AYRTON Senna was a really nice guy, and the only other FI driver to send Alan Jones a Christmas card.
James Hunt was world class, as a driver and socially. Especially socially. And Nelson Piquet “wasn’t long out of the jungle” and had no diplomacy at all.
Those, and many more inside snippets of life in the FI lane emerged at last week’s ‘evening with Alan Jones’ at the Terrace Lounge in Perth.
Jones, who won the World FI title in 1980, was in town to promote his range of Speed jewellery, enthralled the small sell-out crowd at the compact venue with his tales of success in the Saudia-Williams car, and less than wonderful runs in a Hesketh, a Surtees and a Shadow before joining Frank Williams.
He made a brief comeback after retiring from Williams in a Lola, which he said was known around the pits as “the hand grenade”.
“It wasn’t a matter of if it would blow up, but when it would blow up,” he said.
The straight-talking Jones, now 66, had 12 wins and six pole positions from 116 FI races, and said Perth’s Daniel Ricciardo, now driving for the Toro Rosso team, would do Australia proud.
“I first saw him at Silverstone years ago, when I was running the Australian AIGP team,” he said.
“He got in the car and was quicker than either of our regular drivers. I knew immediately that he was someone special.
“I couldn’t hire him then because of his contract, but he’ll cope in Formula One, no doubt about that.”
He also thought Mark Webber might go to Ferrari next year – “I would, if I was him” – which could result in Ricciardo getting the drive for Red Bull.
One of Jones’ run-ins with Piquet was when the two touched wheels in a race, resulting in the Brazilian being sent off “into the boonies”.
The irate driver stormed into the Williams pit, confronted Williams and threatened to break Jones’ arm.
Frank Williams eyed the slightly-built Piquet, smiled and said “good luck”.
The evening with Alan Jones was arranged by The Pitstop Bookshop.