Until Herbie Blash’s retirement from the role as Formula 1’s assistant race director in 2016, he and Charlie Whiting were inseparable.
They’d been colleagues at Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham team as two super-bright mechanics where they’d been responsible for the preparation of the title-winning cars of Nelson Piquet before moving into their roles within the FIA.
They exuded the same calm, seen-it-all, cynical-but-friendly energy, with Herbie often the charm officer in relaying any unwelcome news to participants.
He hadn’t actually retired when he surrendered his F1 role, and is still very active in his engineering business, but he’s effectively been pulled out of retirement for his new position as ‘permanent advisor’ in the FIA’s revamped F1 officiating structure because he’s simply the ideal man to have at hand alongside the race director.
Vastly experienced, respected, calm and pragmatic. He could do the job himself but probably doesn’t want to.
His real name isn’t Herbie, incidentally. It’s Michael. He got the name Herbie as a teenage rookie mechanic at Lotus in the late 1960s.
“I was working on Graham Hill’s Lotus 49 and Colin Chapman came over to look at something on the back of the car,” he recounted.
“I was refilling the gearbox with oil but I’d forgotten to put the drain plug back in and I poured oil all over Colin’s new Hushpuppy suede shoes.
“He said, ‘My God you’re a proper Herbert, aren’t you!’ After that it just stuck.”