Laffite’s first big day in F1 found him finishing 2nd in the 1975 German GP.
Photo: Ed McDonough
Today, I believe, drivers are arriving in Formula One far too early in their racing career. The top echelon of our sport is something they should aspire to, not arrive at due to the amount of money they can give a Formula One team, or by spending one year in one formula and moving to the next the following year, successful or not. I had a plan to my racing career. I wanted to be successful at a lower formula—for me that was Formula Renault. If I was successful I could move to Formula Three, from there to Formula Two, and so on, until I eventually got to Formula One. If I found that a particular formula was too difficult for me then I would stay until I was more confident and successful. I wanted to move gradually, step by step, rather than the giant leaps they seem to take today.
I consider myself very lucky to have started as a mechanic for my great friend Jean-Pierre Jabouille. He was and remains one of my best and closest friends. We met at school, we were about 14 years old, and our lives have been intertwined, in one way or another, from then on. He was racing and I had nothing to do, my studying was not too good. I wanted to do something to help him. I did not know much about cars or mechanics but Jean-Pierre taught me very good about how to look after a racing car. The first car we had was a Renault 8 Gordini, then a Brabham, followed by a Matra. The Gordini we used to hillclimb. I followed him for about a year and thought that motor racing was a really good life. I also thought that perhaps, one day, I would like to try racing too. I had a few lessons at the famous Winfield Racing School.
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