Heard with much sadness on Monday of the death of Peter Gethin at the age of 71 following a brief illness.
This chirpy and popular pint-sized son of a successful jockey hit the F1 headlines in 1971 when he won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, forcing his BRM P160 into the lead on the final corner to win by one-hundredth of a second from Ronnie Peterson’s March at a then-record average speed of 151.634mph.
Gethin started racing in a Lotus Seven in the early 1960s and was one of the most successful F3 rising stars of that close-fought decade. In 1969 he won the inaugural British Formula 5000 championship at the wheel of a McLaren M10A fielded by Church Farm Racing and in 1970 was promoted to the McLaren F1 team after Bruce McLaren’s death in a testing accident at Goodwood.
In 1971 he made a mid-season switch to BRM after his relationship with McLaren team principal Teddy Mayer broke down irretrievably. He switched teams only weeks before scoring that memorable victory at Monza.
Gethin always recounted with much amusement the fact that BRM boss Louis Stanley spent the Italian GP weekend trying to recruit Jackie Stewart’s team-mate François Cevert to drive for the team in 1972 and, on the evening before the race, Peter found himself moved to the bottom of the dinner table to make room for the French driver.
Barely 24 hours later, Gethin was being swept regally out of the paddock in the Stanley’s Mercedes 600, only to finish his greatest day squatting in his overalls by the side of the road back to Como changing a flat tyre. Peter was a great guy and will be sadly missed.