It was announced on Wednesday that Chris Amon, the man widely considered to be the best never to have won a Formula One race, has died aged 73 in New Zealand after a long battle with cancer.
Amon competed in F1 between 1963 and 1976, which included a three-year spell at Ferrari. His career began slowly with races for Reg Parnell Racing but his performances improved enough to catch the attention of Enzo Ferrari in 1967, prompting an invitation to join his team that year.
Despite a run of podiums and pole positions in his time at Ferrari, reliability issues and bad luck continued to dog his career and prevented him claiming the win his peers felt he deserved. He quit Ferrari mid-way through the 1969 season after his most frustrating campaign, joining March Engineering the following year.
Amon then drove for the Matra and Tyrrell teams, before a failed attempt at running his own team, Chris Amon Racing, in 1974. His career finished with further stints at Ensign and Wolff in 1975 and 1976.
Amon called time on his career after witnessing Niki Lauda’s horrific crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix. Having seen the flaming wreck of Lauda’s Ferrari, Amon refused to join the race restart and was fired by the Ensign team — prompting him to retire from F1. He briefly returned with Wolf at the end of the season but failed to qualify for a race.
Amon did enjoy more success outside of Formula One, winning the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours with fellow Kiwi Bruce McLaren – founder of the eponymous team which still carries his name. Current McLaren chairman Ron Dennis paid tribute to the late Amon on Wednesday morning as follows:-
‘It was with profound sadness that I heard the news this morning that Chris Amon had passed away. Chris started 96 Grands Prix but won not one of them — and it is safe to say that he was the greatest racing driver never to have won a race at the very highest level. He nearly won a fair few, but always it seemed that his luck would run out before he saw the chequered flag.
‘However, he won at Le Mans, in a mighty 7.0-litre Ford, exactly 50 years ago, his co-driver his friend and fellow Kiwi, Bruce McLaren, whose name still graces the team to which I have devoted my working life. I have not met Chris for many years, but, even so, I have extremely fond memories of him, and indeed I would describe him as one of the most likeable men I have met in my long racing career.
‘For all those reasons I want to take this opportunity to extend the heartfelt sympathies of all 3300 of us at McLaren to the family and friends of a great New Zealander, a true gentleman, and one of the fastest racing drivers there ever was: the one and only Christopher Arthur Amon. May he rest in peace.’
My thoughts and prayers are with Chris’ family, friends and colleagues at this sad time. Amon will always be remembered and deeply missed by the Formula One family.