• Martin Brundle is a former F1 driver who turned commentator.
• His commentary style often favours Lewis Hamilton and other British drivers.
• Brundle involuntarily causes discord among fans by what he says.
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Wheels24 reader Edlin Howard says Formula 1 is often marred with controversy, but just how much of it is caused by British commentator, Martin Brundle?
I remember watching Kimi Raikkonen passing Giancarlo Fisichella on the final lap of the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix. That was a drive to survive, and it was my gateway into all things Formula 1.
I instantly became both a Raikkonen and McLaren fan and a religious Sunday couch-sitter.
Raikkonen's move to Ferrari in 2007 saw him win that year's Formula 1 World Championship, and it left me with one of the biggest dilemmas as a spectator: Who do you support on a Sunday? Because "my driver" left "my team".
2007 was also the year Lewis Hamilton replaced Raikkonen at McLaren, while the Iceman took Michael Schumacher's vacant seat at Ferrari. I was torn, neither here nor there, neither a Hamilton nor a Ferrari fan. I became less of a fan and more of a spectator of the sport. Admittedly, watching F1 felt a lot like walking the streets of Paris while being single.
Do not get me wrong; I love F1. But just because I wasn't an instant Hamilton fan after he replaced the Kimster at McLaren does not mean I do not enjoy watching him elevate the sport in every seat he has driven since his debut. The man is a seven-time world champion, and he is one of the all-time greats - yeah, I think it says it all.
The magic number of greatness
Michael Gladwell, in his book Outliers famously wrote: "Ten-thousand hours is the magic number of greatness." It's regarded as how much time one needs to put in before being considered an expert on something. But as someone who has watched F1 since 2005, I have about 16 years of couch-sitting experience. That is 326 races, and with a race averaging at 90 minutes, that means I have about 489 hours of watching F1 - this excludes free practice and qualifying sessions, or racing on my driver's sim since the F1 2004 PS2 game. It is, therefore, my humble and almost-expert opinion that Martin Brundle is killing F1!
I have painfully listened to his commentary race weekend after race weekend, and the sheer amount of inconsistency and utter bias towards British drivers is just deafening! Let me rant.
His live race commentary is polarising the F1 audience and has created an impenetrable vortex around Hamilton as his F1 protagonist and non-Brits the antagonists. Be it Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, and, more recently, Max Verstappen. These names I mention are just some of the drivers who have contested F1 championships during Hamilton's time in the sport.
If you are a Hamilton fan, you would probably be deaf to Brundle's live commentary. But for anyone else watching, I am sure you have clasped both your ears when an incident happens, and Brundle immediately jumps to defend Lewis while dust clouds are still hanging in the air.
Brundle to the defence
Let's not speak about the British Grand Prix just yet, but let's look at a few incidents involving Hamilton:
The first must be the 2011 Indian Grand Prix, where Hamilton tried overtaking Massa while charging from behind to take the inside line and made hard contact with Massa. Brundle's commentary as this happened was: "Oh, he has got on the inside this time, that's interesting."
The next incident involves some aggressive defending from Hamilton in the 2012 European GP from Pastor Maldonado that saw him come off second best. This time Maldonado came from a long way back and was catching Hamilton and, with the help of KERS, managed to put his front wing ahead of Hamilton at the braking point. Hamilton had the inside line and forced the Williams driver off the racetrack. However, Maldonado turned back onto the circuit and sent Hamilton into the barriers. Brundle's words: "I think he (Pastor) should've yielded and let Lewis go".
And who can forget the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix where Rosberg defended aggressively against a charging Hamilton, with Hamilton going onto the grass to complete the overtake. The two ultimately made contact and spun out of the races, and Brundle's commentary was: "Look at this, now they are quite a long way apart, but Lewis gets such a launch at the top of turn three. And he (Lewis) is now up the inside, and, I'm afraid, Nico Rosberg has to take every bit as much blame for that as Lewis Hamilton. And I don't think he (Rosberg) recognise how quickly his teammate was on him. He has covered him off, but he covered him off too late."
To which fellow commentator David Croft asks: "Before the braking zone?" Martin responds: "Oh yeah, well before the braking zone, yes."
Croft puts it to Brundle yet again by asking: "So did he have a right to cover him off?" The replay appears on screen at this time, and Brundle could see his quick assessment was not holding up. Yet, he fails to correct himself and continues by saying: "If, if, uh… we need to see exactly where Hamilton's front wheel was, but if he was alongside... if his front wing was alongside Rosberg's… rear tyre, then he is entitled to a car's width of space."
The next one is a slow incident where, according to Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton "brake-tested" him under safety car conditions during the 2017 Azerbaijan GP. Hamilton's apparent antics left Vettel so frustrated that he drove his car into Hamilton's. Brundle's commentary was to defend Hamilton immediately: "So Hamilton's job there is to let the safety car get away so that they do not catch it at 220m/h."
Commentators influence opinion
As a fan of F1, I have noticed that a lot of my opinions as a spectator are about what I hear from the commentators of the sport. These commentators are the people who deliver most of the entertainment to bland modern F1 racing. They create the narrative we follow as viewers and provide us with the script of F1 protagonists and antagonists. And because Raikkonen is not racing for McLaren anymore, I am not fanboying anyone, nor do I have particular favouritism towards a team.
However, I came to notice strong polarising views when speaking about F1 over the last couple of years. Simply put, a question like "Are you a Hamilton fan?" can make you join WhatsApp groups or be blocked from social media accounts, depending on your response. All I am saying is that the reason why you blocked your friend or can't stand your fellow F1-watching co-worker is probably because of what Martin Brundle says over a race weekend about British drivers.
I got up from my seat during the British GP and called the clash between Hamilton and Verstappen a racing incident. I wasn't in any one driver's corner, so it is not about choosing sides, but here is the crux:
So instead of forming your opinion of the 2021 British GP based on Martin Brundle's in-race commentary, familiarise yourself with Hamilton's comments following the 2017 Azerbaijan GP: "Driving alongside and deliberately driving into a driver and getting away scot-free, pretty much, and still come away with fourth - I think that's a disgrace. And I think he (Vettel) disgraced himself today, to be honest. I think driving dangerously, which in any way can put another driver at risk. I mean, luckily, we were going slow, but if we were going fast, it could have been way worse. But imagine all the young kids that are watching F1 today and see that kind of behaviour from a four-time world champion; yeah, I think it says it all."