From the pits and the paddock

| 2 Jul 2015

The on-track action is only a small part of a motor-racing weekend. Behind the scenes, mechanics work overtime to prepare – or repair – the cars, and drivers try to relax between shifts. 

These days, there are restrictions in Formula One regarding how long a team can work on a car. Not so in the past, however, with crews often clocking up all-nighters in conditions that were less than ideal. Sir Jackie Stewart, for one, has always said that his mechanics were “better at their job than I was at mine”.

Then there were those who accompanied the drivers – wives, girlfriends, sons and daughters – who had to keep themselves occupied for three days, watching from trackside or the roof of the pit garages and waiting for their man to come around again.

A lot of this goes unseen, which is why we’ve decided to throw the spotlight on this often-unheralded, but very ‘human’, side of the sport.

Copyright LAT


The old Nordschleife paddock was connected to the pits by this narrow tunnel that passed underneath the track itself. Here, the cars struggle through the crowds before the 1968 German Grand Prix, with a mechanic guiding Jackie Stewart’s winning Matra towards the start. The Scotsman took one of his most famous wins that day, beating Graham Hill by just over four minutes in dreadful conditions. 

The great cartoonist Russell Brockbank once produced a depiction of John Surtees sitting in his V12-engined Honda, with its mass of exhaust pipes, wistfully remembering his peaceful days as a motorcycle racer. 

That image comes to mind with this shot of ‘Big John’ standing next to his RA300 as his mechanics warm the engine ahead of the 1967 Italian Grand Prix. Surtees went on to win the race by 0.2 secs over Jack Brabham, with Jim Clark third after a stellar comeback drive.

F1 Racing magazine recently reunited the homegrown drivers who had competed in the 1995 British GP. When asked when they first visited Silverstone, Damon Hill comfortably trumped everyone by replying: “1961 or ’62…”

The 1996 World Champion was in paddocks from an early age with his father Graham. Here, they’re well wrapped up at Snetterton for the 1964 Daily Mirror Trophy at Snetterton, with Damon perched on the BRM’s front wheel.


Once upon a time, the quality of the circuit was considered to be more important for Formula One than the quality of the paddock. Former team boss Flavio Briatore recently eyed the turnstiles and swipe-card system needed to gain entry to the latest ‘facility’ and remarked: “It’s like we’re arriving to work at a bank.”

In 1971, however, the McLaren mechanics parked their truck in a corner of the dusty paddock, set up their awning and got to work preparing the cars for Jackie Oliver and Denny Hulme. Teddy Mayer (facing the camera) chats before the cars head out on to the fabulous old Osterreichring. 


Not until 1991 were the famous old Le Mans pits swept away, and this shot shows La Sarthe legend Derek Bell wandering behind them with his son Justin and daughter Melanie ahead of the 1982 24 Hours. 

The British ace won the race that year alongside Jackie Ickx in the works Porsche 956. Thirteen years later, Derek stood alongside Justin on the podium, the father-and-son team finishing third alongside Andy Wallace in a McLaren F1.


Jim Clark didn’t particularly enjoy Indianapolis – all that money for “turning left 800 times” – but he enjoyed great success there and won a huge number of fans in the process. Having finished second behind Parnelli Jones in 1963, Clark won in ’65 and came second again the following year, where he is shown making adjustments to his Lotus during qualifying.

Some thought that officials miscalculated Clark’s lap chart, and that he actually finished ahead of winner Graham Hill. Neither Clark nor Colin Chapman protested the result, and as Hill said: “I drunk the milk!”


In the late 1960s, the drivers’ wives were prominent in the pitlane, and often did the timekeeping. Most importantly, they were a tight-knit bunch who supported each throughout this perilously dangerous period. 

Here, Nina Rindt relaxes while husband Jochen is on-track. Jochen was good friends with Jackie Stewart and Piers Courage, and Nina became close to their respective wives Helen and Sally. Tragically, Nina and Sally were widowed before they reached the age of 30.


Health and Safety officers, look away now. Only fairly recently have serious restrictions been placed on the number of people allowed in an F1 pitlane, and only since 1994 has there been a speed limit in place. 

You’d have to hope that the sound of Mike Spence clearing the throat of his BRM’s engine would have been enough to clear a path at Silverstone in 1967. Note the marshal in fireproof clothing to the right. Fire was an ever-present danger at the time, and sadly not all track workers were so well prepared.


The straight-talking Alan Jones makes a point to the equally robust Frank Williams at the 1980 Austrian GP. The Australian would go on to win that year’s World Championship and was a firm favourite with both Frank and his right-hand man Patrick Head. Until, that is, Jones abruptly quit near the end of the following season.

At one point during their relationship – and at the height of the ground-effect era – Williams tested at Paul Ricard with a car that had fixed suspension. Jones thought it could be quick, but asked if they could at least cushion the seat to make him more comfortable.

“Perhaps you could sit on your wallet,” suggested Frank, to which Jones immediately replied: “You’d have to give me something to put in it first…”


1976 World Champion James Hunt was famously uptight before a race, often being sick with nerves. He seems pretty relaxed here, though, ahead of his famous title showdown with Niki Lauda in Japan. Hunt secured the crown with a third-placed finish in wet conditions.

Lotus team-mates and good friends Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson share a drink at Monza ahead of the 1978 Italian GP. Andretti clinched the title in that race, but Peterson badly broke his legs in a shunt just after the start. 

‘Super Swede’ died in hospital that night, leaving Andretti to reflect that: “Sadly, motor racing is also this…”


The works Mercedes team makes last-minute preparations ahead of its return to Grand Prix racing in 1954. The German squad swept all before it over the next two seasons, beginning here in France where Juan Manuel Fangio took a famous victory in the number 18 W196 streamliner.

Note the seats – with their famous tartan coverings – scattered about, and the mechanic hand-painting the numbers on to Fangio’s car.