11 November 1937|
|Died||26 May 2001
|Formula One World Championship career|
|Teams||March, Surtees, Alfa Romeo|
|Races||79 (74 starts)|
|First race||1974 South African Grand Prix|
|First win||1975 Austrian Grand Prix|
|Last win||1975 Austrian Grand Prix|
|Last race||1980 Italian Grand Prix|
Vittorio Brambilla (November 11, 1937 – May 26, 2001) was a Formula One driver from Italy who raced for the March, Surtees and Alfa Romeo teams. Particularly adept at driving in wet conditions, his nickname was "The Monza Gorilla", due to his often overly aggressive driving style and sense of machismo. He was particularly known for his 'Punch and Crunch' routine, in which, he would greet the unfortunate victim with an extremely strong handshake. He enjoyed watching the recipient wince whilst they were shaking hands only to follow this up with a rabbit punch to the back of one's neck.
Born in the town of Monza itself, Brambilla began racing motorcycles in 1957 and won the Italian national 175 cc title in 1958. Before becoming a mechanic he also raced go-karts. His older brother, Ernesto ("Tino"), was also a racing driver.
Formula Three, Formula Two, Sports cars
He returned to racing in 1968, in Formula 3 and won the Italian championship in 1972; by the time he was already racing Formula 2, where he won several races and bought his way into Formula 1. Brambilla was 2nd to Jacky Ickx in a 1970 2-heat Formula Two race at the Salzburg Ring in Salzburg, Austria. He drove a March BMW to 4th place in Hockenheim, in a 1973 Formula Two race. There were two 10-lap heats covering 168.7 miles (271.50 km). Brambilla won the City of Enna Cup, the 5th 1973 event in the European automaker's championship for 2,000 cc cars. He averaged 121 miles per hour (195 km/h) over 180 miles (290 km). He drove an Abarth-Osella. Brambilla captured the pole for the Monza 4-hour auto race in a BMW 3.5 CSL.
March 1974 – 1976
In his first year of Formula One, Brambilla was as quick as his teammate Stuck, although more accident-prone. In the Swedish GP he ran in fifth until an engine problem. Brambilla finished tied for 18th, last, in the 1974 Formula One World Championship standings. In 1975 he amazed many at the Belgian GP, where he led until encountering brakes problems after 54 laps, and at the 1975 Swedish Grand Prix, where he secured pole position until a transmission failure forced him to retire after 36 laps. His great day came at the Österreichring in 1975, when he won a wet Austrian Grand Prix. He spun off and wrecked the nose of his car as he took the chequered flag, and completed his slowing down lap with the front of the car destroyed while waving to the crowd. As the race was shortened, with 60% of it completed, he only received 4.5 points instead of 9 for the win. A more serious accident occurred that season when Brambilla crashed his March through a new curve at Watkins Glen during qualifying for the 1975 United States Grand Prix. He backed into a guard rail afterwards but was unhurt. The session ended at that point with Niki Lauda leading. Before his accident Brambilla was second fastest with a lap of 118.21 mph (190.24 km/h). During 1976 he suffered several accidents and mechanical retirements, collecting only one point at the 1976 Dutch Grand Prix. He qualified his March in 8th position for the 1976 United States Grand Prix West. In the race Brambilla was tapped from behind by Carlos Reutemann before they reached the first turn. He lost the right rear wheel on his March on the 35th lap of the 1976 United States Grand Prix after holding fifth place for a time.
Surtees 1977 – 1978
In 1977, Brambilla moved to the Surtees team, where he scored six points. At the same time he also drove for the Alfa Romeo sports car team, achieving the World Championship for the team. Brambilla posted a time of 1:59:01.41 in qualifying his Surtees 8th for the 1977 Monaco Grand Prix.
Brambilla continued with Surtees in 1978. At the 1978 United States Grand Prix West he placed 17th in qualifying, with a time of 1:23.212. His #19 Beta Surtees TS 19 finished 14th after experiencing engine failure on lap 50.
In a multiple pileup at Monza in the 1978 Italian Grand Prix, in which Ronnie Peterson died, Brambilla suffered serious head injuries when he was hit by a flying wheel during the multiple collision on the opening lap. He recovered and returned to race in the 1979 Italian Grand Prix. In reaction to that race, it was announced in October 1978 that the Italian Grand Prix would moved to the Autodromo Dino Ferrari circuit in Imola for the next three years although this did not actually happen until 1980 and the 1979 Italian Grand Prix was at Monza again.
Alfa Romeo 1979 – 1980
Brambilla drove briefly for the Alfa Romeo Formula One team in 1979 and 1980. On the first day of qualifying for the 1979 United States Grand Prix Brambilla was timed at 83.87 miles per hour (134.98 km/h). Heavy rain caused a slick track and slower times. In December 1979 Alfa Romeo revealed its Formula One race car for the 1980 season. The company named Patrick Depailler, Brambilla, and Bruno Giacomelli as its drivers. The racer was nearly identical to one driven by Giacomelli in the 1979 Italian Grand Prix. It was a wing car design with a V-12 engine that generated more than 520 hp (388 kW). Alfa Romeo announced that it was working on a 1,500 cubic centimeter turbocharged engine which was to begin track testing in a Formula One car in the summer of 1980.
Retirement and death
Brambilla retired at the end of the 1980 season. In the early 1990s he opened a Formula One memorabilia shop in Milan, occasionally driving the safety car during the Italian Grand Prix. He died at Lesmo, near Milan, of a heart attack at the age of 63 while gardening at his home. He reportedly collapsed while mowing the lawn.
Complete Formula One results
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)
‡ Half points awarded as less than 75% of race distance completed.
- "Vittorio Brambilla Profile". grandprix.com.
- Ickx Wins Honors In Salzburg Race, New York Times, August 31, 1970, Page 48.
- Mass Captures Formula Two Race, New York Times, June 18, 1973, Page 41.
- Brambilla Is Victor, New York Times, August 16, 1973, Page 75.
- Merzario The Fastest, New York Times, March 23, 1975, Page 206.
- Final Driver Standing, New York Times, October 7, 1974, Page 45.
- Brain Surgery for Driver, New York Times, August 18, 1975, Page 17.
- Lauda, in 'Training' Car, Paces Qualifying At Glen, New York Times, October 4, 1975, Page 22.
- Regazzoni Takes Coast Race Pole, New York Times, March 28, 1976, Page 175.
- Good Turn For Brambilla? Drivers In Grand Prix Get A Fresh, New Start, Los Angeles Times, March 29, 1978, Page E1.
- Hunt Takes U.S. Grand Prix With Lauda Third, October 11, 1976, Page 47.
- Auto Racing, New York Times, May 23, 1977, Page E36.
- At Long Beach, Calif., New York Times, April 2, 1978, Page S8.
- Complete Results of 1978 Long Beach Grand Prix, Los Angeles Times, April 2, 1979, Page H10.
- 2 Reported Indicted In Fatal Crash, New York Times, October 3, 1979, Page D18.
- Italian Grand Prix Moved From Dangerous Monza Track, Los Angeles Times, October 27, 1978, Page SD_B4.
- Rain Sets Back Prix Qualifying, Washington Post, October 6, 1979, Page D2.
- Alfa Romeo Racer Shown, Los Angeles Times, December 11, 1979, Page D8.
- "Former Formula One driver Brambilla dies". GPUpdate.net. 27 May 2001. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
|Italian Formula Three Champion