F1's Old Men


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Today, the oldest living World Champion, Sir Jack Brabham, vacated that particular title. It got me thinking, who are the oldest survivors of F1's illustrious past.

It's oldest surviving champion is 80-year-old John Surtees, who won the title in 1964, and uniquely was also a motorcycle World Champion. He is also one of the two drivers to have won the World Championship in his only career race in the Championship lead, with the late James Hunt.

The oldest surviving winner is far more well known in Britain than Surtees, being that it is Stirling Moss at the age of 84. Moss finished as Championship runner-up on four separate occasions, and could never in his career match having the fastest car to not being Fangio's team-mate. He is the model on which the stereotypical gentleman racing driver was largely built in the UK. Moss is also the oldest surviving pole sitter.

The oldest surviving fastest lap setter is one of Moss' team-mates, 86-year-old Mercedes driver Hans Hermann, who set fastest lap on Mercedes' return to front-line open wheelers at Reims in 1954. He picked up one podium in his career, at Bremgarten next time out, but was not in the class of his illustrious team-mates.

One record not vacated by Brabham, however, is that of the oldest podium, point winner and race starter. These records all belong to 97-year-old Frenchman Robert Manzon. His 28 Grands Prix delivered podiums for Gordini in Spa in 1952 and Ferrari in Reims in 1954, both results behind dominant one-twos. The Frenchman was born in 1917 in the south of a France fighting a losing war at Nivelle.

When he made his debut in the second Championship race, he was one of the youngest drivers in the field, only 33, far younger than the 50+ drivers entering such as Fagioli, Etancelin and Chiron. He would be out in the tidal wave related pile-up at Tabac on the first lap.

With only 16 points in the bag, his last F1 race came at Monza for the team he drove most of his races for, Gordini. He left at the ripe old age of 39, on the day 45-year-old Fangio took his fourth title.

He is the only remaining driver to take part in that original F1 season, a link to our past. So, on Wednesday, we can celebrate the 64th anniversary of Robert Manzon's Championship debut, wiped out by a tidal wave at Tabac, and remark at the threads that link this sport together.

On his debut, at 33, he was the 7th youngest driver in the first two events held. At 33, Felipe Massa is the third oldest driver on the grid. The youngest driver to compete in the first two events of 1950 was 27 year old Jose-Frolian Gonzalez. The current quadruple World Champion is younger than that.

The sport Manzon, Moss, Hermann, Surtees and Brabham all experienced is a world away from the ultra-slick F1, so it is great to see these guys on the same record books, a link to F1's past. Although, 60 years after Manzon's podium in Reims, I think everyone else is similarly aiming for his achievement of third behind the Mercedes as we head to Monte Carlo.
Great thread, TBY,

Unfortunately, it makes clear how rare survival was in the world of the 50s, 60s and 70s if you participated in motorsports in general and F1 in particular. So many of the men I grew up admiring, (in part because of their willingness to tempt fate to participate in the sport they loved, without the promise of great riches which today's driver's have) sadly met their (often horrific) death at the wheel of a race car. A true tragedy that so many truly brave individuals died so young.

So here's to you survivors :cheers:. And let us all give thought to those not so fortunate.
With Brabham being three-time champion I took a look on his two championship years. Here are the drivers who participated in at least two Grand Prix's that year.

Drivers marked with red died due to accident in racing car. I also included green showing drivers who are still alive.

The racing car safety has improved all around. F1 weekends have gone 20 years without driver fatality. In that period, only one former F1 driver has died due to accident in racing car. Michele Alboreto crashed fatally his Audi prototype in 2001 following a puncture.


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I doubt it very much but I thought it worth asking: could there be any pre-war or pre-WDC Grand Prix winner still alive? Bearing in mind they would have had to be 20 year-old winner or younger I doubt it but you never know?...
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