Martin Brundle feels like he's always one interview away from the end of his career (2024)

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Ahead of the new season, F1's most meme-able star talks about his favourite uncomfortable interactions – or what he describes as “unscripted, unrehearsed, car crash telly”

By Xuanlin Tham

Martin Brundle feels like he's always one interview away from the end of his career (4)

Martin Brundle, the British racing legend, Le Mans and Daytona winner, and Formula One driver turned Sky Sports commentator/reporter has been an indelible presence in motorsport for 40 years. And in the English-speaking world, one can hardly imagine F1 without Brundle’s narration.

But over the years, it’s his grid walk that’s become Brundle’s most beloved work. The concept is simple: right before the race kicks off, Brundle ventures onto the grid to interview drivers, team principals, and attending A-listers. He’s got a hard countdown into the national anthem, by which time he needs to be out of there; every minute is gold.

Speaking to me in the lead-up to the 2024 season, Brundle recalls how different the grid walk felt back in 1997: a time when there was no other media on the grid save him and his cameraperson. “I had the place to myself, and it was lovely. I remember even having Michael Schumacher and Gerhard Berger talking to me at the same time,” he says. “Now there’s probably 30 media organisations on the grid trying to do a similar thing, but nobody’s really live like I am.”

As F1 increasingly becomes the hottest sporting ticket in the world, Brundle’s grid walk captures the chaotic energy of a tiny strip of asphalt where 20 of the most technologically sophisticated supercars are being readied for action amidst a swarm of media, celebs, and influencers – with varying interest in the sport itself. “Quite often, the A-listers look at me like I'm from outer space,” Brundle says. “And it’s like, Hang on, I thought you were briefed! I thought you knew I was coming!

In a typically Martin Brundle way, he describes the grid walk as “unscripted, unrehearsed, car crash telly: I always feel I’m one interview away from the end of my career.” It’s part of why he’s never watched one back. “It’s so not my personality to run around being cheeky, but my alter ego comes out,” he says. “When you’ve got millions of people sitting on your shoulder looking for some inside information, some entertainment, you just have to go for it.”

Over the years, he’s amassed enough absurd encounters with the star-studded world of Formula One VIPs to fill several books. Darting between technical conversations with drivers about the upcoming race to stilted exchanges with actors and musicians, there isn’t much that hasn’t happened to him. A big Led Zeppelin fan, Brundle was once blanked by Robert Plant, even after pulling a favour with mutual friend Eric Clapton to try and speak to Plant on the grid. In Vegas last season, Brundle specially fitted an extra-long wire onto his mic to chat with Shaquille O’Neal only for the basketball legend to simply boom, "Lewis Hamilton, baby,” and walk off.

The stories are endless. “I went to talk to the former King of Spain once – and I know him, he came to Le Mans as my guest 20-odd years ago – and as I went to move, my legs were stuck somehow,” Brundle says. “I realised two of his bodyguards, these guys with a thousand-yard stare out front, had a thumb in each of my jean pockets, and had me pinned to the ground.”

Last year, Brundle went viral for his comically strange interview with Machine Gun Kelly, who he describes, chuckling, as “an unusual character.” Behind the scenes, his job was far from easy. “In my ear, I was getting, You need to get to George Russell’s car. Two rows behind you. Big problem with the front end, George Russell’s car now,” Brundle says. “Meanwhile, I’ve got Machine Gun Kelly trying to do air guitar with me with millions of people watching.”

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To Brundle, virality simply means more eyeballs on the sport he loves, so he embraces his meme-ification with open arms. “First and foremost, it’s sport, it’s entertainment: we have to be fun to watch. It’s the uncomfortable interactions that people love, and that’s fine by me,” he says. He’s never been on TikTok (“I’m 64 years old: it’s not where I would normally hang out,”), but he says F1’s exploding younger fanbase is a dream ticket for any sport: proof it continues to “reinvent” itself.

Does he enjoy poking fun at those celebs on the grid who seem to just be there for the photo op? Brundle knows what I’m getting at, but he’ll “take it all day long that they want to be there,” he says. “If somebody’s on the grid and they’ve got 50, 80 million followers, it’s good for business. I remember not that long ago, we didn’t see anybody like that on the grid: I don’t know whether Formula One had lost its mojo, or it just wasn’t sexy to be seen supporting it.” Nothing if not the most dedicated ambassador for the sport, Brundle also generously just wants more people to take in the exhilaration of an F1 race. “It’s absolutely electrifying,” Brundle says. “I like people to come and experience that.”

Such is the inimitable atmosphere that even after all these years – going from gripping the wheel himself to holding a mic up to the generations of drivers that follow – Brundle still feels the rush of the grid walk. “That kind of sports access is gold dust, especially in a live environment: the drivers are prepared to talk to you minutes before they jump in a car and drive at 230 miles an hour. I love the urgency of that,” Brundle says. (He points out how you couldn’t very well ask David Beckham at Wembley, “Hey, David: just before you kick that ball, how’s the pitch today?”)

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“I really miss being a racing driver. We’re sort of all adrenaline junkies, really,” he continues. “The only thing that gives me about 30 per cent of the nervous energy of when I used to be on the grid, about to race the cars, is the grid walk.”

Like many in the racing world, Brundle’s excitement for the upcoming season has been renewed by the revelation of Lewis Hamilton’s upcoming move to Ferrari. “This is the first season in the history of Formula One where the driver lineup hasn’t changed,” Brundle says, citing Leclerc, Verstappen, Norris and Piastri’s long-term contracts at their respective teams. “I thought, oh, this is looking a little bit static. And then the Lewis to Ferrari story turned up, and it’s like all the lights came on again. Lewis will be wheel to wheel somewhere with a Ferrari [this year], and we'll wonder how that'll go down for next year – it's the story that will keep on giving.”

As for how to make grid walks go viral? “Don't plan anything, because that's when you skid off the track,” he says. “Live off your wits. Get used to listening to people while you’re talking.” Having an ex-marine running alongside him as his camera operator probably doesn’t hurt either.

The Greatest Track on Earth has been created by Sky Sports to celebrate the start of the F1 season. Sky is the home of F1 in the UK & Ireland as it brings fans 24 action-packed races from around the world with the first race weekend of the 2024 season live and exclusive on Sky Sports F1 & NOW from Thursday, 29th February.

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Martin Brundle feels like he's always one interview away from the end of his career (2024)


Why doesn't Martin Brundle do the Grid Walk? ›

The new contract he signed earlier this year means he's only scheduled for 16 of the 24 races on the calendar - and it's also always been part of his deal with the broadcaster that he doesn't do grid walks at them all.

What happened to Martin Brundle? ›

He later became a regular commentator at the BBC, alongside Murray Walker. Since 2012, Brundle has been with Sky Sports where, until now, he has been present at every race.

How long has Martin Brundle been commentating? ›

Martin Brundle may be best known to Formula 1 fans as the primary voice of the sport thanks to an award-winning broadcasting career dating back to 1997, but his career goes far beyond commentating.

Who does the F1 grid walk? ›

Brundle's iconic walk-and-talk format has been especially memorable during F1's three American races with an obvious clash of cultures prompting entertaining moments over the years.

Is Martin Brundle retiring? ›

Martin Brundle turned 65 on Saturday, but he appears to be showing no signs of retiring, I am pleased to say. A Norfolk lad born and bred, he began his racing career 52 years ago, as a 13-year-old grass track racer in Pott Row, a village near his native King's Lynn.

Did Martin Brundle ever win an F1 race? ›

In 2012, he moved over to Sky's Formula One coverage. Brundle can be considered one of the best modern day Formula One drivers to have not won a Grand Prix, scoring multiple podium and points finishes in sub-standard cars.

How good was Martin Brundle? ›

He finished fifth in the 1996 Japanese Grand Prix, which was his last Grand Prix in Formula One. Brundle achieved 9 podiums, and scored a total of 98 championship points, with a best championship finish of 6th in 1992.

How did Martin Brundle make his money? ›

According to Celebrity Net Worth, the 63-year-old is valued at a staggering £83.6million ($100m). He's built up his wealth from his racing career and now his broadcasting ventures.

What car does Martin Brundle drive? ›

Brundle admitted he “loved” his Aston Martin DBS in a chat with Evo Magazine in 2021. However, one of his personal favourites is his Porsche Cayenne 4.2 V8 diesel which he revealed he took on road trips. The Sky Sports host has also owned a range of Ferrari's including the 328 GTS, 355 GTB and a 550 Maranello.

Who is the new team in F1 2026? ›

Audi. Audi will be arriving on the Formula 1 grid for the very first time in the 2026 season after agreeing a majority takeover of the stalwart Sauber team in October 2022, before upgrading that to what will become a full takeover come 2026.

Who controls F1 racing? ›

While the FIA own the series from a sporting perspective, the Formula One Group, under parent company Liberty Media, own the rights to the commercial side of the sport.

Can you race in F1 manager? ›

Racing is the form of battle this game provides in the form of PVP where you will battle other F1 Manager players in a 'race' to see who scores the most points in one race.

Has anyone ever won an F1 race from the back of the grid? ›

Jenson Button is the only driver in the sport's history to have won not just one, but two races— one in Australia and Canada each — after being dead last at some point during both races. His dramatic victory in Montreal was arguably one of the greatest F1 races of the last decade.

Did Martin Brundle race with Schumacher? ›

Brundle competed against Senna in Formula 3 in the 1980s before following him to F1 later in the decade. During the 1992 season, he teamed up with a young Schumacher at Benneton, and ended the season in sixth-place overall, a career-high, with his German partner in third.

Why grid penalty for Max Verstappen? ›

Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing face a potential 10-place grid penalty due to critical engine issues.

Who was the F1 commentator before Martin Brundle? ›

Formula One coverage on ITV
Presented byJim Rosenthal (1997–2005) Steve Rider (2006–2008)
StarringLouise Goodman (1997–2008) James Allen (1997–2001) Ted Kravitz (2001–2008)
Narrated byMurray Walker (1997–2001) James Allen (2001–2008) Martin Brundle (1997–2008)
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