Winning after running last in last weekend’s race was a feat familiar to Rodriguez. The Mexican was leading the 1971 Osterreichring 1000Kms when Ramirez — working as a team mechanic — recalls him hitting trouble.
“We had an electrical problem, he had to come in so we could change the battery in the car. And we lost quite some time.” Returning to the race two and a half laps down, Rodriguez and co-driver Richard Attwood went on to win.
Despite Rodriguez’s racing steel, he wasn’t known for being over-exuberant out of the cockpit, much like Perez.
“Pedro certainly had the ‘killer instinct’,” notes Ramirez. “It’s like Ayrton Senna used to say ‘Nice boys don’t win grands prix.’ I said to him ‘Well, Alain Prost is a nice boy and he’s won a hell of a lot of grands prix.’, and he said ‘No, no, no he’s not a nice boy! When he gets in the car he’s transformed completely, and he’s a son of a bitch just like every one of us!”’
“And I think it’s the same with Sergio, he seems very placid when he’s out the car, but when he’s inside the killer instinct comes out of him. It’s quite good.”
Quietly spoken, thoughtful with a developing Anglophilic streak, Rodriguez had an aura that attracted British motor racing fans to him. BRM’s Team Manager Reg Parnell noted that the Mexican received more fan mail than either Graham Hill or Jackie Stewart.
Wearing motor racing’s best-known deerstalker, he was a familiar face in pit lanes throughout Europe, driving anything and everything.