F1 to TV and business
Blundell learned about the sport’s politics from Brundle