‘Why would you spend a thousand bucks going to a Formula 1 race if it wasn’t a bit scary?’

Michelle Foster
Zhou Guanyu crashes on the opening lap of the grand prix. Silverstone July 2022

Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu crashes on the opening lap of the grand prix, sliding upside down. Silverstone July 2022

Martin Brundle believe the criteria Formula 1 needs to be successful is be “fast”, have a touch of “wow” and be a little “bit scary”.

Racing in Formula 1 from 1984 until 1996, Brundle was in the sport when Elio de Angelis lost his life in an accident while testing and he also made up part of the grid on that fateful weekend at Imola in 1994.

That weekend Roland Ratzenberger was killed in a crash during qualifying while a day later Ayrton Senna suffered a fatal accident.

While by no means the last death out on track, Senna was the last Formula 1 driver before Jules Bianchi to die from injuries suffered during a grand prix weekend.

Formula 1 was given a shocking reminder of Bianchi’s crash at Suzuka on Sunday with the drivers criticising the FIA for allowing a recovery vehicle onto the track in poor visibility.

Brundle added his voice to that with the nine-time podium finishers tweeting there should “never ever be a tractor on track until the cars are all collected up behind a Safety Car or in the pits.”

He does, however, concede that Formula 1’s danger is part of its draw card.

Speaking to GQ Magazine before the Suzuka tractor incident, he said: “Why would you spend a thousand bucks going to a Formula 1 race if it wasn’t a bit scary and a bit edgy and “wow” and just fast? You wouldn’t.

“So it’s a scary sport. It’s a dangerous sport and it always will be. And to an extent, it always should be.”

Carlos Sainz crashes his Ferrari. Japanese Grand Prix October 2022.

Brundle started 158 grands prix during his time in Formula 1, the Briton asked about whether drivers ever felt fear.

“I think no,” he replied. “If you’re scared, you’ll get out.

“Yeah, you will because it’ll be a wet day, you can’t see where you’re going and then you press the throttle a little bit harder in following another car. Your visors are obliterated. You are listening, you’ve got peripheral vision looking for brake marker boards or trees or reference points, whatever.

“So if you’re scared, you can’t get in.

“You come to a certain level of peace with yourself when you step over the side of those things that certain things might happen. You might get hurt. You might get paralysed, you might be killed.

“So if you don’t manage that down and you’re scared, you literally couldn’t make them function. Of course, you hope that’s not going to happen. And you think it’s not going to happen. Now I survived three crashes I probably shouldn’t have survived. I’ve got lucky.

“If you look at Ayrton’s crash in 1994 at Imola, we all survived much worse crashes than that. He just got so unlucky with that piece of suspension, for example. So yeah, I believe in fate on all that kind of thing. But no, I don’t think you ever get scared.

“Have you ever seen Mark Webber overtake Fernando Alonso around the outside in Eau Rouge? That’s worth YouTubing. That’s probably one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen in a Formula 1 car. But no, you can’t be scared.”

And that hasn’t changed for him today as a commentator.

He said: “I only think of myself as a racing driver who does commentary. I don’t think of myself as a broadcaster at all. I just think I’m a driver who talks about it, basically.

“I guess I came through a fairly hard phase where drivers were injured, and drivers were killed, and that’s the nature. I saw my team-mate get killed. And even my son’s been in two or three races where a driver has been killed, and he’s a generation down the road.

“So you’ve already mind-managed the danger of it. You don’t want to see anybody hurt in the name sport. You know, everybody likes to see a big crash don’t they really, or a spectacular crash.

“Nobody wants to see anybody hurt or certainly killed in the name of sport. It just makes sense. But at the same time, you’ve got to be doing something that other people couldn’t or wouldn’t want to do.”

Read more: Martin Brundle: ‘Don’t know why I bothered’ with awkward David Beckham grid walk chat