Reflections

– Chris Amon on why St Jovite was his favourite track
– Lewis Hamilton returns to his winning ways
– The tackiness of the Monaco Grand Prix
– Remembering ‘a damn good pro’, Roy Salvadori

St Jovite. I remember years ago talking to Chris Amon about his favourite tracks, and being a touch surprised that he included this place two hours to the north of Montréal.

Thinking about it now, though, I might have anticipated it, for St Jovite was very much an Amon sort of circuit. Above all, Chris adored Spa, and of course we’re talking now of the original Spa, complete with the misnamed Masta Kink – misnamed because it amounted to a left-hand corner followed by a right-hander, which could – just – be taken lat if you were very skilled and very brave. Get it wrong on the exit, and a large stone house awaited you. Jackie Stewart called it unquestionably the most testing corner – or corners – in all of motor racing, and if you have seen it you won’t feel inclined to argue. Spa, then, was an obvious choice for Amon, as was Clermont-Ferrand: “It was like a mini-Nürburgring, and I actually preferred it…” He was also partial to Montjuïc and Solitude, and had no doubts about his choice of circuit in England. “Oh, Oulton Park, without a doubt. I always enjoyed Silverstone, but I never really got along with Brands Hatch: Oulton’s the best track in this country, no question.”

Then Chris got on to St Jovite. “It wasn’t that long – about the same length as Oulton – but probably as good a driver’s circuit as I ever raced on. It was a place you could really get your teeth into – in fact, I drove what I always considered the best race of my life at St Jovite. As far as I can remember, it was actually the very irst Can-Am race, in September 1966, and I was driving for McLaren, as team-mate to Bruce. I hada long stop early on, and rejoined dead last, then came through to finish third, behind Surtees and McLaren.

I shattered the lap record, and it was one of those rare days in a racing car when you just feel you can’t do anything wrong…”

Amon had other great days at St Jovite, too, notably the Canadian Grand Prix in 1968, which he led from the start, building up a clear minute’s lead before the Ferrari’s transmission broke with 18 of the 90 laps to go. It turned out that Chris had been driving without a clutch virtually from the start.

Anyone who had recently seen Amon in the Oulton Park Gold Cup might have guessed that the ’68 Ferrari would be ideal for St Jovite. Only a fortnight before the Canadian Grand Prix he had the biggestaccident of his career at Monza – over the barrier, then end-over-end into the trees – but it had no effect on his driving because, “I knew it hadn’t been my fault…”

Neither was the transmission failure at St Jovite: it was simply another slice of the appalling luck which so blighted Amon’s career. When I talked to Ickx (his teammate in ’68) about him, Jacky just rolled his eyes. “Ah, poor Chris. When I went to Ferrari he was a hero to me, and if there had been any justice, you know, he should have been World Champion that year – pole positions, leading races, although we had much less power than the Cosworths… He drove brilliantly the whole season, and yet he inished it without a win - and eventually of course he finished his career without one. Such a lovely guy and such a beautiful driver…”

On race day at St Jovite, though, Ickx was a spectator, having crashed on the irst day of practice and broken his leg. “Early in the session I found that the throttle was staying on the loor – in fact, I nearly went off at the irst corner, which was downhill and very quick. I came in, had it checked, went out again – and the same thing happened, at the same place. In again, another check, then out I went once more, and this time I crashed – and at the same place! Sometimes, you know, you can grow up, and become intelligent – that’s the difference between a young guy and an experienced one…

“In fact, it could have been a really naughty accident, because there was no run-off there and the car got rolled up in the catch fencing. I was trapped inside, and fuel was running out – and the pump was still working. But, you know, when it’s not your day, it’s not your day. It was just an illustration of how your life can depend on little details – it can go this way, or it can go that…

“A very bad weekend for Ferrari altogether. With my leg in plaster, I watched from the pits, and thought Chris was going to win at last – no one was anywhere near him…” Two years later Amon inished third in the Canadian Grand Prix, at the wheel of the lamentable March 701, while Ickx won – in a Ferrari.

One way and another, St Jovite was a significant place in the life and times of C Amon, for it was also there, in 1977, that he decided to retire as a driver. At the end of the previous season he had turned his back on F1, but he agreed to drive Walter Wolf’s new Dallara in the newly-reconstituted Can-Am series. In essence these were no more than F5000 cars with a central seat and sports car bodywork, and the Dallara was an especially evil contraption.

Amon loathed the car from the start, and found it quite hopeless at St Jovite. On top of that he was feeling increasingly uncertain about his future as a racing driver, and when Brian Redman had an enormous accident in practice, back-lipping at 150mph or so, it had a salutary effect. So badly injured was Brian that some assumed the worst, and one paper went to press with the front page headline, Redman est mort. Fortunately he wasn’t, and of course survived to race again, but for Amon it was enough. He drove the Dallara in the race, then quietly let it be known that it was his last.

In normal circumstances it might have been dificult for Chris to ind a replacement driver for such a recalcitrant car, but there was on hand a young and very brave Formula Atlantic driver who leaped at the chance. Step forward: Gilles Villeneuve.

A few weeks later I was talking to Amon on the phone, and the conversation got round to Gilles. “Is he quick?” I asked, and Chris chuckled. “Quick?” he said. “I think he’s quicker than anyone I’ve ever seen.

“The most amazing thing about him, though, is the way he gets over a shunt – I mean, it’s literally as if nothing happened! Trust me,” he concluded, “this kid’s going to be in F1 very soon – and the other guys had better watch out…”

He wasn’t wrong, was he? For countless years I had resolved one day to visit St Jovite, and now I have. It may no longer be used for major race meetings (although an Indy Champ Car race was run there as recently as 2007), but assuredly it is in pristine condition.

Rather more pristine, clearly, than when in its brief heyday as an international venue. For one thing it is eight feet wider – at 30ft – than it used to be, and at important places there are indeed run-off areas now. The old race control tower is still there, though, and in fine condition, and the fundamentals of the track are as they were.

On race day at Montréal Mario Andretti, newly appointed as the Ambassador for the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, arrived for his irst F1 race in two years. Tell me, I said, what you remember of St Jovite – in particular that irst corner…

“Jeez, that was a track-and-a-half,” he said. “Funny thing, it seemed like all the great tracks this side of the water began with a long, fast, right-hander, with a downhill approach. Mosport was like that, and so was Bridgehampton. Even by their standards, though, the first turn at St Jovite was something else! Went on for ever, no run-off at all, just an earth bank, and then trees…

“We had two Indycar races there in 1967 and ’68, and I won both times. I flat loved that race track, but it didn’t do to spend much time looking closely at it. I remember going around quite slowly when I irst got there – learning it, you know? Big mistake.

Going slowly gave you time to look around, and you didn’t want to do that because you noticed that at the sides of the track there were boulders and God knows what. I remember saying to Al Unser, ‘The track’s great, but there’s just one thing – don’t look to the side…’”

The boulders are long gone, of course, but the essential hazards of St Jovite abide. I had several laps as a passenger in an expertly-driven Mercedes, and my guide pointed out where Redman had crashed, adding that ‘the hump’ had been significantly reduced in recent years.

A particularly memorable – and picturesque – section is a steep climb with a stone bridge at the top of it, and a blind left-hander immediately afterwards. The place is glorious, set in the most sumptuous countryside imaginable. As we approached, I was reminded of early visits to the majestic Österreichring.

Andretti, as ever, was on wonderful form in the Montréal paddock. “When were you last in something quick?” someone asked.

“Last night,” came the prompt reply. “I was at Texas, driving the two-seater Indycar...” Well, he’s only 72. Talk of St Jovite led to talk of safety, and at one point the conversation got round to seat belts. “Every time I drove a race car, I wore a belt,” said Mario. “You’ve got to remember that I started my career in the US, driving midgets and sprint cars, and they always had belts – sometimes a bit primitive, with a lap belt, and then a sort of strap across one shoulder, but belts nevertheless.

“In Europe, of course, belts in race cars arrived much later, but in the US they were mandatory. I drove a Ferrari 330LM at Bridgehampton in ’65 – my irst race in a Ferrari, and my first race in a sports car.

Beautiful thing, wire wheels, the whole nine yards.

“I guess, though, that Ferrari hadn’t quite got the hang of this seat belt thing at that point – in this LM they were sewn to the leather seat cushions! I could belt myself in, then get out of the car and walk away, which kind of defeated the object…”

It was Andretti, lest we forget, who came up with the immortal line about Amon’s luck: “If Chris would have gone into the undertaking business, people would stop dying…”

Now it’s seven races, and seven winners. One wonders where it will ever end. In point of fact, if anyone had a victory coming, it was Lewis Hamilton, who is driving incomparably better this year than last. In Barcelona his qualifying time was half a second faster than anyone else’s, and had he not been put to the back of the grid – a savage penalty, one thought, for a misdemeanour rather than a crime – it’s unlikely that Pastor Maldonado’s name would already be on the Grand Prix winners’ list.

What impressed about Hamilton on that occasion was that he didn’t get flustered. Deep down he must have been madder than a wet hen about his penalty because he personally had done nothing to contribute to it, but instead of getting sulky and mumbling dissatisfaction with McLaren, the stewards and the whole damn thing he coped with it maturely, and drove the race in the same frame of mind.

Twelve months ago there would very likely have been a coming-together with a backmarker as he tried to storm through the field, but in Barcelona he blended pace with patience – and did it, what’s more, while taking excellent care of his tyres, something which has never previously been a Hamilton trademark.

It was at Montréal ive years ago that Lewis won his first Grand Prix – and he won his second a week later at what was sadly to be the final F1 race at Indianapolis.

At that time he was achieving like no rookie in the history of the sport, and I still think he drove consistently better in his first season than any time since.

Until now perhaps. Very well, this was his first victory of the year, but although Sebastian Vettel took pole position by a disturbing three-tenths of a second there was a widespread feeling in the paddock that this was going to be Hamilton’s day.

Montréal has always been a McLaren circuit, while Red Bull had never won there, but it went deeper than that: overwhelmingly Lewis was due a victory.

Twelve months ago, it will be remembered, his Canadian Grand Prix was disastrous. At the time his head seemed to be all over the place – he was driving erratically, making mistakes, honing a persecution complex, and consequently receiving rather less sympathy than might otherwise have been his due. A career that had once appeared limitless was on the skids: in the rains of Montréal he tried to put a risky move on team-mate Button, and that was the end of his afternoon. It could easily have called time on Jenson’s, too, but fortunately his McLaren survived, and he came through to win memorably, pressuring Vettel into a mistake on the final lap.

Twelve months on, though, Hamilton is riding high once more, apparently enjoying life again and driving beautifully while Button, curiously, has gone the other way – curiously because no one, Jenson included, appears to understand why. He won emphatically at Melbourne, the first race of the season, and inished second in Shanghai, but otherwise has not really been a factor, and at Barcelona, Monaco and Montréal – all races he had previously won – he was frankly nowhere, and admitted as much.

The easy answer would be to blame the tyres – that, after all, is what more than one driver has done in the recent past to explain a run of poor form. Button, though, is not one to seek excuses, and in Canada he was emphatic that the problem lay elsewhere. His team–mate could ind grip, after all, so…

Perhaps more surprising is that Lewis has also been making his tyres last better, and that has been contrary to expectations, for traditionally – as with his hero Alain Prost – Jenson’s ability to be kind to his tyres has always been a high card in his hand. In Montréal, though, he was the only one of the top 10 qualiiers to start the race on the harder compound on offer, yet was among the first to come in for fresh Pirellis, which rather defeated the object. Afterwards he declared that the Canadian Grand Prix had been his worst race for years, and he didn’t really know what to do next.

Although the reasons behind it may be very different, the scenario rather reminds me, I must say, of the second half of the 2009 season when Button was driving for Brawn, partnered by Barrichello. To the halfway point, Jenson was as good as unbeatable, building up a daunting pointslead and virtually putting a lock on th World Championship. It was good he did, though, for thereafter he routinely struggled in qualifying, always citing ‘a lack of grip’, while Rubens seemed to have no such problems and took over as Brawn’s frontrunner.

Button invariably raced way better than he had qualiied, but starting so far back gave him far more work to do than should have been necessary.

There will of course always be those drivers who cope better than others with cars that are not au point. As Jo Ramírez said of a previous era at McLaren, “When Alain got the car exactly to his liking, he was unbeatable, but if the cars were not right – if problems had to be driven around – Ayrton always coped better.”

Until recently one would have said that this was also the case with Button and Hamilton, which is why the current situation is so baffling. “I was really surprised,” said Lewis in Montréal, “how I could save my tyres and push at the same time.” Jenson, meantime, could do neither. These are indeed strange times in Formula 1.

"Ladies and gentlemen,” a laconic BA pilot announced as we flew in a few years ago, “welcome to Gatwick – the only building site in the world with its own airport…” The moment came back to me on the morning of Thursday, May 16, as I drove in from St Jean Cap Ferrat. “Welcome to Monaco,” I murmured to myself, “the only building site in the world with its own Grand Prix…”

It’s such a shame. There was a time when I used to love it so. In the late-60s, when I first went there, Somerset Maugham may have long previously described Monaco as ‘a sunny place for shady people’, but I confess that I thought nothing of that: with its Belle Epoque villas and elegant skyline, Monte Carlo seemed to me a triumph of style over fashion, the very opposite of how it is today. As massive cranes deface the landscape at every turn, and yet more high-rise apartment blocks are crammed in, I’m afraid it strikes me as simply tacky – but then what do I know? It was Innes Ireland who originally christened the place ‘Moneyco’, and with every passing year the raison d’être of the strutting little Principality seems ever more apparent, but perhaps I’m missing something. After all, every Grand Prix driver of consequence, save Alonso, Vettel and Webber, lives there.

In my story on Alberto Ascari in last month’s issue, there appeared a photograph of his Lancia pitching into the sea in 1955 – or rather of the cloud of steam and smoke which plumed up immediately after the accident. The picture was taken from the other side of the harbour, and what strikes you is the expanse of uncluttered water: a total of eight boats – including the one which rescued Ascari – are visible, and all are small.

Now, as row upon row of mammoth yachts and cruisers pack the harbour, the trick is to spot the Mediterranean. Fortunately, though, at the end of the day it is permitted to escape back into France, and some of us do it with all possible dispatch.

As long as there is a race in Monaco, though, next morning you head back to the traffic and chaos, and once you’re there, ensconced in the paddock, everything settles down again. One of the good things about this Grand Prix is that you tend to run into people you haven’t seen for a while, like Alain Prost and Riccardo Patrese. Throw in Niki Lauda, Keke Rosberg and Gerhard Berger, and an ’80s grid begins to take shape. Prost, without a doubt, is the one wearing best. At 57, he continues to cycle iendishly, and I doubt he weighs an ounce more than when he retired, as World Champion, in 1993. “How’s the airline doing?” he asked Lauda. “Sold it!” came the reply. “At the end of last year. Sold Niki, like I sold Lauda Air. That’s it – I’m out of names now…”

When it comes to gossip there is nowhere like Monza, for by September future deals are firming up, but the ‘silly season’ begins ever earlier, and the Monaco paddock was alive with rumour. In terms of ‘who goes where?’, most of the speculation centred on Ferrari, for it is assumed at this stage – although he demonstrated notably better form in Monaco – that Felipe Massa will be shed at season’s end.

Italian colleagues were insisting that Sebastian Vettel has signed an option for 2014 (subject to certain performance parameters being met next season), and that Ferrari were therefore looking for a team-mate for Fernando Alonso ‘for one year only’. Their conclusion was that Mark Webber, closing in on 36, and a good friend of Alonso, was the logical choice.

At this stage of the game all things are possible, of course. Webber says he has agreed nothing for 2013, while Vettel insists that his future is with Red Bull. Into the mix, meantime, comes Lewis Hamilton, whose McLaren contract expires at the end of the year, and who insists he is in no hurry to make any decisions. Twelve months ago, when going through his ‘dificult’ phase, Hamilton paid a highly publicised visit to Red Bull in the Montréal paddock, but no one took it seriously.

Now, though, if Lewis were spotted in Milton Keynes on a wet Tuesday afternoon, it would be a different matter. The wish to have Adrian Newey on your side, to drive the same car as Vettel, must be potent.

At the same time some in Monaco were suggesting that Hamilton might finish up at Ferrari, of all places. A few months ago Martin Brundle smilingly told me he’d be very disappointed in Alonso if it were not in his Ferrari contract that Lewis was never to be considered so long as he was there, but… you never know.

If it be the case, as one of Fernando’s closest friends told me long ago, that in his unhappy season with McLaren in 2007, his beef was with Ron Dennis rather than Hamilton, maybe one day they could be team-mates again. Certainly they have lately appeared almost chummy, with Lewis describing Fernando as “probably the best driver out there”. Similarly, it may be remembered that last winter Alonso said he considered Hamilton his major rival. Ahead of Vettel?

Yes, ahead of Vettel. After Monaco Alonso narrowly led the World Championship, prompt ing Heikki Kovalainen – who took his place at McLaren – to predict that he will win it. “Whatever the track, whatever the conditions,” Heikki said, “there is always one common denominator: Fernando is always near the front…”

So he is, and for me there’s no argument that Fernando Alonso Diaz is the best, not least because you see the true essence of a racing driver in those years when he is up against it, when he obviously does not have the best car, and puts it in places it has no right to be. That was Villeneuve; that is Alonso. And neither of them, saints be praised, ever moaned.

Ferrari began this season’s campaign at a very low level indeed. In Melbourne Alonso was unable even to make Q3, and started 12th, which he converted into ifth over the 58 laps, but in the mixed conditions of the next race, Sepang, he stupeied everyone by scoring his 28th Grand Prix victory, and routinely he has been in the mix.

I would venture that Alonso is driving better now than at any time in his life, but if Ferrari is lucky to have him, it is somewhat fortunate, too, that ‘the tyre situation’ this year has to some degree masked the F2012’s deficiencies, in the sense that some rivals have proved unable to assert their cars’ inherent superiority.

The irst six Grands Prix produced six different winners, a phenomenon previously unknown in the history of the World Championship. For casual fans, I grant you, this can only be good, and I don’t need to be told that uncertainty is the lifeblood of any sport, F1 included, but when – as at Monaco – a backmarker can suddenly pop up with fastest lap, simply because he’s on a new set of tyres, and has a clear road in front of him, I get a little queasy, I’m afraid. What is going on here?

Alonso and Ferrari may have benefited from this situation, to some extent, not least by making intelligent decisions at the right moment, but Fernando himself clearly has doubts about the state of F1, and he is by no means alone. While no one – save perhaps Michael Schumacher – would wish to see a return to the sprint-stop sprint syndrome of a few
years ago when refuelling was allowed, and the cars were always light and on at least relatively new tyres, neither can anyone be content, surely, with a scenario which obliges drivers relatively to cruise, their main focus on ‘making the tyres last’.

Or maybe I’ve got it wrong. Maybe it is only ‘The Show’ that matters, only the outward veneer. Clearly a lot of folk seem to think so, but honestly I’m growing a little bored with being brainwashed on how wonderful this ‘new’ F1 is.

Of late I’ve been thinking quite often of an American road test from the ’60s. The vehicle in question was the original Lotus Europa, for which I – as an Elan owner at the time – had mild contempt, for it was remarkably sluggish in a straight line, and also had such eccentricities as fixed side windows and fixed seats (to get comfortable, you moved the pedals, believe it or not). Rather a silly car in many ways, it seemed to me, like those chopped-down Range Rovers that inevitably proliferate in and around Monaco. That said, Denis Jenkinson – on a wish and a prayer, one imagines – drove a Europa all the way to the Targa Florio (and back), and raved about its mid-engined handling. Car and Driver was similarly enthusiastic – but with reservations, as the headline suggested: ‘It’s fantastic – but is it a car?’

Monaco is Monaco, of course, and close processions have been the way of it there for generations. It was no surprise to see Webber, Rosberg, Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton and Massa lapping all of a group in the late stages, but no one seemed inclined to make a move, and really the tension came only from wondering if anyone would drop it on an increasingly treacherous surface.

At other races, though, thanks to a combination of DRS and the tyre situation, there have been order changes aplenty – and, as I said, a different winner in each of the first half-dozen races. Plenty to talk about, then, but to paraphrase Car and Driver, ‘It’s fantastic – but is it racing?’

After Monaco ‘fantastic’ was the word Alonso used to describe the season to date, because it had proved so unpredictable, but he then tempered his remark. “It’s good for the audience,” he said, “and good that the races are getting so much attention.

On the other hand, we can lose credibility – we can lose that the best teams, the best drivers, the best strategies, win the races, because at the moment it seems that in every race anyone can win.

“It doesn’t matter the talent, it doesn’t matter the team, the performance – it’s like a lottery. What you achieve in F1 is not by chance. We need to make clear that if you win a race, it’s because you did something better – and at the moment I don’t think this is clear for everyone…”

I don’t think it is, either. What say you?

When I first began going to races with my parents in the mid-50s, it wasn’t long before I sorted out my favourites, and Stirling Moss, it need hardly be said, became an instant idol. I saw him win the Oulton Park Gold Cup in ’54, and at the same meeting laid eyes for the first time on Jean Behra. You could buy paddock passes in those days, of course, and when I saw Behra standing by his light blue Gordini, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth in time-honoured Gallic style, I at once concluded that here was my idea of what a Grand Prix driver should be.

Dan Gurney thought so, too: “Even for those days, Jean was something of a throwback to a different time. He wasn’t a moaner at all – he was a iery guy, and he was there to race. I thought a great deal of him, and I really admired his incredibly combative spirit. He was a proud man, and he was a battler – and, believe me, he wasn’t slow!”

Gurney shared a factory Ferrari with Behra at Le Mans in 1959, and they led until the middle of the night when the car broke. The other Ferraris duly followed suit, and on Sunday afternoon it was a pair of Aston Martin DBR1s which took the chequered lag, the leading car crewed by Roy Salvadori and Carroll Shelby. As I write, both men have left us in the last month, Roy at 90, Carroll at 89. Salvadori was the third of my idols when I was a kid. When you’re young and impressionable some drivers’ names resonate more than others. Clay Regazzoni and Johnny Servoz-Gavin, for example, could hardly have gone through life as shipping clerks or solicitors, and in the same way I thought ‘Roy Salvadori’ perfect for one who drove a 250F.

As I mentioned last month, I always had a thing about ‘The Trident’. “Head was Ferrari, and heart was Maserati,” Jenks once said to me, and it summed up how I felt, too. Moss and Behra I always thought of as Maserati men, and Salvadori, too, had a role to play. Back in 1954 he was driving not only a 250F for Sid Greene’s Gilby Engineering team, but also a gorgeous A6GCS sports car, and it was in this that I saw him first, at the British Empire Trophy, also at Oulton.

Salvadori may not have been a great driver in the Moss sense of the word, but he was more than merely good, and on certain days could run with anyone. History will remember him primarily for his sports car exploits – in the Aston Martin team he was a match for all save Stirling – but Roy was one of those who could drive anything, and do justice to it. He made his Grand Prix debut at Silverstone in 1952, finishing eighth in a privately-entered Ferrari, and 10 years on was a member of the Bowmaker Lola team, partnering John Surtees.

In between times Salvadori drove for a variety of outits, including – briely – BRM and Vanwall, but his single-seater career is associated chiely with Cooper. Although Roy was never to win a Grand Prix, on at least two occasions he came close, and at a Goodwood lunch a few years ago he told me about them.

“I was always a realist about my own abilities,” he said. “I saw myself as a damn good pro, and sometimes a bit more than that, but when you were up against people like Fangio and Moss there was no point in kidding yourself. I think, in the right car, I was capable of competing seriously with them some days – but the thing is, they were always at that level…

“To be quite honest, there were only a couple of times in my career when I really felt I might win a Grand Prix. One was at Silverstone in ’56, when I was in the Gilby Maser, and eventually went out with a misire – the engine was still running, but I packed it in because I was worried about blowing up: Gilby simply didn’t have the wherewithal for a complete rebuild at Maserati. I was proud of that drive, though, because the car was getting quite long in the tooth by then, and I’d been running second to Moss’s factory 250F – I couldn’t do anything about him, but I was ahead of Fangio and Collins in their Ferraris – and they inished 1-2 after Stirl eventually retired…

“The other occasion was towards the end of my F1 career, at Watkins Glen in 1961, driving a customer Cooper for the Yeoman Credit team. I’d had a pretty poor season, but I always liked the ’Glen, and in the race I really got going well, passing people like Gurney and McLaren, and getting into second place behind Ireland’s Lotus, which I was catching at a rate of knots – until I came up to lap Clark, who had been delayed earlier on.

“There were about half a dozen laps to go, and it was clear that Jimmy was obeying orders from Chapman, and holding me up so as to protect Innes, his team-mate. I wasn’t very happy about it, but I suppose, in similar circumstances, I’d have done the same! Anyway, I inally forced my way by – but almost immediately the engine went bang, and that was that. It was almost certainly my own fault – I’m sure I must have over-revved in my attempts to get past Jimmy – but still I was awfully disappointed.

I was coming up to 40, and thought, ‘Well, that’s probably my last chance to be a Grand Prix winner’. Which it duly was…” Salvadori had a wonderfully understated way with him – “I was awfully disappointed…” – and took great pleasure in gently needling his rivals – “Christ, Stirl, is that all Astons are paying you?” – but any of them would attest to the fact that on the race track he was a fierce competitor, well able to take care of himself. In my experience, he was delightful company; I lament the loss of another childhood god.

Nigel Roebuck