Formula 1 saw Scuderia Ferrari take a risk with their driver line-up in 1968, pairing Kiwi Chris Amon with a new teammate, Jacky Ickx.
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Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz
Formula 1 sees the youngest Ferrari driver pairing since 1968 with Charles Leclerc being 23 and Carlos Sainz Jr. being 26. This pairing has been brought together recently, starting the 2021 season in Bahrain. Young driver line-ups are rarely seen in the team’s history - the last time was in 1968 with Chris Amon and Jacky Ickx.
Chris Amon and Jacky Ickx
Before joining Ferrari, Jacky Ickx made his debut in Formula 1 at Monza for Cooper-Maserati finishing in sixth, despite having a puncture on the last lap. Being introduced to motorsport by his father - motoring journalist Jacques Ickx - his love started with motorcycles and his talent was proven when he defeated future motocross world champion Roger De Coster.
Chris Amon raced for Lotus BRM/Lola before joining the Scuderia in 1967. Two years prior to the signing of his Ferrari contract, Amon raced for McLaren in Cam-Am (Canadian-American Challenge Cup), also partnering Bruce McLaren at the 1996 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Once completing Le Mans, he subsequently received an invitation to meet Enzo Ferrari, following a contract being brought to the table.
Signing the promising Belgian driver at the age of 23 to be paired with their current driver Chris Amon being 25.
Chris Amon and Jacky Ickx were paired for the 1968 season to drive the Ferrari 312 F1-68. In that particular season, Ferrari managed to finish in fourth place with Jacky Ickx also finishing in fourth and teammate Chris Amon completing the season in tenth. Retirement after retirement for the Kiwi towards the end, with two at the beginning left out many opportunities to score points. Jacky Ickx saw five podiums that year, one where he finished on the top step. With one driver settling in the top five and the other finalising the top ten, there could be slight tension at the Prancing Horse.
Respect was a huge part of their relationship as teammates and how they reacted to each other on the track, once the visors were down nothing changed and this was seen as either a huge positive or a mild negative. Huge positive down at Ferrari as they got along and it created a great atmosphere to be a part of but a negative towards the fans of the sport as they want to see teammates going head to head and making risky moves with one another. Not all young driver pairings worked but Ferrari chose to gamble with the two, which was slightly rare in Formula 1 but not so much in the current day.
As a driver you want the best car on the grid, the championship contender was aggressive but not reliable, which put a strain on the Ferrari drivers. Aerodynamics and a few structural adjustments were made to the Ferrari but later got banned due to three spectators sadly losing their lives, causing more disruption for the team in red. The car was lacking momentum and this caused frustration for both the team and drivers, but fortunately not causing a rift between Amon and Ickx.
Respect remained between the two and Jacky Ickx still respects the late Chris Amon to this day. The New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild was renamed Circuit Chris Amon in 2017, to show appreciation to the Kiwi for being one of New Zealand’s greatest drivers.
“Chris was an outstanding driver and New Zealand has had a lot of very good drivers. He is part of all of that. But he didn't get the success he deserved, because he didn't have the people around him, when I say that, I also mean the right car and the right timing.”
Words of honour from former Ferrari driver Jacky Ickx talking at the Chris Amon celebration dinner in Monaco.
Only time will tell how well put the current driver line-up is with race 2 of 23 at Imola this weekend…
Written by Gracey Guy.