Ferrari 312 B2, an evolution-involution that marks the lowest point in the history of the Prancing H

2021-03-31 00:00

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Ferrari 312 B2, an evolution-involution that marks the lowest point in the history of the Prancing H

The 1970 season ended with a final part full of positive results, but which did not allow Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni to recover from the disadvanta


The 1970 season ended with a final part full of positive results, but which did not allow Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni to recover from the disadvantage in the standings against poor Jochen Rindt, who died during the Italian Grand Prix practice.


The Ferrari 312 B, which became vice world champion, is an innovative car, followed by the 312 B2, a car that basically remains similar to the 312 B undergoing only a small evolution.


The B2 was presented in January 1971, but is ready to make its debut in the championship only in the Monaco Grand Prix. With this model, Ferrari will compete in the '71 and '72 seasons, obtaining however modest results that will not allow it to fight for the championship victory.


An unprecedented rear suspension to adapt the new engine


Mauro Forghieri's 312 B2 project once again focuses on the engine. In the previous 312 B a totally new engine was introduced, the Ferrari Tipo 001, a twelve cylinder with 180° cylinder banks, of 3.000 cubic centimeters, which was equipped with two overhead camshafts each. On the next 312 B2 the engine has a shorter stroke, which allows an increase in maximum rpm and therefore a greater power output. In fact, the engine goes from 450 to 470 horsepower at 12.600 rpm.


The novelty at Maranello is that of the unification of the Formula 1 engine with that of the Sport, to reduce costs, but this forces Forghieri to modify the rear suspension, where double driving struts are put in place, positioned above the spring / shock absorber group change connected to the hub with push arms. This modification is made to counter a widespread problem in racing car designs, such as that of the masses.


The 312 B2 is lighter, and this measure brings positive results in the tests carried out at the Pininfarina Wind Tunnel. A variable that came into play at the beginning of the championship are the new low-slick tires proposed by Firestone, which however penalize the performance of the B2. Ickx and Regazzoni complain of strong vibrations on the rear tires and so Forghieri decides to make a further modification; it is the insertion of damping masses on the hub carrier, calibrated according to the frequencies of the vibrations of the tires.


For the rest, the Modenese engineer only refines the aerodynamic part: the front nose is low and square, the sides are straight, while at the rear he adds a white fairing behind the cockpit, which partially wraps the engine. Finally, the rear wing, moved behind the axis behind the wheels, is joined with an appendix of the roll bar.


The 1971 season


In the inaugural race in South Africa, at Kyalami, Ferrari arrives with four cars and three drivers: Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni, and the American Mario Andretti, who arrives to replace poor Ignazio Giunti, who died in an accident in the 1000 Kilometers of Buenos Aires. The cars brought for this weekend are three 312 B and only one 312 B2, which is tested by Clay Regazzoni in a test session, but ends up being damaged in an accident and therefore all the drivers will be driving a 312 B at the away of the championship.


In qualifying, Ferrari placed two drivers on the second row, with Regazzoni ahead of Andretti and Ickx only eighth. In the race, despite a poor start, Andretti found his first victory in Formula 1, taking advantage of the problems of Hulme, who was ahead of him with a few laps to go. Regazzoni also gets on the podium, behind Stewart's Tyrrell, while Ickx, conditioned by a puncture in the early stages, does not go beyond eighth position.


In the weeks leading up to the second round of the season, Clay Regazzoni's victory in the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, a race not valid for the championship, should be noted.


In the Spanish Grand Prix, Ferrari, still competing with the old 312 Bs, dominated in practice, with Ickx taking pole position by beating Regazzoni. In the race Stewart climbs up three places and takes the lead on the sixth lap, passing the poleman Ickx. It will be a long-distance duel for the entire race between the top two, with Stewart managing to keep the lead until the end, taking home the win ahead of Jacky Ickx. The other two Ferrari drivers are forced to retire: Regazzoni for a fuel pump failure, while Andretti for an engine failure.


At the Monaco Grand Prix, Stewart prevails in qualifying, but Ickx, with the new 312 B2, is right behind the English driver of Tyrrell. In the race Ickx finishes third, taking home the first points with the new car and the second podium of the season, but thanks to his success Stewart considerably extends his advantage in the championship.


In the Dutch Grand Prix Jacky Ickx dominates the entire weekend: in practice he beats Rodriguez, the championship leader Stewart, and Regazzoni; in the race, the Belgian from Ferrari takes the lead a few laps from the end, overtaking Rodriguez and taking his seventh career victory, and taking his first success to the new 312 B2.


A superlative day for Ferrari, accompanied by Regazzoni's third place; less good goes to Andretti, retired almost immediately due to a petrol pump failure.


The following weekend in France, in the new Le Castellet track, is to be forgotten for the team from Maranello. After an excellent qualification with Regazzoni and Ickx, second and third respectively (while Andretti is absent due to participation in the USAC championship), the two drivers have to retire: the Belgian stops due to an engine problem, while the Swiss following an accident caused by the oil spilled on the track by Peterson's March-Alfa Romeo, thus giving the go-ahead to the victorious Stewart to extend his lead at the top of the drivers' standings.


In the British Grand Prix, land of the main rivals, Ferrari disappoints again. Despite a great performance in qualifying with Regazzoni's second career pole and a great start in the race, both the Swiss and Ickx, hoisted immediately behind, are forced to abandon, once again due to the failure of the engine; all this while Stewart dominates in front of his audience and flies in the world rankings.


In the German Grand Prix, Ferrari still behaves positively in practice, with Ickx second and Regazzoni fourth. But in the race the Belgian driver ends up spinning and retires, causing Regazzoni to go off the track and somehow manage to resume the race. The final result sees once again the victory of Stewart, who by now mortgages the world championship, while Ferrari gets points after a fast of two races, with Regazzoni third and Andretti fourth, present this weekend with the third car.


In the last races of the season, Ferrari is penalized by numerous reliability problems. In Austria and Italy, neither Jacky Ickx nor Clay Regazzoni manage to finish a race due to engine problems; all this while Stewart and Tyrrell win the drivers and constructors championships.


In the difficult Canadian Grand Prix, the Maranello team returns to field all three drivers, but in the race the best result is obtained by Jacky Ickx, only eighth, with Andretti eleventh and Regazzoni who leaves after a few laps.


In the last race in the USA at Watkins, Glen Regazzoni got a point thanks to the sixth place obtained, not enough to conquer the second place in the constructors' classification, where Ferrari took the B.R.M., with the podium of Jo Siffert.


A terrible end to the season for the Maranello team, which scored just one point in the last four races due to the numerous failures of the powerful Ferrari engine, and finished third in the constructors' classification, on a par with March, which, however, finished behind in ranking for the best result against. As for the balance sheet of the 312 B2, there is only one victory with Jacky Ickx and three other third places, divided between the Belgian and Clay Regazzoni, but the trend of the season ends with a vertical dive of results due to too many retirements, where for almost all of them the pilots are innocent.


The 1972 season


For the following season the starting drivers Ickx and Regazzoni are reconfirmed, with the alternate presence during the season of Andretti, also involved in the USAC American championship. After a season that ended with only one victory, but above all with a negative trend of results in the last races of the year, the Scuderia Ferrari is back on the field with the Ferrari 312 B2.


The season turns out to be quite similar to 1971, with few noteworthy placings, and a situation at Ferrari tormented by the absence of the Commendatore and the dismissal of engineer Forghieri at the end of the 1972 season, exiled to the study center of the Modena office.


In the opening race in Argentina, the Maranello team's season got off to a good start, as Jacky Ickx finished third at the finish, ahead of Clay Regazzoni.


In South Africa it is Mario Andretti, with the third car, who obtained the best result thanks to the fourth place, while the top drivers Ickx and Regazzoni finish the race outside the points zone.


Back in Europe, specifically in Spain, Jacky Ickx gets the first pole position of the season. But in the race the Belgian makes a bad start at the start and is parked by Hulme, Stewart and the other Ferrari driver Regazzoni, author of an excellent start. Andretti also managed to recover some positions during the race, climbing up to fourth place, but he has to retire due to an oil pressure problem. Ickx moved up to second position, while Hulme and Stewart retired, allowing Regazzoni to gain third place.


Fittipaldi on Lotus wins the race, just ahead of the two Ferrari drivers Ickx and Regazzoni.


In the Monaco Grand Prix, the Ferraris lead a brilliant qualifying session in the rain, obtaining the second time with Ickx and the third with Regazzoni. In the race is the B.R.M. of Beltoise to take the lead, while Ickx loses two positions, but manages to regain the second position and, although he manages to close the gap from the French of the B.R.M., he never manages to worry him also due to the lapping. The Belgian closes in second place, while Regazzoni finishes his race against the barriers, after slipping on a slick of oil.


In the following three weekends, Ferrari found many difficulties along its path: Jacky Ickx, despite seeming the only one who can fight for the title, was unable to collect even a point, between retirements due to reliability problems and further misfortunes that they see them move away from the top of the drivers' championship; only noteworthy result is the pole position obtained at Brands Hatch.


Clay Regazzoni is certainly not going better, given that in the race held in Belgium he ends up off the road to avoid Galli's crashed car and retires, while due to an arm problem he is unable to participate in either the French Grand Prix or the one scheduled for Great Britain. With Andretti still engaged in overseas competitions, Nanni Galli, from Tecno, will replace the injured Regazzoni in the French Grand Prix, while in Great Britain it is the Ferrari driver of the Sport Prototypes championship Arturo Merzario who will compete, even managing to conquer the sixth place.


Merzario in Formula 1, for the future of the Maranello team, will be a fundamental person who will provide essential indications for the subsequent Ferraris that will return to achieve successes and world titles in the highest competition.


Regazzoni makes his comeback in the German Grand Prix, but Merzario is also present with the third car. Jacky Ickx takes his fourth personal pole of the year, ahead of the best in the championship so far, namely Stewart and Fittipaldi.


At the start Ickx keeps his head, while behind him there is a lot of tussle, with Regazzoni gaining some positions and moving to third place. On the second lap Fittipaldi passes him, but shortly after Peterson loses several positions, and this allows the Swiss from Ferrari to move up to third place. After a few laps Regazzoni goes up to the second, taking advantage of the abandonment of Fittipaldi due to a gearbox failure.


The leading positions stabilize until the finish line, despite a duel between Regazzoni and Stewart on the last lap in which they meet; Ferrari returns to win after fifteen races, and it does so with Ickx obtaining his eighth and last career victory. With Regazzoni second, the team earns a double that was missing since the 1970 Mexican Grand Prix, moreover with the same riders in the same ranking order.


The result of the Nurburgring, however, does not overturn the season of the Maranello team, which will no longer be able to conquer noteworthy placings until the end of the year.


In Austria, after an excellent second time in Regazzoni's practice, the two Ferrari drivers retired after a few laps due to fuel problems.


In the Italian Grand Prix, Jacky Ickx gets his thirteenth and last pole position in Formula 1, while Clay Regazzoni starts from the second row with Andretti just behind, seventh. In the race Ickx leads the race until his 312 B2 betrays him a few laps from the end due to electrical problems, paving the way for the fifth win of the season for the already world champion Fittipaldi. Not even Regazzoni finishes his race due to an accident at the new Variante Ascari, while only Andretti reaches the finish line, seventh.


In the appointment in Canada, Ferrari seems to be able to partially redeem itself in the race, but it remains a utopia. Ickx, fighting for the podium, begins to suffer a loss of power that slowly makes him fall back in the standings for the rest of the race. Even Regazzoni - after Peterson's disqualification and Fittipaldi's problems - seems to be able to play for third place, but during a dubbing he touches with the March of the American Barber making him lose some positions. The Ticinese finished fifth, Ickx only eleventh.


The season ends in the United States and sees only a couple of points finishes for Ferrari; Ickx closes fifth in front of Andretti, with Regazzoni eighth and out of the points.


The 1972 season turns out to be a photocopy of the previous year: an excellent start to the season, followed by many retirements due to unreliability that negatively mark the path. Ickx is the best in the drivers' standings with a fourth final place, obtained with the only seasonal success for Ferrari, in Germany, and three other podiums.


In the constructors' classification, the Maranello team worsens the final result of the previous year: despite the same points obtained, it does not go beyond fourth place, behind Lotus, Tyrrell and McLaren. A result that does not satisfy the ambitions of a great team like that of Ferrari.


The 312 B2 was to be an evolution of the fast and powerful 312 B, which had brought great satisfaction to Ferrari. But the final tally of the B2 remains meagre and insufficient for the hopes of the world championships: just two successes brought home, despite the six poles conquered and overall, the podiums are only about ten in about two seasons.


The team will enter a complex vortex after Enzo Ferrari's departure for health reasons, combined with Forghieri's exile from the role of technical director, accused of being the main culprit for the poor results of recent years. This period is remembered as one of the lowest in the history of the team from Maranello, and certainly the 312 B2 is also remembered as one of the least competitive Ferraris that participated in the Formula 1 World Championship.


Nicola Battello

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