The 1963 Italian Grand Prix, officially known as the 34° Gran Premio d'Italia, was the seventh round of the 1963 FIA Formula One World Championship, held on 8th of September at Monza. The race would be remembered for numerous battles for the lead of the race and as the deciding round of the Championship, despite there being three races still to go.
Jim Clark arrived in Italy having been beaten in Germany, but it still came as a surprise when the Scot was beaten to pole by John Surtees for Ferrari. Off the line, Clark had beaten Surtees off the line and battled with Graham Hill for the lead into Curva Grande, but by the end of the lap Hill led from Surtees with Clark in third.
On the fourth lap Surtees forced his way into the lead, with Clark also sneaking past his rival before he and Surtees pulled clear for a private dice for the win. When Surtees retired on lap 17 Clark was well ahead, but he soon fell back into the clutches of Hill, who had Dan Gurney in close attendance. They battled for the lead for over twenty laps before mechanical problems dropped Hill and Gurney down the order, leaving Clark on his own once again.
The Scot eased his pace allowing Richie Ginther to unlap himself in the closing stages, but he remained unchallenged to collect his fifth win of the season. The Scot was now just three points off of maximum points and with only three races to go Clark was duly crowned as the World Champion of 1963. Team Lotus were also crowned as the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers winners with the result.
Most of the teams had been rebuilding their cars after the punishing German Grand Prix, with many hoping that the organisers would change their minds on using the banking. After the horrendous accident of Wolfgang von Trips at the 1961 Italian Grand Prix, the banking had been closed to have improvements made for safety's sake, although these were far from being complete for the 1962 Italian Grand Prix. By the time of the 1963 race, a guard rail lined the top of the banking, but a scary accident for Bob Anderson in practice for the race saw the local Police force examine the banking and declare it unsafe. The organisers apologised for the safety issues and closed off the banking, meaning the race would be run on the road course only.
Before that, however, two teams arrived with reserve drivers in their main cars. One of those was Ferrari, who had Lorenzo Bandini standing in for Willy Mairesse after the Belgian's career ending accident in Germany. Bandini's usual challenger with Scuderia Centro Sud was handed over to Maurice Trintignant for the weekend, with Team Lotus using a different approach.
A huge accident at the Mediterranean Grand Prix had left Trevor Taylor in hospital for much of the break, meaning the second Lotus was without a driver. Peter Arundell would have taken over the spot, but his Formula Junior duties meant he was away, meaning Colin Chapman had to call upon a man unknown to the Grand Prix world. Mike Spence was their second driver in the Junior series and should have been supporting Arundell in Albi, but the needs of the Grand Prix team took precedence and so the Englishman would make his F1 début at Monza.
Elsewhere, BRM would field their new car, now officially christened as the P61 with an all new engine, with Graham Hill entered as the driver. Richie Ginther would use his familiar challenger, while Trintignant had already been confirmed in the third factory supported car with Centro Sud. This was in contrast to Brabham-Climax, with team owner Jack Brabham having to revert to an older car after his BT7 was too badly damaged in Germany.
Cooper-Climax were ready to go to battle once again without any issues, while ATS hoped to impress at their home race. Scirocco-BRM were also entered for the Italian race with both cars set to go, with Lola-Climax seeing three of their products on display, two with Reg Parnell Racing. Completing the manufacturer backed teams were BRP-BRM, with Innes Ireland back using their Mk1.
In terms of the Championship, Italy presented the first opportunity for Jim Clark to take the title. Having finished second in Germany, the Scot had a twenty point lead although there were still 36 points to fight for. Yet, once dropped scores were applied to other drivers, which meant there was a maximum score of 54 for the season, a victory for Clark at Monza would leave him three short of that total an unbeatable for the rest of the season.
Team Lotus likewise arrived with a chance of earning their first crown, their lead in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers enough that a win for one of their cars would give them victory. BRM led the rest of the field, but they could only hope to delay their rivals the title for another weekend. They instead would be hoping to keep second in an enticing scrap for second, featuring Ferrari, Cooper and Brabham.
The full entry list for the 1963 Italian Grand Prix is outlined below:
The combined practice and qualifying sessions kicked off on Friday afternoon, although those whom had never used the banking were allowed to run that morning. After Bob Anderson's accident that afternoon the organisers were forced to close the banking, meaning the rest of the practice was run on the road course only, and the Friday times wiped. The grid was also cut down, with the thirty three entrants now battling to get one of twenty grid slots, so long as they were within ten percent of the fastest time.
The Friday session was dominated by Ferrari and BRM, those pair being among the only runners not to moan about the circuit, with John Surtees and Graham Hill topping the times. Jim Clark was waiting for a new spring setup to be applied while Mike Spence failed to set a time in the compulsory session for new drivers and so was not allowed to practice. It was a session slow to kick off, although most of the field had set a time before Anderson's accident closed the banking.
As the Brit came onto the southern bank, the left rear axle of his Lola-Climax sheared, throwing the car into the barrier at the top of the banking. His car bounced off the railing and skidded down the banking, with Anderson claiming he was lucky to escape the incident uninjured. The debris, however, had sailed over the barrier and into the trees behind, with the Police, who had been called by the organisers to inspect the circuit afterwards, concluding that there was too little protection for spectators and so the banking was closed. The session resumed with a few minutes left, with Hill, Surtees and Clark all setting times within two tenths of one-another on the road course.
After a Friday night and Saturday morning affected by numerous cloudbursts, the second and final session began an hour earlier than scheduled at 2:30 pm. The times steadily came down from the late Friday session, with Surtees, Hill and Clark all trying to break under 1:39.0. The session ended with those three in that order, with Clark's running severely hampered with an engine issue, meaning he could only set a time within half a second of Hill.
Yet, Surtees proved to be in a class of his own, the Englishman flying round Monza with a 1:37.3, over a second quicker than Hill. The second session also saw a crash, this time seeing Chris Amon fly off the circuit through the Lesmo section to put himself in hospital overnight. The second Lola accident in as many days did not deter Mike Hailwood, for Amon's crash was down to driver error, while Anderson managed to qualify for the race after his car was changed.
The full qualifying results for the 1963 Italian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|DNQ||64||Mário de Araújo Cabral||Cooper-Climax||1:55.00||1:44.80||+7.50s|
|DNQ||28||Carel Godin de Beaufort||Porsche||—||1:46.40||+9.10s|
|DNQ||44||Roberto Lippi||De Tomaso-Ferrari||2:03.90||2:03.90||+26.60s|
- * Amon was unable to start the race because of his accident. Baghetti would start from the back of the twenty starters.
Without the familiar support series Formula Junior, the running on Sunday morning was handed over to a G.T. race, won by Roy Salvadori in an Aston Martin to the disappointment of the 50,000 home fans. The Grand Prix was set to start at 3:30 in the afternoon using the road course, with all of the teams working hard to fit larger reserve fuel tanks for the race. There were no concerns about the weather, however, with the circuit bathed in warm sunshine.
It was a long hold before the flag dropped, which meant that pole sitter John Surtees was caught out and fell to third. Jim Clark swung around the slow starting Ferrari to run into Curva Grande side-by-side with Graham Hill. The Scot knew that he had to run with the BRM and the scarlet Ferrari with their more powerful engines, and so was neatly tucked behind the BRM as the Surtees made it a three way fight for the lead.
Before the end of the first lap it was Hill leading from Surtees with Clark right on the Ferrari's tail, before a small gap to the rest of the field, headed by Dan Gurney and Lorenzo Bandini. The lead battle, however, was the focus, with Surtees sending his car down the inside of Hill at Lesmo, briefly snatching the lead. Yet, the BRM got a better exit and retook the position, with Clark remaining a threat to both with the trio fanning out down the straights to challenge each other.
Into Curva Grande on lap three and the scarlet Ferrari snatched the lead having run a fraction of an inch from the side of Hill down the start/finish straight before taking the inside for the fast right hander. Clark was still hanging on, although he had his attention split between attack and defence, Gurney and Bandini having broken free of the second pack and tagged onto the lead battle. Yet, before the end of lap four the order had shuffled again, Clark having danced his car past Hill through Lesmo to take second, and opted to follow, rather than attack, Surtees.
Surtees and Clark then began to pull away, the powerful "Aero" spec Ferrari able to drag the Lotus along with it. Hill should have gone with them, but just moments after Clark went past the BRM, the Englishman had to fend off the Brabham-Climax of Gurney. They were soon dropped by the leading pair, becoming part of a four way scrap for third once Richie Ginther had taken Bandini. It was the familiar Monza display of slipstreaming, with the third group featuring Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Jo Bonnier, Innes Ireland and Tony Maggs rarely remaining in the same order.
Back with the battle for the lead and Surtees was trying out his motorbike racing talents to try to shake Clark's green-gold Lotus, weaving down the straights. The Scot remained glued to the rear of the Englishman however, and the lack of forward momentum allowed Hill and Gurney to catch up and form lead quartet. Behind came Ginther and Bandini, now having to fight off Ireland as he stormed through the Brabham pack, with that trio's fight causing them to fall out of the slipstream effect of the leaders.
The Surtees/Clark battle was proving to be an epic, the Lotus able to draw level with the Ferrari on the exit of most corners, before slipping back down the straights. For the first sixteen laps the lead battle was furiously fought, until a groan erupted from the stands as Clark came through Parabolica on his own. On the run out of Lesmo, the scarlet car had ground to a halt with a spectacular engine failure.
Yet, although Clark was now leading by two seconds, the lack of a Ferrari punching a hole in the air down the straights for the Lotus meant the Scot was slowly drawn in by Gurney and Hill. By the time the race reached quarter distance the battle for the lead was on again, Clark having slipped into the clutches of Hill and Gurney with the three engaging in an exciting truel. A fair way behind came the truel for fourth, Bandini now ahead of Ireland and Ginther, while Brabham led a long train for seventh even further back.
The pits had been rather quiet during the race, the only visitor having been Surtees after his car was dragged back, until Giancarlo Baghetti came in. A fair amount of negotiation had been made to get the Italian on the grid, a spare grid slot having opened once Chris Amon was confirmed as being unable to start. Yet, his visit on lap 26 was to cure an unspecified issue while the Italian was running on his own, just as team mate Phil Hill dropped away from Jo Siffert and Jim Hall.
The battle for lead continued to excite the fans, even those who were upset that Surtees' Ferrari was not in the race anymore. Down the start/finish straight it was often Gurney and Hill coming across the line for a dead heat, although through the back of the circuit it would often be Clark who led the field. Their battle raged to half distance, with a fourway scrap emerging behind once again, as Brabham escaped his own train and caught Bandini and co., with a similar situation among the quartet.
Just before half distance the crowd were in dismay once again, for Bandini limped into the pits to retire, the second Ferrari's gearbox having broken beyond repair. Clark, Gurney and Hill continued to excite, however, the trio never more than a few car lengths apart, while Ireland lost time in the BRP-BRM when it decided to refuse to change gear. The Englishman had managed to keep with the group while the problem occured, and was soon on their tails once again once it had resolved itself, dragging McLaren and Bonnier with him.
Suddenly, the lead battle became a duel, for Gurney and Clark came through the Parabolica together, with Hill some distance behind, and losing ground all the time. The BRM had developed a serious clutch slip, serious enough that the Englishman had to stop to have the issue looked at, while Clark and Gurney continued to swap position throughout the lap. They were soon coming up to lap the second group being led by Ginther, with Brabham, Ireland, Bonnier and McLaren still battling away behind.
Hill briefly reappeared a few laps later, his mechanics having put fluid on the clutch to try to solve the slip, but the problem proved to be deeper than thought and so the #12 BRM was out. As his race ended, Clark began to hold the lead from Gurney on a more consistent basis, the American having lost time trying to lap Ginther and Brabham. Once the Brabham-Climax was through it was to be found on the back of Clark once again, with Ginther, now a lap down in third tagging onto the back of the leading pair in an attempt to escape from his pack.
A few laps later, and with the entire field a lap down, the race was seemingly over, for Clark came charging through Parabolica on his own once again. Gurney came limping past the pits a few moments later, losing ground with a fuel flow problem which could not be cured, promoting Ginther into second with a quarter of the race left. Mike Spence now disappeared from his debut race with an oil pressure issue, the Englishman having battled with Maggs for most of the race.
The battle for second now began to break up, Ginther managing to drop Brabham while running in Clark's wake, before the Scot let him go with a few laps left. Bonnier dropped away from the group when he stopped for fuel with ten laps to go, while Brabham lost time when his reserve tank failed to engage properly, meaning he had to stop. Those stops promoted Ireland into third and McLaren fourth, with Brabham and Bonnier reappearing from fuel stops in fifth and sixth respectively.
There was one last spanner in the works for the podium positions, and as Clark rounded the Parabolica to win the race, Ireland's engine seized on the back straight. McLaren flashed past to claim third place once Ginther had completed his final tour to be the only other man on the lead lap, with the rest of the points shared between Ireland, Brabham and Bonnier. Yet, all of the attention was on the race winner, for a fifth win of the season for Clark saw him declared as World Champion of 1963 with three races to go, with Team Lotus declared as Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers Champions.
The full results for the 1963 Italian Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Ireland, Spence, Gurney and Graham Hill were all still classified despite failing to complete the final lap.
- Final World Championship race with a distance over 300 miles (482.8 km)
- Début for Mike Spence.
- Jim Clark claimed the Formula One World Championship for the first time.
- Also the earliest point in any World Championship year that the Champion had been crowned.
- Fifth win of the season for Clark.
- Also the tenth fastest lap of the Scot's career.
A fifth win of the season, combined with his second place from Germany gave Jim Clark a total of 51 points, just three shy of the maximum tally of 54 (only six point scoring results counted to each driver's total). With just three races to go, the Scot could not be caught, meaning he was World Champion for the first time and the first to win the title with more than two rounds still to go. Richie Ginther left Italy in second but with less than half the number of points than the new Champion. John Surtees slipped to third having retired from the lead, while Bruce McLaren overtook now ex-Champion Graham Hill.
Dropped scores were now in effect in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers standings, although Lotus-Climax were duly declared as Champions with 51 points out of the maximum 54. BRM sat in second, 23 points away but had a slim advantage over Ferrari in third. Cooper-Climax looked to do battle with the Scuderia for third for the rest of the season, although BRM were still catchable, while Brabham-Climax completed the top five.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: ITALIAN GP, 1963', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr118.html, (Accessed 09/06/2016)
- D.S.J., '34th Italian Grand Prix: Lotus-Climax win on reliability', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/10/1963), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/october-1963/40/34th-italian-grand-prix, (Accessed 09/06/2016)
- 'Italy 1963: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1963/italie/engages.aspx, (Accessed 09/06/2016)
- 'Italy 1963: Qualification', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1963/italie/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 09/06/2016)
- 'Italy 1963: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1963/italie/classement.aspx, (Accessed 10/06/2016)
|V T E||Italian Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Monza (1950 - 1979, 1981 - Present), Imola (1980)|
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