You know the little fat feller on Sky? He used to be an F1 driver you know. In fact, he was a pretty bloody good driver who overcame career threatening injuries to win 3 Grands Prix. In 1987 John Paul Herbert won the British Formula Three championship driving for Eddie Jordan. The next step was F3000, again with Jordan racing. Johnny won the season opener at Jerez and was third at Monaco. A couple of races later the circus moved to Brands Hatch. Johnny was on a high, he had signed a contract to drive for Benetton in Formula One who were managed by his long time mentor, Peter Collins. Johnny was on pole but lost a couple of places at the start. As the cars came back from the trip into the country side (they were using the full GP circuit) Herbert ended up in the barrier. He sustained multiple injuries to his ankles and feet and there was even a concern that he may have to have an amputation. The image below demonstrates just how severe the impact was and also shows how vulnerable the drivers were in those days. At Brazil, in 1989, after months of surgery and physiotherapy Johnny turned up to make his debut in F1. He had to be helped in and out of the car and travelled around the paddock on bicycle as walking was still painful. Johnny finished 4th in his first F1 race. Team mate Alessandro Nannini was 6th. Unfortunately for Johnny Peter Collins had been ousted as Team Principle and although he took 5th place in Belgium failure to qualify in Canada ended his time with the team and Emanuele Pirro was brought in to replace him. Herbert did a couple more F1 races for Tyrrell in 1989 but for 1990 went back to F3000 in Japan. Just looking at his results in the Japanese series he didn't appear to be having too good a time although the Reynard chassis probably wasn't as good as the Lola. At this point Peter Collins came along again and asked Johnny to drive for the now declining Lotus team. Johnny suffered at Lotus from 1990 until 1994. 1993 saw a series of points finishes and at the Italian GP in 1994 Herbert qualified fourth. He believes he could have won that race but as Eddie Irvine punted him off on the first lap we will never know. Team Lotus filed an administration order after this race and Tom Walkinshaw bought Herbert's contract. As well as driving in F1 Herbert also took part in some long distance races for Mazda. In 1991 Johnny was awarded the sportsman of year by Autosport for stopping his car to help another driver. It was also the year he won Le Man with Volker Weidler and Bertrand Gachot at the wheel of the rotary engined Mazda 787B Walkinshaw deposited Herbert in to a Ligier at Jerez and then at Benetton for the last two races of the season, as team mate to Michael Schumacher. 1995 saw a repeat of the Hill Schumacher battle of the previous season and Johnny was very much number two to Michael. However, Johnny was there to pick up the pieces in Britain and Italy to win two races and finish fourth in the drivers championship. The driver merry go round in 1996 saw Schumacher move to Ferrari and Ferrari refugees Alesi and Berger take over at Benetton. Johnny moved to Sauber and was there for three seasons. The highlight was a third place in Hungary in 1997 but the Sauber was not a good car during Herbert's time at the team, even with Red Bull money and Petronas badged Ferrari engines. In 1999 Herbert moved to the Stewart Grand Prix team as partner to Rubens Barrichello. With Ford now owners of Cosworth the team had a new engine for this season and the car was fast but had problems. Rubens took pole in France and managed three podium places. Johnny wasn't a quick as the young Brazilian but was there to pick up the pieces in Germany to give Stewart their first Grand Prix win. To celebrate the millennium Ford bought Stewart and renamed in Jaguar. Barirchello and Irvine swapped team but it was a season to forget for both drivers. Johnny didn't manage a single points finish and Eddie only got one point for a sixth place in the last race of the season. This was the end of F1 for Johnny Herbert but like many racing drivers he still need a motor racing fix. He drove at Le Man again from 2001 to 2004 and came second three times. He tried again in 2007 and was fourth in class, ninth overall. I didn't realise Johnny tried to qualify for the Indy 500 in 2005 but failed to make the grid. He also took part in various LMES races and had a go at BTCC. His LMES exploits were a bit more productive than his touring car races. What to make of Johnny Herbert? Three Grand Prix victories puts him 54th on the list of all time race winners in F1. I suspect the effects of that fateful day at Brands Hatch in 1988 robbed us a man who certainly had the talent to win a lot more races and possibly a World Title. But then F1 is littered with what if's. Suffice to say that Johnny Herbert was probably one of the nicest men to ever take part in Formula One. Would he have been ruthless enough to fully exploit his talent? We will never know. I do know that his inclusion in the team at Sky makes the weekends far more bearable and his grinning silliness are an absolute joy.