I am very sad this evening to learn of the death of former Daily Mail F1 correspondent Ray Matts at the age of 70.
Ray was one of the funniest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet; he loved F1 for the people, not particularly for the sport and certainly not for the politics. He came to the sport quite late, having been a football man for most of his career, but he did a good job of bringing out the drama in the goings on at the circuits. He didn’t know or care much about the technical side of the sport, he used to joke that he was just off to check the chassis numbers. He was at his peak in the era of Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill and was well respected by both men.
I had many happy evenings in Ray’s company; he was passionate about playing guitar and singing and we had many jam sessions in the paddock. When Mercedes invited the British press for a motor home dinner in Magny Cours every year Ray and I were always asked to play.
He and Stan Piecha of the Sun were a double act and were always winding each other up and sharing new jokes; Ron Dennis was a devotee of Ray’s jokes. When Ray had a heart attack in Melbourne one year, Ron flew Ray’s wife out to be with him and took care of everything. That’s the regard he was held in.
He was a very emotional man and would be reduced to tears at any sentimental speech or tribute to him. His send off in Shanghai a few years back was an extreme example.
Bernie Ecclestone gave him a pass for life and we would see him at least once a year come back into the paddock. He was a great bloke who brightened up the sport while he was in it.
* The Daily Mail published a tribute to Ray on 15th March with this quote from Damon Hill, “I knew he had a job to do but you could also sit and have a drink with him and talk about life and guitars. I sometimes thought he cared more about the pentatonic scale than the Formula One world championship!”