Martin Brundle

Martin Brundle

1/6/1959

English motor racing and former Formula One driver known chiefly as the man who ran Ayrton Senna close in British Formula Three and as ITV Sport F1 commentator. Brundle was born at King's Lynn, Norfolk, England. A very intelligent and fast racing driver, Brundle never really got the breaks at the top level of single seaters, but when offered opportunities in other disciplines, he took them. He was the 1988 World Sports Car Champion, with a record points haul, and won the 1990 Le Mans 24 hour Race for Jaguar. His Formula One career began with Tyrrell in 1984. He put in a number of aggressive and fast drives, finishing a fast second at Detroit. But then double disaster struck. At the Dallas Grand Prix, Brundle broke his ankles in a crash during a practice session. Then Tyrrell were disqualified from the world championship for 1984 due to a technical infringement. For the next two seasons he remained with Tyrrell, but without a works engine supply the team would struggle against the sport's giants. In 1987 he switched to Zakspeed, but managed only two points, the car unable to compete with the frontrunners. Four years of racing for underfunded teams saw him seek a new challenge. In 1988 he won his world sports car title, but also guested for Williams at the Belgian Grand Prix. In 1989 he returned to F1 full-time with the returning Brabham squad, but the former champions were unable to recapture their early 1980s success and Brundle opted to move back into the sports car arena for 1990. The Le Mans victory came that year and rejuvenated his career, but still a top-line race seat in formula one eluded him. In 1991 he rejoined Brabham, but the squad had fallen even further down the grid and results were sparse. Despite failing to grab headlines in 1991, Brundle finally got his big break for 1992, with a switch to Benetton, a team very much on-the-up. Through years of inferior equipment and sabbaticals from F1, it was eight years before Brundle would legitimately claim a podium finish, although the top step eluded him. In 1992 he enjoyed by far his best season, with a very strong finish to the year. The closest he came to a win was in Canada, where in a race of attrition, Brundle looked to be favourite to inherit the lead before he himself broke down. He never managed to outqualify his illustrious team-mate Michael Schumacher, but in the second half of the year was regularly able to outrace the young German. At Spa, Brundle overtook the future champion. Schumacher noticed blisters on his team-mates' tyres and came in for slicks, a move that won him the race. Had Brundle not overtaken him, perhaps he may have pitted that crucial lap earlier, a victory the possible result. Despite an excellent 1992, Brundle found himself dropped from Benetton for 1993, Italian Riccardo Patrese taking his place. Brundle came close to a dream deal with world champions Williams, but in the end Damon Hill won the drive instead. Still keen to stay in F1, Brundle found himself racing for Ligier in 1993. Another podium was achieved in a good season for the Brit. Going into 1994 he had no contract, but was very much in the frame for the vacant McLaren seat alongside Mika Hakkinen. McLaren were hopeful of re-signing their former driver Alain Prost, at that time the reigning world champion. Prost, who had retired after winning his fourth title, decided not to return and so Brundle got the drive. It was a case of bad timing in many ways. McLaren were on the cusp of a downturn and throughout 1994 were unable to win. The team's Peugeot engines were particularly unreliable and at Silverstone Brundle's motor spectacularly exploded off the line. Nevertheless, Brundle put in some strong performances that season, most noticeably at Monaco where he finished second only to Schumacher. Having had poor luck and with Nigel Mansell signed to McLaren for 1995, Brundle once more raced for Ligier that year, although not for the full season. To appease Mugen-Honda he had to share the second seat with Aguri Suzuki, a move denounced by many commentators and fans. He impressed however, a strong fourth at Magny-Cours and what would be his last F1 podium at Spa, the highlights. In 1996 he teamed up with Rubens Barrichello at Jordan and enjoyed a good season, with regular points, fourth his best result. Brundle had hoped to stay in F1 beyond 1996, but could not find a seat, although he went on to star once more at Le Mans. Drives for Nissan, Toyota and Bentley impressed, but a second victory failed to materialise. Brundle's last Le Mans outing came in 2001, after which he focused on his role with the BRDC. Having largely retired from motor racing, Brundle is now highly regarded as a commentator on British television network ITV, where he is co-commentator alongside James Allen and occasional presenter for the network's F1 coverage. He draws on his experience to provide depth to his commentary in a similar way to the 'color commentators' on American TV. Brundle took the wheel of a Jaguar F1 car for the Formula One demonstration in London prior to the 2004 British Grand Prix. Although he never won a race, he achieved 9 podiums, and scored a total of 98 championship points, with a best championship finish of 6th in 1992. He was especially strong on street circuits and similarly slow-speed courses - Monaco, Adelaide and the Hungaroring each produced 4 points finishes for him. He was certainly a talent who deserved to win in F1, but circumstances were sadly against him. His successes in sports cars proved his class however.

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