Career Summary:

Vittorio Brambilla

  • November 11, 1937
  • May 26, 2001
  • Italy
  • Not Active
  • 137
  • Alfa Romeo,Surtees,March
  • 10
  • 19
  • 6
  • 6
  • 7.30%
  • 13.87%

Vittorio Brambilla was an Italian Formula 1 driver. The story of his career perfectly matches the romantic and brutal period of racing in the 1970s.

Italian motorcycling champion

He was born on 11th of November 1937 in Monza so it wasn’t a surprise that he was infected with cars, motorcycles, and racing since his childhood. In 1957, Vittorio started to race motorcycles and in the following year, Brambilla became the Italian champion in 175 cc class. He also raced sporadically in go-karts before becoming a mechanic for his brother Ernesto who also was a racing driver.

Grand Prix 1975 Austrian video season Ronnie 2016 home 1978 1977 monaco 1979

Brambilla driving a Moto Guzzi at Bol D'Or race, 1971

The Monza Gorilla

Ten years after becoming the Italian motorcycle champion, Brambilla returned to racing. He was driving in the Italian Formula 3 and eventually became the champion in 1972, driving a brother’s old car. At the same time, he was driving for March team in Formula 2 with a considerable success.

Grand Prix 1975 Austrian 1977 video season Ronnie 2016 home 1978 monaco 1979

Vittorio Brambilla - The Monza Gorilla

The Italian driver obviously had raw talent but his driving style was aggressive, sometimes probably too aggressive, so he earned nickname – the Monza Gorilla. Unlike the most Italians, he lacked refinement and elegance. He was a strong macho man who liked to joke, but on the track, he was completely different.

Formula 1 debut with March

Thanks to the good results in lower formula racing categories, as well to the backing from Beta Tools he got an opportunity to enter the Formula 1 World Championship. It was with March team at 1974 South African Grand Prix in which he finished 10th. His first season in the series wasn’t brilliant as he picked only one point, finishing 6th place at Osterreichring.

March 1976 Austrian Grand Prix 1975 formula 2017 race home 1978

As a driver of March Formula 1 team

Brambilla stayed with March team for another two years. March never was among the front runners. The brakes of the cars possessed little stopping power but that was just fine for Vittorio. The season of 1975 definitely was the best in his career. He had a lot of retirements over the year but earned points at Montjuic circuit and Silverstone. Many of his colleagues described Brambilla as a dangerous maniac behind the wheel but many fans were delighted with that kind of approach.

Sensational win in Austria

They were especially frenetic after Brambilla won the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix at Osterreichring. The race was shortened due to heavy rain but Monza Gorilla really enjoyed racing on the track as he could do even bigger escapades. Probably forever will be remembered the spin-off and the wrecking of the nose of his March when he took the chequered flag in that race. Brambilla finished 11th in the Drivers’ championship that year what was his best result in Formula 1.

Austrian Grand Prix 1975 formula race home 1978 drivers 2017

Brambilla celebrates incredible win in Austria

In 1976, his last year with March, Italian driver picked only one point, finishing 6th in the Dutch Grand Prix. Just like in the previous years, he had too many accidents and retirements due to mechanical failures of his over pushed car. March’s chief designer Robin Herd sometimes was joking that he is not preparing cars for the races but repairing it, thanks to Brambilla.

Video - Brambilla wins 1975 Austrian Grand Prix

The Surtees car better endured agressive driving style

After he left March, Brambilla signed with Surtees team but nothing has changed in the terms of results and his mad driving style. In 1977, he reduced the number of retirements and scored points in three Grand Prix races, with 4th position in Belgium as the highlight of the year which he has finished in 16th place.

1978 home Austrian Grand Prix 1975 formula race 1976 drivers 2017

Vittorio Brambilla

The following year wasn’t a good one at all. Vittorio picked only one point finishing 6th in Austria. In the following race in the Netherlands, he was disqualified while at Monza Brambilla almost was killed. In the carnage in which Ronnie Peterson was killed, the local crowd favorite was hit by a flying wheel and suffered serious head injuries and was left in a coma.

Last try with Alfa Romeo

Luckily, Monza Gorilla was strong enough to recover but it was a long and painful year for the Italian driver. After recovery, Brambilla drove for Alfa Romeo in the last three rounds of 1979 F1 championship. He already spent some time with Alfa Romeo two years earlier, but competing in the World Sports Car Championship and help the team to win the title.

Austrian Grand Prix 1975 formula race

Brambilla ended his career as a driver of Alfa Romeo

In 1980 Brambilla appeared in only two races, at Zandvoort and Imola, but retired from both what wasn’t an illustrious way to finish the career which probably wasn’t brilliant but Brambilla was happy that he was part of the most prominent championship and being popular among the fans and the drivers, but only out of the track.

Retirement and early death

Later he owned a Formula 1 memorabilia shop and had his own garage in Monza. Occasionally he drove the medical car during the Italian Grand Prix. Vitto Brambilla died on 26th of May 2001 of a heart attack at the age of 63 while working in his garden in the town of Lesmo near Monza.