The 1969 Mexican Grand Prix, also known as the VIII Gran Premio de Mexico, was the eleventh and final round of the 1969 FIA Formula One World Championship, and was the final Grand Prix to be held in the 1960s. Staged at the Autódromo Magdalena Mixhuca on the 19th of October 1969, the race would see sixteen drivers go to battle for victory, with Jacky Ickx hunting down Denny Hulme in the closing stages.
Qualifying had seen Jack Brabham dominate the session, taking pole by seven tenths of a second from teammate Ickx, suggesting that Brabham were the team to beat in the Sports City. Soon to be crowned World Champion Jackie Stewart would start from third, sharing the second row with Hulme, while privateer Jo Siffert bested the factory run sister car of Jochen Rindt at Lotus.
When the flag fell to start the final race of the 1960s, it would be Stewart who reacted fastest to sprint into the lead, with Ickx and Brabham falling in behind. Rindt escaped into fourth before being repassed by a slow starting Hulme, while Ickx began to pressurise Stewart on lap two, eventually elbowing his way into the lead on lap six.
Hulme steadily moved up the order over the following laps, and on the tenth tour slithered down the inside of Ickx on the brakes at the first corner. Hulme's rise coincided with Stewart's fall, the Scot falling behind both Brabham and Rindt, although the Austrian's race ended just a few moments later with a suspension failure.
The rest of the race saw Hulme try to escape Ickx, with the Belgian constantly within a couple of seconds of the New Zealander until the flag. Brabham was a comfortable third when the flag fell to end the season, while new World Champion Stewart came home fourth. Jean-Pierre Beltoise had been promoted to fifth once Rindt retired, while the final point of the season went to Jackie Oliver, the Brit managing to beat a number of Ford Cosworth powered cars despite using the underdeveloped BRM P139.
Ciudad de Mexico is in a high valley in Mexico's central plateau. The combination of the elevation (2,285m/7,500 ft), the latitude (19.4°) makes for unique problems with temperature, a factor not aided by a high level of air pollution. Almost all of the entrants had taken action to combat these factors, including the use of a new cam design on the metering units for the Ford Cosworth powered teams, while the fuel suppliers provided a tried and tested fuel mixture which could cope with the intense heat.
The entry list was identical to that of the United States Grand Prix a fortnight earlier, the organisers not even bothering to change the numbering. That said there would be some unsurprising withdrawals before the weekend, largely as a result of the battle at the Glen, leaving seventeen potential starters from an original entry of nineteen.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth were the only team to make actual changes to their lineup, enforced upon them after the huge accident suffered by their out-going World Champion. Graham Hill had broken both his legs in his accident in New York State, remaining in hospital as the F1 circus wound its way south to Mexico, while his shattered 49B was beyond repair. Jochen Rindt was therefore the team's only full-time entry in the field, using his usual 49B, while John Miles was back to race the 63, Mario Andretti undertaking his U.S.A.C. duties once again. Additional Loti were to be found with Jo Siffert and the Rob Walker Racing Team, and with Pete Lovely and his self-run 49B.
Elsewhere, BRM were down to three cars ahead of the Mexico weekend, allowing their demonstration car to go back out on an advertising campaign, although they continued to field a trio of drivers. John Surtees seemed happier with his BRM P139 having nicked a podium in the US, while Jackie Oliver was more confident in the car despite his run of retirements. The third car was back with George Eaton, although the Canadian's chance to race would depend on the two regular racers getting their cars through practice without major damage.
Brabham-Ford Cosworth and McLaren-Ford Cosworth arrived in Mexico with little change, the former boosted by the fact that Jack Brabham was back at full fitness. Ferrari saw two cars entered by the North American Racing Team, although Chris Amon's failure to arrive with the new Ferrari 312B came as no surprise. Privateers Piers Courage (Frank Williams Racing Cars) and Sivlio Moser completed the entry list without any factory backing.
A major development ahead of the weekend in Mexico City had been the conformation that Ken Tyrrell would run a car built by the new March Engineering firm. Tyrrell's agreement with Matra meant that they would have to use a Matra built V12 engine in 1970, a move that had been vetoed by lead driver, and World Champion, Jackie Stewart who preferred the Ford Cosworth V8. Tyrrell was therefore forced to buy a pair of March 701s for the upcoming season, with major backing from French firm Elf. But there was still one more race for "Matra International" to run a trio of cars, with Stewart in his MS80, Johhny Servoz-Gavin's MS84, wane Jean-Pierre Beltoise in a second MS80, the latter set to headline the factory Matra effort in 1970.
With Jackie Stewart already declared Champion it was the fight for second that had taken precedence in the US, with victory propelling Jochen Rindt right into the fight. The Austrian racer would head to the season finale in fourth, nine points behind second placed Jacky Ickx, with Bruce McLaren in between. Graham Hill and Jean-Pierre Beltoise were out of the fight in fifth and sixth, as seventeen drivers on the board ahead of the season finale.
Matra-Ford Cosworth had already won the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers back in Monza, meaning the fight for second between Lotus-Ford Cosworth and Brabham-Ford Cosworth was the only significant battle for prize money. Rindt's victory had pushed Team Lotus up into second, although their advantage over Brabham was just two points heading to Mexico. Elsewhere, McLaren-Ford Cosworth were out of the fight but secure in fourth, Ferrari only had seven points in a miserable fifth, while BRM rounded out the scorers with six.
The full entry list for the 1969 Mexican Grand Prix is outlined below:
A grand total of eight hours of practice/qualifying were scheduled for the Mexican Grand Prix of 1969, four hours apiece on the afternoons of Friday and Saturday. The weather would prove consistent, although a slight change of wind direction overnight meant that the temperatures soared on Saturday. As for target times, the field would be aiming to best the circuit record set in 1968, Jo Siffert having claimed pole position with a 1:45.22.
Overall, Friday proved to be the better of the two days for the drivers to extract the best from their cars, lower temperatures meaning the field ran largely without issue throughout. That said, it took until the final moments, with the sun just beginning to set, for the best times to emerge, the dropping air temperature allowing the cars to breathe better. In the final moments provisional pole would be stolen by Jack Brabham with a stunning 1:42.90, his closest challenger being teammate Jacky Ickx on a 1:43.60.
The pace late on Friday came as a surprise, for most of the experts had revised their targets given some major remoulding of the kerbs, now designed to prevent corner-cutting. Most of the front runners had got close to Siffert's despite the changes, but the final jump in times had required the significant fall in temperature. Otherwise there were no major issues across the field, although Pete Lovely and George Eaton missed out on any running due to repair work after the US race.
Saturday's increased temperatures meant that the pace was rather less impressive until the end of the session, although a fair number of drivers did manage to squeeze under the old circuit record come session's end. Ickx ended the day fastest, almost a second slower than Brabham's best time from Friday, with the majority of the field focusing on combating the heat over a race distance rather than outright pace. Jochen Rindt was an exception to all of this, somehow finding two seconds in spite of the temperatures to climb into the top six.
In previous seasons the combination of altitude and heat had played havoc with the reliability of the field, so it came as a shock when the session ended without any major failures. Both Lovely and Eaton had their issues cured overnight, putting together a series of long runs each to qualify, while the BRMs ran faultlessly, albeit near the back of the field. Pedro Rodríguez was a rather depressing fifteenth in the sole Ferrari, having only beaten Lovely and Eaton, a contrast to John Miles who qualified the 4WD Lotus 63 up in eleventh.
The full qualifying results for the 1969 Mexican Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||8||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:42.90||1:44.67||—|
|2||7||Jacky Ickx||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:43.60||1:43.86||+0.70s|
|3||3||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||1:43.67||1:44.96||+0.77s|
|4||5||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:43.70||1:44.77||+0.80s|
|5||10||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:43.81||1:46.62||+0.91s|
|6||2||Jochen Rindt||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:46.00||1:43.94||+1.04s|
|7||6||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:45.50||1:44.75||+1.85s|
|8||4||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra-Ford Cosworth||1:45.58||1:45.52T||+2.68s|
|9||18||Piers Courage||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:47.23||1:47.45||+4.33s|
|11||9||John Miles||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:48.53||1:47.76||+4.86s|
|13||19||Silvio Moser||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:48.25||1:48.37||+5.35s|
|14||16||Johnny Servoz-Gavin||Matra-Ford Cosworth||1:48.74||1:48.79||+5.84s|
|16||21||Pete Lovely||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||No Time||1:50.34||+7.44s|
|17||22||George Eaton||BRM||No Time||1:52.30||+9.40s|
|WD||1||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth|
- T Indicates a driver set their best time from that session using their test/spare car.
* - Did not start
It was a slightly cooler day on Sunday afternoon, although still a lot hotter than comfortable for most of the drivers. The pre-race schedule was marred by an accident during a display by a road car, parts of which flew over the catch-fencing and struck a marshals post, seriously wounding a police officer and an official. The small delay allowed the McLaren team to uncover a major problem with Bruce McLaren's car, although their repair would fail on the parade lap leaving the boss stranded at the back of the circuit before the race had even started.
It was a green-gold front row as the two Brabham-Ford Cosworths lined up alongside one another, although when the flag fell there would be a bolt of blue shooting in between them as the field roared away from the grid. The blue streak would be Jackie Stewart, the Scot hooking together an excellent getaway with no wheelspin to dart into the lead, not even bothering to defend into the tight first corner. Jacky Ickx started marginally better than teammate Jack Brabham swept into second, while Jochen Rindt had followed in Stewart's tracks until the first corner, having to settle for fourth when the two Brabhams blocked him off.
The first couple of laps saw the top six cars pull away from the rest of the field, with Piers Courage having an almighty scrap with John Surtees for seventh, holding up the rest of the runners. Out front, Stewart was getting harassed by Ickx, the Belgian allowed to attack without fear of being passed with boss Brabham sat just behind. Rindt lost out to Denny Hulme early on lap two, the orange McLaren soon attacking the green/gold Brabham ahead, while Jean-Pierre Beltoise tagged onto the rest of the top six for the time being.
The Stewart/Ickx battle outfront drew attention away from the work of Jo Siffert, who was slowly climbing the order in the opening laps after a poor start. The Swiss racer was down in eleventh at the end of the opening lap, but by lap five was sending a lunge down the inside of Courage for seventh at turn five. Unfortunately Siffert's move was too optimistic so he ran wide, hit the kerb, and bounced into the side of Courage, putting both into a spin. Courage scraped the wall and continued, escaping the scene without any damage but down at the back of the field, while Siffert's car slammed into the barriers, the Swiss racer climbing out of a ruined Lotus.
A lap later and Stewart and Ickx were on the scene of Siffert's accident, the Scot getting caught out by the yellow flags on display, and so locked up and ran wide. Momentum was on the side of Ickx, the Belgian accelerating past the Scot on the exit of the corner, before successfully escaping up the road through the Esess. Moments later and Brabham made the same mistake as Ickx, allowing Hulme to slither up into third and tag onto the back of Stewart.
The following lap saw Hulme attack and pass Stewart into the same corner once again, although Siffert's ruined Lotus had been dragged far enough away to no longer be an issue. Brabham, meanwhile, would get a misfire through the Esess, allowing Rindt to come charging past, only for the veteran Australian to pull a sensational overtake through the fearsome Peraltada corner at the end of the same lap. Those two soon settled down to challenge Stewart, with the top five now dropping Beltoise, although the Frenchman already had a comfortable gap over the seventh placed Surtees.
Out front Hulme was stalking Ickx, and on lap ten the New Zealander got a strong exit from the Peraltada to draft past the Belgian down the start/finish straight. Moments earlier Stewart's pace had begun to take a nose dive, his Dunlop tyres struggling in the heat. Brabham had taken full advantage into the final corner to snatch third place, although Rindt was unable to get past as his Lotus began to struggle with an, as yet, undiagnosed issue.
Hulme was pushing incredibly hard to try and drop Ickx, but could only take a fraction of a second each lap as the two pulled clear of the rest of the top five. They were aided by the fact that Brabham's misfire was proving unpredictable, causing the Australian veteran to drop back every few laps, only to recover, while Stewart was able to fend off the off-colour Lotus of Rindt. Indeed, the Austrian's car was getting more and more difficult to control, and after 21 laps the Lotus was out of the race, Rindt having suffered an incurable suspension failure.
The gap between Hulme and Ickx remained around two seconds after the New Zealander's move, although it would suddenly ballooned out to more than five as the pair hit traffic. The decisive move came when the pair came up to the back of Surtees, with Hulme able to lap the BRM before the trio came into the Essess. Ickx had to follow the less than spectacular BRM through the flatout section, and by the time he moved past the ex-Champion on the run to the Peraltada, Hulme was too far ahead to be challenged.
The rest of the race would see Ickx slowly make ground on Hulme, only to lose a sizeable chunk in traffic once he got within a couple of seconds. Brabham, meanwhile, was slipping further and further behind, although Stewart's lack of pace meant that the Australian was comfortable in third. The only major changes to the order came at the back of the field, Pedro Rodríguez elbowing Johnny Servoz-Gavin out of the way, before dragging the Frenchman past Surtees a few moments later.
The final laps would see Ickx suddenly up his pace, having fallen fifteen seconds off the back of Hulme just ten laps from the end. An incredible series of laps saw the Belgian find over ten seconds in the space of eight laps, getting within three seconds of the New Zealander as the pair came to start the final lap. Hulme, however, appeared to be pacing himself, a signal from the McLaren garage indicating that Ickx was within striking distance.
Yet, time would run out before Ickx got a chance to throw a challenge at Hulme, despite setting a new lap record of 1:43.05 on the penultimate lap. Brabham cruised home to third after his misfire disappeared, well ahead of Stewart who had become the face of Formula One during his Championship winning year. Beltoise finished on the lead lap, just escaping the clutches of Hulme's metronomic McLaren in the closing stages, while Oliver had a quiet cruise to sixth, advancing through the order as others fell by the wayside. Rodriguez had Servoz-Gavin stuck to the back of his exhaust when they took the flag, a miserable sight for the Ferrari fans, while Courage had had to visit the pits too many times to make any progress after his early spin, ending the race behind Lovely.
The final results for the 1969 Mexican Grand Prix are shown below:
|1||5||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||65||1:54:08.8||4||9|
|2||7||Jacky Ickx||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||65||+2.56||2||6|
|3||8||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||65||+38.48||1||4|
|4||3||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||65||+47.04||3||3|
|5||4||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra-Ford Cosworth||65||+1:38.52||8||2|
|6||15||Jackie Oliver||BRM||63||+2 Laps||12||1|
|7||12||Pedro Rodríguez||Ferrari||63||+2 Laps||15|
|8||16||Johnny Servoz-Gavin||Matra-Ford Cosworth||63||+2 Laps||14|
|9||21||Pete Lovely||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||62||+3 Laps||16|
|10||18||Piers Courage||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||61||+4 Laps||9|
|11||19||Silvio Moser||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||60||Fuel leak||13|
|Ret||2||Jochen Rindt||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||21||Suspension||6|
|Ret||10||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||3||Accident||5|
|Ret||9||John Miles||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||3||Fuel pump||11|
|DNS||6||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth|
|WD||1||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth|
- 50th Grand Prix start for Jackie Stewart.
- Last race to feature a Ferrari entered by someone other than Scuderia Ferrari.
- The North American Racing Team made their final entry.
- Ford Cosworth powered a car to a 25th pole position.
- Denny Hulme claimed his fifth career victory.
- Fourth win by a McLaren chassis.
- Brabham earned their fiftieth podium finish as a constructor.
Jackie Stewart was finally able to claim his prize as World Champion now that the season was over, the Scot ending the season with a final total of 63 points, 26 ahead of second placed Jacky Ickx. Indeed, the Belgian racer managed to hold his advantage over Bruce McLaren over the final rounds, the New Zealander failing to start the final two races aiding Ickx's cause, while Jochen Rindt ended the season in fourth. The injured Graham Hill slipped to seventh at the final round, overtaken by Denny Hulme and Jean-Pierre Beltoise, while Piers Courage bested Jo Siffert by a single point to end the season as the best of the privateers.
Ken Tyrrell's Matra International squad had earned French manufacturer Matra-Ford Cosworth the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers' for the first time back in Monza, with the team able to take their honour in Mexico City. Brabham-Ford Cosworth came out on top in their end of season duel with Lotus-Ford Cosworth for second, beating their Norfolk based rivals by two points, while McLaren-Ford Cosworth completed the top four. BRM climbed into fifth at the final round thanks to Jackie Oliver's first point of the season, while Ferrari ended a miserable campaign with just seven points to their name.
Images and Videos:
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: MEXICAN GP, 1969', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr184.html, (Accessed 05/02/2017)
- ↑ 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 A.R.M., 'Mexican Grand Prix', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/11/1969), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/november-1969/34/mexican-grand-prix, (Accessed 05/02/2017)
- ↑ 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 3.23 3.24 3.25 3.26 3.27 3.28 3.29 3.30 3.31 3.32 3.33 3.34 3.35 3.36 '11: Mexico City', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/mexique.aspx, (Accessed 05/02/2017)
- ↑ 'Mexico 1969: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/mexique/engages.aspx, (Accessed 05/02/2017)
- ↑ 'Mexico 1969: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/mexique/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 05/02/2017)
- ↑ 'Mexico 1969: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/mexique/classement.aspx, (Accessed 05/02/2017)
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