#280 1976 Japanese Grand Prix

2021-04-06 01:00

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#SecondPart, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Francesca Risi,

#280 1976 Japanese Grand Prix

Friday 15 October 1976 Niki Lauda arrives at Maranello to carry out a series of tests in view of the last round of the Formula 1 World Championship


As much as he says he doesn't like money, someone in England, where he is currently the most popular of the Beatles, hasn't forgiven him for moving to Marbella in Spain to escape taxes. It remains to talk about the character of James: no one can deny him a particular sympathy, a little related to his sometimes unfriendly character. He cannot hide his dislike for Ferrari, for the order and discipline that reign in the Italian team, but at the same time he does not hate Niki Lauda. On the contrary, he esteems him. He doesn't shy away from easy jokes, but his house in Marbella is open to anyone who shows up; he likes beautiful girls, but lives on steaks and vegetables in oil and knows how to hold back before races. In short, he has all the characteristics to arouse hate and love.


"That is my lucky day".


James Hunt makes his debut, in front of an audience of journalists who have summoned him for the press conference that the champion is due. He is cheerful, but clearly still under tension, smoking and drinking beer. A few minutes earlier on the track he had literally lost his mind from happiness, but now he has recomposed himself and is calmer, so he goes on to explain his race.


"Everything went well for me from the beginning, when I was able to take the lead. There wasn't a single point where aquaplaning occurred, while the real risk came from the walls of water that we raised ourselves and I obviously didn't have any in front. It was relatively easy to take advantage".


Is it true that he stole at the start?


"We all steal, if possible".


Was it right to start in these conditions?


"I didn't want to race. They made us start, that's our job".


So you understand Lauda?


"In his conditions he did well to retire, I understand him well and I don't criticize him".


How do you explain the ups and downs of the race?


"Ours is a complete car that goes well everywhere, so it is right that he projected me to the lead. Then I said it, it was my lucky day: the wheel in the worst condition was the front left, I would almost say that I was checking it every meter. Then the pits called me back just at the right moment and I was able to change tires and recover. This is the result of being in a team that has a lot of experience intelligently applied".


Then later, a few mistakes were also made by the McLaren team.


"It was a trivial reporting error on the first pass, after I got back on track following the tire change. They didn't signal me the gap to the one in front, which was then Jones, and I had to pound like crazy to catch him. For two laps I was really scared, but the track was always clear in front and when I recognized the silhouette of the Ferrari I was no longer afraid: I'll eat Clay. But I was sure only when I got out of the car. I didn't dare to believe it".


Do you consider the title you won deserved?


"I won my championship with this placement, but also with many other victories".


After which Hunt says he feels comfortable in the role of World Champion, and then closes with a sacrosanct resolution:


"Tonight I'm going to get a hangover to take home in a wheelbarrow".


Mario Andretti the Grand Prix winner is happy. He has won a lot in his long and varied career, but in Formula 1, despite his activity, his successes have been few. In Japan, however, he was a protagonist.


"No, I really didn't expect to win and I probably wouldn't have been able to if all that mess hadn't happened in the last few laps. Just think that halfway through the race I was on the verge of retiring, because my tires were getting worse and worse and those of the others seemed indestructible. Then the trend changed and then I got my courage back, until those twists and turns with Hunt and Depailler relegated paved the way for me".


Mario speaks his American-style English in a calm voice, alternating a few expressions in Italian for the benefit of the Europeans:


"Our problem is the tires. This time too they decided, because in reality none of the trains we were supplied with were able to withstand all seventy-three laps. I arrived at the end with the same tires only because I drove sparingly. These people don't really have a conscience because we risk our skin when we ride on these tires that are too wide and very dangerous. Until at least two tire manufacturers compete again, we will always be at the mercy of lightweight characters".


What do you think about Lauda?


"I basically think he did the right thing to stop because we all have limits, even if only momentary, that we cannot exceed".


Hunt's party begins: first he goes to the box of Champion, the company that produces spark plugs, and then he chats with Barry Sheene, motorcycling world champion in the 500 class in 1976. In the evening, then, at 21:00, the dining room on the circuit of Mount Fuji is filled with McLaren mechanics, courtesy of Marlboro, which is paying for the celebrations and had already planned everything, being both the main sponsor of the British team and Lauda's personal sponsor. Therefore, whatever the winner was, they would have celebrated anyway. The next day, back to London with a Japan Airlines boing 747, Hunt is welcomed by a crowd of two thousand people, and even by his family, that the British driver certainly did not expect to find on his arrival. After a hurried and unwilling press conference, James joins his friends for a champagne breakfast, which he curiously does not drink since he prefers beer, in the apartment that Jane Birbeck, his current girlfriend, shares with her sister and brother-in-law. After that, at midday he falls into a well-deserved sleep. To seal a convulsive day, the fastest lap will be initially attributed to Masahiro Hasemi on the Japanese car Kojima, but as you can well understand the thing is somewhat controversial, because in the lap in which the Japanese would have made the record was exceeded by three cars. Only in the days following the Grand Prix will the organizers issue a statement awarding the fastest lap to Jacques Laffite, with a time of 1'19"97 on the 70th lap. In the meantime, from the Tokyo airport Lauda calls Enzo Ferrari on the phone and tells him the truth. 


He did not feel like continuing, to run towards a world title that, in retrospect, he could have easily won. Ferrari is understandably disappointed, and does not waste time asking questions that in a delicate moment like this would certainly have pleased the Austrian driver. He doesn't ask him how he is, how he feels, what he feels. Taken by the typical anger that is characteristic of him in certain moments, before becoming calm and reflective, having learned the reason for Lauda's withdrawal from Fuji, the constructor calls Franco Gozzi, his secretary, and tells him in the Modenese dialect:


"Did you hear that? He retired because he was afraid".


Then he abruptly ends the call. The Modenese constructor is not the only one to be angry, since in the meantime at Fuji Regazzoni, when he gets off the car, rails against his mechanics saying:


"Why didn't you signal me to go back to the pits to change the tires?"


Audetto approaches asking what's wrong, but Regazzoni verbally attacks him as well:


"Why didn't you give me the signal to come back in to change the tires, I could have been second".


In these moments, all the mechanics shrug their shoulders as if to say that you don't care, it's the last race you do with us; and then you didn't get two points anyway? But then again, the Ferrari mechanics are still upset; Lauda's retirement is still in the air.


"He was scared this time too".


Say the Ferrari mechanics. But was Lauda right or wrong to retire after the second lap in the Japanese Grand Prix? Was his fear justified? These are the questions that not only the fans of the Austrian driver, of Ferrari and of motor sports in general are asking themselves after learning the truth from the newspapers. The Austrian press, even the non-specialist press, pays tribute to the courage to be afraid - as the newspaper kronen zeitung writes - of the unfortunate ace of the track. Lauda's decision can serve as an example for the drivers who will face the next races: his is not only fear but awareness. Why add inherent risks in a race held at breakneck speeds to those that can be avoided? The widespread Kitrier affirms that Lauda's decision represented not only a renunciation of the world title, but also a protest against racing for the way in which it is carried out today, while the Viennese daily kronen zeitung observes how in a small country like Austria, where politicians manage to arouse little enthusiasm among the people, the collective affection goes, above all, to the heroes of the sport.


"Lauda considered the rain-soaked track too dangerous, and after voluntarily retiring he said beautiful words about the things in life that are more important than a world title. For this, he should be respected as a national hero: for by behaving in this way he has rendered a greater favor to justice, than he would have done by an unconditional will to win, a morbid ambition and a total disregard for himself and others".


The newspaper then reports a significant statement made by the Ferrari driver after the inauspicious attempt to keep the title, in which he would have underlined that there is something more important than a title: life. But the most important fact that will emerge from the comments made in the Austrian newspapers will be the perplexity that will be expressed in some cases about Niki Lauda's future at Ferrari.


No commentator feels the need to venture predictions, but it is easy to understand that, in their opinion, the abrupt withdrawal of the Ferrari number one from the Japanese Grand Prix could have placed him in a particularly delicate situation with regard to Ferrari. Just to answer to any inference, in Maranello Enzo Ferrari decides to call a press conference, to be held on Tuesday, October 26, 1976, in which he will answer all the questions that will be asked. He will try to take stock of the season, which has given to the Italian team the world title of the constructors, and in particular he will comment what happened in Japan. Before that, however, he will meet with the technical and sports managers of the team, who have just returned from Fuji, in order to be informed, in detail, about the events that ended with Niki Lauda's retirement. It is very likely that Ferrari will also talk about the future, about the Formula 2 engines that the Modenese company has prepared, about the World Silhouette Championship and Formula 1. Certainly it will be a very important day for the motorsport, and not only: the effects of a success in the world are felt also commercially, and Hunt's victory with McLaren is already considered as a first relaunch for the British industry. In the meantime, Monday 25 October 1976 the Italian journalist Michele Fenu contacts Lauda in a moment still very delicate for him: the championship has escaped him in Japan, following the decision not to run on the flooded track of Fuji, and already the polemics and the merciless judgments of unprejudiced and falsely objective critics are flourishing. It is a quick and clear conversation, without half words. Lauda has just returned to Austria after having flown from Tokyo to Anchorage, Alaska, and then to Frankfurt, where his plane was waiting to take him to Salzburg. When he answers, Niki is in the office, where he has to take care of some business: a Formula 1 driver, a World Champion, is not only a driving man, but also a manager of himself. Lauda's and Ferrari's fans were shocked by his gesture, and wondered if it was caused by the Nurburgring accident. If nothing had happened on that bloody Sunday in August, would he have made a similar decision at Fuji?


"Yes, certainly yes. What happened in Germany has nothing to do with the choice I made in Japan. There are no psychological qualms or conditioning. I simply felt that it was absurd to continue racing on that track, title or not. It's a decision I would have made a year ago, and I would repeat it tomorrow. Right after the start, I found myself between walls of water. On the track there was such a layer of liquid that my car seemed to float: it's the aquaplaning effect. One lap, and I couldn't even understand where I was anymore. I thought: this is madness, it's taking more than a reasonable risk. And I stopped. Ferrari is paying me to drive one of their cars, it's true, and I've said so many times, but they're not paying me to kill myself. It wouldn't even be in his interest. I may have done wrong or I may have done right, I know that it is possible to interpret the gesture in many ways, but it is not a question of fear or courage. I have set my profession as a driver in a certain way: always work within the limits of my possibilities and of the car. With this method in 1975 I won a World Championship and established myself in five Grands Prix. I did the same this year, not giving up racing in circumstances that were not easy, like in Spain, where I took to the track with two fractured ribs, or in Monza. But I was within my limits. I don't accept going beyond them. I've never done it in the past, I didn't do it in Japan, I won't do it in the future. I repeat; fear has nothing to do with it".


It is an explanation in line with the man and the driver, with that rational and intelligent Lauda who strives to leave little to chance and the unexpected. The usual Lauda, in short, lucid, cold, balanced to the point of appearing inhuman or inducing a completely erroneous interpretation of his non-emotional choice. His honesty in acknowledging his mistakes and in explaining his decisions fairly is well known in those who follow the Formula 1 circus. An example? In 1975, after the collision with Jody Scheckter at the start of the German Grand Prix, since Niki returned to the box and said:


"My fault. I was wrong".


In Japan he renounced to convenient excuses, to blame the retirement on some trivial failure of his Ferrari, as he had also been suggested by the engineer Mauro Forghieri; he made it clear that he did not feel like continuing, and that was it.


"I could have found a thousand fake reasons. I could have said that my right eye was hurting or that the car was having problems. But why be dishonest? I was and am well aware of what I did. With the same honesty I want to state now that I have no intention of retiring, that I like racing and that I have no problem with it. I intend to win, to take back the title, to give more satisfaction to Ferrari and to me. There are no reasons why I can't do it. After the Japanese Grand Prix I spoke twice by phone with Enzo Ferrari. I told him the reasons for the retirement. I hope he understood, I, however, look forward to a long conversation with him and to completely reassure him. I understand his problems, I admire and respect him. I repeat: I intend to race, and with Ferrari. Only if Maranello did not want me anymore, I would turn to others to continue my activity in Formula 1".


A Lauda, therefore, who is far from giving up, resigned or fearful.


"In a few days I want to be at Fiorano to test the car, and I want to be ready for the Argentine Grand Prix on January 9. I want to test and test with Ferrari in the next month like never before in my life. With the pre-Japan tests we were able to reduce the competitiveness gap that existed between us and Hunt's McLaren. Now it's about getting back on top. I will also have to have eye surgery to eliminate the annoying problem of the eyelid remaining half-open, but I will think about that in December. Work first".


These are Lauda's speeches, in perfect harmony with the character. The Ferrari champion deserves the utmost trust and certainly not petty attacks. In Barcelona, in 1975, Fittipaldi, not considering the Montjuich circuit safe, gave up racing and went home. At that time, he too was fighting for the World Championship, but he was exalted as an example of consistency and courage. Should Lauda be portrayed as fearful or as a finished driver for having held, in different circumstances and in different ways, a similar attitude? At Fuji, Fittipaldi himself, and a driver full of grit like Carlos Pace, returned to the box like Niki. And others, if they had not been conditioned by commercial or team imperatives, or had more personality, would have taken the same decision. After Niki Lauda, it was Enzo Ferrari who spoke, in Modena, on Tuesday 26 October 1976, at the headquarters of the Scuderia that bears his name. Three hours of debate with his friend-enemy journalists, of blows and answers with often heated tones, of accusations and remarks that end up involving the whole Formula 1 circus. The boy of '98, as he defines himself, coquettishly recalling that next February he will be seventy-nine years old, does not appear sad and prostrated by the loss of the World Championship, and indeed shows a vigor and a vein of controversy that are a guarantee for the future of the team.


"Now we are all on trial. Today either you are first or you are nobody. We forget that Lauda finished second in the championship, one point behind Hunt, we forget the Nurburgring accident, we forget that Ferrari won the Constructors' Cup. But what do you want from me? Anyway, I'm staying here, at least as long as I'm here".


At the Ferrari meeting he says many things, ironically emphasizing that, after the silence of the previous days, he feels the obligation to speak, to clarify many things.


"Today I tell you everything, take advantage of it".


Of course, as always, Ferrari says only what interests him, measuring his answers, playing on silences and joking jokes, addressed now to one or the other of those present, who all look a bit like slightly undisciplined schoolboys grappling with a gruff teacher. In the three hours, however, a lot of interesting news emerged, some regarding the season that ended on Sunday with the Japanese Grand Prix, others regarding the future of the team. 


If any journalist came to Modena hoping to hear Ferrari say goodbye to Niki Lauda, he would be disappointed, since the Modenese manufacturer defends its driver. Ferrari has so far spoken with Niki only by phone, and briefly, so it needs a thoughtful conversation with the Austrian, who should arrive on Friday in Maranello, to hear Niki say what he has already said on Monday in his interview, namely that he intends to run again, that the drama of the Nurburgring has not changed him. In the climate of industrial restructuring and reconversion of last year, the idea of creating an engine for the Formula 2 single-seaters to be put on the sporting market was born, while the technical staff will remain unchanged, even though only Mauro Forghieri is active, since Rocchi and Salvarani are in bed, the former for a heart attack, the latter for angina pectoris. The sports staff will be modified instead. Daniele Audetto, whom Ferrari coldly defines as a diligent official, will return to Turin and the position of sports director will be replaced by a troika composed of Tomaini, technical manager on the race fields, Ghedini, sports-logistics assistant in charge of relations with the drivers, and Nosetto, former Csai executive, who will represent Ferrari with the organizers, the sports authorities, the constructors' associations, etc. Enzo Ferrari is very hard on Goodyear, the American tire company that supplies all the Formula 1 teams and that by now plays both good and bad times. And after the news, there follow the judgements on Clay Regazzoni, on James Hunt, on Carlos Reutemann, the polemics with the CSI and the Formula 1 Manufacturers Association, the rumors, including contacts with Peterson, Scheckter, and Fittipaldi, and the tenacious defense of the work done in Maranello, with a polite but hard denial to the opinion of some observers and to certain statements of Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. About Hunt, who in the meantime on Wednesday, October 27, 1976, at 9:00 p.m., takes the flight to Malaga even risking to miss the departure, and continues the celebrations with his friends, who will join him from Great Britain during the weekend, Enzo Ferrari declares that he is a smart driver. Finally, Ferrari, confirming his commitment and that of all his team for 1977, mentions the intense program of tests planned for November and December, and the difficulties that the union unrest is causing. Modena, October 26, 15:00 hours. Enzo Ferrari's press conference begins.


"It's one minute past three and I'd like to begin and apologize for this hasty informal press conference, let's call it that, but since we promised that after the conclusion of the Japanese Grand Prix, that is, the conclusion of the World Championship, we would deal with all your insistent, legitimate requests, here I am. And I am happy to submit myself to all your questions of any kind that you think to submit. And I only ask you to order the questions in the following way. First let us talk about the past, the past that ended in Japan, and then I am at your disposal for the future. So that no confusion arises. If you would like to begin, I am happy to answer them".


Ingegner Ferrari, first of all I would like to ask your opinion about Lauda's decision at Monte Fuji.


"About Lauda's decision in Japan I am legitimately concerned about what has been said and written. Therefore, I will read to you what I think about this event and I will distribute this statement of mine so that not a word is reported that is different from what I think. Lauda did well not to race if he was afraid of the environmental conditions, thinking about what he felt on August 1 and his current condition. The future depends solely on what he decides. I too found myself needing to question myself as a driver when my Dino was born and I decided not to race anymore. When I have spoken to him, I will be able to tell you if Lauda has intimate motivations that cannot be reconciled with risk-taking. I would like to add that Lauda phoned me not before the Grand Prix, but two hours after the Grand Prix and I told him: 'You did well, if you did not feel like facing the race in those conditions, not to go. This is what I have to say about Lauda's case and I would consider it exhausted for the moment at least, until I meet the driver and know exactly what is inside him. That is, if I am able to understand him".


What lies within him we have perhaps already partly ascertained from the facts. Because one thing are the words, the statements he can make. In Japan, after retiring, Lauda was heard saying: 


"The Nurburgring accident has nothing to do with my decision to retire". 


One meter away, engineer Forghieri said: 


"Did you see that? The Nurburgring had something to do with it; Lauda told me that the Nurburgring had something to do with it". 


So this is more of a consideration: by now a relationship between Lauda and Ferrari seems very difficult as this relationship in the future would only serve to create an alibi for Ferrari, because any inconvenience, technical difficulty, development difficulty, progress could easily be blamed on the driver.


"And this would not allow to criticize the efficiency of Ferrari technicians and choices. But I can't say anything, you have elements superior to mine. If the desire is to be able to say that we are good for nothing they have already written it, so whoever wants to repeat it, will do it".


How can you think of continuing such a relationship? How can you peacefully continue this relationship after what has happened?


"I don't intend to continue or sever it. I will leave him referee. Lauda represented for us something extremely important. We have looked after him like a brother, like a son, if you like, from my side. We have always given him the maximum latitude and at a time when I had glimpsed the possibility of having three cars race to defend a world championship compromised in the tragic first of August. I had to give this up in order not to clash with him. I believe that the mistake, if there was a mistake, I don't know it yet, if there was a mistake on Lauda's part, it happened the day he demanded to race at Monza".


It seems to be my understanding that you are now in a holding pattern. In other words, you would be quite relieved, if not happy, if Lauda came to Maranello and said: Enough, I'm closing, at least I'm closing with you. However, from what Lauda said in Salzburg yesterday, it seems unlikely. On your part, if Lauda comes here on Friday or Monday to try and everything continues as normal for him, does your position remain totally passive?


"We have never been passive men, we have proven to be active. We also gave birth to children no? So what should we say? what we will say the day Lauda speaks. I cannot anticipate decisions; I will say them after I hear him. I'll have to hear this man out loud. I'll have to form opinions, and the opinions I form certainly cannot be the opinions you form after talking to him at a time like the one he's been through. If he were to come and say to us, I am done with you, that would be the most serious offense and unrecognizance in the world. How can he be done with us? If he closes with everyone, it means that he has crowned his existence as a pilot through a World Championship and has not earned three or four as he proposed. He can't close on his own initiative after we have given him all that was within our possibilities, after we have even offered him the possibility to choose the driver that suited him for the future. Because we gave up Count Zanon's generous offer when it came to getting Peterson. We gave up the possibility of the 26 year old Scheckter and opted for the choice of Reutemann who is a serene and positive man, who does not have a tail of friendships and who we believe is a good test driver and has already proved it. By the way: Reutemann was not, as has been written, in Spain sunbathing during Japan: Reutemann was in Maranello. And when he was in Spain, it was because there were strikes in Maranello and it is known that there were since July. On the eve of the departure of the engines for Japan we saw that some people were not allowing us to ship the engines to Japan. Fortunately, not all Ferrari workers are like that, and the majority of them are extremely sensible and said No; the engines for Japan must go. We have always worked. At Fiorano, in the factory, we have done subterfuge to be able to work. I don't want any more accusations from anyone, that at Ferrari we have slept on our laurels, we have had our fill of glory".


Lauda said on Sunday, immediately after his retirement, that he is paid to race at 300 km/h and not to race to die. This attitude of his that led him to retire, was then later shared by Fittipaldi and also by Pace who say they retired voluntarily. That is, all the drivers, at the beginning of the race did not want to race, except for five or six. Three of them even abandoned the race. Those who wanted to run the race at all costs were the constructors.


"Not the constructors, the organizers and the Formula l Association. But the constructors didn't. Because we said no".


That's what I was getting at. I wanted to ask if you share this attitude: to decrease the danger of the races, that is, would you feel next year to carry out a campaign preventing the holding of races in dangerous circumstances, such as rain, fog or similar to those of Sunday?


"We don't find out anything. In America they've been doing it for years, so we always come in much later. We have a chance: our presence counts for one vote. Unfortunately, on the Lauda issue, I think I've already said it all. What can I add? I am unarmed, I have nothing else to say".


Did you speak with Lauda after the race?


"No, I didn't talk. I talked for the time to say: Ferrari, I immediately retired because in those conditions I didn't feel like continuing. I said: If you didn't feel like it, you did the right thing. My talks with Lauda stop there. And I'm waiting for him, and I'm waiting for him at the end of the week, because today they tell me he is in Vienna for a medical visit. When he comes back and comes to Maranello, I will diligently inform you of my impressions and consequent decisions".


There is already a fact, his statements on television and to the newspapers.


"But what do I have to, dump him today? But excuse me, do you forget that in Maranello the word counts, it replaces the stamped paper? We shook hands, and we are bound to the whole of '77. Even if he had been seriously incapacitated by the Nurburgring accident, we had the duty to keep him in office until December 31, 1977. It is like those who write that we should not have let Regazzoni race in Canada, we should not have let him race in Japan, we should not have let him race in America. But Regazzoni had an agreement with us that expired on December 31. We have respected it. Where did we fail? I regret only one point. I regret not having sent the third car, because I was told that this would have compromised the preparation of the others. But if I had sent it we would have won another World Championship. Today we would not be here having these discussions, even if we would have won by a penalty kick".


Since Lauda was a liar in Monza, a liar in America, if he was still a liar now, i.e. he convinced her that his physical condition was different from the one he was in, Lauda's misunderstanding would drag on, damaging Ferrari.


"In this case Lauda would offer an alibi for Ferrari's inadequacy. It would put your colleague Pilogallo in a position to write that we are good for nothing. But the truth is another: that we men are constitutionally liars. Because when we see a woman after two minutes we tell her - God how I love you - we are liars, we should say God how I desire you. And so could Lauda, but for the moment I don't think so. I went through what Lauda went through in much smaller proportions. I know what the drama is in giving up a passion nurtured in the years of adolescence and youth, I know what it is. Then there are other reasons. There are reasons of interest, social reasons that can also lead to telling lies. You have to see how far these lies hold. I don't know".


Excuse me Commendatore...


"Look. I am not a commendatore. And then I prefer to call myself Ferrari, because when I go into the barbershop and they say commendatore, there are many. If they tell me Ferrari you know... it's another matter. Do you understand? So tell me Ferrari, if you want to say Enzo, then I'll close my eyes and think that you are a pretty girl and I'll be more pleased".


Listen Ferrari, you made me go a little crazy. So in your long career as a constructor, first as a manager, and then as a...


"Pilot first".


Yes pilot, sorry...


"That's the most important part".


Have you ever had a driver who after two laps said: enough, I'm going home?




Tell me the name please.


"Enzo Ferrari".


Then you can understand well. I don't believe it, excuse me for saying so.


"You don't believe it because you're a young man. If you were my age you would have to believe it, because I have lived through this. I had to go to the Lyon Grand Prix in France and there was a fourth car that I had to drive. At that moment I had a nervous breakdown and I had the courage to say: I went to practice, I came home, I had to go back. I had the courage to telegraph and say: I don't feel like it and I didn't go".


But if you had left would you have stopped?


"Now that's another matter. It was burning hot in Lyon that day, so I probably would have held on".


That's enough for me, thank you. But by the way: did you return to running?


"Of course, when I overcame the serious state of exhaustion that had struck me in 1924. Don't forget that I am a boy of 1898 and that in 1918 I was operated on twice with thoracentesis. I had some serious ailments, but the Eternal Father still preserved me".


Does he still think now that Lauda is comparable to Nuvolari?


"I don't think I ever compared Lauda to Nuvolari, because Lauda's situation was certainly not Nuvolari's. Nuvolari is a unique example in the world. Nuvolari is a man who tried to die in the race, and he couldn't, because he needed to erase the drama of two sons who died in a bed. Lauda is not in that situation. Lauda is a man who has probably found reasons to survive today because he finds enjoyment in life. Something he may not have found a year or two ago".


Nine and a half years ago we were with Gozzi at Spa. On the eve of a race that initially in the rain Surtees was going to lose. Then John won that Grand Prix, but at the end of the race it was announced by Dragoni, that Surtees was no longer a Ferrari driver. So Surtees did not have a contract with Ferrari?


"No. He had the contract that's there today for everybody. There is, as the English call it, a gentleman's agreement where they say: you will receive tot from the companies that have an agreement with our company, and we guarantee that you will earn this. As long as you have a good memory, poor Dragoni (naming him when he was alive, he was a great sportsman, a great gentleman), at that moment had tasted the illusion of bringing Bandini to the World Championship. That's why he dismissed Surtees. Now we can say it. However, I had the satisfaction of Surtees who wrote to me: Ferrari, only today that I am a constructor have I learned what it means to make decisions that are misunderstood by the public. This is what Surtees wrote to me".


I believe that Ferrari already has the elements in hand to think about the future. Maybe it's time to get precisely to talking about the future.


"If you want to talk about the future, you ask me a question and you tell me: How will the team do this other year? etc.. And I will tell you. The past for Lauda already affirmed, the future depends solely on what he will decide. I too found myself in the need to question myself, as a driver, when my Dino was born and I decided not to race anymore. I have already stated my opinion. Clear. If he decides to continue racing, I, who have an agreement with him, respect him. If this harms Ferrari, that's another matter. But that's the point. But I can't put another one on, if he wants to race, he'll have to race. I can't put another one on. I can't dump one, I can't dump him, even if it were in the interest of the company to do so. It is time to stop accusing me of being an opportunist, of being a cynic, I am tired of these accusations. Today Lauda has a contract, an agreement, because even the $300,000 that my friend Minini says, is all my grandmother's lies. Because Lauda doesn't get $300.000 at all. Lauda is paid by sponsors and he's not paid by us and it's not 300.000".


On contract breakage on either side?


"There is no contract. Because we don't have contracts, we have an agreement that guarantees them a certain income that is the consequence of the advertising contributions. And it's not $300.000: the exact figure is $200.000, so you've published $100.000 more".


As a penalty.


"But there is no penalty. I'd be hard pressed to pay a penalty the day I don't get along with someone anymore. But for God's sake! If he finds that my car is no longer any good, he picks it up and walks away".


Lauda's behavior brings to mind an episode of more than thirty years ago, which had as its protagonist another of your drivers, Tonino Brivio-Sforza: his retirement from racing after he had just gotten married. I remember that in your book you had used words of admiration towards Mrs. Sforza and of regret for the loss of a very valiant driver.


"I couldn't say anything bad about her, she was a beautiful lady".


Would you use the same words towards Marlene Lauda?


"I can't use them, because as for Marlene Lauda I've seen her once, I haven't spoken to her more than a moment, I can't dare, Mrs. Sforza is another matter. I had the opportunity to get close to her, and Tonino undoubtedly did not do badly to give up racing. For me, Tonino was a second Varzi. This is clear to me. So now to say that it is an episode that is repeated after thirty years, it seems a bit daring, I don't know, of course women have their part in our life, I would say that they are our masters, so we should know how Mrs. Lauda intends the races, I don't know".


This, however, we can try to understand.


"Ah, but you are youngsters and can understand it, I don't".


Another consideration on this human point of view. Last year Lauda had a girl by his side, Mariella, who exalted his role as a computer, as a robot dedicated to racing. This year Marlene's man was completely different. Do you judge this as positive or negative on the driver?


"Look, I'll say it again, it seems like a topic that's good for those men-only monthly magazines. I don't. What do you want me to say? To go and say if that one stirs him more than the other one, he'll know. I can't know".


Mr. Ferrari, there are those who have been saying for years that you care a lot that the car wins more than the driver, which seems natural to me since you are the creator of the former and not the latter. Also in the light of what happened in Japan, do you think that the most important title in motorsport should be linked to the man, practically to Niki Lauda who lost it, and not to the car, yours, which won it even before Japan?


"We had the prize, because we had the Constructors' World Cup, the driver's one will be missing. In any case, we are not in the days of De Gasperi, here fifty percent still lives. I have always maintained and will continue to maintain that fifty percent is put in by the manufacturer, the designer, the technicians, the workers and fifty percent is put in by the driver. There have been exceptional cases in which a driver may have given an even higher ratio, just as there have been cases in which the manufacturer has been able to provide drivers with truly superior cars. But the rule is that of fifty percent and when it is written that Ferrari removes a driver or a collaborator only because this harms the reputation of the company or its own, this is evidence of malice that I reject".


I would like to know your judgment on the overall behavior of the team in the factory and on the road this season, regardless of the results, with reference to the 1975 season.


"You want to know who missed and who didn't miss. And then I answer you that for what happens at home I can give you assurances because I am always there, I see what happens and I try to harmonize things for the best. To say if things went as well outside as they did in 1975, this is something you have read in all the newspapers. There are those who have written that there were too many spectators at the Ferrari pits, etc.. Then I take out the famous report to which I have referred and I read: The Ferrari pits have become a place for after-work activities and I no longer tolerate the presence of strangers unless I have given prior authorization, even for Fiorano I refrain from asking permission for anyone not belonging to the company. So you see that I have to thank those journalists who told me that the Ferrari pits were too crowded. However, I would like to see certain photographs because those who wrote this were also there".


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