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.

Top 10: Monaco Grands Prix ranked: From Mansell to Moss

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.

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.

PLUS: Jack Brabham's 10 greatest drives

“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.

Race of My Life: Jack Brabham on the 1960 French GP

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
Palou: Verstappen, Hamilton "did what I would do" in F1 British GP crash

Previous article

Palou: Verstappen, Hamilton "did what I would do" in F1 British GP crash

Next article

The details at the heart of the Hamilton/Verstappen debate

The details at the heart of the Hamilton/Verstappen debate
Load comments
The mid-season rule change that has left F1 teams scrambling Plus

The mid-season rule change that has left F1 teams scrambling

The technical directive issued by Formula 1 to reduce levels of automation in pitstops has given teams an unwelcome period of adjustment. Although safety was the primary goal, it has already had a significant impact on the title race and puts extra pressure on teams to deliver as the season reaches the business end

How the pandemic is continuing to bite F1 Plus

How the pandemic is continuing to bite F1

Uncertainty over the shape of the calendar doesn’t just vex the fans and the commercial rights holder. MARK GALLAGHER explains at how race promoters have been pushed to the financial brink

Hamilton at 100 wins: In his adversaries’ words Plus

Hamilton at 100 wins: In his adversaries’ words

Some 18 drivers have finished runner-up to Lewis Hamilton on his way to 100 wins. Three of those recall their battles with Formula 1’s centurion and give their personal insights into the seven-time world champion on his rise to unchartered territory

Formula 1
Sep 27, 2021
Russian Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Russian Grand Prix Driver Ratings

The 2021 Russian GP was decided by late-arriving rain that allowed some to climb and caused others to plummet. But the events which played out beforehand are equally significant when considering the all-important driver ratings

Formula 1
Sep 27, 2021
How Mercedes made the “blind faith” call that won Hamilton his 100 milestone at Sochi Plus

How Mercedes made the “blind faith” call that won Hamilton his 100 milestone at Sochi

Until rain turned the Russian Grand Prix on its head in the closing stages, Lando Norris was set to convert his first Formula 1 pole position into a maiden win. But having recovered well from being shuffled back at the start, Hamilton and his Mercedes team called the changing conditions spot-on for a landmark 100th F1 victory

Formula 1
Sep 27, 2021
Why momentum is again behind Australia’s aces Plus

Why momentum is again behind Australia’s aces

At the Italian Grand Prix Daniel Ricciardo turned around a troubled F1 season and, in F2, Oscar Piastri demonstrated once again that he is a potential star of the future. BEN EDWARDS weighs up the prospects of F1 having two Australian stars

Formula 1
Sep 26, 2021
The tough balancing act facing Schumacher’s Netflix film producers Plus

The tough balancing act facing Schumacher’s Netflix film producers

Michael Schumacher is the latest sporting superstar to get the ‘Netflix treatment’, with a special documentary film airing on the US streaming giant’s platform this month. DAMIEN SMITH has the inside track on how the filmmakers gained access to tell the human story behind one of Formula 1’s most publicity-shy champions - while the man himself, for obvious reasons, is in absentia… 

Formula 1
Sep 25, 2021
The times that suggest Verstappen should be confident of F1 Russian GP recovery Plus

The times that suggest Verstappen should be confident of F1 Russian GP recovery

For the second race in a row, Mercedes has ended the first day of track action on top. It’s in a commanding position at the Russian Grand Prix once again – this time largely thanks to Max Verstappen’s upcoming engine-change grid penalty. But there’s plenty to suggest all hope is not lost for the championship leader at Sochi

Formula 1
Sep 24, 2021