Although Clay Regazzoni won the Italian Grand Prix in front of the fanatical Ferrari faithful, the weekend was dominated by the death of world champion in waiting Jochen Rindt during practice on the eve of the race.
Rindt was approaching the Parabolica when his Lotus 72 suddenly veered to the left, smashed into a guard rail, spun, and then hit the rail for the second time. The barriers, which had been badly installed, gave way and the wedge-shaped Lotus went under them. Rindt slid down in his seat and the seatbelt cut his throat. Even though there was a subsequent investigation into the unacceptable time it took before he reached hospital, it was acknowledged he had died almost instantly. Lotus boss Colin Chapman immediately withdrew his team from the weekend.
Denny Hulme, who was following Rindt when the accident occurred said: "When he braked the car went right and then veered left and straight into the guard rails. I suppose we were doing around 185mph at the time and after braking the Lotus must have hit the rails at 150mph."
Jacky Ickx took pole but only held the lead for four laps until team-mate Pedro Rodriguez overtook him. Jackie Stewart, whose title hopes had foundered in the overweight March 701, finally had a new car and immediately showed its potential by mixing it with the two leaders until both were passed by Regazzoni.
Rodriguez's engine blew on the 13th lap and the remaining trio were joined by Jackie Oliver who took the lead as Ickx retired with clutch failure before he himself was eliminated when his engine expired.
Jack Brabham was beginning to work his way through the field when he crashed heavily near the same spot Rindt had 24 hours earlier. Fortunately, he escaped, shaken but otherwise unharmed, and slowly trudged on foot back to the pits.
It was not until the closing laps that Regazzoni was finally able to get away from Stewart to secure his first victory to the delight of the home fans who poured onto the track in such numbers that the later finishers were unable to make it back to their garages.
Although the spectators celebrated, there was little pleasure among drivers or teams on what had been another wretched weekend. The loss of Rindt was made more acute by the result, which meant his lead in the drivers' championship was almost insurmountable.
The irony was that his crash was in almost the same spot Wolfgang von Trips had died nine years earlier. At the time von Trips was also leading the championship, although in that instance his team-mate Phil Hill finished the season with more points.