Category Archives: Grand Prix history

Maria-Teresa de Filippis 1926-2016

Maria-Teresa de Filippis, the first of only two women to start an F1 World Championship race, has died at the age of 89.

Born in 1926, de Filippis gained experience in domestic sportscar racing in Italy with OSCA and Maserati machinery before an F1 opportunity opened up in 1958, helped by the encouragement of mentor and Ferrari star Luigi Musso.

She drove a Maserati 250F in the non-championship Syracuse GP in April, and was classified fifth of the six finishers, albeit four laps down on winner Musso. She then made her first attempt to qualify for a World Championship race in Monaco, but was 22nd fastest at time when only 16 cars were allowed start.

However she did make the field at Spa, creating history by taking the start from 19th on the grid and finishing in 10th place. She also qualified at Oporto in Portugal, where she took over a Scuderia Centro-Sud 250F after crashing her own car in practice, only to suffer an early retirement. She made her third GP start in her home event in Italy, where she ran as high as fifth in a race of high attrition before suffering a late engine failure.

De Filippis suffered a major blow when Musso was killed at that year’s French GP. However heading into 1959 she found a new mentor in Jean Behra, then a works Ferrari driver.

She drove a 250F in the International Trophy at Silverstone in May, in what proved to be her final F1 start. She failed to qualify at Monaco in Behra’s Porsche, and after the French star was killed at AVUS in August she announced her retirement from the sport at the age of just 33. Later she served as Honorary President of the Grand Prix Drivers Club.

The organisation’s current president Howden Ganley said: “Motor racing has lost a very lovely lady. She was an icon, the first lady to race in Formula One, and of course we younger ones certainly admired that, as did her contemporaries. Maria Teresa, with her boundless enthusiasm, was a mainstay in our Club for so many years. She will be irreplaceable.”

Although she started only three Grands Prix it’s a measure of her achievement that the only woman to successfully follow in her footsteps was fellow Italian Lella Lombardi, who took part in 12 races in 1975-’76.

De Filippis is survived by her husband Theo K. Huschek and daughter Carola. Her funeral will take place on Monday in Scanzorosciate, the town where she lived.

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No tyre conspiracy in Singapore, says Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton is adamant that he doesn’t believe in any conspiracy theories regarding the tyres used by Mercedes in Singapore – and says that the team’s problems were a result of set-up issues.

After qualifying in Marina Bay Hamilton challenged the media and his team to find out why the drivers had struggled for grip, and since the race his engineers have conducted an in-depth analysis.

“Whatever happened, happened,” he said today. “I believe there are reasons in our balance and our set-up that we had, the avenues that we went down which affected the car the way it did and the tyres the way it did, and the other teams perhaps did better than us. I don’t believe in all that conspiracy stuff, we just put it down to the technical side of things, and we could have done a better job.”

Hamilton says that the team is satisfied with the results of its post-race investigation.

“I can’t tell you what the team have come up with, but they have come up with a lot of solutions, a lot of reasons for it being the way it was. The majority of them believe at least one of the many solutions, or reasons for it that we’ve came up, with had a domino effect. I’m confident that it’s been understood, but they will continue to do analysis, I’m sure.”

“It was consistent, it felt the same all weekend. We obviously changed the set-up, so it felt better by Saturday in qualifying, it felt better by the race. But generally it was the same. It felt normal to us, we didn’t have more grip at one point, and less grip later. That’s the grip we had all weekend, and it felt normal to us. It’s just the others had more.”

He added: “I believe it was specific to Singapore, so we should go back to normal weekends, really.”

However he said that the team was not taking anything for granted.

“Well you can never say never, thinking that it was just a fluke or anything like that. Sometimes there are going to be situations like that whether it’s this year or next year or the year after. I’m hoping that we’ve learned from that weekend, and hopefully it won’t happen again.”

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Phil Kerr 1934-2015

Phil Kerr, a key player in the early days of both the Brabham and McLaren F1 teams, has passed away in his native New Zealand.

Kerr first met Bruce McLaren at a hillclimb when he was 17 and the future F1 star was 15, and they were both runnng Ausin Seven Specials. Later Kerr studied business and accountancy, and initially worked for the New Zealand Forest Service before moving into engineering.

He combined his own racing activities with working behind the scenes of the sport, joining the board of the New Zealand International Grand Prix Association at an early age. He was also secretary of the Auckland Car Club. As a driver he was good enough to be shortlisted for the ‘Driver to Europe’ award – which was eventually won by his friend McLaren.

It was in 1959 that McLaren recommended Kerr to his Cooper team mate Jack Brabham, who was starting his own organisation. Kerr duly travelled to the UK and helped to set up and run Jack’s Chessington facility. Later he was instrumental in getting a young Denny Hulme into Brabham, and he played a key role in the successful 1966 and 1967 World Championship campaigns.

Kerr felt that he’d achieved all he could at Brabham, and looking for a new challenge he joined Hulme in a move to McLaren in 1968. He became joint managing director, and along with Teddy Mayer he helped to keep the team going after Bruce’s death in 1970. He left the team after running Mike Hailwood’s Yardley-backed car as a satellite operation in 1974.

He subsequently returned to New Zealand to develop his business interests, using the McLaren Group name.

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Gerard Ducarouge 1941-2015

Legendary F1 chief designer Gerard Ducarouge has passed away at the age of 73. The colourful Frenchman is best remembered for his work with Ligier and Lotus, where he was responsible for a string of race winning cars.

Born in October 1941, Frenchman Ducarouge qualified in aeronautical engineering. He first came to prominence with Matra, where he designed the cars that won Le Mans in 1972, ’73 and ’74.

After Matra closed its works team he joined Guy Ligier, who was creating a Matra-powered F1 car for 1976. Ducarouge designed the JS5, famous for the ‘teapot’ airbox that it used in the first few races of the season. Jacques Laffite took pole for that year’s Italian GP, and then gave Ligier its first GP victory with the JS7 in 1977.

Ducarouge is perhaps best known for the JS11. The car dominated the early part of the 1979 World Championship in the hands of Laffite and Patrick Depailler, although later in the year the team was overhauled by both Ferrari and Williams. The updated JS11/15 was also a frontunner in 1980, when Didier Pironi joined the team. Laffite then won two more GPs in 1981 with the JS17.

Ducarouge subsequently fell out with Ligier and joined the works Alfa Romeo F1 team, where he designed the 182, with which Andrea de Cesaris took pole at Long Beach.

In May 1983 he turned down the chance to join Renault and instead made a move to Lotus. The team had lost founder Colin Chapman at the end of the previous year, and new boss Peter warr was keen to find a ‘name’ to help placate sponsors JPS. In fact he had been offered a job by Chapman himself in the past, but had turned it down.

Employing a more methodical approach than that associated with ideas man Chapman, Ducarouge helped Lotus create the 94T almost overnight in the middle of the 1983 season, working with Martin Ogilvie. In 1985 Ayrton Senna joined the team, and the Brazilian formed a close bond with Ducarouge. Senna scored his first GP wins in Portugal and Belgium with the Renault-powered 97T. Ayrton added four more successes over the next two years with the 98T and the Honda-equipped 99T, before moving on to McLaren.

Ducarouge himself left Lotus after a disappointing 1988 season and joined the team run by his former Matra colleague Gerard Larrousse, before returning to Ligier for a second spell in the early nineties, where he was involved with the JS39 that ran in 1993-’94. Subsequently he drifted away from F1 and rejoined Matra to work on other projects.

A charming and stylish man, he was much admired and respected in the paddock.

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Jean-Pierre Beltoise 1937-2015

Jean-Pierre Beltoise, who earned his place in the history books with his sole F1 win in Monaco in 1972, has died at the age of 77.

Born in Paris, Beltoise first demonstrated his speed while driving his butcher father’s delivery truck around the city. He began racing motorcycles and after a stint of military service interrupted his progress he won multiple French championships before moving to cars. An accident in the 1964 Rheims 12 Hours left him with serious leg and arm injuries, but he fought back to establish himself as France’s top racer over the rest of the decade.

He was best known for his long association with Matra, which began in F3 in 1965, and continued in F2 the following year. At the end of 1967 Matra began its move into Grand Prix racing and Beltoise ran an F2 car in the US and Mexican events. He contested a full season with the new works V12 in 1968, finishing second in Holland. He also found time to win that year’s European F2 title.

In 1969 Matra switched to Cosworth power and Beltoise drove alongside Jackie Stewart under the auspices of Ken Tyrrell. He finished second in his home race and earned a couple of thirds as his team mate took the title.

The V12 returned in 1970 and back in the works Matra team Beltoise earned more thirds in Belgium and Italy. His 1971 season was overshadowed by a controversial crash in the Buenos Aires 1000kms sportscar race which cost the life of Ferrari driver Ignazio Giunti and led him to losing his licence for a while. Beltoise had been pushing his Matra back to the pits when it was struck by the Italian.

He moved to BRM in 1972 and enjoyed his day of days when he outdrove the field to win a wet Monaco GP, although he had little luck elsewhere. In 1973 he was outshone by new team mate Niki Lauda, while in 1974 a second place in South Africa showed that he could still get the job done. It was his eighth and final F1 podium finish. His season ended with a heavy practice crash in the final race at Watkins Glen, which left him with foot injuries.

He was supposed to return to F1 with Ligier in 1976, but ultimately Jacques Laffite got the job, and his single-seater career fizzled out. He was involved with the birth of the Rondeau Le Mans effort before moving to touring cars, winning the French title in both 1976 and 77.

Beltoise’s first wife was killed in a road accident and he later married Jacqueline Cevert, sister of his close friend Francois.

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Jonathan Williams 1942-2014

Jonathan Williams chatting with Jim Clark

Jonathan Williams chatting with Jim Clark

Jonathan Williams, perhaps best known for driving a works Ferrari on his one and only GP start in Mexico in 1967, passed away in Spain on Sunday at the age of 71. A true gentleman, and a gentle man, he will be much missed by his friends.

Born in Cairo in 1942 – his parents ran a school there – Jonathan’s passion for racing was fired by a trip to Silverstone in 1951. He began racing in 1961 with a Mini, and on one famous afternoon crashed at Mallory Park. He was sitting on the bank watching when another driver, who happened to share his surname, crashed nearby. Thus Jonathan and Frank Williams met for the first time, and later through Jonathan Frank met two men who would play a big role in his life, Piers Courage and Sheridan Thynne.

In 1963 Jonathan travelled Europe with a Formula Junior Merlyn, with Frank serving as his mechanic. Alas a big crash in Monaco, where he injured his leg and received a bang on the head, proved to be a major setback.

In 1964 he teamed up with Courage to run in the new F3 category, and the pair both bought Lotus 22s. Using the Anglo-Swiss Racing name in an attempt to impress continental race organisers, they raced all over Europe before funding ran out. Help was at hand however, and for 1965 friend Charles Lucas – who had recently come into some money – set up his own team, employing Jonathan, Piers and Peter Gethin.

Jonathan always loved Italy, and for 1966 he accepted an offer to join the works de Sanctis team. He was the star of the cut-and-thrust world of Italian F3 that year, which caught the attention of Ferrari.

He was duly signed up for 1967 and spent the year racing for the Scuderia in sportscars, CanAm and F2. It was a turbulent season for the team that saw Lorenzo Bandini die at Monaco, and Jonathan’s close friend Mike Parkes injured at Spa. During a gap between CanAm races he was told to travel to Mexico City. After minimal practice he was given his first and only F1 start in the chassis rejected by number one driver Chris Amon, in which he finished eighth. A subsequent testing crash at Modena brought his Ferrari career to an end.

In 1968 Jonathan raced for various F2 teams, winning the Monza Lottery for Frank Williams, who by now had become an entrant in his own right.

Mexico aside, Jonathan’s other claim to fame came in 1970 when he became involved in the making of Steve McQueen’s Le Mans, driving the Porsche 908 camera car in the race itself, as well as taking part in the months of filming that followed.

The death of his closest friend Courage at that year’s Dutch GP was a heart wrenching blow for Jonathan, and the following year his racing career fizzled out.

Having learned to fly he spent some time as a private pilot for wealthy businessmen before dropping out and spending many years travelling around the coast of France, Spain and Portugal in a small motorhome. In recent years he had settled at a base in Spain, keeping himself occupied by writing magazine articles about racing history, but his plan was always to buy another motorhome and set off again on his travels. Sadly it was not to be.

I first met Jonathan in 1998 when I started writing a book about Piers Courage, and we stayed in touch thereafter. I visited him regularly when I travelled to Jerez for winter F1 testing, and we spent a family holiday with him last summer. This time last year he stayed with me en route to the Zandvoort historic event, where a memorial to Piers was unveiled.

That was a rare trip as he was never fond of crowds, or the hassles associated with airports. However he had agreed to attend the upcoming Italian GP in company with a historic racer whose Ferrari sportscar he had demonstrated at a revival event. A couple of weeks ago Jonathan emailed me to say he wouldn’t be able to make Monza on health grounds – and with typical thoughtfulness asked if I could catch up with his friend and show him around.

Quietly spoken, and forever modest about his own achievements as a driver, he was a very special man, and much loved by his loyal friends.

At Jonathan’s own request donations can be made to the hospice where he spent his final days,

The writer with Charles Lucas (centre) and Jonathan at Zandvoort last year

The writer with Charles Lucas (centre) and Jonathan at Zandvoort last year


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Tony Settember 1926-2014

Californian Tony Settember, who started six Grands Prix in 1962-63, passed away on Sunday at the age of 87.

Born in Manila, Settember made his name racing and MG, Mercedes and latterly a Corvette in west coast sportscar events.

In 1962 he entered F1 with a specially built Emeryson, and competed in the British and Italian Grands Prix, although he was too tall for the chassis. He also raced a Corvette at Le Mans.

The Emeryson design formed the basis of the Scirocco-BRM he raced in 1963. He started at Spa, Reims, Silverstone and the Nurburgring, failing to finish on every occasion. He then failed to qualify at Monza. He was equally ill-starred in non-championship F1 races, but managed to finish second behind Jack Brabham at Zeltweg in a race of high attrition that saw just three cars see the flag.

After giving up on F1 he returned to the US scene, appearing in CanAm events and racing in the F5000 series as late as 1974.

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