The 1960s in Formula 1 saw great changes afoot, both in developmental technologies and the teams that gained the benefits from them. Team Lotus was the dominating force of the decade, and Jim Clark was the driver of the early 1960s who really could get the most out of the car. Lotus were the first team to demonstrate the monocoque, which is what makes the F1 cars you know today look the way they do. It is the idea of the car being made up of one singular chassis, with the driver perched in the middle, rather than of a classic car’s, many piece makeup. When rear engines made their debut in the 60s, it was clear that F1 was a step ahead of other motorsports.
Jim Clark was not short on controversy, being involved in a fatal accident that handed the world championship from rival to rival, and also instigating a fierce battle with Graham Hill where he lost the championship, only barely, due to an oil leak. He was an interesting character because he chose not to race at Monaco and instead took the entire month of May off. He was the first British driver to compete and go on to win the Indy 500.
In 1965, he led every lap of every race he completed – a stunning achievement – and he broke all manner of other records, including most career victories. However, his career was shortlived when in 1968, Clark took part in an F2 race in Hockenheim, and died after crashing into the trees. The accident is still rather mysterious and unexplained.
Graham Hill was more than happy to continue the British dominance after Clark’s death, and he took the 1968 title in a Lotus. This car was famous for having the first sponsorship and logos appear on the exterior – how different F1 would be without those!
But Hill himself was soon surpassed by Scotsman Jackie Stewart. He was something of a protégé of Jim Clark’s, as it was he who arranged for Stewart’s very first test drive. Jackie Stewart went on to break his mentor’s career victories record and took three World Championships between 1969 and 1973.
Jackie Stewart’s most memorable win was at Nurburgring, for the German Grand Prix. There was awful rain that day but Stewart kept his head and outpaced the second place driver by over four minutes. That’s an incredible lead and you wouldn’t find anything like that in modern F1.