The 1961 British Grand Prix was the fifth round of the 1961 FIA Formula One World Championship, held at the Aintree circuit near Liverpool, England. Held on the 15th of July, the XIV RAC British Grand Prix saw Ferrari all but secure the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, having claimed all three spots on the podium for the second time in three races.
Phil Hill claimed pole for the scarlet trio for the fourth consecutive race, but it would be team mate Wolfgang von Trips who swept to victory in a rain affected race. The West German racer also claimed the lead in the Drivers' Championship from his American team mate, with the two joined by Ferrari's lead driver Richie Ginther on the podium.
After a two week break, Formula One was back fighting for the World Championship, with almost all of the entrants from the earlier French Grand Prix in attendance once again. Giancarlo Baghetti was now a full factory driver with Ferrari after his stunning début win in Reims, although he would have his 156 run under the guise of Scuderia Sant Ambroeus. Former Ferrari driver Olivier Gendebien also returned to the grid in Britain, his Equipe Nationale Belge team finally completing a rebuild of one of their Emeryson 61s damaged in Belgium.
Unsurprisingly there were also a large number of British entrants for the British Grand Prix of 1961, headlined by the Team Lotus drivers Jim Clark and Innes Ireland. Elsewhere, Stirling Moss would run a 18/21 run by the R.R.C. Walker Racing Team, but also agreed to test the Ferguson P99, a four wheel drive car entered for one-off team mate Jack Fairman. Roy Salvadori once again partnered John Surtees at the Yeoman Credit Racing Team, while the Cooper Car Company were left waiting once again for Climax to build their new V8 engine, something the soon to be ex-Champions needed to counter the impressive Ferrari V6.
Despite failing to score at all in France, Phil Hill arrived in Britain with a one point lead over team mate Wolfgang von Trips. The presence of Richie Ginther in fourth, and the shock of the season Baghetti in fifth suggested that 1961 would ultimately be decided in favour of the scarlet coloured outfit, although Stirling Moss was valiantly holding on to his title hopes in third. Dan Gurney, Jim Clark, Olivier Gendebien, Innes Ireland and Bruce McLaren completed the top ten, while defending Champion Jack Brabham rounded out the scorers with just a single point.
Although there may have been hopes for a non-Ferrari victory in the Drivers' Championship, the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers looked set to be heading to Italy. The Italian firm had only missed out on one race victory in 1961, and their tally of 30 meant that Lotus-Climax would require two perfect weekends, and the Italian outfit to fail to score, to have any hope of overhauling them. Porsche, Cooper-Climax and BRM-Climax were the only other constructors to claim points, the last of that trio on the board after a single point in France.
The full entry list for the 1961 British Grand Prix is outlined below:
Unlike the record breaking weather in France, the British Grand Prix of 1961 was under more threat of a flood of rain rather than that of tarmac that the summer temperatures in Reims had caused two weeks earlier. Many spectators thought that the British privateers would be able to make a stand against the all conquering Ferraris in Aintree, with the low temperatures and narrow nature of the circuit expected to hamper the power of the scarlet quartet, allowing the nimble Cooper and Team Lotus cars to keep pace.
The hopes that the scarlet cars could be toppled fell on deaf ears during practice and qualifying, as Phil Hill claimed yet another pole position in 1961. Yet, it would not be an all Italian front row, as Jo Bonnier claimed third place to deny Wolfgang von Trips from joining Hill and Richie Ginther at the summit of the field. All four set an indentical lap time of 1:58.8, Hill setting his time the earliest to claim pole, with the entire field setting their best times before heavy rain swept across the circuit on Friday ahead of the race on Saturday.
The best of the Brits, meanwhile, would be Stirling Moss, who set his best time in his Lotus 18/21 before trying out the P99 on Friday morning. Tony Brooks, meanwhile, impressed to beat the two factory Team Lotus drivers, Innes Ireland ahead of Jim Clark, while tenth place for John Surtees meant that half of the top ten would be British for the British Grand Prix, although, typically, all of them were in the bottom half. Jack Brabham claimed ninth for Cooper-Climax late on Thursday, before attempting to "ride the waves" on Friday, as all watched in awe as the four wheel drive P99 pounded round the soaked circuit at record pace.
The full qualifying results for the 1961 British Grand Prix are outlined below:
|4||4||Wolfgang von Trips||Ferrari||1:58.8||+0.0s|
|18||56||Carel Godin de Beaufort||Porsche||2:02.0||+3.2s|
|Wolfgang von Trips||5|
|Carel Godin de Beaufort|
The rain and the wind continued onto Saturday morning, although as the two thirty start time approached some of the field had hopes of a dry start despite the skies remaining a solid grey. Those limited hopes, however, were immediately washed away as the clouds burst with fifteen minutes to go before the start, leaving the teams to push their now rain prepared cars onto the grid. Otherwise, the track would be in perfect condition for the race start, as the cars at the back of the field slowly crept forward just before the flag dropped to start the race.
A cloud of spray quickly mixed with the heavy rain hitting the circuit as the cars streamed away from the start, Phil Hill leading from scarlet partners Wolfgang von Trips and Richie Ginther through the first corner, von Trips having jumped the slow starting Jo Bonnier. The sheer amount of spray and water made telling the order difficult in the early stages of the first lap, but by the time a clear view of the cars could be made, the three Ferraris were being trailed by Stirling Moss, Bonnier, Jim Clark, the two BRMs, Jack Brabham, Innes Ireland, Roy Salvadori and Dan Gurney. John Surtees had suffered damage in the difficult conditions, the end of his exhaust dragging on the track, with the field surging onto the second lap with a definate split between the 1961 cars and the older privateer machinery.
By the end of the third lap the order remained largely stable, the three Ferraris working together to drop Bonnier, although they could not shake the fired up Lotus of Moss. Behind Bonnier came Clark and the two squabbling BRMs, Graham Hill having slithered by Tony Brooks on lap two, while Ireland had tumbled down the order after a spin that left him with an injured hand. Elsewhere, Jack Fairman was holding his own in the four wheel drive Ferguson P99, slowly climbing into the top half of the field with his extra traction, while Massimo Natili was the only retirement from the race with an engine failure.
It was not long, however, before Natili was joined on the sidelines, as masterful performances throughout the field began to succumb to the conditions. Henry Taylor was the first, the British privateer having managed to get among the second leading group in the early stages, before getting a tank slapper through the Melling Crossing, before his car slammed into an advertising hoarding. The Brit emerged from the car injured, his car having been destroyed on one side by a wooden stake supporting the hoarding. His accident came just moments after Ginther had slid through the very same corner, a slither that cost the American a podium place as Moss darted past him. Moss was not content with third however, and went charging off after the leading pair of Hill and von Trips, Ginther struggling to match his colleagues' pace.
The second pack was beginning to re-bunch behind Bonnier once again, the Swede struggling amid the torrents of water falling on the circuit. The silver Porsche was now in the sights of Hill who was now followed by Brabham, the soon-to-be ex-World Champion putting the Cooper T55 really through its paces in the difficult conditions. Surtees, meanwhile, forced his way past Clark with his exhaust still hugging the tarmac, while Bruce McLaren had dragged Fairman into the group, the New Zealander and the Brit now fighting with Dan Gurney as around ten cars came past the pits nose to tail.
Back with the leaders and Hill was beginning to lap back markers as early as lap seven, flashing past Gerry Ashmore as the Brit pulled off with an ignition failure. Yet, the American got caught trying to pass Keith Greene through the Melling Crossing, suddenly leaving von Trips and Moss right on his tail. Through Tatts at the end of the lap the trio flashed by Greene as one, with von Trips reacting the fastest on the brakes to slither into the lead of the race as they flashed past the pits. Hill now ran in second with Moss in third, while Ginther remained a fair distance back in fourth.
Bonnier lost out to Graham Hill in the second pack moments later, the Brit moving into fifth with a good move through Tatts, before Surtees lost two places with a 360 degree spin in the same corner. Brabham was next through the final corner, the Australian Champion avoiding the older Cooper before slinging a move down the inside of Bonnier to take sixth away from the Swede just a few seconds later. As Surtees' latest drama forced him into the pits for checks on his damaged exhaust, the leading trio came across the line as one, the blue Lotus trailing two scarlet Ferraris by just a few milimetres.
A couple of laps later and the stands erupted in cheer as Moss appeared ahead of Hill, the Brit having dived past the American through Tatts, although the mood was slightly dampened as Giancarlo Baghetti pulled an indentical move on Brooks a few moments later. Ginther remained in a lonely fourth ahead of the Graham Hill, the Brit now battling with Brabham, while Salvadori put Bonnier under more pressure in his attempts to claim a rare point. Clark ran behind them on his own, while Baghetti led a quartet of cars featuring latest victim Brooks, Gurney and Tony Marsh, the Brit pulling a stunning move to take both McLaren and Fairman as one.
Moss was on a charge for the lead now, and soon he and von Trips were ten seconds clear of Phil Hill, the American suffering from several minor slides, while Brooks suffered a misfire due to running in the spray and so had to make a long stop to change spark plugs. Other cars were also suffering issues caused by spray, Marsh also stopping for a fresh set of plugs, while Fairman dragged the P99 in after it cut out on lap fifteen through Bechers Bend. The problem, despite Fairman's claims of a short circuit, was diagnosed as damp plugs and a quick change put the P99 back into the race, only for Fairman to come in once again with the same issue. A more thorough investigation discovered a short on the chassis as the Brit had suggested, thought to have been caused when he ran over debris from Taylor's earlier accident. A quick fix and he was back in the race, albeit a handful of laps behind.
The leading pair continued to charge around the circuit, Moss opting to simply put pressure on the German to force a mistake rather than chance another move in the ever tricky conditions. Further back, Brabham had dispensed with Graham Hill and was charging after Ginther, while Salvadori pulled a stunning succession of passes to claim seventh back from Clark and Bonnier after a small mistake earlier on. Gurney was back at full tilt and now attacking his team mate while Surtees surged past Baghetti for tenth on lap 22, only to see his charging Cooper let down by a transmission failure a lap later.
Through the Melling Crossing on lap 24 and von Trips remained in the lead ahead of Moss as usual, although the Brit was about to display his formidable talents in an unprecedented way. Having had a small slide through the Crossing, Moss suddenly hit a deeper puddle, throwing his Lotus into a tank slapping slide, the Brit chucking full opposite lock on the catch the slide. Just as quickly the car responded, slinging its tail out to the left with Moss reacting just as quickly to put full right lock on to try to gather the car together once again. A few more pendulum swings to opposite sides of the circuit saw Moss opt for an extreme solution, and as the car swung around to the right for a fourth time the Brit threw the steering wheel in the direction of the slide, forcing the slide into a perfect pirouette. The blue Lotus was once again under Moss' expert control, although he had lost valuable seconds to von Trips after his brief career as a stunt driver.
Now ten seconds in arrears, von Trips' only concern was back markers, with the German narrowly falling victim to his own team mate as Baghetti lost control Waterway and smashed through the outside barrier. The Italian emerged from his car unhurt a few moments later as his rivals charged by, just before Lucien Bianchi hit the same puddle Moss had hit a few laps earlier. Unfortunately for the Belgian his reactions were just a fraction too slow, and so his Lotus was thrown into the grass before spinning as he rejoined the circuit. Phil Hill also hit trouble through Melling, another to fall victim to a spin which prompted the American to slow his pace and allow Ginther to catch up and, eventually, take third place away.
As half distance approached the clouds suddenly evaporated from the skies, leaving blinding sunshine in its wake. This change in fortune suddenly awakened the racer in Clark, who forced his way past Graham Hill before catching Brabham hand-over-fist as the Australian began to struggle with water temperatures in the quickly warming conditions. Phil Hill also looked to have regained some confidence, the American setting off after Ginther having fallen some way behind, before Moss endured yet more misfortune in a frustrating 1961 season for the Brit. Braking issues had caused Moss' retirement in France, and so his sudden inability to match the Ferraris left the fans fearing the worst, with Ginther flashing by the Brit on lap 40. By lap 45 it was all over, Moss pulling his Lotus in with a failed brake pipe for the second race in a row, leaving Ferrari set for another podium lock out with 30 laps still to go.
Ginther and Hill swapped places as all three scarlet cars eased off the pace now that their closest, and only, challenger was out of the race, von Trips now over twenty seconds clear. Brabham was now sat in fourth, still losing time to Clark although his pace was improving, while Salvadori and a resurgent Bonnier remained the only other cars on the lead lap. Then, all of a sudden, Moss was out on the circuit now wielding the #26 car of Fairman with the Brit immediately up to the pace of the leaders. Team Walker had opted to put Moss in the experimental P99 on the basis that a few laps with his incredible speed would be just as valuable as Fairman's consistent, but steady, pace.
Ferrari immediately pushed for the car to be disqualified, Fairman having been given a push start when rejoining from his earlier problems despite the fact that those troubles had been almost an hour and a half before. With Moss no threat to their victory orbiting several laps behind, only political reasoning could be found for the sudden decision for Ferrari to see the rules enforced as they were among a number of teams unwilling to see the P99 be seen as a successful project. Moss was a problem in a year old Lotus, and so an innovative four wheel drive car, sponsored by Walker with Moss at the wheel would have been a serious threat to the Italian's standing. With 56 laps on the board Moss was dragged into the pits, now out of the race completely despite a perfectly healthy P99 being pushed out of the paddock.
The final laps saw von Trips stretch his legs, taking over a second a lap out of his team mates while Brabham finally found some fortune amid a difficult season. Clark had closed right onto the Cooper's tail, and with twelve laps to go the Scot was lining up a move on the Australian only for his Lotus to dump all of its oil on the run up to Waterway. Bonnier was the other man to benefit, the Swede's pace now up to the level of the cruising Ferraris meaning Salvadori was easy prey in the closing stages. Yet, ultimately, the scarlet trio were not to be denied, and von Trips crossed the line over three quarters of a minute ahead of his team mates to claim a second victory of the season.
The full results for the 1961 British Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||4||Wolfgang von Trips||Ferrari||75||2:40:53.6||4||9|
|7||10||Dan Gurney||Porsche||74||+1 lap||12|
|8||14||Bruce McLaren||Cooper-Climax||74||+1 lap||14|
|9||22||Tony Brooks||BRM-Climax||73||+2 laps||6|
|10||16||Innes Ireland||Lotus-Climax||72||+3 laps||7|
|11||42||Masten Gregory||Cooper-Climax||71||+4 laps||16|
|12||60||Lorenzo Bandini||Cooper-Maserati||71||+4 laps||21|
|13||50||Tony Maggs||Lotus-Climax||69||+6 laps||24|
|14||44||Ian Burgess||Lotus-Climax||69||+6 laps||25|
|15||54||Keith Greene||Gilby-Climax||69||+6 laps||23|
|16||56||Carel Godin de Beaufort||Porsche||69||+6 laps||18|
|Ret||18||Jim Clark||Lotus-Climax||62||Oil line||8|
|17||52||Wolfgang Seidel||Lotus-Climax||58||+17 laps||22|
|Ret||28||Stirling Moss||Lotus-Climax||44||Water pipe||5|
- * Fairman completed 45 laps in the Ferguson P99, with Moss completing a further eleven before car #26 was disqualified for a push start.
- Only entry for a front-engined Formula One car, the Ferguson P99.
- Also the first entry for a four wheel drive car.
- Debut for Gerry Ashmore.
- Second career victory for Wolfgang von Trips.
- Also the final victory for von Trips
- Last of three fastest laps for Tony Brooks
Victory for Wolfgang von Trips saw him streak into the lead of the Drivers' Championship ahead of team mate Phil Hill, who went from a one point lead to being two behind the German before drop scores came into play for the rest of the season. Richie Ginther was now in third, eleven points of the lead, but was ensuring a Ferrari one-two-three at the head of the Championship, denying Stirling Moss from the top three by four points. Giancarlo Baghetti completed the top five to make it four Ferrari drivers in the top five, albeit the Italian remaining level on points with Dan Gurney as the field departed for the German Grand Prix later in the year.
Ferrari were now almost certain of claiming their first Constructors' Championship due to their near perfect race record in 1961, von Trips' victory ensuring that they would have claimed the honours in at least half of the season's races. Their 38 point tally was more than double that of their nearest challengers Lotus-Climax, who were now the only manufacturer who could match their record. Porsche would have been more of a concern for the British manufacturer, the German outfit now in double figures for the season, while Cooper-Climax continued their unsuccessful title defence down in fourth. BRM-Climax rounded out the scorers with their solitary point from France.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: BRITISH GP, 1961', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr099.html, (Accessed 06/05/2016)
- 'Britain 1961: Race Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1961/grande-bretagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 06/05/2016)
- '14th R.A.C. British Grand Prix', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, August 1961), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/august-1961/20/14th-rac-british-grand-prix, (Accessed 11/05/2016)
- 'Britain 1961: Qualification', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1961/grande-bretagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 09/05/2016)
- 'Britain 1961: Race Results', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1961/grande-bretagne/classement.aspx, (Accessed 11/05/2016)
|V T E||British Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Brooklands (1926 - 1927), Silverstone (1948 - Present), Aintree (1955 - 1962), Brands Hatch (1963 - 1986)|
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