F1. That year: 1964 Mexican Grand Prix, John Surtees and the Blue Ferrari

The Mexican Grand Prix has been on the F1 calendar for three periods: from 1963 to 1970, then from 1986 to 1992, and since 2015. All the races have been contested in Mexico City.

Three contenders for the F1 world title

The 1964 Mexican Grand Prix was the tenth and final event of the season. Three pilots are still mathematically in contention for the attribution of the world title: Graham Hill (39 points), John Surtees (34 points) and Jim Clark (30 points).

The regulations of the Drivers’ World Championship stipulate that only the six best results (of each driver) are counted for the attribution of the title. Before the Mexican F1 GP, Graham Hill already has 7 results (His two points acquired during the Belgian GP are already counted 39 points instead of 41 scored), John Surtees 5 GPs scored and Jim Clark 4 results counted. The attribution of the title is, under these conditions, particularly tight.

The Blue Ferraris

Ferrari, through its eponymous founder Enzo Ferrari, is at odds with the FIA ​​and ACI (The Automobile Club of Italy). The FIA ​​refuses to homologate the Ferrari 250 LM in the GT category (Obviously due to insufficient production in number of units) and categorizes it as a Prototype. Enzo Ferrari considers that this approval handicaps his team, which is aiming for victory, in particular, at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Furious at not having, in his eyes, been sufficiently supported by the ACI, the Commendatore surrenders his manufacturer’s license and swears that Ferraris will never race again draped in red.

The consequence of this situation has immediate effects, since for the last two F1 Grand Prix of the season (the United States and Mexico) the Scuderia is not engaged. Never short of imagination, Enzo Ferrari, whose drivers are still in the running to win the Drivers’ title and Ferrari that of the Manufacturers, asks his friend, and Ferrari importer in the United States, Luigi Chinetti to enter the GP of the States United States and Mexico its cars and its drivers via its NART team (North American Racing Team). The Italian single-seaters are shipped to the United States and will be entered under American licence. As is customary at that time, they will therefore wear the colors of the United States and are repainted in White and Blue.

The big price

Jim Clark (Lotus Climax) is in pole position ahead of Dan Gurney (Brabham Climax) and the Ferraris of Lorenzo Bandini and John Surtees respectively 3rd and 4th. Graham Hill (BRM) is in 6th place. Pedro Rodriguez on the 3rd Ferrari is in 9th position.

If Jim Clark got off to an excellent start, this was not the case for Graham Hill and John Surtees who slipped in the standings and only reached 10th and 13th places respectively after the first round. The two world title contenders are battling to move up the rankings. On the 12th lap, Jim Clark still leads the GP ahead of Dan Gurney, Graham Hill (3rd and virtual World Champion), Lorenzo Bandini, Jack Brabham and John Surtees (6th). A few laps later John Surtees overtook Jack Brabham took 5th place.

The leading positions seem fixed. Lorenzo Bandini is in a delicate situation. The Ferrari driver tries to put pressure on Graham Hill, but he suffers for his part that of his teammate John Surtees who must finish ahead of Graham Hill to be titled. On lap 31, Lorenzo Bandini tried to overtake on Graham Hill and hit the BRM which ran into the safety rails. With damaged exhausts, the English driver made two pit stops and returned to the track away from the lead and the fight for the title. At this moment, it is Jim Clark who can be titled, even if John Surtees took advantage of the incident in front of him to pass Lorenzo Bandini. The Italian driver does not want to stop there and overtakes John Surtees. The classification therefore gives us the 34th of the 65 laps: Jim Clark, Dan Gurney, Lorenzo Bandini and John Surtees in this order in the first four places.

There are two rounds left. Jim Clark seems, for a few laps, in difficulty with the engine of his Lotus Climax. On the penultimate lap, he couldn’t resist Dan Gurney’s comeback just before his engine failed. Jim Clark out of the race and John Surtees 3rd. It is Graham Hill who could be crowned World Champion.

In the last lap of this eventful GP, the Ferrari team strategy comes into full play. Lorenzo Bandini is asked (ordered) to let his teammate pass. The Italian driver complies.

Dan Gurney wins the Mexican Grand Prix, ahead of John Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini. Graham Hill, two laps down, is 11th.

John Surtees won the Drivers’ World Championship (40 points) ahead of Graham Hill (39 points retained out of the 41 entered) and Jim Clark (32 points). Ferrari won the Constructor’s Championship with 45 points ahead of BRM (42 points) and Lotus Climax (37 points).

The third Ferrari driver, the Mexican Pedro Rodriguez, took 6th place in his home GP. It was on this same circuit, in 1962, that his younger brother Ricardo (20 years old) lost his life in an accident during the qualifying session of the Mexican GP (F1 event outside the World Championship) at the wheel of a Lotus of the Rob Walker Racing Team. In homage to the Rodriguez Brothers (the first sibling in history to evolve in F1), the current track bears the name ofAutodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

John Surtees Motorcycle and F1 World Champion

The English rider is the only one in history to have won world titles in both disciplines: Motorcycle World Champion in 500cm3 (1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960) and 350cm3 (1958, 1959 and 1960) and therefore Formula 1 World Champion in 1964.

Ferrari end of discord, back in red

Haloed by the two world crowns, Enzo Ferrari will calm his anger and the red Ferraris (under Italian License) will be at the start of the 1er Grand-Prix of the 1965 season in South Africa in the hands of John Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini. Since then, red has remained in place.

Article published on 10/29/2022 at 10:39 a.m.

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