The former GP racer, Le Mans winner and ITV F1 pundit on how driver management works, how it can help a young driver’s career and why it’s more than just a business to him
The impetus to start 2MB, the management company I run with Martin Brundle, goes back to the time when we were on the BRDC committee which distributed funds to promising young drivers. When the BRDC stopped doing that, there was nowhere for people to go. We talked and decided we could put something back into the sport.
From our point of view 2MB is different, because we’ve both been grand prix drivers. We’ve been there done that, seen the film. We’ve got huge experience that we can put into a young driver’s career. There are holes that we’ve fallen into and we can try to shortcut those for our drivers. We’ve said to each other ‘if only we’d been able to tap into that experience when we started.’
There is a lot of passion involved from our side and we’re offering a service that we think can make a real difference to the right youngsters. It’s got to stand on its own two feet commercially, and we’re not offering blank cheques to drivers, but equally we don’t expect to find ourselves on the Sunday Times rich list.
We’ve got four drivers on our books — Gary Paffett, who is a test driver for McLaren in F1, Mike Conway, who is in British Formula Three, Tim Bridgman in ChampCar Atlantic in the States and Will Stevens, who is just 14 and racing karts in Italy. They’re all established champions in their own right.
It’s a fact of life that nobody succeeds in motorsport without financial backing, whether it be from commercial sponsorship, family money in the early days, or from a management company prepared to put money in after seeing potential. Our drivers have their funding and we have pulled in some commercial partners too.
We pick on ability, but they’ve got to be a complete package now. They’ve got to be able to deal with media, represent a sponsor and so on. There’s an attitude and a confidence level that’s needed to succeed. We know what’s required, so if they don’t put that in, then it’s time to end the relationship.
Not everyone will make it to the top, but with the right support they stand a good chance. It will still always be down to the guy behind the wheel, but we need to extract the best from each of them and to open the right doors for them.
It’s all about being in the right place at the right time and having the right people to make contacts for you. That’s where we try to operate at a high level. Between us we can get to most places, and get an audience with most people.
I think we have had 95 applications for management across the board, but we only represent four drivers — they have to tick all our boxes. We won’t be right all the time, but we think we’ve got a pretty good handle on it all now.
It’s quite difficult to find a real star. It requires instinct, gut feeling, as well as the stats which quantify a driver’s talent. Then there are so many circumstances that can derail a career. Ultimately, though, the stopwatch never lies.