Martin Brundle: ‘I always feel I’m one interview away from the end of my career’

Oliver Harden
A two-way split image of Martin Brundle and Machine Gun Kelly

Martin Brundle has revealed all about his beloved F1 grid walk - and his real thoughts about Machine Gun Kelly

Sky F1 commentator Martin Brundle has revealed all about his long-running pre-race grid walk, claiming he is only ever “one interview away” from the end of his career.

Brundle’s grid walk has long been a highlight of F1 coverage in Britain, delivering unique access to the drivers in the crucial moments before the start of a race.

Martin Brundle tells all about F1 grid walk adventures

The grid walk has taken on a life of its own in recent years, with clips of Brundle’s adventures going viral after awkward encounters with the likes of socialite Cara Delevingne and musician Machine Gun Kelly.

Describing the grid walk as “unscripted, unrehearsed, car crash telly”, Brundle admitted the feature requires him to adopt an “alter ago” – and revealed he is wary that one bad interview could end his career.

He told GQ: “That kind of sports access is gold dust, especially in a live environment: the drivers are prepared to talk to you minutes before they jump in a car and drive at 230 miles an hour. I love the urgency of that.

“Quite often, the A-listers look at me like I’m from outer space. And it’s like: ‘Hang on, I thought you were briefed! I thought you knew I was coming!’

“I always feel I’m one interview away from the end of my career. It’s so not my personality to run around being cheeky, but my alter ego comes out.

“When you’ve got millions of people sitting on your shoulder looking for some inside information, some entertainment, you just have to go for it.

“First and foremost, it’s sport, it’s entertainment: we have to be fun to watch. It’s the uncomfortable interactions that people love and that’s fine by me.

“I really miss being a racing driver. We’re all adrenaline junkies, really. The only thing that gives me about 30 per cent of the nervous energy of when I used to be on the grid, about to race the cars, is the grid walk.”

Recalling his interaction with Machine Gun Kelly – whom he describes as “an unusual character” – at last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, Brundle revealed his production team were urging him to head over to George Russell’s Mercedes as the interview unfolded.

He said: “In my ear, I was getting: ‘You need to get to George Russell’s car. Two rows behind you. Big problem with the front end, George Russell’s car now.’

“Meanwhile, I’ve got Machine Gun Kelly trying to do air guitar with me with millions of people watching.”

Although committed F1 followers often accuse celebrities of a lack of respect by refusing to engage with Brundle, the 64-year-old insisted he will “take it all day long that they want to be there” – claiming the presence of famous faces on the grid underlines F1’s massive appeal.

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He explained: “If somebody’s on the grid and they’ve got 50, 80 million followers, it’s good for business.

“I remember not that long ago, we didn’t see anybody like that on the grid: I don’t know whether Formula 1 had lost its mojo, or it just wasn’t sexy to be seen supporting it.

“It’s absolutely electrifying. I like people to come and experience that.”

Recalling one of his most difficult grid moments, Brundle revealed he was once prevented from speaking to the former King of Spain – a personal friend of his – by his bodyguards, who had inserted a thumb in his pockets to stop him getting close to the monarch.

He said: “I went to talk to the former King of Spain once – and I know him, he came to Le Mans as my guest 20-odd years ago – and as I went to move, my legs were stuck somehow.

“I realised two of his bodyguards – these guys with a thousand-yard stare out front – had a thumb in each of my jean pockets, and had me pinned to the ground.”

As the originator of the grid walk, Brundle believes it was better in the old days with so many other broadcasters now attempting to replicate his successful formula.

“I had the place to myself and it was lovely,” he said of the early days of the grid walk.

“I remember even having Michael Schumacher and Gerhard Berger talking to me at the same time. Now there’s probably 30 media organisations on the grid trying to do a similar thing, but nobody’s really live like I am.”

Asked to name his golden rules for a successful grid walk, he said: “Don’t plan anything, because that’s when you skid off the track.

“Live off your wits. Get used to listening to people while you’re talking.”

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