Speaking to ICE36, Johnny Herbert has explained how he departed Sky Sports, Lance Stroll could out qualify Fernando Alonso and how important it is to have an American fan base for the future and growth of Formula One.
Hamilton should join Ferrari - he’d make wonderful partnership with Sainz
Lewis hasn’t signed his extension and that enables him, if he is still motivated, to look elsewhere. And why wouldn’t he? Ferrari has to be the option. He is not going to go to Red Bull, that isn’t going to happen. He is not going to go to Aston Martin either.
I know Ferrari have not quite been able to achieve what we all expect Ferrari to achieve, but they certainly have the potential to be able to do it. That’s for sure. They have got closer over the past couple of years but it hasn’t quite worked out.
Maybe he wants to hold on to see which direction Mercedes has gone and what they do, which is not very positive, and then maybe put the feelers out for somewhere else. The red car makes the most sense. If it happened, then the one who would suffer would be Carlos Sainz as Charles Leclerc is already concreted in.
Hamilton and Sainz at Ferrari would be a wonderful pairing, to be honest. The young and the experienced, fighting it out in a Ferrari that hopefully, with the whole ability that Lewis has, to draw in the right people to be able to produce a car and take it to Red Bull as it is at the moment.
Christian Horner and Red Bull used to moan and bitch about Mercedes dominance and they got away with excessive spending
It’s the cycle of sport. A dominant team has always been the case. I always remember when we had that long dominance with Mercedes. Christian Horner and Red Bull were bitching and moaning, and saying something has got to be done about it and it was not good for the sport. But it was down to everybody else to catch up. It took a long time before that happened. Now it is starting to get closer.
I still think Red Bull probably got away with it when their costing went over the top – the penalty for the wind tunnel, only because I know their CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) system is the most powerful tool they have got and that never really got penalised.
Recently we have only been talking about three teams, but that is now four with Aston. That is a nice switch around. And if we do it on the rate of progression so far, we might have someone new at the front soon!
Hamilton can win 8th world title but Ferrari need to sell it to him
As a racing driver I don’t see why he would not have the motivation, especially for that 8th title. He is still good enough. I know what it means for him. George Russell is doing a cracking job but Lewis has still got what it takes to win races. He is not comfortable with the car, but that happens. Every single driver I know has moments when they feel uncomfortable with their car and complain.
It is unfair to criticise Lewis for that. The motivation for the 8th is still there. But it has to have the right ingredients - like he did when he went from McLaren to Mercedes when a number of people, including myself, thought he was mad to do it. Mercedes at that point were nowhere. What Niki Lauda and Ross Brawn were able to present to him excited him. That’s why he went. Ferrari have got to do a similarly big selling job.
Hamilton past his best but is in top three drivers of all time
Lewis may not be at his peak, that peak has gone by, but it is still a bloody high ability that he still possesses. I don’t see that being an issue at all. As we all know, for instance, if you play golf and you hit a great shot, that makes you feel ‘I want to crack on’. That is the thing that can suddenly reignite that fire in Lewis which I think is slightly turned down at the moment, because it is not quite working out in the way that he wanted.
He is absolutely in the top-three British drivers ever. He is up against a new generation. There always has been in most decades. I remember Ayrton turning up and changing everything in ’84, Niki did likewise, Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark.
Then in the modern era it’s Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher. They are the special ones who come through every decade. And I think we are seeing that now with Max, Lando and George.
German magazine’s ‘AI interview’ over Schumacher was appalling
That German magazine interview was appalling. This is the modern, mad world of AI and how dangerous it can be. That was a prime example of using it in completely the wrong way.I can understand the fascination with Michael because it is a story that has not had an ending yet.
There is an endless fascination about Michael. I don’t have any contact with the family. It is all kept very tight.
I didn’t see eye-to-eye with ruthless Schumacher - he had a ‘darker side’
We didn’t always see eye-to-eye. He was ruthless. But that is why he achieved what he achieved. He had a way that he wanted to go about his racing. He was fortunate that he got the right people around him with Flavio Briatore, Ross Brawn to Rory Byrne, and he took those people to Ferrari.
I remember Ross saying Michael was the best driver he had ever worked with. Because of that they would do anything for him. And I mean anything. Because of that, Michael gets that motivation, they get the motivation back because he gives it back, and together they deliver. Then it becomes a cycle of success.I still remember what for me was his standout performance in the Ferrari, in the wet in Barcelona in 1996.
It was his first victory for Ferrari. It was a stunning drive in torrential rain and why he was thereafter called the ‘Regenmeister’, the Rainmaster. It was an unbelievable drive.Yes, there was a darker side to him too, but at the end of the day you can’t deny anything he did.
Drive to Survive has opened eyes of US to F1 - in my day people cared more about ostrich racing
F1 is gaining traction in the USA. They have three races this year, Las Vegas, Austin and Miami. Drive to Survive has definitely opened up the eyes of the American fans. There has always been an American F1 fan but they were relatively small. Quite a lot of Americans go to Monaco.It has also been helped by the mentality we have had with Liberty.
They have added elements which have actually made the sport more engaging. With the ground effect cars we have at the moment, that was something they wanted to do to make the racing better for the fans.There is always this argument, is it the show or is it all about etch and the teams?
In this modern world it is a very important part of it, with the competition you have got from many other sports you have to have a show element to it. It has got to be interesting. The new generation has to be drawn into that excitement.
Americans cared more about ostrich racing than F1 in my day
Cracking America is difficult and the holy grail for sport. Bernie Ecclestone tried for decades, but wasn’t able to do it. I remember going to Phoenix in my first season when I smacked myself up, and walking in the morning with my wife. We met a couple who were walking too. They asked, ‘what’s going on here?
We said we are here for the Grand Prix.They said ‘where you from then’? Are you British? What’s Formula 1? They said ‘we are here for the ostrich racing’. From what I remember there were more people at the ostrich racing than there were at the Grand Prix. There is a different mindset now which is benefitting everyone involved.
If every F1 driver drove Red Bull car - Max Verstappen would still win
If everyone drove a Red Bull, now as we are today I’d say Max would still be the quickest although there would not be much in it purely on where he is at in his career, where we see him do it every single weekend. Has he peaked? No.
There is always a time the greats of the sport don’t stay great until that last lap on the track. And they don’t know it’s their last lap.Look at Alain when he came back in 93 with Williams. It wasn’t his strongest season by a long way even in a dominant car. But it wasn’t the best Alain Prost.
The best Alain Prost had already gone. Everybody goes through it. Every single driver has a peak and then there is a slight dip afterwards. The race craft never gets lost, it’s the pace and qualifying. That was my first inkling that something was being lost.
How do you feel now about your exit from Sky Sports?
JH: "It was disappointing and a bit of a surprise. But as Damon (Hill) said to me I had had a good eleven years.
“It’s given me an opportunity to look at other things and knock on people’s doors which I had not done for a long while. I am very fortunate being an ex-driver and winning races that it helps.”
What are you predicting for the Baku GP?
JH: “I’m looking forward to it because it always turns up things which make it an interesting race.
“We have got the sprint; some people like it, some people don’t. I like the concept of what we have got over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I always found that Friday was a waste of time, just a data collection exercise over two sessions. Now you’ve got the qualifying for Sunday’s race on Friday, and Saturday qualifying for the sprint race.
“There is entertainment for everybody, every single day. I like the concept. People say there is a risk factor in the sprint, but there is a risk factor in F1 anyway. I don’t see that as part of an argument not to have them. But I hope Baku is the right track that gives us a little bit more entertainment.”
Much has been made of the Baku track, with it being prone to crashes. What did you think of it?
JH: There have been prangs in Baku but that’s part of it. I view it from a driver’s perspective, you know that you have to be a bit smarter not to get yourself into a predicament.
“That is the challenge of racing in a grand prix on the Sunday on laps one and two. Look at Australia this year, it was crazy. There is always a risk, always a charge. I know it is an extra race but I don’t accept there is extra risk.”
Can anyone stop Red Bull?
JH: “In a word; ‘No!’ Not at the moment. I don’t see it changing. Sergio Perez always goes well there. Max will obviously be going very well and because of the advantage they have got at the present time, it will continue.
“Can Mercedes be challenging, can Ferrari be challenging and can Aston Martin? I don’t see it because one advantage Red Bull has is that top line speed which is very handy to have in Baku. I don't see it as a track which is going to help the others. But again you don’t know what might come into play like we had in Saudi Arabia when there was the issue that Max had in qualifying for example.
“There is always that element that can still come into play. Sergio had it as well. They both suffered a little bit on reliability in the qualifying session. I suppose that might be something that could produce a twist. The good thing with it is that because there is not the opportunity to collect so much data as there normally is, that might bring in something.
“But overall I can’t see too much troubling Red Bull.”
What do you think of Aston Martin’s start to the season?
JH: “It’s a great story. It showed initially when Aston Martin started up in GP, it is not an easy thing to say, right we want to become a challenge to the top lot, which they have done. But as far as the next step in winning races, it does take time.
“I think they talked about a five year plan which Laurence Stoll talked about. They have a new factory being built. There is a plan, and Fernando is an early part of that. I think that was a smart move, which could work out in their favour. The way Fernando works and is motivated. In the past people might not have liked that he was outspoken like when with McLaren he shouted out on the radio that the engine was worse than a F2 engine.
“I know he is very pushy in a team, but you need that. Lawrence will enjoy that because they all have the same goal at the end of the day. The thing at Baku is that Lance has gone through his mountain biking shunt he had at the start of the season – it takes a bit of time to get going again at the start of a championship – but he hasn’t been blown away by Fernando at all and he is going to a track he goes well at. He might, for the first time, out qualify Fernando and we might have one of those on the front row. They have the best chance because they are very consistent.”
Miami is coming up, does the USA really need another race?
JH: “F1 is gaining traction in the USA. They have three races this year, Las Vegas, Austin and Miami. Drive to Survive has definitely opened up the eyes of the American fans.
“There has always been an American F1 following but it was relatively small. Quite a lot of Americans go to Monaco. It has also been helped by the mentality we have had with Liberty. They have added elements which have actually made the sport more engaging. With the ground effect cars we have at the moment, that was something they wanted to make the racing better for the fans and the audience.”
Has Drive To Survive been good for F1?
JH: “There is always this argument, is it the show or is it all about etch and the teams. In this modern world a very important part of it, with the competition you have got from many other sports, you have to have a show element to it. It has got to be interesting. The new generation has to be drawn into that excitement.
“Cracking America is difficult and the holy grail for sport. Bernie Ecclestone tried for decades, but wasn’t able to do it. I remember going to Phoenix in my first season when I smacked myself up, and walking in the morning with my wife. We met a couple who were walking in. They asked, ‘What’s going on here? We said we are here for the Grand Prix. They said; ‘Where you from then? Are you British? What’s Formula 1?’. They said: ‘We’re here for the ostrich racing’. From what I remember there were more people at the ostrich racing than there were at the Grand Prix.
“There is a different mindset now which is benefitting everyone involved.”