We celebrate birthdays for Alan Jones (above left) and Stéphane Sarrazin (above right)
Former Grand Prix drivers Alan Jones (64 today) and Stéphane Sarrazin (35 today) are celebrating their respective birthdays!
The son of Australian racing legend Stan Jones, Alan’s childhood environment on the sidelines of many a racetrack was unsurprisingly a catalyst that would see him forge his own very successful motorsport career, becoming one of Australia’s most successful racing drivers of all time.
Despite his father’s successes, Jones had to work hard to fund his motorsport ventures locally, and took the brave decision to uproot himself and move to the UK in 1967 to further his career prospects. Several years spent wheeling and dealing were enough to land him in British F3, where he achieved enough success to be noticed by Harry Stiller, who helped bankroll a Formula Atlantic programme and Jones’ F1 debut for Hesketh in 1975.
A switch to the Embassy Hill team as a substitute driver saw ‘AJ’ collect the team’s best-ever result, before he switched to Surtees for 1976. Despite finishing in the points on three occasions, the relationship with his team boss down irrevocably, and Jones was in the F1 wilderness for 1977, until a sudden call up to Shadow following the tragic death of Tom Pryce.
Jones rewarded the team’s faith in him with a brilliant – if highly unexpected – win in the wet at that year’s Australian Grand Prix, and this was the platform that saw his career really blossom, as Williams came knocking for 1978.
An interim year if anything, Jones acquitted himself well, but the championship-winning ground-effect Lotus 79 was the only car to have, as the other teams furiously worked to get their heads around this concept.
Williams was one such team to successfully understand ground effect technology, and the Patrick Head designed FW07 proved a race winner in 1979 in the hands of Jones and his team-mate Clay Regazzoni.
Four wins in the latter half of the season was too little to mount a championship challenge, but Jones wound it all together for 1980, taking five wins en route to becoming the second Australian to win the World Championship, taking Williams’ first ever championship of many.
He would have taken back-to-back titles but for poor reliability and a fractious relationship with his team-mate Carlos Reutemann, who refused to obey the team orders stipulated in his contract. His Williams tenure ended on a high with his last F1 victory, and he quit to return to Australia.
The lure of a good deal drew him back to F1 in 1983 with Arrows, but it was a short-lived affair lasting just one championship round.
Just over two years later, and ‘AJ’ was back in the F1 cockpit once again, attempting another comeback with the Ford-backed Beatrice Haas Lola concern. Despite finishing in the points on a few occasions, the car was no match for the opposition, and a dejected Jones was consigned to the midfield in 1985 and 1986.
Walking away for good, he concentrated on GT and touring car racing in Japan and Australia, and was also a regular fixture in the Channel 9 commentary team for the Formula 1 broadcasts.
Into the new millennium, the return of motorsport was too much once again, and Jones was back again. Briefly, and far too unfit for a tilt at GP Masters, he got involved in the A1 Grand Prix championship as Team Australia’s seat holder until the series folded in 2009.
Jones very much typifies the ‘no tricks, nothing to hide’ mentality loved by many about the Australian work ethos, and remains a popular, honest and very outspoken member of the F1 fraternity. It’s hard to think it’s been thirty years since he took the World Championship crown.
Alan – who recently guested on the FIA stewards’ panel for the inaugural Korean Grand Prix – graciously gave one of our most popular interviews on the site, and the entire Richard’s F1 team wishes him a very happy birthday today!
By contrast, Stéphane Sarrazin’s Formula 1 racing career lasted a single Grand Prix weekend, and was made famous for a spectacular crash he had during the race.
The French-born Sarrazin rose quickly through the junior motorsport categories and incredibly won on his Formula 3000 debut in 1998.
Backing from his homeland saw him appointed as Prost’s test driver for the 1999 season while he continued in F3000, and he earned a surprise call-up to the second round in Brazil when Prost graciously loaned him to Minardi, who were without a driver when Luca Badoer injured his wrist in a testing accident.
A good race start and excellent race pace saw him climb up to eleventh in the race, by a front wing failure on lap 31 pitched him into the tyre barriers on the approach to the main straight. He rebounded back on to the circuit and spin a full six and a half times in just seconds before coming to a rest, fortunate not to have been collected by another unsighted car.
Incredibly, Sarrazin was never to get another F1 opportunity again, and although he continued in a testing capacity with Prost until 2001 and with Toyota in 2002, he moved on to rallying and sports car racing, where he has achieved considerable success in both fields.
A stalwart with Peugeot’s Le Mans squad (and now racing for its sister ORECA outfit), he won the 2007 LMS title with Pedro Lamy with three race wins, and has twice finished runner-up in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2007 and 2009.