Lewis Hamilton led the tributes to Sir Stirling Moss after the much-loved and respected former racing driver’s death at the age of 90 was confirmed by his wife.
Moss, who was widely acknowledged as one of the greatest drivers never to have won the Formula One world title, died at his London home in the early hours of Sunday morning following a long illness. “It was one lap too many,” said Lady Moss. “He just closed his eyes.”
Born in 1929, Moss was hugely admired for his skill behind the wheel in many disciplines, having a remarkably successful career in sportscar racing at the same time as F1. He retired from top-level competition after a crash in 1962 but continued in historic racing and was highly active within motor racing for the rest of his life. In 1961 he was named the BBC’s sports personality of the year.
Hamilton, a six-time Formula 1 world champion, built a close friendship at the start of his career with Moss and was among many current and former drivers to pay tribute to the man who finished as runner-up four times between 1955 and 1961.
“Today we say goodbye to Sir Stirling Moss, the racing legend,” Hamilton tweeted. “I certainly will miss our conversations. I am truly grateful to have had these special moments with him. Sending my prayers and thoughts to his family. May he rest in peace.”
Hamilton added on Instagram: “I think it’s important that we celebrate his incredible life and the great man he was. To be honest, it was such a unusual pairing, our friendship. Two people from massively different times and backgrounds, but we clicked and ultimately found that the love for racing we both shared made us comrades.”
The three-time world champion Jackie Stewart, who collected Moss’s autograph as a youngster and went on to become godfather to his son Elliot, told BBC 5 Live that Moss “walked like a racing driver should walk, he talked like a racing driver, he looked like a racing driver and he set a standard that I think has been unmatched since he retired”.
Moss drove his first professional race in 1948 when he was 18 in a Cooper 500 and during a career that spanned 14 years would go on to win 16 of the 66 F1 races and competed impressively across all categories of his 375 finishes – he won 212.
In 1955 he was signed by Mercedes Benz to race in F1 alongside the great Juan Manuel Fangio, who beat him to the title. However that year he also delivered one of the most exceptional drives of his generation during the Mille Miglia, a punishing road race in Italy. Driving a Mercedes-Benz 300SLR he set a new record and beat Fangio by 32 minutes.
Moss was known for enjoying life to the full, a bon vivant who embraced every aspect of a racing driver’s lifestyle. He had a determination to take victory at every attempt, which he admitted was more important than titles. “As far as I’m concerned, any driver who’s worth the name tries to win every race,” he said. “Eventually, the world championship ceased to be very important to me.”
He went on to run a property business with his family as well as racing at historic meetings before retiring from race driving in 2011, at the age of 81. Moss also worked in broadcasting, published his autobiography in 2015 and most recently appeared in the film The Green Hell, recalling his win at the Nürburgring in 1961. He was knighted in 2000, received the Segrave Trophy in 2005 and was awarded the FIA gold medal for outstanding contribution to motorsport in 2006.
His former team Mercedes tweeted: “Today the sporting world lost not only a true icon and a legend, but a gentleman. The team and the Mercedes Motorsport family have lost a dear friend. Sir Stirling, we’ll miss you.”