INTERVIEW

Martin Brundle

Martin Brundle had a difficult time at the start of the year. The 1988 World Sportscar Champion - a veteran of 97 Grands Prix and the winner of the Le Mans and Daytona 24 Hour races - finally got a good break with a top F1 team. His mentor Tom Walkinshaw insisted that Martin be Michael Schumacher's team mate at Benetton, but for a while the drive looked like being the kiss of death to Martin's F1 career.

"Someone once said to me if you ask the world to look at you, make sure you are winning when they look," says Martin with a smile. "Here was my chance to finally get into a proper motor car and, whilst it was potentially good, by Sunday night after the races I wasn't coming home with the points.

"I did a lot of good work over the winter and the team was coming together nicely but if it could go wrong it did go wrong. Almost all my racing laps were in the top six places, but I either tripped over somebody or - like Mexico - had a water pump failure. It was just adding up. I had to put that out of my mind and stop trying to compensate for the championship points I thought I should have had. Try to settle down. I drove really well in Imola and Monaco, but I had one incident when I was right up Gerhard Berger's gearbox and I hit a bump. It was not: 'I think I might lose the car', it was: 'Oh, I've had an accident'. There is no counter-acting it at 150mph. I knocked the front wing off and lost well over a minute in the pits. Then it was a Brundle storm back through the field. That made two consecutive points finishes."

In Canada Martin was one of the stars of the show, but failed to finish because of mechanical problems.

"The early part of the season was frustrating," he says. "I was disappointed for the team and my mechanics more than anything - but the bosses were extremely supportive. I had several people come up to me and say: 'I think you're being replaced' and maybe half an hour before I had come out of a meeting with all the supremos who had said: 'You did a great job for us, settle down. You're racing well. It'll come. We know you're going through a bad time.' I almost had to laugh.

"I'm a firm believer that you make your own luck and I was very self-critical and self-analytical. Every time I stuck my neck out just a little bit, my head was chopped off.

"You do take calculated risks and every one of them went wrong. You have to look for the reasons, because they are always there. You are worrying too much about things and not letting the natural ability and fluidity come through. You are asking yourself if you are overdriving, thinking too much about what Schumacher was doing or what other people were thinking instead of settling down and doing what you do best - which is driving a Grand Prix car at 200mph.

"Being in F1 you do a lot more than what happens on a Sunday afternoon, especially an experienced driver like myself but, of course, the bottom line is that you need to come home with the points on race day. I am comfortable with the rest of the work I am doing for the team. There are a lot of clever people around and I really enjoy working with them."

And that includes team mate Michael Schumacher?

"Not many people envy me the task of having him as my team mate," admits Martin. "It was a problem. I'd like to out-qualify him of course, but he is a seriously fast young man with no apparent fear and great guidance. A serious racing driver and a great star of the future. I'm very impressed. I think at 23 you take a few more risks than you do at 33, but there is still a cross over between experience and youth. I don't think you get any quicker the longer you are in F1, but I think you are able to produce it more often, keeping the thing on the track a bit more often.

"Michael has come along with age on his side and with so much support around him to give him an old head on young shoulders. That is the difference.

"It is a young man's sport, but you need the experience as well. Michael has only been in circuit racing for three or four years so he's obviously a complete natural."

Since the mid-season things have improved and Martin has been a regular face on the F1 podium - but it has meant nothing to the bosses at Benetton. Martin has been dropped for 1993.

"I don't know what I'm doing next year," says Martin grimly, "There may be a chance at Williams. Perhaps McLaren. I don't know. We will have to wait and see."

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