Race: 1971 Italian GP

Ultimate slipstream classic

It was still anyone's race and Mike Hailwood led at 51 laps, just as Peter Gethin passed François Cevert. Then Gethin took his BRM into the lead.

The battle for the lead was so wide open that happenings at the back of the field went unnoticed, and both Graham Hill and Mike Beuttler retired, the Brabham with another seized gearbox and the March with a broken engine. Throughout the race the Lotus turbine machine had been whistling round at the back of the field, not going very well as it lacked power and brakes, but at least it was running through non-stop. Jo Siffert had been lapped by nearly everyone and it says a lot for his tenacity that he kept going on his one gear when many other drivers would have given up and gone home.

Lap 53 witnessed Gethin, Ronnie Peterson and Cevert in echelon as they crossed the line, each certain that they knew the other's weaknesses in the sprint from the last corner.

At the end of lap 54 the order was Peterson, Cevert, Hailwood, Gethin. Any one of them could win and if they all made nonsense on the last lap then Howden Ganley could win. None of them had ever won a grand prix before: it was truly the 'dice of the debutants'.

Down the back straight on the last lap Cevert led; under braking for the last comer Peterson went into the lead; but out of the corner Gethin was leading and it was all over. The BRM led up the finishing straight, the four of them closely bunched and lapping Jo Bonnier yet again. The BRM got to the line first by mere inches from Peterson's March, with Cevert's Tyrrell and Hailwood's Surtees only a few feet behind. The photo-finish was Formula One, not Formula Three nor Formula Two nor Formula 5000, though it might well have been, except that the average speed was just over 150 mph. The new generation had arrived with a vengeance. --- DSJ
October 1971