The 1961 United States Grand Prix, officially known as the IV United States Grand Prix, was the final round of the 1961 Formula One Championship which saw Phil Hill declared as World Champion, despite not competing in the race. The race itself was held at Watkins Glen, which would become the permanent home of the United States Grand Prix after the 1961 edition of the Grand Prix became the first in the US to generate a profit.
The race also proved to be one of firsts on the circuit too, as Innes Ireland claimed his, and Team Lotus', first race victory, although Lotus built cars had won before. Also on the podium was American racer Dan Gurney, one of only two men not using a Climax engine, while Tony Brooks ended his career with a third place finish. The legendary driver Stirling Moss would also race for the final time at "the Glen", although the Brit would retire from the race while leading.
The tragic events of the Italian Grand Prix still hung over the Formula One paddock as the teams arrived in the United States for the season finale. The death of Wolfgang von Trips and fifteen spectators had decided the title in favour of his Ferrari teammate Phil Hill, who became the first American World Champion. Hill had hoped to race as the Champion at Watkins Glen, but Enzo Ferrari withdrew his teams' entry before the race (having already secured both Championships) as a mark of respect to their fallen German gladiator.
The withdrawal of Ferrari was a potential problem for "the Glen" and its organisers, particularly given that the previous two US Grand Prix had been flops. Sebring and Riverside had both hosted the race in the previous seasons, although low attendance, poor advertising and numerous other issues saw Alec Ulmann's dream of an established US Grand Prix almost disappear completely after the 1960 edition. The end of F1's association with the Indianapolis 500 also came to an end that year, and 1961 saw no Grand Prix scheduled to be held outside of Europe when the FIA released their calendar.
Cameron Argetsinger had picked up the bandwagon for the US Grand Prix after Ulmann's failures, and used his role as the Exective Director at Watkins Glen to push the FIA into running the US Grand Prix again. The FIA were satisfied and "the Glen" was officially recognised as the final round of the 1961 Championship just six weeks before it was scheduled to host the race. The circuit was well prepared for the Grand Prix machinery, while the location of the circuit had the added bonus of potentially drawing fans from Canada, only a couple of hours north of the circuit.
Entries for the race, other than the absent Italian Champions, featured almost all of the entrants to the 1961 Championship, reinforced with a selection of American based drivers. The major interest, however, laid in the fact that Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss were equipped with two new V8 Climax engines for the weekend (with the familiar L4 units in reserve). Several familiar faces from the Indianapolis days would also make an appearance on the grid, while Phil Hill would act as Grand Marshall of the race.
The full entry list for the 1961 United States Grand Prix is outlined below, arranged by car number:
Dry and warm in the late Autumn sun, Watkins Glen was in a picturesque state as the field began to set qualifying times. A large crowd had gathered for the joint practice and qualifying sessions, while there was intrigue among the teams as Coventry-Climax tested two new V8 engines, one given to Jack Brabham and the other to Stirling Moss.
Moss opted to try out both the V8 and the common L4 Climax engines during the session, with Moss setting the pace early on before switching to the new engine. Brabham, on the other hand, decided to use his new engine throughout the session, beating Moss' best time with the older equipment by over a second. The Brit then responded using the V8, but was unable to beat the Australian having lapped the circuit just 0.2 seconds slower. After the session, Moss elected to use the older spec engine, claiming his Lotus 21 handled better with the lighter machinery, meaning his V8 times were wiped.
That decision put Graham Hill onto the front row, who managed to beat his countryman's best time with the L4 engine almost unseen. Moss was left to share row two with Bruce McLaren, whose best time was matched (to the nearest tenth) by both Jim Clark and Tony Brooks. The best of the American racers was Dan Gurney, who pushed his Porsche to seventh, the only non-Climax in the top ten. Innes Ireland suffered a steering failure on the Friday before having to have his gearbox replaced on Saturday, with his engineers expecting the replacement to fail during the race.
Ken Miles' entry was withdrawn before the start of the session, while the back of the field was largely populated by American run machinery. Roger Penske stood out among the runners, his bright yellow Cooper one of the first cars to feature sponsorship although the Indy car driver was not brighting the time sheets down in sixteenth. Jim Hall, meanwhile, had made his debut at Riverside a year earlier and impressed, but struggled on his return almost five seconds down on Brabham.
The full qualifying results for the 1961 United States Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Moss originally used both the V8 and L4 Climax engines, setting a time good enough for second with V8. However, his decision to use the L4 engine in the race saw him dropped to third based on his best time with that engine.
- †Miles was withdrawn from the race before qualifying after missing the registration period.
- ‡Hill, Ginther and Rodriguez were all entered for the race weekend but were withdrawn before practice and qualifying.
Another warm day greeted the field at "the Glen", with over 60,000 people arriving at the circuit from Canada and the nearby city of New York. 28,000 of those people had paid an entry fee to watch the race from the small stands scattered around the circuit, a higher figure than the total attendance of the previous two US Grand Prix which ensured that the 1961 edition of the race would be a financial success.
Jack Brabham proved to be the best driver off the line with his V8 Climax, although Stirling Moss' claim that the L4 engine promoted better handling was proved when he slithered past the Australian later in the lap. A stunning start from Innes Ireland, meanwhile, had seen the Brit climb from eighth on the grid to third, while Graham Hill dropped to fourth. Also making a good start was Masten Gregory, who ran in sixth despite starting in eleventh, and now found himself attacking the back of Dan Gurney as the full time F1 drivers pulled clear of the American Privateers.
John Surtees had retired almost immediately when a connecting rod failed on his car on the opening lap, while Ireland almost joined him after spinning on the oil left behind. The Brit, fortunately, was able to recover without damage, dropping from third to eleventh in the process, although his works Team Lotus machine was still in fighting condition. Bruce McLaren was now running in third, as Moss pulled a small gap to Brabham whose team were concerned with overheating issues.
Ireland proved to be in the form of his life at "the Glen", putting aside his spin to push himself back into the top ten, and by lap ten found himself running in the wake of McLaren in a battle for third. Moss and Brabham, meanwhile, were pulling clear while battling for the lead, Brabham's cooling issues having receeded for the time being. Further down there were issues for the Privateers in their older equipment, Walt Hansgen retiring on lap 14, while Masten Gregory pulled into the pits to retire his car. Gregory, however, was able to get back into the race when his team pulled in team mate Olivier Gendebien a lap later and handed the Belgian's car to the American.
Brabham and Moss were continuing to pull clear at the front of the field, although that was set to change when the Climax engine in Brabham's car began to leak water on lap 35. By lap 56 the Cooper-Climax engine was empty of water and the Australian was out of the race, leaving Moss with a 40 second advantage over McLaren and Ireland. A lap later, however, it was Ireland leading the race, as he simulataneously passed McLaren and saw Moss limp his car into the pits. The blue Lotus 21 had developed an oil pressure fault and was forced to retire.
Ireland was left leading from Hill after his countryman also found his way past McLaren, the New Zealander beginning to lose pace. Ireland and Hill's scrap would last for fifteen laps, before Hill's car limped into the pits with a lose magneto wire, although he only lost a lap during the repair. The next man to cruise up to the back of Ireland's car was Roy Salvadori, who was having a good day in his privately entered Cooper, while Dan Gurney and Tony Brooks also slipped by the tumbling McLaren.
Salvadori was taking over four seconds a lap before his challenge ended in a cloud of smoke, the Brit having blown his engine, leaving Gurney as the only remaining challenger to Ireland. Yet, the American had time against him, and as Ireland completed the final lap in his battered Lotus, Gurney closed the gap to five seconds to just fall short of a historic home victory. But, it was Ireland's day, as he claimed a maiden win for himself and Team Lotus. Brooks completed his final race by finishing third, his tenth visit to the F1 podium.
The full results for the 1961 United States Grand Prix are outlined below:
|5||4||Graham Hill||BRM-Climax||99||+1 lap||2||2|
|6||11||Jo Bonnier||Porsche||98||+2 laps||10||1|
|7||14||Jim Clark||Lotus-Climax||96||+4 laps||5|
|8||6||Roger Penske||Cooper-Climax||96||+4 laps||16|
|9||16||Peter Ryan||Lotus-Climax||96||+4 laps||13|
|10||3||Hap Sharp||Cooper-Climax||93||+7 laps||17|
|11*||21||Olivier Gendebien||Lotus-Climax||92||+8 laps||15|
|Ret||17||Jim Hall||Lotus-Climax||76||Fuel Leak||18|
|Ret||18||John Surtees||Cooper-Climax||0||Connecting Rod||9|
- Gendebien shared his car with Gregory after the American's car retired on lap 23
- 10th pole position for Cooper.
- Innes Ireland claimed his first, and only, World Championship Grand Prix win.
- Also the fourth and final podium for Ireland.
- Team Lotus won for the first time.
- Fifth win for a Lotus built car.
- Final race for Tony Brooks (38) and Stirling Moss (66).
- Brooks' tenth and final podium finish.
Phil Hill and the tragically deceased Wolfgang von Trips were declared as Champion and runner up in the Championship, while Stirling Moss finished his final World Championship in third. Dan Gurney ended the season level on points with the legendary Brit but remained behind by virtue of Moss' win, while Richie Ginther completed the top five. The maiden win for Innes Ireland saw him move up to sixth, ahead of Bruce McLaren and Jim Clark, tied on 11 points.
Ferrari had won the Constructors' Championship for the first time in Monza, leaving a battle for second between two other teams. Ultimately, Team Lotus would end the season in second, beating Porsche courtesy of Ireland's win, while both pulled clear of Cooper-Climax at the finale. Concluding the point scoring constructors were BRM-Climax, with seven points to their name.
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: UNITED STATES GP, 1961', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr102.html, (Accessed 05/01/2016)
- '1961 United States Grand Prix', wikipedia.org, (WikiMedia, 24/12/2015), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1961_United_States_Grand_Prix, (Accessed 05/01/2015)
- Hamilton, Maurice, Grand Prix Circuits, (Glasgow: HarperCollins, 2015), pp.92-5
- '1961 United States Grand Prix: Qualifying', statsf1.com, (StatsF1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1961/etats-unis/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 05/01/2016)
|V T E||United States Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Sebring (1959), Riverside (1960), Watkins Glen (1961–1980), Phoenix (1989–1991), Indianapolis (2000–2007), Austin (2012–present)|
|Formula One Races||1959 • 1960 • 1961 • 1962 • 1963 • 1964 • 1965 • 1966 • 1967 • 1968 • 1969 • 1970 • 1971 • 1972 • 1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1977 • 1978 • 1979 • 1980 • 1981–1988 • 1989 • 1990 • 1991 • 1992–1999 • 2000 • 2001 • 2002 • 2003 • 2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007 • 2008–2011 • 2012 • 2013 • 2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 2018 • 2019 • 2020|
|Non-F1 races||1908 • 1909 • 1910 • 1911 • 1912 • 1913 • 1914 • 1915 • 1916 • 1917–1957 • 1958|
|See also||United States Grand Prix West • Indianapolis 500 • Detroit Grand Prix • Caesars Palace Grand Prix • Dallas Grand Prix • Questor Grand Prix|
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