The 1961 Dutch Grand Prix.

Just another race.

Just one week ago, the F1 circus had been in sunny Monaco.  Now, they were decidedly colder at Zandvoort.  By all accounts, the weather was, well, crappy.  There was a biting wind, the kind that made it difficult to operate a stopwatch or use mechanics tools.  The track officials did not even play any music.  But, early in the weekend, there was a silver lining.  Ferrari had not yet arrived.  The other teams set about to dial in their cars.

Unfortunately, the mood turned as soon as the Ferrari transporters showed up around lunchtime from Maranello.  The late start was likely due to the fact that all the Ferrari cars were no fitted with the lower-center-of-gravity 120 degree V6 engines.

The engines’ howl cracked through the noise of the wind along the track.  Most drivers were dialing in their car.  In true “Moss” fashion, Stirling was deciding what combination of his two year-old cars he would race.

In an interesting detail, from an account in MotorSport magazine, the circuit presented a unique tuning challenge.

The Zandvoort circuit being very smooth and having elevated corners and no nasty twitches or wiggles like you get on a natural road circuit, it is possible to tune the roadholding to get handling characteristics that are not called for elsewhere, so that most people were adjusting camber-angles, toe-in, springs, and shock-absorbers to suit the drivers’ personal requirements.

Finally, the Ferrari’s were dialed in.  They rounded the track with crushing speed.  The rear-engine Ferrari was simply better designed than the Lotus, and other British entrants.  The garagistas had been caught off guard by Enzo’s politicking.  The practice order reinforced this point: Phil Hill, Richie Ginther, and Wolfgang von Trips.  I note that it is not often two Americans have topped any session in Formula 1.  Moss, in desperation, reverted to his Monaco setting, which gave his mechanics a long night of re-swapping engines.

The gloomy weather had cleared by raceday.  A crowd 80,000 strong was on hand to see if anyone could challenge those red cars from Maranello.

On Sunday, May 22, 1961, at 3:15 pm, the start flag dropped.  Ginther slipped the clutch and over-revved the engine.  Falling back, Moss tried to split von Trips and P.Hill, but was quickly squeezed out.  By the end of the first lap, von Trips was ahead by several car lengths.

Here is what is cool about this race: there was calculated teamwork to hold off Moss.  You see, the Ferrari 156 “sharknose” was a beast, but Moss was always devastatingly quick in any machine.  Machine alone, in this case, was not guaranteed to carry the day.  By lap three, Phill Hill had dropped three seconds to von Trips.  About then, Jim Clark snagged third from a lackadaisical G-Hill.  Soon, Clark was mounting an attack on P.Hill in second.  Nevertheless, von Trips was driving into the distance, as P.Hill played the good teammate.  Can you imagine Webber defending Vettel like this, or Rosberg defending Hamilton?

Throughout the race, von Trips was never far ahead enough to relax.  He stayed on his toes grabbing a tenth wherever he could find one.  Unfortunately, Phil Hill tried to hard to hold back the opposition and the up-and-coming Jim Clark snuck past.  Clark and P.Hill went toe to toe for several laps, doing their best to out-brake the other.  A few more places back, G-Hill slid off the grass and wound up in seventh.

All in all, nobody could catch von Trips and he easily won the race.  This race was also an oddity in that every car that started the race, finished.  Even more amazing, not a single car ever visited the pits!

Driver’s Championship.

  • Stirling Moss – 12
  • Wolfgang von Trips – 12
  • Phil Hill – 10

Constructor’s Championship.

  • Scuderia Ferrari – 14
  • Lotus-Climax – 12
  • Porsche – 2