1971 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX
t had been the summer of Stewart. Jackie Stewart, the 1969 World Champion, had the best car – the Tyrrell – and his rivals were fast but fractious (Jacky Ickx in the Ferrari), or not quite ready to tackle Stewart’s stunning consistency (rookie Emerson Fittipaldi in a Lotus), or fast but burdened with an inferior car (Ronnie Peterson in a March). And so Stewart arrived at Monza having won five of the first eight races and with a second World Championship in his pocket with three races still to go. You might think that made him favorite for the Italian Grand Prix win, but Monza never plays favorites. In pre-chicane form, the old Autodromo was a maximum revs, slipstreaming lottery that had seen winning margins of 0.2sec in 1967 and a mere 0.08sec in ’ 69, when the top four were covered by just 0.19sec! Sure enough, in 1971, three of the strongest runners were soon out – Stewart, early race leader Clay Regazzoni and his Ferrari teammate Ickx all had their engines go sick within the first 20 laps. Ferrari’s premature exit was a huge disappointment o the Italian tifosi, but their attention was held by the epic battle up front. The contenders were Stewart’s Tyrrell teammate Francois Cevert, Peterson, motorcycle legend Mike Hailwood (making his first F1 start in six years) in a Surtees, the BRMs of Peter Gethin and Howden Ganley, and polesitter Chris Amon in a Matra. Typical of his luck, though, Amon would fall back from the leading pack with fewer than 10 laps to go – while trying to pull a tear-off from his visor, he pulled the I
whole visor away, and was immediately
blinded by the 180mph airstream...
Having got caught out in traffic early in
the race, Gethin – in only his second race
for BRM – had reeled in the leaders and
led laps 52 and 53, only to have Cevert
and Peterson pass him next time around
on the 54th and penultimate one.
But on the final lap, Gethin came down
to the Parabolica hunkered down in the
slipstream of the leaders. As Peterson dived
inside leader Cevert, he ran a little wide, so
that Gethin, despite locking a wheel slightly,
drew level with both. On the exit, V12 BRM
out-accelerated the V8 Cosworths and the
drag race to the finish line was decided by
just 0.01sec in Gethin’s favor. Peterson,
Cevert, Hailwood and Ganley followed,
with fifth-placed Ganley a mere 0.61sec
from his victorious teammate!
Was it the closest winning margin of
all time? Perhaps, perhaps not. The
1986 Spanish Grand Prix – by which
time F1 was timing itself to thousandths
of a second – may have been closer.
At Jerez, Ayrton Senna’s Lotus held off
Nigel Mansell’s Williams by 0.014sec
after a classic duel in the closing stages.
IT TOOK SCHUEY
TO BEAT GETHIN!
Monza remains a
temple of speed.
Peter Gethin’s ’ 71
win broke the
record for the
race speed at
largely thanks to
the insertion of
record held for
more than three
beat it with a
average in the
2003 Italian GP –
and of course,
that race included
2002 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX
Yes, we’re aware that the finish between
Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher
at Indianapolis in 2002 was closer than Jerez
’ 86, but it wasn’t a race. Not the closing
couple of miles, anyway.
outraged to discover that, despite the huge
car advantage, team orders had remained
in place at Ferrari. After dominating the
Austrian Grand Prix, Barrichello was