Rindt won the Dutch Grand Prix at the wheel of the Lotus-Ford Cosworth. It is now time to look forward to the next round, the French Grand Prix, that will be held on Sunday 5th July 1970. However, the topic of the danger of both cars, that have full tanks of fuel, and circuits is once again highlighted. English driver Piers Courage passes away after a shunt against an embankment and a subsequent explosion of his car. He was only 28 years old. An investigation into the cause of the incident has been opened. It is discovered that the car had a reliability problem since it caught fire with extreme ease. Probably the incident occurred due to the materials that were used for the construction of the car and the rupture of the fuel tanks. Those had a capacity of around 220 litres each.
The pressure on the manufacturers continues to grow. The drivers are often scared about the possible consequences. The wrong regulations - proposed by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile - increase the dangerousness of the races. One is terrified to see a car light up on fire. When an accident happens, the driver is often trapped inside the car. In those cases, medical help is either too slow to arrive or is not even able to arrive on time. This already happened in Madrid, at the Spanish Grand Prix, to Ickx and Oliver. It repeated on Sunday 21st June 1970 at Zandvoort, for the Dutch Grand Prix. That time though, Piers Courage had less luck compared to his colleagues. He was unable to abandon the driving seat. In regards to this, Enzo Ferrari declares that:
"These cars are like coffins. They are true fuel bombs".
The structure of a Formula 1 car is fairly simple: four wheels, a chassis, a monocoque, water and fuel containers. The lateral tanks, that have a capacity of 200-220 liters of fuel (a commercial one, without particular additives), bind the driver to drive in semi-recumbent position. The engine is positioned at the rear of the car. The total weight is around 530-550 kg. The manufacturers use plenty of light alloys, made of magnesium. This is done in order to avoid that the car could slow down during the race, be too heavy for the driver in case that the car flips over or, even worse, light up on fire.
The fire is one of the major problems that causes deaths and danger during the various Grand Prix. Other causes are: defects of the electric system, high-temperature elements (and/or exhaust pipes), sparks provoked by impacts with the chassis or bodywork to the roundabout, contact between incandescent disk-brakes and the fuel or lubricant, engine failures and worst of all, an accident. Those are the principal causes of danger because they are directly connected to the fuel tanks. If those break - as a result of a collision between cars or an impact against a fixed obstacle - there is no way out. The fuel sprays out, covering a large surface. Within second, fumes start to form. They find the hottest spot of the car (either the brake disk or the exhaust manifold) or in some cases, the spark from which the flames will burst forth.
The regulation foreseen that an automatic extinguisher is mounted on the car. It takes effect at the first spark that arises inside the car. The cylinder, however, has a limited capacity which can either slow down the flames for only a couple of seconds or extinguish small outbreaks. The tanks, resulting in the outbreak and then the fire, are entirely made out of rubber. They are constructed with system that are used in the aeronautic technique. They are quite robust. The tanks are resistant to the heat but not to the demolishing action of twisted metal sheets: a tear in the casing and the petrol bomb is triggered. Those are causes of polemics and criticism towards the manufactures and the sportive regulation, with its norms and limits for the realization of the car.
There are a set of fixed rules that create Formula 1 that are written by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile. All manufacturers need to adhere to it. They - apart from some exceptions - stop at nothing to make their cars competitive. They try to find the most exasperated solution to lighten the cars, by using dangerous materials such as magnesium. The risk with it is that it can explode as soon as it is ignited by the flaming hot fuel. On the other hand, the drivers rarely have firm and conscious stances and are not reacting as they should. The reason is not only just passion for racing. Everyone is linked by money, in term of commercial interests with the car manufacturers and the accessory makers.
Every driver, deep inside, is convinced that nothing will ever happen to him. However, when the car flares up with its human, here lies the very serious responsibility of the organizers and the fire-fighter services. Until now, the security of the spectators was taken care of, especially with the implementation of the guardrails. The assistance to the injured also improved through the use of mobile hospitals and helicopter for the quick transport to the reanimation centers. However, the organizers have fallen terribly behind in the fight against the flames. Not to mention that the kilometres-long tracks, that go through mountains and hills, have no security. Whether is the Targa Florio or the Mugello Grand Prix, there are conditions that are either accepted or banned.
At Monza, for example, in the past, cars have been left to burn for more than 10 minutes. Instead in Madrid, it was pretended to put out the fire on Ickx’s Ferrari and Oliver’s B.R.M. with a miserable water lance. In Zandvoort, fire-fighters intervened with the right equipment to intervene after De Tomaso’s scary shut at Piers Courage against a slope. Now, the security has greatly improved. The driver uses suits and helmets that are able to endure 20 to 30 seconds in flaming hell. However, it is still too late to do anything. The time frame to intervene is quite limited. The question comes to mind: why is a fire-fighter able to put out a fire in 12 seconds in America, at Indianapolis? It is a matter of equipment and men. The crux of the matter is a deficiency that is related to economical motives.
It is costly to rent fire-fighter, to create a specialized rescue force and to assemble vehicles and fire extinguishers like the ones used in the airports. Thus, the drivers are left to burn. It is a risk of the job. It is a behaviour that cannot be defined. Cynicism and frivolity, ambitions and commercial reasons make a veil over common sense and human spirit. The thinking behind is this: the races are fabulous and amazing, let’s leave the tragedies out of those. The polemics fade away and the Formula 1 circus must go on. Lorenzo Bandini’s death, on that sad May afternoon at Monte-Carlo, and Piers Courage’s one will not be the last ones.
Unfair deaths and constant dangers revolve around the racing world. Thus, the teams are forced to prepare for the French Grand Prix. The sixth round of the 1970 championship is held in the difficult and twisty Clermont Ferrand circuit. The two Ferrari 312-B cars will also be present for the French race. Jacky Ickx and Ignazio Giunti will drive the Maranello cars. The Italian drivers makes a comeback, at the wheel of the car, after the great Spa performance. The Charade track, located above Clermont-Ferrand, is like a sort of a minature Nürburgring with his 8.055 kilometres that goes through hills and forest. It has sudden and tight corners that form a rapid section. Through this, the overtakes are quite difficult. It is a circuit that mixes fun, adrenaline and sometimes danger.
Rindt has always expressed worry for this circuit. Apart from this, he experiences a health issue: a stomach ulcer, which is aggravated by the persistent smoke. Furthermore, the constant changes in temperature, in relation to the various round of the championship, tend to bring discomfort to him. The Lotus Team arrives in France with the Zandvoort-spec cars. The only change is the rear shock absorbers. In addition, the Austrian driver is almost disinterested in the race prospects. Rindt refuses to stop smoking, despite the warning from his doctors. The other Team Lotus driver, John Miles, at the wheel of the Lotus 72 that is less modified compared to the Austria none, cannot wait to race at the French track despite not doing a consistent number of laps at.
Miles is underpinned by the strong will to challenge and prove himself. However, this is not enough to get noticed by Colin Chapman. Team Lotus, who uses the Cosworth V8 engines, is worried that the V-12 engine, produced by Scuderia Ferrari at Maranello, is slowing gaining competitiveness. Although, in this instance, Ferrari is not present for the free-practice session that is held on Friday 3rd July 1970. As a result, the Maranello team loses a great chance to calibrate its engines. This delay is due to the transporters that could not cross the border. This is because they arrived about ten minutes after the French had closed the night transport. This will be a big disadvantage compared to its rivals and, in general, to the teams that use the Cosworth engine.
Last year, during testing, Stewart did a 3'00"6 at the wheel of the Matra MS80. Thus, the drivers tried to immediately set times that are below the 3-minute mark. In reality, to do so is not easy. Perhaps, it is the fact that the circuit is not regularly utilized for racing. Thus, the drivers need to do quite a number of laps before the tyres can heat up nicely. Even if the testing session last two hours and a half, Stewart and Amon’s lap time are relatively slow even if they are approaching the 3-minutes mark. Tyrrell ‘s March 701/4, used by Stewart, and Cevert’s 701/7, have a problem with the accelerator. This prompts a sudden change of car by the Scottish driver whilst the mechanics take the car apart.
In the meantime, François Cevert set a 3'02"87 lap time. It puts the Tyrrell team in the position of deciding to let the young French driver finish the free-practice session, before he can override Jackie Stewart in the timing screens. Meanwhile, Jochen Rindt’s health condition does not allow for the Lotus Team to work at its best. In fact, since wearing the wraparound Bell-Star helmet, the Austrian driver complains of feeling too hot and stuffy. It is a complicated situation to be able to tackle the corner of the French circuit. However, the temperature in the Lotus 72 cockpit is lower than the Lotus 49 one. The only solution is to thus use the old helmet, which allows Rindt to breathe freely but also risk to get hit in the face by a rock that comes from the car in front. In this case, he would have a profound cut on the right cheek.
Meanwhile, John Miles, at the wheel of Lotus 72/B, continues with the testing training session without any apparent issue. Although this might seem the case, he found himself with the fuel tanks that are completely empty. He is thus forced to be stuck outside the race track. Before this, Miles was doing his 20th lap of the circuit, without having to stop to re-fuel the car. The third Team Lotus car is a 49/C/R6, which is borrowed from Spanish driver Alex Soler-Roig. The latter is unable to do a sufficient number of practice minutes. The car was held in the pits for quite some time because of the gearbox scattered on the floor. The ratios are all wrong. Down at Team March, Chris Amon uses the light 701/6, which is a in-development car.
Team McLaren shows its strengths thanks to Denny Hulme’s help, who finally comes back on back even if his hands are not fully cured from the burns. His car was damaged after the Zandvoort incident and the monocoque needed to be scrapped. The pieces, that were taken out of the damaged car, are re-mounted in the monocoque of the M14 1970 model. This one was previously used in the Netherlands race. All pieces of the Alfa Romeo are re-assembled on the monocoque of the M7 model 1969. Dan Gurney will drive Bruce McLaren’s old car. The American driver, compared to what happened in the previous races, does not have the status of officio-classified pilot anymore. Thus, he needs to fight in order to qualify for the race.
The only driver, who used to be entered by right and is now unable to qualify for the races as 1 of the 24 starters, is John Surtees. The reason is that the McLaren M7C does not have a Ford Cosworth engine. This means that three members of the team will be excluded since the organizers can only allow 20 drivers to start the race. At Yardley Team, Pedro Rodriguez is unhappy. He is unable to adapt to the behavior of the B.R.M. Furthermore, the car has gearbox issues. Due to this, he does fewer laps than he had hoped to do. Jean-Pierre Beltoise, instead, is bust in creating the amazing performance that he had last year in this same circuit.
The two Brabham cars display small vertical baffles that are fitted on the cover plates above the engines. Their function is to deviate the air towards the fuel radiation that is mounted above the gearbox, under the aerodynamic profile. The training testing day, on Saturday 4th July 1970, is divided by two distinct sessions. The first one will take place after the lunch break and will last an hour. The second one will be done during the evening and will also last one hour. The remaining hours, in between sessions, will be filled by Formula France and Renault-Gordini, which are national races. Ferrari, who lost Friday’s free-practice sessions, will be present on Saturday. Despite the initial struggles, Ickx e Giunti are able to make up for lost time by recording excellent laps. Those times prompt the Ford Cosworth men to reconsider the potential of the V-12 engines.
Jacky Ickx sets a 3'00"64 while Giunti does a 3'01"85 lap time. Jean-Pierre Beltoise, on board of the Matra, goes 2nd fastest, 1 tenth behind the pace setter. He is incited by the French flags that are flown from time to time. Chris Amon is not among the fastest driver. Dan Gurney does not have any chance to improve because the McLaren loses fuel pressure during the out-lap. As time goes on, the challenge to go under the 3-minute limit is becoming much more difficult. Furthermore, the tightness of the Charade circuit does not help the drivers, only allowing two to large group of participants. Ickx seems to be in great shape with his Ferrari, in prevision for the race. Jean-Pierre Beltoise is the first driver to set a 2'59"0 time and is improving lap by lap.
Jochen Rindt, becoming familiar with the Lotus 72, is also able to go under the 3-minute limit. He joins the other cars that have a V-12 engine to the elite category. Ickx is also getting faster, setting in the end a 2'58"22. Beltoise is unable to match this lap, only doing a 2'58"70. Jackie Stewart is unable to go under the 3-minute limits even if he is strongly committed to achieve the target. The V-12 engine cars seems to be unreachable. This leads to a general feeling of concern between the Cosworth-powered team. On a high-speed track like Spa or Monza, the speeds show during free-practice seems normal. However, it should not be the case at Clermont-Ferrand, with all its low-speed corners and four hairpins.
Chris Amon, at the wheel of STP-March 701/1, is also able to set a time which is below the 3-minute limit. However, it is not sufficiently good enough to take a place on the front row. The Neo-Zealand driver only does a 2'59"14, which is 0.92 seconds slower than Jacky Ickx. Towards the end, the drivers make one last-ditch effort to set a lap time, on a semi-empty track. Jackie Stewart does a 2'59"24, which is a second behind than Jacky Ickx and 1 tenth slower than Chris Amon. Jacky Ickx thus takes pole position. Afterwards, Ferrari and Matra are on the front row for the start of the French Grand Prix. Silvio Moser and Alex Soler-Roig, in the meantime, are unable to qualify. American driver Pete Lovely is also excluded from the starting grid. Throughout the session, he was almost unobserved.
George Eaton qualifies, together with Graham Hill, in the top-20. For the first time, Andrea de Adamich starts the race, at the wheel of the Alfa Romeo-powered McLaren, from 15th position. Among the new entries, Ronnie Peterson, in the Colin Crabbe’s yellow-brown March, is able to qualify, ahead of the entire B.R.M. team, in 9th position. François Cevert is feeling quite comfortable at the wheel of the second Tyrrell even if there are no significant improvement. A cause could be the exuberance from being a newcomer. The balance of the qualifying session also includes Jo Siffert's incident. The Swiss driver went off track but is unscathed. He only has very slightly bruising on one leg. Jochen Rindt, in the Lotus-Ford Cosworth, will start in 6th place. The Austrian will start behind Jack Brabham, at the wheel of the Brabham-Ford Cosworth.
During the night, the mechanics carry out the final checks on the cars, in order to ensure that there are no problems during the 38-laps French race. On Sunday 5th July 1970, the drivers are ready to tackle the start of the sixth round of the world championship. The sun foretells a good day to race. A huge crowd of people is present throughout the circuit, waiting for the start. The race start is scheduled at 3:00 p.m. An hour before the start, the drivers have the opportunity to once again try the cars, in order to make sure that there are not technical issues. In this phase of the weekend, engineer Mauro Forghieri enables Jacky Ickx to try the spare car. The one that the Jacky Ickx used during qualifying has a possible issue at a valve, caused by a rock inside the trumpet.
The spare car, though, is poorly balanced under braking. Thus, it is set aside and the Ferrari driver thus returns aboard of the 312/003, the same car with which he practiced in the previous days. The B.R.M. engine, at the back of Jackie Oliver’s car, fails to achieve full agility in the car. Despite this, he consciously prepares for the start, knowing that the car will inevitably present problems to the injection system. Despite Forghieri’s concerns, the two V-12 engines are ahead of the other Cosworth engine on the grid. The superb sounds, at the start, makes everything even more splendid. Ickx has a great getaway and leads the race going into the first corner. Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Jackie Stewart are 2nd and 3rd respectively. Amon follows the Scottish driver closely, in 4th place, in the vain attempt to follow the two V-12 engine cars.
Jackie Stewart is able to stay close to the top-2 for about two laps. Then he starts to falls behind even if he is 5-seconds ahead of Chris Amon. The latter is followed by Jochen Rindt, Henry Pescarolo, Pedro Rodriguez, Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme, Ronnie Peterson, Ignazio Giunti, François Cevert, Rolf Stommelen, Jo Siffert and the rest of the field. After the start, Andrea de Adamich goes back to the pits, at the wheel of the McLaren-Alfa Romeo, but is forced to stop outside the track due to a damaged water pipe. The third lap proposes a fixed and stable pattern. Stewart is unable to closely follow Jacky Ickx’s Ferrari and Jean-Pierre Beltoise’ Matra. Meanwhile the other Ford Cosworth-powered cars are unable to keep up with the Scottish driver. There is a stalemate situation between Ickx and Beltoise at the front, despite the fact that the blue car is right behind the Maranello car. After 4 laps, Jackie Stewart is 6-seconds behind the leaders but is still leading the midfield. This is because the other cars are forced to run inside a very narrow quay and thus get in each other's way.
On the same lap, George Eaton stops in the pit to substitute a spy wire. In the meantime, Jackie Oliver is unable to continue the race due to an engine failure. Throughout the course of the 5th lap, Jacky Ickx and Jean-Pierre Beltoise open up the gap to 7 seconds. This convinces Jackie Stewart that there is a problem in the Ford-Cosworth engine. The Scotsman thus decide to pit. As the mechanics change, he drops down to last place. He is even behind Andrea de Adamich, who is still busy going in and out of the pits to get repairs done on his car. On lap 6, it is Pedro Rodriguez’s turn to pits, after the B.R.M. gearbox gets stuck in 4th gear. He is out of the race.
The hopes of the drivers, who have Ford-Cosworth powered cars, does not improve as time goes by. It seems like there is no one who is able to get close to Jacky Ickx’s Ferrari and Jean-Pierre Beltoise’ Matra. Talking of the two, they are busy trying to widen the gap to the other rivals. On lap 7, Jochen Rindt is able to cleverly pass Chris Amon for 3rd place and is now leading the groups of Ford-Cosworth powered cars. In the midst of it, there is Henry Pescarolo, in the second V-12 Matra car, who is keeping ahead of Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme and Ronnie Peterson. The Swedish driver is driving very well and able to stay behind without any problem. John Miles and Graham Hill close the group, excluding the delayed Andrea de Adamich and Jackie Stewart.
Ickx and Giunti’s Ferraris are the most balanced cars so far. Beltoise though could surprise Ickx thanks to his knowledge and experience of this track. Charade has similar characteristics to the Nürburgring, with almost as many hairpins. The situation at the front can quickly change within a matter of seconds. Beltoise seems to be waiting for Ickx to either make a mistake or for the Ferrari cars to have mechanical issues. If this happens, he can then take advantage to move into the lead of the race. At the same time, Jacky Ickx looks over his shoulder to see the French driver getting ever so close to his gearbox. Both are going for the fastest lap. On lap 11, Ignazio Giunti stops in the pits for an engine problem that drops him to the tail end of the field. On lap 14, Jack Brabham is able to overtake Hendy Pescarolo’s Matra and to immediately pull away from him.
On lap 15, Denny Hulme is ahead of Jack Brabham. After this move, the Neo-Zealand driver has to gain ground on Amon and Rindt. It will not be an easy feat since the gap is quite large. By the way, the duo is still leading the group of the Ford-Cosworth powered cars. Simultaneously, the crowd goes wild after Jean-Pierre Beltoise is able to get ahead of Jacky Ickx. A French driver, driving a French car, leading the French Grand Prix is an extraordinary spectacle for its compatriots, Tyrrell and Jackie Stewart. Before this overtake, they thought that the V-12 Matra engine had little to offer. When the leaders start the 16th lap, the reason for the lead change becomes clear. The Ferrari engine has a mechanical issue. Thus, Ickx is forced to dive into the pits. Ronnie Peterson’s March followed suit on the following lap. The latter has an issue with the faulty transmission.
In the meantime, Jochen Rindt starts to understand that the cockpit is not too hot to drive in. It is cooler than what he originally thought. Thus, he takes the momentary fastest lap in a 3'01”64. Beltoise immediately beats it with a 3'01”23 to maintain the 15-seconds fap over the Lotus driver. On lap 19, Jean-Pierre Beltoise grows the advantage, which is now 16.5 seconds. At this point of the race, there is nothing that Rindt and the Lotus 72 car can do to beat the French driver. Chris Amon’s March is still chasing Jochen Rindt but there is no hope to overtake him. Those two are followed by Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme, who are busy trying to grow the gap to Henry Pescarolo. Further back, Dan Gurney, after getting rid of François Cevert and Rolf Stommelen, tries to gain ground on his rival. He has not much success in doing so.
During the 20th lap, Jean-Pierre Beltoise continues to maintain his advantage. There is a prospect of a win for the Matra V12 engine. It has a good sound still and the French driver seems completely calm. Further back, Jack Brabham recovers the lost race pace, Denny Hulme sets a new lap time in 3'01”14. On lap 21, Rindt improves it further, with a 3'00”86 and thus reducing the gap to Maltoise to 15 seconds. Beltoise does not respond to it and the gap is below 14 seconds. At this point, from the pits, one begins to wonder whether the little Frenchman is getting tired. On the other side of the spectrum, Jochen Rindt is spurred on by the signals given to him by his mechanics in the pits and continues to reduce the gap. Onto the following lap, it drops to 10 seconds.
There is thus the realization that is something is not right, either with Beltoise or his Matra. Another lap goes by and Rindt is 5 seconds behind the leaders. In addition, the Austrian has managed to widen the gap on Chris Amon latter. It is clear that the leader is struggling. On lap 25, the Lotus 72 is right behind Beltoise’s Matra. The French driver shakes his fist to get through; a couple of minutes later, on lap 26, Chris Amon gets ahead of Beltoise for 2nd. Beltoise feels that the Matra car is strangely behaving in some corners and thus worsening - from time to time - its drivability. Looking at in the mirror, the French driver realizes that the rear tyres are ok. Therefore, he is convinced that it is picking up rubber noodles as it was the case in Zandvoort. The behaviour of the car seems to getting worse in some corners.
During the course of the race, Beltoise notices that there is a puncture on the rear tyre. On lap 27, Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme get by Beltoise’s Matra, who is returning to the pits to change the rears. The glory of the French team is over, even if Beltoise manages to get back into the race in 10th place. This enables Rindt to get a 4-seconds lead over Amon. He has a shot to take the Lotus 72 to its second consecutive victory. Meanwhile, Ignazio Giunti is still struggling with the Ferrari engine that does not function correctly. George Eaton, after being involved in an accident, breaks the rim of a wheel against a barrier and is forced to stop in the pits to make a change.
Jo Siffert, following a sudden lock-up of the front brake on lap 23, crashes into a stone parapet which heavily damages the March car. The Swiss driver was running 9th before this unfortunate and involuntary shunt. In the meantime, Jackie Stewart drives to the best of his ability, hoping to gain ground on the slow cars, including young teammate François Cevert, and Graham Hill. It was a not a lucky weekend for Tyrrell. Cevert should have solved this problem during the tests. With Stewards’ forced stop in the pits, both March cars are now running at the tail end of the field. Apart from Beltoise, who gains 9th position, the final stages of the race are not intense and emotional. Jochen Rindt increases his lead to 7 seconds. The Lotus 72 demonstrates, once again, a remarkable superiority over the other Ford-Cosworth powered cars. Behind him, Brabham and Hulme are fighting for 3rd place.
Despite the pain in the hands due to the burns, Denny Hulme expresses himself to the maximum of its possibilities. During the final laps of the race, he tries to pressurize Jack Brabham into a mistake. Throughout the course of the race, the Australian driver has never been impressed by anyone trying to overtake him. Therefore, Hulme is forced to pick up all the dirt and stones, that Brabham’s car is leaving behind while making his way through the corners and the bumpy edges of the circuit. While this is going on, the Neo-Zealand driver sets the new fastest lap of the race, a 3'00"75. A bit further back, Dan Gurney is right behind Pescarolo but is unable to find a way past. At the back, Jackie Stewart is gaining ground on Graham Hill.
The Scot is è particularly keen to overtake the English man, given that Rindt is rapidly arriving behind to lap them. These kinds of situations require some desperate last-ditch attempt on the last lap, if they are to be resolved in one's favor. On lap 36, Jean-Pierre Beltoise is struggling with a faltering engine. Thinking that there is low fuel on it, he decides to dive into the pits. However, the problem is not related to a possible lack of fuel. As it will be soon discovered, the pressure pumps are unable to pick up the fuel. As a result, the French driver remains in the pits for the remainder of the race. At the same time, Jackie Stewart is able to overtake Graham Hill onto the penultimate lap. The Scot driver is able to get over the start/finish line to start the 38th lap whilst Rindt finishes it. The latter sees the chequered flag to win the French Grand Prix.
Stewart, this way, completes all 38 laps, even if it is a matter of a couple of meters. Meanwhile Graham Hill is forced to stop at the chequered flag, having completed only 37 laps. Chris Amon cannot do anything to stop Jochen Rindt and dispel his personal curse. The neo-Zealand driver finishes the race in 2nd place, 7.5 seconds behind the winner. Jack Brabham finished 3rd, ahead of Denny Hulme, Henry Pescarolo and Dan Gurney, who picks up the last point after making one last desperate effort to pass Beltoise. The American driver manages to overtake the Matra on the last hairpin and to finish ahead by half a car length. Rolf Stommelen crosses the line in 7th position, ahead of Jack Miles and Jackie Stewart.
Jacky Ickx and Ferrari’s dream to win the French Grand Prix, at the Clermont-Ferrand circuit, lasted 16 laps. Then the engine dropped in performance. As a result, the Belgian driver was forced to pit. He was thus forced to abandon the fight against Beltoise’s Matra-Simca. Before the finish, the latter had to make an unscheduled pitstop for a right rear puncture. Jochen Rindt came to the fore by prevailing over Chris Amon. The Lotus driver wins his third race of the 1970 Formula 1 World Championship and takes the leads of the drivers’ standing with 27 points. Stewart, delayed by an ignition failure (as it was the case in Monte-Carlo), is stuck at 19, on par with Brabham.
It was an interesting and hard-fought race which could have brought satisfaction to Ferrari. Ickx, on Saturday’s free-practice session, was the fastest driver with a fantastic 2'58"22 lap time, driving with an average speed of 162.709 km/h. Ignazio Giunti did a good job in the other Ferrari, by doing the 11th fastest time (3'01"85). Unfortunately, during that practice session, a rock got inside Ickx’s car. Firstly, it was decided to change the cars, Then, two reasons led engineer Forghieri, responsible of the team, to change option. According to the regulation, Ickx should have started last and the engine, at the back of the spare car, was not tuned correctly. Thus, the Belgian driver was sent out on track in the free-practice 312-B car, hoping to at least finish the race.
Chris Amon, everlasting second, tried to attack Rindt in vain and the top-2 positions never changed. The Austrian, apart from others’ misfortunes, fully deserved the win. If the old Brabham did set the new record lap in 3'00"75, Rindt finished the race at finished at the average record of 158.390 km/h. The car, that has anti-conventional suspensions and quite original technical solution, was perfectly fine-tuned. In addition, the driver is in a state of grace. Rindt does not like the Clermont-Ferrand circuit. Last year, he retired due to illness. This time, during free-practice, he was forced to give up the full-face helmet because it was suffocating him. Furthermore, the altitude changes and the 51 corners made him violently nauseous during the race.
Considering everything that has happened to him, the win was the best possible result. He was able to use the old-fashioned helmet, that has does not enclose the face, without any problems. In the accident field, there is a positive balance: Jo Siffert was the only one to have a shunt after going off track. The latter only had minor bruising on one leg. Despite this, the drama of the accident, that broke out in the Netherlands, certainly did not fade away. Amidst the various controversies surrounding it, the Monza circuit is now under the lens. There is the risk that it will be abolished like the Nürburgring. Although it will only happen if the drivers confirm its dangerousness and their intention to modify part of the track and FIA regulation. Rumors were going like wildfire at Clermont-Ferrand circuit but, until now, did not translate into reality. Ottorino Mallezzoli, head of the sports department of the Autoclub Milan, and Gianni Restelli, director of the Monza circuit:
"We did not receive any request from the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association. Last year, Stewart examined the track and suggested a couple of modifications. We implemented them and the Scot driver seemed satisfied with them".
The Monza circuit is relatively secure. Let’s consider though that the drivers drive at 300 km/h on either a Formula 1 or a sports car. Thus, every single racing track in the world is not 100% safe. Arturo Merzario, the young and valiant Ferrari driver, affirms:
"You can race with a certain peace of mind at Monza. There are no ravines or trees touching the track, as it is the case at the Nürburgring. However, I would suggest three modifications: increase the height of the guardrails, in order than a car does not go over; round off the embankment in front of the entrance to the parabolic curve; create a chicane after the Ascari corner”.
Modifications and suggestions are welcomed. Although, they need to be presented in time. Enzo Ferrari, who did not forget the late Lorenzo Bandini, argues that they should have acted long ago. At the same though, request changes to the track with one month to go until the race (as it was the case in the Nürburgring) is absurd. Mallezzoli and Restelli believe the same:
"Change, even slightly, the circuit, requires a lot of time. Permission must be obtained from the park administrators, thus the Monza and Milan municipalities, prepare a studio, have the favourable opinion of the special Supervisory Commission, execute the work. It takes months to do everything. Therefore, if the drivers have some request in this sense, they are forced to abolish the Grand Prix".
Change formula is a remote possibility. Mallezzoli will go at Brands Hatch. On Sunday 18th July, 1970, the British Grand Prix will take place. It is probable that there will be a reunion between the, members of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, namely Stewart, Rindt, Bonnier and the rest of the drivers. He and Restelli recognize that the drivers are right to fear the Formula 1 races.
"If some circuits are dangerous - which is not the case for Monza - then the cars are unsafe as well. The faults lie in the regulations, not in the constructors as much. The formula needs to change".
Declares Enzo Ferrari who, for quite some time, has been fighting against the regulations proposed by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile. Ferrari says that even the manufactures have no say in it and that the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile and the Sportive International Commission Sportiva bend to the wishes of race organizers. Overall, with those premises, both the drivers and the constructions are preparing for the next round of the world championship. The British Grand Prix will take place at the Brands Hatch circuit on Sunday 18th July 1970.