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#280 1976 Japanese Grand Prix

2021-04-06 00:00

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#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

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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, the Japanese Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday 24 October 1976. The Austrian driver arrives around 12:00 a.m., specifying first of all that he is in excellent health conditions. To what do you think the latest results are due?

 

"I think it is mainly a matter of the temperature of the tires. They can't warm up and therefore they don't work well, to the detriment of the performance. For this reason, today I will try a new type of suspension that Ferrari has prepared in a week with the aim of improving the performance of the tires".

 

It is precisely on the basis of the outcome of these tests that we can have some hope of victory. Lauda is also convinced of this.

 

"I have never been to Japan, so I don't know the circuit. About the outcome of the race, now I can only say that it all depends on the temperature: if it will be hot we can win: if, instead, it will be cold everything will become problematic".

 

Your opinion about Hunt?

 

"He is a good driver".

 

Why is McLaren going so fast? Do you think it is due to Hunt?

 

"I think it's due to the confluence of a few circumstances: a good driver, a good time for the car and the coincidental decline of our cars".

 

But what does the current gap between the two cars depend on?

 

"Particularly to the incident at the Nurburgring. We must not forget that. Since then Ferrari has thought more about me than about continuing the development. I have not been able to work at full speed and time has been lost".

 

Lauda took to the track in the late afternoon, and completed a series of laps that were then suspended as darkness fell. The modifications concern the lengthening of the suspension arms. The track is almost unknown, therefore on Saturday October 16, 1976 James Hunt and Emerson Fittipaldi study it well in advance of Lauda, who is diverted to Maranello before leaving for Tokyo, in order to look into the defects of the 312 T2 and maybe eliminate them. In this last challenge that the Formula 1 World Championship proposes to the people's fantasy, before developing and fulfilling itself as a ritual on the asphalt of a circuit that the Japanese have placed in the shadow of the sacred mountain, there are the characters of a classic story of the Old West, compelling and absurd, dramatic and morbid. On October 20, 1976, concentrated in a hotel on Lake Yamanaka, the drivers consumed their wait thinking and rethinking about the route. A race that seemed destined to be an appendix becomes the decisive test. The Fuji circuit was built in 1966, at the foot of the mountain of the same name, about one hundred kilometers from Tokyo. The track was born thanks to the financing of the companies Nissan and Toyota, which joined with other minor firms favored the construction in order to increase the motor competitions. The part of the Japanese circuit that will be used for the Grand Prix has a development of 4300 meters, along which there are large curves and several ups and downs. Formula 1 experts say that Fuji is reminiscent of the Scandinavian track of Anderstorp in terms of design, layout, altimetry and development.

 

In the Swedish Grand Prix the Tyrrell dominated, the single-seaters with six wheels, and there are those who are convinced that the Tyrrell are the favorites on Sunday, because of the superior adherence of the front end to the road compared to the other cars. On this track Lotus and March should be at their ease, while Ferrari could be penalized. Hunt and Lauda in their direct challenge for the title will also have to deal with Scheckter, Andretti, Peterson and Brambilla. The track record was set in 1968 by the American Mark Donohue, who tragically passed away last year during practice for the Austrian Grand Prix, with a McLaren in a time of 1'16"81, at an average speed of 201.535 km/h. There are no terms of comparison for Formula 1, but it is to be believed that this circuit will be one of the fastest in the championship. Nevertheless, in the shadow of the holy mountain Niki is sure to win: the Austrian is of the opinion that three points are enough to lead him to the world title. His strength of mind, if you take into account what he has been through, is exceptional. He was worried in the past few days about the performance of his car, but after his visit to Maranello he has become completely calm again. The accident at the Nurburgring prevented the Ferrari driver from securing in the previous races a success that no one doubted, and a slight drop of the Ferrari compared to the McLaren of the English driver did the rest. Now Lauda has 68 points and Hunt 65: everything is possible on the Fuji circuit. But former world champion Jackie Stewart is convinced that it will be Lauda who will win:

 

"I'm willing to play everything on Niki Lauda".

 

And he explains why the Austrian champion could leave the Japanese circuit of Fuji with the world title in his hands: in Stewart's forecasts there are no sentimental urges, of admiration or solidarity for a driver who has challenged everything there was to challenge. For Stewart, Niki Lauda will regain the crown because the circuit of Mount Fuji should be more suitable for Ferrari than Mosport in Canada and Watkins Glen in the USA have been recently; because the Austrian's experience can be decisive and, finally, because on Hunt's side there is a too long series of lucky races, without mechanical problems, a golden series that lasts since Monte-Carlo. On October 19, 1976 Niki Lauda inspects the circuit, waiting for the tests that will take place on Thursday, October 21, and on this last date he asks to make some laps with his Ferrari: the organizers agree, but Ecclestone opposes with vague and banal excuses, then he decides to preside a vote on the matter. The no to the request is ratified with six votes against two, plus five abstainers and nine ballots torn to pieces. Finally Daniele Audetto succeeds, amidst a thousand difficulties, in obtaining an extra hour of rehearsal despite the opposition of the English, but only for Saturday. Niki, however, does not give up and asks to inspect the track at the wheel of a Rolls Royce, the car with which he had reached Fuji from Gotemba, where he is staying. The managers agree and so the Ferrari driver drives the elegant car, logically at a reduced speed. Lauda carefully studied the curves and the bottom of the track and on his return to the pits, immediately besieged by journalists, the Austrian says:

 

"I can't comment on the Fuji circuit because I wasn't at the wheel of a racing car. It was a simple inspection. But I will do everything to win this decisive test".

 

Then, jokingly, he admits:

 

"I'm getting better and better. Only Marlene doesn't sleep, I'm strong-man, I absorbed the time zone change without any problem".

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And to demonstrate his physical efficiency and excellent reflexes, Lauda asked journalist Giorgio Viglino to play a Japanese game called field hockey, where he had to hit a hard plastic puck that was bouncing on a rectangular table. Lauda wins, and the wounded pride of the Italian journalist is appeased only when he finds another victim in Stuck. Hunt, instead, does not show up at Fuji. The Briton prefers to stay in Tokyo, spending his free time playing volley-ball and buying, together with Giorgio Viglino, a tape recorder: but James' device roars and does not work, while the camera bought by Viglino works perfectly. Above Mount Fuji, worlds intertwine: the Japanese world amazes the overly wealthy, but the noise, the color, the thrill of the automobile circus shock the average Japanese, the urbanite of course, because the peasants bent over the fields do not even know of the existence of the races, of the same track that somehow contaminates the sacredness of the mountain. There are monks dressed in white, their bonnets white, and pilots with fireproof suits, masks and helmets. It is precisely the kids who accompany the monks who are the first to ask for autographs, just as the pilots take the most beautiful cameras, bought at the official smuggling, on the incredible old men. The Fujiyama that can be seen on clear days from Tokyo, far above the fog of the plains, is far more majestic than when you arrive at the base. After all, they have done everything possible to make it lose its dignity, building around the five lakes that the last volcanic eruption scattered around the base, a series of vacation villages, many unimaginative Disneylands where fun is a must, as noisy as possible.

 

The national park of the mountain protects, more than the natural beauty, the big business behind the vacation of tens of thousands of stressed inhabitants of the capital who come here in rotation. In the gigantic amusement park there is now also a track for car and motorcycle races. It already costs money just to move around, every car is a token, access to the Fuji-area costs each car in proportion to the number of passengers. The capitalist logic, more rigid here than in the United States, gives this Grand Prix the record of profitability, so much so that, according to the organizers, a profit of half a billion yen is expected, a billion and a half of devalued liras. It doesn't matter that the infrastructures are lacking to move all the masses of spectators in the big city, that traffic jams are foreseen from seven in the morning until midnight, that the Tokyo-Fuji route is calculated by the police to take about six hours, an average of twelve miles per hour. No one is concerned here with the masses, as long as they do not bother. Only a few individuals can get consideration, those who have access, to be clear, to the sectors reserved for VIPs. And it doesn't matter if it's at the hotel, at the airport, in the store, the sign is always there. In this unhappy country, drivers and assemblers transfer their end-of-season unhappiness, or at least their dissatisfaction, leaving only two, teams and men, the right to rage and resentment. This Japanese Grand Prix, which was supposed to be just a show at the fair, incredibly turned into a real race with Niki Lauda and James Hunt battling for the title right at the last race, full of animosity as has not happened for a long time. Friday, October 22, 1976 Niki Lauda's day begins at 7:00 a.m. but a little later, at 8:00 a.m., the Austrian knocks on the door of the next room, which houses the Italian journalist Giorgio Viglino and his colleague Pietro Rizzo, a lazy Sicilian, to tell the sleepy interlocutor:

 

"Guys, let's go to work".

 

Niki is dressed in a red racing suit and calls the journalists to perform their duties, before being the first to arrive at the circuit. The same evening he will be the first to go to sleep, and the only one to take to bed as a study table comparative times, compared lap by lap, to discover perhaps non-existent secrets of opponents and colleagues that he sees only in the mirrors. James Hunt, on the other hand, spends his third sleepless night and falls asleep only in the morning, when it's time to be ready to get up. Cadwell, recounting these things shakes his head in concern, saying with a very British terse expression:

 

"I can't touch the human engine, but this one is already out of whack".

 

His girl-friend is in England, and any female contact has been forbidden to him by Teddy Maier who is watching over his renewed virginity. The British driver accepts but is nervous, then there was the episode of the tape recorder that sent him into a rage, and now he finds himself having to play with the car on the track, and he knows that these are quite serious problems. The tests he had conducted on Saturday 16 October had already highlighted set-up problems without indicating solutions, which must be found between Friday and Saturday. The Ferrari pits are the first in the long queue, as usual, and all around there is the usual siege at Monza but unpredictable in Japan, where after all the major titles are held by McLaren, and then there is the nervousness of those who feel like protagonists around the cars. Inside the driver's seats Clay Regazzoni plays coldly with Lauda, talks quietly and points out this or that detail. It was decided to go step by step, adjusting suspensions and wings, without expecting to get the best performance right away. At McLaren, efficiencyism gave way to a sort of exhibition of efficiency. The mechanics, if they have to pass over the guard-rail, jump with a feline leap, Mayer sits in a photogenic position on the side of the car to be well framed near Hunt, then he inserts in the family group Barry Sheene, motorcycle champion and new jewel in his collection of contracts, for a use that can go from the immediate two wheels to the four of the future. When Hunt goes on the track the chronometer operation starts, but there is little to be happy about, because the white and red car is one of the many that run away clearly lacking in the right balance between the slow curves of the lower part and the fast curve that goes up to the arrival straight. Hunt seldom manages to complete more than two consecutive laps struggling with the adjustment of the rear wing and the lightening of the front suspension.

 

But in the meantime, Ferrari and McLaren receive two different sets of tires at the same time. Goodyear conducts its policy with its usual partiality, ready to grant favors that everyone will talk about, naming it by force and giving it the publicity that it does not deserve but that the monopoly situation grants it. The new trains are different, they have a softer compound, they allow better times with less effort. Strengthened by the special tyres fitted at the end of the first part of the tests, Hunt and Lauda obtain times that are decidedly inferior to all their adversaries, with the exception of Pace, who has a car that is definitely well set up. Martini-Brabham is the only car that manages to meet the double requirements of the slow bends in the lower part of the track and the fast curve that leads to the arrival straight. Also the Lotus are already quite balanced, while the Tyrrell appear clearly distanced on the times. But what is surprising is the unexpected Kojima of the unknown Hasemi, who uses Dunlop tires: during the first practice session Masahiro Hasemi, with the Kojima Engineering KE 007 gets the best time when there are twenty minutes to go, beating Hunt and Lauda by one second. Lauda and Hunt fight it out on the last laps and it is a matter of small cents in favor of the Englishman who, however, pulls beyond the limit, risking big trouble in an overtaking on Watson. Before the start of the second series, Chapman and Ecclestone protest to get special tires as well, and they get them after a long discussion. The great fear of Goodyear makes that in the second practice session all the teams, except Coopersucar and Surtees, have the tires that only Ferrari and McLaren had. An hour's break to clear up ideas, then it's back to the track. The trouble for Hunt is that he has to run against everyone, while Lauda has the peace of mind of knowing that every opponent that comes before him and is not called Hunt, makes him take a step forward towards the title.

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And everyone is now on a level playing field. The fast tires were supplied to all the teams that counted, and so the Hunt-Lauda fight widened, involving Martini-Brabham-Alfa, for the first time the absolute protagonist with Carlos Pace, Andretti's Lotus, then Regazzoni with the Ferrari, and the incredible Brambilla, a driver who managed to work miracles with an old car. On the track Andretti and Pace show respectively how much the new tires were worth, leading the patrol of the privileged in front of Regazzoni, then Brambilla who, with crazy risks, manages to precede Lauda this time faster than in the first series. Niki Lauda has his own problems because the set of tires they gave him has strange balancing defects, the circumference of the tires is not equal, and the car runs badly until Lauda decides to go back to hard tires, and with these he improves his time. This is enough for him because Hunt is really in crisis this time. After changing three more times the wing position and modifying the front setup, the British driver ends up in a spin at the first bend of the lower part of the circuit, damaging the car in the exit on the grass: the very efficient McLaren shows some difficulty when it comes to intervene on the fly, out of the program. Hunt goes out and comes back three times from the pits, less and less effective in his driving, more and more gloomy in his face after going off the track after about six laps of running-in. Despite a new change of the rear springs, he remains several tenths above the best drivers. The first round ends with Niki more reassured, and Hunt reacting like a betrayed boy.

 

The Lotus leads the ranking of the times thanks to Mario Andretti, who precedes the Martini-Brabham of Carlos Pace, the Ferrari of Regazzoni, the incredible Brambilla with a March rather subdued, then Niki Lauda, in turn ahead of Hunt. The Japanese Masahiro Hasemi in the second session is the author of an off track accident that ruins the chassis and forces the team to suspend the tests. Nevertheless he is eighth. The difference in temperature between the hours of the morning when they tested, and the first hours of the afternoon when the race is scheduled, suggest to several teams to play the card of the softer tires, but the final decision will be taken only on Saturday at the end of practice, or maybe even on race day, with a look at the thermometer. From the point of view of the assignment of the world title, if the race classification were to reflect that of the practice sessions, the world title would belong to Lauda, who would further increase the slim advantage of three points that he has at the moment. The Formula One World Championship is nothing if not truly International and the latest country to climb onto the Grand Prix bandwagon is Japan who hosts the final round of this season’s 16-race series at the 4.3-km. Fuji International Speedway, situated in the shadow of the impressive (but happily dormant) Fuji volcano. The circuit was built just over ten years ago and its full 6-km. length includes a section of steep banking at the end of the long start/finish straight. However, the banking has not been used for racing since a fatal multi-car pile-up during a 2-litre sports-car race in 1974 so the Formula One event took place on the shortened 4.3-km. course which really consists of the long straight connected by a couple of tight corners and one extremely fast long right-hander, through which the fastest Grand Prix cars got into 5th gear before catapulting out onto the straight again.

 

Enthusiasm runs high amongst the local organisers who go out of their way to be hospitable and, although there is some concern over the durability of the lightly resurfaced circuit, everything runs very smoothly during the two official practice days. In this event there is an interesting local note given by a small group of drivers participating in the Japanese F2000 championship, all at their debut in the world championship: Masami Kuwashima, initially indicated as the RAM driver, who however did not participate due to the usual judicial issues, took the place of Warwick Brown at Wolf-Williams, Noritake Takahara, who had already participated in the 1974 BRDC International Trophy with the March, took the place of Brett Lunger at Surtees, Kazuyoshi Hoshino found a job on the Tyrrell of Heroes Racing, while Masahiro Hasemi, as mentioned, took the Kojima to his debut. Hoshino's car is fitted with Bridgestone tires, while Kojima's is fitted with Dunlop tires, returning to the world championship after six years. Among the constructors the Japanese Maki is back, with Tony Trimmer again at the wheel, while Ensign, with Ickx injured, Otto Stuppacher and Henri Pescarolo do not participate in the trip to Japan, while Hesketh enters only Ertl. Masami Kuwashima, after the poor results in Friday's practice and the failure of the sponsors who should have supported him, is replaced on the Wolf Williams by the Austrian Hans Binder. The only one not qualified will be Tony Trimmer on Maki. Apart from all the Formula One regulars there is a generous sprinkling of local interest at Fuji with no fewer than three Japanese drivers contesting their very first home Grand Prix. Noritake Takahara buys a drive in the second Surtees (TS19/02) which was driven for most of the season by Brett Lunger, Takahara having previously had a one-off Formula One drive at the wheel of a March 741 in the 1974 Silverstone International Trophy race.

 

Kazuyoshi Hoshino has one of the old Tyrrell four-wheelers (007/5) running on Bridgestone tyres and Masahiro Hasemi drives the very impressive Dunlop-shod Kojima KE007, which was built in a small factory adjacent to the Fuji Speedway gates. British enthusiasts may recall that Hasemi visited this country in 1974 to drive a Datsun Cherry in some saloon events, highlighting his stay by leading Frank Gardner’s Camaro round the twists and turns of Ingliston. The Kojima, owned and constructed by former Suzuki moto-cross rider Matsuhisa Kojima, is a very conventionally laid out Cosworth Hewland kit car with side radiators, front suspension by means of angled spring/damper units rather like those originally seen on the Brabham BT44B but operated by wide fabricated top rocker arms and rear suspension by means of lower parallel links plus top link and radius arms with outboard spring/dampers. Brakes are inboard at the rear, outboard at the front and the car is clothed with spectacular looking bodywork, the engine air intakes of which extend forward either side of the driver’s cockpit. A great deal of effort and attention to preparation went into the Kojima’s first Formula One appearance, although most people reckons the team to be a little optimistic if they imagine they can be competitive with the Grand Prix regulars first time out. When the first timed session gets under way on Friday morning, Hasemi’s performance in the Kojima is quite startling. With little apparent difficulty he rockets his well-practised path round Fuji to record a tremendous 1 min. 13.76 sec. best and is actually fastest of all with some times round the 1'14"0. barrier during the first half-hour.

 

His efforts on a set of very tacky Japanese Dunlop qualifiers leaves Goodyear pretty ruffled and the American firm immediately produces some soft Mosport covers for Hunt and Lauda which enables the McLaren driver to emerge from the first session at the top of the qualifiers with 1'13"76. The reigning World Champion produces a time one-hundredth of a second slower, proving that front and rear suspension revisions to his Ferrari 312/026 substantially improved the car’s handling since its run to third place at Watkins Glen, the car now rid of its frustrating oversteer problem which was caused by the rear tyres failing to heat up sufficiently. Carlos Pace is third on 1'13"81, in the Brabham BT45/3, the Brazilian starting practising with BT45/1 but taking over the newer car from team-mate Larry Perkins after it developed a misfire. The Martini sponsored team is down to only two machines for this final race of the season as the new lightweight BT45/5 was sent home after Pace had tangled with Mass’ McLaren at Watkins Glen and damaged the chassis quite badly in the ensuing accident. Hasemi’s time is good enough to maintain fourth place at the end of the first session ahead of Mario Andretti in Lotus 77/R1 (1'13"91) and Mass (1'14"07) in the second McLaren. In the Elf Tyrrell camp Scheckter starts off the session in his spare car (P34/2), transferring to P34/4 later on as he becomes conversant with the circuit and is in a position to advise the mechanics as to just what gear ratios are necessary.

 

Depailler drives P34/3-2 on this occasion, this replacing his usual P34/2 which still has some minor dents in its monocoque after collecting Hunt’s compressed air starter bottle when it fell off the McLaren during practice for the United States Grand Prix. Intent on lapping even faster, Hasemi blottes his copybook in the biggest possible fashion during the second session when he crashes the Kojima very heavily on the long right-hander leading into the pits straight, the car sustaining very serious monocoque damage but the driver emerging from the wreck without any injuries. But even with the Kojima out of the way neither Hunt nor Lauda manage to maintain their advantage at the head of the field during the second session, Hunt complaining of acute understeer in the tight corners and big traction problems as he accelerates away from them. His best time is 1'13"95, not as quick as the first session, but Lauda improves by 0.2 sec. which means that the fastest Ferrari is fifth quickest and the fastest McLaren sixth at the end of Friday’s second session. The man who heads the grid is Andretti in the Lotus 77, the rugged American driving on top form and looking very confident and assured in the process. Pace is finding that the long straight gives him a chance of using some of the Alfa flat-12s top end power and he finishes the day second quickest on 1'13"42 while Regazzoni in the second Ferrari is next (1'13"64) just in front of Vittorio Brambilla in the orange Beta March (1'1372). From the point of view of the World Championship struggle, Hunt goes back to his hotel on Friday evening knowing full-well that he has to improve on his time the following day if he wants a chance of finishing sufficiently far ahead of Lauda to win the Championship.

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As it stands at the end of Friday’s practice the British driver has a lot of very hard competitors in front of’ him and once the race starts they are going to be hell bent on winning the Japanese Grand Prix for themselves rather than concerning themselves with the destiny of the driver’s title. Although Scheckter tries both his Tyrrell P34s, Depailler emerges the fastest Elf runner on Friday with 1'14"15 ahead of Mass (1'14"17) and the determined Tom Pryce who rockets up to ninth fastest in the second session with the aid of a set of Mosport rubber. The Welshman’s 1'14"23 puts him just ahead of Scheckter’s Tyrrell (1'14"26) and the enthusiastic Perkins in the second Brabham-Alfa Romeo (1'14"38). The French Ligier-Gitanes team bring along their singleton Ligier Matra JS5/01 leaving Laffite without any back-up car after Watkins Glen while the Penske team produces only PC4/01 for Watson and then must have wished that they’d brought a spare along when it suffers engine failure at the start of Friday’s second session and leaves its driver kicking his heels in the pits with nothing to do. Before this mechanical failure interrupts his progress, Watson lapped in 1'14"67, to head Hans Stuck in the fastest of the March 761s (1'14"80). Team leader Ronnie Peterson, having his last race for the Bicester team prior to joining Ken Tyrrell for 1977, opens the weekend on a frustrating note when his March grounds to a standstill on the apex of a very vulnerable right-hand corner during the second session.

 

Despite the marshals trying to persuade the Swede to move his car off the circuit, Peterson remains on the corner unwilling to risk his only set of soft tyres on the rutted and flinty run-off area. Eventually Hasemi has his accident with the Kojima which results in the session being stopped, and as breakdown vehicles go to retrieve the damaged Japanese car they also stop by and tow the missing March back to the pits. Examination of Peterson’s car reveals the trouble to be in the gearbox, so the Swede joins Watson as a non-runner for the remainder of the second session. In the Frank Williams/Walter Wolf camp somebody did a dreaded deal for Japanese driver Masami Kuwashima to handle the second FW05 alongside Merzario, but after Kuwashima practises on the first day it is announced that perhaps his cheque is not in the post after all and Austrian Hans Binder (who’s been waiting quietly in the pits on Friday) will take the car over for the race. Alan Jones manages 1'14"94. in his Surtees TS19 which is covered in hieroglyphics proclaiming sponsorship from Theodore Racing (Jones’ Formula 5000 entrant in the United States) for the occasion, while Gunnar Nilsson is not keeping up with the searing pace set by teammate Andretti and is even slower than Merzario’s Williams on Friday. Tony Trimmer comes all the way to Japan for another drive in the locally built Maki Formula One car, but this team does not appear to have made any more progress since their last race in Europe and poor Trimmer only manages 1'36"84, hampered by dire gear selection and engine bothers. At the end of the qualifying a complaint is made by Martini-Brabham, because Carlos Pace would have recorded on the last lap the excellent time of 1'13"20, and therefore it would be him to get the pole position after this first day. But the claim is rejected.

 

Saturday’s practice is conducted in the same fine autumn weather that was experienced the previous day and the final hour-long timed stint resolves itself into the dispute between Lauda and Hunt that has been so frequent before the Austrian’s Nurburgring accident. Hunt records a fine 1'12"8 while the Ferrari driver hovers just the other side of the 1'13"0 barrier with 1'13"08. Just as it looks as though the two contestants for the World Drivers’ Championship might start the final race from the front row of the grid everybody notices that Andretti’s times are getting faster and faster, the little American eventually cutting a tremendous 1'12"77 best to snatch pole position for Lotus. It is the first time a Lotus qualifies fastest for a Grand Prix for over two years and the first time Andretti is on pole since his amazing debut in a Lotus 49B at Watkins Glen in 1968. Andretti’s performance relegates Lauda to the second row of the grid while Watson makes up for his previous afternoon’s disappointment by hurling his Penske round in 1'13"29 to qualify in fourth place. Scheckter is next on 1'13"31 ahead of Pace’s Brabham-Alfa Romeo (1'13"43) and Regazzoni and Brambilla find themselves displaced bodily from the second to the fourth row, if not out of harm’s way then certainly out of Hunt’s, the British driver breathing a sigh of relief that he does not have to deal with those two renegades in the opening stages of this crucial race.

 

On the fifth row Peterson slips in a 1'13"85 but when the field lines up on the grid for Sunday’s race, the Swede must have felt slightly embarrassed to look across to his left and see the inscrutable Hasemi sitting alongside him in the Kojima, its first session best of 1'13"88 still good enough to qualify the car tenth quickest overall even though the rest of the field has taken part in over two hours’ practice after the Kojima’s accident. Laffite equals the Kojima’s time but Mass cannot better 1'14"05 and then comes Depailler (1'14"15) and Pryce (1'14"23). Jarier looks more competitive than he was for most of the season, lapping his Shadow DN5 in 1'14"32, only to have a frightening incident on the main straight just before the end of the session when a rear tyre disintegrates and the black car skids to a halt in spectacular fashion. Jarier emerges unscathed and although the car does not seem damaged, the brunt of the impact has been taken by the radiator mountings and the underside of the monocoque is quite seriously bashed. Accordingly Jarier takes over Pryce’s spare DN5 for the race on Sunday. Behind Jarier comes Nilsson in the second Lotus, Perkins and Stuck, while Merzario qualifies ahead of Jones' Surtees and Hoshino’s Bridgestone-shod Tyrrell laps quicker than Ertl, Fittipaldi and Takahara. Finally Frank Williams gets everybody to sign a paper saying that they do not mind Binder starting as 25th on the grid, so the Austrian begins the race all on his own at the back.

 

Saturday, October 23, 1976, Mario Andretti, American driver with birth and dialect of Trieste, leads the ranking of the times in the test, despite the efforts of James Hunt to win the pole position more than ever useful on this occasion. The goal fails, even if only for three hundredths, and Niki, who forces much less, is third in the ranking of the times, in a position that if it were in the final ranking would give him the best gift of the year and also the most deserved: the world title. Andretti leads his Lotus always at maximum speed, feeling only a moment of agitation at the exit of the first curve of the lower part of the circuit. The moment was enough for him to end up drifting on the grass, without damage but with a clear demonstration of how much the safety margin was reduced. Hunt doesn't risk less, but he controls the situation more carefully, trying to limit the number of laps, then as the end of the tests approaches he dares more and more, but without being able to achieve the best time. But the official times are not immediately available, and at McLaren a slightly optimistic timekeeper, or just boned compared to the official timekeepers, indicates to his driver the best performance, so Teddy Mayer, McLaren manager, declares at the end of the tests:

 

"It's the normal solution to see that we are the strongest".

 

And James echoes him by saying:

 

"I'm the strongest, it's since America that I've been telling you this and there are only the few uncertainties of the race".

 

At the same time, at Ferrari they are quite satisfied with the progress of the car, that from a situation of clear inferiority in the American races has passed to a good competitiveness. Lauda runs with the confidence of a fully recovered man, while Regazzoni encounters problems with the tires because Goodyear has provided about half of the new tires with different circumference, causing troubles a little bit to all the teams. Even though he improved his Friday time, Clay could not get into the top positions because he never had a good set of tires. In fact, all the tires supplied by Goodyear to Ferrari are given to Lauda first, in order to favor him in this last and decisive test. The poor Clay is thus forced to use the tires discarded by his teammate, and therefore cannot fight for the first places. James Hunt jokes about the performance of the tires, and at the end of the tests he approaches Audetto and asks him if he can use Hasemi's Dunlop tires:

 

"So you give me a bit of an advantage".

 

But Audetto reminds him that only one set is available, so Hunt pulls out a coin and throws it in the air after agreeing on who would take the set played heads or tails. The Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo suffered the most damage, with Pace driving a car as perfect as Friday's, but unbalanced by the tires. The Brazilian, who had ambitions of success, found himself in the same conditions as Lauda on Friday, i.e. with different tyre diameters, and was forced to be content with Friday's time, which unjustly reduced him to the third row of the grid. Trouble also for Brambilla but from the engine, first lower than 400 rpm at maximum speed, then literally burst after just three laps, which prevents him from repeating the good performance of the previous day; in the race he will use the one already used on Friday, but he has no great hopes of keeping it. Out of the race remain Binder and Tony Trimmel, who brings back the Maki on track without too many hopes, while Merzario, always struggling with a car full of troubles, runs a bad adventure when he breaks a wheel at the end of the pit straight, at top speed. Fortunately, the driver from Como manages to control the skid and return to the box to replace the tyre. Numerous are the spins and the exits, fortunately without consequences. The victims are Laffite, Watson, Jones and Andretti. But the most spectacular incident involves Binder, who drives the Williams. The Austrian driver gets upset at the entrance of the hairpin bend in the lower part of the circuit, touches the kerb, and the car rears up on two wheels, but fortunately falls back on all four, without serious damage. In the interval of the tests carried out during the day on Saturday, Daniele Audetto asks Giancarlo Cevenini, journalist of Autosprint, if he brought the newspaper with him. At the negative answer, he exclaims laughing:

 

"Too bad, I wanted to know what was being said about my future at Ferrari".

 

When asked to explain that the most common rumour in the usually well-informed circles is that he has been excluded from Ferrari, Audetto laughs again and says that it is not true.

 

"Autosprint even wrote that I had put my foot down...".

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To the affirmative answer, he shakes his head and says:

 

"It's true, but that was a long time ago. Months ago. Now the situation has changed and I'm staying at Ferrari for at least a year, maybe two. You see, I'm comfortable at Ferrari. My contract has no problems whatsoever. I have recently spoken with Montezemolo who has once again renewed his, FIAT's and Ferrari's confidence in me, after the veiled anticipations of Autosprint".

 

But engineer Nosetto has resigned from Csai, and rumors say that he would have been the new sports director of Ferrari. Audetto is impressed and swallows. Now he is distraught, and is forced to admit without reticence that he knows about Nosetto:

 

"Yes, I know, he's been hired by Ferrari, but not to be the sports director right away, for a while he'll come with me to the races, let's say for a year at least, then we'll see. You see, in the world of Formula 1, a pure, simple person like engineer Nosetto, if he doesn't make his bones well first, those of the English Mafia will eat him up in no time".

 

So he takes a breath, then continues:

 

"I know the battles I've had to fight in every Grand Prix. This morning you were the only witness of the fight I had with Ecclestone, Mosley was present, when I asked everyone to sign a paper authorizing whoever wanted to try for an hour after the tests. But Ecclestone and Company denied it to me. So it has been in every race, every time, a dispute, every time discussions, and if you don't have an iron hand, the English teams will tear you to pieces. Then they did the vote to see who wanted to do the free practice and who didn't, six votes in favor and eleven against. I'm staying with Ferrari. In addition to Montezemolo's assurances to that effect, I also had others. I have done my job well, at least that's what everyone tells me".

 

But didn't you have any disagreements with Lauda?

 

"Never. I've always got along well with Lauda and I've never had any complaints. For me, the story that I am leaving Ferrari is a complete fabrication. Many newspapers, after inquiring, wrote that I had been reconfirmed for 1977, and I will have engineer Nosetto with me to give him some grit. Nothing else".

 

After the qualifying tests, the car season closes on Sunday October 24, 1976 with the last challenge between Niki Lauda and James Hunt, that summarizes in the brief arc of only one Grand Prix the contradictions of ten months of activity. Niki Lauda has now on his side the sympathy of everybody, the consciousness that just seeing him on the track in this moment is a title of merit prevailing over any other, the prestige that comes from being a Ferrari driver. On the other hand he has a car that is no longer superior to all the others, on the contrary it has precise limits and defects, with faults adequately divided among the technicians, so he must aim at a defensive race. James Hunt is the new man, the champion created by the persuasion of mass media used by experts like Marlboro and Texaco. He has an ambiguous human charge, he is unfriendly, arrogant, equivocal in his ostentation of male brute and he is the interpreter of Teddy Mayer's philosophy, a new Machiavelli without wit and nobility. Among the opponents, one in particular. Mario Andretti, from Trieste, America, a driver of the old guard, with an almost unbelievable career behind him, has just at the end of the season the right vehicle to win. Chapman has developed a Lotus, for the glory of John Player's, that can win, and the driver wants at all costs to achieve this goal. He wants it for himself, but he has in addition a number of personal reasons that a man like him also wants to pursue:

 

"I don't like this Hunt. He doesn't have the spirit of us old-timers, nor the seriousness of the new French, Austrian, or South American drivers. We in America say he doesn't have the feeling of a champion. He can win, but no one will ever recognize his real superiority. Besides, if they go on like they did this year, the McLaren gentlemen will always be qualified as cheaters. We all know that Hunt's victories are only obtained thanks to rigged gasoline. The alteration is done so well and the controls so badly that doping is there, but we pretend not to see it. There are those who could speak and bring concrete evidence, but they don't do it because this whole circus is standing on mutual silence. Well, for once that I can stay ahead of him, pulling beyond the limit and without extra horsepower on the straight, I will not give up at the cost of roasting everything. And then I'd be glad to please Ferrari".

 

But James Hunt pays no attention to these words and declares:

 

"It's from America that I tell you: James Hunt is the strongest and it shows".

 

It is Mayer's tactical choice to be aggressive, in line with the team's unscrupulous behavior. And, to stay on the same theme, Hunt will race in a car with the softest tyres available, as long as it doesn't rain like it did on Saturday night, with the guarantee of being able to attack right from the start. At Ferrari, the hours of eve are finally more relaxed. A pre-race balance sheet is made and Daniele Audetto underlines how the Constructors' Cup, which has a great technical significance, is firmly in Ferrari's hands thanks to the complementary tests to those of Lauda, obtained by Regazzoni. As for Niki, he has already performed the miracle of returning to the track to defend the title after the August accident. Audetto's words are beautiful, ecumenical even when he praises the nice and noisy group of mechanics, only that one has the impression that they are not shared by everyone in the Ferrari team. Regazzoni himself, this evening, said some very serene sentences, but not for this reason interesting:

 

"It's useless to be recriminating. In Spain we lost the set-up of the car, and no one wanted or, worse, knew how to fix it. Then in France came the trouble with the engines and the story was complete. Niki deserves the title, Ferrari a bit less for the many mistakes he made, including the one today. It is not intelligent to let me finish behind, in the starting positions, giving me trains of tires already used by Niki and practically preventing me from improving on yesterday. This is a race that Lauda doesn't have to win at all costs. The important thing is to keep Hunt back and what am I doing starting from the fourth row?"

 

Now we just have to wait for the race, with Fujiyama shrouded in clouds and the water falling lightly between hisses of wind. At Fuji, on October 24, 1976, at 8:00 a.m., the drivers arrive at the circuit well in advance after getting up early to avoid a queue that does not exist, because the large public deserted the event. It has been raining since the previous evening, and every stretch of asphalt appears flooded. After those two days of sunshine, Sunday provides a depressing contrast with streaming rain and low cloud swirling round the circuit and completely concealing Mount Fuji from view. Thousands of spectators has queued and waited all night in the rain to see Japan’s first Championship Grand Prix, but as the morning passes the prospect of a race actually taking place seems increasingly remote. It is not simply a case of torrential rain causing miniature lakes to build up on the circuit; the problems are compounded by the low cloud and mist which one minute clears up only to reappear seconds later and restrict visibility to a matter of a hundred yards or so. Precisely for this reason, at 9:00 a.m. the drivers and technicians observe the track and weather conditions with concern. One hour later, the green light comes on and free practice begins. Everyone takes to the track to study setups for the rain tires, but they can't pull for the prohibitive conditions.

 

"It's useless to go on like this".

 

Confesses Niki to Forghieri and Audetto, after returning to the pits.

 

"If it continues like this, we won't race".

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Confesses James Hunt to the journalists present at Fuji. During practice, Larry Perkins wrecks his Brabham at the fast curve, and just at the end Pace also goes off the road, before the free practice closes at 10:30 a.m. Immediately afterwards, the five drivers who make up the Safety Commission, Hunt, Jarier, Lauda, Fittipaldi and Pace, meet in the caravan of the race director, the Japanese Yoshihiro Yasumoto, to decide how to behave. At 11:10 a.m., forty minutes after the end of practice, the Commission's verdict is clear: all five agree that the circuit is unroadable. But at 11:40 a.m. the race director, worried, starts to put pressure so that the race can take place: Hunt, Jarier, Lauda, Fittipaldi and Pace make a survey among the qualified drivers to understand the position to keep, and they discover that only the Japanese Takahara and Hasemi, plus Stuck, Brambilla and Regazzoni seem determined to run. Peterson, on the other hand, mocks and often responds badly to Niki Lauda, as he is still wounded in his pride because of what had happened a few months earlier, when the Austrian prevented him from joining Ferrari. At 12:30 a.m. the Commission asks for an attempt to clean the track and the organizers, to try to meet the request, dig some channels to drain the water from the straight. In the meantime, Niki Lauda slips into the silver Rolls Royce, marked 10-44, that the organization has made available to drive between the hotel, the airport and the track, and begins a series of talks with almost all his colleagues, obtaining consensus in favor of cancelling the race, or boycotting it.

 

Half an hour later it rains even harder, and the pilots meet again, but this time in the organization tower. Opposite is the jury building, where the race commissioners are absolutely incapable of making decisions, so Max Mosley arrives to announce that the March will participate in the race. At 1:15 p.m. the drivers are joined by the managers of the various teams, especially Daniele Audetto, who helps Niki Lauda, and the discussion becomes confused and dispersive. A quarter of an hour later the green signal is turned on, to indicate that the race can start: on the track the March cars first appear, then the Japanese cars, then the McLarens and Lotus to run a few slow laps. Tom Pryce is sent by his colleagues in the tower to see how things actually are, and he drives his Shadow, but at 1:50 p.m. Pryce returns saying that it is madness to run. He is echoed this time by Peterson and Mass. At this point there are those who propose a race that is not valid for the championship, others to postpone everything to the next day, others still to give the 1976 closing qualification to the first race of 1977, but the proposals are combined in useless theoretical solutions. At 2:00 p.m. Bernie Ecclestone, worried about losing the television coverage, having rented a satellite, proposes to the jury a race not valid for the championship and the postponement of the last test to 1977, but this proposal is rejected and Ecclestone willingly accepts the imposition to run. Lauda exclaims:

 

"Enough, I have decided not to race. I'll do a lap then I'll stop".

 

At the meeting all the drivers agree with the Austrian driver's decision. Shortly after, however, the race director, Yoshihiro Yasumoto, arrives and indicates to the drivers that it is getting dark and that if they do not start immediately the televisions will not be able to film the last laps of the race. Instinctively, Vittorio Brambilla starts, and everyone follows him. Lauda is surprised, but after leaving the hall he goes back to the paddock and warns his chaffeur to stay near, ready to start, because the car not feeling quite right after being hurriedly repaired after he crashed it during the untimed morning session. In the meantime James Hunt confesses to Pete Lyons, journalist of the English weekly Autosport:

 

"I'm not going to race, I can't. I'm only leaving to do a few laps".

 

However, Hunt is intimated by Teddy Mayer to continue the race and not to dare to stop the car, otherwise he would have ruined his career, while Ferrari's technical director, Mauro Forghieri, says to the Austrian:

 

"Come on Niki, don't give up, start cautiously, don't take unnecessary risks that it's almost done, understand?"

 

Lauda, glacial, nods and closes the visor of his helmet. James Hunt would have liked to warn Niki of the threats that had just come from Mayer, but he didn't make it in time because, after 2:50 p.m. the cars were on the track for a very slow reconnaissance lap, at 3:09 p.m. the race was started. Andretti in pole position makes his tires slip; Hunt and Watson take advantage of this and take the lead. At the first passage Hunt leads ahead of Watson, Andretti, Scheckter, Brambilla, Regazzoni, Depailler and Kazuyoshi Hoshino on a Tyrrell of the local Heroes Racing team, which uses Bridgestone tires, while the other contender for the title, Niki Lauda is tenth. Along the track Watson will make a spin and will slip to ninth position, while Peterson will stop with the electrical system out of order. During the first lap, Larry Perkins voluntarily retires, and at 3:12 p.m. Niki Lauda also returns to the pit.

 

"S'è caghé adoss".

 

("He crapped his pants")

 

A mechanic from Modena exclaims when he sees the Austrian stop and get out of the car. Mauro Forghieri, Scuderia Ferrari's technical director, approaches Lauda, who signals that there is nothing to do.

 

"What is it? The engine? A suspension? The gearbox?"

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Forghieri asks. Lauda approaches him, says something in a low voice, and the technical director whitens. At this point Forghieri also calls Audetto, and the truth is revealed. Forghieri suggests to Lauda to blame the retirement on an electrical problem, but the Austrian prefers to take the responsibility and tells Mauro that he would have spoken to Ferrari. Then he goes towards the wall that divides the pits from the track and waits. To Hunt, at this point, it is enough to arrive fourth, provided that the race is not stopped too early, thus awarding only half of the points. With the fourth place, James would have the same points of Lauda but he would have been first in the classification for a greater number of won races, six in comparison to the five of the Austrian driver. In the first laps Brambilla chases Hunt, getting the second place during the third lap, after passing Scheckter and Andretti. The other drivers follow behind. On lap six Brambilla comes charging into the pits to replace a chunking left front tyre and that drops him down to eighth, but he goes charging in at unabated speed. Pace and Fittipaldi last until laps eight and ten respectively before pulling into the pits, officially with mechanical troubles but in fact with similar misgivings as Lauda about the weather conditions.

 

By the tenth lap Hunt is over 8sec ahead of Andretti, but the crowd’s attention now focuses on the efforts of Hoshino who brings his Tyrrell up to third place by the tenth lap, passing Regazzoni’s Ferrari and Scheckter’s newer Tyrrell P34 as he did so. This magnificent performance lasts only for a couple of laps until the fast-recovering Brambilla displaces him and then the Japanese-entered Tyrrell stops for a tyre change on lap twenty. Brambilla steadily hauls in Hunt’s leading McLaren and completes the 20th lap right on its tail, the British driver keeping a close watch in his mirrors as he doesn’t want the volatile Italian to ruin his Championship chances with a single imprudent move. Halfway round the 21st lap Brambilla decides to make a bid for the lead and comes rushing up on the inside of the hairpin, careering across Hunt’s bows and immediately spinning as Hunt repasses on the inside. Brambilla, who reportes to his pit that his March’s engine cut out and caused the spin, drops to fourth place behind Hunt, Mass and Depailler’s Tyrrell as a result. In the meantime, on lap 24, it stops raining, so it is decided to complete the race disputing the entire distance. The score, therefore, will be attributed entirely. Niki is now in the back box, close to his wife Marlene that strangely, after the surrender of her husband, does not speak. Giancarlo Cevenini, journalist for Autosprint, goes up to him and asks what happened?
 

"Nothing, I didn't feel like continuing, I couldn't see. The car was okay, but I didn't feel like continuing".

 

Fear?

 

"Call it what you want, but you couldn't run like that today. With the water that was there, I gave up".

 

You said Ferrari pays you to race, and I think well, today you didn't, why?

 

"Ferrari pays me to race, but not to throw me out the window. I will go to Maranello and talk to the commendatore about it. I think, I hope, that he understands".

 

Why did you consider the track so dangerous today? If everyone else raced, didn't you have to give up the start?

 

"They wanted to start and I tried. The visibility was zero. I was at my personal limit, I couldn't and didn't want to risk more. I know what my limit is and I don't intend to exceed it for any reason. At Fuji the track was a lake".

 

How do you judge the title Hunt is winning?

 

"A usurped title, because I believe that Ferrari and I have always dominated. If it hadn't been for my accident at the Nurburgring I would have easily won the title for the second time. Hunt won only because I could not develop the car".

 

Will you stay until the end of the race? Hunt can always stop for a breakdown.

 

"I'll leave as soon as I can. The race doesn't interest me".

 

When are you going to Maranello?

 

"As soon as possible".

 

Then, as the thirty-second lap begins on the track, Niki Lauda leaves the circuit in his Rolls Royce, together with Ferrari's technical director, Mauro Forghieri. On the back seat, at his side is Marlene. Outside the circuit the traffic is chaotic. Several minutes pass before the Austrian driver asks to turn on the radio. The transmission is jammed, and he can barely pick up an American network that is following the race.

 

"Watch out, incredible twist. Five laps from the end Hunt's McLaren loses positions and stops in the pits. At this moment Niki lauda is World Champion".

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Niki Lauda cannot believe it, but turns towards Marlene before the car takes an underpass leading to the airport, losing the signal. At the airport, Niki finds no one to help him know the outcome of the race. Looking through the crowd for a familiar face, the Austrian finds a Ferrari importer in Japan. Lauda sees him, and sketches a smile, but the latter lowers his gaze, spreads his arms and shrugs his shoulders. What has happened at Fuji? On lap 27 Hoshino is forced to retire: his tires are worn out and the lack of a spare set forces him to stop. The track surface is drying noticeably and McLaren team manager Teddy Mayer is anxiously signalling to his two drivers that they shall move off the dry line on the main straight and keep their deep-grooved rain tyres on what water remains. Mass gradually closes in on his team-mate, seemingly intent on leading the race for himself rather than protecting Hunt’s advantage, but his efforts come to an abrupt end when he hits a large puddle on the long right-hand corner before the pits and careers off the track into the guard rail, much to the detriment of the McLaren’s front end. This drama leaves Hunt lapping comfortably on his own in the lead, but Pryce worked his shadow DN8 up into second place by the time 40 of the race’s 73 laps has been completed. Unfortunately Pryce’s gallant effort lasts a mere seven laps before the Shadow’s engine expires in an expensive cloud of oil smoke. That puts Depailler back to second ahead of Andretti while Brambilla has already departed the fray with severe electrical problems. Both the Williams cars are also out before 50 laps have been completed, Merzario with gearbox trouble and Binder with a seized rear wheel bearing. With just over 20 laps to go it is clear that Hunt will have to take things very steadily if he is to avoid the tyre problems that afflict most of his rivals. On lap 27 Hoshino is forced to retire: his tires are worn out and the lack of a spare set forces him to stop. Watson breaks the engine of his Penske, Mass goes off the track and Pryce takes the third place, after passing Watson, Andretti and Brambilla in a few laps. Brambilla and Pryce stop shortly afterwards for technical problems: the Italian on lap 38, due to the electrical system, and the Briton on lap 46. At 4:10 p.m. Hunt continues to lead undisturbed; behind him is his teammate Mass, who however leaves the track on lap 35. At 4:30 p.m. Hunt starts to have tire problems, to the point that he is caught and passed by the pursuers on lap 62.

 

Also Depailler has tire problems, and has to leave the lead to Andretti, before stopping at the pits to change tires due to a puncture. Hunt moved up to second place, and hoped to be able to hold out until the end, trying to cool his tires by passing through the damp areas of the circuit. In the following laps the British driver decides to slow down, being overtaken by Depailler and Andretti, as the fourth place would have been enough to gain the 1976 title, and desperately tries to talk with the team, but the team does not understand what the British driver means and continues to set regular times. It's 4:45 p.m. when, on the 59th lap, Hunt is forced to return to the pits, after puncturing his left front tire at the last curve. He restarts after only twenty-three seconds and six tenths, during which the mechanics replace all four tires again with rain tires, in fifth position, since in the meantime he has been overtaken by Regazzoni, Depailler and Jones, while Andretti continues to lead the race. Working with commendable calm, the McLaren lads replace the two rear wheels but have a nasty moment when they cannot slip the jack under the left front wheel because the tyre deflation means that this corner is virtually dragging on the ground. One of the mechanics lifts the suspension up so as to permit the jack to be inserted, the front tyres are changed and Hunt is back in the fray in fifth place with only five laps to go. At 16:30 Hunt starts to have tire problems, to the point that he is caught and passed by the pursuers on lap 62. Also Depailler has tire problems, and has to leave the lead to Andretti, before stopping at the pits to change tires due to a puncture. Hunt moved up to second place, and hoped to be able to hold out until the end, trying to cool his tires by passing through the damp areas of the circuit. In the following laps the British driver decides to slow down, being overtaken by Depailler and Andretti, as the fourth place would have been enough to gain the 1976 title, and desperately tries to talk with the team, but the team does not understand what the British driver means and continues to set regular times. 

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It's 4:45 p.m. when, on the 59th lap, Hunt is forced to return to the pits, after puncturing his left front tire at the last curve. He restarts after only twenty-three seconds and six tenths, during which the mechanics replace all four tires again with rain tires, in fifth position, since in the meantime he has been overtaken by Regazzoni, Depailler and Jones, while Andretti continues to lead the race. Not satisfied, however, Hunt continues not to believe Teddy's indication, so he opens a coke and waits for the race commissioners' verdict. Only when he sees the classification drawn up by the race direction, the Brit puts down the coke and takes a beer. James Hunt, therefore, did it. He had been saying it since the Canadian Grand Prix that he would become World Champion, and he wasn't wrong. What seemed like a boutade turned out to be an authentic prediction based on conviction, on real knowledge of his own means. Now, in the light of the facts, and above all of the race seen on the track of Mount Fuji, the Englishman takes on a new face, that of the capable driver, whose talents are clearly above average. The episodes, though few, confirm this impression: the calm shown before the start of the race, the meticulous search for perfection such as the cleaning of the plastic visor of the helmet and the holes made by the hand drill to have a better ventilation, the determined start, the ability with which he fought off Brambilla's attack, the way he let Andretti overtake him without doing anything crazy, the choice of the time to stop at the pits. Everything contributed to deform, for the better, the image of a driver who seemed to rely only on courage and impetuosity, to transform it into that of a prepared champion.

 

Looking back and from a different angle at what happened in this World Championship, the Englishman's qualities may perhaps stand out more clearly. What other driver would have passed unscathed under the psychological profile the cancellation and then the reconfirmed validity of the victory in Spain, the cancellation of the success in England, the practical exclusion, with the inclusion in the last row of the grid at Monza, for gasoline? If there are any doubts about the clarity of this success, they concern McLaren, and certainly not the driver. In England they call him a superstar because of his vague resemblance to the protagonist of the famous musical comedy. Someone has defined him as the playboy of Formula 1 for his success with beautiful women; others define him as a hippy for his nonconformist style, for his extravagant attitudes, for his unkempt clothing. But in reality, behind it all there is the English spirit, the one that makes you love adventure without relying on the precariousness of improvisation. Heir to a tradition that has given motor racing, just to talk about recent eras, protagonists such as Stirling Moss, John Surtees, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart, the new World Champion is certainly no slouch. Perhaps he doesn't have Niki Lauda's conductor's ear for tuning a car, but he does have experience, since he built the first cars to run in Formula 3 on his own, buying scrap metal, and a great British will, a coldness that is not computer-like but that of a man from the North. Hunt is not even a product of chance. Lord Hesketh, who entered the world of Formula 1 in 1973 and brought a breath of Victorian puritanism, bet a great deal on him.

 

With a white McLaren, mechanics in white overalls, a huge van on which was written Hesketh runs for Great Britain, the young man launched Hunt into the firmament of Grand Prix. For him it almost went to ruin: he spent something like seven hundred thousand pounds but, in the end, even if now Hunt had to find different sponsors, the consecration was not lacking. At the age of twenty-nine, James Hunt is no longer the young boy he would have us believe. He has a failed marriage behind him, the one with Susy Miller, former waitress and former Miss World who left him for the actor Richard Burton, a school career abandoned for racing (his father, a well-known professional, had started him to study medicine), a series of decisions made that have made him unpopular. 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".

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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".

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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.

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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".

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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?

 

"Yes".

 

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 '98 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".

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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".

 

Going to the tobacconist's I heard the title of the comment I made at the Japanese Grand Prix being thrown back in my face. The headline said that Ferrari's troubles began at the Nurburgring. The tobacconist said: It is not true that they started at the Nurburgring, you should have written that Ferrari's troubles started the day Ferrari decided to abstain from racing and did not participate in the Austrian Grand Prix. What was her response?

 

"I would have answered his tobacconist that I don't smoke. What do you want me to answer? We didn't go to Austria but we went to Holland and before going to Holland I called Regazzoni on the phone, and I never told my drivers either good or bad, I always left them free. I bothered to call him and I said: now that you are alone, I don't want you to take responsibility. Do your race regardless of the fact that there is no Lauda and that everything depends on you. You know the result, our car didn't work anymore, that's bullshit. Regazzoni did the fastest lap on the penultimate lap".

 

I would like to remind you that Lauda's accident happened two months after Ferrari's last victory. Therefore, two months that have been of interval, of emptiness. In these two months I read that you said: Lauda no longer brings the same contribution he did last year, he has thinned out his visits to Maranello.

 

"It is true, I have nothing to withdraw. I wrote this in an interview with Corriere della Sera, which generously published it for me. Now it doesn't publish any more, and that's why perhaps he blames me a lot. However, let me be clear about this. I will read a document. This document is dated July 23rd. It is the stenographed minutes of the meeting that we hold every fifteen or twenty days at Ferrari. Present at the meeting were Ferrari, the president, Piero Lardi, the head of the Dispositions department, the person who builds the cars, Franco Rocchi, who is unfortunately in the hospital in Reggio Emilia and to whom I send my warmest wishes to have him back as a member of the Ferrari technical troika, Mauro Forghieri, head of the Studies department, Giancarlo Bussi, head of the Experience department, Daniele Audetto, sports director, and Sante Ghedini, director of the Fiorano track. Lauda was wrong not to wait for the clarification on the high temperatures found, which were not engine temperatures as it turned out. Hence the double damage on Sunday morning. He has to find the time, if he wants to remain World Champion, for the tests at Fiorano. I said this on 23 July. As for the technical drama of the failure of the French Grand Prix, it is worth remembering that in ten laps we were already nine seconds ahead, then both crankshafts broke, which did not happen again because we ran - with endless stunts - to find the material that did not give us these serious problems anymore. Something that hadn't happened before, because we were given a material with characteristics that didn't turn out to be what they should be".

 

You reject the thesis that Ferrari has slept on its laurels and has not followed the progress that other cars have followed, progress that has been evident on race circuits, like McLaren, like others...

 

"Blatant for you or for whom?"

 

In light of the results.

 

"In the light of the results, you have a hundred reasons".

 

But the speech is not concluded. He rejects this thesis and, on the other hand, to this thesis he interposes another...

 

"No. I don't reject it. I'm saying that in life all achievements are the result of a close collaboration between human values, technical values, mechanical values and so on. So we lacked this continuity, while others were moving forward, we stopped. Why? This is where Lauda's merit comes back and all the respect we have shown him and will have to show him is justified. He brought a decisive contribution, because until we had other drivers, we had not been able to know if we were incapable or if the drivers were incapable of showing what our cars had. And you know that the designer is not a test driver. You are young and you don't know the days of Daimler Benz, when the design engineer Ulenhaut approved the cars at the Nurburgring. At that time the judgement was technical and sporting, instead our designers have to operate according to the enthusiasm or the depression of the drivers. Fortunately, today we have a plant in Fiorano that is equipped with such means that even the drivers tell fewer stories".

 

To conclude, you want to confirm that Ferrari's attitude has been conditioned by Lauda's accident.

 

"Uniquely".

 

Looking back at the season, you have only one regret: not having lined up the third car in the last races. She also said: If we had fielded it we probably would have won. On a penalty kick, though, we would have won. It seems to be clear that your intention since then was to field the third car and that you didn't field it because someone pointed out to you that it was not appropriate to field it.

 

"There is no need for metaphors, the someone - I said it clearly - was Niki Lauda. He said: at Monza it's okay: I don't want three cars anymore, it's useless to make compliments".

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However, I wanted to know if, in support of this statement by Lauda, there had also been an expression of will, there was an expression of opportunity on the part of those close to you in the team and who oversee the technical things at Ferrari.

 

"Look. In fact, look is a mistake, you have to say listen. Those who are close to me express many opinions and I listen to them all. But one thing is clear. I have no direct responsibility in Ferrari. My presence at Ferrari is to support the decisions of others and, as far as possible, I try to ensure that these decisions have general consensus. I have no intention of taking on any part other than that which has been assigned to me since 1969. I have kept the possibility of studying new machines of a sporting nature, of keeping the torch of sporting activity alive. What concerns the industrial management, what concerns all the decisions of the company is not my business, I must be grateful to those who turn to me for daily advice. Here we have engineer Fusaro, who is thirty-seven years old, he is the general manager of Ferrari. Ferrari is in good hands. Since 1969 I have had a relationship with the lawyer Agnelli and with the current Senator Umberto which has always been cordial and full of trust. They have always been generous in interpreting my sporting anxieties, so I have nothing to add other than that as long as I am in the world I intend to stay in this place and say what I think".

 

Forgive me, in a few words I wanted to say this: Lauda's statement, according to which it was not opportune to line up the third car, was followed by a consensus of the Ferrari technical staff, and you confirm this directly. That is, you were the only one who thought...

 

"You cannot ask me if I was there or not because at this point I would have to invite you to Maranello to read the minutes of our meetings. At that moment you would see who said yes and who said no, but it seems to me that this is not an argument for this kind of meeting. The important thing is that I can assure you that even at that moment the wish of our pilot was respected, who we have considered and continue to consider until proven otherwise as the number one".

 

Sunday afternoon, or rather Sunday at 9:15 am, there was a statement by the lawyer Montezemolo on the radio, network two. When asked by the journalist Crespi from Milan, who acted as moderator, the lawyer replied that after all, he is not sorry about the defeat because it serves to reorganize an environment. He also said that certain individuals within Ferrari need to be rebalanced. Don't you have any comments to make?

 

"Frankly, I have more than one comment to make. However, this morning in Tutto Sport I read Ottolenghi's article where it says that: There is something else at Ferrari you can guess from the diagnosis made by authoritative sources that with language not even too veiled has put his finger on the sore. So there would be a plague at Ferrari. No? All right. First excessive security and loss of humility, inappropriate stops in the search for continuous improvement, relaxation of the environment with the regrettable return to the confusion of tasks within the team. So I should respond to these three accusations that Tutto Sport formulates as coming from a well-informed source...".

 

Speaking of humility.

 

"I respond to documented accusations, when I am shown excessive confidence and loss of humility. For example, I have always declared that Ferrari had a one-tenth advantage over all its competitors; this one-tenth was the consequence of the mechanical efficiency and the human efficiency of the driver. The day one of these two elements failed, everything collapsed. This is the truth. There are other elements. We will talk about tires if some of you don't say it, I will do an interview with myself and I will explain it to you. Inappropriate stops in the quest for continuous improvement. But what stops. We have had a Salvarani in bed with angina pectoris for months now, a Rocchi in bed with a heart attack: the columns of Ferrari are left with only Forghieri, with only the exuberant and very intelligent Forghieri, so how can you put others in that place? It's like when someone wrote: But why didn't Ferrari think to get other tires, since Goodyear had that problem? As if it was easy, as if there was another factory in the world that makes Formula 1 tires. It doesn't exist, or rather it exists in France. Whoever has them keeps them and will give them to the French cars and that is Michelin, which we have been able to test because of the excellent relationship we have with this company and they have proven that these tires allow exceptional speeds. But, mind you, this helped Goodyear because we said: Gentlemen wake up, because the day Michelin comes with Renault to the races, that day you will not be in time to give new tires. That's why in Japan they started to bring out soft tires, that's why the much discussed T2 at Brands Hatch didn't go, because we had the single type tire, which was imposed by the manufacturers association, the tire that only goes on certain cars with weight balances that are not those of Ferrari. When it was hot we won, when it was cold we always lost and already the month of March showed that we could not win. But what should be done, the other car, my friend Cervetto tells me, what does it take to change the suspension? Nothing, you have to design the new car, are you kidding me? Then we want to talk about the tires? Let's talk about it, we have a contract with Goodyear that began in 1974, this contract runs out in 1978. In 1978 we will be free, at that time we will see who is there. However, at a certain moment I had to stand the ground and Goodyear's general vice-president for the whole world came to Maranello and had to insert a clause in my contract, which was no longer restrictive because I could not stand the unfair imposition of the Formula 1 Association, which demands only one type of tire for economic reasons, while Goodyear has experimenters in us. Even now we are testing, we are scheduling ten series of tests in the different circuits in order to finalize the new tires, and we have been mocked. If Goodyear wanted us to win the world championship they could, and if Niki went off at the Nurburgring it is good to know, Goodyear has its responsibilities: why? Because Regazzoni tells you, not me. Regazzoni tells you that he went out three times because of the behavior of the tires".

 

Still on the tires, I wanted to ask, at a glance, to what extent, in what proportion, did the inefficiency of the tires affect the performance of the car?

 

"I said that if Goodyear wants to, they can make tires for us to win races and I'll tell you why right now. Because our car that a lot of people say is technically expired, it's really not, and we take three speeds. In Japan where there were friends who saw the cars: Brambilla 276.84, Regazzoni 276.20 and the others where? Six kilometers less than them. So? But this happens in straight, but isn't it that in straight the tires can have a determining value? The tires are tested right in the corners to unload the power".

 

Still on the subject of tires. In Japan, Dunlop made an unexpected appearance on the track. What do you think, did it cause quite a stir, at least for those who were there? Especially not so much the tires, that we discovered later, we discovered this illustrious Japanese stranger suddenly fitting within the top fastest riders.

 

"This proves to you what I said a minute ago. Dunlop, but Dunlop when it retired was first in the world it wasn't second to anybody".

 

Do you think a future inclusion is likely?

 

"I can't make any predictions about tires, I can't make any. I know that today there is a tire that is on the cutting edge but it is not on the market, I know that".

 

In Japan I found myself asking Forghieri a question: in Canada, in the United States there was the problem of cold tires, the weight distribution in the details of the car, understeer, oversteer and so on. In Japan, suddenly too high temperature of the tires. From 170 °C-180 °C we passed to 250 °C. So the question, not as a technician but as a layman, is: it's too cold there, it's too hot here, so what?

 

"It's not too hot at all, because we modified the suspension to torment the tires and make them warm up. So if it wasn't too hot you had to put that suspension on".

 

Rather, how much can you estimate the correction, the advantage, the recovery of the British when they had to adapt to the new position of the spoiler? In other words, how much could the English have recovered from the change in the spoiler, which was very evident in the photos?

 

"If we take the question of the speeds here it is clear, the one who goes more is Brambilla because he is a daring and he runs without aileron practically, without incidence of aileron and therefore has the maximum speed. But what has undoubtedly had a considerable impact is the whole new arrangement of the new air intake and so on. Translate it into figures: if you come to Maranello one day, I will introduce you to the new engineer of the calculation office and he will be able to give you maybe an interesting chart".

 

We had forgotten the most important question of the past. His former World Champion, unfortunately, said as the Japanese Grand Prix was ending with Hunt's victory: He is a usurper. Do you think Hunt usurped the world title this year?

 

"I thank you, because it almost seems as if there is someone coming to read in my notes and then solicit questions. Since '74 I have been trying to make a deal with Lord Hesketh because I had my eye on this casually bold driver. This year Hunt offered himself to Ferrari on June 12 in Sweden and then asked for an answer at the French Grand Prix. He would come even without an engagement as long as he was assured of continuity with his sponsors. I did not answer because I had given my word that until September 1st I would not have contacted any driver. It is clear that he is a clever driver - see the overtaking he did in Holland with the yellow car, see at Watkins Glen, where with the fire in progress instead of keeping the position he reached Scheckter - he is very good, so much so that I wanted to sign him by agreeing with Lord Hesketh even shortly before I made contact with Lauda. This is what I say about Hunt".

 

At the British Grand Prix, which aroused all those damned controversies, Ferrari rightly made a protest, a complaint then accepted for Hunt's readmission to the race. But Ferrari did not think of leaving out Regazzoni who was in the same conditions as Hunt. I would like to ask, isn't there a contrast?

 

"I answer immediately. There is a report that answers you. We made the complaint at the British Grand Prix because we had been the victim a few days before of an unfair verdict that referred to the Spanish Grand Prix, where we did not make any complaint, but it was an unfair decision, because the McLaren was out of regulation before the race, because of the oil radiators and the pipes. It was afterwards for the same reasons and in addition for the wing being 18 millimeters out. We were for one millimeter at Monza: Regazzoni's car, which had also suffered an accident, was disqualified from the times assigned in practice. This is to say sports justice, but they did well at Monza, not there. In conclusion, that's why I told Audetto to make a complaint: just because I wanted to repay the sporting justice for the iniquity they had committed in Spain. The truth is this, that in England we were the cause of the incidents that occurred, because Regazzoni's enthusiasm, his nonchalance, was what created all the fuss about Hunt and Lauda. We were right. It is clear, sports justice is administered in this way".

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We got the sentence wrong for England, but on the other hand....

 

"I don't confirm that it was wrong, I say that we had reasons. But morally we didn't have any because we were the ones who caused the accident, so now I'm going to the page that interests me, always in the meeting of July 23: Ferrari comments on what happened in England. We should not have started the mule with Regazzoni, which was a tacit alibi for Hunt, moreover, mounting the system of Lauda's car on this car would have repeated the inconvenience of the temperatures - with a serious damage to an efficient engine - that had already been found on the Fiorano track... So you see that this had already been deprecated by the undersigned who chaired the meeting of July 23".

 

Does this mean that you were questioning the sporting management?

 

"Me, I don't dispute the sports management. When I come back from the races, I make my report and I point out what has been good and bad in the management of an away race".

 

The matter of the radiators: there was talk of irregularities and so on. This story of the oil radiators was also a bit harmful to Ferrari because you had to change them.

 

"Nothing is true, nothing is true, it's a lie there too and I'm sorry that it was even a friend present who detected it as a witty invention. We were fine and we have the declaration of Csai. We changed the position of the gearbox radiators and not the oil radiators. We changed them in order not to raise a case to be taken to the Court of Appeal in Paris, but we have the opinion of Csai, which stated that we were okay and we asked Csai first, because in Italy the sport power is Csai".

 

Csai will obviously have...

 

"Csai will have turned to Csi, but I believe that there is a sports code to be interpreted as much as it is very difficult to interpret it".

 

We had forgotten the most important question of the past. His former World Champion, unfortunately, said as the Japanese Grand Prix was ending with Hunt's victory: He is a usurper. Do you think Hunt usurped the world title this year?

 

"I thank you, because it almost seems as if there is someone coming to read in my notes and then solicit questions. Since '74 I have been trying to make a deal with Lord Hesketh because I had my eye on this casually bold driver. This year Hunt offered himself to Ferrari on June 12 in Sweden and then asked for an answer at the French Grand Prix. He would come even without an engagement as long as he was assured of continuity with his sponsors. I did not answer because I had given my word that until September 1st I would not have contacted any driver. It is clear that he is a clever driver - see the overtaking he did in Holland with the yellow car, see at Watkins Glen, where with the fire in progress instead of keeping the position he reached Scheckter - he is very good, so much so that I wanted to sign him by agreeing with Lord Hesketh even shortly before I made contact with Lauda. This is what I say about Hunt".

 

At the British Grand Prix, which aroused all those damned controversies, Ferrari rightly made a protest, a complaint then accepted for Hunt's readmission to the race. But Ferrari did not think of leaving out Regazzoni who was in the same conditions as Hunt. I would like to ask, isn't there a contrast?

 

"I answer immediately. There is a report that answers you. We made the complaint at the British Grand Prix because we had been the victim a few days before of an unfair verdict that referred to the Spanish Grand Prix, where we did not make any complaint, but it was an unfair decision, because the McLaren was out of regulation before the race, because of the oil radiators and the pipes. It was afterwards for the same reasons and in addition for the wing being 18 millimeters out. We were for one millimeter at Monza: Regazzoni's car, which had also suffered an accident, was disqualified from the times assigned in practice. This is to say sports justice, but they did well at Monza, not there. In conclusion, that's why I told Audetto to make a complaint: just because I wanted to repay the sporting justice for the iniquity they had committed in Spain. The truth is this, that in England we were the cause of the incidents that occurred, because Regazzoni's enthusiasm, his nonchalance, was what created all the fuss about Hunt and Lauda. We were right. It is clear, sports justice is administered in this way".

 

We got the sentence wrong for England, but on the other hand....

 

"I don't confirm that it was wrong, I say that we had reasons. But morally we didn't have any because we were the ones who caused the accident, so now I'm going to the page that interests me, always in the meeting of July 23: Ferrari comments on what happened in England. We should not have started the mule with Regazzoni, which was a tacit alibi for Hunt, moreover, mounting the system of Lauda's car on this car would have repeated the inconvenience of the temperatures - with a serious damage to an efficient engine - that had already been found on the Fiorano track... So you see that this had already been deprecated by the undersigned who chaired the meeting of July 23".

 

Does this mean that you were questioning the sporting management?

 

"Me, I don't dispute the sports management. When I come back from the races, I make my report and I point out what has been good and bad in the management of an away race".

 

The matter of the radiators: there was talk of irregularities and so on. This story of the oil radiators was also a bit harmful to Ferrari because you had to change them.

 

"Nothing is true, nothing is true, it's a lie there too and I'm sorry that it was even a friend present who detected it as a witty invention. We were fine and we have the declaration of Csai. We changed the position of the gearbox radiators and not the oil radiators. We changed them in order not to raise a case to be taken to the Court of Appeal in Paris, but we have the opinion of Csai, which stated that we were okay and we asked Csai first, because in Italy the sport power is Csai".

 

Csai will obviously have...

 

"Csai will have turned to Csi, but I believe that there is a sports code to be interpreted as much as it is very difficult to interpret it".

 

After the famous withdrawal, the Italian sport authorities started to protect him much more effectively than in the past. You said that from that moment onwards you had no reason to regret and we arrived at the Italian Grand Prix with the mystery of gasoline. That is, you told us something else: that you wanted to be very honest and that, reviewing the story of the English Grand Prix, you must admit that the compensation to Ferrari is sacrosanct if you take into account the precedent of the Spanish Grand Prix, but on that particular occasion, perhaps you were morally aware of the fact that you had caused the trouble, the mess.

 

"It was Regazzoni, who races only for the Regazzoni company, he does not race for Ferrari nor for Lauda, he races for his company and he is right because I used to do the same thing when I was racing, but we are more like team players".

 

You said you would not make any complaints. Instead, the day you started...

 

"The day I started, I did it as retaliation to the unfairness of Spain. But even the points that came as a result of the complaint, I, a real man of sports do not like them, they do not suit me. All you get by inviting others to respect the rules means that we are in the antechamber of the swindle of barter and blackmail. Then I am not okay with it. So I will not make any more complaints, but I will denounce everything that happens".

 

You told us that as a true sportsman, you are very allergic to complaints, and in fact, as long as you could, you abstained from them. But one fine moment you had to come down on this ground, because the bullying that was being done to you was just that big. She kicked out four shrieks and some things happened that for example Italian sports authorities.

 

"You call them four shrieks, someone refusing to participate in a Grand Prix? It's more than four shrieks, it's something more. Because it is the decision of the board of directors of Ferrari, and I repeat that to participate in the races or not to participate cannot be my autonomous decision, because you must not forget that there are 1200 employees at Ferrari, so there is an image to defend".

 

Do you think that, after your firm stance, you have been sufficiently protected by the sporting authorities that have been called to account?

 

"I believe I have reached a satisfactory agreement with the Italian sporting authorities because the lawyer Carpi de Resmini came to Maranello with Rogano, and I can say that since that day their behavior towards Ferrari leaves no room for any contrary assumption, on the contrary I must say that they have been interested. It is useless for me to tell you what is going on. Only in the future discussion I will probably show you how our relations with the AC of Italy and the sports commission in particular are going on".

 

I wanted to ask if you consider your dispute with the international sports authorities to be over, or if you plan to continue it for next year.

 

"As long as I'm in the world, I'll always be the protester, because this is my uniform, because I love motorsport and I defend it. I reached an agreement with the Italian authorities the day they showed they appreciated my collaboration and defended Ferrari's interests. And of this I will offer proof before the end of this meeting".

 

The Csi left itself an open way to possibly decide the awarding of the world title based on the Japan result, and that is a complaint was still more or less pending, it had to be examined.

 

"But by whom this complaint, but by whom?"

 

On October 27 in Rome, at the case before the National Appeals Tribunal, the hearing on the claim for the famous Monza super-fuel did not take place. The complaint was telegraphically withdrawn by McLaren. Italian Grand Prix and mysterious petrol. Very honestly you think that Hunt's demotion was right and if you think so, we know that some analysis have been done. Hunt has been found irregular for a minimum margin, after that it has been communicated that however the relegation was right because this margin existed. Although the tolerance of the instruments had been taken into account. Immediately afterwards there was a sudden declaration of the technicians of the laboratories where these analyses had been done, who declared a tolerance margin, it seems of ten percent, which meant that Hunt was perfectly regular. This has been talked about abroad because they say, well, the Italians may have been raped in the previous Grand Prix, but when they brought Formula 1 into their home they took their revenge. Final question: reviewing the movie of the season, do you find right this action against Hunt or not?

 

"It's not towards Hunt; it's towards McLaren because you forgot one detail, that before Spain in South Africa McLaren got the fastest lap in practice with Hunt with the bibs under the car. When they went to the verification they made him remove the bibs. So it happened, that Mr. Hunt was not relegated to the last row by canceling his time in practice, but he started in the pole position. What does this mean? It means that the treatment enjoyed by McLaren is a function of the sponsors McLaren enjoys".

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Yes, but I wanted to know. Were these Hunt's previous and prior faults...?

 

"It's not about Hunt, we're talking about the car here. I tell you that the McLaren was irregular in South Africa as well. The times it set in practice were not repeated when they made the car comply with regulations".

 

I want to know something very precise. That is, no doubts about McLaren's previous irregularities. I am talking about Monza, that is the occasion in which the Italian sporting authorities tried to establish a principle of extreme rigour in front of the whole world. In this rigor of control, taking into account the figures and data on the tolerance of the instruments and on the octane percentage. I ask you, in all honesty, was Hunt's demotion fair and justified or not?

 

"If the analyses were regular as I believe they were, the demotion was not regular because he was not supposed to start. So his departure was an irregularity and here we come back to the case of the Spanish Grand Prix. When the car went to scrutineering it happened that the car was out of regulation, then the technical commissioners made a statement that although it was out of regulation, for environmental considerations the car had to start anyway. Mr. Ugeux, when Mr. Audetto said I don't line up the Ferraris at the start, he went and said, Audetto, you have to start the cars, because I give you my word of honor that that car not being regular will be disqualified. What happened? That Mr. Ugeux kept his word of honor in the moment but the one who did not keep it was Schild, who is commissioner of the Swiss AC. He declared the car irregular not because of the irregularity of the radiators and pipes but because of the irregularity of the 18mm wing. When the appeal process took place in Paris, what happened? That the same Mr. Schild who had declared the car irregular in Spain, went before the appeal court to say that the irregularity was irrelevant. Now the court of appeal was not called to decide the entity of an irregularity, it was called to decide whether the irregularity existed or not and this is where sports justice was administered. That is why I wrote to Mr. Ugeux that he had given me a word of honor that unfortunately was not followed up in the decision of the appeal court. You want a statement from me that I cannot make because I have not seen the analysis. But in any case, the international regulations do not speak of 101 octane, but of 100 octane".

 

In those very confused hours in Monza, it seemed that the definitive importance was given by a famous telex from the CSI that set the definitive limit that the English dispute on the other side, that is, you say it is 100 instead of 101.

 

"The regulation talks about commercial gasoline at 100 octane and then a telex of tolerance arrived at 101. In any case I don't have the analysis, how can I tell you. If you tell me that the regulation was fair or not fair, I tell you that it was unfair because McLaren as well as Penske should not have started. Then I'll tell you more that there were those who had to start and at the last moment it is said that money ran to not start the cars admitted and to admit McLaren and Penske. This is our sport".

 

But we rely on hard data, the octane count.

 

"Mine is not chatter, I answer you: bring me the analyses, if the analyses are false I will tell you that you are right, if the analyses are right I will tell you that McLaren should not have started".

 

It seemed that the disqualification was not exactly exact, there were or were not these tolerances, but the safety of the stewards in this case came from another factor. That is, they showed me the distillation curve of that gasoline. It is a distillation curve of a gasoline that does not exist on the market: it is a deliberately prefabricated gasoline with very variable percentages along this curve, therefore it is a manufactured gasoline. They have taken advantage of this fact. Such gasoline does not exist in commerce, the regulation says that it must be commercial gasoline, so there is no doubt that...

 

"And then to the other previous interlocutor I will answer: the gasoline that these gentlemen bought from the trade where did they get it? When they were asked to say which was the supplier company, it turned out that the supplier company did not exist because they imported the gasoline they put in the cars. This is the truth. Why did they import it if it was gasoline from the trade? This is what was reported. I can't add anything else".

 

Do you understand that in Japan Ken Tyrrell urged the stewards to check the gasoline?

 

"Certainly, Ken Tyrrell was the one who telephoned engineer Forghieri informing him that the other competitors might have had nitromethane".

 

Maybe from experience.

 

"I can't say that, I can only report what is reported to me because, unfortunately, I am not at the races".

 

You spoke of agreements made by the English to beat Ferrari, I don't agree with this because, for example, the other day in Japan...

 

"With what concerns Ferrari you never agree because I read it diligently every day, and if Ferrari had Fittipaldi or had a sporting director like Frank Williams I would be sure to enjoy your sympathies. So I am not surprised by his...".

 

Anyway on Sunday in Japan at Fuji the McLaren sporting director, Alistair Caldwell, went to Colin Chapman to ask to stop Nilsson to favour James Hunt. The answer was no.

 

"The relationships between Lotus and me are a little bit different and then here we should go into details but you don't forget what Colin Chapman suffered in Italy and what I... Enough".

 

Are you aware of the fact that after the English Grand Prix your engine has been disassembled, the engine of Lauda's Ferrari and not the one of Hunt's McLaren? Why and how do you interpret this fact?

 

"It is these facts that happen when there is interest in curiosity. I know but what do you want. We are there, for the same reason that they accused the organizers of Monza of having done the analysis of gasoline, while when we went to America and asked for the analysis of gasoline, they were there to say: analysis of gasoline? But for God's sake, here we never analyze gasoline, we don't even know what it is. If then there were those who came to say that McLaren had also used nitromethane and other things, it was the competitors of the Formula 1 association, they were not strangers, it was them. So they're all friends when it comes to ripping off Ferrari. But when it comes to ripping each other off, they don't hide their blows".

 

However, there is no proportion between a complaint of a sporting nature, let's say, of the application of the sporting code for the conduct of the race, and such an important technical complaint, which would have shamed the constructors for who knows how many years.

 

"Excuse me a moment, excuse me a moment. Mica a shame on the British manufacturers? Why do you think that there are not also other people who are not English who try to see how our engines are not and resort, according to what I read in the Corriere della Sera, to special initiatives to know what we have been able to do until now? But they are everywhere. Don't forget how Alfa Romeo was born in Italy. Alfa Romeo in Italy was born how? In 1923 when I took away from Fiat and I wrote it in my book, Bazzi, Rocchi, Jano and companions, so what is there to be surprised about? When one has to achieve a result, one doesn't achieve it by talking or writing, one achieves it by securing one's skills, by securing one's brains, one doesn't achieve it by merely stating one's reasons, I am of that opinion. So everything in our environment is polluted".

 

If there are those who continue on this path with 400 cc more, you don't win anymore, they always win....

 

"You are right. We will have to wait for the Italian Grand Prix and for that excellent lawyer Causo, who went with our Csai representative to Japan as well, because he will point his feet and say no, now we are going to dismantle the engines as well, but as long as we had representatives at the races who did not have this authority, you teach me that it is not possible for us to replace the established authority".

 

Ecclestone said that he is being blackmailed by the new $100.000 Club, that of the organizers, and added that they have threatened in the meantime to start signing individual contracts with various manufacturers among which there is Ferrari. Ecclestone would have replied that, after all, you are better off outside the Association, for them the situation becomes a little quieter. She is uncomfortable and therefore they English are thinking about organizing Formula 1 races outside of the Csi.

 

"I don't know if I am an inconvenient element for the members of the Formula 1 Association. What is certain is that I defend my interests. Among my interests is that of the tires, which they have obviously harmed considerably this year. In any case, this $100.000 Club is the last abdication that the International Sporting Commission can make. Because between the $100.000 club and the Formula 1 Association they will make an agreement and everyone will have to race. Those who are outside the association or the club will no longer organize races. Now I can give you a news: Italy has joined the 100.000 dollars Club".

 

You can see that we are not so poor....

 

"I can say that engineer Bacciagaluppi was in Paris and on behalf of the Automobil Club Milano he signed the 100,000 dollar pledge. So I can't say anything else".

 

To save Monza this adhesion?

 

"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know the intentions. I only know that it is the total abdication of CIS. The day I would leave the Formula 1 association I would find myself like Ligier, Fittipaldi and so on, that at the end of a race I would have to extend my hand to Mr. Ecclestone and ask what he gives me for my ranking, because they have reached the immorality of publishing the regulations without including the list of prizes, that's what the International Sports Commission does".

 

Maybe they have misinformed you, but it turns out that it was the CSI that made sure that this organization was born, and they did it to make sure that they countered the overwhelming power of the Formula 1 Association. They have also made a communiqué in which they say that a precise proposal will be presented to what we always call Manufacturers to ensure that the famous Brussels agreement made by Ugeux, if I am not mistaken, will be respected. So you should not talk about abdication. of the CIS....

 

"Of course, it is. The CSI has sporting powers and must be extraneous to all economic relations because we have always raced by car for the last fifty-six years and we have never gone to the CSI to negotiate either engagements or reimbursement of expenses. We have always negotiated with the organizers. So it's immoral that those who hold sports power also have the enforcement of sports laws. It is immoral the sports commission. It's time to end it, it's made by organizers so they organize the races and then express their judgments on the progress of the races, isn't it? It must not be like that".

 

So engineer, sorry, what do you think the future solution might be?

 

"I don't think anything. I just think that it's not a sport anymore, that's all I think about. But I do think that there is still a big part of technique, no matter what you try to write now and then: that racing is a circus and it is no longer useful. Every fifteen days there is progress. Racing is for technical progress".

 

You rightly said that the CSI should not deal with economic problems. But in this case it doesn't want to deal with them, in order to cope with the rising tide of demands from the gentlemen builders who have brought this year a Japanese Grand Prix originally planned for one million dollars, to one million eight hundred thousand dollars. That has resulted in the creation of this organizers' club. And the CSI says: you should join forces, I will oversee everything from above. Apparently, Csi's position is.

 

"It's a witty invention, because what have the organizers done? They made the 100.000 club, but who are the organizers? They are the members of the Csi, so much so that the head honcho is Boeri of Monte Carlo and the headquarters of this $100,000 club is in Monte Carlo and Le Guezec who was the secretary of the Csi, is the secretary of the new club, and the manager is Duffeler who was at Marlboro. So it's also sponsor interests that have nothing to do with the sport. We did the races when there was no Marlboro, when there was no Martini when there was no one, we always did them. If we have to have humility and if we have to downsize, let's also start downsizing everyone's appetites".

 

Do you rule out lining up three cars next year, i.e. bringing a third driver to Ferrari, regardless of Lauda's answer?

 

"Here we go again. We are not in the future, we are talking about the past. Excuse me for a moment, if your colleagues have exhausted the arguments of the past, I am available for the future".

 

So: does the third car in 1977 run?

 

"No. Ferrari could not run three cars, they would have fielded three cars in these last two-three races solely to defend Lauda's position given the serious injury he had suffered. But this was not possible".

 

What exactly did Reutemann's tests at Fiorano in September and October consist of?

 

"I answer immediately: whoever wants, come there, I will show the number of laps, what we tried, engine radiators, chassis, everything. I can't do a technical exposition now. But you can come at any time and I'll show you the number of liters of fuel consumed, the number of hours spent and everything that interests you, including the times".

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It seems that Reutemann, just in the last few days, having had a modified T2 - even with his own measurements of the cockpit - has gone down well, with cold and hard tires, to values under 1'13" on the lap at Fiorano. Were these tests about evolutions for '77 or were they tests that could...?

 

"You never work for one car, you work for an existing car in that the new car will always be the offspring of the one before it".

 

At the beginning of the season Ferrari was the car to beat, it was created specifically for certain tires, for certain things, a very balanced car, made perhaps with the prospect of being able to preserve certain tires, certain things and then these were not preserved. The T3 goes on the experience of this recent past, it will be a more cautious car, less exasperated in certain solutions, at least until you find someone who will always assure you the most suitable tire?

 

"I will tell you that the T3 will take into account what have been the assurances that the general vice president of Goodyear world gave me recently in Maranello, and that is the experiences that we will make on the new car, of tires, will have a follow up regardless of what will be their commercial policies with the other teams. In other words, I have tried to restore the original spirit that presided over this relationship of collaboration with Goodyear, so it is not possible to make a car like a tire every time, we will make a new car that will obviously be the condensate of all the positive and negative experiences of this year, but we will make it with the tires that we will build together with the car".

 

I would like to open a discussion beyond the horizons of Formula 1. In the last few days I've heard talk of Formula 2 engines, of cars for the Silhouette Championship. Since we're talking about the future, I'd be interested to hear from you what's on the agenda.

 

"So, Formula 2 engines: I'll satisfy you right away. We have been accused, not only by a friend but by more than one friend, that we have wasted our time in dedicating ourselves to a Formula 2 engine. Now these gentlemen who have accused us have forgotten that last year, when there was a curious trade union situation at Ferrari and it was a question of conversion, reconversion, diversification, I had to intervene and I took the liberty of suggesting to the person in charge of the factory, who is engineer Fusaro, a formula of this kind: conversion within our technical capabilities and our international credit. For that reason, I proposed a Formula 2 engine, given the requests that were there, and I took care of having the research office elaborate a Formula 2 engine, an engine that has already been built and tested, of which we are giving you today the photographs and the data. These are the technical characteristics of the 206/F2 engine: six cylinders at 65°, twenty-four valves, bore and stroke 86x57, displacement 1986.61, compression ratio 12:1, distribution with four overhead shafts driven by duplex chain, dry sump lubrication with four recovery pumps, titanium connecting rods, light alloy monobloc, with reported liners, Lucas indirect injection feeding, Champion 10mm spark plugs, ignition and distributor, Marelli and Dinoplex coil, maximum power 300 horsepower at 10.500 rpm, maximum 11.000 rpm, weight 120 kilograms. Today we are wasting away, we give you everything. I add that for agreements with the president of Csai, Eng. Rogano, we have decided - because, Eng. Fusaro will tell you, we do not have the possibility other than to build a pre-series given the current production commitments - that these engines are destined only to those teams that will employ Italian drivers. So, these Ferrari Formula 2 engines will go to the racing teams that only employ Italian drivers. This is the agreement we made with Csai, with engineer Rogano and obviously also with our bosses in Turin. We have also been accused of dedicating time to the Silhouettes. Ferrari did not, will not, and will not race in the Gr. 5 or Gr. 6 World Championships. Absolutely. Engineer Fusaro had our GTB car homologated and obviously, whoever wants to make a sport use of it, with a sport edition, will be able to do it. But we don't race and we don't make racing cars for customers. So Formula 2 engines and silhouette chapter closed. The factory has the possibility to manufacture this small number of engines limited to all Italian drivers. Unfortunately, for this first year we do not expect to be able to make any more engines. We will have an appropriate stock of spare parts. We will have rotational engines, we will see. This is a matter for engineer Fusaro, who has overall responsibility for the factory. I am no more than a rumor maker".

 

At what price will the Ferrari Formula 2 be offered for sale?

 

"I don't know. But I would say it's premature to talk about cost because it also depends on the number of engines that will be built. It's just that at this moment we are in contact with customers that we will talk about. However it will be a cost aligned with the cost of our competitors".

 

Which Italian drivers will have it?

 

"Compatibly with the availability of this small pre-series. Let's be clear. They will be eight to ten engines that engineer Fusaro can make, he can't make more. We have too many other commitments".

 

So the price...

 

"No, the price if we tell you is scary. Obviously it will be a political price, because if we had to evaluate what was spent in the previous season, in the construction of the prototype and in the pre-series, the heavens would fall. The price has to be discussed when we make groups of fifty at a time. Not before".

 

But they will ask us...

 

"I believe that the conditions that they will be able to make to the group of Italian drivers to which alone we will give them, with the intervention of the Csai and with that one of the FIAT advertising office, I believe will be such that they will be able to prefer, I think, the Ferrari engine. One can never say. Anyway...".

 

You have said that Regazzoni runs for his House. In '77, taking for granted Lauda's decision to continue, do you think that he, will race for his personal House in '77, rain or no rain, or for Ferrari?

 

"When I decided to deal Lauda, and I begged Montezemolo at the time to get involved, it was precisely because I saw him on one occasion of how he drove in the rain and he reminded me of the sensibility that he had as a driver, not as a test driver, Jacky Ickx. So I took him in that moment, now that he has lost all this for me is frankly strange, I can hardly believe it. However, if Lauda decides to race, if he wants to race, if he feels like racing, as I told you, in Maranello a handshake replaced the stamped paper and we will make him race. If he has second thoughts, we will tell him not to race, because in the statement I made, I think I was very precise and I said: when I talk to him, I will tell you if Lauda has intimate motivations that are not compatible with voluntary risk. It seems to me that in this sentence there is my whole thought, anticipate a decision, put me on the cross, but I can't tell you. I wouldn't know how to do that".

 

However, since there is always the possibility, even if now remote, that Lauda has these second thoughts, have you already thought about this eventuality and the solutions to be taken?

 

"No. For the moment I have not thought, not only that, but I am very sorry to see the possibility of him giving up racing but at Ferrari. It would mean that here at Ferrari he has not found friends and admirers as we know we are and, let it be very clear, we have nothing to make up to Lauda. Let me be very clear. We have done everything we could to defend him and his skills and we are grateful for that. If he were to leave Ferrari at this time to race for another company, I would have to revise the opinions I have had about him".

 

Excuse me, you have not yet confirmed if Reutemann has signed the contract for '77?

 

"No, he hasn't signed yet, but we are waiting for him because we certainly trust that he will sign it. That's intuitive. But we haven't signed it yet".

 

What is the impression Ferrari received from Reutemann's tests after Monza at Fiorano?

 

"We knew Reutemann for quite some time, because he disputed a World Championship with our sports cars. In the tests he did at Fiorano, he confirmed the good opinion we had of him. Now we are waiting for him to sign the contract. He is an attentive, willing and capable man. Obviously there is a small difficulty that we have overcome in making a cockpit that suits his physical proportions".

 

Reutemann in fact, is very satisfied. The only thing is that, as he said before, Niki Lauda remains the number one to whom you have devoted all the attention for this World Championship.

 

"There never have been and never will be number ones. The number one had become Lauda when he had gained so many points that it was absurd to engage in a family battle to complete a World Championship not undermine it. So, Lauda, the number one, is the one who wins. There is no number one because it is written in the contract that you are number one. I have always been an enemy to these preemptive designations. The number one is the one who wins".

 

Agreed, but at least as far as the choice of the driver to replace Regazzoni in the next World Championship is concerned, you have followed the line that Lauda himself advised. He himself said.

 

"But you see, at the moment it seems to me that if I were to endorse your supposition, we would have to arrive at an underestimation of a driver who last year, at the end of the season at Monza was in contention for the World Championship, so I don't think that's the case. We asked Lauda: with whom would you collaborate better, with Peterson, with Scheckter or with Reutemann. He said Reutemann and since we have always cared for harmony in the team, we chose Reutemann. But not because Reutemann goes slower than someone else, not at all".

 

Couldn't the similar technical weakness of the rain for the two drivers, in the team collaboration for Ferrari, hinder both drivers or at least cover the personality of one over the other?

 

"You define a technical weakness for the two drivers, that is, that the Argentinean and the Austrian do not go well in the rain. At this point I remember an edict of the Duke of Modena, which was posted where the Military Academy is now. For the Dragoons, tomorrow we'll go for a walk, if it doesn't rain. What do you want me to say? We'll only run when it's sunny".

 

If Fittipaldi were free right now, tomorrow or the day after, that is, before the '77 season begins, would you hire him or not?

 

"I would hire him if Ferrari was free to hire him".

 

It reminds me a lot of Monsieur La Palisse's answer....

 

"I don't know this Monsieur La Palisse...".

 

Neither do I but, given the habit, and that is to say I have heard other answers like this, given by some distinguished personage of Ferrari, then it seems to me that you are the one to give the disposition to answer like this...

 

"If Ferrari were free and Fittipaldi were free, they would certainly meet because it is a mutual desire, I think. But this does not depend on me nor on him, it depends on who can define his position and on Ferrari's availability".

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And if the pressures of the Brazilian press were enough, would a contact of Ferrari, his personal probably, with the President of Copersucar to free Fittipaldi, at least for one year, do it? Because Fittipaldi has thrown away a year now, he prepares the new car but he is afraid to ruin for a second season even more his image, and then they could make him available...

 

"This is very interesting and I hope that if conditions arise that mutually allow us a meeting, why should we refuse them?

But did you see Fittipaldi? My friend Minini said that I met him, that I saw him. He told lies. I saw him at a meeting of Autosprint a few years ago and I was the one who gave him the golden helmet of the first World Championship he won, and I told him that he was a nice and humble young man. Is that true Sabbatini?"

 

Yes.

 

"Then I never saw him again. Then another thing is true: that Audetto, who had read in an interview the day after the Nurburgring accident that Fittipaldi, responding to a journalist, said that his dream remained to go to Ferrari, met Mr. Fittipaldi and told him: If you want to come to Ferrari, we don't know how long Lauda will have it, and we would be happy to have you. And he said, I have commitments with Copersucar, now I don't think I can release myself, but if I could release myself I would be happy to come to Ferrari. Everything that happened with Fittipaldi can be summarized in this precise relationship. There has never been any subsequent agreement, there has never been any conversation. If on his part there is a desire to come, obviously from Ferrari there can be a desire to have him. But I also know him from what I have been told about his family commitments, which are what may have discouraged Fittipaldi from interrupting or not renewing an agreement with Copersucar".

 

If the situation changed right now?

 

"If the situation changed...today it's raining, maybe tomorrow the sun will come".

 

But has there been a meeting with Montezemolo?

 

"No, with Audetto not with Montezemolo. With Montezemolo he had a phone call, when Montezemolo with his fractured shoulder was in Cortina d'Ampezzo. There was a phone call and if you want to know the reason for the phone call, I will tell you: he was discussing a FIAT concession in Brazil. There was no mention of racing".

 

Ten days ago, Brambilla was at your place, at least he had declared that he was coming to you, did you meet him?

 

What did you talk about?

 

"But then I didn't, I didn't talk, I listened".

 

Pilots aside, do you think you will change anything in the team and in the technical sports staff dedicated to Formula 1?

 

"In the technical staff more than change, we will have to replace those who are in the hospital. This is the first thing to do. So it's not a very difficult task and we are trying to do it. So I don't know if we can do it. How long will it take? But of course we're going to get some young people, we're going to see if we can raise some. I mean we're going to get busy. So the technical staff and the troika remains what it is and there is no question. It is impossible to think of replacing a 25-year old Rocchi in these conditions. We all hope that in a couple of months Rocchi will be back in the office, even if he will not be able to dedicate himself immediately to his work as before, he will be able to comfort the ideas of these young people. So there is nothing to say about the technical staff. If there are other questions to ask, I would be happy to do so".

 

On the sporting direction?

 

"The Sporting Management? I'll tell you right now. The sporting director of Ferrari will no longer be there. The sports director position is cancelled. There will be no more. Audetto, he was never with Ferrari. Audetto is a FIAT official who moved to Ferrari at a time when a hand was needed. It was needed. Audetto is a perfect diligent official, and I have said that more than once. Now I think that if you want to know how Ferrari management will be structured this year, since that is what you want to know. In fact I'll tell you, I'm not doing economics today anyway. This year, as there is a troika at home, there will also be a troika at the races. And there will be Tomaini who has total technical responsibility, an excellent element that you know, diligent and passionate and ready at all hours. There will be the excellent Ghedini who will take care of the relationships with the riders and will be the logistic secretary in charge of the transfers and the relationships with the riders. There will be a representative of the company, who will have the task of taking an interest with the Automobile Clubs, with the organizers, with the Formula 1 Association, with the Club of the 100.000 dollars if it has money to spend, with the International Sport Commission and with the Csai. Do you want to know who this is? Yes. What are you giving me? Then I won't tell you. How? Yes, but you know. But you say you know. Who is he?"

 

"Then I'll tell you: engineer Nosetto. So you, too, in the press must have the kindness to address yourselves only to engineer Nosetto during the race trials. During the week it is useless to look for Nosetto, Forghieri, Rocchi and all the others. During the week there is our Gozzi who is unemployed and has nothing to do, so he remains there at your disposal. It will be an assembly Ferrari."

 

What does Tomaini's technical responsibility consist of?

 

"In deciding whatever he deems useful for the affirmation of our car on the racing field and the preparation of the car, because there are other people in charge in Maranello. His responsibility begins and ends with whatever he has to prearrange before the start, and with whatever he has to decide at the competition site".

 

Does this mean that engineer Forghieri will no longer come to the pits?

 

"Let's get the minutes out. Meeting of July 23, 1976: Ghedini points out that he no longer wishes to go to the races for personal reasons, sorry that he can no longer assist Lauda. Audetto points out that the presence of Montezemolo and Forghieri at the races embarrasses him and therefore he formally asks to be left alone. I accept the request, except for contingent technical necessities. So Forghieri went to the races when Audetto or the necessities requested him at other times. Since I was then accused of not giving authority to Audetto, it can be seen that Audetto had the authority".

 

But the fact that engineer Forghieri came for example to Watkins Glen, after Ferrari's defeat at Mosport, implies that in the face of danger, so the threat of ruin there was a need for a new man, a strong man and he was called, I think, Forghieri.

 

"But excuse me, it is written in these minutes that when there is a technical contingency, he is the man. I don't have another one to send. If Forghieri's stomach hurts, I have to stop too, because I have young people but they are not yet up to Forghieri's standards, because there are also those who were at Ferrari and who have also left. Because evidently they have found acceptance in the sponsorship of a sponsor known also to Regazzoni".

 

When you said about the collaboration and the relationship with Csai for next year, apart from the issue of Formula 2 engines, did you mean also this aspect for Nosetto or other possible aspects?

 

"No, no business for Nosetto. Nosetto be clear, he is a guy I have known for twenty years because he was a student in Turin, he used to write me letters as a kid that he was a Ferrari fan. Then one fine day he went to university, graduated and came to do his thesis with us. He graduated with honors and was looking for a job at that time, as there was no possibility of employment at Ferrari. I proposed him to engineer Bacciagaluppi and he ended up at Csai. He stayed at Csai, but some conditions were created so that he was not an ACI official, he could not have a career and he asked if I could employ him. I said: limited to all these relationships, given his competence, knowledge of regulations, ability to interpret technical provisions, homologations of cars, I thought that this young man who has been following me for twenty years was right to come to Ferrari".

 

Will engineer Nosetto's position be that of accompanying manager?

 

"He is no accompanying executive; the accompanying executive is Mr. Sante Ghedini who hands you the microphone".

 

And at Brands Hatch what happens next?

 

"What happened at Brands Hatch? What are you telling me, everyone knows the fuss about Regazzoni, let's look at the newspapers. Regazzoni showed once again for whom he races and in what way he collaborates to the success of the factory and of Lauda. In these conditions I told him that if he wants to give up, he can do it right away. So the divorce with Regazzoni had practically happened on July 23, it did not happen at the end of the season".

 

In Japan, after the race, Regazzoni and Audetto had a bit of an exchange of ideas.

 

"That's why there' s no need for a sports director. Because when there's no sports director, they don't pick on anybody".

 

But there it was about whether or not to stop a car to change tires.

 

"Changing tires. A racer watches when we signal him the times, the position. He's the one who has to make the decision. Hunt didn't need them to signal him, he decided it when he believed. In fact they got mad at his pit. I don't care about that, the rider has to be the master because it's his life that's at stake".

 

So will we have a coach at Ferrari like at Lazio who said: long ball and pedal?

 

"But sorry, what do I have to take people to make speeches? You forget what happened in Long Beach. Who was in Long Beach of you? What happened, you who have a good memory? Is it the one your friend Ceccarelli had already appointed as Ferrari's sporting director?"

 

How do you judge Regazzoni's behavior in the last three races?

 

"In the last three races he raced the way he does. He has always raced like that. So I anticipate what I said at the time. Regazzoni has shown once again for whom he races and in what way he collaborates to Lauda's success and to the interest of the Company he represents. I said this then. Regazzoni is a very good friend and we want this friendship to continue over time because there is no person more nice, lovable and correct in human relations than Regazzoni. But if you ask me a judgement on how Regazzoni races, Regazzoni races for his House, he races for him, and it is right that he does so because I also used to race for myself, because when I was brought to Alfa Romeo by the great Antonio Ascari on the Friday before the Targa Fiorio in 1923 I felt alive: why? Because I had gone stronger than Ascari, stronger than Sivocci and Campari. So what does this mean? That Regazzoni runs for him. He doesn't race for the House or for Lauda. All the stories about balancing acts and race tactics, but they are all lies that do not exist. When one is in the car he goes as much as he can and everything else counts for nothing".

 

As in soccer, at the end of every championship, we always look for the causes that led to the defeat. I understand that at this point in time Audetto's work during the course of the season has not been completely positive.

 

"No, I never said that. I specified what Audetto asked of me what I acknowledged to him, and I have specified before and also written it down that Audetto is a good diligent official. Race directors I don't want any more. I don't want any more Scuderia Ferrari directors. The times of Mino Amorotti are over and have left their mark".

 

I ask you one more thing. When Audetto told you that he was nervous about the presence of Montezemolo and Forghieri in the pits, did you think at that moment whether the possible absence of Montezemolo and Forghieri, who last year were the most remarkable members of the Ferrari team for the victory of the World Championship, would not have led Audetto to take decisions, or to behave in a way that would have damaged Ferrari itself?

 

"Excuse me a moment, we don't give trust in installments. At the beginning of the year we put our trust in Audetto, who was graciously and temporarily handed over to us by Turin and who proposed him to us was Montezemolo. The fact that Montezemolo did not go to the races did not need to be said to me, because Audetto said it to Montezemolo as well. He said, "You're doing me a favor if you don't come to the races anymore. So what does that have to do with me?"

 

Maybe all things considered to you the Montezemolo direction was not too much to your liking, even if you still talk to him often on the phone, even if every now and then Luca returns to Maranello. You probably prefer another way of experiencing things, a way that keeps as much in the shadows as possible the drivers that Montezemolo always defended, a way that makes his beloved cars appear. I think I told him that once before. His tragedy is that cars need someone to drive them. Don't hold it against me.

 

"I reply, all present, that this is nastiness and I am surprised that a person of integrity and intelligence has nurtured a twenty-year friendship with a selfish dullard, as you describe me. Selfish but not obtuse, selfish because you too - he refers to Pilogallo - do nothing for nothing. Every gesture of your life is repaid with the satisfaction of your personal selfish instinct. You do nothing for others, as I have done: even at this moment I do nothing for you, I speak for what I can hear and say, so don't thank me. The good thing is that I didn't want to speak for a long time and then afterwards you forced me to speak. A year from now if I'm in the world I'll answer you. Do you want me to answer to make Rizzoli sell more newspapers? No. I don't answer anymore. You don't answer letters anymore. You have to deal with the facts. Besides, in Italy today, with the cruelty of the modern world, either you're first or you're nobody. Ferrari has won the World Championship, Lauda with what he had is second by one point: he is nobody. We are all on trial, everyone has to shoot at us. And I answer that I'm here and I'll stay here as long as I'm in the world".

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But if there hadn't been Montezemolo and Forghieri....

 

"I don't know, I can't know. All I know is that at a certain moment Audetto called me to complain, I said yes and it is the first time I decided to complain. If you are now telling me that the presence of Forghieri and Montezemolo annoyed Audetto, it is probable. If he expressed the desire, the prayer not to have them at the races anymore, it must be so. Of course, I authorized them not to go there anymore. Then I authorized the complaint, not just the others. Because I had a grudge for Spain".

 

Listen engineer, a small curiosity. How did those you call the masters of Turin welcome your decision to revise the organization chart in the pits?

 

"No, maybe you are not informed; how long have you been interested in motor racing and our environment? I don't have masters in Turin".

 

You used this expression half an hour ago.

 

"Then you must excuse me for the impropriety of language. For someone who went to the eighth grade, you want to justify me, I think, don't you? In Turin they did not invite me to review anything. It is because in the field of racing I have full management latitude, which I have delegated to my collaborators. So I have moral responsibilities for which I am always responsible. But I am not accountable. It's just that I made it clear earlier that when you have to decide whether to retire from racing or continue, you can't damage an image. The company has 1200 collaborators: if those who have the financial and productive responsibility of the company are not in agreement... Racing is not a personal hobby of mine, I give the contribution of my modest experience but nothing else".

 

I would like to know Ferrari's program in the next month. Talking to Lauda, he said that he was planning to come to Maranello at the weekend and start working with Ferrari and working as he had never done in his life. I would like to know from you what exactly Ferrari plans to do in November, its program at Fiorano.

 

"Ferrrari has a program at Fiorano, Ferrari has a program at Mugello, Ferrari has a program at Imola, at Vallelunga, Ferrari has a program at Nardò, Ferrari has a program at Castellet. The program was not done now after Japan, it was done a month and a half ago. And now I hope to see you again soon. On another occasion. It has been fifty-six years that you have been writing about me and my misdeeds. I have enjoyed writing about you. So I hope to be able to invite you in a few days to present my book and give it to you personally. In the meantime, please excuse, let's say, my answers not so much for the content but for the tone. I could have been more polite, but it is a formal education that I have not received and I cannot spend it. So I am grateful to you for coming and I assure you that Dr. Gozzi will keep you informed. It is not that we will refuse interviews, we will refuse news, on the contrary we want to make sure that they reach everyone in time. But we do not want opinions and disparities to appear, one said, the other said. No. You will be informed. You can always find me on Sunday morning. Many people have my home number, and they wake me up, I do not refuse to talk to anyone".

 

"Goodbye and thank you".

 

As expected, the conference of Enzo Ferrari in the aftermath of the Japanese Grand Prix would have opened not a few stragglers. After reacting to Ferrari's words, declaring that:

 

"Engineer Ferrari has said a big hypocrisy by stating that Regazzoni has always raced for Casa Regazzoni".

 

Friday, October 29, 1976 Clay Regazzoni sees himself delivered a registered letter from Ferrari, in which it can be seen, in the straw yellow paper, signed with the pen from the manufacturer's purple ink, that:

 

"Regazzoni is a very good friend and we want this friendship to continue over time because there is no person more nice, lovable and correct than Regazzoni in human relations".

 

To this recommendation, the Swiss driver will answer on November 6, 1976:

 

"Dear engineer Ferrari, in response to your letter of last October 29, I allow myself to make you notice that as very often happens, you have been once again misinformed. Since you have allowed yourself to judge and criticize my last races, comfortably in your office in Maranello, I am entitled to ask for clarification on some moments of these races".

 

Citing Holland and the intercostal pain, the tires used at Monza and the facts of Watkins Glen:

 

"Why was it that in Japan I was not given the opportunity on Saturday to improve or at least maintain the position I had acquired on Friday, citing the fact that it was more important to favor a good position for Niki? Or maybe it was just to justify that the new suspension was better than the old one?"

 

"All this, dear engineer, I hope was done to give me a way to collaborate in the success of the team and of Lauda, as you say".

 

"I have always accepted what Ferrari gave me, even if sometimes grumbling, because I liked racing for Ferrari. And even now my feelings and my respect have not changed, because Ferrari has given me more than I have given it. But if I have not been able to give more, the greatest fault has not been mine".

 

Regazzoni had already been warned by Forghieri, before the end of the championship, that Reutemann had signed a contract with Ferrari, and that if Lauda had remained he would have had no choice but to look for another team. It is no coincidence that on his return from Fuji, Regazzoni met Ecclestone in a hotel near Heath Row airport, and asked him:

 

"So, do you want me?"

 

But Ecclestone replies:

 

"How much do we make?"

 

the Swiss driver retorts, saying:

 

"What we talked about in Monza".

 

Then Bernie takes off his glasses, pulls his mouth to one side and raises his counteroffer, which, however, does not even reach half of what was received in Monza.

 

"Let's not even talk about it".

 

It is the last sentence of Regazzoni, who closes the interview and starts to think about the offer arrived from the Ensign team. But this is not the only problem to solve for Ferrari, since on Sunday October 31, 1976, Niki Lauda visits Maranello, taking everyone by surprise. The Austrian had announced his arrival on Monday or Tuesday, but he anticipated it. We have news from Ferrari itself, which issues a statement:

 

"Following today's meeting with Lauda, Ferrari announces that the driver will immediately start the tests for the 1977 season, in order to have the necessary time to undergo plastic surgery on his right eye. The Company has taken note of Lauda's firm determination to resume his activity in the form and with the intensity of past seasons".

 

Lauda arrived in Maranello in the morning, and after a brief meeting with Enzo Ferrari he had a long meeting with the members of the Scuderia's technical and sporting staff.

 

At first, Ferrari proposes to Lauda a role as sporting director, not believing that the Austrian can return to run at the same levels as before the accident of 1 August. But Niki doesn't agree, he believes that Ferrari wants to take him away from the competition by keeping him in a covering role. So he runs to his car, takes the contract signed a few months earlier, returns to Ferrari's office and exclaims:

 

"And what do we do with this? Do we forget it? Do I have to tear it up?"

 

Ferrari, dumbfounded, replies:

 

"What does it mean?"

 

Lauda counters:

 

"I will race for McLaren".

 

Ferrari remains puzzled: why would Lauda want to race for McLaren?

 

"They made me an offer, and I just have to say yes".

 

Actually the British team had not made any offer to Niki, but the latter used this excuse to urge Ferrari to a different choice. The Austrian driver is dismissed, and then Ferrari consults with his advisors. After that, Lauda is called back to the office: the Austrian driver can stay at Ferrari, but as second driver. The Austrian, who left for Salzburg in the afternoon, will return on Tuesday or Wednesday to start the scheduled tests. The testing calendar of Ferrari and its drivers is very busy. Lauda, together with Reutemann, will be on track at Fiorano, Vallelunga, Mugello and Le Castellet. Therefore Ferrari and Niki Lauda don't divorce and on the contrary they immediately start working to prepare the 1977 World Championship, to regain the world title that James Hunt and McLaren won in extremis. Wednesday 3 November 1976 Niki Lauda flies to London to be visited by one of the most important English surgeons, and to decide the date of a plastic surgery in the area of the right eye, one of the most damaged in the Nurburgring accident. The Austrian driver leaves in the early afternoon the Fiorano track, where already on Tuesday and during the morning he had tested the 312 T2. After lunch, Niki reaches by car the Bologna airport, where his personal plane is waiting for him. Approached before departure, Lauda is stingy with words.

 

"I don't want to talk, after the Japanese Grand Prix there was a lot of noise about me".

 

Then, however, he loosened up and agreed to exchange a few sentences, finally appearing rather cheerful, almost as if to disprove the rumors of a certain tension reigning in the Ferrari clan.

 

"The atmosphere between us is the same as it has always been, as it was before the Japanese Grand Prix. In short, it's good. Now I'm going to England to see when I can be operated on: the sooner the better".

 

Lauda's return to Fiorano depends precisely on the decisions of the English doctor. If the operation cannot be performed immediately, Lauda will return to test in the next few days and will continue until the date fixed for the operation. Now at Fiorano there is only Carlos Reutemann left, who continues the tests. Even if the track, due to the bad weather conditions, provides endless annoyances.

 

"It rained a bit this morning and we did what little we could. Now the track is half wet and we're doing some testing with a half-wet, half-dry asphalt. We're doing minor, routine work, if we can figure something out good, otherwise we'll try again. Tomorrow we will suspend testing. It's a national holiday, and we respect that too. We will probably resume work in Fiorano on Friday".

 

Admits engineer Forghieri.

 

"It's a crazy track".

 

This is instead the comment of Carlos Reutemann, certainly not enthusiastic about the wet asphalt.

 

"For me Lauda will not continue to race. How long before the races resume? Two months? Then you'd better listen to what I'm telling you: Niki will not recover from the troubles he's been through. The retirement in Japan was but an episode, but I am convinced that something in him is broken. Otherwise he would not have stopped. He will continue to try Ferraris, to test them, but in the end he will convince himself that he is no longer able to drive in Formula 1. Why do I say this? Because I am convinced. When a driver takes his license he knows what he's getting into. When you start to think too much, to brood, it's over. At Fuji it would have been enough to make a waiting race to win the world title. In fact, the rain and the wet conditions were in Lauda's favor. If the track had been dry, James Hunt would not have had rivals".

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This is Vittorio Brambilla's comment, an uncomfortable character, who certainly cannot be denied courage and coherence. Just as he is fierce towards Lauda, he is equally sweet and languid with Ferrari, as he would do anything to drive a Maranello car.

 

"Why don't they give me a Ferrari to try out? Right away, here now, tomorrow afternoon. I'll show you that it's not true that it's not competitive anymore. Lauda's excuses about the car not working are all excuses".

 

The regret of not having one of Enzo Ferrari's red cars at his disposal is perhaps the dominant reason of his life, probably because he knows that he will hardly have the great opportunity. Vittorio realizes this and says again with an almost choked voice, in Lombard dialect:

 

"The fact is that they won't give me this Ferrari, not even with three wheels".

 

In Monza, together with his father and brother, Vittorio manages a workshop located in the basement of a modern apartment building. The tenants put up with the tearing roars of the engines coming out of the garage because they consider him a good guy. Instead, the constructors and the managers of the stables fear him for his impetuousness, because he speaks without regard, because they also consider him a car breaker.

 

"Now that I have left the March I was afraid to be without a car. Instead I think I have found a friend in Surtees, who was a motorcyclist like me, and he will give me one of his cars, if we agree. And at Ferrari they will realize they made a mistake not to take me".

 

In the meantime in Bern, on November 10, 1976, Niki Lauda is in a private clinic in St. Gallen, in eastern Switzerland, to undergo a delicate surgical operation on his right eye. The Austrian pilot made the journey from Salzburg to St. Gallen in his personal airplane alone, as his wife Marlene, who fell ill with bronchitis, had to stay at home. At the airport in Altenrhein, near St. Gallen, the pilot is met by ophthalmologist Rudolf Bangerter, a renowned specialist in ophthalmology. The renowned physician, who has already treated numerous personalities, is said to have suggested the operation to eliminate a slight anomaly in the cavity of Lauda's right eye. In an interview granted to the newspaper Blick, the Austrian driving ace had stated:

 

"The one in St. Gallen is certainly not the last operation I will have to undergo. More facial surgery awaits me".

 

Lauda adds that in the coming weeks he will allow himself a period of absolute rest.

 

"If new tests with the Ferrari racing cars become necessary, I will leave it to Reutemann".

 

A widespread Zurich newspaper reveals, in a report published on Thursday 11 November 1976 on its front page, that the difficult operation is scheduled for the morning, and it is also learned that the Ferrari racer will have to stay at least ten days in the Opos clinic in St. Gallen. Numerous reporters, therefore, flocked to St. Gallen to obtain information on Lauda's condition, but the clinic management limited itself to issuing rather evasive information, in order to respect Niki's right to privacy. Thursday 11 November 1976 some of Niki Lauda's friends declare that the Austrian racer's conditions, subjected in the morning to a delicate surgical intervention on the right eye, are good, and the postoperative period is taking place regularly. A local anesthesia was necessary for the intervention, and the actual operation lasted almost three hours. Lauda will probably be able to leave the Opos Clinic in St. Gallen towards the end of the following week. Basically, the professor in charge of the operation had to tighten the opening of Lauda's right eye as a result of the burns the racer suffered in the serious accident at the Nurburgring on August 1, 1976. The operation was perfectly successful, and so the slight infirmity in the right eye will be nothing more than a bad memory of the past. On the other hand, Lauda will have to undergo, in the near future, other plastic surgery operations, but for now their date has not been fixed. The nurses of Professor Bangerter's clinic declare that Lauda is a very kind patient, but even though the doctors in charge imposed him an absolute rest, Lauda has a long telephone conversation with his wife Marlene who is in Salzburg, Austria. In the next few days Niki will get in touch by phone with the Ferrari managers.

 

In the meantime Carlos Reutemann, under the admiring eyes of the American actor Paul Newman, on Wednesday November 10, 1976 beats the track record on the Imola circuit. On the dirty asphalt due to works in progress and on a track slowed down by two variations compared to the past, the Argentinean marks the time of 1'37"2, that is about three seconds less than the previous record obtained by the Matra of Larrousse in 1974. Reutemann runs continuously from the morning until the first shadows of the evening, while technicians and mechanics work hard, experimenting with different tires, rear suspensions and ailerons. At the end Carlos, tired but smiling, declares himself very satisfied with the work done. If it is true that at Ferrari you win the number one position with the commitment in testing, which of course must be followed by the results in the race, it must be said that Reutemann seems to be on the right track. There are only doubts about which Grand Prix will open the 1977 season, if the one to be run on January 9 in Argentina, or the Brazilian one on January 23, 1977. The Argentinean race had already been cancelled last year for political reasons: riots were feared. This time, the problem is economic. The three companies that had assumed the burden of expenses have announced that they will not be able to meet the commitment. The Argentine Automobile Club will try to resolve the issue but it is difficult to find the necessary funds in time. The postponement of the debut of the Formula 1 races to January 23, 1977 for the Brazilian Grand Prix could therefore become advantageous for Lauda, who will have two more weeks to prepare.

 

A week later, in Paris, on November 18, 1976 a war breaks out between the Formula 1 car teams and the organizers of the major international circuits, after the manufacturers threaten through a spokesman to organize their own world championship ignoring the organizers and the international car authorities. The constructors, after a meeting in Modena with Enzo Ferrari, confirm that they will not take part in the Argentine Grand Prix scheduled for January 9, 1977, but according to reliable rumors the constructors have declared war specifically on the Monza and Monte Carlo circuits. The following day, in London, on November 19, 1976, between the International Sports Commission and the Formula 1 constructors, the tug-of-war is reached again. Recently, the ISC, which is traditionally on the side of the Grand Prix organizers, endorsed the formation of a commercial company, based in the Principality of Monaco, called World Championship Racing, with the intention of reducing the power of the so-called circus of Formula 1 manufacturers. Head of the new body is Dufleler, who for a long time directed the promotional activities of Philip Morris, and consequently the sponsor contracts of Marlboro. Among the executives of World Championship Racing there are also Baron Huske Von Hanstein, vice-president of the ISC, and the delegate of the Automobile Club of Monaco, Michael Boeri. The World Championship Racing should, therefore, negotiate the financial arrangements between the organizers of world races and the various Formula 1 teams, for which service are required from the organizers, for each race, $ 14.000.

 

The institution of the World Championship Racing was announced for the first time on the occasion of the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, under the name of the Hundred Thousand Dollar Club, that is, the penalty that each organizer would have to pay in the event that, having broken the united front, had entered into separate negotiations with the association of Formula 1 manufacturers. World Championship Racing announces that ten of the sixteen Grand Prix organizers have already joined the new organization. Among them, however, is not the Automobile Club of Argentina, whose permission to organize the World Championship race has been revoked by the ISC in derogation of the agreements already made directly between the Argentinean organizers and the manufacturers' association. According to others, the members of World Championship Racing have so far only been seven, namely Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Spain, Austria and Monaco. Manufacturers are outraged by the withdrawal of permission from the organizers of the Argentine Grand Prix, the first race of the new season, and are threatening to hold a world championship on their own; they have already established some contacts with other circuits, such as Imola. Some representatives of the Manufacturers' Association visited Enzo Ferrari, to agree on a possible counterattack to the World Championship Racing. In Modena, on November 20, 1976, the meetings continue: the appointment is for noon, in a famous restaurant in Old Modena, at the edge of the pedestrian area. Enzo Ferrari shows up on time: he likes these meetings at the table, even if he is on a diet, and he especially likes the one today. The Maranello manufacturer invites a group of journalists and writers, but not to talk about what happened recently with the Grand Prix organizers:

 

"It had been fifty-seven years since I read what you wrote about me, and I thought it was appropriate to respond to your not always affectionate remarks".

 

The answer is on the tables, between a bottle of a wine called, of course, Ferrari, and a plate of Emilian style appetizers. It is a brown book, with a cork cover on which appear a target and a quilt. The Flobert. A limited edition of one thousand copies not for sale, edited by the Arbe graphic workshops. In one hundred and fifteen pages, Ferrari traces the portrait of fifty-two friends of the press on the wave of impressions received and episodes experienced. Good-natured portraits, sometimes affectionate, but not without corrosive jokes. Simple notes, they are defined by the Modenese builder: but sheet after sheet, he explains in the introduction, they resemble those little letters that children usually put under their parents' plates on Christmas Eve, although there is a difference, because children abound in intentions, but they always conceal what they think of their parents. Ferrari has written them during the long waits on Friday and Saturday, the days of rehearsals that precede the dispute of a car Grand Prix, and on Sunday, waiting, restless, for the outcome of the race. Handwritten pages, with round calligraphy and a fountain pen with purple ink. A way, also, to feel like a journalist, that journalism was one of his youthful passions. Envied colleagues: this is how Ferrari defines the journalists present at the lunch, while each of them flicks through his portrait completed by a photograph with apparent imperturbability. But he immediately remembers that he had nicknamed them Monday engineers, or rather critics of the day after, implacable judges of his and his collaborators' work.

 

"I envy you, because every day you can make a masterpiece, while I take a year, get angry, argue with those around me and then maybe read that it would be better if I retired".

 

Why that title, the Flobert?

 

"When I was a boy, I had a flobert that I used to have fun shooting with. I've used it now against you, but the scratch of a quilt leaves no mark. Of course, sometimes, I had to erase what I had written, because reason is not Ferrari's monopoly".

 

A few shots hit the target, but around the table, which Ferrari dominates, no one complains. The portraits are true, precise, documented, drawn in fine style. There are no inaccuracies, because Ferrari knows his job and knows what's behind the facade. Certainly, he is better able to keep the secrets of the Maranello factory and the red racing cars than we are to keep ours. The flobert reads quickly. There are those who belong to the caste of engineers, to the sect of electronic computer worshippers, those who are casual, uncertain about confusing names and figures, dates and events, and those who love the subtle charm of catchphrases. There are special correspondents, reporters, directors, commentators, writers, and only two women mentioned. All of them are Italians: for foreigners, Ferrari reserves a second edition of the Flobert. They too are friends and colleagues, but perhaps more difficult to deal with than those from home, who, for better or worse, are now an almost daily habit. The book closes with an interview with Ferrari by an unknown journalist. It is a dialogue between Ferrari the manufacturer and the Ferrari of dreams, the Ferrari of what could have been. And the first question is about Italian journalists. What are they like?

 

"Today's sports journalists, although capable, sow a band of resentment that is sometimes unthinkable. They are merciless in order to be informed, they are tormented by uterine jealousies for the obsession of the hole, they are generous in order to be superior, they sometimes skim over arguments in order not to be made responsible. They abuse of hyperbolic adjectives: who scores a winning goal is the hero of the Sunday".

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Leaving aside the hilarity over the flobert, the war between the Formula 1 Manufacturers' Association and the organizers' club, supported by the International Automobile Federation, is the main topic of Enzo Ferrari's conversation with the journalists gathered in Modena for the presentation of his book. Between one joke and another, Ferrari takes stock of the affair, which threatens the existence of the next world championship and could lead to the disputing of a tournament outside the international sporting regulations. The terms of the dispute can be summarized as follows: the Formula 1 Association, which also absorbs the drivers, until 1976 negotiated the agreement for the hiring of men and machines with the single organizers of the Grand Prix; for 1977, instead, the contracts should be discussed with a company called World Championship Racing, to which some organizers have adhered. The fact is considered by the manufacturers as an illegal intrusion in their business and World Championship Racing as an inappropriate additional structure created to participate in the World Championship cake, which distributes a few million dollars every year. The casus belli broke out with the Argentine Grand Prix, scheduled for January 9 in Buenos Aires as the first round of the 1977 World Championship. The affair is explained in a communiqué that Ferrari, on behalf of the manufacturers, distributes on Saturday, November 20, 1976 in Modena. The document states that the Automobile Club of Argentina had granted the right to organize the race to three companies, with which the Formula 1 Association had reached an agreement on October 10. But, later on, the Argentine Autoclub invited this group not to honor the agreement and to turn to World Championship Racing. The group itself then preferred to withdraw. At this point, the manufacturers decided not to participate in the Argentine Grand Prix. No problem, however, for the next round in Brazil, since the organizers have decided to respect the commitments with the Formula 1 Association and to ignore the World Championship Racing, and the same orientation have those responsible for the U.S. Grand Prix West. This is the statement issued:

 

"The Formula 1 Association regrets the new Argentine position and reserves the right to demand an explanation from the A. C. of Argentina and all those who have contributed to the unjustified breaking of a freely signed agreement. The news that the Association intends to boycott certain Grand Prix, such as Monza and Monte Carlo, does not correspond to the truth. On the contrary, the Association seeks only the maintenance of the agreements in place, and will resist any attempt to interfere in its relations with the organizers of the World Grand Prix, defined with the help of the president of the ISC, Ugeaux, on November 15, 1975 in Brussels".

 

In Modena, during lunch with journalists, Ferrari goes on to say:

 

"What is happening, is the result of the deficiencies and lack of authority of the ISC. We are faced with corporate conflicts, with contrasts that, however, do not alter the image of Formula 1, of racing. I hope that the situation will settle down, but if we go to the fracture, let's not forget that it is possible to do without Fia and ISC. In the United States, isn't there a race like Indianapolis?"

 

It is possible, therefore, that the Association will end up creating its own championship, in agreement with a number of organizers. What could the Fia do? Remove the world label? But how could it arrange Grand Prix without cars and drivers? While the discussions continue, in Bologna, on November 24, 1976, the Motorshow presentation began. These events were born in England, with fifty percent exhibition, fifty percent show. They were successful and now here they are exported to Italy, first the one of Regazzoni on Friday in Milan, then this one in Bologna, born under the sign of the four World Champions in the different motorsport specialties, Lauda for Formula 1, Munari for rallies, Agostini for motorcycles, Molinari for motorboating. From intentions to practical implementation, some time has passed, and so a couple of the protagonists have become former champions. Perhaps it is better this way for publicity, because with their popularity intact, Lauda and Agostini end up talking about themselves even more as losers. Niki himself was the focus of interest at the press conference held to present the Motorshow. Niki came back to Italy, after his brief appearance for the official interview with Ferrari, for the first time in contact with the public, and fresh from the latest surgery to restore full functionality to the right side of his face. Sure, quick as ever in his replies, with an improved appearance, Niki intervenes to say that he knows nothing about the functionality of the new Goodyear tires on the Ferrari but he will know after Tuesday, when the tests will be completed on the circuit of Le Castellet, that he is not interested in the quarrels between organizers and constructors, that if there were two world championships he would run for the one that interests Ferrari. For the first time Niki will come into contact with the Italian public and, what's more, in a city like Bologna, where a scandalistic periodical that has always conducted a smear campaign against the Austrian has a greater hold. What reactions do you foresee? To this question, Lauda follows his interlocutor carefully, then he puts his cap on his head and starts to attack.

 

"Point one, I only race for myself. Point two, I only race and win for Ferrari. Point three and the most difficult to explain: I'm only interested in the good part of the public, the real fans, those who love and understand car racing. The others, maybe the greater number, are available to every conditioning, they exalt you when you are first, they say good if you arrive second, but at every place you lose you become less and less interesting for them. These people don't interest me, and neither do the people who push these people down the wrong path. If Hunt stays ten seconds longer in the pits, he loses the title and I win it, and for this audience I become the smart one and he the stupid one. I feel good, let's start the programs. With Ferrari, let's get the car ready. There's nothing else to think about".

 

Then, from an intelligent question from journalist Bartoletti to Molinari, Niki gets a nice and frank support: Molinari, you who have experience on wet tracks, what do you think about Lauda's retirement?

 

"A similar episode happened to me. Two years ago we were racing on the Seine with about a hundred boats all together. After half an hour I retired thinking it was a suicide and soon after a driver lost his life. At least my example combined with the accident managed to make people change their ways. The trouble with Formula 1 is that there is a debate about whether Lauda did the right thing".

 

At the end of the two days of tests, which begin on November 30, 1976, on the French circuit of Paul Ricard, intended for the testing of the new Goodyear, then open to all teams (Ligier is missing, which will present the new car in mid-December) Carlos Pace marks the best time with the Brabham-Alfa Romeo.

 

"Next season we will have a competitive car".

 

Carlos Pace exclaims, and Carlo Chiti, who remained in Settimo Milanese, is equally satisfied. The engineer, having learned that Reutemann's Ferrari ran one second slower, but above all knowing that the next day he would have mounted an engine with twenty more horsepower, takes the car and leaves Milan at 4:00 a.m. to reach the circuit. An hour after his arrival in France, Pace breaks the new engine, but Chiti is still confident.

 

"These things happen, all it takes is for a small corpuscle to get inside the mechanical complex to blow everything up".

 

He then goes on to say:

 

"We've been working diligently to improve for a year now. By dint of gathering experience, we have succeeded in creating an optimal camshaft, a satisfactory conformation of the heads and a whole series of precious expedients. This engine brings together all the studies carried out with the engines that have been used so far".

 

After the tests, Carlos Pace says goodbye to everyone and flies to Brazil, leaving the place to John Watson. Between Friday 3 and Sunday 5 December 1976 Ferrari gives the Wolf permission to test on the Fiorano circuit. In this circumstance it is Jody Scheckter to drive the car, despite the rain falling on the Modenese ground. Lauda himself should have attended the tests, but then he decides not to come to Maranello. On this occasion, and exactly on Sunday 5 December, Enzo Ferrari, who has been a strong admirer of Jody Scheckter for years, proposes to Walter Wolf, who is visiting Maranello, to exchange drivers during a confrontation on the Fiorano track: the Canadian manager would have Niki Lauda in exchange for the South African driver. But Wolf replies with a momentary denial. A few days later, since awarded by the newspaper Autosprint, on Saturday 11 December 1976 James Hunt also arrives in Italy, in Bologna. The British driver is given the golden helmet on the occasion of the Motorshow, a statuette depicting a driver with a helmet on his head. Afterwards, the McLaren driver moves to the Marlboro stand, where he is warmly welcomed, to the point that those present almost manage to jump over the barriers separating him from the public. In order to avoid any drama, the local police forces order James to leave. A few years later, the British driver will say:

 

"I have a lot of sympathy for the Italians, for them motor racing is a kind of religion, they are very passionate and believe all the nonsense that is written in the newspapers".

 

During the evening, after a short stop in the hotel, Hunt goes at 22:00 in the beautiful residence of S. Martino in Casola to attend a party in his honor organized by Lorenzo Sassoli de Bianchi, in the company of a young girl named Sonia introduced to him by Giacomo Agostini. The following day, however, a less sympathetic incident occurred in Milan. While John Hogan, senior executive of Marlboro, and James Hunt attend an official lunch organized by Philip Morris, their car is stolen and the Briton loses some of his trophies, his passport, his checkbook, his credit cards, his traveler's checks, his agenda and address book, as well as his visas for Poland, where both should have gone after the conference. Italian law enforcement and the British embassy could not do much to help James, so he decided to leave Italy illegally, only to obtain new documents once he arrived in Geneva. After the meeting in Paris on December 3, 1976, ISC sends a telex to FOCA in which it is said that, as it is clear that WCR would have been included in the Formula 1 working group starting from December 16, it is appropriate that the declarations of good will should be followed by an effective demonstration, i.e. that FOCA should not wait until December 16 to start direct relations with WCR, in order to shorten the time and to reach effective agreements, which would allow to announce - on December 16 - that everything was settled. The response to Ugeux's exhortation by FOCA is curious, to say the least.

 

In fact, a telex sent by Ecclestone to Ugeux, sent to Paris and from there bounced to Brussels where Ugeux is present, instead of responding affirmatively to the invitation to start direct negotiations immediately, contains strange counterproposals: the Formula 1 working group is too full of organizers, since if there would have been a WCR there would also have been Mr. Boeri and Mr. Corsmit, who are part of the ISC but personally organizers. Therefore FOCA proposes the modification of the Formula 1 working group by replacing Boeri with the Englishman Delamont (RAC, Great Britain) and Corsmit with the Englishman Webb (Brands Hatch). That is to say, it proposes to lighten the presence of the organizers by eliminating those of Monaco and Holland, putting British organizers in their place. In the meantime, nothing is being done to resolve the problem in Argentina, which remains pending even though it was urgent. This problem seemed insoluble, since FOCA pretended not to know that it existed, taking it for granted that it would go to Argentina since it had a signed contract (from the famous private company Mexxa that had been entrusted by the ACA to provide for the material organization of the Grand Prix, but which had subsequently been deprived of its authority). Fangio and Bordeu, who had come to Europe on purpose to make it clear that Mexxa no longer existed and that now the ACA was the direct organizer, could not make themselves heard, because FOCA responded to their statements as if they had not heard, always saying that there were no problems because she had a contract in her hand. A curious dialogue like this:

 

"Look that Mexxa doesn't exist anymore, that now we from the Automobile Club Argentina organize directly without any more intermediaries. I, Juan Manuel Bordeu, am the head of sport in Argentina, so you have to listen to me".

 

With answers of this tone:

 

"We go to Argentina according to the contract we have in hand, signed by Mexxa; everything is fine, we don't see what problems there are".

 

The attempted meeting in London, which Hodges reported to you about the previous week, was equally enlightening about FOCA's demonstration of good will and common sense. Increasingly ruffled papers and lots of long-distance talk, all on lines far removed from the understanding of ordinary people. FOCA's evident aim, the unspoken but clear one of wanting to impose itself more and more as the only body in Formula 1, was equally evident in the following maneuvers. On Sunday, December 12, 1976, Max Mosley made repeated phone calls to Argentina, both directly with Mr. Carman, president of the ACA, and through Ector Staffa, who is quite close to Ecclestone, having been linked to Brabham. In these phone calls he even proposed to the Argentinians a significant discount on the global cost agreed upon at the time through Mexxa, on the condition that the Argentinians would immediately sign a separate contract, without going through WCR. Therefore, it is not a question of the actual need to have more money, but only of not wanting to recognize the WCR as an interlocutor. The power struggle is therefore, with all evidence, the real goal, to achieve which FOCA is even willing to lose money immediately, to be recovered in the future when the takeover of Formula 1 would have been effective.

 

On Monday, December 13, 1976, there was even a phone call to Fangio from the Argentine Ministry of Sport, to urge that agreements be made so that the Grand Prix could actually take place. The Argentine government, of course, knows nothing about the internal problems of international sport, and what it wants is for Argentina to have its own world race. Fangio, however, responded consistently and firmly: he had made a firm commitment to the other organizers of the WCR, and could not sign a separate agreement. If the government wanted the race at all costs, they could order it to take place, but it would not be him, Fangio or even Bordeu, who would break the Monaco agreements. On December 15, 1976, a meeting was held at the Argentine embassy in Paris, where Mr. Ugeux also took part, in order to clarify the situation. But after this meeting nothing changed. On December 15, however, a few hours before, all Formula 1 teams received a telex from Ecclestone, confirming that the Argentinean Grand Prix would be held on January 9 and telling them to be ready for the departure of men and materials according to the plans already established, since the agreement had been reached and only written confirmation was missing. How Ecclestone could send this telex remains a mystery, since in the meantime, on December 15, 1976 Watson, after having tested the Alfa Romeo engine for the first time in Balocco, does a test on the Paul Ricard circuit.

 

"Brabham and Alfa Romeo worked well. The problems related to team experience have been solved. Last season's cars had a new engine mounted on a new car, modified after ten years of Ford propulsion. And then there were tuning problems".

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On December 16, 1976 finally the preliminary meeting, which should have clarified everything, takes place in Paris, in a room of the Hotel Intercontinental. The meeting is ordered by Ugeux, who clearly says that the parties have to agree within December 16, to give way to officially announce that everything is back to normal. Ugeux and Boeri from ISC; Duffeler (WCR) and Curry from Watkins Glen for the organizers; Guiter from ELF and a representative from Marlboro for the sponsors; Ecclestone and Mosley for the manufacturers. As observers are also present Delamont and Blossom (RAC), Von Hanstein (ISC), Maffezzoli (Monza), Meyer (Germany), Bordeu (Argentina). A meeting does not give that an effective and important result, the confirmation that, in any case, there would be only the FIA championship, therefore that the dreams of tournaments independent from the official sporting authority have returned. For this reason, it is clear that the declarations of the sponsors were decisive, as they clearly stated that they were only interested in official races. Therefore FOCA must back off in what were at least threats, if not precise programs, and no longer speak of an alternative to the FIA World Championship. At this point it becomes evident that the problem, given that the declarations of the parties were:

 

  • Agree, that on principle everything;
  • It was unanimous, became a simple matter of pride on the part of FOCA, which realized that it wanted to preserve credibility, save face, by obtaining something in exchange for the forced submission to which it had been forced.

 

It is certainly for this reason that upon leaving the December 16 meeting, President Ugeux's statement was clear:

 

  • All the Grand Prix scheduled for 1977 will take place;
  • Financial arrangements have not yet been finalized;
  • The WCR will meet the following morning;
  • The ISC bureau will meet to define a firm and decisive political line.

 

Ugeux also added that everyone had to agree by the next morning, otherwise the ISC would bring the situation to an end on its own authority. A few minutes later, surrounded by a small group of journalists, Ecclestone affirms that things are going well, that it remains to discuss the financial details with the organizers who have not yet signed with FOCA (those of the WCR, n.d.r.) and that we will go to Argentina on January 9, 1977 because everything is clear. However, next to him Juan Manuel Bordeu squints his eyes and interrupts Ecclestone stating that nothing is true. Someone is telling the truth, there is no doubt. And since Bordeu is the head of motorsport in Argentina, and therefore obviously must know at least the things that concern him personally, it is easy to say that Ecclestone's statements are at least curious. It seems that in the drafting of the new TOGA statute, certain binding articles have been included, one of which (it should be art. 2) says that the constructors are committed to racing only on permanent racetracks. If this is the wording, it means that, from now on, FOCA will refuse to race at Monte-Carlo and Long Beach, which are non-permanent circuits. Bernie Ecclestone, asked if this article of the FOCA statute is correct, categorically denies it. It is therefore clear that someone, also in this case, is telling lies. Ferrari affirms that it is true, and that if FOCA decides to go to Monte Carlo and Long Beach he will react. A little further away, in the lobby of the Intercontinental, Pat Duffeler of WCR is also surrounded by journalists, who have to commute to hear him. And Duffeler says the opposite of what Ecclestone says. In addition, FOCA says it had reached separate agreements with eleven organizers; WCR says eight organizers are sympathetic and united in wanting their contracts signed collectively through WCR. Eleven and eight make nineteen, while there are seventeen world races. Clearly, even here, someone is lying.

 

The real reasons for the disagreement are always the same: FOCA absolutely does not want to give the impression that it recognizes the WCR. He knows that sooner or later he would have to do it, but he is looking for a way to save face, and for this reason Ecclestone invites journalists to follow him to show him all the documents in his possession. The exposure of the documents by Ecclestone does not change things. The British manager shows a huge mass of telexes and letters, back and forth, questions and answers, but no convincing documents. Just something clarifying, enlightening. And it is a letter from the organizers of the Japanese Grand Prix stating that Pat Duffeler is only a consultant for them, not a delegate to decide. If it is true that Duffeler believed he could sign documents on behalf of Japan, this shows that he is at least misguided, but it does not change the substance of things. The basic problem remains, now, ever clear: if Duffeler is the WCR delegate, as is claimed by the WCR members themselves, there is no reason for FOCA not to reach the agreements - which it claims to want to reach - through Duffeler. And here comes the bombshell: no one in the WCR has an official, legally registered proxy that can give them the power to negotiate and decide and form on behalf of everyone. This seems astounding, especially since there are lawyers in the WCR who should know these things well. No one, apparently according to Ecclestone, showed up at FOCA in possession of a legal document, a real and precise power of attorney indicating him as authorized by the others to negotiate and make precise commitments.

 

That's why, Ecclestone says, FOCA could never sign contracts with the eight WCR organizers. Thus implying that FOCA was willing to do so. This is, evidently, another way of trying to save face, passing off the prior outright refusal to recognize WCR as a procedural impossibility. For their part, however, the organizers deny it. They say that at the time the WCR was formed, they appointed a board of management, consisting of Mr. Maffezzoli (Italy), Mr. Verrier (France) and Mr. Meyer (Germany), and that they in turn delegated Mr. Pat Duffeler to represent the WCR. By issuing him a written proxy, not equivocal. FOCA, for its part, replied that it was a simple letter, not a registered legal document, and that it did not want to run the risk of signing contracts that were not legally recognizable, that could be challenged due to the lack of a real incontrovertible legal basis. The accusations that were addressed to Ecclestone through the letter sent by Duffeler on behalf of WCR to Ecclestone, and copied to all teams, however, were not answered. And no documents are shown to refute them. At this point things become urgent and require a solution. Except for the fact that the 1977 championship is now really under discussion.  This is what the ISC does. On Friday, December 17, 1976, in the halls of the FIA in Place de la Concorde, there is the usual ISC press conference, before the distribution of the annual awards for the official championships. The central bureau of the ISC meets shortly before, discussing the situation at such length that the press conference scheduled for 5:00 p.m. actually begins at 5:25 p.m. Ugeux says the usual things, the final balance of the 1976 season and the technical-sporting decisions for the future, and then passes on to talk about Formula 1. His words are precise:

 

"The problem is difficult. Every year we have to reach a financial agreement between competitors and organizers. In November 1975 we helped to reach an agreement, in Brussels, with a discussion in which Boeri was present for the organizers, Balestre vice-president of ISC, Duffeler for the sponsors, Ecclestone and Mosley for the constructors. The agreement had been found on the basis of 285.000 dollars per race - European - for 1976, with the understanding that for the following years something would have to be added, on the basis of the cost of living indices and of eventual increases in profits deriving from greater attendance of spectators and therefore of receipts. There were meetings on November 21, 1975 and April 20, 1976 that were supposed to establish precise parameters, but they did not produce results. On December 16, 1976 there was a meeting to have an agreement on the financial basis for 1977 but this agreement was not reached. There was only an agreement that the 1977 championship will be held, and it was learned that a number of organizers have already signed contracts".

 

It should not be forgotten that the sum of $285.000 for 1976 already represented a thirty percent increase over 1975. On the eve of the 1977 championship start deadline, it's time to decide.

 

"The ISC cannot ignore all this, and neither can it be put off, out of respect for the organizers, for the sponsors. So the ISC must ensure that the program is respected. The solution must be found in compliance with the Brussels agreements, and the ISC has now taken a clear position: taking into account certain agreements already established, the ISC has decided that the 1977 races should be held on a basis of $250.000 plus ten percent as an index of the increase in the cost of living, plus fifty percent of the increase in receipts in relation to 1976 receipts. Of course this fifty percent increase will give quite a bit, given inflation and thus the increase in figures. In any case a minimum of $300.000 must be guaranteed. At this time one cannot freeze prices but try to stimulate an increase in receipts. The ISC cannot accept that these be postponed to the Greek calends, something that can be accepted in commercial negotiations, not for the World Championship. If the ISC proposal is not accepted, there will be no world championship as it is now".

 

The subsequent questions that are asked find clarifying answers: if there is no agreement, the ISC will have the championship disputed by applying the existing regulations, i.e. admitting the Formula 2 cars, the F5000, and obviously the Formula 1 cars that show up. And in any case the decision by the interested parties must be made very soon, within two weeks. The decision is not late. Just after, when the ISC begins the 1976 awards ceremony, Ecclestone goes up to the podium and hands over to Chris Pook of Long Beach the prize that the manufacturers give annually to the best Grand Prix organization, but before giving it, Ecclestone whispers in Ugeux's ear:

 

"FOCA accepts the conditions imposed by ISC".

 

This meant that a way to save face had been found, thanks to the ISC, and that there would no longer be any obstacles on FOCA's part. In the meantime, although late, World Champion Hunt finally reached Paris to receive his award. Hunt had been in Paris the day before for a series of live Q&As with readers of the daily newspaper l'Equipe, but had returned to London to attend the ball of the English sports press association. And on Friday morning, when he returned to the airport to go to Paris, he was faced with the spectacle of fog and snow that blocked the traffic. So he arrived in Paris three hours later than planned, and then made a frantic run that brought him to the Place de la Concorde when everyone had left the prize-giving room to enter the hall where pastries and champagne were waiting for them. Hunt still had his World Champion cup, and therefore everything was regular, while for Ferrari we see for the first time Roberto Nosetto in an official capacity. However, the question of how to provide for the form of the contracts between WCR and FOCA organizers remains unresolved, given the prejudices that were known, namely the alleged lack of an effective legal representative of WCR, of a legal delegate. To this the WCR responds that there is a simple solution. The ISC also establishes a standard contract for Formula 1 races, so the WCR would have submitted a collective agreement, signed by each of its members, to FOCA for signature, so that there would be all the conditions of caution that FOCA requires. So now there are really no more obstacles.

 

The first to sign the contract, having to return to Argentina, is Juan Manuel Bordeu for AC Argentina. The material signature of the others should be done in the time needed to reach personally the people who have to sign. Now, really, there should be nothing more to hinder the total and general agreement, also because Ugeux, taking advantage of his presence in Italy to attend the inauguration of the Alfa Romeo historical museum, on Saturday December 18, 1976 meets Enzo Ferrari. And Ferrari issued a communiqué in which he stated that he was happy that the ISC had accepted the line he had always maintained, i.e. compliance with the clauses of the Brussels agreement. It is certain that Ferrari, however, is in a favorable position, compared to the other brands that race now, given the system of distribution of the sums paid by the organizers; it was in 1976 and will be again in 1977, given its position and that of its drivers in the 1976 World Championship, which brings many points in the bonus scale provided by FOCA. Finally, an official request is made by A.C. Argentina to postpone the Argentine Grand Prix to February 6, 1977, since the material time for the organization of the race, even if everything went on the same in Buenos Aires, became very little. However, on December 21, 1976 it was announced that the Argentine Grand Prix would be regularly held on January 9, 1977. The challenge between Lauda, who is recovering from surgery, and Hunt, who spends the month of December between one advertising engagement and another, exhausting himself, can therefore continue.

 

Anthony Quartey

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