Sir Patrick Head gives his insight into the career of Martin Brundle, the respected Formula One broadcaster and pundit
MartinBrundle is one of the best-known faces and voices in Formula One, in part because of his long driving career, but also due to his more than 20-year career presenting and commentating on the sport for television.
His driving career commenced with grass track racing, moved to circuit racing in saloons and then moved on to single-seaters and Formula One.
Martin’s early single-seater career is strongly identified by his year-long battle with Ayrton Senna in equal cars for the 1983 British Formula Three Championship, which marked him as a driver who could compete head-to-head with the Brazilian, given equal equipment.
Martin’s entry to Formula One came in the same year as Senna, but it was at a time when turbo engines competed with those that were normally aspirated. A turbo engine was the one to have – but there were a small number of turbo-driven drives available.
Martin’s Formula One career was remarkable in its length and variety, covering 12 years and eight different teams; Tyrrell Ford and Renault Turbo, Zakspeed, Brabham Judd, Benetton Ford, Ligier Yamaha, Mclaren Peugeot, Ligier Mugen Honda and Jordan Peugeot.
A one-off drive in 1988 with Williams in place of an ill Nigel Mansell was a reminder of his skill as he was fastest of all in the second wet qualifying session. Unfortunately in all these years, apart from his single season with Benetton alongside Michael Schumacher, his equipment was not winning material, sometimes with teams in a dip or decline, such as Mclaren or Tyrrell, and sometimes with teams that never achieved the heights.
In his Benetton year, with 11 point-scoring finishes and five podiums, he often matched Schumacher, including at Monza where he finished second to Ayrton Senna in a Mclaren Honda, with Schumacher third.
Martin’s year-long battle with Ayrton Senna in equal cars for the 1983 British Formula Three Championship, marked him as a driver who could compete head-to-head with the Brazilian, given equal equipment.
Martin was a notable sports car driver, most successfully with the Tom Walkinshaw-run Jaguars, winning Le Mans in 1990 in the Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-12, his only finish at the iconic race in his four years with Jaguar. He also set an impressive Le Mans pole position in 1999 with the Toyota GT-ONE.
Over his career in sports cars he won 14 major international sports car events, including the Daytona 24 hours and 1,000km championship events at Spa, Monza, Fuji, Silverstone, Brands Hatch, alongside race wins in the IMSA USA championship.
In 1988 Martin won the World Sports Car Championship. It was probably stirring drives in competitive sports car machinery, often against active F1 drivers, that reminded Formula One team managers of the talent that justified Martin’s inclusion on the F1 grid.
Martin was born into a business-minded family, in sales, and a combination of business acumen and promotion led him to his postdriving activities. These have included managing the commercial affairs of his close friend David Coulthard from 1998 to 2008, becoming a board member of the British Racing Drivers Club (owners of the Silverstone circuit) between 1996 and 2003 – he was Chairman of the Board for the final three years – and representing Silverstone in its negotiations with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
In 2012 Martin joined the newly established Skyf1 team as an expert commentator and presenter and is very much the leader in its excellent presentation. Because he so clearly delights in motor sport and in projecting it in a manner that is knowledgeable but not excessively technical, we can expect him to be presenting Formula One for many years to come.
In 2016 Sir Jackie Stewart passed chairmanship of the Grand Prix Trust to Martin. This charity was established by Jackie in 1987 for the benefit of Grand Prix mechanics, but has been broadened to cover all past and present employees of GP teams, and supporting companies.
Martin has published two books, Working the Wheel in 2004 and The Martin Brundle Scrapbook in 2013, which depicts his racing and TV career. In 1997 Martin commenced his broadcast career and joined the legendary Murray Walker commentating on Formula One for ITV, establishing the popular ‘grid walk’ and surprising many with unscripted and sometimes awkward questions.
Neck-and-neck, Senna and Brundle battled throughout in the 1983 Formula 3 championship
World Sports Car Champion in 1988 with the Jaguar XJR-9
On the podium at Silverstone in 1992, Martin's strongest year in F1, in a season dominated by Williams