1970 Monaco Grand Prix race report: Brabham bins it, Jochen wins it

After a steady drive, Jack Brabham suddenly crashes at the very last corner, handing victory to Lotus’ Jochen Rindt

Jochen Rindt flashes past the camera at the 1970 Monaco Grand Prix.

Lotus driver Jochen Rindt won his first race of the season at Monaco

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The question of the qualifying race on Saturday afternoon, before the Grand Prix, found no support at all and rapidly died a natural death. Practice for the Monaco Grand Prix returned to a system used for many years now, whereby the fastest laps in practice got you into the Sunday line-up. The selected ten “ace” drivers were assured of places on the grid, and the remaining six places had to be sorted out from the remaining 11 cars that turned up for practice. Non-arrivals were Soler-Roig, Bell, Andretti and Moser, which eased the problems slightly.


Practice was held on Thursday afternoon, Friday morning and Saturday afternoon, interspersed with Formula Three activities, and all lap times recorded during those three sessions were taken into consideration for selecting the six qualifiers. In addition, at the end of the afternoon on Saturday the non-seeded drivers had an extra 30 minutes to themselves, during which time they could score a place in the select six, but the lap time would not count for the grid position.

This was because the “ace-ten” would not be allowed out in this 30 minutes, and if conditions were extra good they would be unable to defend their grid positions, and the expected situation actually arose. Siffert qualified for the six during the last 30 minutes, and his time would have put him on the second row of the grid, for he equalled Amon’s time during a period when Amon was not allowed to defend his position. Though seemingly complicated the system seemed to work out all right.

Without question Stewart was on great form, driving his usual March car, and headed Thursday’s practice with ease, followed by Amon in the original works March, so the Bicester firm were pretty pleased with progress.

Officially, and according to Monaco rules, the lap record stood to Courage with his Brabham last year in 1min 25.8sec, though Stewart had done 1min 25.1sec in the race before he retired, but the strange rule said you had to finish the race in order to hold the lap record.

As always at Monaco the first practice session raises a lot of dust around the circuit, for few cars go over 25mph through the streets of Monte Carlo during normal times, and a sudden rush of racing cars going at 125mph brings dust out of every nook and cranny. It soon blows away and the pace warms up, even if the weather did not on this occasion, and everyone was soon circulating.

Jackie Stewart in his Tyrrell at the 1970 Monaco Grand Prix

Jackie Stewart took pole on the principality streets

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Team Lotus were not very happy, for they had discovered at Silverstone that the interesting new Lotus 72 was not really stiff enough and the rear end was doing some steering as well as the front end, a trouble that did not make itself apparent on the slow Madrid circuit. In consequence Rindt and Miles had reverted to the old Type 49 cars they had used in South Africa, and they had both been fitted with the latest type of triple-blade rear aerofoil. On the V12 Matras, Beltoise was using the latest front hubs with the brake calipers cast integral with the hub, and with deflector discs on the wheel centres to centrifuge cooling air, while Pescarolo had the old Girling caliper arrangement.

“Stewart made a mockery of last year’s lap record”

BRM were back to full strength after their Spanish disaster, the destroyed car of Oliver being replaced by a brand-new one, and Ferrari had built a third 312B to replace their car lost in the Spanish race. The Tyrrell team were on full strength, with Servoz-Gavin in their latest car and the unmodified one as a spare for Stewart, and Antique Automobiles were running a brand new March which ex-Formula Three driver Peterson was driving. Courage had the latest De Tomaso, as raced so well at the Silverstone International Trophy, and everything else was running to pattern.

Stewart made a mockery of last year’s lap record, official or unofficial, with a lap in 1min 24.1sec and Amon joined him with 1min 24.6sec, and these two were alone, the only other fast time being Hulme’s 1min 25.1sec which equalled the unofficial lap record. Siffert was in trouble with a Cosworth engine that would not run properly and was unable to get to grips with the March, which he has driven for a lot less time than he would have liked.

BRM were making a poor start, for Oliver had barely got under way before his gearbox went wrong, and with Rodriguez not going properly and Eaton learning his way round, the three Bourne cars stayed at the bottom of the list.

On Friday morning gloom descended on Monte Carlo and rain came pouring down so that the hour of practice before breakfast was a complete and utter washout, though Stewart was able to demonstrate that he was still in full command, with fastet lap in 1min 37.1sec, nearly three seconds ahead of the next car, but in reality very few people tried all that hard, though Hill and McLaren both managed to clout the edges of the track, which stopped their practice.

Team Lotus had a Type 72 with them, running as a spare for Miles, but it did not turn a wheel in the rain, and Monte Carlo showed that it is not always the best place for a holiday, a thing it has often done in the past on the early morning practice session.

On Saturday it was not much brighter, but at least the rain was holding off. After the depressing showing on Thursday the BRM engines. were converted from Lucas ignition to Marelli ignition, and now that the track was dry they were hoping for some improvement. All they seemed to achieve was to move up from a miserable-last to a reasonable-last place in the overall picture.

Stewart was still on cracking good form, but this time he was on his own and the only one to get under 1min 25.0sec, which he not only did with ease, but finally recorded 1min 24.0sec. Ickx was very well recovered from his crash in Spain, and back on good form, vying with Brabham for grid position, and the Matras of Beltoise and Pescarolo were really singing round as 12-cylinders should, and were not only exciting the French but the many British spectators as well.

“Graham Hill suddenly had an accident and wrote off the front end of the Walker Lotus on the barriers, an accident for which he could not really account”

Going up the slope towards the Casino Graham Hill suddenly had an accident and wrote off the front end of the Walker Lotus on the barriers, an accident for which he could not really account, and Servoz-Gavin had an accident at the chicane which damaged Tyrrell’s latest March. The Walker Team (who now race on Brooke Bond-Oxo money) had a problem that required thinking about, for Hill was an assured starter but the car was not.

The Tyrrell team had a much more pressing problem, for Servoz-Gavin was in the battle for qualifying and needed a car instantly, so they changed the number on Stewart’s spare car and the Frenchman was ready to go again. The final 30 minutes of Formula One practice was restricted to the non-invited drivers, and there were 11 of them: Miles (Lotus), Stommelen (Brabham), Pescarolo (Matra-Simca), de Adamich (McLaren), McLaren (McLaren), Eaton (BRM), Oliver (BRM), Siffert (March), Peterson (March), Courage (De Tomaso) Servoz-Gavin (March).

They all thrashed round in a most spirited fashion, nearly everyone keeping going continuously, so that it was almost like a 30-minute race. Courage and Siffert were really outstanding, Pescarolo was in a bit of panic as a relief valve in his fuel system stuck open and the injection system could not get any fuel, so he borrowed Beltoise’s car, and Servoz-Gavin was not at all happy with the gear-change on the spare Tyrrell car and could not get in the hunt.

When all had become quiet once more, and the 11 qualifiers were breathing normally again, the timekeepers sorted out all their figures and found that all but Pescarolo and Servoz-Gavin had really got their Skates on in this last do-or-die attempt, and Siffert was fastest with 1min 24.6sec, a time equal to Arnon’s best. In the last rush the order came out Siffert, Courage, McLaren, Oliver, Peterson and de Adamich and Stommelen equal sixth, hut Pescarolo had done a time in the overall practice period that put him equal with McLaren, so de Adamich and Stommelen were bumped off the end of the list and the 16 starters were settled, as shown on the accompanying starting grid.

This question having been settled it was now possible for Rob Walker and Team Lotus to review the Hill situation. The Walker car was too badly damaged to repair immediately so the car that Miles had failed to qualify, 49C/R10, was given a quick repaint with the Walker colours, the advertising slogans were changed over, the cockpit and controls offered up to Hill’s shape, and the organisation agreed to the change-over, but FIA rules insisted that Hill moved to the back of the grid, as he had not practised in the car.


Ronnie Peterson talks to Johnny Servoz-Gavin on the grid

Ronnie Peterson talks to Johnny Servoz-Gavin on the grid

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Although the rain and clouds had been hanging about on the mountains all day Saturday, the practice had remained dry apart from a few unimportant spots, and at last, on Sunday, Monte Carlo began to look like the advertising brochures. The start was not due until 3pm so everyone had reasonable time for getting ready, and as Prince Rainier did an official lap in a 5-litre V8 Maserati, the 16 starters lined up on the “dummy-grid”, without doing a warm-up lap.

Arranged in staggered pairs, Hill’s rightful position next to Siffert was left blank, and the repainted works Lotus was at the back behind the two white BRMs. Away went the 16 cars, the Monogasque flag fell, and Stewart leapt into the lead as they all roared up the hill to the Casino, the noise echoing off the buildings in a fantastic manner.

“Stewart leapt into the lead as they all roared up the hill to the Casino, the noise echoing off the buildings in a fantastic manner”

As they came out of the tunnel and down to the harbour front Stewart led from Amon, Brabham, Ickx, Beltoise, Hulme, Rindt and Pescarolo; it was all wide open, with everyone in with a chance. March were in first and second places, the pacemaker Brabham was there, Ferrari was in with them and Matra were in the thick of it. It was clearly going to be a good 80 laps round-the-houses. From his back row start Hill shot past Oliver, but then found his seat harness was so tight it was restricting his movements and affecting his braking, so he dropped behind again.

Nose-to-tail the 16 cars twisted and turned round the tight hairpins, up the hill, down to the sea front, through the tunnel and along the promenade. Beltoise nipped by Ickx as they braked for the hairpin where the old Gasometer used to be, on lap 2, and next time round Rodriguez took the number one BRM into the pits as the throttle slides were sticking open; the trouble was cured and he rejoined the race two laps behind. Stewart was commanding the race, with a clear road in front of him, and each time round he was a little more in front of Amon, the New Zealander still having a nose-to-tail pack behind him, though Surtees, Peterson, Oliver and Hill were not keeping up.

By lap 7 Stewart had pulled out a full five seconds’ lead over Amon, which is a big advantage at Monte Carlo, and he looked safe, sure and unruffled as he drove the blue March relentlessly on. Behind Amon, and pressing hard, were Brabham, Beltoise, lckx, Hulme, Pescarolo, Rindt, Courage, Sifiert and McLaren, the rest already trailing, and this lot were so pressing that it looked as if Amon might be holding things up.

Stewart was lapping at around 1min 26sec, gaining ground all the time, and on lap 12 there was a break in the following procession, for the Ferrari broke its inner universal joint on the right-hand drive shaft and as Ickx came to rest Hulme, Pescarolo and Rindt who were inunediately behind were slightly baulked. We now had Stewart Out on his own, Amon, Brabham and Beltoise at close quarters, and Hulme, Pescarolo, Rindt, Courage, Siffert and McLaren in line-astern formation.

Surtees was fading fast, and Peterson overtook him on lap 13, and then Oliver, and the ex-World Champion retired at the pits with the oil pressure in his Cosworth V8 engine disappearing disastrously. Apart from the sun disappearing behind some clouds nothing of note happened for a few laps, and the high-speed procession chasing vainly after Stewart conuntied, though McLaren hit the chicane with his right front wheel on lap 19 and damaged the suspension which put him out after one more lap, by which time Stewart’s lead was 12 ½ seconds, but next lap the scene began to change noticeably.

Brabham had had enough of following Amon, and was lining himself up to get by, and Bettoise was having rear axle trouble and the Matra could no longer stay with them, while at the end of the queue Siffert was beginning to close up on Courage. As they approached the Gasworks hairpin to end lap 22, with Stewart going round in 1min 25.4sec, Brabham dived to the inside of Amon’s March and scrabbled round in front and in second place, and Beltoise had dropped back behind Hulme and was only to last a short while longer as the transmission broke.

Jochen Rindt leads the pack

Jochen Rindt heads the pack past the harbour

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On lap 24 Stewart lapped the last car, which was Hill’s Lotus, apart, that is, from Rodriguez, whose stop had put him two laps behind, and behind the Tyrrell March, the turquoise and yellow car of Brabham led Amon’s red March by two seconds. As Stewart ended his twenty-sixth lap he should have appeared before Hill’s Lotus, but the blue and white Lotus appeared first, having unlapped itself, which was indeed strange. Stewart appeared and the reason was clear, the Cosworth engine was misfiring badly, and he headed for the pits. While the ignition unit was changed, and the distributor rotor as well, Brabham went by into the lead, a complete reversal of what had happened at Brands Hatch in the Race of Champions. (This one-make power-unit racing can get boring at times.)

By the time Stewart rejoined the race he was a lap behind Rodriguez and three behind the leaders and those who expected to see some fantastic lap records made were disappointed, for ignition equipment was not really the trouble with Stewart’s engine, for it still was not giving full power. Though he kept going as best he could he made little progress, other than to get himself on the same lap as Rodriguez, but still in last place.

“Rindt had been driving along in a most uninspired fashion, but now seemed to wake up”

At 30 laps Brabham looked comfortably settled in first place with nothing that Amon could do about it and as they went by the pits, Hulme, Pescarolo and Rindt went along the Promenade behind the pits, while Courage was finding his steering getting heavier and heavier on the De Tomaso, so that he could hardly correct slides any more, and Siffert got ahead of him.

Rindt had been driving along in fifth position in a most uninspired fashion, but now seemed to wake up and feel he ought to be ahead of Pescarolo, and he forced his way by at the Gasworks hairpin on lap 36, but was not making any impression on Hulme. The struggle with the seizing rack-and-pinion mechanism on the De Tomaso became impossible and Courage stopped at the pits to give up, but the Williams mechanics started to dismantle the whole thing and put it right.

At half-distance, or 40 laps, Brabham still had two seconds’ lead over Amon, followed by Hulme, Rindt, Pescarolo and Siffert, no one else being on the same lap. Hill, Oliver, Peterson, Rodriguez and Stewart following, but this situation at the tail-end did not last long as Oliver’s BRM engine blew up and he ground to a smoky halt on his forty-third lap. Stalemate seemed to have set in up at the front, with little hope of anything inspiring happening, although Siffert moved ahead of Pescarolo, and then Hulme began to fall back when he lost the use of bottom gear.

Stewart was in a very unhappy last place, making no progress at all, and Brabham was closing up behind to lap him, which he did on lap 59, and that made Stewart give up for he could really appreciate how flat his engine had gone. As Amon came along the Promenade at the end of lap 61 the March suddenly swooped all over the track, for a rear suspension bolt had fallen out and the March was too damaged to continue beyond the pits, so Brabham was now comfortably on his own.

Hulme’s gearbox trouble had dropped him back to fifth place, the last one to be on the same lap as the leaders, and then Siffert’s Cosworth engine began to splutter as something went wrong with the fuel system to the injection unit, a valve sticking and by-passing all the fuel away from the metering unit. All this left Rindt in second place with the old Lotus 49C, but Brabham was still drawing away from him and on lap 66 the gap measured 13.6sec. By this time the De Tomaso had had its steering put back and Courage was circulating once more, but too far back to hope to qualify.

Brabham’s lead settled at 15 seconds and it seemed to be all over, for he could maintain that lead over Rindt without straining himself or the car. Poor Siffert had fallen right back with his engine cutting out completely at times, but with the end of the race in sight he carried on in fits and starts until he was behind everyone apart from Courage.

With five laps to go Brabham had the race won and was easing back to cruise home to a safe victory, for Rindt was no danger, but suddenly the Austrian seemed to wake up and respond to pit signals. Knowing Brabham well, and quite sure that he was merely easing the pace for a certain victory, Colin Chapman wondered if maybe something was going wrong with the Brabham, so just in case he urged Rindt to press on as hard as possible.

Jochen Rindt celebrates his surprise victory with Pricne Rainier and Princess Grace

Rindt celebrates his surprise victory with Prince Rainier and Princess Grace

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There was no apparent danger to Brabham unless his brakes were fading away or something but on lap 77 he was unintentionally baulked by Siffert going the Casino square and his safe nine-second lead suddenly became seconds, and Rindt was becoming inspired. On lap 78 the two were in sight of each other and as they started the last lap Rindt only a few car lengths behind, but Brabham was well aware of situation and it all seemed to be excitement over nothing.

“Brabham braked really late, locked his wheels and slid helplessly straight on into the barriers”

Out of Tabac corner on to the promenade Brabham was still the same lengths ahead, and all seemed safe, but as he approached the works hairpin he passed Courage and just in case Rindt tried tricks like driving through on the inside of the hairpin, took a line for the apex, to shut the door, rather than the normal swinging out to the left. He braked really late, locked his wheels slid helplessly straight on into the barriers.

An amazed and amused Rindt took the normal line round the hairpin to take the and win the Monaco Grand Prix for Lotus with an old obsolete car, while a red-faced Brabham trailed into second with all the nose cowling smashed. The “old man” had goofed. Pescarolo arrived third after a splendid drive, the screaming engine sounding beautiful, and Hulme was fourth, the rest been lapped. Rindt’s final lap was an inspired 1min 23.2sec, two seconds under last year’s fastest lap, which made people if the Lotus 49 is really so obsolete.