Following his father Stan, a driver of some prominence albeit not on the world stage, into the world of motorsport, Alan Jones had his eyes on the Formula 1 prize from an early age.
Following the traditional route into car racing, he graduated from karting, via a season racing Minis to Formula 2, before leaving Australasia and heading for Europe.
A lack of funds meant that he’d abort his first attempt at cracking Europe and head home to make a name for himself on the domestic racing scene. His second attempt at making a success of racing in Europe proved to be more successful with runner-up spots in the European Formula 3 series of 1973 and the British Formula Atlantic Championship of 1974.
Grand Prix debut
His team boss in Formula Atlantic, Harry Stiller, then bought a Hesketh Formula 1 car with which Jones would make his Grand Prix debut at the ill-fated 1975 Spanish Grand Prix at Montjuic Park where five spectators were killed when Rolf Stommelen’s Embassy Hill lost its rear wing and flew into the crowd.
Stiller’s F1 team folded after a handful of races and Jones was drafted in to deputise for the still-injured Stommelen at Embassy Hill, where he’d score his first points with a fifth place in the German Grand Prix of 1975.
Good showings in the latter part of the season earned Jones a drive with Surtees but he and team boss John Surtees endured a fractious relationship, and despite a hat-trick of points finishes they parted ways at the end of the season, Jones preferring to sit out a season than to continue with the team.
In 1977 tragedy would once again give Jones an opportunity to further his Formula 1 career. In the second Grand Prix of the season, Tom Pryce was killed in the South African Grand Prix and his Shadow team needed a replacement. Jones was recruited and would end the season as a Grand Prix winner, after starting 14th on the grid at the Osterreichring for the Austrian Grand Prix, he steadily made his way towards the front, where he would remain until the flag.
Alan Jones joins Williams
Alan Jones moved to Williams for the 1978 season, just as the team hit their stride. A few promising showings that season in the FW06 were a sign of things to come. Four races into 1979, Williams debuted the FW07, and once reliability was established, Williams were unstoppable, winning five of the last seven races, Jones finishing the year in third in the World Drivers Championship.
The Williams FW07 was to be Jones’ steed again in 1980, where he took five wins to take his one and only World Drivers Championship, and Williams the first of their World Constructors Championships.
Unreliability prevented Jones from defending his crown in 1981, and a difficult working relationship with team-mate Carlos Reutemann took its toll on Jones’ appetite for the sport and he packed it in at the end of the season to go back to Australia to see out his days on a farm.
Jones returns to F1
His retirement lasted a single full season before Jones was compelled to return. Sadly for him, never again would he get a competitive drive and after three disappointing seasons (one full) he retired for a second time, this time for good.