Johnny Herbert has absolved his former teammate Michael Schumacher of blame for his difficult tenure at Benetton in the mid 90s.
Although he won two races alongside the great German in 1995, the Briton moved to Sauber the following season and spent the rest of his career in the midfield — albeit winning the remarkable wet/dry Nurburgring race in 1999.
But Herbert, now 47 and set to reprise his role as a F1 steward in India next month, refuses to point the finger at Schumacher despite being relegated to number two status at Benetton 16 years ago.
“My problem wasn’t Michael,” he told the Hindustan Times newspaper. “It was Flavio (Briatore).”
Herbert said it was Briatore, the former Benetton and Renault team boss banned from F1 in 2009 for involvement in the crashgate scandal, who orchestrated Schumacher’s preferential treatment.
“Whenever Michael asked Flavio if he could have a couple of extra days of testing, Flavio wouldn’t have a problem,” he explained. “If it was me (asking), he would just say that it wasn’t possible.”
Herbert conceded that with extensive testing allowed in the 90s, it was much easier than at present to break through and impress bosses at the start of a career.
He cites the examples of Karun Chandhok, who replaced Jarno Trulli for a race at the Nurburgring, and another Indian Narain Karthikeyan, who will return to the cockpit of an HRT for the inaugural Delhi event next month.
“They don’t get any track time and then they’re expected to get in the car and be fast,” said Herbert. “It doesn’t work like that.”