• Mexican Grand Prix

Heartache for Clark as Surtees becomes champion

ESPNF1 Staff
October 25, 1964
John Surtees on his way to second place and the world title - his Ferrari was blue and white rather than red because Enzo Ferrari was in dispute with the Italian Automobile Club and refused to run it traditional colours © Motorsport

The final and deciding race of the 1964 season in Mexico City could have produced one of three different world champions. Graham Hill, John Surtees and Jim Clark were all in with a chance of clinching the title, due to the complicated scoring system. In the end it was former motorcycling champion Surtees who triumphed, by coming second and gaining six points, while the other two failed to score.

Going into the race, Hill had 39 points, but, as drivers could only count the scores from six of the ten grands prix, he would have to drop three points if he scored again. He therefore had to come third to secure the championship. Surtees had 34 points and could count anything he scored, whereas Clark needed a win to take the title, as long as the other two failed to finish.

Clark started from pole position and immediately set a blistering pace, going into a decisive lead while his rivals both had problems. The elastic on Hill's goggles broke just before the start, and he dropped down to tenth, while Surtees had to cope with a misfiring Ferrari and was 13th by the end of the first lap. However, the engine sorted itself out and he soon started charging back up through the field.

By the 12th lap, Hill had moved into the vital third position, but on lap 31 Lorenzo Bandini crashed into him at the hairpin and he had to pit with a broken exhaust. This cost him 18 seconds and his championship challenge was effectively over.

Clark was now ahead of Dan Gurney by 17 seconds, with Bandini in third and Surtees in fourth. But with seven laps to go, the Lotus started losing oil and, although Clark kept going, the engine finally seized up on the final lap, putting him out of the race and robbing him of the title. Gurney came through to win and Bandini allowed Surtees to overtake him and finish second, thus giving him the championship by a single point from Hill. In so doing he became the first man in history to win the world championship on both two and four wheels.

A clearly disappointed Clark was consoled by the Duke of Edinburgh, who was in Mexico on a state visit and said, "That was bloody hard luck!" "It was just bad luck - the worst possible", replied Clark. "I think it was a moral victory for me. But moral victories don't win championships."

Surtees, who had been suffering from 'flu before the race, said of becoming world champion; "It was fantastic. I never thought I had a chance."

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