Another fragment of the Profile of a Legend interview, with some great footage of Niki in Monza. It’s good to see James laughing about it 15 years later. At the time:
Hunt was apoplectic, not so much because of his exclusion, but by the scrutineers’ assertion that he was a cheat. The implication by their actions was that the team had not competed fairly throughout 1976.
Here’s a further description of the sordid affair from Shunt:
So on Sunday morning, the Italian stewards announced that the Hunt’s and his teammate Jochen Mass’ fuel was illegal and that their Saturday times would be disallowed. Only their Friday qualifying times, run in the wet, would count. (…)
The organisers’ clear intention had been to put the cars out of the race completely. The disallowed times effectively meant that Hunt, Mass and Watson would not be allowed to start; their sub-two minute, rain-affected qualifying times on Friday were not fast enough to get in the race. (…)
Before the exclusions, three drivers hadn’t qualified for the race (…). Gradually, all three drivers withdrew to make way for the disqualified drivers and, much to the chagrin of the Italians, Hunt, Mass and Watson were back in the race.
But Hunt would still have to start the Italian Grand Prix from the second to last row of the starting grid. Hunt was so angry, he even thought about withdrawing. But realising it would be a fruitless protest, he focused on trying to get some points – although he knew he could no longer win outright. But his heart was not in it, and by the 11th lap he was in 12th place when he came together with Tom Pryce’s Shadow and went off the road. His McLaren-Ford went into the sand and beached with its rear wheels spinning wildly.