Bitter, sweet

This weekend has been one of the starkest contrasts imaginable.

Two fathers are in my thoughts at the moment, for the very worst of reasons and the very best – John Surtees and Jaime Alguersuari. One lost his only son in the most tragic of circumstances, while the other celebrated the news of his only son’s impending Grand Prix debut.

Both Henry Surtees and Jaime Alguersuari raced in last year’s British Formula 3 International Series and I am sure that Jaime Sr. will be deeply moved by Big John’s tragic loss.

That Henry should lose his life in a modern, Grand-Prix standard car is bitterly ironic, given that his father survived not only an illustrious single-seater career at a time when death stalked almost every grid, but was also a multiple World Champion on two wheels before that.

Tragic, too, that after struggling to combine a flourishing racing career with his school-work, Henry was starting to reap the rewards of his toil. With his last A-level completed before the second race weekend in Brno, Henry and John were looking forward to a summer of racing, racing, racing.

At Brands Hatch, Henry was in his element. Putting the disappointment of Brno and Spa behind him, he qualified strongly and snatched third place in Race 1, becoming the first British driver to stand on an F2 podium.

After claiming the British F3 title last season, Jaime Alguersuari graduated to World Series by Renault for 2009 – a logical progression, given that he cut his teeth in the same paddock in the Formula Renault Eurocup and that his dad’s company administrates the World Series weekends.

At just 19, Jaime has been called up mid-season to Formula 1, following in the foot-steps of fellow Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel and he will become the youngest driver ever to sit on a Grand Prix grid, breaking Mike Thackwell’s long-standing record. If he has understandable nerves before his debut, I doubt they will show in his dark eyes.

Henry and Jaime’s paths crossed only briefly yet their young lives were both dedicated to the same end. That Henry tragically perished in the pursuit of his goal won’t be lost on Jaime, even as he seizes his opportunity with both hands.

Two proud fathers, two talented sons.

My thoughts are with them both.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Bitter, sweet

  1. Al

    Well said Martin. You’re correct about Jaime Alguersuari, their paths crossed but not without leaving a mark on the newest member of the F1 scene:

    (copied from Bedfordshire on Sunday website, probably also elsewhere):

    “I got to know Henry at Donington last year when he came to drive [in F3] with Carlin and on the Thursday before the race he and I went to Alton Towers.

    “We spent the day going around together and got on really well. To hear the news, especially this week, means a lot to me. This weekend was going to be perhaps the best weekend of my life, but now there is a shadow.

    “The risk is something every driver knows, we all know there is this very small possibility. My prayers go out to his family, for all the people involved in motorsport it is very sad news.

    “The Surtees family have all of my support, I have already sent them some messages. I will try and do my best in the future and for the Surtees family this weekend.”

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