Editorial, August 2001

Just had Alan Jones on the phone. That’s what I love about this job: whenever it seems to be going pear-shaped, usually on a Monday morning, every now and then, one of my heroes rings the office. Makes my day.

It always catches me on the hop, though. It’s usually the fourth or fifth call in succession, causing my phone manner to be perhaps not what it should. That’s when your heroes ring. Turns out that Mr Jones is to sell most of his trophies later this month at a Melbourne auction house. Seems a shame. But A J didn’t sound too bothered: they just clutter up his office and gather dust, apparently. He’ll be keeping one or two extra-special ones but that’s it. “Winning the races was what mattered, not the bits of metal you picked up for doing it. I’ve got photographs and memories that’s all I really need.”

I wonder if Carlos Reutemann has kept his trophies. Chalk and cheese these two at Williams: one a brawler, the other a fencer; one a future TV commentator with an acerbic tongue, the other a professional politician.

I imagine the governor of Sante Fe to have a purposebuilt trophy room, tasteful and spotless. But I could be hugely wide of the mark: there were occasions when it seemed Tole’ couldn’t give a stuff about winning. You never knew what you were going to get from him: from the sublime to submission. But that’s what I love about this sport: it takes all sorts. I didn’t know which of them to support in 1981. I remember being chuffed about A J’s ‘farewell’ win at Caesars Palace, and being disappointed in equal measure by Carlos’ fade-away to seventh. A mix of their best attributes would have made for a startling talent.

Take that thought to a higher level and you have Main Senna or Ayrton Prost Their intra-McLaren duel was Olympian in scale; Senna seemed capable of hurling lightning across the sky. I, though, was on the side of the little man (with the bent nose). Of course I could see the draw of Senna, the fervour, the charisma, but surely, I thought, Prost’s side of the struggle was more understandable to the man on the street. Perhaps it was. And perhaps this was his PR problem. For few appeared to be in his camp.

Senna’s style was eye-catching; Prost’s style was easy on the eye. He downchanged like an angel, yet went like the devilln-car footage always gave the impression of a Sunday drive until somebody of the calibre of Warwick or Tambay was zapped. I was hooked. A fan. I have, though, an admission to make. I could have put Prost on the cover. Instead I plumped for Reutemann: what might have been will always be more tantalising than what was. A microcosm that, for, in away, Prost has always been damned by his own statistics.