#224 1973 Spanish Grand Prix

2022-07-07 00:00

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#1973, Fulvio Conti,

#224 1973 Spanish Grand Prix

As tigers in a cage, on Sunday, March 25, 1973, the Ferraris, Matra-Simca, Gulf-Mirage, and Lola will pounce on the mini circuit of Vallelunga, encaps


As tigers in a cage, on Sunday, March 25, 1973, the Ferraris, Matra-Simca, Gulf-Mirage, and Lola will pounce on the mini circuit of Vallelunga, encapsulated in a track as entertaining for the spectators as it is narrow. Merzario claims that with his 312-P, he reaches a speed of 260 km/h on the downhill straight following the grandstand area.


"On the other hand, there's a hairpin where I drop to 50 km/h".


All drivers are concerned about overtaking. Those with more powerful cars (ranging from the 450 HP of Ferrari and the Cosworth eight-cylinders on the Gulf and Lola, to the 470 HP of the Matra-Simca) fear having to make too many overtakes in this 6-hour race, the second episode of the World Sports Championship.


"I'm sure that after five or six laps, we'll have to pass the first lapped cars".


And Clay Regazzoni states:


"I'm almost glad to be a spectator".


The Swiss driver, recovering from a serious accident in South Africa, will resume racing on Sunday, April 8, at Silverstone, with Formula 1 cars. This second day of practice brings no sensational changes compared to the indications from the first day. The time set by Cevert with the Matra-Simca remains the best. During the second practice session, the French team fine-tunes the setup of its two blue cars without insisting too much on seeking significant exploits. Ferrari continues its work on suspensions, tires, and aerodynamics, trying new solutions, perhaps more to please the drivers and demonstrate that every avenue was explored than in the belief of finding miraculous remedies. Two hours cannot be enough to revolutionize a situation that is not compromised, but must note a new element compared to last year, called Matra-Simca. In the shadows are the Gulf-Mirage of Bell-Ganley and Hailwood-Schuppan, and the Lola of Lufosse-Wisell, dealing with road-holding and tire problems. The race's theme should be the challenge between the three Ferraris of Ickx-Redman, Merzario-Pace, and Schenken-Reutemann, and the two Matra-Simcas of Beltoise-Cevert and Pescarolo-Larrousse, aiming for greater speed, especially in the visible mixed section from the stands. On Sunday, March 25, 1973, in the first head-to-head duel, Matra-Simca beats Ferrari. Speed prevails over reliability, albeit with much effort and for several contingent reasons, likely to disappear soon. At Vallelunga, Cevert's blue MS 670 precedes the red 312-P spiders of Schenken-Reutemann, Ickx-Redman, and Merzario-Pace at the finish line. It's the new element anticipated before the 6-hour race. Last year, Ferrari had won all ten races in the World Sports Championship it participated in, leaving the 24 Hours of Le Mans to Matra-Simca. Without Ferrari's cars, the French ones had won easily. Needless to say, this challenge at the Vallelunga circuit had a special flavor, anticipated since the days of practice, which ended up perhaps significantly influencing the competition's events. The engineer Sandro Colombo, who leads the Maranello team, says:


"These races are won with consistency, and we didn't have it".


Why? The reasons for Matra-Simca's success are hidden in the question. The car of Cevert-Beltoise was lost due to the engine failure, but the one of Pescarolo and Larrousse performed magnificently, joined later by the on-foot Cevert for two fantastic driving stints, and the misstep of Ferrari. Starting with Ickx, all Ferrari drivers had to stop several times at the pit to replace the tires, especially the left front ones, which were deteriorating. Tears, crusts, holes like a Swiss cheese appeared in the central part of the tread. Goodyear technicians changed about twenty tires. Naturally, the stops turned into a heavy obstacle: at least two minutes - almost two laps - for Ickx. 


The tires were the same Goodyear as Matra-Simca, but with a different compound, reportedly softer. It's a detail more than enough to change the performance of a competition tire, now more than ever the result of exaggerated technology. In fact, the adoption of other types of tires allowed to remedy the inconvenience. However, this was not the only issue. Ickx, Merzurio, and Schenken's cars were not ready for Vallelunga, and just observing them in the mixed section in front of the stands revealed it: too much understeer, says Merzario a bit disheartened. The Maranello technicians had to make various adjustments during the race, changing the rear hoods and adjusting the torsion bars. Colombo explains:


"We tried to lighten the load on the rear by using winglets with a different inclination than those originally fitted and, therefore, to reduce understeer".


As known, this term indicates the phenomenon where a car does not turn enough, and the driver is forced to work harder. And not only the driver. It may be surprising that such an event occurred. Aren't tests meant to fine-tune the cars? Colombo clarifies:


"Certainly, Cevert's time in training worried us, and we ended up trying above all to improve it, not experimenting with the cars in all conditions".


So, with a full tank of gas, the race's momentum brought out the troubles, which can be attributed 50% to the tires and 50% to the behavior and preparation of the 312-P. Regarding this, it must also be added that labor disputes certainly did not favor the development and tuning programs. That's why it's a contingent situation. It should not be overlooked that, with all these inconveniences, at some point, Reutemann found himself on par with Cevert, who replaced Larrousse. The Frenchman was superior, gaining from two to four seconds per lap. The challenge, therefore, remains wide open. Certainly, the 6 Hours of Vallelunga highlighted the possibilities of Matra-Simca, confirming that the Gulf-Mirages are still far from posing a threat to Ferrari. After Vallelunga, another mini-circuit awaits for the World Sports Championship. It is Dijon, where on Sunday, April 15, 1973, the 1000 km race, the third episode of the season, takes place, replacing the traditional English race at Brands Hatch, abolished for financial reasons. On this 3300-meter track, with a one-kilometer straight and a series of curves and undulations on the wooded hills in front of Dijon, Ferrari confirms that it no longer plays the predominant role that the victories of 1972 had given it. On Friday, April 13, 1973, Matra-Simca, like at Vallelunga, is faster than the 312-P with its MS 670. Even one of the Gulf-Mirages with a Ford-Cosworth engine manages to do better than Maranello's cars on this first day of testing. Beltoise and Cevert's Matra-Simca sets an excellent time of 59.4s, and Pescarolo-Larrousse's car has a time of 59.9s, indicating the equal performance achieved by the blue cars. The Gulf-Mirage of Hailwood-Schuppan, disappointing at Vallelunga, sets a good time: 1'00"5. Following is the Ferrari of Merzario and Pace: Arturo laps in 1'01"0. Another Gulf, that of Ganley and Bell, and then the second 312-P with Ickx and Redman, immediately followed by a two-liter car and the Lola 3000 of Lafosse-Wisell. It is unlikely that this car funded by a French cigarette company can take to the track: Wisell goes off the track due to the loss of the left rear wheel and, after many hair-raising spins, stops against a guardrail. The Swede remains unharmed, but the poor Lola is semi-destroyed. Matra-Simca still in the spotlight. Some swear they've seen a document stating that the French 12-cylinder engine delivers 515 HP, but it seems like an exaggeration. The company declares 480, and that's already a lot. Indeed, it was noted on one occasion that on the straight, the MS 670 is faster than the 312P, but it must be added that it is always in the mixed section where its qualities are highlighted. Beltoise and his teammates make very clean trajectories, the car looks composed, attached to the road surface. Not so the Ferraris, which still need tuning.


"Understeering a bit, oversteering a bit".


The drivers say, unable to control their 312-Ps. Yet, it is not to be believed that the technicians remained inactive after Matra-Simca's victory at Vallelunga. Many tests have been carried out, and some improvement has been achieved. Engineer Giacomo Caliri explains:


"We have modified the setup and adapted the car to the 15-inch tires provided by Goodyear. Now, we're trying here to put the 312-P in the most suitable conditions for the track. We're not aiming for the best time".


Caliri, who in Dijon is flanked by Peter Schetty in the role of luxury consultant, performs a whole series of tests and trials during the three hours of practice, using different types of tires. One of them repeats the prank from Vallelunga: Merzario arrives at the pit with the left front tire reduced to tatters. Fortunately, it is not the tire intended for the 1000 km, but the incident leaves everyone a bit bewildered. Redman, testing with 13-inch rear wheels instead of 15, spins into a dizzying spin. Fortunately, everything ends well, and the car doesn't even suffer the slightest scratch. Can it be improved? It's possible, but the situation doesn't look very promising. A significant change is needed. The two-second difference between the Ferrari and the Matra-Simca is relevant because we are on a very small circuit, where it is indeed possible to complete a lap in under a minute. Why does the Ferrari struggle to shine in the World Sportscar Championship like last year and face issues with roadholding and setup? That's the question everyone, friends or adversaries of the Maranello team, is asking, accustomed to the series of successes in 1972.


"It's us, that is, Matra, the cause of Ferrari's troubles. Last year, the Italian team had no rivals capable of seriously challenging the 312-P. Now, we force the commendatore's drivers to push to the limit, and here come the problems with roadholding. Following Ickx or Merzario, we've seen that in tight corners, they have to perform acrobatics to stay on the track. Clearly, they lose time compared to us. It's not a matter of power, even though we have a few more horses: 480-485 against 460-465".


This judgment from the two French drivers agrees with the opinions of those who simply stand near the track in the mixed section of curves and dips of Dijon and observe the behavior of the Matra-Simca and Ferraris, as well as those of the Ferrari technicians and, of course, the drivers. The Ickx-Redman and Merzario-Pace 312-Ps dance on the circuit, the nose pitching up and down, and the driver works the steering wheel to negotiate the curves. Peter Schetty, the former sporting director who came to Dijon as a consultant for the team for this 1000 km, has a very clear idea of the problem.


"There is a fundamental problem related to the car's construction, dating back two years: the weights are concentrated towards the rear, and the wheelbase is short, too short. The 312-P sways. During braking, the nose lowers, and during acceleration, it rises, and the phenomenon occurs even though the car is quite high off the ground. Corrections to the movement made with aerodynamic interventions or on the suspensions are just temporary fixes".


It's interesting to note that the excessively short wheelbase has also created problems for Ferrari in Formula 1, to the extent that the last single-seater - the 312-B3 - has adapted to the choices of Lotus or Tyrrell and, in general, all single-seater constructors. The 312-P has a wheelbase of 234 centimeters (compared to the 222 centimeters of the 1972 version, so an extension has already been made), while the Matra-Simca MS 670 has a wheelbase of 255 centimeters: 21 centimeters more. The French specialists admit to having tried a version with a shorter wheelbase but immediately abandoned it. Schetty explains, not forgetting he has been a driver and a test driver:


"In tight corners, braking causes the body to touch the asphalt, then accelerating to exit the turn, the nose lifts, and the car loses grip. The car tends to go straight, and the driver has to push hard to steer. That's understeer. In this way, it's difficult to tackle the next curve". 


And he adds:


"Here in Dijon, the 2100-meter mixed section presents a continuous series of them. Clearly, trajectories are altered. Also, there are tire problems due to the abnormal stress they are subjected to. Last year, we didn't have a commitment comparable to the current one. Within a certain limit, these problems don't surface. Now, there's Matra, which is very competitive, and the comparison forces the 312-Ps to make a greater effort. We are almost at the level of Formula 1. On the other hand, in 1972 in Zeltweg, Austria, we already had similar problems: the circuit was similar to this one and Vallelunga, and the Lolas performed very well".


This is the diagnosis of the Ferrari situation. The remedies? On certain tracks like Monza, where another 1000 km will be raced, the issues should be less, but the problem will remain. It would be ridiculous and presumptuous to suggest solutions, but it seems clear that a longer wheelbase could be a good solution. However, at this point, the World Sportscar Championship is colored in blue. Matra-Simca repeats the success of Vallelunga in the 1000 km of Dijon thanks to Pescarolo and Larrousse, who precede the Ferrari of Ickx-Redman. Then, another Matra-Simca, that of Cevert-Beltoise, and the 312-P of Merzario-Pace. Fifth is the Gulf-Mirage of Hailwood-Schuppan, while the Ganley-Bell car retired due to a hub carrier breakage. A modest selection among the top cars despite the curves and dips of the French mini-circuit. The race confirms the indications from the two days of testing. At this moment, the Matra-Simca is superior to both the Ferrari and the Gulf-Mirage. Ferrari has solved the tire problems that emerged in Vallelunga, but not the issues with roadholding, which are a serious obstacle. The Gulf-Mirage has improved quite significantly, although it is not yet a threat to its rivals. There are also the three-liter Lolas, but they are entrusted to private teams and, in any case, do not have the means and organization of the other teams, so they cannot cause too much trouble. There was not a kilometer of the thousand in this third round of the World Sportscar Championship that highlighted another car instead of the MS 670 of the two French teams. This is despite the blue cars having some tire problems, especially in the initial phases of the race, due to an incorrect adjustment of the rear wing. The nose was too light, the tires did not work correctly, and they deteriorated quickly. This issue was resolved by the French technicians more easily on Pescarolo-Larrousse's car than on Cevert-Beltoise's. The two brothers-in-law had to make more pit stops, compromising their chances. 


And Beltoise, irritated also by a trivial ignition failure, even had a lively argument with the technical manager of Matra-Simca, Gerard Ducarouge. However, from the relative importance that these problems had in terms of the final result, the state of grace of the MS 670 is evident. A reliable engine, with the right number of HP (480), impeccable roadholding, good aerodynamics. In the mixed section of the Dijon mini-circuit, the blue cars flew confidently, with impeccable trajectories, so much so that they could exit the last curve onto the grandstand straight at a much higher speed than the Ferraris or Gulf-Mirages. The comparison, even visually, left no doubts and was confirmed by the stopwatch: on average, the MS 670 gained 1.5s per lap on the 312-Ps, so much so that in the end, Cevert could reach and overtake Pace, taking the third position from him. The Ferrari team, both technicians and drivers, tried in every way to counter the pace of the French rival. Jacky Ickx, in particular, engaged fantastically, not only driving like a great champion but also staying behind the wheel of his 312-P for 219 laps of the 312 of the 1000 km, or 722 kilometers. He handed over to his teammate, Brian Redman, for two short stints and due to regulations. The same goes for Arturo Merzario, who also managed to restrain his natural aggressiveness when it came to saving the car; whose 12-cylinder boxer engine showed excessive oil consumption (and, it must be recognized, this is also why Matra-Simca secured the third position). The Maranello team technicians had tried to prepare the 312-Ps in the best way overnight, adding a kind of apron to the nose to increase aerodynamic load and prevent or, at least, contain pitching. It was a palliative that did not eliminate the problem. The understeering tendency of the cars had decreased but not enough. In this regard, Ickx says:


"The car was a bit more stable in the front, but the nose still lowered too much during braking and lifted during acceleration. It was very difficult to drive, while I noticed how easily the Matra-Simca drivers could set their trajectories. Also, on the straight, the MS 670 and even the Gulf-Mirage were faster than us. I lost a lot of time behind Hailwood, who didn't let me pass in the mixed section and then accelerated in front of the stands, leaving me behind. This is something that worries me and doesn't make me very optimistic about the future".


In reality, as pointed out by Giacomo Caliri, technical manager of Ferrari for the Sport sector, the higher speed of the rivals' cars depended precisely on their better setup and the possibility, therefore, for the drivers to press the accelerator earlier and more forcefully. The situation of Ferrari at this point seems quite clear. Matra-Simca has given a brutal shake to Maranello's dominance in the World Sportscar Championship. Ferrari is still in the lead with 45 points against the French brand's 40, but the 1000 km of Monza is already close. It will take hard work to get back on top: these are the ups and downs of life and sport, the important thing is to have the means and the will to resurface. And Ferrari certainly does not lack those. Neither in Vallelunga nor in Dijon had the challenge between the reigning World Champion Ferrari and the Matra-Simca pretender of prestige reached such uncertainty. The subsequent 1000 km of Monza, representing the fourth round of the World Sportscar Championship, looks balanced, with Cevert and Ickx in the foreground as the fastest representatives of their respective teams. On Tuesday, April 24, 1973, the Frenchman provides the best performance in practice, completing a lap in 1'21"13, at an average speed of 255.146 km/h, but it is only 0.67s faster than the time set by the Belgian on Monday, April 23, 1973. These are feats worth pondering. To go at 255 km/h on the Monza road track means exceeding 300 km/h on the straight of the grandstand and maintaining an almost thrilling speed almost everywhere. And it is now well known that this circuit does not allow a quick selection among the competitors, who find themselves having to maneuver together for a long time. 


Moreover, in the 1000 km, as in all races of the World Sportscar Championship, cars of very different capabilities coexist: three-liter two-seaters like Ferraris, Matra-Simcas, Gulf-Mirages, Lolas, two-liters like March-BMW, Chevron, Fiat-Abarth and again Lolas, and GTs like De Tomaso and Porsche Carrera (here exceptionally entered in Group 5, that is Sport, due to the adoption of a new type of suspension). The problems created by slower cars are not new, and it is hoped that their drivers know how to yield to the leading cars. It is a risk that Monza presents every year and that could only be resolved with modifications to this fiftieth-century facility, now lagging behind the times and the evolution of racing. But political and ecological reasons oppose it, so the old system continues. Ferrari seems ready to counter the threat posed by Matra-Simca. Technicians and drivers have applied themselves in long days of tests and trials, and the 312 P spider seems improved. Thanks to changes made to the rear suspensions and aerodynamics and the use of more powerful engines, usually used on Formula 1 cars. On Tuesday morning, one breaks on Merzario-Pace's car (with the Brazilian at the wheel), and the incident raises some concerns. Small stuff, however, compared to the uncertainties that surfaced in the Matra-Simca clan. On the blue MS 670s of France, the oil pressure tends to drop progressively. It is an inconvenience that cannot be remedied, and if it happens during the race, it almost certainly means retirement. Georges Martin, one of the managers of the French team, explains:


"The engine runs without lubricant, and you understand what that means. It already happened last year at Le Mans. It's a matter of internal pipelines".


It seems that the trouble arises after a certain number of kilometers, even at low speeds. Of course, in the race, nothing might happen, and Mr. Martin's cars could run smoothly. Meanwhile, from the Ferrari pit, they say:


"We don't base our plans on others' misfortunes. The cars must perform well absolutely, against rivals at their best".


Ickx adds a noteworthy consideration.


"Perhaps, the law of numbers will matter. I predict that the 1000 km will wreak havoc on engines: Ferrari has three spiders, Matra has two, so we should have more chances".


Indeed, it could go this way in this race, which, if it doesn't rain, will probably consume in just four hours. No one gives credit to the two Gulf-Mirage cars of Bell and Hailwood, much less powerful than the blue and red opponents: 450 HP against 480 HP. And thirty horses at Monza mean a lot. Unless there are surprises, of course. Surprises that do not occur on Wednesday, April 25, 1973, as Ferrari returns to win and secures a one-two finish reminiscent of last year's, reviving the spirits of the Maranello team after disappointments at Vallelunga and Dijon. Jacky Ickx and Brian Redman in first place, Carlos Reutemann and Tim Schenken in second. The Matra-Simca, third with Pescarolo-Larrousse, is the great defeat of Monza, but the fans of the Maranello team, so unfairly harsh towards the defeated, should not get too hopeful: the French team remains strong, very strong.


"See you at Spa".


Georges Martin says to Sandro Colombo at the end of the Monza 1000 km. The technician holds the cause of the debacle: a pin in the front left wheels of Pescarolo's and Cevert-Beltoise's MS 670. The breakage of the small part forced Pescarolo into a long pit stop, and then Cevert, who, when restarting after the repair, was definitively blocked by the gearbox failure. Pescarolo could no longer catch up with the Ferraris, which sailed smoothly towards this much-awaited victory. It is a new problem for Matra-Simca, whose technicians were concerned about the engine's resistance, which, however, fulfilled its duty. A batch of pins not in compliance with Matra-Simca's prescribed tolerances (pieces commissioned from external suppliers) set a trap for the blue cars. It is the inconveniences and surprises that always make races uncertain and exciting, even those seemingly already decided. And this, it must be emphasized, was not at all decided from the start, as was the case for Vallelunga and Dijon. In Monza, Ferrari had managed to rebalance the competition thanks to a series of measures: aerodynamic tail, modifications to the suspensions, adjustments to weight distribution (for example, the battery was moved to the front hood), use of more powerful Formula 1-type engines, and finally, adoption of tires with slightly wider treads than usual for greater reliability. Apart from the 312-P of Merzario-Pace, eliminated after 15 minutes due to a gearbox or engine failure - not even Ferrari technicians knew - the others marched with absolute regularity. Fuel refills and tire changes, that's it. However, in terms of performance, Matra-Simca continued to be superior to the Italian rival. The MS 670 averaged one to two seconds per lap faster than the 312-P, with Cevert and Ickx as exceptional protagonists. And it is important to highlight once again the Belgian's happy moment, who is accompanying class with admirable determination and commitment: it is enough to say that Ickx drove for three-quarters of the race. His assessment of the 1000 km is, therefore, of great interest.


"I wouldn't want us to get too carried away with this statement. Our car's road holding is still inferior to that of the Matra 670. We have a lot of work to do. Today the situation evolved in our favor, and the 312-P worked very well".


The same manifestations of measured satisfaction are noted from Ferrari technicians, who realize they have won a battle but not the challenge. The underlying problems remain, and therefore, one should not indulge in excessive joy. Naturally, at this point, the question is only one: if Matra-Simca had not had trouble with the pins, would they have won? Assuming that in a competition, success is achieved through a combination of qualities, including the reliability of every part of the car, the French team could answer yes, and the Italian one no, because in the end, the game of refueling and tire changes - carefully planned by Ferrari - would have favored Ickx's 312-P. 


But these are ultimately idle discussions. Ferrari has found the path to success, and that's what matters. For the morale of drivers and technicians, as mentioned, and then for the interest of the World Sportscar Championship. The important thing now is to continue. From Monza to Barcelona, from the World Sportscar Championship to Formula 1, there is no moment of rest for the protagonists of the automotive sport, who are almost always the same. Jets are the most trusted friends of drivers and race team technicians, and some have calculated spending more hours in the seat of an aircraft than behind the wheel of their car. On the other hand, the international calendar adds new events every year, and if some organizers wave the white flag due to financial problems, others step in. In some countries (Argentina, Brazil), it's a matter of prestige; in others (Monte Carlo), it's about publicity. The pace of racing is frantic, leaving little room for the men, especially those involved in the development and tuning of these refined three-liter sports cars and single-seaters subject to continuous calculated transformations. The complications arise when fighting on two fronts, as is the case, uniquely, for Ferrari. The Maranello team is engaged in the World Sportscar Championship with the 312-P and in Formula 1 with the 312-B3. Thus, there is no time to savor the victory achieved on April 25, 1973, at Monza in the 1000 km, because on April 26, 1973, they are already on the track in Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix. Ferrari closed the first commitment of this interesting week with a very favorable balance. The victory of Ickx-Redman and the second place of Reutemann-Schenken allowed the Maranello team to remain at the top of the World Sportscar Championship, boosted the morale of the team, dealt a blow to the ambitions of Matra-Simca and the myth of invincibility the French were creating around themselves, and finally demonstrated that the 312-P, despite its problems, is still a Ferrari - purebred and supported by a valid organization, led by the unmatched Enzo Ferrari. For these reasons, it is logical to believe that the triumph at Monza will be a launching pad for Ferrari. It was a proud response to Matra-Simca. The key now is to continue on this path. 


The 312-P still needs a lot of care, but if a car that is not considered ready by its drivers and technicians manages to beat a healthy rival (perhaps the extra effort imposed by Ferrari on the MS 670 on the ultra-fast Monza track caused the breakdown of such a trivial part as the wheel pins), what will happen when it regains its form? The Spanish Grand Prix also poses a more challenging task for Ferrari. The B3 makes its debut, the latest model of a lineage born in the fall of 1969. It is a single-seater that departs from the tradition of the Maranello team in the chassis structure, no longer a lattice but a monocoque, and presents a series of modern technical solutions suitable for the challenges posed by a competition that lines up many expert competitors. In recent months, the car has undergone tests and trials on Ferrari's private track and others to evaluate its capabilities and bring out any flaws. However, the uncertainties of a debut are always numerous, and despite hoping for the best, an immediate victory should not be expected. This is a bit of a problem for Italian fans, who want immediate results and have no patience to wait. In Barcelona, the B3 will face Lotus, Tyrrell, McLaren, and other protagonists of the Grand Prix. All, to varying degrees, will have changed compared to previous races due to the implementation of new safety regulations, forcing manufacturers to redesign fuel tanks. It will be interesting to assess how this will modify the balance of power in Formula 1. If in the World Sportscar Championship, the significant colors on the track are only two, Italian red and French blue, here it's a kaleidoscope. On Wednesday, April 25, 1973, Jacky Ickx won the Monza 1000 km, and on Friday, he is in Barcelona, where he will try to win the Spanish Grand Prix. The Belgian driver, like Ferrari, is engaged on two fronts, that of sports cars and that of Formula 1. Hours and days pass quickly; the sports calendar concentrates commitments, and this week represents one of the most intense moments of a life and career based on speed. In a month, the Belgian has driven race cars for a distance of eight thousand kilometers, and since the beginning of the year, he has flown almost 60.000 kilometers from one continent to another. Ickx, and all the drivers, pay a price for this hectic pace. It is discussed near the gigantic Ferrari truck, where mechanics work around the new 312-B3.


"The schedule is poorly done. For example, the races of the World Sportscar Championship take place over a period of three months or a little more. They should be spread out. It's ridiculous to have races like the 1000 km of Spa and the Targa Florio within a week. For now, it's possible to participate in both sports car and Formula 1 tests, but soon it will be impossible because their number increases every year. There is talk of 15 or 20 Grand Prix for 1974. You will have to choose: one sector or the other. Naturally, I will focus on single-seaters".


For now, however, the commitment is dual. What happens then?


"It happens like this week. On Wednesday, I finished the 1000 km, and after escaping the embrace of Ferrari fans, I went to the Shell box to talk to journalists. Public relations, right? Then, at the hotel: a bath, an hour and a half of relaxation, dinner, and to bed at 10:00 p.m. I watched TV. I like football. I even went to Amsterdam to see Ajax with Bayern. I think it will be a nice final in Belgrade between Juventus and the Dutch. In the morning, wake up at 9:00 a.m., and a hearty breakfast. After an intense effort, I always eat more: tea, milk, orange juice, sandwiches. Then, the airport and Barcelona. And here I am, on the circuit".


Ickx adds that he follows a particular diet, is followed by the same doctor who takes care of Merckx.


"I suffer from stomach issues, like Stewart. It's a bit of an occupational disease. No alcohol, mineral water. I like the Lambrusco that Ferrari mechanics bring with them, but I have to give it up. The diet has done me good; now, I get tired less. In winter, to keep fit, I enjoy cross-country running. Six or seven kilometers on foot, running through the countryside".


The Ferrari driver lives a few kilometers from Brussels. A beautiful house with a room full of trophies, including a model of the 312-B Formula 1, bought as a memento. Ickx has been a father for two and a half months: a beautiful girl named Lorissa. Every evening, from any corner of the world, Jacky calls his wife Catherine to find out how his two women are doing. It is said that Larissa's arrival may contribute to Ickx's imminent retirement from competitions. Is it true?


"No, Larissa has not changed my attitude towards racing. Now I have more responsibilities towards the family, but I also have them towards my job. For example, I can't forget that I am the number one driver for Ferrari. And believe me, it's a challenging task because Ferrari is something special. I don't have many contacts with the Commendatore, but I think he wants it that way. He is a sensitive man and has gone through painful moments in the past. It's better not to get too attached to any driver. As for a possible retirement, I think every driver possesses a fortune and possibilities. You have to stop when you feel it's about to end. I don't want to be like Graham Hill, who, at over 40, can't detach himself from this environment".


Ickx is preparing for his future. He is proudly independent of his wife's family (very wealthy), has set up a business company in Brussels, and manages himself. But he doesn't want to talk about it.


"One thing is racing, and another is my private life. There is a clear distinction between these two aspects of my life. At home, it's just me and not the driver. I stay calm; some friends come to visit Catherine and me. I need to rest, relax, not think about racing, like now".


The conversation shifts to the differences in driving between a sports car and a single-seater:


"Almost none, both are difficult; you have to drive precisely, no sliding, but in F1, everything is demanded from the car, and it's not spared".


On the boredom of private training:


"It's true, I don't like setup tests, maybe because I don't see the reason to push the limits of the car".


On fatigue:


"Practice is a game; you stop every few minutes. In a Grand Prix, you race for 70-80 laps, and there's no break".


On the crucial details:


"If the pedal position isn't perfect, you can't achieve a good time".


Finally, a judgment on the Formula 1 World Championship:


"The same people, the same cars, Fittipaldi, Stewart, Peterson. We'll see how my new 312-B3 performs. The grip is good, but it's not the only thing that matters. I've always performed well here".


After Monza, Barcelona? Ickx doesn't say, but perhaps, in his heart, he hopes so, despite all the uncertainties of a debut car. After a long break, the Formula 1 World Championship resumes with the Spanish Grand Prix, held this year on the twisty Montjuich circuit in Barcelona. It's the fourth event of the season. The cars have been adjusted to the new safety regulations imposed by the CSI, which specifically require constructors to cover fuel tanks with a one-centimeter layer of deformable material and create a ten-centimeter shield on the sides for a length of 35 cm. The height hasn't been defined, though, and some have come up with less demanding solutions. A small plate, and the game is done, bypassing the spirit of the regulations. So, alongside entirely new single-seaters, already prepared beforehand (like McLaren or Uop-Shadow) or debuting (Ferrari or Iso-Rivolta or Brabham), there are usual models only camouflaged. This is the case with Tyrrell, Lotus, or B.R.M.. Pietro Rivolta, a thirty-two-year-old Lombard engineer with a passion for racing, skiing, and sailing, owner of a prestigious GT car factory in Varedo (Milan), has decided to participate in the Formula 1 World Championship with single-seaters bearing his name. The result of this initiative was presented on Thursday, April 12, 1973, in Monza: a traditional car with a Ford-Cosworth engine, managed by Frank Williams' organization, sponsored by the ubiquitous Marlboro and Fina. The drivers are the New Zealander Howden Ganley, 32 years old, and the Italian Nanni Galli, 33 years old. Iso-Rivolta joins Ferrari and Tecno, already present in the Formula 1 World Championship. Three Italian brands in the race; there's hope for some good results. Rivolta, with great wisdom, doesn't expect sensational exploits.


"In this first season, I would be satisfied to see Ganley or Galli among the top five or six".


He doesn't hide that he would like to outperform Ferrari in some Grand Prix, which, for better or worse, always remains the benchmark for everyone. There's also a matter of publicity: the one who wins gets more attention, and Rivolta sincerely admits that he needs it. The factory is in development: 200 cars produced in 1972 (there could have been more, but a lot of time was spent building the new facility), 700 in 1975.


"However, I do it out of passion as well. I've always liked racing, and I've wanted to put one of my single-seaters on the track for a long time".


In reality, the Iso-Rivolta Formula 1 is a bit of an international car: designed in Varedo by an English specialist, monocoque and other parts made in Italy, engine and various components built in England, assembly in Williams' workshop, near London. Frank Williams is satisfied with Iso, which has undergone initial tests at Goodwood.


"We tried to pay attention to details; today, it's thanks to them that you win because there's a substantial balance and a certain equality among single-seaters".


One detail, for example, is the oil radiator, unique and not double like in other cars, and of a new design. The car, of course, complies with the new safety regulations that will take effect from the Spanish Grand Prix.


"Of course, these single-seaters are standalone cars. I don't think we'll have technical advantages. It would be better to race with prototypes or GT cars. But we'll get there too, and soon".


An Iso-Rivolta, therefore, launched into sports. It's right because competitions, today more than yesterday, are the most direct and straightforward way to make yourself known and showcase the quality of what is built, even if there are some differences between one product and another. On Friday things get under way more or less in an orderly fashion, there being three hours of practice with a short break half-way through. Some teams are out to win from the moment the circuit is open, others are prepared to blow up in the attempt, some are putting on a brave show, while some are merely hoping it will be seen that they are in Grand Prix, and there are those without hope of anything other than personal enjoyment. There are twenty-five entries, reduced to twenty-three when the Tecno for Amon is withdrawn and the Ensign for von Opel fails to materialise. Team Lotus has 72/R7 for Fittipaldi and 72/R8 for Peterson, while 72/R5 is on its way from Zolder, in Belgium, where Fittipaldi has been doing some testing. All three cars are of the 1973 specification, as already seen at Brands Hatch and Silverstone. and still in the black and gold of John Player cigarettes. Stewart has the latest Tyrrell, that he raced at Silverstone, 006/2 to the 1973 shape, with inboard front brakes, like the Lotus 72, but using large diameter tubular drive shafts, unlike the small-diameter solid ones on the Lotus. The rebuilt Tyrrell 005 was standing by as a spare for Stewart, while Cevert had 006. The McLaren team has three identical M23 cars in the paddock, all scintillating in the white and orange Yardley colours. Hulme has M23/1, Revson has M23/2 and the brand new M23/3 is a stand-by should either of them be in need. Ferrari has entered Ickx and Merzario, but unsatisfactory results of testing in Italy have caused the second entry to be withdrawn. However, they arrive with two brand new cars in the B3 series, 010 and 011, both at the disposal of Ickx, and they are described elsewhere in this issue as are the other new cars. 


The John Surtees team and their mixed sponsors have Hailwood in TS14A/04 and Pace in TS14A/ 03, while March are represented by a lone factory car, the up-rated 721G/4 for Pescarolo as Jarier is away at a Formula Two race, and the private March, 721G/1, of Beuttlers Stock Exchange friends, it too being up-rated to 1973 specification. The B.R.M. team in the red and white colours of Marlboro cigarettes, has four P160 models, all rebuilt to 1973 form; with Regazzoni leading the way with P160/07, accompanied by Beltoise with P160/03 and Lauda with P160/01, while P160/05 is standing by as a spare. Ecclestones Brabham team has been hard at work since the Race of Champions last March when their brand new 1973 car was written off. Not only have they built two more new cars, but a new transporter as well, the interior fittings and layout all being done by the Brabham mechanics. Both new cars are the BT42 models, number 2 for Wilson Fittipaldi and number 3 for Reutemann. John Watson, who has crashed BT42/1 when the throttles stuck open at Brands Hatch, is spectating in the paddock, still on crutches but mending well.The Don Nichols team of UOP-Shadow cars, in their sinister black finish are as seen at Silverstone, with Oliver in DN1/1A and Follmer in 2A. A third Shadow, DN1/3A, has been built independently of the Universal Oil Products team, and painted as white as the UOP cars are black, with some red stripes to emulate Embassy cigarettes, for Graham Hills new team. Frank Williams, having lost the support of Politoys, has gained the support of Iso-Rivolta, the small Italian luxury car firm, and Marlboro cigarettes, so his 1973 specials are called Iso-Marlboros and painted a mixture of green, white and red. Of the two cars in the paddock IR/01 driven by Galli did some testing and a demonstration at Dijon before the 1.000-kilometre race, while IR/02 is brand new for Ganley. The IR in the nomenclature stands for Iso-Rivolta. 


Lastly there is the 1972 Brabham BT37/1, suitably up-rated, painted white with green and red stripes for Andrea de Adamich and his Italian backers Ceramic Pagnossin, some of this backing seemingly rubbing off on the Brabham BT142s. Andrea de Adamich should have been in a TS14A Surtees but the arrangement fell through and the Italian had to switch makes at the last moment. All is set for a very healthy practice battle, with numerous problems ahead for everyone, for like Monaco the Montjuich Park cannot be used until official practice begins. At permanent Autodromes the more affluent are out testing and practising long before the official time, so that practice becomes a bit of a formality, and anyone unable to afford the time and money for unofficial practice is at a disadvantage. At Montjuich no-one has any knowledge other than that which theywere left with in 1971, and those who have had entirely new cars since then have much to learn, while everyone has to learn about new tyres, different makes of tyre, more powerful engines, improved suspension geometry, new springs and shock absorbers and so on, while some drivers have never been to Barcelona before, even with F2 cars or sports cars. Not surprisingly there is terrific activity in the pits, and it is only a matter of time before the old lap record is passed by anyone prepared to have a bit of a go. With two yearscontinuous development in Formula 1 racing it would have been very depressing if the 1971 time of 1'25"1 was not surpassed. Ickx starts off in car number 011, with the side radiator layout, carrying racing number 8, so that Merzario is credited with his time, even though he is not in Spain. However, only two flying laps are made by Ickx, among a number of starting and stopping laps, which do not get a time, and then the car is put way and he concentrates on 010, with the front-mounted radiator and racing number 7. It is not long before Peterson is down to the existing lap record times, having few problems and pressing on furiously. Fittipaldi is not at all happy with 72/R7, as it does not feel right although nothing can be found amiss. He spends a long time in the pits while the left front hub assembly is dismantled and checked on R7, as R5 has not yet arrived at the end of its long journey from Zolder. Cevert is driving hard, the continual racing he is getting with Matra sports cars keeping him on form between Grand Prix events, and is soon finding a lack of brakes; while Stewart is not happy with the handling of his Tyrrell so is not yet in the leadersbattle. 


In the McLaren camp Hulme is quietly getting on with things, there being no special problems with Gordon Coppucks M23 design, and the swarthy new President of the GPDA is soon faster than Peterson. While Hulme is doing this Follmer is following him and obviously learning fast, for he is down to 1'26"0. Peterson gets below 1'25"0 and Hulme does 1'24"6 and then 1'24"0; this inspires Peterson and he also does 1'24"6 and then 1'23"7 but Hulme replies with 1'23"5. Shortly before the interval Peterson gets really wound up and goes round in 1'22"9 and then 1'22"4 which leaves everyone breathless. While the Swede does not look flustered when he stops there is a rather glazed look in his eyes! In fact, it is noticeable that the lateral G-forces are straining the eye-balls of the faster drivers, and whereas at one time you can tell how hard a driver has been trying by the sweat between his shoulder blades, now you can tell by the look in his eye-balls as he lifts up his visor. Lapping the Montjuich Park at over 100 km/h average speed is obviously generating some high centrifugal forces. While all this is going on Regazzoni keeps the B.R.M. flag flying with a lap in 1'23"9 and the timekeepers credit Fittipaldi with 1'23"0 although Team Lotus and the World Champion himself have doubted it, as he is not feeling that confident in the balance of R7. A foretaste of the Team Surtees role at this race is given during this first practice when Hailwoods car stops out on the circuit when a fuel metering valve sticks and he is stranded until mechanics can get to him. With Peterson and Lotus in such terrific form there seems to be a slight reluctance for everyone else to get going again after the brief interval. When they do start, trouble is rife, for Ickx does only a few laps in 010 before complete ignition failure strands him out on the circuit and Revson has an even worse time. Starting off in M23/2 he only gets in one timed lap before the engine goes sick and when he takes over M23/3, the brand new McLaren, that too goes sick on him. Peterson is back at his role of pacesetter, with a time of 1'22"0 but nobody else is with him, least of all his co-number one driver in the John Player Specials we call Lotus 72s. Stewart tries the spare Tyrrell briefly, and then gets among the faster drivers with 1'23"9 in his newer car but it means trying all he knew, and more, and ends in an ignominious spin into the Armco barriers, which puts a dent in the right front corner of the Tyrrell 006/2. 


Peterson shows no inclination to wait for any opposition to appear and goes faster and faster, ending up at a demoralising 1'21"8, the next best being Hulme with a quiet and confident 1'22"5. The first day of practice sees the usual names at the forefront. Ronnie Peterson stands out with the Lotus-Ford. The Swede, hunting for records and victories, set an exceptional time on the 3790-meter track, risking a lot - 1'21"8. Following him is Hulme, whose McLaren has already demonstrated its good qualities in South Africa, with a significant time of 1'22"5. Then Fittipaldi, Stewart, Cevert, Regazzoni, Ickx, and Hailwood. Stewart had brake problems and was also the protagonist of a spectacular spin with a rebound from one guardrail to the other on the track, but without too much damage, allowing him to slowly return to the box at the end of the training. Naturally, there is much interest around the new Ferrari 312-B3, present in two versions: one with water radiators on the sides and another with a single radiator in the nose. After a brief test, the second model was chosen for the trials as its engine cooling was better. The car performed decently, and it was a pity that a short circuit prematurely stopped its tests. Ickx is satisfied:


"It reacts well. We just need to change the gears, which are not suitable for the circuit".


Not equally positive is the performance of the Iso-Rivolta, and Nanni Galli consoles himself by stating:


"The usual teething problems, which will then disappear".


The weather gets a lot warmer on Saturday, which does nothing to help the brake and tyre problems, and practice is in one complete session of two hours from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. As everyone scrabbles out of the paddock the spare McLaren M23/3 is left standing-by with Revsons number on it and the spare Lotus 72/R5 with Fittipaldis number on it. Also there is Paces car, left behind with a fuel pump problem, but the Surtees mechanics soon cure it. Fittipaldi is soon using his spare car and feeling a lot happier with it, though not matching Petersons lap times. Brakes are the subject of study in the pits of Lotus, Ferrari, Tyrrell, and Shadow, while the amount of smoke coming off the brakes of the spare B.R.M. which Lauda has been using, not only indicates that he has been trying hard, but that they too are thinking about brakes. Hulme makes an early claim for the fastest Saturday lap with 1'24"1, but not for long as Peterson is soon out and recorded 1'23"6 to which the crafty old Hulme replies with 1'23"5, which makes Peterson go out again and do 1'23"2. Suddenly, Stewart gets switched on and also puts one in at 1'23"2. Some drivers are getting nowhere at all, Hill not being able to make his brand new Shadow go very well and Oliver having no chance for most of the afternoon as his car is having a new clutch fitted. The two Iso-Marlboro Williams Specials are being sorted out, this being their first race, and Pace is still having a bad time for his Surtees now breakes a drive-shaft and strands him out on the circuit. The other Surtees has had aluminium air-baffles added along the sides of the monocoque, but Hailwood is nowhere in the running, and Hulme has some laps in the spare McLaren. 


As practice nears its end Peterson was out again, doing 1'22"7 and then 1'22"1 and finishing up with a repeat of yesterday with another 1'21"8, thus making best time on all three sessions, with no-one really anywhere near to him. In the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix, will we witness a great battle between Lotus, McLaren, and Tyrrell? It's possible, considering that the times achieved in the two days of practice have placed the drivers of these three British teams in the top four rows of the starting grid for this fourth round of the World Championship. Only Ickx, with Ferrari, and Regazzoni, with B.R.M., managed to insert themselves among the leaders. The situation reflects what had emerged in the previous races in Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa, which had resulted in Emerson Fittipaldi and Jackie Stewart leading the championship standings with 22 and 19 points, respectively, followed by Hulme with 8 points. Fittipaldi had triumphed in the South American Grands Prix, Stewart in Kyalami, and Hulme had shown remarkable consistency. In Barcelona, however, it seems more like Ronnie Peterson's territory than the Brazilian's. The Swede repeated the amazing feat from Friday, clocking 1'21"8 at an average speed of 166.825 km/h. It's interesting to note that the Montjuïc circuit record belongs to Ickx, who set a time of 1'25"1 in 1971 during a tightly contested race with Stewart. 


Three seconds gained in just two years are a clear sign of the continuous progress made in Formula 1, especially in the field of tires. Fittipaldi did not match the feat of his teammate, who risks being one of his most dangerous competitors. The World Champion had clocked 1'23"0 on Friday but expressed many doubts about the behavior of his Lotus. On Saturday, after some tests, he switched to the reserve car and set a less impressive time of 1'23"7. However, the Brazilian says that he will start with the reserve car tomorrow because the other monoposto, just finished assembling, does not convince him due to suspension issues. Cevert and Stewart made considerable efforts to improve their times, and the Frenchman was involved in a whirlwind spin that ended without damage. The track was very slippery because the asphalt, laid just a few days ago, oozed under an almost summer-like sun. There are curves and turns here, and the drivers change gears 11-12 times per lap (that is, every 7.5 seconds) and put a strong strain on the brakes. Furthermore, the ups and downs and patches of the road surface put a considerable strain on the suspensions: just see how the wheels dance in certain sections of the circuit. These observations are useful for a more precise evaluation of the time set by Jacky Ickx with the debutant 312-B3, 1'23"5, which practically equals the performance of Ferrari to those of Revson and Stewart, who have two well-tested cars. It already seems like a noteworthy result, indicating that the Maranello monoposto is competitive. What is also reassuring is Ickx's opinion, smiling and relaxed.


"I thought we were in for a much tougher job. Instead, since the end of February, when the 312-B3 was presented in Maranello, it has made rapid progress. It gives me confidence, behaves safely, and doesn't have those unpredictable reactions that worried me on the previous model. Today I wanted to go below 1'23"0, but the track conditions prevented me".


It must also be said that the 312-B3, surrounded by the attentive care of technicians and mechanics, has completed fewer laps than planned due to a series of small, trivial issues it encountered. Ickx had to first stop at the box to have the brake pads, excessively thick, replaced, then to fine-tune the carburetion, and finally to overcome an abnormal current absorption by the electric fuel pump, leading to a fuse failure and ignition interruption. Tire tests were also conducted, and two, with a too-soft compound, were scrapped. For the race, however, there shouldn't be any problems, even though many cars had one or more tires excessively worn due to the abrasiveness of the fresh road surface, forcing Goodyear and Firestone specialists to emergency work to overcome the inconvenience. Engineer Giorgio Ferrari explains:


"Tomorrow, we hope the race will provide us with other useful indications to refine the 312-B3. It will be a test race for Ferrari. We tried to create a monoposto that summarized the results of previous experiences and was more modern and simple for controls and repairs. The important thing is to see it on the track, along with all the others".


The road is still long, but in a few months, in a situation complicated by the now happily resolved labor issues, the 312-B3 came into the world, and well. Will Spain bring it luck? The fans of the Maranello team are keeping their fingers crossed. On Sunday, April 29 1973, as the Park begins to fill to capacity, with most spectators walking to the circuit, arriving by bus or underground train or by taxi, the sun is warm and the skies clear, and there is a further hour of practice for last-minute decisions, but with no time-keeping. For some it is a case of checking decisions already made, while others are still adjusting suspensions to suit new tyre grades, and others merely have more trouble. The engine in Hailwoods Surtees blows up, and that in Olivers Shadow breaks a driving belt at the front end, so both cars have to be torn apart in the short time available before the 12 noon start. By the time the music and pre-race presentations are over it is 12:15 p.m. before the race starts, for which the Surtees mechanics are very grateful. Twenty-one cars go off on a warm-up lap and then line up on the dummy-grid, the missing car being the Surtees of Hailwood, which is still in the paddock being finished. Peterson is on pole position and ready to demoralise everyone, Stewart is in 006/2 and determined not to let the Swede get away, Ickx is in the Ferrari with the front-mounted radiator and planning how he is going to get into the lead and Fittipaldi is in Lotus 72/R5 and quietly contemplating his situation, which is in the fourth row alongside Regazzoni. 


They all move forward to the proper grid and are off, Peterson forging ahead as they go up the hill and over the brow to the first hairpin. They are not long gone when Hailwood comes out of the paddock and screams off up the pit lane after them. It is Peterson all the way, the Lotus looking beautifully steady and very fast through the uphill curves at the end of the opening lap. Hulme, Stewart, Cevert, Beltoise, Fittipaldi and Lauda follow, with the rest in a struggling mob with Hill bringing up the rear, apart from Hailwood who is half a lap in arrears. On the third lap Stewart forces his Tyrrell into second place and by five laps there is a semblance of order, with Peterson three seconds ahead of Stewart and the Scot unable to do anything about it. Then come Hulme, Cevert and Fittipaldi in a very close bunch, followed a while later by Beltoise with the struggling mob of Lauda, Revson, Reutemann, lckx, Regazzoni and Follmer at his heels. While the leading group remains unchanged the mid-field goes through a lot of changes and there is some pretty unruly manoeuvres going on. Revson gets himself clear of them, then Reutemann does so, and Follmer begins to force his way by the whole B.R.M. team and the Ferrari as well. Peterson is now out of sight before Stewart appears and at twelve laps Regazzoni has to stop at the pits as his tyres are overheating and four laps later Laudas B.R.M. suffers the same trouble. While these two are driving with fury and having tyre trouble, Beltoise is being more steady and having no problems. At eighteen laps the picture is still of Peterson running away from everyone, with Stewart in a firm second place, followed by Hulme, Cevert and Fittipaldi in a dead-lock. Then come Revson and Reutemann, followed by Follmer and Ickx having a real wheel-to-wheel battle and after that Beltoise led Oliver, Beuttler, Wilson Fittipaldi, Galli and Pescarolo, while Ganley struggles hopelessly at the back with the engine in his Iso-Marlboro cutting in and out as if he is playing with the ignition switch. He is already lapped by the leader, as are Hailwood and Hill, while Pace has already retired as has de Adamich, the latter in a lurid fashion when his hired Brabham BT37 has the left rear stub axle shear with the wheel flying off and the car destroying itself against the Armco barriers while the driver remains safe inside the monocoque. 


This overall situation does not last long for Hulme has the balance weights fly off a front wheel on his McLaren and has to give away third place while he stops at the pits for a wheel-change, letting everyone move up a place. The pace is so furious that the quickest wheel-change possible means you will be more than a lap behind when you rejoin the race. At 25 laps Peterson goes through the tail-enders as if they are not there, while Stewart gets hung up by them and on lap 27 Cevert goes swerving into the pits with a flat rear tyre, but convinced a front one is flat. Both right side tyres are changed and he is off again, but like Hulme is now right out of touch with the leaders, so that after all this Fittipaldi is up to third place, well ahead of Revson and Reutemann, while the Follmer/Ickx battle is continuing unabated, the outcome now being for sixth place. Oliver retires out on the circuit with a broken Cosworth engine and Hailwood arrives at the pits in a cloud of smoke caused by an oil leak, while Regazzoni stops driving in a great fury to have some more tyres fitted to his B.R.M. It takes Stewart four laps to get clear of the group comprising Beltoise, Beuttler, Wilson Fittipaldi and Pescarolo, by which time all hope of ever seeing Peterson again is gone. As the Swede breasts the fast rise before the pits, where he changes up a gear, on lap 31 he misses the change, but next time round all seems well. On this same lap Ickx finally manages to scratch by Follmer, but five laps later the Ferraris brakes disappear and he is in the pits to have the system bled, leaving the American in his black Shadow securely in sixth place, the last runner not lapped by the flying Peterson. On this same lap Revson is firmly in fourth place when there is a funny noise as an exhaust pipe split and the slight loss of power soon allows Reutemann to move up a place. At 40 laps, with twenty-five still to run, Hulme has to stop again, this time with a flat tyre, and complete stalemate has settled over the race, with Peterson reeling off the laps as cool as can be, Stewart resigns to second place and Fittipaldi a long way back in a lucky third place. Then come Reutemann, Revson and Follmer, all driving hard but not actually racing with anyone, though still on the same lap as the leaders. Profiting by running non-stop are Beltoise, Beuttler and Pescarolo, but Cevert is carving his way back through the tail-enders, as is Hulme until he has his second stop. Ickx rejoins the race but too far back to do much good, other than race-test the new Ferrari, and at 45 laps Follmer is eventually lapped by Peterson. 


At 48 laps Stewarts race is run, after a moment braking for a hairpin, for the drive-shaft to one of the inboard front brakes has broken its strap-joint and he limps round to the pits to retire, leaving the John Player Team Lotus cars in complete command, in first and second places, with only Reutemann on the same lap, for Revson has dropped back behind Follmer. On lap 55 Reutemanns Brabham is suddenly, noticeably and dramatically closer to Fittipaldis Lotus, and the gap continues to reduce, because Fittipaldi is going slower, not because Reutemann is going faster. While everyone except Fittipaldi is puzzling over this, as he knows his left-rear tyre is deflating, Petersons Lotus suddenly comes to a juddering halt on the lower part of the circuit. First he can not get fifth gear, then third, and finally he gets first and there the gear-lever sticks, with the gearbox and final drive chews up, and certain victory is snatched from him, which shows all over his face as he walks back to the pits, accompanied by the plaudits of the crowd which he totally ignored. This leaves Fittipaldi in the lead, but with Reutemann really trying hard now and closing the gap at an alarming rate. Looking completely unruffled and balancing the car on its soft rear tyre through the right-hand bends, the reigning World Champion has shown yet another streak of Jim Clark, and maintains first place. At 63 laps Reutemann is only 44 seconds behind, and needs no urging on, and two laps later he has the Lotus in sight. Just when it seems that an international incident might break out in South America, the Brabham goes clattering towards its pit, the inner universal joint on the right-side drive-shaft is broken and Team Lotus breathes a sigh of relief and the unflappable Emerson Fittipaldi is relatively safe once more, the safety pegs keeping the deflating tyre on the rim. On the same lap, but too far behind to be a danger is Cevert, driving his Tyrrell in splendid fashion and up to second place, having finally found a way past Follmer, and very incensed because the new-boy American did not move over and wave the lovely French star graciously by. Follmer is a hard racer, and if anyone wants to take second place from him they have got to work for it, and hes not going to help them. The sort of attitude we could do with a lot more of in Grand Prix in order to make it proper racing. 


With Petersons retirement the first three are all on the leading lap again, and thus they finish, Fittipaldis balancing of the Lotus through the right-hand corners, as the car leans on its soft rear tyre, is brilliant, and though he profits from the misfortunes of others it is no easy victory for him. Revson comes home fourth with a very sick McLaren, for in addition to the split exhaust a crack in one cylinder head, down in the plug recess leaves pressure leak into the recess and eventually it blows the plug lead and caps off, the engine keeping going on seven cylinders. Beltoise follows him home having pussy-footed along and preserves his tyres, while his two B.R.M. team-mates are less cautious and throw caution and their tyres to the winds. Hulmes miserable day is concluded by low fuel level in the tanks causing the engine to die on him in the closing laps and he nearly gives up in despair, but struggles on to finish sixth. Once again, Emerson Fittipaldi, O Rey. The World Champion also won the Spanish Grand Prix, the fourth event of the season. He won it in a unique way, simply by holding on with his Lotus until the end of this elimination race on a ruthless circuit that wreaked havoc on tires and brakes. Due to brake issues, the debutant Ferrari 312-B3 of Ickx had to stop at the pit, missing the chance to secure the second or third position. The Belgian finished twelfth, but the test is considered positive. Fittipaldi, at the end of the competition, is the center of discussions among Grand Prix fans. Lucky driver or an expert at managing his strengths and an impeccable driver? As often happens, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. In Spain, Peterson was unleashed, Stewart admirable for his commitment, Cevert full of determination, and Reutemann truly skilled. Adjectives abound. And Fittipaldi? Well, the usual cautious style, controlled impetus guided by reason: a Scandinavian, not a South American with Italian blood. The World Champion was right. Emerson had chosen the reserve car with the engine of the first one over the brand-new race car. Starting from the fourth row, in a few laps, he found himself in fifth place, behind Peterson, Stewart, Hulme, and Cevert. At that moment, especially watching how Peterson and Stewart were performing, few would have bet on Fittipaldi. Only his fans believed in him, the charming and picturesque Brazilians who filled the stands of Montjuïc and emphasized the race phases with cheers, waving flags, and overwhelming sambas. The selection among the 22 cars rotating on the ups and downs of the circuit quickly began, with constant changes, edge-of-the-seat braking, and more or less controlled skids. 


Regazzoni started with his B.R.M. Pit stop to change the front right tire, the one that had to endure the most loads due to the track layout. The situation quickly deteriorated, and many drivers entered the runoff area. The tires - Firestone and Goodyear in almost equal measure - disintegrated on the newly laid asphalt of the circuit, acting like an abrasive product. So, first Hulme and then Cevert had to stop to replace tires, losing precious time. Fittipaldi advanced with his black-gold single-seater and positioned himself behind Peterson and Stewart. The Swede and the Scotsman graciously gave way to the rival. Stewart had to surrender due to the rupture of one of the front brake discs, and Peterson due to a gearbox failure, just when the Lotus team was already celebrating a possible one-two, as Ronnie was first and Emerson second. The end of the Grand Prix showed that the day was indeed favorable to Fittipaldi. It was evident that the Brazilian struggled to control the car, which had an abnormal behavior, while the Argentine Reutemann, with the Brabham, reduced the gap with a furious effort. Well, Reutemann had to retire with a broken half-shaft, while Fittipaldi reached the finish line with semi-disintegrated front tires and the right rear almost touching the ground. And here we are at the long-awaited test of the new Ferrari. Ickx ran for a long time in the pack, then managed to break free with Follmer, overtaking the American's UOP-Shadow. In the Ferrari team's box, the mechanics began to smile; Ickx was sixth, and the car seemed to behave well. Then, the disappointment. The Belgian returned.


"I have no brakes".


Steam had formed in the pipes due to the excessive temperature of the fluid. The stop lasted for about ten minutes, the brake circuit was purged, and Ickx could restart. In the end, since Follmer had secured third place, claiming that Ickx could have at least achieved that position is not wrong. The 312-B3 still needs a lot of work, but it's a single-seater that already has its personality. In Spain, with a somewhat rushed preparation, it has already reached a good level of competitiveness. This is what the test race in Spain indicates, and the technicians add:


"An experience like this is always positive. It is the first time that the car has been involved in such a high number of laps. We preferred to let Ickx continue despite no longer having hopes of a classification to assess the differences in behavior between the car with full and semi-empty fuel tanks".


It should also be noted that many cars experienced brake troubles, starting with the aforementioned Stewart and also Graham Hill, Reutemann, and Regazzoni. A somewhat common inconvenience. Ickx states:


"After the repair, the car ran as well as or better than before. Compared to the previous version, it is neutral, that is, it neither understeers nor oversteers. Instead, I have the impression that this engine was not the best, so much so that it was difficult for me to pass Follmer on the straight".


Finally, the race of Galli and de Adamich, the two Italians. The former lost time at the pit to fix an oil leak and had problems with the tires. He finished eleventh with the new Iso-Rivolta. Andrea de Adamich had a frightening adventure. The hub carrier of the right rear wheel of his Brabham broke in a fast corner of the circuit, and the car crashed into a guardrail.


"I saw the wheel pass me, and it wasn't a pleasant sensation. I was in fourth gear, so at 200 km/h. What a hit. I found myself without pedals".


A miracle, or almost, for the Italian driver, but nothing should spoil Fittipaldi's Spanish Grand Prix. O Rey is pulling away from his rivals. He has 31 points against Stewart's 19. Formula 1 moves to the rhythm of samba.


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


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