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F1's greatest double acts

Wednesday 15th January 2014


F1's greatest double acts

F1's greatest double acts

With the passing of John Button, PF1 looks at some of the great double acts of the sport.

As if F1 didn't have enough downbeat news at the moment, Jenson Button's dad, John Button has passed away with a suspected heart attack. John missed very few of Jenson's 249 F1 races and he was a more-than-familiar face in the paddock. Bernie Ecclestone said, "He is someone that I have known for over 40 years and is one of those people that you always expect to see at a Formula One race. I will certainly miss him."

Jenson may have been in F1 since 2000 but for those of us glued to any kind of motorsport that came on television from the mi-1970s, John Button was a rallycross hero, the star of Lydden Hill.

Jenson and John were one of F1's great double acts of which there have been many notable examples - two people who you could guarantee would not be very far from each other at a grand prix weekend. There have been many in the sport.

Michael Schumacher and Sabine Kehm: Michael's media manager Sabine Kehm might have been excused for thinking that the hurly burly of press attention that she had helped steer Michael through for the majority of his F1 career was entering a new phase. He had retired, he was still up for the Race of Champions but nothing much else. She knew there would always be interest in Michael that she would have to handle, but there wouldn't be the surges that came with the World Championship wins, or the F1 comeback or the second retirement or the odd furore. Now she is busier than ever, and whereas some double-acts will stop when the grand prix career is finished, this is likely to be an enduring one.

Rob Smedley and and Felipe Massa: With Xevi Pujolar moving over from Williams to engineer Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Ross, the way is clear (should he choose it) for Rob Smedley to move back to Williams where he started his career in the touring car team. It would also re-unite him with the driver he treats like a sibling, Felipe Massa. As Rob said playfully at the end of the 2013 season, "He's like a little brother... you want to grab him and punch him in the face two or three times." But underneath that smiling remark, there's some deep brotherly love.

Bernie and Pasquale: Bernie Ecclestone is the paddock's guvnor and Pasquale is his first lieutenant, checking that everything is as it should be.

Eddie Jordan and Gary Anderson: Even after Eddie Jordan sold his F1 team he hasn't strayed very far from his former technical director the genial giant Gary Anderson. Having won grands prix together they now both work on the BBC commentary team, bringing an extra dimension to the coverage.

Jacques Villeneuve and Craig Pollock:Craig Pollock worked as head of sport at the College Beausoleil in Villars, Switzerland, where he met a young Jacques Villeneuve. Years later they met up in Suzuka and Jacques asked Craig to become his manager. From that time on Pollock became one of the highest profile driver managers with Craig handling a lot of the media that Jacques didn't enjoy. Pollock persuaded British American Tobacco to form a team for his driver, which bought up the old Tyrrell equipment, to become BAR, but it was very unsuccessful for a driver of Villeneuve's ability. Craig and Jacques eventually parted company in 2008.

Sebastian Vettel and Britte Roeske:She is the calm, occasionally smiling blonde P.A. who manages Sebastian Vettel through the paddock. They are always together at grand prix weekends because Sebastian is always overrunning his time - he never takes shortcuts. He is the antithesis of Kimi Raikkonen who makes the appearances, presses the flesh and disappears as soon as he can. Sebastian won't do that and is both engaged and unfailingly polite, thus it is Britte's job to extricate him and move him on.

Mika and Erja Hakkinen:Many drivers' wives don't like the pressure and intrusion of being in the public glare at race weekends. Not so the steely Erja.

Murray Walker and James Hunt: They were a great double act as the BBC commentary team and were very close for the simple reason that they only had one microphone and if James was angry and wanted to speak, he would rip it out of Murray's hands. This led to a volatile race commentary, with some of the most critical comments about drivers' ability that you are ever likely to hear (think Patrese, Arnoux and DeCesaris). Though Brundle does his best to say just what he thinks, there is too much at stake these days to alienate a team or a driver. Hunt didn't have any such worries.

Herbie Blash and Charlie Whiting: The former Brabham engineers have been together since the 1970s, bringing a touch of Chessington to the FIA's race control. (In fact if you stumble through the industrial estates of Chessington you can still see the odd FIA trailer unit parked up on what must be former Brabham property). When an incident happens to delay the race and cameras pan round the race control room, Herbie will be sat next to Charlie. Perhaps they'll go on into their 80s like their Brabham boss.

Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart: In the 1960s, when the media commitments of grand prix drivers were a five-minute interview with Dennis Jenkinson and Jabby Crombac, the likes of Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill had a lot more time on their hands at races. Thus the Formula 1 drivers were a lot more sociable and became great friends. Hill and Stewart battled it out on track through the season, but the highlight of the year was their appearance at the BBC Sports Personality Awards, where they would have their own double act, gleefully pointing out each other's mistakes. At a time of two-channel television in the UK it was unmissable.

So, who would PF1 readers add to this list of double acts...?

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