The World Sports Championship begins with a surprising result which demonstrates, once again, that nothing is ever certain in racing. With Ferrari and Alfa Romeo absent, it seemed that success could only be achieved by Gulf-Mirage or Matra-Simca or Lola. And instead, on Sunday 4 February 1973, on the Daytona Beach track, the collapse of the British and French three-litres and the victory of a brand new Porsche Carrera 2.7 in front - and here for Gulf-Mirage and Matra there is the taste of mockery - to a Ferrari GTB 4, that is, two production GTs better than many sophisticated cars. Before the American 24 Hours there was fear that the two Italian manufacturers would give away twenty points (first place entails the assignment of this score) to one of their rivals. Not only did Ferrari not offer anything to anyone, but they ended up receiving 15 points (for placing) as a nice tribute from Minter and Migault, 15 points which could be valuable in the long run, given that the Maranello team is known to want to engage in all the World Championship events. And Gulf and Matra remained at zero, and, of course, Alfa Romeo. Ferrari's absence at this Daytona race (by the way the GTB 4 berlinetta is also called Daytona) was motivated by technical and economic reasons. The 312-P is a spider with a 12-cylinder boxer engine designed for those six-hour or 1000 km competitions, which constitute the majority in the 1973 international calendar: nine out of eleven. Races that are in step with the times, while 24-hour races have become anachronistic. It is clear that a machine designed to withstand a certain type of effort will hardly be able to adapt to such a different effort. Furthermore, it is known that the organizers of Daytona were rather narrow-minded when it came to wages: at this point, going to America would have meant taking risks for nothing. Instead, the GTB 4s went there, not entered by Ferrari but by private teams, such as Nart or Filipinetti. These are series cars and not racing cars. The Maranello company sells them to the public: jewels of refined mechanics, yes, but not very sophisticated cars for a few professional drivers. This second place behind the Porsche Carrera which the German company created specifically for GT racing and can be considered as a racing car - cannot fail to exalt Ferrari and its technicians. Now, the next round of the World Sports Championship is in Italy, on March 26th in Vallelunga.
The Gulf-Mirage and the Lola, which use eight-cylinder Cosworth engines like those of Formula 1 (in the United States the Gulf also had one of the new 12-cylinder Weslake-Ford units, but in tests it showed worrying problems), and the Matra -Simca, which has a twelve-cylinder of its own construction, will have time to remedy the problems that emerged at Daytona. Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, for their part, will play at home, with all the advantages that such a situation entails. A few days later, while Pelé's Santos flies on tour in Europe, Brazil is preparing to celebrate its second O Rey, that of the steering wheel, Emerson Fittipaldi. Arriving by jet in Sao Paulo, you fly over a hilly area dotted with lakes. There, nestled between a light scrub and the dark green of the forest, is the Interlagos circuit, where the first Brazilian Grand Prix valid for the Formula 1 World Championship will take place on Sunday 11 February 1973. Fittipaldi, so to speak, plays at home, and twice, given that he was born in this industrious and almost neurotic city, congested by chaotic traffic. Picturesque enthusiasm, flags flying, cha-cha-cha rhythms: as with football, we would like to always see a Brazilian win, that is, at this moment, Fittipaldi. Emerson was given the honors of the triumph in September, a South American triumph, with confetti, streamers, handfuls of rice and lots of music. Hundreds of thousands of people joined the procession with the black-gold single-seater - pulled by a rope by a patrol of beautiful girls - of Mr. Colin Chapman and the small pilot with the rat's teeth, of national production. On Sunday 28 January 1973, 10.000 of them went to Buenos Aires (and from Rio to the Argentine capital it takes three hours by jet) for the Grand Prix and dawned to celebrate yet another beautiful victory for their World Champion. In this very hot climate, ideas and initiatives in favor of motor racing arise, also due to the push of a regime interested in channeling fury and passion towards peaceful destinations, at least for the purposes of internal stability. Interlagos, for example, is only the first of a series of racetracks recently completed, such as those in Fortaleza, Vitoria, Cujaba and Aracaju, or under construction. In Brasilia, the Brazilian city of 2000, the forgetfulness of the planners of fifteen years ago is being remedied: near the sports hall and the football stadium under construction, enormous bulldozers are leveling the red earth of the highlands to design a circuit. There is the dream of a national single-seater capable of competing with Tyrrell or Ferrari or Lotus itself no more than Fittipaldi.
The federal government has announced a sort of auction requesting an initial capital of 7.000.000 cruzeiros to set up a work program in this regard. Institutions and companies responded, such as Banco do Brasil, Petrobras (oil) and Café do Brasil (whose acronym already adorns Emerson's orange-black helmet). And a mixed group is being formed (TV Globo and the British March) for the creation of monocoque cars similar to those produced by March for Formulas 2 and 3. For now, however, the Brazilians must be content with admiring other people's single-seater and doing the I support Chapman's Lotus, who appears vaguely perplexed by the noisy confusion surrounding the team. Fittipaldi aside, this car from three years ago still appears to be one of the most competitive of the group, in particular for its road holding and aerodynamic solutions, copied by everyone. In April, with the Spanish Grand Prix, which will mark the entry into force of new pro-safety regulations, we will have a new Lotus, the 75 (the current one is indicated by the acronym 72), and Emerson hopes that it will go at least as well as this. Today the Fittipaldi-Lotus combination, despite considering the capricious implications of competitions, linked to many delicate factors, appears more than ever at the top. You don't overtake a Stewart and a Cevert, as the Brazilian and the English single-seater did in Argentina, if you aren't a very good driver and if the car is no longer in working order. World Championship already directed to the Anglo-Brazilian channel, then? It's really too early to say. After all, the matches in Argentina, Brazil and the following one in South Africa are the tail end of last season, they constitute its technical continuation. It is from Spain that the real 1973 challenge will begin. Of course, whoever gets points now keeps them later too. And it is in this sense that the three points obtained by Jackie Ickx with fourth place in the Argentine Grand Prix are not to be despised at all. They are a small capital accumulated for the future, for better times; that is for when the new 312-B3 comes. The car - now ready - is awaited with great confidence in the Maranello clan for two valid reasons: the engine remains that 12-cylinder boxer (now on the threshold of 500 HP) which has given so many authoritative demonstrations of vigor and reliability; it is joined - finally - by a very modern monocoque chassis, which should be the ideal platform for the performance of the engine.
The debut in Spain. For the Brazilian Grand Prix, in which Ickx and Arturo Merzario, who continues his very useful apprenticeship, will participate, there are no particular illusions. Seeing a Ferrari among the first three or four cars that will parade at Interlagos on Sunday would already be a source of satisfaction. For the Maranello team, therefore, it is an interlocutory moment, in a race that sees the B.R.M., the Tyrrell, the Surtees, the Brabham, the McLaren, the March, the Iso-Williams and, naturally, the Lotus. But who does the blond Ronnie Peterson, Chapman's new signing, consider? The king is one, and only one, and the Brazilians swear in another Emerson Fittipaldi victory. Tens of thousands of stickers with the writing JPS/Lotus travel around Brazil stuck on the windows of buses, cars and trucks, the face of Emerson Fittipaldi emerges from every canton: he drinks Cafe do Brusii, eats a certain type of frozen food, flies with national airlines. However, for the Italians of Sun Paolo the World Champion is just a nice and very good driver to admire. The heart always beats for Ferrari, for these red single-seaters that in Formula 1 are still unable to beat their British rivals. And around the Maranello team there is a tangle of almost anxious questions. How are the cars running? What does Jackie think of the circuit? Is there any hope? Technicians, drivers and mechanics smile and postpone any response until Sunday, even if no one - wisely - has excessive illusions about the possibilities of a success in the Brazilian Grand Prix. The team, in this Brazilian trip so linked to the very recent Argentine one, is directed by Giorgio Ferrari for the technical part and by Guido Rosoni for the sporting part, assisted by Peter Schetty, who came to Sao Paulo after a long holiday in the Caribbean with the task of consultant. Ickx, unlike the rest of the team, flew to Brussels after the Argentine Grand Prix of Buenos Aires. He returned, aiming for Sao Paulo, at the beginning of the week. His wife Catherine is about to have their first child and the Belgian lives impatient hours. However, like a good professional, when he climbs into the cockpit of his 312-B 2, he only thinks about the upcoming race. Jacky Ickx explains:
"Ferrari behaves much better on this circuit than it did in Argentina. It is easier to control and has more effective road holding. Furthermore, the track is of a mixed-fast type, with one 80 km/h curve, others of 250 km/h and, finally, peaks of almost 300 km/h. Just enough to be able to take advantage of the 12-cylinder boxer".
The Belgian driver adds:
"Interlagos is quite a difficult track. It must be understood and memorized perfectly: if you lift your foot before one or two bends, you immediately lose a lot of seconds. I would compare it in terms of the course of the route and the level of difficulty to that of Nivelles".
And, at this point, it should be remembered that Ickx only saw this circuit nestled among many small lakes on Wednesday, just enough time to complete about ten laps in the private car of Piero Gancio, one of the managers of the facility, and then for the first, unofficial, rehearsal session.
"It's clear that Fittipaldi and the other South Americans have an advantage over us Europeans. Just observe them, and I did. However, it is always possible to improve your times. Here, in a few days of practice, you can improve by two- three seconds a pass. I feel quite optimistic. And then we know very well that these are interlocutory competitions for us. I'm awaiting the new 312-B3 with enthusiasm and confidence".
For an Ickx who is more open to dialogue than usual, there is also a cautious Merzario. Arturo is carrying out a very useful apprenticeship. He learns the art of driving a Formula 1 car.
"I'm calm, there's no point in risking for an impossible result. In this period I limit myself to trying to get to the finish line without causing the slightest damage to the car".
And it's not too easy either, because Merzario has to drive Ickx's second car, which is set up by the Belgian for his driving style. The Italian driver cannot change anything and must adapt to the solutions proposed by the Belgian driver. But he doesn't complain.
"I knew very well how things were. Ickx is entitled to two cars and I make do. And I'm already happy. In the next European trips, I too should have my own 312-B".
The Interlagos track has been the home of racing in Brazil since 1940, but it is only in recent years that it has become known internationally thanks to the enthusiasm and hard work of one of Brazil’s television stations, TV Globo. They have been instrumental in promoting Formula Ford, Formula Three and Formula Two series at the track with considerable success and Fiitipaldi competing in each as he moved up through the ranks of European racing. Wanting a World Championship Grand Prix, the organizers arranged a Formula One race last Easter time and, although it only attracted 12 cars and gave Reutemann his only F1 win to date, it qualified them for a full World Championship race this year. The circuit itself measures just under 8 km. and twists and turns like a serpent. Basically, there is an outer bowl off which the track snakes backwards and forwards as the map shows and then rejoins before the pits straight. The highest point on the circuit is the pits straight and along this is the majority of spectators’ accommodation, with huge grandstands as can he seen from the start picture of the race in our color center spread. From this vantage point the spectators can see almost the complete track. The corners of the outer bowl are banked while the rest offers various combinations of radius and severity. All in all Interlagos is a track well worthy of inclusion in the World Championship. Unfortunately it is set within the city limits of Sao Paulo in a rather unattractive and industrial area and the facilities in the pits and paddock are not yet to the standard set in Buenos Aires. In total there are five hours of official practice covering Friday and Saturday with sessions of one hour and one hour and a half on each day, while on Thursday there is a two-hour untimed practice period. Team Lotus totally dominates practice, their two cars finishing first and second in all four official separate sessions.
In the first three Ronnie Peterson springs something of a surprise by recording the faster time of the pair while Fittipaldi is the faster in the fourth and final session. But that is held in altogether much hotter weather and he just fails to equal Peterson’s pole position time from the previous day. So, for the first time in his World Championship career, Peterson starts on pole position with a time of 2'30"5 which leaves Emerson Fittipaldi’s lap record, set in the non-championship 1st Brazilian Grand Prix last Easter, of 2'35"2, looking very second-hand. Fittipaldi’s best is 2'30"7 and even this leaves the rest of the field looking slow in comparison. Completing the front row of the now rare (in Grand Prix racing) 3-2-3 grid is Jacky Ickx’s Ferrari with 2'32"0, hardly on terms with the Lotuses. On row two is Regazzoni showing that his Argentina form is no flash in the pan for the B.R.M. is fourth fastest at 1'32"4 while Hulme’s best of 1'32"7 completes the row. Regazzoni’s fast time was recorded on Friday using the same engine he had raced with in Argentina. As it is now rather tired it is replaced by a fresh one from Bourne which refuses to run cleanly at all and the Swiss has not completed a flying lap on Saturday so it will be changed again for the race. Carlos Pace indicates that now the Surtees TS14A has the correct springs there isn’t too much wrong with it and he also records 1'32"7 to share row three with Carlos Reutemann’s Brabham (also handling much better than at the previous race) and Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell. On the fourth row is Francois Cevert’s Tyrrell, just 0.1 sec, slower than Stewart and Beltoise’s B.R.M. It is certainly unusual to see the Tyrrells only eighth and ninth fastest in practice but they have worked fairly hard to be that far up, for the chassis just does not appear to suit the circuit. The second half of the grid is headed by Wilson Fittipaldi, who probably knows the Interlagos track better than anyone, and he is able to lap his Brabham in 2'34"3. A similar time is recorded by Peter Revson, who has missed both of Friday’s sessions due to a stomach ailment which laid him low in his hotel bed while that rank of the grid is completed by Niki Lauda’s B.R.M., which has missed both sessions on Saturday due to various problems. Behind them comes Mike Hailwood who, unlike Pace, does not seem to be getting on with his TS14A very well and does not appear to have much appetite for the task at hand. He shares his row of the grid with March Engineering’s white hope Jean-Pierre Jarier. On the last but one row of the grid are the two Williams Specials sandwiching Merzario’s Ferrari while, right at the back, is Beuttler’s March and Bueno in the Surtees, neither of which has had much practice, but have they done so it is unlikely to make much difference.
"The most beautiful aspect of Emerson's success in racing lies in the confirmation he gave me: he is a real man and not a dummy looking for glory and dollars: he remains the same, you notice he has changed his character, he is not become a stranger. He is always the same guy, calm, courteous, full of humanity".
Maria Helena Fittipaldi talks about her husband in the caravan that hosts the World Champion. O Rey is out, he mixes with friends and Brazilian journalists. Kisses, hugs, everyone is happy. Emerson even lends himself to posing with a gigantic wolfdog, the four-legged champion of a thousand shows, and people laugh in amusement. She doesn't know that Fittipaldi has a mad terror for every representative, small or large, of the canine world and that she makes this effort to please a friend. Says Maria Helena, O rey's personal secretary and timekeeper in the Grand Prix:
"He is made like this, to be with the fans, with his fans, he even forgets important appointments".
It's true, but it's also true that Fittipaldi is not naive. In one of the main streets of São Paulo he has created an office to deal with business, especially of an advertising nature, that concerns him. Emerson clarifies, having finally decided to leave the almost 30°C of the track for the coolness of the caravan:
"Before, the home phone rang constantly. There was no peace. And then I created a place to work calmly. I go there every day, from nine to noon and then in the afternoon".
Maria Helena smiles.
"At midday he is used to eating a lot and well. He doesn't do any diet, he fixes his figure with a bit of gymnastics and, perhaps, a couple of kicks at the ball".
Casa Fittipaldi is located on rua Leonor Quadros, in the Morumbi neighborhood area. Pool, park, nice furniture. Comfort, not luxury. Emerson lives there with his older brother Wilson, who is married and has a child. They are very close, even if during the race one fights against the other without problems. With their families they went on holiday together in some small islands located between Santos and Eio de Janeiro, guests of a banker from Sao Paulo.
"We have been in Brazil since mid-October: They have been beautiful months. I spent many weeks at the seaside: I love swimming and sailing".
Maria Helena enters the conversation.
"And even knock you over".
She adds mischievously, mentioning two or three unscheduled swims caused by too daring maneuvers.
"Good thing he doesn't behave the same way in the car".
O Rey shakes his head and agrees with Maria Helena, who is of English origin while Emerson is, albeit distantly, of Italian origin. We are talking about the Brazilian Grand Prix, the second round of the Formula 1 World Championship.
"The fact that it is being played in Interlagos fills me with joy. Not that my Lotus runs twice as fast because of this, but for once, I'm at home. It's important, Pelé also says it, right?"
It's true that racing at Interlagos benefits him.
"A little yes, but not much. Look at the times set by Ickx, who had never competed here. And look at Peterson. Ronnie did a few races at Interlagos, five or six, certainly not as many as me or my brother or Carlos Pace. Yet, he is already very good. Stewart claims that this circuit is easy for a professional to learn and it seems to me that he is right".
Speaking of Stewart, what effect does it have on beating the Scotsman and becoming World Champion at 25?
"Well, there is the logical pleasure of having won a long challenge, subject to many unexpected events. Now, however, there is a problem. Last year everyone wanted to beat Jackie, now, everyone wants to beat me. From a hunter I became a hare, and I don't like it too much. For the rest, nothing has changed. We work, as always".
What would you give to win tomorrow?
"Nothing, it's a Grand Prix like any other. I would obviously be happy to assert myself, especially since I know how much my compatriots want it. To tell the truth, I would be much more pleased to win another race, the Nurburgring. For a driver, beating everyone else on that track is a once-in-a-lifetime moment".
Fittipaldi's answers are always sincere. His Italian, with Genoese singing, is funny. He says:
"I want to clarify that I don't just feel like a pilot, but also the ambassador of my country. Rio Carnival, coffee and Pelé. People know nothing else about this nation that is constantly on the rise. I hope to broaden its image, to make more tourists want to visit it".
Thus Fittipaldi, Formula 1 World Champion, is Brazil's traveling ambassador. Colin Chapman arrives and O Rey chats for a few minutes with the English coach. Last year, it was said that relations between the two were not very cordial.
"We had some disagreements, he, for example, didn't want me to write Cafe do Brasil on my helmet. I got it right. Everything is fine now".
Maria Helena concludes the chat, while Emerson changes his suit.
"Chapman wanted to maintain a professional relationship with Emerson, and that's it. No friendship, at least in the strict sense. He suffered too much for Clark and Rindt and no longer wants to become too attached to his riders. He's right, isn't he?"
O Rey leaves the trailer | and he enters the field, that is, the track. Maria Helena follows him with a portable ice chest full of apples and drinks. The roar of the Lotus rises up amidst the waving of green-yellow Brazilian flags. And to think that Fittipaldi's dream would be to race with Ferrari. What would happen, then, given that the red single-seaters are much more popular here than the Made in England ones? On Sunday, February 11, 1973, the Brazilian racing fans have started packing into the Interlagos track from the early hours of the morning in preparation for the 1:00 p.m. start. As on Saturday, it is a sweltering hot day with the temperature, in the shade, in the high 90s and there are many cases of sunstroke. The fire brigade sprays the main grandstands with water to cool down the fans but, while it may do so physically, it certainly doesn’t do so metaphorically, as the cheering and general bustle get louder and more excitable as the start of the race draws nearer. Tremendous displays of flying and sky-diving keep everyone amused for a while and then the grid starts to form. The poor Williams team, who has suffered various misfortunes during practice, can’t believe it when two marshals sealing the oil tanks with locking wire almost simultaneously contrive to set off the fire extinguishers on both cars. These have to be replaced and Ganley and Galli arrive on the grid with only about five minutes to spare. All the teams are protecting their drivers from the heat with parasols and, meanwhile, some enthusiasts with Scottish flags cavort in front of the main grandstand and get empty beer cans hurled at them for their trouble. At least this display seems to inspire Jackie Stewart who has earlier given them a friendly wave for, when the engine notes rise and the flag drops, he makes a terrific, or even jumps, start along with Carlos Pace from row three, this pair sweeping around the two row two competitors. But there is no way either Stewart or Pace is going to pass Fittipaldi for the Brazilian has made the perfect get-away and is into the first corner at the head of the pack. That first lap order certainly bears little resemblance to the practice order for lckx has muffed his start, Reutemann, does likewise while Hulme’s throttles are sticking open and he is driving on the ignition while Regazzoni’s engine is fluffing. So as the cars weave back towards the paddock on the infield section it is Fittipaldi in the lead from Pace, who of course is another Sao Paulo local, with Stewart third then Peterson, Ickx, Wilson Fittipaldi, Beltoise, Revson and the rest. But the elder Fittipaldi’s fortunes are short-lived a water hose suddenly blows off, and the car starts to lose all its water. He motors slowly towards the pits where attempts at a repair are made and he makes three or four more exploratory laps before calling it a day.
It hasn’t been his day because, in the morning warm-up session, his engine threw a connecting rod, unusual on Cosworth engines, and the new motor had to be fitted quickly, perhaps too quickly. Fittipaldi completes the first lap to an enormous roar from the appreciative crowd and he already has about a second’s lead over Pace who has Stewart, Peterson and Ickx on his tail. Then come Beltoise, Revson, Cevert, Hailwood (who made an excellent start), Reutemann, Merzario, Regazzoni, Hulme, Lauda, Galli, Beuttler, Jarier, Ganley with Bueno bringing up the rear. Stewart’s problems seem forgotten and he passes Pace on lap two, while Peterson remains a close fourth. Revson pulls into the pits thus losing seventh place, which is snatched up by Mike Hailwood. The American’s problem is in the gearbox for he only has the top two gears remaining, and a couple of further laps convince him it is no use continuing and he is actually the first retirement. The pinion shaft has somehow come unscrewed. On lap three, with the crowd still roaring as Fittipaldi flashes by, Peterson moves up to third place ahead of Pace while, the following lap, the fortunes of Hailwood starts to wane when the engine goes rough and he slows. Thus Cevert and Reutemann move up to seventh and eighth places behind Beltoise but then the Argentinian hits trouble. A ball joint in the throttle linkage breaks and he rolls into the pits and it takes three laps to repair, robbing him of any chance of a position. Right at the front there is still plenty of action which looks in Team Lotus’ favour. Fittipaldi has further increased his lead while Peterson is putting Stewart under considerable pressure for second place. But on lap six Peterson floors the throttle out of the second long corner and suddenly hears the revs race and feels the car start to lurch out of control. He thinks it has jumped out of gear and in the fraction of a second he starts to hunt for gears and control the wildly spinning car as well, but to no avail and it brushes the armco barrier. What has actually happened is that the center had pulled out of the right rear wheel - one of those pressed and bonded Melmag types that Lotus and several other teams have been using for a while, and this had naturally thrown the car out of control.
The Swede walks back to the pits unharmed. Hailwood retires altogether on lap five, with a fault suspected in the metering unit and Jarier stops on the circuit with a broken crown-wheel and pinion while Pace starts to slip further back as the car is now handling badly because its sticky Firestone tyres, upon which Pace has gambled, are already giving trouble. He actually retires on lap nine with this and a rear suspension problem which Team Surtees are not keen to talk about. So by lap ten, quarter distance, the order is looking very different from either that on the grid or the first lap. Fittipaldi now has a lead of at least five seconds over Stewart, who has an even larger margin over Ickx. Beltoise is a handy fourth, but is starting to come under pressure from Hulme, who is certainly making up for the first-lap engine trouble. Cevert is now sixth, ahead of Regazzoni, who is being challenged by Merzario who suddenly found form he hardly demonstrated in practice. Lauda, the two Williams cars, Beuttler, Bueno and, back in the race, Reutemann complete those still running. Six cars are already out at quarter distance. Not a good omen, but after that only two further cars retire. First and second places are now secure but third place is definitely in contention with Ickx, Beltoise and Hulme running in close quarters. Hulme is definitely in the mood for motor racing and he first passes Beltoise and then three laps later, on lap 15, puts Ickx behind him as well. On lap 17, Cevert makes a pit stop as the top of a front shock-absorber has come unscrewed, this takes a couple of laps to replace, and he later makes a pit stop with a puncture so he is effectively out of the running thus letting Regazzoni, his engine now sounding more healthy, into sixth position. Ickx is the next to strike trouble and, soon after he is passed by Beltoise, he comes into the pits with a puncture in a rear tyre. In the rush, Merzario’s spare somehow gets fitted and this is a narrower rim and tyre which make the handling of the car somewhat odd for the rest of the race. The Belgian continues in eighth place. Beuttler is the next to go, his tired engine going onto five or six cylinders on lap 18 and he retires. So, at half distance, the race order has Fittipaldi in front and still going away with a lead now over ten seconds. Stewart is a secure second and Hulme third unable to catch Stewart, as he has been doing earlier, because the clutch is now inoperative. In fourth and fifth places are the B.R.M.s of Beltoise and Regazzoni while Merzario, still nagging at Regazzoni’s tail, finds himself sixth ahead of the two Williams cars which are running reliably, although they are now about to be re-passed by lckx. Lauda has pulled up on the circuit when his engine stopped but he is somehow able to revive it by fiddling with the electrics and, subsequently, has to make a pit stop to have his seat belts tightened.
Carlos Reutemann, with absolutely no hope of a place, is nevertheless driving his Brabham as fast as it would go and is actually lapping as quickly as Stewart. He keeps overtaking people but three laps of an 8 km. circuit is a lot to make up and the lap chart still shows him 13th and last. On lap 24 little Merzario suddenly finds himself in fourth place as both the B.R.M.s start to falter. Beltoise actually grinds to a halt when a flying stone knocks out his car’s electrics while Regazzoni is having to contend with tremendous understeer which brings him into the pits two laps later to have a worn-out front tyre replaced. Bueno is another pit caller with an electrical fault, which is soon corrected. So with three-quarter distance approaching only the first four cars, plus the two Williams machines, run without a pit stop. Ickx is already back up to fifth place and Ganley is sixth. If he can hold off a fast-closing Regazzoni he will give Williams his first ever point as a constructor. Out on the circuit Fittipaldi is driving in a beautifully relaxed style and is certainly not hurrying, as his fastest lap in the race indicates, and he even has time to make signs to his wife indicating it is all too easy. He is keeping the gap at around 14 seconds and, from then on, just reeling off the laps to the finish and a tumultuous welcome from his 80.000 fans. Some 13 seconds later comes Stewart, no doubt happy and surprised to collect six championship points in the circumstances, while Hulme is third, the only other driver not lapped. The next four cars are all a lap behind with a tired, but delighted, Merzario finishing fourth in only his fourth Grand Prix, team-mate Ickx with the strange-handling Ferrari is fifth and Regazzoni steals sixth place front Ganley and the Williams team. So the New Zealander is seventh, swerving wildly on the last lap to pick up the last dregs of fuel and, for that matter, the car is also out of oil and water so he would not have gone another mile further. In eighth place, two laps down, is Lauda who heads home Galli, who has very few Grand Prix finishes to his credit, while there is a great race to line between Cevert and Reutemann for tenth place. The Argentinian catches up about twenty seconds in the last three laps as Cevert struggles in with a couple of gears missing, a punctured rear tyre and a soggy rear shock-absorber. But he makes tenth place with just a length to spare. The final finisher in this Fittipaldi benefit is Bueno so it is Brazilians first and last.
It is difficult to get an idea of the enthusiasm, color and cheerful confusion that are unleashed on the Interlagos circuit, under a scorching sun, for the Brazilian Grand Prix. Enthusiasm that quickly turned into delirium for the magnificent race of Emerson Fittipaldi and his Lotus. No one was able to resist the powerful action of O rey, who never gave up the first position. And, in the end, waving of yellow-green flags, throwing of firecrackers into the sky and fiery rhythms of dia dia cha throughout the racetrack, played on loudspeakers and by improvised orchestras of enthusiasts from all over Brazil. A great, great victory for Fittipaldi, who now finds himself in command of the Formula 1 World Championship with 18 points, the result of this success and the equally beautiful one of Argentina. As always happens, the credit must be divided equally between man and machine. The Lotus proved to be very strong and to have managed to adapt better than all the other cars to the Interlagos circuit. Emerson was also lucky in a way. His teammate Ronnie Peterson, who had been the fastest in training and who could have been the most dangerous rival today, was betrayed by the gearbox failure after just six laps. The Swede went off the track at two hundred and sixty miles per hour and hit a guardrail, luckily remaining unharmed. His Lotus, however, was semi-destroyed. O Rey therefore found himself facing only Stewart in the Tyrrell and Ickx in the Ferrari. But Stewart, with a car that never found the best condition at Interlagos, had to settle for following Fittipaldi at a safe distance, completing a very regular race but without any particular ideas, which the second place rewards reasonably. Ickx, unfortunately, was unlucky, and that's no excuse. The right rear tire of his 312-B2 gradually went flat due to a puncture and the Belgian, from third, progressively rolled backwards, until he had to stop in the garage to replace the cover. A stop of over a minute, and goodbye to any idea (however vague) of success. With all this, Ferrari's performance is positive. Ickx came fifth and, particularly pleasantly for us, Arturo Merzario took fourth place behind Hulme and his McLaren. Merzario is certainly not a promising young player, but he is amazed every time by the commitment, passion and foresight that he shows. He was very good. First he overtakes three or four opponents in one fell swoop, braking into a corner performed with calculated audacity, then he performs in a thrilling duel with his great friend Clay Regazzoni, finally he completes the Grand Prix and retained fourth position despite a worrying decline in brakes, caused by their overheating.
And, in the end, spirits were quite happy in the Maranello clan, above all because the engines had proven, despite the temperature problems (even today it was around 35 °C in Interlagos), to withstand the effort. All the others ended up playing - it often happens now in the Grand Prix - the role of the gregarious. Cevert, with the second Tyrrell, fought with shock absorbers, gearbox and tyres. Regazzoni forcefully took sixth place despite the engine not working well and a pit stop to replace the front tires (there was a lot of tire degradation), Hulme limited himself to taking advantage of other people's problems. The start took place ten minutes late, amidst the boos of a colorful audience who had been awaiting the race since the night before. Perhaps 200.000 spectators lined the circuit, cheerful and exuberant in the sweltering heat. The ambulances worked hard: around a hundred people were admitted to field hospitals due to sunstroke. At a certain point the doctors ordered the firefighters on duty to pass along the track with tankers and water the crowd in the stands. No one protested, on the contrary it was a collective shower accepted with shouts of joy. The Brazilian newspapers this morning are talking only about Emerson Fittipaldi's victory in the Interlagos Grand Prix. The tones are enthusiastic, sometimes rhetorical and there is the concern to demonstrate that everything was perfect, from the circuit to the organization, chaired by Piero Gancia.
"Brazil thanks Emerson for the day of happiness".
"Emerson the Invincible".
"A Walk for Emerson".
Which is very true. A walk so calm that it ended up being monotonous, a race that didn't cause any particular throbs of emotion due to the extraordinary demonstration of superiority offered by Lotus and, naturally, by O rey. On Sunday evening, at a party hosted by Goodyear (the American company supplies tires to Lotus, Ferrari, Tyrrell, McLaren and Brabham), Fittipaldi serenely admits this superiority of the car.
"The Lotus seemed like a toy to me. In the curves it was always composed, it didn't move the rear at all. I didn't even get tired and I never pulled much, except for the first few laps".
Emerson, always a very amiable man, also expressed his regret for the early knockout. of his teammate Ronnie Peterson. The accident was not caused by the failure of the gearbox, as Peterson himself believed, but by the breakage of a wheel, which remained in contact with the body of the car due to the centrifugal force. The self-locking device, obviously, did not withstand the effort and the Lotus went into a dramatic spin, stopping near the guardrail. The result now is that Fittipaldi has 18 points in the World Championship standings and Peterson zero. A difference that cannot help but accentuate Colin Chapman's preference towards Emerson: better engines and tyres, priority in set-up. It would be extremely unfair to criticize Ferrari's performance. The race of the Belgian - who fought with magnificent determination in training, dragging, one might say, the 312-B to the front row - cannot even be evaluated, because too soon the right rear tire began to deflate for an almost invisible cut caused by a piece of glass. Peter Schetty, here in the role of perfect advisor, believes that the inconvenience occurred already on the fifth or sixth lap, because the times of Jacky, who was gaining positions up to third place, began to progressively drop from that moment on.
The pit stop deprived Ickx of any possibility of taking away second place from Stewart: too long (13s between braking, tire replacement and start) and too confusing, with five nuts to be unscrewed to remove the wheel and then screwed back on and with a Goodyear technician so distracted that he mistook Ickx for Merzario and gave him the wrong tyre. The good performance of the engines and the good race by Arturo Merzario remain to be credited. The Italian driver has passion, desire to win, intelligence. He has matured a lot on a professional level, and has learned that knowing how to wait is a great virtue. His progress is continuous, his apprenticeship is secure. He doesn't look out of place at all among many champions, as he demonstrated at Interlagos despite the brake problems. And he almost didn't win the prize for combativeness that an international jury awards at every Grand Prix: Arturo received three votes like Stewart, and in the play-off the president of the commission gave him the nod to the Scotsman. As mentioned, the cheering was a nice and spectacular component of the race: tumultuous and cheerful, but in the stands, there was no confusion on the track, not even due to the triumph of people entering the circuit at the end of the race). The organization was efficient: helicopters, doctors, police, signalmen along the circuit, with the exception of the episode of the two inspectors who activated the fire prevention system of the Iso-Williams of Nanni Galli and Ganley. And the Grand Prix also proved to be a good deal: 150.000.000 ire for the sale of television rights, 250.000.000 in proceeds (86.000 paying spectators, minimum price 20 cruzeiros, plus parking tickets), If they add a hundred million for advertising, it reaches half a billion.