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
Why unseen Hungary heroics could be Latifi's making Prime

Why unseen Hungary heroics could be Latifi's making

The chaotic start to the Hungarian GP set the scene for F1's less heralded drivers to make a name for themselves. Esteban Ocon did just that to win in fine style, but further down the order one driver was making his first visit to the points and - while the circumstances were fortunate - took full advantage of the chance presented to him

Hungarian Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Hungarian Grand Prix driver ratings

This was race that showcased the best and worst of Formula 1, producing a first time winner and a memorable comeback to a podium finish. Avoiding trouble at the start and astute strategy calls were key to success, but where some drivers took full advantage, others made key errors that cost them dearly

Formula 1
Aug 2, 2021
The "heart-breaking" call that led to Ocon's Hungarian GP triumph Prime

The "heart-breaking" call that led to Ocon's Hungarian GP triumph

Set to restart the red-flagged Hungarian Grand Prix in second, Esteban Ocon had some doubts when he peeled into the pits to swap his intermediate tyres for slicks. But this "heart-breaking" call was vindicated in spectacular fashion as the Alpine driver staved off race-long pressure from Sebastian Vettel for a memorable maiden Formula 1 victory

Formula 1
Aug 2, 2021
The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career Prime

The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career

Emerson Fittipaldi’s decision to go racing with his brother led to him falling out of F1, but he bloomed again on the IndyCar scene. NIGEL ROEBUCK considers a career of two halves

Formula 1
Jul 31, 2021
Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track' Prime

Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track'

Mercedes ended Friday practice at the Hungaroring with a clear gap to Red Bull thanks to Valtteri Bottas’s pace in topping FP2. But there are other reasons why the Black Arrows squad feels satisfied with its progress so far at a track many Formula 1 observers reckon favours Red Bull overall...

Formula 1
Jul 30, 2021
How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks Prime

How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks

OPINION: Red Bull was justified to be upset that Lewis Hamilton survived his British GP clash with Max Verstappen and went on to win. But its attempts to lobby the FIA to reconsider the severity of Hamilton's in-race penalty were always likely to backfire, and have only succeeded in creating a PR disaster that will distract from its on-track efforts

Formula 1
Jul 30, 2021
The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach Prime

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach

OPINION: It wasn't just the Verstappen/Hamilton clash that had the Red Bull and Mercedes bosses at loggerheads at Silverstone, with the nature of Formula 1's 2025 engines also subject for disagreement. But hopes to have loud, emotive engines that are also environmentally friendly don't have to be opposed.

Formula 1
Jul 29, 2021
How Lotus uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’ Prime

How Lotus uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’

Cast in the mould of its founder Colin Chapman, Lotus was powerful and daring but flawed – as it proved through further soaring peaks and painful troughs into the 1980s. DAMIEN SMITH examines a game-changing era

Formula 1
Jul 27, 2021