Is it possible to build a safer single-seater? It’s a conversation that, more or less, is being had about road cars too. The answer is twofold: it’s not possible to build a road or touring car that is hundred percent safe, capable of withstanding the most unsettling accidents; it is however possible to build a vehicle capable of better protecting both racing and regular drivers. Nowadays, for single-seaters, it’s mandatory to have both an automatic and manual fireproof mechanism that consists of one or two tanks with an apparatus of nozzle and pipes for irrigation, a roll-bar behind the driver’s seat, and inside and outside switches to turn off the electrical system. Recently a device that locks the tyre to the rim in case of a puncture has been adopted. More thorough and rational are the proposals from a study conducted by Pininfarina with the partnership of specialized institutions and technicians. It is the Sigma Grand Prix, which brings together new concepts and devices. Other proposals come from two engineers, Mauro Forghieri, Scuderia Ferrari’s technical director, and Ron Tauranac, responsible for designing the Brabham.
"I think that the Sigma Grand Prix is an excellent attempt at solving safety issues. However, it should be assessed if this vehicle is acceptable from the competitiveness point of view. I think that before talking about concrete solutions there are two things that need to be done. First: do a statistical survey to determine which are the factual causes of accidents. Why, When and How do single-seaters catch fire? We still do not know to a certain degree of precision. Secondly: do not deal with the issue apart from each other, but reunite all the people involved: organizers, drivers and manufacturers. This way interesting solutions would come up and the rulers from CSI should consider them".
This is what Engineer Mauro Forghieri had to say, while Ron Tauranac cares about making a premise:
"To improve safety, time and patience are needed. Hastiness is always dangerous. Anyway, I think it’s necessary to modify the fuel tanks. The rubber casings should be thicker and between them and the metal plate container there should be an air cushion. This will function as a damper in the eventuality of an impact, preventing the explosion of the tank. Obviously the solution is twofold: either getting less fuel in the tanks so that they do not adhere perfectly to the metal plate or making bigger tanks. We are working on the problem for our cars. I’d also suggest removing the battery on board of the single-seaters. This way, in the eventuality of an accident that causes the rupture of the electric system’s cables, there would be prevented the trigger of fuel setting on fire. Starting can take place via the use of portable batteries or other systems".
For the German Grand Prix, the Nürburgring will be deserted. The winding and perilous circuit has been disputed by the drivers that achieved the shifting of the race, eligible for the world championship, on the less scenic but safer track of Hockenheim. As is well known, the Grand Prix’s Driver Association, lead by Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill, requested the building of several kilometers of guardrail and other safety measures to race on the track. The drivers’ requested these (accepted) measures, after the tragic accident of Piers Courage, the twentieth deadly accident of the season, for all the tracks around the world. The drivers registered for this race are 25, but only twenty of them will be admitted to the Grand Prix, after the qualifying trials set for tomorrow in the afternoon and on Saturday. The leading topic of the weekend will be about toppling Jochen Rindt, the Austrian driver of Team Lotus that is leading the world championship. If Rindt manages another win, the title would certainly be his. The drivers of March, Matra-Simca, Brabham, B.R.M., and Ferrari will do everything in their power to stop the triumphal march of the Austrian that stands, still, as the heavy favorite. The Ferrari team will line up two 312 B, one driven by Ickx and the other by the Swiss Regazzoni. March’s teams are competing with a particularly strong line-up consisting of Stewart, Andretti, Siffert, Amon, Cevert, and others.
Tyrrell Racing presents the #1 single-seater of Jackie Stewart and the #23 of François Cevert with their Cosworth powered March 701; The Golden Leaf team Lotus presents the Lotus 72C of Jochen Rindt and John Miles and the Lotus 49C of Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, all with Cosworth engines. Also powered by Cosworth are Jack Brabham’s Brabham BT 33 and that of Rolf Stommelen, as well as two of the three single-seaters presented by Bruce McLaren Motor Racing: the #4 single-seater of Denis Hulme and the #24 of Peter Gethin, who from this race will replace Dan Gurney. Opting instead for an Alfa Romeo engine is the Italian Andrea De Adamich in his #20 McLaren M14D. Also registering for the race are the March 701s of Chris Amon and Jo Siffert; the BRM P153s of Pedro Rodrìguez and Jackie Oliver; the #7 Surtees TS7 of John Surtees; The Matra MS120s of Beltoise and Pescarolo; and the Lotus 49C of Graham Hill; the March 701s of Andretti and Peterson and the #26 of Hahne who enters individually; the #27 Bellasi F170 of Moser; the De Tomaso 505 of Redman and, finally, the two Ferrari 312Bs of Ickx and Regazzoni. Of these 25, 20 are initially allowed to participate according to the Geneva pact whereby 10 first-class drivers are automatically admitted and the other 15 have to fight for one of the other ten available places.
On Friday practice Regazzoni laps in 1’59”8 to indicate that 2 minutes is the time limit, and in the first practice on Saturday Rindt laps in 1’59”7 to be then beaten in the afternoon by Ickx with 1’59”5. Siffert is credited with 2’05”0 minutes, but it is thought to be a timekeeper’s errore. Stewart finishes only seventh in practice. The B.R.M. team is not much better off: its 12-cylinder engines are not reliable or fast enough, so neither Rodriguez nor Oliver could challenge the leaders, and the third B.R.M. team member, Eaton, who was back in Canada, is missing for this race. The third member of the Gold Leaf Team Lotus, Fittipaldi, is still learning to race in Formula One with an old Lotus 49C, but he is doing well with reliable and consistent driving. This Friday, on the Hockenheim circuit, called to substitute the perilous Nürburgring track after the dispute of the Formula 1 drivers, Clay Regazzoni and Jacky Ickx with their 312B are the fastest of the 25 drivers that signed up for the eight race in the World Championship’s calendar. The Swiss driver laps in 1’59”8, averaging a speed of 203.988 km/h; the Belgian driver in 2'00"5, one second and a tenth slower than the Lotus 72C of Jochen Ridt, currently leading the championship fight with his 36 points. At the end of the practices, Clay Regazzoni, who’s only on his third Formula 1 Grand Prix, says:
"To think that I could do even better if I did not have some sort of problem with the brakes".
It is not bragging, but an indirect acknowledgement of the speed and power the 12-cylinder Ferrari engine has. Jacky Ickx adds:
"This circuit is very fast, the two variants are barely outlined. You exceed the 150 km/h and in the two main straights you can touch the 300 km/h. You have to floor the throttle. Then, it’s more about the engine".
In fact, the practices confirm that the fight between the 12-cylinder engines (used by Ferrari, Matra-Simca and B.R.M.) and the 8-cylinder Ford-Cosworth (fitted by Lotus, March, Brabham, McLaren, Surtees, Bellasi, and De Tomaso) is getting tighter and tighter. At Spa, in Belgium, the B.R.M. won, at Clermont-Ferrand, in France, the Matra-Simca did (even though the win went to Rindt’s Lotus), here, after a series of comforting performances, it seems that the time has come for the italian engine. It delivers around 460 bhp at 11.600 rpm against the 440 bhp of the B.R.M and Matra-Simca and the 430 bhp of the Ford-Cosworth. Now, among the Ferrari team at Hockenheim there’s only the hope that there won’t come up one of those small but decisive issues that hindered the Maranello made vehicle and its drivers: a puncture in Holland, ignition failure in France, gear-box in Great Britain. Behind the Ferrari duo, there are the usual: Rindt, Andretti, Brabham. Then there’s Surtees, with his new single-seater that is proving to be above every forecast. The Englishman did better than the reigning champion, Jackie Stewart, who’s March keeps on disappointing. You’d have to see the faces of the drivers using the English vehicle: rage and desolation. Jo Siffert says bluntly:
Chris Amon adds:
"It loses both front and rear".
For the German GP too stands the Geneva pact, so that ten drivers (out of the twenty-five that applied) are automatically admitted and the other ten will be admitted according to their times. Therefore, five drivers will have to watch the race from the grandstands, along with 150.000 spectators: all the tickets have already been sold. Jacky Ickx didn’t want to be in Hockenheim. He liked more the Nürburgring track (disputed by the other F1 drivers), that, for once in a while, magnifies the drivers’ qualities instead of the vehicles’. Hockenheim is the opposite: a fast track, barely slowed down by two variants, one of which was set after Jim Clark’s tragic accident. However, during the first practices for the Grand Prix, this ring highlighted the power of Maranello’s 12-cylinder. The times set by Clay Regazzoni and by Ickx are proof, even though they are subjected to possible changes during today’s practices. The Swiss, who’s switching in Formula 1 with Ignazio Giunti as team mate for the Belgian driver, lustrously lapped the best time, despite having some issues with the brakes and a pain in the elbow due to the bite of a wicked mosquito. Ickx took the second place in the charts, with a remarkable 2'00"5.
"We’re hoping that a good result materializes".
These are the words of Maranello’s mechanics. Indeed, after an hesitant start to the season, the 312B has grown race after race. Ickx secured the front row and led the competitors in France (for fourteen laps) and in Great Britain (six laps). Trivial but decisive problems stopped the march of Maranello’s single-seaters. Furthermore, we have to admit that two rookies, however good they may be, cannot do much if not assisted by a strong and competitive car. In this moment Ferrari is, among the teams that are using 12-cylinder power units, bringing the fiercest fight towards Ford-Cosworth’s 8 cylinder that has been dominating Grand Prixs for years. What matters for now is this: Rindt, whose Lotus is leading the championship’s standings with 36 points, is 1.8 seconds behind Regazzoni. And if a good lap time was logically expected from Rindt, the fourth place in the fastest cars standing of Mario Andretti causes satisfaction. Silently the Matra-Simcas and the B.R.M.s, Redman’s De Tomaso and Andrea de Adamich McLaren-Alfa, managed the first places. Stewart tried to push everything out of his March and Surtees managed his new vehicle well. For everyone of them one thing is mandatory: beating Rindt’s Lotus.
Even at the end of Saturday 10th of August 1970 Scuderia Ferrari is still the fastest vehicle on Hockenheimring, where on Sunday will be held the German Grand Prix, the eight installment of the Formula 1 World Championship. Jacky Ickx in the last five minutes of practice managed the best lap time: 1’59"5, averaging 204.51 km/h. Therefore the Belgian driver will start from the first row, having beside him the unyielding Rindt and his Lotus. The Austrian, during this morning practices, took advantage of slipstream and managed to go from the 2’01"6 of Friday to a 1’59"7, just 0.1 second less than Regazzoni, who did not search for a sensational exploit. The most outstanding jump forward is Siffert’s one in his March (from 2’05"2 to 2’00"0), once again by using a complying slipstream from other vehicles. Ferrari is in the first and second rows, therefore confirming the positive impressions made during the first practice day. Quoting the competent judgment of someone that cannot be accused of being partial towards Maranello’s team. It’s the opinion of the engineer Pieck, the young nephew of Ferry Porsche, the mind behind the Stuttgart’s factory which is making the sportscars’ championship vehicles (and probably of the future F1’s Porsche team). Pieck says, after observing very carefully all the single-seaters racing in Hockenheim:
"The Ferrari chassis is the conventional type, what impresses me is the engine. It is a 12-cylinder engine with refined engineering solutions, for sure it looks to me like the best power unit in Formula 1’s group".
One thing is remarkable: the moment Ickx and Regazzoni get out of the box for their test drive other cars do the same trying to hook onto the red single-seaters from Maranello. It’s a legit maneuver that for sure distorts the results. Not only Pescarolo and Cevert do this, but other drivers, too. Explains Jacky Ickx:
"The game is simple, at least on the surface. You hook yourself to another and use his slipstream. Here there are the two variants splitting the queue. But if you’re lucky and you jump from one slipstream to the other... you get a wonderful lap time. If you don’t, you stick to your limits and can be slowed down too".
The Belgian is confident about tomorrow’s race, and with him the entire team. Ickx’s talent is undeniable, and Regazzoni is acting in a praiseworthy manner. Mauro Forghieri, technical director of Scuderia Ferrari, says:
"The vehicle is in a good place as long as one of those cheap issues that have been tormenting us for a long, long time won’t happen".
The German Grand Prix looks like it will show a duel between the Ferraris and Rindt’s Lotus. The Austrian driver is leading the championship’s standings and another win will make the prospect of winning the championship achievable, if not by mathematics, from a practical point of view. The most disappointed drivers are the ones that were not admitted to the GP due to the Geneva pact. The four that were excluded, and not five like it was first planned by the organizers, are: Redman’s De Tomaso, De Adamich’s McLaren-Alfa, Moser’s Bellasi, and Hahne’s March. The applying drivers were twenty-five and only twenty would have started. Ten places were given to the first-class drivers, the other fifteen had to qualify first. Considering this high number, at the last moment Germany's Automobil Club decided to give one more spot to the drivers in excess, bringing the number of drivers starting the GP to twenty-one. It’s a shame for De Adamich (whose vehicle stopped working because of a lubrication system failure), for Moser (that clamorously went out of the track puncturing a tyre and damaging the suspensions becoming distracted while looking in the rear view mirror for an incoming car to try and catch its slipstream), and Hahne, whose lap times were among the twenty best, but what can be said about Redman? The Englishman (like Peterson) did better than Graham Hill and Beltoise, but these two, being among the Geneva pact’s drivers, are admitted to the Grand Prix ex officio. But Redman was out instead of Peterson, who took the twenty-first seat, with little respect to the sport.
Sunday’s race develops on the rhythm of an electrifying back-and-forth between Rindt’s Lotus and the two Ferraris. At the start, Ickx is the quickest to take off, Rindt follows him, in turn followed by Regazzoni. Like this for six laps, then he passes the Austrian. Two laps and Ickx retakes the lead, while Regazzoni, on the twelfth lap, moves into first place. Rindt counter-attacks and returns to the lead. Amon, taking advantage of the slipstreams, keeps in touch with the trio, while the chain of retirements thickens. After Brabham, there was Beltoise (Matra-Simca) reaching the pit with his suspension in disarray, Oliver stopping his B.R.M. on the grass before the finish line, Rodriguez (B.R.M.) stopping along the route and so Gethin (McLaren), Peterson (March), Andretti (March), Stewart (March), and Miles (Lotus). Siffert (March), who was in fifth position after the first few laps, dropped back due to a drop in power of his Ford Cosworth and John Surtees, whose new car never ceased to amaze, came to the fore. The crowd, however, only has an eye for the darting cars in the lead, by coincidence all coloured red. Ickx and Regazzoni try to bridle Rindt’s enthusiasm by squeezing him in a vice, but the Austrian, exploiting the game of slipstreams and braking at the entrance to the bends like a champion, does not give an inch. Moreover, if the two Ferraris with their 460 horsepower accelerate with more vigor than the Lotus, the latter behaves very well on the straights, thanks to its particular aerodynamic profile. Then, almost at the end of lap 30, with Ickx in the lead and Rindt second, Regazzoni ends his race. His gearbox locks in the bend leading into the finishing straight, the Swiss driver makes a dangerous spin and stops with the engine off. He tries to restart, but the 12-cylinder engine does not reignite, and Clay has to melancholically push the car into the grass.
Ickx and Rindt remain, while Amon’s March, which was entering the fight, cannot withstand the effort at the 34th lap and Surtees is also forced to retire. Hulme and Pescarolo engage in a bland duel for third place, with the Brazilian Fittipaldi, just in his second Formula One Grand Prix, pulling behind Stommelen. Meanwhile, Ickx and Rindt are engaged in a heart-stopping challenge, with the crowd all on its feet. The Belgian remains in the lead from lap 36 to 43, Rindt passes first on lap 44, but Jackie overtakes him with cool determination in a hairpin on the next passage. On 47th again Rindt, on 48th Ickx, on 49th Rindt wins this grueling competition in a sprint. This is the final result of a race in which basically two cars, the Lotus and the Ferrari, and three drivers (Rindt, Ickx and Regazzoni) equalled each other in performance and ‘guts’. A splendid race, from which these cars and these men emerged with honor. Ferrari and Ickx (who will marry Catherine Blathon, a young and likable Belgian heiress, on Wednesday in Brussels) still lacked a bit more to win. But that of Ickx is a second place that is worth a success and that powerfully relaunches Ferrari in Formula One. For the others, a negative Grand Prix and, in particular, for the Cosworth-powered cars. Problems with the Cosworth V8 engines were numerous during practice and the race, with failures ranging from camshafts, to timing gears, to crankshafts, while the ignition and injection units gave problems. Of the fifteen cars that started the race, using the standard British power-pack consisting of the Cosworth V8 engine and Hewland gearbox, only five finished the raceMi nine retired due to engine-related problems and one gearbox. In fact, among the Cosworth-powered cars, only Rindt’s engine held out (leaving aside Hulme who finished third with McLaren-Ford thanks to numerous retirements but who, however, ran slower than the others), whose car was undoubtedly equipped with the most efficient and tested engine out of the 70 that Cosworth sold to the various racing teams.
The official Marchs of Amon and Siffert both retired with engine problems, and the fact that Siffert was unable to stay close to the leaders lent credence to doubts about his two-minute practice lap. Although the March 701 was ready in numbers at the start of the season, it made little progress and was overtaken by the Lotus 72C, the Ferrari 312B and the MS120 Matra-Simca, all three of which were new concept cars, while the 701 was hastily designed using already established knowledge to get the new company up and running. There is no reason why the forthcoming March 711 should not be much more advanced and up to the standard of the 1970 designs. In the meantime, team drivers and top drivers like Stewart and Andretti have to make do as best as they can. March’s lesser drivers, such as Peterson, Cevert and Hahne, the latter making his debut in a brand new silver-painted car, were not affected as they had not yet reached the driving limits of the 701. Surtees with his car, the TS7, was not very high on the grid after practice, but in the race he climbed steadily up to third place, only to lose it three laps from the end when his Cosworth V8 engine let him down once again. The opposite is true for the Lotus team, which is showing great design ability, and for the flat 12-cylinder Ferrari, first seen at the end of last year, which seems to have good potential. With this victory, Rindt won four Grand Prix in a row, driving the same Lotus 72C on each occasion. He won the Dutch Grand Prix, when he drove the fully modified Lotus 72C for the first time; he took the lead in the French GP when the faster Matras and 12-cylinder Ferraris retired; the British Grand Prix at the last corner when Brabham’s car ran out of petrol while leading; and the German Grand Prix by just 0.7 seconds from Ickx.
Rindt, always Rindt. The Lotus driver also wins the German Grand Prix (the fourth consecutive one, the fifth out of eight races). This time he didn’t fool the usual Brabham - that had a late start and retired after just two laps due to engine failure - but he led by a hair Jacky Ickx and the Ferrari. Just seven tenths of a second, after 50 laps and 339 kilometers led at an exasperating rhythm, on the edge of a constant battle in which took his part a superb Clay Regazzoni up to the moment his gearbox failed and stopped his race. Jochen Rindt gained a harsh and great win, as the Ferrari gave an amazing performance. Out of 50 passages, Ickx was leading 31 times and Regazzoni 2. The Austrian (who was born in Germany and had 250.000 spectators cheering for him) led seventeen laps, amongst which the final one. This is what matters most for the result and the points in the championship standing, Rindt now leading with 45 points, 20 more than Brabham, but Ickx’s second place shows that Maranello’s single-seater is back to having a main spot in the most spectacular series in motorsport. The race developed on the rhythm of an electrifying back-and-forth between Rindt’s Lotus and the two Ferraris. The Hockenheim circuit is 6.800 meters long in the depths of a pine forest: two straights with two chicane and one winding portion, like a giant S, contained between kilometric rows of grandstands. From the turn that leads in this part of the track, now Rindt emerged, then Ickx, with Regazzoni closely following behind the wheels of one or the other. Even Amon, in his March, tried to get himself in the mix, but at the 34th laps his Ford-Cosworth engine failed to put up with the effort. Incidentally, it was bloodshed for the 8-cylinder made in England, further showing that they’re reaching their limits.
Only Rindt’s power-unit gave a positive result (Hulme, third with his McLaren-Ford, was lapping way slower than the others), whose vehicle was undoubtedly fitted with the most efficient and tested engine out of the seventy that Cosworth sold to the various racing teams. A marvelous race, from which these vehicles and men came out with honor. Ferrari and Ickx (who, in Bruxelles, will marry on Wednesday Catherine Blathon a young and likable heiress) were an inch, just an inch from winning but this does not matter. The Ferrari mechanics very well deserve to toast to this result. This second place puts the Maranello’s team back on top of Formula One. For the others, a bad Grand Prix weekend: for March, B.R.M., Matra-Simca, Brabham, and for McLaren too. But everyone will try to get back on top with the next Grand Prix in Austria. The opinion of the experts that follow Formula One is one and one only: Ferrari’s appointment with victory is close. There’s no need to talk about Ickx, his talent is very well known. The relative surprise was Clay Regazzoni. The driver from Lugano, thirty-one years old, married and with two kids, developed over a long time spent learning in Formula 3 and Formula 2. In Formula 2 he was driving with Tecno, so far in Formula 1 he’s been alternating with Ignazio Giunti on the second Ferrari single-seater. In Hockenheim he feared none. His thirty sprint laps assured confidence to and from the Maranello team. Good racing drivers are few. Last but not least, this German Grand Prix highlighted some points. Hockenheimring proved to be a safe track that gave spectacle in this series. No one missed the disputed Nürburgring. The track’s design offers to the fans the chance to follow the drivers for a kilometer, making the automotive spectacle more similar to the one seen in soccer. Vast areas of lawn and gravel make the exits to the road safe. Furthermore, the organizers set up a monumental anti-fire service, with trucks fitted with fire extinguishers. Luckily, they did not need to intervene. This shows that a Grand Prix can be organized in less than a month, and in a proper way.
Noemi Di Benedetto
Translated by Tobia de Siati