An F1 legend’s remarkable first Monaco GP

The Monaco Grand Prix was a special place for three-time world champion Jack Brabham. The Australian scored his first Formula 1 world championship race victory on the legendary streets in 1959 and famously came within one corner of winning the 1970 event at the age 44.

An F1 legend’s remarkable first Monaco GP

And on his first GP there in 1957, he put in a superb performance that grabbed attention and helped set him on his way to the top of the sport - in association with Avon Tyres.

It was his first full season as an F1 driver with Cooper, but the British team didn’t yet have a car to maximise the 2.5-litre engine regulations. Instead, Brabham had the T43, which was run as both an F1 and F2 car, with a two-litre version of the Climax FPF powerplant.

But, running Avon tyres in place of his usual rubber, Brabham took advantage of the agile Cooper and a dramatic race to nearly score a remarkable podium.

Read Also:

Things did not start well. Brabham was late to the track and had an issue with the brakes, which contributed to a crash in practice. That meant he had to take over Les Leston’s car, and Brabham lined up near the back of the 16-car field.

Brabham soon, however, moved through the pack, helped by a dramatic accident at the front.

Stirling Moss had grabbed the lead at the start but on lap five he arrived at the chicane too fast, possibly due to a brake problem. The Vanwall struck some telegraph poles and in the ensuing accident the Ferraris of Peter Collins and Mike Hawthorn were also damaged beyond immediate repair.

“I was behind them and I can only remember a big cloud of smoke and dust and straw everywhere, big black lines reaching right down past the chicane,” said Brabham in his autobiography When the Flag Drops. “They were quite lucky to get out of that.”

 

Several other drivers also made early mistakes, allowing the Avon-shod Cooper to gain more places. Brabham got the better of Ron Flockhart’s BRM and rose as high as fourth in the first half of the race before having to stop for fuel. As well as being down on power, this replacement Cooper did not have the extra, long-range fuel tank fitted so could not run the race non-stop, unlike the other runners.

Brabham nevertheless soon repassed Masten Gregory’s Maserati for fourth after the pitstop. When the engine of Wolfgang von Trips’s Ferrari failed in the closing stages, the diminutive Cooper was promoted to third. The only cars ahead now were the more powerful Maserati of Juan Manuel Fangio Maserati and the Vanwall of Tony Brooks.

Read Also:

Brabham’s fastest lap was only 1.6 seconds slower than Fangio’s, whereas he’d been more than 6s away in practice, and a brilliant podium finish on only his third world championship start looked in sight.

Then the Climax engine stopped. “The fuel pump drive had failed,” explained Brabham. “I coasted over the top of the hill and down past the station to the waterfront, and came to a halt just before the tunnel.”

But Brabham wasn’t done just yet: “In those days I didn’t like to be beaten, so I got out of the car and pushed, I was eager!”

After three hours of racing around one of the world’s most punishing circuits, Brabham pushed the Cooper through the tunnel to the chicane, up to Tabac, and along the harbour side to reach the finish, to tumultuous applause.

“The worst thing about pushing the car home wasn’t so much the exhaustion as losing third place,” added Brabham. “And the really scary part was going through the tunnel with all these powerful great cars screaming past in the dark!”

 

He was classified sixth, one place outside the points, but had made his mark. “That was the start of Cooper’s success in grand prix racing,” reckoned Brabham.

Autosport’s founding editor and GP reporter Gregor Grant agreed: “Sensational would be the best word to describe Brabham and the hastily rebuilt Cooper. His was one of the classic performances in motor racing that delighted everyone.”

Two years later, Brabham would win the race for Cooper on his way to his first world title.

shares
comments

Related video

How to become an F1 Race Engineer - Qualifications, skills & more

Previous article

How to become an F1 Race Engineer - Qualifications, skills & more

Next article

Alonso clarifies ‘dark side’ F1 comments at British GP

Alonso clarifies ‘dark side’ F1 comments at British GP
Load comments
The squandered potential of a 70s F1 underdog Prime

The squandered potential of a 70s F1 underdog

A podium finisher in its first outing but then never again, the BRM P201 was a classic case of an opportunity squandered by disorganisation and complacency, says Stuart Codling.

The other notable Monza escape that F1 should learn from Prime

The other notable Monza escape that F1 should learn from

OPINION: The headlines were dominated by the Italian Grand Prix clash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, who had the halo to thank for avoiding potentially serious injury. But two days earlier, Formula 1 had a lucky escape with a Monza pitlane incident that could also have had grave consequences.

Formula 1
Sep 17, 2021
How Monza only added more questions to F1's sprint race conundrum Prime

How Monza only added more questions to F1's sprint race conundrum

With two sprint races under its belt, Formula 1 must now consider its options for them going forward. While they've helped deliver exciting racing on Sundays, the sprints themselves have been somewhat lacking - creating yet another conundrum for F1 to solve...

Formula 1
Sep 16, 2021
Who should Alfa Romeo sign for 2022's F1 season? Prime

Who should Alfa Romeo sign for 2022's F1 season?

OPINION: With Valtteri Bottas already signed up for 2022, all eyes are on the race for the second seat at Alfa Romeo next year. Antonio Giovinazzi is the current incumbent, but faces a tough competition from appealing short and long-term prospects

Formula 1
Sep 15, 2021
The "forced break" that was key to Ricciardo's Monza excellence Prime

The "forced break" that was key to Ricciardo's Monza excellence

OPINION: Daniel Ricciardo has long been considered one of Formula 1's elite drivers. But his struggles at McLaren since switching from Renault for 2021 have been painful to watch at times. Yet he's recovered to banish those memories with a famous Monza win – built on a critically important foundation

Formula 1
Sep 14, 2021
Italian Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Italian Grand Prix driver ratings

Two drivers produced faultless performances as, for the second year in a row, Monza threw up an unpredictable result that left many to rue what might have been

Formula 1
Sep 13, 2021
Why Ricciardo would have won without Verstappen/Hamilton crash Prime

Why Ricciardo would have won without Verstappen/Hamilton crash

The clash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton was the major flashpoint the 2021 Italian Grand Prix will be remembered for. Yet by this point, race leader Daniel Ricciardo had already done the hard work that would put him in position to end his and McLaren's lengthy win droughts, on a memorable afternoon in Monza

Formula 1
Sep 13, 2021
Why Italian GP success is on for McLaren even if Verstappen dominates Prime

Why Italian GP success is on for McLaren even if Verstappen dominates

For the second time in 2021, McLaren will line up for the start of a grand prix from the first row. It knows it has the chance of "glory" if things go well for Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris at the start of the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, but even if they just maintain their grid positions, signs from the rest of the Monza weekend suggest success is very possible for Formula 1's other orange army

Formula 1
Sep 12, 2021