She doesn’t even have seven months yet, she’s a little less than four feet long, but has already won her first Grand Prix. She’s a purebred animal, but someone prefers to define her such as a beast, even a monster. We are not talking about a young dragonborn, we are speaking of the latest single-seater born in Maranello: Ferrari 312-T. A Formula 1 single-seater, which is the highest expression of motorsport. She had already given a taste of her excellence in Silverstone, in a race that wasn’t valid for the World Championship and on Sunday she reaffirmed the undoubted superiority on other rivals at the moment (charmingly named like John Player Special, Shadow or even Copersucar that means cup of sugar), thanks to the skills of the 22 year-old Viennese pilot Niki Lauda, specialized in waltz at 200 km/h. There has been people that personally interpreted right away the T that completes the numerical code given to the vehicles of this Ferrari series. The 312 signifies that the car is a 3000 displacement with 12 cylinder. The T stands for “transversal”, taking inspiration from the gearbox and the differential that, in a single block, are arranged transversely from the axle frame. But after four races in which she competed, with a fifth place in South Africa, two first places in Silverstone and Montecarlo, and a withdrawal (the unfortunate Spanish Grand Prix) it has been immediately said that the T stands also for “tremendous” or “terrible”. The new Ferrari indeed appears like the car to beat for the entirety of 1975.Fast, responsive, gifted with and excellent road endurance, this 12 cylinder has remarkable features: its weight is 600 kilos and has a motor of 500 horsepower. Actually, it seems that dried out, without any friction the propeller is capable of dispense 600 horsepower. Many tried to convince Enzo Ferrari to give in his motors and the answer was always no. If anything the Ferraris retire in a museum. This is the case of the just surpassed 312B that raced at the start of the season in Argentina.
A very rich French merchant bought a specimen, mounsier Bardinon, that possess a very unique collection of any Ferrari piece producted until now. This magnate spent almost 30 million lire to have a racing car, to just keep it for himself. Another trait of any car that was entrusted to Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni was the complete lack of frivolousness. Meanwhile the cars of Fittipaldi, Andretti, Peterson, Ickx and any other formula 1 driver were covered in signs of various products like sigarette and whiskey, or aperitif and coffee, the Ferraris could only wear working clothes: carrying the signs of companies (AGIP, SKF, Goodyear) that partecipate on the researches for the technological progress of motorsport. To say exactly which velocity this racing cars arrive to is nearly impossible: it depends on the type of circuit and the reports supervised. The 300 km/h are surpassed pretty easily. Naturally to try the driving sensation of the 312 T were not a lot of people. In the entire world only 4 men had this privilege: drivers Niki Lauda and Regazzoni that lead it on the races, and the mechanics supervisors Borsari and Cuoghi that in many occasions had to drive it. Not even the designers, the engineer Mauro Forghieri, head of Ferrari studies and his collaborator Franco Rocchi, head of the technical office, had the chance to try the incredible power. It needs to be said that this special racing cars, that could potentially be the object of industrial espionage, see freedom in very little occasions: during races and practices. In other moments they either travel in a specific van or are kept in secret in the racing department of Maranello under continuos surveillance. This is the only formula one single seater to be created completely by the same factory. The others are assembled taking the motors from someone, the structure from someone else and so on. In Maranello though every mechanical part is constructed, meanwhile from the outside only small details (the car is composed of 4000 pieces that have to be perfect). Some critics, at the debut of the 312 T in South Africa, when it got the fifth place in difficult conditions (very hot weather and high altitude) said that the last car created under the supervision of Enzo Ferrari wasn’t valid, and that integrating the transversal gear was a mistake.
"Until I’m on this earth, my cars will keep running".
Maybe Enzo Ferrari, used to not doing previsions, didn’t want to say it would win. He knew it had a winning car in his hands: a technical car ahead of its time.
"The first to drive the 312 T was Niki Lauda and after the initial testing, the driver was already satisfied".
Admits Luca Montezemolo, talking about Lauda.
"Luca confided if you blindfolded me and would let me try a turn with the 312 B3 and the 312 T or thousands other cars, I would recognize it right away; it’s powerful, quick and docile".
The secret is in the transversal gear that concentrates its weight between the axle of the wheels.
"Before debuting with it we made very significant tests. We tried the old and new model of single seater in the same conditions, with the same driver, with the same tyres. The 312T has qualities globally superior to the car that was replaces".
Naturally, it seems fair asking why the Emilian region is the recognized home of motorsport, Enzo Ferrari responds:
"The laborer of this place, the worker of both physical and mental abilities, is an extremely intelligent and active workman. And this, even more in a place populated by rebellious people. Blood and brain, hence, are here well united, to make obstinate people capacious and courageous, the qualities that we need to make racing cars".
And who doesn’t make racing cars nor drives them, talks about them like Brancati’s Sicilian talked about women. They say that, in these places, the night of the Mille miglia nobody went to sleep. They remember Gigion Arcangeli, champion of the Romagna ruggente, that races with the motto:
"Us, Forlì, the world".
Proud of the primogeniture: before the Reale Automobile Club of Italy was born, the automotive association of Modena and Bologna existed. There were more or less a dozen cars. Ferrari says about people of Modena:
"One of the firsts enthusiasts of car races, even if in the city there were only carriages and bycicles. On the main straight of Navicello, towards Ferrara, the record of the Miglio was raced, in the middle of the dust and the shoutings of the people".
In the twenties, photographer Ferruccio Testi created the Circolo della Biella, hangout for passionate fans, that still lives in the sacred craving for fast engines. There is the Club, there are an infinity of bars and taverns where we talk about cars, motorcycles, engines in general. There is always a few small groups discussing how to take a bend at over 200 km/h, and it is a recited discussion: the speaker gesticulates, as if steering, pressing pedals, engaging gears. Emilia, defined the land of horses, horses that are thoroughbreds. Here, where the passion for driven engines is poured into technique and precision, the prestigious sports cars were born, and have had different luck. The Maserati with the trident, the Osca of Bologna, the Lamborghini created by a tractor mechanic, the Stanguellini brilliant in lightening the machines and of which it has been said that with immense patience he punches everything he can, removes to remove weight: strange shop in which 20,000 lire are paid for each kilo less. Small and common engines manage to reach 150 km/h. And Ferrari, a prodigy from Maranello, with the prancing horse that once belonged to Baracca.
"Cars are people. Every car has a soul and making them is like taking cocaine".
He confided Enzo Ferrari to the writer Piovene. He is a strong, arrogant, angry man. They come from all over the world just to see him, to get to know him. Oliver Merlin del Figaro Littéraire described him as a colossus barricaded behind strong suspicions, a despot and a charmer.
"A lot, too much has been written about me".
Ferrari says in the autobiography, and concludes:
"Someone called me a man who knows the humanity of sin and the cruelty of living. I would add that I know how to measure myself in the dimension of this world in which we are forced to live, prisoners of the illusion of success".
About 2.000 cars come out of Maranello each year, eighty percent are exported. Customers write letters of gratitude, like this one from americans Lorz and Bell:
"We would like to thank you for building such a car. We will always be proud that mankind has produced a man capable of giving so much of himself to others. Because if you all have created this engine and this machine, surely it is the material realization of a beautiful dream".
And this other sentence:
"I think that in life you, Mr. Ferrari, will have had your moments of joy, as well as your moments of despair. It’s like that for everyone. But when the day you will be passing comes, your name and your myth will live on forever".
Who buys a Ferrari? The manufacturer replies:
"There is the sports client, the exhibitionist client, the fifty-year-old client".
The former is usually a gentleman of good fortune, he drives quite well and is convinced that he can drive almost like a racer, so he takes part in races. There is the exhibitionist, who poses with satisfaction next to his car, the one who proudly shows that he owns more than one or even that he is a collector. Others display prizes and trophies earned by their beauty in the contests of elegance that flourish in every corner of the world. They say the pure terrorist is a 12-cylinder, and is enhanced by the sound of the engine.
"A symphony of sounds that brings joy to the mind and a smile on the face".
Wrote an American client. Here is another letter from Enzo Ferrari's archive, from two young emigrants to Canada:
"Mr. Ferrari, the fact that one of your cars won here gave us the courage to go and tell everyone, in the bar where we come every evening, for the first time in five years, that we are Italian".
Emilia, defined the land of horses. Here Ferrari was born.
"Blood and brains in stubborn and capable men are the qualities it takes to make racing cars".
And in this regard, from the cradle of world and Italian motoring, on Monday 19 May 1975 Enzo Ferrari warned the political environment that rules the world of Motorsport, writing a letter subsequently published on 20 May 1975:
"I learn from a press release from the CSAI (Italian Motor Sports Commission) issued on May 15, 1975, that the CSAI national sporting council, convened in an extraordinary session and chaired by the lawyer Carpi de Resmini, has made a proposal for the democratization of the CSI (International Sports Commission). It is a matter of a request, having ascertained the need for a profound reform of the structures that oversee motor sport and the current regulations, aimed at obtaining the participation of manufacturers and drivers, as well as the organizers, in governing the sport. It is a decision finally geared to do something truly beneficial to the interests of motor sport and I am of this opinion too, even if I greet it with nostalgia. Why? For twenty years I have supported this position and seeing it now accepted does not sufficiently clarify the time lost. It seems obvious to me - I wrote in 1962 - that sporting powers should be conferred, starting with Italy, not only to those senior delegates, who are basically, in many countries, the same race organizers, but also to the representatives of the other interests at stake also manufacturers, pilots, accessory manufacturers and the press. This, I repeat, should be the type of five-party commission, charged with establishing the general and particular regulations of motor racing. Of course, for years I have presented these ideas of mine in a competent headquarters; I was told that mine is a corporate concept. I replied that I was not afraid of remarks and remained with this idea, corporate concept or not, because I see and feel that there is no other way to guarantee racing that certain spectacle with a high technical content capable of attracting large crowds. For years I have been repeating this assumption, inviting, insisting, praying all those who, with the passage of time, have found themselves in the position of being able to decide. Also to the current president general of the ACI, I have had occasion to explicitly remind this need. On the occasion of an exchange of viewpoints with Giovanni Canestrini and following a reply from the president, I wrote the Corriere on the 21st of December, 1972: we speak about the collapse of the International Automobile Federation and in the context of these disconcerting international situations we also take a look at what's happening in Italy. Seventeen years ago I argued in Concreteness that the Coni had to represent the federation of sports federations. Even motorsports, like motorcycling and motor boating, could have found citizenship in this organization which is practically a ministry of sport. It was possible to return to the antebellum phase, the Italian Automobile Sports Federation, in which the five interests that make up the basis of motor sport were represented: racers, organizers, manufacturers, accessory manufacturers, the sports press. If the democratic choices - I wrote at the time of the Taormina congress for the democratization of CSAI - had recalled past experiences, they would have led the five interests to collaborate in the new CSAI thus avoiding the proliferation of certain trade associations, whose work is demonstrating how much they are not very representative of true sporting and technical interests. Motorsport has already taken all the risks, today we need to have the courage to recognize the deviations that have led to its degradation. We start a collaboration policy in Italy, without delay, resentment, mitigating the necessary ambitions. Perhaps we Italians still have time to prove that sport, despite everything, must survive. Three and a half years have passed since then. Events have clearly shown that there is no more time to waste. One last recommendation: that all interests are represented, therefore also the sports press, which is not included in the CSAI proposal, must be included first of all for an exact information of the public, which is the first customer and has the right to have representation and direct indication of his needs and preferences. We will also avoid all those disclosures that are nothing more than biased versions and, sometimes, guidelines of convenience to protect particular interests. What can I add? United in a common loyal will, after so many years, without resentment, criticism or controversy? Am I daydreaming?"
After the dramas and controversies caused by the Barcelona and Monte-Carlo street circuits, Formula 1 drivers and single-seaters return to a real racetrack. It is that of Zolder, located between Antwerp and Liège, which alternates every year in Nivelles to host the Belgian Grand Prix. Precisely in Zolder, in 1973, we witnessed one of the first protests of this turbulent four-wheeled Circus: the fresh asphalt of the track fell off as the cars passed. The race was almost postponed, then, with one of the many compromises typical of the environment, it was disputed nonetheless and success was given to Jackie Stewart and Tyrrell, while Ickx, with the 312 B3, retired. Since then, many things have changed. The Zolder system has been perfected and Emerson Fittipaldi, standard-bearer of the safety campaigns, judges it good (a chicane has also been added, before the straight near the grandstands, to slow down the speed of the cars): Stewart has retired from sport activities, Ickx moved to Lotus and the B3 is now a museum piece, replaced by the T version, entrusted as we know, to Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni.
The first training session begins on Friday 23 May 1975, in the morning. Niki Lauda seems to be in a hurry to drive, while Emerson Fittipaldi seems to be competitive and Jarier wants to prove who is the best driver within the Shadow team. Vittorio Brambilla does his job enthusiastically, and in the meantime Tony Brise - aboard his Hill - drives as if his car were a Formula Atlantic, but keeping in mind the observation he made after his brief stint in Williams in the course of the Spanish Grand Prix, in other words having understood what people mean when they talk about partial acceleration. Shortly before the lunch break, on Lauda's Ferrari one of the titanium exhaust manifolds breaks, so the car is lifted on stands in front of the pits and the old system is put back in place. Mark Donohue is the author of an accident during the first practice session aboard his Penske, and is forced to skip the afternoon session while it is being repaired. Francois Migault takes part in the second practice session after lunch, when the assembly of the brand new Hill-Ford Cosworth is completed. It is not long before almost all the drivers and mechanics discover that the brakes of the cars suffered because there is little time to cool the discs between one braking and the next one. On the cars there are many ducts that bring cold air to the discs but few that can expel the hot air. In addition, some of the Cosworth V8 engines show mechanical problems, so Pryce is forced to use the spare Shadow first and then Pace has to use the first of the spare Brabhams, with which he set the fastest lap.
At the end of the first day of testing the GPDA holds a trade union meeting exactly at the same time as the sponsor Martini organizes a pleasant meeting with the press to meet the Brabham-Martini team and chat informally with Reutemann and Pace. So, while Bernie Ecclestone apologizes for the absence of his drivers, John Watson communicates that the GPDA will make sure that these misunderstandings and coincidences will never happen again. Even on the first day of testing for this Belgian Grand Prix, which is the sixth round of the Formula 1 World Championship, Lauda was faster than his teammate. The Austrian lapped in 1'25"74, the Swiss in 1'27"20 (tenth time). Unlike Monte-Carlo, however, someone has achieved a better result than Niki: it is Carlos Pace, author with the Brabham of an excellent time of 1'25"47 (average 179.516 km/h). Fittipaldi and McLaren take the third best performance: 1'26"26. Just Fittipaldi, Pace and Lauda are at the top of the standings, with 21, 16 and 14 points respectively, and these drivers have occupied the first three places at the end of the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago. Between Pace and Lauda, the challenge for pole (of course, Saturday, with another two and a half hours of practice, the situation could change) took place in five minutes, in the final quarter of an hour of free practices. The Austrian, having accomplished his exploit, was unable to insist, but had to return immediately to the garage to have the left rear tire checked, which was deteriorating quickly. Not even the time to congratulate him, from the men of Ferrari, and here is the response of the Brazilian, which left everyone amazed. Fittipaldi, who tested an unprecedented type of front suspension today, did not miss the opportunity for a joke.
"Carlos must have found a shortcut. If he does this on Sunday, we might as well go home immediately".
Lauda, much less jokingly, states:
"I was stuck in the garage to check the tires and so I couldn't get back on track to reply to Pace".
Carlos Pace, who in the first part of the practice had only obtained the eleventh time (1'28"02), admits:
"We changed the reports and the car offered a better performance. I achieved this performance on my penultimate lap. Perhaps, I could still have filed a few tenths in the last pass, if I hadn't been delayed by Peterson".
Maybe, but people have the feeling that the Brazilian drove to the limit, using his Brabham heavily, especially in the braking system. The Zolder circuit forces the drivers to brake violently, more or less as it happens in Monte-Carlo, with the difference that here the top speeds are higher and, therefore, the work of the brakes is greater. Will they resist the surge of peace on Sunday? At Ferrari, despite the blow from Brabham, there is serene optimism. The 312-T is proving to be strong even in Zolder, despite all the tire problems. The topic is perhaps boring but always important. It should be noted that Goodyear sent a limited number of tires to the Belgian circuit, so it is necessary to use them sparingly; that the new ones from the factory (i.e. not used previously and, therefore, more valid for achieving good time laps), tend to deflate due to a variant of construction, so that compared to the others at the same speed, they prevent the engine from reaching the same speed number of revolution; that, probably, a rear cover with a larger diameter than the other one was mounted on Regazzoni's car in the final stages of the tests.
"The car became a snake and so I couldn't even use the new tires like Lauda did".
He will have the opportunity to improve during the last practice session, Goodyear permitting. In the meantime, it is learned that the South African driver Jody Scheckter would have re-proposed - as he did last year in Canada - his application for Ferrari to replace Clay Regazzoni at the end of the year. It seems that Scheckter does not get along with his manager Ken Tyrrell. The South African protests because Patrick Depailler carries out all the tests for the team and has a way to prepare better for them. The situation would have worsened after the protest in Barcelona: Jody was one of the most heated people there and his attitude was reprimanded by Tyrrell. Training starts again on Saturday morning, but before the drivers can even hit the track, a light misty drizzle envelops the circuit, wetting the asphalt. Most of the drivers, having completed the first laps, rush to the pits, switching to wet tires and waiting for the rain to increase in intensity. The wait, however, does not pay off, so the drivers remain seated in the pits while saying it is too slippery to continue on slick tires and also not wet enough to use full wet tires. And more generally there is nothing to learn from these conditions, so the session ends without the riders returning to the track. Only Ickx returns to the track to make a few more laps (almost by tradition, as someone has remarked) and Lauda makes a provisional reconnaissance lap. Peterson's car has a problem in the Cosworth V8 engine, as does Hunt's, so the cancellation of the unofficial practice session is appreciated by them. Practice times don't mean much, except that those who insist regardless are at the top of the list, while more cautious pilots are lower in the leaderboard than normal. After lunch the track dries up completely and practice resumes regularly.
Niki Lauda and the Ferrari respond to the great performance of Carlos Pace and Brabham. The Austrian, who had to return to the garage early on Friday in the final minutes of practice due to tire problems, scores a formidable time: 1'25"43, at an average of 179.600 km/h. For 0.04 seconds Niki Lauda beats Carlos Pace and conquers pole position (it is the third of the season, after the ones in Barcelona and Monte-Carlo). Pace tries to resist the rival's attack, but fails to improve, and eventually breaks the engine. Clay Regazzoni is also fastest in this second day of practices for the Belgian Grand Prix. The Swiss dropped from the time set on Friday of 1'27"20 to a time of 1'25"85, thus taking him to the second row on the starting grid. Among the Ferrari drivers, another Italian names shines, the one of Vittorio Brambilla. The driver from Monza conquers the third position overall of the two days of testing (1'25"66) and on Sunday he will line up alongside Regazzoni. It is a performance that is not surprising because Brambilla is a serious and prepared driver, who increases his experience from race to race, and because the March has finally given him a high-level car.
"I have only one concern: the resistance of the brakes. They wear out too quickly and I wouldn't want to have to stop in the garage during the race to change the pads".
Brambilla has a great dream: to be able to race in Ferrari. On Sunday, given that - apart from Pace - the usual rivals from Maranello seem to find themselves in difficulty on the Belgian circuit (Fittipaldi, for example, is in the fourth row), he could be the number one enemy. After all, everyone takes turns to block the path of this Lauda-Ferrari combination that scares every team. Even in Belgium, therefore, Ferrari proves to be at the top of Formula 1. As in Barcelona and Monte-Carlo, Niki Lauda was the fastest with the new 312-T while Clay Regazzoni managed to set the fourth fastest time. Two cars from Maranello, therefore, in the first two rows: it’s almost an ideal situation, which could materialize in another brilliant result. The Belgian Grand Prix, the World Championship and other topics related to this happy moment for Ferrari are discussed with Lauda and Regazzoni. The Austrian is cautious in mentioning the race.
"I don't think I have the significant advantage I had in Monte-Carlo. It will be a tighter and more demanding race".
But he is happy with the pole position obtained today:
"It is always a pleasant achievement, but in reality I am only aiming to start from the front row. This is important, and for many reasons. You are less likely to be involved in an accident at the start and you can lead yourself to the head more easily. So, afterwards, you can impose your own pace on the race. I'm not interested in detaching everyone and winning with a big advantage".
Will he be racing only for the Belgian Grand Prix tomorrow or thinking about the world title?
"I don't act like other colleagues. I believe that the championship is won stage by stage and that, therefore, it is useless to make long-term plans. We need to focus on the single Grand Prix. Of course, I set out to win, but if any problems arise or if I realize that by winning I risk breaking the car, I prefer to settle for a placement. If you don't arrive first, at least you have to get as many points as possible".
Has anything changed at Ferrari compared to last year?
"I would say no. We are always a strong, united team that is committed at every level, I have improved, and it seems obvious to me: with each lap you do, you increase your skills and increase your experience. The 312-T is also more competitive than the previous B3: faster, more stable, more manageable".
Then Lauda has a better chance of winning the championship ...
"No, because the others weren't standing still. They have progressed too. Indeed, it seems to me that they are taking turns against Ferrari. Everyone has ups and downs, only we resist to a certain level. Look at this year: at first it looked like Shadow was going to be unbeatable, then it vanished from the first positions. In South Africa there was a reappearance of the Tyrrell; here there are Brabham and March, without ever forgetting McLaren and Fittipaldi. Its’ also for this reason that certain controversies embitter me. After Monte-Carlo, someone questioned the value of our success. The criticisms are a positive thing, provided however, that they remain on a level of objectivity".
What more would he want to try and win his first championship?
"A bit of luck. If I had a little bit last year, I would have won five Grands Prix and I would have become champion".
Talking about the 1974 season, have relations with Regazzoni remained the same?
"Yes, I work for Ferrari and for me, he for Ferrari and for himself. It seems logical to me. The agreement and collaboration that reign between us can be exercised, except in exceptional situations, only during free practices: there is a time and a right way to choose the best technical solutions and to refine the machine set-up together. When we are in the race, what tactic can we follow? Ready, set and everyone tries to give their best".
And Regazzoni, do you think you can enter the fight for that title that was stolen from you last year by Emerson Fittipaldi?
"Why not? It would be enough for me to win a race, maybe tomorrow's and get a lot of placings. If I don't have a higher number of points in the World Championship, the reason lies in a series of unfortunate events: a trivial failure of the accelerator in South Africa, the Barcelona collision, Scheckter's collision in Monte-Carlo. Anyway, I was asked to help Lauda who has more points than me in the classification. I will do it, even if I don't know how".
These are the moods of the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers on the eve of the Belgian Grand Prix. The new 312-T is keeping its promises, now it's up to Lauda and Regazzoni to do the same. Of course, they seem to be on the right track, tires permitting. Today the Goodyear technicians unloaded a batch of new tires to the Zolder: they did very well on the Swiss car, much less on the Austrian's (Niki achieved his exploit with tires already used). Inexplicable mysteries for the same technicians in the sector. Which are partly explained by a funny anecdote. Niki Lauda is often used to evaluating which tires were produced on the same day and by the same technician, and in testing he evaluates which tires are the same or similar height, as well as evaluating the vibrations of the tires.
Sunday 25 May 1975, in Zolder, the day is rather gloomy and cloudy, but at least there it doesn’t seem there will be a threat of rain, and most of the drivers take advantage of the 30 minutes of morning practice to test their cars in race set-ups. Lauda, who was the fastest in practice, is given the opportunity to choose which side of the grid he prefers. The Austrian chooses the left side because the first corner after the start is a left-hand corner where the starting group would have arrived at a slower speed than normal, starting from a standstill. This means that he can trace the inside line, letting anyone who tries to surpass pass on the outside. After practice is over and lunch time has passed, before the cars can be taken to the track, the drivers make a parade lap aboard a small Fiats, introducing themselves to the public through the sunroofs. This idea is well received by the crowd lining the circuit, as many drivers have large numbers of fans in the crowd, cheering enthusiastically. Italian, Austrian and British flags are visible in various points of the circuit, as well as many banners of the Ferrari Club. There is an air of tension on the starting grid, with Lauda determined to limit Carlos Pace's attacks at the first corner, even if Brabham is known for its ability to unload the power of its Ford-Cosworth engine well on the road. In the second row, as mentioned, Brambilla and Regazzoni will take off. The start is excellent, and Lauda's Ferrari and Pace's Brabham face each other from the first corner, with Regazzoni on the outside forming a trio and Brambilla following the top three.
Pace moves close to Lauda's car, overtaking him in the curve and along the long ring that leads to the rear straight, with Brambilla performing the same maneuver overtaking Regazzoni. The first corner is driven by all the competitors without problems, with Merzario queuing in the rear after having almost burned the clutch. At the end of the straight opposite the main one, Carlos Pace precedes Niki Lauda, while the two brake for the curve behind the pits. Midway through the grid Jochen Mass loses control of his McLaren cornering and in the subsequent melee Watson damages the nose of the Surtees, while Laffite hits Alan Jones in the back, destroying the rear wing assembly and puncturing the oil cooler of the Hesketh. The result is that Mass does not go further and stops on the track, while Jones returns to the pits and retires, Laffite stops in the pits to have the Williams windshield patched up with adhesive tape and Watson continues with the front of the Surtees completely deformed, stopping after eleven laps in the pits to have his mechanics mount another wing. During the second lap Lauda is very close to Pace's Brabham, when he sees Brambilla coming from behind. As the race has just started, the Austrian driver decides to move to let the March pass, while Brambilla, enthusiastic, risks going off the road while overtaking. Shortly after Carlos Pace realizes that his Brabham is unable to unleash its maximum power due to a tire problem, and Brambilla takes the lead, to everyone's applause, because the Italian is a nice guy, even if he is not a champion.
Brambilla is well aware that he would not have been able to maintain that pace throughout the race, and that his March's brakes would not last long, but the Italian driver is determined to enjoy the glory as much as possible. Brambilla drives in the following laps, the fourth and fifth, in a frenzied demonstration of true scratching, closely observed by Lauda, who in the meantime increases his pace and overtakes Carlos Pace in the corner after the pits. On the sixth lap Lauda decides to put an end to the farce, passes the March of Brambilla with ease and takes the lead. From this moment on, the Austrian Ferrari driver dominates the race, constantly detaching everyone and appearing extremely confident. The fast but somewhat uncertain 1974 Niki Lauda has matured, no longer seems close to making mistakes and makes the most of his Ferrari. At the same time, the car from Maranello is noticeably more stable under braking than the rival brands and Lauda has no difficulty in keeping the lead for the rest of the race. All events take place behind him and, sometimes, in front of him, when the Austrian driver overtakes the slower cars. During the seventh lap Scheckter passes Pace and, despite driving strong and at times in a disorderly way, the South African does not represent a threat to Lauda, even if on the ninth lap he snatches Brambilla’s second position. On lap 10 the situation stabilizes with Lauda leading the pack, followed by Scheckter and Brambilla, while Regazzoni leads the rest of the grid. Brise is in the middle of the group behind the leading trio, but exaggerates with the braking in the bottleneck behind the pits, spins and stalled the engine, taking a long time to restart.
A head-to-head battle is underway midway with Pace as he desperately tries to contain the attacks of Reutemann, Pryce, Fittipaldi, Javier, Hunt, Depailler and Peterson. At the back of the grid, Evans holds up to Migault and Donohue, and leads Ickx by a wide margin. Shortly after, Regazzoni exploited the superiority of his Ferrari and moved ahead of Brambilla's March, while Emerson Fittipaldi showed signs of recovery and moved up the rankings from his humble eighth position. The effort made to overtake the March overheats a front tire of Regazzoni's Ferrari, which is forced to stop after seventeen laps to make a change. This episode leaves Lauda and Scheckter alone and plunges Regazzoni into twelfth position, behind the B.R.M. of Bob Evans. Meanwhile, during the thirteenth lap Jean-Pierre Jarier is the victim of a spin and ends up in the sand on the escape route at the height of the second corner, while his teammate Pryce is passed by Depailler and Peterson. Over time Pace’s Brabham shows more and more signs of failure, due to a malfunction of the Hewland gearbox; the third gear becomes elusive, for which the Brazilian driver crashes to the back of the group. While Lauda laps the slower drivers without wasting time, Scheckter encounters a few more difficulties than his rival, and the Austrian pilot's Ferrari disappears more and more from his sight. Brambilla valiantly maintains third place, while Reutemann, Fittipaldi, Depailler, Peterson, Pace and Pryce follow him. The retirements are numerous: James Hunt retires due to the breakage of the gearshift rod inside the cockpit of his Hesketh during the fifteenth lap; Tony Brise retires with a broken Ford-Cosworth engine during the seventeenth lap; Lella Lombardi stops during the eighteenth lap as an oil fitting breaks and causes the Ford-Cosworth to seize; at the same time also Jacques Laffite was forced to retire due to the failure of the gearbox on his Williams. For a period of time the situation stabilizes, and there are no exciting changes in the top ranking until, during the thirty-sixth lap, Ronnie Peterson loses the use of the brakes at the corner behind the pits and finishes straight to the containment nets.
During the forty-ninth lap Brambilla realizes that he has a tire usage problem on his March and stops to make a change that not only makes him lose third place, but also the shame of having to be overtaken by every opponent that is still racing, because the brake pads of his car are completely wearing out. In ninth place Regazzoni is the last not to be lapped by Lauda and when Brambilla re-enters the race he is right in front of the second Ferrari, so Regazzoni has two goals to push hard: one is to get close to Brambilla and the other is to avoid being dubbed by a teammate; if he had failed, in both cases he would have had to give some explanation since both Ferraris are very competitive. In the meantime, Carlos Pace continues to retreat constantly and is now in the queue of the riders who cover the same lap as Lauda, but is lapped by the latter during the fifty-fourth lap, just as Brambilla is forced to retire due to the total lack of assistance of the braking system. Meanwhile Jacky Ickx also stops, during the fifty-second lap, with his Lotus that cannot continue the race because the brake transmission shaft breaks on his car. A few laps after, when everything seems to be turning into a quiet triumph for Ferrari and Niki Lauda, during the fifty-ninth lap in the Austrian driver's car an exhaust manifold breaks, resulting in a thud that does not lead to a loss of speed, while the McLaren of Fittipaldi also remains without the aid of the front brakes and Depailler manages to take advantage of the favorable situation to conquer a deserved fourth place behind Reutemann, who has - in turn - conquered the third position above all thanks to bad luck of the rivals that preceded him. The breaks follow one another: François Migault passes in front of the pits during the fifty-seventh lap with the left rear wheel at a particular angle, due to the broken suspension; the French driver is therefore forced to stop. Emerson Fittipaldi goes slower and slower and his older brother, Wilson Fittipaldi, tries to take his own car to the finish line, even if, like on Lauda's Ferrari, he has a broken exhaust manifold. In second position, in the final laps, Scheckter's Tyrrell begins to have less and less fuel but the South African driver still manages to reach the finish line.
In an attempt to avoid being lapped by his teammate, Regazzoni recorded the fastest lap, setting a new record for the modified circuit of Zolder. Lauda finishes the expected 70 laps and wins for the second consecutive time, well satisfied with his 312-T, followed by the South African driver Jody Scheckter, who ends the race in second position. Carlos Reutemann closes in third place, followed by Patrick Depailler, Clay Regazzoni and Tom Pryce. Niki Lauda and his new Ferrari 312-T won the Belgian Grand Prix, the sixth GP of the Formula 1 World Championship, overtaking Scheckter (Tyrrell), Reutemann (Brabham), Depailler (Tyrrell) and Regazzoni (Ferrari). It was a tough and very selective race, so much so that out of twenty-four starters only twelve finished. The detail still highlights that Ferrari has worked well to develop two first-rate cars. If he hadn't had to stop to change a tire, Regazzoni could have easily taken second place. At the start it was the Brazilian Pace who took the best shot, followed by Lauda and Brambilla, who had already achieved good results in training on Saturday and Friday. While Pace began to have difficulty with changing his Brabham (he had blocked third gear and could no longer use it), Brambilla took the lead with a wild action, which Lauda prudently did not dare to counter, wishing first run in the tires. Perhaps the Austrian recalled what happened last year, at Nurburgring, when for having neglected this device, he had collided with Scheckter making the only mistake of his season. Brambilla's escape did not last long, because after five laps Lauda decided to take the lead. The Austrian never left the first position until the end of the race, demonstrating, in addition to his class, the absolute efficiency and superiority of the 312-T.
Behind Niki the fight was bitter: it was known from training that the Belgian Grand Prix would be played on the mechanical resistance of the cars. In order, the most engaged organs would have been the brakes, transmissions and engines. In fact, apart from a single minor accident (Mass, hit by Watson, went off the track damaging his McLaren), the other retirements were caused by mechanical failures. Merzario, with Williams, burned the clutch on the first lap, Lella Lombardi on the seventeenth lap accused the engine breaking, while - again on the seventeenth lap - the victorious race of the Ferraris suffered a moment of pause: Regazzoni stopped at box to replace the left front tire, which has deteriorated. The change took about 28 seconds, much longer than the minimum times that the good mechanics of Ferrari are capable of. Unfortunately, the pressure reducer of the compressed air gun that is used to unscrew the wheel bolts did not work well. Regazzoni then restarted in twelfth position and his wonderful comeback is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the Swiss reached the finish line in fifth position. Clay also set the lap record in 1'26 "76. Meanwhile, behind Lauda the battle developed between the cars of various teams and precisely the two Tyrrells of Scheckter and Depailler, the Brabham of Reutemann, the McLaren of Fittipaldi, Peterson's Lotus. The other cars were gradually lagging behind. The brake fatigue soon produced deleterious consequences: Brambilla, who had already had to stop in the garage with his March to replace a tire, he had to retire due to a lack of brakes for the same reason that stopped Peterson's run-up, who went off the track in his Lotus at the first chicane, a little frightened, but no damage.
The second Lotus, that of the Belgian Jacky Ickx, returned to the garage with the front right brake shaft cut off: we recall that the Lotus 72, unlike almost all the other single-seaters, has internal front brakes and that the shafts that connect the same wheels broke several times. It seems that Ickx himself, in testing at Nivelles, last year, complained of such an accident, while here in Zolder, in the middle of the race, it is almost unbelievable that he got away with it and was able to bring his black car back to the garage, where it was immediately hidden under a tarp. Jarier's Shadow also ran without brakes. The pilot went off the road without consequences, but was no longer able to restart the engine which stopped. Hunt's Hesketh and Lafflte's Williams had trouble with the gearbox. Fittipaldi, with the brakes of his McLaren in crisis, raced between fifth and sixth place. The Brazilian, at the end of the race, was left completely without the braking system, and could only settle for seventh position. Emotions were not lacking until the last moment. For a moment the dull sound of Lauda's engine, twelve laps from the end, made people fear the worst, but it was only a cracked exhaust pipe. On the finish line, then, the two Tyrrells ran out of petrol, so they crossed the finish line with the engine off, but managed to keep their place. Overall, the predictions were respected. The tire longevity was good, as only two tires yielded; the performances of the drivers are interesting: Lauda perfect for timing and regularity, Regazzoni exceptional in his unfortunate gran prix. Scheckter and Depailler are two excellent drivers that Ken Tyrrell has been able to fully evaluate.
"If I had had any luck last year, I would have won at least five Grands Prix and the world title".
This was said by Niki Lauda on the eve of the Belgian Grand Prix. Now the Austrian can begin to think that 1975 is the right year. Not that in Monte-Carlo, a fortnight ago, or now in Zolder, he was protected in a particular way by good luck, simply no negative factor has entered to ruin a technical and human superiority that appears ever more evident. In the Belgian Grand Prix Lauda did what he wanted, playing with rivals who also appeared very competitive in practice. At the beginning, the Austrian delayed for a few laps, letting Pace, with the Brabham, and Brambilla, with the March, take the lead and take care of the running-in of his 312-T; then, he went ahead and no one was able to resist him, partly because of the high pace, partly because of the mechanical problems caused by the circuit. Even more than in Monte-Carlo, in Zolder it was possible to admire the man and the machine: this Lauda-Ferrari duo that seems to be aiming for the world title. The Austrian has been able to add the strength of intelligence and calculation to the natural talent and high class.
"Last year, at the Nurburgring, by forgetting to bring the tires up to temperature, I bumped into Scheckter and went off the track. An experience that I will never forget. This time I wanted to wait for the situation to clear up. At first I preferred to wait a moment for the situation to clear up. I wanted to break in the tires and bring them up to temperature before picking up the pace. Pace and Brambilla were unleashed, indeed Vittorio gave me a moment of fear: he overtook me under braking, with the wheels locked, and I feared that he would skid and involve me in a collision. Then, when I decided to take command of the race, everything was easy".
And when that happened, Lauda cut off friends and foes for the usual solitary ride, barely troubled at the end by a broken exhaust pipe and fear of serious engine trouble.
"I noticed it instantly and slowed down for two laps. It could have been an empty tank or something more serious, like a piston or a cylinder. I saw that the engine kept giving the same number of revolutions and I calmed down. I picked up my pace and immediately regained those two or three seconds that Scheckter had taken from me".
The car, this new 312-T, which in five races has been able to establish itself three times, is simply formidable. Neither Lauda nor Regazzoni had any problems (Clay's pit stop depended on the failure of a tire, which was not related to the car) and the detail should be emphasized because almost all the cars, including those that managed to place themselves, complained trouble with the braking system and transmission. The two cars from Maranello, in addition to confirming their competitiveness (road holding, acceleration, speed, handling, etc.), proved to be reliable and to withstand the most accentuated stresses. It is the fruit of a first-rate technical school, which is returning to obscure the British one. Lauda now leads the Formula 1 World Championship with 23 points against Fittipaldi with 21 points, who had to slow down in the Belgian Grand Prix due to brake failure. But the Austrian driver points out:
"I work race by race and, when I win, success always gives me the same satisfaction, whether I reach it in Monte-Carlo, or here, or hopefully somewhere else. Being at the head of the World Championship is a good result, but the important thing is to stay there until the end. With the car and the team that Enzo Ferrari gave me, I think it can be an achievable undertaking".
The Brazilian, who was fifth and who, with his usual cunning, was on his way to a placement, had to be overtaken by Regazzoni and Pryce in the final part of the race. In the standings there are then the two Brabham drivers, Pace and Reutemann paired with a total of 16 points. The rest of the group comes off, including Ragazzoni, really unlucky. However, to be honest, maybe it's better this way: Ferrari now has to focus on Lauda and consider the Swiss as a wingman.
"Can one be so bad-tempered? Damn, had I chosen another type of tire. But who can tell? Niki had the same tires and he had no problems. At first Brambilla passed me because I was unable to put a gear, the fourth. Then the car started rolling and I had to stop. If they had done a little faster in the garage I would have been able to catch up with Depailler. Indeed, in my opinion the race should have lasted another two hours".
It may not be nice, but it is the very reality of the situation that imposes it. The calendar now features the Swedish and Dutch Grand Prix. The Ferrari troupe will go to Anderstorp for the usual pre-race tests, while Lauda and Regazzoni plus the 321-T will move to Zandvoort as soon as the Belgian Grand Prix is over. The successes do not inebriate the heads of the men of Maranello and, in particular, they do not slow down the pace of preparation. Meanwhile, a disconsolate Emerson Fittipaldi says:
"My McLaren did terrible. The brake problems started almost immediately and got worse as the race progressed. In the final lap I was forced to brake only with the gear changes and with the engine so Regazzoni and Pryce were able to pass me. Ferrari and Lauda are going really strong. It goes without saying that I consider them the most dangerous adversaries in my attempt to regain the world title".
And Jody Scheckter admits:
"I tried to get close to Lauda but I immediately realized that his Ferrari was way too strong for my Tyrrell. In addition, the brakes got tired and, so, in order not to compromise a placement, I preferred to resign myself. On the last lap I ran out of gas. Had I had to travel an extra kilometer, I would have been forced to stop. This time my manager Ken Tyrrell did not do his accounts very well".
Brabham driver Carlos Pace adds:
"I was almost immediately left without third gear, which here is a gear that is used very often. It is clear that everyone could easily overtake me. Too bad, because I'm sure I could have made Lauda's success more difficult even though the Austrian and Ferrari are truly ultra-competitive".
And lastly, Vittorio Brambilla concludes by saying:
"Already in the tests the brakes had alarmed me. Today, after very few laps, the brakes started to die and I was forced to drive in a dirty way, putting the car sideways several times. I think this is the reason for the deterioration of the front tire. Then I was literally left without brakes and, to avoid going off the track, I preferred to return to the box".
Niki Lauda, Austrian, 26 years old, Ferrari driver, leads the Formula 1 World Championship with 23 points. This year he has already won the Monaco and Belgian Grand Prix. Before leaving Zolder for Zandvoort in the Netherlands where he will be engaged with Regazzoni for some tests, the Austrian driver writes these brief notes.
"Zolder’s victory represented an enormous joy for me, also because it allowed me to jump to the top of the World Championship standings. The fact, psychologically, represents a big incentive for me. The others will now have to chase me. Perhaps, never as in the Belgian Grand Prix have I had such a perfect car in all its elements. I started with extreme care, being careful to avoid possible accidents and driving very clean to try not to damage the front tires, as my lawyer Montezemolo had recommended. In the first laps I was overtaken by Brambilla, who was really wild, and Carlos Pace, but I didn't worry too much, because my car was doing very well and the race was long. Then, I picked up the pace and realized that the opponents behind me were getting further and further apart. The race continued like this, my 312-T performed effectively in both fast and slow corners. I had no problem, on the contrary I did not make the most of the car, also because my advantage did not seem to diminish. With eleven laps to go, I suddenly heard a violent noise. There and then I was noticeably worried, because I thought that some big trouble had occurred, but immediately after, as I saw that the engine performance was not decreasing, I realized that it was an exhaust pipe. I decided to continue following the usual rhythm, also in order not to make those who monitored me from the garage die of a heart attack since they were certainly worried a lot seeing me pass and hearing the noise of the car. My advantage over Scheckter, who was around eleven seconds with ten laps to go, soared to around twentyish at the end of the race. It was a wonderful day for me and for Ferrari. Even Clay Regazzoni had a splendid race and I am happy that the satisfaction of the fastest lap has fallen to him. At this point I am more than happy, and I am sure that, if Ferrari manages to maintain what it has shown up till now on all circuits, a little thought about the World Championship can be done. Before concluding, I want to thank Ferrari, the technicians and mechanics for the magnificent organization and for the truly exceptional car that was entrusted to me. I just hope that people don't expect too much from us now: Ferrari fights against everyone. We manage to do well on almost any type of circuit, but the opponents are strong and take turns. They won't give up anytime soon".