Martin Brundle came to McLaren relatively late in his F1 career, turning down an opportunity with Jordan in 1994 to wait for a possible opportunity with Ron Dennis. There was a chance, just a chance, that Alain Prost might have come out of retirement to partner Mika Hakkinen in the new McLaren-Peugeot line-up that year, but Martin correctly judged that the Frenchman would not do it in the end. He was absolutely right and got the drive.
The McLaren-Peugeot was not the most competitive car on the grid, but Brundle drove magnificently at Monaco to finish second behind Michael Schumacher, Martin actually closing in on his former team-mate despite the fact that the Peugeot V10 had consumed most of its oil and water by the time it reached the chequered flag.
Brundle was always an astute gambler when it came to judging what move to make next for the benefit of his professional career. Few drivers have taken the risk of stepping down from F1 in a bid to consolidate their racing career, but that’s what the popular Brundle did. Twice.
At the end of 1987, frustrated by his lack of success with Zakspeed, he reasoned that a spell with the highly competitive TWR Jaguar sports car team would better serve his long-term career interests.
Twelve months later, as World Sports Car Champion, Brundle was restored to the Grand Prix elite as a member of the seemingly revitalised Brabham team. However, at the end of 1989, he decided to take up another deal with Jaguar, winning the 1990 Le Mans 24-hours before returning to Brabham in 1991.
For much of his career Brundle, an extremely convivial personality, was regarded as significantly better than most of the machinery he was driving. His father John was a keen rally driver and a successful motor trader, so Martin was born into a world of fast cars and cut his teeth in saloons before switching to F3 in 1982.
The following season saw him fighting tooth and nail for the British F3 title with no less a celebrity than Ayrton Senna who pipped him in the very last race. Poignantly, when he joined McLaren in 1994, it was Senna’s place he was taking in the team after the brilliant Brazilian moved to rivals Williams.