1962 Monaco Grand Prix: McLaren Carries the Cooper Flag back to the Top By: Jeremy McMullen
By the beginning of the 1962 Formula One season Jack Brabham had left Cooper to form his own racing team. It seemed the glories days of the double World Championship were well and truly behind them. However, left in Brabham's stead would be a man very akin to the Australian in so many ways. And in Bruce McLaren, Cooper had a driver and competitor more than apt to help carry the team forward into the future.
The first race of the 1962 season, the Grand Prix of the Netherlands, certainly didn't give much of an indication that Cooper was ready to reassume its place at the top. Bruce McLaren would find himself on a team that would boast of Tony Maggs and Jackie Lewis as his two teammates in the first race of the season.
While McLaren would start the race from 5th place on the grid, his other two teammates would find themselves starting from the wrong end of the field with a lot of ground to cover. But though Maggs and Lewis struggled in qualifying, Cooper still had McLaren to carry the team forward, or so they thought.
McLaren's first race of the season would last a mere 21 laps before gearbox troubles would bring it all to an end. Cooper would be forced to rely on the other two drivers. Maggs would perform well coming from 15th to finish the race 5th, some two laps down. Lewis, however, would finish 10 laps behind in 8th.
It certainly didn't seem like Cooper was rebuilding after finishing 4th in the Constructors' Championship standings at the end of the 1961 season. Things certainly didn't look all that good after the team had dominated Formula One throughout 1959 and 1960. But 1962 would be a time in which the technical prowess and driving ability of McLaren would be allowed to step to the forefront and carry the team forward just when it seemed pinned down and hopeless.
Bruce McLaren, besides being a pure racing talent, had also studied engineering in school and had picked up a lot from his father, who was also a very keen engineer in his own right. McLaren understood aspects of racing that were really just beginning to take off, namely aerodynamics and the tuning of a car for a specific circuit.
Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren had made a great pair for Cooper. Not only were both from the southern hemisphere and certainly had that bond of common social and cultural aspects, but both had very good technical proficiency as well. Both had the ability to see the future of motor racing and were willing to push toward that realm of unknown. This would be clearly evident when Jack Brabham debuted the first rear-engined car at the Indianapolis 500 in 1961.
But while the headlines of the day had been dominated by endless interviews of Stirling Moss and newcomer Jim Clark, then it would have been more than understandable if there had been concerns raised when Brabham departed Cooper at the end of 1961. But the Cooper team had McLaren, and he would be more than capable behind the wheel and in discussions with the engineers.
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Cooper had been at the forefront of the rear-engined revolution with its chain-driven little Cooper 500 F3 car built in the years following World War II. However, by the early 1960s, all of the major teams in Formula One had come to understand the advantages of the chassis layout and had grabbed back much of the advantage the small firm from Surbiton, Surrey had.
Charles and John Cooper had managed to take their small firm and beat the likes of Ferrari and BRM in Formula One. But those manufacturers had caught up and had even pulled out an advantage of their own. It was clear after the Grand Prix of the Netherlands that Cooper would have to rely upon the intelligence and the ability of McLaren to have any chance at another victory.
The next race on the 1962 calendar provided the Cooper team a great opportunity. The tight, winding streets of Monaco had a way of neutralizing teams with big horsepower advantages. Being light and nimble was of greater importance than outright speed and horsepower.
Horsepower had become the name of the game. Not only had the other manufacturers caught up in the building of a mid-engined chassis, but a regulatory change heading into the 1961 season had caught Cooper unprepared.
After two seasons of Cooper leading the way at the head of the entire field, the FIA would make the decision to reduce the engine size down from 2.5 to 1.5-liters. Many teams, like Cooper, believed this to be taking Formula One backward not forward. But instead of embracing the change and proving the point out on the track, Cooper would delay and fight. Ultimately, Cooper would lose and the only Ferrari would be ready. Using just a Coventry Climax four-cylinder engine, the Cooper would lack the power to challenge Ferrari.
Cooper needed to get back on somewhat equal terms with Ferrari and the others that had embraced the 1.5-liter requirement. Instead of four, Cooper would have Coventry build an eight cylinder model engine that would produce close to 200 bhp. With McLaren's technical insights, Cooper's team would produce a slimmer, lower car that would help with the car's handling and agility in order to be able to fight with the competition on more equal terms.
Monaco would be a further help to Cooper's cause. Tight in many areas, Monaco favored acceleration and handling. And while Lotus would bring its ground-breaking new Lotus 25 with its monocoque chassis to the event, the circuit would further help to keep Cooper competitive.
In the hands of McLaren, the Cooper T60 would fare well around the streets of the principality. Jim Clark would be the fastest in qualifying by four-tenths of a second over Graham Hill in his BRM. However, Bruce McLaren would find himself on the front row in his Cooper-Climax having set a best lap just a second off of Clark's pace in the Lotus. Tony Maggs, on the other hand, would not be so fortunate around the streets. His best effort would be a 1:42.7 lap and would be around eight seconds slower than Clark. As a result, Maggs would start in 16th position, dead-last on the grid.
The day of the race, the weather would be overcast and it didn't appear to threaten with any sort of precipitation. The royal family and the large throng of spectators assembled all along the circuit in attempts to get to their seats and garner the best view possible. Those along the harbor and the tight first turn at Gazometre would witness a truly crazy and chaotic start as Willy Mairesse would push hard across the line and would force his way between Graham Hill and Jim Clark heading into the first turn. McLaren would make a great start and would be on the outside of Mairesse heading through the first turn.
This would prove providential for McLaren as Mairesse's bold move at the start would cause a chain-reaction accident behind him as he would be too fast and too low going into the first turn and would promptly lose control of his Ferrari. Seeing Mairesse's car break loose, Hill and Clark began to brake frantically in an effort to avoid hitting the Ferrari. This too would cause others to spin and collect those further behind that could not see what was happening up ahead of themselves. The worst off in the accident would be Richie Ginther. Though he was sure his throttle had stuck open coming into the turn, he would not stop his BRM in time and would crash into the Lotuses of Maurice Trintignant and Innes Ireland. Dan Gurney and Trevor Taylor would also be out of the running.
McLaren and Graham Hill would make it through the first lap with the least amount of trouble and would begin on an epic battle for the lead. Over the first six laps of the race the two men would duel it out at just about each and every corner, and yet, McLaren would manage to hold onto the lead throughout.
However, the strengths of the BRM chassis were just too much for the somewhat inferior Cooper, and by the 7th lap of the race, Hill was in the lead and was beginning to pull away from McLaren.
Through laps 7 and 27, McLaren followed along behind Hill as Graham pulled away into the distance looking almost certain to take his first victory on the streets of Monaco. McLaren tried hard to keep in touch with Hill but he had other concerns. Jim Clark had gotten caught up in the first lap melee and was delayed as a result. By the end of the 1st lap, Clark was in 6th place and was furiously trying to make up lost ground. Steadily, Clark would climb his way up the running order until he was beginning to breathe down McLaren's neck from 3rd place by the 26th and 27th lap.
The superiority of the Lotus 25 chassis was just too much for the Cooper to deal with, and so, Clark would take over the 2nd place spot on the 28th lap and would begin his quest to reel in Hill for the outright lead.
Throughout laps 28 to 55, the running order remained unchanged. Graham Hill still held onto the lead with Clark running in 2nd place. McLaren, who had been running in 1st very early on was still holding onto the 3rd place position in the running order. McLaren was working hard but the car was just not as competitive as the Lotus and the BRM. Where Cooper had set the Formula One world on fire just a couple of years earlier being the first British team to take on and defeat the Italians at the own game, now Formula One was dominated by British manufacturers and Cooper was nothing more than a supporting actor looking to regain its former starring role.
Just when it seemed certain McLaren was driving to maintain a podium result, Clark would fall out of the running with a broken clutch. This enabled McLaren to move back up to 2nd place in the running order, but Graham Hill still looked strong and indomitable.
But 100 laps would be a long way to go and the race had just passed the halfway mark in the race. Still, Hill looked unbeatable. He had taken the lead on the 7th lap. And as the race headed into the final 10 laps, he was still in the lead, well ahead of McLaren.
Hill continued to lead the race passing lap 91. However, after laps clearly in the lead and in control of the race, all was not well with his BRM. Less than 10 laps to go to the finish, Hill started to notice that his engine was losing oil pressure. It was clear his engine was failing him, but would it manage to hold on until the end?
McLaren had problems of his own. While his Cooper was operating fine, he had American Phil Hill beginning to breathe down his neck in one of the Ferraris. Phil Hill had a period during the race where he fell down the order after running as high as 3rd, but he would regain his composure and would be on a tear throughout the last half of the race. Just when it seemed like Providence was going to offer McLaren the opportunity to take the victory in the Monaco Grand Prix, he had justifiable concerns that he would, just as quickly, lose it to Hill.
The other Hill, the one in the lead, knew for certain he would not be able to win the race. The engine was continually losing power and he began to nurse the car terribly in an effort just to bring the car home. McLaren would make his way past into the lead on the 93rd lap. He would just have to hold off Phil Hill for the next 7 laps.
This is when the technical prowess of McLaren would take over. Needing to drive perfectly with no mistakes around Monaco has never been an easy task, but doing so while under pressure and with the potential of taking victory only added to the weight of needing to be perfect. The unflappable McLaren would continue to lap the circuit without incident and would continue to hold onto the lead. However, Phil Hill continued to reel him in each and every lap. McLaren had it measured out perfectly. He knew, if he didn't make any mistakes, he could carry on at his current pace and would manage to out-duel Hill to the checkered flag.
Through Sainte Devote, Massenet, Gare and Tabac, McLaren would be perfect avoiding making any mistakes. Heading around on the last lap of the race, McLaren still held onto an advantage but Hill continued to close in. Still, McLaren would frustrate Hill by not making any mistakes. Hill knew he was closing on Bruce, but he was also aware that if Bruce didn't make any mistakes he would come up just a little short in the end.
That was exactly what McLaren wanted and he would deliver. Coming through the left-hander at Tabac, McLaren would slide the car around the corner with Hill closing in, but all Bruce needed to do was keep the power down and the victory would be his. This he would do and he would cross the line a mere 1.3 seconds ahead of Hill to take his first victory on the streets of Monaco, the third victory of his Formula One career. It was also the first victory for Cooper in well over a year.
McLaren would go on to prove what Brabham knew all along. Jack Brabham knew the type of man McLaren was and he knew his technical abilities would be able to help Cooper upon his departure to start his own team. And on that overcast day on the streets of Monaco, everyone there had the opportunity to witness the technical genius that was McLaren. He had certainly helped the team improve its sub-par chassis from the previous year and any area that the car was still found to be wanting McLaren managed to make up the rest of it, and that is what the great drivers do.
It was clear Cooper had improved. And with the help of McLaren's performances throughout the season, Cooper would manage to recover from its 4th place finish in the Constructors' Championship standings in 1961 to finish 1962 in 3rd place. Bruce McLaren would also finish the Drivers' Championship in 3rd. This would be a rather great result considering where Cooper found themselves heading into the 1961 season.
Heading into the 1962 season, Cooper would come to fully realize the sheer genius of Bruce McLaren. Regulatory changes and Jack Brabham's departure seemed to have left Cooper on the back foot. However, like with Jack Brabham, Cooper would benefit from having another man that could approach motor racing from both sides of the coin. In fact, McLaren would superbly take over for Brabham. Though Cooper would never again achieve the success it had during the years with both Brabham and McLaren driving, Bruce would still play an integral part technically with the team helping to introduce new technologies and improvements that would only help the team succeed right up until its very end. And at the end of the 1962 Monaco Grand Prix it had become more than evident that, like Brabham, he had both the technical and driving skills necessary to carry the Cooper team forward.
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