• GP Week

Legends gather for 60th birthday party

March 20, 2010

Legends weekend gallery

John Surtees prepares to hit the track in his title-winning 1964 Ferrari 158 - 'When he dons his open-face helmet he should be served an ASBO' © Sutton Images
The F1 World Championship celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and, to mark the event Bahrain hosted all the surviving champions - bar Mr Raikkonen (who's probably in a ditch somewhere) and Mr Piquet.

So, 18 heroes in all, spanning the generations. It was like a school reunion, and they came to play with their old toys. Seventy-six year-old John Surtees seems such a quiet, mild mannered man, but when he dons his open-face helmet he should be served an ASBO. Sat in his title-winning 1964 Ferrari 158, he slammed the throttle open, held it like that for what seemed like a full-minute, then tore off leaving his fellow club members choking on his fumes.

The support paddock was graced with some of the sport's most beautiful and successful machines - and the men that made them famous. Leading the pack in the green Ferrari 125 'Thinwall Special' from 1950, Nigel Mansell suffered a technical failure of the sort that robbed him of so many victories.

Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti got many admiring glances in their brace of JPS Lotus (the 72 and 79 respectively). For Adrian Newey, it brought back memories: "I remember the Lotus 79 from when I was at university. When that came out it was really something"

Jody Schekter's Ferrari 312T4 usually resides in the 1979 champion's barn, but was dusted off for the occasion: "I've only run it three times in the last ten years," he told us.

Meanwhile, Jackie Stewart loved being reunited with his 1973 Tyrrell 006, and his old mates: "It's so nice to be amongst the people you were racing with. Emerson, Mario, Niki, John, Jack Brabham… I raced with Jody Scheckter also. He was the young puppy. He was baby bear. Denny Hulme was papa bear."

One interloper was 19 year-old Josh Hill - Formula Ford racer and dynastic brethren. He couldn't believe his luck when Classic Team Lotus called and offered up his grandfather's Gold Leaf 49: "Obviously it's a lot more powerful than my Formula Ford, with massive tyres… it's just so much faster. Dad hasn't given me any tips, just don't bin it". Amazingly, he didn't find sharing the road with the chaps above daunting: "I've met quite a few of them before: Jackie, Nigel, Emerson… I'm not nervous about it! I'm loving it."

As for Damon, who brought things a little closer to date with the Williams-Renault FW18, he explained that time helps you appreciate what you're achieved, and enjoy these moments all the more: "I think it's difficult at the time to put [winning the world championship] it into context. It's like a wine. You put it down and it gets better in a few years."

And, at the mention of wine, the world champions agreed it was time for lunch. And then a motor race.

This article appears in the current issue of GP Week. Click here for details