After almost a month's break, the Formula 1 World Championship is back. This time, the event is in Madrid, where on Sunday, April 28, 1974, the Spanish Grand Prix will take place (90 laps of 3404 meters for a total of 306 kilometers), marking the first race of the year in Europe. The three previous races have brought three different drivers into the spotlight: Hulme in Argentina, Fittipaldi in Brazil, and Reutemann in South Africa. Alongside them is Regazzoni, who, with his placements in South America, leads the championship. It is a situation of substantial balance. Stewart's successor has not yet emerged, and a group of cars - McLaren, Brabham, Lotus, and Ferrari - offers their drivers fairly similar chances of success. Each Grand Prix becomes uncertain, making the championship more exciting, especially with Ferrari's return to traditional prestigious positions. Practice is held on Friday and Saturday before the race, and many drivers attempt to eliminate themselves with various accidents, while some cars try to destroy themselves. However, diligent mechanics keep working, maintaining a consistent pace throughout the two days. The Ferrari team appears confident, paying social visits to other paddock garages in their best suits. Niki Lauda sets the pace in a new 312B3 Ferrari during practice, with Regazzoni not far behind. Unfortunately, Graham Hill's Lola HU2 wrecks its engine, forcing him to continue in the spare car. Migault's P160 B.R.M. also breaks its engine, leaving the Frenchman to watch for the rest of the day while another engine is installed in his car. Argentinian Reutemann says:
"Peterson was excellent, but the cars to beat on Sunday will be the Ferraris".
Lauda and Regazzoni set their impressive times without difficulty, indicating excellent preparation. In the Maranello team's box, there is calm and serenity, with few pit stops for tire changes or adjustments. Luca Montezemolo says:
"We could almost be satisfied because, at Jarama, with all these curves, having two cars in the front rows at the start is of fundamental importance".
It is rumored that Peterson achieved his feat with special tires, but tire choices have become one of the top secrets of Grand Prix racing. Despite some gearbox issues, Ickx performed well with the second Lotus. Fittipaldi, however, is dissatisfied with his McLaren's poor roadholding. The B.R.M. and Tyrrell are in the background, with the new Tyrrell model, driven by Scheckter, not shining. Chris Amon's car, named after the driver, and Schenken's Trojan have debuted but seem underprepared. Italian drivers Brambilla and Merzario at the Spanish Grand Prix had an uneventful off-track excursion in their March. Hulme's adventure was worse. The New Zealander hit a track marshal with his McLaren, who was on the track to signal an oil spill. The marshal, José De Castro, ended up in the hospital in serious condition with a head injury and a broken leg. Hulme, however, escaped unharmed. During the second practice session on the Friday, Ickx is seeing his activities with JPS/10 curtailed when second gear in the Hewland gearbox broke, and Lotus hopes rose when Peterson got JPS/9 round faster than Lauda’s Ferrari, though the new Lotus was by no means going to the satisfaction of Colin Chapman. The short, sharp sessions of practice did not encourage anything very startling in the way of experiments, added to which most drivers are glazed over with their obsession to get on the front row of the two-by-two grid, regardless of whether the car is good, bad or indifferent. This applied only to the top handful who will be capable of a front row position anyway, others are either flogging round hopefully, or trying to learn about Formula One driving, or trying to get brand new cars to function properly. Hunt, with the latest of the Hesketh cars, is not convinced about the braking power of some experimental grooved discs on the front brakes, though the whole car felt nicer than the prototype, but he's of the same opinion as designer Postlethwaite, that the Jarama circuit is not their idea of Grand Prix racing. Another luke-warm aspirant is Hailwood who has no love for scratchy circuits, with first and second gear being constantly in use. However, some of the new boys who have yet to experience everything, like Stuck and Jarier are sliding round the hairpins on full opposite lock and their foot hard on the throttle pedal. Many drivers are finding that the only bit of fun they could have was coming out of the last corner, a downhill right-hander, onto the pits straight, for there they could let the car slide up and over the bevelled kerb while heading downhill.
At one point it looked as though they are indulging in a private competition to see who could get their car furthest out of line as it came into sight of the pits. Peterson was way ahead of everyone in this game, at one point getting all four wheels well beyond the white bevelled kerb, and when questioned about it by Lotus designer Ralph Bellemy, the Swede in all sincerity deny any knowledge of going over a kerb-the ultimate in being glazed over when driving. Scheckter is getting along quite well with the brand new Tyrrell 007, but on Saturday his efforts are coming to a stop when the strap-drive arrangement on the left-front inboard brake broke all its little connecting plates. A similar failure to that experienced in 1973 on earlier cars. The South African will continue his practice in the spare car. The two Ferraris are so dominating in the front of the field, with the exception of sudden inspired spurts by Peterson, that the real competition is among those at the back to avoid being last. Amon’s new car is not making very exciting progress, and even though the air temperature is nothing to get excited about his car is overheating and needing to run without any bodywork shrouds over its side-mounted radiators. While practice is at its height the orange March 741 of Brambilla goes straight on at the end of the long straight and into the strategically placed wire catch fences. The rugged Italian climbed out unhurt but the March had broken its hack and it's a write-off. After a delay to re-erect the wire fences practice restarted but two more cars are off on the same corner, this time with less disastrous results. Beltoise dented the front of the P201 B.R.M. and Depaillier made a bit of a mess of Tyrrell 005. Subsequently Migault goes off the track in spectacular fashion. With Brambilla out of the list of possible starters, as there's no chance of repairing the March, the numbers is down to 27 and , as we're into the last part of official practice everyone goes out in a frenzy and there is so much traffic on the tight little circuit that everyone is in everyone else’s way, and hardly anyone will have a clear run for a lap. Consequently it is all a rather fruitless waste of time, and prompted the thought that such circumstances really do call for individual timed runs, in Indianapolis fashion.
The whole thing is so confusing and silly that it isn't much fun to watch and it is positively frustrating for those drivers who got anything at stake. As the session ends it is Edwards (Lola) and Belso (Williams) who are left behind, though to look at the B.R.M. of Migault it seemed that he too was going to be left behind, with Edwards taking his place. However, the B.R.M. team emptied their stock of parts and were able to make the car like new, apart from an unimportant dent or two in the monocoque, and on Sunday morning Migault will have a complete car once more. The damage to the P201 was very slight, and it was due to have parts of the steering and suspension changed anyway, as a routine precaution on this new car. The Ferrari team more or less washed and polished their cars and stood around admiring them, so little trouble had they given, while in opposition Team Lotus hardly knew which way to turn. Although Peterson will be on the front row of the grid, alongside Lauda, the two days of practice had been pretty fraught, the problems ranging from a duff brake master cylinder to a split exhaust manifold. But it's a true joy to approach the Grand Prix again and find a Ferrari so strong and brilliant that it arouses enthusiasm and admiration not only among the fans - who are always numerous - but also among the technicians and experts of Formula 1. The red cars of the Maranello team have returned to the status that tradition, the school, and Enzo Ferrari's commitment have bestowed upon them. In these days of practice, Ferrari has resumed the role of protagonist, as a car to beat or at least capable of competing on equal terms with the cars from the British assemblers. The team has transformed compared to last year; the cars are marvelous, and the people are serenely engaged - at every level - in their work. On the challenging Jarama circuit, Ferraris have been the best: Niki Lauda, the young Austrian fiercely focused on achieving the best performance from himself and the car, was the fastest, securing pole position, just like in South Africa, and Regazzoni posted the third-fastest time. Only Peterson, with the Lotus, managed to insert himself between the two drivers of the Maranello team. Luca Montezemolo explains:
"At Jarama, it is extremely important to secure the top positions on the starting grid. Ferrari has its two drivers in the first two rows. It is certainly the best result among all the teams participating in the Spanish Grand Prix. The progress started in Argentina and continued in Brazil and South Africa is not an illusion. Now, all we need is a victory".
"Tomorrow, the top ten at the start can succeed. Certainly, what Regazzoni and I achieved today shows that our Ferraris are at the top. I am happy to have secured pole position because I have an extra chance for success. This is a tremendous circuit, all curves. Very similar to Monte-Carlo. It is a terrible strain on both man and machine. I calculated that I change gears 19 times and brake in seven points on every lap. We have to do 90 laps. That means 1710 gear changes and 630 braking points. There are two hairpin turns at 130 km/h and a straight at 260 km/h. Overtaking is very difficult; you can only try in two zones. The effort is truly remarkable".
For Regazzoni, the dominant thought is logically to maintain the lead in the World Championship standings.
"If Lauda and I manage to break away at the front tomorrow, we have the race in our hands. We could win, but I prefer to finish and earn points for the World Championship. My Ferrari is doing very well and is more organized than various Lotuses, McLarens, and Brabhams, at least compared to South Africa. Peterson has closed in on us, but I'm not too worried; he has only one point in the standings. The dangerous customers are Hulme, Fittipaldi, Reutemann, Hailwood. And I really hope to leave them behind".
Jackie Stewart, for the first time since his retirement from racing, returns to a circuit, albeit as a mere spectator. The Scotsman, who won in 1970 at Jarama, says:
"Lauda is the best driver I've seen on this circuit, and Ferrari has returned to greatness. It is the most sorted car with the safest behavior. It also seems very easy to drive. I am happy for Ferrari. Then Peterson and Reutemann seemed very strong to me. Merzario is driving absurdly, but how does he stay on the track? He risks too much".
On Sunday, April 28, 1974, the rain falling steadily and the sandy soil around the circuit turning into a muddy porridge. Some untimed practice are allowed, which are surely useful for the Tyrrell team, for Scheckter has he's going to start in the repaired 007 with new parts arrived from England in a quick return-flight by Ken Tyrrell’s son, and Depaillier is taking over the spare car 006/2, while his bent 005 is abandoned in the box. Migault and Beltoise have an opportunity to try their rebuilt cars. Edwards have the chance to try his car out as first-reserve, but the engine blow up, so there is now a mad rush to get the spare car organised for him, in case anyone should miss the start. The starting grid shows the overall results of the two days of practice, there being three real competitors in the 1'18"0 bracket, a whole bunch of mixed fortunes in the 1'19"0 bracket, a miscellaneous group in the 1'20"0 bracket, and the tail-end Charlies in the 1'21"0 bracket, and had it been a fine sunny day we could have anticipated four separate races. With the rain still falling as the cars are coming out of the pits for some warm-up laps prior to forming up on the dummy-grid, prospects are pretty gloomy, everyone having fitted the deepest and knobbliest tread tyres that either Goodyear or Firestone could supply. From the fall of the flag Peterson shot into the lead, with Lauda and Regazzoni pounding after him, spray and confusion obliterating the whole scene to most observers. Out of the gloom at the end of the first lap came the black and gold Lotus of Peterson, followed by the red and white Ferraris of Lauda and Regazzoni, with Ickx, Fittipaldi, Scheckter, Merzario, Reutemann, Hunt, Jarier, Hulme and the rest following. All official 25 starters have left the line, so Edwards did not get a run, though on lap three the number is reduced to 24 as Beltoise retired with a broken engine in the new B.R.M. Everyone is pussy-footing round, being extremely cautious and little groups of three cars began to assemble from the first lap procession, apart from Stuck, in mid-field who's passing anyone in sight. Peterson and the two Ferraris lead the way, then came Ickx, Fittipaldi and Scheckter, then Merzario, Reutemann and Jarier, followed by Hulme, Hunt, Stuck and Mass and the others, with von Opel, Migault and Amon bringing up the rear.
In the mid-field Redman is forcing his black Shadow past people until he catch Hailwood. The two of them indulged in a spirited little scrap for fourteenth place. while Reutemann is not enjoying the wet conditions as he's spinning off, taking also a long time to get back on the track. The argentinian driver trailed miserably into the pits and gave up. After 10 laps looks like some of the spray is settling and the picture is clearing up a bit, with Peterson still firmly in the lead and looking fairly comfortable, with Lauda keeping him in sight. Regazzoni had dropped back a bit, and Ickx is in a lonely fourth place. Fittipaldi is loosing fifth place to Scheckter, but looks like McLaren had wetted a plug on the starting line and is on seven cylinders, it was not mattering too much in the opening scramble, but now that things are settling down and the loss of one cylinder is proving a severe handicap, even though the track is still slippery. Merzario in the new Williams car is leading the mid-field runners, a fair way back from the leading group, and he have Hulme, Jarier, Stuck, Hunt and Mass following him, with Hailwood and Redman scrapping away behind them. For the record the remainder of the runners went by in the order, Depaillier, Pace, Watson, Schenken, Pescarolo, von Opel (who's losing oil), Hill, Migault and Amon, the last two having been lapped by the leaders. Hulme disappeared into the pints after 11 laps to enquire about something that he's feel scraping on the ground at the back of his McLaren, and as there is nothing obviously amiss the suspension units were screwed up to give him more ground clearance and he rejoin the race. On the fourteenth lap Jarier is lapping Migault’s B.R.M. by diving through on the inside of an hairpin when his fellow country-man carved across in front of the Shadow and ran over its long protruding nose, making it flatter than normal, so that Jarier had to stop for repairs. The oil coming out of the back of von Open’s Brabham is from a split cooler, caused by a nudge up the back by someone in the opening melee, and he retires at the same time as Jarier is having his new nose cowling fitted. The leaders are already lapping the mid-field runners and, in doing so, the traffic got faster and heavier, Peterson is delayed a bit, which allowed the pursuing Ferrari to close up, but it's only temporary. After 17 laps the rain seems to stop and the track is now drying incredibly quickly.
First to be conscious of this and the likely outcome of overcrowding in the pits when everyone realized that a change to dry-weather tyres would be called for, is the March team, who promptly called Hans Stuck in from his eight place and quickly changed all four wheels, but even so it dropped him to the back of the field. Then Watson is in, followed by Amon, Regazzoni and then chaos broke loose as everyone heading for the pits to change over to dry-weather tyres. As Peterson eased off to prepare to stop Lauda took the lead, and when he's called in Ickx led for a brief moment, before it was his turn to stop for slick tyres. The ensuing confusion in the pits, recorded elsewhere, is playing havoc with the pattern of the race, but sharp and clear was the fact that the two Ferraris are now firmly in the first and second places, with no-one within striking distance. Peterson is no where near the two Ferrari's. That's because his Cosworth engine had been losing water, and shortly after he rejoined the race on dry-weather tyres the engine blew up and we can see him returning to the pits by his feet. Also Amon is force to retire as a front-brake shaft broke and he nearly lost control of his new car, while Migault’s B.R.M. engine blew up and left him out of the race. Mass have the Hewland gearbox on his Surtees break second gear and jam everything in fourth gear, so he also have no option but to retire. Merzario crashed in a spectacular manner and, just a few laps later Graham Hill goes quietly out of the picture with a broken Cosworth engine. It's his team’s third broken power unit at the meeting. The rest of the runners are driving madly round and round wondering exactly where they are in the race. Because it had looked as through the whole race was going to be run in pouring rain, and the scheduled ninety laps would have taken more time than today’s professionals are paid to work, the rule book allowed the race to be run for two hours. Consequently the only thing anyone knows now is how many more minutes are left to run, for in the confusion of the pit stops most teams lost control of the patterns of the race. While the two Ferraris are circulating sounding fit and healthy, their first and second places being beyond doubt, it's gradually becoming clear that Fittipaldi is making relentless progress, for during his tyre change stop the wetted sparking plug had been changed, his rear anti-roll bar coupled up and he is in good form. Stuck is well placed by reason of not getting involved in any of the pit stop chaos, and Hulme seems to be going well now that the track is dry.
Hunt is having a miserable time as his Hesketh is running out of front brakes, and he can no longer join in the uninhibited racing that is taking place amongst most of those still in the race, but not knowing exactly where they were, and towards the end of the two hours Stuck is forced to ease off as a front tyre starts to lose pressure. As the chequered flag comes out and the two hours were up everyone lifted off and relaxed waiting for timekeepers to officialize the results. They came out with some quite reasonable and acceptable results, in which everyone is fairly well satisfied. However, it's not quite clear how Redman lost a whole lap on Hulme, nor is it quite clear how Hulme was so well placed after having made two pit stops to most people’s one, but as everyone had enjoyed themselves the whole situation is accepted philosophically, the only blot on most people’s landscape being the complete domination by the Ferrari team; with first and second places, and fastest lap, and with only two cars you can’t improve on that. Among the finishers Depaillier and Schenken are not too impressed with their cars, but afterwards it was found that the Tyrrell had got a broken coil spring on the left-rear suspension, and the Trojan had got a broken rear anti-roll bar mounting. In addition Schenken was having trouble making his clutch free, and when he spun on the last lap, trying to out-do Pescarolo, he stalled the engine and could not restart, but as the two hours were up he was classified a finisher.
Niki Lauda first, Clay Regazzoni second. The Spanish Grand Prix has marked the powerful return of Ferrari to Formula 1, finally giving concrete shape to months of hard work and demonstrating that the indications from previous races were built on solid foundations. Regazzoni maintains the lead in the World Championship with 16 points, and Lauda is close behind with 15 points. The last victory for Ferrari in Formula 1 dates back to 1972, and it was also a one-two finish. Ickx won the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, with Regazzoni in second place. The last World Championship title for a Ferrari driver was Surtees in 1964. It was a clear victory in a race that changing weather conditions made chaotic and confusing. First Lauda, then Regazzoni, cross the finish line at Jarama. The enthusiasm in the Ferrari team is uncontrollable. Mechanics jump onto the track, throwing their caps in the air. A dance begins, almost a ballet: hugs, handshakes, a few tears. In an instant, the pit is filled with a crowd. Managers from other teams come to congratulate, Italian fans appear from every corner. The shouts of "Viva Ferrari" surprise the Spaniards, who, being good Latins, are exuberant and friendly. Lauda arrives at the pit in triumph. He congratulates technicians and mechanics, and they shower him with hugs. The Austrian holds an impromptu press conference in Italian, English, German, and French.
"Today, I am happy. I've been working for many years to win a Grand Prix. And I am happy for Ferrari and all its people. The mechanics were wonderful during the tire change. It was the moment when I was most afraid. At first, with the track drying up, I feared not being able to re-enter the pit at the right time; then I knew that in those moments, we were playing the race. For me, it was an ideal Grand Prix. All the elements leading to success were perfect: the engine, tires, gearbox. Now, I can say that a Ferrari can win the world championship, or Regazzoni? It's not a problem. With Clay, we are friends; fate will decide".
"Today, what I hoped for yesterday has come true. Lauda won, and I got more points for the World Championship, and I continue to lead. It's wonderful. The car behaved wonderfully. In fact, I must say I ended up taking a walk. It would have been absurd to attack. I only feared having to stop due to a lack of fuel. We had calculated the consumption for wet conditions, where you drive more slowly, and then the track dried up. But everything ended well".
For Mauro Forghieri, who, along with Giacomo Caliri and the entire technical staff of Ferrari, brought the 312-B3 back to the top of Formula 1 in a few months, it is a particularly happy moment.
"We made continuous progress. Thanks should also go to the drivers. Lauda and Regazzoni have lived for the car since October. Today, we reap the rewards of months of testing. However, let's not delude ourselves: the road to the title is long".
Luca Montezemolo, moved and dazed, receives many congratulations. The new atmosphere of the Ferrari clan largely depends on him. Arturo Merzario, with the Iso, was involved in a terrifying accident, in which some photographers were also caught. Due to a suspension failure, Merzario went off the track, surpassing a guardrail. The car fell on a group of workers busy with their job. Four suffered minor injuries, and one was hospitalized with a head injury. The driver was unharmed. Merzario was completing lap 40 and was in third place behind the Ferraris of Lauda and Regazzoni. Arturo was having an excellent race, pushing himself to the limit. His Iso flew on the track, truly on the edge. The car deviated from the normal trajectory each lap, invading the area beside the track. The wheels bounced on the curbs, those concrete bumps that, in theory, should prevent drivers from exceeding the limits. The strain on the suspensions must have been excessive. The Italian driver says:
"I was about thirty meters from a left turn. I must have been at about 180 km/h. Suddenly, the front right suspension bent. The car pointed straight at the guardrail, the nose touched the asphalt, and I found myself on the safety barrier. Then, a loud bang from the other side. I activated the fire extinguisher and ran away".
Gian Carlo Piccinini, 48 years old, from Bologna, was part of the group of photographers hit by Merzario's Iso.
"We were behind the guardrail. We saw the car coming towards us. There was no time to escape. I found myself lying under the car, with a leg trapped".
Returning to talk about Ferrari, many wonder: has the Maranello team found in Lauda the true heir to King Stewart?
"I have been working for this day for six years".
Nicolaus Lauda, Niki for everyone and Bunny (remember the rabbit from American comics, the one with big teeth always eating carrots?) for Ferrari friends, has just won the Spanish Grand Prix. These are the first words he addresses to those who ask for his impressions on the race and the victory. Then he says many other things: his happiness, gratitude for Ferrari, moments of fear, hopes of winning the World Championship. These words reveal the man, clarify the character of this Austrian whom Italian fans initially greeted with skepticism and almost resentment because he had the sole fault of being called upon to replace Arturo Merzario. Some tried to incite the public against Lauda, forgetting that he was a risk-taking knight like the others and an honest and skilled professional like few. Professionalism and work are axioms for Niki. Today, you cannot drive a Formula 1 car in Grand Prix if you are not solely focused on this type of activity, and you cannot perform efficiently if you do not dedicate yourself almost entirely to the related commitments. Lauda behaves like someone pursuing an ideal with all his might. Not a fanatic, but certainly a young man with clear ideas and strong willpower to apply them. Lauda was born on February 29, 1949, in Vienna. From a well-off family, he had a peaceful youth divided between a passion for skiing and that for motocross and cars. His first races were in 1968, naturally hill climbs, the school for Austrian drivers, starting from the great Jochen Rindt. Then, a rapid and secure escalation, with a step towards the Olympus of racing each year: Formula Volkswagen in 1970, Formula 3 in 1970, and Formula 2 in 1971. Finally, in 1972, he made his debut in Formula 1, thanks to March and the subsidies from a Viennese bank. Last year, Niki was with B.R.M. An unlucky season due to the poor competitiveness of British cars, but the young man stood out: two or three beautiful Grands Prix showed that he had the class and a remarkable ability to set up the car. His B.R.M. was always the best-prepared one.
Luca Montezemolo contacted him.
"Do you want to come to Ferrari?"
The blonde and effervescent lawyer who has restored serenity and joy to the Maranello team asks him. The answer is prompt and certain:
Lauda arrives in Maranello - it seems like a dream to him - and tests the 312-B3 with Regazzoni.
"It was a difficult car to drive, capricious, it still needed to be tamed".
Thus began a long, delicate, and strenuous job. The kind of work that had never appealed to Jacky Ickx, also an intelligent man and a great driver. Ickx hated tests, workouts, Lauda - and with him, Clay Regazzoni - faces them with fierce commitment.
"I knew that the future of the B3 and the chances of Ferrari and me depended on those days".
Intense months, ten hours a day testing on the Fiorano track, and then at Misano, Vallelunga, and Le Castellet. Hotel in Modena, lunches in Maranello.
"Always tortellini, I liked them right away".
Occasionally, a trip to Salzburg to see Mariella, his girlfriend (who has a Lombard grandmother). Few in Italy knew him. An autograph occasionally because, for better or worse, he was still a Ferrari driver. Precisely that work conducted with serene determination allowed the transformation of the Maranello cars. The exchange of ideas and experiences with technicians and mechanics facilitated the evolution of the 312-B3 and set the stage for the great comeback in Madrid. Lauda confirmed that he was a magnificent tester. In Formula 1, this quality is of utmost importance. A driver with a keen ear for mechanics, who quickly identifies and clearly communicates to technicians the problems with the car he is driving, has much more chance than others who are only good at pressing the accelerator. Just look at what happened to Tyrrell after Stewart's retirement. Stewart, who was capable of setting up the cars wonderfully. Lauda also resembles Stewart in terms of driving style. Niki needs to enrich his experience, but he drives his Ferrari with the same cleanliness, composure, and methodical approach with which the Scotsman led Tyrrell. Not to say that Lauda is Stewart, by all means, but he has a good chance of reaching the level, or almost, of the retired king of Formula 1. Lauda will move to Belgium on Tuesday. Ferrari will test on Wednesday at Nivelles, where the Belgian Grand Prix will take place on May 12, 1974. More training, more work. No wine, no coffee at the table, non-carbonated mineral water; in bed by 10:00 p.m., never later, to rest for a long time and be in excellent physical condition on the track. And Niki is not a robot: he is a young man who jokes, who has found an easy agreement with the Modena mechanics, who seems not like a serious and composed Austrian but a very cordial Emilian. But work is work, and Niki, having won his first Grand Prix, is now thinking about the world championship. Friends and enemies permitting.