Today we remember long-time Ferrari driver Lorenzo Bandini, who lost his life after an horrific crash at the Monaco Grand Prix 44 years ago today…
The romantically-named Bandini was actually born in Morocco, and he certainly didn’t fit the bill of your typical Latin driver in Formula 1: Bandini was a calm, even-tempered and extremely friendly gentleman racer.
He started out as a garage mechanic with big dreams of going racing, eventually taking the plunge in the mid-1950s, winning his class at the 1958 Mille Miglia Rally in a Lancia Appia Zagato. He would buy a Formula Junior racing car, and finished third on his debut at the Sicilian Gold Cup in Syracuse.
In the next two years, Bandini’s profile grew quickly, and he won a spate of races domestically and off-shore, including an excellent win over Denny Hulme at the 1960 non-championship Pescara Grand Prix.
In 1961, he attracted the attention of Signor Mimmo Dei of the Scuderia Centro Sud F1 team, who placed Bandini in a Cooper for the 1961 season, finishing third at the non-championship race on the streets of Pau.
His compatriot Giancarlo Baghetti would win the French Grand Prix on his F1 debut that year in a Ferrari, and Bandini was very much cast into the shadows, with a rivalry fuelled by the media as much as anybody, although that was never actually true as they were in fact good friends.
But Bandini would soon get his opportunity to join the Ferrari team himself, and in 1962 he finished third at Monaco and took two more podium finishes in non-championship races.
Ferrari’s policy of rotating its drivers – seemingly ad hoc – saw him out of the team in 1963, and he returned to Centro Sud (now running BRM chassis’) while he dovetailed with drives in Ferrari’s sports car team. That year, he placed second at the Targa Florio and Reims 12 Hours, and also won the Le Mans 24 Hours – enough to see him welcomed back to the Ferrari F1 team with open arms before the year was out.
Teamed with John Surtees, Bandini played the dutiful role of number-two driver to perfection as Surtees went on to take the title. Bandini took his only championship win at Zeltweg, his Ferrari 156 managing not to shake itself to pieces on the circuit’s corrugated surface when many rivals’ cars fell apart.
An uneventful 1965 season followed – he did win the Targa Florio – but relations with Surtees became increasingly strained as Lorenzo tried to break out of the number-two role, and Surtees quit the team in 1966, leaving Lorenzo as the de facto team leader. Wins at Reims and Monza went begging with technical problems.
The 1967 season started promisingly with wins at Daytona and Monza in sports cars, and he was full of optimism when he started the Monaco Grand Prix, having finished second in the recent Race of Champions behind Dan Gurney. After qualifying on the front row, Bandini led early on before dropping behind Hulme’s Brabham.
Poor Bandini suffered burns to over 70% of his body and had no prospect of recovery. No doubt mercilessly, he passed away three days later in the Princess Grace hospital.
Bandini was buried just days later at the Italian town of Reggiolo, where over 100,000 mourners paid their respects at his funeral. The annual Trofeo Lorenzo Bandini is awarded in his honour to an outstanding driver in motorsport from the previous year, with this year’s recipient being Nico Rosberg.