(Above) Suede jacket, £2,800, KILGOUR; Belvoir polo neck, £139, JOHN SMEDLEY; chinos, £395, THOM SWEENEY; sunglasses, £150, TAYLOR MORRIS; F1 James Hunt watch with NATO strap, £1,100, TAG HEUER.
It’s 40 years since James Hunt won the Formula One World Championship, but today on the racetrack at Goodwood you could be forgiven for thinking that time had stood still. The six-foot-tall 28-year-old with the blond locks and smiling eyes currently sitting in a vintage Jensen C-V8 Mk II sports car is the spitting image of the racing driver.
Freddie Hunt is a driver, but instead of racing in Formula One, he is currently competing in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. As a rather charming aside, he explains that he is in the same team as Niki Lauda’s son, Mathias – James Hunt’s legendary rivalry with Lauda senior formed the basis of the 2013 petrolhead action flick Rush. Endurance racing is his thing, he says, partly because he was such a late starter, which means that Formula One is quite a stretch, and partly because, he thinks, it’s less ‘fun’ these days compared to when his dad was competing. The aim, says Freddie, is to get a drive at Le Mans.
Growing up around horses, Freddie’s first adrenaline rush came care of polo (he turned pro at 16). But then, three years later at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, things changed when he was offered a drive. He remembers how he did the hill climb ‘in front of 200,000 spectators, with no racing licence. I’d only had my driving licence for a few weeks.’ It was an epiphany, and before long he was testing and quickly secured a season in British Formula Ford.
Freddie believes that his passion for speed is down to genes. And as a driver, it is all about speed, and timing. ‘Racing is being able to do that fast time consistently,’ he explains. The subject is apposite, given that as custodians of the James Hunt estate, Freddie and his brother Tom have just helped develop two new chronographs for Swiss watchmakers TAG Heuer to commemorate the anniversary of their father’s 1976 Formula One World Championship title. He likes what the company has done with these two James Hunt special-edition watches. ‘The way they’ve incorporated Dad’s colours is pretty cool. Red, blue and yellow,’ he says. ‘They come from his helmet – originally they’re the Wellington colours, Dad’s school.’
James Hunt died from a heart attack when Freddie was not quite six years old. He remembers him as being fun – on skiing holidays, taking Freddie and Tom to Silverstone for the Grand Prix, nearly setting the garden on fire by building a bonfire too big – but says he really had no sense of his father’s legacy as a driver until he himself started racing. ‘I mean, I knew he’d won the World Championship, but I didn’t realise actually how loved he was and how famous he was.’ It’s a fact of which Freddie is now clearly very proud, and his own helmet sports his father’s racing colours. Today, he is wearing his father’s gold ring, and his medallion, a present from Lord Hesketh featuring the teddy-bear motif of Hesketh’s racing team, for which James drove in the early 1970s.
‘Personality-wise, we are pretty similar,’ says Freddie of his father. ‘I was never destined to sit in an office,’ he says, and in talking to him, you get the impression of a daredevil attitude that would translate well to the racetrack. But he acknowledges other traits, too – he gets into trouble for speaking his mind, he says, and is extremely competitive. He’s also very disciplined, and this manifests itself in a fierce punctuality: ‘I can’t stand people that are even five minutes late.’ Like many of his generation, though, he has in recent years relied more on his mobile phone for timekeeping than a watch, but he’s converted. ‘I was given four watches for Christmas when I was 13-years-old and by the following Christmas I had lost every single one of them. But now I’m very much looking forward to wearing my TAG Heuer watch.’
The TAG Heuer James Hunt Limited Edition chronograph is limited to 1,000 pieces; £1,100 on NATO strap, £1,250 on steel bracelet; tagheuer.co.uk