Forty years on from a pivotal year in French F1 history, veteran journo Peter Windsor lunches in Paris with Jacques Laffite, the dynamically-fast Ligier driver who was unbeatable in the first two rounds of the 1979 F1 World Championship.
Remembering, too, the ground-breaking win for Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Renault in their home GP at Dijon, Jacques and Peter in this first of three parts look back at the brilliance of the 1979 Ligier JS11 and at some of the key events of that time. Jacques also explains why he’s a major Lewis Hamilton/Max Verstappen fan.
I had the good fortune of photographing Jacques Lafitte – Happy Jack – at Kyalami during his second stint at Williams. I found slides marked ‘Eighties’ so I am guessing early-1984 which was the team’s first full season wth Honda.
Nevertheless, it was my first Autosport cover (first picture below) which at the time was a big deal for a young snapper.
The photo was shot during a week (yes one week of many F1 tests at a time where Kyalami’s high altitude provided an ideal test-lab for the turbos that performed so incredibly in the shadow of Johannesburg which is 1.7 kms above sea level.
I remember how casual things were. There was activity up and down the pit road including Keke Rosberg topless and smoking a cigarette, with teammate Jacques sitting in the pitlane on a garden fold-up chair that was in vogue among teams at the time, feet up on tyres of his Williams and when I knelt to take the snaps he played along.
Thanks, Peter and Jacques for reviving the cherished memories. – Paul Velasco