Fascinating F1 Fact:39

The World Championship showdown in 1964 took place in Mexico City on October 25 that year on the Magdalena Mixhuca circuit, now known as the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. There were three British drivers all with a chance of winning the title. Graham Hill in a BRM led the points standings with 39, five ahead of Ferrari’s John Surtees with Lotus’s Jim Clark with 30 points. At that time Championship points were scored only by the first six cars, with a  9-6-4-3-2-1 system. It was the first time that three constructors went into the last final round of the championship all with a chance of winning the Constructors’ title: Ferrari having 43 points, BRM 42 and Lotus 37.

Clark had won three races, but had been winless since the British GP in July, while Surtees and Hill had each won two, as had Brabham’s Dan Gurney, although he was not in the running for the title. The other victory had gone to Surtees’s Ferrari team-mate Lorenzo Bandini.
Clark took pole position with Gurney alongside and the two went off into the lead with Hill dropping back to 10th because of problems with broken elastic on his goggles. He fought up to  third by lap 12 and seemed to be set to win the title until he came under attack from Bandini, who made several attempts to pass the BRM before he made an overly-optimistic lunge on lap 31 and the two cars made contact. Hill spun backwards into the barriers but both cars were able to rejoin, although Hill had a damaged exhaust which meant he was losing power. He made a lengthy pit stop for repairs. His only hope was that Clark would not win the race.
With Hill out of the points, the title was suddenly within Clark’s grasp. Surtees had to be second in order to beat him and with Gurney firmly in second, Surtees was in trouble, even if Ferrari ordered Bandini to drop back and let him pass. On lap 64 of 65 Clark’s engine failed. Gurney took the lead with Bandini second and Surtees third. Hill was back in a championship winning position with 39 points to Surtees’s 38.  As the last lap began, Ferrari signalled frantically to Bandini, ordering him to let Surtees overtake. Fortunately, the Italian understood the message and duly allowed Surtees to pass, which meant that he gained two extra points and that gave him 40 points to Hill’s 39.
Clark was classified in fifth place, a lap down, but this meant that the Constructors’ Championship also went to Ferrari with 45 points to BRM’s 42, whereas Lotus would have won it if Clark had won the race.
After the race some suggested that Bandini’s move on Hill had been foul play but not even BRM boss Louis Stanley believed the stories. Bandini, Ferrari team manager Eugenio Dragoni and chief engineer Mauro Forghieri all went to visit Stanley after the race to apologise, and Stanley reported that the driver was almost in tears.
It would remain the most exciting World Championship showdown until 1976, but even the amazing finish at Fuji could not beat the finale of 2008 when Lewis Hamilton took the title from Felipe Massa on the very last lap.

26 thoughts on “Fascinating F1 Fact:39

  1. Great story, Joe. I wish Formula One would go back to, or have kept, the 9-6-4-3-2-1 point system that they had for so many years. Has there ever been a more beautiful car than that ’64 Ferrari? Nothing comes to mind.

  2. That’s really cool to know you think the 2008 showdown was the best. What has been the race you enjoyed the most? For me it has to be the Canadian race that Jenson won a few years back. I expect most people would probably agree.

  3. Great article Mr. Saward. I remember Nigel Roebuck writing that Bandini received a Christmas present in the post later that year from Graham Hill, it was an LP of driving lessons! (some readers may need to google LP!)

  4. 2008 Championship race was an amazing ending for the British Driver.
    Pity about Hill seems another crazy lunge by a bloke who became a Ferrari rascal. Funny how a similar incident took place between D Hill and M Schumacher (who clearly hit D Hill to take him out the race thus giving the championship to Schumacher. He should have been disqualified and given at least 20 demerits on his points tally).

    1. May be you should first have watched some pics showing position of DH’s car in relation to the turn-in position of MS. Take off your UnionJack sunglasses ! Btw, I’m not an MS supporter at all. Don’t put your foot between a slamming door.

      1. Actually I do not own a pair of Union Jack sun glasses but a pair of retro Ray Bans👓. But now that you mentioned them I’ll get a pair Union Jack Sun glasses and a Jolly Roger Skull 💀and Cross Bones.💪
        Schumacher had some dubious championship and the Damon Hill shunt is still raw. Not a fan of Schumacher nor a fan of Ferrari. Give me a Mclaren any day or a Mercedes Benz hit it Janis Joplin 🎤🎵🎶

  5. Am I right in thinking that Surtees was driving a blue Ferrari due to one of Enzo’s disagreements about entry fees?

  6. As I’m sure others will point out, the follow-up to this was a Christmas present sent by Hill to Bandini that year: an album (LP) of driving lessons.

  7. The 1974 Championship showdown was not so shabby either. I seem to remember an interview with John Surtees where he said that it was not team orders, but he passed Bandini on merit, because the Italian had problems with the Flat 12-cylinder engine in the closing laps. Maybe…but also might have been the same case as when Basil von Rooyen told me : “the older I get, the faster I was”.

  8. You’re on the factoid tear of the century. Are you willing to write so much out because you may put in a book?

    I’d like to hear about the years when America had 3 Grand Prixs in a single season.

    The US has hosted more F1 grand prix at more circuits than any other.

    Sebring, Riverside, Watkins Glen, Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas, Phoenix, Indianapolis and finally Austin (COTA).

    That’s ten (10) different circuits to host the F1 grand prix in the US. That’s three more than the second place finisher, France—Reims, Rouen, Clermont-Ferrand, Bugatti au Mans, Paul Ricard, Dijon, Magny-Cours.”

    2. France (7)
    3. Spain (6)
    4. UK (3), Belgium (3), Italy (3), Germany (3), Portugal (3), Canada (3) and Japan (3) round out the top 10 list.

    1. You don’t really will call Las Vegas, Phoenix, Dallas and Detroit ‘F1 circuits’, won’t you ??

      That’s hilarious.

    2. @Nick T – Don’t mean to be pedantic but the UK has held F1 Grands Prix at 4 circuits (Aintree, Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Donington Park) – the Donington event labeled the European Grand Prix but an F1 Grand Prix held in the UK nonetheless, so you can move it into a clear 4th place in your list.

      1. Accuracy is not pedantic. Thanks for the info.

        Chris – Venue, temporary circuit, etc. or what you may. The point was about diversity and changing times. As an American, I was stunned to learn that at one time F1 held three GPs in the US in a single season. It’s especially amazing to me considering almost no one in the US knows what F1 is and the fact that it’s looking like the US cannot even manage to hold onto a single GP these days when it used to hold three.

  9. Great article, had not realised how close Graham Hill was to being a 3-time world champion.
    Clark also could have won 1964 and 1967 and been a 4-time champion in just 8 full seasons.

    1. Reading between the lines of Doug Nye’s books about BRM, you sense that Tony Rudd regarded Graham Hill as a pain in the backside. An essential pain in the backside who was right for the team and who helped them build great racing cars.

      Of course, Graham Hill won owing to his technical knowledge and perseverance. Cobblers! Graham Hill was quick.

    2. That’s why Clark and Hill deserve more respect than blinkered modernists tend to give them. In Grand Prix terms, if Clark had survived there’s no reason not to think that he would also have won in 1968/69/70 although JYS might have had the edge with the Matra in 1969…….but say Clark had got his hands on a Lotus 72??

  10. Joe, not only did Lewis take the title on the last lap, but on the last corner… to make things worse Felipe and family were all crying and celebrating and when they came to senses that Lewis did the move…. it was pretty heartbreaking. Well, ces’t la vie.

  11. Yes, all four of the F1 Ferraris (two V6s, one V8 and one V12) taken to Watkins Glen and Mexico for the last two GPs of the 1964 season were entered by Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team and painted in white with a blue lower half (the FIA-recognised racing colours of the USA).

    In fact, the cars were maintained by the regular Ferrari mechanics under the supervision of Mauro Forghieri. However, Enzo was having another of his spats with the ACI (Automobile Club d’Italia) over the homologation of the new mid-engined 250LM sports-racing car. He turned in his entrant’s licence and swore that his cars would never race in red again. That was before Marlboro came down the pike, of course.

    Hans Tanner’s voluminous but not always reliable tome (‘Ferrari,’ Haynes, 1979) recounts that in fact Ferrari’s people had not prepared the papers in time, and anyway the FIA did not at first believe that the car had been produced in sufficient numbers. My guess is that they were still smarting at being hoodwinked over the earlier (1972) 250GTO, of which only 40 or fewer examples would be built of the required 100.

    Chinetti, who died in 1994 at the age of 93, is an interesting chap. An old racing chum of Enzo who didn’t like Mussolini a whole lot and emigrated to France, he had accompanied René Dreyfus to Indianapolis in 1940 (DNQ) and subsequently stayed, taking out US citizenship. Post-war, he would become Ferrari’s first official dealer outside Italy.

    Between 1932 and 1953 Chinetti drove at Le Mans in 12 consecutive races, winning three times, most famously in 1949, when he was at the wheel for all but about 20 minutes, when one Peter Mitchell-Thomson (Baron Selsdon) took over. Their car, a 166M, was the first Ferrari to win the great race. After his exertions (not) at least Selsdon had the decency to buy the car.

  12. Another great story Joe, and Surtees winning the F1 crown after winning the bikes makes it particularly noteworthy. Surtees is the only driver ever to be WDC on two an four wheels!

    Still the footnote about Lewis… I would have been in agreement except that Lewis had not really excelled in that race imo. I don’t begrudge him, but meh…

    Now consider Kimi in 2007. Wth an OK car he stole the championship from a superior Macca, because their children had been screaming or were caught napping. The ice cold Finn out drove them both -and his car- to victory. Amazing. I think Kimi was probably the last driver to win the championship without having the best car.

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