The XXXIX Gran Premio d'Italia, more widely known as the 1968 Italian Grand Prix, was the ninth round of the 1968 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on the 8th of September 1968. The race would be notable for being one of the few Grand Prix to be held in completely dry conditions in 1968, as well as an incredible number of retirements that resulted in just six finishers.
Qualifying had seen a twenty-six car entry list whittled down to twenty starters, to be led off the line by John Surtees, although the results would be met with some controversy. Two promising American drivers, Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti, were disqualified from the qualifying results after taking part in a U.S.C.A. race held on Saturday, after the race organisers decided to uphold an FIA rule banning drivers from competing in two events on the same weekend. Protests were logged by Lotus-Ford Cosworth and BRM, but were both ignored.
After the controversy came a typical Monza race, with Surtees leaping into the lead when the flag fell, only to see Bruce McLaren draft past for the lead at the end of the opening lap. Surtees and McLaren would then engage in a private duel for the lead in the opening stages, just ahead of a pack of cars squabbling for third.
Vic Elford would start the ball rolling in terms of retirements on lap two, although it would be an accident for Chris Amon that had the biggest influence. The Ferrari was still sliding across the track when the leaders came across it, with Surtees having to jink out the way and hit the wall, ending his race with damaged suspension.
McLaren was left to lead with Jo Siffert, Jackie Stewart and Denny Hulme in close attendance, leading to a four car battle for the lead. Graham Hill threatened them until his Lotus decided to remove a wheel, while McLaren would depart with an oil leak.
The three car battle for the lead would last until just after half distance, when Stewart's engine expired in a cloud of smoke. Siffert's race would then by cut short by a suspension failure ten laps from the end, leaving Hulme with a minute and a half lead to cruise to the flag. Johnny Servoz-Gavin and Jacky Ickx had a spirited battle for second in the closing stages, the former coming out on top, while Piers Courage, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Jo Bonnier completed both the scorers and finishers.
When the Formula One world headed to Monza, and after a five week break since the German Grand Prix, almost all of the field would arrive a week early, intending to complete as much running as possible. Of particular interest was the fact that Ferrari, Lotus-Ford Cosworth, Matra, and Cooper had all entered three cars for the race, while Honda had two entries run by Team Surtees. There would be some new faces alongside the expanded entry list, which totalled twenty-six drivers in total for the twenty available grid slots.
Leading the charge into Monza would be Team Lotus, who arrived with a trio of cars for Graham Hill, Jackie Oliver and a highly rated American racer named Mario Andretti, who would monopolise the team's running throughout the week. Andretti's pace proved incredibly strong, spending most of the week setting times better than the lap record, generating a lot of speculation about the potential speed of the familiar Grand Prix racers. Lotus would also have a fourth car on display, entered by the R.R.C. Walker Racing Team for Jo Siffert, with the Swiss racer only arriving in time for the proper sessions.
The other fresh face was to be found with BRM, who had dropped Richard Attwood after a string of lacklustre performances. Bobby Unser had been drafted into replace the Brit, partnering the team's other North American talent in the form of Pedro Rodríguez who was still using the newer car. Their third car had been loaned out to Piers Courage and Reg Parnell Racing as usual, while an ex-factory run car was to be found in the hands of Frank Gardner with the Bernard White Racing effort.
Before the race weekend both Unser and Andretti made clear that they would be competing in a U.S.C.A. race on the Saturday, flying to and from America in time for the Grand Prix. Indeed, the American series was their priority as they both went for the title, but the race organisers quickly confirmed that they would be upholding an FIA rule banning drivers from competing in two events on the same weekend. The dispute would run across to the weekend, with the matter still in the air when the pair boarded a plane to America on Friday evening.
Elsewhere, McLaren-Ford Cosworth had three cars out in Italy, although the brand new third car would stay in the paddock in reserve as Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren tried running with and without aerofoils in the week. Matra-Ford Cosworth had two cars run by Ken Tyrrell, a freshly rebuilt chassis for Jackie Stewart and the German Grand Prix winning car prepared for Johnny Servoz-Gavin. Sister team Matra would only have the one car on offer, with Jean-Pierre Beltoise trying out the adjustable rear wing once again.
Ferrari had been busy for their home race, bringing a quartet of cars for their enhanced driver line-up which would all feature electro-hydraulic aerofoils, which moved by pressing the brakes or a manual control lever. Chris Amon and Jacky Ickx would be completing their usual roles for the team, joined by a promising British rookie named Derek Bell, drafted in from Formula Two. Bell had been spotted by Enzo Ferrari himself and drafted into the full Ferrari programme, testing their sportscars until he received his F1 call.
Brabham-Repco were unchanged once again, Jochen Rindt and Jack Brabham getting adjustable aerofoils operated by cables, although Rindt's lever would prove troublesome throughout the weekend, while Brabham would have some equipment mounted to his car to analyse the effects of the winglets. Honda also had a trio of cars, John Surtees bringing two V12 engined chassis as well as a new V8 car, although second driver David Hobbs would choose to use the older design having witnessed the horrible accident in France. Dan Gurney was also in attendance with the Eagle-Weslake, still lacking a full set of parts, while Silvio Moser entered his old Brabham once again.
The final entries would be made by Cooper, who had three cars with two different engine manufacturers pencilled into the entry list. Their two BRM powered chassis were handed to Robin Widdows and Vic Elford, while the Alfa Romeo engined machine was set up for Lucien Bianchi to use. Unfortunately for Cooper their poor luck in recent seasons would continue in Monza, first losing Widdows after he suffered a huge accident while testing a Gulf J.W. Prototype, the Brit lucky to escape without major injury. Their chances were further cut when Alfa Romeo, having aided the team to test the car throughout the week, refused to allow the car to race, leaving Bianchi without a drive and Copper down to a single entry.
Jackie Stewart had left the "Green Hell" with victory and second place in the Championship, after leaping ahead of Jacky Ickx courtesy of his masterful performance. The Scot was still four points away from Graham Hill, who had a strong weekend to add to his tally having previously failed to score in the previous four rounds. Denny Hulme and Pedro Rodríguez remained in the top five as the European season headed to its finale in Monza.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth still remained unchallenged at the top of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers standings after the German battle, their lead a very healthy fifteen points after eight rounds. Stewart's incredible performance had pushed Matra-Ford Cosworth into second, dumping Ferrari and McLaren-Ford Cosworth into third and fourth respectively, with BRM hanging on in fifth. Cooper-BRM still found themselves ahead of Brabham-Repco, who were still breaking in their latest creations, with Honda and Matra ahead of the only privateer scorer McLaren-BRM.
The full entry list for the 1968 Italian Grand Prix is outlined below:
The official practice sessions for the Italian Grand Prix were to be held across Friday and Saturday, with plenty of time allocated for the Grand Prix cars to get out on circuit. Furthermore, both sessions would be staged in near-perfect conditions, bright sunshine preventing any chance of the result being skewed by rain as had been the case at almost every other round in 1968. Target times would, however, be up in the air after the pace of the testing week, which had seen Jim Clark's lap record of 1:28.5 from 1967 resoundingly beaten by rookies and veterans alike.
Unsurprisingly it was the two Americans who shot out onto the circuit when practice opened on Friday, Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti hoping to set strong times early on before boarding a plane to head back to the US. Andretti would prove to be the better of the pair, a 1:27.20 putting him in seventh place come the end of the session and over three seconds faster than Unser. They would provide most of the early entertainment on circuit, with most of the field coming out to push once those two were on their way to the airport.
The rest of the Friday running would see the field steadily ramp up the pace, led by Chris Amon in one of the scarlet Ferraris when he dipped under the 1:27.0 mark for the first time. The New Zealander would steadily work his time down to a 1:26.69 by the end of the session, although he would be outperformed by three other drivers, including teammate Jacky Ickx in the sister car. In fact, it would be a staggeringly quick Honda in the hands of John Surtees that ended the day with provisional pole, a 1:26.10 enough to beat second placed Graham Hill by almost half a second.
Saturday would see a lot of experimentation up and down the field as teams tested out wing angles and other devices, with three and a half hours of running scheduled for the day. Jo Siffert went between the extremes of having a full aero setup and then none at all, and having recorded very similar times, ended up flipping a coin to decide on which to use in the race. Surtees, meanwhile, would make sure he completed all of his race running early on in the session, before jumping into the V8 engined Honda to complete a series of short runs.
It would be at the end of the session when the times took a nose dive, with most of the field making an improvement on their Friday times courtesy of the slipstream effect. Ickx and Amon went out together and aided each other to record better times, pushing them into the top three, while a threatened Surtees emerged in his proper Honda to join the two McLaren-Ford Cosworths on circuit, moments after Bruce McLaren had set a 1:26.20. It was a crucial lap for Surtees, and a brilliantly timed overtake saw the Brit improve by a handful of hundredths to ensure he would start from pole.
The final minutes would see McLaren and Hulme caught out by a gaggle of cars trying to take advantage of each other's slipstreams, although the former would suddenly break clear and record a 1:26.11, just shy of Surtees' time. The two remaining Loti of Hill and Jackie Oliver, meanwhile, would both end the session without their engines, Oliver's expiring in a cloud of blue smoke in the last gasp rush, while Hill would cruise across the line at the end of the session without any power at all. The results of qualifying were then published a few moments later, excluding the times of Andretti and Unser, while also confirming that Frank Gardner and Silvio Moser had failed to qualify.
The full qualifying results for the 1968 Italian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|EXC*||18||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford||1:27.20||No time||+1.13s|
|EXC*||25||Bobby Unser||BRM||1:30.56||No time||+4.49s|
|WD||24||Lucien Bianchi||Cooper-Alfa Romeo||Withdrew|
- * Andretti and Unser were excluded from the qualifying results for competing in another event on the same weekend.
It would be an incredibly busy night ahead of the race on Sunday, most of the factory teams replacing engines in their cars, while Lotus-Ford Cosworth stripped down Mario Andretti's car to service Jackie Oliver's ruined machine. Rain would be falling all the time the teams were working, which mainly involved fitting extrenous fuel tanks, although come race morning the clouds had disappeared. Indeed, by the time the field lined up to start the race in front of 90,000 fans, blazing sunlight removed any trace of the overnight rain, as twenty drivers awaited the flutter of the starter's flag.
There would be no hesitation when the Italian tricolour finally dropped on Sunday afternoon, all twenty drivers roaring away from the grid to start the first of sixty-eight laps. Polesitter John Surtees leapt into the lead off the line, although a sudden surge from Bruce McLaren as the cars changed gear saw the orange McLaren-Ford Cosworth ease ahead into Curva Grande. Their fellow front row starter Chris Amon would not join their battle into the first corner, the New Zealander having been too eager on the throttle as the flag fell and so created a huge cloud of tyre smoke as he fell down the field.
End of the first lap and McLaren was still leading, although the entire field would come charging past the pits in a solid lump, most of the drivers in the back end of the pack able to gain ground through the slipstream effect. A lap later and all twenty cars were still together, albeit this time in a unbroken line, although there had been some shuffling at the head of the field behind McLaren. Graham Hill opened lap three in second, having moved past Surtees in Parabolica, while Amon was back with the leaders and defending from Jackie Stewart.
End of the third lap and there had been some more shuffling at the front of the field, although as Stewart thundered past in second, most eyes were on the cloud of dust rising from the outside of Parabolica. Vic Elford was the source of the dust, the last of the three entered Coopers ending its weekend in Italy in the barriers after the Brit misjudged his braking point. That would be the first of many retirements from the race, just as Pedro Rodríguez disappeared into the pits to have his throttle linkage repaired.
More chopping and changing at the front of the field saw Surtees take a turn in second, trailied by Amon, Hill and Stewart as the top nine broke away from the rest of the field at the end of lap five. The cause of the split would be the disappearance of debutante Derek Bell in the third Ferrari from tenth, the Brit losing all power from his engine after a fuel-feed problem. The missing car made a huge difference to the speed potential of the slower cars at the back of the field, and so the gap between ninth and tenth would begin to grow consistently over the following laps.
The top nine would not remain stable, however, with Surtees finally getting back at McLaren to take the lead on lap seven, just as Jo Siffert moved into fourth. Amon was managing to fend off the charging Swiss racer for the time being, with Hill, Stewart, Denny Hulme and Oliver still chasing, while Jacky Ickx slipped back to join the splintering second group, chased by Johnny Servoz-Gavin and Jochen Rindt. Behind them came a duel between Dan Gurney and David Hobbs, before a gap back to the equally spaced backmarkers: Jack Brabham, Piers Courage, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Jo Bonnier, all struggling with rather second-hand engines.
Back with the leaders and lap nine would be marred by an accident that removed two of the contenders as the leading eight charged through Lesmo. Amon would be the cause, having just shuffled past Surtees on the run through Curva Grande, only to run wide and spin across the circuit after the first Lesmo, right in front of the chasing pack. Surtees had to take immediate action and jink, unfortunately swerving straight into the barriers, writing off the Honda, while Amon's race was over as his Ferrari vaulted the guard rail and went into the woods. The rest of the leading pack would scramble through without collecting any of the major pieces of car, or barrier, being thrown across the road, although Oliver would lose three places when he spun in avoidance, much to the Brit's frustration.
All that had left McLaren, who had opened the door for Amon by breezing past Surtees down the pit straight, with a sizeable lead at the front of the field, although Stewart and Siffert were quick to draft back up with him. Hill and Hulme would also get back on terms with the leading New Zealander after a couple of laps, while Oliver found himself down behind the truel between Ickx, Servoz-Gavin and Rindt. Surtees and Amon, meanwhile, had emerged from their shattered cars without issue, and were slowly making their way back across the park on foot as the race thundered on without them.
The dramas were not over at the front of the field, however, as Hill crashed out of the race at Parabolica when a rear wheel shattered under braking, leaving the Championship leader on the sidelines once again. McLaren, Siffert, Stewart and Hulme now formed the fight for the lead, with the quartet frequently shuffling over the following laps, although they would only do so on the straights. Siffert and Stewart would be particularly impressive, crossing the line side-by-side almost constantly as the leaders came up to lap the back markers for the first time.
End of lap 20 and Hulme broke the trend of the leading quartet by managing to stay in front for an entire lap, a few moments before a heavily smoking Gurney came into the pits with an overheated Weslake engine. A minute and a half later and Hulme was charging past the pits with the lead once again, McLaren, Siffert and Stewart three abreast in their attempts to get by the World Champion. Indeed, Hulme would hold out until lap 27 once McLaren snatched second, although the mechanical problems that had befallen some of their competitors were lurking in the background, and could strike the leaders at any time.
The two McLarens looked to have achieved a stalemate at the start of lap 28, until a good run through Lesmo carried Stewart from fourth to first by the time the quartet crossed the line, the Scot also carrying Siffert through to third as McLaren slipped to fourth. A lap later, however, and Hulme was back into the lead with McLaren tagging along in second, although the boss' car was not as healthy as it should have been. Two laps later and Stewart was able to challenge Hulme without any interference from the #2 car, with McLaren slowly falling away from the leaders with a worsening oil leak.
McLaren's race would ultimately come to an end on lap 35, the oil having completely drained from his engine courtesy of a missing bolt, shaken lose by on-track action. Siffert, meanwhile, was unable to be anything more than a threat to Stewart and Hulme, shadowing their every move in third as his Ford Cosworth engine showed its age with a drop in power. Behind them came Ickx and Servoz-Gavin, the two having lost Rindt, the third member of their scrap, after the Austrian's engine had expired coming through Parabolica. Rindt's blow-up had also cost Servoz-Gavin time too, the Frenchman losing contact with the back of Ickx's Ferrari, a problem further compounded when Beltoise managed to glue himself to the back of Servoz-Gavin's underpowered machine.
Hulme, by this stage, had begun to dominate the lead of the race, Stewart's engine beginning to suffer from the strain, although not enough to drop away from the back of the orange McLaren. Siffert was also staying with them, content to simply sit in the slipstream and be towed along, although when Stewart's engine suddenly expired in a cloud of blue smoke, the Swiss racer would have to put some serious work in to keep up. Stewart's demise would instead aid the cause of Ickx, who had the entire 90,000 strong crowd behind him as the final Ferrari jumped into third, and began hunting down the leading pair.
The following laps would see Ickx chip away at the lead gap, taking a second or two with every lap as Hulme slowly eased ahead of Siffert, whose engine was really struggling. Once he lost contact with the McLaren there was little the Swiss racer could do, and on lap 59 the grandstands would erupt as Siffert shuffled into the pits to promote Ickx into second. The Swiss racer was out, not with an engine failure but a suspension failure, which had collapsed when the Lotus was turning through Parabolica. Ickx was now a little over fifteen seconds away from the lead, and there was to be one final twist as the race came to its conclusion.
One lap after Siffert's retirement and the grandstands were in uproar again, this time in panic as Ickx suddenly lost ground and was weaving across the pit straight. The Belgian was suffering from vapour-locking, effectively starving his engine of fuel as fuel vapourised in the fuel lines before it reached the cylinders, although he was convinced he was running out of fuel. With the fuel pressure dropping, Ickx would stop a lap later to have a top up, only to lose second to Servoz-Gavin, who had just been lapped by Hulme.
The final laps would be all about the fight for second, with Ken Tyrrell calmly stepping out to signal to Servoz-Gavin to "press-on" as Ickx came charging out of the Ferrari pits. The Frenchman was well up for the fight, darting past Hulme to unlap himself and put himself slightly further up the road from Ickx, although it was not long before the race leader released the Belgian, content that he could cruise to the flag with a little under a lap's advantage with just seven laps to go.
Now released, Ickx would quickly set about demolishing the small gap that Servoz-Gavin had built, leading to a noticable increase in volume from the Italian fans. Another huge roar on lap 64 signalled that Ickx was back into second, although Servoz-Gavin was determined to keep with the Ferrari and so neatly tucked into his wake for the final laps, hoping for one final opportunity to get past. Just behind them sat race leader Hulme, who was observing the fight ahead of him as he cruised on to start the final lap.
A lap later and Hulme duly crossed the line to take victory for the third time in his career, although the crowds paid next to no interest for the fight for second was still very much alive. Into Lesmo and Servoz-Gavin was ahead, snatching second with a dive down the inside of the first part, much to the dismay of the Italian fans. Yet, his exit was compromised as a result, and Ickx duly drafted back past as the pair made their way through Curva del Serraglio, with the duel now charging towards Parabolica for the final time.
Side-by-side into the fearsome right hander but it was Ickx who lead on the way out, again prompting a huge cheer from the Italian fans, until the scarlet Ferrari suddenly coughed as the duo began the run to the flag. That cough allowed Servoz-Gavin to tuck right into the Ferrari's wake, and, a few hundred metres from the chequered flag, the Frenchman pulled out of the slipstream and pulled alongside the Belgian with the crowd going berserk. Suddenly, they were blasting past the finishing line with the nose of the Matra a few inches ahead of the Ferrari, a little more than a few hundredths on the timesheets, much to the dismay of the Italian hoards.
In all the excitement, Hulme had made it back to the pits to receive his plaudits, while Courage, Beltoise and Bonnier had all quietly cruised home to score points. They would be the only finishers from an eventful Italian Grand Prix, which had seen Oliver credited with the fastest lap, Hulme claim a third career win, and Servoz-Gavin upset 90,000 Italians by a nose.
The full results for the 1968 Italian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|4||27||Piers Courage||BRM||67||+1 lap||17||3|
|5||6||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra||66||+2 laps||18||2|
|6||3||Jo Bonnier||McLaren-BRM||64||+4 laps||19||1|
|Ret||10||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Repco||56||Oil pressure||16|
|Ret||2||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford||34||Oil leak||2|
|Ret||7||Derek Bell||Ferrari||4||Fuel injection||8|
|WD||24||Lucien Bianchi||Cooper-Alfa Romeo|
- * Andretti and Unser were excluded from qualifying and so were unable to take part in the race.
- First entry for Mario Andretti.
- Derek Bell made his debut in Formula One.
- Eighteenth and final Grand Prix start for a Weslake engine.
- John Surtees claimed his eighth and final pole position.
- Also a maiden pole position for Honda.
- Third career win for McLaren as a constructor.
- Johnny Servoz-Gavin claimed his first and only podium finish.
- Jacky Ickx earned Ferrari's 160th podium finish.
- First and only fastest lap earned by Jackie Oliver.
Victory for Denny Hulme left the New Zealander in the exact same position in the Championship standings, remaining rooted to fourth place in the season of his title defence. That said, he was only six points off of leader Graham Hill, who had failed to score for a fifth time in six races and yet was still holding the Championship lead. Jacky Ickx was up to second with his third place, swapping places with Jackie Stewart once again, while Johnny Servoz-Gavin made a lot of ground by claiming second.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth were still leading the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers charge, their lead down to nine points at the conclusion of the European season. Matra-Ford Cosworth were their closest challengers, although Ferrari and McLaren-Ford Cosworth were also within striking distance ahead of the final three races. BRM looked set for a top five finish, ten clear of sixth placed Cooper-BRM, with Brabham-Repco a rather disappointing seventh ahead of Honda and Matra.
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 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: ITALIAN GP, 1968', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr170.html, (Accessed 07/12/2016)
- ↑ 2.000 2.001 2.002 2.003 2.004 2.005 2.006 2.007 2.008 2.009 2.010 2.011 2.012 2.013 2.014 2.015 2.016 2.017 2.018 2.019 2.020 2.021 2.022 2.023 2.024 2.025 2.026 2.027 2.028 2.029 2.030 2.031 2.032 2.033 2.034 2.035 2.036 2.037 2.038 2.039 2.040 2.041 2.042 2.043 2.044 2.045 2.046 2.047 2.048 2.049 2.050 2.051 2.052 2.053 2.054 2.055 2.056 2.057 2.058 2.059 2.060 2.061 2.062 2.063 2.064 2.065 2.066 2.067 2.068 2.069 2.070 2.071 2.072 2.073 2.074 2.075 2.076 2.077 2.078 2.079 2.080 2.081 2.082 2.083 2.084 2.085 2.086 2.087 2.088 2.089 2.090 2.091 2.092 2.093 2.094 2.095 2.096 2.097 2.098 2.099 2.100 2.101 2.102 2.103 D.S.J., 'The 39th Italian Grand Prix: Monza', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/10/1968), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/october-1968/15/39th-italian-grand-prix, (Accessed 07/12/2016)
- ↑ 'Italy 1968: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1968/italie/engages.aspx, (Accessed 07/12/2016)
- ↑ 'Italy 1968: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1968/italie/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 08/12/2016)
- ↑ 'Italy 1968: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1968/italie/classement.aspx, (Accessed 08/12/2016)
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