In years gone by, the sight of Johnny Herbert walking past in the paddock would have caused such a media frenzy that photographers and journalists would have stumbled over one another; jockeying to get closest.

Nowadays though, such extreme actions are reserved only for the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button; leaving the stars of yesteryear to pass by relatively peacefully, avoiding the unnecessary clamour in the lead up to race days.

But although it has been almost 12 years since the Essex-born driver retired from F1, it still seems strange to see the 1995 British Grand Prix winner wearing clothes other than overalls at a race weekend.

Herbert, though, recognises that times have changed and while he has no plans to race again in F1, he is enjoying his now customary position on the sidelines.

"I would like to have a go in one of the cars but I'm not in a position to say I could make a comeback now like Michael [Schumacher] has done," admits Herbert. "I have got no desire to race or want to race in F1, I'm too old for that for a start. I'm 47 now so that's never going to happen. I've had my window in the sport.

"You are seeing all these young guys coming through like Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo and I'm finding it very interesting. Watching them and seeing how they actually conduct themselves and how they perform, I really enjoy it."

While Herbert's racing career in F1 appears to be all but over, he still remains heavily involved in the sport; albeit in a slightly different capacity as an FIA race steward.

Since 2010, Herbert has been part of the FIA's driver stewarding panel, a recent initiative designed to add extra credibility to decisions being made during race weekends.

The role, which is rotated between a select group of experienced ex-driver's each race, has been fulfilled by the former Benetton and Sauber driver seven-times over the past two years, most recently in Australia and Malaysia last month.

"It is a really good thing to be involved with," explains the three-time race winner. "I enjoy doing it, as do most of the other driver stewards. It's just interesting to see another side of how the organisation works.

"We have an understanding of what the driver's are experiencing and obviously for the other stewards, it's quite difficult for them to understand things from a driver's point of view. They can see incidents from a TV camera and it can show them in a very different light.

"We are just there as a guide really and to hopefully try and explain, in certain situations, what the incident was and what the circumstances were from a driver's perspective."

In spite of his recent involvement with the FIA, as well as a brief spell as technical director at Jordan back in 2005, Herbert has continued to race competitively since his retirement from F1 in 2000.

Only last year, the 47-year-old featured in the Superstar Series, an Italian based touring car championship, where he finished sixth after securing three podiums.

However, it has been in Le Mans 24 hour race where Herbert has raced most frequently, narrowly failing to repeat his 1991 triumph by finishing second in three successive years from 2002 to 2004.

While he harbours hopes of racing in Le Mans 24 hour race again this year, upcoming commitments with Sky Sports F1 and the FIA could curtail any involvement.

Turning his attention back towards F1, Herbert believes the season has been a 'surprise' so far; largely due to Fernando Alonso's unexpected victory in Malaysia.

Yet despite having watched two tightly contested races, Herbert only sees two teams as realistic title contenders.

"I think it will be a McLaren year. Red Bull don't seem to be quite there at the moment and I think we are seeing a slightly different driver for Red Bull in Sebastian Vettel because he is not having it all his own way.

"You can see his frustration; especially after the race in Malaysia. I think we are just seeing a little bit of a crack appearing within Red Bull.

"I don't think you can write them off yet because I know Adrian Newey is one of the best at still getting everything out of the car and developing a better car for the rest of the season.

"But I think it is really going to come down to the two McLaren's. Probably the only one who could join them is Sebastian. Although Mark [Webber] is being consistent at the moment, he is always going to be about fourth or fifth by the look of it."

With McLaren looking the quickest car in the field, questions have already been raised as to which one of their drivers has the edge in the championship fight.

Adding his own opinion into the hotly-contested debate, Herbert believes the ability to preserve the life of the Pirelli tyres could prove key, something which could hand Button the advantage over his teammate.

"With the situation we have with the tyres, Jenson has proved himself over Lewis by being easier on his tyres, so I think I would have to give Jenson the edge. He is probably driving the best I've seen him drive."

Whether Button can actually go on and add a second world championship to his trophy collection, only time will tell but with Mercedes and Lotus F1 also competitive, this season could be one of the most exciting yet.

Something Herbert will no doubt enjoy watching, while he juggles his work for Sky and the FIA.

by Michael Catling