Singapore GP preview with Martin Brundle
Martin Brundle is a veteran of 165 grands prix and picked up nine podium finishes during his Formula 1 career. Now the co-commentator and pundit for Sky Sports, the 53-year-old is one of the most respected figures in F1. In the build-up to the Singapore Grand Prix, he talked to Orange about the title run-in, Lewis Hamilton's contract wranglings and pays his respects to the man who helped avoid having his foot chopped off...
Singapore's something of a novelty in that it's a night race. What's your take on it?
I remember thinking how unusual it was to start with as you stay on European time and would randomly be getting in lifts with the drivers at six in the morning as they'd just finished their team debriefs. But now that feels totally normal. You have to stay on European time otherwise you just wouldn't survive but it's good fun. It's a tough race on the cars and on the drivers.
Who's your prediction for the race win?
This season I gave up on predicting race winners long ago, it's too hard to call. You'd have to say the usual suspects of Fernando Alonso, the McLarens and the Red Bulls, and possibly Lotus Renault as well. I genuinely couldn't tell you who will win.
What about a title prediction then...
You'd have to say that Fernando's the favourite. He leads the championship and he should be there or thereabouts come the business end of the season. But there are seven flyaway races left and there's so much that can happen because it takes its toll on the drivers and the teams alike. You'd say he's favourite but he doesn't have the fastest car and, if he gets his act together, Lewis Hamilton ought to be snapping at his heels. But then you have both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, not to mention Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen. Ironically, Felipe Massa may hold the key to the title. If he can raise his game, he'll take points off Alonso's rivals.
The talking point in Singapore is undoubtedly Lewis Hamilton. What do you think he'll do - stay at McLaren or make the move to Mercedes?
Let me just dust off my crystal ball! Seriously, I just don't know. There's so much information and misinformation going on at the moment it's difficult to say. It's a 50-50 call and I don't know which way it'll go. It's a big call by Mercedes to potentially replace Michael Schumacher with Lewis, and it'd be a big call by Lewis to make the switch from a team he's been at since he was a young lad.
How highly do you rate Hamilton?
On his day, I think he's unbeatable, he's that good. When everything's working for him, he's a delight to watch in a racing car. But it's difficult to know whether McLaren or Mercedes can get that on a more regular basis.
Do you think Michael Schumacher will definitely call time on his career?
No, I don't. I think he's been doing a better job this season and I get the impression he'd like to carry on.
Sticking to the driver market, do you think Felipe Massa will get the shove at Ferrari?
Again, I'm not sure. The issue Ferrari has is that they clearly wanted to bring an experienced driver in alongside Fernando, which is why they pushed for Mark Webber and Jenson Button, neither of which proved possible. There aren't that many experienced drivers left so that might be to Felipe's benefit. It depends on what he does in the final races. If he gets up in the high points and does a job for Fernando, he'll possibly get another chance.
Aside from driver rumours, another big talking point recently has been the death of Professor Sid Watkins, who did so much to improve driver safety in F1. We believe he played a big part in your driving career and life personally...
Well, if it wasn't for Sid I probably would have had my foot cut off following the accident I had back in 1984 in Dallas. My ankle had completely exploded and gangrene was beginning to set in. The doctors were ready to cut the foot off but Sid got me back to England. I was so drugged up to the eyeballs that I don't remember a lot for a month but he was responsible for saving my foot and my career. But he also did so much more for drivers as a whole.
Do you still think more can be done for safety and do you think it should?
It's an interesting question as obviously driver safety can always be improved and, with a son racing, I should be pushing for it to be safer all the time. But part of Formula 1's appeal is the danger of it and there has to be an element of that for the public watching or else they'd just think "oh, I can do it". I'm not advocating danger for the sport, far from it. But what I'm saying is we can't make the sport totally anaesthetised. I don't see a closed canopy, for example, as a solution.