#103 1962 Netherlands Grand Prix

2021-09-07 20:47

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#103 1962 Netherlands Grand Prix

Domenica 20 Maggio 1962 comincia a Zandvoort, con il Gran Premio automobilistico d'Olanda, il tredicesimo campionato mondiale conduttori per macchine


On Sunday 20th May 1962 the thirteenth Formula 1 World Championship begins in Zandvoort with the Dutch Grand Prix. In the previous months the Formula 1 races not valid for the world title have been useful to give a rough estimate of everyone’s potential ahead of the new challenging season. And it has been observed that the Brits have made tangible progress during the winter break. Most of the credit for this recovery must be attributed to the new Coventry-Climax and B.R.M. V8 engines, because in terms of chassis building British engineers have been at the forefront for years. Twenty drivers are entered in the race, and among them there are Phil Hill, Baghetti, Rodríguez in a Ferrari; Bonnier, Gurney, De Beaufort and Ben Pon (the latter being an unknown Dutch driver) in a Porsche; McLaren and Maggs in a Cooper; Clark, Taylor, Brabham, Trintignant, Ireland, Gregory, and Seidel in a Lotus; Graham Hill and Ginther in a B.R.M. Zandvoort circuit, carved through the dunes on the North Sea, is 4193 metres long. Jim Clark in a Lotus holds the lap record at an average speed of 138.060 km/h. In 1961 the race was won by the late Wolfgang von Trips.


On Sunday the Naples Grand Prix will also be held at Posillipo Circuit, even though it will be completely overshadowed by the interest towards the world championship race. Twenty drivers will also be at the start the Neapolitan race, including two Ferrari drivers: Lorenzo Bandini (conveniently not put against Baghetti) and Willy Mairesse, who start as the favourites against a platoon of somewhat valid driver, like the Brits Burgess (Cooper), Parnell (Lotus), and Campbell (Emerson), Switzerland’s Siffert (Lotus) and Italy’s Vaccarella (Porsche), Gavoni (Emerson), Walever (Cooper), and Carlo Mario Abate, finally at the wheel of a Formula 1 car: the Lotus-Climax entered by Scuderia Serenissima. In this first Grand Prix Ferrari will present a car that is almost identical to the one fielded in the previous season with a 220-hp engine, even though they had announced the construction of a four-valve engine. However, the invention has not been completed yet and therefore it is not presented by the Maranello-based team. The first big surprise of this season comes from Lotus, which will race with the ground-breaking 25, which is characterized by a new aluminium chassis with steel supports with the purpose of making the car lighter, and a 180-hp engine.


This car, driven by Jim Clark, makes the Lotus 24 presented in Brussels appear obsolete. Narrower than the previous single seater, with front and rear suspensions bolted to the respective parts of the car, and the Coventry-Climax V8 positioned behind the driver’s seat and easily reachable by the mechanics, the Lotus appears as Maranello-based team’s main rival. Besides, the V8 engine of the British manufacturer has an updated carburation system which uses four valves mounted transversally according to Weber’s configuration. Great changes are made by Cooper on McLaren’s car: also equipped with a Coventry-Climax V8 and a Weber carburettor, it stands out from the other cars because of the exhaust pipes pointing downwards, instead of upwards. Brabham enters this Grand Prix privately with a Lotus 24 powered by a Climax V8, which is the most modern car on track, before Chapman presents his new monocoque. Brabham’s car turns out to be similar to Ireland’s new Lotus-Climax 24 entered by UDT-Laystall.


B.R.M. presents two different models. Graham Hill’s car is equipped with a new eight-cylinder engine with 190 horsepower, while Ginther will drive the 1961 customized to use the V8 engine. There is also Porsche with Bonnier and Gurney challenging Lotus in the field of technical innovations. They present the long-awaited air-cooled flat-eight cars and, even though the engine has not been modified, these have a completely redesigned chassis, whose narrowness is determined by the engine configuration. The suspensions have also been developed, thanks to innovative torsion bars: in the front area a fork hinged on the chassis allows the torsion of a longitudinal bar mounted beside the tube of the upper chassis. The fork extends inwards to form a balance spring similar to the one used by Lotus, which compresses a damper, and it is also combined with a small anti-roll bar. In the rear four large-diameter exhaust pipes can be spotted and small updates have been brought to the silver bodywork that now presents a more modern design.


Furthermore, there is a famous brand that debuts here: Lola with its Coventry-Climax-V8-powered cars driven by Salvadori and Surtees. Among the twenty entries that will compete in Zandvoort there was supposed to be also Trintignant’s, but his new car, a Lotus 24 with a Climax V8, was not ready yet, while the Lotus 21 would have not arrived in time at the circuit to take part in the race and the four-cylinder car borrowed for the Pau Grand Prix was returned to UDT. Jack Lewis and his V8 B.R.M. were denied the access to the Grand Prix but since there is a missing entry to complete the starting grid, on Thursday night the organizers ask Lewis to show up at the Grand Prix. Obviously, the B.R.M. car is not ready to race, so Lewis arrives at the circuit with a four-cylinder Cooper-Climax. The Dutch Grand Prix, named European Grand Prix, opens for the first time a Formula 1 season. B.R.M. have an advantage on the other teams, because they did some private tests at Zandvoort circuit just two weeks before.


The British team’s superiority is noticed already from Friday, when they dominate the practice session, while Lotus and Ferrari struggle because of the strong wind. The Maranello-based team also has some problems with its drivers, since Baghetti and Rodríguez have never raced in Zandvoort and they do not know the track. With the first practice session coming to an end, Graham Hill sets the quickest time, completing a lap in 1’33’’. After a whole morning of practice, teams start to operate the first modifications on their single seaters: inside Cooper’s garage the new car is fitted with different carburettors, at Ferrari’s garage they are working on the gearbox, while Lola mechanics are trying to build Salvadori’s car in time for the Grand Prix. The team which appears to be in the worst situation is Porsche, who is trying to understand how to modify their set-up after hearing the drivers’ numerous complaints. The revolutionary engine brought by Porsche seems to work efficiently, although the two drivers are not comfortable with the car’s handling, which is yet to be updated.


The atmosphere of trembling excitement typical of the first racing weekend is not shared by everyone: during the afternoon session, Taylor can complete only one lap with his single seater before his Climax V8 engine starts having issues with one of the valves and Gregory goes back to the pits after just a few minutes with a broken piston. With an improved set-up for his car, Gurney goes back on track and sets a time of 1'34"7, which is two seconds faster than the lap of the previous year set with the four-cylinder car. His time is beaten by Jim Clark, who sets a 1'33"6 at the wheel of his Lotus. Clark’s happiness lasts just a few seconds, right up until Graham Hill crosses the line to complete a lap in 1'32"6. Meanwhile, Phil Hill circulates one second faster than his teammates, but his Ferrari struggles in the back with a time of 1'35"0. Lola instead comes across some problems and both cars come back to the pits, with the attempt of trying to improve their performance later, although Surtees’s time (a 1'35"0) equals Ferrari’s best lap. At 5:30 p.m. the very first and interesting day of practice of the season ends with seven drivers that were able to beat Jim Clark’s 1961 lap record of 1'35"5.


On Saturday afternoon, rain and an increasingly annoying wind prevent official practice from happening: only a few drivers try to circulate on track, but just to go back to the pits shortly afterwards. Clark goes out on track trying to improve his times but goes back to the pits after hearing a worrying sound coming from the gearbox. Porsche and Ferrari cannot improve their lap times from Friday, unlike Lola and B.R.M., with Surtees who is getting closer to Graham Hill’s time. B.R.M. is now at the garage for some modifications and when it is finally ready to go out on track, Surtees sets a time of 1'32"5. McLaren tries to reach Surtees, but on his flying lap the gearbox breaks down and ends up hitting the rear of Maggs’s car. At the end of the session is Surtees (Lola) who claims pole position, followed by Graham Hill one tenth behind and then Clark; disappointment for Ferrari, filling the fourth and the fifth row.


On Sunday 20th May 1962 tension rises inside Team Lotus at lunchtime, because there is smoke coming out of the engine of Taylor’s car, also because of low oil pressure. Then, on the warm-up lap an exhaust pipe of Graham Hill’s B.R.M. breaks down and, being unable to change it, the British driver is forced to align on the starting grid anyway. At 3:15 p.m. all twenty single seaters are aligned on the starting grid and the Dutch Grand Prix is ready to start with a five-minute delay. At the start, Clark takes the first position, chased by Graham Hill, while Surtees struggles to proceed because of some issues with his car and is overtaken by Gurney’s Porsche. On the third lap Clark has already a 2.5-second advantage over Graham Hill and the battle for third place involves a whopping seven cars.


A lap later Pon and Rodríguez spin: the former retires, whereas it takes two laps for the latter (driving for Ferrari) to get out of the gravel trap. During this manoeuvre Brabham touches Rodríguez’s car and damages his Lotus heavily. The crash forces him to retire. On the tenth lap McLaren manages to clinch fourth place, significantly distancing Surtees, who is chased by Taylor. The Lola driver does not have to worry too much about his rival, who in fact spins shortly afterwards and resumes racing behind Phil Hill. However, Surtees’s joy is short-lived, because due to a broken front suspension he loses control of his car and crashes at high speed against the protective barriers, but without being injured.


The first four positions are occupied by four different teams: Lotus, B.R.M., Porsche, and Cooper, all single seaters powered by a V8 engine. A new dramatic turn of events on lap eleven after the pit stops sees Clark forced to go back to the pits for a gearbox issue which makes him lose ten laps before resuming. Other drivers like Gurney and McLaren also suffer gearbox issues. Meanwhile, Surtees has come back to the pits and told Parnell, his team principal, about his accident. Therefore, the team decides to call Salvadori back to the pits and retire the car, in order to avoid another potential accident. With Clark still blocked at his garage and Gurney back to the pits for the gearbox problem, Graham Hill finds himself in first position and runs a solitary race, while behind him Phil Hill takes third place from Ireland and closes on McLaren, who is still struggling with the use of the gearbox. On the seventeenth lap Gurney returns on track and is followed by Clark three laps later.


Only seven cars are running on the same lap of the leader of the race: McLaren, with a gap of seven seconds, Phil Hill, with twenty-three, Ireland, thirty-one seconds away from Graham Hill, Taylor, forty-two seconds away, followed by Baghetti, Gregory, and Maggs, while the rest of the field is lapped. Bonnier, who is frustrated by the situation, enters the pits lamenting a problem with the rear of the car, but the mechanics, who cannot find anything broken or malfunctioning, send him back to the track. Before Phil Hill is able to get close to his rival, McLaren is forced to retire on lap twenty. The situation stabilizes for about ten laps, until Taylor approaches and overtakes Clark on lap thirty, then going after Phil Hill. The American driver manages to close the gap to Graham Hill and on lap 54 he overtakes him, but after only a lap he gives back the position to the B.R.M. driver. On lap sixty-one Taylor reaches Phil Hill’s Ferrari and, after a few laps, he takes second place. With twenty laps to go, Ireland goes off track after a lock-up on the front left and flies over the wall, ending up on the land surrounding the circuit.


Even though the single seater is mostly destroyed, the driver walks away uninjured. However, this is not the last accident of the race: on lap seventy-two, Taylor pushes Ginther off track during an overtaking attempt and, five laps later, on lap seventy-seven, Rodríguez breaks through the safety nets at 200 km/h, in a place where there are lots of spectators, but fortunately the race car stops when hitting the barrier and the driver walks away uninjured. The Ferrari driven by the Mexican driver runs off track at full speed and after skidding on gravel, it ends up on the edge of the track where hundreds of spectators are gathered to watch the race. A column of smoke rises from the scene of the accident, and everyone fears the worst, but the emergency services soon inform that there are no victims.


The positions remain unchanged till the end of the race and Graham Hill wins the Dutch Grand Prix. After crossing the line, Ferrari mechanics quickly reach Phil Hill’s car, which has been losing oil for almost ten laps. The British cars proved to be better than Italian cars, especially the Ferraris, which have lamented a bad chassis on this slow circuit. The Dutch Grand Prix, first round of the season valid for the Formula 1 World Championship, is won by Brit Graham Hill, driving a B.R.M. The British victory is underlined and reinforced by second place clinched by Trevor Taylor’s Lotus-Climax, who precedes American Phil Hill, who is the defending world champion and number #1 of Ferrari factory team.


After the results of official practice of the Dutch Grand Prix, it was impossible to give Ferrari anything but a narrow margin of chances of victory in the first round valid for the 1962 Formula 1 World Championship. This margin was represented by the factor of technical reliability, which gave space to no doubts after a triumphal season for the Italian single seaters. On the other hand, it was legitimate to have doubts towards the British Formula 1 cars. During practice, seven drivers at the wheel of British cars (besides Gurney with Porsche) were able to perform better than the three Ferrari drivers (Phil Hill, Rodríguez, and Baghetti). After practice, a great dose of optimism would have been necessary to believe that the Italian cars could be capable of doing during the race what they could not achieve in practice. It is common opinion that practice does not count, that the race is always something else: technical situations are outlined by figures and figures, like in this case, do not admit ambiguities.


In fact, the Dutch Grand Prix has confirmed the general indications ahead of it and has confirmed that Ferraris could only rely on their reliability because many British cars have suffered technical issues and it is only thanks to this that, at the end of the day, Phil Hill and Baghetti were able to claim third and fourth place in the final classification. Zandvoort Circuit has almost always been strangely difficult for Ferrari, but this consideration has poor value. The long-feared British progress, which was already delineating in practice, has been of great proportion: this is the reality that must be faced. The new V8 engines of B.R.M. and Coventry-Climax are very close in power to Italian six-cylinder engines, and almost all British manufacturers have also laid down more efficient chassis than the ones used the previous year. In these conditions, it is not the case to judge Ferrari too strictly (motorsport can be a non-stop rollercoaster of results): the Italian manufacturer keeps battling with great courage on all fronts of motor racing (Formula 1, sportscars, grand touring cars), while British manufacturers have focussed their energies only on Formula 1.


More appropriately, Ferrari should instead recognize the value of their rivals and focus on the future. The Modenese manufacturer is preparing new weapons and all it can do is hoping it can use them as soon as possible, because it is not the case to create false expectations for the following races of the world championship, except maybe those which will be held on very fast circuits, where Italian engines can gain some advantage from the greater power available (even though not so much, to be fair) compared to British cars. B.R.M. and Graham Hill’s brilliant victory in the Netherlands brings back on the foreground this manufacturer that has been pulling an effort for years to claim a place up front. To be fair, up until now B.R.M. has been collecting a long series of disappointments, despite building technically admirable cars. With a typically British tenacity, B.R.M. has come to preparing a top-notch vehicle, which is equipped with an direct-injectied V8 engine, which has collected two victories in eight days: Silverstone and Zandvoort.


But progress does not concern only B.R.M.: also Lotus and Cooper (to which the promising Lola should be added now) have improved their chassis, as previously mentioned; and on its part, Coventry-Climax has managed to develop their V8 launched the previous year and which is mounted on all the Formula 1 cars of the British manufacturers (except B.R.M.). To what concerns the drivers, in Britain they keep growing up: apart from Graham Hill, who is certainly not the new kid, new faces such as Clark, Trevor Taylor, Maggs, appear on the difficult racing scene. While Italy can only offer Baghetti and Bandini, but it will be better to wait before calling them aces. Furthermore, Rodríguez is becoming more and more dangerous with his uncontrolled impetuosity, which ends up damaging the team he is part of and, most importantly, himself.


At the same time of the Dutch Grand Prix, in Italy Ferraris dominate the Naples Grand Prix, confirming the predictions ahead of it. The race is reserved to Formula 1 cars only and is valid for the Italian Drivers’ Championship. Willy Mairesse wins exploiting the greater power of his car, especially in the uphill parts of the tortuous Posillipo Circuit. The Belgian driver beats his teammate Lorenzo Bandini by a few seconds. All the race is enlivened by the duel of the two Ferrari drivers (Bandini and Mairesse) who had already shown to be the best on the grid during practice. It is a riveting fast-paced duel that immediately creates a huge gap with all the other drivers. The two red racing cars have no rivals, dominating the whole race from start to finish in an electrifying run. A mild resistance is provided by Keith (UK) and Abate (Italy), who however are lapped on the forty-fourth and thirty-fifth lap respectively. Keith from Britain classifies third in a Cilby-Climax, followed by the Porsche of Abate from Italy, who debuts at the wheel of a Formula 1 car, delivering a good performance. Bandini and Mairesse share the lap record of the Posillipo Circuit, covering its 2500 metres in 1’18’’1, at an average speed of 115.486 km/h.


Arianna Cecchet

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