Only nine days have passed since the first round of the Formula One World Championship and already preparations are being made for the Spanish Grand Prix. On 16 March 1970, the organisers of seven Grands Prix, together with representatives of McLaren, Tyrrell, Brabham, March and Surtees concluded what is known as the Geneva Agreement. Thanks to this, it was established that, irrespective of the times recorded, ten drivers from ten different teams would be guaranteed a place on the starting grid ex officio, thus securing them the starting prize. The agreement clearly has an economic as well as a sporting perspective, as it aims to ensure that each team is guaranteed to have at least one of its drivers in the race. The only ones excluded are the teams of Frank Williams and Andy Granatelli. The ten privileged drivers chosen are Stewart for Tyrrell, Ickx for Ferrari, Rindt for Gold Leaf Team Lotus, Brabham, and Surtees with the teams of the same name, Hill for Rob Walker Racing Team, Amon for March, Beltoise for Equipe Matra Elf, Hulme for McLaren and finally Rodriguez for B.R.M. Waiting to know the developments of this important decision, the duel between Porsches and Ferraris in the 12 Hours of Sebring, second round of the World Championship for Makes, starts on Sunday 22nd March 1970, at 11:00 am. The early stages are in favour of the Scuderia Ferrari, firmly in the lead of the competition after five hours of racing with Andretti-Merzario, Ickx-Schetty and Giunti-Vaccarella ahead of the 917 of Rodriguez-Kinnunen. Since the first hours, two of the white Stuttgart cars were obliged to retire: the car driven by Elford-Ahrens because of a collision with the three-litre Ferrari driven by Posey, and the car driven by Herrman-Lins because of a mechanical failure. The Porsche driven by Siffert-Redman seemed to be in difficulty, so much so that the more time passed, the more a resounding affirmation of the Italian cars was outlined. Also, the Alfa 33.3 cars behaved well, of which - always after five hours - the most evident was the one driven by Masten Gregury-Hezemans, fifth behind Ferrari and Porsche. At the start of the race, just 30,000 spectators lined the 8360-metre circuit in the old Sebring airport. The weather is clear, the temperature is around 30 °C. Sixty-eight cars are on the track, including American film actor Steve MeQueen's 908 three-litre. After a start lap (this year, for the first time, the start is launched), Andretti, who had been the fastest in practice, sprints off, followed by Siffert, Ickx, Elford and Rodriguez.
Andretti's first lap was already a record: the Italian American took 2'39"3. Andretti does even better on the next lap (2'38"2) and exceeds himself on the third with 2'37"5, equal to an average of 191 km/h. The Matras and Alfas lost an average of 5.7 seconds per lap. Siffert countered Andretti, while Ickx moved into third position. On lap 16, the Swiss overtook the Italian American, who quickly took the lead again, while the Porsches of Elford and Rodriguez were chasing. Almost at the end of the first hour of the race, the red 512 S driven by Andretti stopped in the pits for refuelling, followed at short intervals by the Porsches driven by Ickx and Giunti. The terrible battle between Porsches and Ferraris went on in the second hour, with the 512 S cars that gained one position taking advantage of Siffert's stop at his pit, while in the third hour Porsches slowed down the pace, leaving the way free to Ferraris, to the one driven by Andretti, really wild. The 917 driven by Herrman retired, the Matras and the Alfas were also advancing. An American mechanic was hit by a car in the pit, but without serious consequences. The fourth and fifth hours didn't bring substantial changes to the situation. Elford was obliged to retire because of a collision with Posey (both unharmed) and Porsche lost an excellent car, Siffert disappeared from the first positions, while the Alfa with Hezemans overtook the Matra Simca with Gurney. At the end of the race, the American press will give great prominence to Ferrari's victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring. The combination of the Modenese company and the Italian American driver Mario Andretti - it is said in the United States - opens a new chapter in motor racing history, making the past forgotten. After the crushing defeat at Daytona, few would have bet on Ferrari's chances of success. Instead, the predictions have been overturned, and the very way the race is run arouses an enthusiasm not seen in motorsport for a long time. After six years, Ferrari returned to victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring, triumphing in a dramatic finale that saw one of the red Italian cars win, in record time, by 23 seconds and eight tenths, over the Porsche of actor Steve McQueen and the heir to the king of cosmetics, Peter Revson. At the wheel of the Maranello racing car, Mario Andretti led the eleventh of the twelve hours of competition, with the Ferrari on which he teamed up with Arturo Menarlo: but his gearbox broke down and the American driver was forced to abandon.
But he didn't give up and jumped into the driving seat of Ignazio Giunti and Nino Vaccarella's car, driving it brilliantly to the finish line.
"Most of the credit goes to Giunti and Vaccarella; I only stepped in at the last moment to help them out. I didn't think we could do it. It's the hardest race I've ever done. Yes, I include the Indianapolis 500 in the calculation".
Holding up the German manufacturer's flag was the private 908 of McQueen and Revson, which was in fourth place at the halfway point of the race. McQueen was at the start with a foot in plaster; people looked at him and Revson as a likeable and enthusiastic couple, but not many people thought they would do well, and instead they arrived to threaten Ferrari's success. Mario, an Italian by birth, moved to the United States in 1955: things weren't going too well for the Andretti family in Italy and his father, a farmer, decided to try his luck overseas. They settled in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where the father found work in a mill. Mario and his twin brother Aldo set their sights on racing.
"I've wanted to be a driver since I was six or seven years old. I saw a few Mille Miglias and in 1954 the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. There's room for everyone in America, and it wasn't long before Aldo and I got into racing".
Mario is a modest man. Those were hard years. Aldo was injured in an accident and Mario was the only driver in the family. At the age of twenty-one, after intensive training in series car races, he switched to single-seaters and competitions such as the Indianapolis 500. In this race, the little Italian has since become an American citizen. Last year he won the 500 Miglia, also taking the title of US champion for the third time. His face has appeared on the cover of Newsweek, his advertising commitments are like those of a star, he earns more than 21.000.000 dollars a year. Andretti is a good businessman. His slogan is:
"Anyone who knows how to drive and does not come out of this business as a rich man is a fool".
On the other hand, he is right to put his fantastic skills to good use. Andretti doesn't know the word danger, but he does know that his profession is subject to many risks. That's why he enjoys being with his wife and children the most. At home, he is an excellent cook and prepares meals for his friends. And there are many of them, because the Italian American is a kind man who knows how to control himself, even in the tense hours before the race. He jokes, chats, answers to everyone. The mechanics say:
"You get on well with him easily. He never makes a fuss".
In racing, he is something else. His pursuit on the Sebring track is a page worthy of Nuvolari. It shows an iron will, a desire to win that makes the professional driver more human. And you have to believe that the name of the car has nothing to do with it. Ferrari, even in America, is a name that excites. For Andretti, who does not forget his origins and his arduous path to success, winning an American race in a Ferrari is probably particularly satisfying. Already at Daytona, in February, he had tenaciously tried to get his 512 S onto the podium, but in the last few minutes Siffert had robbed him of the satisfaction of the place of honour. Now, Mario has taken his revenge. Thus began, in a Florida airport, thanks to an American from Italy, Ferrari's revenge. It is said that magicians no longer live in Maranello, but perhaps Enzo Ferrari's wand had only rusted. Now, in the new dimension resulting from the agreement with Fiat, the conditions are in place for a relaunch. Ferrari technicians and drivers return to Italy, together with their colleagues from Alfa Romeo, on Wednesday 25 March 1970. Engineer Mauro Fotghieri, head of Scuderia Ferrari's racing department, says as soon as he sets foot in the spacious halls of the Malpensa airport:
"Victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring is an important milestone for us, because it has allowed us to reap the first tangible benefits of the considerable technical efforts made to bring us back to the forefront. Now, in terms of performance, we are on a par with, or perhaps superior to, the Porsches. However, our cars are not yet perfectly tuned, and this victory will help us to complete the tuning".
Marelli clarifies what will be one of the directions in which Ferrari's engineers will intensify their efforts to improve the overall performance of their car.
"Porsches still have a slight advantage in that they consume much less than our 512 S. We have a very powerful engine and, so far, we have not been concerned with consumption, but with its performance. We have a very powerful engine and, so far, we have not been concerned with consumption, but with its performance. Now we will also try to reduce consumption so that we can reduce the number of refuelling stops".
Roman driver Giunti can't hide his discontent with those who have attributed almost exclusive credit for the Sebring success to the Italian American driver Andretti. After all, the car that ended up winning was driven for eleven hours and ten minutes by Giunti and Vaccarella, and for fifty minutes by Andretti. So why should the latter be given most of the credit? The question was first posed by Alfa Romeo driver Andrea De Adamich. The driver from Trieste intervened in favour of the two modest Ferrari colleagues, stating:
"The credit for the victory has been given to the Italian-American Andretti, but that is not fair. Andretti dominated with another car, until he was forced to abandon it because of a gearbox failure. Then he won with Giunti and Vaccarella's car, in which he raced for only 50 minutes, without even changing the positions in the classification".
Andrea de Adamich's polemic clarification was answered by Ferrari's sporting director, Franco Gozzi, who pointed out:
"After Andretti and Merzario were disqualified by the gearbox failure of their car, we entrusted the Italo-American with the car of Giunti and Vaccarella for psychological reasons. Siffert's Porsche had a six-girl advantage and so it was necessary to induce the German driver to push hard and run the risk of breaking down. Only by forcing Siffert to retire could he be beaten and, in fact, after Andretti took over driving Giunti and Vaccarella's 512 S, Siffert was forced to abandon".
Satisfaction no less legitimate among Alfa Romeo managers and drivers. Autodelta's technical director, engineer Chiti, comments:
"We managed to achieve a very prestigious result, despite some small anomalies that greatly disturbed us. We started three cars and three came in. One of them, moreover, finished third overall, just two laps behind the Porsche of actor Steve McQueen, even though we lost about five minutes due to a very trivial accident. Masten Gregory lost his fuel cap gasket. When he realised what had happened, he had to slow down for fear of losing fuel and had to stop in the pits to have the cap changed. So, he lost five minutes".
The Brands Hatch 1000 Kilometre race, scheduled on Sunday 12th April 1970 on the winding English circuit of 4260 metres, constitutes the third episode of the Brands Championship, the third moment of the challenge between Ferrari and Porsche. It was a battle with more and more heated tones, with the two constructors preparing super cars for the highlight of the season, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Stuttgart is announcing a version of the 917 capable of reaching 400 km/h, while Maranello is responding with a long-tailed 512 S, which should reach Porsche levels. Moreover, both contenders were trying to strengthen themselves: Porsche with Hulme, Ferrari with two former drivers like Amon (called back to replace Andretti) and Surtees.
A strange comeback, after all the controversies that had followed the divorce of the two drivers with Ferrari. Meantime, at Brands Hatch, in the first round of practice, Amon and Ickx, with Elford (who was considered by Porsche as a car wrecker, but they had no intention of giving up), have highlighted the Ferrari 512 S, while Alfa and Matra were on the second level. On the English circuit, Amon-Merzario and Jckx-Oliver (the baby crew that won last year in France has been reconstituted) will fight at the wheel of the 512 S, while for John Wyer's Gulf-Porsche and Porsche Salzburg Rodriguez-Kinnunen, Siffert-Redman, Elford-Attwood and Herrmann-Hulme will be on the track with the 917s of 4500 cc. The German five-litre cars will appear at Monza and the new 3000 cc 908s at Targa Florio. Alfa (at Brands Hatch there is only one car, entrusted to De Adamich-Courage) and Matra (Beltoise-Pescarolo) can only play, barring surprises, the role of supporting players, in the wake of Ferrari and Porsche. Two points divide the first from the second (Porsche 15 points, Ferrari 13) in the championship classification. On Sunday evening, we will know what fate those two points will have. Will they be coloured red or the blue orange of Gulf-Porsche? Ferrari has a good chance of success in the third round of the world championship for makes, above all because the two 512 S cars will take the places of honour at the start with Amon- Merzario and Ickx-Oliver. The first of the Porsche 917s, the one driven by Elford and Hulme, will start in third position. The dispute between the German company, which won the championship last year, and the one from Maranello has therefore come to a critical moment, which can overturn the positions. New Zealander Chris Amon was the fastest in practice, lapping the 4260- metre circuit in 1'28"6, at an average speed of 173.260 km/h. The second-best time was set by Belgian Jackie Ickx, co-driver of Englishman Jackie Oliver in 1'28"8. Ickx will not be able to take part in Saturday's practice because during Friday night he will travel to Le Mans, France, for the first practice session of the 24 Hours. The fastest of the Porsches, as said, was the 917 driven by Elford and Dennis Hulme, called to replace the injured Aurens. Elford ran at 1:28:8, like Ickx, but he was classified after him because he tested later. In fourth place, at the head of the three-litre cars, will be Australian Jack Brabham (second driver Jean Pierre Beltoise), with a Matra Simca. Brabham achieved an excellent 1'29", while the Alfa Romeo 33.3 of De Adamich and Coura ran in 1'30"6.
"The most difficult problem to solve is to prevent it from taking off".
Admit the Porsche engineers who are completing a version of the 917 a capable of reaching 400 km/h in the company's top-secret department in Stuttgart. This monstrous car should be fielded at Le Mans, in the 24 Hours, scheduled for June. In the meantime, if it is completed in time, it will take to the track on Sunday morning at Le Mans to take part in the first practice session for the classic French competition. As a matter of fact, a Le Mans-type 917 had already been built and had completed a series of laps on the Solitude circuit on the outskirts of Stuttgart. Kurt Ahrens was driving it. Then, in the rain, the large car lost its grip due to the phenomenon of aquaplaning, slipped and fell off the road. Aherens, who was initially reported to be seriously injured, was in fact only bruised. However, he will have to remain at rest for at least three weeks. The 400km/h 917 will be given to the Gulf-Porsche team, which is responsible for the German cars' participation in the World Championship this year. This is the Stuttgart company's response to the Ferrari 512 S, whose victory at Sebring has caused some concern, although Rico Sietnemann, Porsche's sporting director, confines himself to saying:
"It was a crazy day, when everything went wrong for us".
And, very diplomatically, he adds:
"After all, we are pleased to have a strong opponent. Our successes, if they come, will be more valuable".
The German engineers have studied a new design for the rear of the 917. They say:
"We will reach 400 km/h only thanks to the new aerodynamic shape".
It has a very long, distinctive tail with two wings, or rudders, that rise parallel to the end of the sides, giving the car a vague airplane-like appearance. The 400 km/h should be reached on the six- kilometre Mulsanne Straight, where in previous years the 360 km/h limit has been reached. The thought of overtaking makes one shudder, and one wonders whether the drivers will be able to cope with the technology. The safety problems are becoming more and more serious. At Porsche, however, they are sure of what they are doing. They are also preparing a five-litre version of the 4.500 cc 12-cylinder engine currently fitted to the 917. Steinemann explains:
"It's an achievement that has given us some problems. The cylinder heads are identical, but we changed the stroke and the bore, the crankshaft, the connecting rods and the pistons. We think this engine will be able to produce 600 horsepower".
A 917 with 5.000 cc will make its debut on 25 April 1970 in the Monza 1000 Kilometre race. If the test is positive, the five-litre will receive its definitive consecration in the Le Mans race.
"The 400 km/h long tail and the new engine: the 917 will be Porsche's Apollo 11".
Those in charge at the German manufacturer say with a smile. In the meantime, as the calendar is
packed to the rafters, the Brands Hatch 1000km is looming.
"We are forced to do some real balancing act to cope with all the commitments".
Steinemann says. In fact, Gulf-Porsche has chartered planes to fly the drivers from Brands Hatch, thirty kilometres from London to the Le Mans circuit, on the edge of which there is an airport. In this way, they will be able to train in France, after testing in England, and return to Brands Hatch in time for Sunday's 1000 Kilometre race, when former motorbike champion Mike Hailwood and Porsche test driver Herbert Linge, not involved in the English race, will try out the new version of the 917. At Porsche they don't joke, at any cost the battle with Ferrari must be won. Maranello has the task of responding adequately. Sunday 12 April 1970 turns out to be a bad day for Ferrari: Porsche triumphs at Brands Hatch, in the 1000 Kilometres. The electrical systems are put in crisis by the rain and the humidity, making the 512 S of Amon-Merzario (the New Zealander is also the protagonist of a spectacular spin with a crash against a guardrail) and Ickx-Oliver stop at the pits for a long time. Result: four Porsches in the first four places, with Rodriguez-Kinnunen, Elford-Hulme, Attwood-Herrmann and Laine-Van Lennep (the first three crews at the wheel of the 917, the other one at the 908 three litres), fifth the car driven by Amon and eighth the one driven by Ickx. The only official 917 retired was the one driven by Siffert and Redman: the latter, while he was in the second position, on the 178th of the 235 laps in programme, went off the track smashing the car, but he remained unharmed. The same fate befell the Alfa 33.3 of De Adamich-Courage, while the Italian was at the wheel. He too was unhurt. Porsche, therefore, takes a resounding revenge on Ferrari after the defeat suffered at Sebring. The men of Gulf-Porsche, the team that looks after the Stuttgart cars, and those of Porsche-Salzburg, the other team that uses German cars, allowed the German marque to move up in the world championship standings to 24 points, increasing the advantage over the Italian manufacturer from two to nine. The championship is still open (there are still eight rounds to run), but Brands Hatch race showed that Porsche was pursuing its battle with determination, while, among other things, the Italian team was experiencing some polemics, in consideration of Amon's return (just in the rain, which Chris notoriously didn't like), the engagement of Oliver for the British race and the exclusion of Vaccarella and Giunti from it.
The protagonist was Pedro Rodriguez, the Mexican who Ferrari didn't want to confirm for 1970, and who had already won at Daytona. Rodriguez jumped to the lead after ten laps (only in the very first stages Ickx was able to take the lead for a few passages, then the windscreen wiper got stuck and the Belgian had to stop at the pits) and kept the position till the finishing line, driving for five hours and three quarters of the six and three quarters duration of the race. The Mexican drove his 917 with skill and recklessness (and was even cautioned for his reckless overtaking while the marshals were waving the yellow hazard flags for an accident), and was also the protagonist of two spins, but without damage. Other drivers are less fortunate. Rain and a new stretch of asphalt turned the winding up-and-down track of Brands Hatch into a trap, which fortunately didn't cause any victims. Courage, for example, spun in front of the central grandstand, running three hundred metres in the opposite direction to the race direction. Co- teammate de Adamich, as mentioned, then went off the track at 150 km/h. The Alfa 33.3 crashed into a protective barrier, catching fire as the racer threw himself out of the cockpit and the fire brigade rushed in. In the end, many will say:
"It wasn't a car race, but a motorboat race".
Until Sunday 12 April 1970, the balance of the championship was basically even, but at Brands Hatch the 512 S had to stop for a series of trivial and well-identified reasons, but no less serious. Electrical systems, fuel pumps and other things didn't work properly, making the efforts of Amon-Merzario and Ickx-Oliver futile. Moreover, it seems that Ickx, who has a good character and is not afraid of being unemployed, made his protests heard by Ferrari, also accusing the mechanics of being too slow in the pit assistance operations. In fact, the young Belgian has a point. Is it possible that a downpour, however violent, should put a jewel like the 512 S in difficulty? As luck would have it, the tuning of the cars took place in prohibitive conditions, in continuous rain, from Monza to Vallelunga. Various types of problems immediately appeared, particularly in the distributor. The pump defect has also been known about for some time, but apparently it has not yet been remedied. What disappoints the fans is this: the engine runs beautifully. In terms of stability and pick-up, the 512 S cars have nothing to envy from the 917s, but then minor problems crop up, but they stop the car's momentum. Well-known problems. Moreover, there is an air of controversy in the Ferrari clan. Someone claimed that the technical director Mauro Forghieri was excessively centralised, that between him, the drivers and the mechanics there was often a crisis; Vaccarella and Giunti didn't like the fact that at Brands Hatch they were preferred to the recovered Amon and to Oliver, who knew the English track, but on the other hand he didn't know the car, and to Surtees. A rather tangled situation, while the Spanish Grand Prix was approaching. Ickx is happy with his new single-seater, the 312 B.
It is therefore hoped that in Madrid he will repeat the success of Sebrlng, even if in the different field of Formula 1, rather than a defeat as happened at Brands Hatch. Perhaps Ferrari, Lotus, B.R.M., De Tomaso and McLaren-Alfa will not take part in the Spanish Grand Prix, the second round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The reason: the representatives of the five racing teams do not agree with what was recently decided in Geneva between the race organisers and some of the competitors (McLaren, Brabham, March, Surtees and Ken Tyrrel) regarding the fees to be awarded to manufacturers and drivers. Ferrari (with Ickx), Lotus (Rindt and Miles), B.R.M. (Rodriguez, Oliver and Eaton), De Tomaso (Courage) and McLaren- Alfa (De Adamich) would boycott the Spanish Grand Prix in protest, inviting the CSI to intervene. At most, the five teams would be able to participate in the race but without engagement and, in the case of victories or placings, would not collect their prizes. Discussions on the matter are under way between the managers of the teams. The trials are scheduled for Friday (twenty-six entrants, sixteen places available: because ten drivers are automatically qualified, the other sixteen will have to earn their place) and will continue on Saturday. We'll see how this case will end. And yet, despite initial doubts, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Jarama circuit, near Madrid, opened the European Formula 1 season, the first round of which was held in March in South Africa. It was an inauguration full of controversy, both on the financial and regulatory fronts. Last month, in Geneva, some of the teams taking part in the World Championship signed a pact with the Grand Prix organisers.
According to this agreement, from the Madrid race onwards, a very complicated system for assessing signings will come into play, as well as an established list of drivers who will be automatically selected for each race, namely Brabham, Rodriguez, Rindt, Ickx, Hulme, Amon, Stewart, Beltoise, Hill and Surtees. Ferrari, Lotus, B.R.M., McLaren-Alfa and De Tomaso (the first three houses have so far won 91 of the 174 Grands Prix) rejected the agreement. However, the initial intentions to boycott the Spanish Grand Prix signatories seem to have receded. The signatories of the pact (McLaren, Tyrrel, Brabham, March and Surtees) would like to convince the others to join in, while the CSI, as always, is at a standstill. On this subject, Ferrari's sporting director, Franco Gozzi, declares:
"I have never seen a race with such a confusion of regulations; no one provides, no one makes a decision. The Geneva signatories pretend not to do anything, we behave as we always do, the organisers try to please each other. For the regulatory part, which is the most important, it is up to the CSI to intervene, for the economic part, Ferrari does not accept any deal made by others in its absence, and maintains its freedom to negotiate case by case, competition by competition".
The trials take place in total confusion: the programme is not adhered to, the ex-officio qualified drivers, as well as that not ex-officio qualified, often find themselves embarrassed. The absurd and unfair fact is this: the ten privileged ones can even avoid the effort if they want to, because they will still take part in the race, to the detriment of those who won their place in qualifying. According to the times set today by the twenty-two drivers on the track, drivers like Amon and Graham Hill would, in theory, be excluded from the Grand Prix. Ferrari brings to Madrid two single-seaters, marked with chassis numbers 001 and 002, and a spare engine. The young Belgian completes a series of tyre tests - Michelin and Firestone - at an undemanding pace. Then, when he is about to set the time in car 001, he is stopped by an unusual noise from the 12-cylinder engine. The technicians prefer to take the car back to the garage to find out why. Jackie then climbs into the other Ferrari, a training car that is less well tuned, and must be content with a time of 1'25"8. On Friday 17 April 1970 there was great expectation in the paddock and among the fans for the debut of the new single-seater of Rindt and Miles, the Lotus 72. Some features of the car officially marked a clear cut with the previous models. The radiators are placed to the side of the cockpit to reduce the frontal part. For the suspension, on the other hand, the old coil springs have been replaced by torsion bars. The B.R.M. also arrived in Spain with an all-new look. As Lotus had done in 1968, B.R.M. decided to abandon its original colours (dark green with an orange band at the front), preferring to wear the colours of its sponsors on the track, especially Yardley. The single seaters driven by Oliver, Rodriguez and Eaton, therefore, were painted in white with three stripes on the nose: one black, one red and, finally, one gold.
It's an important season for Surtees, the 1964 World Champion, who for the first time faces a manufacturer's season. However, his Surtees TS7 is not yet ready to take to the track, so this time, too, we find him driving a McLaren M7C. Also racing for McLaren are Hulme, McLaren and De Adamich sporting the brand-new Alfa Romeo T33 engine. New driver for Lotus; in addition to Rindt, Miles and Hill, the English car is entrusted to local driver Alex Soler-Roig. Of the 24 drivers expected in Spain, only 22 took to the track on Friday, after two of them - Wener Bickel at the wheel of a B.R.M. and Pete Lovely for Lotus - dropped out. Ten of them already know they will automatically take part in the race, the other twelve will have to fight to earn a place on the grid. However, the Formula One Constructors' Association (FOCA) ruled that only sixteen of the twenty-two drivers would be able to compete. Between 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. the first day of practice takes place. After the classic first two sessions, the race management decides to allow an extra half hour for the twelve drivers who must qualify. In order not to disadvantage the ten drivers who qualified by right, this extraordinary third session does not determine the place on the starting grid, but only who will take part in the race. Once the half-hour is over, the organisers grant a further session at the request of the teams. However, many of the drivers who had achieved a good time in the first sessions decided not to take part in this last half-hour, convinced that they would not be timed. This is a huge misunderstanding because, as we will see later, it is during this session that the times for the grid are counted. In addition to the organizational problems, there were mechanical ones.
In the March team, the mechanics were struggling with the completion of the last kit of parts, while the Lotus 72 suffered from excessive rolling on bends, and the Cosworth engines had problems with the electric system. On the contrary, the Matra cars were very competitive, whose drivers enjoyed bothering Stewart's March when he didn't commit himself. De Adamich's Alfa Romeo-powered McLaren also seems to give good results. Two years have passed since the last Formula One race was run on Jarama circuit, and it's clear: times are not the best, as all drivers remain below the old record and at the end of the day even the slowest driver is well below the time of the 1967 fastest test lap, marked by the Ferrari driven by Amon (1'27"9). The fastest on the track is Hulme, who records a time of 1'24"1. His McLaren goes on quietly, without looking particularly fast, showing the great professionalism of the driver. It is called the Spanish Grand Prix, but, it is the Grand Prix of confusion. Never has a race valid for the world championship descended into such general chaos as this one. The Geneva Agreement, the questions of fees and, above all, of the ten drivers qualified ex officio put the organisation of the race, the second test for the Formula 1 title, in crisis.
Throughout the day on Saturday, conflicting announcements followed each other, while continuous changes were made to the training programme, until the final truly incredible conclusion. No one wants to give the practice times, complaints pile up and, late at night, the stewards are still meeting to establish whether sixteen or twenty of the twenty-two single seaters that took to the track in practice will start at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. An almost ridiculous situation, if it weren't a Grand Prix, that is, a race that should represent the pinnacle of motorsport. Therefore, it is not yet known who will compete on the Jarama circuit, with the ten privileged ones being Brabham, Rodriguez, Rindt, Ickx, Hulme, Amon, Stewart, Beltoise, Graham Hill and Surtees. If only sixteen drivers will be admitted to the competition (as provided for in the initial regulations, but these have suffered so many violations that they can now be considered as just another piece of paper), the six to be added are: Stommelen, De Adamich, Siffert, Miles, Soler-Roig and Eaton. One of the two Ferraris in which the Belgian drives is blocked by an unpredictable failure of a valve of the feed pump, while the other one, on which the engine has been changed, shows little tuning. Ickx, however, manages to complete a discreet lap, also trying out a new type of giant 17-inch tyres. This is his opinion of the circuit:
"It's a go-kart track".
If all the cars are running, you can say goodbye to the safety rules as well. And that it is not, after all, a quiet track is shown by Piers Courage and Graham Hill, who go off the road. Both drivers were unharmed, but while the former World Champion's old Lotus suffered little damage, Piers' De Tomaso-Ford was badly damaged. Courage arrived too long on a bend and ended up against a guardrail, breaking the suspension arms and nicking the two right wheels. Thank goodness, however, that there is a barrier, because otherwise a group of photographers and spectators would have been mowed down. Engineer Dallara, sports director of De Tomaso, adds:
"We can't blame Piers. It's clear that when a driver knows he is not among the automatic qualifiers and must fight hard even before the race to be able to participate, things like this happen. What is happening here in Spain is simply absurd. We don't know what the International Sports Commission is waiting for to intervene".
Regarding this strange pact in Geneva, if only sixteen cars started, Stommelen and Andrea De Adamich should be included among those not admitted to the race. The two drivers, in the computation of the times of the two days of practice, would have ranked fifteenth and sixteenth, therefore they should have been allowed to participate in the race. However, Surtees and Graham Hill, with much better times, overtook them in the ranking, being among the ten privileged. This is the situation on the eve of the Spanish Grand Prix, which will take place on the Jarama circuit. Ninety laps of the 3432-metre track are scheduled, for a total of 306.389 kilometres.
During the night between Friday and Saturday, a new communiqué was issued by the organisers, stating that there would be a change in the rules regarding Friday's practice times. The names of the sixteen starting drivers are now decided based on the best overall times recorded during practice, but the starting order is determined by the performances in the last two sessions. The only ones not affected are the ten drivers of the Geneva Agreement, who keep their times. As a result, interesting situations are immediately created, followed by protests from Surtees and the McLaren team, whose drivers had not taken part in the last session on Friday, as they did not think it was timed and that their times had been good in the first practice. The decision taken by the organisers, therefore, upsets the classification of the starting grid. For example, Rindt was promoted from thirteenth to eighth place, while Oliver moved from fourth to tenth, as he was credited with a time of 1'25"0. On Saturday afternoon, between 4:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., practice continued in an atmosphere of great confusion. Team managers and organisers are running around trying to clarify all the decisions that have been made, which have created a general climate of uncertainty. Meanwhile, the drivers continue to drive, but with much more difficulty than on Friday. The cars continue to break down or have problems, causing several incidents on the track; for example, the Lotus 72s continue to not work as they should, and Hill's Lotus is also damaged after the driver got stuck in a wire mesh and bent the rear of his car. The Ferrari, equipped with a new engine, has some electrical faults, but it is not even possible to let Ickx drive the second car, as it also has fuel problems. Courage hits a guardrail hard after losing control of his De Tomaso, causing a lot of damage to the car. The B.R.M. team also had several problems as their engines continued to jam. In addition, Oliver was forced to abandon the car just before the pits after the front knuckle spindles of his B.R.M. broke. To keep Oliver on the track, the knuckle spindles of Eaton's car were used, and he could not run. Only Rodriguez manages to set good times, especially considering the low-profile tyres on his car (Dunlop). It was also a busy day for March-Fords: Stewart struggled in the attempt to remain in the front, while Andretti didn't even seem to be there, despite all the impression he was making with the STP Oil Treatment Special. The clear leader of the day was Brabham, who recorded the fastest time of 1'23"9.
Before the day's practice ends, drivers are given another thirty minutes to have another chance to qualify on the grid. Shortly after the start, Courage crashes, stopping the session for a while. After the break, the drivers on the track who took advantage of the last ten minutes were Andretti, Oliver, Pescarolo, Stommelen, Miles, De Adamich, McLaren, Servoz-Gavin and Soler-Roig. They all put on a great show, letting loose with their driving. But at this point, the confusion reaches its peak. There were protests over the decision on qualifying, tempers were flaring and Scuderia Ferrari complained to the Manufacturers' Association, which kept changing the rules. On Saturday evening it wasn't known how many cars would start, but on Sunday morning the starting order was given: in it sixteen drivers were listed, excluding Stommelen, De Adamich, Siffert, Miles, Soler-Roig and Eaton. At 2:00 p.m., while the De Tomaso team announced the sending of a letter to the International Sports Commission with the request to consider the Spanish Grand Prix not valid for the World Championship because of the affair of the ten privileged riders and the obligation for the others to qualify, the rumour spread that the six excluded riders would be admitted to the start. The absurd situation dragged on until the start. De Adamich and the others brought their cars onto the track and here, just five minutes before the start, the marshals finally decided to start only the sixteen initially qualified drivers, with the addition of Stommelen and his Brabham, replacing Piers Courage. So, Brabham, Hulme and Stewart started on the first row. The second row is occupied by Beltoise and Rodriguez. Third row for Amon, Ickx and Rindt. Ninth and tenth position for Pescarolo and Oliver. To follow, McLaren and Surtees. In the sixth row we find Servoz-Gavin and Hill. Finally, the last places are occupied by Andretti and Stommelen. At the flag signal, at 4:13 p.m. the single seaters all start splendidly. An excellent start by Stewart who now finds himself leading Hulme and Brabham at the first corner. The group follows them. The Spanish Grand Prix got off to a bad start. Not even the first lap ended when Jackie Ickx, in the Ferrari, and Jackie Oliver, in the B.R.M., had a frightening accident. From the top of the grandstands, from which the track is dominated, you can see a jolt in the queue, then two cars crash into a protective barrier, right under the eye of a camera and a group of photographers. An instant, and the flames rise violently, accompanied by a cloud of black smoke.
A driver, Oliver, is seen jumping over the guardrail, on the lawn, and going back to the pits on foot. But what about the other? Ickx too, after a few moments lost in operating the buttons that control the engagement of the on-board fire extinguishers and the release of the safety belts, leaps out of the fire. The Englishman's car crashes into the Belgian's and both crash into a guardrail on a bend, catching fire. The two drivers manage to throw themselves out of the cars: Oliver remains unharmed, while Ickx gets first degree burns to a hand, to the left arm and to the legs (these last ones due to gasoline irritation). In the moments that followed, Ickx was admitted to the infirmary, while Franco Gozzi, Ferrari's sporting director, rushed with the technical manager, Mauro Forgheri, first to the scene of the accident and then to the infirmary, where the young driver, lying on an operating table, asked for the intervention of a special plane from the Brussels Burn Centre. His brother Pascal, who was watching the race, took charge. Fortunately, the doctors soon realised that Jackie had not suffered such serious injuries and issued a statement emphasising that they were only first-degree burns. Oliver immediately took responsibility for the accident, stating:
"The brakes didn't respond; I gave a big blow against Jackie's Ferrari. I didn't understand anything".
The Englishman is very pale, shocked. By the way, he is a great friend of Ickx, with whom he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year and with whom he had competed last week in the 1000 Kilometre race at Brands Hatch in England. This accident once again reveals the incompetence of the organisers and the services responsible for this Grand Prix in all its gravity. The fire-fighting service, despite requests made in recent days by some drivers and teams, consists of a pump connected to the circuit's water supply at the hairpin bend where the accident occurred. Now, everyone knows that water does not put out the flames, rather it spreads the burning petrol. The firemen do not have asbestos suits and have only two small powder extinguishers, which are inadequate and do not work. It is the melancholic crowning glory of this Grand Prix, dominated by chaos and confusion. Years later, Jacky Ickx would recount:
"The flames were the real danger. At the 1970 Spanish Grand Prix, in Jarama, my Ferrari turned into a stake because Jackie Oliver hit me in the side. We had just started, and the tanks were full. I remember that I was surrounded by fire, which but he could not reach me thanks to the spray of foam. I was desperately trying to unfasten my seat belts, to escape from the car and to safety. The trouble was that on impact the body had deformed, and I could no longer reach the clip, when the on-board fire extinguisher was empty, I still hadn't been able to free myself. That liquid kept the flames away from the body guaranteeing at least twelve seconds of survival. I remember that I was surrounded by the fire, but it could not reach me thanks to the spray of foam. By now the flames had reached me and I knew that I could not count on other help as no one could enter that pyre without an asbestos suit. And in Jarama the commissioners had none. I had to go out alone. After about twenty seconds, when the process of asphyxiation had already begun, my fingers miraculously managed to unfasten, and I jumped out of the cockpit. My suit was burning. I was a human torch. I did not understand where I was going, the visor of my helmet was melted, I was stunned. I ran blindly, trying to realize the direction of the race, but I risked being hit by other riders. It went well anyway. I felt a violent spray hit the suit by now in flames. I made it".
Fearing that Oliver's problem might recur, Rodriguez's B.R.M. - now in fourth place - was stopped and retired on lap four. On re-entering, the driver left his position to the Matra of Pescarolo, followed by and Beltoise. During the following laps, Amon had engine problems; the March driver was at the bottom of the group, when on lap 10 he was called back to the pits. In the meantime, Hulme and Brabham lost contact with Stewart. It was as if the Scotsman's driving superiority compensated for - or rather, overcame - everything that the March and Dunlop cars lacked. However, there is not even time for Hulme to try to catch up with Stewart, as the New Zealand driver stops at the beginning of the tenth lap. The engine's rotating brush in the ignition distributor has broken. A mechanic tries to bring out another one and the driver is able to restart, but at the end of the lap the same fault reoccurs. There is clearly something wrong with the distributor.
Something that caused the New Zealand driver to end the race. With the race barely underway, even before he had managed to demonstrate the times of the new Lotus 72, Rindt was also forced to retire with ignition problems on lap nine. Meantime, the race became interesting also for the Matras: Pescarolo lost the clear advantage he had, and Beltoise started closing on Brabham. At the back of the pack, the drivers chase and pull each other. Surtees chases McLaren, while Andretti is pushed to go faster by Hill and Stommelen. Servoz-Gavin is at the back of the group, so that the March of Ken Tyrrell are in first and last position. The spirit with which Stewart races has nothing to do with the one that had distinguished him in South Africa. Now the Scottish driver drives hard and with conviction, getting more out of his March than anyone else has ever achieved. Beltoise is also in great shape, and his Matra sounds magnificent. On lap 16 the French driver finally managed to overtake Brabham and started reducing the gap between him and Stewart; in ten laps he gained four seconds on the English driver. At the Le Mans hairpin Brabham made a mistake that cost him a few seconds, but he still managed to maintain third position. Apart from the small group at the back, where some action was created, a stalemate was created among the leading drivers. On lap 20 Stewart, Beltoise and Brabham were followed by Pescarolo, Surtees, McLaren, Andretti, Stommelen and the lapped Servoz-Gavin. In the meantime, Ickx's Ferrari continued to burn, and now rolled into the hairpin. The B.R.M. is also still on fire. As a result, more and more fire-fighting foam is flowing onto the track, which is turning the racing cars a greyish colour. On lap 29 Beltoise loses a lot of ground, which allows Stewart to relax. On lap 31 the engine of the Matra seizes and the car stops by inertia. Brabham manages to regain the second position. Shortly after, on lap 34, also Pescarolo skidded and stopped at the top of Pegaso Ramp. After a very good start, the French single seaters are forced to end the race prematurely. We are not even halfway through the race, and of the sixteen drivers who started, only nine remain. The number of competitors dropped even further when Stommelen's engine died and, however hard the German tried and struggled with a few pits stops, he was destined to retire on lap 43. As a race it is certainly not among the most exciting. However, Stewart's driving and Brabham's perseverance - he is five seconds behind the Briton - are admirable.
Surtees is the only driver who has not yet been lapped, but not for long. Shortly afterwards, in fact, the Briton was overtaken by his compatriot, Stewart. At this moment the gearbox of his McLaren starts to give some problems that make him lose time and positions in favour of McLaren, Hill and Andretti. A few laps later, Hill had to face the same problem: the Briton struggled to find the gears in his Hewland box. Therefore, he was also overtaken by Andretti, who did not shine as expected, but went ahead. Even though Stewart is fighting hard, it seems inevitable that Brabham will take control of the race. However, the Englishman doesn't accept, this time he is determined not to give in. In the meantime, Brabham came closer, he was right on his heels, half a second away. The gap, however, widens more and more at the hairpin bends, until Brabham is forced to stop for an engine failure during the 61st lap. When he arrived at the pits, the mechanics didn't even look at the car: the Australian's race was officially over. At this point it was as if Stewart was racing alone, as all the other drivers were lapped. In the previous laps Andretti managed to overtake Hill, despite a problem with the gear lever. The only one who could change the order of the classification was Surtees, currently in sixth position. However, the gearbox of his McLaren suddenly broke down and the British driver had no choice but to retire during the 76th lap. The other drivers are not able to overtake each other, so the last fifteen laps are run at a slow pace, just to get to the finish line and finish the race. After more than two hours from the start, Stewart won this troubled Spanish Grand Prix, marking March's first victory. Never has a Grand Prix been so fraught with arguments and complaints. Thanks to this result, Stewart moved to the top of the general classification with four points ahead of Brabham (9 points). He is followed by Hulme and McLaren with 6 points, Andretti and Hill, both with 4 points, Beltoise with 3 and Miles and Servoz-Gavin with 2 points. As for the constructors, on the other hand, the first place went to March-Ford (13), ahead of McLaren (12), Brabham (9), Lotus-Ford (5) and Matra (3). The Spanish Grand Prix was an elimination race, so much so that only five cars reached the finish line. After the Oliver and Ickx accident, World Champion Jackie Stewart held the lead, with Hulme and Brabham chasing behind him.
Hulme, in the McLaren, gave up on the ninth lap due to the failure of his 8-cylinder Ford-Cosworth, and a brilliant Beltolse in the Matra-Simca took his place. But also, the French driver had to give up (again the engine failure) and the duel was restricted to Stewart and Brabham. There followed about thirty laps of heart-stopping, with Stewart who tried to shake off the very tenacious Brabham, finally, on the 61st passage, Brabham stopped at the pit and the World Champion had the definitive green light. If the new Matra-Simca cars gave in, nothing could be said about Ferrari and B.R.M. In general, the circuit put the engines to a hard test (and by now, even the much-praised Ford-Cosworth cars, once very strong, were at the breaking point), while March cars, thanks also to others' misfortunes, made a splendid impression. Jackie Ickx leaves for Brussels on Tuesday morning. Late at night on Monday 20 April 1970, the fiancée and future father-in-law of the young Ferrari ace arrived in Madrid. They had been informed by Jackie's brother, Pascal, of the terrible accident that had occurred during the Spanish Grand Prix and had immediately decided to fly to the Spanish capital in their private plane. On Tuesday, Jackie boarded the same plane. A period of rest and special care awaits him at a Belgian clinic specialising in burn injuries. He will not be able to take part in the 1000 Kilometres of Monza, the fourth round of the World Marque Championship, where he was supposed to take to the track in the Ferrari 512 Sport with Arturo Merzario. It is not yet known who will replace him, although the name of John Surtees is whispered. It is likely that Ickx could return to the wheel of a racing car on 10 May 1970, at the Monaco Grand Prix. In any case, Ickx's condition is not at all worrying, as Dr Rajael de La Plaza, director of the Madrid hospital where the driver had been admitted after the accident with Oliver, admits:
"Ickx is well and will be able to resume his normal activity in a fortnight".
The rider suffered a dislocated rib and first degree burns to his right wrist, hand, elbow and thighs, with removal of pigmentation. These burns are painful but not serious. The most troublesome, on his thighs, were caused by a trickle of petrol (fortunately not on fire) which penetrated through a gash in his fire-fighting suit. However, the drivers' Martian-like clothing proved its effectiveness: the full-face helmet, which completely enclosed the head, protected Ickx's face from the flames, as did the suit, which was built to withstand extremely high temperatures. The risk taken by Jackie was truly chilling. It's not true to say that the fire-fighting services set up by the organisers worked properly, so much so that the wrecks of the Ferrari and the B.R.M. continued to burn for an hour and a half. A group of Italian photographers and enthusiasts watching the Grand Prix at the hairpin bend where Oliver rammed Ickx, explains:
"The Englishman immediately jumped out of his single-seater. Jackie stayed a few moments longer in the Ferrari, which was already on fire and ended up right under a television tower, whose operator tried to escape by making a great leap onto the grass behind him. The Belgian climbed out of the fire on his own and ran to the other side of the track, his suit leaving a trail of smoke and flames. He threw himself on the ground, and here a fireman burned himself trying to put out the fire with his hands. In fact, he was stoking it, and Ickx had to lie on his back to smother the flames while, finally, other firemen with asbestos blankets rushed in".
The track was strewn with rivulets of burning petrol, which the water used to extinguish the terrible blaze carried down the track while the powder extinguishers were insufficient or did not work. Other racers passed through the flames, so much so that the rear of Jack Brabham's Brabham caught fire. Fortunately, it went out on its own after about a hundred metres. Ickx and Oliver, to be clear, owe it to their patron saint not to have ended up like poor Lorenzo Bandini in Monte-Carlo. The single-seaters - and this is not a new argument - are made to be safe, but they are always cigars of sheet metal, and this can tear even the special tanks adopted by the manufacturers' regulations. An interesting detail: the Ferrari's tank, not cut by Oliver's B.R.M., withstood the impact against the guardrail and did not burst.
It is the emergency services that have to intervene, but in Jarama in recent days nothing has worked properly, either at organisational or sporting level. The Geneva Agreement, which is contrary to the very rules of the Formula 1 World Championship, of which the Spanish Grand Prix was the second episode, was considered by the Madrid managers as an official agreement, to be respected rather than rejected outright (as the organisers of Monza have already announced they will do). Thus, we have had practices cancelled and then reinstated, ridiculous indecisions on the number of starters, culminating in having twenty single-seaters go out on the track at the start, except for having four of them return to the pits, those of the non-privileged De Adamich, Miles, Siffert and Soler-Roig. With these premises and the Ickx-Oliver accident, the Spanish Grand Prix almost passed by in the background, also because Jackie Stewart dominated by defeating one after the other Hulme (McLaren), Beltoise (Matra-Simca) and Brabham (Brabham). The Scotsman, after dueling with the New Zealander, the Frenchman and the Australian, ended his solitary ride without risk, followed only by McLaren (McLaren), Andretti (March), Graham Hill (Lotus) and Servoz-Gavin (March). An excessive selection, from which the new March cars saved themselves. Three out of four at the finishing line, with Stewart launched towards the reconquest of the world title. A few days later, a four-wheel superfan, Franco Rossetto, proposed in a letter interesting problems of motor sport:
"Last Sunday I watched on television the live coverage of the Grand Prix from Madrid. The importance of the race, the clear supremacy of Stewart, all the technical reasons connected with the race, were overtaken by the dramatic - even if very brief - sequences of the accident involving Oliver and Ickx. Scenes of this kind exert an anti-propaganda effect on television viewers that is as damaging to motor racing as ever, provoking the usual qualunquistic and facile calls to suspend motor racing. It would seem only right, therefore, to emphasise what the various car manufacturers and racing teams do to ensure the physical safety of drivers as far as possible: an accident can always happen, whether by accident or mechanical failure, but the public of fans should know that the car manufacturers take care to minimise the risks to drivers. I would like an answer from Ferrari, and I would also like to know what their attitude is regarding the drivers' so- called Geneva pact, a very complicated system for establishing the drivers' salaries in Grand Prix races".
But Franco Gozzi, Ferrari's sporting director, replies:
"A lot has already been done in the field of safety by all the car manufacturers. Special protective measures have been taken, from asbestos suits - now indispensable, as the Ickx accident testified - to full-face helmets, to flexible tanks - which resist the most violent of shocks but not cuts. Obviously, much remains to be done. In the technical field, because scientific progress is always proposing new and more efficient solutions, and in the organisational field, because all too often the circuits lack the necessary equipment for first aid in the event of an accident, or it is insufficient. As far as the Geneva Pact is concerned, Ferrari has neither recognised nor signed it: we are not interested in the Pact from an economic point of view, and we do not agree at all with the absurd regulations it would like to impose. Just yesterday Ferrari addressed a complaint to the Csai - Commissione Sportiva Automobilistica Italiana - which represents national sport in the International Commission. As far as the economic side is concerned, Ferrari maintains its freedom to negotiate case by case, competition by competition".