How to Race With 13 Constructors in a 14-Year Formula 1 Career

New Zealand's Chris Amon mastered the art of moonlighting.

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Chris Amon drives an Ensign Cosworth at the  XXVIII BRDC Graham Hill International Trophy in April 1976.
Chris Amon drives an Ensign Cosworth at the XXVIII BRDC Graham Hill International Trophy in April 1976.
Photo: Getty (Getty Images)

If you want to find success in Formula 1, you’re going to need one thing: A good team with a good car. Driving skill is of course important, but skill can’t shine without reliable equipment. Sometimes, the right driver finds the right team at just the right time — like Michael Schumacher with Ferrari. Sometimes, though, you end up as a master moonlighter bouncing from team to team, like one Chris Amon.

Amon was a racer from New Zealand who competed with a record-setting 13 makes over the course of his 14-year F1 career that ran from 1963 t0 1976. His ever-changing career broke down like this:

  • In 1963, Amon raced for Reg Parnell Racing, which fielded a Lola chassis with a Climax engine and a Lotus chassis with a BRM engine.
  • 1964: Reg Parnell Racing, which fielded two Lotuses, one powered by a BRM engine, one using a Climax engine.
  • 1965: Reg Parnell racing with a BRM-powered Lotus, then Ian Raby Racing with a BRM-powered Brabham.
  • 1966: Bruce McLaren Racing with a McLaren chassis and Ford engine, then Cooper Car Company with a Maserati-powered Cooper, and finally Chris Amon Racing with a BRM-powered Brabham.
  • 1967-1968: Scuderia Ferrari with Ferrari chassis and Ferrari engines.
  • 1970: March Engineering with a Ford-powered March chassis.
  • 1971-1972: Equipe Matra, which built its own chassis and engines.
  • 1973: Martini Racing powered by Tecno engines and chassis, then Elf Team Tyrrell with in-house chassis powered by Ford.
  • 1974: Chris Amon Racing with an Amon chassis and Ford Cosworth engine, then Team Motul BRM, which made its own chassis and engines.
  • 1975: Ensign, with in-house chassis powered by Ford.
  • 1976: Ford Cosworth-powered Ensign chassis with Team Ensign followed by Ford-Cosworth powered Wolf-Williams chassis from the Walter Wolf Racing team.
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It’s a pretty impressive record for Amon, though perhaps not in the way he’d have liked. The New Zealander became known for his bad luck, which often culminated in him swapping teams partway through the season, often with subsequent struggles.

Amon never won an F1 race, though he did manage to nab 11 podiums. In a 96-start career, though, that’s not particularly impressive. As a result, his best finish in the Drivers’ Championship was fifth in 1967, when he was racing for Ferrari.

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Why so many swaps? Well, it goes back to bad luck. Amon regularly suffered from mechanical problems that saw him retire early from races. Then, he’d find himself signed with a team that couldn’t produce an F1 car for him, leaving him to compete in sports cars and hunt for other F1 rides. Even landing a coveted seat with the prestigious Ferrari team happened at the wrong time: Amon signed on with a team that prioritized engines at the start of the aerodynamics era. He just wasn’t able to land in a competitive car.

By the time he retired in 1977, Amon was reported as saying that he just didn’t enjoy racing anymore and went back to New Zealand to run his family’s farm and make occasional appearances on television.

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Oh, and about that bad luck? Amon didn’t believe in such stuff. According to his biography, Forza Amon by Eoin Young, Amon considered himself to have pretty great luck, considering he competed in a deadly era of F1 for over a decade without once suffering a serious injury. It seems that, as a trade-off, he just never got to drive a quick, reliable car.