News 23.7.11: MotorSport-Podcast from 2009 with John Watson
Last Update 13.5.2010:
Added Grand Prix Title-Scans
Fixed a few broken links, new Shot from the F1C CREW F1
1973 MOD online! New photo Hockenheim 1971
The Watson Story is back online at Alice!
But this was Watson too: "The man that made the headlines during the first half of the season and was practically World Champion hasn't stood a chance for months" as Schwab wrote in 1977. He could drive like a champion in one race and end up nowhere in the following one.
Then there was Niki Lauda whose name overcast Watson's career, although they usually got on well. Watson is remembered holding the heavily burnt Lauda in his arms in 1976 at the Nürburgring, only to find himself placed as number two driver behind the Austrian at Brabham in 1978 and McLaren in 1982. However, his time was to come in 1982. All his bad luck of previous years appeared to turn into great fortune. In his book "Grand Prix Story 1982" Heinz Prueller wrote: "No matter what he attempts, Watson always succeeds. His leapfrogging is sensational. Driving everything into the ground in Detroit. No one has ever won from the 17th grid position before, not even Jackie Stewart in Kyalami. That same Stewart who had always smirked: "Actually Watson is too much of nice chap to win !" For years nobody took him seriously despite his priceless experience. What's so different about Watson '82 ? "I don't drive much better than before, I just drive the same way I always did but I failed to engage my capabilities properly in the past. Now I am much more ambitious, not better or more aggressive. At the most more confident." In 1982 Ron Dennis did not necessarily rate Watson behind Lauda. "So where is the difference ? " Prueller asked. "In the salary" said Lauda with a grin, only to be smacked in the face at the decisive race in Las Vegas 1982 where all team members sported "we want Watson to win" buttons. Two drivers were within reach of the world title: Rosberg and Watson. Like in Zolder and Detroit Watson repeats his pursuit from the back of the grid gives his maximum and goes down with flying colours."Alboreto wins, Watson is runner-up, Rosberg comes in 5th and takes the championship.
In the following season, Watson shocked the McLaren team by demanding 1.3 million Dollars salary.
This resulted in Ron Dennis giving him a contract from one race to the next. Not even Long Beach 1983
made a change: Watson wins from the 22nd grid position, similar to Detroit, in a sensational race.
A record that still stands today! At the end of 1983 Niki Lauda advises: " for Heaven's sake, sign!"
But Watson continues to poker with Ron Dennis over an almost ludicrous sum. Niki: "I` will give you
the differential amount, now sign !" Watson probably would have won his poker game and would subsequently
have given Lauda an extremely hard chase for the title in 1984, had there not been a certain Alain Prost
in the wrong place at the wrong time (at least from Watson's point of view).
What only very few people know: the Renault driver had an affair with the wife of a senior team member.
Unfortunately, it leaked out and as a consequence, Prost was fired. Suddenly his was available
for McLaren. Ron Dennis snatched the offer immediately, making Watson redundant.
Wattie wanted to remain in F1, albeit not at any price. In Spring of 1984, the Swiss "Motorsport Aktuell"
headlined in gigantic letters: "John Watson due to go to Ligier". In retrospect, it was just as well
for Watson that this deal with a second-rated team never materialised.
To stay fit, the 38 year-old drove in the Sport Car Series for Porsche and won together with the
unforgotten Stefan Bellof 1984 in Fuji. Apart from a brief F1 comeback 1985 for McLaren in Brands Hatch,
Watson's Formula One career has reached its end. Now the broad public was not to hear from Wattie again,
until the late 1980s - but as a TV commentator.