After failing to complete the 1979 Monaco Grand Prix, where he had made his debut six years before, Hunt issued a statement to the press on June 8, 1979, announcing his immediate retirement from F1 competition, citing his championship status, and was replaced by future world champion Keke Rosberg.
In it, he said: "I have decided that after this season I will retire from Formula One racing. This decision has not been taken lightly but is based on many factors including my lack of progress towards the title. I feel that now is the right time for me to move forward with my life. I would like to thank my fans for their support over the years."
Hunt's retirement was very surprising given that just a month earlier he had won the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps. But despite this success, he had been unable to improve upon his second-place finish the previous year in the World Championship standings, as teammate Niki Lauda continued to dominate.
So why did Hunt decide to call it a day when he had just won a race? The most obvious answer is money, but there are other factors involved as well. For example, Hunt may have retired because he felt he had achieved all he could at the highest level, while Lauda was still fighting for the title every week.
Hunt died in grave financial problems despite having earned millions driving racing cars for Hesketh, McLaren, Wolf, and others. He left a remarkable driving career behind him, with 10 victories in 93 starts and the 1976 World Championship. But he also has to be credited with helping to make Formula One more popular outside of Europe by bringing it to America in 1975 and 1976, and his death at 32 years old was one of poverty-stricken.
His main problem was that he spent all his money on clothes and drugs. He had a huge reputation as a drug addict, and used them not only to keep awake but also as performance enhancers. He died of a cocaine overdose in December 1996. After his death, his wife Corinna discovered that he had been paying her monthly salary of $12,000 into a bank account which had only $57,000 in it. She sued his estate for breach of contract and was awarded $3 million. This is probably why driver's marriages so often end in divorce today - they can't afford to stay together.
James Hunt made the most of his life while it lasted though, and no one can say that about many other drivers who have lost their lives on the tracks. He brought joy to millions of people back in the 1970s and '80s, and he will always remain famous for that.
James Hunt (born August 29, 1947 in London, England—died June 15, 1993 in London) was a British race car driver who won the 1976 Formula One (F1) Grand Prix world championship by one point over his Austrian competitor, Niki Lauda. In 1969, Hunt began racing his own vehicle in Formula Ford competitions. He moved up to the British Formula 3 series in 1972, and that same year he became the first driver from Britain to win the Australian F3 Championship. In 1973, he returned to Europe, this time driving an Opel Kadett C. In 1974, he won the European F3 Championship before moving on to compete in International Formula 3000, which is the top class of international open-wheel motor racing.
In 1975, Hunt won three races in the inaugural season of F1 and was awarded the honor of "Driver's Champion". That same year, he also competed in the Indianapolis 500 automobile race but did not finish due to technical problems with his car.
In 1976, Hunt won the World Championship by one point over his Austrian opponent, Niki Lauda. The two drivers had very close battles throughout the season, with Hunt prevailing in most of their encounters. They both scored four wins each, with Hunt having one more pole position than Lauda. Hunt also had two fewer seconds than Lauda, but the Austrian driver had one more third place than him.
Death. Hunt died of a heart attack in his sleep on June 15, 1993, at his home in Wimbledon. He was 45 years old at the time.
Hunt's death came just over two months after he ended his relationship with Princess Diana. The two had been together for more than five years when they announced their breakup in January 1993. At the time of his death, Hunt was being investigated by police over allegations that he had raped a female assistant while working as a sports journalist in Japan in 1987. No charges were filed against him but the case was still pending at the time of his death.
After retiring from racing, Hunt worked as a television commentator for BBC America and ITV during the week and attended Prince Charles' wedding to Diana, Princess of Wales, on July 29, 1981, in London. He also served as an honorary pallbearer at Diana's funeral in September 1997.
In November 1999, Hunt was named president of the British Racing Drivers' Club. He held this position until his death.
Hunt was born on March 31, 1959, in Epsom, Surrey. His father, John, was a factory worker and amateur race car driver who died when James was only 10 years old.
Prior to his radio and television career, Hunt played 202 VFL games for Richmond, Geelong, and St Kilda between 1968 and 1978, earning two premierships with the Tigers. He was a hard-hitting defender who often led by example on and off the field.
Hunt's father, Ted, was a noted cricketer who played eight matches for Victoria while his uncle, Doug Hunt, also played eight first-class games for South Australia. His other uncles, Bill and Jack, both played Australian rules football for Melbourne and Collingwood respectively.
Rex had three brothers, Rod, Tony and Paul, who all played in the VFL/AFL. Tony went on to become one of the most successful coaches in league history, guiding Carlton to six victories during his only season at the club in 1997. Paul was drafted by North Melbourne in 1989 but never played a senior game due to injury. Rod died young after fighting cancer twice.
Rex himself was diagnosed with leukemia in 1979 and underwent chemotherapy for four years. He made a full recovery and continued to live life to the fullest until he was hit by a car and killed in a hit-and-run incident in 1983 at the age of 36.
He left behind a wife and two children.