On this day in 1993, “the most charismatic personality who has ever been in F1” passed at the young age of 45. James Hunt, world champion in 1976, was thus described by his old rival Niki Lauda. Often criticised for his playboy approach to motor racing, Hunt had settled into the role of respected race commentator alongside the legendary Murray Walker.
Hunt died of a heart attack in his sleep at his London home. Only hours earlier he had become engaged to Helen Dyson – now a successful artist - who would have become his third wife.
Hunt was associated with three F1 teams – Hesketh, McLaren and Wolf - during his short but impressive career. After a brief period in F3, he joined the privateer Hesketh F1 team in 1973 later winning the 1975 Dutch GP.
Joining McLaren in ’76 he emerged as world champion at year’s end after his famous duel with Lauda, captured for posterity in the film Rush.
Hunt remained with McLaren in 1977 and ‘78 but never enjoyed the same success as he did in his championship-winning year. He then joined the smaller Walter Wolf Racing team for 1979, taking Jody Scheckter’s drive as the South African had moved to Ferrari.
Disillusioned by what he considered an uncompetitive car, Hunt retired halfway through the ’79 season.