James Hunt: the original F1 playboy

Reflection on the F1 playboy

By: Leona Stewart

Most known for his iconic rivalry with Niki Lauda, James Hunt is a Formula 1 Legend and 1976, championship winner. 

The original F1 playboy is how most people know James Hunt. Living an exciting and lavish lifestyle, that he did not make much effort to conceal, Hunt is one of the biggest names in motorsport. 

Making his way onto the scene in 1973 at the now considered late age of 25, the Brit made history driving for Marlboro Team McLaren and bagging a title for them.

Taking a step back, James Hunt was born and raised in the UK, alongside his mother, father and four siblings. While at a young age his passion seemed to lie with tennis and skiing, as he grew older and watched his first Mini Race at Silverstone with his friend Chris Ridge, motorsport took over. 

Following in his friend’s footsteps, James’ career started off in Mini Racing. It swiftly then moved onto Formula Ford and then graduated into Formula 3. 

His F3 career was nothing short of unruly. A budget provided by Gowrings of Reading, and a driver who was consistently finishing well led to Hunt earning the Grovewood Award. A controversial clash between Hunt and Dave Morgan left a mark on James’ name as he was called for a tribunal after shoving Morgan. Not much came of the incident for Hunt. 

James, while he was a great driver, had a lot of fears in racing. Vomiting before every race, adrenaline causing overstimulation and anxiety, without the right help Hunt could easily have been a mess of a driver. But, help came in the form of Lord Alexander Hesketh. 

Hesketh Racing arrived in F1 in 1974. Known for the gorgeous young women and lavish style over its racing in the lower leagues, the team quickly became a joke in Formula 1. 

While Hunt managed to gain the team some minor respect when he beat Niki Lauda’s Ferrari and won the Dutch GP in 1975, the team’s lack of success landed Hesketh out of money and James out of a job.

 

This however managed to work in Hunt’s favor. With Emerson Fittipaldi leaving McLaren, the seat was free for him. 

Consistent wins were great however, his fiery tantrums carried on throughout his career and even onto the track. One time he was standing in the middle of the track screaming at his opponents. 

Whilst the pair had a thrilling title clash in 1976, Niki Lauda was James’ closest friend on the grid. The title had been thought to have been Lauda’s, until a tragic accident at the Nurburgring which left him stuck in the car, engulfed in flames. James went on to win the race. 

As the season went on so did Hunt’s wins and Lauda’s recovery, down to the final race. A wet Japan. So wet in fact, Lauda decided it was too dangerous to race his Ferrari, which he soon retired. Hunt finished third to claim the Championship. 

Loud personality and good looks took James Hunt far, leading him to his first wife – Suzy Miller. When becoming a tabloid pundit, his reputation followed. A procession of gorgeous girlfriends and a lavish lifestyle of drugs and alcohol lead him to be looked down on by the F1 Journalists, who were all very proper. Not like Hunt, who was twice voted as the least liked member of Formula 1. 

Leaving the sport halfway through the 1979 season, for “reasons of self-preservation”, he went on to admit he never truly enjoyed driving. Which was shown in his pre-race anxiety. 

His career in journalism continued after leaving the sport, joining Murray Walker in 1980 to work on the BBC’s F1 coverage. Drinking two bottles of wine during his first broadcast, it was thought Hunt’s reckless personality was going to follow him once again. However, he soon became an articulated and well-respected commentator for the sport. 

This ‘new’ James followed into his private life. While his second marriage to Sarah Lomax ended in divorce, he produced two boys, who he adored. 

Hunt went on to propose to Helen Dyson on June 15, 1993. A young woman who was half his age. However, sadly he did not get to marry the beautiful blonde, as only a few hours later he sadly suffered a massive heart attack, causing his death at the age of 45. 

What really happened at the Nurburgring crash in 1976?

What happened at the Nurburgring crash?

By: Jake Rajala

There have been many tragic moments in the history of sports. The NFL legendary pass rusher Lawrence Taylor broke the mythical quarterback Joe Theisman’s ankle. In the world of hockey, Clint Malarchuk, nearly died after his jugular vein was cut by the skate of Steve Tuttle. Well, there was arguably one incident in F1 that was crazier than any other horror scene in sports: the Nurburgring crash in 1976.

The bold Niki Lauda was gearing up for a stronger season than his arch-nemesis in James Hunt (as portrayed in the movie “Rush”). At the Nurburgring GP, the ascending driver endured a shocking, life-changing event. He crashed into the barrier, went up in flames, and was even hit by another driver. It would be an understatement to say that it didn’t seem he would survive the scary, fictional-like, image.

Luckily, Arturo Merzario was able to pull him out of the burning car! If Merzario was a few seconds late, the Ferrari driver wouldn’t have cheated death.

Similar to the confusion surrounding the immaculate catch in the NFL, It’s unclear what exactly caused Lauda to drive into the barrier. Perhaps it was the conditions? He may have also made a bad judgment on the corner – which resulted in the accident.

Lauda still raced six weeks after he was a literal man on fire at the Monza Grand Prix. He even finished sixth at the GP. He wasn’t able to beat James Hunt, who had a serious love and hate relationship with Lauda, in 1976.

The Wolverine-like figure was an inspirational beast – as he went on to win the 1977 world championship and 1984 world championship.

“From success, you learn absolutely nothing. From failure and setbacks conclusions can be drawn. That goes for your private life as well as your career”. – Niki Lauda

Niki Lauda: tribute and reflection

Remembering Niki Lauda

By: Jake Rajala

The mythical Formula 1 figure Niki Lauda left many unique, positive impressions in his life. In this piece, I’m going to simply reminisce about the wild success, tragedies, and impact he had on the F1 world.

Lauda was born in 1949 (the same year as the NATO treaty) in Vienna, Austria. Similar to other F1 legends, Lauda decided to race against his parents wishes. He boldly took out a 30,000-dollar loan so he could begin racing in Formula Two. The bad-ass persona was quickly promoted to race with the rockstars in Formula 1. He dabbled in F1 and F2 in 1972 and then joined Ferrari in 1974.

The risk-taking driver persisted through the cracks as an alpha F1 driver in 1975 – as he won his first world championship. It was clear that he was special at that point. Although, there was one obstacle in his way: James Hunt. It was entertaining and mouth-watering to follow the two legends compete until the final lap – just as Lightning McQueen and Chick Hicks went toe to toe. Nonetheless, it should be noted that the two legendary F1 drivers were “very good friends” — according to Hunt’s son.

Lauda was clearly an entertaining sports figure, but he was still human. He shockingly and sadly suffered a brutal accident in 1976 – as he lost control and sat inside a car that wound up in flames. It was nothing short of a miracle that he survived the incident. Yet, it was clear that the infamous wreck left a burn on his face. The F1 driver that came from humble beginnings didn’t look back – as he would win his second championship in 1977 and his third/final championship in 1984.

Lauda passed away at the age of 70 in May of 2019 (eight months after a lung transplant). His F1 brother, Hunt, died at the age of 45 from a heart attack. The very famous F1 movie called Rush (which received an 89% Rotten Tomatoes score) tells a tale about the rivalry and paths of the two drivers.

It’s clear that Lauda was talented, but also one of the most relatable and inspiring sports figures of all time.

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