Sir Stirling Moss was one of the most legendary and influential drivers in Formula One (F1) history. His name has become iconic in the world of F1 and even in other racing marques where he excelled.
He won 212 of the 529 races he entered across several different motorsport categories. Most people regard him as “the greatest driver never to win the F1 World Championship”. Moss excelled at all the racing disciplines he participated in and raced in up to 62 events per year.
He was also a pioneer of driver safety and was comsidered to be “a gentleman of the sport”. Moss died on April 12, 2020, at the age of 90, following a long illness. In this article we track Stirling Moss’s life, achievements and his extraordinary legacy.
Stirling Moss – Early Life and Career
Moss was born on September 17, 1929, in West Kensington, London, to Alfred and Aileen Moss, both amateur racing drivers.
His grandfather was Jewish and had changed his surname from Moses to Moss. He grew up in a house called Long White Cloud on the south bank of the River Thames.
It was inevitable that Stirling would end up racing. His whole family, at some point in their lives had raced.
- Moss’s dad was an amateur racing driver, who achieved 16th place in the 1924 Indianapolis 500.
- His mum also raced, entering into hill climbs at the wheel of a Singer Nine.
- Stirling Moss had a younger sister, Pat, who would later become a successful rally driver.
Stirling Moss – Education
Moss was educated at several independent schools: Shrewsbury House School, Clewer Manor Junior School and Haileybury and Imperial Service College.
He was bullied for his Jewish roots at Haileybury and Imperial Service College and did not excel academically. Stirling preferred to spend his time reading magazines and books about cars and racing.
He was a talented horse rider and held a fascination for all thing involved in aviation.
Stirling Moss – Motorsport Career
Moss inherited his parents’ passion for motorsport and received his first car when he turned 9 years old. It was an Austin 7 which he inherited from his father.
He drove it on the fields around his house and learned the basics of driving.
After he turned 15 and obtained a driving license, he bought a Morris Minor. After this he began to enter local races and hill climbs with his father’s support.
He also joined the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) as an associate member.
Stirling Moss – Formula 3
Moss was one of the Cooper Car Company’s first customers. He used his winnings from competing in horse-riding events to pay the deposit on a Cooper 500 in 1948.
Stirling made his debut in a Formula Three race at Brough Aerodrome in 1948.
He finished third in his first race and won his second one. This quickly impressed the racing community with his speed and skill.
His achieved his first major international race victory the day before he turned 21. He drove a Jaguar XK120 in the 1950 RAC Tourist Trophy in Northern Ireland.
Stirling Moss – Formula 2
Enzo Ferrari approached Moss and offered him a Formula Two car to drive at the 1951 Bari Grand Prix before a full-season in 1952. He politely declined after hearing that he would be the 2nd driver.
Moss moved up to Formula Two in 1950 and made his F1 debut in the same year at the Swiss Grand Prix, driving a HWM-Alta.
He finished seventh in his first F1 race and scored his first points at the Monaco Grand Prix, where he came fourth.
F1 Success and Rivalry
Moss continued to race in various events and cars throughout the early 1950s.
He also became friends with fellow British drivers such as Mike Hawthorn, Peter Collins and Tony Brooks.
Stirling scored his first F1 podium at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1953, where he came second behind Alberto Ascari. He also won his first major race that year at the 12 Hours of Sebring, driving a Jaguar C-Type with Phil Walters.
Stirling Moss Mercedes
He joined Mercedes-Benz in 1955 as their second driver alongside Juan Manuel Fangio.
Moss achieved his first Formula One victory when he won the Oulton Park International Gold Cup.
He won the British Grand Prix at Aintree, becoming the first British driver to win a home grand prix. Stirling also won the prestigious Mille Miglia that year, setting a new course record of 10 hours and seven minutes.
He stayed with Mercedes until they withdrew from racing at the end of 1955.
Mercedes Withdrew From F1
He then moved to Maserati and later Vanwall, where he formed a strong partnership with Tony Brooks. He also raced for Rob Walker’s privateer team in some events.
Moss became one of the most successful and popular drivers of his era, winning 16 F1 races and many other events.
He was also known for his sportsmanship and fair play, He defended Mike Hawthorn from disqualification at the Portuguese Grand Prix in 1958, despite the fact thay doing so would cost him the world championship by just one point.
Stirling was widely regarded as the greatest driver never to win the world championship, but he never regretted it. He said: “I would rather be remembered as someone who raced hard but fair than someone who won by cheating.”
Stirling Moss – Crash and Retirement
Moss’s career came to an abrupt end in 1962 when he suffered a serious crash at Goodwood during an Easter Monday race.
He hit a bank at high speed and was thrown out of his Lotus car. This left him in a coma for a month and partially paralyzed for six months.
He recovered from his injuries but decided to retire from top-level racing. He said: “If you’re not able to drive properly, it’s better not to drive at all.”
Life After F1
However, he continued to race in historic cars and legends events until the age of 81. He also became a commentator, writer, and ambassador for motorsport.
Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 2000 for his services to the sport.
Legacy and Death
Moss was one of the most legendary and influential drivers in F1 history. His piers and fans admired and respected him.
During his career he won 212 of the 529 races he entered, including 16 Formula One Grands Prix.
He competed in as many as 62 races in one year and drove 84 different makes of car over the course of his career
Moss was also a pioneer of driver safety and campaigned for better standards and regulations in motorsport.
He died on April 12, 2020, at the age of 90, following a long illness. His wife Lady Moss said: “It was one lap too many, he just closed his eyes.”
His third wife, Susie, their son Elliot, and daughter Allison from an earlier marriage survive him.
- British F1 Drivers: From Moss to Hamilton
- Lewis Hamilton
- Johnny Herbert
- Stirling Moss
- Jim Clark
- Jackie Stewart
- John Surtees
- Mike Hawthorne
- Damon Hill
- Graham Hill
- Nigel Mansell
- James Hunt