Alastair in 1973.
Alastair in 1973.

I went to McLaren in ‘73 and said: ‘I’m going to go to Lotus.’ They said: ‘Hang on a minute, you can’t’.

1973 Fittipaldi joins McLaren

Emerson Fittipaldi leaves Lotus to join McLaren. He takes with him his Texaco sponsorship and World Champion status.

I went to McLaren in ‘73 and said: ‘I’m going to go to Lotus.’ They said: ‘Hang on a minute, you can’t.’ And I remember this so clearly; they said: ‘We can’t match their money but we can make things better for you; more money and a better car.’ I went along with it. Of course, what I didn’t realise was that I was the key to the whole Fittipaldi deal. Fittipaldi was coming to McLaren because of me. Colin Chapman was trying to hire me to keep Fittipaldi, who was the world champion, and to keep the Texaco money because Texaco went with Fittipaldi. I had this huge bargaining power. I could have said: ‘I want £50,000’ (back in the day when I earned £10,000). But I didn’t and I stayed with McLaren and Fittipaldi also came to McLaren.

It was the same in those days as it is now, the drivers could bring the sponsorship with them and that’s how the teams paid for their drives. Nearly every successful driver in Formula 1 bought his drive. Niki Lauda, world champion, he bought his first drive. Emerson Fittipaldi, world champion, bought his first drive. He went to Chapman and said: ‘I’d like to drive one of your cars,’ and Chapman said: ‘Alright, give me 100grand’ (or whatever sum he asked for) ‘and you can do it.’ So he did. He drove for us, won some races, and became world champion. You can switch from paying, to being paid, very quickly if you’re good.

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