The Monza National Autodrome was the epicenter of the closest finish in Formula 1 history: at the 1971 Italian Grand Prix, Britain's Peter Gethin c
Italian GP: how was the tightest finish in the history of Formula 1
The Monza National Autodrome was the epicenter of the closest finish in Formula 1 history: at the 1971 Italian Grand Prix, Britain’s Peter Gethin crossed the finish line just a tenth of a second ahead of Sweden’s Ronnie Peterson. At the end of the World Drivers’ Championship, in addition, the Scandinavian was in second place and could not consecrate himself.
That edition of the most captivating motor racing championship in the world seemed defined. Scotsman Jackie Stewart was comfortable in first place, after winning five of the eight races that had been held at the time. Even the representative of Tyrrell Racing had taken a great advantage over his closest competitor despite the fact that he had not managed to finish the race in Austria. In Italy, he would not be the protagonist either: he, along with four other runners, left the track.
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That contest in Monza had several special seasonings: in the previous one, Enzo Ferrari had threatened not to line up his cars after the fiasco produced kilometers from Vienna. According to the founder of the franchise that bore his last name, Firestone tires were undermining the show and he proposed to suspend everything. “It’s not worth it,” he maintained. However, he backed down on his decision a few days later.
1971 Italian GP: Peter Ghetin and an unexpected victory
Peter Ghetin had made his debut in the top category just a year earlier and, after a crossroads with the McLaren authorities in Germany, said he was present at the Temple of Speed -one of the nicknames given to the circuit located in the Lombardy region- with a single-seater BRM. The antecedents spoke for themselves: in Austria, he had finished in the tenth place and two laps behind the Swiss Jo Sieffert, who established himself as the winner. Either way, he would spring a surprise.
The British driver won a single race in 31 appearances in Formula 1.
The Briton started from 11th position in Monza, with much less prospect of reaching the podium, something he had not achieved in the entire 1971 season. of the contest, 26 changes of leader.
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New Zealander Chris Amon, who had managed to maneuver skilfully on the long straights that characterize the circuit, stayed on top for several laps and looked like he was taking the Grand Prix. However, when he tried to remove one of the protective sheets from his visor, he ended up tearing them all off and lost positions just short of the checkered flag. Sixth place was not even a consolation prize.
Ronnie Peterson was on the verge of victory.
Beyond the multiple retirements that were recorded in Italy, Ronnie Peterson, Mike Hailwood, Howden Ganley, François Cevert and Gethin himself went head to head in the epilogue. The five carried out a final sprint that remained for history; the Englishman, who ran from behind almost every moment, achieved an almost unprecedented comeback.
Peter Gethin crossed the finish line 0.01 seconds ahead of his closest rival.
1971 Italian GP: five riders at eight hundredths
The BRM driven by the Surrey native arrived 0.01 seconds ahead of Peterson’s March-Ford. Unusually, between the winner and the fifth classified, there was only eight hundredths of a difference. In that decisive instance not suitable for the faint of heart, the English driver obtained his only victory in 31 races held. The Nordic, who was on the verge of winning, would lose his life on the same track seven years later.
Ronnie Peterson would lose his life in Monza in 1978.
Peterson’s Lotus, who was one of the contenders, was rammed into the barriers after a multiple collision at the 1978 Italian GP and caught fire. It took more than 20 minutes for medical help to arrive at the racetrack, but the runner was still conscious. Although it seemed that health professionals had managed to stabilize him – he had 17 fractures in one leg and 3 in the other – he suffered a complication called fat embolism, which caused multiple organ failure.