Gary Barlow says that being in the presence of fellow X Factor judge Sharon Osbourne is like mingling with royalty.

The Take That star – who has been a regular visitor to Buckingham Palace after organising the Queen’s Jubilee concert last year – also said battle lines were being drawn on the show, with her and Louis Walsh taking sides against him and Nicole Scherzinger.

He spoke as he joined his fellow panellists attending the latest round of auditions at Wembley Arena in London.

Gary said he was enjoying working with “mad” Osbourne, who returned to the show this year after a six-year absence.

“It’s great fun, and she’s unpredictable and you can’t plan for anything. But it’s great and it’s really good to have her back,” he said.

“She’s completely taken my head judge mug, she’s smashed it. We’ve got the queen with us and it does feel like you’re in the room with royalty.”

Speaking about Sharon and Louis, he said: “They’re already ganging up on me and Nicole. It’s artists versus managers.”

Gary is reported to have been considering leaving the show after this year – his third stint on the panel – to concentrate on his own music career. But he would not be drawn on his plans.

He said: “It’s far too early to think about next year, it’s all about this year.”

Gary said the groups were so far showing the most potential for the next series and would be the category he most hoped to mentor. “At this point I think the groups are the strongest this year. We’ve never seen the groups looking so strong. But if there was a category to have, I think it would be that one.”

The ITV series returns to screens later this year as the search gets under way to find a successor to 2012 victor James Arthur.