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#179 1969 British Grand Prix

2021-11-16 00:00

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#1969,

#179 1969 British Grand Prix

On Thursday 10th July 1969, Ernesto Brambilla tests at Autodromo di Modena the Formula 1 car Ferrari fielded in Clermont Ferrand for the French Grand

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On Thursday 10th July 1969, Ernesto Brambilla tests at Autodromo di Modena the Formula 1 car Ferrari fielded in Clermont Ferrand for the French Grand Prix and that on 19th July will participate in the British Grand Prix, sixth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. Chris Amon cannot be in Modena because on Sunday 13th July 1969 he will take part in a race of the Can-Am championship in Watkins Glen. At the next British Grand Prix Ferrari will field two cars, one driven by Chris Amon and the other by Pedro Rodríguez. And ahead of a possible divorce with Amon, Ferrari may consider promoting Brambilla to Formula 1. Back in the day, RAF bombers and fighter planes took off from Silverstone. Then, in 1949, the British decided to turn this airport hidden in the English countryside, halfway between London and Coventry, into a racing circuit, which immediately had the honour to host the British Grand Prix, subsequently alternating with Aintree and Brands Hatch. Silverstone Circuit is a fast track, with eight turns where cars can reach even 280 km/h, that seems to have been designed only to allow drivers in the state of grace to express themselves at their best. And, unsurprisingly, on Thursday 17th July 1969, during the first practice session of the British Grand Prix, here too the driver in that condition is the same, that Jackie Stewart who, with his Matra-Ford, seems destined to monopolize Formula 1 races this year. On this first day of practice the sun shines and the fans at Silverstone are in turmoil for qualifying to start, although the tension for the race could already be felt in the previous days, so much that seemed that the Grand Prix had already started. All teams are ready for practice to begin, except Team Lotus, who is absent and will arrive at the circuit at lunchtime.

 

The race of the BRDC International Trophy held on Sunday 30th March 1969 at Silverstone Circuit made everybody sense that the official circuit lap record owned by Amon since April 1968 with a time of 1’25’’1 would be easily beaten by the best drivers of the current championship. As usual, Stewart proceeds undisturbed to dictate the pace already in the first practice session, setting a time of 1’25"1. After having driven his Matra MS80, Jackie decides to experiment and takes out for a spin the AWD Matra MS84 to gain some confidence, pushing the limit to 1’24"1, also supported by his teammate, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Beltoise in the Matra MS80-01 with a time of 1’23"0. McLaren Racing appears at its strongest with its new AWD car (M9A-1), which is going to be tested for the first time at this circuit. Since the all-wheel drive requires a new driving style, the team decides to borrow Derek Bell from Ferrari, while the two McLaren drivers Hulme and McLaren focus on keeping up with the pace of the leaders in their old M7A-2 and M7C-1. Ferrari gives its #0009 car to Rodriguez, while Amon can choose from chassis #0017 and #0019, and the Mexican goes fastest in the first free practice session, setting a time of 1’22"6. Piers Courage tries out the new Williams-Brabham BT26-1, previously known as BT26-4, but as soon as the practice begins the Cosworth engine blows up, forcing the mechanics to replace it. Team B.R.M. comes back to Formula 1 after skipping the French Grand Prix. Jackie Oliver is at the wheel of his P133-01, while John Surtees drives the P139-01, equipped with a monocoque chassis and more rounded sides, as the bodywork maintains the same width for the whole length of the car, instead of being tapered towards the rear end. Furthermore, the oil radiators have been removed from the sides and replaced by one mounted over the gearbox, integrated in the rear wing.

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Swiss Jo Siffert drives the Walker-Durlacher Lotus 49B, while Briton Vic Elford the Antique Automobiles Ltd McLaren-Cosworth V8. The new Cosworth-Engineering four-wheel-drive car had been initially entered with Brian Redman at the wheel for Team Cooper, but his obligations with Porsche prevented him from testing the car before practice, therefore it was assigned to Trevor Taylor at the beginning of raceweek. Eventually, the car does not totally convince the engineers Duckworth, Costin and Hird, who decide to officially withdraw it from the race to prepare it ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, held on Sunday 7th September 1969. With Brabham again out of the game and following the breakdown in the negotiations to convince American Dan Gurney to race for them in this Grand Prix, Ickx can choose between the usual BT26-3 or the brand-new BT26-4 to drive during the race. Meanwhile, Team Lotus, whose aim is to fight against Matra, is working on the transition from the obsolete 2-wheelen drive to the 4-wheelen drive. Therefore, Rindt, the only driver who is fast enough to represent a threat for Stewart, finds himself without a car. Since Hill is ready but Lotus cars are not, the Englishman decides to try out the new Brabham, setting a time of 1’24"1, and his performance turns out to be faster than Ickx’s on both cars.

 

Lotus shows up at free practice in the afternoon with its 4WD cars for Hill (63-1) and Miles (63-2) and the 49B/6 for Rindt. However, there seem to be some problems with both the drivers and the cars. In fact, the oil system of the gearbox on Miles’s car does not work properly and prevents the driver from driving seriously. Hill does not too bad with the Lotus 63 but cannot keep up with the 4WD Matra or the 4WD McLaren. As Jackie’s main rival suddenly appears out of nowhere, he is encouraged to push even further to go a bit faster, setting a time of 1'21"3. Hulme and Rindt start chasing the Scot and his Matra, magically taking 3 tenths of a second off Stewart’s time, with Hulme ahead of Rindt. The pair is followed by Ickx, Amon, Beltoise and Rodríguez, while Surtees remains more distant from the group. Sweden’s Jo Bonnier of Joackim Bonnier Racing Team should have driven a Lotus 49B, but the project never saw the light. Thursday practice ends with Rindt setting a time of 1’22"4. Except the phenomenal Stewart, the others find themselves more or less on the same level (even though the re-entrant BR.M.s of Surtees and Oliver still keep disappointing). Ferrari should take some advantage from fielding two cars instead of just one. The last time this happened was at the Mexican Grand Prix 1968: the only risk for the Maranello-based manufacturer is that Amon overdrives because he is too prodded by Rodríguez’s presence.

 

"On the other side, it’s better for Chris to have a touchstone".

 

It is said at Ferrari’s garage. Amon’s car has been modified after the French Grand Prix in Clermont-Ferrand. Lubrication and cooling systems have been changed, while in the rear-wing area a new fairing has been mounted to cover the oil radiator and improve its cooling by channelling the airflow. Pedro Rodríguez, one of the richest men in Mexico, is happy at last. In his first practice session sits at the wheel of the 3-litre Ferrari and does numerous laps for his Formula 1 debut with the Maranello-based manufacturer. It has been a while since it was thought that Rodríguez deserved to drive a car in the pinnacle of motorsport. The Mexican is certainly not a champion like Stewart, but he is one of those drivers who fight till the end, which, by contrast, cannot be said about Amon. Rodríguez had already taken part with Ferrari in the Mexican and the U.S. Grand Prix. Then a long interruption occurred. This year he has raced in South Africa, Barcelona and Monaco always with privateer cars, despite having signed a contract with Ferrari to race in the International Championship for Makes.

 

"I was waiting for a car for the Dutch Grand Prix, in Zandvoort, but they told me last minute that it wasn’t ready. I still had the contract for a collaboration with Parnell, but now I’ve terminated it so that I can fully focus on Ferrari. Regarding Amon, there’s no rivalry between us. Quite the contrary, I’m glad I can be by his side for the remaining races of the Formula 1 World Championship. I still lack a bit of confidence with the car: We’re just starting to get acquainted, but I think I can perform well".

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Pedro Rodríguez already won a Formula 1 Grand Prix in South Africa in 1967 with a Cooper-Maserati. On his part, it seems that Amon has not taken very well Rodriguez’s arrival, racing full-time for Ferrari. Meanwhile, Matra-Ford beats every record at the Silverstone circuit: 1’21"310 is the incredible lap time. Undoubtedly, Stewart is in a state of grace and the car is one of the best of the field. In this respect, Jacky Ickx claims:

 

"Both my Brabham and the Lotus cars are powered by the same Ford-Cosworth engines Matra has, and I think there isn’t a big difference in terms of power between our 8-cylinder engines and Stewart’s. It’s simply Jackie who is faster than us, we have to honestly acknowledge that".

 

However, it is also true that those at Matra are really good at finding the right setup for the car. For example, the Scot and the French team have been testing for over a week in Silverstone, going round the track day after day. The testing of 4WD cars has been long awaited by pundits and is observed with interest. Stewart tests the Matra MS84 (which he will not utilize in any race) setting - as previously mentioned - an excellent 1’24"1. A time which is very close to the ones set by conventional cars, which have already expressed their full potential. Three other AWD cars are worth mentioning: the two Lotus and the debutant McLaren. However, only John Miles and Derek Bell will probably be racing the 4WD cars, with Bell driving McLaren’s latest creation. Graham Hill should enter the conventional car to defend his chances of threatening an unchained Stewart in the fight for the world title. Friday’s practice session at midday is dedicated to experimentation, without affecting the battle for the best positions on the grid. Stewart seizes the opportunity to test the 4WD Matra and settles on a 1’23"0-pace. Team Lotus appears unluckier, as Graham Hill’s 49B suffers a bearing failure on the front tyre, after they had updated it and also completely rebuilt the 49/8. Rindt’s 49B does not even leave the paddock due to a leak in the fuel tank, because someone left a rivet inside the bay of the monocoque: the rivet, which began to scrape the rubber tank, ended up piercing it. The situation changes during Friday afternoon qualifying. Drivers have to face a long two-hour session, divided into four 30-minute segments without interruptions.

 

At the end of each 30-minute segment, the fastest man is awarded £100. In the first half hour, after setting a time of 1’21"1, Jackie Stewart stops to take a look at his rival Rindt in action, who pushes his Lotus to the limit in a furious chase of the Matra MS80. It has been a while since it became clear that these two drivers outpace all their rivals, giving birth to an exciting duel between them. In the second half hour, Stewart sets an impressive time of 1’20"6, followed by Rindt with a time of 1’21"0, 0.4 seconds slower. Therefore, Stewart wins two rounds, followed by Rindt with none. However, in the third half hour, Rodríguez goes fastest with a time of 1’22"7. Rindt, with 1’21"4, is trying to win the £100, while Stewart decides to drive the 4WD Matra first, then again his MS80. The Scot seems really nervous when he goes round Stowe corner, using all the track and part of the grassy edge. While he is driving through Woodcote curve to the limit of the tyres’ grip, he notices that a part of the kerb at the corner entrance is out of place. The Matra cuts abruptly across the track from left to right in a series of spins, then crosses a grassy strip of about ten meters before hitting a safety embarkment in a big shunt. As a cloud of dust rises, after a couple of frenetic attempts, Stewart succeeds in getting away from the wreckage with the terror of his car eventually catching fire. Fortunately, at least three firefighters wearing asbestos suits approach the car in a matter of seconds. One stands on the embarkment with a fire extinguisher pointed towards Stewart, ready to sprinkle the car with foam, as the session is interrupted, so that the marshals can remove the car, which is completely destroyed. In the pits, Stewart calmly narrates his accident:

 

"I had just entered the corner, when I felt the right rear tyre passing over a small obstacle and then sag. The Matra got out of my control and I ended up spinning like a top in the middle of the track, fearing that someone might crash into me. Well, at least everything went well".

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Later, a track marshal will report having seen the tyre suddenly blow up after the car had passed the slight bump that precedes Woodcote Corner:

 

"The Matra hit with the wheel the concrete edge delimiting the inner side of the track and then bounced towards the opposite direction".

 

At the end of these procedures, Stewart climbs on board of his Matra MS80, which was being driven by Beltoise, and leaves his teammate the Matra 4WD, to give it all and try to win the £100. Stewart starts driving a Matra model that is older than his, set up for Beltoise’s driving style, setting a time of 1’21"2. Meanwhile, it seems that Team Lotus has recovered a bit in the last thirty minutes. Rindt tries everything to beat his rival’s time (1’20"6) but ends up setting a time of 1’20’’8, which however is fast enough to earn him the £100. The fight between Stewart and Rindt overshadows the other drivers’ effort, even though Hulme, Ickx and Amon are in pursuit and Surtees is not too far from the three leading drivers. The pace is so outrageously fast that even the slowest of the 2WD cars, Oliver’s B.R.M., sets a much quicker time than its previous lap record. Hill is now driving the Lotus 49B, which should have been driven by Bonnier, so the Swede is given the first 4WD Lotus 63. After having solved some setting problems (tyres, wing inclination, suspensions), Ferrari sees Amon improve his time from 1’22"9 to 1’21"9, going fifth fastest, narrowly preceded by Ickx in his Brabham (1’21"6), apart form the Stewart-Rindt-Hill trio. Rodríguez’s performance remains instead similar to the first day of practice. Inside Ferrari’s garage they look at the race with serenity, as they simply acknowledge the fact that, at the moment, Stewart is superior, but there is no awe before the others.

 

"After all, why couldn’t we be counted in for the win?"

 

It should be noticed that in today’s practice Bonnier, whose conventional Lotus he bought for this race has not been shipped to him, has been assigned the 4WD Lotus. This means that tomorrow the British Grand Prix will see the 4WD cars competing in a race of their own: Bonnier and Miles’ Lotus, Beltoise’s Matra and Bell’s McLaren. A further attraction for the race in Silverstone.

 

"With Beltoise’s Matra I don’t think I can drive as fast as I usually do with mine".

 

Says Jackie Stewart Saturday night, who escaped unhurt that scary accident in qualifying. In fact, Beltoise’s car was not prepared properly and is not as fast as the one Stewart destroyed crashing out for a tyre explosion. In this respect, the engineers working for Matra’s tyre supplier claim that the puncture was caused by a small rock and Stewart, obviously, validates this version, while others think that it was a tyre failure. Anyway, the most important thing is that the Scot walked away uninjured: not having his usually perfect Matra will probably make the battle more uncertain. For sure, Jean Pierre Beltoise is not happy because, for team orders, he was forced to cede his car to Stewart and drive the 4WD Matra. After his good performance in Clermont-Ferrand, the Frenchman enjoyed driving a competitive car. On Saturday 19th July 1969 the sky over Silverstone is grey and cloudy, but the weather is hot, and a huge crowd enters the gates to spread around the circuit. In the morning, a historic car parade intends to represent the history of Grand Prix racing and is followed by a classic Bentley parade, with all the cars driven by Formula 1 drivers around the track before the race. After practice and qualifying on the previous days everybody is wondering who is going to be the fastest at the British Grand Prix: Stewart or Rindt? Scoring points for the world title seems to have become a secondary matter. Stewart set the fastest time in qualifying but cannot take pole position because of Friday afternoon’s accident. There was not enough time, so the team could neither repair the damage nor change the engine of his Matra after the accident. Consequently, Tyrrell preferred to make sure the MS80-01 initially assigned to Beltoise would be adapted for Stewart, even though the engine would rev lower by 500 rpm compared to the other Cosworth engines. 

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Therefore, Rindt, who won Friday afternoon’s challenge, starts from pole position, with Stewart alongside him and Hulme occupying the last slot of the first row, on the outside. The grid had been organized with each position based on qualifying times, but then it was scrambled by all the drivers who changed their cars: Stewart starting with the MS80-01, Beltoise with the MS84, Hill with the 49/8 and Bonnier with the Lotus 63. In the last Grand Prix, there was only one AWD car, whereas now there are four. The incredible tension accumulated between Stewart and Rindt during the whole season seems ready to explode, and the atmosphere in Silverstone is electrifying. Although the other teams are doing well this season, all the attention at the circuit is channelled towards the fight between the Scot and the Austrian. In fact, the two drivers at the wheel of a Matra and a Lotus respectively, race in a league of their own already from the first corner, as the other racing drivers become part of the background of this legendary duel. Surtees at the wheel of his B.R.M., who started from the third row and climbed up to third place exiting Stowe corner, is forced to retire with a broken front suspension. Rindt maintains the lead of the race from Stewart in the first six laps, until the Scot overtakes the Lotus right before Stowe corner, holding a gap similar to the one Rindt had created in the previous laps. Meanwhile, Hulme cannot keep up with the leaders and takes a solitary third place, with a significant gap over the group behind his back. Ickx, who had a poor start and was sitting in tenth place in the first few laps, was able to retake fourth place on lap 10, after having overtaken Siffert, Hill, Courage, Amon, and Rodríguez.

 

4WD cars seem not to be having a good day, except for Miles who goes past Oliver’s BRM and keeps up with Elford’s McLaren. On lap 5, Bell spins at Becketts corner after his rear suspension’s failure, that forces the Briton to retire, followed by Bonnier on the following lap after his engine breaks down. Beltoise races alone on the tail of the group, because of the few kilometres accumulated at the wheel of his 4WD Matra. On lap 16, while the two leading cars are lapping Beltoise, a sudden move on Stewart allows Rindt to retake the first position. At the moment, it seems that the two drivers at the front have come to a stalemate. Both cars and drivers are pushing to the absolute limit, each waiting for the other to make a driving mistake or let his guard down for a fraction of a second. Behind them there is Hulme, while McLaren is holding off Ickx by driving extraordinarily. On lap 21, Hulme’s car starts having some issues with the engine and the kiwi is overtaken by the two drivers behind him. At the end of lap 27, Hulme is forced to pit with a problem with his fuel injection system. Oliver’s BRM also falls silent after 19 laps because of transmission issues. It is the umpteenth retirement and a huge disappointment for the British team, despite the recent reorganization. Courage follows closely the duel between McLaren and Ickx, while he is preceding Hill, Siffert, Amon and Rodríguez. Hill desperately tries to get past Courage in the corners, but the young curly-haired Brabham driver seems neither impressed nor intimidated by the defending world champion and holds his fifth place, with Hulme now out of the race.

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While the two leading drivers are lapping the backmarkers, Rindt tries to exploit the traffic to his advantage and to extend his gap up to 1.5 seconds over Stewart. However, once out of traffic, the Scot reapproaches Rindt, while Ickx is third, McLaren fourth and all the other competitors are lapped. The battle between Hill, Courage, Siffert and Amon still rages on with repeated overtakes between Hill and Siffert until Amon (on lap 45) and Siffert (on lap 81) are forced to stop due to gearbox issues. This allows Rodríguez to join the battle but only until his engine also blows up on lap 61. At about two thirds of the race distance, Stewart starts increasing the pressure on Rindt and the Matra steadily closes the gap; then, on lap 62, Stewart retakes the lead. Rindt is struggling because one of the endplates of his rear wing is going loose and forces him to pit. Rindt re-joins the track half a minute behind Stewart. Now it is all over: with more than thirty seconds between them, the duel has ended in favour of the Scot and there is nothing Rindt can do to regain first place. Ickx is now third, McLaren fourth, while Hill and Courage are still battling, even though on the Briton’s Brabham the right side-fin is broken. Furthermore, troubles have just started for Rindt: on lap 76, the Austrian driver exits Stowe corner zigzagging, since in his tank there are few drops of fuel left. On the following lap, Rindt is forced to pit for refuelling. This series of unfortunate events makes him drop to an unsatisfactory fourth place behind Ickx and McLaren. Rindt is so disappointed that, before realising what is happening to him, he is overtaken by Courage. Luckily for him, he will retake fourth place on the last lap.

 

But it is not only Rindt’s car the one with problems for Team Lotus: in fact, both Hill and Siffert finish their fuel and are obliged to stop in the last few laps, with Ickx overtaking them and taking second place at the end of lap 83. Stewart crosses the line to win again for Matra, but only after one of the hardest battles of his career. Despite all the misadventures in the last few laps, in Silverstone Rindt has shown that he is the only one who can keep up with the pace Stewart imposes to the races. Ickx comes in second with the Brabham-Ford, followed by Bruce McLaren, Jochem Rindt, Piers Courage, and Vic Elford, in the second McLaren. The unbeatable Stewart. Not even the British Grand Prix could escape from Matra-Ford’s Scot, who has already won in South Africa, Spain, Monaco, Netherlands and France this year. Stewart, now one step away from the Formula 1 world title, has found a great rival in Jochen Rindt. The Austrian driving the Lotus-Ford has challenged the Scot for three quarters of the race distance, then stopped to have part of the front wing removed, which threatened to fly away at any moment, and Stewart had free rein. Rindt, whose finals laps were quite unfortunate, again found himself stopped by running out of fuel and being forced to refuel, dropping to fourth place, after being overtaken also by Belgian Ickx (Brabham-Ford) and McLaren (McLaren-Ford). The very sustained pace also forced Graham Hill (Lotus-Ford) and Jo Siffert (Lotus-Ford) to refuel. Instead, Ickx was barely able to avoid this time loss, because he succeeded in crossing the finish line with a silent engine, after consuming the full tank with a ca. 170-litres capacity. For Ferrari it is yet another disappointment. The two cars assigned to Chris Amon and Pedro Rodríguez disappeared on lap 45 and 61 respectively of the Grand Prix’s 84.

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Amon’s car suffered a gearbox failure (a selector broke down, and Chris could not change into fourth gear, possibly the most used in this very fast circuit, where the slowest corner is about 130-140 km/h); Rodríguez’s car had an engine issue. What is more, the two drivers were never able to compete for the first positions. Amon, started from the second row, gradually dropped through the classification: when he retired, he was sitting in ninth place, with Elford’s McLaren on his back. Rodríguez did what he could with a car that was not well prepared (the night before the mechanics had changed the powertrain), battling against the rest of the field courageously, especially at the beginning of the race, even overtaking his teammate. He was sixth when he entered the pits to abandon the race. Yet another negative trip (the one to England) for Ferrari. It really seems that the year 1969 does not want to give the Italian manufacturer any satisfactions. Maybe, the only team in worse conditions is B.R.M. Today, Surtees completed just one lap before his suspension broke down and Oliver retired on lap 19 for a gearbox issue. So, the ten out of seventeen cars that finished the British Grand Prix are all powered by Ford-Cosworth eight-cylinder engines. It is said that they are all equal, but today, the ones mounted on Stewart’s Matra and Rindt’s Lotus were better than the ones powering all the other cars. However, it is also true that Stewart and Rindt are on another level compared to their colleagues.

 

Even though Stewart (who suffered a terrible accident on Saturday), did not have his usual car at his disposal, he drove simply and clean, making even the most difficult manoeuvre seem easy. And Rindt, with an inferior car, especially at roadholding (as a proof it was sufficient to observe how he took the corner before the grandstand straight), showed he is on the same level of the Scot. The two were the great protagonists of the race, clearly outpacing everyone else. There were two drivers who fought for the win and other minor characters who, inevitably lapped, battled for the places of honour. Only Hulme, like in France, was able to keep up with the leaders until, on lap 26, his McLaren’s ignition system began to work improperly, and the New Zealand driver had to give up. Rindt got away in the lead at the start but Stewart got past him on lap 7, just for him, in turn, to be overtaken on lap 17. The Austrian and the Scotsman proceeded like this, closing and stretching the gap between each other as they lapped the backmarkers, with Sewart progressively increasing the pace, so that he set the fastest lap of the race twice, on lap 57 and 60, with a time of 1’21"3, at an average speed of 208.580 km/h. The record was previously owned by Amon, who set in his Ferrari a time of 1’25"1, at an average speed of 199.270 km/h. 4WD cars demonstrated they are not competitive enough compared to conventional cars. Four AWD cars hit the track: the two Lotus of Bonnier and Miles, Bell’s McLaren and Beltoise’s Matra, who gave his usual car to Stewart following the Scot’s accident in qualifying. Beltoise finished ninth, Miles tenth, whilst Bell and Bonnier retired.

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After six rounds of the Formula 1 World Championship, Jackie Stewart leads the drivers’ standings with 45 points, 28 more than the driver in second place, New Zealand’s Bruce McLaren. The results obtained by Matra’s Scottish ace are exceptional: five Grand Prix wins, five fastest laps, a minimum gap over his rivals of 18 seconds (South Africa) and a maximum of two laps (Spain) at the end of a race. Most importantly, a feeling of marked superiority is definitely perceivable, even helped by others’ bad luck or unpreparedness. At the beginning of the year, and also afterwards, Stewart said that his strongest adversaries would be Jochen Rindt and Chris Amon. After the last two races in France and Great Britain, he may add Jackie Ickx. However, neither Rindt nor Amon nor Ickx were able to beat the Scot, who did not win only in Monte Carlo, where he was stopped by a transmission issue in his blue car, whose eight-cylinder engine costs around 13.000.000 lire (£8.000 of the time). In Silverstone, Rindt showed that he is the only one capable of keeping up with Stewart in a Grand Prix. The Austrian’s Lotus is lighter and slightly faster than the Scot’s Matra, which however has a better roadholding. Furthermore, the French single seater is more reliable and better prepared than its English competitor.

 

"When I sit in my Matra’s cockpit I feel safe. I know that none of its parts will suddenly break down".

 

Like Rindt, Amon is seeking a race win. For the kiwi and Ferrari this first six rounds of the world championship have been full of bitterness. Five retirements and a third place, in the Netherlands. A lot of criticism towards the driver and the car. However, it would be unfair to forget in one fell swoop all the successes and the joy that Ferrari has been able to give his fans for years. Winning is not always possible and that is not catastrophic. It is just a negative moment. It will pass. In Maranello they have all the technical tools and the right commitment to change this situation. And as soon as Amon, now joined by Rodríguez, has in his hands a competitive car, he will probably race with more heat. Young Belgian Jackie Ickx, together with Rindt, are Stewart’s only non-English-speaking rivals. Grand Prix racing is now a small circle of drivers and cars: around twenty men, half a dozen cars. In the championship standings, we find fourteen names: ten drivers have a British or a Commonwealth-released passport, only four come from other countries. These are Ickx, Rindt, Beltoise, who is French, and Siffert, who is Swiss. There is a very simple explanation for this situation: United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand are full of circuits. A lot of races are organized in those countries, and upcoming racing drivers from there are more willing to make sacrifices to emerge. The selection is much stricter and carried out on a wide basis. It is logical that a lot of successful racing drivers come from those countries. Ickx is an exception: it is very difficult to enter the restricted group of the Grand Prix racing drivers. You should be capable of driving at 300 km/h, take a corner surrounded by other drivers, wheel to wheel, careful not to take the wrong line. Drivers have to focus on the track ahead, look at the signals, glimpse at the rear-view mirrors, check the tachometer or oil and water temperature. One hour, two hours of extreme tension and concentration, sometimes with a bit of fear. Maybe, drivers go back to being men only when they stop at their garage. But they do not even notice. For Stewart, Rindt, Amon, among the fastest Grand Prix drivers, racing is ordinary.

 

Martina Morabito


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