Reflections on the Monaco G.P.

THE decision by Clark and Gurney to compete in the Indianapolis 500-mile race in preference to the Monaco G.P. upset some people and surprised others. It really should not have been a surprise, for both are professional racing drivers and for either of them to become the first road-racing-type driver to win Indianapolis, apart from the vast bag of gold, would be an important and satisfying occasion, whereas to have won at Monaco would have been just another Grand Prix victory and the collection of points towards a rather nebulous World Championship. In addition to their not entering for Monaco there was the withdrawal of the two Team Lotus cars that Spence and Rodriguez were to have driven. This was logical really, for neither driver would have been in the running for victory unless drivers like Surtees, Hill and Brabham retired, and a works team should not go racing with the failure of others as its only hope of winning, not a works team like Lotus, that is, that normally sets the pace with its number-one driver. As the organisers were not prepared to offer Lotus the same terms as B.R.M. or Ferrari, it was obvious that Lotus would not go to Monaco for they had little to gain and a lot to lose, for it’s the easiest place to crash a car and write it off.

In the recent vapourings after the announcement by Coventry-Climax of their withdrawal from Grand Prix racing, many people said that it would be the end of Lotus, Brabham and Cooper, and that without them Grand Prix racing would die. These people could not agree that racing would be of any interest with only works teams from Ferrari and B.R.M. They should have been at Monaco, for there were no works Lotus, only one Brabham of any seriousness, which retired before half-distance, and only one works Cooper, which was never in the picture. It was one of the most exciting races there have been and for most of the 100 laps it was a straight fight between B.R.M. and Ferrari. In those two teams there were some very strange team tactics, or perhaps a complete lack of any tactics, but whatever it was the outcome was odd. In the opening phase Stewart was following Hill so closely that at times he was almost touching his leader’s rear tyres, and while this looked most impressive and convinced everyone that the B.R.M. team were going to run away with the race, it did not seem very wise on a circuit like Monte Carlo with so many blind corners. Maybe Stewart just wanted to show that he was as fast as Hill, or maybe he was getting a tow, and only by keeping that close could he keep up, but it would have been better team tactics if Stewart had dropped back and stayed just ahead of the Ferraris, not exactly baulking them or slowing them up, but at least taking their concentration away from Graham Hill, who could have then built up an even bigger lead.

Luckily for B.R.M., Stewart was forced to drop back when lapping Bucknum’s Honda, as passing at Monaco is difficult, and obviously Hill nipped by when there was only room for one car and Stewart had to wait, thereby losing ground, and Hill did not slow down and wait for him. Had they been as close as they were on the opening laps, when Hill came upon Anderson in the chicane the result might have been a B.R.M. nose-to-tail shunt as both cars took to the escape road. If your rivals are hard on your heels then both team cars have to go as fast as possible, but when all the opposition is dropping behind it seems pointless for both team cars to go at the same pace and so close. Graham Hill’s misfortune, which dropped him to fifth place, was just the sort of stimulus to bring out the best in him, for it was not his fault and he didn’t make a mistake, it was just an unfortunate set of circumstances, but enough to make him niggly rather than bad-tempered, and a niggly driver invariably pulls-out-all-the-stops and excels. On the other hand, Stewart made a mistake when he spun and lost the lead, though his supporters said there was oil on the corner, but they could not explain why Bandini, Brabham and Surtees did not spin as well, for they were right behind Stewart. Although he recovered from the spin without damage and resumed the pace for a while, he did not keep it up nor did he regain ground like Graham Hill or stay with his leader when he went by.

In the Ferrari team there was a very noticeable lack of team spirit and co-operation. In practice Bandini in the 12-cylinder car was consistently faster than Surtees in the 8-cylinder car, so that one wonders why Mr. Ferrari does not give Surtees the 12-cylinder, for he can obviously drive faster than Bandini and at Monaco he could have got pole-position if he had driven the 12-cylinder car. From practice times it was no surprise that Bandini led Surtees on the opening lap, and with Brabham mixing it with them you could hardly expect the Italian to slow up and let his team leader get in front. For a long time they had no option but to both go as fast as they could, but after Stewart’s spin and Brabham’s retirement they had the race in the bag, with Bandini first and Surtees second, the wrong way round by status levels, but nevertheless Ferrari cars first and second. The only disturbance was Graham Hill, who was chasing them and gaining ground rapidly. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Surtees to have eased up a bit and slowed Hill, without deliberately baulking him thus letting Bandini get away. If Bandini and Surtees had been working together instead of racing each other they could have sewn-up Graham Hill very neatly, though it would have been hard work, for Hill was very determined.

Older readers will recall the day the Vanwall first showed its superiority at Reims and how the Ferrari team got together and crowded Harry Schell so that their leader, Fangio, could get away from the faster Vanwall, or how that very powerful Vanwall team of Moss, Brooks and Lewis-Evans worked so beautifully together in 1957 at Monza to hold Fangio and his Maserati in their grip, knowing that if he slipped away they would never catch him. Those days of team spirit seem to have disappeared, it’s now “everyone for Champion,” and this was very obvious at Monaco. Surtees seemed to make very little effort to prevent Hill from getting past, but once Hill had gone by he then stayed with him, and even got alongside once or twice and harried him. Bandini was not so easy to deal with and he did a Jack Brabham, and got on with his race apparently oblivious of what was happening behind. The attitude was I am leading this race and I’m not easing up or moving over; if you want to come by then it’s up to you to find a way through. A perfectly reasonable attitude for a racer who is out in front, but not for anyone being lapped or at the back of the field. Needless to say, Graham Hill found a way through and I doubt if he said “Excuse me” as he elbowed his way by, but this was motor racing, not an old ladies’ tea-party, as some drivers treat motor racing.

That Surtees and Bandini do not show much “team spirit” is not surprising, for there is no love lost between them and they even stay in different hotels. In the past they used to drive together in long-distance races, but Bandini could never keep up the pace that Surtees set, and many times it was a miserable and morose Surtees that sat in the pits and watched the lead he had built up dwindle away while Bandini was driving. Now they no longer drive together in long-distance events.

The Honda team still have a lot to learn before they will win many motoring races, and one thing is to know the rules. At the start of a race if an engine doesn’t fire, two mechanics can pushstart it while it is still on the “dummy grid” and get it running, but before it can join the starting grid proper it must be stopped and restarted on the starter motor. This is to allow for just such a situation as developed with Bucknum at Monaco. His engine got too rich and white vapour was coming out of the exhausts but it would not fire and he realised what had happened. He waved to his mechanics, expecting than to push-start the car to clear the rich mixture and allow him to restart and join the grid. Instead, four of them fell on the car and started taking out the sparking plugs. By the time the start-line marshals had convinced them that only two mechanics were allowed to work on the car and Bucknum had convinced them he wanted a push, they had got two sparking plugs loose and the starting flag was up. In a mad scramble they tightened the plugs and put the engine cover on, pushed the car and cleared the rich mixture, it started on the starter and Bucknum joined the race, but it was a lot of unnecessary flap.

Although in the report the Station Hairpin and the Gasometer Hairpin are referred to, and probably will be for many years to come, those terms are now inaccurate for the Gasworks has been demolished as has the Station. The railway line has been put in a tunnel running under the town, although the bridges and archways are still there. In neither case has the demolition altered the characteristics of the corners, and driving round the circuit you might not notice the change, but photographers were quick to see the loss of two classic backgrounds for their photographs. Louis Chiron and his organising committee did a lot of work and string-pulling to assemble a splendid array of historic racing cars, all in working order, and many driven by ex-Monaco G.P. winners, but unfortunately the whole thing was spoilt by poor management. The idea was to have a two-lap parade of these cars and drivers in order of years, followed by famous drivers now retired and present-day drivers who have won at Monaco. During practice days the cars were beautifully displayed on a platform behind the Casino in a large car park, but half the cars had no notices to say what they were, and there was no indication that they were there anyway, knowledge getting round by word of mouth. The cars were a 1954/55 W196 Mercedes-Benz, a 1937 W125 Mercedes-Benz, a 1932/33 Monza Alfa Romeo, a 1951 Alfa Romeo 159, a 250F Maserati, the Lotus-Climax with which Moss won in 1961, a Type 35 Bugatti and two sports cars that won in 1952, a Via Ferrari and a 6-cylinder Gordini. With the exception of the Bugatti, which was a rough old lot, they were all immaculate, the Moss Lotus even having its original number on it. In the parade they came round out of order and there was no way of knowing who the drivers were, except for the enthusiasts who could recognise Chiron, Lang, Fangio, Manzon, Farina and Moss. To actually see and hear a 159 Alfa Romeo running again, with Fangio in the cockpit, was wonderful, and the sound of the 5.6-litre supercharged 8-cylinder Mercedes-Benz as Lang accelerated up the hill to the Casino was quite something, so that it was a pity that the whole thing became a shambles with some of the racing cars getting mixed up in a parade of 204 Peugeots.

However, the parade of cars that never fails to impress the enthusiast at Monaco is the one outside the Hotel de Paris, the Hermitage or the Casino every night. At first it looked as though this year’s “one up” car was going to be the 275 GTB Ferrari Berlinetta, but there were at least six in town, three all in the same parking row one evening. Then it looked as though it might be the ASA 1000 coupé from Milan, with the little Ferrari engine, but there were three of those. It finally settled on the Lamborghini 350 GT, of which there were two. The odd thing was that wherever there was a row of exotic high-performance machinery there was inevitably a VW on the end of the row. On Saturday night parked side by side were an E-type Jaguar, a Lamborghini, a 330GT Ferrari, an Aston Martin DB5, a Corvair Monza, a 4-door Maserati V8 and a Pontiac Bonneville, and, of course, a VW. The locals have to park somewhere! Other cars to delight the enthusiast were 300SL Mercedes-Benz, 507 B.M.W., Porsche 911, Mercedes-Benz 600, Ferraris of all types, Maserati GT coupés, and many lesser but rare machines.

In his book on the Monaco Grand Prix, Peter Gamier says that some years ago the racing drivers “used to be gentlemen trying to be mechanics. Now they are mechanics trying to be gentlemen.” I wonder if they have tried so hard that they have succeeded and are now driving like gentlemen, instead of like racing drivers, for a year or two ago most teams produced special precautions for the bumping and boring that inevitably takes place on the small street circuit. There were shortened nose cowlings, bumper bars in front of the radiators and even bumper bars behind the gearboxes, and it was reckoned that anyone who went to Monaco with their normal Grand Prix car was asking for damaged bodywork, and it was very true. This year there appeared to be no extra precautions taken and the only damage was done in the Formula Three races.—D. S. J.