But why don't I give it up, just quit? I don't know. I really don't know. Except perhaps that motor racing is infectious, like a disease that creeps through you, grips you with such a strength that you are in a coma. Every now and then something like the loss of a friend stirs you from the sleep, but suddenly, as though you had been given another injection, you are back into it, and there you are, living and smiling in that dream. You are flying around the world, meeting people, signing autographs, making pots of money, doing all sorts of exciting things, always the center of attention, and you really don't want the dream to end. You tell yourself you can make it end, but only by a tremendous strength which you aren't sure you have, and so you leave it. You go on. You go on because you have such a cozy number you don't want to expose yourself to the cold, hard, workaday world in which most people live. You know what you do is easy and that people pay you for it, pay you well, and despite the periodic wrenches you know it is better than most things, and so you go on with it. You do not consider quitting, not seriously, not in any way that could make a difference.
Young drivers wouldn't talk like this because they haven't been through enough. Even Graham Hill wouldn't talk this way. He is not soft enough, not sufficiently sensitive to have seen it, because if he did, at his stage of life, he would surely have come to grips with it. I am certain I will never find myself in his position. There is absolutely no way that this is going to happen, no way at all. I am tired and hurting now, but I know it is all there and that it is not going to disappear. There are signs, and I have learned to read them. At Oulton Park last weekend hundreds of people were milling around in the pits, just wanting to watch me from five paces, wanting my autograph, each of them with his own idea of who I am, some of them doubtless despising me, some loving, others showing their adulation and envy, and yet so much of it is a delusion, for them and me as well. Almost for the first time, the people did not exist for me; they existed even less than after the Italian Grand Prix, when Rindt was dead and I was finished and broken.
What this means I am not sure, except that some of it has to do with the way I am right now. But it's part of the question. It means leveling with yourself, and it's difficult for me to accept the possibility that I might not be able to carry on in this way. I am 31 years old and yet I am dogged by thoughts of my future. I feel I have an obligation to think 20 years ahead—an obligation to myself and my family, and especially to my children. I want to play a major part in their being proper kids. If I quit racing I would miss it, but I could live with that.
When will it happen? Not immediately, I know. This isn't the right time. The eventuality, though, I have accepted. Reasonably and calmly. No one was happier when Dan Gurney retired, because I knew it was right. We talked at the French Grand Prix at Clermont-Ferrand and I knew he was going to retire, he was giving me all the vibrations, and now this is what he has done.
I remember sitting with him on the edge of the grass during an intermission in practice and trying to tell him what I felt about the GPDA and the necessity for us to knock out Spa and the N�rburgring and places like that, and I said, "You know, Dan, you are one of the few guys who could put this over better than I, because people are getting a little tired of hearing my record play. But you, Dan, you're 'Dan, the big strong man,' the guy with guts who will go out and do anything, and they'll listen to you."
He agreed, but then went on to tell me how he felt the whole business was pointless, so terribly futile. He said a strange thing.
"Not too long ago I lay awake in bed," he said, "and I counted all the people I've known who died racing, and after a while, maybe an hour or so, I counted up to the number 57."
He was over here in Europe trying to find rejuvenation, I think, but he was also testing himself, perhaps looking for the opportunity. One way or another, he wanted to know. He wanted to spend the season in Europe, and everybody liked him, his smile and everything else, but everybody was watching him. They reckoned he was going to be competitive in a McLaren, but still you couldn't be sure. He had been out of Formula cars so long, almost two seasons, and some of us had a hunch he wasn't going to be fast enough. He wasn't. He ran at Zandvoort and Brands Hatch as well as in France, and he just didn't have it in him. Later, when I heard he was going to pack it in, I thought, "Good, he still has the discipline to know what he wants. He knows what is real." I was pleased, really happy. He had made his decision without sloppiness or a show of pain. When the time comes, I hope I can do the same.