Italian GP history 1931-1969 (Video)

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Juan Manuel Fangio won at Monza in 1955 for Mercedes

Journeyer takes us through the history of one of F1’s oldest and grandest races, the Italian Grand Prix. Parts two and three will follow over the next two days.

From one historic race to another, F1 goes on what may be its best back-to-back for years: we leave Spa for Monza. And there’s two great things about this place: the pure speed and the Ferrari-mad Tifosi who take F1 fanaticism to a different level. I’ll go through almost 80 years of racing at Monza and share with you some special moments here.

1931 – Although the first race at Monza was held in 1922, it wasn’t until 1931 that a European Championship was conceived. Monza was one of the original races there. Back in those days, it was like a sports car race. Two drivers per car racing for what would be ten hours. They raced on both the chicane-less road circuit and the banked oval. The Italians loved the result, with Giuseppe Campari and Tazio Nuvolari winning for Alfa Romero by two laps.

1933 – Campari had announced that he would retire from competitive racing after this race. But cruel fate made sure he’d never get to enjoy it. He collided with Baconin Borzacchini during the race. Both died on the spot. Italy had lost a racing hero in Campari. Luigi Fagioli went on to win.

WARNING: This video shows a fatal racing incident. Discretion is advised.

1951 – After World War II, racing resumed at Monza in 1947, and was included in the new World Championship in 1950. This race shows an emphatic one-two-four-five for Ferrari, with Juan Manuel Fangio in the Alfa Romeo failing to finish. Race winner Alberto Ascari kept his title hopes alive, but only for one more round.

1953 – Remember the Maserati advert I showed you at Spa? Here’s another one from that series, this time explaining Fangio’s surprise win over the previously-dominant Ferraris. Not that that would matter. By the following year, the new Mercedes-Benz team would put all the Italian teams in the shade.

1955 – And the Mercedes-Benz team were still at it in 1955, albeit in their final stages. Fangio was champion for a third time, using the streamlined Mercedes to devastating effect. But with Mercedes pulling out after the Le Mans disaster, Fangio made a one-off deal with Signore Ferrari to drive his cars in 1956.

1957 – Fangio’s last go at Monza was… disappointing. The favourite of the Tifosi that year, Fangio was instead beaten by the young Stirling Moss in a Vanwall – who had taken a page from Maserati’s Nurburgring playbook by stopping for tyres and fuel. Fangio would contest the start of 1958, but he was never to win again.

1961 – Ferrari had dominated this year, and its two lead drivers – Wolfgang von Trips and Phil Hill – were to contest the title. At the penultimate round at Monza, a win for von Trips would have sealed the title. But fighting from the midfield, he had a collision with future star Jim Clark. Von Trips was thrown from the car and passed away on the spot. Clark wouldn’t be able to live it down for years.

Hill went on to win and left Monza leading by a point. With von Trips gone, Hill was crowned champion by default. Ferrari withdrew from the final round that year at Watkins Glen.

The first video is a general summary of the race, while the 2nd video is a German documentary discussing von Trips’ death in-depth. Hill himself passed away two weeks ago, aged 81.

WARNING: This video shows a fatal racing incident. Discretion is advised.

1966 – While the banking was no longer used for the actual F1 race, the movie ‘Grand Prix’ used it anyway when they shot their own version of the Italian GP. Watch the video and take in the atmosphere of Monza, not to mention that insane banking!

WARNING: While no actors were harmed in the making of this filming, this scene portrays the death of a racing driver. Again, discretion is advised.

1967 – From Keith’s recommended ‘500 Grands Prix’ video comes a Jim Clark fightback. Stopping for tyres, he was supposed to be out of the running. But this IS Jim Clark, and he made a dazzling charge back up the order to retake the lead. But alas, he ran out of fuel at the final lap.

That left Jack Brabham trying to take the win, but running wide at Parabolica going for the lead won’t help. Enter John Surtees, who gives Honda their second ever Grand Prix win. Honda would not win again as a full-fledged constructor for another 39 years.

1969 – Also in ‘500 Grands Prix’, this was Murray Walker’s hand-picked best race of the decade. And why not? Four cars all going for the win at the line. It was astonishingly unbelievable – but little did everyone know the same would happen all over again two years later!

Monza had a rough start to its history. It was a truly dangerous track, but it was also an utterly magnificent circuit in a picturesque setting. But as we enter the more safety-inclined 1970s, would it be able to keep with the times without losing its character? Find out tomorrow.

3 comments on “Italian GP history 1931-1969 (Video)”

  1. Before the chicanes came in Italian Grand Prix at Monza really was a slipstream and overtaking fest. Especially with before the wings came in. Thirty to fourty lead changes were not uncommon.

  2. Interesting to hear Dutch commentary on the Campari-Borzachini accident.

  3. That was Dutch, Lustigson? Interesting… It may have been a newsreel dubbed for Dutch cinemas, if that’s the case.

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