Whilst the world’s media was waiting for the drivers of the 2019 grid to arrive, Motorlat.com took the opportunity to interview ex Formula 1 British racing driver Johnny Herbert and ask him about his own piece of history from the 1000 Grand Prix…his first Formula One victory.
Motorlat.com started by saying to Johnny Herbert how obviously we are at the 1000th Grand Prix but his 1995 British Grand Prix victory was a particularly memorable event, how does that make you feel?
"It makes me feel good, when it’s the first one it’s always special, when it’s the home Grand Prix that just makes it extra special. The most special thing for me was that it came after my accident in ’88."
For Johnny Herbert to call this ‘an accident’ does not do it justice. Although it did not take place in Formula 1, the fact that Herbert even made it to the pinnacle of motorsport is a miracle. In 1998, whilst racing at Brands Hatch in F3000, all eyes were on Herbert as the future of British racing and it was there he survived one of the worst accidents ever witnessed at the F3000 level. Herbert has spoken on record about the incident before:
"I can remember everything. Everything from the restart, going up to Druids, and banging wheels with [Gregor] Foitek even before we got to the incident itself. I remember he followed me and started to pull out. I was in the middle of the track and he must have been on the grass, because there wasn't enough room on my left. There was a tiny little tap, then the car was turning and aiming straight for where the bridge was. I ploughed straight into the bridge and my head was rolling around a lot. I was spinning around and then hit something else. Then I was spinning around again and, finally, I stopped.’’
"When I opened my eyes, I could see there was a big hole in the front of the car. My first impression was I'd lost my legs from the knee down, because all I could see from the way I was sitting were my knees but nothing else below that. Of course, they were there hanging down below. I remember saying: 'knock me out, knock me out, knock me out!' because I didn't really want to know at that stage. But I do remember everything - I was conscious through the whole thing."
Herbert’s crash shattered his feet and ankles and he was told the news that he would never walk again. However, Herbert was determined to prove everyone wrong and not just walk but drive at the very top level. When he entered the world of Formula 1 he would finish in 4th place driving for Benetton. Similarities have been made between Herbert and Kubica and it is clear to see why. After Herbert smashed his feet and ankles in that terrible crash, the doctors said he would never walk again, let alone race. But he went on to prove them wrong in the most emphatic fashion possible. Against all the odds, he made a stunning F1 debut on March 26th 1989 finishing fourth for Benetton in Brazil! Herbert told Motorlat.com today:
All the sort of pain I had to go through to get that and win that race. Was it my best race? No, my best race was ’99 Malaysia for Stewart and I finished fourth.’’
Motorlat.com would tell Johnny that he was owed that luck:
‘Well, there’s an element of that I suppose it does come in to play but I think it is something and you’ve just got to deal with it if that situation comes your way. One, you’ve got to be there and if you are you have got to be able to deal with it and take it.’’
If similarities do continue between the return to the grid of Herbert in 1989 and Robert Kubica 30 years later then if an opportunity does come his way, you can be sure that a driver like Kubica will be ready to take it.
For that to happen in Shanghai…well, you never know in Formula 1.