The announcement comes garbled, covered by the rumble of a car passing on the straight. People are on their feet again. Franco Lini meets Pignatti's gaze again. It is the confirmation of what they feared. He turns his eyes on Margherita for a moment. She seems calm. Only a tight lip between her teeth betrays something, while she still holds the stopwatch in her hand. Francois Ferrario and Giorgio Scarlatti talk loudly. They discuss. They ask. Others talk too. Only Scarfiotti and Amon's wife are silent and motionless. Lini knows what his duty is right now: to bring attention back to the race. There is nothing else to do: the circuit is blocked, you cannot move. Any panic, any nervousness could create new problems. Therefore, Lini orders Pignatti to put out the signal for Amon: continue without forcing. By now the race is decided, positions must be maintained. But during the ninety-second lap the car slowly arrives at the pits: Amon makes a sign from afar with a hand, indicating a tire. Four mechanics are already on the track.
While it is being replaced, someone from the pits leans out, asks for news of Bandini. Amon doesn't even hear. He looks worriedly at the mechanics who are finishing mounting the tire, then he starts again. In the meantime, Franco Villani, a photographer, and Lorenzo Pilogallo, a journalist from Milan, look shocked and run to the pits. The two say something confused and incoherent. Pilogallo brings his hands to his eyes, almost as if to hide a terrible vision, while Villani makes gestures of despair. People huddle around, asking questions, but Franco Lini brutally pulls two or three people aside, takes Pilogallo by the arm, and in a choked voice exclaims:
"Go away, go away. Don't let Margherita see you. Go away, go away".
And he pushes them out of the pits. Franco has only heard a few words - dead, frightening, fire - but, above all, he has sensed that Margherita must be defended. Turning he meets her eyes, cold, terrible, very big. On his white face there are two crossed eyes. Perhaps he has understood. Certainly he understood something. She has seen her surroundings become empty. No one has the courage to stay beside her. Everyone speaks in a low voice, watching her secretly. Lini passes by her for a moment, touches her arm and smiles.
"Now let's go. Two more laps and the race is over. Six or seven minutes. You can't move now. The track is blocked. Stay calm".
A friend, who has binoculars, exclaims a pitiful lie:
"He is safe, I can see him walking alone".
The reality is different, it is soon learned.
"I must go, I must go".
Margherita shouts, while many people rush around her, including Chris Amon's young wife, Franco Lini and Forghieri. The race is no longer on their minds. A journalist grabs Margherita, takes her with him, finds a car and they head towards the hospital, through the deserted streets, with the tearing howl of the engines that can now barely be heard. The drama of the moment is heightened by the thick black smoke rising along the roadside. Is it just the straw burning or is the car too? One wonders in anguish. Another jolt of terror, then the tongues of fire, which now seem to be tamed, suddenly resume with renewed violence, while the other drivers still in the race, at very low speed, continue to pass through the cloud of smoke.
Bandini hit with the left rear wheel against the internal protection at the beginning of the chicane. The speed at this point, after the slowdown, was still over 120-130 km/h. Then he skidded on the opposite side, crawling on the outside fence, about twenty meters later. The driver probably lost control of the car, which pointed again, diagonally to the left, ending up with the front end against another bale of straw placed just in front of one of the light poles.
The car reared up, and at first it seems that the driver was thrown out; but here it fell back with the wheels in the air, with poor Bandini underneath, traveling another twenty-five or thirty meters. Finally it stops, but in the same instant it catches fire, triggering the gasoline that came out in spurts. Two marshals, a doctor and a photographer stop in front of the car, the prince of Bourbon in a white silk shirt and Giancarlo Baghetti arrive. The extinguishers flood the car with foam, and when the flames are tamed no less than three minutes later, it is possible to put the car back on its four wheels. Bandini is lifeless, unrecognizable due to the blood and carbonic snow thrown by the extinguishers: most people think he died instantly. A moment after his tortured body is taken out of the narrow cockpit, a new blaze envelops the Ferrari, destroying it for good.
Like all pilots, Bandini was wearing a non-flammable asbestos suit, without which he would most likely have been burnt to a crisp. Motionless, a few meters above the point of the disaster, a service helicopter radioed for help. Immediately a Red Cross lance pulled up under the quay and picked up the pilot, sending him across the harbor to an ambulance ready on the other side. A few minutes later, Lorenzo Bandini is in the Monte-Carlo Central Hospital, where Professor Chatelin's team of surgeons decides to perform first a tracheotomy to enable the patient to breathe, and then to explore the large gash on his left side, for fear of internal injuries. The spleen is split into three pieces and must be removed. In the meantime, emergency dressings were applied to the areas affected by the burns, two blood transfusions were administered, an IV was given to avert the danger of kidney failure, and a lung, which had escaped from the rib cage following the fracture of some ribs, was rehabilitated. After nearly six hours of surgery, Bandini's mangled body was brought under the oxygen tent.
Margherita Bandini, frozen in a pain without comfort, sits in a corner of a room on the third floor. A cot, a table, many cigarette butts. The windows look towards the mountains where two skyscrapers are rising. Margherita, to whom the doctors are giving massive doses of tranquilizers, is desperately struggling. After the accident she had been seized by a crisis, crying her eyes out. It is always heartbreaking for a woman to see her man struggling with death, but this time the case is even more human and moving. Lorenzo is thirty-three years old, Margherita twenty-nine.
Her father, Goliardo Freddi, holds her hand between his and every now and then murmurs: Poor Lorenzo. Later, while Bandini undergoes an electrocardiogram (his heart is holding up well, the doctors will later report), two paternal uncles arrive from Milan and in the evening his mother-in-law, Mrs. Floride Freddi, who by now knows what her daughter ignores (or is believed to ignore). A few hours later Lorenzo Bandini regained consciousness, and at times he even appeared lucid. The Italian pilot tried to express himself in some way with his eyes (which miraculously remained unharmed), almost as if to make him understand that he was aware of the situation. After the surgery, Professor Chatelain holds a short press conference, in which he declares that the pilot's conditions are desperate:
"We have done what was possible to save him. Now we just have to follow his fight. The next forty-eight hours will be decisive ".
On Monday evening, Lorenzo Bandini's condition seems to have slightly improved. The doctors at the Princess Grace Hospital Center appear visibly relieved, although they maintain the strictest confidentiality and are unable to say when they will be able to release him. Sister Bernadette, one of two nurses taking turns at Bandini's bedside, admits:
"Only a miracle can save him".
Still, Lorenzo Bandini struggles, and in the course of the night he whispers to a nurse:
"Let me live, let me live, I want to live".
A heartbreaking invocation, which adds with all its drama to the other indiscretions leaked at the Princess Grace Hospital of Monaco. Lorenzo spent the night in the reanimation room of the clinic, on the fourth floor of the surgical department directed by Professor Chatelin. The conditions of the Italian pilot are stationary, apart from the very brief moments of lucidity in which he shows to be aware of the situation.
Already during the morning of Tuesday, however, it seems to be able to catch, in the half words of the medical staff, an intonation of slight optimism. The long, complex surgical intervention carried out by Professor Charles Louis Chatelin was perfectly successful; Bandini's organism, after twenty-four hours, seemed to react positively. This is confirmed by the fact that the professor telephonically asked Professor Simone Teich-Alasia, head of the Large Burns Centre at the Turin Trauma Centre of Inail, to come to Monaco for a consultation, above all in order to decide a possible transport of Bandini by plane to the Turin hospital of corso Unità d'Italia, if the conditions of the injured man had allowed it. This meant that the Monaco doctors saw a possibility of salvation. Around 6:00 pm, Professor Teich arrived by car from Turin, accompanied by his wife. The professor reads the report on his colleague's surgery and examines Lorenzo Bandini. After about an hour, he leaves the room and leaves again for Turin.
"I was amazed at the exceptional skill of the doctors who operated on Bandini, the success of the operation and the condition of the patient. But for the moment we can't think of transporting the pilot to Turin, because the delicate balance restored with great effort by the operation could be broken".
Even if the outcome is not positive, the consultation lifts the spirits. Margherita Bandini spoke at length with the doctors, and came out of the interview with her eyes full of tears, but a lot of new hope in her heart:
"Maybe Lorenzo will make it, the doctors are amazed; let me hope. It doesn't matter what happens next, as long as my husband lives".
Two days after the accident, however, Lorenzo Bandini's condition remains very serious, and his life hangs by a thread. The situation in the morning seemed to improve, then a communiqué of the doctors contributed to attenuate the optimism of the previous evening. This is the text of the communiqué, read at 12:35 pm in a small hall of the clinic by doctors Orecchia and Gramaglie, spokesmen for Professor Charles Louis Chatelain, head of the medical team that is treating the pilot:
"The patient's status is stationary. It will be necessary to wait another twenty-four hours before being able to issue a prognosis. Bandini is lucid, at times waking up from the twilight sleep in which he is kept to avoid the suffering caused by the burns. For now, his transport to other hospital centers is not foreseen. The forecast must be marked by the utmost caution".
The two sanitary ones do not add more, but the impression is rather negative. Among the rider's friends, who had come to the Principality by any means immediately after learning the news of the disaster, a sense of coldness spread. The atmosphere became even heavier shortly after, when his personal physician, Alberto Re, a young professional from Milan who was also a friend of the Bandini family, came out of the reanimation room. Dr. Re, who had not yet been admitted to the room, appears distraught, and weeping admits:
"I expected what I should have seen, but the reality was worse than I expected. Lorenzo's body is in a pitiful condition; he has deep wounds on his face, hands and feet, and very serious injuries to his abdomen".
Bandini also received another visit, that of Jesuit Father Giovanni Costa, well known in Turin for having been rector of the Social Institute for many years. Father Costa currently directs a House of his Order in Monte-Carlo, and he asked and obtained to bring Lorenzo Bandini a moment of spiritual comfort. But he had a pathetic encounter with the pilot.
"Do you wish to receive absolution?"
He whispered to him, and Bandini assented with a blink. Among the many uncontrolled and uncontrollable rumors that bounce from Monte-Carlo all over the world, in these hours of anguish spreads the one according to which Mrs. Margherita Bandini is expecting a baby and that, caught by a severe mental collapse after the last medical bulletin, she would be subjected to sleep treatment to avoid further emotions. Nothing true in all this. The poor lady personally denied that she was expecting an heir. It can be added that last Sunday, before the race, speaking with the wife of the Turin pilot Carlo Abate, who is expecting a maternity soon, Margherita Bandini had observed:
"Lorenzo and I prefer that our firstborn be born when my husband will have finished his fascinating but dangerous career".
As for today's slight discomfort, Margherita Bandini simply laid down on her bed to rest after her very long vigil. She is undone, but continues to react with admirable courage. The doctors keep Bandini under constant control, but unfortunately everything now depends on the resistance of her organism. Lorenzo is lying under a large tent in which oxygen is injected to facilitate breathing. He is given antibiotics. A doctor from Milan, Gabriella Ravà, has brought on the plane a very rare American drug (in vials and ointments), particularly suitable to ward off infections caused by burns. In the meantime, after the consultation with Professor Chatelain, Professor Simone Teich-Alasia, head of plastic surgery and of the department of major burns at the Inail Trauma Center, where he had been called to consult at Lorenzo Bandini's bedside, returned to Turin. Arrived in the city, the professor makes a comment on Lorenzo's condition:
"I had returned Sunday from the French congress of plastic surgery in Montpellier. During the car trip, I had learned from the radio that Bandini had been the victim of a chilling misfortune. On Monday morning, here in the clinic, Professor Chatelain, whom I have known for a long time, called me. He begged me to leave immediately for Monaco, in order to examine the opportunity of a possible transfer of the injured in a burn center. Professor Chatelain described to me the very serious injuries suffered by poor Bandini, apart from the burns. A vast thoraco-abdominal laceration caused by the Ferrari's metal sheets, with worrying repercussions on the spleen. Several fractured ribs and a wide opening of the pleural cavity. A disastrous picture that only a healthy and robust organism like Bandini's could bear. After reviewing the reports, I entered the runner's room. He was conscious, the tracheotomy prevented him from expressing himself verbally. But he revealed that he understood the questions".
He then continues:
"In agreement with Professor Chatelain, we decided that under current conditions removing Bandini would be too risky. It would extinguish the balance so meticulously established in the operating room. For the skin lesions produced by the flames, for now, nothing particular could be done. We therefore thought it advisable not to expose him to the dangers of a transfer. The general state of the injured man is still alarming, it is useless to hide it. In serious burns such as those suffered by Bandini, third degree, and covering seventy percent of the epidermis, we first try to restore the general conditions, up to a level that then allows us to intervene one thousand affected areas. If the burns are very deep, we try to obtain as quickly as possible the detachment of the necrotized skin, in order to replace it by grafts. Normally these are auto-plastic grafts, i.e. flaps of skin taken from the parts of the body spared by the burns. When this procedure is not possible or too difficult, we fall back on homoplastic grafts, i.e. with flaps taken from other people. Moreover, in such extensive burns, the reconstruction of the skin surface takes many months. Any scarring is corrected by plastic surgery. In Lorenzo Bandini's case the arms, legs, part of the face and abdomen will have to be reconstructed. However, this is not an insoluble problem. What is worrying is the fact that in these cases of extreme gravity the prognosis remains reserved sometimes for months, despite the use of the most effective means we have available".
Reconsidered, a few hours later, the gruesome accident in which Lorenzo Bandini was involved during the final phase of the Monaco Grand Prix, appears anything but inexplicable. Experts, technicians, drivers not involved in the race and present on the circuit, agree in believing that at the origin of the misfortune there is a state of physical failure of the unfortunate rider from Milan. This cursed circuit, which was considered the least dangerous in the world, certainly not because of its technical characteristics or particular protective measures, but simply because there are few fast stretches, has dramatically revealed a reality that in the past fate had deviously kept hidden. It is no longer sufficient to delude oneself that the 120-125 km/h average lap speed is a tourist speed compared to, say, the 210 km/h average reached at Monza; the ratio between the two figures is largely compensated for by the objective conditions of the two circuits.
Apart from the narrowness of the roadway, and the raised sidewalks that accompany it almost uninterruptedly, there are two or three extremely insidious points here, where even at low speed a wrong maneuver can cause irreparable damage. One of these is precisely the beginning of the short straight stretch on the dock of the marina, or rather the stretch between the slight curve, in short fast descent, which precedes it, and the straight stretch itself. At this point, already in the past there were accidents, but more spectacular than bloody. Twelve years ago, another great Italian driver, Alberto Ascari, was the protagonist of a dramatic adventure, plunging his car into the sea. Then the Monegasque organizers thought of reducing the speed, artificially modifying the curve by means of a sort of double barrier, forming a serpentine; on a very narrow road full of curves, which imposes an exceptional effort on the runners, both physical and psychic.
To this we must add that the Milanese driver was not in the best shape: the driving error that at 5:07 pm brought him to the limit between life and death, could only have been caused by a sudden psycho-physical failure, being excluded, also on the basis of the testimonies of those who lived a few meters away the terrible adventure of Bandini, some mechanical failure. The dynamics of the accident has been reconstructed in detail, and corresponds both to the hasty first version that is described by the newspapers, and to the considerations that experts advance, in the following hours, on the stretch of circuit where the disaster occurred.
Already during Friday's practice, Lorenzo had had a non-serious accident in the descent towards the station, damaging his Ferrari. Then he felt invested with a great responsibility, because everyone pointed to him as the favorite of the Grand Prix, and for several years the thirty-three year old rider from Milan had been waiting for his big day in the championship races. During the first part of the race he had behaved very well, remaining almost always in second position, behind Hulme, the winner; and at a certain moment he seemed to be able to reach him. But first he had an exhausting fight with Surtees and then with Clark; so, almost suddenly, he seemed not to be able to do it anymore, and he lost that serenity of driving that is natural to him, so much so that many thought he had resigned himself to second place.
It should be added that the serpentine course of this circuit imposes a tremendous strain on the drivers, even physically, and Bandini - who is a sportsman, an exemplary professional - certainly does not have the constitution of an athlete. The human drama of the Italian driver, who has been struggling with death for several hours in a room of the Monte-Carlo hospital, obviously overshadowed the sporting events of this Grand Prix, which will be remembered as one of the most terrible in its almost forty-year history. The winner, Denny Hulme, a New Zealander who is no longer very young and who races for the Brabham team in a 1966 model Brabham-Repco 8-cylinder car, won his stripes in the field through a confident and authoritative race, leading for ninety-two laps out of a hundred. Chiron will later say that at the finish line, the winner was so stunned that he almost had to pull him out of the car and accompany him under his arm to the grandstand to be awarded.
Hulme is a thirty-one year old driver from New Zealand, who has been racing since 1958 but who had not yet been able to fully express his talents. Hulme led the race for about ninety laps, taking the lead on the twelfth lap, following the abandonment of Jackie Stewart, with whom he had until then alternated in the lead. The Scotsman, who last year won the Monaco Grand Prix, did not have much luck this time: his 2100 cubic centimetre B.R.M. failed in the transmission. At this point two episodes ignited the test. On the one hand, the duel between Bandini and Englishman Surtees, at the wheel of a Honda, who fought for second place for a third of the race. On the other, the splendid comeback of Clark, delayed since the first passage because he was involved in the spin that took the Australian Jack Brabham out of the race. It was a long, exciting fight that wore out the cars and exhausted the drivers.
The New Zealander went on to lead the world standings with 12 points, ahead of Rodriguez, who stopped at 11 points. However, mechanical troubles or minor accidents put almost all the major players out of action in this sort of episodic bullfight constituted by a car race. Apart from poor Bandini, the reigning World Champion Jack Brabham, Clark, Surtees and Stewart retired. In the Monaco circuit there are eleven difficult curves, and it is necessary to change gears at least fifty times per lap; therefore, all mechanical organs are stressed to the maximum. The twelve-cylinder Honda of Surtees at the twenty-fifth passage has capitulated by stopping at the pits with the smoking engine. As for the Ferraris, they behaved very well: never a slowdown in the full rhythm of the engine, never an uncertainty. Bandini's tragedy upset the result, and Chris Amon, who passed from the third to the second place after the accident to the Milanese driver, was delayed at the end by the burst of a tire. Thus, Graham Hill obtained the place of honor, while McLaren, author of a very regular race, arrived fourth, followed by Rodriguez and Spence.
On Monday morning many of them left by plane for Indianapolis (where Bandini should have been); then they would return to Europe to run the Dutch Grand Prix and the big world championship races. For what? For the glory of a day, for a handful of millions, for an ideal with uncertain contours? Perhaps it is useless to ask them, the thought of the atrocious suffering of one of their colleagues will certainly not stop them.
In the meantime, it is inevitable that polemics, accusations and the search for responsibilities will break out. It has always happened like this, in the aftermath of one of the many, too many accidents that dot the sport of motoring. As long as nothing happens, no one notices anything, everything goes very well, the organization is perfect. Then the irreparable happens, and then you want the scapegoat, you realize that nothing was going well, that you have to do it all over again. While Lorenzo Bandini continues to struggle to survive, the human drama is overlaid with seemingly noble motives in defense of the right to be able to race a car when you want and where you want.
But let's avoid getting into such hot and controversial ground. It will certainly not be the reminders of reality that the Monte-Carlo Grand Prix disaster suggests, nor will Bandini's suffering change the course of things. What is certain is that we have now begun to discover that the stretch of road where the Italian driver's accident occurred is too poorly protected, that the chicane is madness. Before, when the chicane did not exist and Alberto Ascari crashed his car into the waters of the harbor, almost at the same point where Bandini's car crashed into the bales of straw, setting itself on fire, people demanded that the speed be reduced in some way, with an artificial variant at the end of the descent that leads to the quay.
Then it is wanted that the rescues to the unlucky runner have arrived too late; and it is not true, because the extinguishers have entered in action almost immediately, and there is no guilt if to tame the flames it is necessary some minutes. Another accusation: how come the rescuers did not notice that Bandini was imprisoned under the overturned car, in a prison of iron and fire? In the meantime, it has to be proved; several witnesses believed to see the pilot's body thrown out of the car seat, perhaps misled, in the dazzling cloud of dust and straw that was raised, by the wheel of the Ferrari that flew through the air. The organizers of the Grand Prix are dismayed and have taken the initiative to appoint a commission of inquiry to clarify in every detail the factual circumstances and the dynamics of the accident, in order to take appropriate safety measures in the future, says a spokesman.
It seems that there are two film clips where the phases of the accident are filmed moment by moment: one from the French television, the other from an amateur filmmaker. What will they be used for? Few have made it clear that it is the entire circuit that is dangerous; this anachronistic track where 400-horsepower cars, launched at some points at almost two hundred hours, graze the almost continuous step of the sidewalks. Or is it only noticed when it fails? This is to say that, if there are responsibilities, they involve an entire environment, a way of thinking, a mentality that, albeit in perfect good faith, believes it is working for the benefit of something. Something not well defined, in which passions and commonplaces, sincere enthusiasm and small ephemeral ambitions are mixed.
The same applies to the regulations or formulas that guide motorsport. Mistakes are repeated with disconcerting punctuality: in the Thirties, when fatal racing accidents were becoming too frequent due to the excessive power of engines, the heads of the International Sports Commission set a displacement limit, which was later halved again; then from 1953 it began to increase again (and consequently the power increased), and again many drivers lost their lives. So, back again. And now we are back to square one: 3000 cubic centimeters, almost 400 horsepower today, no less than 450 in a couple of years. Reports and comments on the terrible accident in Monte-Carlo and Lorenzo Bandini's desperate struggle to survive fill the columns of French newspapers. But on the fact, on the moved pity aroused by the thoughts of the poor champion's body and the sorrowful tenuous hopes of his wife and relatives, polemics, excise, scandalistic hints were triggered.
"The safety of drivers and spectators no longer exists, on French circuits".
This is the full-canine title of L'Aurore, which further on stands against - according to it - the incompetence and criminal negligence of those responsible. For its part, Paris-presse conspicuously reports the words of an eyewitness to the incident:
"I saw the firefighters running away from the burning car".
But further on, attempting a meticulous reconstruction of those frightening minutes, the newspaper states:
"When Bandini's Ferrari came to a halt in flames after the interminable, chilling series of wheelies and spins, trapping the driver underneath, two firemen from a few meters away rushed with their portable extinguishers, containing nine liters of carbonic snow, while two civilians jumped in turn in an attempt to contribute in some way to the rescue work: one of the two was Prince Michele di Borbone-Parma, a great fan of motoring. In the meantime the extinguishers were empty, and the flames continued to spread; the firemen rushed to grab other more powerful extinguishers (fifty liters), deposited a few dozen meters away, and always running back on the fire finally succeeding in taming it".
The Borbone Prince would be the main accuser of the inefficiency, or physical fear, of the policemen, while the clarification - gathered from the viva voce of the two interested parties and the commander - would appear quite convincing. Among others, the Bolognese photographer Franco Villani and the photo-journalist Giorgio Bellia, from Turin, were in the vicinity. Both of them described in detail the dynamics of the accident and the subsequent convulsive phases of the drama, they excluded that the firemen were behind, and they agreed on the duration of the rescue operations: from three and a half to four minutes, because, they pointed out, the pilot Hulme, who was leading the race, passed over twice during the extinguishing of the flames: since each lap was completed in just under a minute and Hulme had an advantage of thirty seconds over Bandini, the count makes sense: it would be about three and a half minutes.
With a sense of responsibility, the organizers of the Grand Prix asked the Monegasque Surete publique to open a formal judicial inquiry, so that full light could be shed on the alleged delay in assisting the Italian racer. The direction of the investigation has been taken by Pierre Malvg, governmental advisor for the Interior of the Principality, who without delay summoned the main heads of the organizational services. While waiting to examine reports and testimonies, as well as to review the phases of the disaster through films shot by the American television company ABC, and by a filmmaker from Marseilles (the projection of the first film would have taken place during the afternoon in the premises of the police, but the results are still shrouded in the strictest confidentiality), Councilor Malvy told journalists:
"Tendentious comments have been spread, which we cannot accept for now. A few days ago, for tragic irony of fate, poor Lorenzo Bandini had declared, in an interview of which we have kept the text, that he had never seen anywhere such meticulous care in safety devices. Near the incriminated area of the circuit there were a first aid station with infirmary, some firemen and race commissioners; near the dock there were divers. As far as the time of the rescue operation is concerned, it has been possible to determine with absolute precision that between the moment of the impact of Bandini's car against the parapet and the entrance of the driver in the operating room of the hospital exactly twelve minutes and seventeen seconds have passed".
This last statement is a bit perplexing, but in the end it does not concern the core of the matter, which is not so much the speed of the treatment - of an excellent level - given to Lorenzo Bandini, as the timeliness of the immediate rescue operations. A soothing word comes from Franco Lini, Ferrari's sporting director, who - family members aside - represents the environment most directly affected by the tragedy:
"Certain rumors are more harmful than useful. We hope that the inquiry, which we have never requested, will establish the truth and put an end to a jumble of news that only serves to cause upset; and at the moment there are much more important things to think about".
Another night passes, and Lorenzo Bandini does not give up. His body continues to fight against death in the special aseptic room of the Princess Grace Hospital Center. So far, apart from the medical staff who are treating him, the pilot has been visited only by the Jesuit Father Giovanni Costa from Turin, who has given him absolution, and by his friend and personal physician Dr. Alberto Re. His wife, Margherita, was not allowed in the room. Bandini is always very serious. But then, on Wednesday May 10, 1967, at 3:30 pm, Lorenzo stops fighting. A heart failure extinguishes him and, in vain, the doctors of the Princess Grace Clinic try to avert it by massaging the poor pilot's heart for an hour and a half; but the organism is intoxicated, poisoned by the toxins produced by the burns that cover the body for seventy percent. There is nothing to be done. It ends one of the most painful events of this car sport so fascinating and so exciting, but also so cruel.
Bandini's end came suddenly. No one, of course, was unaware that the champion's conditions were very serious, and that his life was hanging by a thread since 5:07 pm on Sunday, that is the moment when the racer was devoured by the flames from the Ferrari overturned at the chicane curve. But on Wednesday morning, around 12:30 am, a medical bulletin had lifted everyone's spirits: his wife Margherita, his in-laws, his friends, and those who, for professional reasons, had been living Lorenzo's drama for years. The bulletin said that Bandini's condition was stable but that there was a slight improvement, and added that his family would be allowed to visit him soon. When? In three or four days, replied Dr. Orecchia, one of the Clinic's specialists. And he added:
"From Turin, Professors Teich-Alasia and Vercellone will arrive in the afternoon. A consultation will be done to determine when to transport the patient to the Trauma Center".
The heart opened to hope, the Monegasque Police announced that they had a helicopter ready to transport the Italian pilot. Margherita finally found her smile again, her father, Goliardo Freddi, left for Milan. The pilot's mother-in-law remained next to Margherita. Floride, his sister-in-law Gabriella, and Ferrari's sporting director, Franco Lini. Margherita would try to eat something, a little meat, a piece of fruit. Lini would go to a restaurant in Monte-Carlo with a group of journalist friends. At the hospital there were only a few of them left, to comment on the events of the morning, to exchange some news, to nurture some hope. But then, at 3:00 pm, something changed. The hurry of the doctors and nurses, the dark and worried faces of some nuns, put everyone present in alarm. Margherita is in her room, in the company of Tullia and Elena, when she feels a twinge in her heart. A sharp pain, terrible. Margherita pales, and lies down, while her friends give her courage and say:
"Margherita, you are tired, you have resisted for three days, hold on for him".
The atmosphere gradually changes. Downstairs, in the courtyard, you can hear the doors of many cars slamming. Time passes, Franco Lini arrives, called by phone. He disappeared to the fourth floor of the hospital, where there was an aseptic room where the champion was staying. After a few minutes, Franco Lini enters Margherita's room and calls her outside. Margherita emerges from the corridor, accompanied by her mother. Her face is earthy, she is staggering. She throws herself on a chair, then says:
"Leave me alone, don't touch me".
Franco Lini takes her into the room that houses the journalists, approaches Margherita and murmurs in her ear that Lorenzo is no longer there. There follows a scream, heartbreaking, atrocious, that one would never want to hear again.
"No, it's not true! I don't believe it! Lorenzo is not dead! It's all a joke".
A shocking scene. Margherita is taken back to her room, given a drink with a massive dose of tranquilizer, but she doesn't fall asleep. In the hallway, beyond the glass door, Bandini's sister, Gabriella, can be seen. A radio reporter holds her up, unconscious. Too sudden was the reversal of the situation, even for those who were only grasping at a thread of hope. The hospital courtyard filled with cars, people, builders and workers in overalls and tank tops from a construction site behind the clinic. The news of Lorenzo's death spread like a flash. Franco Lini tried to put the situation in order: an admirable man, not a sports director, but a brother to Bandini and his family. The mangled body of the Italian pilot is reassembled, wrapped in bandages, to hide the devastation produced by the fire.
He is now resting in a room on the second floor of the hospital. He will be brought to Italy as soon as possible, but first there are many bureaucratic complications to be solved, despite the interest of Italian and Monegasque authorities. Before Friday it will probably not be possible to arrange the transport. At 7:00 pm the doctors of the staff of Professor Charles Louis Chatelain, with the Turin professors Teich-Alasia and Vercellone, descend in the courtyard of the clinic. They say the profession hardens, but Chatelain and colleagues are bitter, moved. They operated wonderfully on Lorenzo. Whispers one doctor on the team:
"We only gave him seventy more hours of life".
It's nighttime; the lights of the television occasionally pierce the darkness. In the distance, to the left, shine the lights of the residence of the Princes of Monaco and the port. Sunday's race, this Grand Prix so unusual and so dramatic, seems a century away. Bandini is dead, and many are beginning to understand how bitter racing can be. A long avenue of palm trees skirts the hospital in Monaco. On the left is the panorama of the principality, with the residence of Ranieri and Grace overlooking the sea, with the streets full of girls in miniskirts and tourists. A carefree Monte-Carlo, which considers the annual automobile Grand Prix a social event, a thrilling occasion.
On the right, nestled in a series of buildings, is the chapel of the Immaculate Conception, which houses the body of Bandini, the last victim of this carousel of engines that drags itself from track to track across Europe and America. Relatives, friends, convalescing patients and workers from nearby construction sites watched over the Milanese champion, while Franco Lini, Ferrari's sporting director, tried to speed up the process of transporting Lorenzo back to Italy. He succeeds in doing so on the afternoon of Thursday, May 11, 1967, after a series of phone calls with Milan and Maranello, the town in the Emilian lowlands where Enzo Ferrari builds his racing cars.
Ferrari rented a twin-engine plane from an Italian company and sent it to the Nice airport. Around midnight, the aircraft loaded the body of the pilot, accompanied by his wife, Margherita, and all his family. Destination, Linate. In the meantime a funeral chamber is prepared at the Monumentale. The body will be buried in the cemetery of Lambrate, and not in the one of Reggiolo, as it was thought at first. Margherita Bandini, in the meantime, managed to find the strength to go down to the chapel, to follow a brief funeral service. Then she gives up, as she had done the day before. One last memory of Lorenzo remains: that of a white helmet glimpsed for a moment at the beginning of the lap that preceded the accident. The doctors never let her see her husband, not even after his death. After what happened, someone from Ferrari had proposed not to let the cars participate in the Targa Florio race. But Margherita demanded their presence:
"Don't do it, Lorenzo wouldn't have wanted it".
In the meantime, President of the Republic Saragat sent Margherita the following telegram:
"The painful death of Lorenzo Bandini represents a serious mourning for the Italian motorsport, which with him loses one of its most valiant and generous drivers. I extend my deepest condolences to you and to your family members".
The President of the Council, Hon. Aldo Moro telegraphs:
"Lorenzo Bandini's death as motor racing champion is a serious and painful loss for Italian sport. In memory of his brilliant achievements I wish to express my heartfelt condolences".
The Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Achille Corona, sends a telegram to Bandini's widow:
"The disappearance of the unfortunate champion is a great mourning for Italian and world sport. Sportsmen and motorists from every country mourn the valiant racer who perished in the tragic race in Montecarlo. I express with deep sadness the feelings of my alive condolences".
In Monte-Carlo the princes of Monaco remain deeply shocked for the disappearance of the Italian racer. Princess Grace had gone to the hospital on Monday to inquire about the driver's condition, and in the following days had sent a lady-in-waiting twice a day. Prince Ranieri had sent an aide for his part, and by telephone he had remained in close contact with the doctors of the hospital following Lorenzo's fight against death. From the United States, Australia, Scandinavia, and of course Italy, personalities from the sporting world and people who remain anonymous have expressed their sorrow and emotion to the family of the deceased. The racing committee of the Royal Automobile Club of Great Britain, in London, observed a minute's silence. The president of the R.A.C., Lord Cannien, states:
"Bandini was a very nice man and a great conductor. He will be missed by the motoring world. We express our deepest condolences to his widow and relatives. On all the circuits of the world the absence of Bandini will be felt a lot".
In the meantime, as always, as already happened, one only wonders if Sunday's sacrifice was not avoidable. This is the burning point of the story. A point that has not yet been resolved. Four cameras, two belonging to international companies (the American ABC and the United Press) and two to private viewers, filmed the burning of the Ferrari at the curve of the chicane. Did the firemen do their duty or not? The French newspapers, for reasons that have little to do with the event itself (envy among race organizers, tourist jealousy, etc.), have made serious accusations against the rescue services. Now they have already diminished the scope of their attacks, also because the Monaco Automobile Club has filed a complaint against unknown persons for defamation.
If the films, expected in the next few days in Monte-Carlo, prove the organizers right, the complaint against unknown persons will turn into names and surnames. The most probative film should be that of the United Press. It is being developed in London, and is in color. It would show the entire sequence of the accident, up to the transportation of Bandini to the firemen's boat. Up to now, only the recording of the film clip made by the French operators has been seen, but it has not clarified the story much. Before judging on such a delicate subject, it is better to wait. The tragic fact remains that Lorenzo is now dead, and that no matter how many safety measures are taken, the Monaco circuit is too dangerous to race 3000 cubic centimeter machines.
Monaco is in many ways a fascinating circuit, unique in the world. But the safeguarding of even one person should be more important than all economic and publicity considerations. Are there any culprits? Perhaps, but it is hoped that no one will have to bear the weight of such a serious responsibility, and it is hoped at the same time that the controversies of these days, which call into question the problems of safety, will help to save other human lives in the future. If this happens, the sport should be grateful to Lorenzo. He will have given his life also for this.
The following day, Friday, May 12, 1967, at 8:30 am, Lorenzo Bandini's body was exposed to the public in the church of San Carlo al Corso, the same church where twelve years earlier the remains of Alberto Ascari, who had crashed on the track at Monza, were received. After the first greeting of the night before, when the coffin arrived in a sad procession from Linate airport, an uninterrupted pilgrimage of friends, admirers and sportsmen paid a moving tribute to the unfortunate pilot. The coffin is watched over at the four corners by as many race officials and drivers from various teams, and is literally covered with flowers. Among all, the large pillow of red roses of the widow Margherita stands out: on a blue ribbon is written: I love you.
Then there are other crowns among which that of the Italian community of Monaco (pink carnations with tricolour), that of the General Consulate of Italy in Monaco (carnations and yellow roses with tricolour), that of Firestone (scarlet and pink roses), that of Fangio, of Porsche, of Ferrari, of the Madonnina stable. At 10:00 a.m. three more wreaths arrived: one from the Automobile Club of Italy, one from the Automobile Club of Milan and one from the Monza Autodrome. For its part, the National Association of Italian Car Racing Drivers sent a large wreath of gladioli. And then other flowers brought by unknown people. The basilica parade in mourning is filled with flowers and wreaths; dozens of books arranged on six tables are filled with signatures while messages of condolence continue to arrive to the family, to the Automobile Club, to Ferrari, from all over Italy and the world. On one of the books reserved for signatures is pasted a color image of Pope John, below written in pen a few lines:
"Be happy, dear Lorenzo, Pope John and with him the Lord have welcomed you smiling and embracing you in their eternal and holy peace".
At 10:00 am arrives Count Lurani, vice president of the Automobile Club Milano. The Einaudi middle school in Via Giusti sends a class of students as a representative. At 11:25 am Margherita, his widow, appears. Some friends accompany her. She is dressed in black, with a veil on her head. She cries softly. No one can console her. Margherita puts some words on the cassai. A little later, Gabriella, Bandini's sister, arrives at the church. She is also dressed in black, with a dark veil on her head. At 14:00, Lorenzo's father-in-law, Mr. Goliardo Freddi, Margherita's father, pays homage to the corpse of the champion. It is a heartbreaking scene; Goliardo Freddi kneels down next to the coffin, hugs and kisses it for a long time, before letting himself go to a liberating cry, in which he says:
"Why am I not in his place? I am old while he was so young and good".
The sad pilgrimage lasts for the whole day and thousands and thousands of people pay the extreme homage to the champion. Lorenzo Bandini's funeral will take place on Saturday morning, at 10:30 am, with a simple and touching ceremony. The funeral rite will be officiated by the prior of the basilica, Monsignor Filippo Berlosso. Then the cortege will move along Corso Vittorio Emanuele, San Babila, Corso Venezia, largo Arturo Mercanti, up to the groves of Via Marina, next to the Automobile Club headquarters. The coffin will then continue with a van followed only by the cars of the relatives, to the cemetery of Lambrate. Here Lorenzo Bandini's remains will be interred according to the wish expressed by his wife Margherita. The Lambrate cemetery, where the remains of Bandini's mother, buried in Reggiolo, will also be moved, is the closest to the house and the garage of the deceased champion.
The next day, Saturday, May 13, 1967, in Milan, thousands of people take part in the funeral ceremony of Lorenzo Bandini. At the altars, all around the circular nave, the priests of the Comunità Servi di Maria had officiated during the night suffrage masses. On the portal of the temple stands a banner with the inscription: In memory of Lorenzo Bandini, absolute motoring champion of Italy. Underneath is a tricolor banner. Two cuirassiers stand guard next to a wreath with the tricolor ribbon sent by the President of the Republic, Giuseppe Saragat.
Countless are the wreaths sent by institutions, associations, stables, colleagues, friends of Bandini. There are those of the Federation of Automobile Manufacturers of the Automobile Club of Italy, of A C. Milan, Coni, the Centro-Sud, Madunina and Mediolanum racing stables, Enzo Ferrari, Ludovico Scarfiotti, Eugenio Dragoni, Biscaldi, Ferdy Porsche, the Association of Racing Car Makers, the Consul General of Italy in Monaco, Manuel Fangio's Monza Circuit, the Principality of Monaco; as well as wreaths from the Association of International Grand Prix, from the housemates in Via Padova, and from Bandini's garage employees. There were also many banners and gonfalons: from the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, the Red Cross of Monza, the Reggiolo Middle School (where poor Lorenzo had studied), Inter and the Azzurri athletes of Italy.
A large delegation of Reggiolo's inhabitants, with the mayor Afro Andreoli at the head, even arrived. The City of Milan sends a large wreath with two valets and two policemen in full uniform for an honor escort. To represent the Prefect to the exhumations intervenes the vice prefect vicar, count Dr. Raffaele I Boselli; for the Municipality are present the vice mayor Montagna with some aldermen. The pamphlets placed over six small tables next to the entrance of the church collect thousands of signatures. Among the crowd are present Villoresi, Taruffl, Cortese, Sanasi, Guidotti and Parkes, Tonino Ascari, son of the champion Alberto who died in Monza in 1955, and the boxer Duilio Loi. At 10:00 am Mrs. Margherita arrives at the church accompanied by some friends: she is wearing a black dress and a long thick veil covers her very pale face. She appears destroyed, she tries to make herself strong, but every now and then she can't stop crying.
Margherita enters the basilica, bends down to caress the white helmet and kisses the photo of her Lorenzo; then she sits at the side of the coffin, with Bandini's sister Gabriella, with her mother Floride Freddi, and numerous relatives, to follow the funeral rite. The suffrage Mass begins at 10:30 am and is officiated by the prior of the Basilica, Monsignor Filippo Berlasso, in an atmosphere of sad recollection. When the litany of the deceased was recited, Margherita Bandini burst into tears, covering her face with her hands and collapsing on the pew. The young woman was helped by her sister-in-law and some relatives, before slowly recovering. The priest blesses the mound. When the Ferrari mechanics, wearing overalls, approach the coffin to lift it and carry it out of the temple, Margherita approaches and kisses the coffin again. After the religious ceremony, the funeral procession moves from Corso Vittorio Emanuele towards San Babila. Four mechanics from the Maranello racing team were at the ropes of the van; mechanics like Lorenzo Bandini had been before his brief, glorious season as a racer.
Behind the family members is the last mobile car purchased by Bandini, a red Fiat 124 spider driven by the workshop manager of the champion's garage. Between two dense wings of crowd (it is estimated that there are about 100,000 people), from which pitiful hands throw flowers from time to time over the coffin, the procession reaches Corso Venezia, seat of the Mobile Car Club of Milan, where the president of the Automobile Club of Italy, Luigi Bertett, honors with a short speech to the deceased champion. Margherita finds the strength to respond, thanking for the tribute of affection to the memory of her husband. Then the funeral breaks up. It's 11:40 am.
Margherita, with Bandini's parents and sister, goes to the Monumental Cemetery, where the coffin is temporarily placed waiting for the chapel to be prepared in the Lambrate Cemetery. Next to the driver will rest the remains of his mother, whose remains will be moved later from the cemetery of Reggiolo. Enzo Ferrari meets with Margherita at the Monumentale. Ferrari had arrived around 9:00 am in Milan, accompanied by his wife, but he did not feel like following the funeral and preferred to go to the cemetery. In front of Lorenzo's coffin, Enzo Ferrari and Margherita Bandini embrace in a long, heartbreaking hug. Ferrari, his gray hair and black suit, his dark glasses not concealing his tears, murmured a few words to Margherita and stayed with her for a few minutes.
"A woman of wonderful courage".
He whispered to some friends about Margherita, before leaving for Modena. In this regard, Ferrari had managed to insure his drivers, a difficult feat since no agency wanted to guarantee a prize for such a risky job. Margherita Bandini was paid 10.000.000 Italian liras. Of these, 7.500.000 will be spent on the funeral monument. And at the end of the year she will abandon the house she shared with Lorenzo. Margherita will fall into a deep depression for the next three years. But meanwhile, before leaving the cemetery, she turns to the group of Ferrari mechanics, and exclaims:
"Tell those who will participate in the Targa Florio tomorrow that they must win. For Lorenzo".