The second round of the Formula 1 World Championship will be held in Zandvoort, on the occasion of the Dutch Grand Prix, scheduled for Monday 22nd May 1961. The second race of the year is held on a racing track located among the dunes by the North Sea. The circuit is 4200 meters long, it has medium-fast characteristics, and it is often lashed by strong sandy winds that make the track very slippery. The drivers entered are Hill, von Trips and Ginther for Ferrari (who are allowed to bring three drivers); Moss and Clark for Lotus; Brabham, McLaren and Surtees for Cooper; Brooks and Graham Hill for B.R.M.; Bonnier, Gurney and De Beaufort for Porsche. The invitation has also been extended to Italian driver Giancarlo Baghetti, who, however, cannot take part in the race.
On the twisty Monaco circuit, Moss’s unparalleled class more than Lotus’s mechanical supremacy beat the Ferraris. But that track is among those specifically built to highlight the drivers’ driving skills. In Zandvoort, technical factors become predominant once again, and since the new Ferrari Formula 1 cars turned out to be perfectly balanced, plenty of positive qualities, Modena-based drivers and management’s hopes for a quick revenge are not unfounded, although they should not underestimate the capabilities of both the British cars and the German Porsches. The season has just started but surprises are always possible. What is more, Stirling Moss is more determined than ever to chase that world title that he is yet to win, despite the blatant superiority over any other driver. An eventual victory in the Netherlands for the British driver would mean seriously hypothecating this achievement.
Practice starts on Saturday 20th May 1961, in the morning, with a freezing headwind blowing along the main straight and occasional rain showers. After witnessing Ferrari’s competitiveness in Monte-Carlo, all their rivals are resigned to fight for second place at this faster circuit, that should perfectly suit the characteristics of Maranello’s cars, but a general relief spread around the paddock when Ferrari team does not show up at this first practice session in Zandvoort.
Zandvoort Circuit is never a festive place: there is never music to brighten up the long breaks and the speakers do not communicate any official information in terms of lap times: in fact, it seems that cars circulate unobserved by the stewards. Moss tests his Lotus with the old Climax engine, while Surtees has the standard Climax engine (the Mark II engine was repaired after it blew up in Monaco during practice). B.R.M. seem quite satisfied with their cars, both equipped with Climax Mark II engines, and Graham Hill seems to handle it quite well.
During lunch break Ferrari’s car transporter arrives from Maranello with three V6 120° mid-engine cars. Ginther will use the same car he drove in Monte-Carlo, von Trips will be provided with a new car and Hill will race with the same chassis used in Monte Carlo, however equipped with a new engine. Weather conditions remain unaltered for the afternoon practice, even though now the cold wind blows more across than along the main straight. However, all the drivers buckle down and many times they set are under 1’37"0. In the afternoon Surtees can choose whether to drive the standard Cooper or the one with special bodywork, while Moss drives the Lotus with which he won in Monte Carlo, always powered by the Climax Mark II engine. Being Zandvoort Circuit very smooth and characterised by banked corners, without the bumps typical of a street circuit, it is possible to adjust the car settings to obtain roadholding and handling capabilities that are not required anywhere else. This leads the majority of the drivers to adjust camber and toe of the wheels, as well as springs and dampers, in order to adapt to their personal needs.
Having lost the morning session, Ferrari works feverishly to catch up, modifying tyre pressure and the wishbones, and changing the springs as fast as they can. Cooper drivers seem happy with their cars, and indeed both Brabham and McLaren spend the first part of practice shooting a film, rather than carrying on with their preparation for the race. Meanwhile, at Porsche team Gurney tests a car equipped with a long chassis and a wishbone front axle. The American driver turns out to be much faster than Bonnier, provided with an identical car, which he already used in Monte Carlo, while de Beaufort tests one of previous year’s cars equipped with new carburetors.
In the afternoon lap times go significantly under 1’37"0: Stirling Moss stands out with his Lotus setting a time of 1’36"2, but he is not sure whether his driving skills or the new Climax Mark II engine should be given the credit for the performance. For sure, this time he cannot match it with the Cooper. Brabham, Graham Hill, Brooks and Surtees all set a time under 1’37"0, as well as von Trips, who however is not convinced of the behavior of his Ferrari. Ginther eventually improves to 1’36’’7 and von Trips to 1’36"6.
The last practice session held in the afternoon of Sunday 21st May 1961 are characterised by a warm and sunny weather, although the cold headwind persists undaunted. Scuderia Ferrari came to the circuit in the morning for an unofficial test to catch up with their rivals, but by now it is evident that the Maranello-based team has been able to set up their cars quite well. The Ferraris are now equipped with 6.50 x 15-inch rear tyres instead of the previous 6.00 x 15-inch tyres, which are very helpful to solve some drivability issues with the car in some corners.
In the initial minutes of qualifying the Porsches seem competitive and Gurney is able to increase his pace, lifting the inside front wheel in the corners: the speed of compression and rebound does not seem correct both for front and rear suspensions, so the car develops a peculiar pitch under strong acceleration. Both Graham Hill and Tony Brooks are having fun because the B.R.M.s seem very stable and their engines emit a crisp sound, while Brabham does not appear in great shape and McLaren’s car is far from being competitive.
In the last thirty minutes the Ferraris show their real pace more and more blatantly, setting times abundantly under 1’36"0; the one who gets the closest to Ferrari drivers is Graham Hill with the Climax-powered B.R.M. with 1’36"3. Moss also improves from the previous day with a time of 1’36"2. Scuderia Ferrari’s crew are happy that their drivers have accomplished a front row lockout and call them back to the pits to prepare for the race, while the British cannot see what they can do to beat their Italian rivals. The Germans are not convinced that this circuit suits their cars, like it seemed at the beginning of the practice session instead.
At the end of qualifying Moss decides to go back to the car and the set-up used in Monte Carlo, which means the 1960 Lotus equipped with Colotti gearbox and Climax Mark II engine: in another long night, his mechanics will be busy lifting the car up and changing the engine. So, qualifying rewards the drivers of Scuderia Ferrari, which place three single seaters at the head of the field. In second row, Moss, Graham Hill with B.R.M. and Gurney with Porsche will try to give the Italian team a hard time during the race. England’s Stirling Moss is more determined than ever to win what would be his first ever world title, despite being superior to any other driver. But if at Monte Carlo circuit the driver’s skills were the crucial factor rather than the mechanical supremacy, at Zandvoort the situation is the exact opposite, which seems to favour Scuderia Ferrari.
On Monday 22nd May 1961 the weather improves enormously: the sky is blue and the sun is hot over Zandvoort, with air temperature risen by several degrees, even though a strong headwind remains. Race start is scheduled for 3:15 p.m.: nevertheless, all the cars are towed into the paddock before lunchtime. As the weather improves, the aspiration sprinklers of the carburettors of some Climax engines are hastily widened, while Porsche are busy working with the settings of their fuel pump, because, obviously, this sudden rise in air temperature requires some modifications not to strain the engine. However, being still quite unexperienced with their injection system, German technicians are not sure how rich their mix should be.
The organizers take the drivers for a tour of the circuit to please around 80.000 paying spectators. Afterwards, they are accompanied to the paddock to perform a sighting lap, before stopping on the starting grid. Right after leaving the paddock, Hill discovers that his clutch pedal does not work and does a lap as fast as he can so that he can return to the pits and let the mechanics work on the problem: after removing the fairing, they discover that he dropped a pin.
While the other fourteen cars are aligning on the grid, Ferrari mechanics find a suitable bolt and they use it to replace the missing pin, so that the pedal can work on the hydraulic cylinder, although rather precariously. Eventually, all drivers align on the starting grid, where the solid Ferrari front row lockout appears quite unusual to the eye of current spectators but brings back to the memories of a glorious past when Ferrari dominated the racing scene. As the green flag is flown to start the 75-lap race, Ginther almost switches off the engine making his clutch slip: the engine revs too high and the American driver does a burnout. Consequently, he reaches the first corner surrounded by green and silver cars, while von Trips and Phil Hill are side by side and are sandwiching Moss who is trying to squeeze his Lotus between the two.
As the drivers consolidate their positions in the twisty section behind the pits, von Trips leads ahead of Phil Hill, although Graham Hill and Clark are running close. Trips manages to build a considerable gap since the first lap, but the B.R.M. and the new Lotus are able to stay close to the other Ferrari, the one driven by Phill Hill. No changes for the lead in the second lap as von Trips sets a time of 1’36"0. On the following lap the development of the race begins to appear quite obvious.
In a span of just three laps von Trips manages to build a gap of over three seconds over Phil Hill, who patiently lingers to avoid being potentially attacked by his adversaries. Meanwhile, Graham Hill seems to have lost the initial momentum and Clark is ready to steal third place from him. Moss and Ginther are chasing Gurney in the first Porsche, as Bonnier finds Brabham, Surtees, Brooks, and McLaren pressuring him heavily, while Taylor leads the two remaining Porsches. On lap 5 von Trips holds a solid lead, followed by Phil Hill, but Clark and Graham Hill get closer to second position occupied by the Ferrari driver, while Moss and Ginther enter the hairpin after the main straight (Tarzanbocht) side by side. The rest of the group loses ground progressively, with the Porsches seriously lacking power because of their overheating engines, presumably because the setting of their fuel pumps was not adjusted correctly.
On lap 7 Jim Clark sets the fastest lap of the race with 1’35’’5, probably motivated by the incentive of racing against Graham Hill’s B.R.M. and trying to catch Phil Hill’s Ferrari. On lap 10 von Trips still keeps his three-second advantage comfortably, but Clark is about to distance the B.R.M. and approach Phil Hill’s Ferrari. Meanwhile, Ginther has problems with his engine that is not performing at his best, but manages to stay ahead of Moss anyway, however without being able to lose him completely pull away from him. Brabham goes up to seventh place, followed by Gurney, Surtees, Bonnier, Brooks, and McLaren. The three remaining drivers led by Trevor Taylor, who are driving smoothly and safely, are now way behind, while Hermann and de Beaufort race tightly together alternating in last place.
Nothing changes in the lead until lap 20. Von Trips seems quite comfortable in first position and Phil Hill is doing his best to block any attack from Clark and his new Lotus. The gap between the leading Ferrari and the Lotus-Climax oscillates between four and five seconds, but nobody seems capable of giving von Trips a real challenge. Ginther’s Ferrari does not seem competitive because the engine loses power, probably due to ignition issues.
This allows Moss to overtake him again and, while the problem keeps getting worse, Brabham reaches and gets past the red car. Meanwhile, Surtees precedes Gurney, after having claimed eighth place, and McLaren passes Bonnier. On lap 21 Clark is four seconds behind the leading Ferrari, with Phil Hill’s car between them, but on lap 22 the young Scot overtakes the American and takes second place. This totally disrupts Ferrari’s plan, because Hill should have settled on a slightly slower pace to block his rivals and allow von Trips to extend his advantage. Now, instead, Clark is forcing Ferrari to speed up too much and, although Hill does his best to keep Clark busy, he cannot control his pace and, therefore, von Trips cannot pull away.
However, it is also true that there are a few chances that von Trips can be caught, although he is not as comfortable as he planned, and he cannot relax at all. In the meantime, Moss has overtaken Graham Hill, because the B.R.M. becomes increasingly slower as the race progresses, while Ginther’s engine goes back to working properly and allows the driver to get past Brabham. On lap 35, von Trips increases his margin over his teammate Phil Hill. But Clark does not give up battling the U.S. driver, and every time Hill relaxes a bit, he immediately goes for it. The pace of the first three cars is fast, almost identical to the previous year. Graham Hill runs wide on the grass briefly and finds himself in seventh place behind Brabham.
Phil Hill is slowly reaching his objective as he sees the gap between him and Clark and leader increase, going from the initial 6 seconds gradually up to 6.5 and then to 8 on lap 42. Clark keeps pressuring Hill’s Ferrari and for a lap he even overtakes his rival, but von Trips is not too worried about what is happening behind his back, being sure of having an engine that seems in perfect conditions. Ginther manages to overtake Moss but cannot shake him off his tail. What is more, he sees two Ferraris in front of him, each of them followed closely (and worryingly) by a Lotus.
The Coopers and the Porsches are not competitive here in Zandvoort, and neither the B.R.M.s are, and it is clear that the new Lotus can keep up with the Ferraris only thanks to Jim Clark’s abilities, same as Moss with his old Lotus. However, both drivers’ effort seems vain, because there obviously is something strong and implacable about how the Ferraris are racing, with Trips carrying on in the lead unhindered.
The valiant Lotus driver tries to do his best to make things difficult for the Italian team, however unsuccessfully. Ginther is in fourth place but cannot get rid of a resilient Moss: a very bad situation to be in, because one small mistake is all it takes to Moss to get past. The gap between the five cars in front and the rest of the field led by Brabham becomes enormous as time passes. Graham Hill loses another position, ending up behind Surtees. In the last fifteen laps Phil Hill gets closer to von Trips again and the two Ferraris ride comfortably in formation, one behind the other, as Clark sees his gap swell up to twelve seconds.
With four laps to go, Ginther’s task to nurse his car to the finish line is made more difficult after the spring of his throttle pedal breaks, forcing him to brake for every slow corner, unable to partialize the power. While he and Moss are approaching the hairpin behind the pits on the last lap, Ginther misjudges the braking point and enters the corner too fast, losing control of the rear of his car and running wide, allowing Moss – who was waiting for a mistake – to get ahead of him. The British driver cuts on the inside and leads Ginther up the hill.
Finally, Von Trips wins the Dutch Grand Prix, followed by teammate Phil Hill and Jim Clark in his Lotus. England’s Moss (Lotus), who engaged a duel with Richie Ginther right from the start, manages to best the Ferrari driver, who had the task to defend the first two positions in the hands of his teammates, claiming fourth place. This triumphal day proclaims the superiority of the Italian cars on the Dutch circuit of Zandvoort: thanks to more power and a better preparation, the Ferraris have proven extremely competitive.
By contrast, a day to forget for defending world champion Jack Brabham: the Aussie has had some difficulties in trying to keep up with the Ferraris. It is a triumphal day for Ferrari at the Dutch Grand Prix, second round of the World Drivers’ Championship. Finishing in first and second place in the final classification respectively, Wolfgang von Trips and Phill Hill clearly show the blatant superiority of the Italian cars at Zandvoort circuit. Initial predictions were not that bold after all: whoever said, even before the Monaco Grand Prix, that the Maranello-based Formula 1 cars would probably regain the primacy lost in favour of the British cars in the last two years, was not wrong.
In Monte-Carlo, thanks to the many pitfalls of that circuit more than to the efficiency of the Lotus, Stirling Moss’s enormous class won but, after changing the environment, the bigger power output and the better preparation of the Ferraris manifested itself clearly. In fact, von Trips has dominated the Dutch Grand Prix from beginning to end, without even having to defend a little, with the rivals of British teams such as Lotus, Cooper and B.R.M. already busy battling for the places of honour. Phil Hill, after some tussle with young and promising Jim Clark (who set the fastest lap of the race), managed to get rid of him quite easily. Stirling Moss was not able to do better than fourth, after a lightning start, which allowed him to precede Ferrari’s third driver Richie Ginther right on the finish line. That American who, eight days before, had been his toughest rival.
Winning this duel at the photo finish allows Moss to keep the head of the world drivers’ standings with 12 points, tied with von Trips. Phil Hill has climbed up to 10, Ginther to 8 and Clark to 4. Defending world champion Jack Brabham, who will tempt fate at the infernal Indianapolis 500 on 30th May 1961, has had to settle for sixth place and one single championship point. But judging by how things are going, it will be hard for him to defend his title: not because he has lost ‘the touch’, but because of Cooper’s blatant difficulties in keeping up with Ferrari. At least until Coventry-Climax introduces its new eight-cylinder engine currently under construction.
After all, it happens to be the same problem for Lotus (who has Climax as engine supplier), for B.R.M. and for Porsche, who all have new engines in the works, but the delay accumulated in this first part of the season could become unbridgeable by its end. Ferrari seems in great shape and things may get even better as the next races valid for the Formula 1 World Championship will all be held on very fast circuits, which perfectly suit the greater power of Maranello’s 1.5-litre six-cylinder engine. The next round is the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps, but first Ferrari will have to face another two severe tests with their sportscars: the Nürburgring 1000 Kilometres and then the Le Mans 24 Hours, both valid for the World Sportscar Championship.
This year, Ferrari showed up with new very efficient vehicles both in Formula 1 and in the World Sportscar Championship and has the chance to clinch the two most prestigious titles in motor racing, repeating a result they had already achieved other times in the past. Coming back to the race in Zandvoort, it should be highlighted that all fifteen cars who started also finished the race. This is an exceptional occurrence, and it shows the excellent technical preparation and the professionalism with which teams are involved in this complex activity, more generous with disappointment than satisfaction. In conclusion, motorsport is far from having run out of appeal for the masses.