WHEN KIMI MET JOHN

Two Fer­rari cham­pi­ons, their ti­tles claimed 43 years apart, swap sto­ries at the Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS -

shak­ing hands with John Sur­tees will leave you un­able to hold a pen for a week. It’s like in­sert­ing your hand into an in­dus­trial vice. Ev­ery en­counter with the 1964 For­mula 1 world cham­pion there­fore leaves an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion; you’ve felt the phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion of the iron will that brought him ti­tles on two wheels and four.

So, de­spite this be­ing a his­toric oc­ca­sion – the meet­ing of two Fer­rari world cham­pi­ons on the hal­lowed turf of the Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed – F1 Rac­ing can’t help but make our open­ing en­quiry to Kimi Räikkö­nen a seem­ingly in­con­se­quen­tial one: “Did you shake hands with John?”

“I, er, yeah…” The fa­mously dis­en­gaged 2007 world cham­pion is briefly lost for words, as if he’d been com­put­ing a pat re­sponse to some stan­dard line of ques­tion­ing about the minu­tiae of brake-by-wire. He blinks slowly then looks down at his hand con­tem­pla­tively, opens and closes his ngers, exes the knuck­les. You see, not for the rst time, the bit­ten nails. “He’s got a strong grip. Yeah, when I’m 80 I’d like to be that strong.”

It’s al­most 50 years since “Il Grande John” booked his place in the pan­theon of F1 world cham­pi­ons at the 1964 Mex­ico Grand Prix, and while, on the face of it, he has lit­tle in com­mon with the ice-cool Finn who claimed

“I was sum­moned to Maranello at the end of 1962. Enzo said he wanted me to be his num­ber one. I said the stop­watch would de­cide who was num­ber one…” John Sur­tees

the ti­tle 43 years on – apart from the fact that both of them did so in a Fer­rari – there’s a re­mark­able level of shared ex­pe­ri­ence. Both are strong, rac­ing-fo­cused per­son­al­i­ties with lit­tle in­ter­est in pol­i­tics.

Both were also out­side bets for the world cham­pi­onship for much of their re­spec­tive sea­sons, and both re­ceived a boost in the nal round when mis­for­tune struck one of their main ri­vals (Jim Clark’s en­gine seized up on the penul­ti­mate lap of Mex­ico ’64; Lewis Hamil­ton had a mys­te­ri­ous gear se­lec­tion prob­lem at Brazil in ’07). Both had team-mates who had the op­por­tu­nity to make life dif­fi­cult at the crit­i­cal mo­ment, but didn’t (Lorenzo Ban­dini and Felipe Massa).

Each en­dured a trou­bled de­fence of his world ti­tle and sub­se­quently fell foul of Fer­rari’s com­plex in­ter­nal pol­i­tics: in 1966 John’s prickly re­la­tion­ship with team man­ager Eu­ge­nio Drag­oni cul­mi­nated in a stand­off over changes to tac­tics at Le Mans, when Drag­oni shuf­fled the line-up to al­low a slower driver to take the open­ing stint be­cause he hap­pened to be the nephew of Fiat mag­nate (and pu­ta­tive Fer­rari in­vestor) Gianni Agnelli, who was watch­ing the start of the race. “Do you want to win this race?” John barked be­fore leav­ing the cir­cuit and driv­ing straight to Maranello – where, since Drag­oni had in­vested much time and ef­fort PR-ing him­self to Enzo Fer­rari, John’s com­plaints re­ceived a frosty re­cep­tion.

Kimi was ejected from Fer­rari in favour of Fer­nando Alonso at the end of 2009, be­fore the end of his con­tract, per­haps as a re­sult of a per­ceived lack of ef­fort in what was a poor car, per­haps as the fall guy for the team’s poor per­for­mance that year, per­haps be­cause times were tough in the su­per­car in­dus­try dur­ing the re­ces­sion and cash­flow would be eased by the ar­rival of San­tander’s bulging purse. But now he’s back in red; times and cir­cum­stances change. They needed him again.

So, yes, both John Sur­tees and Kimi Räikkö­nen are rare souls who’ve been given sec­ond chances by Fer­rari: John af­ter ini­tially turn­ing them down at the end of his rst full F1 sea­son in ’61 be­cause he felt he wasn’t ex­pe­ri­enced enough for a top-level drive, Kimi be­cause chair­man Luca Di Mon­teze­molo felt Alonso needed to be put back in his box, and the best way to do that was to have an apo­lit­i­cal hot­shoe in the garage next door. No more undis­puted num­ber one and com­pli­ant num­ber two.

“I was sum­moned to Maranello,” says John of his sec­ond chance with Fer­rari at the end of 1962. “Enzo was sit­ting in his of­fice, it was pretty dark, but he was wear­ing his sun­glasses any­way, and he was sit­ting un­der a pic­ture of his son, Dino [who suf­fered from mus­cu­lar dys­tro­phy and died in 1956], which was lit by a lamp on the wall. He said he wanted me to be his num­ber one. I said the stop­watch would de­cide who was num­ber one…” You can imag­ine, in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances, Kimi say­ing the same thing. Now over 20 years old, Good­wood’s Fes­ti­val of Speed fol­lows a sim­ple but de­li­ciously ef­fec­tive for­mat: cars, bikes, noise, ac­tion. Don’t plan on go­ing any­where in a hurry; the pad­dock ar­eas are al­ways heav­ing be­cause

the ex­pe­ri­ence is con­stantly chang­ing. En­gines of dif­fer­ing lay­out and dis­place­ment burst in to life like the jun­gle beasts an­swer­ing one an­other’s calls. Here, the crowd parts as a 1906 Re­nault of the kind Ferenc Szisz drove to vic­tory in the very rst grand prix chugs through the masses; there, BRM’s ab­surd V16 rents the air with a scream that, fit­tingly for a ma­chine which failed to turn up to most of the races it en­tered, sounds like frus­tra­tion.

“Only in this coun­try will this kind of event work,” says Kimi, “be­cause you’ve got the his­tory of rac­ing cars, bikes, ev­ery­thing, so much to show. And so many peo­ple – I’ve never been to Good­wood be­fore, and I’ve only seen a small part of it so far. It would be nice for me to see all the cars, but I can’t go out­side and walk around – I wouldn’t get very far…”

In­deed, the Kim­ster is be­sieged by au­to­graph hun­ters ev­ery­where he goes – even with Lewis Hamil­ton also in the house. Mercedes may be aim­ing for dom­i­na­tion of Good­wood as well as F1 in gen­eral this year – they’ve even com­mis­sioned a sculp­ture that vaults over the very roof Lord March’s stately pile – but Fer­rari’s duo of world cham­pi­ons have stolen the show. The crowd erupts with cheers and ap­plause as John, driv­ing his 158, and Kimi, at the wheel of the F2007, cruise up the fa­mous Hill­climb course just a few me­tres apart. Their V8 en­gines, sep­a­rated by gen­er­a­tions of tech­ni­cal know-how, sing to­gether in a breath­tak­ing as­cend­ing ca­dence.

At the top, John leaps straight out of his car and gives the F2007 a on­ceover be­fore a minibus full of Fer­rari tech­ni­cians ar­rives to take it away. Kimi re­moves his hel­met but stays in the cock­pit, savour­ing the mo­ment.

“I don’t know if this was the ex­act car I was driv­ing in Brazil,” he says, “but it brings back some good mem­o­ries for me. It was a good car, a good year – well, maybe not all the year. There were some hard times, too. But it ended well. The cock­pit is ac­tu­ally very sim­i­lar to the car I drive now – the steer­ing wheel is maybe even more com­pli­cated than now – it’s just the sound and the feel when you press the throt­tle that’s dif­fer­ent.”

“I think that the new rules brought in too many changes at once,” says John. “Some of them seem to have added need­less com­pli­ca­tion for the driv­ers, al­though for the en­gi­neers it’s been a great chal­lenge and I’ve been im­pressed by how re­li­able the cars have been.”

“Well,” says Kimi, “Over the past few years the tyres haven’t lasted if you go full speed, so we’ve got used to manag­ing the tyres now – it’s no dif­fer­ent this year – and ac­tu­ally the fuel man­age­ment is pretty easy. I wouldn’t say we have more things to do this year than in the past.

“It’s been a really bad year [in terms of re­sults], but that’s how it goes some­times. We’ve had some bad luck, some mis­takes, and we’re not as fast as we want to be, as a team. We’ve got some points, but nowhere near as many as I want. We kind of know where the is­sues are for me but it’s not a small change. Un­for­tu­nately it’s not a quick x, but hope­fully this year we’ll get some­thing that ts a bit bet­ter for me. I haven’t given up.”

“The level of engi­neer­ing sup­port you have these days is in­cred­i­ble,” says John. “I went to Spa for the Bel­gian Grand Prix a cou­ple of years ago as a guest of Shell, and they showed me their track­side lab. And it was ex­actly that – a lab­o­ra­tory. They could tell how the en­gine was wear­ing by analysing a sam­ple of oil from it, like hav­ing a blood test. When I was driv­ing for Fer­rari, the fo­cus was on Le Mans for the rst half of the year so we were very lucky to get an en­gi­neer to look at any­thing be­fore then. They were build­ing sportscars, road cars, For­mula 1 cars and the en­gines for them – and Enzo had nan­cial wor­ries.”

He ush­ers us to the side of the 158. He’s brought two to Good­wood, one in tra­di­tional rosso corsa and the other in the North Amer­i­can Rac­ing Team blue and white. When you look in­side the cock­pit of the red one, there’s no doubt it’s his. The 158 was built slightly too small for him and, with all re­sources di­rected at the Le Mans ef­fort, there was only one thing to do: mod­ify it him­self. The dents in the riv­eted plates on each side of the driver’s seat bear tes­ta­ment to a con­certed as­sault.

“I looked around and found a ham­mer,” says John. “It was okay, you know – there weren’t any chas­sis tubes there, it’s only a semi-mono­coque. They were a lit­tle bit be­hind Lo­tus in chas­sis tech­nol­ogy back then. So Gi­ulio Bor­sari [his chief me­chanic] and Forghieri [Mauro, the de­signer] stood with their backs turned, pre­tend­ing not to no­tice, while I gave it a good beat­ing.”

Kimi re­ceives this in­for­ma­tion with an amused widen­ing of the eyes, as if vi­su­al­is­ing the re­ac­tion of Pat Fry and James Al­li­son if they found him met­ing sim­i­lar jus­tice upon his F14 T. “If I get in it I’ll want to drive it,” he says. “Maybe one day I can try it. The cars from this time look great – like cigars on wheels.”

“We were just be­gin­ning to have the laid-back driv­ing po­si­tion back then,” says John. “Up to the end of the ’50s they sat al­most bolt up­right.

“If I get in [the 158] I’ll want to drive it. Maybe one day I can try it. The cars from this time looked great – like cigars on wheels”

Kimi Räikkö­nen

Even the first F1 car I drove was pretty up­right. Then they be­gan to un­der­stand the aero­dy­namic benets of hav­ing the driver ly­ing down. They had to – when the 1.5-litre en­gines came in, there was much less power and you had to nd any aero­dy­namic gains you could.

“Ob­vi­ously it wasn’t any­thing like the so­phis­ti­ca­tion you have to­day. They’d test by putting paint or oil or wool on the car and then we’d drive around in cir­cles while they took pho­to­graphs.

“You can see where they started mount­ing the main mov­ing parts of the sus­pen­sion in­side the car, so the springs and dampers weren’t block­ing the air­flow. But ob­vi­ously the rocker arms weren’t as stiff as the car­bon-fi­bre ones you have now, so that in­tro­duced its own chal­lenges.”

The grin on Kimi’s face shows how much he’s en­joy­ing him­self – a day away from the me­dia (mostly), away from ques­tions about con­tracts, away from the dull bits of a grand prix week­end that don’t in­volve driv­ing the car. Def­i­nitely worth go­ing through the brief dis­com­fort of that hand­shake.

And as the two world cham­pi­ons stride off to the hos­pi­tal­ity area to grab some lunch and ful­fil a VIP en­gage­ment, could it be that they’re talk­ing about… mo­tocross?

PIC­TURES DO­MINIC JAMES

Smiles and mem­o­ries as Kimi ‘Ice­man’ Räikkö­nen and “Big John” com­pare tak­ing the ti­tle for Fer­rari, in two very dif­fer­ent eras

The two cham­pi­ons be­gin the fa­mously chal­leng­ing Good­wood hill­climb: Kimi Räikkö­nen in his Fer­rari F2007 and John Sur­tees in his Fer­rari 158

Two champs: “Their V8 en­gines, sep­a­rated by gen­er­a­tions of tech­ni­cal know-how, sing to­gether in a breath­tak­ing as­cend­ing ca­dence”

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