With no past Korean GPs to look back on Badger has decided to cast an eye over some classic inaugural races from days gone by. First up it’s the United States Grand Prix, run for the first time in 1959…
Did you see this one coming? In fairness neither did we, but having stumbled upon it in the Badger archives we felt it warranted having the dust blown away and getting a bit of a re-visit.
This was the first Formula One race held in the U.S and the only time the sport has ever run at the Sebring circuit in Florida. It was presented with an exciting prospect, with three drivers in the hunt for the world title. Jack Brabham led the way on 31 points with Cooper team-mate Stirling Moss second on 24.5 and Tony ‘the racing dentist’ Brooks (Ferrari) third with 23. Back then points were awared on a 8-6-4-3-2 basis, with a bonus for fastest lap. To borrow an Americanism, you do the math.
A few local drivers joined the field for the race, most notably Rodger Ward. Ward had won that year’s Indy 500, then part of the F1 calendar, and was a talented racer, but he didn’t turn up with a car particularly well suited to F1.
It was, in fact, a ‘midget’ racer, and ran a full 43-seconds off the pace set by Moss in practice. Nevertheless he started the race and lasted a whole 20 laps before clutch problems put the mighty midget out of contention.
Whilst Ward was circulating at snails’ pace in qualifying Moss put his Cooper on pole. He slipped behind Brabham at the start but soon re-passed the Aussie and began to pull out a healthy lead. The way things were he couldn’t take the title, even if he did add the fastest lap, but he could scamper off in to the distance and hope Brabham suffered problems.
Brooks meanwhile, who’d started fourth, had made contact with team-mate Wolfgang von Trips on the opening lap. He pitted to check for damage, but despite finding little lost two whole minutes. His hopes of the title looked sunk.
Moss’s hopes soon took a more definite turn for the worse as the Cooper’s gearbox let him down after only five laps, ending his championship dreams.
Things now looked plain and simple for Brabham as he assumed the lead and began to edge away. He led the vast majority of the race, ahead of Bruce McLaren (who was also aboard a Cooper). This is how things looked set to stay, but there was drama on the line as Brabham began to slow – he’d run out of fuel.
Fearing calamity ahead McLaren slowed too, but when he realised Brabham had a problem (Jack was waving his young team-mate on) he flawed it again just in time to beat Maurice Trintignat home. Brabham was now out of the car, pushing it over the line.
Not that he really needed to. Brooks had recovered to fouth, which became third as he whizzed past Brabham, but he hadn’t made up enough ground to overhaul the Aussie. An exhausted Brabham finally got the Cooper over the line in fourth, and was greeted as a world champion for the first time.
It was also a significant day for the young McLaren, who at 22 years and 80 days became the youngest F1 race-winner ever – a record he would hold for over 40-years before being eclipsed by Fernando Alonso and subsequently Sebastian Vettel.
But whilst the young charger had won the race it was the Australian in his mid-thirities who’d taken the title. Now there’s a line we could be rolling out again come Abu Dhabi…