Speaking to CasinoSite.nl, F1 legend Johnny Herbert said that ‘selfish’ Ralf Schumacher was the driver he liked the least during his career, and that he sees nothing other than a Red Bull win at the Dutch GP this weekend.
Question: What are you predicting from the Dutch GP?
JH: “Short answer? Max is going to win! And that’s great for him and Red Bull but not necessarily for the sport.”
Q: Why is Red Bull’s dominance not good for the sport?
JH: “Christian Horner has made it clear that Red Bull have no intention of letting up and not dominating the sport. That worries me. That is a mentality I understand, but from the racing point of view it is not a good thing if all they want to do is dominate. We want to make the sport better. I would have thought Max is probably bored out of his skull. It is lovely winning and dominating but it is not challenging. And Max is the type of character that wants to be challenged. No-one is able to do that.
“You can say it’s up to everyone else to raise their game to create what Red Bull have created. As an ex-racer I’d want to be pushed and tested and challenged, I’d want to race. I wouldn’t want to just disappear into the distance. It is nice every now and again.
“The team’s whole ethos is to dominate but we don’t want domination. That was the whole concept of what the ground effect car was supposed to have improved. It concerns me. How do you change that to create more competition? After all, it is a competition. Or supposed to be. You can always throw at me that it’s always been a part of F1. It has but not for the extent that Red Bull is doing now, for four or more years. I still feel that the teams have too much control in terms of where that development should go for the future of F1. That is where I think it needs to be taken back by the FIA to work out what needs to be done to make racing better without teams opposing everything.”
Q: What are the consequences of such domination for F1?
JH: “With a procession each week, who is going to watch? That’s always the problem. Red Bull don’t care about the people who might tune off. But it has to be entertaining. It is not just about F1 competing against other motor sports, it is other sports too, football for example. Man City may dominate but the actual games invariably are exciting to watch.
“You have got to make that happen in F1. Is total domination what we really want? Is that what Max wants? I don’t think so. There has got to be a point where someone has got to get hold of the reins and steer it in the direction that is beneficial for the sport overall. Competitive racing will be much more appealing for the sport, brings in more sponsorship and it is a virtuous circle.”
Q: Are Red Bull the Man City of F1?
JH: “Yes, there’s an element of that. They have built something special. But just spending money doesn’t guarantee success. Look at Chelsea, they have spent something like £1bn and where are they?”
Q: Would a new team under Mario Andretti be good for the sport?
JH: “Of course, a new team under Mario Andretti would be good for the sport. But F1 teams are against a new team coming in to make it 11, like Andretti is proposing. Why don’t they want a new team to come in? I don’t get that. They say it won’t improve what we have got, that we are happy as a club. But it’s not about that. It is about expanding the sport itself. The Andretti family are big names. Mario was a world champion. And it is in America – we should get another American team in it. We have got Haas who aren’t quite there. So bring in Andretti.
“It would only make it better. Teams might ask what benefit they would bring. I will tell you. If they get it all right and it all works together to make it more interesting, it will drag in the American market even more. At the moment with Max winning, they will turn off. And the whole Netflix thing could easily pop.”
Q: Are Red Bull already looking to next season?
JH: “Of course they are. They have the advantage of being where they are this year. Even if everybody starts getting a little bit closer, they still have to gain probably a second lap. Red Bull have enough time to look forward to next year. The domination we are seeing this year is in my opinion down to what we saw last year.
“The overspend benefited them last year and obviously has done this year. And it will only benefit them next year because they have more time to develop. They don’t have to spend their money on the car because it is already so damn good. All the other teams are having to spend their money to try to improve and get the direction to give them a better chance next year. Reed Bull are already there because of what happened last year.”
Q: What about Sergio Perez?
JH: “He is still miles behind Max, still a second a lap behind. On the surface that is not good enough. But it is very unfair because he is up against Max. Max is a freak, a rarity, one of the greats of the sport, a special one. Is there another Max you could put up against Max? Well possibly Lewis, only a few who could possibly fight against Max, George? Charl? Lando? But would they want to go up against Max because Red Bull is Max, it is his team. Max Bull. Their focus is on Max and has never been on Sergio.”
Q: What do you think about a potential Lewis Hamilton ’transfer’ saga?
JH: “I hope he is still thinking that Mercedes potentially isn’t working for him and what is the next best thing? The Red One. Ferrari. That’s the only option. Are those conversations happening? I would be shocked if nothing was happening. I think it would be the best thing to do as I’ve said before. They have all the ingredients, they just need to get them all mixed together.
Q: What’s gone wrong at Ferrari?
JH: “It’s the fragmentation of all those jigsaw pieces which haven’t fitted together. They don’t fit properly, from the strategy calls that are still an issue, to having a car that was good at the start of the year but hasn’t really developed since then. They started aiming for poles and potentially winning races but now they’re nowhere near that. And everyone else has got better. They are not in the position that Lewis would want to be able to win another world championship.”
Q: Who would replace Lewis as Mercedes number one if Lewis did go? Is George the anointed heir?
JH: “I would still say yes, George is the appointed heir for Mercedes. But he has made a few little mistakes and since the upgrades he has struggled.”
Q: Could Oscar make it to the top?
JH: “I think so. The way he has developed this year has been impressive for everyone to see. He has settled down in the team and McLaren have done well to make sure both their drivers are comfortable. Lando has said the car isn’t quite working for his style, that he wants but that’s because he is under pressure from Oscar. That’s why those comments come out. Oscar is the standout so far this year because of the way he has improved and he is taking it to Lando and we know how good Lando is.
“The upgrades have worked well for them. It’s given Lando a boost and more importantly probably improved Oscar who is now becoming a threat for Lando. There have been twists within teams this season.”
Q: Could Mick Schumacher get a drive again?
JH: “I think Mick Schumacher is in one of those horrible F1 situations that he probably did not impress enough when he was at Haas. And because of that he is damaged. And no-one is going to talk about him.”
Q: Young drivers aren’t getting the chances they’re supposed to
JH: “Teams are supposed to have young drivers in the cars at certain times of the year. But because of the way sprint races are coming in they are all panicking saying they can’t put someone in on an FP1 because on a sprint weekend the FP1 is the warm up to the qualifying that is going to be in the afternoon. But that’s part of the racing which they all signed up to. They can’t say now they can’t; do it. They have to work it out. It’s great that a rookie can get a chance. The only chance someone gets of getting into an F1 car”
Q: What did you think of Daniel Ricciardo quitting his tradition of no sex before races? Did you have any superstitions?
JH: “I don’t really have superstitions, the only thing I did do was to always get in from the left-hand side. Why? I really don’t know, it was just a thing that happened.”
Q: Who is the most unprofessional driver you have ever raced with or against?
JH: “The one I didn’t like the most because I found his arrogance on the track awful was Schumacher, Ralf that is! He was obnoxious. He took me off the circuit once at 215 mph at Monza and his team had to push him to come back to apologise. From that point I thought, ‘You horrible selfish git.’ The professional thing to do when you have made a mistake is immediately to go up and apologise. He didn’t have the balls to do it.”
Q: Michael Schumacher’s crash was ten years ago. What have we lost by not having him around?
JH: “We have lost a mega star of our sport who gave so much enjoyment to a lot of people. It was very sad that Mick couldn’t have his Dad around and it is sad that we as an F1 community don’t have him around the paddock.
“It is a shame. Everyone loses out on learning about the Michael Schumacher we never saw when he was in the cockpit.”
Q: Felipe Massa has begun legal proceedings against Lewis Hamilton that could see him stripped of his first-ever F1 crown. He alleges a “conspiracy” over “crashgate” in 2008. What’s your view on this?
JH: “We know the crash was a done deal with Flavio Briatore and Nelson Piquet junior. It potentially did lose Felipe a World Championship. Is it the right way to go about it? I doubt it. He is never going to be awarded the World Championship. Suing is not going to achieve the one thing he really wants – that World Championship – even if it goes to court – except that he should have been. If ever he was going to do it, it should have been when Flavio and Piquet were found guilty and kicked out of the sport.”
Q: Lewis’s Hamilton’s old £8.4m Pagani Zonda was in the news recently after a crash. Do you, or did you, drive supercars? If so, which ones?
JH: “I didn’t drive supercars in my own time – I was in a supercar on the track but never had any enjoyment or thought about a supercar on the road. I do have a Porsche 911. But you can’t enjoy it because my brain is geared to driving on the edge. You can’t do that on the road and if you did, you’d end up in a ditch or worse!”