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#181 1969 Italian Grand Prix

2021-11-13 23:00

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#181 1969 Italian Grand Prix

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The German Grand Prix, held on Sunday, August 3, 1969, saw the first Championship victory of the young Belgian driver Ickx on his Brabham. At the time, Ickx was the only one having been able to get on the way of the unstoppable Jackie Stewart and the Matra, and to have temporarily slowed the Scottish driver's race to an easy World Championship win. The next appointment on the calendar is set for Sunday, September 7, 1969, more than a month after the German Grand Prix, when the aces of the wheel will descend on the circuit of Monza, on the occasion of the XXXX Italian Grand Prix. To precede the eighth trial of the World Championship there are numerous racing appointments in program, among which are the cup City of Enna, the fifth round of the championship Can-Am and the rounds of the European championship of the mountain. The king of the mountain is one only, Peter Schetty. On Sunday, August 3, 1969, the Swiss driver, onboard of the amazing Ferrari 212E, will win the Cesana-Sestriere race in one hour, 58'6"4, improving Gerhard Mitter’s previous record. Schetty, in fact, takes 1.3 seconds less (average 127.650 km/h). At the end of the race, while a group of friends greet him festively, the Swiss driver declares:

 

"I dedicate my achievement to Mitter. He was a loyal friend".

 

During Saturday's practice, Schetty had obtained a time of 4'52"5. Although having beaten Mitter's record, he could not achieve the same result on Sunday, due to the road conditions. During the night it had rained, in the morning the sun had dried the asphalt, but there was still a layer of humidity.

 

"The first two kilometers and the last stretch, from the bridge to the finish line were slippery, it was like riding on oil. I pulled a lot more than in practice and the car responded wonderfully. On the other hand, I couldn't risk more than I had to".

 

Honest words, confirming the maturity reached by this young Swiss driver, who could represent a precious element for Ferrari next year, not only for mountain races, but also for those of the World Championship. His ascent to Sestriere is exemplary: the spider loops hairpin bends with extreme confidence, announced from afar by the roar of the twelve-cylinder engine. Never an uncertainty, never a halt, even infinitesimal, but a wise game of changes, braking and acceleration, touching 200 km/h, leaving the viewers the image of a red flash. But the Cesana-Sestriere, in addition to its undisputed dominator, had other protagonists, as evidenced by the eight improved records in addition to the absolute one. Arturo Merzario, for example, did really well in the two-litre Fiat-Abarth, placing himself behind Schetty and shattering the class record (20 seconds less).

 

After all, it was a big party for Abarth, who had its drivers and sister teams in the top ten places of the overall ranking. On the other hand, the Formula 3 single seaters could not shine as much. They started last, just as a rainstorm broke out in the opening section. The rain and the wet ground slowed down the cars, so much so that the winner, Mauro Nesti, on the Tecno, took 5'51"5 compared to 5'42"2 in practice. It is however the only setback of a pleasant race taken care of with great passion by the Automobile Club of Turin, which has not been marked by the slightest incident. Rather, it was marked by the presence of a big crowd in the meadows and on the ridges at the edge of the track: a sign that motor racing, when there is the certainty of seeing worthy drivers and vehicles at work, remains a popular sport.

 

The predictions will be respected even in the seventh round of the European Mountain Car Championship: Sunday, August 31, 1969, on the winding track of Villars-sur-Ollon, near Lausanne, the Swiss Peter Schetty will realize, at the wheel of the terrific Ferrari 212 E, the best time of the day securing in a definitive way the 1969 title. Excellent performance from the Italian Arturo Merzario (Fiat-Abarth) who, third in the overall standings, ranks first in the sport category and second in the overall ranking for the European Hill Climb Championship. Schetty starts fast and, in the first heat, he improves to 3'49"78 the record established previously in 1967 (3'55"4) by the late Gerhard Mitter. In the second heat the Ferrari driver does even better: 3'47"54, at an average speed of 126.593 km/h. A few moments later the loudspeakers announce:

 

"Peter Schetty is the new absolute champion of uphill racing".

 

Thanks to favorable weather conditions, the influx of spectators on both sides of the track - 8 kilometers long with over a thousand meters of elevation gain - is remarkable. A total of 139 competitors, each of which is required to make two ascents. In order to safeguard the safety of the public, the organizers adopted extensive security measures, prohibiting, among other things, access to the most dangerous points of the track. Except for a few scary spins, no crashes are recorded.

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In the middle of the two races of the European Mountain Championship, Friday, August 15, 1969 on the Pergusa circuit Nino Vaccarella gets a brilliant success onboard the Alfa Romeo 33.3 in the Cup City of Enna, at the record average of 220.501 km/h. The Sicilian driver completes the 50 laps of the track in little more than one hour and five minutes, for a total of 239.880 km/h, beating the record of the race. Up to the thirteenth lap, Vaccarella has as a fearsome adversary Jonathan Williams, then the competitor is forced to stop at the box for the same carburetion problems that had emerged on his Serenissima 3000 during the test, and for the Italian there are no more obstacles. The Sicilian driver continues to push, even if without direct competitors, and he also improves the lap record to 1'16"4. Behind Vaccarella there is Ennio Bonomelli, on Porsche Carrera 6, at two laps; then follow Nikor on Alfa Romeo 33, at two laps, Giovanni Alberti, on Alfa Romeo 33 at five laps, the Austrian Wien Horst Mundschtz, on Lotus M.K. 47 at seven laps, and Pietro Lo Piccolo, on Ferrari Dino 206/S, at nine laps.

 

Two days later, on Sunday 17 August 1969, New Zealand drivers again dominate the Canadian American Challenge Cup with Denny Hulme, Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon finishing respectively first, second and third in the now famous race held on the Mid Ohio circuit. Hulme runs the eighty laps at the record average speed of 151.610 km/h, improving by 5.6 km/h the old record set last year by Mark Donohue. The latter is forced to retire from the race during the ninth lap, due to the breakage of an axle. He had started the race in third position at the wheel of his new Roger Penske Lola-Chevrolet. McLaren, a veteran of road racing around the world, says Mid Ohio is the most difficult track he has raced on this year. While Denny Hulme confesses that the Mid Ohio track (which measures exactly 2.4 miles long) is too narrow and too twisty for the big cars of the Can-Am championship. However, both had averaged over 100 mph in Saturday's qualifying practice, improving the old track record by 8 mph.

 

Hulme, starting from pole, overtakes all competitors except McLaren after sixty laps. From this moment on, Hulme starts to slow down considerably and, at the seventy-third lap, McLaren takes the lead. Just before McLaren pits, however, Hulme takes back the top spot again. Chris Amon is forced to stop briefly after noticing a sharp drop in oil pressure for several laps. However, a quick repair allowed him to quickly get back into the race. Amon, during Saturday's qualifying, had damaged the engine of his Ferrari, being forced to go on track with a Maranello's car whose engine could not be fully tuned and had not been tested on track yet. Due to mechanical problems during qualifying, Amon started in twelfth place but on lap nine he was already in third position. And it is in third position that the New Zealander finishes the race with his Ferrari, more than a lap behind Hulme and McLaren. The Swiss Jo Siffert is fourth on the new Porsche 017, just behind Ferrari’s first driver, while the English John Surtees, at the wheel of a Chaparral, closes in fifth place ahead of the Canadian George Eaton on a McLaren-Chevrolet. The new 12-cylinder Porsche of Siffert disappoints expectations.

 

The flying engineer comes back racing. The news is not yet official but on Thursday 28 August 1969 it is announced from reliable sources. Mike Parkes, who had abandoned racing in June 1967 after a serious accident at Spa, has been invited to participate in the 9 Hours of Kyalami in South Africa, next November, by Enzo Ferrari. The Scuderia Ferrari has in Parkes one of its best technicians, destined to the tuning of the cars. In fact, no one knows cars and engines as well as he does, so much so that his presence is considered indispensable for the preparation work rather than for driving in the race. However, it has been known for some time that the British driver wishes to return to racing. Parkes is only thirty-two years old and has always been considered one of the best drivers. It is rare not to see him in the pits, on the grandstands, and more generally at the edge of the tracks all over the world even when he is not directly involved in racing, i.e. there are no Ferraris. The name of Parkes was mentioned on the occasion of the invitation for South Africa for a very precise reason: by that time the brand new 512 S should be ready, the five-litre sports car that will be Ferrari's strong point in the World Championship for Makes in the 1970 season. In the Maranello workshops, chassis and engines of the twenty-five cars that will be used for homologation by Csai are already set.

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The Italian Grand Prix, the eighth round of the Formula 1 World Championship, will be run on Sunday, September 7, 1969 at Monza, but it is not yet clear with what forces Ferrari will take to the track. On Monday, September 1, 1969, during the press conference for the presentation of the race, Dr. Manci, director of the Autoclub Milano, declares:

 

"I have spoken by phone with Ferrari. The situation is this: if the new single-seater set up in Maranello will prove to be on point, Chris Amon will participate in the Grand Prix, otherwise he will be a spectator. There is a second car of the old type for Tino Brambilla. The Monzese, however, fell a few days ago on a motorcycle. He will have to undergo a medical examination, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Only if the opinion of the sanitary will be positive he will be able to run. In any case, Pedro Rodriguez is ready to replace the Italian driver".

 

We have been talking for a long time about the new Ferrari three liters, named 312 B. It is known that the engine will no longer have the classic V12 scheme, but it will be a sole engine, that is with horizontal cylinders opposed. This solution (already adopted on the Formula 1 of 1500 cc) has been successfully applied on the 212 E model, dominator with Peter Schetty of the European Mountain Championship. It is said that the new power unit delivers a power of about 450 horses (the Ford-Cosworth used by Matra, Lotus, McLaren and Brabham have 425 horses). Other features: integral monocoque chassis, 5-speed gearbox, smaller dimensions. The car is prepared for traction on all four wheels. The debut of the 312 B is linked to the tests that will be performed on Tuesday, September 2, 1969 and in the following days. At Monza there will be all the protagonists of the Grand Prix: the Matra with two traditional single-seaters and one four-wheel drive, entrusted to the almost champion Stewart, Beltolse and Servoz-Gavin; the Lotus with Hill, Rindt and Miles (on the four-wheel drive); the B. R.M. with Surtees and Oliver; the Brabham with the returning Jack Brabham and Jacky Ickx; the McLaren with Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme; in addition, the private Siffert (Lotus), Bonnier (Lotus), Courage (Brabham) and Moser (Brabham). In total, with Amon and Brambilla, eighteen drivers.

 

The aces of the wheel return on Sunday to Monza. The Italian Grand Prix will gather all the brands and all the drivers participating in the Formula 1 World Championship. On the outcome of the event there are now no doubts: Jackie Stewart and the Matra-Ford were the big stars of the year. The Scotsman, in seven races, has claimed five times, once came second, once was forced to retire. He now leads the standings with 51 points, followed by the young Belgian Ickx (22), Bruce McLaren (21) and the defending champion Graham Hill (19). Like all regulations, that of Formula 1 is quite complicated. The championship, consisting of eleven races, is divided into two parts: six races in the first and five in the second. The scoring mechanism establishes that a driver can add up the results obtained in the races included in each phase, minus one. Ickx can no longer reach Stewart: the Belgian, with the four scores taken into consideration in the second part (Grand Prix of Germany, Italy, Canada, USA and Mexico), would get a maximum of 36 points (a first place is worth 9 points). These, added to the 13 of the first phase (Grand Prix of South Africa, Spain, Monaco, Holland, France and Great Britain), would bring the total to just 49 points. That leaves McLaren and Graham Hill, who should win at Monza and in the remaining three Grands Prix, hoping that Stewart does not even score two points, i.e. a fifth place. In the first phase of the championship, McLaren scored 17 points, Hill 16: the New Zealander could reach 53 points (17 plus 36) and the Englishman 52.

 

Stewart, with 51 points, only needs two points to win the World Championship. He would be, it is true, on an equal footing with McLaren, but he would beat him by boasting a greater number of successes, two against the (hypothetical) four of his rival. But these are only mathematical speeches. The fight for the 1969 title is already over, with full merit of Stewart and Matra. The man stood out for his driving skills, for his race tactics, sometimes wisely delaying, for his strong personality; the car showed that financial means, organization, care of the smallest detail bring positive results. The help of the French government, the support of the oil group Elf, the experience of Ken Tyrrell, manager of the Matra International stable, translated into a continuous series of affirmations. The French company, specialized in space equipment, will line up three cars: two MS 80 and one MS 84 with four-wheel drive. The Matras are powered by the Ford-Cosworth eight-cylinder engine; the MS 80, with its characteristic bulbous appearance, has a monocoque structure, weighs 650 kilos, and has 430 horsepower at 10.000 rpm. Solid, rugged, it has excellent road holding. The MS 84 weighs 600 kilos and has an experimental tube frame: it appeared for the first time at the Dutch Grand Prix.

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Only Jacky Ickx broke the spell, a month ago in Germany, but it was more thanks to the Belgian than to his Brabham. The duel between Stewart and Ickx will be one of the reasons for the emerging interest on the Italian Grand Prix. It is difficult, however, that Ickx can effectively oppose the Scotsman. The 5750 meters of the fast road track exalt the qualities of the cars rather than those of the drivers. And, undoubtedly, the Matra-Ford is better than the Brabham. Jack Brabham, 43 years old, three times World Champion, has decided to retire to devote himself exclusively to his factory. He will be on track after more than two months of inactivity: he broke his foot at the end of June while testing the car for the French Grand Prix at Silverstone. With him will be Jacky Ickx, who at 24 years old is the youngest Formula 1 driver. The Belgian has beaten Stewart in Germany: mainly thanks to him, because the Brabham-Ford BT 26 A is inferior to the Matra. The BT 26 A has a tube chassis, Hewland gearbox and Ford-Cosworth eight-cylinder engine. Other reasons of interest: the debut (but it is not yet certain) of the new Ferrari 312 B of Chris Amon, the debut of Tino Brambilla (you will see that the medical examination of today will declare him able, indeed very able to drive the Ferrari), the single seaters with four-wheel drive.

 

The team from Maranello, as said, will enter two cars in the Italian Grand Prix: the brand new 312 B and the 312, that is the version that participated in the previous Grand Prix, except the one in Germany. The first one will be driven by Chris Amon, the second one by Tino Brambilla. The 312 B mounts a 12 cylinders horizontal engine. The gearbox is Ferrari, the monocoque structure with a single rear beam. It can accommodate the integral traction. This single seater has never competed: its participation in the Grand Prix depends on the outcome of the tests; in any case, it will be Ferrari's weapon for next year, for future revenges. Brambilla will debut on the 312. There is plenty to fill the Monza circuit, even if the times of the great Italian successes are far away. There is an air of revenge, however, and from Maranello comes a news that many interpret positively: Amon has renewed his contract with Ferrari and next year he will be driving the Italian cars. Hopefully, at last, a victory will come.

 

Graham Hill is looking for success. In this season, the English champion managed to win only in Monte-Carlo. At Monza, Hill and Rindt will try to succeed with the 49 B, while Miles will bring the Lotus 63 with four-wheel drive. The 49 B, powered by the ubiquitous Ford-Cosworth, derives from the 1968 type, but the mania of lightness and exasperation, the resizing of the wings, with which the manufacturer Colin Chapman obviated the chassis shortcomings, especially in mixed tracks, caused its regression. The Italian track, however, lends itself to Lotus, which defends itself well on fast circuits. Dennis Hulme now runs in Formula 1 thinking about the dollars of the Can-Am Cup, of which he is the undisputed ruler. However, the two New Zealanders are having an honorable season: Bruce McLaren is third in the standings with six placings out of seven races, Hulme has often managed to counter Jackie Stewart. The McLarens are also powered by Ford-Cosworth: Hulme has the type named M7 A, while McLaren has the M7 C, derived from the Formula 5000 car. The two single seaters differ in the structure of the chassis (monocoque) at the cockpit. In England debuted the integral version, the M9 A.

 

B.R.M.: either you win or you close. Agitated by technical differences, shaken by a long series of negative results, threatened with closure by the owner in case of other failures, the BRM brings to Monza John Surtees and Jack Oliver. The former has the P 139 model, which made its debut at Zandvoort, the latter the usual P 138. The differences between the two cars are minimal and mainly refer to the chassis, considered the weak point. The engine is a B.R.M. V12 of 60 degrees, with a power of about 440 horsepower: not bad for such a fast circuit as Monza. Unfortunately, the B.R.M. broke down very easily: on five races, Oliver retired as many times, while Surtees got only one placement. On Wednesday, September 4, 1969, the Italian Grand Prix is accompanied by the opening of the exhibition of racing cars and sports accessories. Also present was the turbine-powered Lotus that participated in the 1967 Indy 500. In addition, from Monday, September 8, 1969, until Wednesday, September 10, 1969 will take place in Monza an unprecedented popular test called Meeting with the track: anyone can highlight their driving skills on the track junior driving their own car.

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Friday, September 5, 1969 in Monza the single-seaters take to the track for the first official practice of the Italian Grand Prix. On Thursday, September 4, 1969, one of the McLaren-Ford cars was removed from the group: a bailiff wanted to seize it on behalf of an American journalist, who had been suing Bruce McLaren for years. Fortunately, after laborious negotiations, a service truck has been sacrificed, and the car of the New Zealander will be able to challenge the Matras, Lotus, B.R.M., Brabham and Ferrari. McLaren, by the way, is with Graham Hill the only driver who could still take the title away from Jackie Stewart. The speech, however, is more theoretical than practical, because - as anticipated - it would be necessary for Bruce McLaren or Graham Hill to win the Italian Grand Prix and the following ones, and the Scot to retire or not to rank among the first six. It is very likely that already on Sunday Stewart will inherit from Graham Hill the title, bringing it as a gift to Ken Tyrrell and Matra. The Scotsman will try to win, but if he finds a faster driver on his path, such as Jacky Ickx, he will almost certainly be satisfied with a placement, as he did in Germany. At the Nurburgring he realized he could not resist the Belgian's pace and so, as a driver with his head on his shoulders, he stopped dueling with his rival.

 

"Second place was enough for me".

 

He said later, and he was right. Ickx, a name that is an unknown, will not be favored by the Monza track. The circuit is very fast and does not allow the qualities of the driver to be appreciated. The car counts above all and the Matra-Ford has a higher performance than the Brabham. Anything can happen in a Grand Prix, but they should be the Lotus of Hill and Rindt the most dangerous rivals: the 49 B, not up to other cars in the mixed, have always behaved well on the fast. And what about Ferrari? They worked hard in Maranello to make the new 312 B, but it is difficult that it can make its debut on Sunday. Instead, we will have the debut of Tino Brambilla, who on Friday morning will pass the medical examination, but already on Thursday he will test with positive results at the Modena circuit. Other trainings, not official, have been carried out in these days by B.R.M., Brabham and McLaren. And on Thursday Hulme was frightened when he saw an unauthorized spectator cross the track, while Ickx, turning after the time set by the managers of the Monza circuit, ended up against a wooden trestle that had been placed on the track by a group of workers in charge of carrying out a series of works.

 

The Italian Grand Prix trials began in Monza. Ferrari is also present, but with only one car, the old single-seater that will be driven by Tino Brambilla. The brand new 312 B is missing. This is because during the morning, Chris Amon tested it on the track of the autodrome of Modena: the driver from New Zealand ran about twenty laps, then the engine began not working properly and the driver was forced to get back to the pits. Subsequently, the car was brought back to the workshop and dismantled. Therefore, it is very difficult that on Sunday he will be able to participate in the eighth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The 312 B should have been - during the afternoon - the queen of Monza. People came to the circuit in thousands just to see it. The Grand Prix trials never gather a large number of spectators, while today the stands and the bleachers on the curves are filled with Ferrari fans.

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We have been talking for a long time about the single seater that should bring Maranello's team back on the road to victory: for the fans, to see the 312 B is like for those who follow football to see the ace just bought. On the other hand, it takes time and effort before putting a car in a position to debut with dignity in a Grand Prix. At Ferrari they have been working for a month, night and day, around the car (whose design dates back to October last year), technicians and mechanics have skipped their vacations. The engine, a 12-cylinder boxer type, should deliver a power of 450 horsepower, about twenty more than the Ford-Cosworth 8-cylinder that drives the Matra, McLaren, Lotus and Brabham.

 

It seems, unfortunately, that during the morning a piston broke. For this reason, the debut of Sunday seems premature, and it is already said that it will be moved to the Grand Prix of Canada, at the end of the month. Tino Brambilla, on the other hand, passes the doctor's test; the driver from Monza, 35 years old, married, with two children, will thus make his debut in Formula 1 in the Italian Grand Prix. He had fallen in Monza a few days before, trying his brother Vittorio's motorcycle. He had hurt a hand and a foot. The doctors wanted to put him in plaster, but he - thinking of Sunday - refused. In the course of the morning, Professor Rovelli, sports doctor at the racetrack, subjected Tino to a thorough examination, including a series of X-rays. Tino is in good shape and can run.

 

However, Tino Brambilla doesn't score important times, as the reason seems clear. The car is the one used in the previous Grand Prix by Chris Amon (but with a central exhaust engine, instead of lateral). Brambilla, whose sensitivity as a driver-tester is different from that of the New Zealander, often stops at the pits to adjust the set-up and suspension. The driver from Monza is not looking for a record time but completes his best lap in 1'34"1. He is a man of few words, accustomed to chatting about horses and suspensions, not giving speeches or interviews. He is not a gentleman, but a professional as Enzo Ferrari liked them. The Monzese man simply says:

 

"I'm happy, of course. I raced at Monza for years, I know I have many friends. It makes me happy now to get on track with a Formula 1, with a Ferrari".

 

Brambilla has already tested 3-liter single-seaters in factory tests, so he knows what it means to dominate a car with 400 horsepower. Of course, one cannot expect miracles from him. His opponents are far too strong. Jack Brabham, for example, lapped in 1'26"9: a good comeback for the old driver (43 years old), who had been out of action for over two months due to an accident. The young Ickx, on the other hand, breaks his engine after a few laps and will have to make up for it on the second day of practice, which will be held on Saturday. Rindt and Stewart, meanwhile, unofficially beat the record set last year by Oliver, then with the Lotus, with a time of 1'26"5, at an average speed of 239.306 km/h. The Austrian, this year very unlucky, will try to finally win a race, while the Scottish driver will aim at a success, but he will also be satisfied with a placement: it will be enough to conquer the world title. There are many who envy him. When the tests start at 3:00 there is however a feeling of apprehension in the air, as the teams using the Cosworth-Ford V8 engines are very worried about the recent unreliability of the engines and the costly failures that have occurred.

 

Breakdowns have also occurred in pre-race testing, creating a resulting engine shortage in the paddock. With all the competitive cars using Northampton-built engines, Cosworth's engineers were almost certain to win the Italian Grand Prix. However, during practice Bruce McLaren's car suffers from the dreaded Cosworth-Ford engine problems due to a broken camshaft, meaning valves and pistons remain involved in the damage, and John Surtees also trains despite his B.R.M. engine not working properly at high revs. As expected, Jackie Stewart and Jochen Rindt set the pace, but Denny Hulme is not far behind and Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Jack Brabham are not far behind, all being under the limit of 1'27"0, which is a good time but not as good as expected, bearing in mind that last year's practice had almost seen the best lap in 1'26"0. The teams try to assemble and disassemble wing profiles and front fins, with the intention of creating the least amount of drag, but without finding success in the various operations.

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During the day of Saturday, September 6, 1969, bad news reaches the Scuderia Ferrari supporters present at Monza: the Italian Grand Prix will be held without Italian drivers. Tino Brambilla will not be on track at the wheel of the Ferrari: his right forearm hurts, injured in a fall from the motorcycle. The pilot has therefore preferred to give up the race. He will be replaced by Pedro Rodriguez, who the Maranello team had entered in this eighth round of the Formula 1 World Championship as a reserve.  Nor will the new Ferrari 312 B make its debut. The car is not yet in place, so it was decided not to send it to the brink. Two other facts complete the panorama of the second day of tests: Jackie Ickx breaks once again the Ford-Cosworth of his Brabham, argues with Jack Brabham and seems to have decided to give up the competition.

 

And Rindt with the Lotus, Hulme with the McLaren, and Stewart with the Matra, go under the limit of 1'26"0, exceeding the 240 km/h average: a fantastic record. It is an afternoon with continuous twists and turns. First of all, the drama of Brambilla. The driver from Monza, at the age of thirty-five, after so much hard work and many sacrifices, had the possibility to debut in Formula 1 with a Ferrari, in front of his public. He is very honest: few men, few drivers would have been able to say no. Tino drops from Friday's 1'34"0 to 1'30"6, then stops his single seater in the pits, and asks engineer Forghieri, Scuderia Ferrari's technical director:

 

"How many laps did I do?"

 

He is answered:

 

"About twenty".

 

Brambilla shakes his head, then adds:

 

"I'd better stop, then. My wrist, my elbow joint hurt, they are swollen. If it's like this after twenty laps, what will happen tomorrow? I should do sixty-eight laps, three hundred and ninety-one kilometers. No, I don't feel like risking it, for me and for the car, which is running well now".

 

After a brief conciliation between the managers of the Italian team, Pedro Rodriguez is called, who was watching the tests as a spectator with envy, someone says with secret hopes. It is, as is clear, a Ferrari participation in a minor tone, nor could it be done otherwise. The 312 B, the weapon of revenge towards the various Matra, Lotus, McLaren and, above all, towards the eight cylinders Ford-Cosworth, is not yet ready. The afternoon is characterized by the twists and turns. The tests are always held at the same time, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. At the pits there is a particular concern. Too many Cosworth-Ford V8 engines are proving to be unreliable. Already in pre-race testing, there have been breakdowns and a distinct shortage of engines in the paddock. Cosworth Engineering justifies this by saying that it is due to a bad batch of camshafts; however, the main problem is that you can't know if the faulty camshaft has been fitted to a particular engine until it breaks down. In parallel, B.R.M. is also desperately trying to get the car running properly.

 

John Surtees and Jackie Oliver drive the last P139, the first on board of the original car and the second with a new single-seater, never tested before. However, the fuel system gives problems to the new car and delays the start of the tests. In addition, a bad leak from the water pump stops the car of John Surtees, who is forced to practice with the old single seater, the P138 brought to Monza as a reserve. The British driver is also particularly unlucky, because during the tests the rotor of the engine ignition distributor breaks in the farthest part of the circuit. On Sunday the competition will probably be reduced to a duel between Jochen Rindt's Lotus, Denny Hulme's McLaren, Stewart's Matra, the other McLaren, driven by the same New Zealand manufacturer, perhaps the Brabham of the old Jack Brabham will do without his young teammate Jacky Ickx. Between the two there has long been an acute incompatibility of character. We recall that at Zandvoort, in the Dutch Grand Prix, the Australian refused to give way to the Belgian.  As soon as practice began, in fact, Jacky Ickx also stopped on the other side of the circuit with his Brabham BT26-3 with a broken Cosworth engine, due to an oil pump failure. A spare engine had been installed on Ickx's car, but it suffered a camshaft failure, as did the engine of Graham Hill's Lotus.

 

After not being able to complete even one lap of the circuit, Ickx begins to argue with Jack Brabham, who, in turn, is not happy with the breakage of two engines in two days, given that a Ford-Cosworth costs about 11,000,000 lire. Jack Brabham asks Jacky Ickx to do a test drive on his car, but the Belgian - interpreting the request as an order - replies in a very unorthodox way. In a short time, tempers flare and Ickx turns his back on Brabham. With Brabham, almost certainly, he has ended the relationship. For Stewart, it means having a rival less. Stewart, the almost-champion, will be particularly happy since this year he has been beaten only by the Belgian driver. Today, according to a rumor spread at the racetrack, Stewart would have taken a bad risk. At 280 km/h, in the corner after the straight of the grandstands, he would have found himself in front of a service worker, who had gone down to the track to pick up a piece of metal. With an abrupt braking and a skid, the Scot would have avoided the unwary. On a sporting level, the most sensational fact remains the lap time and the average obtained by Rindt: 1'25"48, an average of 242.161 km/h. This is the highest speed ever achieved by a driver. This is the highest speed ever achieved by a single seater in Monza. The previous record was set by Oliver on the Lotus: 1'26"5, with an average speed of 233.898 km/h.

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Jack Brabham is the author of an excellent performance with the BT26-4, as well as Piers Courage with Frank Williams’ Brabham BT26-1, completely rebuilt after the accident at the Nürburgring. Another car that has been completely rebuilt is the Walker/Durlacher Lotus 49B/7, also damaged during the German Grand Prix. The official Lotus team has three cars, 49B/10 for Graham Hill, a 49B/6 for Jochen Rindt and a 4WD car for John Miles. While the two older cars run well, the 4WD car's engine suffers from a misfire and before a replacement unit could be found, the car swallows an internal oil seal, which ends any further practice sessions. The internal parts of the centrally mounted gearbox and the attachment points had been completely reorganized since the last race, after some major redesign work had been carried out. Therefore, John Miles found himself - most of the time - only running single laps, without finding any improvement.

 

The McLaren team does not use its 4WD car, as it is still being redesigned. Bruce McLaren prefers to rely on the two cars with which he has disputed the entire season, giving the M7A/2 to Hulme and keeping the M7C/1 for himself. The McLarens show themselves to be competitive right from the start. With nothing new to try, the tests do not seem up to the usual Monza standard and the three and a half hours of tests flow slowly. Even Bruce McLaren's car is affected by the Cosworth engines problem, with the camshaft breaking and crumpling and destroying the valves and pistons. Even John Surtees, who is giving his all, complains of problems with his B.R.M. engine, which does not work properly at high rpm. Once the tests are over, during Saturday night there is no lack of work to replace more Ford-Cosworth engines. Lotus borrows a unit from Rob Walker's team, to be mounted in the 4WD car, as they were unable to track down the misfire problem and their only spare engine was installed in Graham Hill's car, while the Brabham team borrows an engine from Frank Williams' team to allow Jacky Ickx to take part in the race. Although the Belgian driver is not enthusiastic.

 

On Sunday, September 7, 1969, the gates of the Monza racetrack open for the Italian Grand Prix. The start of the race is set at 3:30 p.m. and will take place over a length of sixty-eight laps of the road circuit. The presence of only one Ferrari does not create negative repercussions on the number of spectators, which are about 120,000. Before the start of the race, indecision reigns in the pits about which airfoils to use. The Matra team brings to the pits both the 4wd with which Stewart qualified and his MS80, in case something should go wrong. However, the MS80 is brought into the back of the pits when the cars start to come out to do the warm-up lap, because there doesn't seem to be a need for it.

 

The organizers would like to start the cars for the warm-up lap based on the times recorded during practice; however, this will not be possible as Denny Hulme is not ready to start. Since Jochen Rindt is in pole position, with Denny Hulme at his side, the Austrian should take the lead on the grid. However, while approaching the finish line, Rindt seems more intent on skipping the start, rather than following the order. In fact, instead of reaching the starting line, the Austrian remains behind it, forcing Denny Hulme to position himself beside him. In the confusion, Graham Hill misplaces himself in the fifth row. With the front row not advancing properly, the starter panics and lowers the flag. The drivers interpret this gesture as the starting signal, so the fifteen single seaters take the start of the Italian Grand Prix in a rather irregular manner.

 

Rindt is the author of a very good start, even if he makes the rear tires skid, followed by Jackie Stewart. Denny Hulme, on the other hand, is the author of a start conditioned by hesitation and ends up being swallowed by the group. This hesitation is due to the setting of the gearbox, as the New Zealander has a first and second gear rather higher than the other competitors who use Hewland gearboxes. As expected, Jackie Stewart and Jochen Rindt lead the group by a nose on the first lap, with the French car slightly ahead of the Lotus. Bruce McLaren, Jo Siffert, Piers Courage and Jean-Pierre Beltoise chase the leading drivers, followed by Denny Hulme, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill and then the rest of the drivers. During the second lap, Jackie Stewart is in the lead, while Silvio Moser closes the classification of the group of participants. Jacky Ickx, who eventually decided to race, is forced to return to the pits to report to his mechanics that the oil pressure gauge needle is oscillating dangerously.

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There had in fact been a last-minute rush to finish the assembly of his single-seater in time for the start, so it was no surprise that an oil fitting was not tightened properly. However, two laps pass before the Belgian is able to re-enter the race, falling back to last position. Since the Monza circuit tends to reward the performance of the single-seaters, rather than the driving skills of the individual driver, even before the start of the Italian Grand Prix there were few doubts about the pattern this race would take: the group of Ford-Cosworth V8-powered cars, with Hewland gearboxes and Matra chassis, Lotus, Brabham and McLaren, equipped with Dunlop, Firestone and Goodyear tires, would have jumped to the front of the race and dictated the pace, and in particular, the battle between Rindt and Stewart would have conditioned the outcome of the Italian Grand Prix. Jackie Stewart was determined to lead without hesitation, so as to limit potential threats from a group of competitors vying for his victory.

 

Among them, Jochen Rindt is equally determined not to lose an inch to the Scottish driver, even though he remembers Colin Chapman's warning before the race, who would have wanted to see him in the lead only on the last lap. The Lotus 4WD driven by John Miles lasts only three laps, before the borrowed Cosworth engine breaks down. In the meantime, except for the first two, Jo Siffert is ahead of the other Cosworth-engined cars: Bruce McLaren, Piers Courage, Denny Hulme, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jack Brabham and Graham Hill, who follow him closely. The two B.R.M.'s are behind, as are the Ferrari and Silvio Moser's Brabham. After his bad start, Denny Hulme gains ground quickly and on the sixth lap he is behind Jo Siffert, while Jack Brabham's car stops at the pits, emitting a puff of smoke from the rear of the engine, because oil has begun to leak from a joint on the oil filter.

 

At the end of the seventh lap Jochen Rindt conquers the first place against Jackie Stewart, while Denny Hulme climbs up to the third place, as Jo Siffert has a moment of hesitation when braking at the parabolic curve, and slips back in the ranking, behind Piers Courage. On lap eight, the situation is reversed as the leading group exited the Parabolica with Denny Hulme in first place, followed by Jackie Stewart and Jochen Rindt. On lap nine, however, it is again Jackie Stewart who takes the lead, followed by Denny Hulme, Piers Courage, Jochen Rindt, Jo Siffert, Bruce McLaren and Jean-Pierre Beltoise who are lined up neatly behind the New Zealand driver. Graham Hill is alone, a little behind the leaders, followed by Jackie Oliver and Pedro Rodriguez, while John Surtees heads for the pits, as his engine has been making a strange noise for two laps now. Even earlier, Graham Hill's Lotus had lost its right exhaust manifold, having come off at the joint where the four pipes join into one.

 

The manifold had hit the front suspension of John Surtees' B.R.M., denting one of its arms, bouncing off the engine and breaking the ignition coil. After repairing the damage, John Surtees was able to return to the race, but the British driver was forced to make another stop before the car began to run properly, and the engine to make a sharper noise than any B.R.M. has made in a long time. On the tenth lap Silvio Moser pits due to a problem with the fuel system, leaving the only Ferrari in the race in last position, if we exclude Jacky Ickx who is two laps behind. Ferrari's performance saddens the vast crowd, who don't seem to care who is leading the race, showing the same enthusiasm for Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt or Denny Hulme.

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Despite the right bank of cylinders unloaded by four short pipes, instead of a long manifold, the engine of Graham Hill's Lotus seemed to be in good shape, so much so that the British driver quickly gained ground on the group of cars ahead of him, having a free track and a target to aim for. In half a dozen laps, Graham Hill managed to get into the slipstream of Jean-Pierre Beltoise's Matra, which in turn kept up with Jochen Rindt and Jackie Stewart. The Scottish driver maintains the lead until lap 17, followed first by Denny Hulme, then by Jochen Rindt and finally by Piers Courage. During the eighteenth lap the young Frank Williams Racing Brabham driver leads the group, but one lap later Jackie Stewart is back in the lead. As the eight cars speed past the pits and start lap twenty, a long applause from the large crowd of spectators starts for Jack Brabham, who is walking back to the pits.

 

The Australian driver, after picking up some wires and tools, goes back to his abandoned car and remounts the fuel line, only to finally retire to the pits due to the leakage created at the oil filter seal ring. For three laps, the eight drivers maintain the same order, with Jackie Stewart in the lead, followed by Piers Courage, Jo Siffert, Denny Hulme, Jochen Rindt, Bruce McLaren, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Graham Hill. Then, on lap 22, Denny Hulme manages to pass Jo Siffert, and on the next lap he does the same to Piers Courage, turning at an overall race average of 233.9 km/h, having started at 231.2 km/h. This does not take away from the fact that all the drivers present in the first positions, from the beginning of the race, try to drive as fast as possible, without sparing themselves.

 

During the 24th lap the brakes of the McLaren driven by Denny Hulme start to fail, and the New Zealander quickly slips to sixth place, then to eighth, until he completely loses contact with the leaders due to the failure of an aerodynamic element on the front of the car, and due to a principle of fatigue of the Ford-Cosworth engine. The brakes, totally unusable, forced him to rely on the use of the gearbox to slow down in the curve, starting the procedure 500 meters from the braking point, instead of 150 meters before the Parabolica. In addition, the clutch mounted on Denny Hulme's car does not release, so the New Zealand driver is forced to change gear without pressing the pedal, continuing with just the use of the accelerator pedal. Compared to last year, in which Denny Hulme had finished the race in 1 hour 40'14"8, at an average speed of 234.022 km/h, in these conditions it is unlikely to keep up with the leaders, but the New Zealander still manages to maintain his position, to the detriment of Jackie Oliver and Pedro Rodriguez, who have not yet been lapped.

 

During laps 25, 26 and 27, Jochen Rindt is again in the lead while Jackie Stewart slips to third place, with Piers Courage taking second. On lap 28, the Scotsman turns the tables again. In the meantime, the fire extinguisher of Jackie Oliver's B.R.M. drifts and the driver is black-flagged, forcing him to return to the pits to repair it and causing him to lose two laps. In the following minutes the lonely Ferrari of Pedro Rofriguez is lapped by a large mass of Ford-Cosworth powered cars; the situation for the Mexican driver is dramatic to the point that he, after being lapped, is not even able to keep the car in the wake of the first ones. After Denny Hulme, the next to leave the leading group is Jo Siffert: his engine starts to slow down and on lap 31 he slips to the seventh place, making vain the efforts made to keep up with the leaders of the group. This, while Jochen Rindt, Piers Courage and Jackie Stewart alternate in the leadership of the race, with Graham Hill rising to fourth place.

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The leading group is the author of a good race, thanks to the absence of groups of laggards on the circuit that hinder their race. The laggards are, in order, Pedro Rodriguez, Jackie Oliver, Jacky Ickx and John Surtees, who being scattered around the circuit do not affect the performance of the leaders. Bruce McLaren manages to regain contact with the leaders after a couple of laps and finds himself at the end of the row of seven cars. When Jackie Stewart passes the pits again, he has the two Lotus cars of Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill side by side behind him, as Graham Hill has meanwhile taken over third position on lap 36. The thought flashed through the mind that the two Lotus cars might hinder the victory of Jackie Stewart, who was leading the circuit alone and whose teammate had meanwhile slipped to fifth place. On the next lap, Jochen Rindt regained the lead, with Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, Piers Courage, Denny Hulme, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Bruce McLaren behind him.

 

Having secured a decent lead over any potential threat so that he could watch them closely, Jackie Stewart steadily led at the end of each lap and occasionally let Jochen Rindt or Graham Hill pass ahead at the Lesmo turns, to pass them again before the straight. Meanwhile, the unlucky Denny Hulme is caught up and passed by the leaders on lap 42, as is Jo Siffert, who slips further and further behind. After remaining behind Jochen Rindt for a while, Graham Hill returns to second place, while the Austrian drops to fifth place. On lap 50 the classification order sees Jackie Stewart in the lead, followed by Graham Hill, Piers Courage, Bruce McLaren, Jochen Rindt and Jean-Pierre Beltoise, with Jo Siffert almost a lap behind and Pedro Rodriguez about to overtake Denny Hulme, who was left without the aid of his brakes. There are still Jacky Ickx, Jackie Oliver and John Surtees in the running, but too far back to have any impact on the top standings.

 

In addition, Jackie Oliver retires shortly thereafter on lap 48 due to oil pressure issues. Over the next ten laps, Graham Hill holds on to second place behind Jackie Stewart. The pressure that the Lotus #2 exerts on the Matra #20 leading the race gives the impression that Graham Hill may very well come out on top. Meanwhile, the fuel system of Piers Courage's Brabham begins to deteriorate: the level of fuel in the tank decreases, and the driver quickly ends up out of the lead battle, after having been there on several occasions. During the fifty-seventh lap, Courage is now completely out of sight of the leading group and can only hope to continue until the end of the race, with his engine running only at times due to air bubbles entering the injection system. There are only eight laps left to the final of this extraordinary race, whose average speed has risen to over 236 km/h.

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The order of the classification now sees Jackie Stewart in the lead, followed by Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Bruce McLaren: two Matras against two Lotuses, with Bruce McLaren watching from behind. Jo Siffert is also lapped by Pedro Rodriguez, whose Ferrari runs fast, but not fast enough to keep up with the group of five top drivers, who run very fast even when they are in line one after the other. In the following laps, the group continued to alternate at the head of the circuit, with the order of the standings now seeing Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jochen Rindt and Bruce McLaren, with Rindt moving into third place on lap 61 and regaining second place on lap 63. On lap 64, the left driveshaft of Graham Hill's Lotus breaks due to a driveshaft failure, ending the British driver's race and leaving Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Bruce McLaren to battle it out.

 

Stewart lets Rindt pass in the lead on the Lesmo curves during the 65th lap, but he regains the first place overtaking the Austrian driver from the rear, while Bruce McLaren rises to the third place. The tension is so high that Jacky Ickx's return to the pits goes unnoticed, because he had run out of fuel. At the 66th lap Jean-Pierre Beltoise regains again the third place. In the meantime, during the sixty-fourth lap, while the competitors run along the back straight, Jo Siffert's car enters the Curva Parabolica emitting a large cloud of blue smoke due to the breakage of a piston, which forces him to return to the pits. From the blue haze of the fuel pump explosion appear the four cars of Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Bruce McLaren. Just a few meters apart, the four competitors enter the last lap: in the Lesmo curves Jochen Rindt takes the lead again, but outside the Variante curve, on the back straight, Jackie Stewart is again in the lead before the last curve, the parabolica.

 

As Jack Brabham had already done two years earlier with John Surtees, Jean-Pierre Beltoise attempts a breathtaking manoeuvre at the entrance of the parabolic curve: with a last-minute braking, Beltoise slips powerfully inside between Jochen Rindt and Bruce McLaren, in an inhuman effort due more to the desire to win, than to a calculated manoeuvre to help his teammate. Because he is driving too fast, Beltoise takes the corner line too wide, preventing Jochen Rindt from implementing any move he was planning against Jackie Stewart. As a result, the Scottish driver cuts to the inside of the parabolic curve and exits first, preparing to sprint down the final straight. With Jochen Rindt on his right, Jean-Pierre Beltoise on his left and Bruce McLaren behind Jochen Rindt, Jackie Stewart and his rivals race towards the finish line side by side. The timekeepers estimate that 0.19 seconds separate the four cars that reach the finish line, with Jackie Stewart's Matra 0.8 seconds ahead of Jochen Rindt's Lotus. The young Jean-Pierre Beltoise finishes third, 0.17 seconds behind the Scotsman, also setting the fastest lap at an average speed of 242.957 km/h, setting a new track record. Bruce McLaren, driver-builder, finishes fourth at 0.19 seconds, while Piers Courage finishes fifth, followed by Pedro Rodriguez, Denny Hulme and Jo Siffert.

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Yet another irresistible sprint by Jackie Stewart, who not only wins the XXXX Italian Grand Prix, but also becomes the 1969 World Champion for the first time. Although there were still a few races left to run, the fight for the 1969 title was now over. Stewart and the Matra needed two points (a fifth place) to win the title, and if he had to retire, that fifth place could have been obtained in the following Canadian or U.S. or Mexican Grands Prix. But nine points came his way. Game over, then, for Jackie, who was able to magnificently pick up Jim Clark's legacy.

 

Four years ago, on this same circuit, he had asserted himself for the first time in a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Since then, many had predicted a successful career for him. Jackie lived up to those promises. If in 1968 he came within a hair's breadth of the title, this year he was unrivaled. But the Scot was determined to win. He jumped into the lead at the first of 68 laps, contained the attacks of Jochen Rindt's Lotus and Graham Hill and, in the final sprint, set the record straight. Jackie Ickx, who had beaten Stewart at the Nurburgring, had also set out to chase the Scotsman. But this time, the Belgian's Brabham, on which a Ford-Cosworth engine from Piers Courage's team was mounted, did not work, and Ickx, after leading his race in the back of the field, finished tenth, seven laps behind the race leader. Old Jack Brabham was even worse, forced to retire.

 

It was, perhaps, Jackie Stewart's toughest and therefore most beautiful victory, a thrilling carousel in which the Scotsman was unable to break away from his rivals. At mid-race he was in the lead, but not far behind Rindt, Courage, Hill, Beltoise, McLaren and Siffert. The Scotsman was leading the group of single seaters on the grandstands’ straight; then, Rindt and Graham Hill overtook him at Lesmo. Jackie would catch up on the other side of the circuit. Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt fought bravely. The Lotus-Fords, on a circuit where the chassis counted relatively, were no less than the two Matras. But a driveshaft betrayed Graham Hill after a really excellent race, and Rindt was left alone against the voitures bleu. Courage visibly slowed down, Siffert stopped at the pits with his engine out of action.

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On the last lap Stewart, Beltoise, Rindt and the New Zealander McLaren faced each other. Beltoise, as Brabham had already done two years ago with Surtees, attempted a breathtaking maneuver on the parabolic. The Frenchman delayed the braking to the maximum and slipped between Rindt and McLaren, who avoided him in pure acrobatics. But Beltoise finished too far outside the curve and Stewart and Rindt overtook him on the inside. In the last meters, not even a wheel off the Matra was ahead of the Lotus. Usually, the circuits where Grand Prix take place allow a quick selection of drivers and cars, where who is better or has the best car, takes advantage of the others, gaining in the curves or in the ups and downs. But Monza does not respond to these logics: the 5750 meters road track seems almost a very long straight.

 

The two Lesmo curves, as well as the parabolica, have little incidence. Therefore, groups of single-seaters are formed and the race becomes a game of trails and suctions: whoever has courage can stay with the first ones, even if he doesn't have the most efficient car. Stewart was used to leaving alone after a few laps, at most in the company of Hulme (as happened in Clermont-Ferrand, France) or Rindt (in Zandvoort, Holland or Silverstone, Great Britain). At Monza, record times and average were recorded, but it could not be otherwise, after such a tight competition: Stewart was brought to the triumph, Margherita, the wife of poor Lorenzo Bandini, offered him the trophy dedicated to the memory of the unfortunate Italian driver.

 

Monza crowned a formidable season. Stewart doesn't improvise, but his success is the result of a perfect binomial: on one side, the driver, with his clean, capable, mature and calculating style; on the other side, the Matra. The blue voiture, born from Matra's decision to advertise its brand of space equipment outside the closed laboratories and top-secret documents, supported the Scottish driver in his race to win the 1969 World Championship. Only the engine is not built in France (Ford-Cosworth), as the French 12-cylinder is ready, but not yet tuned. And a round of applause goes to Ken Tyrrell, scrupulous and shrewd patron of the team and Jackie Stewart's talent-scout in the early 1960s. It's a sign that when you get serious about it, the results come.

 

Instead, for Ferrari and for the Italian fans it was perhaps the most disappointing Italian Grand Prix: the debut of the new 312 B was postponed, Tino Brambilla stayed at home, and Pedro Rodriguez, who was called up almost at the last moment, arrived sixth, two laps behind Stewart. Scuderia Ferrari had a tough time this year. The single-seater 312 never wanted to know how to run; managers, technicians, mechanics and drivers fretting over the problem. It was known that Rodriguez's single seater couldn't do much. But Ferrari fans were looking forward to the 1970 season with hope. What had happened so far hardly touched them. Moreover, the spectators were not lacking, in spite of the concomitance with the Grand Prix of motorcycles in Imola: more than 120,000 spectators surrounded the circuit of Monza, for takings of a hundred million lire. This means that people love this type of competition, they are passionate about the dynamics that involve both the drivers and the fate of their cars, regardless of the color painted on the bodywork. A sign of significant maturity.

 

Martina Morabito

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