X Factor judge Simon Cowell is getting a head start on winding up the other judges ahead of this year’s 11th series, suggesting there were doubts about the line-up.

“I wasn’t sure whether Mel was going to fit in or not,” Cowell says of the former Spice Girl and this year’s brand new judge. Although it didn’t exactly take him very long to figure out if the panel was right. 

“But within 5 minutes I got her. She brings an incredible energy to the show. She isn’t a judge for hire, which a lot of people are nowadays. She loves the show and is really interested in the mentoring aspect of the show,” Cowell explains. 

Not that he can cool his heels around her too much. “She’s really fun to be around, although I get why she’s called Scary!” he adds. 

Yet, not quite scary enough to replace him as Mr Nasty on the panel it seems. Responding to claims Mel is in fact the ‘new Simon’ of the panel with her fierce critique, Cowell claims, “I don’t know if it’s a question of whether contestants find me or Mel more intimidating, I think more about who they would like to please - and that’s normally me.”

Returning judge Cheryl Fernandez-Versini didn’t miss a quick jibe from Cowell either, who says she’s so far been “fun and annoying”. But he saved his best remarks for Louis Walsh, returning for his 11th series on the show. 

“Louis brings madness to the show. He’s a nutcase and he has a very different view of the world than I do. But that’s what I find interesting about Louis; he’s an optimist, whereas I can be a bit cynical. But he loves music. He loves doing the show; I mean, if he had a tail he’d be wagging it.

“And the one thing you forget about Louis is that he is a really good manager. I mean he’s sold over 100 million records - you don’t do that with luck - you do it because you’re smart. And I think sometimes he tries to hide the fact that he is smart and cunning. Then there are times when I’m sitting there thinking, I have no idea why you’re sitting here next to me. So that’s our relationship.”

The X Factor returns Saturday 30 August at 8:00pm on ITV