The day Magnussen met Moss — F1 driver star-struck by his hero


More than 60 years on, Stirling Moss's racing exploits remain legendary in the modern grand prix paddock — as Matt Bishop witnessed in 2016 when he arranged a meeting between Kevin Magnussen and his F1 idol

Kevin Magnussen with Stirling Moss in 2016

Moss took Magnussen through his scrapbooks, over Twiglets and beer

Matt Bishop

Intra-team dynamics can be tricky in Formula 1, especially those surrounding the stars of the show. As a result, many drivers you just work with, the best you can. Others you warm to, with good results. Some you become chummy with. Very few become real friends. For me, Kevin Magnussen is a real friend.

A member of the McLaren Young Driver Development Programme when I was the Woking team’s comms chief, he raced only one season for us, 2014, the MP4-29 we gave him neither the prettiest nor the fastest of McLaren’s chrome-livery era, despite its new and competitive Mercedes-Benz V6 turbo engine. Nonetheless, in Melbourne he made one of the best debuts in Formula 1 history, qualifying fourth and finishing third on the road, later being classified second after Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified from that position for a Red Bull-Renault fuel-flow irregularity. Kevin had a good rookie season thereafter, albeit never gracing the podium again and being shaded by his very experienced world champion team-mate Jenson Button, and when we bagged a true megastar for 2015, Fernando Alonso, after a lot of internal wrangling in the end it was Magnussen who lost out. So, for 2015, he was given that unenviable job for a man who lives to race: reserve driver.

In previous eras, driver vacancies cropped up with depressing regularity, for reasons that would be morbid, and are unnecessary, to explain. In modern times, although racing remains dangerous, death is happily a much rarer occurrence. The years 2020 and 2021 aside, when Covid created a few opportunities for reserve drivers, their lot is nowadays a dreary one. They sit in engineering meetings, envious of the understeer and front locking about which their race driver colleagues complain; they do media work; they hobnob with sponsors; and, if they are the type with whom regular team members can become clubbable, they chat. So it was that Kevin and I became friends in 2015.


Magnussen began working with Matt Bishop in 2014, his debut F1 year with McLaren

Grand Prix Photo

The next year he left us, happily, for he had bagged a race drive with Renault. I had dinner with him at El Trabuc, in Granollers, on the evening of the opening day of the first pre-season test at Circuit de Catalunya, in February 2016, and, despite his team-mate Jolyon Palmer having been slowest, he was excited about driving the Renault the next day. He ate steak and salad, washed down with fizzy water, and, now in different teams, for I was still a McLaren man, we steered our conversation away from performance-related matters that by rights we should not be discussing with each other to the history of Formula 1, which I have always loved and he loves more than any driver with whom I have ever worked, with the possible exception of Sebastian Vettel.

Stirling Moss is my all-time hero,” said Kevin, taking a sip of Vichy Catalan. “Do you think I could get his autograph?”

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“You’re a Formula 1 driver, Kev, you can do a lot better than that. You can meet him. I’ll organise it. We can have lunch with him at his house in Mayfair.”

I duly emailed Stirling, and back came one of his trademark all-caps replies, saying that he would be delighted, and to arrange it with his PA. That I duly did, and so it was that a few weeks later, one Friday shortly after midday, Kevin and I rang the doorbell at 44 Shepherd Street, the Mosses’ famously hi-tech home, and were ushered in by Susie, who passed away just over a month ago and is so sadly missed. ‘Stirling’s upstairs,’ she said. ‘Go and join him.’

‘The boy’ was then 86, was still troubled by his 2010 lift-shaft fall, but was full of vibrant energy. He offered us beer and Twiglets – a combo that I fancied must have been a Shepherd Street staple for the past half-century, for Moss had the house built to his own exacting specification on a World War Two bomb site that he bought for £5000 in 1961. Twiglets were invented in 1929, the year of Stirling’s birth, and beer is beer.

“What does that article say, boy?”…”It says you won again”

Out came the famous scrapbooks. “I thought you might be interested in seeing a few articles from Danish papers. I did quite a few races in Roskilde, you know,” he said.

“That’s where I was born,” Kevin replied, visibly star-struck.

“I know, boy. It was a peculiar circuit, Roskilde. Banked corners. No real straight. Here, look, I raced there in 1959 in a Cooper Monaco. I don’t know what the article says.”

“It says you won.”

“Oh good. Oh and here I am at Roskilde again, in 1961, this time in a Lotus 18/21. What does that article say, boy?”

“It says you won again,” said Kevin, and flashed a luminous smile at the old man, who chuckled contentedly.


Moss leads Innes Ireland at Roskilde, 1961


Magnussen wanted to see more scrapbooks, so Moss asked his wife to fetch the albums from 1955, 1956 and 1957. She did so. The gold-standard quotes kept flowing:

“Here’s me and Fangio. I could usually beat him in sports cars, but in Formula 1 he was too damn’ good.”

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“That Maser 250F handled beautifully. Try to get a chance to drive one some time. You’ll love it, boy.”

“I won a few races in that Vanwall, but it handled like a pig.”

I could, I assure you, go on.

Fearful of outstaying our welcome, or tiring the great man, we took our leave. Outside in the street, Kevin turned to me and said, “That was [adjective] mega, absolutely [adjective] mega.” The adjective began with an F, and he almost shouted it both times. He was right. It was. RIP Stirling Moss. RIP Susie Moss. Go well, dear Kev.