Emerson Fittipaldi
Emerson Fittipaldi.

James Hunt rang me up and said: ‘Hello, I think I’m your new Grand Prix driver.’

1976 Hunt replaces Fittipaldi

Fittipaldi leaves McLaren for his brother’s Copersucar-sponsored Fittipaldi Automotive team.

At the end of ’75 Fittipaldi kept warning Phillip Morris that he had another drive. They didn’t believe him. Formula 1 is quite simple really because there are a number of teams with two drivers and by half way through the year everyone knows what half of them are doing and by three-quarters of the way through the year everyone knows what most of them are doing and by the end of the year everyone knows what all of them are doing. By the end of ’75 Formula 1 was locked up solid and Fittipaldi was driving for McLaren but he kept asking for more and more money. McLaren, through Phillip Morris, kept telling him no.

He kept saying to me: ‘Alastair you must tell them that I have a negotiating position,’ and I said: ‘Well, I don’t think you do: who can you drive for?’ What I didn’t know was that he was building his own race cars in Brazil. On Christmas day I went in to clear the old Telex machine (the predecessor to the Fax machine) and there was a press release: ‘Fittipaldi announces that he will be driving for Copersucar.’ And then another telex came through saying: ‘I quit.’

So then I received a phone call from James Hunt: ‘Hello, I think I’m your new Grand Prix driver.’ I said: ‘I guess you are.’ The same week Mrs Hesketh, who provided the money for the Hesketh team, decided her boy had wasted enough money on his racing team and stopped financing it. Hunt was out of a drive, and we were out of a driver. The pairing was inevitable.

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