The III Gran Premio de México, otherwise known as the 1964 Mexican Grand Prix, was the final round of the 1964 FIA Formula One World Championship, held at the Magdalena Mixhuca circuit on the 25th of October, 1964. The race would go down in history for the dramatic way in which the Championship was decided, as Graham Hill, John Surtees and Jim Clark went to battle for the ultimate prize.
It had been advantage Hill when the field assembled in Mexico ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix, but on the track no one could deny Clark pole. An incredible lap saw the Scot beat second placed Dan Gurney by nearly a second, with Surtees on the second row in fourth, and Hill even further back in sixth. Hill needed to finish third or better to win the title if Surtees won, while Surtees had to finish on the podium regardless. As for Clark, the Scot could only worry about himself, needing to win to stand any chance of defending his crown.
Off the line the Championship swung in Clark's favour as he launched away from pole perfectly, just as Hill fell down to tenth after his goggles slipped as he pulled off the grid. By the end of the opening lap, Clark was clear of Gurney and Lorenzo Bandini behind, while Hill was battling away at the back of the top ten. Surtees' chances had also taken a nose dive when his Ferrari began to misfire halfway round the first tour, meaning he was in thirteenth by the end of the opening bout.
The opening two thirds of the race then saw a dramatic recovery through the field, despite Clark blasting away at the front of the field. Surtees' engine miraculously sorted itself out after a couple of laps allowing him to pick his way through the order, while Hill had a surge during the opening phases to climb into third. That, however, was to change on lap 31, when Bandini, Surtees' team mate, misjudged his braking and put both into a spin.
Hill rejoined behind Surtees and Bandini, and with a crumpled exhaust he could do little but coast around and hope his rivals faltered. Bandini was faster than Surtees and so allowed by to try and hunt down Gurney in second for third place would not be enough for Surtees if Clark won. Yet, as Clark opened the final lap of the season, the Lotus' Climax engine seized to end his title hopes, handing victory to Gurney while news spread down through the pit lane.
The news reached the Ferrari pits just in time, who just managed to signal Bandini to slow down and allow Surtees pass before the both blasted past the pits. Fortunately for Surtees, he and his team mate were friends as well as rivals, and the Italian duly moved aside to hand Surtees second, the six points enough for the Englishman to earn a maiden title. Hill was beaten by just a single point, finishing down in eleventh, although most people's sympathies were with Clark, who had been cruelly denied by mechanical failure for a second time in three seasons.
The Championship's finale saw a return to Mexico City for Formula One, with the title still to be decided at the final round for only the third time in Formula One history. Using the exact same circuit as in 1963, the high altitude should have served to level out the playing field for the under powered Climax cars, with all of engines registering around 170 bhp. Almost all of the cars were shipped together from Watkins Glen, wrapped up 'like Christmas presents', in polythene wrappers.
The only car not shipped over from the Glen was the Honda of Ronnie Bucknum, taken back to Europe to be broken apart and analysed, meaning the rest would race as they were. In their place, and to make the entry list a round 20 until A.J. Foyt withdrew, was a third Ferrari for Mexican racer Pedro Rodríguez. He, like team mates John Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini (again using the F12 car) would run under the North American Racing Team banner as Enzo Ferrari continued to boycot the Italian Automobile club.
Lotus-Climax arrived without any issues for their three cars, also opting to add a Mexican racer to their roster, replacing American Walt Hansgen. Moisés Solana was drafted into their third car, infamous among the F1 crowd for his use of #13 in 1963, as he joined the Lotus outfit for a rare outing. Regular drivers Jim Clark and Mike Spence would also race as they had been in New York, with Clark in the 25 and Spence in the 33.
BRM would also have three seats on offer for the season finale, although when Foyt withdrew they decided to use the third car as a reserve entry for title pretender Graham Hill. The Championship leader arrived with the brand new chassis which he had taken victory with in America, while Richie Ginther used the better of the older cars. Both cars featured updates, Hill's car receiving a revamped front suspension design, while Ginther got a fresh engine.
For Cooper-Climax, Brabham-Climax and BRP-BRM, the other factory teams, there would be no changes from the race around the Glen. Bruce McLaren and Phil Hill had their two identical T73s once again, while Innes Ireland and Trevor Taylor had their two BRP chassis unchanged. Jack Brabham and Dan Gurney would also race their Brabhams in identical spec from the Glen, with Brabham still using a "customer" car.
The privateer field was once again an abbriviated affair with the RRC Walker Racing Team once again fielding Jo Siffert and his privately owned Brabham. Jo Bonnier used their ex-factory Brabham as usual, while Hap Sharp returned to use their second car. Completing the entry list were Reg Parnell Racing, their two ex-factory Lotuses being run for regular runners Mike Hailwood and Chris Amon.
A second victory of the season for Graham Hill had put the Englishman five points clear with a round to go as the F1 circus headed to Mexico for the season finale, with a victory or second place enough to earn him the title, regardless of anyone else's finish. A fifth podium of the season meant that John Surtees was up to second, and a victory, or second place, needed to see him lift the trophy, so long as Hill failed to improve in an earlier fourth place finish. Poor Jim Clark was now nine points away from Hill, needing to win the season finale to keep his title hopes alive, although if Surtees finished second, or Hill ended the race on the podium, then even that would not be enough.
It was status quo for Ferrari and BRM at the top of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers standings, with a point still the difference between the two after the US Grand Prix. Lotus-Climax were still third, and had an outside chance of reclaiming their crown, although the seven point gap to leaders Ferrari reduced that likelihood, but a win would be enough once dropped scores were applied. Brabham-Climax now looked set for fourth, building a five point gap over Cooper-Climax before the privateer charge, headed by the RRC Walker Racing Team, and Jo Siffert's Brabham-BRMs.
The full entry list for the 1964 Mexican Grand Prix is outlined below:
Two four hour practice/qualifying sessions were scheduled for the Mexican Grand Prix weekend, held on Friday and Saturday respectively. Both sessions would be noted for high temperatures, not helping the oxygen starved engines, although there were no issues with overheating over the two days. The target time for the title pretenders would be Jim Clark's circuit record of 1:58.1, set during the Grand Prix in 1963.
As had happened around the Glen, the title pretenders all leapt into action as the session opened, with Clark immediately out to prepare his car for an early run for pole. Team mate Mike Spence was soon out too, the Englishman completing a few laps in Moisés Solana's car just to check things over, while Ferrari sent all three of their cars out together. Richie Ginther was the earliest to go out and then return to the puts, needing an adjustment to his fuel mixture.
Most of the early times were well over the 2:00.0 mark, with Clark struggling to get closer than a 2:15.0, although he was in a better position than title rival John Surtees, who had both cars in the pits having work done. The Scot decided to use team mate Spence's car for a flurry of laps just after the halfway point on Friday, and soon began to draw in the 2:00.0 barrier, before becoming the first man to break through. His 25 remained in the pits with a fuel system issue, a problem shared with the Brabham of Australian team owner/racer Jack Brabham.
By the end of Friday, Dan Gurney began to ramp up the pace, becoming the first man to beat Clark's time before settling for a 1:58.5. Soon, Clark, Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini, using the F12 Ferrari, were all back in action, and all three slowly eked out time from their earlier laps. Suddenly, Clark found another second on his best time, a stunning lap in Spence's 33 resulting in a time of 1:57.6, a new circuit record.
Saturday saw higher temperatures, meaning times and optimal fuel mixtures were more difficult to achieve, but that was only after the Friday times were scrapped, a fault in the system meaning that the official standings had the top five all setting 1:57.0s. Therefore, Saturday witnessed the real battle for pole, with Clark landing the decisive blow with an "official" record of 1:57.24. Gurney would join him on the front row, some nine tenths slower, while Surtees would start in fourth. Championship leader Graham Hill had to start the finale in sixth after numerous minor issues prevented any long running.
The full qualifying results for the 1964 Mexican Grand Prix are outlined below:
After overnight repairs to get the cars race ready, and an entire engine change for Trevor Taylor, the entire field was ready for the race, set to start on Sunday afternoon. A bright and hot day in Mexico City greeted the field, and after a short support programme featuring local drivers, the Grand Prix cars were wheeled onto the dummy grid an hour before the start. After a lot of ceremony, including doves, balloons and planes, the Grand Prix cars were allowed to complete a warm-up lap before assembling on the grid proper for the start.
A stunning start for Jim Clark saw the pole sitter streak into the lead of the race, leaving Dan Gurney to duck into his wake. This was in stark contrast to Graham Hill, whose start was ruined when his goggle elastic failed, meaning he was still strapping them back on as the rest of the field pulled away. John Surtees also had a difficult opening lap, his Ferrari misfiring badly when the field went through the first corner.
At the end of the opening bout it was advantage Clark in terms of both the race and the Championship, the Scot already two seconds clear of Gurney in second. The closest of his title rivals at the end of the lap was Hill, already beginning to recover from his poor start as he rounded the final corner in tenth. Surtees' misfire, meanwhile, had cleared itself on the run back to the start/finish straight, with the Englishman down in thirteenth.
By the end of the second lap Clark was even further up the road, while Hill and Surtees were running together. Hill was up to ninth, taking team mate Richie Ginther, while Surtees managed to take Ginther, Jo Siffert and Phil Hill to break into the top ten. For Siffert, the day would prove to be a struggle from that moment on, the Swiss racer tumbling down the order when his fuel pump began to overheat, ultimately succumbing to the issue a few laps later.
Hill and Surtees were now managing to make their way towards the points, picking off Bruce McLaren and Pedro Rodríguez on laps three and four, just as Clark pulled out a seven second lead. Their charge was halted on lap six, however, when they came across Mike Spence and Jack Brabham, who were duelling for fourth. Jo Bonnier kept the two title pretenders apart for a time until a wheel vibration destroyed his handling and, ultimately, his front suspension.
After a few false starts, Hill managed to take both Brabham and Spence before the tenth lap, before surging past Lorenzo Bandini at the hairpin. The last of those moves left the Englishman in third, enough to see him crowned as Champion, while Surtees had to wait until Brabham finally elbowed his way past Spence before he could make progress. A few laps more of intense battling with the Australian team owner was required before the Englishman was through and into fifth.
By lap 18 the race finally settled into a rhythm and tense stalemate, with Clark settling for a ten second lead over Gurney. The New Yorker was in turn twelve seconds ahead of Hill in third, although the Englishman was not in clear air himself. The Champion-elect at this point was unable to escape Bandini, who now had Surtees dragging along in his wake, while Brabham and Spence tagged on just behind.
After a ten lap lull in on track action, Spence made himself spin at the hairpin to call an end to quiet period, allowing Rodriguez to pass in the old Ferrari. The following laps then saw Bandini challenge Hill, the Italian showing the Englishman his nose several times around the Mexico City circuit, until deciding to force the issue at the hairpin. Unfortunately, Hill opted to defend the position, meaning that Bandini smacked the back of the BRM, bending Hill's exhausts as both were tipped into a spin.
Surtees screamed past before Bandini could rejoin, while Hill had to limp back to have his bent exhaust cut apart, costing him valuable time. Surtees' new third place was under threat from Brabham for a time until Bandini recovered, although it would not be enough for him to win the Championship as Clark continued on in the lead. He decided to release Bandini, who had managed to take Brabham before the Australian was forced to stop after his engine cut out, in an attempt to use the F12 Ferrari to hunt down Gurney in second.
The lower orders of the field were beginning to be affected with mechanical issues as the halfway mark blasted past, just as Spence reclaimed his fifth place position from Rodriguez. Chris Amon was forced to retire when he lost his final drivable gear, while Innes Ireland had to stop to have his suspension looked at. Brabham returned after a service to his ignition, a problem that ultimately proved terminal a few laps later, while Hill lost even more time when he had to stop to have the throttle spring replaced, a casualty of the Bandini bend.
The closing stages saw the press gather in the Team Lotus garage to photograph the moment when Clark reclaimed his title, although as the race entered its final throes there was to be one last twist. The Scot had eased off his pace once he claimed fastest lap, and with seven laps to go spotted an oil streak on the inside of the hairpin and so opted to drive slightly wider. On his next time through the Scot spotted a second streak, exactly where he had gone through a lap before, and so realised he was the cause of the growing slick.
Easing his pace even more, the Scot hoped that he could just keep the car going to the flag, his advantage over Gurney having been steadily built to over a minute, although a split oil pipe had no cure from the cockpit. The issue suddenly bit with full effect as Clark opened the final lap, the Scot throwing both arms in the air to signal to the team he had a major problem. Gurney flashed past before the Scot came through the first corner, although his race was run when the engine seized solid a few yards on to deny Clark the title.
Hill was now the Champion, as Bandini still led Surtees with the Ferrari racer needing to finish second to beat Hill, who was way down in thirteenth. When Clark limped past the pits, the Ferrari team frantically signalled to Bandini to let Surtees through before the end of the final lap, as the Italian's second place would be enough for Surtees to win. Bandini was undoubtedly faster, but with Gurney a minute up the road there was little chance of him taking the win, meaning he was content to move aside to give Surtees second.
The Englishman was now title elect, although he still needed to complete the final lap, a feat achieved by race winner Gurney, who crossed the line in deathly silence. A tense one minute wait was needed before the two Ferraris appeared, with Surtees duly crossing the line ahead of Bandini to a huge cheer from the Mexican crowd. Some were confused as to why the crowd erupted only when the second placed car crossed the line, with Surtees winning the title by a single point from Hill to become the first man to win both the Motorcycle and Formula One World Championships.
The full results for the 1964 Mexican Grand Prix are outlined below:
|5*||1||Jim Clark||Lotus-Climax||64||Oil line||1||2|
|6||18||Pedro Rodríguez||Ferrari||64||+1 lap||9||1|
|7||9||Bruce McLaren||Cooper-Climax||64||+1 lap||10|
|8||4||Richie Ginther||BRM||64||+1 lap||11|
|10||17||Moisés Solana||Lotus-Climax||63||+2 laps||14|
|11||3||Graham Hill||BRM||63||+2 laps||6|
|12||11||Innes Ireland||BRP-BRM||61||+4 laps||16|
|13||23||Hap Sharp||Brabham-BRM||60||+5 laps||19|
|Ret||22||Jo Siffert||Brabham-BRM||11||Fuel pump||13|
- Final Grand Prix start for Phil Hill (47 starts in total).
- John Surtees earned his maiden World Championship.
- Ferrari were declared as Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers Champions for the second time.
- Third career win for Dan Gurney.
- Second victory for a Brabham chassis.
- Also their tenth podium as a constructor.
- Twentieth fastest lap for Team Lotus built chassis.
After that incredible finale, the Championship headed in the direction of John Surtees, the Englishman seemingly out of the title fight at the halfway point in the season. His final corrected tally of 40 was enough to beat Graham Hill by just a single point, although the BRM driver had actually outscored him throughout the season (41 points to 40). Jim Clark ended the season eight points back having been cruelly denied the Championship by a mechanical failure in the closing stages for the second time in three seasons, meaning the Scot would have to be content with his British Saloon Car Championship crown until the start of the 1965 season.
It had been a first for the Championship to see three constructors head into the finale with a chance at taking the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, and it was Italian outfit Ferrari who triumphed. Their double podium put them three points clear of BRM in the end, despite the British outfit outscoring them by two before the corrected scores were applied. Lotus-Climax were eight points back in third at season's end, Clark's engine failure also costing them the chance to reclaim their crown.
Images and Videos:
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: MEXICAN GP, 1964', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr131.html, (Accessed 15/07/2016)
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 2.43 2.44 2.45 2.46 2.47 2.48 2.49 2.50 2.51 2.52 2.53 2.54 2.55 2.56 2.57 2.58 2.59 2.60 2.61 2.62 2.63 2.64 2.65 2.66 2.67 2.68 2.69 2.70 2.71 2.72 2.73 2.74 M.S.J., 'III GRAN PREMIO DE MEXICO', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/12/1964), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/december-1964/25/iii-gran-premio-de-mexico, (Accessed 15/07/2016)
- ↑ 'Mexico 1964: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1964/mexique/engages.aspx, (Accessed 15/06/2016)
- ↑ 'Mexico 1964: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1964/mexique/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 15/07/2016)
- ↑ 'Mexico 1964: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1964/mexique/classement.aspx, (Accessed 16/07/2016)
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