#194 1970 Italian Grand Prix

2021-10-24 01:00

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#SecondPart, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Monica Bessi,

#194 1970 Italian Grand Prix

Despite the victory of Regazzoni in Monza, something could be heard in the confusion of the pits. Mauro Forghieri, Ferrari’s technical director, would


Despite the victory of Regazzoni in Monza, something could be heard in the confusion of the pits. Mauro Forghieri, Ferrari’s technical director, would whisper to Stewart:


"Don’t worry, Jackie, I’m working on your car and soon you’ll be able to try it".


It would be the (unwanted) confirmation of the rumours circulating for a long time in the environment of Formula 1. It is no secret that the Scotsman is disappointed with March-Ford, so much so that he convinced his patron Ken Tyrrell to build a new car; this too, however, risks remaining uncompetitive for a long time. The 312 B, however, seems to have aroused the admiration of Stewart, who a few years ago should have already moved to the Maranello team. It is likely, if the agreement is reached, that Ferrari will give one of its cars to Tyrrell, who will manage it independently (solution already proposed to Granatelli for Mario Andretti). It seems that Stewart will test the Italian car in the week after the Italian Grand Prix. The two Italian drivers involved in the Italian Grand Prix did not have much luck: Ignazio Giunti, in the Ferrari 312 B, was forced to retire while Andrea de Adamich, on the McLaren-Alfa Romeo, finished eighth after a race troubled by many pit stops. Ignazio Giunti, the Roman-Calabrian driver, debuted this year in Formula 1 like Regazzoni and, like him, he has always behaved well. Banal failures have compromised its momentum. A defect in the throttle in France, a flat tyre in Austria. In Monza, on a track he knows very well, Ignazio could have played a leading role. Instead, on lap 11, while in seventh position, in the leading group, he had to stop. Ignazio admits:


"The throttle pedal came back up slowly. I couldn’t dose the accelerator anymore, I had to brake early near the curves. Then, another problem happened. It is a shame. My race was too short".


Andrea de Adamich started quite well, keeping for a lap the position he had in the grid. However, the car did not perform as expected due to some problems at the fuel supply and soon ended up behind. In the ninth lap he had to stop in the pits for the dechappasse of the left front tyre and lost a lap. His pace was regular and he ran on a rhythm of 1'30"0 for about thirty laps then the engine suffered a drop in performance and the lapping accumulated. On lap 59, a new tyre-change pit stop. He finished in eighth place but seven laps behind.


"It wasn’t a good race, I know, but the car can’t deliver more for the moment. The important thing for me is to run anyway. The results will come when I will race in a competitive car, maybe this same one".


Perhaps no other sport like that of the steering wheel is able to offer, in a few hours, sad moments and minutes of crazy joy and excitement. Everything is fast in a world that calculates the hundredths of a second and where 300 km/h is basically a normal speed. Saturday a shock took over the circuit for the death of one of the idols, Jochen Rindt, Sunday a long scream of satisfaction greeted the triumph of Clay Regazzoni and Ferrari. It is a normal fact, we would say natural, like taking a look at a car accident and continuing indifferently on our way. The crowd has a short memory, those who disappear from the scene are erased: they remain only in the hearts of family and friends, but then there is no need to call themselves Rindt or Clark or McLaren or Courage. The crowd also has a cold heart; it tries to settle near the most dangerous points, those points where the carambola, the spin, the off-tracks can happen. Perhaps, too many people believe that they are watching a film with mannequins - and not men - at the wheel, or perhaps feel that, having paid, they have every right to watch the show, and if this is exciting, so much the better. Like it happens in a circus, with the acrobats flying without the net. On the other hand, it is unfair to say that the sport of the steering wheel is the most dangerous of all. Statistics have repeatedly shown that other sports have much more cruel records, such as mountaineering or American football. But there is no doubt that it is far more spectacular the flight of a crazy car, which brings on board a well-known name. 


It has always been so, and so it will remain as long as cars race on a track. Meanwhile, technicians and judges are trying to answer the disturbing questions posed by the tragic death of the Austrian driver Jochen Rindt during Saturday’s qualifying. As it was expected, controversies and heavy accusations immediately arose. The authentic sportsmen hope - more than having the always difficult certainty -, as responsibility for the loss of the strong Austrian driver, to obtain a general rethink on the technical regulations about the construction of racing cars, which today have reached excessively dangerous limits. The mourning of Monza has spread a veil of sadness on a day otherwise radiant. The causes of the impact are unknown. The most credited hypothesis concerns a problem with the braking system: the breakage of the support shaft of the inboard brake disc, which sheared due to a structural failure of the material, too stressed by the absence of the ailerons, that made the Lotus 72 very unstable. This technical choice was made to limit the difference in performance with the Ferraris on a circuit as fast as Monza. The sharp deceleration before the Parabolic led the car towards the guardrail. The impact angle was not the most dangerous, but the left tyre slipped under the rail, where probably fans had dug a hole to enter the circuit clandestinely, and caused a rapid rotation. The doctor who first intervened at the scene of the accident verified that, despite the obvious injuries to the chest and lower limbs, there was no blood flow, because a cardiac arrest occurred at the impact with the guardrail. The driver’s pupils are very dilated. Clinically Rindt is still alive, but after the first cardiac massage the pulse is very weak. The death is caused mainly by the steering column, which broke through the sternum of the Austrian driver: the seat belts were partially torn from the six anchor points to the frame and did not resist the deceleration of the impact, throwing the driver forward towards the steering wheel. The strong deceleration and the total loss of the front axle due to the impact, have led to serious injuries, although not fatal, to the lower limbs. The left foot, the most injured by the angle of impact, was found to be almost neatly separated from the ankle. 


To the rescuers who first arrived at the accident site a horrifying scene appeared: Rindt was found lying in the cockpit with his lower limbs completely exposed, and died a few minutes later in the ambulance that was carrying him to the Niguarda hospital in Milan. As a result, an investigation has been opened by the Italian judiciary, which has accused Lotus and Colin Chapman for the lack of solidity of their cars. Rindt could not stand the use of the full-face helmet, which in his opinion reduced the field of vision driving. The driver also suffered from car sickness. The enthusiasm of the crowd, perhaps more exactly the excitement of speed, confirmed in Monza the full success of the forty-first Italian Grand Prix. The tragic loss of Jochen Rindt on the eve of the race has not impressed anyone: the public taken in mass is cynical. The organisers counted on this defect to repeat this year the economic miracle that each edition brings with it. The official number of over 120.000 spectators is quite far from true and in terms of approximation it is good to approach the 200.000 units, and to this already huge collection must be added the turnover of restaurants, bars, dozens of stands and kiosks scattered everywhere and stormed to fight the torrid temperature of this exceptional September. Cynicism on the one hand and economic interests on the other. For Rindt, who died 24 hours after the day he was proclaimed World Champion, there is no time. An inquiry has been opened by the judiciary, but what could it discover? There was a mechanical defect, that is for sure, but you have to prove it and it is very difficult, almost impossible. Regulations and formulas must change and basically it is only the drivers who are pressing in this direction together with some of the most responsible teams, precisely Ferrari and B.R.M., against a strong coalition that blocks around the organisers of the races. In Monza the success of the public gave a fantastic frame to the triumph of Ferrari, but the excessive crowding threatened to overwhelm the formidable Regazzoni and the delicate cars at the end of the race; above all, it revealed how on certain occasions, with a limited police service and not too strong protection barriers, it takes a lot of luck to avoid a tragedy. After the race, the crowd invaded the track while Regazzoni made the lap of honour and all the others were still on track, racing or not. 


That same crowd at the beginning of the event had invaded the high speed curve (they let them do it at the 1000 Kilometres, why shouldn’t they try again?) ending up close to the guardrail of a parabolic, so when Brabham went straight out there was the icy breath of a tragedy. After all, already in the previous days there were complete families sitting on the protective barriers, the feet on the track, and the real miracle in the accident of poor Rindt lies in the fact that there was no one there where the crazy Lotus crashed. It takes discipline, imposed control if there is no self-control. There is the need of changes to this track that Regazzoni, the winner, defines as follows:


"It is a circuit that does not give any satisfaction to drivers, does not cause selection, does not require any particular skill".


With the variations to the track you can also study a more rational arrangement of the public, safer and even fairer, because ultimately who in Monza can see better is the one who got the ticket for free, not who paid for it. The criticism is not new, but it must be repeated in the vain hope that someone will not take it for granted. Meanwhile, the racetrack thinks about the next receipts. There are thousands of fans on Sunday, in Monza, while only a small group shows up in Milan to pay tribute to the missing champion. Jochen Rindt passed away on Saturday afternoon, but it already seems that an endless time has passed. Some controversy remains, as the accusations made by Louis Stanley, of the B.R.M., against the emergency services. These accusations are perhaps dictated by the emotion of the moment or by the desire to stand as a judge who has this singular character, a doctor who married the sister of Sir Owen, owner of the B.R.M. The detailed reply of the medical staff on duty at the Autodrome, contained in the long statement issued on Sunday, should close the subject. An important clarification on the circumstances of the death of Jochen Rindt is in fact proposed by Professor Leopoldo Basile, the expert in the field who performed the autopsy on the body of the unfortunate driver. Professor Basile said that the death of the Austrian driver was almost instantaneous.


"Rindt stopped living almost immediately after going off track with his Lotus. The driver died in a time that, after the accident, we can calculate from one to thirty seconds. His treatment was carried out according to the principle that supports all resuscitation doctors: never give up".


The Public Prosecutor’s Office has instructed the magistrate Gustavo Cioppa to examine the remains of Rindt’s Lotus, which are sealed in a box of the Monza circuit. Doctor Cioppa will decide after that whether to close or continue the investigation. Rindt’s body will be transported to Vienna tomorrow and will probably be carried from the Austrian capital to the driver’s hometown of Mainz. The Deputy Prosecutor of the Republic of Monza, Dr Cioppa, also grants permission for the transfer of the body. The magistrate wanted to make a quick investigation also at box #5 of the circuit where are currently the remains of the Lotus #22 driven by Rindt: Sunday evening in fact, some of the orderlies noticed that the seals on the door put by the judicial authorities had been tampered with. But Dr Cioppa was able to see that no one entered the box and that nothing was touched. Meanwhile, the directors of the circuit are working hard to allow the performance of the Nations motorcycle Grand Prix: if the track will not be able to offer all the safety required by the authorities the authorisation could be revoked. The organisers of the Grand Prix must adjust the sections of the fence sheared last Sunday by sportsmen and at the same time arrange the hay bales near the curves to protect the motorcyclists from the dangerous guardrails. By Friday - assure the directors of the Autodrome - the track will be ready. Meanwhile, the Automobile Club of Milan decides to sue Louis Stanley, brother-in-law of the president of the B.R.M, Owen, and renter of a resuscitation centre, who, Saturday in Monza, after the tragic death of Jochen Rindt, accused the organisation of the Italian Grand Prix of having let the Austrian driver die for lack of proper care. According to Professor Emilio Rovelli, director of the resuscitation department that welcomed Rindt after the accident, the intervention of the helicopter would not have served any purpose:


"When such a case occurs, that is, when the heart no longer beats, the specialist applies the elementary rules of resuscitation. First he performs the cardiac massage and tries to put the heart back into action, and when it has resumed beating, it is put under control. To maintain control you need an ambulance equipped with the control of the resuscitator specialist. The ambulance travels at very low speeds, while the speed of the helicopter would be fatal".


Nevertheless, it remains the problem of safety in the field of competitions, which in this case affects the car more closely than the circuit. The absurd regulation that oversees Formula 1 (single-seater with four open wheels, displacement not exceeding three litres, minimum weight of 530 kg) grants - and indeed in some cases encourages - constructors to seek technical solutions in which performance does not go hand in hand with strength. Colin Chapman, a whimsical and original designer, has always implemented exaggerated solutions, especially in terms of suspensions. There are many precedents here. A controversy broke out between Chapman and Rindt last year after the Spanish Grand Prix: Rindt and Graham Hill both in Lotus went off the track and the Austrian accused his patron of being too bold. Even before, Clark’s accident; the real reason for the tragedy was never known: he passed away during a race in the forest of Hockenheim. It is just an hypothesis, although it is reasonable to assume that the driver, both in the most distant case of Clark and in this one of Rindt, does not have the slightest responsibility. If there is a failure of a suspension element or a braking of the shaft that connects the wheel to the brake on the Lotus, those who drive at 200-300 km/h can only hope for luck. There is no circuit with such safety systems (deceleration zones, protective barriers and other devices) that can save a crazy car.


Rindt, in England, had proposed to place in the most dangerous corners a series of flexible poles instead of the more rigid guardrails. But he had offered this proposal only for some corners of each circuit. The Austrian driver had the accident on the straight. This is therefore the need to unite cars and tracks on the same issue of safety, starting from the regulations, the basis of this now tense situation. It seemed in recent times that the great enemy of the driver was the fire: Ickx and Oliver miraculously saved in Madrid, Courage perished in the fire of Zandvoort. Unfortunately, there are not only the flames, and Fittipaldi and Brabham, who during practices and the race where the protagonists of off-tracks at the tragic Parabolic curve, can thank fate for being unharmed. Whenever an accident happens, everyone writes down that it is time to do something, but unfortunately you there is the feeling of repeating useless things. The ears of those who support the fate of the sport of steering-wheel are hopelessly closed. Meanwhile, the radio broadcast Chiamate Roma 3131, urged by numerous requests from listeners, connects Monday, September 8, 1970 with Enzo Ferrari, which makes some statements on the victory of Clay Regazzoni in Monza and on the technical and human aspects of the motorsport business. On the danger that constantly is linked to motor racing and in particular on the death of Rindt, Enzo Ferarri declares:


"Alongside the joy of victory I cannot help thinking about what happened the day before, it is a sad chapter that is linked to the sporting events. But how many sports claim victims? Rather, let us look at the benefits that the sport of the automobile brings to progress, and how many can bring boxing and mountaineering".


Chapman considers the idea of withdrawing from motorsport, but then he thinks about responsibility for the 800 employees and their families. Bernie Ecclestone flies to England with Miles. John is shocked by what happened, he says that he must have been, like Zeltweg, definitely the right brake shaft and tells his adventure during the test with the Lotus 72, that car that Chapman will define as one of the few racing cars to have reached maturity with so few problems. Ecclestone urges him to make a statement to the press, but Colin Chapman retorts that he never did so after an accident.


"Then it might be a great opportunity to start".


Chapman’s statement only explains the different tests that brake shafts undergo after each test, after each run, and contradicts itself in many places. Friday, September 11, 1970 is a hot day, as it was Saturday 5 September 1970. As many as 30.000 people gathered at the central cemetery in Graz to pay their last respects to Jochen Rindt. The drivers Stewart, Brabham, Hill, Amon, Siffert, Stommelen, Miles, Bonnier and Bell arrive with private flights or planes; there is also Masten Gregory, the teammate with whom Rindt won at Le Mans:


"At least, Jochen has achieved his goal: to become World Champion".


On the grave Bonnier confirms that, whatever happens in the races overseas:


"For us all Jochen Rindt will remain the only and true champion of 1970".


Nina believes that Colin Chapman wanted only the best for Jochen Rindt, in his own way, and claims that during the year they had come very close.


"Don’t worry about me, Colin, I’m not against you".


But still Bernie Ecclestone didn’t tell her about the phone calls he had with Jochen on the Lotus 72.


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