The VII Gran Premio de Mexico, otherwise known as the 1968 Mexican Grand Prix, was the twelfth and final round of the 1968 FIA Formula One World Championship, held at the Magdalena Mixhuca circuit on the 3rd of November 1968. The race would see one of Graham Hill, Denny Hulme or Jackie Stewart take the title, who came into the finale with six points between them.
Despite the attention on the title fight, all three pretenders to the crown would be caught out in qualifying when Jo Siffert shot to pole in his Rob Walker Racing Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth. The Swiss racer would share the front row with Championship leader Hill, with Hulme starting in fourth and Stewart down in seventh, meaning it would be advantage Hill on the grid.
When the flag fell it would be Hill who got the better start, although he would have to settle for second when John Surtees came charging up the inside of the Englishman into turn one. Yet, come the end of the first lap Hill would be leading, while Stewart moved into third with a brilliant series of overtakes on the opening lap.
The order would quickly settle, the only changes coming when Surtees and Jochen Rindt hit mechanical troubles. Hill and Stewart would engage in a well mannered duel for the lead, while Hulme's title chance was over as early as lap eleven, the New Zealander suffering a suspension failure that pitched the defending World Champion into the wall.
Siffert soon managed to interfere with the duel for the race victory, and the Championship, once Hulme retired, briefly leading the race until he was forced to pit. The fight was back on between Hill and Stewart, although when the Matra-Ford Cosworth began to misfire, the Scot was unable to keep up the pace.
With that, the race was run, with Hill cruising to take his third victory of the season and his second World Championship. Bruce McLaren and Hill's teammate Jackie Oliver would share the final podium of the season with the new World Champion, while Stewart tumbled out of the points in the closing stages. Pedro Rodríguez, Jo Bonnier and a recovering Jo Siffert would claim the final points of the season.
The final round of the 1968 season would have to wait for the conclusion of the Games of the XIX Olympiad, which had been staged in and around the Magdelena Mixcucha area, which had been transformed into a sports city. Fortunately, the circuit had been unharmed in the making of the Olympic Games, with the teams content to be arriving after a four week break since the United States Grand Prix. The field would be largely unchanged between the two rounds, although more cars were sprouting wings as parts filtered down to the privateers.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth headed to Mexico knowing that a single point would earn them the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, some consolation for their considerable losses throughout the season. They would provide cars for Championship leader Graham Hill, who would win the title with a race win, or if Jackie Stewart failed to score more than three points. Hill's car would also be fitted with a movable rear wing, achieved through a pedal located next to the clutch, with support from regular driver Jackie Oliver, and local racer Moisés Solana. Jo Siffert would also be representing Norfolk, using the Rob Walker Racing Team owned Lotus 49B.
Their main rivals would be Matra-Ford Cosworth, who would have to wait until race morning to find that their second entry of Johnny Servoz-Gavin had been accepted. He would partner title contender Stewart, who would take the title if he won the race, finished second with Hill lower than fourth, or claimed third with the Englishman failing to score. They would be accompanied by the factory Matra squad, which fielded Henri Pescarolo and Jean-Pierre Beltoise in the V12 cars.
The final pretender to the crown was the defending World Champion, whose season at McLaren-Ford Cosworth had been a mix of disappointment and delight. Indeed, Denny Hulme came to Mexico as the outsider, six points off of Hill and requiring a win to stand any chance of the title, regardless of what Hill and Stewart could do. He had support from team owner Bruce McLaren, who had spent a fair amount of money getting Hulme's car repaired with speed after he crash at Watkins Glen, and the private entry of Dan Gurney with the Anglo American Racers squad.
Elsewhere, Brabham-Repco had managed to get their ruined engines repaired by Alfa Romeo, with rumours abound that they would finally return to power Jack Brabham and Jochen Rindt in 1969. Ferrari were bolstered by the return of Jacky Ickx, who would race despite having a brace holding his leg in place, with the Belgian partnering Chris Amon once again. BRM also made the trip south, taking their three cars for factory driver Pedro Rodríguez and Reg Parnell Racing entry Piers Courage.
Honda had two cars shipped to Mexico City, John Surtees having the pick of the two once again, although there would be some major work done to the second car across the weekend. Cooper-BRM were in town with Vic Elford and Lucien Bianchi, hoping to fend off the higher budget teams for sixth, although their future beyond the season was in serious doubt. Completing the field would be Jo Bonnier and his bright yellow M5A, now featuring a full set of wings, although the Swede would start the race in the second Honda after a problem in practice.
The Championship standings would make very interesting reading with one race to go, as Stewart had moved into second with a third win of the season, leaving the Scot three points away from the crown. Hill's second place in the US was enough to keep him in the lead, while a retirement for Hulme left the defending World Champion six points away in third. Those three would head to Mexico as the only pretenders to the crown, with the injured Ickx set for fourth.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth, in contrast, had all but wrapped up the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers crown, requiring only a single point in Mexico to take the honours. Only Matra-Ford Cosworth could deny them, having moved back past McLaren-Ford Cosworth courtesy of Stewart's triumph, with the orange coloured squad too far back to challenge for the title. Ferrari were destined for fourth, their only threat being an under-budget BRM squad, with Cooper-BRM still holding out for sixth ahead of Honda and Brabham-Repco.
The full entry list for the 1968 Mexican Grand Prix is outlined below:
- * Bonnier would enter the race weekend with a McLaren M5A.
Qualifying and practice would be run as one as usual in Mexico, with two four hour sessions scheduled for the afternoons of Friday and Saturday. The only difference between the two days would be temperature, with a less cloudy morning allowing temperatures to soar on Saturday, although not enough to worry the teams. The target time for the best of the field would be a 1:47.56, set by Jim Clark during a dominant display for the late double World Champion in 1967.
Clark's old record would quickly be beaten in the opening session, as Jackie Stewart recorded a 1:46.96 as he tested some softer compound Dunlop tyres. He, however, would by the only driver to seriously push in the opening hour of running, with most of the field sat in the pits as their gearboxes were given more suitable ratios. Cooper-BRM were the exception to the rule, having perfect gear ratios and excellent pace courtesy of Johnny Servoz-Gavin, standing in as Vic Elford made his way to the circuit from a Porsche test, but finding that they were overheating, having failed to removed the radiator blanking applied for the cold race in Watkins Glen.
Those who were not playing around with gearboxes were instead fiddling with wings, Graham Hill running for most of the session without any wings at all on the third Lotus-Ford Cosworth entry, although he would prove to be significantly faster in his fully winged racer. Most other teams would also come to the same conclusion, the only improvement being a higher top speed without the wings, while Jackie Oliver and Moisés Solana shared the second Lotus. It would be the Mexican who emerged fastest of the two, despite it being his first taste of the 49B, although all three factory Loti would be outclassed by the private entry of Jo Siffert.
Indeed, when Siffert recorded a 1:45.52 to go half a second clear at the top of the times, most of the field headed out to try and best the privateer. Hill and Stewart would get further into the 1:46.00s but not manage to match the blue Lotus, although they were at least completing a lot of running. The same could not be said for the third title pretender, although Denny Hulme was not concerned about his overall lack of running as he finished the day in eighth.
Saturday would see the session opened by the three McLaren-Ford Cosworths, led out onto the circuit by Hulme as he set about trying to gain ground on his title rivals. His title rivals would also get out early, although Hill had several problems with his rear wing, leading the Lotus mechanics to fit stays to the uprights to make the wing more stable. Stewart would also hit trouble, his session over when his front-left suspension failed on the exit of the Peraltada, leaving the Scot to coast down the start/finish straight without the ability to brake.
Ferrari suddenly joined the fight for pole, with Chris Amon suddenly finding two seconds to go second fastest, just a tenth shy of the Swiss pace setter. Teammate Jacky Ickx was also impressing, the Belgian just outside the top ten in spite of his strapped-up leg. All three McLarens would also make ground, Hulme getting up with Hill and just behind Amon, while Dan Gurney shot into fifth.
The final hour of the session would see Jo Bonnier run the second Honda, the Swede having ruined his final engine at the end of the first practice session. Elford was also out in the second Cooper-BRM, while Servoz-Gavin was back in the second Matra-Ford Cosworth, hoping to still make it to the grid. Yet, the entire field would be blown away in the closing minutes, as Siffert found another few tenths to end the session on pole.
The full qualifying results for the 1968 Mexican Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||16||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:45.52||1:45.22||—|
|3||10||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:46.01||1:46.15||+0.79s|
|4||1||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:48.96||1:46.04||+0.82s|
|5||14||Dan Gurney||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:50.75||1:46.29||+1.07s|
|7||15||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||1:47.49||1:46.69||+1.47s|
|9||2||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:48.28||1:47.00||+1.78s|
|11||12||Moisés Solana||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||No Time||1:47.67||+2.45s|
|14||11||Jackie Oliver||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:50.31||1:48.44||+3.22s|
|16||23||Johnny Servoz-Gavin||Matra-Ford Cosworth||No Time||1:49.27||+4.05s|
|17||18||Vic Elford||Cooper-BRM||No Time||1:49.48||+4.26s|
|20||9||Henri Pescarolo||Matra||No Time||1:50.43||+5.21s|
Sunday dawned both hot and sunny, with temperatures climbing throughout the day as the race start approached,, with the cars wheeled out an hour before the start. Overnight changes had been affected to most cars, although a row at Lotus-Ford Cosworth had seen Moisés Solana and Jackie Oliver swap cars, although the organisers failed to send the latter, who had not sat in the third car at all, to the back of the grid. Otherwise, the field was ready to race, with a small delay on the grid ahead of the final, deciding race of 1968.
It would be a poor start from both of the front row sitters, with Jo Siffert and Chris Amon both out-shined by third placed Graham Hill, who would streak between them to lead into turn one. Or so he thought, for John Surtees got an even better start to take the inside into the first corner, giving the Honda the lead, although the strain damaged the water pump. Hill responded into the turn five hairpin, taking the lead, while Surtees would end the lap fending off Jackie Stewart, who had carved through the order as Siffert and Amon shuffled down the order.
Surtees would soon begin to struggle with engine temperatures, with Stewart getting past the ailing Honda as early as he could on lap two. Denny Hulme was also on the move, taking Amon just moments after Stewart pulled into second, although he was aided by the fact that the Ferrari looked wayward at best. Behind them should have come Pedro Rodríguez after a strong start, but the BRM had been mugged by Jochen Rindt into the Peraltada to lose out to the Austrian, Jack Brabham, and a recovering Siffert.
The third lap saw the first retirement from the race, Rindt's engine expiring through the Esses, leaving the Austrian with a short walk back to the pits. Bruce McLaren and Jean-Pierre Beltoise, meanwhile, were caught out by an excellent dive by Johnny Servoz-Gavin, whose place on the grid had only been confirmed two hours before the start. The move put the Frenchman onto the fringes of the top ten as, out front, Stewart closed right onto the gearbox of title rival Hill for the lead.
Indeed, the Scot appeared to be stalking his prey, waiting for a chance to strike and snatch the lead. That came on lap five, with Stewart deciding to lunge down the inside of the Lotus into the tight turn five hairpin, snatching the lead of both race and Championship. Hill immediately settled into the Matra-Ford Cosworth's wake, content to simply sit and wait for a chance at revenge, although the pair were slowly being reeled in by the new third placed driver.
That man was Siffert, who was already getting towards his qualifying pace as he carved his way back through the order. Having started lap two in eighth, Siffert had battled past Brabham and the retiring Rindt on lap three, squeezed past Hulme on lap four, and then taken advantage of a slowing Surtees to jump both Amon and the ailing Honda. The Swiss racer's move also opened the door for Hulme, who would pick off Amon and Surtees over the following laps, as both began to close the gap to the leading pair at the front of the field.
The injured Jacky Ickx had, in the mean time, become the second retirement after a total failure of the ignition system, although the Belgian would not arrive back in the pits as he decided to sit on a bank with the spectators. He would see the second change for the lead, with Hill slipping past Stewart on lap nine as Siffert continued to close in on the pair of them. Hulme was already becoming a distant, but comfortable fourth, while Moisés Solana was battling with a disintegrating car, ultimately having to stop so that the Lotus mechanics would tape up the wings and remove the failed pieces.
Suddenly, the title battle was down to two, for Hulme was seen scrambling out of a wrecked McLaren a few hundred yards on from the fearsome Peraltada. Coming through the banked 180° right-hander, the New Zealander had suffered a suspension failure, throwing the car into the wall which subsequently set the car on fire. He would emerge uninjured as fire marshals rushed to the orange blaze, which also drew attention away from retirements for Beltoise and Surtees.
Another retirement came through in the following laps, a frustrated Solana stepped out of a seemingly healthy car, leaving the Lotus mechanics scratching their heads. As this was going on, Siffert was beginning to threaten the back of Stewart, who was still within touching distance of Hill in the lead. Two laps after first getting into the Scot's wake and Siffert was up to second, and, after a mutual discussion in the pits, Hill was instructed to wave the Swiss racer by in an attempt to get away from Stewart through Siffert's superior pace.
Behind them should have been Amon, but he had dropped out when a differential problem arose, promoting Dan Gurney into fourth. He had Brabham in his wake, the Australian simply lacking the power to challenge the McLaren down the long main straight, although the two were in a lonely duel for fourth. Indeed, McLaren himself was almost ten seconds down, and under attack from Servoz-Gavin after a mistake from the Frenchman had let the New Zealander back through, with Jackie Oliver a few seconds further behind.
Back with the leaders and Siffert's pace was proving too much for Hill, the Swiss racer sprinting almost a second a lap clear once he was waved through. Unfortunately, it was not to last and on lap 25 the throttle cable came loose, leaving the Swiss racer to coast to the pits. The Rob Walker Racing Team and Lotus mechanics swarmed around the car in search of the problem, and after four minutes of work, the Swiss racer was back in the race, but at the very back of the field.
Siffert would almost immediately begin to make ground, however, as Piers Courage's season came to a close with a spectacular engine failure. Gurney had also disappeared during the Swiss racer's troubles, out with a suspension failure, while Bianchi dropped out with an engine failure of his own. And, although he was only claiming places courtesy of retirements, Siffert's pace seemed to be unaffected post-repair, with the Swiss racer setting a new lap record of 1:44.23.
Yet, he was no longer a threat to the race leaders, soon to be separated when Stewart picked up a fuel pressure issue just after half-distance. The Matra seemed to be falling apart, with Stewart also left to bemoan some wayward handling later revealed to be a crack in the chassis, allowing the right rear suspension to move out of alignment. The result was a complete collapse of Stewart's pace, whose only hope of a maiden title would be if Hill's Lotus ran into trouble.
Unfortunately for the Scot, Hill almost instantly began cruising when he noticed the Matra fall away, while McLaren had begun to close in after passing an ailing Brabham. It would take some time before McLaren and Brabham eventually caught and passed the Scot with ten laps to go. That was the beginning of the end for Stewart, as lap after lap more of the remaining cars breezed past the limping Matra, who would fall out of the points and go a lap behind.
The final battle of the race, after Brabham fell away with an ignition failure, would be a scrap for third between Oliver and Rodriguez, the latter receiving overwhelming support from the home fans. Indeed, the loudest cheer of the weekend would erupt when Rodriguez claimed third, although the pair were rapidly coming up to a cruising Hill with only a couple of laps to go. They would disappear around the back of the pits with Hill ahead, on track, of Rodriguez and Oliver, but when they reappeared it would be Oliver ahead with two more laps to go.
That final battle would end in Oliver's favour, although his efforts for Team Lotus were overshadowed by their Champion, as Hill came home to record his third win of the season and second World Championship. McLaren claimed second to ensure that his team finished second in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, overhauling Matra-Ford Cosworth, who had both been outclassed by Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth. Rodriguez was a happy fourth despite missing out on the podium at his home race, while Bonnier had claimed fifth after a quiet race. The final point went to Siffert, whose excellent pace had seen him overhaul a disappointed Stewart on the penultimate lap, with Elford and Henri Pescarolo also taking the chequered flag.
The full results for the 1968 Mexican Grand Prix are outlined below:
|5||17||Jo Bonnier||Honda||64||+1 Lap||18||2|
|6||16||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford||64||+1 Lap||1||1|
|7||15||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford||64||+1 Lap||7|
|8||18||Vic Elford||Cooper-BRM||63||+2 Laps||17|
|9||9||Henri Pescarolo||Matra||62||+3 Laps||20|
|10||3||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Repco||59||Oil pressure||8|
|Ret||12||Moisés Solana||Lotus-Ford||14||Wing damaged||11|
- BRM made their 100th Grand Prix start as an engine manufacturer.
- Maiden pole position taken by Jo Siffert.
- Second World Championship earned by Graham Hill.
- 13th career win for Hill.
- Lotus-Ford Cosworth crowned as Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers' Champions.
- Jackie Oliver claimed his first podium finish.
A third victory earned Graham Hill a second World Championship, perhaps the best end to what had been a tragic season of motorracing. The Englishman would end the season twelve points clear of Jackie Stewart, who had confirmed his status as a future World Champion with an excellent season. Denny Hulme remained in third ahead of Jacky Ickx and Bruce McLaren, as twenty four drivers registered points in 1968.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth claimed their third Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers title, a small consolation for the losses they had sustained throughout the season. Thirteen points was their final advantage over McLaren-Ford Cosworth, who had swapped places with Matra-Ford Cosworth at the season finale after McLaren's podium. Ferrari claimed fourth ahead of BRM, with Cooper-BRM and Honda tied on fourteen points come season end.
Videos and Images:
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: MEXICAN GP, 1968', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr173.html, (Accessed 13/12/2016)
- ↑ 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 2.75 2.76 2.77 2.78 2.79 2.80 2.81 2.82 2.83 2.84 2.85 2.86 2.87 2.88 2.89 M.J.T., 'Mexican Grand Prix', motorsportmagazine.com, (MotorSport Magazine, 01/12/1968), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/december-1968/40/mexican-grand-prix, (Accessed 13/12/2016)
- ↑ 'Mexico 1968: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1968/mexique/engages.aspx, (Accessed 13/12/2016)
- ↑ 'Mexico 1968: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1968/mexique/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 15/12/2016)
- ↑ 'Mexico 1968: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1968/mexique/classement.aspx, (Accessed 15/12/2016)
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