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Your chance to ask a legend a question – John Surtees
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Jun 2011   |  9:55 am GMT  |  55 comments

On Tuesday John Surtees will be in Maranello with Ferrari, the team with whom he won the 1964 world championship, doing a variety of activities.

Surtees remains the only man to win the world championship on both two wheels and four, something which as a keen biker myself I still find unbelievable. Of course there was no downforce on the cars then, as there is today, so the difference between disciplines was probably a little less, but it’s a mind blowing achievement.

One of Surtees’ tasks in Maranello will be to record a short video for JA on F1 readers answering a few burning questions you’ve always wanted to know about Surtees.

The opportunity comes courtesy of our friends at Shell, who supplied fuel and lubes for Ferrari back then, as they still do today in fact.

So send in your questions and we’ll get them answered

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Could you share with us your impressions and experience from the 1967 USAC’s Rex Mays 300 at Riverside, California, when you drove John Mecom’s Lola T92 Ford? Should the driving performances in this series merit approximately the same respect accorded F1 drivers?


Sir John,

In your F1 career raced against many world champions:
Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Phil Hill, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Denny Hulme, Jochen Rindt, Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi.

I may also add Bruce McLaren, Tony Brooks, Lorenzo Bandini, Francois Cevert, Jacky Ickx and Ronie Peterson.

It is widely assumed that Jimmy was the fastest. Do you share this opinion?

I am also wondering who was the most complete i.e. the Fernando Alonso of your era?


3 questions:

1. What was the best car you ever drove, and why?

2. What was the most dangerous car you ever drove?

3. If this question isn’t answered above – how would you rate the ’67 Honda?

(Also, condolences on your tragic family loss last year.)

Seán Craddock

If you could chose any bike and/or car to drive from past or present, what would it be and why?

And as a follow up, if you had to chose from present day, would you prefer to be racing a Formula one car, or a MotoGP bike?


Q: While everyone enjoys hearing about what F1 legends think is wrong with modern F1, what do you think is “right” about the current formula? What do you find exciting about modern F1? Is it something that did or did not exist when you drove?



Back in 1964 there was luckily nothing wrong with team orders. During the final grand prix, Lorenzo Bandini moved over to allow you to take second place and the championship, and my question is whether you know if Lorenzo ever received any kind of recognition for doing so, either from you or – more likely – from the Old Man? My guess is that racing for Ferrari meant (means?) that the individual driver was always less important than the team and that moving over was just the logical thing to do for Lorenzo, but I’m trying to get a feel of how grateful a person Enzo Ferrari was?

Thanks and all the best,



I would love to hear any comments, observations or reminiscences about the drivers John Surtees raced against on four wheels. Is it true that there was a fraternal feeling among the drivers of his generation?

Brooke Fairbanks

My father once owned and raced a Surtees TS-5 (the former Team Surtees F-5000 car driven by David Hobbs) and it is a spectacular car! My question: Who was a better driver with a hang-over; David Hobbs or Brian Redman?





In the past few years, two of your ex drivers (Alan Jones & Tim Schenken), have said that you were a bit of a control freak when you had your own team. Could you elaborate on why they feel like that, or is it just sour grapes?




I have noticed many F1 fans are bikers.

We know Martin Brundle has some kind of BMW tourer that he rides to F1 events.

James didn’t you race at GoodWood a few years back?

What do you ride? Sport bikes, tourers?


Yes I raced a Molnar Manx Norton 500cc with Sheene. I also ride to Nurburgring, Spa etc sometimes


– Thoughts from the past –

In 1969 you said that the Chaparral 2H was ‘The worst car you ever drove’. Was that due to the aerodynamics, driver position or the unique suspension it had.


I’d like to ask him in regards drivers respect for each other.

Thankfully nowadays fatalities are rare, but a number of drivers around in the days before safety barriers have said they think drivers feel invincible and therefore do not respect each other when racing wheel to wheel.

I think thats the case in that a lot of the big crashes we see these days would have ended in fatalities in Johns era.

Whats your view Mr Surtees?


Sir John, I have followed F1 from the time you were a driver (and before that as a motorcycle rider). I admire you skills. The issue of feel and balance is interesting to me as a former motor racing driver (’70’s) and still a motorcycle rider.

Did you find it easier to react to a car on the limit than a motorcycle?

Is it reasonable to assume the F1 cars you drove were easier to control given their inherent dynamic stability relative to two wheeled vehicles?


I wish you all the best for now and the future.




Firstly, I’ve never aid thank you for your generosity with your time for fans when you attend Goodwood and other events but my question is this:

you drove F1 cars for longer than many of your generation and, although some of the later ones were less competeitive, do you feel the F1 car improved as a breed during your career?

Thanks and very best wishes.


Can you think of someone from today’s F1 and MotoGP drivers that could become world champion in the other category?

What do you think are the set of required skills are required to pull it off these days? How was in your day?


Seconded. Good questions.


1. I would love if you can have James a long chat with him about Enzo Ferrari, his relationship with the old man and summarize that for us. Not a specific question but generally his personal relationship with Enzo and the team’s structure at the time.

2. his handling of danger and risk at the time.

3. why in his view car racing always had the upper hand on motorbike racing ?


Mr. Surtees

You owned an F-1 team, and your company operated in F-2, F-5000, and the Can Am as well. What would you have done differently in running your teams?


And why no attempt at Indy when it was common for other driver/constructors to do it?


Dear Mr. Surtees,

Why do you think no one else has beat your record on 2 & 4 wheels? Given the caliber of drivers nowadays and their love of extreme sports, how can this be?

chris finlayson


Tazio Nuvolari won championships on both two and four wheels.



Existential Motorcycles

Alexander, NC


Nuvolari wasn’t around during the inception of the F1 WDC in 1950.


Not world championships


Sir, it is nearly two years since the incidents of drivers being hit due to unprotected cockpit tops in open wheel racing. I imagine this topic is quite personal to you. What has been done since then and what are the changes that you propose should be adopted to avoid a repeat of such incidents in the future?

Michael Terminello

Hi Mr.John Surtees,

It is an honour to be sending in a question to you mine is:

In the past days of F1 teams could use any engines they wanted (eg: V12, V10, V8, V4 etc.) Do you believe that the FIA should open up the engine regulations so teams can use any engine they want?


Given the level of technology in the cars these days (with 25+ buttons, semi auto gearboxes, etc) – are you happy to see this continue (and extend) or would you prefer to see some of the technologies simplified and return to an era where the driver can make more errors, with fewer devices/systems for them to control?


Of the current crop of top riders do you think any could become top F1 drivers?

Or is there too much difference between the two forms of racing now?

Tom Haythornthwaite

Sir, if anybody ever repeats your double-discipline championship, will they be another rider turned driver or the other way around?


I’d be curious to know what he likes and dislikes about the modern era of F1 compared to his era.


John, I enthused in FI in you days and those of Graham Hill, Phill Hill, Jim Clark, Jack Brabham and so many others. In those days, cars raced in ‘national’ colours and they weren’t covered in slogans. The regulations were much simpler and the courses more natural – Nurburing and the trees, for instance. I know it is safer now, and I don’t relish any driver being hurt, but it seems to me that regulations / excessive safety systems / and commercialisation have really taken a lot from the sport. What do you think?


I have to agree with this question and I miss the old wood section of the Ring. In that section though was it easy to spot the breaking zone as you came back into full light and did the trees provide some cover from the rain on wet race days?

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