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Mat Coch writes:
Three teams have caught Johnny Herbert's eye so far this season, and not necessarily for the reasons you'd expect. A three-time race winner, Herbert spoke to the media during a teleconference on Friday and gave his opinion on the consistent success of McLaren, the draw of Ferrari and the upturn in Lotus' fortunes.
"It's one of those funny things in a lot of ways because the draw of Ferrari has been there since I started in the early 90's and the draw was there many years before that," he replied when asked why drivers seem drawn to the Prancing Horse.
In recent weeks speculation has mounted over who will drive for the team next season as pressure builds on Felipe Massa. Mark Webber and Sergio Perez have both been linked with the team which can seemingly attract drivers at will. However a move to Maranello is not always the wisest decision, even if it is perhaps one of the most attractive in Formula One.
"There were a lot of seasons when Ferrari have been absolutely nowhere," Herbert recalls, going on to suggest that the allure of the sport's oldest team has seen good drivers, like Jean Alesi, lumbered with bad cars for year after year.
"I love Jean and he's a fantastic driver, an exciting driver but he went to Ferrari at the wrong time. Everybody could really see that. There was always hope that they would get it together but it never happened."
It was only the arrival of Michael Schumacher, with Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn in tow, that resurrected the team's fortunes. "Since Michael's left that result has slowly tailed off," Herbert contends.
The prospect of success is only one aspect of signing with Ferrari. It's a team with heritage and an unmatched level of global fanaticism among the tifosi. "You've only got to go to Monza to feel it," Herbert says. "It's just really the passion of what Ferrari represents on the track."
If success is what a driver seeks they are better off signing with McLaren, Herbert believes. "McLaren have always been there or thereabouts," he suggests. "They're a very good team at being able to have top rate drivers, two world champions, and give them the same chances at the race weekend.
"It's something they've done very, very well for many, many years including Ayrton (Senna) and (Alain) Prost," he adds.
Herbert goes on to suggest that Lewis Hamilton, who has been linked with a possible move away from the team with which he's driven throughout his career, would be best staying. "He's pretty much cemented in to the core of the team and they think he's with one of the best, if not the best team that can give him a car that he needs to win another world championship," he reasoned. "From that point of view, would you want to move?
"It's a very hard thing to say 'is it the right thing to move on?' In my heart, no it's not because McLaren are in a very good position at the moment to possibly give him a second world championship. It's a hard thing to read, especially this season it's a very, very hard thing to read. There's no guarantee if he chooses to go to Ferrari or Red Bull, for example, that they are the places to be because that's not really the case at the moment as we're seeing."
Elsewhere Herbert has been impressed by Lotus' consistency so far this season. The key to their success has been getting the tyres working, a feat it seems to have managed more easily that some of its rivals. "Lotus do seem to have a car, and the driver and maybe the engineers as well, have a little bit of an understanding of how to get that tyre in that window.
"I think they've shown speed all the way through the season so far but it just clicked together properly in Bahrain. From what you saw in Mugello I think they can actually move forward in a positive way."
Speed in Bahrain and the races before it are no guarantee however, Herbert suggesting that the sensitivity of the tyres still adds a degree of uncertainty. "The instability is so varied at the moment I don't think anybody can make the call but the guys that have probably been the most consistent, strangely enough, have been Lotus in many ways."
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