Nigel Roebuck

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Reflections
– Hamilton’s dilemma: McLaren or Mercedes?
– Why Monza’s atmosphere still thrills 42 years on
– In response to Grosjean misconduct at Spa
– Hero Gurney honoured at Goodwood Revival

Ah, Lewis, Lewis…

In a week in which Sid Watkins died, and Alex Zanardi won two gold medals at the Paralympics, it wasn’t easy to care too much about how many millions – and from whom – will be coming Hamilton’s way in 2013 and beyond, but it’s undeniable that in the Monza paddock it was a topic endlessly debated. Lewis superbly won the Italian Grand Prix, no argument there, but otherwise he was back to behaving strangely again – whether by accident or design – and this time it was nothing to do with his girlfriend.

After all the hysterics of 2011, it had seemed that this season everything was back on a relatively even keel with Hamilton. He has driven beautifully and he has smiled a lot and he has been calm. Only last month I suggested that occasionally he has had cause to bitch about this and that, but had not done so, showing ‘an equanimity one thought lost a year ago…’

That was written during the five-week holiday break in the Grand Prix season, before the clans gathered again at Spa, where I thought an announcement might well come from McLaren, confirming that Hamilton had signed a new contract. For months Lewis had been saying he was in no hurry to sort out his future, and it was apparent that neither had his team been putting him under any pressure to do so: obviously McLaren’s hope was that he would opt to remain with the team that had brought him into F1 – but only if that were what he truly wished to do.

And not at any price, either. Shortly before the Hungarian Grand Prix, in a BBC radio interview, Ron Dennis – chairman of the McLaren Group, but no longer the company’s F1 team principal – said this: “There’s no reason Lewis won’t be driving our cars in the future. I think that people get the wrong impression. When I last looked at the contract, I was paying him, so it’s a question of whether we employ him, not the other way round.”

It struck me at the time that some within McLaren might regard Dennis’s remarks as – in the PR parlance of today – unhelpful, because they came across as patronising, and there are immense egos within Hamilton’s immediate circle, not least in the company which manages him. Ron also made the point that the economic climate now was not as it had been when Lewis’s last contract – reputedly worth $15 million a year – was negotiated, which rather suggested that McLaren would be unwilling to stump up to the same degree this time around.

In Budapest Hamilton dismissed Dennis’s comments: “What he says has nothing to do with me. Martin [Whitmarsh] is my boss. At some stage we’ll talk.”

Fast-forward a month to the Thursday at Spa, and it was Lewis’s turn to be hard-headed: “This is a business. I always wear my heart on my sleeve, but I also have to be business-minded. There is work being done in the background, and the guys paid to do that job are discussing it.”

All a long way from the days of ‘living the dream’, and in tone it reminded me of Silverstone in 2011, when Hamilton suddenly declared that he was being asked to do too much publicity work for McLaren, that any future contract with the team would have to contain less of it. Whether or not he was prepared in that event for it to contain appropriately less money was not clear. My understanding of current McLaren contracts is that there are separate agreements for driving and promotion work, and that a driver’s total remuneration is split 50:50 between the two.

Spa did not go well for Lewis. At the first corner – together with Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez – he was eliminated by a moment of seemingly myopic madness by Romain Grosjean, but even before then his weekend had been disordered.

Among the updates brought to Belgium by McLaren was a new rear wing, which Button opted to stick with, Hamilton to discard. By the time of qualifying it was plain that Jenson had made the right decision, for he comfortably took pole position (and went on to dominate the race), while Lewis qualified only eighth, and seemed rather to lay the blame for going with the older wing at the door of his engineers. Not so, one of them tersely said: the driver had been fully involved.

Unfathomably, Hamilton then took it upon himself, by means of Twitter, to put up for public scrutiny the team’s trace of his, and Button’s, best laps, so as to show his followers where he had lost time to Jenson. After demanding that Lewis delete the image with all possible dispatch, team personnel sought to play down the incident, charitably describing it as ‘an error of judgement’. In light of the Masonic secrecy in which F1 teams operate today, it won’t surprise you that their private responses were rather more robust. Jenson, also understandably displeased, murmured that it was surprising how Lewis, losing time in a straight line, had not made it up in the corners. Butter wouldn’t melt.

At a Monza press conference Hamilton was asked if he had talked to his team-mate about it, cleared the air. “I haven’t spoken to him, don’t plan to, moved on from it,” he replied brusquely.

Whatever, Lewis – assuming he gave it any thought at all beforehand – must have known that his action would infuriate McLaren people, so was it not a strange thing to do, particularly when in the midst of contractual negotiations?

When Dennis made his comments about Hamilton’s future – adding that he was “pretty sure Lewis will be in a McLaren next year” – Mark Webber had recently confirmed that he had turned down Ferrari and opted to stay where he was, so closing the door of Red Bull in the face of Hamilton’s management. And although stranger things have happened, and although Alonso and Hamilton have been more matey of late, it is unlikely that Fernando would ever countenance allowing Lewis anywhere near Maranello.

Lotus has greatly impressed in 2012, but it’s doubtful that XIX Entertainment’s elevated fiscal requirements could be entertained, so that leaves Mercedes, with which Hamilton’s management had discussions some time ago – apparently, it was believed, without much success.

That much was known, but perhaps things have lately changed. In a BBC interview with Eddie Jordan at Spa, Bernie Ecclestone spoke of how much F1 would miss Michael (Schumacher), and within days EJ declared on the Beeb’s website that he believed that ‘Hamilton and Mercedes have already agreed terms, and a deal could be imminent’.

All a game – or something more?

With Bernie there’s always an agenda, even if it’s just a bit of mischief, and, like his old mate Max, he has long been adept at planting stories with newspapers, hasn’t he, Rupert? Come to that, he has also long been close to Jordan: “Never tell Eddie anything you wouldn’t want Bernie to hear,” a team principal once warned me.

If the discussions between XIX Entertainment and Mercedes had indeed recently taken a more favourable turn, the widespread assumption at Monza was that Schumacher must have decided finally to retire at season’s end. But again Michael declined to make any comment on his future, and German colleagues close to him remain convinced he has reached no such conclusion, and will indeed continue in 2013 and perhaps beyond. That being so, the ‘Jordan lobby’ responded, there could be a swap – Hamilton to Mercedes, Nico Rosberg to McLaren (who tried to sign him some years ago). A wage bill for Michael and Lewis truly doesn’t bear thinking about, given that Mercedes folk proudly stress how much their F1 budget has been reduced, but you never know.

On it goes, this stand-off. If there truly has been a Mercedes offer for Hamilton – and I believe there has – is it something Lewis and his management genuinely wish to take up, or part of an elaborate poker game, aimed at hiking up McLaren’s offer?

It is a matter of fact that some within his team long ago tired of much of Hamilton’s behaviour, and emphatically true, too, that if he is less than fully committed to the team – and giving the impression he’ll go where the biggest cheque awaits – they have no wish to continue with him. Problem is, the wilful child is also the fastest driver on the planet.

“I want to win.” Lewis has said so often that this is his priority, and if it be true, logic suggests that he will stay where he is. Since the Mercedes team came into being at the start of 2010, it has won one GP, while McLaren – using the same engine – has won 16, nine of them by Hamilton.

Of course McLaren, like all teams, go through fallow periods, but it always come back. Much has rightly been made of the way Ferrari has improved the originally lamentable F2012, but let’s also remember that in 2011 McLaren’s MP4-26 looked like a dog in pre-season testing, yet won its third race, and in a year dominated by Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull still scored five victories.

Down the road, though, the picture may be less in focus. In 2013, after 18 years as a Mercedes partner, McLaren becomes merely a customer, and as such will have to buy its engines.

A big chunk of change that will mean there’s less for other outgoings, like developing cars and paying drivers. And the year after that, of course, comes the 1.6-litre V6 turbo. History suggests that the place to be at the beginning of a new engine formula is with a major manufacturer.

Are these factors upper-most in the minds of Lewis and his management, or – as some suggest – is the emphasis squarely on gelt? Much has been made of XIX Entertainment’s wish to ‘expand the Hamilton brand’, as it has done with undeniable success for the Beckham brand. Within McLaren, as we know, the opportunities have always been strictly limited for the drivers to pick up additional personal sponsorship – indeed the only driver to carry a non-McLaren logo on his overalls was when Ayrton Senna blithely continued his association with Nacional (a Brazilian bank) and dared Ron Dennis to stop him.

The rules are rather less prescriptive at Mercedes and doubtless XIX Entertainment considers the possibilities of expanding the Hamilton brand – I’ll revert to the English language as soon as possible, I promise – are all the greater for being associated with the Three-Pointed Star.

I can see, therefore, how a move from McLaren to Mercedes might work out rather well for Simon Fuller and his company. I’m much less convinced that the same is true for its client.

Should it come to be, however, there will be more than a touch of irony in the situation, which will not be lost on Martin Whitmarsh. Back in the winter of 2008/09, when the effects of the economic meltdown caused Honda precipitately to withdraw from F1, Ross Brawn decided that he would try to keep the Brackley-based team in business. A primary requirement of this, of course, was an engine. Mercedes was reluctant to supply a third team (additional to McLaren and Force India) and it was Whitmarsh who, keen to see Brawn’s team remain in F1, flew to Stuttgart to persuade Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler AG, to do it. The Brawn-Mercedes team duly swept to the World Championship in ’09, and at the end of the year it became Mercedes, pure and simple, which is where we came in.

Maybe Keke Rosberg was right all those years ago when we were chatting one day about who might go where, and why. “Don’t look too deeply into a racing driver’s motives,” he chuckled. “Whatever anyone says about nice people, reliability, all that stuff, it comes down to money in the end. So-and-so might have the greatest car in the world, but if he doesn’t pay the bread…”

By the time this is read, the Hamilton-McLaren-Mercedes conundrum may well have been resolved, in which case at Woking they will either be smiling or pondering on a serpent’s tooth.

Whatever the outcome, though, the whole carry-on cannot have been other than disruptive for all concerned. Does Fernando spend all day thinking about the Alonso brand? I somewhat doubt it.

The beginning of September means Monza, and my favourite weekend of the racing year – always has been, always will be. This time around was my 41st visit to the Italian Grand Prix there, which means, I idly calculated the other night, that I’ve spent almost seven months of my life in the Monza paddock.

This year, thanks to the extended holiday break in the Formula 1 schedule, Spa was a week later than usual, which meant that it was back-to-back with Monza. I rather regretted that, for it meant the two major glories of the Grand Prix season were crammed together, leaving little or no time to savour the one, to anticipate the other.

I drove back from Belgium on the Sunday night, arriving home in the early hours, and on the Thursday took a 7am flight to Milan. If it all seemed a little compressed, imagine how it felt to those looking after the motorhomes – hell, buildings – that are standard fare for F1 teams these days. As

I left Spa, crews were dismantling them, and when I arrived at Monza three and a half days later, there were the erected edifices again, glistening in the sun, having been transported 500 miles in the interim.

It is a syndrome that never fails to impress me. From here on in there are plenty of back-to-backs before the end of the season – the nine post-break Grands Prix are packed into 13 weeks – but the elaborate structures are unsurprisingly not taken to the flyaways, being used only for European races, which now make up just eight of the 20 events. In passing, let me say once again, thank you so much, CVC.

What is it about Monza? I looked out over the paddock and saw the same transporters, the same portable palaces, but somehow the feel of them, when they’re gathered together in this place, is wholly different. Why? Because you can’t create atmosphere at a race track any more than you can manufacture bottle-age in a great Bordeaux. There is no substitute for time – or for using the right ingredients in the first place which is why the Tilkedromes inevitably leave you cold.

This is no antiseptic place. Stand in the pits at Monza on a torpid afternoon, squint into the sun, look back down the mirage-puddled straight to Parabolica, and even when it’s quiet, with nothing much going on, the atmosphere is charged. I can never help but remember what I’ve experienced here down the years, the emotions – from elation to despair, and all points in between – I’ve felt since 1970, when already there had been motor racing at Monza for 48 years.

The memory of that first visit is indelible. Still a few months away from starting to work in F1, I booked a one-day trip to the Italian Grand Prix with Page & Moy, and late on the Saturday afternoon was in my London flat, packing a few things for the trip. In another room the radio was on, and I distantly heard something about Jochen Rindt and Monza, but the news moved quickly to other matters. So I called Associated Press, and learned from them that Jochen – the champion elect – had been killed in the final practice session. Later, on the TV news, I saw Jackie Stewart fighting through a scrum of film crews at the entrance to the Hotel de la Ville, where Team Lotus always stayed. He and Helen faced the dreadful task – yet again – of clearing the room of a lost friend.

Next morning there was a very early flight to Linate, and as we travelled to the circuit I saw a red Fiat 500 whose rear screen was covered by a hand-written placard, stuck with respectful black tape, and bearing a simple message: Jochen – non ti dimenticare. There were others, lots of them, expressing similar sentiments, but none stayed so vividly in the mind: Jochen – you will not be forgotten.

As it happened, that little Fiat was at the traffic lights by the Hotel de la Ville when I saw it. And a few years later I began staying at what quickly became my favourite hotel in the world – to go to Monza and not stay at the de la Ville, would be to me unthinkable. The people are lovely, the restaurant quite wonderful, the whole place very much the hub of the Italian Grand Prix. There is no need to book, they told me long ago: just let us know, please, if for any reason you will not be coming. On the Sunday evening the hotel is relatively quiet, for all the drivers, team principals and so on have checked out, and in the bar we had a drink or two with Signor Nardi, whose family has owned the de la Ville for generations.

“Just over there,” he smilingly said, “is where the Lotus table used to be, next to the Cooper table. There would be Colin Chapman, with Jim Clark and whoever his team-mate was at the time, and the mechanics – about 20 people in total, all of them eating together, like a family. Yes, it was very different in those days.”

Elsewhere in the dining room, I said, Emerson Fittipaldi once pointed out to me the table at which, as an F1 rookie, he had breakfasted with Rindt on the day of Jochen’s death.

“Ah, yes, Rindt,” our charming host sighed. “He was staying in room 307. Three years later Jarno Saarinen was also in 307, and he, too, died that weekend at Monza. Since then we have never put a driver or rider in that room.”

In early May of 1955, a few days after the Mille Miglia, Denis Jenkinson popped an envelope into a mail box in a tiny Italian hamlet, then got back in his Porsche 356 and set off for his next racing rendezvous, the non-championship Formula 1 race in Naples.

I may be wrong in a detail or two, but not many, I think. I know the part about the envelope is true, because I heard it from Jenks, and I know, too, that he covered the races at Bordeaux (won by Behra’s Maserati 250F) and Naples (Ascari’s Lancia D50) either side of the Mille Miglia weekend. That was the way his life was for so many years: every spring he and the Porsche (and later the E-type) would set off into Europe, travelling from race to race until autumn, where his season invariably concluded in Italy, be it at Monza, the Targa Florio or Syracuse.

As a kid, I devoured DSJ’s every word in Motor Sport – no racing to speak of on TV in those days, after all – and particularly I relished ‘Continental Notes’, wherein he would write about whatever came to mind, be it a dinner with Wolfgang von Trips, a discourse on racing transporters or a memorable road trip to some impossibly glamorous venue. It all sounded like the life I wanted.

When Jenks told me about posting the envelope, I confess that I shuddered a little, for it contained his report – hand-written, of course, in his tiny and neat style – of the Mille Miglia. If asked to select a favourite piece of writing about motor racing, I don’t doubt that most enthusiasts of my generation would go for this classic account of a legendary victory – one, after all, in which the author took part, for Jenks sat alongside Stirling Moss in the victorious Mercedes-Benz 300SLR.

He was not a man who understood the concept of writing to length – and even if he had, he would have ignored it. A piece was as long as it was, and he was fortunate that Motor Sport unfailingly indulged him (perhaps because none would have dared to cut so much as a word), and ran his stories in their entirety, even if it meant placing swathes of copy in different parts of the magazine, often in a smaller type size.

This particular piece, though, was consigned to the post in the middle of nowhere, and that was why I quaked. Had he kept a copy, used carbon paper? No, of course not. Had he lain awake a night or two worrying that his precious account of a piece of history might have got lost somewhere in transit? No, hadn’t crossed his mind, he said: most things worked better in those days, the mail service included. But suppose it had gone missing? Well, he’d have written it again – it might have missed the next issue, but all the details were clear in his mind. I think I gave up at that point.

I used to enjoy talking to Jenks about life as a racing journalist in days gone by, not least for his descriptions of getting from place to place, the pleasures of motoring before the roads got clogged, before autoroutes – which he loathed – littered the landscape, before that infamous day when Maurice Gatsonides thought up the speed camera.

If one loves one’s job, it seems surely natural that one should be interested in people who were in the same line of work way back when, not least so as to appreciate how the nature of the profession has changed. Well, it does to me, anyway.

That is why it has long mystified me that contemporary drivers, for the most part, appear to have not the slightest interest in their predecessors – nor indeed in any aspect of their sport’s history. There are exceptions, of course, notably Dario Franchitti, and in times past such as Chris Amon, John Watson and Michele Alboreto were keenly absorbed even before taking up racing themselves, but by and large they couldn’t care less. I remember once asking Michael Schumacher who his hero had been when he was growing up, and he said he hadn’t had one – his mind had been on the karting he was doing himself.

Schumacher does, however, get relatively emotional about Spa. For one thing, it is the major circuit nearest to where he was born; for another, it was there that he made his startling F1 debut in 1991 – and for another yet, there, too, that the following year he scored his first Grand Prix win.

It isn’t merely a matter of sentiment, though. Michael has always considered Spa the F1 circuit sans pareil, and before this year’s race – the 300th Grand Prix of his career – he went into some rapture about it.

I’ll admit I was quite taken aback – although not as much as at the Thursday press conference when Schumacher, together with the other drivers present, was asked if he had ever been round the old circuit. Like his younger colleagues, Michael said not, and I found that scarcely believable – it’s right next door, after all, and hardly difficult to locate.

It was true, though: in 21 visits to Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix (six of which ended in victory), not once had he been curious enough to want to see the original version of the track he so much loves. Well, it’s his loss – and in 20 or 30 years’ time, I suppose, some pimply hotshoe will be saying, ‘Michael who’?

In terms of who was going to win it, this year’s Belgian Grand Prix was hardly a classic, for Jenson Button had one of those occasional weekends of silky perfection that make you wonder why he doesn’t have them all the time. He had the McLaren exactly to his liking, and when that happens he can be nigh unbeatable.

That, I suspect, would anyway have been the case this particular day, but his task was undeniably aided by Grosjean, who made another of his barmy starts, and slammed into Hamilton. Locked together they went on down the road, where they encountered Alonso, who had made a good start and was minding his own business, braking into La Source. The Lotus went over the front of the Ferrari, missing Fernando’s head by not too much, and then the McLaren – apparently still under full power, curiously – also cannoned into it, pitching it into the air. Gathering his wits after this unexpected assault, Fernando gingerly stepped from his car, greeted by a wave of applause from relieved spectators.

There were several consequences of this absurd contretemps: one, neither Alonso nor Hamilton scored a point; two, the stewards decided that Grosjean should have a one-race ban; three, there was immediately the suggestion that closed cockpits were now inevitable in F1.

Taking them in order: certainly it was unfortunate for Fernando and Lewis that someone else’s error of judgement wiped them out of the points, which might, who knows, have a decisive effect on the outcome of the World Championship.

Next, Grosjean’s impetuosity. The Lotus man made little impression during his first venture into F1 (replacing the overrated Nelson Piquet Jr for the last seven races of 2009), but after being dropped he got himself together, made a success of GP2, and deserved a second shot – which almost never comes – at the top level. In 2012 he has often demonstrated exceptional speed, and some of his drives – notably that second to Hamilton in Montréal – have been superb, but too often he has made mistakes, particularly when trying to win a race at its first corner. This Spa fracas was his seventh ‘early in the race’ incident this season.

Grosjean took hard the news of his one-race ban, but accepted that he had indeed been involved in too many such happenings. That said, he disputed that all had been the consequence of over-aggression – and what he said in mitigation was in itself disturbing: “Most of the time it’s just misjudgement of the space I have in front or the space I have to the side. It’s true that we don’t see much in the mirrors, and it goes very quick at the start, but I was 100 per cent sure I was in front of Lewis…”

If he was speaking the truth – and one assumes that he was – then his explanation is a cause for concern, for it suggests there is something awry with his peripheral vision and his spatial awareness. That was certainly how it looked at Spa: the Lotus swerved from left to right on the approach to La Source as if it had the place to itself.

Grosjean’s fellow drivers were inclined to go along with the stewards’ decision to ban him for a race, hoping that such a punishment might register with him as no amount of fines or grid-position penalties could do. Undeniably Alonso was fortunate to come out of the accident without injury, but he denied he was angry with Romain: “He and Lewis are aggressive drivers at the start, and this time I was in the wrong place at the wrong moment – but no one would do something like this on purpose.”

That said, Fernando suggested that perhaps it was time for the drivers to take stock, to change their behaviour in the opening seconds of a race, to show a little more respect for each other – to use some common sense.

A couple of days after Spa, I talked to Derek Warwick – himself often a steward at the Grands Prix – about the accident and its consequences. Warwick had not the slightest sympathy for Grosjean, and thought the stewards’ decision absolutely justified. He reckoned there was a case to be made, he said, for a points system, whereby you incur a number of them for a misdemeanour, and when you reach a certain total (in a certain period of time), out you go for a race.

Some older drivers to whom I spoke at Goodwood suggested that this sort of behaviour – both at the start and after – was an inevitable, even understandable, consequence of the levels of safety now to be found in racing. “If you’re not that frightened of getting upside down,” one said, “it surely follows that you’re going to be more willing to risk doing things that might lead to it.”

The immediate call for closed cockpits struck me as the sort of knee-jerk response that has too often pervaded F1. Of course it was a blessed relief that the Spa accident did not result in injury or worse, but immediately to conclude that closed cockpits or canopies are now a necessity is surely an overreaction.

I have known enough drivers who have died not to need any lectures on the importance of safety in racing, and the loss of Henry Surtees (struck on the head by an errant wheel from another car) and the serious injury to Felipe Massa (hit in the face by a detached component from the car in front) remain fresh in my mind. Come to that, I remember the accident of Austrian F2 driver Markus Hoettinger, killed by another driver’s flying wheel at Hockenheim 32 years ago.

After Massa’s accident, the lamented Sid Watkins remarked to me that, for all the progress made in improving car safety, this was one circumstance in which the driver would always be vulnerable.

“Short of enclosing him completely,” he said, “I don’t know what could be done to protect him in that situation. And closing the cockpit – effectively putting a roof over the driver – would create problems in itself, in terms of releasing him easily from the car, particularly if it was upside down. And – looking at it as an enthusiast now – if you enclose the cockpit, is it a Formula 1 car any more?”

Not to me, I’m afraid. Purely in the interests of primitive aerodynamics, Vanwall fitted an enclosed, transparent canopy to one of their cars at Monza one year, and Stirling Moss found it intolerably claustrophobic, dispensing with it after a brief test in practice. A decade on, at the same circuit, Jack Brabham tried something similar, and the result was the same.

I’m all for the ongoing process of making the cars safer – to suggest otherwise would be idiotic – but I don’t wish to see Grand Prix racing as I’ve always understood it let out with the bath water. Rather than speaking in terms of changing its very nature, would it not be better for now to introduce obvious changes that should have been made long ago – like making compulsory mirrors out of which the drivers can actually see? Oh, and suggesting to some of them that a little common sense wouldn’t go amiss.

In closing, a memory from the Goodwood Revival, which this year honoured Dan Gurney, one of the finest men in the sport’s history, and one I feel privileged to have known for countless years.

Apart from being a driver of supreme ability – the only one feared by Jim Clark – and a constructor of legend, Gurney is also a man of unusual depth. After attending the first Goodwood Revival (in which he and Phil Hill drove the Daytona Cobra coupés they raced in the Tourist Trophy in 1964), he wrote me a letter, from which I give you the following lines: ‘The weekend was moving on so many levels. I felt the ghosts of yesterday hovering above the starting grid, so many ambitious and talented young men… so long ago…’

Lyricism from a racing driver is something one doesn’t necessarily expect, and to be touched by genius – which Dan was – and also to be a sensitive man is surely to be blessed indeed.

There was a glorious parade of the cars Gurney raced in the course of his career – everything from ‘Old Yeller’ to the 1960 BRM P48 to the Jaguar E2A (forerunner to the E-type, which he drove at Le Mans in 1960) to the Thompson-Buick Special (the first car he raced at Indianapolis, in ’62) to the Ford Galaxie 500 (with which he several times won NASCAR’s Riverside race) to the McLaren M14A, which he raced in 1970 following the death of his friend Bruce. Twenty-five cars in all, including a pair of his own Eagles.

Brian Redman drove the F1 car with which Gurney won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1967, and he was one of many drivers to honour Dan in the parade, including Stirling Moss (at the wheel of a Maserati ‘Birdcage’, similar to the victorious car he shared with Gurney at the Nürburgring 1000Kms of 1960), Jackie Stewart (in the Porsche 718 with which Dan scored the company’s only Grand Prix victory, at Rouen in ’62), and John Surtees (driving the Lotus-Ford 29 which – as team-mate to Clark – Gurney raced at Indy in 1963, the team’s first visit to the Speedway).

What I found most moving, though, was the sight of Dan in the passenger seat of a Ferrari TR59 (above) driven – with some spirit – by Tony Brooks. They were team-mates at Ferrari in 1959 and have been friends ever since. At Goodwood that year, in the Tourist Trophy, they shared just such a Testa Rossa, and the sight of them in the car again – Dan now 81, Tony a year younger – was one to savour.

Gurney is Charles March’s childhood hero; he could have chosen no better.

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