Sir Stirling Moss on F1's halo plans: "They are emasculating the sport too much"
Sir Stirling Moss raced from 1946 to 1961, and won 212 of the 529 races he entered. This is quite a good ratio, isn't it? Between 1951 and 1961, Moss participated in 66 Formula 1 races, and won 16 of them. He started a race from pole position exactly the same times, and set the fastest lap of the race 19 times. He has been described many times as "the greatest driver never to win the World Championship in F1". Despite in the seven years between 1955 and 1961 he always finished in the TOP 3 in the end of the year, he was a championship runner-up four times, and third at the other three. Moss was especially close to take the Championship in 1958, when he won four races, unlike the World Champion Mike Hawthorn's one single victory, but eventually lost the title due to his numerous mechanical failures through the season.
However Sir Stirling was not only successful in Formula 1, but in sports car racing and rallying as well. One of his greatest results was winning the 1955 Mille Miglia with the famous Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR. He won the 1000-mile race with a 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds absolute record time, and with an average speed of 98.53 mph (159 km/h). Juan Manuel Fangio finished second, but with more than half an hour lag!
Moss also participated in many events what we call now endurance races, for example the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans (best result: 2nd), the 12 Hours of Sebring (best result: 1st), the 12 Hours of Reims (best result: 1st), and the Rallye de Monte-Carlo as well (best result: 2nd).
Sir Stirling's professional racing career came to a painful end, when at the 1962 Glover Trophy at Goodwood, he suffered life-threatening injuries in a crash, which put him in a coma for a month. He made a successful recovery, but only returned to racing with -numerous- one-off appearances. He officially stopped entering racing events, and retired from racing in 2011, at the age of 81, but he remained a regular participant of events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
In the beginning of last year, Sir Stirling was kind enough to answer me some questions, and let me make an exclusive interview. In the Q&A, among other interesting answers he told me his opinion about halo and closed cockpit plans, which were firstly been rumoured at that time. I believe his opinion about the plan is something, that myself, and many true motorsport fan can agree on. Now as the topic went actual, I decided to publish the full interview here on Drivetribe, in English as well. In the interview Moss also named his TOP 5 drivers and told some very interesting stories from the 50s. Let's see! /interview from 2016 February/
DM: Sir Stirling, you drove lot of fantastic cars over the years. What is your favourite racing car and road car you have ever driven?
SSM: "Road car is the Facel Vega. Race car is the 300SLR Mercedes, which is the greatest sports car ever built."
DM: Back in the olden days, how much time did you spend with practising the Le Mans-style starts? Or did the drivers practise it?
SSM: “I am lucky because I was always a fast sprinter but I would practise jumping in and getting my left foot onto the clutch and then my right foot onto the accelerator. Continual repetition by practising it for 10 minutes at a time non stop in the garage would make you get it right automatically. So I was invariably the first away. I could run 100 yards in 10 seconds. Once as we ran across (Mike) Hawthorn had gone too soon and I shouted “you bastard Hawthorn!” and he laughed so much it probably slowed him down.”
DM: Which was the toughest race you have ever had in your whole career?
SSM: "Mille Miglia 1955. 534 cars started the race and we finished first in 10 hours 7 minutes and 48 seconds."
DM: Which victory is closer to your heart? The ones at the British Grand Prix or the huge win on the Mille Miglia?
SSM: "Mille Miglia because it was a tougher challenge."
DM: Which Formula 1 drivers you had a good relationship with?
SSM: "We all got on with each other because of the respect we had for each other. "
DM: In your opinion, who are the TOP-5 racing drivers ever?
SSM: "Probably Tazio Nuvolari, Jim Clark, Tony Brooks, Juan Manuel Fangio, Giuseppe Campari. In no particular order."
DM: And what about the five best current drivers? (interview made in 2016, that's why it features Rosberg)
SSM: "I think it's Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen, in no particular order. Daniel Ricciardo is also up there."
DM: Which motorsport categories are you following nowadays?
SSM: "Formula 1 regularly but I am always interested in any form of motor sport."
DM: If you were in a position to make decisions in Formula 1 in order to make the sport more popular, exciting, or just simply better, what would you do? What are your suggestions?
SSM: "Practise is very good the way they do it, so I wouldn’t change that. They are always trying to find ways to make it more exciting and I think one idea is there should be points for pole position." (before the 2016 season)
DM: What do you think about the head protection plans in Formula 1? In your era there were no seatbelts, and even proper, safe crash helmets, but happily, F1 has become a lot safer for nowadays. However in these days many people think that the FIA is overdoing it with these closed cockpit plans, aren't they? Motorsport cannot be 100% safe, and particularly unlucky accidents can always happen, not just in racing, but on the roads, or in every sport.
SSM: "I don’t like the idea too. Obviously it makes it as safe as you can but they are really emasculating the sport too much. I feel that they should have more road circuits like Monaco. Monaco would never be held now unless they had user rights because it is not safe enough. Well, motor racing is not safe. If you want to be in a safe sport then go and play tennis. The danger was one of the plus points which encouraged me and other drivers to race."
DM: You usually drive your former race cars a few times in a year. On what events does it happen? What does it feel like when you drive those historic cars?
SSM: "I retired from competitive driving when I was 83 years old. I now drive at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed and Revival when I take the cars up the hill. I always drive any historic car leaving myself a margin of error. I don’t try to go too fast but sit at a reasonable speed so I can wave to the crowds who always come out to support me and show their affection, for which I am always humbled."
DM: As I’m from Hungary, I must ask: Have you ever been to Hungary, and what do you think about the Hungaroring?
SSM: "Yes I raced the Chevron in Hungary and was there for the opening of the Hungaroring. It was there that I first discovered that Buda and Pest were two separate places and not one. It is something I should have learned at school…! I really enjoyed my time in Hungary. The people are nice and it is a lovely country."
Once again, after more than one year, I would like to thank Sir Stirling the Q&A, and wish him all the best, and great times in good health!
Please let me recommend this fantastic documentary episode of Sir Stirling Moss, hosted by Sir Patrick Stewart.
What do you think about the halo and other head protection plans in Formula 1? Let me know in the comments below!