Former Grand Prix drivers John Surtees and Roberto Moreno are celebrating their birthdays today!
As the only man to have won the World Championship in both motorcycles and cars, John Surtees (77 today) was one of a quartet of drivers who dominated Formula 1 in the 1960s.
After winning seven World Motorcycle Championship titles, he tried his hands ar four-wheeled competition in 1960, and it wasn’t long before the ever-observant Colin Chapman invited Surtees to drive for his Lotus F1 team between his motorcycling commitments.
He impressed quickly, taking second place in just his second Grand Prix, and starting from pole at the next race, leading at Oporto until he damaged a radiator.
He joined Ferrari in 1963 and his success continued to rise, taking his first F1 victory at the Nürburgring. He took two more wins and the championship the next year, where he snatched the crown in a thrilling three-way fight with Jim Clark and Graham Hill.
His title defence was interrupted by a heavy Can Am crash, but he bounced back with more success in 1966 – including a brilliant win at Spa against Jochen Rindt – only to suffer a massive falling-out with Ferrari team boss Eugenio Dragoni.
A poor season with BRM was to follow in 1969, and then he made the decision to set up his own F1 team, in which he drove for a couple of season before finally retiring and concentrating on team management.
But great drivers don’t necessarily make great team bosses, and John fell into this category with a string of falling-outs with his drivers until his team finally closed its doors in 1978.
Surtees is still active in the motorsport scene – he headed up the A1GP Great Britain outfit – but suffered tragedy when his son Henry (an aspiring racing driver) was killed in a freak accident during a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch in 2009.
Click here for John Surtees’ complete F1 results.
The F1 career of Roberto Moreno (52 today) was almost over before it began when he failed to qualify a Lotus at the 1982 Dutch Grand Prix while acting as a stand-in for the unwell Nigel Mansell.
The result would handicap his prospects for a number of years, and an F1 opprotunity still wasn’t on the cards when he finished runner-up in the 1984 European Formula 2 Championship, so he ventured to IndyCars instead.
He returned to Europe in 1987, and joined the new AGS F1 team for a handful of races before he dropped back to Formula 3000, winning the title in 1988.
Awarded a test contract by Ferrari for 1989, but the racing bug was too strong for Roberto, who managed to deliver some impressive performances in truly awful cars produced by the Coloni and Eurobrun outfits.
Alessandro Nannini’s helicopter accident led to Robert joining Benetton for the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix, and (finally) having some decent equipment underneath him, he finished second to team-mate Nelson Piquet, guaranteeing him a spot with team for 1991.
Generally overshadowed by Piquet, he was fired by the team (ironically, after taking his best finish and the race’s fastest lap at Belgium) in place of Michael Schumacher, and he saw out the year with a few outings for Jordan and Minardi.
He joined the hapless Andrea Moda outfit for 1992 – helping the outfit take its sole race start at Monaco – before he dropped form the scene and returned in 1995 with the equally hopeless Forti Corse concern.
Robert ploughed out a lengthy career in IndyCars – forever the bridesmaid and rarely able to stay with one team for a complete season – where his sunny disposition and eternal optimism were welcomed by the US racing scene and sadly forgotten by F1.
Click here for Roberto Moreno’s complete F1 results.
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