John Watson (racing driver)


John Watson (racing driver)

Former F1 driver


image-size = 150
pixels = 150
Name = John Watson
Nationality = flagicon|UK British | Years = F1|1973F1|1983, F1|1985
Team(s) = Penske, Brabham, McLaren
Races = 154 (152 starts)
Championships = 0
Wins = 5
Podiums = 20
Points = 169
Poles = 2
Fastest laps = 5
First race = 1973 British Grand Prix
First win = 1976 Austrian Grand Prix
Last win = 1983 United States Grand Prix West
Last race = 1985 European Grand Prix

John Marshall "Wattie" Watson MBE (born May 4, 1946, Belfast) is a British former racing driver from Northern Ireland. He competed in Formula One over 12 years, winning five races. He is also a journalist and ex-sportscar racer.

Early Formula 1 career

Educated in Rockport School, N.I. Watson's Formula 1 career began in 1973 for Goldie Hexagon Racing driving an old customer Brabham-Ford BT37. His first season, in which he only raced in the British Grand Prix and US Grand Prix, where he drove the third works Brabham BT42, wasn't particularly successful. In the British GP, he ran out of fuel on the 36th lap and his engine failed after only 7 laps in the US GP.

Watson scored his first championship point in Monte Carlo the following year for Goldie Hexagon Racing. He went on to score a total of 6 points that season, driving a customer Brabham BT42-Ford modified by the team. [Henry, Alan (1985) " [http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0905138368 Brabham, the Grand Prix Cars] " p. 143 - 145 Osprey ISBN 0-905138-36-8] He failed to score points the following year, driving for Team Surtees, Team Lotus and Penske Cars.

First victory

He secured his first podium with third place in the French Grand Prix. Later that season came his first victory, driving for Penske-Ford in the Austrian Grand Prix having qualified second on the grid. After the race he shaved off his beard, the result of a bet with team owner Roger Penske.

The start to the 1977 season was disastrous for Watson. In the third race, the South African Grand Prix, he managed to complete race distance and managed a point and his first ever fastest lap. Unfortunately the race saw the deaths of driver Tom Pryce and a track marshal Jansen Van Vuuren. His Brabham-Alfa Romeo let him down throughout the season but, despite this, he managed to put in impressive performances. He gained his first pole position in the Monaco Grand Prix and qualified in the top ten no fewer than 14 times, often in the first two rows. As fate would have it though, problems with the car, accidents, and a disqualification meant that he raced the full distance in only five of the 17 races. The closest he came to victory was during the French Grand Prix, where he dominated the race from the start only to be let down by a fuel metering problem on the last lap which relegated him to second place behind eventual winner Mario Andretti.

In 1978, Watson managed a more successful season in terms of race finishes, even out-qualifying and out-racing his illustrious team mate Niki Lauda on occasion. He managed three podiums and a pole, and notched up 25 points to earn the highest championship placing of his career.

Move to McLaren and championship challenge

For F1|1979, Watson moved to McLaren, where he would spend the remainder or his Formula One racing career. His most successful year was 1982, when he finished third drivers' championship, winning two Grands Prix. He was perhaps best well-known for his astounding drives from the back of the grid. At Detroit in 1982, he overtook three cars in one lap deep into the race on a tight, twisty track that was supposedly impossible to pass on; working his way from 17th starting position on the grid, he charged through the field and scored a victory in the process. A year later in 1983, he repeated the feat at the Long Beach GP; starting from 22nd on the grid, the farthest back from which a modern Grand Prix driver had ever come to win a race.

At the end of the season however, he was dropped by McLaren and subsequently retired from Formula 1. He did return for one further race two years later, driving for McLaren in place of an injured Niki Lauda at the 1985 European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, in which he placed 7th. Watson raced with Lauda's usual race number of "1". This was the only occasion since 1975 (when the current system related to the use of car number 1 began) that a driver other than the reigning World Champion has raced car number 1 in a World Championship race.

At the end of his F1 career, he turned to racing sports cars. After retiring from active racing, he worked as a television commentator, ran a race school at Silverstone and managed a racetrack. He also became the first man to ever test a Jordan Formula 1 car in 1990.

Other Jobs

From 1990 to 1996 he worked as a Formula One commentator for Eurosport alongside Richard Nicholls (1990-1992), Allard Kalff (1993-1994) and Ben Edwards(1995-1996). The last Grand Prix Eurosport broadcast live - like the BBC - was the Japanese GP in 1996. The contracts for Formula One live broadcasts were shifted to private TV stations for 1997. In 1997 Watson worked as a Formula One commentator for ESPN.

From 1998 to 2001 he was Charlie Cox's sidekick in commentating on the British Touring Car Championship for the BBC.

During the 2002 F1 season, John co-commentated on Sky Sports' Pay Per View F1+ coverage (Bernie Vision) alongside Ben Edwards. However, this was fairly unpopular and it was axed for the 2003 season.

Nowadays, he works for Sky Sports, commentating on A1 Grand Prix alongside Ben Edwards.

Complete Formula One World Championship results

() (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in "italics" indicate fastest lap)

External links

* [http://home.tiscali.de/webgoe2/watson2e.html The John Watson Story]

References


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