MU MUCH MISTAKEN…
a technical infringement with the decision later reversed. In Britain he won again after a re-start, but his victory was disallowed following a Ferrari protest. At the Nürburgring, Lauda suffered a dreadful crash and the burns that scarred him for life. But, three races on, he was bravely back competing in Italy. The title-decider was at Fuji in Japan where, in dangerous conditions, Lauda withdrew and James finished third, in spite of a puncture, to win the championship by one point.
Now he was the nation’s hero, but his career went downhill from then on. Only fifth in the 1977 championship as Lauda won again, then a lowly 13th in 1978. The following year, now driving for Wolf, he’d had enough. Unashamedly concerned about the dangers of racing, he announced his immediate retirement after only the seventh event of the season, in Monaco.
James’s F1 career lasted just six-and-a-half years and 93 races (compare that with Jenson Button’s 16 years and 284 races) but in that time he not only won ten grands prix and the world championship, but he turned Britain on to F1 through his personality and achievements.
Then his second career began as he joined me in the BBC commentary box for 13 years, during which his wit, wisdom and outspokenness endeared him to millions of English-speaking viewers worldwide. I was old enough to be his father and saw life through very different eyes but, even so, I think we made a good partnership.
Our last joint commentary was on the 1993 Canadian GP. Back then, we commentated on some long-haul events from a London studio, and James cheerfully appeared after cycling from his home in Wimbledon. All went well but two days later, my wife phoned me with the shocking news that James had succumbed to a massive heart attack at the tragically young age of 45.
James Hunt’s impact on the world of F1 was immense. He was a unique character who made an indelible mark on the world of motorsport and will long be remembered and talked about. Especially by me.