Alan Henry, Autocar’s finest, best-loved and longest-serving Formula 1 grand prix columnist of the modern era, has died.
He served as Autocar’s man in the F1 paddock from 1994 until the close of 2012, thrilling readers with his pithy wit and strident views.
Below is Steve Cropley’s short tribute to Alan, plus the article Steve wrote to mark the end of Alan’s tenure with Autocar, a split none of us wanted but which was brought about by his long-term health issues.
Steve Cropley writes: “Alan Henry, known to all as AH, was just about the nicest man you could meet. He was a superb reporter and writer, famous for finding out stuff that eluded others, and then for not being able to resist telling his press room mates, which meant they sometimes scooped him with his own material! The running joke was that he was responsible for maintaining the careers of several other denizens of the F1 hackery.
AH’s great skill was understanding people. He famously hit it off with McLaren’s Ron Dennis, although he never pulled a punch he felt was warranted. When the bad news broke, Dennis issued a prompt and eloquent tribute, which shows just how well AH was regarded at the very top: "As a journalist he was knowledgeable, accurate, intrepid yet fair-minded, and as a man he was warm, kind, loyal and always funny.”
Steve's article with Alan is below, and was written in December 2012:
When a man is exceptional at what he does, and a top bloke to boot, legends grow around his achievements. Those who know him well re-tell the legends to friends, and soon receive them back from other directions.
What everyone says about Alan Henry, the world’s greatest grand prix reporter, renowned for his tenacity at chasing a story and his stylish wit at recounting it, is that for nearly three decades he has assisted the careers of rivals in a highly irregular way. 'AH', as he is universally known, has been addicted to news since he first donned a press badge for a minor club event at Snetterton one summer weekend in 1968. Trouble is, he’s also brilliant at spinning yarns; he’d high-tail back to the press room and tell everyone in vivid terms what he’d found out.
“It’s true,” says AH. “I’ve always been hopeless at keeping secrets. I’d be down into the paddock, getting the thoughts of Gerhard, and next thing I’d be back to the press room saying: ‘You’ll never guess what Gerhard said…’. I guess over the years there have been quite a few episodes like that, and times my stories were broken by someone who’d heard it first from me. That’s irritating…”
Henry, who is taking half a step back from the starting grid but refuses so much as to breathe the word 'retirement', drove to his first grand prix, Brands Hatch, 1964, in his mum’s Ford Consul on L-plates and parked on the South Bank to watch Jim Clark thrash Graham Hill. “It wasn’t what I wanted. I always wanted Graham to win though I knew Clark was the better driver. Hill was the outsider, the underdog, and that somehow made him more deserving.”