Ernesto Brambilla, 34 years old, married, father of two daughters, was a skater in his youth before transitioning to cycling. He is the owner of a mechanical workshop in Monza and rose to prominence in the sports world as a motorcyclist, with seven Italian titles to his name. He is now one of the most highly regarded Italian drivers, drawing the attention of Enzo Ferrari.
"It wasn't easy to break into the big scene; for years, I did everything on my own. In short, I was a privateer, facing a luxury that, in the long run, I might not have been able to afford. I've already had satisfactions, like when I won the national Formula 3 title in 1966. But my dream is to drive a Formula 1 car".
Brambilla is now addressing the topic dear to Italian fans, who, passionate about motor racing, wonder why Italy no longer produces world-renowned drivers. At this point, Brambilla would prefer to avoid the conversation. He regrets mentioning that his dream is to drive a Ferrari, but his desire is so strong that, even unintentionally, he finds himself back on the subject.
"In these days, I will meet with Engineer Ferrari in Modena; he has summoned me. It may be an exchange of ideas, perhaps in view of the Rome Grand Prix scheduled for Sunday, October 27, 1968. But it could also be that...".
Ernesto Brambilla falls silent again. Perhaps he fears that his dream may not come true, or perhaps he fears being accused of presumption. Yet, he has the qualities to drive a Formula 1 car, along with the experience, skill, and determination. So why not give it a try? And like him, why are many other drivers in the stands watching Formula 1 races, while others are behind the wheel?
"I think there are quite a few prejudices regarding Italian drivers in general. Many of our technicians live in the memory of past great champions. I'm not speaking personally because I haven't been young for many years, although I feel young in body and spirit. But I wonder: did these great aces of the past, whom I also admire exceptionally, not undergo a period of apprenticeship before becoming acclaimed champions? Is it possible that they became superstars overnight?"
Brambilla says no more, but his brief speech is clear. Let the young drivers prove themselves, and then judge whether they are more or less suitable. Perhaps he is right, given that on Sunday, October 27, 1968, with the Ferrari-Dino, Ernesto Brambilla achieves a great victory at the Vallelunga circuit in the Rome Grand Prix, the last race of the European Championship for Formula 2 cars. Brambilla wins, Andrea de Adamich finishes second, and the Englishman Bell, the third driver of the Ferrari team, comes in sixth. It's an all-Italian success that compensates Ferrari for many disappointments. Brambilla, in both the first and second heats, takes the lead immediately, resisting the attacks of his opponents. Andrea de Adamich's performance, returning to racing for the first time after the Brands Hatch incident that kept him out for eight months, is truly exceptional. Ferrari can be satisfied with the Italian drivers to whom it has entrusted its cars. The Englishman Derek Bell also does not disappoint, despite finishing the race somewhat behind the leaders. The Matra team, classified fourth and fifth respectively with Beltoise and Pescarolo, has disappointed. For Beltoise, already a long-standing European champion in the category, there is the valid excuse of not having pushed hard, although his car does not seem to compete with the Dinos. For Brambilla, currently the strongest Ferrari driver in the Formula 2 championship, this is a new convincing confirmation after the beautiful victory in Hockenheim, Germany, two weeks earlier. The Milanese driver also further improves the official track record already lowered during the tests, setting a time of 1'16"2 and beating the official record set last year by Matra's Ickx, 1'18"7. Graham Hill, currently leading the World Championship, partially disappoints expectations, finishing only in seventh place. On the other hand, the performance of the young Englishman Gethin on Brabham Ford, who finished third, is noteworthy. At the start of the first heat, Brambilla's Dino Ferrari takes the lead, followed by de Adamich's Dino.
Then, behind them, are the Matras of Beltoise and Pescarolo and the third car of Mannello's team, driven by the Englishman Derek Bell. Slightly behind are Gethin on Braham Ford and Graham Hill on Lotus Ford. Brambilla engages in a close duel with teammate de Adamich, while Gethin gradually recovers, surpassing Beltoise and Pescarolo and approaching the two leaders. The Milanese driver brilliantly completes the first 40 laps of the race, crossing the finish line clearly in the lead. The second heat sees Brambilla still in the lead, concluding undisturbed from start to finish, followed by de Adamich and Gethin, who, one lap from the end, manages to overtake de Adamich and secure second place. The final round of the World Championship Grand Prix season for 1968 takes place at the Mexico City circuit on the outskirts of this huge city. The cars are shipped down by road from the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, which took place four weeks earlier. The delay between the United States and Mexican Grands Prix is more than usual this year, due to the Olympic Games finishing on the date traditionally reserved for the final Championship round. Team Lotus has three cars for Hill, Oliver, and Solana. The car Oliver crashed at Watkins Glen has been repaired, and on Hill’s car, the wing has been hinged so that it can be feathered down the straight. The operation of the wing is simple: rubber bungees hold the wing in a working position, while a slim pedal beside the clutch pedal operates the wing when the driver rests his clutch foot. The full travel of the wing pedal brings it to just the start of the clutch pedal travel. In the Lotus pit, there are some rear wheels with two-inch spacers giving a rim width of 17 inches. These aren't used, and the spacers are removed when it is heard that the tires designed for them come off the rims at 140 km/h. The two Brabhams for Brabham and Rindt have larger nose wings and no nose spoilers, as these have caused overheating. The troubles caused by cam followers breaking up are happily over, as a special batch has been made up for them by Alfa Romeo. Ferrari had three cars for Amon and Ickx; the latter is now fit enough to drive, although his leg is still pinned and with an external brace. B.R.M. has the same two cars for Rodriguez to choose from, while Parnell has his 126 series car for Courage. Ken Tyrrell has the two Matra-Cosworths for Stewart and Servoz-Gavin. Neither car is any different from the previous race, and the only problem the team has is whether Servoz-Gavin’s entry would be accepted.
They know just two hours before the start of the race that it would. The Matra works team has the same two cars for Beltoise and Pescarolo. The engine of the former now has three oil radiators over the back of the engine, two side by side and the other just behind, all three linked up in series. The two Coopers are unchanged, and Elford and Bianchi drive them. Also unchanged are the two McLarens for Hulme and McLaren, but the car Hulme crashed at Watkins Glen is rebuilt, the bulkheads being undamaged so the chassis just needed re-skinning. The third McLaren for Gurney is new, with higher screens to try to enwrap the large Californian. Honda has two cars for Surtees to choose from; the 301/802 chassis still has the engine which would not rev, but a complete change of ignition hopes to have cured this problem. The Walker/Durlacher Lotus-Cosworth is the same, and with Siffert driving as he has lately, it is more than competitive. The field is completed by Bonnier's McLaren-B.R.M., which now has a nose wing as well as a much higher rear wing. Last year’s race had been completely dominated by the late Jim Clark. He had won the race, setting the fastest laps both in the race and in the two practice sessions. The times that were the targets for this year’s race were the record 1'48"13 (166.466 km/h) and the slightly faster practice time of 1'47"56. The first practice is on Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and McLaren, Surtees, and Rodriguez are off as soon as the track is open. It isn't long before Stewart gives some idea of how the lap records would fall, and in under an hour, he has broken both last year’s race and practice times with a 1'46"96. While setting this time, Dunlops are testing several different tires and compounds on the Matra-Cosworth, the most successful being CR.84, which is a similar tire to their normal CR.82 but with only the radial cuts in the tread and no cross-cuts. Several cars are in the pits with gearboxes torn apart fitting new ratios, but Coopers are the only ones this year that seem to be suffering from heat, and this turned out to be mainly because the radiator blanking fitted at Watkins Glen hasn't been removed. In Elford’s Cooper is young Servoz-Gavin, who turns up in the hope of driving the spare Matra-Cosworth, so when Elford fails to appear for the first practice, the Frenchman gladly steps in and laps faster than Bianchi.
The third of the Team Lotus cars for Solana is without wing or nose spoilers all day and is used by Hill for most of his practicing, while his race car does only a limited number of laps with its movable wing in the fixed position. This led to speculation among the other teams, and it isn't long before most teams have removed their wings to see what difference they make to lap times. In all cases, the results are similar to sea level with improved speed on the straights, but lap times are down. Rodriguez is trying both B.R.M.s and is faster in the 138 series car, although he is happier with the 133 series car which he has used most of the season. Amon has 0007 and 0009 out but is faster and happier in 0009, so the other car is pushed to the garage. Surtees is lapping the two Hondas well, and the complete change of ignition seems to have the desired effect, for the latest engine is now revving well and slightly overheating. Even so, the older chassis and engine are giving Surtees the faster times, and the cockpit of the older car doesn't get so hot, which is an advantage. Siffert’s times are right up among the fastest, but his brakes are keeping him from doing a very fast lap. Into the hairpin and at other slow corners, the brakes are shaking the car very badly. The mechanics spend some time overhauling the braking system, and before practice ends, the Swiss driver has set up the fastest lap of 1'45"52 (170.584 kph), which is half a second faster than anyone else. Both Hill and Stewart are in the 1'46"0 bracket but couldn't get near Siffert’s time. The third contender for the World Championship title, Denny Hulme, doesn't seem very perturbed about the lack of practice that he does, nor the fact that his best time is eighth overall and just behind his boss, McLaren, whose engine broke when the timing slipped. Both Brabhams are slow but aren't giving very much trouble, and the new Alfa cam-followers seem to be in good order. Courage has electrical trouble, and the transistor box is replaced. One of the big talking points of the first practice is the difference in times between Oliver and Solana, who, because Hill is using the other two cars, both drive the same car. Solana set up the sixth fastest time of 1'47"67, while Oliver has to be content with the 13th fastest, 1'50"31.
Admittedly, Solana knows this circuit very well, but then Oliver should be more at home with the car. Gurney isn't happy, nor are his mechanics, for their McLaren-Cosworth has so many little things wrong; they really don't know where to start, and the 14th fastest time is not where one expects to find Gurney. On Saturday, the weather is slightly hotter for the four-hour afternoon practice. During the night, Elford has arrived from training with Porsche in Corsica for the Tour de Corse. So Servoz-Gavin is to drive the second Matra-Cosworth, although he would only get a start if someone fell out. As Bonnier has damaged his engine, it looked as if the young Frenchman might get on the starting grid. The second Matra V12 is prepared overnight for Pescarolo, and this is a definite entry. Again, the McLaren team is first out, followed by Stewart, Hill, and Rodriguez. Both Stewart and Hill are more tense than usual, and the strain of who would be Champion is beginning to tell. Hill’s speed down the pit road gets faster and faster as he is unable to improve on his previous day’s time. Lotus is having trouble with their movable wing, and also they have to fit stays from the wing uprights to the roll-over bar to stop the whole wing leaning backward. Solana does a few laps in his own car, while Oliver tries very hard to make up for his disappointing first practice; while improving his time to 1'48"44, he spun and tore off the exhaust pipes when he touched an earth bank at the Esses. Stewart is just getting into his swing when the yoke of the universal joint on the left-hand wheel brake on the 180º slightly banked turn just before the start and finish line. Unable to brake, Stewart coasted down the straight at well over 160 km/h with the wheel leaning in. All would have been well if the anti-roll bar mount hadn't cut through the side wall of the tire, but when it did, the tire deflated, throwing tread everywhere and causing considerable damage to the suspension. Stewart is soon back in the spare car which Servoz-Gavin has to relinquish, and when the wrecked car reaches the garage, it is hoped it could be repaired. Ferrari finds a bit more power for Amon, and with a helpful tow on the straight, he is able to get under 1'46"0, although still a tenth off Siffert’s time. All three McLarens improved their times, Hulme getting within three-hundredths of Hill’s time, while both Gurney and McLaren were within a second behind. Brabham and Rindt are both faster, but still not up with the front row times. Halfway through practice, Servoz-Gavin’s chances of starting seem dashed when Bonnier goes out in the spare Honda.
After some laps, the Honda engine is heard revving up and down with the change in the car’s speed, and the next lap it is in with a cooked clutch due to Bonnier resting his foot on the pedal. However, when the plate temperature drops, all is still well. Both Coopers run more than the length of the race without problems, while the Matra V12s similarly do many laps without any major problems. Just as practice was closing, Siffert went out again to see if he has got the most from the car, and on the last lap, he improved his time to 1'45"22, which is a little slower than several reliable watches in the pits timed him at. When practice ends, Hill comes to the Walker garage and peers at all the settings, wondering, no doubt, why for three races running, he is in the second fastest Lotus-Cosworth. Jacky Ickx will race in the Mexican Grand Prix, the final race of the Formula 1 World Championship. The young Belgian driver for Ferrari had suffered an injury during practice for the Canadian Grand Prix on Saturday, September 21, 1968, crashing at 180 km/h due to a throttle pedal failure. He had fractured his tibia and fibula. The doctors had said:
"For you, the championship is over. For two or three months, you'll have to stop driving a single-seater".
However, Ickx, with determined willpower, sought to heal quickly. He went to Brussels, had surgery at a specialized clinic, and spent hours following a rehabilitation gymnastics course. And now, just over a month after the accident, he is back on the track. He was prescribed a plaster cast that does not hinder his movements and allows him to drive as usual. In the past few days, he had been to Modena, to Enzo Ferrari, and the constructor had agreed to the Belgian's return. On Friday, November 1, 1968, Ickx returns to the wheel for a series of test laps at the Magdalena Mixuca circuit. He is happy, despite no longer having a chance to win the World Championship, in which, after eleven races, Graham Hill leads with 39 points, followed by the Scotsman Jackie Stewart with 36 points and the current champion, New Zealander Dennis Hulme, with 33 points. In Canada, Ickx had the opportunity to win the world title for Ferrari. The accident, which prevented him from participating in the races in Canada and the United States, took him out of the competition. Sunday's race is decisive, and for this reason, it is expected to be even more intense and interesting. 65 laps of the circuit are scheduled, covering a distance of 325 kilometers. It is a challenging course, where six years earlier, Ricardo Rodriguez died while testing the track for the second edition of the Grand Prix. Mexican sports fans will go to the racetrack (tickets cost from 500 to 10.000 lire and are practically all sold out, despite over 80,000 seats available between the lawn and the stands) hoping that Pedro will win in the name of his brother, triumphant at Le Mans with the Italo-Belgian Luciano Bianchi. Pedro Rodriguez says that beating the champions of the world in front of his fans is the dream of his life, but he adds that he has little hope:
"The race will decide for the assignment of the world title among Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, and Denis Hulme. Especially between the first two, there will be a struggle, everyone will be wide awake. I should manage to take the lead in the final, I am behind in the standings, my success would not be dangerous...".
On Saturday, November 2, 1968, at least 10.000 people are in the stands of the Magdalena Mixuca Autodrome to witness the last day of tests for the twenty-two drivers who will compete in the Mexican Formula 1 Grand Prix, the final race of the World Championship. The drivers of the support competitions, reserved for touring car categories, were the first to appear on the track: much enthusiasm but not always well-kept cars. Those familiar with the scene say that on Sunday, these preliminary tests will offer the greatest excitement. Drivers have come from all over South America; old enthusiasts recall on the sidelines of the track the fabulous stories of the Carrera, reporting that to avoid wearing out the brakes, some crews opened the doors in descents to increase air resistance. Not surprisingly, with such daring competitors, the Carrera had become a massacre at a certain point and was suspended. Among the Formula 1 drivers, the Swiss Jo Siffert has made a great impression, unofficially improving the lap record that belonged to Clark with his Lotus-Ford, reducing it from 1'48"13 to 1'45"52. Jacky Ickx is among the most celebrated by other drivers and the public.
The Belgian will drive one of the two Ferraris in the race. Ickx has climbed onto a race car for the first time since the accident in the Canadian Grand Prix last September. Dr. Gozzi, sports director of Ferrari, says:
"Jackie is doing great. The interruption certainly did not dull his reflexes".
The other Ferrari will be entrusted to Chris Amon. The technicians led by engineer Forghieri are working hard to fine-tune the carburetion, which is completely out of phase due to the rarefied air at 2240 meters in Mexico City. The Italian team arrived just last night, and no one has had much time to rest. Upon arrival at the racetrack, Gozzi and the technical director Engineer Forghieri had to answer many questions from American journalists about the recent double victory of the Dinos in Germany and Italy. After the Mexican Grand Prix, Ferrari executives, drivers, and mechanics will go to Las Vegas for the final race of the Canada-America Cup, where the new car that left Modena in recent days will debut. In the race, Ickx and Amon will try to get involved in the battle between Hill, Stewart, and Hulme, the three drivers still in contention for the world title. Race morning is hot and sunny. Overnight, B.R.M. switches the engine from their 138 chassis to the 133 car as this engine runs cooler, and Rodriguez prefers the handling of his usual car. A row in the Lotus garage after the last practice has resulted in Solana being given Oliver’s car, which he wants, and Oliver taking over a car he hasn't driven. The race organizers don't realize this, so he keeps his position on the grid instead of starting from the back. Brabham’s mechanics have replaced the Cooper rings on one bank of the Repco V8, but when they start up on race morning, the other side is found to be gone, and a panic operation starts to replace the faulty ones. On Rindt’s car, the engine has changed, and when this starts, there is no oil pressure, which starts a rushed check, resulting in the discovery of a sticking return valve. Fresh weld marks on the left rear sub-frame of Siffert’s car are due to a crack, which is discovered after Lotus mechanics have found and repaired a similar crack on Hill’s car. After much arguing, Servoz-Gavin’s entry is accepted only two hours before the start. In the hour before the start, the 21 cars are wheeled out, and the drivers are presented to the personal representative of the President of Mexico. Then came the warming-up lap, and the cars are lined up on the dummy grid.
After a longer delay on the proper grid than most drivers liked, the flag fell, and the 7th Mexican Grand Prix and the deciding race in this year’s Driver’s Championship is underway. Siffert and Amon both make poor starts, and the rest of the field begins to stream by before they were properly underway. Hill leads into the first corner, but Surtees passes him on braking to take a momentary lead, then the Honda water pump packed up, and the temperature is off the clock as Hill re-passed down the next straight. By the end of lap 1, Hill leads from Surtees, Stewart, Amon, Hulme, Rodriguez, Rindt, Siffert, Brabham, Gurney, Oliver, McLaren, Beltoise, Servoz-Gavin, Solana, Courage, Ickx, Bonnier, Pescarolo, Elford and, some way behind, Bianchi. As the second lap starts, Stewart is trying to get by Surtees for he isn't going to let Hill get away, and during the lap, he does so, getting right into the Lotus slipstream. Hulme gets by Amon on the second lap, and the Ferrari doesn’t look at all happy. Rodriguez’ good start is short-lived, and after two laps, he has dropped three places to Rindt, Brabham, and Siffert. Servos-Gavin shows his style in these opening laps by moving up two places, McLaren and Beltoise on lap 2, and two more places next lap. Rindt is the first retirement, and during his third lap, the engine suddenly cuts out on the circuit, and Rindt walks back to the pits. Stewart is now shadowing Hill and looking for an opportunity to get by. This comes on the fifth lap when the Matra-Cosworth outbrakes the Lotus-Cosworth, and Stewart dives through into the lead. Surtees’ overheating is beginning to cause trouble, and on lap 5, he dropped two places to Siffert and Hulme. Siffert’s bad start has him in eighth place in the opening lap, but then he really starts to get into his stride and makes amends. He is sixth on lap 3, fifth next lap, then fourth and third, and ahead, he could see the blue Matra leading the red Lotus. Hulme at this point was lying fourth and keeping the leaders just in sight. Amon is beginning to drop back, and the car is nothing like as fast as it has been at St Jovite. The next retirement is Ickx in the second Ferrari.
The car just cut dead, indicating a spark failure, and the Belgian parks out on the circuit, and then as he doesn't want to walk far with his bad leg, he sits on the bank with the spectators, who have climbed over the new fences all around the circuit, and are sitting in places which make some experienced observers cringe. Stewart’s lead is short-lived, and after only four laps, Hill is back in the lead, while in third place and closing fast comes Siffert. Hulme is lying comfortably in fourth place, while Surtees is dropping further back with overheating problems. Solana drives several laps with part of the wing hanging down by the side of the car, the rest having broken off and fallen onto the road. When he pulls into the pits, the Lotus mechanics cut away the upright, level off the nose spoilers and send him off in last place. On lap 10, Hulme has the top of the left-hand damper/spring unit break at the rear while he is taking the 180º banked curve before the pits. This shot him up into the barrier, wrecking the front suspension and setting the car on fire, so for the second Formula One race running, he careers the full length of the pits out of control, and this time stops right by the fire tender at the pit exit. The reigning World Champion is unhurt, but the car is damaged. On the same lap, Beltoise retires when his left rear wishbone breaks at the outer pivot point. On lap 11, Surtees comes slowly into the pits with a puncture and the mechanics check the overheating, only to find that the water pump has seized. It is only a matter of time before he would have to retire, and, in fact, he completes six more laps in last place before he does so; while Surtees is in the pits, Bianchi also comes in to retire with a broken piston. Solana is not happy. The car, in his opinion, isn't going well, and he retired on lap 14, out of temperamental frustration, for the mechanics could find nothing wrong with the car. While Siffert has been closing on the two leaders, the rest of the field has been holding positions. On lap 16, Siffert is right on Stewart’s tail, and only two seconds cover the first three cars, while back in eighth place, Amon gives up when the differential begins to break up, which, in turn, knocks off the pads of the inboard disc brakes, and he had a moment out on the circuit. At the end of lap 16, Siffert is by the Matra and beginning to pressure Hill for the lead. The Lotus pit gives the ok to their driver, and on lap 22, Siffert takes the lead.
From the Championship point of view, Hill would be as happy with a second place as with a first as long as Stewart is behind him. Stewart is really the only one worried because he had to gain a nine-point win if Hill is one place behind, for he needs the three points for an outright win. Behind the three leaders, the field is opening up. Gurney, in fourth place, has dropped to 23s behind with Brabham just holding him, then comes McLaren, 8.5s down, with Servos-Gavin just about keeping in his slipstream. Twelve more seconds has opened up to Oliver, who must have been very happy Solana has insisted on driving his car. Siffert pulls out a second and a half very quickly, but this is not his lucky day and on lap 25 the nipple at the end of the throttle cable jumped out of its socket and the Swiss driver coasts into the pits. It takes nearly four minutes to find and rectify the fault, and two laps down Siffert rejoins in last place. On the same lap, Courage’s B.R.M. starts trailing smoke in a dense cloud as a piston collapses, and he retired as he reached the pits. So by lap 30, the order is Hill and Stewart with only a car’s space between them. Next is Brabham, 49s down, with McLaren 4.5s behind him. Then comes Servos-Gavin, driving exceptionally well, 8.5s down, with Oliver a further 15s behind, while just in his sight 5sec down came Rodriguez in the works B.R.M. These seven cars are the only ones on the same lap. The remainder of the field is one or two laps behind in the order Bonnier, driving the Honda very smoothly, Elford, Pescarolo, whose hands are full trying to keep what looks a very unstable Matra on the road, and, last, still Siffert. Siffert’s last place has not slowed him up; in fact, it has the opposite effect for he laps faster and faster until he is consistently in the 1'44"0 bracket, leaving the lap record eventually at 1'44"23 (172.695 km/h), a second and a half faster than Hill or Stewart are able to lap at. For the next few laps, the order remains the same, then suddenly Stewart is no longer right behind. In one lap, he has dropped 7s, next lap the gap is 16s, and it is obvious the Matra is in serious trouble. In fact, the fuel pressure has dropped for no apparent reason, causing the engine to cut on the straight and also at the hairpin. In addition, the car begins to handle peculiarly, which later is discovered to be a cracked frame which put the rear suspension out of alignment. While this is happening, Brabham loses first gear, and McLaren begins to overhaul him, until on lap 39 he goes into third place and begins to pull away.
The gap between Hill and Stewart goes on opening up until by lap 47 it has reached 1 minute, and still Stewart is in second place, but McLaren is closing fast, and on lap 57 Stewart is fourth behind McLaren and Brabham. Then, lap by lap, the rest of the field caught and pass the sick Matra until eventually he is lapped by the four leading cars. In the closing laps, Servoz-Gavin has his engine cut with ignition trouble and then Brabham retired just beyond the pits when his falling oil pressure vanished with the last of his oil. A last-minute excitement for the Mexican crowd comes when Rodriguez gets by Oliver four laps from the end. In their dice for third place, these two drivers have caught up Hill, who is now slowing, and are about to un-lap themselves. When the three cars appear next lap, they are un-lapped with Oliver just ahead of Rodriguez, and both are now ahead of Hill on the road. Rodriguez is unable to re-take Oliver and so finishes in fourth place with Oliver third. Graham Hill, driving the Lotus-Ford, won the Mexican Grand Prix, also securing the Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship, the most spectacular event in motorsports. It is the second time the Englishman has claimed the title; previously, he triumphed in 1962 with B.R.M. Hill is 39 years old and was born in Hampstead, England. Married with two children, he has competed in 102 Grand Prix races, a record among current active drivers. This year, he led the provisional championship standings (comprising twelve races) from the second race, the Spanish Grand Prix, which he won. The Englishman then secured another victory in the subsequent Monaco race. From then on, he settled for placements due to issues plaguing his Lotus-Ford. Scotsman Jackie Stewart on Matra-Ford, New Zealander Dennis Hulme on McLaren-Ford, and Belgian Ickx with Ferrari took advantage. With Ickx out of the race due to an accident, Graham Hill only had to fend off challenges from Stewart and Hulme for the ultimate success. His victory ended all debates; he had 39 points, jumping to 48, distancing himself from his major rivals. Stewart finished fifth due to Matra malfunctions, and Hulme survived a spectacular accident miraculously. It occurred in the 11th lap while Hulme was in third place.
"I don't know how it happened, but I heard a loud explosion as I passed in front of the stands".
It was later confirmed that a broken suspension bar, scraping on the asphalt, caused sparks that ignited the exhaust gases. The car caught fire, and the New Zealander escaped with an acrobatic leap. The fire was quickly extinguished. Amon's Ferrari flipped after the 16th lap, but there are no reported injuries. Ickx's other Ferrari remained stationary while Hulme's car was on fire, and nothing was known until almost the end of the race. Many retirements occurred in this dramatic race. Gurney had to leave the track due to suspension failure, Surtees due to engine overheating caused by a malfunctioning water circulation system, Rindt due to faulty ignition, Beltoise due to a broken rear axle. Siffert, Surtees, Beltoise, Rindt, and Bianchi were also forced out of the race. For the audience, the day began early. There were already people at the racetrack at eight in the morning, and the crowd grew as the hours passed. 120.000 spectators watched the Formula 1 race, mostly gathered around the series of "S" curves midway through the circuit to break the two straights. On Saturday at midnight, Graham Hill left his hotel on Paseo de la Reforma in a tuxedo, accompanied by a magnificent lady in a white lace evening gown, to attend a party. On Sunday, the English driver dominated the Mexican Grand Prix, leading practically from the first to the last of the 65 laps and triumphing in the final standings of the World Championship. Graham Hill said on Sunday night, after crossing the finish line, to those who reminded him of being seen going out to dance the night before:
"On the eve of such an important race, you need to relax your nerves a bit, and besides, I didn't stay out for long. At most an hour, a whisky with a lot of soda, and after a good sleep".
Hill is thirty-nine years old, with mustaches and always well-groomed hair, a ready smile, at least when things go well.
"I think I won in the curves, where I always managed to gain something on Stewart and Siffert, forcing them to push to the maximum in the straights. At the beginning, the tension was tremendous, Stewart's constant pressure irritated me; I told myself: stay calm, just get ahead of him by a meter. Then when his car started to give in, I felt relieved from a kind of nightmare. With Hulme out of the race and Stewart lagging behind, I only thought about not pushing my Lotus; by now, the championship was mine. As for the victory, however, I was not sure until the last laps: I knew there were competitors behind who were not aiming for the championship, had nothing to lose, and could push to the maximum in the final laps".
The circuit proved safe; two drivers narrowly escaped tragedy, but due to accidental incidents. As is known, Hulme collided with a guardrail exiting the parabolic curve, broke the rear axle but managed to control the car and get out before it caught fire. About Dan Gurney, it was only learned at night that he had covered several laps with the left rear wheel fork practically severed; he felt that something was wrong but did not want to stop immediately. When he decided to stop at the box, the mechanics paled at the sight of the damage. Ferrari had no luck (but can we speak of luck in case of breakdowns? It is perhaps better to say unpreparedness). Ickx in the fifth lap and Amon in the sixteenth stopped due to mechanical problems, respectively at the fuel pump and the water pump. Any excuses? Engineer Forghieri says:
"When you stop like this, there's little point in looking for excuses; the reality of things cannot be changed".
Now, the Modenese engineer, Dr. Gozzi, mechanics, and the drivers are moving to Las Vegas, where Ferrari will debut its new car in the final race of the CanAm Cup. Even the Mexican fans are somewhat disappointed; they were hoping for a victory by Pedro Rodriguez. However, the fourth-place finish has satisfied the driver, who raced in the presence of his entire family yesterday. Don Pedro senior, the father, announced that next year, even his youngest son Alessandro, eighteen years old, will start competing in major races. For a family that has already lost a son, Ricardo, on the tracks, this is an exceptional display of courage and sports passion. Graham Hill, at 39 years old, has recently reclaimed the world championship title in motorsport. He is the best driver of the season. England honors him with knighthood, and many awards come from tire, fuel, and accessory manufacturers with whom he is directly or indirectly associated through Lotus, the team of which he became the lead driver in 1968 after the tragic death of Jim Clark. Hill won after a long and uncertain battle with Jackie Stewart, driving the French Matra powered by a Ford-Cosworth engine. The decisive factor was the advantage the Englishman gained at the beginning of the season, finishing second in South Africa and winning in Spain and Monaco. Stewart couldn't participate in these three races, the first because the Matra was not yet ready, and the next two because he injured his wrist in an accident. The season was unfortunate for Ferrari, which managed to win only one Grand Prix with the young Belgian Jackie Ickx, the French one. Moreover, Ickx fractured a leg in a crash during the training for the Canadian Grand Prix, definitively ruling him out of contention for the world title. The other driver from the Modena-based team, Chris Amon, had to settle for some meager placements.
The New Zealander demonstrated maturation, having lost certain naiveties and shyness. Still, he was often hindered by trivial breakdowns, problems that shouldn't have occurred. In this regard, it seems that the relationship between Enzo Ferrari and certain technical circles in his team is no longer very favorable. Changes are in the air. Ferrari needs a comeback next year. The efforts of the Modena-based manufacturer will be directed towards various areas of motorsport: a return to prototype competitions (leading with the 24 Hours of Le Mans), Formula 1 and 2 races, and CanAm Cup tests. Drivers are needed, but they are not easy to find. The few truly talented ones are in high demand, with contracts reaching thousands of dollars. The best can earn up to 200.000.000 lire a year, with contracts and salaries totaling 50-60.000.000 lire. This is the moment of transfers, the driver market, centered in London. In the swirl of rumors, it seems that Ickx will leave Ferrari, heading to Ford, that John Surtees will leave Honda for Brabham (which the Austrian Rindt preferred over Lotus), and that Stewart will finally conclude with Ferrari. It is even whispered that Graham Hill might go to Modena. Only with the signing of contracts will something certain be known. In the meantime, what seems certain is that in 1971, Modena will have a new racetrack. This was announced on Saturday, November 23, 1968, by Mayor Triva in the presence of Bertett, president of the Automobile Club of Italy, Modena-based manufacturers Ferrari, Orsi, and Stanguellini, technicians, and sports enthusiasts. The facility, jointly funded by the Municipality, Province, and the Automobile Club of Modena, will cost 1.000.000.000 lire. The circuit will be located on an area of 1.230.000 square meters between Modena and Reggio Emilia, a few kilometers from exits on the Autostrada del Sole and Brennero. The project, still in the elaboration phase, envisions a track of 5380 meters, with two secondary tracks of 3040 and 2380 meters.
There will be a not very long straight (not even a thousand meters), while curves will abound. The average speed per lap should not exceed 140-160 km/h. This is not a bad thing: risks will decrease, drivers will be able to better demonstrate their skills, young talents will have an excellent training ground, and the cars themselves will be put to the test. The racetrack will be built with particular attention to the safety of both drivers and the audience. Along the entire track, there will be strips of obstacle-free grass, enclosed by sandbanks. Rescue vehicles will be able to reach any point on the track in a few seconds. The creation of a special firefighting system is also planned. The initiative is provident. It is on the tracks that driving skills are honed. Moreover, Modena-based manufacturers, and not only them, will have an effective testing ground for both touring and racing cars. In particular, Enzo Ferrari is delighted, as his involvement in motorsports is always intense. Next year, he will compete with 3-liter Formula 1 and 1600cc Formula 2 single-seaters, prototypes, and Dinos for hill climb races. Significant news is expected shortly. It is now certain that the technical director Forghieri will leave his position, while talks are underway about the hiring of a famous driver. On Sunday, December 1, 1968, the result of the first race of the Argentine Temporada, held at the Municipal Autodrome of Buenos Aires, sees Ernesto Brambilla finish in first place and Andrea de Adamich in second, both driving the Dino Ferrari 1600cc Formula 2 cars. It was a complete triumph for the drivers and cars from Maranello: no opponent could match the pace of the red single-seaters, even though there were respectable men and machines in the race, such as the Englishman Oliver on Lotus, the Swiss Siffert and Regazzoni on Tecno, the French Pescarolo and Beltoise on Matra, and the Austrian Rindt on Brabham. The third Italian driver, Carlo Facetti (Tecno), finished the race in eighth place due to oil pump issues.
Only in the first 24 laps did Brambilla and de Adamich have a formidable rival in the Austrian Rindt on Brabham, who was forced to retire due to a technical problem, the repair of which would have taken ten minutes and therefore removed him inevitably from the fight for the top positions. Rindt had set the best time in Saturday's qualifying, clocking 1’18"9 compared to de Adamich's 1'19"0 and Brambilla's 1'19"4. De Adamich immediately took the lead at the start, but, pushing the pace, Rindt passed him in the third lap, retaining the lead until lap 14 when he had to yield it to Brambilla, who maintained it until the finish. The pursuit of the Austrian by the two Ferrari drivers was the most exciting episode of the race. On the seventh lap, Brambilla set a sensational time of 1'19"5 (at an average speed of 159.085 km/h), which would not be surpassed and therefore became the record of the day. Among the retirees, in addition to Rindt, were Beltoise (lap 15), Siffert (lap 25), and Williams (lap 53). De Adamich said at the end that he was very satisfied because both he and Brambilla were racing in Argentina for the first time. As known, the Temporada includes four races in different circuits. It will continue in Cordoba on Sunday, December 8, 1968, and in San Juan on Sunday, December 15, 1968, to conclude again at the Buenos Aires autodrome on the twenty-second. Brambilla received a prize of 500,000 pesos for the victory. It is a happy moment for the red cars from Maranello, the result of the agreement between Fiat and Ferrari. The Dinos have won the last three competitions they have participated in: Hockenheim, Vallelunga, and Buenos Aires. Three victories that bear the name of Tino Brambilla, a 34-year-old driver trained in the school of less powerful 1000cc Formula 3 cars. What does Enzo Ferrari think, finding the taste of success again after an unlucky season?
"I would say that Brambilla is the type of driver suitable for the car. Let me give a football example. A Serie A player doesn't take the field with pleasure in a Serie B match. The game is different, there's a risk of getting a few more kicks. On the other hand, someone who moves from B to A, if they have the skills and refine them, performs very well. It's the same with cars. An F1 driver doesn't perform as well in Formula 2, while someone like Brambilla, coming from Formula 3, has the opportunity to excel".
Ferrari is happy for Brambilla, and equally for the performance of its cars.
"Now, the car is in good shape. We managed to fine-tune it, perhaps a bit late. The cause? Many factors, including de Adamich's accident at Brands Hatch in the spring, which deprived us of his contribution for a long time, the spectacular incident at Monza in the Lottery Grand Prix, involving three Dinos, and finally, some small technical glitches that could have been avoided".
Ferrari doesn't add more, but it's known that engineer Mauro Forghieri, who had technical responsibility for the team this year, will not be confirmed for 1969. In Argentina, four mechanics accompanied the drivers and cars, led by the young engineer Marelli, who has been closely monitoring the preparation of the Dinos lately. Ferrari will only clarify its plans in mid-December in an official press conference. However, it has leaked that the manufacturer has developed a 3000 cc 18-cylinder engine derived from the 2-liter 12-cylinder opposed engine intended for hill climb races, and negotiations for hiring the talented Italo-American driver Mario Andretti are about to conclude. The new engine could be used in F1 cars and prototypes, with Andretti joining Amon for the Grand Prix. For now, Ferrari is focused on the Temporada. On Sunday, December 8, 1968, another exciting victory for the Dino Ferrari is witnessed in Argentina. This time, Andrea de Adamich brings the 1600 cc red single-seater to success, while teammate Ernesto Brambilla is forced to retire due to a fuel pump failure. De Adamich wins at the Autodromo Oscar Cabalen in Alta Gracia, Cordoba, in the second race of the Formula 2 Temporada. Behind him are Rindt (Brabham), Pescarolo (Matra), and Regazzoni (Tecno). The third Italian driver in the race, Carlo Facetti (Tecno), finishes twelfth after a regular but uneventful race. De Adamich completes the race (70 laps of the 3101-meter circuit for a total length of 220.070 kilometers) in 1 hour 9'22"1, at an average speed of 190.349 km/h. Rindt, who once again proved to be the most dangerous rival, finishes four seconds behind. The Austrian took the lead at the start with Pescarolo and Courage, but De Adamich managed to reach and overtake him on the tenth lap. From that moment on, the Milanese rider, running consistently (58 seconds on average per lap), managed to maintain the first position, repelling the attacks of Rindt and his Brabham with a Ford-Cosworth engine. For de Adamich, it is finally a day of joy after the tough moments in recent months. He was seriously injured in April at Brands Hatch, had to stay with his neck in a cast for a long time. Then, another period of waiting before being declared healed by sports doctors, and finally, the comeback. Two second places at Vallelunga and Buenos Aires, always behind Brambilla, and now the satisfaction of a great victory. Andrea says:
"I've been waiting for this day for a long time. Needless to say, I'm happy. Rindt engaged me, especially at the beginning. He was ahead, and I was in the middle of a rather large group. Then, I managed to reach him and overtake him. Then I started to be calm. I took three to five seconds from him and kept him away from my wake, so he couldn't use the slipstream to stay behind me".
The young engineer Marelli, a candidate to replace engineer Forghieri as the technical head of Ferrari, says:
"Overall, I'm happy. I'm sorry for Brambilla, blocked by a fairly banal failure. Anyway, Andrea was excellent and replaced Tino in winning. They say there's no smoke without fire. Let's hope not to deny the proverb".
The third act is represented by the next round of the Temporada, the third, scheduled for Sunday at the Autodromo El Zondas in San Juan. The fourth and final race will take place on Sunday, December 22, again in Buenos Aires. The competition had an interesting prologue. The drivers failed to qualify on Friday due to a fierce storm that flooded the track and on Saturday due to the excessive enthusiasm of the crowd, which invaded the circuit to get a better view of the practice sessions. Organizers and police were unable to remove the spectators, and the tests had to be suspended after a few minutes. After the second race of the Argentine Formula 2 Temporada, the standings see Andrea De Adamich at the top with 21 points, followed by Brambilla (13). Rindt (8), Pescarolo (7), and Regazzoni (6). The dominance of the 1600 cc Dino Ferrari single-seaters and Italian drivers is undisputed, and their most dangerous opponent, the Austrian Rindt, is the first to acknowledge it. After the race, Rindt says, commenting on his stubborn but fruitless pursuit of De Adamich:
"I couldn't reach him. He took the curves faster than me. His car is definitely lighter and more powerful. But not only was I defeated by a good car, but also by an excellent driver".
With these words spoken by Rindt with great sincerity, de Adamich's class and the qualities of the Dino Ferrari are summarized. Newspapers spare no praise for the winner. One of the Clarin de Baires correspondents writes:
"What de Adamich managed to do in the turn that connects the two ellipses of the Alta Grada circuit would have deserved to be filmed. It was as if he were moving on rails, never a centimeter of difference from one lap to the next".
The Temporada is offering de Adamich the opportunity to secure his future at Scuderia Ferrari. For this reason, both he and Brambilla don't exchange many compliments, even though each is playing their cards fairly, and if Brambilla hasn't done more, it's certainly not because he didn't want to but because fuel system issues didn't allow him. Some even suggest that there is rivalry between Brambilla and de Adamich to the point that they don't talk to each other. But these are exaggerations. Theirs is the logical rivalry that can exist between two colleagues vying for a permanent place on the team. Perhaps the rumor arose from the fact that in the first race of the Temporada, held at the Buenos Aires circuit, de Adamich gave the impression of not wanting to settle for second place, trying to overtake Brambilla, with the risk, it is added, of jeopardizing with such a relentless duel the brilliant triumph that the Dinos had already secured. As happens in all parts of the world, even in Argentina, the winner doesn't take away just praise. There are inevitable envies, rumors, gossip. In recent days, more than anyone else, Tino Brambilla has been the target for a comment he made about the Oscar Cabalen circuit. Perhaps jokingly, the Monza driver said:
"It's a circuit suitable for horse racing, not cars".
Certain newspapers made a scandal out of it, and the winner of the first race of the Temporada became unpleasant to many Argentinians. But these are tricks of the trade. In all this, the disappointment of the Argentine motorsport community is closely related because local drivers have so far proven to be far inferior to Europeans. However, the comments from technicians are warm. De Adamich, for example, has been called a vehement purist, and Brambilla a vehement intuitive.
"With these aces and their mechanical means, victory should not escape Ferrari in the remaining two races, and in this way, the Maranello team could prepare to exercise uninterrupted dominance in Formula 2".
On Saturday, December 14, 1968, while the Temporada continues in Argentina, Enzo Ferrari holds the end-of-year meeting in Modena. In a long press conference, the constructor reviews the sports season and outlines, in broad terms, his plans for the next one. Here are the most important pieces of information: Amon and Bell have already signed the contract as drivers; Brambilla will do so upon his return from Argentina; De Adamich may switch to Alfa Romeo; Mario Andretti, the famous Italo-American driver, will participate for Ferrari in some long-duration competitions in the United States. A new Formula 1 car is in the works, while a car for the World Sportscar Championship, a prototype with a 3-liter 12-cylinder engine of 2989 cc, is already ready, and an 18-cylinder double V engine is undergoing bench testing. Ferrari says he had to give up Stewart, Siffert, and Surtees; farewell also to the young Belgian Jacky Ickx, who had asked for 80.000.000 lire for a year of racing, plus 100% of prize money. For de Adamich, the case is strange. The driver left on Wednesday, November 27, 1968, to participate in the Temporada races. On Thursday, November 28, 1968, Ferrari received a telegram signed by the young driver:
"I will not sign the contract. Already committed for next year".
But the telegram does not seem to have been sent from de Adamich's home, neither his mother nor the pilot's girlfriend knows anything about it. Voices from Argentina whisper that the driver may have opted for Alfa Romeo. After praising Brambilla, Ferrari outlines these points: in Formula 1, the season will begin with only one car, entrusted to Chris Amon, reserving the possibility of bringing two, or even four, if all goes well, for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Only one car for the World Sportscar Championship: two Dinos, however, for Formula 2. No to the Monaco Grand Prix ("too dangerous"), no to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the entire World Sportscar Championship if the sporting regulations do not allow 3000 cc prototype cars to have fuel tanks of equal capacity to those of 5000 cc sports cars. Among the questions asked to Enzo Ferrari in the press conference, one concerns an alleged interest from Fiat in Ferrari. The constructor responds in these terms:
"In Turin, a continental language is now spoken, which only the great Fiat can afford. It's no longer about absorbing one or more factories, but about harmonizing the life of the planet and satellites into a system that includes capacity and reflects common prestige".
He then adds:
"Now I can add a clarification to this main concept of mine. A collaboration agreement has been in place for over three years, which includes, among other things, a review after a few months. If this collaboration has operated well for both parties, it can obviously be renewed; if one party has not been satisfied, it is obvious that it be terminated. But in the case that both parties have been deeply satisfied, it is also legitimate to suppose that this collaboration takes on even more concrete and substantial forms".
On Sunday, December 15, 1968, Andrea de Adamich conquers the second consecutive victory on the track of Autodromo El Zonda in San Juan, after already winning in Cordoba and finishing second in the first race of the competition in Buenos Aires. The Temporada will close on Sunday, December 22, 1968, in Buenos Aires. Regardless of the result, de Adamich has already won the final standings. It is, or should be, a happy moment for de Adamich, who has found the path to success after a very unlucky period. But controversies abound, the press conference held by Enzo Ferrari in Modena had echoes even in Argentina. The problem is all here: will de Adamich still run with the Modena constructor next year, or will he switch to Alfa? Ferrari would like to assign him to the Formula 2 single-seaters, while the driver would like to drive Formula 1 cars. With Alfa, he would climb onto the new prototypes for the World Sportscar Championship with John Surtees, and he could rely on the Englishman to get a car from B.R.M., the team Surtees will run for in 1969 in the Formula 1 World Championship. In the days before, journalists had gone to the Continental Hotel in Buenos Aires, where they had met de Adamich about to go to Autodromo for a series of tests ahead of the Sunday race. Polite, kind, but firm, he said with a half-smile:
"I prefer, for now, to remain silent. I don't even know how to behave after all that has been stated in recent days. However, I will clarify the situation well upon my return to Italy, immediately after the Buenos Aires race. I will clarify every mystery, and I think my statements will be very interesting".
The young Italian champion added nothing more. He took the bag with the jumpsuit and helmet and headed to Autodromo. On Sunday, December 22, 1968, the Temporada in Argentina almost ended on the Buenos Aires track in a tragedy. Andrea de Adamich would have been the protagonist without fault. At the start, his Dino Ferrari is thrown towards the pits, where it hits a group of journalists, photographers, and service personnel. De Adamich remains unharmed, so much so that he restarts and then finishes sixth, but six people are injured or bruised. The incident occurs in the confusion of the start of the second of the two heats.
Piers Courage's Brabham-Ford touches Carlos Reutemann's Tecno, which, in turn, throws de Adamich's Dino off the track. The Trieste driver, who had won the first heat, vainly tries to control the red single-seater, which shoots towards the pits, unprotected by safety barriers. An Argentine photographer, Salvatore Nardone, suffers a broken leg, a journalist from the Automobile Club of Italy, Andrea Fabbris, has a bruised foot and a cut on the nose, Argentine driver Carlos Marincovich has minor bruises, and three other people also have injuries. Fortunately, not too negative a toll. De Adamich later launches into pursuit, but the nose of the Dino is damaged, which - altering the aerodynamic conditions of the car - reduces its speed. De Adamich finishes sixth (fifth in the combined ranking of the two heats), amid applause from the public. The race is won by the Englishman Piers Courage, on the Brabham-Ford, who finished fourth in the first heat and triumphed in this eventful second heat. However, absolute success in the Temporada does not escape de Adamich, who with a second place (in Buenos Aires behind teammate Brambilla) and two victories (in Cordoba and San Juan) had gained an insurmountable advantage over all rivals. As for Brambilla, the Monza driver is once again blocked by a breakdown just as he was about to win the first heat (each heat included 25 laps of the 4208-meter circuit for a total of 109.063 kilometers). Brambilla has been in the lead since the first lap, chased only by de Adamich.
Then, however, a few hundred meters from the finish, the car stops: the pilot pushes it to the finish line, but, according to the regulations, he is classified with 24 laps. The Monza driver does not even show up at the start of the next heat, as the mechanics manage to replace the engine in time. Thus ends the adventure in Argentina for the drivers and cars from Maranello. An adventure that ended with a very favorable balance. The Dino Ferrari 1600s have dominated their major foreign rivals, from Matra to Brabham to Lotus. Out of four races, they could only aim for victory in the last one after the incident involving de Adamich. Now, it is hoped that the pilot can conclude with serenity the controversial issue about the name of the manufacturer (Alfa or Ferrari) for which he will race next year. Andrea de Adamich returns to Italy on Tuesday, December 24, 1968, in the afternoon. The winner of the Argentine Temporada for Formula 2 single-seaters arrives in Rome from Buenos Aires by plane and then continues by car, with his girlfriend Donatella, to Milan. He will have a quiet Christmas, with family, after a month of races, training, nervous tension, with the bitterness of a controversy certainly not wanted, just mitigated by the satisfaction of a series of splendid victories. The facts are known. They revolve around a mysterious telegram received by Ferrari, in which de Adamich would have announced to the constructor that he could no longer race for him in 1969, having already committed to another company, namely Alfa Romeo. But the driver was in Argentina, and his family does not know who could have sent it. Someone, to sow discord, sent the message. De Adamich says, in his apartment in Piazza Sicilia:
"If I could find out who it is, I would report them. I did a small investigation at the post office. The original was written with a ballpoint pen, in block letters. Curious detail: my surname is misspelled, the 'de' is capitalized, and instead of the final 'h,' there is a 'k.' It seems incredible that episodes like these should happen".
De Adamich has already expressed all his bitterness about it. He has also been upset about the way Enzo Ferrari spoke about him. Above all, he wondered why the Modena constructor had not informed him in Argentina about what was happening and why his contract had not been discussed in October, like those of Amon (reconfirmed) and Ickx (terminated). De Adamich also clarifies that he has not reached an agreement with Alfa but only has many friends at the Milanese manufacturer, with whom he won two European titles for touring cars.
"We are in a holiday period; let's forget about controversies. I just want to add two things. I am 27 years old, I race professionally, but I also race because I like it. I don't need to be a driver to live. Rather than having to change my character, my personality, I would give up racing. For next year, I want to drive a Formula 1 car. It's my dream, and also my plan, which I intend to follow at all costs".
De Adamich doesn't say more, but at this point, his position is clear. He will soon go to Enzo Ferrari in Maranello for a final discussion. It will be up to the constructor to confirm or not the Triestine. And the confirmation is called Formula 1. According to many experts, de Adamich deserves this confirmation. He has been racing for seven years, has competed in almost 700 competitions, driving very different cars, including Formula Junior single-seaters. 3 and 2. The accident at Brands Hatch in March interrupted a sure ascent. But after four long months of suffering, Andrea took up the steering wheel again, demonstrated clear class at the wheel of the Dino Ferrari 1600. To experience, he added grit and determination. A perhaps unhappy year for him, but a year that has also transformed the young driver into a pilot, the only Italian driver who, with a bit of luck, can be at the level of a 3-liter Formula 1 single-seater. Better if this single-seater is red and called Ferrari. After a few days of waiting, on Saturday, December 28, 1968, Andrea De Adamich meets Enzo Ferrari in Maranello, and at the end of the meeting, the driver and the constructor decide to go their separate ways. The contract between the Triestine and the Maranello team will expire on December 31 and will not be renewed. De Adamich's doors are now open to Alfa Romeo for the World Sportscar Championship races, while in Formula 1, he may receive a B.R.M. or a Honda through John Surtees, who is officially hired by Alfa on Saturday and who was with the Japanese team last year.
Neither Ferrari nor De Adamich wanted to release official statements or declarations. In fact, an attempt was made to keep maximum secrecy about the meeting that closed the matter between the constructor and the driver after many controversies in recent days. For the first time in several years, Enzo Ferrari found an Italian driver willing to give up one of his cars to assert his reasons. De Adamich had left his Alfa friends only to race in Formula 1. The Brands Hatch incident had stopped him for many months, and Ferrari, despite the successes later achieved by the Triestine in Argentina, had clearly made it known that in 1969 he would not give him one of his Grand Prix cars. Logical, inevitable divorce. It's regrettable that it was preceded by insinuations. Who sent the famous telegram? Some, despite de Adamich's denial, continue to say that the driver had already signed with Alfa before leaving for Argentina. Better to let it go. It appears, however, that the driver and the constructor parted without rancor but with regret. Through the veil of secrecy spread over the meeting, some details still filter. De Adamich would have told Ferrari that he needed an additional period of experience and wanted to look outside Modena, under different conditions and with different responsibilities, for this improvement. Ferrari would have replied expressing his regret. The constructor would have been impressed by the driver's arguments. In any case, apart from words, the fact remains that it was a separation without dramas. Indeed, it can almost be thought that the doors of Maranello will remain open in the future for de Adamich.