Remembering Bandini

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Bandini, Station Hairpin, 1967

It’s been nearly 45 years since the Monaco Grand Prix of 1967.  For those too young to remember, which is likely a majority of readers, the events of that day are one of the many, tragic black marks on the early history of Formula One.

Characteristic of the incredibly risky environment that typified Grand Prix racing in the 1960s, this race was marred by perhaps the worst single-car shunt in the annals of the sport.  Italian Lorenzo Bandini’s drive ended in horror when his red Ferrari 312 clipped the port chicane next to the Monte Carlo harbor (just before Tabac corner, known as “the “tobacconist’s store” in those days) — not the “Nouvelle Chicane” added just after the tunnel when the track was redesigned in 1973 and 1976 — and crashed upside down amongst the straw bales, immediately bursting into horrendous flames while fire marshals looked on, helplessly, eventually dragging his burning body away from the wreckage. The rescue operation was hopelessly inadequate, almost sadly comedic by comparison with today.

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The flaming wreckage

The Bandini incident ironically followed the script of 1966’s theatrical hit Grand Prix, by director John Frakenheimer, which featured a crash into the Monaco harbor in its ultra-realistic opening scene.  One of the many differences from today is the attitude, voiced by ABC television announcer Jim McKay a year later, that the race “must continue.”  So leader Deny Hulme in his Brabham and everyone else drove carefully around the flaming chassis to a somber finish. No red flags, no safety car, no Armco barriers, no flame-proof Nomex overalls, no internal fire suppressants, no medical helicopter. Bandini died three days later without regaining consciousness. Seriously.

The video below is shocking to modern sensibilities.Watch with caution. Seriously.

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