The sports campaign of John Marshall Watson in the F1 could be classified as discreet. In the 12 seasons he played in the top flight he was never champion, although he had the pleasure of achieving five wins. His latest success is the most remembered for achieving it after starting from the 22th place, a feat that allows him to be the driver who advanced the most from the grid to win a Grand Prix even today.
Watson came to F1 in 1973 as a team driver BILLION, which was sponsored by Brabham. That year he only played two races that ended in retirements due to mechanical problems. But the bitter taste for those defections was quickly ended thanks to the contract he signed to run the 1974 tournament with him. John Goldie Racing with Hexagon, which had Brabham chassis.
After an acceptable season - with a fourth place as the best result - he had a fleeting step through Surtees y Penske, a team with which he scored his first victory by winning the Austrian GP in 1976. It was only in 1977 that he managed to establish himself in Brabham, where he entered to replace the Argentine. Carlos Reutemann. He ran two tournaments, but without much fortune.
Despite the fact that so far he had achieved seven podiums, McLaren he laid eyes on him and signed him for the 1979 tournament. He achieved continuity and this was reflected in the results: he achieved another four wins, thirteen podiums and third place in the 1982 tournament.
However, history had a reserved place for Watson: On March 23, 1983 he achieved an epic victory in the Western United States Grand Prix after starting from 22nd place due to a poor qualifying as a result of the McLarens' set-up.
During the first rounds of the strait long beach street map, Finnish Keke Rosberg (Williams) captured all eyes for his intense fight for victory with the French Rene Arnoux y Patrick Tambay, both Ferrari.
That dispute had tight maneuvers that ended in touches, something that the Frenchman also took advantage of Jacques laffite (Williams) to take the lead when the competition still had 50 laps to go.
While this was happening, Watson was starring in his memorable comeback. Won two spots at the start; while in the seventh turn it was already 19 °. On lap 16 he placed 13th and thirteen rounds later he placed fourth behind Laffite, the Italian Ricardo Patrese (Brabham) and the Austrian Niki Lauda, his teammate and who had started 23rd.
At this point in the test it was evident that the McLarens, with a better set up for the competition, were making the most of the Michelin tires on the tortuous circuit. It was only a matter of time before either of the two pilots went to first place.
And the one who did the best thing was Watson, who first got rid of his teammate and then Patrese. On lap 44, of the 75 agreed, he overtook Laffite, who on that same lap also lost second place to Lauda.
So Watson and Lauda went in tandem towards the finish line with a devilish rhythm. They crossed it 27 seconds apart, while the third, Arnoux, arrived more than a minute after starting second ...
The race was demanding. Only the first three completed the total of the laps; while of the 26 pilots who started, 15 quit due to touches or mechanical problems. But what was the key to that remarkable triumph? Watson explained it a long time later: physical training.
Ron DennisMcLaren's boss, he had demanded that he and Lauda train better to get the most out of the car. “I am sick of spending so many millions of dollars to build competitive race cars. You lazy people should make the same effort ", the team-manager told them.
So it was that McLaren hired Willi dungl to work on the physical and mental aspect of their pilots, who had to pay the professional part of their salary. With the help of Dungl, Watson, 36, managed to improve his performance in just two weeks, the distance between the GPs of Brazil and the United States.
"My strength increased, not only physical, but also mental, which is where much of the driver's performance comes from"the Briton recalled. Although the McLarens had fallen behind in qualifying, the drivers knew that this was the consequence of turning with cars that were too light.
The times achieved in the full tank tests on Sunday morning confirmed that everything could change, as long as they had the mental strength to endure the entire race on that treacherous track.
Watson was already in tune for his victory the previous year in the United States GP East on the streets of Detroit, which he achieved after starting from 17th place. “I was feeling extremely strong and I wasn't going to let Niki get away from me. I felt that I was better than him on the street, a fact confirmed to some extent by that triumph. "
That physical and mental strength allowed Watson to beat Lauda, his first great rival, win the race and, incidentally, show Dennis that he was not a lazy: “It took Ron and the rest of the team some time to realize that we were 1-2 after starting from the bottom. Willi, on the other hand, was not surprised. He didn't tell me before the race, but afterwards he told me that he, like me, was sure he was going to win.