The 1973 Italian Grand Prix, otherwise known as the XLIV Gran Premio d'Italia, was the thirteenth round of the 1973 FIA Formula One World Championship, held on the 9th of September at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. The 55 lap race would see a triple World Champion crowned as Jackie Stewart battled back from an early puncture to finish fourth, enough for him to take the title.
The Scot had been relatively poor in qualifying, having claiming a third row starting spot behind the rejuvenated Ferrari of Arturo Merzario. The front row was shared between Ronnie Peterson and Peter Revson, while Stewart's main rival for the title Emerson Fittipaldi would start from fourth, alongside Denny Hulme.
At the start it was Peterson who shot into an early lead, while Fittipaldi managed to weave past the two McLarens to claim second before the first chicane. Stewart, meanwhile, made his way up to fourth, splitting Hulme and Revson, while Merzario slipped to sixth but managed to keep within touching distance of the top five.
The following laps saw the two Loti of Peterson and Fittipaldi pull clear of third placed Hulme, while Merzario went out with suspension damaged caused by hitting a curb. Then, Hulme and Stewart were in the pits, the former for a checkup after flying over a curb, a lap after Stewart sustained a rear puncture, thought to have been caused by the same obstacle. Stewart rejoined a minute behind and almost a whole lap down in twentieth, while the Kiwi lost an entire lap as the whole suspension of his McLaren was checked.
Peterson and Fittipaldi continued to run along nose-to-tail, with Revson just keeping close enough the prevent them from swapping places, part of an agreement between the pair to give the Brazilian his best shot at the title. As they continued to inch away from the American, Stewart threw caution to the wind to try and get back into the points, throwing his Tyrrell at every corner of Monza. The Scot was soon climbing the order, breaching the top ten just ten laps after he limped into the pits.
The Stewart charge continued for another twenty laps before he came up to the back of teammate François Cevert in fourth, who was too far back from the leaders to challenge for the lead. The Frenchman duly waved the Scot by meaning he would win the title regardless of whether Fittipaldi won or not. Realising this Colin Chapman decided against swapping his drivers around in the closing stages, despite the fact they were almost thirty seconds clear of Revson.
A few minutes later and Peterson duly swept home for a third career win, less than a second ahead of the now former World Champion Fittipaldi. Revson was a distant third, five seconds ahead of the newly re-crowned Stewart, who pulled out a fifteen second advantage over teammate Cevert in the final five laps. Carlos Reutemann claimed the final point in sixth, with fifteen drivers classified as finishing.
In 1972 the Italian Grand Prix had proved to be a major disappointment after the addition of the chicanes, requested by the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, for the stunning slipstream battles that used to grace the battle in Monza all but disappeared. Hopes that they would be removed in 1973 were raised when the 1,000km race was held without them, with eight G.P.D.A. members in attendance, only for the Driver's union to push for their inclusion once again, with even bigger curbs added to dissuade drivers from trying to straight-line them. Time would tell whether the "old-Monza" could overcome the "new-Monza", with some drivers stating that the chicanes were more dangerous than the old 90% full throttle layout.
Even the ever passionate tifosi were sceptical ahead of the Monza, although Ferrari were back up to full strength for their home race. Indeed, Jacky Ickx had been tempted back to his scarlet car after becoming frustrated with a lack of performance, although he was now on a race-by-race deal, while Arturo Merzario raced the car he had used in Austria. A single spare 312B3 was also brought along, with all three cars updated to Austria spec.
Elsewhere, Lotus briefly entertained hopes of bringing two spare cars to Italy, ultimately opting to leave the latest 72E back in Norfolk to be run in, leaving them with a trio of cars. Title pretender Emerson Fittipaldi was now fully fit and raring to go, albeit with only one car allocated to him, while teammate Ronnie Peterson was initially entered with his usual car plus the spare. Colin Chapman had also been busy finalising the design for the 72's replacement, although there was little chance of the new car appearing before the end of the season.
At Tyrrell there were no major changes for their ever reliable trio of cars, with Jackie Stewart set to take the title in Italy if he ran reliably, while François Cevert was hoping to hang on to the runner-up spot. Brabham entered a three driver effort for the weekend, factory drivers Carlos Reutemann and Wilson Fittipaldi Júnior joined once again by semi-works racer Rolf Stommelen, who continued in Andrea de Adamich's absence. Unfortunately Bernie Ecclestone's team would receive a lot of abuse in Italy, when their huge transporter broke down on the way from the U.K., meaning all three drivers missed the first session.
The far more subtle McLaren effort, meanwhile, would arrive both on time and quietly confident, with Denny Hulme and Peter Revson using the two newest cars, leaving the oldest car as a spare. Surtees were also in a far happier place after Carlos Pace's recent form, while the break since Austria had allowed them to update the front end of Mike Hailwood's car, hoping to reduce the terrible understeer he had complained of. Joining them in the realms of improvement were the Frank Williams Racing Cars effort, with the Iso-Marlboros of Howden Ganley and Gijs van Lennep receiving updates penned by Brabham founder Ron Tauranac. New wings and a roll bar were on show for both cars, with Ganley particularly hopeful that the changes would give him a strong end to the season.
The mismatched March trio arrived with David Purley at the wheel of the "works" car, with the Brit's own LEC Refrigeration Racing effort listed as the entrant, with Jean-Pierre Jarier also entered but never appeared. The semi-works car of Mike Beuttler also arrived, and entered the paddock almost un-noticed, while designer Robin Herd was away looking at the Formula Two cars. Instead the press were swarming around the Hesketh Racing car of James Hunt, amid rumours that Lord Hesketh had obtained the services of Aubery Woods to design a new V12 engine, to power a new Harvey Postlethwaite designed car.
The Bourne squad arrived at full strength, unloading their trio of BRMs albeit after a disappointing test at Circuit Paul Ricard. They had Clay Regazzoni and Jean-Pierre Beltoise in their older cars, while Niki Lauda used the newest P160E having fully recovered from his Nürburgring accident. The poor test had prompted the team to throw their full weight behind a new car design although they, like Team Lotus, entertained little hope of an appearance of the new car before the end of 1973.
Shadow had been busy completing an extensive test at Silverstone, putting the newest DN1 through its paces, although the updates to the suspension and wheelbase still required work. Jackie Oliver and George Follmer would therefore use their usual cars in Monza, the new car brought along as a spare, while Graham Hill's privately owned DN1 remained unchanged. Ensign had also been busy testing post-Austria, although Rikky von Opel only had the one car to use in Italy as they quietly got on with familiarising themselves in the world of Grand Prix racing.
Completing the field should have been an expanded Tecno effort, fielding two cars for Chris Amon and Italian racer Vittorio Brambilla. Yet, neither team, nor the drivers, would arrive at the circuit during the weekend, with the only sign of the team seen when one of the cars was loaded from a Ford Transit van into the Williams' transporter on Sunday evening. There were also rumours that Amon had left the team, while his car was taken to sit at the back of Frank Williams' workshop in Reading.
With just three races to go Stewart held a twenty-one point advantage at the top of the Championship standings, meaning the Scot could take his third World Title at Monza with a second place finish or better. Only Cevert and Emerson Fittipaldi could deny the Scot the title, although they would have to claim victory and hope the Scot failed to score at all over the rest of the season. If Cevert won in Italy then Stewart would have to wait until Canada for his third Championship triumph, while Fittipaldi had to hope that the Scot finished no higher than fourth if he claimed victory at Monza to keep his hopes alive.
Whereas the driver's fight looked to be over, the International Cup for Manufacturers battle remained a very close affair, with Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth only nine points clear of Lotus-Ford Cosworth, and almost certain to drop a score from the second half of the season. McLaren-Ford Cosworth, meanwhile, were effectively declared in third, Brabham-Ford Cosworth the only team capable of catching them but would have to win every race, with Ferrari completing the top five. Elsewhere, BRM moved ahead of March-Ford Cosworth, while Surtees-Ford Cosworth moved up the board after Pace's podium performance.
The full entry list for the 1973 Italian Grand Prix is outlined below:
The practice/qualifying schedule at Monza would be split over Friday and Saturday, with both days holding two sessions after midday. Both days would see the earlier session start at 12:00pm and last until 1:30pm, with a half hour break before the second run of the day got underway, lasting until 3:30pm, meaning there would be the usual six hours of running. As for target times the new chicane adorned Monza layout record stood at 1:35.65, set by Jacky Ickx on his way to pole in 1972.
The first session on Friday saw most of the field slowly set about setting up their cars, with many trying to find a suspension setup that would cope with the increased curbs at the chicane. As if to prove the need for this work, James Hunt almost immediately had to withdraw from the race, having hit the inside curb of the chicane with enough force to break the suspension. The front right corner collapsed instantaneously, with the monocoque then smacking the concrete and splitting, with Hesketh Racing deciding it would be better to effect a proper repair back in the U.K. and head to North America, rather than jeopardise all three races by trying to bodge a repair and race in Italy.
It took until the end of the first session for anyone to come close to Ickx's record, Peter Revson going along almost completely unnoticed to record a 1:36.75. Second fastest went to a surprised François Cevert, a fraction of a second clear of teammate Jackie Stewart, while the best of the BRMs was next in the hands of Clay Regazzoni. The two Loti, meanwhile, were well down the order before the break, behind both Ferraris.
After the break there was a universal improvement, with Brabham having to push on fairly quickly after missing out on the first session. Revson, meanwhile, spent the afternoon blasting around the circuit with a smile on his face, ultimately ending the day fastest having found another hundredth of a second. Ronnie Peterson, meanwhile, got his head down and pushed on to finish the afternoon second fastest, while Carlos Pace was happy to finish third with a 1:36.89.
After the usual night of maintenance work the entire field were out to battle at the start of the first Saturday session, with Ferrari setting the early pace. Both Arturo Merzario and Jacky Ickx managed to dip into the 1:36.00s early on, although that was as quick as they were likely to get. Stewart was also climbing the order before the break, in contast to an unhappy Cevert who was tumbling, while a late lap by Denny Hulme saw him shoot to the top of the table just as the chequered flag was thrown.
The final session of practice/qualifying would ultimately see the best times set, although the traditional thirty minute flurry, which saw huge clumps of cars slipstream each other in pursuit of top end speed, had all but disappeared. A small attempt at this was made by some of the lower orders, with little success for them, while the tifosi were getting increasingly frustrated that Ickx and Merzario were failing to improve. Ultimately the fight for pole would come down to who got the cleanest run, with a tow into Parabolica perhaps the only other potential advantage.
First to set a pole worthy time was Emerson Fittipaldi, who had been battling with ankle swelling and a faltering Ford Cosworth throughout the day. His 1:35.68 was soon edged out by Hulme after a strong run, before he was ousted from the top spot by Revson to make it a McLaren one-two. Then, armed with a set of the "special" Goodyears, Peterson went round to record a 1:34.80, with no time left for the McLarens to respond. Teammate Fittipaldi also appeared in the dying moments of the session to improve to a 1:35.68, although his late lap was not enough to climb back ahead of Revson and Hulme.
The full qualifying results for the 1973 Italian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||2||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:42.22||1:36.79||1:36.08||1:34.80||—|
|2||8||Peter Revson||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:36.75||1:36.74||1:36.18||1:35.29||+0.49s|
|3||7||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:38.90||1:37.97||1:36.02||1:35.45||+0.65s|
|4||1||Emerson Fittipaldi||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:39.43||1:38.76||1:36.26||1:35.68||+0.88s|
|5||24||Carlos Pace||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:39.02||1:36.89||1:39.29||1:36.06||+1.26s|
|6||5||Jackie Stewart||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:37.69||1:37.32||1:36.10||1:36.41||+1.30s|
|8||23||Mike Hailwood||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:42.22||1:38.07||—||1:36.44||+1.64s|
|9||9||Rolf Stommelen||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||—||1:38.03||1:36.54||1:37.18||+1.74s|
|10||10||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||—||1:37.81||1:36.55||1:37.06||+1.75s|
|11||6||François Cevert||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:37.64||1:37.74T||1:38.24||1:36.58||+1.78s|
|12||15||Mike Beuttler||March-Ford Cosworth||1:43.04||—||1:36.67||1:38.49||+1.87s|
|16||11||Wilson Fittipaldi||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||—||1:38.40||1:38.23||1:37.30T||+2.50s|
|17||28||Rikky von Opel||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:43.36||1:40.82||1:38.97||1:37.40||+2.60s|
|19||17||Jackie Oliver||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:38.75T||1:37.81||1:37.87T||1:38.37||+3.01s|
|20||21||Howden Ganley||Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth||1:47.53||1:40.23||1:38.64||1:38.13||+3.33s|
|21||16||George Follmer||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:42.16||—||1:39.28||1:38.66||+3.86s|
|22||12||Graham Hill||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:40.66||1:40.97||1:38.88||1:39.99||+4.08s|
|23||26||Gijs van Lennep||Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth||1:42.94||1:41.07||1:39.45||1:39.24||+4.44s|
|24||29||David Purley||March-Ford Cosworth||1:41.12||1:54.55||1:39.28||1:39.75||+4.48s|
|25*||27||James Hunt||March-Ford Cosworth||1:39.82||—||—||—||+5.02s|
|WD||18||Jean-Pierre Jarier||March-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
- * Hunt was unable to start as his March could not be repaired.
|Rikky von Opel||18|
|Gijs van Lennep||24|
Despite the combined effects of a chicane strewn Monza, and a poor season for Ferrari, a huge Italian crowd gathered in time for the race on Sunday, which was likely to see Jackie Stewart crowned as Champion for the third time. However, the Scot would require an engine change after the morning warm-up session, with Tyrrell just managing to get the work done before the field assembled on the grid. After a single parade lap the field waited for the start, with a huge cheer greeting the arrival of Arturo Merzario as he lined up in his Ferrari.
As the Italian tricolour came scything down to signal the start, it was Ronnie Peterson who reacted fastest to sprint into an early lead, while teammate Emerson Fittipaldi shot past the two McLarens. For safety reasons the first lap did not include the chicane before Curva Grande, and so Denny Hulme and co. were quickly left behind as the black-gold Loti disappeared up the road. The Kiwi was therefore left to fend off the attentions of a fast starting Stewart, while Peter Revson held of Merzario for fifth.
At the end of the opening lap Peterson and Fittipaldi were nose to tail, with a small gap back to Hulme, still leading the anti-Lotus charge in third. He, Stewart, Revson and Merzario were already pulling clear of seventh placed François Cevert, who was fending off the attentions of Carlos Pace, with the rest of the healthy runners queued up behind him. Yet, even as the tail-enders came slithering out of Parabolica the crowd were in uproar, for Merzario was suddenly limping around the Curva Grande having smashed his suspension on the curbs at the first chicane.
The race quickly developed into a carbon copy of Austria, with Peterson and Fittipaldi pulling further and further ahead, while Hulme tried to pull clear of Stewart. The Scot was trying everything to get past the Kiwi, although on the fifth lap he felt something change in the balance of his Tyrrell as the third place battle exited the Parabolica. When Revson came cruising past Stewart on the exit of Lesmo it was clear to everyone there was an issue, with the Scot duly darting into the pits to have his left rear wheel changed.
It was a minute before Stewart roared out of the pits, by which time the Scot had tumbled down to nineteenth. He would dart out just before Hulme arrived at the chicane with a brake problem, with the Kiwi getting launched into the air by the inside curb. The McLaren then came crashing down on two wheels and in the midst of a half spin, with Revson having to slam on the brakes and take to the grass to stop himself from broadside his teammate. Hulme ultimately kept the car out of the barriers before limping back to the pits to have the car examined, before sprinting out of the pits with a crack in the monocoque two laps later.
All of this had allowed the two Loti to extend their advantage out front, with a fifteen second gap opened out between themselves and Revson on lap twenty. Cevert was now on his own in fourth ahead of Carlos Reutemann, although the Argentine was slowly gaining on the Frenchman, while Jacky Ickx was giving the home fans some hope in sixth, only to be relegated to seventh by a charging Mike Hailwood. The Brit's Surtees teammate Carlos Pace had been attempting to take the Belgian just a few moments before, only for a brake failure to send him slithering into a retirement down the escape road at the second chicane.
Stewart now began to steal the show by breaking into the top ten, the Scot setting fastest lap after fastest lap as he came charging through the order. He had already benefited from Hulme's problem, Pace's brake failure and Mike Beuttler's aborted dive on Graham Hill, and was quietly picking off other backmarkers as the race wore on. The Scot was also aided by the fact that the two Loti were not pushing, meaning he was not under threat of being lapped, while his title bid was still on track for Fittipaldi was not in the lead.
At half distance it seemed as if the World Championship was set to go on to Canadian Grand Prix, with Stewart up in eighth but with no immediate targets ahead. The two Loti were still running one-two, Peterson still ahead of Fittipaldi, although it seemed inevitable that the Swede would move aside and hand the Brazilian victory. As the crowd focused on the Scot's charge, BRM disappeared from the race, with Clay Regazzoni suffering an engine failure and Jean-Pierre Beltoise suffering a puncture, moments before Niki Lauda crashed at the Parabolica after a suspected suspension failure.
Over the following ten laps Stewart would gain two more easy places, sweeping past a rather dispirited Ickx before catching and passing a wounded Surtees of Hailwood, who was the latest victim of the curbs. That left the Scot with a clear shot at Reutemann, who was now falling away from Cevert, with Stewart closing onto the back of the Argentine over the space of a lap. This was only half the job, however, for Reutemann was well known as a fighter and duly managed to fend off the Scot for half a lap, before Stewart jumped him on the brakes at Parabolica.
With only the sister car of Cevert ahead of Stewart, the title fight was now out of Fittipaldi's hands, regardless of whether Peterson let him through for victory. The Swede, on one lap, had looked like he was going to give him the position at the first chicane, although in truth it had been a slight mistake on the brakes that allowed Fittipaldi to challenge into Lesmo. Seven laps later and the Swede was still refusing to give Fittipaldi the lead, while Stewart was waved through by Cevert to leave the Scot in fourth place.
Fittipaldi could only now win the Championship if he won in Italy, Canada and the United States, with Stewart retiring in the latter two. Yet, Peterson, who in agreement with Team Lotus and Fittipaldi was given discretion over whether to allow the Brazilian through, was still leading, while Stewart's charge was not done. Indeed, the Scot was taking over two seconds a lap out of Revson as the race entered its final throes, and as the field started the final lap the Scot could see the McLaren exit the first chicane as he arrived in the braking zone.
Ultimately, Stewart would never need to make the move, for Peterson came charging out of the Parabolica a second clear of Fittipaldi to sweep to a third career win, and effectively deny the Brazilian the title. Stewart, meanwhile, fell four seconds shy of the podium, Revson's pace just increasing enough over the final laps to prevent the Scot from realistically challenging. As Stewart began celebrating his third World Championship triumph on the cool down lap teammate Cevert cruised home for fifth ahead of Reutemann, while Hailwood dragged an increasingly scarred Surtees home for seventh, still on the lead lap.
The full results for the 1973 Italian Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Ganley could not be classified as he failed to complete 90% of the race distance.
- Jackie Stewart declared World Champion for the third time.
- Third career win for Ronnie Peterson.
- Lotus claimed a 53rd victory as a constructor.
- Peter Revson claimed Ford Cosworth's 170th podium finish as an engine supplier.
- Stewart claimed his fifteenth and final fastest lap.
- This was also Tyrrell's tenth single lap triumph.
Fourth place was enough for Jackie Stewart to be proclaimed as World Champion at Monza, the Scot becoming only the third triple Champion in F1 history. Emerson Fittipaldi, meanwhile, had moved back into second after his podium finish, relegating François Cevert back to third, while Ronnie Peterson closed in on the runner-up spot with victory. Elsewhere, Peter Revson had moved clear of teammate Denny Hulme in their private duel for fifth, with no other changes to the order as the season entered its final throes.
The Lotus-Ford Cosworth one-two in Italy allowed them to close up the gap to arch-rivals Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth with just the two North American races to go, the Norfolk squad only three points behind with eighteen left in play. They were now the only two capable of taking the International Cup for Manufacturers, McLaren-Ford Cosworth too far back to challenge, although they were content with being confirmed in third. Ferrari looked set to complete another poor season in the top five, entertaining hopes of beating Brabham-Ford Cosworth to fourth, although the Italian effort was hardly secure, with BRM, March-Ford Cosworth, Surtees-Ford Cosworth and Shadow-Ford Cosworth all within striking distance.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: ITALIAN GP, 1973', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr233.html, (Accessed 08/03/2017)
- A.R.M., 'Italian Grand Prix: Stewart's Championship', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/10/1973), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/october-1973/80/italian-grand-prix, (Accessed 07/03/2017)
- 'Italy 1973: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/italie/engages.aspx, (Accessed 08/03/2017)
- 'Italy 1973: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/italie/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 07/03/2017)
- 'Italy 1973: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/italie/classement.aspx, (Accessed 07/03/2017)
|V T E||Italian Grand Prix|
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