Champion Snapshot - Alan Jones 27 Jul 2004
Australian, 02/11/1946, World Champion 1980
Tough, determined and profoundly unsentimental, Alan Jones gave the Williams team its first drivers' and constructors' championships in 1980 through a combination of sheer hard work and natural talent. In doing so he became Williams' model for the 'ideal' driver, and its debateable whether Frank Williams and Patrick Head have ever found another driver with quite such a good fit to the team.
Jones fought very hard to even get into Formula One racing. The son of a famous rugby player and a natural sportsman, Jones began racing in his native Australia but found himself short of funds and opportunities. His reaction was typically brave and bloody-minded, upping sticks and relocating to Britain in the late 'sixties, where he was able to talk his way into various drives, moving up to Formula Three.
He made his Formula One debut in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix driving a second-hand Hesketh Ford. It was an inauspicious start - he qualified in 20th place and retired on lap 15. But as the season progressed he moved into a Hill Ford and got noticed with a strong fifth place performance at the German Grand Prix. It was enough for an offer to drive for the Surtees team for 1976. It proved an eventful season, including seven championship points and an eventual 15th place finish, but also various arguments with team boss John Surtees. Jones left at the end of the year.
At which point fate's crueller side intervened. Shadow driver Tom Pryce was killed in a bad crash at the 1977 South African Grand Prix and Jones was drafted in as replacement. He put in several strong performances, including taking a brilliant maiden victory from Niki Lauda at the rain-soaked Austrian Grand Prix.
For 1978 Jones signed with Williams, where his combative, dogged personality found a perfect match in Frank Williams and designer Patrick Head. By 1979 the car was competitive and, despite four victories, Jones finished third in the championship due to a string of DNFs.
1980, by contrast, was Jones' year. He took his Williams to five victories and emerged champion, pushing Nelson Piquet into second place. Jones became the first Australian to win the championship since Jack Brabham in 1966. It was also the first of Williams' nine subsequent Constructors' Championships.
Yet even as the Championship champagne was drying, Jones' star was already descending. He lost out in '81 due to poor reliability and arguments with team mate Carlos Reutemann. He retired to Australia at the end of the season, although he subsequently made two re-appearances in 1983 and 1985, scoring points as late as the 1986 season.
Jones has subsequently raced in Australian touring cars and at the gruelling Bathurst 24 Hour Race. He now commentates on Formula One racing for Australian television.