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Monza 1971 - the fastest grand prix in history 10 Sep 2003

The likes of Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso may have been rewriting the Formula One history books of late, but there is one record that has remained unbroken for over 30 years - that of the fastest grand prix ever.

In 1971 at Monza, Peter Gethin completed 55 laps of the Italian circuit at an average speed of 242.72 kph - over 150 mph. Three decades of technological development later and, amazingly, we are still waiting for someone to go quicker.

But it wasn't only Gethin's pace that was astounding. Another four drivers finished less than a second behind the BRM, with second-placed Ronnie Peterson missing victory by just 0.01s, making it, at the time, the closest grand prix ever too.

It was an unusual weekend all round. Ferrari looked to have made the perfect start to their home Grand Prix when Jacky Ickx took pole. However, in a bizarre turn of events, hours after qualifying officials announced that they had overlooked a better time by Matra's Chris Amon and thus relegated Ickx to second on the grid.

The qualifying mix-up was soon rendered irrelevant, however, when Clay Regazzoni made an electrifying start in the second Ferrari, rocketing from eighth on the grid to seize an early lead. A close battle in the opening laps saw first Ronnie Peterson in the March slipstream his way to the front, then Tyrrell's Jackie Stewart, before Regazzoni fought back to reclaim his advantage.

Then the high speeds began to take their toll on the machinery. Both Stewart and Ickx retired on lap 16 with engine failures, and just two laps later Regazzoni suffered a similar fate. And Jo Siffert saw his lead for BRM disappear when his car got stuck in fourth gear. That left Peterson and Tyrrell's Francois Cevert to set the pace, followed by Mike Hailwood in the Surtees-Ford, before Amon eventually forced his way to the front.

Amon pulled out a convincing lead and looked all set for his first Formula One victory, until disaster struck with only nine laps to go. As the New Zealander went to rip a tear-off strip from his helmet, the whole visor came away. Amon bravely continued, despite his eyes being unprotected from the 320 kph winds, but could only finish a distant sixth.

Up front the battle raged on, with Peterson, Cevert, Hailwood and Howden Ganley all scrapping over first place. Meanwhile, Gethin was also closing in on the leading pack again, having earlier dropped back when his engine began to overheat. As the final lap commenced all five were firmly in the hunt.

It didn't just go down to the last lap - it was the very last corner that decided the result. Peterson was the first into Parabolica, but the Swede ran wide, forcing Cevert to go down the inside. However, Gethin bravely out-braked the pair of them and edged ahead as they came onto the final straight. He crossed the line that all important one-hundredth of a second before Peterson, with Cevert third, Hailwood fourth and Ganley fifth.

Gethin's record average speed could in theory be surpassed at Monza this weekend. At the 2002 Italian Grand Prix, Montoya recorded the fastest ever qualifying lap at an average of 259.827 kph (161.170 mph). In the race Barrichello's winning speed was within 2 kph of Gethin's, but such was Ferrari's dominance that the Brazilian was not exactly charging for much of the time. With competition so much closer this season, it could just push someone new into the record books on Sunday.