It seems like Mickey Mouse. Already his name, Niki Lauda, reminds one of the all-encompassing mouse. He's twenty-five years old, born in Salzburg, very skilled. For Ferrari, which he races for this season, he possesses the qualities needed for a driver today: intelligence, diligence, calculation. Everything about him is celestial, from his eyes to the shirt and pants. His eyes are piercing; turning your back on him might make you fear being shot. But he's good. At least that's what they say in Maranello, where everyone rightly wishes him well. Encountered in the office, so blond and celestial with a rigid brown leather briefcase, you might mistake him for the son of a manager receiving a good salary in exchange for good work. The impression comes from the excessive seriousness of his face, where a smile may be frequent but always seems like a concession. In judgments, he is decisive and brisk. Like all those who haven't suffered, he is ignorant of what the past is. Of Salzburg, a city steeped in history, music, and silent cafés on the first floor of eighteenth-century houses, he says only:
"I go back because it's relaxing. I'm not interested in Mozart at all, I'm not interested in von Karajan either".
He is thin, with very short feet and hands. How he manages to tame a racing car that weighs and flies is a mystery that will only be clarified when he tests it on the track and slips into that hole that is the cockpit, with a steering wheel as small as those in amusement park cars. And then you understand that it's no longer a matter of muscles; it's not about strength here: what matters is only the head. Lauda comes from a good family in Vienna. His father is an industrialist in the paper sector; his younger brother is studying medicine. Naturally, they wanted him to be a student, and later a professional.
"They tried, but I have always felt free. So, there wasn't even a problem of gaining my freedom".
As for the sense of duty, diligence, and the remarkable will that are his most conspicuous qualities, he doesn't waste time trying to understand whether they are the result of family education or his own nature.
"I am the product of myself".
What strikes you about Lauda in conversation is the term calculation. Given that he doesn't have a violin in his hands but a racing car, it's almost obvious. But the word repeats insistently; in any case, you can sense it even when it's not spoken.
"In our profession, there must only be calculation. Driving means avoiding an error, that is, calculating everything, especially calculating the risk. I pull it out of my already calculated brain. Even my courage is under control; I push myself only as far as my calculation tells me to go. Beyond that, I don't go".
It's likely that on moonless nights, getting very close to him, instead of breathing, you can hear the obsessive clattering of the calculator.
"In our profession, whims and fantasy don't matter at all. Whims, if anything, serve only to go off track and die".
And Nuvolari? It's the immediate question that comes to mind. Wasn't he great and yet whimsical? Wasn't he exceptional in imagination and skill, even managing, perhaps because he didn't want to, to die in his bed and away from the races? Lauda gives a quick look. Nuvolari's name evokes the ghost of a man who is as distant to him as that of an ancient warrior.
"I am sure that even he, when he raced, set aside whims and imagination, retaining only calculation".
Luca Montezemolo is the lawyer who made him sign the contract with Ferrari.
"We needed a man like Niki. We were coming off an unlucky year. It was necessary to renew, to change. Above all, it needed a man capable of fitting well into this environment, with the patience to always be present for tests, who trained systematically on the Fiorano track, and who also didn't make controversies. Niki is that man. He's always here, follows the car, tests and retests without getting tired, lives among the mechanics, and knows the car perfectly".
"I don't just love racing; I love the car. I love it regardless of whether I race with it or not. And since I love it, I want to know it thoroughly. Almost all cars are the same; the difference lies in who assembles them. It all depends on how well you know them and how you can tame them. For example, I go with Ferrari because I know it and feel it's safe. I wouldn't get on some others because I don't know them, or I can't fully understand them".
The proof of this love for knowledge is provided by Lauda on the Fiorano track. In a white suit full of advertising patches, he sticks his head into the engine of the red single-seater along with a mechanic and his trusted engineer Forghieri. Enzo Ferrari checks on ten monitors the lap the boy has just finished. A calculator proposes a tape full of numbers: the times, the laps, everything that Niki has done. Niki comes in to say, in German, in English, with large hand and hip gestures, what was wrong with the car during the test. He is patient, precise. Then he goes back under the awning to check the modification, to feel, touch, sway. The smile comes out only when he feels that the car is ready, modified, for a new lap. The dressing, even for a test, has something sacred. There is absolute silence when he puts on the white wool balaclava that leaves only his celestial eyes free. The helmet, white and red, suddenly transforms him into a robot. Aesthetically, it's impressive. The helmet enlarges his head and makes him even smaller and more fragile. The car, 500 kilos of wheels and engine plus a cockpit sewn onto it like a suit, swallows him up to his chin. The moment of departure, when the mechanics all detach together from the initial push, is a tear from which only he, and only he, is the fragment that shot off behind the turn. Here there are curves faithfully copied from the most difficult ones in the world. There's the Brunker jump curve at the Nurburgring. The Gasometer curve in Monte Carlo. The Tarzan curve at Zandvoort. There's the radius of the Parabolica at Monza.
The terrible thing is that he started alone. One hundred people, each of whom contributed in some way to building the car, follow with their ears stretched the roar of the engine. Each one tries to identify, in that roar, the best or worst of their work. These tests are necessary because on Sunday, May 26, 1974, the Monaco Grand Prix will take place, representing the sixth race of the Formula 1 World Championship. With no unofficial practicing possible on the Monte-Carlo street circuit, there are three sessions available to the twenty-eight aspirants for the twenty-five positions on the starting grid. Everyone turns up for the Thursday afternoon practice period, ready and raring to go, with spare cars at the ready. Since last year, the kerbstones on the apex of the Casino Square and the Mirabeau hairpin have been filled in with concrete to form a beveled edge over which everyone is certain to put their inside wheels. In the past, a lot of expensive damage has been done to alloy wheel rims due to drivers brushing the kerbs, but this year it's going to be the suspension systems that are going to get a bashing. The John Player Team Lotus realizes that they're not getting any development work done on the tight little street circuit, so they have Peterson and Ickx with the Lotus 72 cars they raced last year, with the Lotus 76-JPS/10 as a standby with Ickx’s number on it. It did not take Ickx very long to decide that the 72 was the best bet, while Peterson never deviated from his 72. Tyrrell has two happy young drivers in 007 models, neither of them showing the slightest interest in trying the spare car, which is last year’s 006/2, it standing to one side and looking a bit tatty compared to the 1974 cars.
Another team that has a spare car that neither driver wanted is the Brabham team, for Reutemann is in BT44/3, von Opel in BT44/2, and the car that Pilette drove in Belgium, BT42/3, is the spare as BT44/1 has not been repaired since Reutemann crashed it in practice in Belgium. There are five McLaren M23 cars in the pit road, with M23/1 and M23/7 for Hailwood, and M23/4, M23/5, and M23/6 for Fittipaldi and Hulme, the first of their cars being the spare one. The Ferrari team is ringing the changes on their set of 1974 cars, this time using 014 and 015, for Regazzoni and Lauda, respectively, with 010 as reserve. The Shadow team of Jarier and Redman is using the two cars they raced in Belgium, and there is a brand new car in the pits. Likewise, Graham Hill’s Lola team has their third car with them, with Hill’s number on it. On the other hand, Surtees has his usual three cars with him, for Pace and Mass. Williams has only one entry for this race, so Merzario has both the Iso-Marlboro sponsored cars at his disposal. While practice is in progress, a brand new B.R.M. is being finished off in the paddock garage. This is the second of the P201 series, similar to the car raced by Beltoise but with the front brakes mounted outboard on the wheel hubs. This is only a temporary measure, and all the fittings are there for the inboard layout. The other regular runners all have to make do with only one car, and consequently, they need to be careful about bouncing off the guardrails. Amon had his pale blue car somewhat revised, with the front brakes mounted outboard on the wheel hubs, and the side radiators replaced by a single one across the nose, with a new fairing over the nose. In fact, he tried two different fairings during practice. As expected, it is Lauda who sets the pace, and not surprisingly, Beltoise is right behind him, as the little Frenchman is quite good at scratching around slow corners. At one point, these two found themselves on the same part of the circuit, and Lauda pressed the B.R.M. really hard until he got past. Lauda is showing Beltoise the way, but he overcooked it on the wiggly piece of road along the harbor front and bounced off the guardrail on the left and cannoned into the rail on the right, which caused the right front wheel of the Ferrari to be pushed back into the monocoque. End of practice for Lauda.
The Ferrari team is not unduly perturbed and plans to set up the T-Car number 010 with all Lauda’s suspension settings and so forth and have him back in business by the next morning. As he's still fastest in the first session, they did not even reprimand him, telling him not to worry when he chastised himself for his recklessness. While 010 is being prepared for him, a call to Maranello got another complete car up to Monaco as a standby, this being 012, which he drove in Belgium. Jochen Mass has a rear upright break on his Surtees, so he's glad of the spare car, and Hulme had a gearbox shaft break, which stranded him out on the circuit. Redman bounced off a guardrail and bent the right rear suspension of his Shadow shortly before the end of practice, and a lot of nose fairings are getting rubbed away underneath as drivers brake heavily on the downhill sections of the town circuit. Gearboxes are also getting a hard time, especially the lower gears, as drivers are calling for maximum acceleration out of the hairpin before the pits. As is usual, the first practice session did not produce any startling times, for everyone was having to play themselves into the circuit, not having driven on it for 12 months, while a number of drivers had never been around it before, and some of these were still wondering which way they were going when practice finished. The next session is on Friday morning, starting at 8:55 a.m., and conditions are excellent, as they were yesterday, though now the air is cooler, and the scene began to get sorted out. Lauda is in the spare Ferrari, 010, set up to his requirements, and is once again setting the pace, though this time he has Peterson challenging him, the Swede putting all he knew into his driving. These two get into a very select bracket of 1'26"0, well below the existing lap record, and also well below Stewart’s best practice time in 1973, which was 1'27"5, the lap record standing to Fittipaldi at 1'28"1 in last year’s race, the first on the altered circuit, with the section along the harbor front by the swimming pool. This sort of pace by the Austrian and the Swedish driver leaves everyone a bit breathless and almost overshadows the excellent times put up by the Tyrrell lads, Scheckter and Depaillier, both of them recording 1’27"1. Regazzoni equals Stewart’s 1973 time, but Beltoise can't match the pace. At the back of the field, there is quite a large group trying not to be last, or even two from last, as the slowest three are not going to be able to start the race. Stuck lost a lot of practice time when his works March, now half orange and half green, broke a drive-shaft, but even so, he got below 1'30"0 which is clearly going to be the minimum to aim at.
Shortly after this practice session finished, a drizzle of rain began, which dampened everyone’s ardor and made all the boats in the harbor look a bit bedraggled, but fortunately, it did not last long, and soon all was sunshine and gaiety again. It's Saturday afternoon, and the final practice has begun, in which the all-important front row of two cars had to be decided, and the three slowest cars are going to be eliminated. B.R.M. has their new P201/02 out for a brief test by Beltoise, and Lauda is giving the newly arrived spare Ferrari a short run but concentrated on the T-Car for the serious business of pole position. His time from the day before of 1'26"3 is still the best, and Peterson did another 1'26"8, as he had done yesterday, but Regazzoni pulled one out of the bag and clocked 1'26"6, to notch the fastest time of the day and second position on the grid. Try as he would, Peterson can't match the Ferrari times, though he's the only Cosworth-powered runner to get below 1'27"0. The Ferraris are not only producing adequate horsepower, but they have a wide power spread and can get the power down on the road, in spite of what some people think. Lotus brought along a special Cosworth engine with modified inlets, exhaust pipes, and camshafts, which is claimed to give a much faster torque curve, at the expense of some 20 b.h.p. loss at the top end. On paper, it seemed a good idea, but Ickx tried it without much enthusiasm. Transmissions are still suffering; Pescarolo coasted to a stop with a broken drive-shaft shortly after practice began, while later it is Hunt who's forced to stop with a broken gearbox on the Hesketh, and Ickx had similar trouble on his Lotus 72. The Lotus 76 lost all its fuel pressure, so the Belgian driver sat, waiting for the car to be repaired. The Surtees team wants to take the Team Shambles Trophy away from Lotus with a flourish during the afternoon, as Pace went skating along behind the pits in a shower of bits when a universal joint broke on the left-hand drive-shaft. Also, Mass is equally spectacular as his right rear hub carrier broke. Both cars are dragged off the circuit and dumped near the pits exit, a sad and sorry sight, enough to make John Surtees throw himself in the harbor. Hill’s Lola dies in the tunnel with fuel starvation, and Schenken came walking back, the Trojan having petered out undramatically.
Poor Amon is thinking of joining Surtees in the harbor, as his new car is once more in trouble, with bearings turning in their housings in the hubs, and Pescarolo joined the disgruntled ones, being next to slowest, whereas he is used to being next to fastest with the Matra-Simca sports car. Hailwood is a bit confused, having driven both his cars throughout the practices and ending up with identical times in them, even though the new one was supposed to be better. What he found is that the old car is easier to drive at his fastest time of 1'28"1, though the reason escaped him. Scheckter is impressing and pleasing Ken Tyrrell, doing another good 1'27"2, and Depaillier is quite happy. While the tail-end of the grid has been sorted out, the problem was assisted by Amon withdrawing his car and Surtees withdrawing the entry for Mass. Amon’s team went off to do some more detail design work, and Surtees decided that he did not have enough spare parts to do a proper repair on his second car, and Mass was not exactly displeased for he was getting tired of his car collapsing in a heap under him. These two withdrawals let Edwards into the list with the second Lola, and Pescarolo with the third B.R.M., which he described uncompromisingly as a garbage car. All this left von Opel as the only really frustrated driver, though he was quite philosophical about it, admitting freely that he just was not fast enough. Just take four steps, with a bit of thrill, along the toboggan of Monte Carlo, and you immediately realize the superiority of the Ferrari. It's a visual judgment, which Niki Lauda's fabulous time solidifies in numbers. Where other cars bounce, break down, and almost seem to want to escape from the hands of those driving them, as happens at the turn that connects the stretch overlooking the sea with the straight to the finish line, Lauda's and Regazzoni's cars run securely and calmly. The accelerations are impressive, and the sound of the 12-cylinder engine is clear and full. For the first time in years, a car from Maranello comes to the Principality as the favorite. This had already happened in this Formula 1 World Championship, but it takes on a particular meaning in Monte Carlo, a circuit so dear to Italian fans and, at the same time, so hostile to the cars from Maranello, which haven't won there since 1955. It really means that the Ferraris are very competitive. It's not a miracle or the result of a magic wand, but the result of the work of a team that was tired of losing. Enzo Ferrari has imposed a clear will that his men, old and new, have responded to with enthusiasm and commitment.
The racing department has been reorganized, a constructive dialogue has opened up between technicians and drivers, the environment is now serene, and the relationships with tire specialists - now so important - have become closer and friendlier. All of this and the efforts of a winter made up of tests and courageous decisions are synthesized in that time that Lauda set flying through the streets of the Principality. Luca Montezemolo says:
"Grand Prix has become an industrial activity, an American-style business, and as such, it needs to be prepared. Teamwork is what matters most: each has its function, its area to operate in, preferably well. There must be a general organization that draws inspiration from a valid technical base. Nothing should be left to chance".
For example, in Monte Carlo, Ferrari brought three 312-B3 cars from 1974 (the code means a car with a 3-liter engine, 12-cylinder boxer engine, the third model in the series). The spare parts, assembled together, would allow the creation of two or three more cars. In the large truck driven by warehouseman-driver Pignatti, there are over four tons of material. And when the unexpected happened, that is, damage to the monocoque frame of Lauda's car following a collision with a guardrail, the factory was able, despite the holiday, to gather the men to prepare another frame - essentially a car without wheels, engine, and suspensions - and send it, with all the necessary customs documents, to the Principality in a few hours. It seems that Enzo Ferrari himself coordinated the operation. Lauda and Regazzoni have two separate teams of mechanics, one led by Ermanno Cuoghi and the other by Giulio Borsari, each with three specialists. There is the wizard of electrical parts, Tamonti, and there is a super-timer, Swiss Campiche, who handles Heuer's electronic equipment and is able to monitor the performance of eight to nine cars simultaneously. Technical responsibility lies with Giacomo Caliri, while Sante Ghedini serves as sports assistant. Mauro Forghieri is also present in Monte Carlo, who, along with Rocchi and Bussi, is one of the architects of the successful evolution of the 312-B3. Many people, but they are all indispensable for the work before, during, and after this or any other Grand Prix, just like the approximately 15.000 pieces that make up a 312-B3. Remaining the best in Formula 1 means - for a team - working hard every day. And, in this light, one can understand how wise Ferrari's decision was not to participate in the World Sports Car Championship. Mauro Forghieri explains:
"The Ferrari perhaps has its greatest strength in having achieved an excellent compromise between the engine and road-holding. The car is consistently good on every circuit. Here, the 12-cylinder engine has torque characteristics that allow the drivers to have a cleaner and more effective driving experience. We prepared with two or three training sessions of three or four days each on the Ferrari Fiorano track. We simulated conditions of use for the 312-B 3 similar to those of Monte Carlo, recreating the harbor chicane and other curves. The information obtained was incorporated into the tuning of the cars for Lauda and Regazzoni".
"In these official tests, Niki and Clay only had to make some adjustments to the work already done".
And it's Lauda himself who, with obvious sincerity, summarizes Ferrari's great comeback.
"This morning, I received the reserve car: it performed well, even better than the one I damaged yesterday. I would never have believed such organization was possible".
On Sunday, May 26, 1974, there is a short session of practice which is untimed, for doing final adjustments, and during this the engine in Depaillier’s Tyrrell went off song and would not pull over 8.000 RPM, so it is promptly whipped out and a new one installed. As the cars left the paddock to drive round to the pits Reutemann’s Brabham is having some issues with the gears, the clutch withdrawal race having seized, so while everyone else went off to sit in the sun and watch the off-duty film stars, off-duty drivers, and on-duty Royalty parade around the pits and starting area, the Brabham mechanics split the transmission from the engine and fitted a new mechanism, joining the social scene in the pits in plenty of time. Ferrari have their new spare car, 012, under a sheet, as did the Tyrrell team with 006/2, both cars being race-prepared in case of emergency. Both Lotus drivers are in last year’s cars, Peterson in 72/R8 and Ickx in 72/R5, the latter once more taking part in a race after having been pensioned-off for Chapman’s own personal museum. The Belgian driver is using the special fast-torque-curve engine, deciding it put less strain on the transmission even if it was no faster. Fittipaldi’s McLaren is in long wheelbase form, with the top rear radius arms anchored on the cylinder heads, this geometry giving anti squat when accelerating, thus keeping the nose level, whereas Hulme have his car set up with the radius rods anchored on the mono coque, as originally designed, he's not minding the back sinking and nose rising when accelerating; his car is also using the long wheelbase spacer between the engine and gearbox. Hailwood is using the older of his two cars, with a medium-length wheelbase, and the Yardley management are smiling contentedly at seeing their car ahead of the two Texaco-Marlboro ones on the grid. A-for-effort certainly goes to Jarier, who had his Shadow on the third row of the grid, and also to Brambilla who is up amongst some quite well-known names. After Prince Rainieri and his Princess had opened the circuit officially and the coursecars had circulated, the racers goes off on a warm-up lap. While they're out it is interesting to reflect that as long ago as 1936 Prince Rainieri had been involved in the racing at Monaco, for in that year the voiturette race, the equivalent of the Formula Three race today, is for the Prince Rainieri Cup.
Thanks to his enthusiasm for racing in his Principality the Grand Prix takes place every year, and he and Princess Grace always watch from the Royal Box, unfortunately not the best place for seeing the action, and they always present the cup to the winner. All the twenty-five contestants have returned from their warm-up lap and they're lined up on the dummy-grid, all that is except Depaillier who shot into the pits with petrol pouring from his fuel-injection metering-unit. There is no time for repairs and poor Depaillier is bundled into the spare car, that had not been used throughout practice, and while it is warmed up he's wheeled to the back of the grid, the start being delayed just long enough for him to join in. It's a bitter blow for the little Frenchman and the Tyrrell team, for the two Tyrrell drivers were all set for a good race from their positions of fourth and fifth fastest times. It is Regazzoni who led up the hill from the start, with Lauda, Jarier, Peterson and Reutemann in hot pursuit. As the mid-field runners raced up the hill Hulme somehow got himself out of the crocodile and nobody seemed disposed to let him back in again, with the result that his McLaren tangled wheels with the B.R.M. of Beltoise. The McLaren is left stuffed into the guard-rail while Beltoise carried on with his right rear suspension broken. This coming together cause a chain-reaction among those following with Brambilla running the nose of his March under the back of Merzario’s car, which rammed Redman’s Shadow and punted into Pace’s Surtees. Schenken managed to stop in time to avoid all this and is promptly rammed by Schuppan in the Ensign, while Ickx knocked his front fins awry as he skated through the traffic. When the dust settled Hulme’s McLaren looks unmovable on the left of the road, and the cars of Pace, Merzario and Redman are dragged through a gap in the barriers. Schenken went as far as the sea-front before he realised he was losing oil from a broken cooler, and Behoise and Brambilla dragged themselves back to the pits to retire. while Schinsean also got back and after having the nose patched up he rejoined the race. Out in front, in the important part of the race, Regazzoni and Lauda are leading Jarier and Peterson, with Reutemann, Scheckter, Hunt and Hailwood following; then there is a long gap in which the crashers should have been, before Fittipaldi arrived, leading the remains of the field, the Brazilian is not at his best due to fighting off attacks of flu.
The multiple crash has not affected the race itself, for those that are out to win they're well out in front and can look forward to a good race with less traffic about. Although it is a Ferrari 1-2, it is the wrong way round, for Lauda that now, on lap three, have Peterson fight up his exhaust pipes, the Swede having nipped by Jarier. These four are pulling away from the rest, and Jarier’s brio is appreciated by everyone, while a little way back Hailwood pass Hunt and set about catching Scheckter. While the leading four are establishing the pace drivers are coming back from the first lap crash, Merzario, Redman, Hulme and Pace getting rounds of applause from the crowd. As the leaders finished the sixth lap Peterson clipped a barrier with a rear wheel, as he head's into the final hairpin, and promptly spun. Jarier, Scheckter and Hailwood are passing by while the Lotus is going backwards. Just as Peterson was sorting himself out Reutemann arrived and ran over the front of the Lotus, breaking the rear suspension of his Brabham. The Lotus withstood the shock and Peterson charged off in sixth place, leaving a very disgruntled Reutemann to retire. It is quite clear that Regazzoni is holding up Lauda, and in consequence allowing Jarier to keep up with them, while a little way back Peterson is pressing hard on HaiIwood and Scheckter, trying to regain his place up with the leaders. Schuppan lost control a the Ensign on the cement dust that had been spread over the oil dropped by Schenken, and he spun into the guardrail at the corner leading into the Casino Square with his being removed in the blink of an eye. Just a few seconds and Hailwood arrives and do the same thing and his bent McLaren is pushed down the slot with the Ensign. Crashes are still the order of the day among the lesser lights, and Stuck and Hunt collide. The Hesketh suffered a damaged right rear wheel rim, while the March launched into the air to come crashing down on the pavement and skate helplessly down the footpath towards the Mirabeau hairpin and crash into the guardrail, while Hunt continued on his way. Migault is entering into the Saint Devote corner with his right front brake locked on solid, and on that same lap he went straight on at the chicane smashing the front of the B.R.M.
With the race barely under way there are only thirteen cars left running, but the leading group is still racing hard and untroubled by slower cars. At nineteen laps Peterson pass Scheckter, just as the leading trio is lapping Pescarolo. The two Ferraris nipped by with no trouble, but Jarier got baulked going into Saint Devote and lost a lot of ground, shaking his fist at Pescarolo as he passed him up the hill to the Casino. Peterson went through the corner on full noise, and gained a lot of ground on the Shadow as he went up the hill. As Regazzoni is finishing his twenty-first lap in the lead he goofed at the final hairpin and spun, letting Lauda, Jarier, Peterson and Scheckter go by, joining in again behind them in fifth place. Lauda now have a clear run and quickly pulled away from Jarier, who have Peterson’s Lotus right under the tail of his Shadow, but not for long, for on lap twenty-five the Swede pss him by and will try to catch Lauda. After twentyeight laps there are just three seconds between the Ferrari and the Lotus, and Lauda is looking anything but confident, while Peterson looks in terrific form and his sheer determination could be heard coming out of the exhaust pipes of his Cosworth engine. Almost unnoticed Hunt retired with a broken drive-shaft on the left side of his Hesketh, and Icks is called into his pit as a piece of a rear wheel rim was found in the road, While the wheel is changed, a new nose is also fitted, to replace the tattered looking one that was falling apart, and he rejoined the race at the back. of the depleted field. As we entered lap thirty Peterson have the Ferrari well in view, and although he's driving hard, he's gaining too rapidly for the well-being of the Ferrari.In fact, on n lap thirty-one, the crispness was gone from the Ferrari exhaust note, and on the next lap the Lotus is right alongside as the Ferrari engine began to die with ignition trouble. While Peterson swept on into a commanding lead poor Lauda came to rest on the section of the circuit, the ignition system failing completely. While this had been happening Jarier was having problems, inadvertently switching off the ignition as he twirled the steering wheel, so that Scheckter caught and passed him. The South African was driving a good steady and hard race, so once by the Shadow there was no hope of Jailer regaining his position. A rather deflated Regazzoni is dropping hack, but safely in fourth place, while a long way back the ill-at-case Fittipaldi is embarrassed by John Watson in the Hexagon Brabham BT42, the Irishman is really enjoying himself and trying on all sides to pass the works McLaren.
By half-distance, which is 39 laps, there are only ten cars left running. Also Ickx quietly disappeare when his special Cosworth engine destroyed itself, and at the back of the field the two additions to the grid, Edwards and Pescarolo are having a merry little race. Graham Hill is not lapped yet, is in seventh place, and Depaillier is earning himself a medal for trying, holding eighth place in the unpractised Tyrrell 006/2. It is now all over as far as excitement has concerned, Peterson driving smoothly and regularly, reeling off the laps completely unchallenged. Scheckter continuing in a firm second place, followed by Jarier and Regazzoni, while Watson is still trying to get by Fittipaldi, the rather unwell Brazilian wishing the troublesome Irishman may go away. To add to the ex-World Champion’s troubles Peterson lapped him on lap 59. That gived the brazilian a thrill. Seems like he wake up and he's now driving harder, keeping up with his old teammate. It is all rather pointless, but no doubt boosted up his ego. Depaillier feels his Tyrrell beginning to handle in a peculiar manner and stopping at the pits it was discovered that a wheel nut was coming loose. After having it tightened he rejoined the race, but he's now completely last, a position that he really did not deserve. Peterson finishes his seventy-eighth lap and received the chequered flag and he's overjoyed, as well as Team Lotus, who were beginning to wonder what had happened to their habit of winning races. Scheckter gives the Tyrrell team a most worthy second place, well run and sound, though not a fighting second, and Jarier is the blue-eyed new-boy for his courageous battle in the opening stages, and a good third place. Regazzoni is a dissatisfied fourth, conscious of having thrown the race away by spinning, Fittipaldi finished uninspiring fifth and John Watson a deserved sixth, while the Lola team happy to have both their cars finish in good order, though Edwards had a deflating rear tyre towards the end. We may have to wait another year to see Ferrari victorious in Monte Carlo. This time, the red did not appear on the Casino's roulette. The chosen color gave the British brand its first success of the season, while Lauda had to surrender due to a mysterious problem with the electrical system, and Regazzoni settled for fourth place ahead of Fittipaldi. Peterson had an exceptional race. Ronnie is a monster of combativeness, a driver who never gives up and possesses enviable natural talent.
He used the Lotus model 72, a car that, with some modifications, dates back four years. The Swede was able to drive it admirably, recalling the fantastic race he had in 1970 with a similar car by Rindt at Monte Carlo. However, it is not Peterson and Lotus that won this battle, but Ferrari that lost it. And the Maranello team was defeated in a way that leaves some regret. After the tests, the team felt close to success because the Lauda and Regazzoni cars were the strongest and had demonstrated it extensively. They remained at the top of Formula 1 even in the race, but two simple yet decisive events caused their defeat when it seemed no longer possible. The start of Lauda and Regazzoni, side by side in the front row, was beautiful. The Swiss took off first, and the teammate intelligently followed suit. The two Ferrari drivers survived the moment of confusion caused by a frightening pile-up of eight cars on the first lap and ran lap after lap with quiet confidence. And here are the two simple yet decisive events. Regazzoni spun at the Rascasse corner and dropped to fifth place. Unfortunately, a mistake, and in Monte Carlo, mistakes are costly. Regazzoni, in the end, was lucky not to have touched the guardrails and to have been able to continue the race. Regazzoni talks about locked brakes and wheels, dirty tires. Maybe, in any case, it's not fair to make a judgment. These are episodes that happen when you are behind the wheel with 490 HP pushing in your back. Lauda had a similar problem to what had already stopped him in South Africa. The sound of the 12-cylinder engine cracked and then went silent. Not the engine, which was doing its job, but the ignition system. There is something in the device that occasionally doesn't work, and Maranello technicians can't figure out the reason. They thought they had solved the problem after the Kyalami race, and instead, it reappeared in Monte Carlo. It took five minutes, perhaps the time for the terrible box to cool down, for the device to start working again. And hearing the powerful roar again had a taste of mockery. Unfortunately, in a 312-B3, there are about 15.000 pieces. Trouble if only one doesn't behave well. In this case, it's a reliability issue, but it's related to a easily replaceable component. It is likely, while waiting for a new investigation into the mysteries of this hateful box, that Ferrari will adopt a type of equipment used previously but discarded because it weighs a few kilos too much. Fortunately, in this unfortunate misstep, there is at least the consolation that the reflections on the Formula 1 World Championship were relative. Fittipaldi, Regazzoni, and Lauda are still together, and in fact, the Swiss gained a point on the Brazilian.
Certainly, compared to the possibility of having the two Ferrari drivers at the top of the World Championship tonight, it's a somewhat bitter consolation. The fact remains that Ferrari and its team remain in a position of preeminence. Lauda and Regazzoni commanded the Monaco Grand Prix ahead of Lotus, Tyrrell, Shadow, McLaren. Ronnie Peterson, a 30-year-old Swede, has won his fifth Grand Prix in his career and says:
"Many years ago, I won the Formula 3 race in Monte Carlo. Since then, I have always dreamed of repeating it in Formula 1. I didn't think I could do it today. We completed the setup of the Lotus only this morning, in the half-hour of free practice. In the race, the Ferraris of Lauda and Regazzoni seemed superior to me. I even spun because someone gave me a hit from behind, I don't know who. At that point, really, I wouldn't have bet even a token on myself. The situation changed quickly, and halfway through, I understood that I could also alternate. It was a great moment. I had a lot of difficulty passing Jarier, while I easily passed Scheckter. Jody made a mistake in a corner, and I took advantage of it".
On the collision with Reutemann's Brabham, Peterson specifies polemically:
"I hit a guardrail and immediately engaged reverse. While I was moving, Carlos crashed into me, giving me a big blow".
In these cases, it is obvious that each driver presents the version that suits him best. Niki Lauda recounts:
"I felt the engine gradually drop, lose beats, then it went out. What anger. I tried to get to the box, but I couldn't pass the climb at the Rascasse corner. I'm sure I would have won. I had no problems, I was driving smoothly, trying to save the car. No, Ronnie wouldn't have caught me. Anyway, I'm glad he won: the championship remains open, while a victory by Fittipaldi would have been really negative for Ferrari".
And Clay Regazzoni adds:
"Perhaps that incident on the first lap determined the result. There was a lot of oil on the track, it felt like driving on ice. My tires must have picked up some dirt; in any case, they were locking up under braking. For this reason, I spun at the Rascasse. The car was very oversteering".
For his part, Mauro Forghieri says:
"We have done a thousand tests on the ignition system, and we thought we had solved the problem. We will start over. Clay? He made a mistake and paid for it".
The red truck of Ferrari is on its way to Dijon. Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni will test on Tuesday, May 28, 1974, on the track that will host the French Grand Prix on Sunday, July 7, 1974. The preparation work of the Maranello team continues unabated. It is this organizational approach that has allowed the Maranello team to return to the role of protagonist in the Formula 1 World Championship.