We had dinner at the racetrack, catered by Yardley. They had set up a tent, and by the time dinner was over it was 10 p.m. It was a great day and I was looking forward to the next race.
The press in London was very kind about my victory in the British Grand Prix. It had taken 13-plus years, but even at that, my first win came quicker than it has to others. Chris Amon is getting near the 100-race mark and still hasn't won.
As a side note, but a very pleasant one at this moment, the bookmaker's odds on me were 14 to 1 before the race. Betting is quite legal here so I took advantage of it and put down �100. I have to confess, though, that it wasn't 100 on the nose but 50 each way, which is the English way of saying win and place. So instead of making �1,400, I made 875, which was still not bad.
It's always the same way in racing. No matter how well you're doing, it seems you're constantly on tenterhooks. I had won my first Grand Prix, I was well placed in the point standings and I was earning better than $200,000 a year as a racing driver. And so there I was, a week later, talking to McLaren Managing Director Teddy Mayer and he was telling me I was fired. It appeared that a younger charger, I presumed Scheckter, would take my place. So I was looking at the unemployment line.
Teddy is really unpredictable. I won the British Grand Prix and he fired me.
On to Canada. Thanks to the driver of the pace car, I won the Canadian Grand Prix in a burst of wet confusion that still has officials arguing. We were all boiling through the rain when Scheckter and Cevert bumped. They both escaped unhurt—in fact, Cevert was threatening to sock Scheckter—but out came two ambulances and a breakdown truck. They also rolled out a pace car that was supposed to control the field by driving in front of the race leader until everything got straightened out. But he picked the wrong car; the real leader, Emerson Fittipaldi, I think, was caught in back and unable to pass under the safety rule. And while they were circling slowly, I was able to catch up from the rear. Fittipaldi never did, and I won the race. As they say, take them any way you can get them.
The weekend was very odd and very tense. There had been a lot of typical end-of-the-season negotiating going on, driver deals and new alliances shaping up between teams, a lot of closed-door contract talks and everyone was preoccupied.
I ruled out a proposed Ferrari contract on the basis of its exclusivity clause. The original deal was $100,000 for Formula I only. But that meant no other racing for any other team. The $100,000 would have been almost enough, if Ferrari had been willing to add to it for prototype racing with their sports car. But Ferrari came back and said the contract included driving the sports car. All of a sudden the deal started to look less attractive. All of a sudden I was not going to be paid very well. If Ferrari had upped the ante to $150,000 it would have made sense. But in this business exclusivity is pretty sticky. I sent Ferrari a Telex and they didn't answer. So I postponed a trip to Italy indefinitely.
The preoccupation with the future continued at Watkins Glen the next week. But my thoughts were soon taken up with something sadder and more immediate: Fran�ois Cevert had his fatal accident.
Fran�ois was coming up the hill over the bridge. It is probably the most dangerous place in racing. You come up to the hill blind and you are just about flat out, using the whole road and drifting to the right. Just as you exit the turn, you come up on top of a bridge with nowhere to go on either side.