He’s been commentating on Formula One for so long, it’s hard to remember that he used to be a racing driver! Martin Brundle celebrates his 52nd birthday today.
Born in Norfolk, where he still lives,he began in BTCC before racing single seaters in 1979 aged 20 with Formula Ford. In 1982 he began racing in British Formula Three, coming 4th after 20 races with 2 wins, 6 poles and 7 podiums. The next year he came second in the championship, winning five of the 19 races for Eddie Jordan Racing. He finished on the podium for all but two races.
In 1984 he moved to Formula One, driving for Tyrell. He finished fifth in his first race, and on the podium in his second. His great season was cut short when he broke his legs at Dallas, then wiped from the record books when the team were disqualified from the 1984 championship for a technical infringement. Brundle of course can empathise with Sergio Perez, who scored points in his first race before being disqualified for a technical infringement. Brundle stuck with Tyrrel for the next two years, but the team struggled. He moved to a small team called Zakspeed in 1987, managing only two points which were the only ones the team scored in their history.
He took a year out of F1 in 1988 to compete in the World Sportscar Championship for Jaguar. He won the title with a record haul of points, and also won the Daytona 24 Hour race. In 1989 he returned to F1 to race for Brabham, then went back into sports car racing for 1990 and won Le Mans. In 1991 he again returned to Brabham. But the team hadn’t been doing as well as they once had been. Despite this, he did reall well and got Brabham points.
So in 1992 he moved to Benneton, up against teammate Michael Schumacher. It’s said that he came the closest of anyone to matching Schumacher before his retirement and comeback. Though he never won, he had several brilliant races.
In 1993, he began racing for Ligier, and pushed the car to its limits, even getting a podium and several points finishes. He finished seventh in the championship in a car that did not have active suspension – all the cars in front of him did. His impressive performance got him a move to McLaren, but the team were struggling with their Peugeot engines and didn’t manage to win anything. But he did manage to finish second in Monaco behind Schumacher.
In 1995, he was replaced by Nigel Mansell so he moved back to Ligier for a part season. And he took his last-ever F1 podium at Spa. In 1996 he moved to drive for Eddie Jordan again alongside Rubens Barrichello, his best finish being fourth.
In 158 Grand Prix starts, Brundle never won, got a pole position or a fastest lap. But he had 9 podiums and 98 championship points.
In 1997, he was offered a seat at Sauber but decided against it. He moved back to Le Mans racing, and also began commentating on F1 for ITV, who had the broadcasting rights in those days for the UK. He’d previously had a similar role to Karun Chandhok, being part of the commentary team when his Ligier teammate was racing in 1995. He was immediately very popular. His grid walks in particular have been a great source of entertainment for fans.
He was initially alongside Murray Walker, then James Allen, and moved to BBC to commentate alongside Jonathan Legard. Brundle was promoted this year to lead commentator, and has David Coulthard alongside him. With his 14 previous years of experience, it’s a fairly easy decision to make.
Brundle is also in driver management, being David Coulthard’s manager amongst others. His son Alex drives in Formula Two, and after Alex’s first worrying weekend in Silverstone he had a much better time at Magny-Cours, taking a pair of podium finishes. He is currently fifth in the championship.