Nigel Roebuck

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Australian rain recalls Prost’s bold action at Adelaide 24 years back, while Raikkonen’s “easy” win highlights the contrast between the dour Finn and an innocent Chris Amon

“Kimi can do some good things this year,” said Anthony Davidson as we talked through the forthcoming Formula 1 season. “In fact, I reckon Lotus could be the dark horse of 2013…”

Melbourne is always said to be an atypical Grand Prix circuit, and its race not one from which too many conclusions should be drawn. Well, perhaps that’s so, but on the strength of Raikkonen’s drive there, Davidson may be right on the mark.

What the Australian Grand Prix appeared to confirm was that this year, even more than last, tyre management is going to be the name of the game. Raikkonen may have qualified only seventh, but in the race he was instantly up to fourth, and thereafter capitalised on the Lotus’s light appetite for tyres, making only two stops — always the team’s plan, should it look attainable — while his rivals made three. On the penultimate lap, no less, Kimi put in his fastest lap, and afterwards said that this had been one of the easier wins of his career. Disturbing for the rest.

Martin Whitmarsh will concede that during his McLaren years Raikkonen may not have been the easiest driver to manage, and perhaps none was less likely to have a fruitful relationship with Ron Dennis, but Martin has always been a fan, and gave serious thought, when Kimi’s Ferrari contract was terminated a year early, to bringing him back to the McLaren team in the post-Dennis era.

“It didn’t surprise me that Kimi went so well with Lotus last year,” he said. “He’s quite a misunderstood individual, I think. Yes, he does like to party and drink, but he’s actually much more disciplined about training than most people realise. He’s also one of the sharpest drivers out there — although people wouldn’t necessarily think that because he doesn’t say very much, and has a generally flippant demeanour. In my opinion, too, he’s one of the best drivers when it comes to understanding the car, and for communicating that. He’s got all the ingredients — apart from the dedication, which is why we’ve never seen his full potential…”

It’s fact that, in terms of PR and other off-track activities, McLaren works its drivers harder than most. Lewis Hamilton has cited this as one of his reasons for leaving, and it was an aspect of life there that Raikkonen came increasingly to loathe.

Mario Andretti long ago suggested that if you didn’t want to be bothered with it, the solution was simple: “Just give back half the money…” Most racing drivers aren’t very good at that, though, and both Hamilton and Raikkonen appear now to have found a berth where such demands on them are much reduced. Lewis is apparently revelling in his ‘freedom to be himself’ at Mercedes, and Kimi undoubtedly enjoys the relatively relaxed approach of Eric Boullier.

Melbourne’s famously changeable weather was particularly capricious this time, Friday’s cloudless heat giving way to a mainly cheerless weekend. Had qualifying been completed in the rains of Saturday the likelihood is that Nico Rosberg’s deftly-driven Mercedes would have been on pole, but on Sunday morning, when Q2 and Q3 were run, the track gradually dried and the Red Bulls did their expected number, Sebastian Vettel on pole from Mark Webber, then Hamilton’s Mercedes in third, followed by the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. Rosberg started sixth, one place ahead of Raikkonen.

The Kimster’s two-year dalliance with the WRC ended one event earlier than expected, when he declined to participate in the 2011 Rally Australia for no reason other than he couldn’t be bothered to fly all that way. Citroen folk were not impressed, but their agreement with him was coming to an end anyway, and he was entertaining thoughts of a return to F1, most probably, it was believed, with Williams.

In the end Raikkonen did a deal with Lotus, and it’s fair to say that many observers, myself included, were sceptical about what the partnership might produce. Kimi had won a last-ditch World Championship with Ferrari, in 2007, but two subsequent seasons with the team were generally disappointing, and Massa — prior to his accident at the Hungaroring in 2009 — had his measure more often than not.

“At that stage,” said Davidson, “he was already switching off, wasn’t he? But last year we sometimes saw the Kimi of old — by which I mean the McLaren days, rather than the last couple of years with Ferrari.

“I was talking to Stephane Sarrazin about Kimi’s rallying — apparently he just wasn’t very interested in pace notes and doing the homework. Stephane reckons that being a circuit racer is like a holiday camp compared with rallying, and if you’re not prepared to put the work in… That’s why Kimi wasn’t quick in a rally car. And F1 is going more in that direction all the time too, isn’t it? People always say that the only thing Kimi lacks is dedication, and it’s something that will always compromise his results — but of course it’s also what people love about him!”

True enough. Kimi has driven beautifully since his return, as ever making remarkably few mistakes. “We didn’t have the pace to fight him today,” said second man Alonso in Australia. “He was just too fast for us.”

Fernando, though, at least had cause to feel generally optimistic, for he had qualified fifth and finished second, whereas 12 months earlier he had started 12th and come home a distant fifth. Clearly the latest Ferrari is far more user-friendly than the previous car, as evidenced by the pace of Massa, in the depths at Melbourne a year ago.

Flip the coin and you found McLaren. In 2012 the team had the front row in Australia to itself, and, pitstops apart, Jenson Button led all the way. This time he and new team-mate Sergio Perez were nowhere, as Whitmarsh freely admitted when asked about problems: “Well, it’s a list, actually…” The car’s ride was terrible, the downforce not enough.

Last year Ferrari went radical with their car, always a risk — especially when your wind-tunnel is on the blink and telling you untruths. This time McLaren, in spite of having finished the 2012 season with the fastest car, have opted, rather than evolving it for this last year of the normally-aspirated V8 era, to go for something entirely new, and Button conceded that more time was necessary ‘to understand the car’, a phrase one hears more and more these days. Hamilton, a good fifth on his debut for Mercedes, will have felt even happier with his decision to move.

Still, one comes back to Red Bull. From pole position, Vettel encountered severe tyre graining problems and finished only third in Melbourne, with Webber, after sundry problems, sixth, but the cars’ underlying pace was undeniable. That said, while most continue to believe that a fourth World Championship is Sebastian’s to lose, others gave serious notice of intent in Australia, and the year promises well.

On a different tack, the Melbourne weekend provided evidence of how attitudes change in F1 over time. As I watched Saturday qualifying, and learned that there would be a 10-minute delay prior to the start of Q2, and then another, and then a further one of 20 minutes — and then a declaration that the session had been postponed to the following morning, I wondered if Alain Prost were watching on TV. Probably not, for in Europe it was the middle of the night, but as and when he came to hear of events in Melbourne, he may have permitted himself a wry smile.

Conditions were undeniably treacherous, with heavy showers and a good deal of standing water, but they were nothing like as bad as those in Adelaide 24 years earlier. That day the weather was beyond atrocious, but the Clerk of the Course was unmoved: “Unless there’s snow or the track’s underwater, the race goes on…” And so it did.

Many of the drivers, though, thought the conditions simply unacceptable, not least Prost, over whose car Didier Pironi’s Ferrari had vaulted at Hockenheim in 1982: in impenetrable spray Didier never saw the Renault — and neither did Alain ever forget the aftermath.

Once he knew that the Adelaide race was going ahead, he declared that he would quit after one lap, and many others said they would do the same. As it was, though, he duly peeled off into pitlane — but no one followed. “Alain was the only one brave enough to do it,” said Gerhard Berger. “I saw him go in, and I’m ashamed that I didn’t do the same…”

At the time Prost was widely denigrated for his decision: it was the act of a coward, said some, but I found it impossible to disagree with what he said: “If you can’t see anything in front of you, I’m sorry, but I think that’s completely crazy…”

Later in the afternoon Ayrton Senna ran into Martin Brundle on the Dequetteville Straight, simply because he never saw Martin’s car in the spray. I was sitting with Prost in the McLaren cabin at the time, watching the race on TV: he never said a word when the accident occurred, just looked at me and shrugged.

Although conditions on the Saturday in Melbourne were very poor, they were not comparable with those in Adelaide, yet action on the track was suspended for the day — and the drivers were unanimous in their agreement with Charlie Whiting’s decision. Prost may be seen as a man ahead of his time.

Part of the problem in Melbourne, of course, lay with a relative lack of time: forgetting the condition of the circuit, it was also getting dark. In recent years, as we know, the bulk of the World Championship has shifted ever more away from Europe, but at the same time — whatever anyone may say to the contrary — Europe remains the cultural heartland of Formula 1, with a massive TV audience. That being so, timetables have been increasingly adjusted to suit European viewers, and the races in such as Australia and Malaysia begin late in the afternoon. This is all very well, but if something goes awry, causing the race to be temporarily halted or whatever, you don’t have a lot of time with which to play.

Bernie Ecclestone has long tried to persuade the Melbourne organisers to put on a night race, as in Singapore, and not surprisingly they have resisted. What’s in it for them — in a city which constantly carps about the price of its Grand Prix, anyway — if they go to the expense of lighting Albert Park? Bernie and CVC may concern themselves with the TV figures in Europe, but why should Australians care? As an Antipodean friend has long reminded me, “We have to watch every bloody race in the middle of the night!” He has a point.

*

Who knows how long ago it is since I first heard the old dictum, ‘keep a diary — and one day it will keep you’, but I wish I had taken it more firmly on board than I did. Mind you, at different times I’ve noted details of my day, and there are ‘journals’ that I’ve kept up on occasion, so I suppose, in toto, these things add up to a reasonably comprehensive record of where I’ve been and whom I’ve met, in the course of a remarkably fortunate life.

Once in a while it’s amusing — and even sometimes instructive — to look back on events long gone, and recently I skimmed through my notebooks from 1973, when I was still new in the racing business, beginning my third season as a Formula 1 journalist. What was I doing 40 years ago?

By April there had already been three Grands Prix, at Buenos Aires and Interlagos (both won by Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus), and at Kyalami (Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell), so already the pattern of the season was taking shape: it would be these two who would make a title fight of it, with their respective team-mates, Ronnie Peterson and Francois Cevert, close at hand.

At around that time I see that I interviewed Graham Hill, then on the verge of ‘going it alone’. “No mystery about it,” he cheerfully said. “After being a works driver for umpteen years, I was having trouble coming to an arrangement with a team for 1973. Then someone suggested I should run my own team, and I thought, well, why the hell not?

“Obviously it’s quite a financial outlay. I signed a contract to buy a Shadow, plus a couple of Cosworth DFVs, and then set off to try and find some sponsorship — this was January, so it was a bit late, but I’ve signed a three-year contract with WD 8c HO Wills, the cigarette people, and the sign-writing will be the same as their Embassy packet.”

Who would be working with him on the project? “Well, I’ve got two mechanics, David Kaylor and Vince Higgins, and also Mickey, the son of Maurice Gomm, whose workshops we’re renting — and Alain de Cadenet will be team manager.”

And that, in those days, was how you set up a new Grand Prix team. It sounds touchingly simple, and, in relative terms, it was, but even then some were aware of a changing world, as I found when I went to Ferring for lunch with John Cooper, four years after his team’s withdrawal from F1: “It’s not like the old days, is it? It’s become very professional, which was inevitable, I suppose — there’s a tremendous amount of money involved now. I can see Bernie taking it over, you know…”

A lovely man, John, and a perceptive one, too. At the time B C Ecclestone had recently acquired Brabham, and thus become a team owner, but he and Cooper went way back, for Bernie had been a customer in his own racing days, and John had.., gained some insight into the way he did business. Years later I reminded him of what he had said in 1973. “I wasn’t far wrong, was I?” he laughed. “Mind you, I was only talking about him taking over F1 — I didn’t realise he was thinking about world domination!”

In April ’73 I went to a test day at Silverstone, and there interviewed Jackie Stewart, which was simplicity itself: I saw him in the paddock, asked if we could do a tape, and he said yes. Back in the day that is how straightforward it was. In 2013 of such things are dreams made.

“It’s true that I’m thinking of retirement,” he said that day, “but I love driving so much that it’s not an easy decision. However, I do see that there are other things in life, and there are sacrifices you have to make…”

Little did I realise just how much this was in JYS’s mind. Within a fortnight of our interview, he had informed Ken Tyrrell and Ford’s Walter Hayes — and them alone — that he would be stopping at the end of the year. Not even Helen was let in on the secret, Jackie reckoning this would be unfair, as she would then be mentally ticking off the races until she knew, once and for all, that he was safe.

It was a highly perilous time, as Stewart said: “The people who have criticised me personally, saying I’m trying to wrap everyone in cotton wool, are dreamers. Christ Almighty, they’ve never hit an Armco barrier at 150mph — they seem to think they’re made of candy floss! We’ll always have cars going upside-down, and we’ll always have fatalities, but I am encouraged by one thing: four or five years ago, when I talked safety I was having to convert people every inch of the way, whereas now they’re coming to accept there’s no room for unnecessary hazards, like telegraph poles or whatever…”

At the previous race, in South Africa, a semi-conscious Clay Regazzoni had been dragged from the cockpit of his blazing BRM by Mike Hailwood, who was subsequently awarded the George Medal. I remember Chris Amon talking about it: “Mike’s action was absolutely heroic — but what really strikes me is why was it necessary at all? I mean, where were the fire marshals? Those at the accident scene appeared to be wearing shorts, which I find rather disturbing…” Ever the master of understatement.

Long a fan of Amon (right, at Monza 1968), whom I thought a true artist in a racing car, I had met him for the first time at Barcelona in 1971, my first race as a journalist, and now, these many years on, I find that I have never come across anyone in motor racing I have liked more than Christopher.

For whatever reason, we just hit it off. During an early interview I was amazed by his candour and memory for detail, and suggested he really should do a book. A few days later he called me: “Nige, let’s keep in touch on this book thing…” Late in 1972 a self-styled publisher commissioned me to write the Amon biography, and that winter I spent many days with a tape recorder at Chris’s house in Littlewick Green, a village near Maidenhead — complete with a pub called ‘The Cricketers’ — that might have been made for him.

Three years earlier Amon had taken a brief shot at becoming a tax exile, living for a while in an apartment in Geneva. It didn’t last, and I wondered why. “I’m guessing you’ve never been to Geneva,” he said in that laconic Kiwi drawl. “After 10 at night you can watch the traffic lights change — and that’s about it.”

At the time I was sufficiently naïve to assume that this was how all racing people were — relaxed, friendly, open — and I didn’t appreciate how much of a privileged position I was in, for Amon was the most guileless of men, and it would never have occurred to him to keep anything from me. Day to day to day, I knew what was going on in Grand Prix racing to a degree that I have probably never known since. Without needing to mention it, he blithely trusted me not to let him down, and I like to think I never did.

Save in one respect, anyway, and that unwittingly. The book was never written because, to sidestep the tax man, my would-be publisher did an overnight flit to foreign lands. Chris’s response was typical of him: “Oh, don’t worry about it — actually it’s been therapeutic, just talking things through…”

In 1972 he had been with Matra, the highlight of his season a drive for the gods at Clermont-Ferrand, where he took an easy pole at this ultimate driver’s circuit, then comfortably led Stewart until a puncture dropped him to eighth, after which he repeatedly shattered the lap record on his way back to third, behind JYS and Fittipaldi. I remember the headline in L’Equipe the next morning: ‘Bravo Stewart — Merci Monsieur Amon…’

Matra’s focus, though, was always primarily on Le Mans. At the end of the season Chris flew over to Deauville for lunch with Jean-Luc Lagardere, the company’s CEO, to talk about the future. “Actually,” he told me when he got back, “I advised him to carry on with the sports cars and to forget about Fl — let’s face it, you’re always going to struggle in Grands Prix with an engine designed to go 24 hours.”

I was aghast: didn’t that mean that he’d talked himself out of a job? “Yes, I suppose it does, but I like Lagardere, and respect him, and he asked me for my honest opinion…”

So… what now? Chris said he thought he’d probably go back to March, for whom he had left Ferrari at the end of 1969. Now Peterson was leaving for Lotus, and Max Mosley had offered him the drive. “But.., first time round you came to hate Mosley!” I said. “I know,” he acknowledged, “but he seems different these days…” At Goodwood he tested the 721G vacated by Ronnie, went very quickly in it, and an agreement was made.

Amon, as always, then went home to New Zealand for Christmas — and, listening to the radio on the morning of December 30, was more than a little taken aback to learn that March had cancelled its agreement with him because Chris ‘had asked for more money’. In point of fact, all he had done was ask for some money, and way less than the retainer he had originally been promised. The car, March had announced, would now be driven by Jean-Pierre Jarier — who happened to have sponsorship from a French furniture manufacturer.

“I’d have thought,” Amon said, “that I might have had the courtesy of a phone call before they announced it to the world…” His subsequent remarks, sadly, cannot be reproduced here. Suffice it to say that 30 years on, when Mosley, in his capacity of president of the FIA, attended a motor sport function in New Zealand, Chris declined to be present.

So now what — in January — was available? Tecno, that’s what. The Italian constructor had made a fine name for itself in F3 and F2, but its initial foray into Fl, in ’72, had been an embarrassment. Tecno’s own flat-12 engine was reasonable on horsepower, but reliability had been another matter, and the chassis was lamentable, such as Derek Bell and journeyman Nanni Galli invariably starting at the back.

Still, the team was sponsored by Martini, on whose behalf David Yorke (formerly team manager at Vanwall and then at John Wyer’s JW Automotive) lost no time, upon learning of Amon’s unexpected availability, in getting in touch.

One day at Littlewick Green Chris mentioned that Yorke would be coming by that afternoon to discuss the possibility of a deal, and I said I’d leave them to it. “No, no, that’s all right,” he said. “It shouldn’t take too long…”

Last summer, as I talked to Martin Whitmarsh about the state of play between McLaren and Hamilton — would Lewis be staying or not? — I got some insight into just what is involved in the negotiation of F1 driver contracts these days, the managers and agents, the protracted games of bluff and counter-bluff, the sheer time it can take for matters to be resolved.

It wasn’t like that in 1973. The urbane Yorke duly arrived early in the afternoon, accepted a cup of coffee, and moved into the sitting room to begin negotiations. I was already in there, reading a paper, with Rupert, one of Amon’s dogs, on my knee.

Thus discussion began, and I remember being aware at the time that this was more than a little surreal. Here were a top Grand Prix driver and a celebrated team manager, talking terms — “I think it’s got to be seventy, David…” — and here was I, privy to every word, pinned in my chair by a Basset Hound. If Yorke were discomfited by the presence of a third party — or fourth, if you include Rupert — he hid it most commendably.

Once David had gone, the sun was over the yardarm. “Well, what d’you think?” said Chris. I said I thought the money quite impressive — I was probably earning two or three thousand a year at the time — but as for the rest, who knew? Tecno hadn’t exactly shone the year before…

“No,” he agreed, “but I tell you what, I remember coming up behind Galli during practice in Austria last year, and his car was bloody terrible — but in a straight line it was certainly better than the Matra…” We had a look at the newly-arrived Autocourse: Amon had qualified sixth at the Osterreichring, Galli 23rd.

“OK — but still he had more power than I did! And Alan McCall’s designing the new car — it’s got to be a lot better than the last one…”

And so the deal was done. It was a classic example of Amon the eternal optimist, the man who had said a few months earlier that Max Mosley ‘seems different these days…’ And I’ll confess that, even as one reasonably new to this world, it seemed to me a source of concern that — for reasons too long and complicated to go into here — not one, but two new Tecnos were being built for the season, one (the McCall car) with the tacit support of the factory, the other not.

Not long afterwards I went to Bologna with Amon, Yorke and Firestone technician Bruce Harre, in Chris’s aeroplane, umpteen racing tyres crammed into every nook: these, David assured me, would be a major source of strife when we got there, and he was right.

At 5.40 we landed, unloaded the luggage, and put the tyres on a trolley. Trouble arrived shortly afterwards, in the shape of a little man with a big hat. “Here we go…” muttered Yorke. Customs had closed for the day at 5.30pm: we could take our luggage, but the tyres couldn’t leave until the office reopened the following morning. “But we need the tyres on the car in the morning,” pleaded Chris. “It’s an Italian Formula 1 car, for Christ’s sake!” The man knew him from his Ferrari days, even asked for his autograph, but still shook his head.

There was nothing else for it but to pack into the Citroen estate car sent to meet us by Luciano Pederzani, the Tecno boss. At the factory I saw the McCall car for the first time, and assuredly it looked tidier than its predecessor. It seemed more than odd, though, that in another section of the building an entirely different team of mechanics, mainly English, were working on the other Tecno, this one commissioned directly by Martini, and designed by Gordon Fowell.

Dinner that night was the greatest fun, for Amon’s Ferrari years had left him with a profound affection for Italy, and he reminisced about the chaotic love lives of folk he had known there, while Yorke regaled us with tales of drivers with whom he had worked, from Moss and Brooks to Ickx, Rodriguez and Siffert. “Seppi was incredibly single-minded,” he said. “One year he was taking over from Brian [Redman] at Monza: he’d been for a pee and was a bit late, so he leapt over the pit counter — but caught his foot, went sprawling, and made a real mess of his knee. His overalls were ripped and he was bleeding profusely, but he didn’t seem to notice — into gear, off!

“Testing with Seppi was quite an experience. He’d drive all morning, then have two enormous platefuls of goulash and a couple of steins of beer for lunch — and then get straight back in the car and drive all afternoon! Wonderful bloke…”

We all stayed in Pederzani’s marble-and-leather house (in the garage of which resided Regazzoni’s 1970 championship-winning F2 car), and then next morning it was off to Misano, then a very new circuit, and run in the opposite direction than it is today for the MotoGP brigade. Soon the day was lost to torrential rain, but the following one was much better, and Amon was able to run quite a number of laps.

Even to my inexperienced eye, though, everything about this team was shambolic. At one point, while the car was sitting in the pits, the on-board extinguisher chose briefly to set itself off before dribbling to nothing. “That’s encouraging,” Chris mused. “Hope I never have a fire that goes on longer than five seconds…”

No replacement extinguisher was available — and neither, for that matter, were there any marshals present. That being so, Yorke insisted that the Citroen be stationed in the pits, ready to go, in case anything untoward should happen. The times, they were indeed different.

Oddly enough, though, the car ran pretty well, and Amon was in good spirits at the end of the day. “The engine,” he said, “is nothing like a DFV, but certainly better than any I ever had at Matra, and the chassis’s not too bad, either. I’m starting to feel better about things, all in all…”

It wasn’t to last. The Spanish Grand Prix came and went without Tecno, Chris particularly disappointed to miss a race at Montjuich, one of his favourite circuits, and by now McCall’s short fuse had blown: unable to come to terms with Tecno’s way of doing things, he had walked out.

If Amon were becoming frustrated by the lack of F1, he was also concerned about being race-rusty, so when Matra asked him to drive an M5670B in the Spa 1000Kms, he was happy to agree. “Normally I don’t like doing ‘one-offs’,” he said, “but I know the car well, and it is Spa…”

Chris was one of those drivers, like Tony Brooks before him, who liked the NiIrburgring, but loved Spa-Francorchamps, then clearly the fastest of all open road circuits: in practice for the 1000Kms, Jacky Ickx’s Ferrari 312PB lapped at almost 165mph. Maybe you’d like to take a second to think about that.

When Amon got back, he said the weekend had been an eye-opener. “For all I adore Spa, when I got there I realised how woefully out of practice I was — and it’s not really the best of places to get your eye back in! We had limited practice, and when (Henri) Pescarolo told me he was going through both Burnenville and the Masta Kink absolutely flat it worried me, because I was lifting a little in both places. After a few laps in the race, though, I was fine, taking both flat without much trouble…”

In itself this amazed Chris, who had last raced at Spa three years earlier, in what was to be the last Grand Prix run there. All right, he had then been in a very average F1 car — the March 701 — and now was driving a front-running sports car, but still he couldn’t get over the difference.

“In the Grand Prix I was chasing Rodriguez’s BRM all the way, and on the last lap I screwed myself up and went through the kink flat for the first time. In so doing I took about 50 yards off Pedro’s lead — and frightened myself stupid! In the Matra, though, I was flat through there every lap without any worries at all. Of course, we’ve got slicks now, and back then we hadn’t…”

Finally, at Zolder, the Tecno made its debut, Amon qualifying 15th out of 23, and pleased at least to be ‘quicker than the f””” March!’ All in all, though, it was a chaotic weekend, for the newly-resurfaced — and unseasoned — track broke up appallingly, and in the race eight cars slithered off into the fence.

That the Tecno was not among them was perhaps remarkable. “About 10 laps in I started to get cooked,” said Chris. “The problem was that the radiator pipes come right through the cockpit, one on either side — it hadn’t been a problem in testing, because it was never that hot at Misano. I wanted to finish the race, because I felt that was what the team needed, but I felt really groggy, and by the end it was getting desperate. I did my cooling-off lap at pretty well racing speed because I just wanted to get back to the pits, and get out of the thing — in fact, I was back first!

“When I finally stopped, I didn’t recognise anybody — I was in such a state of dehydration that I was actually cold, having sweated myself completely dry. I also had burns on my back and feet, so throw in the state of the bloody track, and it was quite an unpleasant afternoon! I was pretty amazed to find I was sixth, and had got a point…”

It would be the only one Tecno would ever score. At Monaco Amon qualified in the top half of the grid, but retired — overheating again. The team then skipped Anderstorp and Paul Ricard before returning at Silverstone, where the car qualified dead last, and disappeared after half a dozen laps. At Zandvoort it didn’t last much longer, and at the NiIrburgring it didn’t appear at all. At the Osterreichring it non-started, because there were no engines left, and at that point Amon decided that was enough. Tecno never raced again.

By now it was in Chris’s mind to do what Graham Hill had done, to have his own team — and, further, to build his own car, designed by the man responsible for the Tecno that never raced, Gordon Fowell. Once John Dalton had become a partner in the project, it got the green light — and proved to be a disaster.

After shaking hands with Dalton Amon received other offers, but when I suggested that maybe he should forget about his own car, he said it was too late: “I can’t, Nige — I’ve given John my word.” If that response perhaps illustrates why Chris never had the success his talent deserved, so it offers a clue as to why his friends value him the way they do.

If you want to think about what might have been, in 1974 Amon could have gone back to Ferrari, could have signed for McLaren, could have driven for Brabham. A story for another day.

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