F1 Insights – Johnny Herbert

Max Verstappen’s win wraps a boring season but it should be celebrated, I’m sure Red Bull star wants more of a challenge and I have no sympathy for his ‘show over sport’ comments.

Speaking to Genting Casino, British F1 legend Johnny Herbert said F1 needs a healthy mix of street and race tracks despite Max Verstappen’s comments about the sport needing more of the latter.


After Max Verstappen won in Abu Dhabi, that makes it 19 wins in a season. Is that to be celebrated, or is it boring?  

JH: “A bit of both. Max’s win is to be celebrated and it’s a bit boring. It definitely has to be celebrated because there is a wow factor about Max. His racing brain, his raw talent is clear for everybody to see. It is sometimes very difficult to understand fully what is needed to be as fast as he is and as pure as he is. He has this knack, this new generation has it, of knowing how to use all the tools. 

“When I started, even when Lewis started, the simulator was there, but it was a very basic machine. Now you have a simulator in one room and in the room next door you have what is called a 12 post rig with a car sitting on top of that, while the driver is on the simulator, it relays all his input and the track input to what is happening on the rig. The technology is so advanced nowadays and all these tools allow Max to be given the best car as we have seen this year.  

“But it is the way he does it. It is not as if he just gets across the finishing line, it’s the domination not once or twice but the whole season. Like all great champions, they have this uncanny ability to drive the wheels off the car every race. Even when it is not perfect they find a way of almost getting perfection because of the raw ability. To have that drive to win as many races as he has is unbelievable. 

“But on the other side, I am sure Max would want a challenge from someone else. But he is enjoying the moment as a three-time world champion and there is more of that to come. 

“It is looking as if it is getting closer though and now it is down to him, like all the greats, where he has got to work hard with the team to ensure he is given the tools for next season. It is mighty impressive what he does. The overtaking moves he is doing now are fantastic to watch as they are so beautifully crafted and executed that we should salute that and enjoy it. 

“It is a special time when you get these special drivers doing what they are doing. And he is not finished yet by a long way.” 

Before the race Max hinted that he might quit if F1 puts too much emphasis on the show instead of the sport and the race itself. Do you sympathise with that?  

JH: “I don’t sympathise with Max there. This all comes from Vegas and the Americans do this sort of thing very well. I say that because the presentation of the drivers is an important factor for the fans who don’t get to see their idols very often. Some of them won’t be in the main grandstand, they’ll maybe be on turn six round the back of the circuit. The only time realistically they see them is either on TV or in a magazine. 

“The presentation gives the fans the chance to see them. It is the fan base that allows you to have the job the drivers do. It may take an hour out of their calendar on that given day, but it is part of what the spectacle is all about. We live in a world where competition from other sports is very intense. You are not just battling F1, like football. Golf, tennis. You have got to keep ahead of the game. 

It is important to draw in new race fans. That is so important. A few years ago the average age of an F1 fan was in their forties. Now it is skewing much younger.  I have really noticed this. We don’t want to push them away. We need to make this sport as big as it can be. We are in the Netflix bubble and we cannot lose that. 

Max also said F1 needs more race tracks than street circuits. Where do you sit with that? 

JH: “Vegas works, Baku has worked. Everybody talks about Monaco. It is a unique, special place. For me it was always the greatest qualifying track on the calendar because it was unbelievably exciting and exhilarating to do that. 

“It is lovely to have the mix. Tracks should all be different. You can’t make them all the same, with the same surface because everyone would know what the car is going to do. It was lovely in Vegas because no-one knew what was going to unfold. Variety is vital. I don’t agree with Max on that. There has to be a different challenge. Tracks should be tricky and demanding. Street circuits generally work so why would you want to get rid of them.” 




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V: 1.38.0 All rights reserved. August 2021