Those Were The Days - Stories and Anecdotes from the Golden Age of Motor Racing
Those Were The Days - Stories and Anecdotes from the Golden Age of Motor Racing

COLIN CHAPMAN EXPLAINS

Colin Chapman 24.2.71

Colin Chapman 24.2.71

This is what CC told me on a trip from Stapleford to the Lotus factory in Hethel. All I asked was how did he choose his drivers. Just something to talk about on a boring journey..........

It's really very simple. I think there are only really two drivers, as far as next season in concerned, who are capable of winning going away, Drop of the flag, off they go and if they don't break down they're going to win. That's Ickx and Stewart. All the other Grand Prix drivers you can put into two categories. Either they have been in it for a number of years, have a known potential and are never going to make it, not in the Stewart/Ickx class anyway, or they are the youngsters who with a bit more experience might make it. So in the first place what the hell is the point of taking on somebody you know is second best? I would prefer to take on somebody who might be best.

I would have liked to have Stewart, but I just can't afford him. You know he is a very expensive lad and he is very devoted to Ken Tyrrell. He has a very good relationship going there. Ickx was unavailable at that time, so I decided that if I couldn't get either of these I'd rather get Fittipaldi who, half way through next year, might be able to beat them both. When you are picking a driver you don't go by what is written in the Press. You don't go by the results of the races. You can tell by just being with them, watching their attitude in training. Watching their approach to the job. Seeing how easily or difficult the times come. Seeing how moody they are, how dedicated they are. From this you can make up your mind.

Petersen and Fittipaldi

Petersen and Fittipaldi

Now you can see Emerson will be great. He is potentially the fourth quickest driver next year. I would put him behind Stewart, Ickx and Ragazzoni and if he goes on the way he is going and doesn't get overawed by all this Brazilian crap he will be really great. He is definitely more in the Jimmy Clark – Jackie Stewart mould than any other bloke I have ever seen racing.

I went for Reine because I think he has got potential. Not in the Emerson class, but a good dependable driver. I was very impressed with his test day. He was very calm and went out and whittled away at the time. Not all the usual flurry and panic you get from a driver on his first Formula One Test. I was impressed so I signed him up on the spot. I feel Reine could be very good on his day but is a little inclined to be a bit temperamental.

Of course I would have preferred to take Ronnie Peterson. Peterson was lurking around at the end of the year looking for a drive and if I could have run three cars I would certainly have signed him up. But all the finances started to go wrong at that time. Firestone backed out and I was wondering how I was even going to run two cars the next year. Obviously I couldn't just drop Reine and pick up Ronnie just like that. He had only done two races for me and I felt I had to have a bit more loyalty than that, so I said to Ronnie that I was sorry but just couldn't do anything about it. It was probably the wrong decision because I know Ronnie will beat Reine most times out this year.

Tony Rudlin and Innes Ireland

Tony Rudlin and Innes Ireland

Of course it would have been impossible to have them both in the same team. They are both Swedes and local heroes. It was one or the other. I had already had trouble with two Nationals in the team. Innes Ireland and Jimmy Clark. I have found that when a driver has finished his contract with a team he is completely free to go where he likes. Well if that is the case then what is the difference when an entrant doesn't want to retain a driver for a further spell?

I've never sacked a driver in the middle of a racing season. Innes had driven for me in 1959 in some very mediocre cars. They had gone quickly on occasions but at best Innes was an unreliable driver. During 1960 I had the sort of situation in the team that I was frightened might occur again with Reine and Ronnie. Innes and Jimmy were both Scots. Before Jimmy arrived on the scene Innes was THE Scottish racing driver. Then Jimmy came along and put his nose out of joint quite considerably. After Innes had won the US Grand Prix he felt this was the end of any rivalry between him and Jimmy. He was sure that it would be impossible for anyone to get rid of him after that important win. So he came to see me and said he couldn't work with Jimmy in the team. It was either Clark went or he did.

Well it was the first Grand Prix for Lotus but I felt I had more future with Jimmy so I said, "You don’t leave me much choice."

And that was the end of the association between Innes and Lotus.

Those Were The Days - Motor Racing Stories, Tales and Anecdotes from the Golden Age of Motor Racing