Monza harks back to heroes and horror

Monza: Ferrari will honour the 50th anniversary of Phil Hill`s Formula One title, the first by any American driver, at this weekend`s Italian Grand Prix but the horror behind it will be left to others to recall.

Hill, who died in 2008, became champion by a single point after the Ferrari driven by team mate Count Wolfgang Berghe von Trips was flung into the Monza crowd at 150mph after tangling with Jim Clark`s Lotus on the approach to Parabolica.

Eleven spectators were killed instantly, along with the driver. A further four, according to contemporary reports, died later in hospital although some official statistics put the overall toll at 13.

The accident remains Formula One`s deadliest.

Von Trips, who had qualified on pole position, had needed only a third place to become Germany`s first world champion 33 years before Michael Schumacher -- who did his first laps on the kart track set up by Von Trips near his family home -- finally achieved the feat.

"I wanted to win, but not at this price," Hill said afterwards. His son Derek is due to attend Sunday`s race as a guest of Ferrari.

"We wanted to find his car, the one he won the championship in, but it was not possible to bring it here because it was not in a usable condition," Ferrari`s current team boss Stefano Domenicali said.

"We thought at least to celebrate Phil Hill`s victory with something special. We will do something together with his son but unfortunately we cannot do a lap with his car."

Formula One`s last fatal accident was 10 years ago, when a marshal was killed at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne and safety has improved immeasurably since the days when a driver could expect to attend the funerals of many of his rivals.

Although Von Trips` crash happened on the second lap, the race was not stopped and some reports focused first on the track action before mentioning the tragedy.

American writer Robert Daley, in his 1963 book `The Cruel Sport`, reported a conversation with Hill in his hotel the morning after.

"Everybody dies," Hill said. "Isn`t it a fine thing that Trips died doing something he loved, without any suffering, without any warning?"

Asked what he would do now, the American replied: "When I love motor racing less, my own life will become worth more to me and I will be less willing to risk it."

He raced on until the end of 1964.

As Daley observed in the book "neither Hill nor anyone else ever expressed regret for the 15 customers who died with Trips, beyond noting that there would now be much agitation to abolish motor racing again."

Briton Tony Brooks, fifth that day in a BRM, explained the prevailing feeling.

"We weren`t aware during the race of the seriousness of the accident," he told a leading daily this week.

"As drivers, we were still conditioned by the attitude from World War Two that danger was part of life. Nobody was making us race, and we accepted the risk. When the race was over, what really upset us was that innocent bystanders had been killed."

This year`s race at Monza also coincides with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 destruction of New York`s Twin Towers and deaths of nearly 3,000 people.

As a measure of how far attitudes have changed in motor racing, Ferrari`s response at the time was to consider pulling out of their home race in a gesture of solidarity and condolence.

"I remember that we thought it was correct to race and we did something on the nose (of the car), it was a black nose, it was the first time in our history that we did something so special," said Domenicali.

"We felt it was really important to show to all the Americans that we were close to them in that moment.”

"This weekend we will just remember that, we will not put anything on the car. But it is still part of our big memories."

Bureau Report

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. You can find out more by clicking this link