Your main reason for being at the show was for your karting event and you managed to secure a good turn-out for the race. Are you happy with how things have gone?Johnny Herbert:
Yeah we did. About eight months ago, having lost Dan, I heard that there was going to be a karting event in his honour and we tried to make something that was a little bit more special. It is great for the memory of Dan and also for Alzheimer's Society at the same time. It has a good cause for one and it has the memory of a fantastic racing driver in Dan Wheldon. There are a lot of drivers who raced against him here and even though I wasn't able to compete against him myself, I have memories of watching him coming through the ranks while I was in Formula One. It's good to see a big turn out.Crash.net:
Your Karting Challenge has been ongoing for some time, but at the Autosport Show
it is usually the David Brabham event that we see. How good is it to take your event to a different audience?Johnny Herbert:
It was good to take it over. David did a good job with his event here but there comes a time when things change and it was the right time for me to get involved – mainly because of what happened with Dan and because his mother suffers from Alzheimer's. We have Robbie Savage here who is an ambassador for the charity, have Emanuele Pirro who has flown in from Italy just to be here, then a selection of youngsters and the professional drivers who have chosen to take part.Crash.net:
When the challenge is over here, what is your plan for the season ahead?Johnny Herbert:
My main job is going to be working on the Sky
coverage of F1 again, so I'll be working with Simon Lazenby and Damon Hill during the year. I'm really enjoying doing that and there may be the odd race that I can squeeze in but its quite difficult getting back into f1 with 19 races to then find the time to do other things. The racing is something I enjoy so I like karting on days like today – the competitive spirit is still there when the visor comes down!Crash.net:
In F1, do you feel there will be any big surprises this season? Do you feel Lewis can make Mercedes a winning team on a regular basis or will it be McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull out front again?Johnny Herbert:
For sure it will be Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren at the front and it is good for me to see Jenson Button getting the chance to lead McLaren this season. It is a very good opportunity for him to be able to lead the team into a second World Championship and there is potential for that. On the other side, his team-mate from last year has left for Mercedes and Lewis is in a different situation.
Yes he can lead the team, that is all well and good, but we haven't seen a good Mercedes as yet. Development always seems to have been their struggle and that is something that they will hope changes for 2013. Maybe the input in this year's car from the team that Ross Brawn has put together in the past year or so will be the deciding factor in whether the car is a race winner. We know Lewis will get the best out of it and I think he'll win a race or two, but he will want to win a World Championship. That is where we need to see if the core development team, the engineers and the designers, have been able to give him a car that will let him do that.
People say that Mercedes will be in the best position for 2014 and they will have the best engine. That may be so, but they need a good car as well as there is no point having the best engine in a bad car. That is something they have to work on and hopefully it will be something that Lewis can utilise. Hopefully he can win races [before then] and considering the season we had last year, he could win a second title. It will be very close and we saw how competitive Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren were last year but there is the potential for a mix-up, as the rules haven't changed too much.
That is a good thing as the grid will close up and it will be more difficult because it is so close and it will be tough for anyone to break away from the pack. If we can have a repeat of 2012, it would be an amazing thing to have again.Following the Autosport International Karting Challenge, the fundraising efforts for Alzheimer's Society will continue into February with an online auction of Mark Webber's 2012 helmet, Johnny Herbert's 2011 Nordschleife 24 Hours race suit, Johnny Mowlem's Lotus F1 race suit and gloves, plus other motorsport memorabilia.
Bids can be placed at www.sellebrity.org.uk.