Outspoken and unreserved, it was often commented that Formula 1 World Champion James Hunt had more champagne than he had fuel. Nicknamed 'Hunt the Shunt', he became known as a hedonistic yet charming rogue, regarded as one of the most naturally gifted and intelligent drivers in F1 history, alongside being a glamorous playboy. In a new film, Rush, Hollywood director Ron Howard documents Hunt's career, in particular the 1976 competition and the rivalry between McLaren's Hunt and Ferrari's Niki Lauda.
Hunt’s team maintained a 'leisure division', ensuring they were always well stocked in 'wine, women and song'. Legendary stories are told of the driver, such as the time he turned up drunk at the British embassy in Tokyo and was caught with a fan in the team garage behind the pit lane. After a year of turbulent marriage, his first wife Suzy Miller famously left him for Richard Burton, who paid Hunt’s divorce settlement of $1 million. “Richard’s coming along was highly convenient,” commented Hunt, “and it’s all worked out jolly well.” Gucci designed the costumes for Chris Hemsworth, playing Hunt and Olivia Wilde, playing Miller, in the film, featuring 1970s-inspired wide-brimmed hats, shaggy coats and flares.
"James Hunt had 300 budgies and a German Shepherd, Oscar, with whom he would dine with in Mayfair restaurants"
Hunt refused to sign a clause in his McLaren contract that stipulated that he must wear a suit and tie to formal functions, preferring to turn up barefoot in a T-shirt. He had 300 budgies and a German Shepherd, Oscar, with whom he would dine with in Mayfair restaurants. Hunt wore racing overalls emblazoned with the crest, “Sex, breakfast of champions” and he is said to have slept with over 5,000 women. However, as fellow driver Stirling Moss said, “If you looked like James Hunt, what would you have done?”
Rush is in cinemas now.
Text by Mhairi Graham