Johnny Herbert Opinions

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I don’t see the Ricciardo of old - but F1 may not be the end for him

Mercedes prioritising Russell over Hamilton is ‘rubbish

Speaking to Lord Ping, former F1 driver Johnny Herbert has agreed with Jacques Villeneuve that Daniel Ricciardo is not the driver he once was.

Herbert disagrees with any theories that suggest Mercedes have treated Lewis Hamilton unfairly and prioritised George Rusell, due to the seven-time World Drivers' Champion's move to Ferrari on the horizon.

The 59-year-old has revealed that Adrian Newey to Ferrari is a ‘done deal’, and says Eddie Jordan is involved in the deal.


The Jacques Villeneuve Daniel Ricciardo spat? Your thoughts.

As a driver, I think there is a certain point in your career where you have to step back and ask yourself,’ Have I got what it takes to be competitive?’

I haven’t seen that for many a year from Daniel. He keeps saying he still believes. He has the odd good result, the brilliant job in did in Mexico last year for instance, which you’d have hoped would have given him positive energy for the next races and improved performances. That hasn’t happened. This year he had one strong race, then nothing.  Daniel hasn’t been able to take control of the situation. We are all in a sport where expectations are very high and he hasn’t lived up to them.

I know from my personal experience there are other forms of motorsport out there. F1 isn’t the be-all and end-all. There’s Indycar, Le Mans, Touring Cars, all sorts.

Has that time come for Daniel? Does he need to be realistic with himself?

I don’t see the Daniel of old. That Daniel has flown the roost. For me, it started for Daniel at McLaren and Lando. Lando was quicker than him. He had one offs such as at Monza, but one offs aren’t enough. It has to be every time. That is what Lando, Oscar, Max, Charlie and Carlos are all doing. The good ones can do it all the time.

Daniel used to be able to. There’s no doubt he’s skilful. He used to be very on it all the time. ‘Mr Overtake’ they called him.  He used to make some fantastic overtakes. But since McLaren, it hasn’t happened. And it isn’t suddenly going to change for the better. It doesn’t work like that. His performances aren’t there. The one we are talking about is Yuki.

How good is Yuki Tsunoda now?

Yuki his team-mate has consistently outperformed him. He is one of the standouts this year. He has got some really good results out of a car that is not the fastest on the grid. That’s why they’ve taken up the option on him for next year. His qualifying has always been strong, and his race situations have got stronger.

Does his ‘Eat Shit’ reaction to what Jacques said in Montreal reveal a man under pressure?

I don’t know. I think he still believes. When someone is negative like Jacques, Daniel almost says: ‘On yer bike. You don’t know what you are talking about.’

He still has what I can only think is a metal block that he can still do it.

Jacques has called him an Instagram driver? It’s all part of the F1 circus now?

I saw what Jacques said and the way he said it. It was the truth. Some people don’t like the truth sometimes.  Jacques was spot on.

It isn’t happening for Daniel now. So, it is time for him to hang his helmet up.  I genuinely do. Many people might not like that. But it is true. Performances have to be there and as soon as they go, then there is a question mark.

Have Mercedes checked out on Lewis now he’s going? Rumours of tyre pressure and temperature differences with George?

No that’s all a load of rubbish. The only thing that happens within a team when a driver says he is leaving is that they will focus on the other driver as he is the future. They won’t show him the data of the new pieces that are coming along because they wouldn’t want him to take that information with him and maybe talk about it to Ferrari.

That is normal for Lewis not to be in the know about everything. As far as doctoring his car so his performances are impacted that is rubbish. That interferes with the constructors’ championship the number of points a team wins and the money that they earn from that.

George is maturing and it’s the perfect time for him. Now Lewis is leaving, Mercedes is effectively George’s team. He has all the ingredients to take it further.

People are asking if Lewis may then have checked out?

There may be an element of that. He has been there for so long and found it hard over the past two years that a reboot and a refresh at Ferrari was his decision. Maybe we will see more of the old Lewis when he goes to Ferrari.

Everyone has been saying that Mercedes are on the right track after Canada. I’m not sure that’s the case. They will be in the same situation in Spain as they have been for the past couple of years. That’s fifth or sixth.

Is there an age at which a driver peaks? Alonso is 42, Lewis 38? Is that an anomaly?

It has changed. It is a younger generation.  Max came in with a bang at 17 and it is scary how complete the younger generation is compared to even Lewis and Fernando’s period. That’s because the information they have is way higher than it was. Fernando had proved it can be done and Nigel Mansell did in his day. I think the early 30s is when drivers peak. They just start earlier now.

One guy looking as if he will start early is Andrea Kimi Antonelli at Mercedes? The rules have been adjusted so he could be involved this weekend even? How good is he?

It’s great. They changed it before and moved the age up. Why? I’m not sure. If a delivery is good enough they will deal with it without a problem. And if they are not then they won’t be there very long. Their skill set at 17 is way beyond mine at the same age and I’d say way beyond even Max because the technology is completely different. All I had was a mobile phone! Data was so basic – we had four different lines – a throttle trace, a speed trace, a brake trace and a cornering trace. That is it?

Now they have simulators at the team HQ, at home, and data that helps them analyse what is going on with the car. They have done thousands and thousands of laps before they have even sat in a Grand Prix car for the first time. We used to arrive walk around the car and learn it as we went.

Antonelli hasn’t had the strongest F2 season and hasn’t come in and blown people away as Max and Lewis did for instance.  His name has been spoken about very positively as the next big Italian F1 star. Now he has to prove it.

Does his likely arrival close the door to another driver coming in?

Carlos is the one who I’m so surprised has not yet got another drive.  I am confused as to why. If I was at Mercedes I would have had him on board. He has matured massively. He is seriously consistent and that is exactly what you want.

Every team needs two established drivers. The team who’ll have the best next year is Ferrari. To have Charl and Lewis in a mighty Ferrari means every team will need two strong drivers just to have a chance of competing with them.  You don’t want one weak driver for instance at Red Bull where Sergio is not doing it and hasn’t been for a while.  

Are you surprised then that Red Bull have signed Sergio for another two years?

Yes. Very. The inconsistencies are glaring. Look at what happens on the race weekend.  It is surprising they have stuck with him because he is the weak link.

Does the use of simulators mean young drivers don’t learn proper racecraft?

I would have agreed five years ago. I never ever thought a simulator would become a seventh sense. And it has. I saw it for the first time at McLaren with Lando. That sense is in Lando and Max’s head and when it happens in a race car it's part of them. Does it change the fundamentals of driving a car? Absolutely not. You have still got to be the man who decides when to brake, how softly you brake when to turn the steering wheel. That has not changed and will never change.

It makes them more complete drivers. The current generation is closer together than ever in the history of Formula 1 as far as levels, and it is technology that has allowed that to happen.

But a few rise above the pack, such as Max, Lewis, Ayrton and Michael. They have or had a rawness and an edge which sets them apart.

Rumours are that Adrian Newey has signed a deal with Ferrari already. Have you heard and that surely would make them even more powerful?

A while ago I’d heard it was a done deal.  I know Eddie Jordan, his manager, has been getting involved. Amid all the recent speculation about things, for instance, Toto saying he’d love to have Max, Ferrari were the quietest of the lot, sitting there almost smiling to themselves as if they knew something we didn’t.

I remember Lewis’s comments a couple of months ago. He said’ Everyone was quite surprised when I joined Ferrari. But as you’ll see, surprises can happen.’ It made me wonder!

It would be the perfect fit, the last hurrah for Adrian.


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V: 1.24.0 All rights reserved. August 2021
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