Herbert reaches home straight

With eighth place in the morning's running, and 13th-fastest time overall, it was pretty much business as usual for Johnny Herbert at Jaguar Racing yesterday. But the Malay-sian Grand Prix tomorrow will be no ordinary event for the 36-year-old Briton as he draws the curtain on an unfulfilled Formula One career.

With eighth place in the morning's running, and 13th-fastest time overall, it was pretty much business as usual for Johnny Herbert at Jaguar Racing yesterday. But the Malay-sian Grand Prix tomorrow will be no ordinary event for the 36-year-old Briton as he draws the curtain on an unfulfilled Formula One career.

Before he reached that level, his career held all the speed, momentum and promise that Michael Schumacher's would three years later. Perhaps more. In his days in karting, Formula Three and Formula 3000, Herbert was The Man.

But even as Frank Williams was waiting in the wings with a Formula One contract, that promise was compromised by the ankle-shattering accident at Brands Hatch in August 1988 which threatened not just his racing, but his ability to walk. He made Formula One after all in 1989, a limping figure at Benetton who made fun of himself just to make it through the pain. He was sacked by mid-season, then rescued for the second time by the Team Lotus head, Peter Collins, and eventually made it back to Benetton alongside Schumacher in 1995. It was his most successful year, with wins in Britain and Italy, and fourth place in the championship. But he harbours few fond memories.

"Michael definitely didn't help me after I'd been close to his pace in the first two races," Herbert recalls. "He told his wife Corinne to stop talking to my wife Becky, and from the Saturday in Argentina onwards I was never included in the debriefs and never privy to the information that he had, after I'd run close to his pace."

Sauber's Beat Zehnder reveals the inaccuracy of the impression left by the 1995 season. "One time Michael tested our car at Fiorano; on the same day, in the same car, Johnny was just as quick as him, and their feedback was identical."

The affection in which he is held in the Formula One paddock was underlined last night, when Jaguar hosted a "This Is Your Life" party to say farewell. Murray Walker, naturally, figured prominently. Among other things, Herbert's audience was reminded of the time in their karting days when Bob Herbert's son was moved to throw a screwdriver at his father.

It missed, but the hole it made in the side of their caravan was covered by a strategically-placed Shell sticker.

"Johnny likes winding people up," Zehnder recalled. "In Budapest in 1997 it was his race engineer, Gil Aligeot's turn. Johnny went for a pee not long before the start, behind some advertising hoarding. He was there, chatting to a marshal. On the grid he got in the car late, and Gil was getting more and more nervous. A minute to go, and Johnny was just sitting looking vacant in the cockpit. Then the cars ahead began moving and Gil was screaming, getting ready for a heart attack. At the last moment Johnny appeared to come to life, looked at the cars and pointed at them - like he was saying 'Oh, is that where I should be going?' Gil was about ready to collapse!" Herbert finished third.

Just over a year ago he drove to the canniest of his three grand prix victories, scoring the last win in Europe in the old millennium, and the only one for Jackie Stewart's team. In Malaysia he was "best of the rest" behind the controversial Ferraris of Eddie Irvine and Michael Schumacher, and Mika Hakkinen's McLaren.

Ironically, Sir Frank Williams has offered him the role of test driver next season, but having seen how old Lotus team-mate Alex Zanardi fared in his time in America, Herbert believes he has a lot to offer a CART ChampCar team such as Chip Ganassi's. But negotiations are going slowly. "We had a bad start to this season," he admits, "but now I think I'm racing well. And next year I still want to race. I've got more wins in me before I think of retiring altogether."

There was perhaps something symbolic as he paid tribute to Jenson Button's performances this season and offered him encouragement, for his compatriot's career is developing as his own would have without that Brands Hatch accident. "Jenson has impressed everybody, which has been very good for British motor sport," he said, "and I think that is generally good to have these young guys coming on, trying to show us old buggers how to do it."

There aren't enough class acts left in Formula One these days. Tomorrow afternoon one more will take its leave.

* McLaren have confirmed that Alexander Wurz will be their third driver next season, succeeding Olivier Panis, who will race for BAR.

Malaysian Grand Prix (Sepang) Yesterday's practice times: 1 M Hakkinen (Fin) McLaren 1min 40.262sec (av. speed 199.026kph); 2 M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 1:40.276; 3 M Coulthard (GB) McLaren 1:40.498; 4 R Barrichello (Bra) Ferrari 1:40.877; 5 J Trulli (It) Jordan 1:41.304; 6 R Schumacher (Ger) Williams 1:41.493; 7 R Zonta (Bra) BAR 1:41.497; 8 G Fisichella (It) Benetton 1:41.593; 9 A Wurz (Aut) Benetton 1:41.679; 10 H-H Frentzen (Ger) Jordan 1:41.751; 11 J Verstappen (Neth) Arrows 1:41.914; 12 J Button (GB) Williams 1:42.012; 13 J Herbert (GB) Jaguar 1:42.113; 14 E Irvine (GB) Jaguar 1:42.141; 15 P de la Rosa (Sp) Arrows 1:42.254; 16 P Diniz (Bra) Sauber 1:42.457; 17 J Villeneuve (Can) BAR 1:42.649; 18 Jean Alesi (Fr) Prost 1:42.868; 19 M Salo (Fin) Sauber 1:43.284; 20 G Mazzacane (Arg) Minardi 1:43.424; 21 M Gene (Sp) Minardi 1:43.655; 22 N Heidfeld (Ger) Prost 1:43.766.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence