On this day in F1 – 1959 Sebring produces a number of firsts
Brought to you by TJ13 contributor The Grumpy Jackal
On this day, fifty-four years ago, the Formula One season finale at the Sebring circuit in Florida would establish a number of firsts.
Bruce Mclaren became the youngest ever Grand Prix winner; a record that would stand until the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix won by Fernando Alonso. Since 2003, we’ve next had Sebastian Vettel and this year Max Verstappen surpass this feat.
Jack Brabham won his first ever Driver’s title and perhaps most significantly of all, a mid-engined race car design won the Constructors Trophy.
Ferrari’s belief: “The horse should pull the cart” was now consigned to the history books. (Front engine)
The Constructors title was finely poised between Ferrari and Cooper – old vs new.
In the driver standings, Brabham led with 31 points against Stirling Moss on 25.5 and Tony Brooks on 23.
Moss had qualified on pole position, ahead of Brabham and originally Brooks. Over night the American Harry Schell was promoted to third position having “recorded” a lap six seconds faster than his previous best by missing out a significant section of track. All teams protested this with Ferrari the most vociferous as this disadvantaged Brooks but the protests were ignored.
From the start, Moss built a gap of ten seconds but his gearbox broke on the fifth lap. Brabham’s other title rival, Brooks, was already out of the running following a first corner collision with his team-mate. An unnecessary pitstop cost him two minutes whilst the car was checked for damage however an outstanding recovery drive would net him a third place finish.
So we were left to Black Jack cruising to the title? Not at all. He had refused the team managers request to start the race on full tanks, his belief being he would be quicker with a lighter car.
From the moment Moss had retired, Brabham maintained a lead from his young team-mate Bruce Mclaren. A number of retirements had accounted for over half of the starters and Brabham backed off in the interests of reliability.
Trintignant, Moss’s team-mate began to lap quickly and closed the gap to the front significantly and was a mere four seconds behind as they began the last lap.
Two corners from the finish, along the Airport straight, Brabham’s car began to sputter. Mclaren initially lifted his foot but Brabham waved him through and leaving him with enough momentum to hold off Trintignant to the line, a mere 0.6 seconds ahead.
Brabham was left with an uphill struggle…literally. He came to a stop a quarter of a mile from the finish line and so began pushing his car up the incline as the rules stated that he had to finish with no outside assistance.
Brooks went past in to third position three minutes behind Mclaren and Trintignant and Brabham followed a further two minutes behind.
It may have taken Black Jack around five minutes of effort to be rewarded with the title but this surely was the epitome of Australian grit.