I’ve always enjoyed new gadgets in the house. Anything that can improve how one lives. The newest one I’ve got is a fizzy water tap. It’s Swiss. You can have still regular water, very cold and also various amounts of fizzy. I’ve also got a body drier in one of the bathrooms, which I’ve had for a year or two.
I drink half a bottle of wine every day. Always white. Chardonnay. Wolf Blass. Damn good value. You can usually get it at seven or eight pounds a bottle. I don’t bother with vintage wine: it’s all red and I don’t drink red.
You’d never find me with my head in a book. I’m such a slow reader that I wait until they make a film of it. I saw Rush [the 2013 James Hunt biopic] and it was very interesting. Motorsport is a very difficult subject to get right – and it’s probably true to say that not everyone would want the full truth to come out.
I do have a new book out, though, My Racing Life, and it’s really nice and easy to read. Pictures and captions. I can just about cope with that amount of reading. There are some early ones of me with a couple of girls I knew: it starts off with the crumpet and goes through to the cars. One thing leads to the other, one hopes.
Relaxing to me is pretty boring. Movement is tranquillity. I travel a tremendous amount, giving lectures, question and answers and things like that. Making appearances. Quite a lot of them overseas. I’m never going to stop. I don’t know how to spell “retire”.
What’s important about a house is that it should be south facing. Mine is. I built it from scratch on the last bomb site in Mayfair in 1962. I’d lived on the same street since 1952. In No 36 then and now I’m 44–46. It’s at the end of a cul-de-sac, so anyone coming here is either lost or wants me. There’s a garage under the house. I keep my Renault Twizy there and my wife, Susie, has one of those baby Aston Martins, the Cygnet. She drives rather well.
I’ve got the best wife in the world now, but she’s my third. Susie and I have been together for 40 years. The secret to that is friendship. It’s a very important thing that you have the same sense of humour and that you’re friends. Then you’ve got a tremendous amount going for you. Obviously, sex is important when
you meet a person.
When I came out of my coma [38 days, in 1962, after a crash at Goodwood], the first thing I did was look up at the flowers and stuff and I said, “What are all the flowers for? Has somebody died?” I’d been unconscious for a month, and when you’re unconscious you don’t know that you are. I certainly didn’t.
When they told me I had prostate cancer, the first thing I said immediately was, “Can you get rid of it?” So that’s what I had done. It wasn’t a big decision when there aren’t any alternatives – cut it out and throw it away. That’s how I look at problems: solve them or get rid of them. Same with wives.
For London, the Twizy, an electric car, is ideal. I went to the dentist in it just this morning. Electric is so underdeveloped but it’s really important that there are more of them on the road. I haven’t seen Formula E, though. But if it’s so quiet, that might make it boring, that’s the problem. You need noise at a race.
I must say F1’s not bad now, with the races they have, but they’re ruining the circuits, emasculating them by putting too much run-off on them, all that stuff. The challenge is lessened. The cars are miles faster and much more efficient than the ones I drove. They’re fantastic. They’re talking about having 1,000hp – great, but give them 1,000hp and outlaw downforce. That wouldn’t half make ’em difficult to drive. The drivers who could cope with it – there are a few – would love it.
Would I go in the back of a two-seater F1 car now? No, I’m a bad passenger. If I’m going to die in a car, I’d rather do it myself. I’ve tried it a few times!
It’s not as easy to be as stylish as I was now I’m in my eighties, but I still get my suits made. Without outside pockets, things like that. I get them made in Bangkok. Whenever I’m going out to Australasia, which we do most years, I stop into the tailor, Dino, and get suits done there.
Some things you can never have thought of. Like the rates on my home, which is six levels, 2,500sq ft, are less than on the one parking space I bought under Hyde Park.
I do 77 press-ups every day. They’re only half press-ups from my knees. Seven and 77 are my numbers. I’ve got the car plates 7SM and SM7. When I was racing, I would always ask the organisers if I could be seven. It’s a good number. My mother liked it, you see.
My only regret in motoring is that I never raced at Indianapolis. In my era, it wasn't an option because it was at the same time as the Monaco Grand Prix, and that is more important to us outside of America. I would have liked to have tried American racing but I was racing every week in Europe.
A free bus pass is a marvellous thing. I use mine all the time. If I go down to Piccadilly, I’ll jump on the bus for a couple of stops. And also, of course, the railways. We get a big discount with a Senior Railcard.
If you see any picture of me since 1951, I won’t have the same watch, but I’ll have the same wristband. It’s two bars of gold that go round your wrist, 2mm wide. I had it made because being in and around cars, there is a lot of oil and I could scrub my watch OK, but I couldn’t get the oil out of the leather. So, I designed the two bars of gold as a wristband and I had it made in 1951. The watch I wear now is a Chopard, a gift to myself after racing.
Can I get two copies of this interview, please? Especially if it goes over one page. I like to lay it out properly. I’ve got over 100 scrapbooks with everything in. The first page of the first one is a picture of me on a towel when I was one-and-a-half years old. My entire life. I’m glad to have done that.
This interview appeared in the Autumn / Winter edition of Esquire's Big Black Book, out now.