Even though I’m here at the Grands Prix as a commentator, I don’t miss the driving. I had a very lucky career: I raced for Williams, which was a winning team; I raced for McLaren, which was a winning team and I came to Red Bull, which was a fully-funded team on the move. Here, I had the opportunity to use my experience with Christian Horner, headhunt new people, bring Adrian Newey on board and get rid of some people who had been around for a while. If you want to be the best, you can’t be average in any area. Sure, you can’t be the best in every area but you want to be above average and aspiring to be the best. If you have every area of the business at above-average level, then you give yourself a much greater chance of success.
But, despite having those conditions, not every driver is lucky enough to win a championship. The winning drivers have to be consistent at delivering speed. When I look at my own career, I had the speed in my day relative to my teammates – either Mika Häkkinen or Kimi Räikkönen – who I was able to outqualify and outrace, on occasion. I can’t compare myself to Michael Schumacher, who was in a different car. What I didn’t have, which I never got to the bottom of, was that consistency of performance, race in and race out. It’s not to do with how I felt, because on one occasion when I beat Mika I’d been up all night coughing up blood but still went on to dominate the race. On the other hand, there were days I came in feeling a million dollars and I drove like a fifty cent!
But, perhaps with the exception of Goodwood occasionally, the highs and lows of being a racing driver are behind me now. I made the strategic decision to become a father after racing and, just three months after my last race, along came my son. He’s now eight years old but he’s starting to get into racing through karting. He’s already had a couple of big spills and written off a few chassis but he’s a good driver and he’s already competing against adults!
In all honesty, it scares me that he says he wants to get into F1 – even at his young age. But, as his father, I want to give him all the opportunities I can. I love nothing more than a good day at the track, of course, but at the end of the day, the decision to get into racing full-time has to come from him. As I’ve been the one taking him down to the track so far, I’m just waiting for him to ask me when we’re next heading down there!
Photography coutesy of Drew Gibson, Nick Dungan and LAT