Before the Ambassadors: Heuer & Formula 1

Posted by: Mark Moss   |   4 June 2012   |   14 Comments  

Jochen Rindt

Moving on from one Austrian world champion to another, and one with the unfortunate distinction of being Formula 1’s only posthumous champion.

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Rindt had been in F1 for a number of years with some success including a couple of second places in 1966, but it wasn’t until joining Lotus as a replacement for the late Jim Clark that he was in a position to win. His maiden victory came at Watkin’s Glen in 1969 but the Lotus 49B was fragile that year, Rindt being forced to retire from six races on the way to fourth in the championship in a season dominated by Jackie Stewart, who won 6 of the 11 races.

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1970 seemed set to follow suit, with only a win in Monaco to show for the first four races but then four straight wins in Holland, France, Britain and Germany gave Jochen a commanding lead by that point in the season. After retiring in Austria and the team noting that the Ferraris had been considerably faster down the straights, Lotus tried running without a wing in practice at Monza although this probably did not contribute to Rindt’s ultimately fatal accident into Parabolica following a front right brake failure. Despite his closest rival Jacky Ickx winning two of the season’s remaining three races, Rindt’s points advantage was sufficient to give him the championship at the end of the year.

As for his watch, it was a 2446 Autavia with the smaller registers, like this one (shown before and after restoration) belonging to collector Peter Moller:

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Clay Regazzoni

And here comes our second Swiss driver, after Siffert, although Clay was from an Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, as evidenced by his full forenames – Gianclaudio Giuseppe.

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Clay entered F1 in 1970, the same year we lost Jochen Rindt, alongside championship contender Jacky Ickx at Ferrari, although only for some of the season’s races. He impressed in the late season though, claiming four podium finishes including the win at Monza where Rindt had died in practice.

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Two further years at Ferrari yielded five more podium finishes but no further wins, but a move to a by then clearly uncompetitive BRM in 1973 was spectacularly unsuccessful, giving just 2 points on the way to 17th in the driver’s championship. The Ferrari team had a big turn-out of staff in 1974 following the appointment of Luca di Montezemolo and Regazzoni rejoined along with his BRM teammate, one Niki Lauda (shown in the photo above with Jack Heuer and Clay).

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Regazzoni was immediately back in contention, going into the final race in Watkin’s Glen level on points with McLaren’s Emerson Fittipaldi. Handling problems in that race meant Clay had to settle for second in the championship. Ferrari went into 1975 on a high but Regazzoni increasingly found himself outperformed by his younger teammate Lauda and was replaced by Reutemann for 1977. Clay was still in demand though, but surprised some by joining the relatively small team Ensign. An unsuccessful season was followed by another with Shadow in 1978, but a move to Williams for 1979 yielded a further win at Silverstone. His 1980 season with Ensign was cut short by an accident that left him paralysed below the waist, although he was later able to race again in other formulae, finally retiring from competitive racing only in 1990.

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The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that Clay was indeed keen on his Heuers. As well as the Carrera 1158 he received from Heuer whilst at Ferrari, he wore an Autavia and a Silverstone, and Sothebys sold a Monaco with provenance as having belonged to him in 2010 too.

Mario Andretti

And on to another multiple Heuer wearer, and this one a world champion too. Italian American Mario Andretti also started a racing dynasty, with sons Jeff and Michael and grandson Marco all racing in IndyCar. Michael also had a spell in F1 at McLaren alongside Ayrton Senna in 1993, but failed to gel with the car and left the team after finishing 3rd at Monza, replaced by world champion-to-be Mika Häkkinen.

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Mario’s own debut in F1 was initially more auspicious. Having raced in a wide variety of cars in the US from stock cars to Indy cars, on paved courses and dirt tracks, including a win at the Indy 500, he took up an offer from Colin Chapman to race at the US Grand Prix in 1968. Andretti took pole by just 0.07 seconds, impressing the establishment and although overtaken by Jackie Stewart on the first lap, was able to challenge for the lead before ultimately retiring. Andretti didn’t commit to F1 at this point in his career, though, appearing in selected races for first Lotus and then STP-March with only a 3rd place 7 retirements to show for it.

Joining Ferrari in 1971, again for only selected races in the season, broke that trend and Mario won on his debut in South Africa. That was however the highlight of a year that saw him fail to qualify for Monaco, thanks to qualifying proper being rained off and Mario not having set a representative time in Friday practice. He raced again for Ferrari in 1972 but then concentrated on his US career until surprising many by joining new entrant Parnelli Jones for the last two races of 1974. Parnelli Jones were unable to repeat their US success in F1 and despite Andretti committing to a full F1 season for the first time ever in 1975, the team folded 3 races into the 1976 season.

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Andretti then rejoined Lotus, to more success and although the Lotus 77 was fragile, he was able to win in Japan in 1976, setting up a serious tilt at the title in 1977. Focussing on aerodynamics and the “ground effect” caused by sealing the car more closely to the ground using rubber skirts, the Lotus 78 was a big step forward.

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And the amount of work Andretti had put into testing paid off, leading to 4 wins on the way to 3rd in that year’s championship, won by Niki Lauda. Lotus were the class of the field the next year and Andretti went on to win 6 races that year, winning the championship ahead of his team-mate Ronnie Peterson, who unfortunately succumbed to injuries incurred at the Italian GP. Lotus was in decline after that and Mario’s F1 career went the same way. His return to racing in the US was successful again, however, Mario clinching the CART championship in 1984.

Mario’s Heuer of choice in his early career was the Autavia 2446 shown in the photos above, but as a Ferrari driver during the period of Heuer sponsorship he was another driver to receive a Carrera 1158, a watch he still owns.

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