The XV Gran Premio de España, otherwise known as the 1969 Spanish Grand Prix, staged on the 4th of May 1969, was the second round of the 1969 FIA Formula One World Championship, held on the Montjuïc Park Circuit in Barcelona. The race would become infamous in F1 history, with the FIA banning the use of high wings after two spectacular failures for Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt.
The weekend itself had been going rather well for the latter of the two victims, with Rindt storming to pole with half a second in hand over Chris Amon. Hill would start the maiden race on the city circuit in third, while Championship leader Jackie Stewart would start from fourth.
It would be an undramatic start to the race on Sunday, with Rindt pulling into an early lead ahead of Amon and Hill, while Jo Siffert pushed himself into fourth. So it remained for the following laps, the only changes coming when Jackie Oliver retired, before the first of the failures occurred.
Coming over the rise just after the pits on lap eight, Hill's car suddenly snapped sideways, a result of the towering wing suddenly telescoping down onto the rear wheels. The Englishman was thrown into the barriers at high speed, his car writing itself off in the process, with Hill himself lucky to escape without injury.
Eleven laps later, and Hill was able to witness what happened when the exact same failure happened to Rindt. Indeed, as Hill attempted to send a message to Team Lotus garage, Rindt crested the hill, lost downforce and slammed into the wall.
Unfortunately, Hill's car was still out on the track, and with a certain inevitability, Rindt's car slammed into its sister and rolled over, leaving the Austrian to ride out a 100mph slide. He, however, would emerge from his ruined Lotus with minor injuries, a broken nose the worst of them, with the race carrying on regardless.
Amon had inherited the lead as a result of the accident, and was fielding a huge advantage in the Ferrari as the race passed half distance. Indeed, it seemed as if F1's unluckiest driver would finally get his maiden win, until the V12 engine seized, leaving a heartbroken Amon on the sidelines once again.
It would therefore be Stewart who ultimately claimed victory, the Scot crossing the line with a two lap advantage to record a dominant looking performance. Bruce McLaren and Jean-Pierre Beltoise completed the podium, while the remaining points went to Denny Hulme, John Surtees and Jacky Ickx.
Grand Prix racing in Spain had been badly affected by the wars of the 1930s and 40s, and despite a brief attempt to race in 1968, criticism of the Jarama circuit made it doubtful that the race would return. That was, until the Real Automovil de Cataluna agreed to host the Spanish Grand Prix on the Montjuïc Park Circuit, located in the heart of Barcelona. A revived circuit from the pre-war era, Montjuïc featured both flowing curves and tight, technical twists all set on a hill side overlooking the city, with a decaying Olympic Stadium hosting the paddock to complete another picturesque venue for the Championship. Furthermore, the G.P.D.A. were keen for the new circuit to be a success, as Montjuïc became the first venue to have a full armco barrier lining both sides of the circuit.
Only one team would field brand new cars at the first European round of the season, with Ken Tyrrell's Matra International squad bringing two new Matra MS80s with an older MS10 in reserve. The new cars had a redesigned nose since Jackie Stewart had taken victory at the IV Race of Champions, the Scot being partnered by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Beltoise once again. The factory Matra team were not in attendance, the ex-ammunition firm instead focusing on completing the rumoured four-wheel-drive F1 project instead.
Another team rumoured to be preparing a 4WD effort were Lotus-Ford Cosworth, although they, like Matra, would not bring those cars to Spain. Instead, Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt would race the older 49Bs they had previously used in South Africa, with a Tasman Championship car held in reserve. Third driver Mario Andretti was back in the United States, the Italian-American prioritising his U.S.A.C. running once again. Jo Siffert and the Rob Walker Racing Team would also be out for the second round of the season.
McLaren-Ford Cosworth were widely regarded as the most technologically advanced team in the field, but had only one update available in Spain. Denny Hulme got to use the new front wheels for his M7A, while Bruce McLaren would use a new M7C, previously run at the XXI BRDC International Trophy earlier in the year. The M7C featured a different monocoque from the M7A, but was otherwise unchanged underneath the bodywork.
Elsewhere, Brabham-Ford Cosworth had their two updated BT26As, with both Jack Brabham and Jacky Ickx getting new gearboxes from Hewland. Ickx would also receive a new suspension setup to bring his car in line with "the gaffer's", while a third chassis was entered for Piers Courage. Courage's car, however, would not be run by the factory team, having been bought and entered by Frank Williams, a British privateer.
BRM had been busy since the race in South Africa, finally getting their new V12 engines to run with their unchanged cars. Indeed, John Surtees and Jackie Oliver would be using the same cars that the team had entered in 1968, although Surtees' car required modification to use the more reliable Hewland gearbox installed in Oliver's chassis. The third entry of Reg Parnell Racing and Pedro Rodríguez was also back in action, although the relationship between factory and customer was getting increasingly strained, Tim Parnell's team not receiving the new engine.
The final entry was made by Ferrari, although the Italian firm looked to be in a sorry state having entered just one car for Chris Amon. In truth, their engineers had been hard at work updating their V12 engine in preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Amon now allowed to push the engine up to 11,500 rpm. Indeed, rumours that the Ferrari unit had surpassed the power output of the Ford Cosworth DFV engine were rife ahead of the weekend, although it would take until practice before those thoughts were put to the test.
Victory in South Africa had left Stewart at the top of the Championship after the opening round, continuing his strong form from the second half of the previous season. Defending Champion Hill had opened his defence with a safe second, suggesting that he would be a threat for a third title, while Hulme claimed a promising third. Siffert, McLaren and Beltoise were also on the board after the first bout of the season.
Matra-Ford Cosworth were on top of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers' Standings after the opening round, with Stewart's victory backed up (although not on the board) by Beltoise's sixth place. Lotus-Ford Cosworth would have been second even if Siffert's tally had been added to Hill's second place, with the Lotus 49B getting more wings over the weekend. Completing the scorers would be McLaren-Ford Cosworth with Hulme and McLaren both in the points.
The full entry list for the 1969 Spanish Grand Prix is outlined below:
Three practice/qualifying sessions were scheduled across the race meeting, with around two hours of running on the afternoons of Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The first two days saw the teams affected by heat, although by Saturday temperatures were ideal for setting quick times. Target times were up in the air as Formula One had never been to the Montjuïc Park Circuit, although Jochen Rindt did hold a circuit record of 1:33.3, set in a Formula Two machine.
The opening session proved that the Formula One pace would be significantly quicker than the F2 pace from the year before. Indeed, it only took Chris Amon, armed with the updated Ferrari V12 to set a 1:27.6, with the New Zealander blitzing his contemporaries too. Only Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart were able to record times under the 1:30.0 mark too, with both around a second off of the high-revving scarlet machine.
Friday saw a general improvement in the times, with Amon almost instantly matching his time from Thursday, prompting Ferrari to stop their running early and fit another engine. Hill, however, was out to beat the New Zealander, and would manage to match the more powerful Ferrari, while teammate Jochen Rindt had his suspension changed. Elsewhere, Stewart was complaining of a slow responding engine, Jack Brabham broke his suspension after clipping the Armco, and BRM were slowly climbing up the board with their new engines.
Saturday's lower temperatures saw the times plummet across the board, all started by the fresh engined Amon. The new engine in the back of the scarlet car produced an extra five bhp, allowing the New Zealander to record a 1:27.0 on his first run, his lap also getting hampered by traffic. Rindt then went out onto an empty circuit and recorded several laps in the sub-1:27.0 bracket, a time the teammate Hill was also matching.
The Ferrari-Lotus battle continued into the second and final hour of running, with Amon emerging for a second time to set a 1:26.2, a half-second quicker than the best of the Loti. Ferrari then decided to end their running pushing the New Zealander's car back to the paddock, just as Rindt went back out onto the circuit. The young Austrian was pushing as hard as he could, grazing every piece of Armco in his pursuit of a quick time. The effort paid off, for Rindt recorded a 1:25.7, half a second better than Amon to snatch pole, and beat his World Champion teammate by just under a second.
The rest of the runners would also get the times into the sub-1:30.0s, Stewart coming closest to joining the fight despite swapping cars throughout. Brabham's repaired car powered him into fifth in the closing stages, while John Surtees lost out when BRM decided to change the gear ratios of his car. Bruce McLaren, meanwhile, was unable to match the pace of teammate Denny Hulme in the new McLaren, having been beaten by both factory BRMs.
The full qualifying results for the 1969 Spanish Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||2||Jochen Rindt||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:39.3||1:28.3||1:25.7||—|
|3||1||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:28.4||1:27.6||1:26.6||+0.9s|
|4||7||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||1:28.9||1:28.0||1:26.9||+1.2s|
|5||3||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:30.4||1:32.3||1:27.8||+2.1s|
|6||10||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:30.8||1:30.0||1:28.3||+2.5s|
|7||4||Jacky Ickx||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||No Time||1:30.2||1:28.4||+2.7s|
|8||5||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:30.6||1:29.3||1:28.6||+2.9s|
|11||11||Piers Courage||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||No Time||1:31.5||1:29.3||+3.6s|
|12||8||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra-Ford Cosworth||1:31.2||1:30.2||1:29.5||+3.8s|
|13||6||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:32.6||1:30.0||1:29.7||+4.0s|
Raceday would be warm and sunny, the heat of the earlier practice sessions having dissipated during Saturday. The pre-race preparations were restricted to a single warm-up lap, although that would generate a half hour delay as the local police attempted to prevent BRM engineers from getting to the grid. A mechanic had spotted a pool of oil gathering underneath the car of Jackie Oliver on the dummy grid, but before he could warn the Brit the police restrained him and the grid were waved away. Oil was therefore spread right across the circuit, meaning a clean-up followed by a second warm-up lap, before the field were finally allowed to start the Spanish Grand Prix.
The flag finally fell to allow twelve of the fourteen entries to start, Oliver having been wheeled into the pits while Piers Courage was stranded on the dummy grid with a seized starter motor. Everyone else, however, would blast away and over the crest of turn one to begin the race, pole sitter Jochen Rindt taking an early lead. He would be followed by Chris Amon and Jo Siffert, while Jackie Stewart made a poor start and so fell to sixth.
Just before the leaders came back to the start/finish straight, there would be a huge crowd of people on the grid, as Frank Williams' mechanics were scrapping with the police while trying to get to the stranded Courage. Fortunately, the organisers were able to calm the police and allow the Williams team to push start Courage, joined at the very back of the field by Oliver in the leaking BRM. Courage would soon begin to catch the back of the pack, while Oliver was out of the race completely as the split pipe ruptured once again.
Come the end of the first lap Rindt had pulled a lap clear, a gap that the Austrian would be able to double at the end of the second lap. Amon was hanging onto his tail, managing to drop the rest of the field, pulling around a second a lap clear of third place. Siffert's strong start had seen him take third off the line, but a smart move from Graham Hill on lap three saw him snatch the final podium spot.
Yet, Hill's time in the top three would be short lived, for the Lotus-Ford Cosworth racer was just moments away from disaster. Having just started the ninth lap Hill crested the rise at turn one at full throttle, the car hurtling along at full speed when the towering rear wing collapsed. A suddenly out of control Englishman was thrown into the barriers, stuck in a Lotus that was scraping along the new Armco, coming to a rest a few hundred yards later, with Hill climbing out uninjured.
In the minutes after, Hill was able to analyse the situation and deduce that it was a rear wing failure that had pitched him into the wall. His car was left abandoned at the side of the track, the race continuing on at unabated speed for everyone bar Courage, whose race was over after a valve spring failed. John Surtees was also in trouble, the Brit having to have a transistor changed before his BRM ran smoothly, losing four laps in the process.
The race had begun to calm as Rindt dived past the pits to complete lap nineteen, although there was some concern at Team Lotus, who had just received word from Hill about the wing failure. Yet, before they could signal the issue to Rindt, the Austrian crested the rise at turn one and the wing came telescoping down, throwing him straight into the Armco. Unfortunately, Hill's stranded car was right in his path, and with a certain inevitability Rindt's car careened into it and rolled. The Austrian was left to slide to a stop upside down and stuck in the car, with Hill leading a charge onto the circuit to rescue his teammate.
In a tense few seconds after the accident Hill managed to switch the car's electrical circuits off and aid Rindt in escaping, who would be taken to hospital with a badly broken nose. In truth the accident could have been a lot more serious, although the wreckage of two cars was still not enough to stop the race. Amon therefore inherited the lead from Siffert, with the Ferrari over 25 seconds up the road from the sole remaining Lotus.
Amon's lead continued to grow over the following laps, aided by the fact that Siffert's mirrors were getting increasingly full of blue Matra. Yet, a battle could not develop between the two for Siffert's oil pump would fail just as Stewart caught the Swiss racer's slipstream. With Siffert out, Jack Brabham was promoted onto the podium, with teammate Jacky Ickx right on his tail, while Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme ran together until the latter stopped to have a handling issue resolved.
The following laps passed without much to note, although Brabham's race was ended prematurely when a connecting rod failed. Ickx had overtaken his boss just a few moments before, but was now being hunted down by McLaren in fourth. Elsewhere, Jean-Pierre Beltoise was in and out of the pits with a gearbox issue, while Hulme was catching the backmarkers and dropping Surtees at a rate of knots.
Indeed, at the end of lap 55 the entire race looked settled, with Amon holding a 40 second lead over Stewart and cruising, simply matching the Scot's pace. Yet, Amon had been on a run of retiring while leading, and, when the Ferrari engine suddenly emitted a high pitched wail and erupted in smoke, the seemingly unavoidable had happened. The New Zealander clambered out of his Ferrari with a look of despair, looking on as Stewart inherited a lead that his pace certainly did not deserve.
That said, Stewart was nursing a sickening Ford Cosworth engine, keeping over 1,000 rpm shy of the rev-limit to avoid an unspecified issue. Ickx was up to second for a brief period, ended when his front wing suddenly shattered and forced the Belgian into the pits for a change. He would lose a place to McLaren and fall a lap behind, but the sole-surviving Brabham racer was on a mission and closing in on the new McLaren with every corner.
Another retirement would hit the field in the latter stages, with Pedro Rodríguez limping out of the race with an engine failure, promoting Surtees into the points, last of the six remaining runners. McLaren, meanwhile, fell two laps behind Stewart as Ickx came charging along, while Hulme was closing in on Beltoise. The Frenchman, however, would be warned of the oncoming threat well in advance, and just before Hulme could close within striking distance, Beltoise's pace increased dramatically.
There would be one final twist to the order, as Ickx retired six laps from the end with a suspension failure caused by a damaged weld. That dumped the Belgian down to sixth and out, with Stewart crossing the line a few minutes later to make it two wins in two races. McLaren was still two laps back in second, a lap ahead of the freshly promoted Beltoise. Hulme crossed the line a couple of seconds shy of the resurgent Frenchman, while Surtees just managed to complete enough of the race distance to get ahead of the already retired Ickx for fifth.
The full results for the 1969 Spanish Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||7||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||90||2:16:53.99||4||9|
|2||6||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||88||+2 laps||13||6|
|3||8||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra-Ford Cosworth||87||+3 laps||12||4|
|4||5||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||87||+3 laps||8||3|
|5||14||John Surtees||BRM||84||+6 laps||9||2|
|6*||4||Jacky Ickx||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||83||Suspension||7||1|
|Ret||3||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||51||Connecting rod||5|
|Ret||10||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||30||Oil pump||6|
|Ret||2||Jochen Rindt||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||19||Accident||1|
|Ret||11||Piers Courage||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||18||Valve||11|
|Ret||1||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||8||Accident||3|
|Ret||12||Jackie Oliver||BRM||1||Oil line||10|
- * Ickx was still classified as he had completed 90% of the race distance.
- First entry to a World Championship race by Frank Williams.
- Seventh victory for Jackie Stewart.
- Matra took their fifth win as a constructor.
- Jochen Rindt awarded his maiden fastest lap.
- Last race of Formula One's "big wing" era.
Two wins from the opening two races left Jackie Stewart with a formidable lead at the top of the Championship standings, the Scot leaving Spain with more than double the points of his nearest rival. That man was Bruce McLaren, who had been pacing himself in the opening rounds and so was a point ahead of teammate Denny Hulme in third. Graham Hill was sat in fourth after his accident, with Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jo Siffert, John Surtees and Jacky Ickx the other scorers.
Matra-Ford Cosworth were well on their way to becoming Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers' Champions thanks to Stewart's two wins, holding an eight point advantage after just two rounds. McLaren-Ford Cosworth were their closest challengers with Lotus-Ford Cosworth four further back after their disasterous failures. BRM and Brabham-Ford Cosworth completed the early season scorers, with Ferrari notable by their absence, the only factory team yet to have scored.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: SPANISH GP, 1969', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr175.html, (Accessed 18/12/2016)
- D.S.J., 'Spanish Grand Prix', motorsportmagazine.com, (MotorSport Magazine, 01/06/1969), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/june-1969/60/spanish-grand-prix, (Accessed 18/12/2016)
- 'Spain 1969: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/espagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 18/12/2016)
- 'Spain 1969: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/espagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 19/12/2016)
- Maurice Hamilton, Grand Prix Circuits, (Harper Collins: London, 2015), pp.136-9
- 'Spain 1969: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/espagne/classement.aspx, (Accessed 20/12/2016)
|V T E||Spanish Grand Prix|
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