On Sunday, September 8, 1974, in Monza, the last European Formula 1 event will take place. All the circus protagonists will be present, and perhaps there are even a few too many. Thirty-three drivers have registered for the Italian Grand Prix, the thirteenth race of the World Championship, but only 25, based on the times obtained in the two days of official practice on Friday and Saturday, will be allowed to start. The anticipation for the race, followed by the Grands Prix of Canada and the United States, is significant, given the uncertainty in the provisional World Championship standings. Four drivers - Clay Regazzoni, Jody Scheckter, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Niki Lauda - are in the running for the championship, all within ten points. The major attraction is Ferrari leading the standings with Regazzoni. Ferrari has become competitive again, and at Monza, Clay could secure the decisive points. This year, attendance records are expected to be broken (the record belongs to the 1970 race when 73.000 paying spectators boosted the revenue), even though the organizers of A.C. Milano fear that a significant portion of the usual 80-90.000 attendees will join the so-called Portuguese. One thing is certain: on the eve of the Grand Prix, 14.000 tickets have been sold, equivalent to the available seats in various stands, including the side ones that usually were available just a few days before the event. The rush for tickets, however, is expected in the last two days, and it is anticipated to be so intense that the mayor of Monza has sent a letter to A.C. Milano urging them to do everything possible to prevent vandalism or even incidents of fire in the park, as unfortunately happened in the past.
Presenting the event, Giovanni Lurani Cernuschi explains that the circuit will have some variations compared to the traditional one, having changed in the two chicanes originally built to slow down the single-seaters and prevent the usual frightening groups. In particular, at the request of the drivers, the curb of the first chicane, initially 18 centimeters high and a significant risk to the car suspensions and the competitors' safety, has been lowered. The new variant will allow a speed of 180 km/h compared to the 140-150 km/h of the previous races. Among the Italian drivers in the Grand Prix, in addition to the usual Merzario (Iso) and Brambilla (March), Carlo Facetti joins with a Brabham. However, qualifying will be challenging. Since 1964, a Ferrari driver has not won the Formula 1 World Championship, and since 1961, none has appeared at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix leading the standings. These two facts alone illustrate the anticipation and enthusiasm surrounding Ferrari and its men, especially Clay Regazzoni and Niki Lauda, on the eve of the race. Regazzoni leads the standings ahead of Scheckter, Fittipaldi, and Lauda, who still has the chance to enter the fight, and the cars from Maranello, as in many other Grands Prix, will hit the track as favorites, the machines to beat. Luca Montezemolo, just 27 years old, a lawyer with the mindset and training of a manager who tries to predict and plan everything, is convinced that only by operating professionally at every level can a team succeed in the intense field of Formula 1. And the results have proven him right, as they did for Ferrari when it decided last year to change the team for 1974.
"Ferrari has prepared for the Italian Grand Prix using the methods applied in other races. Tests on the circuit, tests on our private Fiorano track, commitment from drivers and technicians, from the whole team. Of course, each did it with particular determination this time. Four days in Monza, as many in Fiorano, checking and fine-tuning every element of the cars. We feel at ease, even though in races, a tiny detail can ruin this work. It's precisely what we fear most for Sunday. We are afraid of the unpredictable and unavoidable, such as a puncture, like at Brands Hatch for Lauda and in Austria for Regazzoni. These are things you can't defend against. However, we have two drivers and two cars that can win, and that's what we're focusing on".
Do you have any particular tactics planned? Will Lauda help Regazzoni?
"No tactics; we're not playing football. Regazzoni and Lauda will race to defend and assert Ferrari's colors".
It's a somewhat diplomatic answer. In reality, it's likely that the Austrian could help the Swiss, the championship leader, in many ways, first and foremost by securing a good placement to take points away from Fittipaldi and Scheckter. It's clear that if Clay encounters any problems, Niki will have to go all out and win the race, returning to a more decisive pursuit of the title. But let's be honest: a Regazzoni-Lauda one-two would be ideal for Ferrari.
"People already see Ferrari as the triumphant team. Calm down; there's too much optimism. Let's not forget that the 312-B3s are two against a swarm of opponents: two Tyrrells, two McLarens, two Lotuses, two Brabhams, and so on. When you're already convinced you've won, everything becomes more difficult".
What does the Italian Grand Prix represent for Ferrari this year?
"This time, besides being the home race, the one we always hope to win, Monza means two new facts: the appearance in front of the Italian audience of the Ferraris that have been protagonists of the season, and a crucial moment for the world championship. People, whatever happens, will see a strong Ferrari, a Ferrari with two drivers vying for the title, something no other team can afford".
And what is Ferrari for Monza, for its audience? In these days, you have been able to generate, as in the past, unique interest and anticipation, not only among race and car enthusiasts.
"Today, Ferrari not only defends sporting values but also represents the ingenuity and industriousness of a country going through a delicate moment. It's a bit of a flag, I believe, the expression of Italian work in motorsport, a sector that has been mistreated and vilified like never before this year. If a Ferrari wins on Sunday, if a Ferrari driver becomes a champion, all of us will win and become champions".
And what does this penultimate race of the World Championship mean for you?
"It's a bit the culmination of an exceptional year. Thanks to Enzo Ferrari, I've been able to experience a unique, fantastic work experience. With Monza, with a victory in the Italian Grand Prix, I would feel a small part of my debt repaid to the engineer. The whole team would like to give him a splendid victory at Monza. We really want Ferrari to be a happy man on Sunday".
Ferrari, Tyrrell, or McLaren. Regazzoni, Lauda, Scheckter, or Fittipaldi? These cars and drivers, vying for the World Championship title, are the focus of every discussion and prediction. Meanwhile, as the long season of Grands Prix is about to end, another protagonist emerges—Argentinian Carlos Reutemann, who with the Brabham is making waves. Drivers and technicians from the teams involved, at their wit's end, can watch Carlos with condescension, letting him have his moment. On Friday, September 6, 1974, as in Austria, Reutemann was the fastest of all. In this tense first day of practice for the Italian Grand Prix, the Argentine clocks 1'33"27 at an average speed of 223.094 km/h. Behind him, by a hair's breadth, is the Ferrari duo, comforting the thousands of fans who have begun to fill the Monza circuit. For the Austrian, 1'33"53, and for the Swiss, 1'33"80. The Ferrari drivers precede their rivals in the race for the title. Fittipaldi, with the McLaren, sets the fifth time (1'34"15 against 1'34"06 for Pace, also with Brabham like Reutemann) and Scheckter, making his debut at Monza, is eighth (1'34"70). Luca Montezemolo said:
"A Reutemann exploit doesn't bother us, neither today nor on Sunday. Carlos has been very good, has an excellent car, and nothing to lose. We hope to do better than him, but we prefer him to be in front, not a Fittipaldi or a Scheckter".
The reasoning makes sense, even though Ferrari fans would have been more excited about a record lap by Regazzoni or Lauda. But you don't race for the audience, and today, Ferrari drivers and technicians, who feel this race perhaps like no other, are mainly trying to solve the usual tire problems. The choice of tires capable of offering the best performance on a particular circuit is now the leitmotif of every Grand Prix. On the other hand, the right set of tires can mean gaining even half a second per lap, and it is estimated that the progress in recent years in the performance of Formula 1 cars has depended mainly on innovations and developments in the field of tires. The American company Goodyear, which supplies Ferrari and almost all the teams, has brought new types of tires to Monza, and each team has conducted its experiments. Lauda and Regazzoni suffered some initial tire wear during the tests, then - with some suspension modifications and a prolonged tire break-in before an intense use - the situation improved.
"The important thing is to use safe tires that won't cause problems during the race. It's better to be slower but make it to the end".
This determination to finish seems to be the proud resolution of the four protagonists in the championship challenge. They all proclaim that, in order not to be eliminated from the competition, they must at least place well in the Italian Grand Prix and then play their cards in Canada and the United States. Will we perhaps see the four of them playing defensively on Sunday, marching together and leaving Reutemann free to soar to victory? It's a possibility. One thing is certain: despite the chicanes, the five or six drivers with the most competitive cars risk having a close race. The selection will be relative. Engineer Giacomo Caliri of Ferrari explains:
"At Monza, three factors matter: engine power, smooth and progressive traction of the driving wheels, and clean driving in the two variants".
Especially the first chicane has received negative reviews from the drivers, and it's precisely the one that could play a significant role in the Grand Prix. It leads to a straight that practically ends with the first Lesmo curve (the famous long curve taken without deceleration by Formula 1 drivers): a long stretch, and those who exit the chicane well can gain a few tenths of a second. Hans Stuck was involved in a spectacular incident in this part of the circuit. The German's March, due to a rear suspension failure, performed a frightening series of spins at almost 280 km/h, ending up against the guardrails. Stuck was taken to the Autodromo's medical center in an ambulance. Fortunately, the doctors found no injuries. The driver plans to race on Sunday, and the mechanics aim to repair his car in time. In the end, the Italian Grand Prix starts well for Ferrari, with Niki Lauda continuing his record streak of pole positions, and Clay Regazzoni in a good position despite a close call and a minor incident preventing him from doing even better. Above all, it's crucial for Ferrari that the Brabhams stand out, while McLarens and Tyrells face difficulties, as the overall discussion about the World Championship prevails over the specific one about the Grand Prix. The intense play of this decisive practice day begins late Saturday morning and concludes at the race's start time. Just over three hours of practice with a planned half-hour break and a couple more caused by spectacular incidents (Hobbs crossing the chicane and Watson going off at Lesmo), fortunately not serious. Ferrari's objectives were twofold: finding the best solution for race tires and achieving the fastest lap time. Lauda immediately attempted to push and, after about ten minutes of warm-up, surpassed Reutemann's time limit by a tenth of a second. Regazzoni postponed his personal attempt to the second series, focusing instead on specific tests for the race: laps with a full tank or with intermediate compound tires (to ensure finishing) to be pushed to the limit. Thus, after the interval between the first and second rounds, Clay set off decisively. Within a few minutes at the Curvone, he had a scare: a portion of the left rear tire peeled off, detaching and hitting a suspension strut hard enough to damage it along with the bodywork. Regazzoni made a frightening skid, making the car slide through the entire curve with the nose in the grass inside the turn - a maneuver not to be repeated, given that the speed at that point is around 280 km/h. The Swiss driver lost a lot of time waiting for the skilled mechanics to fix the 312-B3, and when he returned to the track, he couldn't achieve noteworthy times: several turns and especially the parabolica were smeared with oil, thanks to Graham Hill's Lola, which didn't have the good sense to stop immediately after the engine failure.
Therefore, Lauda, with his 1'33"16, is on the front row. The Ferrari series also increases, reaching ten, including Regazzoni's best time at Nivelles. Especially the chances of a partial and final victory increase. In the short span of 0.8 seconds, six cars are included, but only one of Lauda and Regazzoni's competitors. Between the two Ferrari drivers, Reutemann, Pace, and Watson have positioned themselves with the two official Brabhams and the Exagon team's car, high-quality drivers with efficient machines, but no longer contenders for the title. On the other hand, there's Fittipaldi, who, performing genuine acrobatics, closes this selected group, all going below 1'34"0 per lap but not too pleased with his McLaren, which bounces on braking with the rear train losing grip, forcing him to take the chicanes at slowed speeds. Tyrrells have significant problems with suspensions and brakes, and despite Scheckter's bellicose statements, he has his specific issues with the circuit. The Brabhams also seem to have some problems; Reutemann, limiting himself to simulated race conditions and then with a dirty track, couldn't even get close to the front runners, and Pace completed only one very fast lap before stopping immediately and not repeating the feat. Watson, on the other hand, destroyed his car in the second Lesmo turn, setting it up wrongly and finding himself on the grass unharmed but without wheels and with the car semi-destroyed. Tomorrow he should race with Reutemann's spare car that Brabham lends him. The others are all far behind. The two Lotus drivers run without much conviction. Peterson will use the old model, Ickx the new one. There are also troubles at Iso, where Merzario reported various issues, lost a brake pad, and went straight to the chicane after the finish straight. Brambilla was good, though, managing to achieve the thirteenth time with a not-so-brilliant engine: surely, on this Monza track, with a few more horses, he would feel capable of beating anyone. Outside of qualification, Facetti with the old Brabham is excluded, perhaps only due to an engine overheating that prevented him from running at the most favorable moment. Therefore, Ferrari presents itself as the favorite more than ever, continuing the logical continuation of a season that marked its absolute supremacy, despite the fluctuating fortune that prevented a clearer definition of the standings, a bit earlier than this season's end. Engineer Mauro Forghieri, perhaps to find confirmation of this success that everyone continues to predict, says without false modesty:
"I really like these strong-running Brabhams; the important thing is that the others go slowly".
But Luca Montezemolo clarifies, with his usual careful dialectic:
"On the other hand, we don't have any more troubles".
The discussion returns to the world championship title and the four aspiring champions with Reutemann and Pace as potential heroes of the day. Here they are, the four, in brief flashes. Lauda:
"Satisfied with position number one? No, I would like to be first already at the finish".
"There's something wrong with this car, perhaps the wing inclination, perhaps the suspensions, perhaps who knows, but it's definitely not right".
"I have nothing against Monza; it's not true that I can't take the chicanes; I don't know why I set such a high time".
"I don't understand a defensive race. I go on the track to win if the car holds up. The ideal outcome would be: me first, him second…".
And he turns to look at Lauda, who talks about spaghetti and tortellini into an English microphone. Clay Regazzoni will be a great racer; he will also be a great champion, but what pleases about him, perhaps because it's unexpected in this increasingly tense and thoughtful sports world, is that he hasn't at all given up being himself.
"And for this reason, I always feel less at ease in this environment where the machine is now about to overshadow man. What satisfaction does a man have when we have machines that already do everything by themselves? What part is left for us? So, don't think that tomorrow, if I win the Grand Prix, I win it personally. No, if I win, it's above all Ferrari that wins; it's this red beast that asks me for attention, experience, but increasingly less talent. Consider the fabulous time of Nuvolari, for example. What a difference. What a leap in human qualities. Back then, they raced, and men won, their imagination, their audacity, and their ability to express their potential. Honestly, I would have preferred to be there then: I would have had more fun".
He has big brown mustaches, cheerful and sweet brown eyes, a pretty nose that is quite slender, and sturdy teeth like those of a devourer. He is 35 years old and looks exactly 35: and it's also from this that you understand his need to be himself.
"Sure, if I were five years younger and had the car and opportunities that I have now, maybe I could do something better. But who knows, I have a very specific philosophy: I don't know if it's right or wrong, but it works for me. First of all, I'm not ambitious. I mean, I don't run to win at any cost, and I prefer to maybe come in second or third with the conscience of having given everything possible, rather than winning poorly. And I like to race. I mean, racing still amuses me a lot. If to go faster, if to give even more, I were asked to lead a life like a monk of the track, pedal, and steering wheel, I swear I would quit because all that would prevent me from finding racing cars fun".
As he speaks, he has the great virtue of looking you in the eyes.
But a smile escapes him, and so you suspect that Clay Regazzoni is also quite clever and amusingly wry:
"I'm also quite emotional. For example, I play a lot of tennis, and when I prepare for a match, I get nervous, afraid of making a bad impression, I even break out in sweats. Even suddenly entering a group of strangers makes me uncomfortable. If I'm forced to speak, I stumble, stutter, and become fiery. It's only during a race that I feel at ease. I shut myself in there and feel nothing anymore. Neither the noise that otherwise, with ears uncovered, with all those colors and screams, would scare me a lot nor the fact of having to face a race and judgment. Getting into the car and sinking into it is relaxing for me, a real vacation. I like being alone; I'm one of those who can be perfectly happy in an absolutely silent and empty room. Well: in the racing car, I feel alone, and I like it. It's a refuge, a shelter where I feel safe. In fact, in a racing car, I don't know what fear is. I'm not reckless. I just think I know how far I can push myself, how much I can risk. Indeed, I don't risk at all. Because risking already means entering the danger zone. Let's say I go where I know I can, and as far as the car can take me. Because I'm interested in this too: finishing the race with the car in good condition, preferably intact. There was a time before when they said I broke cars very easily, and in fact, they had given me the nickname break-everything".
"It was more of a legend. If I loosened a screw, they immediately said I had wrecked everything. Well, even that time is over, I take care of the cars as I take care of life".
Being with him is a pleasure. Swiss by nationality, Italian by language, he expresses himself with great correctness and ease of speech. He is balanced, extroverted, and approachable. His teammate and great rival are Niki Lauda: ten years younger, undeniable talent, coolness well above average.
"I couldn't live the way Niki does, giving up everything that is not training and preparation; I love living fully. I like to eat, travel, enjoy my children and my wife fully. I like girls, cinema, tennis, and everything else that life can offer. If Niki gives up all of that, maybe it's because he couldn't sustain my pace".
The smile is amused; Clay is well aware of the insinuation.
"It's not maliciousness; I just always say what I think".
And then, do you think you'll win this Grand Prix?
"I hope so, but if I don't win, it's not a big drama. Just finishing among the top is enough for me, and if I happen to be the first, even better. But winning doesn't excite me to the stars. I've worked so hard to get here that I can't get completely excited anymore. Because I made my way at thirty, not before. It was difficult to get here, with a series of big difficulties. First of all, I wasn't rich, and I couldn't afford a car. Then, I wasn't lucky. I don't mean I was unlucky: it's a different matter. I wasn't lucky because, unlike other colleagues who won their first races because those ahead of them retired, I always found tough competitors who never retired, who never had breakdowns, never accidents, never anything. So, I never found the ready-made solution: I could only rely on my abilities and the capabilities of the car, which in this profession are not everything, though. Mors tua vita mea, as they say: we understand each other. Fortunately, it's not necessary, to win, that others die: just run out of gas or burn a small valve. Just a little nothing, and everything you thought was within reach disappears, taken away by the one who was tailing you from behind but couldn't overtake you".
He is a man. He has clear, normal ideas, which now is exceptional in itself. Money?
"I'm rich, but nothing has changed from before: my wife manages the money".
"It's not everything, absolutely not everything".
The profession of a racer?
"It's becoming more and more a job and less and less fun: that's my concern".
"It should be lived".
"A natural fact. When one of my colleagues passes away, I suffer as I would for the loss of a friend who died in his bed. I don't associate our profession with the danger of dying, I mean: it would be impossible to get on the track, where there are a thousand opportunities to lose our lives".
Is he generous?
"But of course. Ultimately, I race for myself. But it's for others that I try to win".
On Sunday, September 8, 1974, at the start of the Italian Grand Prix, Niki Lauda made a good start, possibly anticipating the flag, and confirmed his lead in the race. Behind him was Carlos Reutemann, followed by two more Brabhams, those of Carlos Pace and John Watson. Clay Regazzoni, Ronnie Peterson, and Emerson Fittipaldi followed. Between the second and third laps, Regazzoni overtook both Watson and Pace, moving up to third place. Watson, driving a private Brabham, later lost his position to both Peterson and Fittipaldi. The Swiss driver's climb continued, and by the fifth lap, he passed Reutemann, putting two Ferrari cars in the top two positions. Meanwhile, Watson was overtaken by Vittorio Brambilla. Between laps 7 and 9, Pace was passed by Peterson, Fittipaldi, and Brambilla. During the 10th lap, Watson made a mistake at the chicane, went off the track but managed to continue, losing several positions. Two laps later, Reutemann retired from the race due to a gearbox issue. At the end of lap 15, Niki Lauda led the race, with a second advantage over his teammate, Clay Regazzoni. Ronnie Peterson followed in third place, ten seconds behind. The Swede was ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi, Vittorio Brambilla, and Jody Scheckter. Italian driver Brambilla retired from the race on lap 17 due to damage to his March caused by an error at the chicane. Patrick Depailler, who had overtaken Pace a few laps earlier, moved up to sixth place. During the 22nd lap, Brambilla stopped at the pits to replace the left-rear tire, rejoining the race in twelfth position. On lap 24, Depailler, experiencing problems with the right-rear tire, went off at the chicane but managed to control his Tyrrell and re-enter the track, losing several positions.
This allowed Arturo Merzario to move up to sixth place. On lap 30, Lauda relinquished the lead to Regazzoni. Lauda's car had a cooling system failure, causing oil and other fluids to spill onto the track. While Lauda retired, the track officials watered the track near the Variante Ascari to clean it from the fluids spilled by the Ferrari. On lap 41, Regazzoni's Ferrari also had to give up the lead due to an oil leak. The Swiss driver returned to the pits and, after a quick fix, re-entered the race in fourth place. Ronnie Peterson took the lead, followed by Emerson Fittipaldi and Jody Scheckter. Regazzoni's race ended on lap 42 when he had to park his car by the side of the track. In the final laps, Fittipaldi closed in on Peterson, attempting to overtake and drafting on the long straights. On lap 48, Pace passed Denny Hulme and moved up to fifth place, while Fittipaldi tried until the last lap to find space to pass Peterson, but without success. The crowd silently witnessed the arrival of Ronnie Peterson, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Jody Scheckter. However, they seized the opportunity to invade the track and spread across every corner of the main straight, trying to get a close look at the Grand Prix protagonists. Peterson, Fittipaldi, and Scheckter, on a police truck complete with a siren, climbed onto the victory podium and immediately after, to the press building. Smiling faces, happy people. It's obvious: the drama of Ferrari, Lauda, and Regazzoni was the key to this success for the Swede and the beneficial placement of the Brazilian and the South African. The first questions for Peterson, who secured his third victory (previously in Monaco and France) in a season so peculiar for Lotus:
"The Ferraris were stronger; on the other hand, races are won by finishing. It was a good duel with Emerson: his McLaren was more maneuverable than my Lotus in the chicanes, but I was faster on the straights. On lap 40, he overtook me at the first chicane, but he didn't exit well before Lesmo, and I passed him. I raced with my eyes glued to the rearview mirrors to see what Fittipaldi could do. Now we will go to America with this old Lotus 72: it's still stubborn. I can be the referee of the world championship because I intend to win at Mosport and Watkins Glen".
Fittipaldi, serene, said:
"I understand that many of you may be disappointed, but I have to get as far ahead as possible: it's my job".
A chorus of laughter greeted this statement, and Emerson continued more briskly, explaining that he couldn't get more out of his McLaren.
"At mid-race, maybe a little earlier, I tried to overtake, and it worked well. What satisfaction! I finish the big turn, and before Lesmo, Peterson overtakes me alongside, a matter of horsepower".
And a matter of perspectives, given the different interpretation given by the Swede.
"The World Championship is won by finishing these three races. I said it yesterday, and I repeat it today. I finished the race well enough, Scheckter too, Lauda and Regazzoni no. Draw your own conclusions".
Drawing conclusions on his own is Jody Scheckter, less acidic than usual but candid as always.
"It looks like I'm going to win a world championship by running slowly. The Tyrrell is certainly a nice car, but every time I start, there are ten people telling me: Jody, go slow, Jody, be careful. And there I am, measuring every turn like a pharmacist. The trouble is that in the end, they are right; I score points, but I don't enjoy myself that much anymore".
It was a blow, a deep disappointment for Ferrari and the nearly 150.000 fans present at Monza. They had come from all over to witness the resurgence of the Maranello cars, to salute a triumph by Niki Lauda or Clay Regazzoni, to shout their joy in case Regazzoni, the leader of the Formula 1 World Championship, strengthened his position at the top of the standings. Instead, this Italian Grand Prix declared the victory of Ronnie Peterson with Lotus, ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi with McLaren, and Jody Scheckter with Tyrrell, while Lauda and Regazzoni had to retire. The bitterness was compounded by several reasons: firstly, the superb performance by the two Ferraris, dominating the race with the Austrian and the Swiss until the engine failure, then the fact that Clay had to stop when there were just twelve laps left - with a comfortable lead over Peterson - almost the World Champion, and, furthermore, the approach of Scheckter and Fittipaldi to Regazzoni in the world rankings and the loss of any hope for Lauda. In short, a truly terrible day, almost dramatic for Ferrari, where everything went in the worst way possible. An evil demon had deceived the crowd at Monza and the Maranello team, which was already relieved after the uncertainties about the tires. Now, more long moments of tension awaited Clay Regazzoni, officials, mechanics. Everything would be decided in Canada and the United States, and there was only slight consolation in remembering that even John Surtees, when he became World Champion in 1964, had retired at Monza. Would the superstition work again? Luca Montezemolo whispers, for whom every Grand Prix is an effort, an expenditure of nervous energy:
"I want to cry. When I saw them in the lead, Niki and Clay, I thought that maybe one of them would retire, but the other would remain. Did you notice? Everything was going well, very well, and then, one after the other... We showed for 40 laps to be the strongest, but what was the use? Now, we return immediately to Maranello, examine what happened to the two engines, then go to Canada and the USA. Hopefully...".
Montezemolo has teary eyes, a tense face. He doesn't even realize that the people - unlike last year - are not booing but applauding, and when Regazzoni returns to the truck designated for the transport of the 312-B3, shouts of greeting rise.
"Bravo Clay, Thank you, Regazzoni".
And the truck sways because they want autographs and a few words from him. Regazzoni is serene, seemingly. He knows he has had a beautiful race, the kind he likes, and calmly recounts his personal drama as a man and a driver seeing a world title slip away.
"For a moment, I thought I was back in 1970; the car was running well, I was almost at the end of the Grand Prix. Then, the engine started to vibrate. Goodbye, I thought, I have to stop like Lauda. It was a tough blow, even though I'm used to it: in my life, I have never been very lucky. But I had the victory and the title within reach, and I would have earned them. Not everything went smoothly in practice, and I started in the third row. Niki managed to pull away immediately; I had to make a series of overtakes at the first chicane. I was happy. The car was really fast, a bit of understeer, perhaps, but the tires didn't give me any problems, and in braking, I passed others with a ease that surprised even me. Of course, if we had left together, Niki and I, we would have set a different pace in the race; at some point, we would have proceeded less tightly: who knows about the engines, maybe they would have held until the end".
And he adds:
"The hope of winning is still there, of course. I have 46 points against Scheckter's 45 and Fittipaldi's 43. I retired here; the points I will take in North America will be good. However, I am a bit worried: the circuits of Mosport in Canada and Watkins Glen in the United States are suitable for the characteristics of our cars, especially the first one, which resembles Brands Hatch or the Nurburgring, but all these engines breaking…".
In twenty-one days, from the Austrian Grand Prix to today, five engines have failed between practice and races, while only two had given up in all eleven previous Grand Prix. The technicians shake their heads, perhaps thinking of the luck of Emerson Fittipaldi, who did break the engine but in the morning, during free practice, so McLaren had time to install another one. Mauro Forghieri, Giacomo Caliri, and Franco Rocchi seem to age suddenly. They are eager to run to Maranello, to open those two jewels of mechanics that today betrayed so many hopes.
"The two engines experienced the same issue. We still don't know in detail what caused the failure, perhaps a bearing, a piston, or a segment. One can always expect a breakdown, especially in a race like this that demands a lot, and you can see how many retirements have occurred. But two together, no, it was really an unpleasant surprise".
Say the three technicians. What else should they declare? Unfortunately, it's the nature of competitions, like that of life; occasionally, bitter moments happen, and in circumstances like this, they become even more bitter.
Almost a tragedy, as we hinted, but the important thing is not to be discouraged, to show in these fifteen days leading to the Canadian Grand Prix the industriousness and mastery that have marked Ferrari's path in the past and this season. The magnificent four have been reduced to three, and the number one, in the end, will have to be Regazzoni. The crowd left Monza in silence, with the prancing horse flags lowered and banners folded, but without animosity, without anger. The drama was understood. It began with the tire war and ended with the surrender of the engines—the sad story of a winning team, Ferrari, which lost precisely on the day when a complete victory was expected and already outlined. In the relaxed atmosphere of the morning, with everyone dragging lethargically from one stand to another, the electric current of the bombshell news suddenly struck. At 12:30 p.m., Goodyear, through its manager Ed Alexander, announced the withdrawal of all tires tested on Saturday and in the morning session. It was a shock for everyone, at least for all Goodyear-equipped teams, as two days of effort went up in smoke. The decision was made following the issues raised in the morning, during the free practice, by Reutemann and Fittipaldi, identical to those complained about on Saturday by Regazzoni, which almost led the Swiss to a spin. The tires, heating up, were delaminating at the tread junction, which then started peeling off and breaking with easily predictable consequences. The decision was halfway between courage and guilt. For Goodyear, admitting a mistake of this magnitude was no small sacrifice, but on the other hand, realizing it only three hours before the race is sheer madness. At this point, the race becomes a roulette because at least in that, the chances of success are greater. Goodyear decides to provide each team with two sets of not new but selected tires from those already used in Zeltweg, and the teams request fifteen additional minutes of testing.
"Not at all".
Say those from Firestone, namely the placid Lord Hesketh, now bellicose, and Frank Williams, and the discussion lasts quite a while. Williams insists because he hasn't forgotten the prank played on him in Brazil when he didn't even agree to a 30-second delay to allow Merzario to line up properly at the start. They talk, get heated, each with their fair share of reason, while on the track, the attendants don't know whether to remove the chicane barrier for the start or leave it until the completion of the test laps. Stewart, who doesn't race but remains the surrogate father of the drivers, suggests a middle ground: one warm-up lap, two to warm up the tires, and a final one to see how they react. They end up accepting an even more reduced compromise: two laps instead of one of reconnaissance and goodbye to the proclaimed safety campaign. The Italian Grand Prix and the withdrawal of Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni's Ferrari have caused, along with much disappointment and bitterness, some controversy. According to some observers, the engine failure of the 312-B3s would have been caused by the excessive pace set by the Austrian and the Swiss on their cars, which could not withstand the effort, and the guilty silence of the Maranello box, which did not order the drivers to slow down. These are adventurous interpretations, and for many reasons. But, first of all, it is advisable to expose the true causes of the breakage of Lauda and Regazzoni's two engines, as reported by a Ferrari spokesperson. Lauda's engine was left without water due to the loosening of the connection that locks the pipe from the radiator to the pump, while on Regazzoni's, a ball bearing supporting the crankshaft broke. Thus, the hypotheses ventilated immediately after the withdrawal of the two cars fall. The reality, in a sense, is even more bitter because Lauda's problem was caused by a trivial, almost ridiculous issue. Naturally, as the Austrian reports, the temperatures of water and oil rose impressively, and the engine broke. In Regazzoni's case, it is a more serious failure, not seen since 1971. In the current season, Ferrari had broken five engines (one in Brazil, one in South Africa, two in Austria, and one in the pre-tests in Monza) due to valve issues. On the other hand, the relative novelty of the problem can offer some consolation: not a folly of the drivers and technicians, not a defect related to more important, vital parts of the engine, but simply an isolated incident that fits into the logic of competitions. Luck, in races, is a term to be used cautiously, especially when some breakage occurs. In this case, we limit ourselves to emphasizing how rare it is to have such a simultaneous negative event just when the circumstances seemed so favorable. Luck, misfortune, it was indeed the shot of some malicious devil.
The technical explanation that Ferrari has so honestly and opportune presented after its technicians examined the engines that had just arrived from Monza on Monday morning in Maranello blocks any tendentious observation. Moreover, it is worth noting that the rev counter indicators of Lauda and Regazzoni's cars did not exceed the 12.100 RPM against the maximum of 12.500 RPM, ergo the two did not push their engines to the maximum. But it's time to close the discussion on this bitter Italian Grand Prix. In two weeks, the Canadian Grand Prix will take place at Mosport, which, with the subsequent event in the United States, will close the Formula 1 World Championship. Two truly decisive races, in which Regazzoni arrives as the leader of the standings with 46 points, one more than Scheckter and three ahead of Fittipaldi. Lauda is fourth with 36 points. The magnificent four have been reduced to three. Lauda can still hope, but to become World Champion, he should win both Grand Prix and, at the same time, Regazzoni should not get more than 8 points, Scheckter 9, and Fittipaldi 11. Ferrari, by now, can count on only one pawn. Lauda, who works for himself but also and above all for the Maranello team, must become the Swiss's helper. With such assistance, Regazzoni will have something more than Scheckter and Fittipaldi, besides driving a car that, Monza or not, remains the strongest. It is time for maximum commitment, generosity, and serenity. Ferrari, Regazzoni deserve this diabolical world title. Certainly, if it finally returns to Maranello, it will have been earned with an effort and determination like perhaps no other in Ferrari's long history.