Martin Brundle was at best an average Formula one driver, though his pre-race grid walk as a commentator for Sky F1 has grown to legendary status. Brundle’s meander amongst the F1 cars, drivers team personnel and celebrities on the grid in the moments leading to lights out has led to hilarious encounters where either the commentator or the celebrity has no idea who they are speaking with.
Brundle questions are never intrusive or attempting to ‘mail a scoop’ and often are with celebrities attending an F1 event who clearly know little about Formula One.
At the inaugural Miami GP this season Martin amusingly confused basketball player Paolo Banchero for American footballer Patrick Mahomes and was later given the cold shoulder by Serena and Venus Williams minders.
The F1 grid walk origins
Brundle recently revealed how the grid walk began, something which a number of motorsports events now copy.
“It happened in 1997. My guys said, “We’ve had an idea, why don’t you walk down the grid and just say what you see?” And I was the only one on the grid.
“And obviously we go live, and that is unscripted, unrehearsed car crash television. Whatever happens, happens. And I got to wing it. And I can’t throw it back to a studio or have the studio throw it to me.
“When I happen to find somebody, it flows. It’s got to go. And that puts a lovely sense of urgency into it. I once tried to plan it, and it just didn’t work.
“You’ve got to take it as it comes. So yes, we started it in ’97 and you see it now in all forms of motor support actually, two-wheel and four-wheel.”
No other sport has an F1 grid walk equivalent
There’s nothing really comparable to the grid walk in non-motor sporting events. Commentators can’t wander up to a golfer just before he hits off the first tee in case they distract him and he hits it into the rough.
Brundle agrees with this stating, “I couldn’t go to David Beckham and say, “Hey, just before you kick the ball, talk to me about this or that.” Roger Federer at Wimbledon, couldn’t do it.”
Yet if F1 drivers lose concentration before Turn 1 they can be in the wall and even fatally injured. Yet Brundle finds the drivers on the whole affable. He did reveal recently Lewis Hamilton just stopped talking to him a few years ago, so he doesn’t attempt to speak to the British driver before an F1 race.
“I find them very eloquent,” Brundle reveals. ”Bear in mind, they’re covered, and so if I stand and talk to a driver for a couple of minutes, all their sponsors are beamed around the world, because we’ve got a lot of English-speaking countries around the world. So there is a willingness, certainly, on the part of the teams. The drivers know me.”
Brundle admits its “difficult”
Martin Brundle has admitted he finds the grid walks difficult due to their live nature and never watches them back later
“There’s a reason why I’ve never watched back an F1 gridwalk in a quarter of a century of doing them,” he said on social media. “You have no idea how much I dislike doing them but somehow those crazy moments have defined my professional career. Oh well, that’s the way it is.”
Brundle also admitted this season he is frustrated at being known better for his grid walks than his racing career.
Brad Pitt snubs Brundle
At the US GP last weekend, Brundle attempted to speak with Brad Pitt on the grid. He US celebrity is researching a film he intends to release about Formula One.
Pitt and his minders brushed past the grid walk legend indifferent to his attempt to find out for the watching fans how the F1 film was progressing.
Pitt’s refusal to engage caused fury amongst watching F1 fans who dislike celebrity F1 wannabes refusing to give Brundle the time of day.
It appears that backlash made its way to Brad Pitt’s PR office.
A kind of an apology from Pitt
Martin Brundle tweeted, “Got a note from Brad Pitt explaining what happened with our near miss on the Austin grid this afternoon (October 27).”
“Unnecessary, but nice of him. Absolutely nobody is obliged to talk to me on the grid, but as I endeavour to make 10/12 minutes of live and unscripted sports TV I’m obliged to at least ask.”
At the same event fellow broadcaster Will Buxton slated Brundle for attempting to approach Brad Pitt claiming all broadcasters get a list of celebrities who they are not supposed to approach.
Buxton wrote: “Another USGP. Another reminder that all grid accredited media are given a list at EVERY RACE of which media invitee / celebrity is and isn’t approachable for interview. Pitt hadn’t been on any of the days he was present.”
Brundle hit back, “That’s simply untrue Will. Don’t make things up to suit your narrative.” Buxton is one of the narrators for the Netflix Drive to Survive fly on the wall documentary which at times hypes things beyond reality.
Buxton refused to back down responding, “It’s really not though. Here’s Austin’s. Those who don’t wish to be interviewed (it’s rare people ask not to be) are communicated to us verbally as well you know. Must apologise as I believed doc itself was sent to all tv as routine and it now appears it might not be.”
Brad Pitt making a movie about F1 but not knowing who the voice of the sport Martin Brundle is pic.twitter.com/Xh3E28xTa8
— Omid Scobie (@scobie) October 23, 2022