> Pat Symonds said that he did not believe in bad luck but Giancarlo may
> change his mind. Guess Pat never heard of Chris Amon or Johnny
It's "accepted wisdom" to say that Chris was terminally unlucky, but I
think to some extent he made a rod for his own back. He was terminally
disorganised and never fully in control of his temper; he stuck with
some terrible "lame ducks" (Gordon Fowell in particular, who designed
one of the plethora of crappy Tecnos and the Amon), and he turned down
moves that anyone with half a brain would've taken -- he left Ferrari
over the 69-70 close season because he thought he had to have a Cosworth
(even though he'd tested the flat-12); he was offered a third
(Marlboro!) Ferrari for 1974; Bernie offered him a Brabham mid-season
but he was perservering with his own shed of a car...
His early F1 years definitely showed that he had the talent, but he was
driving privateer entries...
Chris should've made his proper F1 breakthrough in '66 in a second
McLaren, but of course Bruce had dropped an absolute bollock by
choosing the short-stroke version of the big 4.2 Indy Ford as his
engine (quite why he thought a virtually torqueless version of an engine
optimised for speedways was going to work befuddles me!). It was
such a great gormless device that the team ran between zero and one
cars, and even that one was intermittently fitted with the gutless
(but at least lightweight and reliable) Serenissima (vaguely related
to ATS) V8. So his F1 career was on hold as he fiddled with the
GT40, which at least got him and Bruce a Le Mans win...
Amon was definitely hard done by in his time at Ferrari, at least
in F1; the V12 couldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding (or as
Amon said - "fruity noise; no horses") and certainly through his
whole time there the F1 programme was subsidiary to sports cars.
By '69 the Ferrari F1 presence was a placeholder, until the FIAT
investment. He could've gone anywhere else... He certainly *should*
have won races in '68-9, but the cars were unreliable. They were
unreliable because F1 wasn't top of Ferrari's list of priorities. That's
not bad luck; that's bad judgement.
His time at Matra was also interesting; from "having to" have a
Cosworth he decided that he "had to" have a V12. There wasn't too
much wrong with the car and Chris's "unluckiest" race had to be at
Clermont-Ferrand where if there was any justice in the world he
would've scored an utterly commanding victory. (Actually, he was
sold a pup at March, thinking it'd be a one- or maybe two-car team,
instead of the two full-time works cars, one intermittent works car
for Andretti, one arm's-length privateer car for works F2 driver
Peterson, and a whole pile of customer cars that March ended up
For '73 he could've gone back to March when Matra folded, but he
got into haggling over money with Max Mosley. There wasn't much
wrong with the 721G/731; it'd been quick at the end of '72 for the
works and Hunt nearly won races with it for Hesketh (but they had
Harvey Postlethwaite developing their car as he planned the first
Hesketh); but Chris took a strop over money and cooled his heels
until Tecno came along. Now their F2 cars had been quick but crude,
but they'd never done an engine themselves before and the situation
between sponsors Martini and the Pederzani brothers was always
volatile... the fact that the 'team' ran one car and the sponsors
another by a completely differen designer (oh, and there was a third
design out there too, the McCall car... as well as the Pederzani
one and the Fowell one) and there was almost open warfare between
them might hint at some of the problems...
Then of course Chris decided that the way to do it was to be his own
boss -- so he stuck with Gordon Fowell and tried to build a
sophisticated car (aping some of the Lotus 72's features) rather than
going out and buying (say) a Brabham BT42 which would've scored him
decent points finishes (look what Wattie did in the Hexagon car).
From there on in it was all over but the shouting. The guest drives for
BRM.... hm. The Ensign years - well they weren't going to achieve much
running on a shoestring with four-year old Cossies well down on
horsepower, however good Mo Nunn's chassis were (and they weren't bad).
There is no denying that Amon's skills behind the wheel were
absolutely first-rate, but he lacked the *application* that made
true champions. Had Chris been born a decade earlier, starting his
racing career in the early fifties rather than the early sixties,
I am absolutely sure he could've been a multiple World Champion.
As it was, he "grew up" in an era where being quick on track wasn't
enough -- drivers had to be politically shrewd too.
A truly all-round driver can put himself in the right team at the right
time, and can form that team round himself. Fangio did it at Alfa,
Maserati and Mercedes (but never quite managed it at Ferrari); Lauda
did it at Ferrari (and to some extent at Brabham and McLaren);
Schumacher did it twice at Benetton and Ferrari, with largely the
same people); JYS bonded with Ken Tyrrell and did it; Clark and
Chapman bonded and did it; Jack Brabham did it twice, once at Cooper
and once for himself. Prost, Senna and Hakkinen serially made
McLaren "their team" (with the inevitable Prost/Senna friction as
one ousted the other). Even the Brabham boys would walk over broken
glass for Piquet in his time there. (Bruce McLaren did it in his own team
but channeled most of the success into Can-Am...)
Chris Amon never managed that; being a really nice guy and being
blindingly quick aren't enough. F1 became a "total" sport during his
career, not just something you did at weekends between selling Mk2 Jags
back to NZ and making extensive use of Gordon's most excellent spiritous
products at wild parties.
By all accounts Chris is a lovely bloke who doesn't regret for a moment
his racing career (in which he achieved a hell of a lot) - he was one of
the all time greats behind the wheel at a time when you needed to be
that bit more, though -- and to some extent I think you make your
own luck by being in the right place at the right time and Chris
managed to manoeuvre himself into a lot of duff deals and out of a
lot of good ones.