USA 1964 - Surtees second proves vital 24 Sep 2003
Almost 40 years ago, the Formula One World Championship bore a striking similarity to that of 2003. As the Grand Prix circus flew off to the penultimate round in America, three drivers stood a mathematical chance of taking the title - Graham Hill (32 points), Jim Clark (30 points) and the outside bet John Surtees (28 points).
Surtees, however, was the man on a roll having won the German and Italian Grands Prix, with his team-mate Lorenzo Bandini having taken the spoils in Austria. And so it was that the teams arrived at the wonderful Watkins Glen circuit with everything to play for.
Enzo Ferrari was locked in a battle with the Italian national automobile club and decided not to run his cars in their traditional Italian red as a protest. Instead the Ferraris ran in the colours of America (blue and white) after they were entered by Luigi Chinetti and his North American Racing Team.
The grid was formed with Clark on pole and Surtees alongside him. Dan Gurney in the BRM took third spot with Hill fourth, Bruce McLaren fifth and Mike Spence sixth.
The race itself was full of excitement and incident. Spence rocketed off the line in his Lotus, grabbing second place behind the quick-starting Surtees. Clark fell back to third with Hill in fourth. On lap five Hill made a move on Clark and soon after took Spence for second. With Spence out of sync as Hill's BRM roared past, Clark took the chance to follow his championship rival and pass his Lotus team-mate, leaving him right on the tail of the now second-placed BRM. On lap six Clark then found a way back past Hill, and went off in search of the flying Ferrari of Surtees.
On lap 13 the two British drivers were locked in battle, Clark soon passing the blue and white Ferrari of Surtees and leaving him open to the mounting challenge of Hill and a charging Gurney who'd got past Spence.
Clark looked imperious at the front until fuel injection problems dropped him back through the field. On returning to the pits, Lotus called in Spence who jumped out of his car and allowed Clark to get himself back in contention. Meanwhile Hill had got past Surtees and had started to pull out a lead. Clark was on an absolute mission, driving like a man possessed to regain track position and start battling Gurney for third place.
When Gurney dropped out with lowering oil pressure Clark was up to a podium spot. Unfortunately his gallant drive would be rewarded with nothing on this occasion as his inherited Lotus developed its own fuel problems and he fell back through the pack. Hill won the race, with Surtees finishing second and Jo Siffert taking the last podium place in his Brabham BRM, one lap behind.
The result set up a championship showdown in Mexico, with Hill leading the standings from Surtees and Clark. Hill's goggle elastic snapped at the start of the season finale, dropping him down the field and Jim Clark retired with engine failure. Surtees finished the Mexican Grand Prix in second place, but with neither Hill nor Clark scoring points, the Ferrari driver was crowned champion - the only man ever to be world champion on two wheels and four.
Surtees had come from third in the standings with two rounds to go to win the title by a single point - proof, as if any were needed, that only the foolish would rule Kimi Raikkonen out of the race for this year's crown.