• September 12 down the years

Lauda back from the dead

What happened on this day in Formula One history?
Niki Lauda made a heroic return to Formula One © Sutton Images

Just five weeks after a priest was summoned to his bedside to read him the last rites following his horrific accident at the Nurburgring, a heroic Niki Lauda was back in his cockpit to participate in the Italian Grand Prix despite horrific burns. The plan had been to wait another month, but James Hunt's success meant Lauda needed to get back to protect his championship lead. Even Ferrari was caught out by his bravery and had to run an extra car for Carlos Reutemann who they had hired to drive in Lauda's seat, but Enzo Ferrari insisted Lauda's well being was the "sole responsibility of Niki and his doctors". Incredibly, Lauda finished fourth and Reutemann ninth as Ronnie Peterson won the race from Clay Regazzoni and Jacques Laffite.

With Michael Schumacher out of the championship picture having broken his leg at Silverstone, Mika Hakkinen was expecting a clear run to his second successive drivers' title, but Eddie Irvine had other ideas. Hakkinen took pole and led the race but an uncharacteristic error saw him crash into retirement on lap 30. Although Heinz-Harald Frentzen went on to win the race, Irvine's sixth place finish drew him level on points with three rounds remaining. "A raging Hakkinen flung away his steering wheel, brushed aside marshals as he stomped the ground in exasperation, threw down a glove to release more frustration and ultimately slumped on to his haunches to weep in his hands," noted the Independent.

Jim Clark celebrated his 50th grand prix start by taking pole position for the Italian Grand Prix but it was his fellow Scot, Jackie Stewart who stole the honours on race day. Clark took the lead in his Lotus at the start with the BRMs Stewart and Graham Hill in close pursuit. But having battled with the BRMs for 63 laps, a fuel pump failure meant there was to be no happy ending. Stewart was left to lead home Hill with Dan Gurney finishing third in his Brabham-Climax.

Jimmy Murphy, who was born on this day in San Francisco, initially made his name as a mechanician, accompanying a driver as was the fashion at the time. In 1920 he was given a Duesenberg to drive and won at his first attempt; in 1921 he became the first American to win a grand prix in an American car when he won the French Grand Prix at Le Mans. In 1922 he won the Indianapolis 500 as well as the national championship, only failing to retain the title in 1923 because he chose to race more in Europe, finishing third at the Italian Grand Prix. He did regain the crown in 1924 but was killed three days after his 30th birthday in a race at Syracuse.

Ferrari had already signed Rene Arnoux to race for them the following year and with Didier Pironi out of action, Mario Andretti stepped in. And Arnoux proved his future employers had made a wise decision by leading home the Ferraris of Patrick Tambay and Andretti to win the Italian Grand Prix for Renault. John Watson's fourth place finish allowed him to close the gap to nine points in the championship battle to Keke Rosberg.

Damon Hill got away with a first-corner collision with Ayrton Senna and Gerhard Berger to win the Italian Grand Prix from Jean Alesi and Michael Andretti. Hill was down to ninth at the end of the first lap but steadily carved his way through the field to close on team-mate Alain Prost and with only four laps remaining, Prost's blown engine handed Hill his third consecutive victory.

Rubens Barrichello led home Michael Schumacher for a Ferrari 1-2 at Monza to the delight of a delirious Tifosi. On a circuit that was still wet but drying quickly, some teams opted for slicks and others shallow wets and Barrichello carved out an early advantage on the latter before his tyres began to grain badly, the Brazilian dropping back before changing to slicks. But the gap he had built worked out to be enough, the Ferraris finishing ahead of the BAR duo of Jenson Button and Takuma Sato.

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