Nigel Roebuck

Reflections
– The return of Räikkönen, the decline of Massa
– How the party turned sour for Ireland at Lotus

Save that the order was different – and unique in 2011 – with Mark Webber winning and Sebastian Vettel finishing second, the Grand Prix season finale in Brazil was pretty much a reflection of the whole year: the Red Bulls away on their own, with McLaren next up and then Ferrari (or, to be more accurate, Alonso).

"When they told me about my gearbox problem,” Vettel said, “I had to turn down the engine and start short-shifting…” Given that, even in this compromised state, Sebastian’s Red Bull was able to set a new fastest lap soon after half-distance, one was left with the thought: Ye Gods, how quick is that thing?

Interlagos has always been potent, a cauldron of a race track. In its contemporary, shortened form it holds not a candle to the original circuit, but still it retains the flavour of the old place with some testing and unorthodox corners, and as long as the Paulistas never lose their passion for Formula 1 (inconceivable), it will remain a classic venue, one of increasingly few on the World Championship calendar.

Bernie Ecclestone recently said that he could see the day coming – and before too long – when Europe, the traditional heartland of F1, would be left with only five Grands Prix. “I think Europe’s finished,” he added. “It’ll be a good place for tourism, but little else. Europe is a thing of the past.”

Observing the dithering machinations in Brussels over the last few months, in particular the Napoleonic struttings of the dreadful little Sarkozy, it is not easy to fault Bernie’s logic, but in fact this is not a thought which has come to him recently. Back in the mid-90s he explained to me the way his thinking was going when it came to the composition of future World Championship schedules. “We’ve got to look for new places,” he said firmly. “In 10 years Europe will be Third World…”

At the time of that conversation there were 16 races on the championship calendar – Ecclestone was adamant he would never, ever, ever put on more than that! – and 11 of them were in Europe. This season past, without the merciful cancellation of Bahrain, we would have had 20, 11 of them outside Europe.

The balance, then, has swung strongly towards – in F1 terms – the New World. In Europe we have lost such as Imola, Estoril and Magny-Cours; outside of it we have picked up Grands Prix in Malaysia, China, Bahrain, Singapore, Korea, India and Abu Dhabi. For now Europe retains Spain (two races), Monaco, Britain, Germany, Hungary, Belgium and Italy, and, according to Bernie’s latest prognostication, three of those will shortly disappear.

Spain will obviously lose one, with Barcelona and Valencia perhaps alternating in the manner of Hockenheim and the Nürburgring, but where else will the axe fall? You can reasonably assume that Monaco, Silverstone and Monza are set in stone, so the places known to be struggling financially are logically going to offer themselves up for sacrifice – and one of those, inescapably, is Spa.

Ecclestone, I know, has a soft spot for Spa, in the sense that the racer in him – and it’s still there, however much he may seek to disguise it – appreciates that the place is in the very fabric of motor racing. And Bernie knows, too, that getting rid of it would appal an untold number of F1 aficionados. I know people who religiously make the trip to the Belgian Grand Prix each year – just as others wouldn’t miss Le Mans – yet are quite happy to give Silverstone a miss.

Ecclestone, though, is no longer the one-man band he was, and thus even less inclined than ever he was to allow heritage and sentiment to influence the shaping of the World Championship. These days he is effectively an employee – albeit one with certain privileges – of commercial rights holder CVC Capital Partners, where only the bottom line counts.

Why else would we have finished up with a dump of a Grand Prix like Korea? I didn’t go to the first race there, in 2010, and when colleagues got back and told me about it, I made a firm resolution not to go to the second, either. Their experiences rather reminded me of the film critic who was asked what he thought of Titanic: “I’d rather have been on it…”

Fortunately, though, we still have venues like Spa and Suzuka and Monza, and we should perhaps take care to savour them while we can. Interlagos, too. To my mind, the great disappointment of the 2011 season-closer was that Felipe Massa, so often brilliant for Ferrari at his home circuit in the past, failed to make any impact at all. It hardly needs to be said that his season was beyond disappointing, but still I hoped that in Brazil he might remind us of the driver who, as team-mate first to Michael Schumacher, then to Kimi Räikkönen, won several Grands Prix for Ferrari, often consummately.

There are those who reckon Felipe has never been the driver he was before his life-threatening accident at the Hungaroring in 2009, but Martin Brundle’s theory is that more damaging was that day at Hockenheim the following year, when Ferrari – mindful of the World Championship – ordered him to let Fernando Alonso through for the win. ‘Team orders’, it will be remembered, were then banned, and while that might have been idiotic in itself, nevertheless it was in the rules at the time. Hence, the coded radio message to Massa which was never going to fool anyone: ‘Felipe, Fernando is faster than you. Have you understood?’

No question about it, Alonso was faster than Massa, and if DRS had been around at the time he would have been able to pass him without problem; as it was, he was stuck in his team-mate’s ‘dirty air’, and thus the instruction was given.

“I’m a fan of Felipe’s,” says Brundle, “because, apart from his driving ability, I think he’s a thoroughly nice person, as well. Having said that, though, I know it’s the stopwatch that matters – and he’s up against Fernando…”

On the stopwatch, Massa didn’t actually show too badly in 2011. He may have been out-qualified 15-4 by Alonso, but he was one of only four drivers to make it into Q3 at every race, and often he wasn’t far away from his team-mate. On race day, though, the picture was very different. While Fernando won at Silverstone and made nine further podium appearances, Felipe never once finished higher than fifth. At the end of the season he was 139 points adrift of Alonso – and Ferrari was 124 points behind McLaren in the constructors’ championship. Very well, neither was anywhere near Red Bull, but the statistics within his own team have not escaped Luca di Montezemolo, which is why next year – the last of his contract – will be Massa’s final season with Ferrari.

“I actually believe,” says Brundle, “that what happened at Hockenheim in 2010, when Felipe was ordered to give way, affected him more than anything else – including his accident. I think it buried him psychologically. Should it have done? No – he should have able to see that it was in Ferrari’s interests for Fernando to win that day, and move on, but…”

In the lull which inevitably follows the final Grand Prix of the year, the big talking point – forgetting the rift in the Formula One Teams Association over the vexed question of cost capping – was that Räikkönen, after a two-year sojourn in the World Rally Championship, was coming back to Formula 1 with Renault, lately renamed Lotus.

As soon as Robert Kubica let it be known that he would not, in spite of everyone’s hopes, be fit enough to resume his F1 career at the beginning of next season, Renault team principal Eric Boullier had to consider his options. Already he had Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna on board, with Romain Grosjean in the wings, but none could be considered number one driver material, and that is what any serious team obviously needs, not least so as to know the true competitiveness of the car.

Although Räikkönen at first professed to love his new life as a rally driver, saying that it was a more relaxed world, and therefore much more to his taste – indeed he made a point of stressing how much he did not miss F1. No doubt that was true, in many ways: even more than Lewis Hamilton, Kimi always disliked the strenuous PR regime in F1, and although he had conspicuously less of it at Ferrari than McLaren, still he found the whole business of personal appearances and the like both tedious and onerous.

Once in a while, indeed, he needed to be reminded that his telephone-number retainer wasn’t for driving alone: Räikkönen thought it should be – and perhaps, if he had always driven as he could drive, he might have got away with it. The problem was that, although sometimes touched by genius, too often Kimi sold himself – and therefore his team – short. At McLaren they used to say that they could tell on the Thursday if this were going to be an ‘on’ weekend for Räikkönen or not, while at Ferrari they were mystified that so often the highest-paid driver in the world was outpaced, and sometimes consummately, by team-mate Massa.

As the news began to do the rounds that Räikkönen was returning to F1 – and not, as long anticipated, with Williams but with a team further up the grid – it was inevitable that his Ferrari performances, relative to Massa’s, should come up for discussion. Felipe, people murmured, had more often than not been quicker than Kimi, yet plainly couldn’t live with Alonso, so…

These things are rarely as simple as they seem, as Brundle points out: “For one thing, that was the Felipe of 2008 – not the Felipe of today.”

For another, has Räikkönen himself changed? His three years at Ferrari were always a mystery to me in the sense that, although he won his first race for the Scuderia at Melbourne in 2007, his form was then patchy until the second half of the season, when he drove with consistent brilliance, putting himself in contention for the World Championship, which he duly took – by a point – at the final race.

Thereafter Kimi was sometimes a factor, but too often not, and by 2009 Luca di Montezemolo – the man instrumental in bringing him to Maranello, at the expense of Michael Schumacher – decided he could wait no longer for Alonso, and declared that Räikkönen’s contract would be terminated a year ahead of time. Ironically, following Massa’s accident in Hungary, Kimi – now partnered by such as Giancarlo Fisichella and even Luca Badoer – very much stepped up to the plate, looking far more like the driver of old.

It had come too late, though – and perhaps Räikkönen himself wasn’t too sorry to leave. At Ferrari everyone had liked him, but it was never felt he had made much of an effort to integrate with the team, as Alonso was to do, and he was hardly ever seen at Maranello. For a time there were serious discussions about a return to McLaren, now in the post-Dennis era, but ultimately fiscal agreement proved impossible to reach. Martin Whitmarsh signed Jenson Button, and Räikkönen went off to try his luck with Citroën.

In many ways, it was absolutely the right thing to do, for there was evidence that Kimi had become worn down by the life of a Grand Prix driver. A party animal of considerable renown he may be, but no driver I can remember ever had less taste for the razzamatazz of F1, and in the paddock he invariably cut a morose, even bored, figure. A break with all that was probably no bad thing, and most observers doubted he would ever be back.

Ah, but that was then, and this is now. Much as Räikkönen had always adored driving a rally car, it’s fair to say that his new career did not pan out the way he – or Citroën – had hoped. Invariably Kimi was quick, although not to a point that he threatened the Loebs and Ogiers, but there were a great many shunts, and some wondered if he had the temperament for this new line of work.

For him, too, the glitter began to fall away. Competing against the clock was one thing, but increasingly Räikkönen found that he missed wheel-to-wheel combat. During the early summer of 2011 he competed in a couple of NASCAR events, but although he enjoyed them and they rekindled his taste for racing, no one expected anything to come of this brief adventure, not least because a 36-race season was unlikely to appeal to the Kimster…

When it became known that he had visited Williams, that discussions of a possible deal were underway, everyone wondered why Räikkönen, late of McLaren and Ferrari, would wish to return to Formula 1 with a team far removed from its glory days, one unlikely to provide him with a front-running car. Then they wondered how, even if the principles of an agreement could be reached, Williams could meet Kimi’s inevitably lofty financial requirements.

In the end nothing came of that, and Räikkönen’s managers instead negotiated a contract with Renault/Lotus which means – apart from anything else – that in 2012, for the first time in history, no fewer than six World Champions will be on the grid. A quarter of the entire field.

“I know,” says Brundle, “that a lot of people think the teams should be taking on new, young drivers, and I can see their point of view, but for me the great story is, ‘Will Kimi do a better job in his comeback than Michael?’ He should, because he’s younger, he’s been away for a shorter time – and he has been competing while he’s been away. The question is, will all the frustrations that made him leave F1 in the first place still be there, or not? Let’s be honest, Kimi lacked motivation, didn’t he – and that was when he was driving for Ferrari!

“Should he have put more effort in? Of course he should – he never really integrated with Ferrari, but that’s him. When you sign a driver, you take the whole package, don’t you? If you take Kimi Räikkönen on, you’re not hiring a stand-up comedian…

“I was talking to Petter Solberg about Räikkönen the other day, and he said that the guy they saw when he arrived in rallying was completely different from the one they know now, two years later. Much more approachable, much less smart-ass… Solberg thinks he’s a different character altogether.

“How will he go? I think it depends completely on the car – that worries me more than his ability, to be honest. If you give Kimi a race-winning car, he can win the race – but then I think you can also say that still about Michael.

“It seems to me that a number of things built up with Kimi over the years – things he doesn’t like, like media, PR, and to an extent testing. Never forget that there’s no testing now – there are 20 races, and the drivers love that, but they’re actually doing a lot less driving now. They’re not pounding round Barcelona, doing three Grand Prix distances in a day, and I think that’ll suit Kimi very well. He’s got to drive that team forward, and make them believe in themselves. If he’s as lazy this time as he was the last, it won’t work, but if they have the wherewithal to provide him with a car that gives him a sniff of victory…”

*

Speaking of party animals, among those of us who knew him, it’s amazing how often the name of Innes Ireland crops up. Just recently I was with a group of colleagues, discussing the predicament of a well-known contemporary Grand Prix driver, and it occurred to me that Innes would have used a particular word to describe his condition. It is not a word I can reproduce here, but it made everyone laugh – and perhaps offered a little insight into Ireland’s irreverent character to those present who never had the good fortune to know him.

And a character is what he was. We miss him to this day, just as we do Rob Walker: mere mention of either man tends to cause the anecdotes to flow, rather as with Noël Coward and John Gielgud in theatrical circles. They got along famously, Innes and Rob, not least because they shared a natural gift for dry wit, not least because they were – in the old-fashioned sense of the word – gentlemen.

This doesn’t mean, however, that I Ireland was unfailingly affable. In mixed company, certainly, his behaviour was invariably impeccable, but in certain circumstances his fuse was almighty short, and policemen – particularly officious Italian policemen – had a particular gift for igniting it.

On race day at Monza one year I had lunch in the paddock with Innes, and afterwards – the race started at mid-afternoon in those days – he proposed a stroll through the pitlane. A certain amount of red wine had been taken, and he radiated bonhomie as we chatted with people along the way.

Having walked the length of the pitlane, Innes then suggested a wander down to the first corner, and this is where everything started to go awry. We had the correct passes, of course, which – theoretically anyway – gave us carte blanche to go pretty well where we wished. But for reasons unexplained a member of the carabinieri stepped forward, and indicated we should go no further.

Innes – still uncoiled – attempted to persuade him that all was in order, that our credentials entitled us to proceed, but to no avail. Instead the man, encouraging us to turn around, prodded Innes hard in the chest, and at that point my heart went into free fall, for I had seen my friend in similar situations before and knew they did not bring out the best in him.

At once Innes grabbed the policeman’s tunic – in the area of the neck to be precise – and began loudly advising him, in words of few syllables and almost exclusively four letters, that he would go where he wanted, thank you very much, and no **** in a uniform was going to stop him. This had a bad effect on the **** in the uniform, who at once slipped the rifle off his shoulder and waved it in the direction of his assailant, screaming excitedly as he did so.

By now I was becoming seriously concerned, for Innes showed no sign of relenting: I could see the pair of us being marched off to the clink somewhere, and – apart from anything else – missing the race, which was now near at hand. “Innes,” I said urgently, “the start’s in half an hour…” He gave me to understand that he wasn’t greatly concerned.

By now we had been joined by two further members of the constabulary, and they, too, had their rifles at the ready. Innes seemed not to notice – or, at least, not to care – and I began to wonder how I was going to explain to Autosport that I hadn’t written an Italian Grand Prix report because I hadn’t seen the Italian Grand Prix.

Then – thanks be to God – R R C Walker arrived. The cavalry, in genteel form. He and a friend had also decided on a stroll, and they took in at a glance what was happening here. Crucially, something about Rob rang a bell with one of the cops – “Aye, Stirling Moss!” He smiled graciously, and tried to explain – he was no linguist, having an innate distrust of foreign tongues – that the wild man they were attempting to contain was himself a former Grand Prix driver, indeed a close friend of Stirling’s…

I will never know how he got the message across, but it worked like a magic trick. At once the aggression evaporated, the rifles were reshouldered, and handshakes proffered. Would Rob and Innes sign autographs? They would, and so we went on our way back to the pits finally, Innes keen to give them the final flourish of a distant V-sign, Rob successfully discouraging him. And thus it was that we all got to see the Italian Grand Prix, won, I seem to remember, by René Arnoux.

As the 2011 season came to a close, the thought occurred one day that 50 years had passed since Team Lotus won its first World Championship Grand Prix. True, the marque Lotus had won several times before, thanks to Moss in Walker’s privately-entered car, but Ireland’s victory at Watkins Glen in 1961 was the first by a Lotus in green. It was also to be Innes’s only Grand Prix win.

There had to that point been two Grands Prix in the United States, the first in 1959 at Sebring, where circuit organiser Alec Ulmann had a three-year option on the race. Unlike the celebrated 12 Hours sports car race, the US GP at Sebring was not a commercial success, and so the following year Ulmann put the race on at Riverside, one of the finest circuits in the country.

F1, though, didn’t play well in California in those days, either, and although Ulmann tried to ‘place’ the race elsewhere in 1961, he was unable to do a deal. Plainly his mindset was that if he couldn’t put it on, neither was anyone else going to, and he stubbornly clung on to his option to the very day of its expiry. In the international calendar the US Grand Prix had been granted a date of October 8, and once Ulmann was out of the picture finally, and an offer made to Watkins Glen, only six weeks remained.

They were simpler times, were they not? In today’s world, putting on a Grand Prix at only 40 days’ notice would be utterly out of the question, but in the little town in upstate New York they set to work, and everything necessary was accomplished. At last the US GP had a home, and for the next two decades ‘The Glen’ was a fixture in the World Championship, invariably hosting the season’s last race and creating an end-of-term feeling never equalled by any other circuit.

That first Grand Prix at the Glen pulled a crowd of 60,000, hugely more than Sebring or Riverside, and in all probability the numbers would have been greater still had Phil Hill – America’s first World Champion – been among the starters with a ‘sharknose’ Ferrari.

Hill had clinched the title at Monza a month earlier, but this was of course the race in which his team-mate – and title rival – Wolfgang von Trips was killed after a touch with Jimmy Clark on the second lap. Fourteen spectators also lost their lives, and Italian motor racing was plunged into frenzy.

“You can’t imagine what it was like,” Hill told me. “The Vatican pitched in like always, saying Ferrari should stop building cars, and racing should be banned, and so on… I was with the Old Man for days afterwards and there was all this, ‘Oh, what are we going to do?’ stuff. It seemed like everyone in the damn country was milling around, and there’s Ferrari, with three days’ beard growth, and bathrobes and everything, to appear… He’d probably been through it dozens of times.”

Originally three Ferraris were entered for the US Grand Prix, but von Trips was gone, and Richie Ginther – having announced, like Dan Gurney before him, that he was leaving Ferrari for BRM – had been shown the door. Perhaps, had the cars made the trip across the Atlantic, the team might have put Giancarlo Baghetti or Lorenzo Bandini in with Hill, but it soon became clear to the new World Champion that he wouldn’t be racing in his home Grand Prix.

How, I asked Phil, were you ever able to forgive Ferrari for denying you that? “Oh,” he laughed, “I didn’t have enough sense to know that he was supposed to go to the Glen, you know – I thought it was clever that he could go into mourning and get out of it! Yes, it was terrible we didn’t go, and today it would just be unthinkable, wouldn’t it? I was pissed off, but the whole Trips thing was a big trauma – I just sort of fell into it and felt that it would be selfish, in this time of great trauma, for me to say, ‘I want to go race some more…’”

No Ferraris, then, at this last Grand Prix of a season dominated by the team. Had they made the trip, Hill would likely have won; as it was, he was at the Glen in the capacity of honorary chief steward.

Formula 1 was far less rigid in times gone by, and an attractive feature of Grands Prix in countries like the USA and South Africa was one-off appearances by local drivers. Hill and Ginther may have been absent from the grid at Watkins Glen, but still American fans had no fewer than eight drivers to cheer for, F1 regulars Gurney and Masten Gregory being joined by Roger Penske, Walt Hansgen, Jim Hall, Lloyd Ruby and Hap Sharp, as well as the Philadelphia-born Canadian Peter Ryan.

Of the newcomers the quickest in practice was the 21-year-old Ryan, at the wheel of a Lotus 18. Just the weekend before, at the wheel of a 19, he had won the Canadian Grand Prix sports car race at Mosport, with Pedro Rodríguez second, and S Moss, no less, third. At the time many saw Ryan as something of a prodigy, and he had his hopes of a Lotus F1 drive some time soon. The following year, sadly, at the wheel of a Lotus in the Formula Junior race at Reims, he tangled with another car and died in the ensuing accident.

If the Ferraris had cleaned up through the 1961 season, beaten only by the virtuosity of Moss at Monaco and the Nürburgring, there were already signs that the following year would be different. The four-cylinder Climax motor – used even by BRM in ’61 – had been out-powered by Ferrari’s V6, but by now the V8 Climax was coming on stream and BRM’s own V8, tested but not raced by Graham Hill at Monza, also looked highly promising.

Partnering Hill at BRM was Tony Brooks, who retired after this final race at the Glen, and thus never got to experience the V8 car – until 1997, believe it or not, when he drove it in the one-off ‘Basildon Grand Prix’, a fund-raising event put on by Canon Lionel Webber. Tony, I remember, was positively glowing afterwards: “Now,” he said, “I understand how Graham won the championship in ’62…”

To America, though, BRM brought only the old ‘Climax’ cars, and the only V8s present were in Jack Brabham’s factory Cooper and Moss’s Walker Lotus. Troubled by a severe misfire, Stirling opted to race the four-cylinder engine, but still he was able to give Jack a decent fight on race day.

Soon after half-distance both, though, were out, and Ireland took over the lead, pursued first by Hill, whose magneto began to play up, and then by Roy Salvadori, driving perhaps the best F1 race of his life. In the Yeoman Credit Cooper, Salvadori began to hack into Ireland’s lead in the late laps, and Innes was powerless to do much about it: his fuel pressure was falling, for the very good reason that he had very little fuel left.

In practice Ireland had been lucky to escape with only bruises from a big accident, brought about by the failure of a steering arm. No barriers in those days of course, and, as Innes inimitably described it, the Lotus ‘took to the woods…’ Although the mechanics were able to rebuild the car, they couldn’t do anything about a sizeable dent in the fuel tank, which reduced its capacity by a couple of gallons.

As the race wound down, that looked like being crucial: it seemed that it would be the inspired Salvadori rather than Ireland who would score a first GP victory, but then Roy came up to lap Clark, whom he felt held him up in an effort to help Innes, his team-mate. Finally Salvadori did find a way through, but almost immediately – with three laps to the flag – his engine blew, the consequence, he believed, of over-revving in his efforts to get by.

“Quite honestly, there were only a couple of times in my career,” he told me a few years ago, “when I really felt I might win a Grand Prix. One was at Silverstone in ’56, when I was in the Gilby Maserati, and eventually went out with fuel starvation. I’d been running second to Moss’s factory 250F, and I couldn’t do anything about him, but I was ahead of Fangio and Collins – and they finished 1-2 after Stirl eventually retired. And the other time, of course, was that day at Watkins Glen…”

After facing pressure at the very end from Gurney’s Porsche, Ireland – running on fumes – scampered over the line to win, and the post-race photographs amply reveal the joy not only on his own face but also that of Colin Chapman: Team Lotus had finally won a Grand Prix.

What Chapman already knew at that moment – and his driver did not – was that Ireland had raced a factory Lotus for the last time. At the Earls Court Motor Show a fortnight later Innes got into conversation with Geoff Murdoch, the competitions manager of Esso, a longtime sponsor of Lotus, and it was from him that he got the first inklings that something was afoot.

Unforgivably Chapman had seen fit to share his plans with sundry folk associated with Lotus, yet not troubled to mention it to the man who had just broken the team’s Grand Prix duck. Ireland tracked him down elsewhere at the show and demanded to know what was going on.

“He wouldn’t look me in the face,” Innes said years later, “which is never a good sign with anyone – and particularly Colin. He just mumbled something about not needing me for 1962…”

This was Chapman at his most pragmatic, which was very pragmatic indeed. Although Ireland had usually outpaced Clark in ’61, if not by much, their boss had concluded that the future of the team lay with Jimmy. In itself, Chapman’s logic couldn’t be faulted, and events bore out the wisdom of his decision to focus on Clark. But the cursory manner in which he dealt with Ireland was dreadfully disrespectful to a man who had given his all to Lotus for some years, and I always felt – to the day he died – that there was a part of Innes which never got over it.

“Chapman,” says Moss, “was pretty horrible in the way he treated Innes, and that’s all there is to it. I was appalled – but not surprised, quite honestly.”

It was a fact that Ireland and Clark, while both Scots, had not got on especially well during their period of working together, and it must be said, too, that they differed considerably in their approach to motor racing – and to life. My late friend Jabby Crombac was close to both Chapman and Clark, but he was also fond of Ireland.

“This was very early in Jimmy’s career, of course, and at that time he had not seen much of the world, and was perhaps… a bit of a prude. He hardly touched a drink, whereas Innes was the opposite – I don’t think Jimmy approved of some of his behaviour, and at the same time Innes thought Jimmy a bit of a goody-goody…

“I felt very sorry for Innes when Colin sacked him,” Crombac said. “Of course it was clear that Jimmy was the driver of the future, but at the same time Innes had been very faithful to Lotus. When Graham [Hill] left to go to BRM after 1959, Innes was invited to go with him, but he told me that he stayed with Lotus because he thought it would be hard on Colin to lose both his drivers at the same time – and I believed him. Colin was my great friend for so many years, but he was… not always kind…”

Once Ireland retired from motor racing, early in 1967, he took up journalism. An extremely well-read man himself, he could write quite beautifully, I thought, and no words on motor racing ever moved me more than those he wrote for Autocar on the occasion of Clark’s death. When I asked him about that piece, he told me he had stayed up most of the night writing and re-writing, wanting to get it right.

“It’s true that Jimmy and I weren’t close when we were driving together,” he said, “but we got along much better as time went on. I didn’t consider him the best ever – for me that will always be Stirling – but undoubtedly he was the greatest of his generation. I was extremely sad when he died.”

For years Ireland worked for Road & Track, writing race reports and features, and I remember a huge party at a Grand Prix somewhere in the late 1980s, laid on by Camel, then the primary sponsor of Lotus. Everyone with a press credential was invited, it seemed – except, by some oversight, Innes. I quietly pointed out to the PR that this was the man who had scored the first Grand Prix victory for Team Lotus, and was met with a blank expression.

Ireland, it must be said, always grappled with the concept of public relations, but to his credit he roared with laughter. Apparently they didn’t know, I told him, about you at Watkins Glen in 1961. “Why should they?” he said. “Neither did bloody Chapman!”

Innes, I raise a glass to you.