Formula One is mourning the loss of motor racing great Sir Stirling Moss, who has died at the age of 90.
His wife Lady Moss told the PA news agency he died peacefully at his London home in the early hours of Sunday morning following a long illness.
“It was one lap too many,” she said. “He just closed his eyes.”
Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who built a close friendship with Moss, said on Instagram Moss would always be “in our memories and will always be such a huge part of British Motorsports Heritage.”
Three-time world champion Jackie Stewart, who collected Moss’ autograph as a youngster and went on to become Godfather to his son Elliot, told BBC Five Live 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”.
And another former world champion, Damon Hill, said Moss “epitomised” what it was to be a racing driver to a generation.
“The guy cocked a snook at danger and took on an incredibly difficult challenge and prevailed,” he said. “He was a winner.”
Today we say goodbye to Sir Stirling Moss, the racing legend. I think it’s important that we celebrate his incredible life and the great man he was. Saying goodbye is never easy and can be sad but he will always be here, in our memories and will always be such a huge part of British Motorsports Heritage. I certainly will miss our conversations. 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. 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🙏🏾
A post shared by Lewis Hamilton (@lewishamilton) on Apr 12, 2020 at 6:20am PDT
Though Moss famously never won the Formula One title, he was regarded as one of the greatest ever drivers as he survived and thrived in the sport’s most dangerous era.
Enzo Ferrari once called Moss the greatest driver in the world while five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio – who beat Moss to the title three times between 1955 and 1957 – called Moss the best of his era.
Moss finished runner-up in the championship standings four times and finished third on three occasions in a career during which he won 16 Grands Prix.
In an age when racing drivers competed in several different disciplines alongside Formula One, Moss won a total of 212 of the 529 races he entered in his career, competing in some 84 different makes of car.
Born in London in 1929, Moss was the son of amateur racing driver Alfred and his wife Aileen.
He began his career in 1948 behind the wheel of his father’s car. In the early years of his Formula One career, he often struggled due to his machinery, preferring to drive British cars rather than their often superior foreign rivals.
But his breakthrough came in a Mercedes as he took his first Formula One win in 1955 at the British Grand Prix at Aintree, becoming the first British winner of the event.
It was the beginning of the best period of his career as he challenged for the title year after year, ultimately unsuccessfully.
His sportsmanship cost him the title in 1958 when he defended the actions of rival Mike Hawthorne following a spin at the Portuguese Grand Prix, sparing Hawthorne a six-point penalty. Hawthorne went on to beat Moss to the title by a single point.
“I had no hesitation in doing it,” Moss recalled many years later. “I can’t see how this is open to debate. The fact that he was my only rival in the championship didn’t come into my thinking. Absolutely not.”
A heavy crash at Goodwood in 1962 left Moss in a coma for a month, and partially paralysed for six months.
Moss officially retired in the wake of that crash, though he would continue to take part in occasional events until the age of 81, when he competed in qualifying for the Le Mans Legends event.
Moss, who was knighted in the New Year Honours list in 2000 for services to motor racing, was taken ill with a chest infection while on a cruise in Singapore just before Christmas 2016.
He was transferred to a London hospital and finally to his Mayfair home.
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. pic.twitter.com/XEsDf68A7r
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) April 12, 2020
Following news of his death on Sunday, the world of motor sport came together to remember Moss.
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.”
FIA president Jean Todt tweeted: “Very sad day. Stirling Moss left us after a long fight. He was a true legend in motor sport and he will remain so forever. My thoughts go out to his wife Suzie, his family, his friends.”