Why man­ners maketh the man

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

your mind but the im­age of a man who does things well and lives his life with pas­sion. ‘El­e­gance’ is per­haps a bet­ter word, if you fac­tor in the pas­sion – but it’s more than that. There’s a po­lite­ness about Stir­ling. He never tells you how good he was as a rac­ing driver and he’s al­ways aware of the de­tails: for Stir­ling, no per­son is more or less im­por­tant than an­other; be it the chap down the road serv­ing the tea or a cur­rent F1 driver with whom he’s spin­ning a yarn.

One of Stir­ling’s trade­marks was the hand wave. It was used to good ef­fect at Monaco – I think in 1960 – when he be­came the only rac­ing driver in his­tory to chat up a good-look­ing girl in the Sta­tion Hair­pin grand­stands, and ne­go­ti­ate, while he was rac­ing, a post-race meet­ing (and, yes, she did turn up at the ap­pointed hand-sig­nalled time). The other hand wave was a ‘thank you’ note to driv­ers who moved over for him.

I was chat­ting to Stir­ling about this when we met re­cently. “You were res­o­lute, weren’t you?” I said. “You thanked ev­ery slower driver you ever passed.”

“Just about. I sup­pose there were mo­ments when I had two hands on the wheel and was slid­ing the car a lit­tle but, even then, I’d wave to him on the next straight.” “When he prob­a­bly wouldn’t have been able to see you…”

“Yes, but that wasn’t the point. Of course I was say­ing ‘thank you’ but I was ac­tu­ally do­ing if for me. It just wouldn’t have felt right if I hadn’t done it. It was a part of rac­ing, of driv­ing, of good man­ners.” Which made me won­der why today’s F1 driv­ers never seem to say thank you when they pass a slower car. Is it too much ef­fort in a modern cock­pit to raise your hand? I don’t think so. Some of the arm-wav­ing an­tics that cel­e­brate a win sug­gest the op­po­site: it’s ac­tu­ally very easy to take a cur­rent hand away from a cur­rent steer­ing wheel.

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