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After The Reigns - Epilogue

FEATURE BY MAX NOBLE
24/03/2020

Oh dear reader! Please stand back six-feet, or two metres, from the screen, and then wash your hands for a minimum of twenty seconds before hugging yourself in delight at the latest Pitpass article.

When did you last disinfect your mouse? Have other house members touched your keyboard? Been on public transport in the last fourteen days? Know someone who owns a Shih Tzu? Apocalypse awaits us all dear reader, some with slender steering wheel grasped within cool hands, others with hell raging all around, and some with the indifferent Muzak of lifts and aged care facilities ringing heedlessly in their ears. Kill Bill? Platoon? Dunkirk? Love Story? Infinity War? Bernie and Max versus the Universe? Aisle Six Toilet Roll Wars? Go out standing, sleeping, trying to rage against the fear, or avoiding all fears?

Season 2020 has taken a serious turn to the right, with extra added software override of all driver inputs. This epilogue is not what it was planned to be just a few short weeks ago.

No. Back then the plan was to contrast Lewis' opening round with the past champions and make modest predictions about the probably inevitable, before meandering slowly down the Avenue of Champions to pause and nod our respect as we stroll respectfully past the headstones... Now, all bets are off, as Lewis wonders why he runs around a world full of germs. Hello and welcome Howard Hughes and Michael Jackson... Someone should tell Naomi Campbell that the cheap-skate mask she was wearing at the airport is to a virus as the Channel Tunnel is to a scheduled train. Which is to say, no barrier at all. Life, opinion and facts. On occasion the three agree. So where to in our history...?

What a remarkable walk through the early, middle, and late ages of Formula One so far. The 50s and 60s. The 70s and 80s, and my arbitrary line in the sand of the modern era running since 1989.

One could argue to start the modern era a fraction earlier in the 1980's as Prost and Senna were muscling to the front of the grid, but 1989 is a reasonable compromise when trying to draw a line across the ever flowing waters of the river of time.

1989... The Berlin Wall came down, Emperor Hirohito died, sad things happened at pro-democracy rallies in Tiananmen Square, and Intel unleashed the 486 microprocessor on an excited world that was about to be introduced to the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Oh, and Taylor Swift was born, Cher gave us "If I could turn back time" and Prince gave us his Bat Dance.

(1989 was also the year Billy Joel released We Didn't Start The Fire, which bears a remarkable similarity to the theme of the previous paragraph – Ed)

Within our motoring world, BMW updated the 5-Series, and Corvette released the ZR-1 incarnation of their V8 legend. The Porsche 959 challenged for fastest production car in the world topping out at 200 mph (320 kph), but in the final year of hand-crafted production the mighty Ferrari F40 held on with an official top speed of 202 mph (325 kph). A final US winner for 1989 was Honda, where the Accord became America's top selling car, beating the Ford Taurus into second place by a pleasing 14,600 additional units.

Honda not only won the sales race that year, with Alain Prost at the wheel of his McLaren it shared the driver's and constructor's titles, with Ayrton Senna finishing a highly charged second.

The 1989 season also saw the most entries in the modern era. You could still see the drivers within the cars, as the crash protection had not risen to the point where drivers required periscopes to see the road ahead. Cars slid, engines growled and exploded, as did team bosses.

The earth turned, giving us the delightful illusion of sunrise and sunset, and second-hand Ferraris were still ‘close your eyes and hope affordable ‘for the typical working professional.

Fangio, Surtees, Andretti, Senna. Oh, once again. Senna, Clark. Well, a thousand times Clark. Farina, Rindt, Lauda, Schumacher. Dear me, just the other day, Vettel and Hamilton. A dash of Button, a zing of Mansell... a smile of Hill. A delight of Villeneuve, a tragic of Hawthorn, a miss of Moss. A puzzle of Rosberg. A laugh and hug of Andretti.

Life lived so big. Risks known and taken. Egos battered. Intellects challenged. Friendships made and destroyed. Cars nursed, bullied, broken and cherished.
Rules reviewed, considered, ignored, broken, bent, taken hostage, and reworked in the sixth dimension.

People giving it all for love, glory, the honour of the fight, and the fear of the loss. Making something matter, when nothing else matters.

Sunrise. Sunset.

Latest estimates say we have around five billion years left in our local G3 star (that would be the Sun) which is about fifteen minutes longer than the current estimate of how long Bernie has left in him. At which point does legend no longer matter? At which point do the sacrifices of the past cease to hold currency in the here and now?

A final dance through a polite gathering of statistics is warranted.

Thirty-three different drivers have won the 70 Drivers' Championships contested and completed so far. That is the 1950 to 2019 seasons inclusive. At the time of writing, Michael Schumacher continues to stand alone with seven titles, yet barring the end of the sport - or world - or an unexpected retirement, or an unexpected move to a mid-field team (hello Damon and Arrows, among a few others so guilty) Lewis should equal Michael either this year or next, and then potentially move clear to eight titles. Yet not so fast dear reader! No wheel has turned or gear crunched in anger yet, so another two titles are still some considerable journey away for Mister Hamilton.

The UK has produced ten different champions, Brazil, Finland, and Germany are tied in second place with three champions a piece. Which, given the modest population of Finland, tends to suggest the greatest number of champions per capita is probably from this fine Northern nation.

Nineteen of our thirty-three hero champions are still alive, with dear Niki being the most recent to park-up and throw his gloves and helmet to loved ones for the final time.

And of those thirty-three drivers, fifteen drove into history behind the wheel of a Ferrari, meaning 45% of all champions achieved that greatness with the remarkable Italian racers. Sadly a tragic number of them also died within the mesmerising red chariots.

The season has insisted on holding us on the edge of our seats until the final race 29 times. Which remarkably means 42% of seasons have seen battles until the drop of the final flag at the final race for that year.

Died on the track? Ascari, Clark, Rindt, Hulme, Senna. Died too soon away from the track, Hawthorn, Hunt, Lauda.

And how many had close shaves, shocking moments, and attended far more funerals than any band of competitors should ever see in a lifetime? Our Avenue of Champions is a complex walk, as is life. Moments of delight, joy, respect, and amusement, all mixed with sober reflection, quiet recall, and pondering what might have been for those lives cut short. A walk past the names of champions, all of whom deserve quiet recall, respect, and a salute to sporting lives well lived. For many it was also as great humans, fathers, brothers, and friends away from the track that they are rightly remembered.

When all earthly reigns end, and when all rains cease to fall, who will be remembered by more than family as having tried and given at the very highest level of human achievement?

These men. They shall be remembered. Who shall help carry them from the arena? Dear reader, hold them in your heart. They gave for ten thousand different reasons. Some died in the fight, some gave up the fight and died promptly anyway. Others have lived on in honour.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Max Noble, 15/04/2020 1:14

"@eelpie - I’d respectfully refer you to part 2 in this series of articles where I wrote;

“ Always in touch with motor sport, Denny was behind the wheel of a semi-works BMW M3 at the 1992 Bathurst 1000 at the legendary Mount Panorama circuit when, after complaining to the pits of blurred vision, he died at the wheel of a massive heart attack, aged 56.”

Which I believe is precisely the point you’re making.

It was a death *on* a track not a death *of* the track.
If he had been off the track could paramedics have saved him? Given how massive the heart attack was I think the dear champion would have died regardless of where he was that day. However, as history records he was behind the wheel of a racing car, on track, taking part in the Bathurst 1000. Hence, it is an on track death.

Otherwise do we count dear departed heroes of the track who died in ambulances, or later in hospital as “patient transfer deaths due to organ failure”...?
"

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2. Posted by eelpie, 14/04/2020 22:46

"Saying Hume died on the track is misleading.

He was killed by a heart attack while racing, and not by a racing accident as is suggested."

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3. Posted by Max Noble, 27/03/2020 7:09

"@all - my thanks.

@ ClarkwasGod - yes indeed, but rather like the Aldi cheap-n-cheerful version of Tolkien... my tales grow in the telling and at some point I need to simply step away from the keyboard and email to esteemed editor Balfe. Without some (modest) self control I'd not have finished my second article yet...! On a serious note, yes too many died abruptly away from the track, while on-track so, so many non-champions were perishing at an appalling rate. How JYS is still sane is a wonder."

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4. Posted by Superbird70, 24/03/2020 22:40

"Well said. I hope our new heroes are remembered as fondly."

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5. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 24/03/2020 16:37

"Lovely way to complete the series.

Could you have included Hill Sr, and Big John as those who died too soon away from the track?

Getting ready to take the last train from Dodge, so to speak, back home to God's Wonderful Land (that's Wales in case you're confused!!!)"

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6. Posted by Mambo, 24/03/2020 15:32

"An excellent, if somewhat poetic, summary!"

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