#307 1978 British Grand Prix

2022-08-05 01:00

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#1978, Fulvio Conti,

#307 1978 British Grand Prix

Riccardo Patrese will be the first driver to have a microprocessor on board a Formula 1 car. The new device, developed by Arrows in collaboration with


Riccardo Patrese will be the first driver to have a microprocessor on board a Formula 1 car. The new device, developed by Arrows in collaboration with Scicon, a leader in the field of micro-electronic systems, will be initially used in the trials for the Italian Grand Prix. As known, Formula 1 teams have so far relied on the subjective experience of the driver to understand the behavior of their cars on a specific circuit. With the microprocessor installed on one of the side panels, it will be possible to scientifically monitor the functioning of the car in every vital aspect. The device will be particularly valuable during trials as it will allow for quick adjustments to the single-seater to achieve the best performance. Weighing about six kilograms, the microprocessor can be removed in a few seconds during the pit stop and connected to a printer. This immediately provides a comprehensive graphical diagnosis of the car's performance at any point on the circuit. Many challenges had to be overcome to ensure the operation of a computer on board a racing car. The extremely strong accelerations, continuous vibrations, high temperatures, electrical interferences, and strict space and weight limitations created multiple difficulties. In presenting Arrows with the on-board microprocessor, the sports director, Jackie Oliver, states:


"I am convinced that the use of this new electronic device will have a significant impact on Formula 1 races. I think I can gain at least a tenth of a second per lap and improve the car's handling".


The new microprocessor, costing about £30.000, is exclusively provided to Arrows for three years. The English team also confirms that Riccardo Patrese will remain its driver in the upcoming season. Speaking of drivers, some newspapers claim that Jody Scheckter has already signed a contract with Ferrari for the next season. Some even suggest that the Wolf driver is ready to replace Carlos Reutemann before the end of the current World Championship. It is said that the secretive Scheckter has already been to Modena twice to finalize his move to the Maranello team. All rumors, but what is the truth? On Sunday, July 9, 1978, Enzo Ferrari, through his spokesperson, responds:


"I have already sent a telegram to the newspapers that have published the news. I have not seen the driver".


But the fact that I have not met Jody does not mean that I have not hired him. Certain things can be done over the phone, verbally, or through intermediaries. Dr. Mortara's reply is this:


"The Commendatore said what I reported, not a word more, and I cannot add anything".


So, a denial that - all in all - is not a denial. It is only known that Ferrari has not met Scheckter. Something that the driver himself had already stated.


"I have not been to Modena, and I do not speak with Italian journalists".


However, it cannot be believed that this reticence, on both sides, is not suspicious. What is certain, on the other hand, is that Niki Lauda will stay with Brabham next year, confident that success will come. The Austrian driver declares this to Kurler, one of the most widespread Austrian newspapers, saying:


"In 1979, I will stay with Brabham, Parmalat, and Alfa. Last year, I made the big leap from Ferrari to Brabham, and I knew I wouldn't be able to beat them all from the first year. Parmalat has invested a lot of money in me, and it would be unkind to leave them in the second year when success should come".


When the Kurier editor asks if it's true that he wants to leave Brabham because the BT 46 turned out to be a failure, the Austrian driver replies:


"I wouldn't say that because from the beginning, the car was designed to race with the fan. I didn't know they would reject it".


Lauda also admits that he no longer has the chance to defend his World Champion title and beat the superiority of Team Lotus, acknowledging that Mario Andretti will take away the crown:


"He has the fastest car and can afford to push less, which in turn saves the car".


On Thursday, July 13, 1978, as the engines start warming up for the first qualifying session of the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, the media tries to gather the impressions of those who will be the protagonists of the race. Naturally, at Lotus, everyone is optimistic: their team has become the one to beat, with a car superior to others and two strong drivers, Andretti and Peterson. Now the car that sticks to the track thanks to the Venturi effect has become the focal point of attention. Some competitors are resigned to playing a waiting role, while others seem determined to counterattack, including Brabham-Alfa, which wants to make a good impression on its home circuit. It seems that Brabham has worked hard to try to achieve at least an acceptable grip in corners, although not equal to Lotus. Lauda and Watson hope that in the engine battle, Alfa Romeo's engines will be favored over Cosworth's. From this point of view, time could prove to be an important factor because the temperature is quite high and may increase further. Undoubtedly, Niki will give his all because on this circuit two years ago, the famous double start mistake happened, and his victory after Huht's disqualification, who hadn't completed the first lap. Needless to say at this point that Hunt also wants to get revenge on Lauda, proving to be the best. In Ferrari, the law of no comment prevails. We will see after the first trial. Meanwhile, there are rumors, such as that the right type of tire has finally been found to restore competitiveness to the Maranello cars. Shortly, there will be rough indications to understand what might happen on Sunday, naturally behind Lotus. However, someone who has seen the Wolf in training says it was very fast, faster than any other car that has unofficially run on this track so far. And coincidentally, the Wolf also has an aerodynamic solution that, if not the same, works similarly to Lotus. 


The answers come on Friday, July 14, 1978, with the first trials for the British Grand Prix, the tenth act of the Formula 1 World Championship. These confirm the predictions: the two Lotuses are the fastest, especially Ronnie Peterson, and then the Brabham-Alfa Romeos and the Wolf. Also good is the performance of Renault, whose driver, Jabouille, is sixth in this provisional timing ladder. Ferrari is in seventh place with Gilles Villeneuve and tenth with Carlos Reutemann. Engineer Dupasquier of Michelin says that tuning the tires is a long and difficult operation that will take more time. It is now clear that Ferrari, having lost the tire bet, is working for a good performance in 1979. The main events of the day are these. Firstly, Peterson's strong affirmation with the Lotus 79, which from the first laps, in the first practice session, shows to be the strongest. His new lap record (1’17”16) not only shatters the Grand Prix record from two years ago (which was 1’19"6) but also the one Peterson set a month earlier with the Lotus 78, which was 1'18"42. Therefore, if the tires and everything else are the same, there is a difference of 1.3s due to the new aerodynamics of the body. Lauda, in fact, between the first and second sessions, says that Lotus has a two-second advantage on this track, but then, with his usual determination, he manages to reduce this advantage to less than a second compared to Peterson and only 0.2s compared to Andretti. Will this be enough for the Austrian to fight against the Lotuses? Meanwhile, it seems that the English team has another ace up its sleeve: a third Lotus model 79 has been finished in great secrecy and has been fine-tuned on the Snetterton circuit. The reason for this secrecy is not known. It is only known that if it works, the car should be used in the last timed practice session, and Andretti could use it in the race. 


It should have some improvements over the already seen model and therefore be even faster. Moreover, this Lotus 79 has manual adjustment of the front anti-roll bar stiffness, in addition to the already common one for the rear bar, and allows very precise tuning (if needed). A small suspense for the breakage of the Brabham-Alfa frame of Lauda: it seems that a support of the front suspension gave way, and the car was taken quietly to the factory instead of being repaired on the spot. However, they say it is not a serious matter. The following day, Saturday, July 15, 1978, the die seems to be cast: Lotus once again dominates the second qualifying session of the British Grand Prix. Already in the morning non-timed practice sessions, typically done with full tanks and thus 150 kilograms more, Ronnie Peterson clocks in at 1'18"0 and Mario Andretti at 1'18"2, leading the Arrows of Patrese and the Ferrari of Reutemann. In the afternoon, when the times are crucial for determining the starting grid, a unleashed Peterson sets the new absolute record at Brands Hatch, lapping in 1'16"80, followed by Andretti, Scheckter, Lauda, Patrese, Jones, Laffite, and Reutemann. Gilles Villeneuve, despite two off-track excursions with various damages to the car, cannot improve on his Friday time. Almost all drivers have lowered their times, aided by good weather conditions and the fact that Goodyear has brought new tires. There are rumors in the paddock that there are also Goodyear radials (and Tambay, with the McLaren, would have tried them), but Goodyear manager Paul Lauritzen denies this hypothesis. 


Lauritzen states that the American company transformed its racing tires by modifying the compound, the structure, and even the baking molds. The result is a tire that allows Peterson to set the best time with the type of tire designed to last in the race and not with the special qualifying one. Andretti, however, like Lauda, Scheckter, and Patrese, had to use the very special tires that only last three laps, one for the warm-up, one for timing, and one for deceleration. Anyway, based on what can be seen in the qualifying, there shouldn't be big surprises in the race. Lotus appears unbeatable in terms of grip and speed. The Cosworth engine, often considered finished, is in excellent health: designer Keith Duckworth is present in the pits, observing with interest the Renault six-cylinder and the twelve-cylinder Alfa and Ferrari. Duckworth says that the mistakes from last year have been corrected, and now his engine delivers 480 HP, sometimes 490 HP, and is very reliable. Scheckter is 0.3s behind Andretti. His team owner, Mr. Wolf, confirms that next year he will stay in Formula 1 with his team, with or without Scheckter, whose transfer to Ferrari he wants to ignore for now. Speaking of the Maranello team, unfortunately, the news is the same: work is ongoing, but results are not visible. It's difficult to find the causes of the failure and the remedies: aerodynamics and tires are the elements of superiority for competitors, Ferrari has the engine on its side, but it's not enough. The human problem of drivers and technicians can be understood, but if the results continue to be scarce, it will be necessary to have the courage to start over.


"Excuse me, my foot slipped, I really didn't mean to. I promise I won't do it again".


With these words, accompanied by a smile that broke the icy gaze, Ronnie Peterson justifies himself to Colin Chapman for taking pole position from Mario Andretti. A result that at least partially rewards the Swede, who this season has been forced to humble himself for the sake of the team, in favor of his teammate. Andretti, despite feeling the blow, doesn't give it much weight.


"Of course, I would have preferred to get pole position, but the important thing is to be on the front row. My goal now is the world championship, so what matters to me is getting a useful result in the race".


Behind the two Lotus drivers, Jody Scheckter surprisingly slots in with the Wolf WR5, thanks to acrobatic driving.


"I worked a lot with the race in mind because I want to keep pace with Mario and Ronnie in the race. I know it will be difficult, but I want to try".


With few words, Niki Lauda comments on his fourth time:


"The chassis is not stable, doing better was practically impossible".


The Austrian's performance is highly appreciated by engineer Carlo Chiti:


"He defended himself very well despite the fact that the Brabham chassis is now outdated. After the decision of the CSI to ban the fans, endorsed disgracefully by the CSAI executives, the Brabham suffers aerodynamic disadvantages compared to modern chassis, like that of the Lotus".


Among the top contenders is also Riccardo Patrese, who on this demanding track skillfully exploits the qualities of his Arrows.


"The car is perfect, and with the tires they provided me with for a long time, it wasn't difficult to finish close to the front. The race will be tough, but I think I can join the fight for the top positions".


Despite everything, there is confidence in Ferrari as they look towards the race. Engineer Mauro Forghieri says:


"Michelin brought only one set of special, new-type tires, and these new tires gave us satisfactory results. Carlos used them for many laps, setting a long series of positive times".


Encouraged by the decent performance of his Ferrari, Carlos Reutemann declares:


"It seems that there is a glimmer of hope in this tire situation. Only the race will tell us if we are on the right track. I have only one fear, that when all the other competitors are on the track, my tires will pick up too many residues from the opponents' tires".


It's a positive day for Bruno Giacomelli, who finally, free to adjust the car to fit him, sets the sixteenth time.


"I'm starting to get into gear, and now that I've adjusted the car to my driving style, I can hope for an honest race".


Giacomelli's performance gains more value when considering that he did better in the standings than the other official McLaren driver, Frenchman Tambay. For Vittorio Brambilla, the trials of the British Grand Prix are another stage in this unfortunate season. His Surtees is one of the least competitive cars, and therefore, to qualify, the Italian driver is forced to risk beyond the limit.


"It's an unsustainable situation now because to get a time that allows me to start on the last row, I had to push beyond the limit, and so I went off the track, damaging the rear suspension. For the race, given the car I have, I have few hopes of doing well".


The crowds that pours into the Kentish stadium on Sunday, July 16, 1978, to supplement those already entrenched overnight, are of record proportions and the day is sunny and warm. All manner of side-shows and diversions are provided to keep the customers amused, from acrobatic displays, saloon car racing, Royal visitors, ex-racing drivers and Team Managers in a saloon car race, an enormous parade of Ford products covering their 75 years of history, food and drink in profusion and ice-cream and hamburgers. 


There is never a dull moment. During the morning the 26 contestants for the Grand Prix have a final test-session, during which John Watson tries the spare Brabham, BT46/5, and decides to race it in place of BT46/3 which he had been using in practice. Renault decides to use RS01/03 and this time does not lend the spare car to a film company. Fittipaldi is feeling very confident in his lightened (by some 20 kgs) original car F5A/1, Alan Jones is conscious that it is all down to hint after watching Frank Williams win the ex-drivers saloon car race and Hunt and Villeneuve are wondering what has gone wrong, to put them so far back on the grid. Peterson has chosen the left-hand side of the grid, to avoid the pitfall of the steep camber by the starting area and everything is shaping up to the 1978 British GP over 76 laps being a good race. At 2:40 p.m. the cars leave the pit lane and weal round the circuit to line up on the starting grid and everyone is present and correct, but the waiting until the 3:00 p.m. start seems interminable. Eventually the grid is cleared and Peterson leads the field away on their pace-lap with Andretti close by. Back on to the grid, everyone in line, engine revs rise and a fantastic roar of power fills the Brands Hatch valley when the starting signal comes on and the 26 can surge forward. Andretti has positioned his car up the camber, quite close to Petersons and at the two sleek black cars, devoid of any John Player cigarette advertising, goes into Paddock Bend it is #5 in the lead followed by #6. They lead the field on the opening lap, with Scheckter, Jones, Lauda, Patrese, Reutemann, Depailler, Watson, Hunt and the rest following. On the climbing left-hand bend out of the arena, entering the back part of the circuit, Brambilla looses control of his orange Surtees and slides all over the place without hitting anything, rejoining the scene after everyone has disappeared from sight. The two Lotus cars run nose-to-tail in beautiful formation looking absolutely terrific and within three laps has opened up a gap on Scheckter, Jones and the rest that is almost insolent. The more so as the cars from Norfolk look so smooth and stable, while the rest seems to be scrabbling and wallowing about almost uncontrollably in their efforts to keep up. It is not simply the aerodynamics of the Lotus 79 which makes it so superior, it is not as simple as that, but the combination of wheelbase, track, weight distribution, balance, suspension, springs, shock-absorbers and all the other parts of the equation that go to make up a Formula 1 car. 


All problems of Team order or control are solved by Andretti taking the lead on the first corner and one feels that all they have to do now is to cruise round for the rest of the 76 laps and if necessary, finish side-by-side in a dead-heat, without the drivers straining themselves or their cars. The whole scene being presented by Team Lotus is one of cool domination, without any strain. All this may seem boring and dull to those who are not Lotus fans, but to anyone who is on their side the scene is perfection. First and second from start, in team order, and pulling away from all their rivals without driving near the limit, and using identical Cosworth V8 engines to many of their rivals and reputedly less powerful than Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Matra or Renault. Six laps are reeled off and one is wondering what the rest are doing, when suddenly there is no Peterson in Andrettis wake. Lotus number 6 has come to a stop on its way down from Druids Hairpin. The other 24 competitors must have taken heart as they passes Peterson climbing out of 79/2; the engine-driven fuel pump has failed. Well out in front on his own Andretti looks secure and serene, but behind him, now fighting for second place there is a truly great motor race going on. Scheckter is really driving hard in the Wolf WR5, with Jones (Williams), Lauda (Brabham), Patrese (Arrows), Reutemann (Ferrari), Watson (Brabham) and Depailler (Tyrrell) hot on his heels. Then come Fittipaldi and Daly, both running very nicely and actually closing up on the crowd in front. Hunts McLaren has subsided onto the grass on the bottom straight two laps after Peterson comes to rest, the right front suspension and brake disc being broken and mangled. Villeneuve is getting nowhere and is down among the tailenders so he stops for a complete change of tyres and rejoins the race in last place but he doesnt run for long before a drive-shaft brakes. The Renault also stops for a change of Michelins, but Reutemann is looking all right in sixth place. On lap 19 Andretti has an enormous lead, but significantly it suddenly does not increase any more, and it looks as though he might be easing back, confident that no-one can catch him, but it isnt confidence at all for as he comes round Clearways to complete lap 23 he is seen to be heading for the pit road, with a deflated rear tyre! Scheckter lads the hard-driving motley lot across the line, to take over the lead of the race and their efforts are renewed for now first place is at stake, not second place, which puts a different complexion on things. 


The Lotus mechanics have a new wheel and tyre on the 79 in an unbelievably quick time and Andretti is back on the track in twelfth place, behind Pironis Tyrrell. Almost immediately he moves up to eleventh as Laffite takes the Ligier into the pits for a tyre change, and another lap suffices to pass Pironi and take tenth place. Alan Jones is really putting on the pressure now, with a chance of actually leading the British GP, and Frank Williamsteam would have got a great cheer for doing so, but it is not to be. After two or three stabs at getting by the Wolf, the Williams suddenly swoops about as it accelerates up the hill out of the arena. Jones stirs about on the gearlever as it feels as though it has jumped out of gear or broken the gearbox, but nothing happened and the white and green car comes to rest, out of the race with the righthand drive-shaft sheared as clean as a carrot inside the rubber gaiter over the inboard universal joint. Car #27 is out on lap 27: this gives Scheckter a slight respite, but he cannot relax for Lauda can now clearly see first place, which interests him a lot. Fittipaldi has caught up on to the tail end of this leading bunch and Daly is doing an impressive drive in the Ensign and keeping the yellow Brazilian car in sight, though he now has Andretti right behind him. Without any visible strain or excitement the black Lotus is pulling back the lost time with impressive regularity and speed, and with only 28 laps run there looks to be ample time for Andretti to get back into the lead, barring accidents. Just as Petersons Lotus 79 has disappeared without any warning so does Andrettis. The Cosworth engine breaks and that is that. Grim-faced, Team Lotus can only pack their tools and equipment and look forward to the next race; it is all over for them on their home-ground, after starting off so well, and the race isnt half-way through. It is now pretty obvious that any one of the motley lot at the head of the field can now end up the winner, but there is no guarantee who it will be, for Scheckter, Lauda, Patrese, Reutemann, Watson, Depailler and Fittipaldi are all running nose-to-tail and seem pretty equal. Dalys good debut in the Ensign ends when a wheel breaks off, and Fittipaldis hopes are dashed when his Cosworth engine blows up. On lap 34 Lauda takes the lead from Scheckter so easily that the Wolf just had to be in trouble, and two laps later the South African is heading for the pits; the Hewland gearbox has broken. A lap more and Depailler is in the pits with a flat left rear tyre and the whole race is really open with half-distance just coming up. 


At the halfway mark, which is lap 38, Lauda leads from Patrese, Reutemann and Watson and providing the Alfa Romeo engine keeps going it looks as though he must win. Behind these four there is a long gap to what is normally the tail end of the field, but which now holds fifth, sixth and seventh places, down to twelfth and this lot are in the order Pironi, Rosberg, Depailler (making up time after his pit-stop), Mass, Tambay, Giacomelli, Lunger and Stuck. Already a lap behind is Brambilla, though he is still having a trouble free run, and well back due to pit stops are Laffite, Jabouille and Regazzoni, the Ligier with deflated tyres, the Renault for changing tyres and the Shadow for tyres and exhaust pipe troubles. As the four cars that are in a position to win left Clearways for the run along the top straight to complete lap 39, the gold painted Arrows is slowing as the left-rear tyre deflates, and Reutemanns Ferrari is by into second place. It is too late for Patrese to get into the pit lane and he has to go on with the tyre down on the rim. He completes the whole lap, but going much too fast, and by the time he gets to the pits the tyre is in shreds and the flailing rubber has wrecked the left rear corner of the car and the lower members has graunched along the ground, so it is all over for the young Italian. As he limps into the pits Pironis Tyrrell is just ahead of him, also in trouble, for the top bolts holding the engine and gearbox together has broken and the car is trying to break in half. Here we are on lap 41 with the scene looking completely unreal relative to practice and the way the race has started. Lauda is firmly in the lead, followed by Reutemann and Watson, all with Italian 12-cylinder engines, the Michelin-shod car sandwiched between the two Goodyear runners. Almost unbelievably in fourth place is Rosberg with the yellow ATS, having out-driven all the other tail-enders, though amongst them Depailler is making up ground. With the smell of first place in his nostrils, and Lauda and a Brabham ahead Reutemann begins to press hard, and slowly but surely he pulls up on the Brabham-Alfa. Meanwhile Depailler gets into fourth place, but even so Rosberg is holding a creditable fifth. Stuck is sixth, which is a fine effort after spinning on the opening lap and dropping to last place, until Brambilla spins further round that fateful lap. The lanky German has worked his way in amongst the Lungers and Giacomellis at the back of the race, and then works on past them, and now, because of the unreal nature of retirements and troubles, he is up in sixth position, showing that it pays to keep trying. 


For ten laps the Ferrari closes on the Brabham-Alfa and it then seems that stalemate has set in. Lauda is not going to give in or relax, and he certainly is not going to be pressured into making mistakes, of that you could be certain. During this time the Renault retires in a spectacular cloud of smoke as oil pours into the exhaust-turbo through a broken seal. The outcome seems to be settled and for another ten laps the two Italian 12-cylinders power round a small distance apart, with Reutemann wondering what he can do about the ice-cool, automaton in front of him. By this time Watson has fallen back and is no threat to the Ferrari, not that he ever has been. Lauda is coming up to lap the Rosberg, Stuck, Tambay, Giacomelli group when the ATS expires out on the circuit with a broken drive-shaft on lap 59. As Lauda enters Clearways at the end of lap 60 he is shaping-up to lap Giacomelli, and Reutemann is right behind the Brabham. Lauda completely misjudges what Giacomelli intends to do and goes to pass on the right just as the McLaren driver moved that way, expecting the World Champion to overtake on the left. Lauda lifts off to dodge to the other side but as he does Reutemann shoots past both of them in a brilliant instant-decision manoeuvre and is gone away into the lead. Many drivers would have missed the opportunity it was so brief and sudden, but undoubtedly Reutemann was on 100% concentration, anticipation, and action. After so many changes of fortune it now looks as though the race is settled for a rather rattled Lauda takes an awful long time to get past Stuck even though Reutemann has managed it in two laps. There are only four cars on the same lap driven by Reutemann, Lauda, Watson and Depailler. A lap behind are Stuck, Tambay, Giacomelli, Lunger and Brambilla, while Laffite is three laps down due to tyre trouble, but nonetheless lapping as quick as Watson, actually sitting just behind him on the road. The three 12-cylindered cars end in a triumphal song, the Alfa Romeo having the Ferrari in sight but not close enough to cause worry, and Reutemann receives an enormous cheer and applause for his victory, especially from the thousands of spectators in the Clearways area who have witnessed his brilliant demonstration of opportunism. Carlos Reutemann wins the British Grand Prix. This is a result no one would have bet on before the start, and it serves to boost the morale of the entire team. In second and third places are the Brabham drivers, Lauda and Watson. 


The race started as predicted, with two Lotuses, Andretti in the lead, pulling away from everyone else at a pace of over a second per lap; behind them, Scheckter's Wolf, and a car that had already stood out, the Williams of Jones. Lauda was in a waiting position, followed by the increasingly strong Patrese, and finally, the Ferrari of Reutemann. The comment, in this case, is quite obvious: once the Lotuses with their aerodynamic advantage are out of the way, balance is restored among the other cars, and, above all, the actual value of the relationship between tires, engines, chassis, and drivers can be measured. Both Goodyear and Michelin had problems during the race, as even Villeneuve had to change his front tires. However, the Michelin on the Ferrari had a little extra that was enough for Reutemann. Is the World Championship title back in discussion? It's hard to say because the Lotus failures were quite abnormal, and it doesn't seem like Ferrari or Brabham can recover much in other races like this one. It is essential to note, however, that for the first time in many years, the top three finishers have twelve-cylinder engines. Two years ago, Lauda came second and then won later; this time, the second place is final. Goodyear was defeated by Michelin, but the American company still achieved a positive result in the British Grand Prix. It introduced its new radial tires, which had been talked about for a long time, entrusting them to the Frenchman Patrick Tambay with McLaren. With these new tires, Tambay managed to finish sixth, adding a point to his Championship standings. What matters more is that the radial tires produced by Goodyear showed positive results, and it's not difficult to predict that they could soon be used, if necessary, to counter Michelin by title-contending drivers like Andretti and Peterson. With a new weapon at their disposal, Lotus could have even greater gaps from their rivals. The race experiment went almost unnoticed, just as an incredible trick played by Jochen Mass with ATS went unnoticed (especially by race officials). The German, forced to return to the pits due to a breakdown, did nothing but change cars and switch to the spare, with which he continued the race, also standing out and obstructing the leading drivers, forcing them into difficult overtakes. Mass thus broke very strict regulations, and it's not excluded that he might face a severe disqualification or at least a hefty fine from the CSI. 


Returning to the main topic, four miraculous tires gave wings to Reutemann and his Ferrari, which unexpectedly, but deservedly, returned to victory. The qualifying sessions had already shown the first signs of a recovery, but no one believed they could win. When the checkered flag fell in front of the Argentine's 312-T3, the mechanics expressed their happiness. Kisses, hugs, and mutual congratulations, while hardly anyone holds back tears. Mauro Forghieri comments with a moved voice:


"It's a victory for two teams, Ferrari and Michelin, which have worked at a frenetic pace in recent times to overcome a difficult moment. It's a success that rewards technicians, mechanics, but above all Reutemann, who in recent months had to swallow bitter pills. Carlos was superb; he had one of the best races of his career. Criticisms had been directed at him from various quarters, saying he was a driver born to finish second. Today he beat Lauda, who is a top driver, proving to be a gentleman driver. Carlos is a Latin driver who feels the criticisms a lot, and therefore, this victory will serve to erase the ugly moments of this season and look with more confidence to the upcoming races".


If the Lotuses had stayed in the race, do you think you could still have won?


"It's hard to say. Races are made with overtakes but also with retirements. Our tires performed well, and this gives us hope for the future. From the beginning of the year until now, with Michelin, we have tested 104 tire combinations, tremendous work. In the upcoming events, we could achieve more successes or spectacular defeats because, let's not forget, we still need to experiment to counter Goodyear, which has been on the scene for many, many years".


Tired but happy, as it hadn't happened since the Brazilian Grand Prix, Reutemann talks about his victory:


"I dedicate this success to my wife and two daughters. It was a difficult race, tight from start to finish. I always tried to pass Lauda, but overtaking wasn't the easiest because our cars were different, one attached to the other, and a wrong move could have meant dropping a few positions because someone could have taken advantage. The car responded wonderfully, and finally, the tires proved to be efficient. I don't think about the championship anymore; I'm out of the fight now. It's a matter that doesn't concern me, especially because Lotus' dominance continues, and if they hadn't retired, I would have hardly won".


He adds, smiling, Blanchet, one of the Michelin executives:


"We did it nicely. Of course, we didn't expect to win. It's a reward for everyone's work and a spur to continue with confidence".


In the success, until a few laps from the end, Lauda also hoped, but in the final moments, he had to relinquish the lead to his former teammate.


"Giacomelli obstructed me; otherwise, he wouldn't have passed me. My tires were at the end, so much that I almost wanted to stop to change them".


Giacomelli's version of the disputed overtake is different:


"It's not true that I hindered him because when he got into my slipstream, I moved to the inside of the curve and signaled with my left arm where he should pass. It's possible that he didn't see my gesture; however, he hesitated for a moment, and Reutemann was ready to take advantage".


A black day, it's really the case to say, for the Lotus drivers, who, after the superiority shown in qualifying and with an excellent start, had created the conditions for another triumphant march. Mario Andretti admits:


"It went wrong, first because I punctured the left rear tire, and then, when I was coming back, the engine gave up. Too bad because by now I was firmly in the lead, and they would hardly have caught me".


Also, extremely unlucky was Riccardo Patrese, who, after a good start, was within the leading group, waiting to launch the attack.


"I had a perfect car, and I had no trouble keeping up with the others. In fact, when Lauda detached, in a few laps, I got back into his slipstream, stretching out Reutemann. Then, when it was the right time to push hard, I punctured a tire right in front of the box, so I had to complete a whole lap trying to get back to replace it. Unfortunately, after a few hundred meters, the tire delaminated, and the vibrations ruined the suspension. I missed a great opportunity to certainly get on the podium".


A not very positive day also for the other Italians in the race. Vittorio Brambilla, starting from the last row, was hit by another competitor in the first lap and spun. Brambilla, driving a car with rather precarious handling, did miracles to finish the race.


"It felt like I was on a boat because at every turn, my car swayed from side to side as if it were pushed by the waves. The only positive thing is that I managed to finish the race".


Arturo Merzario, until he had mechanical problems, fought with determination; then, he had to return to the pits due to a clutch failure and had to stop permanently due to a broken fuel pump. After the end of the British Grand Prix, the media spoke with the technicians, especially the Italians, who were the protagonists of the race. Eng. Carlo Chiti, head of Autodelta, says:


"It's a result achieved entirely with the engine because the chassis without the fan does very little. The engines, as you saw, performed magnificently. Lauda could have pushed much more if he hadn't had the problem of tires now reduced to almost nothing. Even Goodyear had its problems in this race".


Within the Ferrari box, satisfaction and caution are expressed together because it is known that this victory is due more to the reliability than the speed of the car, in addition to Reutemann's skill, of course. Piero Lardi states:


"We shouldn't get carried away. We won because the car is reliable, and this recognized virtue of Ferrari has proved essential".


Engineer Mauro Forghieri is asked if the device applied to the suspensions was decisive.


"It's an anti-pitching system that connects each front wheel to the rear wheel on the same side through levers and cables. We don't yet know all the secondary effects, but the car behaves better".


As for the tires, it's clear that Ferrari is still paying the price for Michelin's relative youth in this area. In Britain, the three Michelin-shod single-seaters used three different types of tires. Gilles Villeneuve's tires didn't hold up. Reutemann, on the other hand, had the right ones. Before the race, it was noted that Reutemann insisted on using that type, which turned out to be excellent in terms of durability and grip. 


Also delighted is the Marelli technician, the famous Tramonti, known as Scintilla, who argues that only with their ignition systems could three cars be at the top three positions, and indeed, the problems posed by the ignition of a twelve-cylinder are such that only a highly sophisticated system can solve them. The Englishman Keith Duckworth, the builder of the Cosworth engine, is instead less cheerful, although, in fact, only one engine failed in the race among those of the first choice. Unfortunately, that eight-cylinder was Andretti's. Duckworth says:


"Our engines are safe up to 10.800 RPM, but at 11.000 RPM, they feel the strain, so the driver must be careful. Andretti was making up for lost time due to the tire change in the box, so he might have been pushing too hard. I don't know anything specific yet".


In practice, apart from the Lotuses that stand out, both when they win and when they break, as in this case, the protagonists of the British Grand Prix were the tires (as usual) and the transmissions. Three very combative drivers like Jody Scheckter, Alan Jones, and Didier Pironi had to retire due to the failure of this essential component. Already in Monte Carlo, there had been a defective series of Hewland gearbox gears. The same may have happened at Brands Hatch. The fundamental problem remains that of cornering grip because much of every performance improvement depends on it. Even tires, of any type they are, work better if there is more grip since sliding causes them to wear out more. New construction trends will depend on the agreement on aerodynamic devices: yes to skirts or no, as for fans? If the current situation persists, new cars will be needed, as Renault is already doing; in one of the upcoming races, a car with a turbo engine and a new body will be put on the track. Gerard Larrousse, the head of the French team, explains:


"We are solving our problems. We will have a new body, maybe at Zeltweg, certainly at Monza, then we will make a completely new car, taking advantage of the fact that our engine is a V like the Cosworth and shorter than that. 1979 will be the year we must achieve results, also for the direction of the company".


With those of Alfa Romeo, there is always Vittorio Brambilla, forced to mediocre performances by a Surtees now inexorably surpassed. Brambilla now thinks only of the Alfa-Alfa as a child thinks of a wonderful gift.


"That car works great as it is, without fans, without anything else".


It's clear that the Italian driver would like to bring it to debut. But who knows if the new head of Alfa, Massacesi, will give this gift to Brambilla?


©​ 2023 Osservatore Sportivo


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