There has always been a close association between Formula 1 and machismo, especially in the earlier days of the sport. A lot of the earliest Grand Prix racers had been battle-hardened on the frontlines during World War 2, and there was a somewhat unspoken notion that you had to be this super-manly kind of guy to compete in F1.
This belief was still holding strong in the 1970s, especially with the likes of James Hunt parading around the paddock. While the infamous 1976 Drivers’ Champion was bringing a different woman to every race and delivering killer lines such as “Sex, the breakfast of Champions”, another man was quietly rustling the leaves of fans and drivers alike, albeit in a different way.
Mike Beuttler rose through the lower ranks at a tremendous pace. He started in Formula 3 in the late 60s, and by 1971 he was already looking to make it onto the Formula 1 grid for that year. With the help of some of his stockbroker friends, Beuttler was able to secure the funds necessary to race amongst some of the best drivers in the world.
Some of the drivers and journalists who spent time around Beuttler began to notice that something was a little different with the Briton’s demeanour. Beuttler apparently never revealed his sexuality to the public, but it was suspected that he was gay right from the start.
Homosexuality had only just been legalised in the UK at the time, so the social stigma and prejudice was still very much present. In fact, in some of the countries that Mike raced at it would have been illegal. In the interest of his own safety and maintaining funding and a good rapport with F1 fans, he decided to keep quiet about his orientation.
Sometimes, he would bring a girl or two to the garage with him, perhaps to serve as a distraction and to silence those who knew of his true sexuality.
However, Beuttler was always fully focussed on his racing. Driving various cars supplied to him by March, he participated in 29 Grand Prix over 3 seasons. He achieved 5 top-10 finishes, with a best result of seventh at the 1973 Spanish Grand Prix. While he never managed to score points in F1, his determination and will were clear to see. He often stumbled out of the car at the end of each race with sweat pouring down his face.
Mike was used to gritting his teeth in the face of adversity, which was noticeable in the way he raced. He was given the nickname “Blocker”, for his resolute and unflinching defensive skill whenever a faster car would approach him from behind.
But as quickly as he made a name for himself, Beuttler disappeared from worldwide attention. It is believed that after retiring from racing at the end of the ’73 campaign, he moved to the US, where he remained for the rest of his life. It came as a shock to many of his friends to hear that he had passed away at the tender age of 48 in Los Angeles.
Beuttler undoubtedly paved the way for people to be less secretive about their sexuality. In recent years, several drivers in other series have come out as LGBT+, including Britcar racer Richard Morris and le Mans winner Danny Watts. However we are yet to see queer representation in F1; many of them face similar obstacles and challenges to reaching the upper echelons of motorsport as women do, as has been written on this site. All that is needed is for one LGBT+ driver to get to F1, and surely more will follow.
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