When we started the 2011 Formula One season back in March, I noted that 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the magical 1961 F1 season in which Phil Hill, driving for Ferrari, became the first, and other than Mario Andretti in 1978, only American Formula One Grand Prix World Champion. From our season opening post in March, Circus Starts Anew, 50 Years On From the Yankee Champion:
This will be the last formal installment in the 1961 retrospective series. While there are 19 races in this year’s 2011 F1 schedule, with six remaining after the Italian, there were only eight races on the 1961 docket. The Italian was the seventh and penultimate race, and the one that will not only live in infamy, but in which the Championship was determined. Indeed, with both the Driver’s and Constructor’s Championships decided at Monza in the Italian, and in light of the tragic death of their star factory driver, Count Wolfgang von Trips, the dominant Ferrari team did not even travel the Atlantic to contest the final race, the inaugral United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, NY.
As starts the 2011 Formula One season, so too started the 1961 F1 season fifty years ago. For all the differences brought by technology and time over five decades, there is much in common. The excitement and anticipation of the drivers, the longing to put the knowledge of the off season testing and tech changes finally to proof in actual race conditions, the first drivers’ meetings of the season, the beautiful people and the eyes of the international sporting world focused. There is nothing like the Formula One circus; that was the case then as much as it is now.
Longtime regulars here at the Emptywheel Trash Talk threads will likely remember that I had the privilege of knowing Phil Hill as I was growing up. Phil was the first, and still one of only two (Mario Andretti), Americans to win the Formula One Grand Prix World Championship and his career was immortalized in the excellent biography Yankee Champion by William Nolan. 2011 is the fiftieth anniversary of his championship season. In honor of that, I will be comparing and remembering the races and excitement of the 1961 season over the course of the current season. See here for some simply superb [Cahier Archive] photos from the 1961 season.
This weekend does not bring the excitement of last did with the Women’s World Cup, but there are three notable events, two of which are even sports related.
First up is the German Grand Prix from the famed Nurburgring in the Eifel Mountains. Nurburgring was also the site of the 1961 German Grand Prix. Continuing with this year’s homage to the 50th anniversary of the Championship season for my late friend Phil Hill, let’s go back for a minute to the sounds and smell of The Ring in 1961.
Nurburgring was a far different circuit in the 60s than it is today. Phil Hill took pole position in qualifying by shattering the lap record, becoming the first person to lap in under 9 minutes, with a stunning lap of 8 minutes 55.2 seconds (153.4 km/h or 95.3 mph) in the famed Ferrari 156 “Sharknose”. In the race though, Phil could not match Stirling Moss in his Lotus-Climax. Here is the Wiki description:
The race was won by British driver Stirling Moss driving a Lotus 18/21 for privateer outfit the Rob Walker Racing Team. Moss started from the second row of the grid and lead every lap of the race. It was the first German Grand Prix victory for a rear-engined car since Bernd Rosemeyer’s Auto Union Type C took victory in 1936. Moss finished just over 20 seconds ahead of Ferrari 156 drivers Wolfgang von Trips and Phil Hill, breaking a four-race consecutive run of Ferrari victories. The result pushed Moss into third place in the championship points race, becoming the only driver outside of Ferrari’s trio of von Trips, Hill and Richie Ginther still in contention to become the 1961 World Champion with two races remaining.
It was the last home country appearance for points leader von Trips before his death at the Italian Grand Prix five weeks later. His second place finish saw Ferrari secure the constructors’ championship. The remaining championship points scorers were all from British racing teams. Scottish driver Jim Clark (Lotus 21) was fourth for Team Lotus; former motorcycle World Champion John Surtees (Cooper T53) was fifth for Yeoman Credit Racing and young New Zealander Bruce McLaren was sixth in his factory-run Cooper T58.
The Nurburgring of today is a far different, more sterile and safer track, and much shorter, with a length of just under 3 miles as opposed to the former 14 miles plus. Mark Webber of Red Bull was fast in practice Friday and took pole today with a surprising P2 for Lewis Hamilton of McLaren. Sebastian Vettel in the other Red Bull is in P3, the first time he will not start from the front row this year. The Ferraris of Alonso and Massa will start in P4 and P5 respectively. The race day weather forecast is for cool temperatures, clouds and some rain, which should make for a very interesting race. Again, the assholes at Rupert Murdoch’s Fox TV will make US F1 fans watch the race on a tape delay, starting at 12 EST and 9 am PST.
In other sporting news, it looks like the great NFL Football lockout is in Continue reading
It is the most wonderful time of the year – that’s right, the start of the Formula One season. 2010 turned into a nailbiter at the end, with the young and fast Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull pulling out the Driver’s Championship over runner up Fernando Alonso of Ferrari and Red Bull teammate Mark Webber by winning the last race with in Abu Dhabi. And so we start the new 2011 season full of hope and expectations for all the teams, but with the strength still where it was last year, with Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren.
Already the season has been affected by extraneous forces, as it was scheduled to begin two weeks ago in Bahrain; but the turmoil of the crackdown on the Arab Spring in that country, thanks to the aid from shock troops from the oppressive US client state of Saudi Arabia, squelched that and delayed the season start until this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. But the boys are already tearing up Albert Park in Melbourne as qualifying just went off as I write this post. There is a new rule for qualifying in 2011, to be eligible for the grid you must be within 107% of the fastest time clocked in the first qualifying session. This is a concept toyed with once before in F1, but sacked. The premise is that you do not want to many slow cars in the field buggering up the path for the faster vehicles. We shall see how it plays out this time and how the grids fill out with the 107% rule in place.
Another significant change is that Bridgestone is gone as tire supplier for the teams. The new supplier will be Pirelli and all teams are, for once, working closely with the manufacturer to insure that no teams get favored status. The early reports are that the rubber is burning off slightly faster than was the case with the Bridgestones; the upshot is there may be more pit stops and there may be more of a premium Continue reading