Monza Afterthoughts

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For many years the atmosphere around the pit area at Monza was fraught with tough policemen who would throw anybody out on the slightest pretext, especially if they were not displaying an official pass of some sort. Colin Chapman had a punch-up with the police and various trade representatives were nearly thrown in jail, while even Enzo Ferrari himself was thrown out on one occasion. In all truth things did get a bit out of hand, though I would not blame the police for they were only carrying out orders, and when the Grand Prix circus arrived at Monza for their annual visit could you blame the police for not recognising everyone in the pit area? Things got to such a state that there were representations and protests, and everyone made such a fuss that the system was changed. Now we have gone the opposite way, the police are far and few between, the pits are full of people without passes, and this year feeble attempts were made by a handful of spotty young youths in army uniforms to try and control things.

During the Saturday practice the situation was idiotic for spectators were climbing over the fence behind the pits and the paddock, as well as burrowing under the wire fence at one point, and the area in front of the pits was very overcrowded, there being more people without passes than those with, so that it was almost impossible for anyone to do any work. Even the scruffiest Italian youth was taking no notice of the callow young men in uniform who were supposed to be enforcing the law. A few years ago, when the grey uniformed Mobile Battalion were in charge most of the people in the pit area would have been thrown out and any back-chat would have meant a couple of hours in jail.

Personally, I have found that neither arrangement at Monza has been satisfactory, and this year on race morning the paddock was a mad-house of unauthorised people. Enthusiasm is one thing, but the situation on race day was absurd. To add to the absurdity, during practice the trade representatives such as Lucas, Girling, Armstrong, Champion, Autolite, etc., were only given one pass each that allowed access in front of the pits, so that the Armstrong shock-absorber mechanics, for example, could not get in front of the pits to work on a car, yet there were hundreds of people climbing over the fence without any passes at all, and nothing was being done about it.

The overcrowding of the pits and paddock area is a problem that affects most big races, Le Mans being about the only one that is controlled, although this year Nürburgring was very good for a change, but Silverstone is always a mad-house. Inevitably someone gets run into or knocked over by cars and transport moving about the paddock, and my feeling is that anyone who is not authorised to be in the paddock and who gets run over, had no complaint at all. People who have a pass to be in the paddock should jolly well make sure they don’t get in the way of a racing car. If they do get their foot run over, then I think it is their own stupid fault, and anyone that stupid should not be allowed a paddock pass. The McLaren team are in the throes of a legal punch-up because their mechanics wheeled a racing car into a foreign journalist in the paddock at Monza and damaged his ankle, or heel or something. He is sueing them for disability or something and the law-men have been dragging the case out for two years now. This sort of thing sickens me; like hearing about tools being stolen in the paddock at a club meeting. Motor racing may have become big and popular, but the growth has brought al many of nasty tastes with it.

Some Grand Prix meetings tend to suffer from too little practice time, but Monza errs in the other direction. Three and a half hours without a break seems too much for such a simple and uncomplicated circuit, but what is tiresome is when a car breaks down early on out on the circuit, for there is no internal road system by which it can be retrieved. The whole circuit is lined with wire-netting fences and guard-rails, so the only way to retrieve a broken-down car is to tow it all the way round the circuit to the pits entrance. This year the Brabham team suffered twice from this problem, the car of Ickx breaking down in the opening minutes of each practice, and it had to say out on the circuit for over three hours; time which the mechanics could have used. With such long practice sessions it would not hurt anyone if practice stopped at the end of each hour and broken cars were retrieved. It would be useless to use the existing Jeep-type breakdowns that have to grind along at 30 m.p.h., what is needed is a fast tow-vehicle that could whistle round at 80-90 m.p.h. and bring the derelict car back at 60-70 m.p.h. That way very little time would be lost, and a lot of people would be much happier.

The idea of sending the cars out on their warm-up lap according to the starting grid was a good one, but it failed. If I were a race organiser I would insist that cars and drivers were ready to go at a specified time before the start, and they would line up in descending practice-time order. Anyone who was not ready would be deemed a non-starter. At the moment an organiser says the race will start at 3.30 p.m. for example, anyone who misses the starting time is a non-starter. Why not say the meeting will start at 3 p.m. with a warm-up lap, in pre-arranged order, and that 3 p.m. is the time you come under starter’s orders. At 3.30 p.m. the start of the race will take place. This way you could present the starters to the paying spectators with an intelligent commentary to back up the parade-lap. Not all the spectators attended practice so there are always many who are not fully informed until the cars appear. At the moment they struggle away from the pits in ones or twos in any old order and the warm-up lap is completely wasted for most spectators. This is the sort of showmanship that motor racing lacks these days, even the parade of National flags has gone from the Italian G.P. When you have a Scottish driver in a chassis built in France, using French money, using an English engine and gearbox and running on English tyres, what flag do you parade apart from their birthplace and their accents, what is New Zealand about the McLaren team? The days of inter-nation motor racing are gone, and you cannot parade flags for an International hotchpotch, but you could display your runners to the paying customer in a more showman-like manner. Drivers and team-managers would no doubt complain, saying that they are hard-pressed now to get on the starting grid on time. Poppy-cock. Some of them are getting £1,200 appearance money; they should make an effort and try a bit harder to earn it.

Every year at Monza there is a lot of idle talk about slipstreaming, when all that is meant is that one could be running immediately behind another, when it might just a well be alongside. The real interpretation of slipstreaming is when a slow car gets in behind a fast one and keeps up by getting close enough to be sucked along by the faster car. Drivers did this when they were racing four-cylinder Coventry-Climax powered cars against the V6 Ferraris and the slow English cars definitely got sucked along at a faster speed than they could attain on their own. When you have a bunch of cars all using identical Cosworth V8 engines there is nothing to gain, as shown when the eight fast cars in this year’s race ran nose-to-tail and next lap spread across the whole track; it made no difference, no-one dropped back because he had “lost the tow”, to use a popular mis-concepted phrase. Equally it is as pointless to sit behind another car and then pull out expecting to go by. All you will achieve is getting alongside. If you can drop back and then close up again in the slipstream this will give you added speed over the leader, and timed right this increase of speed may carry you past the car in front. If you are both running at the same speed you are wasting your time pulling out to try and pass, unless you have power in reserve, in which case you could have been leading anyway! A classic example of slipstreaming proper was at Avon in 1954 when Behra kept his Gordini in the wake of the much faster Mercedes-Benz cars. They sucked him along 10 or 15 m.p.h. faster than Gordini was geared to run and eventually the crankshaft broke! If Rodriguez could have kept the Ferrari in the wake of Hill’s Lotus at Monza this year, that would have been slipstreaming Stewart and Rindt with identical power units, running nose-to-tail, is not slipstreaming, it is “breaking the wind”, which is a very different thing.

The Monza race witnessed a phenomena that one normally only sees in Formula Three racing. Six or seven cars of identical performance so that they can lap as fast in line-ahead formation or spread out across the track, tend to run slower than any one of them would on its own, simply because that many cars tend to baulk each other and prevent corners being taken at the absolute limit. This is why a lone car, of equal performance, will catch up after a bad start, for example, and having caught up with them stay with the pack. Hulme illustrated this in the opening laps, and Hill a little while later. Both gained on the leading pack, running on their own, and having caught them up, their pace then slowed to that of the group. This was how McLaren made fastest lap in the race at one point, having lost contact for a moment, and then caught up, even though he never led the race at all, and Beltoise got the new record in a similar manner.

Reverting to the slipstreaming business, two cars of equal performance can aid each other, if the drivers are skilled, by indulging in a process known as “leap-frogging”. Down a long straight the second car will drop back to 100 yards for example, at 160 m.p.h., rush up into the vacuum behind the leading car so that it approaches at 165-170 m.p.h., pull out and use the momentum to carry it past and into the lead. The overtaken car must time things exactly right to do the same thing as soon as the other car has gone by and before its speed has dropped back to 160 m.p.h. By doing this a number of times in quick succession the speed of the two cars could be kept at nearly 170 m.p.h., whereas if they ran nose-to-tail they would stick at 160 m.p.h. You will often see racing motorcyclists doing this, but with a car it is more difficult because you need more space, and the two drivers have got to know each other very well. I have heard of drivers doing it, but I can’t say I have witnessed it recently.

As described in the Monza race report, the start was very ragged and it was not helped by the pole-position man Rindt not doing his job properly. The driver who makes fastest practice lap takes pole position on the starting grid, usually on the “outside” of the front row relative to the first corner after the start. (The arrow on Motor Sport starting grids indicates which side is the first corner). However, he does not have to take this position, he has the choice, and can opt for the “inside” position, but whatever he does he is expected to set the pace as the cars roll forward from the “dummy-grid”. The other drivers on the front row tend to line their cars up with the “pole” car as they move forward, the rest following in their respective rows. Two years ago at Monza when Brabham led a massed start straight off the “dummy-grid” Clark was on pole and could hear everyone revving their engines preparing for a racing start. He did not know what to do, whether to join them or try and keep order by rolling gently forwards towards the starting line. He contained himself for about half of the distance, by which time Brabham, McLaren and Burney were well ahead, with smoking tyres, and he then followed them, ignoring the starter like the rest had done. The driver on pole position has a reasonable job to do, and all eyes are on him.

Ken Tyrrell’s Matra International team put on a very confident display before the start; they were the first ones to line up at the pits, the mechanics pushing the cars on to the pits apron, the two MS80 cars and the reserve MS84. When the time approached for the warm-up lap they pushed the cars in team order up to the exit from the pit road and awaited their drivers. Everything was warmed-up, checked, and ready to go. What a splendid example, compared to the driver who arrives at the last minute, driving his car from the paddock with a lot of “blipping” and clutch slipping, and reverses into his position at the pits with lots of stabs on the accelerator pedal. Matra International are worthy World Champions, but it was a big galling when the British National Anthem was played after Stewart had won. He lives in Switzerland, the brains of the car construction are in France, the French Government finance the whole Matra racing effort, and the cars are painted French blue. A tribute to Tyrrell presumably, the playing of God Save the Queen.

Many people are under the impression that drivers like Stewart are only taking part in Grand Prix races in order to gain points for the World Championship. Stewart proved this completely false at Monza by making every effort to win, for he did not have to win to be World Champion, he could have relaxed and finished a comfortable second or third and still gained enough points for the over-stated World Champion title. He won the race, admittedly by only a few inches, but he was straining every nerve to do so. I don’t suppose “points” and World Championship status crossed his mind during that final lap, his only thought was to get to the chequered flag ahead of his three rivals and win the Italian Grand Prix. That is why he is a worthy World Champion as a bonus after winning a lot of Grand Prix races. That final lap must have seen all four drivers, Stewart, Rindt, Beltoise and McLaren using their brains and knowledge like never before. None of them could have had a master plan, for any move that was made had to depend on moves made by the other three, and there were four variables to the equation at any given instant. Even when Beltoise took the lead under braking for the last corner the final decisions could not be made, this merely brought in a new variable that had to be acted upon instantly, on pure reflex actions for there was no time for calculated thought. It was doubtful whether any of the four drivers concerned could recall all his thoughts on that last exciting lap. Their thought-processes must have been working overtime.

Afterwards word was going round that Rindt did not realise it was the last lap. One story said he had been reading the lap score off the Dunlop electric scoreboard, which of course indicates the lap that has been completed, and another story said he had been looking at Hulme’s pit board, which was one lap out, Hulme being a lap behind the leaders. The Lotus pit were giving clear signals and whichever story was true, or even if they were false, it doesn’t really matter, Rindt was beaten on the final lap, and you can be sure that Stewart and Beltoise knew they were on the last lap. Rindt would seem to be a re-incarnation of the pre-war Mercedes-Benz driver, Manfred von Brauchitsch. A good fast driver who seldom won G.P. races. If anything was to go wrong it seemed to happen to von Brauchitsch, such as tyre treads coming off when leading, his car catching fire at the pits when refuelling while leading, spinning off and being disqualified for receiving outside assistance. He also drove in great opposite-lock power slides, when Caracciola and Seaman drove just as fast without any tail sliding. Even if Rindt does not make excuses for being beaten, there are those who are only too ready to do so for him! Is he really the unlucky one, or is something missing from his physical and mental make-up? Does he lack that difficult-to-define “something” that Steward has got, Clark had before him, Moss before that, and so on and so on.

I am looking for the people who say, and worse still, put into print, that Grand Prix racing is dull and monotonous and what we want is Formula 5000 or Can-Am racing. I am looking for them to lend them my spectacles. They may be rose-tinted at times, but the view I had of the Italian Grand Prix through them was more than satisfying.
D. S. J.