Johnny Herbert

Johnny Herbert
United Kingdom
Birth Date: 
24 June, 1964
Birth Place: 
Romford, Essex, Great Britain

Johnny Herbert Biography

Johnny Herbert F1 Career Overview

Johnny Herbert continued the rich tradition of British racers performing well on the F1 stage and is one of 19 British drivers to have won a race at the highest level of motorsport.

Making his F1 debut in 1989, Herbert’s big break came in the wake of an almost career-ending accident during an International 3000 race at Brands Hatch, during which suffered serious ankle and foot injuries after hitting the wall head-on. 

Despite the risk of amputation and undergoing months of physiotherapy, Herbert was back on track the following year, even if he needed to change his driving style to compensate. 

During his time in F1, Herbert was largely mired with mid-field outfits and he’d race with seven different teams over 12 seasons, though he did peak with fourth overall in 1995 with Benetton in the year team-mate Michael Schumacher romped to the title. 

That season yielded two victories, including an emotional success on home soil at Silverstone, before securing a surprise third success at the Nurburgring in 1999 with Stewart.

Herbert - a Le Mans 24 Hours winner - concluded his F1 career at the end of the 2000 season and now acts as commentator and pundit for Sky Sports F1 coverage.

Johnny Herbert F1 Career - Team-by-Team

Benetton / Tyrrell: 1989

Though Herbert didn’t race again in 1988 in the wake of his ankle injuries, he’d done enough to land an F1 drive with Benetton the following year. However, the environment wasn’t forgiving and though he’d notch up two top five finishes in the opening five races - including a fourth on his debut in Brazil - he was dropped after failing to qualify for the Canadian Grand Prix, the legacy of struggling to suppress the brake pedal on a brake-intensive circuit with his damaged feet.

Save for a couple of outings with Tyrrell in 1989 and Lotus towards the end of 1990 and again in sporadic rounds of 1991, Herbert didn’t return full-time until 1992.

Team Lotus / Ligier: 1992 - 1994

Taking in a handful of races under the Lotus name across 1990 and 1991 - first with Lamborghini power and then Judd - Herbert secured a full-time Team Lotus seat for 1992, which with Ford V8 power proved more competitive than his erstwhile machinery.

While reliability was woeful - Herbert finished just four of the 16 races - he did score in two of them, landing a sixth place in South Africa and again in France.

Retained in by Lotus for 1993, while the team wasn’t quite what it once was, it enjoyed a brief renaissance with Herbert at the wheel, his top five results (3x fourths, 1x fifth) helping him to ninth in the overall standings. 

Herbert started what would be Lotus’ final season in 1994 but neither success -n or points - were easy to come by and after a single outing with Ligier at the Nurburgring, returned to Benetton for the final two events ahead of a full campaign in 1995.

Benetton: 1995

Alongside Michael Schumacher in what would be a dominant title tilt for the German was always going to pose a challenge for Herbert to capture attention but the amiable Brit took the pressure in his stride and while he wasn’t a match for his esteemed counterpart, notched up decent results.

A maiden podium in Spain was followed by first win on home soil at Silverstone, followed by another at Monza, which while both fortuitous as a result of Schumacher and Damon Hill hitting problems, were still widely celebrated. He ended the year fourth overall.

Sauber: 1996-1998

It wasn’t enough to retain his drive for the following year, despite Schumacher moving on, though Herbert nonetheless found a competitive berth at Sauber for the next three seasons. 

Paired with Heinz-Harald Frentzen, it wasn’t a strong campaign for the Briton but showed his experience in dicey conditions during a famous 1996 Monaco Grand Prix to secure a podium of third, his only top six result of the year.

Retained for 1997 with his Sauber now powered by Petronas-badged Ferrari engines, Herbert’s form took a step forward and was a regular point-scorer, which included a third place finish in the Hungarian Grand Prix, together with five other top six results that earned him tenth in the standings. 

A tougher final year with Sauber yielded just a single point at the season opener leading to a switch to the rival Stewart team.

Stewart / Jaguar 1999-2000

New for 1997, Stewart - with official backing from Ford - had shown flashes of potential in its first two seasons, but produced a strong chassis in 1999 with Herbert and Rubens Barrichello at the wheel, even if reliability remained a persistent bugbear.

Of the two Barrichello was the sharper driver and arguably out-performed his machinery, which made Herbert’s shock victory - a first for the Scottish outfit - all the more surprising. Succeeding in a high attrition, dry-wet-dry race at the Nurburgring, Herbert mustered all of his experience to hold off Jarno Trulli and Barrichello to claim the outfit’s only win.

Though it was the happy highlight in a year of scant notable results, Herbert was retained for 2000 as the outfit morphed into a works Jaguar Racing effort.

Again the team’s form fluctuated but Herbert struggled to get the best of new team-mate Eddie Irvine and a failure to score all year saw him dropped by the team, forcing him out of F1 altogether. He did however join Arrows as its development driver for 2001.

Johnny Herbert - Beyond F1

While success in F1 was sporadic, Herbert left a lasting legacy in sportscars and is credited with one of the most famous victories in the rich history of the Le Mans 24 Hours at the wheel of the rotary-engined Mazda 787B.

Though innovative and factory-backed, Mazda wasn’t perceived to have the performance of better funded rivals from hot favourites Peugeot, Jaguar, Mercedes and Porsche. It nonetheless made the most of its better frugality, which coupled with issues for rivals allowed Herbert - and team-mates Bertrand Gachot and Volker Wiedler - through to take a shock victory in a race it wasn’t expected to feature strongly.

Sportscars would form the basis of Herbert’s post-F1 career, firstly with Audi before joining Team Bentley for its high-profile attempt at the Le Mans 24 Hours and then finally with Aston Martin in 2009. He would go on to finish second on three occasions (2002, 2003, 2004).

Herbert has also started races in British Touring Cars and International Superstars touring car series in Italy, prior to settling into his current punditry role with Sky Sports F1.

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