The 1969 British Grand Prix, otherwise known as the XXII RAC British Grand Prix, was the sixth round of the 1969 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged on the 19th of July 1969 at Silverstone. The race would see an exciting battle for the lead, until bodywork damage and a lack of fuel denied Jochen Rindt a chance at victory.
The weekend had started well for the Austrian racer, as Rindt claimed pole position for Lotus-Ford Cosworth, denying Jackie Stewart who had been dominating the season so far. In truth, the Scot had hampered his own weekend during the session, a crash having forced him into teammate Jean-Pierre Beltoise's car for the rest of the weekend.
Yet, the Scot would start the race from second, and when the flag dropped it would be the blue Matra-Ford Cosworth that challenged Rindt for the lead. Those two would soon disappear from the rest of the field, led into the opening lap by Denny Hulme.
The duel for the lead would steal the show, with Stewart and Rindt running nose to tail, often swapping positions as they pulled further and further ahead of third placed Hulme. Indeed, the pair would remain locked together until the closing stages, when fatigue began to overcome one of the two pretenders.
That fatigue was affecting Rindt's car, with the rear wing endplates worked lose, Stewart signalling to the Austrian that he had an issue. Rindt duly stopped for a quick repair, rejoining well clear of third place, but before he could put together a response to Stewart, the Lotus ran out of fuel, forcing him back into the pits. Stewart was therefore left to collect another seemingly dominant victory, a lap clear of the entire field, while Rindt rejoined in fourth.
Completing the podium were Jacky Ickx and Bruce McLaren, the former having worked his way through the order with a series of impressive overtakes. McLaren inherited third when Hulme suffered an engine failure, while the remaining points went to privateers Piers Courage and Vic Elford.
It had been a busy week and a half before the F1 circus arrived at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, with most of the field arriving well before the first official practice session on Thursday. Indeed, everyone bar Team Lotus would complete a shakedown run before the opening timed session of the weekend, on a circuit which was unchanged since its last World Championship race in 1967. The entry list was boosted by a wave of fresh entrants, including an intriguing 4WD attempt by engine builder Cosworth.
The Cosworth project was based entirely around their DFV engine, which had been increasingly used to run 4WD testbeds by Lotus and Matra. As a result, Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth commissioned Robin Herd to design and build a chassis, named the Cosworth 4WD. The team arrived at Silverstone a week before the race and let Trevor Taylor lose with the car in hopes of sorting any potential teething troubles out, although too many minor problems meant the effort was withdrawn before any official running.
Elsewhere, Team Lotus were delayed in arriving at Silverstone, but when they did arrive on Thursday they brought a full compliment of cars for Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt and John Miles to use. The latter would try his hand in one of two 63s, Colin Chapman's latest attempt at a 4WD car, while Rindt and Hill would use the more conventional RWD 49Bs, if they were unhappy with the other 63. The familiar blue-white 49B of the Rob Walker Racing Team was also present, once again in the hands of Jo Siffert, while a second Lotus 63 was entered by Grand Prix Drivers Association President Jo Bonnier.
The Ken Tyrrell run Matra International squad were also out in force in Northamptonshire, bringing their 4WD MS84, along with the two RWD MS80s they had used for most of the season. Championship leader Jackie Stewart would be the principle runner of the MS84, although it was likely that the Scot would favour his usual MS80 with which he had danced to victory four times. Jean-Pierre Beltoise would fill the team's second seat as usual, with a recent improvement in form meaning he could be a challenger for victory.
A fourth 4WD design would also arrive at Silverstone, as Bruce McLaren Motor Racing brought a trio of orange cars up from their base in the South East of England. Denny Hulme and boss Bruce McLaren would use the cars they had raced throughout the season, while Derek Bell, on loan from rivals Ferrari, would try his hand in the new M9A. The new creation featured 4WD, something which McLaren had been quietly developing throughout the year, and it would be left up to Bell to put the car through its paces on its first public appearance. A fourth McLaren chassis would be in the hands of Vic Elford, once again racing for privateers Antique Automobiles.
Elsewhere, Brabham-Ford Cosworth had been forced into finding a replacement driver to partner Jacky Ickx, with Jack Brabham still recovering from his accident while testing before the French Grand Prix. The Gaffer called upon former driver Dan Gurney to fill the team's second seat, an old BT26A, although the American failed to arrive due to a late disagreement over payment. Frank Williams had a third Brabham car in the field, once again running Piers Courage whose performances were attracting attention from several factory teams.
Ferrari were finally beginning to dedicate resources to their F1 programme now the 24 Hours of Le Mans was out of the way, and so regular runner Chris Amon would finally have some on track support. His teammate would be Mexican racer Pedro Rodríguez, who had left BRM to race with the Italian team in one of the three red cars brought to Silverstone. BRM themselves had resolved enough of their problems to actually get to their home race, with John Surtees and Jackie Oliver back in action in an unchanged line-up.
Another dominant display by Jackie Stewart boosted his lead in the Championship to twenty points, the equivalent of two race wins and a fifth place finish. Graham Hill's lowly sixth place left him as the Scot's closest challenger, although the season already looked to be over given with more than half of the races still left to be run. Elsewhere, privateer Jo Siffert was putting most of the field to shame in third, level on points with Bruce McLaren, while Jean-Pierre Beltoise moved ahead of Denny Hulme after his second podium finish of the year.
Like their lead driver Stewart, Matra-Ford Cosworth would leave France with an enhanced lead in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers' battle, leaving their home race with a fourteen point advantage. Lotus-Ford Cosworth could still be considered a threat, fourteen points back, but their challenge was once again being hampered by reliability and drivability issues. McLaren-Ford Cosworth and Brabham-Ford Cosworth were closer to Lotus than the Norfolk squad were to Matra, and both had a healthy gap back to the fifth placed Ferrari effort.
The full entry list for the 1969 British Grand Prix is outlined below:
Three sessions across Thursday and Friday would be officially timed as part of practice/qualifying, allowing five hours of on track time for the drivers. Consistent weather across the weekend ensured that the teams would spend a lot of time on track, while Friday morning saw an untimed session held to allow teams to shakedown their cars after overnight work. The target time for the top drivers would be the old circuit record of 1:25.1 set by Chris Amon in 1968, although the pre-weekend running had seen most of the field surpass the New Zealander's mark by over two seconds.
Jackie Stewart had dominated qualifying throughout 1969, and when the Scot recorded a 1:21.5 during his first series of runs on Thursday morning, it seemed as if pole had already been settled. The urgency of Stewart's quick run was based on a desire to get the MS84 out on track, with the Scot soon climbing behind the wheel. Teammate Jean-Pierre Beltoise was a little slower to the boil, ultimately ending the session with a 1:23.0, while Stewart managed to push the 4WD Matra to a respectable time of 1:24.1.
Elsewhere, Thursday morning would see Pedro Rodríguez begin to repay the faith shown by Ferrari in his abilities, ending the session second fastest with 1:22.6, a tenth quicker than Chris Amon. Graham Hill, meanwhile, became tired of waiting for Team Lotus to bring their cars to the pits and so went out for a run in Brabham-Ford Cosworths newest BT26A, originally entered for Dan Gurney. The defending Champion's pace was impressive, beating Brabham's regular racer Jacky Ickx by half a second.
By the time the afternoon session started, Lotus were ready to send their cars out, with Hill and John Miles going out in the 4WD cars, while Jochen Rindt stuck with his RWD 49B. Of the three Rindt was, unsurprisingly, quickest, ramping up the pace to try and challenge Stewart, while Miles failed to record a meaningful time. Hill spent most of the day with the 63, but when problems began to mount up the Brit moved back to his 49B.
Indeed, the Lotus 63 was not filling the team with confidence, with Hill failing to beat the best time of the McLaren M9A in the hands of Derek Bell. McLaren as a whole looked to be potential challengers, with Hulme ending the day level with Rindt to the nearest tenth, prompting the organisers to publish their times to the nearest thousandth, with the former ahead by just 0.003s. Those two would lead the anti-Matra challenge, with Ickx, Amon, and Rodriguez joining them as Stewart set another lap record at 1:21.3.
After the midday shakedown all of the focus would be on the battle for pole, with the final two hour session split into four thirty minute periods. First blood went to Stewart, who went out early to record a 1:21.1, before sitting back to watch his rivals, who spent most of the rest of the first runs trying to match his mark. Yet, the contented Scot would be knocked off of his perch in the final moments of the first half hour, for Rindt suddenly danced across the line to record a 1:21.0, with Stewart unable to respond.
Part two of Friday and Stewart was out early once again, recording a 1:20.6 to put Rindt back in his place with the Austrian unable to break through the 1:21.0 barrier. Session three saw Stewart go out in the 4WD Matra, taunting Rindt as he slowly worked his way down towards Stewart's best time, recording a 1:21.4, just as Stewart went back out in his MS80. The Scot was already on the limit, and his attempts to improve late on in the third session ended in disaster, for the Scot barrelled into Woodcote and straight into a dislodged piece of kerb, which he struck with enough force to puncture his front right tyre. Traveling at 135 mph the Matra was suddenly thrown sideways before ending its day by slamming backwards into the earth bank on the outside of the circuit, destroying the back half of the chassis and most of the major components. Stewart, thankfully, was uninjured and able to escape with ease, running back to the pits to explain what had happened to a concerned Ken Tyrrell.
With Stewart out the pressure was off on Rindt, who duly recorded a 1:20.8 to claim the £100 prize for pole, as it was a certainty that Stewart would not be starting the car he had used throughout the weekend. That said the Scot would run in the final session, elbowing Beltoise out of his MS80 so that he could challenge Rindt again. It was another masterful performance from the Scot as he quickly managed to best Beltoise's best time despite using the Frenchman's setup, ending the day on a 1:21.2, enough to ensure that he would start alongside Rindt on the front row.
The full qualifying results for the 1969 British Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||2||Jochen Rindt||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||No Time||1:22.397||1:20.8||—|
|2||3||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||1:21.5||1:21.3||1:21.2||+0.4s|
|3||5||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:24.0||1:22.394||1:21.5||+0.7s|
|4||7||Jacky Ickx||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:24.1T||1:22.5T||1:21.6||+0.8s|
|7||6||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:23.9||1:23.5||1:22.6||+1.8s|
|9||10||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:23.6||1:24.7||1:22.7||+1.9s|
|10||16||Piers Courage||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:31.8||1:24.3||1:22.9||+2.1s|
|11||19||Vic Elford||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:29.3||1:26.7||1:23.3||+2.5s|
|12||1||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||No Time||1:26.9||1:23.6||+2.8s|
|14||9||John Miles||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||No Time||3:18.0||1:25.1||+4.3s|
|15||20||Derek Bell||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:26.9||1:26.1||3:01.3||+5.3s|
|16||18||Jo Bonnier||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||No Time||No Time||1:28.2||+7.4s|
|17||4||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra-Ford Cosworth||1:23.0T||1:22.6T||1:31.2||+10.4s|
|WD||8||Dan Gurney||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
Unlike practice, raceday would dawn grey and dull, although temperatures still remained on the warm side. The Grand Prix cars would have to wait until the afternoon as a myriad of support races including the British Saloon Car Championship took to the track. Once those were out of the way the field assembled on the grid, awaiting a tense duel between Jochen Rindt and Jackie Stewart who were the class of the field.
When the flag fell there were no surprises as Rindt and Stewart immediately shot away from the field, entering Copse side-by-side. The Austrian racer had the inside line and so was able to take the lead, although the Scot would tuck right into the Lotus 49B's wake, with the pair sprinting into the distance ahead of John Surtees in third. For Surtees it had been an incredible start, leaping into the top three despite qualifying in sixth, although he would be unable to press on when the suspension failed on his BRM as he rounded Stowe.
By the end of the first lap Rindt and Stewart were over a second ahead of Denny Hulme, with the gap between second and third growing visibly over the following laps. Hulme, for his part, was putting on a no less impressive display, smartly pulling away from teammate Bruce McLaren who headed a terrific fight for fourth. That group contained Jo Siffert, Graham Hill, Piers Courage, Chris Amon and Pedro Rodríguez, soon to be joined by a recovering Jacky Ickx who made his customary poor start.
Six laps of intense pressure on the back of Rindt finally told for Stewart, with the Scot finally managing to squeeze past the Austrian on the brakes at Stowe. Their duel had rather overshadowed the recovery of Ickx, who had put together a series of excellent moves to rise from tenth to fifth, and was soon challenging McLaren for fourth. Hulme was also continuing to show why he was a former World Champion, dancing away from his teammate, although Stewart and Rindt were still managing to pull ahead by over a second a lap despite their fight.
The opening laps had not been kind to the quartet of 4WD cars at the back of the field, although John Miles was challenging the slowest of the RWD runners, taking Jackie Oliver in a rather sick BRM. Derek Bell was already out, a rear suspension failure having ended his day at Beckett's, a lap before Jo Bonnier came to a stop with a ruined engine. Jean-Pierre Beltoise, meanwhile, was running at the very back of the field, the Frenchman having been forced into the Matra MS84 so Stewart could use his car to fight for victory.
It would therefore seem significant when the leaders came to lap Beltoise on lap sixteen, which resulted in Rindt snatching the lead from the lead Matra. It was Rindt's only chance since losing the lead on lap six, but Stewart would still be stuck to his gearbox once the pair were clear of lowly Frenchman. It would take Hulme a few more laps to catch the backmarkers, as he began to be reeled in by the still scrapping McLaren and Ickx.
By lap 21 McLaren and Ickx were seen sweeping past Hulme for third, the latter beginning to struggle with an ultimately terminal ignition problem. Hulme's eventual retirement would promote Courage into fifth, although the Brit was under serious pressure from defending Champion Hill, in a group that also contained Siffert, Amon and Rodriguez. Eventually Courage's resistance would falter and allow both Hill and Siffert throughout, although the duel between the sister Loti kept Courage and co. in the fight for the final points positions.
By this stage it was half distance, with Rindt and Stewart a lap ahead of everyone bar Ickx and McLaren, who were still fighting for third despite the Belgian finally finding a way past the New Zealander. The fifth place fight was also beginning to break up, the two Ferraris retiring within a few minutes of each other, leaving just Siffert, Hill and Courage in the fight. That, however, was only to last for a few more laps, as Siffert suddenly hit gearbox troubles meaning his pace deteriorated.
A quiet few laps followed as Rindt managed to pull a little over a second clear of Stewart, although the Scot soon countered with renewed vigour. At just after two thirds race distance Stewart's counter began to tell on Rindt, and a few laps later the Austrian was beginning to struggle. In truth Rindt's problems were more mechanical than psychological, with the Lotus' rear wing end plates beginning to fall apart.
Stewart was soon able to take advantage of this fact, and as he breezed past Rindt along the start/finish straight, the Scot signalled to the Austrian that he had an issue. A lap later and Rindt was in for a quick repair, with the mechanics opting to simply rip the broken pieces off of the red-white car. The speed of the operation was remarkable to let Rindt return to the fray in second place, although he was over half a minute behind Stewart.
The race was now over, the final laps simply a matter of ticking off the miles as Stewart paced himself to maintain a sizeable advantage over the Austrian. His efforts were not required, however, as Rindt was forced to stop for a second time, joined by teammate Hill as the two Loti ran out of fuel a few laps from the end. Ickx and McLaren therefore managed to sneak into second and third respectively, still separated by a little over a second, with Rindt emerging in a distant fourth.
The chequered flag fell on lap 84, with Stewart a lap ahead of second placed Ickx, who had resisted McLaren for over half the race only to run out of fuel as he crossed the line. Rindt had briefly fallen to fifth in the wake of his second stop, the sudden realisation that Courage had passed him enough to see the Austrian fire himself back past the Brit on the final lap. Vic Elford claimed a surprise sixth after Hill and Siffert stopped for fuel, while a series of minor problems put Miles back behind Beltoise as the only two 4WD drivers to reach the finish.
The full results for the 1969 British Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||3||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||84||1:55:55.6||2||9|
|2||7||Jacky Ickx||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||83||+1 Lap||4||6|
|3||6||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||83||+1 Lap||7||4|
|4||2||Jochen Rindt||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||83||+1 Lap||1||3|
|5||16||Piers Courage||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||83||+1 Lap||10||2|
|6||19||Vic Elford||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||82||+2 Laps||11||1|
|7||1||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||82||+2 Laps||12|
|8||10||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||81||+3 Laps||9|
|9||4||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra-Ford Cosworth||78||+6 Laps||17|
|10||9||John Miles||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||75||+9 Laps||14|
|Ret||5||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||27||Camshaft||3|
|Ret||18||Jo Bonnier||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||6||Oil line||16|
|Ret||20||Derek Bell||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||5||Suspension||15|
|WD||8||Dan Gurney||Brabham-Ford Cosworth|
- First and only entry by Cosworth as a constructor.
- Fifth pole position for Jochen Rindt.
- Jackie Stewart claimed his tenth career victory.
- It was also the Scot's fifth of the season.
- Ford Cosworth claimed their twenty-first win.
- It was also the engine builder's twentieth fastest lap.
A fifth victory of the season saw Jackie Stewart extend his advantage at the top of the Championship, the Scot leaving his "home" race with almost three times the number of points of his nearest challenger. Bruce McLaren was the closest anyone could come to the Scot, leaving Silverstone on seventeen points, having overtaken Graham Hill and Jo Siffert. Privateer Siffert was still impressing despite dropping to fourth, level on points with Jacky Ickx, with fourteen drivers on the board as the season passed the halfway point.
Matra-Ford Cosworth would be thanking Stewart for their strong lead in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers', having left Silverstone with a twenty point advantage. Leading the rather lame attempts to deny the French squad were Lotus-Ford Cosworth, once again ruing their poor reliability as the title slipped further away. McLaren-Ford Cosworth and Brabham-Ford Cosworth were a point apart in third and fourth, while Ferrari were still in fifth having failed to score once again.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: BRITISH GP, 1969', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr179.html, (Accessed 12/01/2017)
- '6: Britain 1969', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/grande-bretagne.aspx, (Accessed 12/01/2017) Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "RR" defined multiple times with different content
- 'D.S.J., 'BRITISH GRAND PRIX', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/08/1969), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/august-1969/14/british-grand-prix, (Accessed 17/01/2017)
- 'Britain 1969: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/grande-bretagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 12/01/2017)
- 'Britain 1969: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/grande-bretagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 17/01/2017)
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