In the Monte-Carlo Rally the Italian industry gives an exciting demonstration of vitality and efficiency with two different but high-level products in the foreground: the Lancia Stratos, which represents the technical result of avant-garde and the Fiat Abarth 124, which is a symbol of strength and experience. And with the cars there is the human element: from the magnificent Sandro Munari and Mario Vannucci to Fulvio Bacchelli and Bruno Scabini, from the mechanics of Lancia and Fiat to the experts of Pirelli. They are a passionate group, whose commitment and perseverance do honour to the Italian work. Now, the baton passes to another team, Scuderia Ferrari, the joy and pain of many fans who love it and, therefore, sometimes hate it with the same intense and somewhat crazy passion that is usually reserved for football. Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni will be busy at the difficult circuit of Interlagos. The fans would like a success, a great victory to be linked to the triumph of Monte Carlo, but the task of Lauda and Regazzoni will not be as easy as that of Munari. The competition is very strong, new rivals like Jean-Pierre Jarier or James Hunt have joined the usual names, nor does the 312 B3 have on the other cars that distinct power advantage that makes the Stratos or the strength of the 124 Fiat almost unreachable. Ferrari faces the South American race with the old cars. Also the British teams do the same thing, but with more incisive improvements, so the 312 B3 1975 version did not repeat in Argentina the exploits of 1974. Some suspension adjustment problems to the new series of tyres prepared by Goodyear have complicated the situation. After the intense Argentine Grand Prix, Formula 1 moves to São Paulo, Brazil, for the second race of the season scheduled for Sunday, January 26, 1975.
With only two weeks separating the Brazilian Grand Prix from the Argentine Grand Prix, most teams spend their time, depending on whether they are drivers or mechanics, relaxing on the beaches or sweating trying to make sure their cars can get to the Interlagos circuit in time for the first practice session. After all the speculations surrounding Ronnie Peterson, Lotus and Shadow, this matter comes out again in Brazil with endless conferences between the two teams held in expensive hotel rooms. Peterson is expected to race with Shadow on the Interlagos circuit, for his own admission, but then finds himself at the wheel of a Lotus 72. The decision whether or not to leave the Lotus team does not seem a possible choice to the Swedish driver, and the uncertain atmosphere that prevails in the team during the weekend of the Brazilian Grand Prix can only negatively affect his chances in future races. In an attempt to restore the now-old Lotus 72 to a state of competitiveness, Peter Warr hurries back to England immediately after the Argentine Grand Prix, before returning to São Paulo with a pair of revised rear suspension for the two cars. These incorporate modified uprights with different gripping points for the lower links to change the car’s roll centre in an attempt to improve its handling. Peterson’s car also has the larger front brakes that Ickx used in Buenos Aires, but since only four new discs are available and one of them is slightly off-axis, Peterson will have to race with the disc slightly deformed. Moreover, the only replacement engine available for the Swedish Lotus 72 is the one that Ickx used during the Argentine Grand Prix; therefore, the general impression is that the second Lotus was prepared for the number two driver. Maybe they planned for Tom Pryce to join the team until the day before the first practice? But while Lotus and Shadow engage in complicated financial battles, in other areas there is much to do. Having chosen to abandon the idea of relying on Firestone’s existing range of racing tyres, the Vels Parnelli team quickly entered the Goodyear circle thanks to Mario Andretti, well aware that while Firestone’s stocks can be adjusted, you cannot participate in any Goodyear development program unless the team joins all the others.
Ferrari brings the 312 B3 #012 spare monocoque car to Lauda, while the unhappy Formula 1 team Copersucar Fittipaldi loads the burned remains of the Challenger Grand Prix of Wilson Fittipaldi in his big transporter and rushes to São Paulo where they build a completely new car for the Brazilian Grand Prix. The second Copersucar Fittipaldi, chassis #FD/02, has some important changes, including the placement of water radiators on the sides of the car in the back of the monocoque and a retractable engine cover to replace the fully enclosed bodywork seen in Buenos Aires. Uprights more resistant to the front and rear suspension are mounted because the team suspects that the failure of one of these components was the cause of the Argentine accident. Among the most well-known competitors, there is little to report in terms of changes. The two red and white McLaren of Emerson Fittipaldi and Mass, the two Martini Brabham BT44B of Reutemann and Pace, the two Shadows of Jarier and Pryce, the Lolas of Stommelen and Hill and the Williams of Merzario and Laffite remain with the same attitude with which they had raced two weeks before. One or two minor aerodynamic changes are noted on John Watson’s Surtees TS16, while Hunt’s reserve Hesketh 308/1 is fitted with a wider front and rear wing as an experiment for the Interlagos circuit. Some changes have been made to the international circuit of São Paulo compared to 1974, although the long-awaited renovation turned out to be limited to the starting straight and only allows cars to have a slightly smoother driving without significantly improving lap times. The practices for the Brazilian Grand Prix will take place on Friday 24 and Saturday 25, January, 1975, during the two and a half morning hours granted to drivers and teams. This year, with the pre-race tests that saw the two official Brabhams record lap time in the 2'32"0 range, it seems that the track record can be matched, or even beaten. Although Emerson Fittipaldi and Carlos Pace are recognised as Interlagos experts, much of the interest and attention in the pits and paddock focuses on Jean-Pierre Jarier’s Shadow DN5.
This new car of the Shadow team had amazed everyone by securing the pole position in Argentina, in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, the failure of the gear wheel and pinion - caused by poor-quality material supplied to Hewland Engineering and not a manufacturing defect - forced the French driver to run in vain during the out lap, without having the opportunity to show the quality of the car. The question everyone wants the answer to is obvious: can the British team repeat the exploit in Brazil? With the confidence gathered in Argentina, Jarier soon answers this question. As soon as the circuit is opened, the black Shadow gets on track and sets an incredible lap time of 2'31"52, comfortably at the top of the time standings. Carlos Reutemann has to do a formidable effort to get closer to the rival, but can not score a lap time better than 2'32"17, while Emerson Fittipaldi is forced to wait, before getting on track, because the fuel pump does not work on his McLaren M23. Suspicious rivals inevitably start staring at the new intake horns on the Cosworth engine of the Shadow DN5, as well as the exhaust system, modified right in the back. Clearly, they suspect one or two people, the Shadow factory is located next to Cosworth in Northampton, and they must have bought special engines. But while a large group of people wonder how it is possible that Shadow can be so fast, and the more respectable teams try to do something to match the lap times of the enthusiastic French driver, Jean-Pierre Jarier prepares to overtake his rivals once again. After a half-hour interval, the French driver, at the wheel of his Shadow, returns to the track and further demoralises his opponents scoring an even faster lap, completed in 2'30"4. The French driver’s confidence in his car is so great that he can take the fast left turn after the pits with maximum acceleration, in fifth gear, without raising his right foot. Meanwhile, Emerson Fittipaldi almost reaches the time of Jarier, as well as Carlos Reutemann: both McLaren and Brabham run on lap times of 2'31"0, while a strong understeer seems to afflict half of the drivers in the central group and their times vary accordingly.
Neither of the two Ferrari drivers seems very comfortable on the bumps and ripples of the circuit, although Lauda in the end manages to score a lap time of 2'31"2 with the T-car during the second session, after complaining that his new car is suffering from a sharp oversteer that makes it practically undrivable. Clay Regazzoni is well below 2'32"0, while the constant progress of James Hunt is ruined by a spin at the wheel of his Hesketh spare car, to which a part of the front nose detaches. Neither Lotus managed to finish the session with a lap time under 2'33"0 because, while both drivers agree that the modified rear suspension has been a useful improvement, this does create the understeer phenomenon. Peterson’s car also suffers from mysterious braking problems, while the engine does not work properly, with the result that the fastest lap of the Sweden driver in the second session is not even below the threshold of three minutes. You can feel the tension, born from pure frustration, that accumulates in the Lotus box, because this is a team that has been getting used to winning and not to fighting in the middle of the group. Other difficulties also involve Mike Wilds, with his B.R.M. running out of power and thrown rather heavily against a barrier. The British driver injures his left wrist and hits the front of the P201 quite badly, preventing him from continuing practices. Neither Penske nor Parnelli have much luck, while both Williams and Team Lola are not particularly fast. The car of Wilson Fittipaldi’s team runs constantly and smoothly, and the Brazilian driver quickly gets used to driving the new car. Practices are over. At the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the Frenchman Jarier and the World Champion in charge, Emerson Fittipaldi, will be in the front row. Behind them, the Argentine driver Reutemann and the two Ferrari drivers, Lauda and Regazzoni. Behind there are Pace, the second of the three Brazilians in the race, and the Englishman Hunt; then all the others, including the Italians Merzario and Brambilla, the latter almost at the end of the group due to the poor condition of his March 741, which have denied him from the beginning any possibility of doing well. The almost double dozen competitors placement at the start anticipates the course of the race, valid as the second round for the Formula 1 World Championship.
"We are satisfied. We start well and hope to finish better".
Says Luca Montezemolo, who leads the team of Maranello. The Scuderia Ferrari technicians and drivers found optimism and a certain good mood after the Buenos Aires race that had discouraged them even before the results for the conditions in which they had been obtained. It is still Montezemolo to explain it:
"At the Argentine circuit, basically at the start of the year, we were faced with difficulties that we could not solve quickly. I have to make a premise: Ferrari has improved, and a lot. But someone else, especially McLaren, Brabham and Uop-Shadow, have done even better. However, our cars could not give everything and finally, here at Interlagos, we could ascertain that this depended first of all on the tyres, too rigid and therefore unable to give the full power of the engines on the asphalt".
The four practice sessions, between yesterday and today, were therefore used to experience the most appropriate combinations between tyres and suspensions. The two sessions disputed on Saturday morning were decisive. Regazzoni and Lauda both have soft tyres and rigid suspensions; the mechanics do their job well and quickly and the Swiss and the Austrian are ready to start. At the time to go on track for the first round, however, the drivers are warned that there will be a delay: a truck of the organisation has overturned on a curve, spreading various oil cans. The track must be cleaned. Finally, the cars go on track; the intermittent roar of the engines signals the various laps, the timekeepers take the first lap times. Regazzoni makes incredible progress. Lauda keeps the lap times already set on Friday. Jarier is once again the fastest, while Fittipaldi, Pace and Reutemann seem to be struggling a bit. At the start of the second round, a strong sun warms the asphalt. Jarier is always in the lead. The rhythm of the Frenchman is incredible, but his Uop-Shadow fully responds to him so far. Even Emerson Fittipaldi forces his car, distracting only on a couple of occasions to try to get his brother, Wilson, who can not push the now famous Copersucar over the average of 180 km/ h. The much-publicised Brazilian car, the first to compete in Formula 1, shows precise limits in road holding and speed on the straight. The mechanics of the Brazilian team do not hide a certain nervousness, due to the continuous changes requested by the driver:
"Tomorrow I want this car to weigh 20 kilos less".
Said Wilson Fittipaldi on Friday night, leaving the technicians baffled. All the drivers now go to the maximum to conquer the best lap times but everything continues regularly, without surprises or particular emotions. There are a couple of spins, both on the penultimate corner before the final straight: Depailler, on his Tyrrell, and Peterson on his Lotus, who are the protagonists, get back on track quickly. The second was evidently the victim of an extreme attempt to push his Lotus beyond its possibilities - which, to be honest, were quite modest - offered by Chapman’s car this year. Regazzoni does a full tank of fuel to see what happens with soft tyres; then he empties the tanks for half after four or five laps to make one more lap time. Lauda has some problems with the front axle: the 312 B3 pulls him right on the left turns. In the final rush Emerson Fittipaldi loses power and returns to the pits with the engine off, dark in his face despite having already secured a front row start. Reutemann is also facing some difficulties: in the last three kilometres, between the long straight and the series of curves before the finishing straight, he loses about 500 metres compared to Regazzoni. Worst of all, however, finishes Jarier, whose mechanics have to push him in the last stretch before the pits because the Frenchman breaks the engine. For Sunday they will have to fit another one and this could hold some surprises. The environment of the Italian group remains serene. No one says it openly, but if the two red cars manage to finish within the top five, the Ferrari mechanics will be happy and Clay Regazzoni, for once, smiles.
"But we must not deceive ourselves, there are two or three other drivers that go very fast".
Lauda, even if he still doesn’t feel that the car is completely ready yet, is confident:
"I think we can do a good job: the important thing tomorrow is to score points and don’t lose ground with the first ones. The championship is long".
On Saturday, January 25, 1975, the morning turns out to be very similar to that of the previous day. With a fresh engine fitted in the DN5, Jean-Pierre Jarier drops below the limit of 2'30"0 with an incredible lap time of 2'29"98, making sure to start for the second consecutive Grand Prix from pole position. The rest of the second session takes place with the rest of the group desperately trying to set a lap time similar to that set by Jarier to win the front row, rather than trying to beat the French driver’s lap time. Clay Regazzoni runs in 2'31"22 and Niki Lauda, now back at the wheel of his new car with all the adjustments coming from the T-car, gets a lap time of only 0.2 seconds slower. Carlos Reutemann and Carlos Pace set the lap times of 2'31"0 and 2'31"22, while neither of the two Tyrrells is really competitive and the McLaren of Jochen Mass is only slightly slower than the Tyrrell of Patrick Depailler. John Watson continues the set-up work on his Surtees TS16, finally managing to set a better lap time than that set by Tom Pryce, who drives a Shadow, and the two American cars, the Penske and the Parnelli, as well as both the Lotus of Ronnie Peterson and Jacky Ickx who are experiencing one of their darkest and most depressing weekends in their career. Even Mario Andretti’s Parnelli team is living a troubled moment, being forced to change two engines during practices, while a serious ignition error in the Lola of Rolf Stommelen forces the German driver to share the car of Graham Hill during the final session, with which he scores a lap time of 2'38"05, which forces him to start the race in last place, behind the B.R.M. of Mike Wild and the Copersucar driven by Wilson Fittipaldi.
In the second session of Saturday, just as everyone is beginning to lose hope that someone can challenge Jean-Pierre Jarier and take away his pole position, Emerson Fittipaldi makes a desperately fast lap with his McLaren M23, scoring the fastest lap time of the final session, in 2'30"68, resulting much faster than Carlos Reutemann, but not even remotely fast enough to discourage the euphoric French driver, to whom the engine breaks during the last session. On Sunday, January 26, 1975, race day in Interlagos is more like a national holiday, with fans showing the same patriotic exuberance that characterises the Italians and the French, but that the British seem to have lost. From the early hours, the huge grandstand along the main straight fills up under a scorching sun, and the water cisterns spraying jets of fresh water over the screaming crowd to prevent it from taking insolation. Most drivers try to keep away from the scorching heat for as long as possible, knowing very well that inside the cars they will have had enough heat wearing their triple-layer suits. The start is delayed for a short time to allow Lauda’s mechanics to complete an engine change in his Ferrari, since a threatening black puddle under the car shows the breakdown of the oil pump that failed during the unofficial morning practice session. As always, in front of his home audience, Emerson Fittipaldi is the last to do the warm-up lap, being greeted by huge applause choirs, who also warmly welcome Carlos Pace and the older brother of the World Champion in charge, Wilson Fittipaldi, whose car built in Brazil has attracted great national economic support. As the cars line up on the grid, Peterson’s car undergoes a front tyre change and is subsequently blocked at the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The group of drivers moves slowly towards the starting line, leaving the Swede furious and focused on pressing the start button without getting any results. As the starter lowers the Brazilian flag, Carlos Reutemann jumps from his position and slips between Jean-Pierre Jarier and Emerson Fittipaldi, passing the Shadow driver inside the first corner and leading the group along the straight at the wheel of his Brabham. Carlos Pace is also the author of an extraordinary start from third row: the Brazilian driver moves to third place, while both Ferrari drivers manage to stay ahead of Jody Scheckter’s Tyrrell and Emerson Fittipaldi’s McLaren, whose start is absolutely to forget. This is the order at the end of the first lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix, with Patrick Depailler, Jacky Ickx and John Watson just a few metres behind the leading group. The Lotus of Ronnie Peterson is the last to start, after having performed some frantic actions, therefore the Swedish driver reaches the finish line well away from the rest of the group that includes Merzario, Mass, Pryce, Donohue, Andretti, Hunt, Brambilla, Laffite, Wilds, Hill, Stommelen and Wilson Fittipaldi. Jarier is clearly very careful because Reutemann is not the easiest of the drivers to overtake and despite the French driver of the Shadow stands alongside him on a couple of occasions, only at the beginning of the fifth lap manages to get alongside the Brabham of the Argentine driver while the two rush on the long straight after the pits and overtakes Reutemann in the lower corner. From this moment on the young Frenchman moves away from his rival accumulating in a single lap a two-second advantage over the Brabham driver. Brabham’s Technical Director, Gordon Murray, quickly discovers that fitting a hard compound tyre on the right front wheel and three soft compound tyres is completely inadequate.
As a result, Carlos Pace, the two Ferraris of Clay Regazzoni and Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter and Emerson Fittipaldi are slowed down by the slow pace of Carlos Reutemann. Carlos Pace tries several times to find a way to overtake his teammate, given that Clay Regazzoni is right behind him and is approaching menacingly and trying to slip into the tight corners where Reutemann slows them enormously. Soon after, Patrick Depailler spins, while John Watson’s Surtees and Tom Pryce’s Shadow follow Jacky Ickx’s old Lotus. For the public, the Brazilian Grand Prix offers a formidable spectacle, if they avoid to assess that Jarier’s black Shadow is slipping away with confidence from all the other competitors at the rate of 1.5 seconds per lap. During the twelfth lap the tenacity of Carlos Pace is rewarded, and the Brazilian driver immediately begins to slip away from his teammate, throwing himself in the chase of the now disappeared French Shadow driver, while the task of Emerson Fittipaldi is facilitated when Jody Scheckter enters the pit lane to change a rear tyre. Unfortunately, the Tyrrell driver is aware of the presence of a strong smell of oil coming from his car, and returns to the pits during the eighteenth lap with the oil tank damaged. Extending his lead, Jean-Pierre Jarier manages to precede by almost twenty seconds the determined Carlos Pace at the end of the eighteenth lap, while Carlos Reutemann constantly distances himself, before being overtaken by Clay Regazzoni, then Emerson Fittipaldi and finally Niki Lauda’s Ferrari. On the twenty-second lap, Mark Donohue retires with the edge of his broken Penske’s rear wing, and Mike Wilds also stops with a broken B.R.M. flywheel bolt. Meanwhile, John Watson’s energetic chase is slowed down due to a puncture, which forces the British driver to stop to change a tyre. At the end of the twenty-fifth lap, Jean-Pierre Jarier’s advantage suddenly stabilises, and Carlos Pace begins to approach.
The Shadow’s power system starts to work jerkily, shutting down the engine intermittently in the corners. In a short time, Carlos Pace manages to see his rival, but the Brazilian driver still doesn’t seem to be fast enough to reduce the gap. Then, on the thirty-second lap, Jean-Pierre Jarier’s epic run ends prematurely when the control arm of the fuel measurement unit seizes up and his Shadow stops. The crowd in the grandstands is bursting with joy, because not only is Carlos Pace leading the Brazilian Grand Prix, but also Emerson Fittipaldi manages to get ahead of Clay Regazzoni during the twenty-ninth lap and now does one of his typical sprints at the end of the race trying to reach the Brabham of the compatriot. While the commentators scream hysterically, the progress of the McLaren of Jochen Mass, driven discreetly but quickly, brings the German driver to third place. Meanwhile, the other drivers to retire are Arturo Merzario during the twenty-fourth lap, due to a power problem at his Williams-Cosworth, Tom Pryce who is the victim of an accident with the second Shadow (the British driver found himself surprised by the strong understeer of his old Shadow and slipped against the fences on the uphill left bend leading to the main straight), and Patrick Depailler, that completes a difficult weekend for Tyrrell going to crash heavily against some fences, following the breakage of a front dropout on the 007/4. Even though Emerson Fittipaldi’s McLaren seems to be able to reach Carlos Pace’s Brabham, turning about 0.5 seconds per lap faster, there simply isn’t enough time left for the World Champion in charge. So, at the end of the forty laps planned, Carlos Pace crosses the finish line - at the wheel of his Brabham-Ford Cosworth - in first place, tired but happy, accompanied by applause from the audience. Emerson Fittipaldi finishes in second place, followed by his teammate, Jochen Mass, who crosses the finish line in third place with the second McLaren-Ford Cosworth.
Clay Regazzoni and Niki Lauda finish respectively in fourth and fifth place, while James Hunt, at the wheel of his Hesketh Ford-Cosworth, finishes in sixth place, just a second ahead of Mario Andretti’s Penske. Carlos Reutemann, after stopping to change the front tyres of his Brabham, ends in eighth place, ahead of Jacky Ickx and the unlucky John Watson, while the last deserved round of applause is given to Wilson Fittipaldi, that brings to the finish line the car built in Brazil in thirteenth place, despite having raced with broken exhaust manifolds for much of the race. Copersucar Fittipaldi did not have a promising debut in Argentina, but the team has made a marked improvement in this second race. Ronnie Peterson ends the race in a disappointing fifteenth and last place. With seven laps to go, the Brazilian Grand Prix has become a Brazilian party. Jean-Pierre Jarier, in pole position with Shadow and then fantastic leader of the race, had to stop at the beginning of the first straight. A rear tyre was worn-out, making the Frenchman’s efforts to stay in the race with an engine that didn’t have power properly due to the many over-revving he had been subjected to. Carlos Pace, who had pursued the black car tenaciously, took the lead. Behind him, Emerson Fittipaldi, who was busy shortening the distances. The implacable audience, on the grandstands burned by a tropical sun, began to shout incessantly the names of the two Brazilian drivers, encouraged by the speakers and the official commentator of the race. And so until the end: the Brabham of Pace was the first to pass the chequered flag of the race director, then the McLaren of Fittipaldi. The German Mass, with the other McLaren, preceded the Ferrari of Regazzoni and Lauda, which were a couple of tenths of a second apart.
The national anthems, the hugs, the inevitable recriminations are then intertwined and confused as every time the great circus of Formula 1 closes one of its greatest shows. The crowd, together with the drivers, filled the grandstands and meadows of Interlagos from the early hours of the morning, all around the circuit that overlooks the skyline of the city from the top of a hill. Noisy and loud, at 9:00 a.m., when the cars are about to complete free practice for a final setup, the crowd begins to throw empty beer cans and plastic containers on the track, in vain held in place by a security service more imposing than efficient. The entire program was delayed. Finally, a gentlemen’s agreement is reached: the spectators solicit water, tormented by the enormous heat: so, four or five fire engines of the Prefecture of São Paulo enter the track and water semi-naked men and women. The drivers can only start doing some laps, one after the other. Niki Lauda makes a few laps, then the oil pump stops. It was necessary to change the engine of his 312 B3: a job that the mechanics of Maranello have accomplished in less than two hours, almost a miracle in the conditions in which they operate. The start is given an hour late. It is an authentic proof of skill, a show in the show: Reutemann snaps and takes the head, followed by Jarier, Pace, Regazzoni and Lauda; the latter, who is last, with a double turn brings himself up to second row. Emerson Fittipaldi fails to join the group of the firsts. The Italian Brambilla stops in the middle of the first lap: the engine of his March flames out and stops. On the fourth lap, Jarier takes the lead and pushes harder and harder, quickly detaching himself from the others behind him. That of the Frenchman is a splendid race: he slips fast on the curves, with geometric regularity, and on the straights he exploits without saving the truly extraordinary power of his Shadow.
Carlos Pace is the only one who resists him a little, then prefers to control him at a distance. After a series of failed attacks, Regazzoni manages to overtake Reutemann. The Argentine is not able to defend himself effectively: his Brabham has insufficient road holding. The leading group splits: Jarier gains on everyone and starts a solitary race, Pace just controls the gap, which however appears conspicuous; Regazzoni seems in difficulty in his attempts to reject the attacks of Emerson Fittipaldi, that with increasing aggressiveness brings himself close to the Swiss driver and annoys him on the series of turns that introduce the finishing straight. The Brazilian and the Swiss are racing separated by a few metres. And more than once the first protests because the second does not step aside allowing him to overtake. The duel between the two is exciting, but the McLaren of the World Champion looks visibly better. On the twenty-eighth lap, twelve before the end, Regazzoni can’t take it anymore, and Emerson almost overtakes him in front of the grandstands, among the applauses of the audience, which cover, for intensity, the roar of the engines. Soon after, Reutemann stops due to a problem on the front axle. Just a few seconds of pit stop and he goes back on track. But by now Emerson is in third place, followed by Mass, Regazzoni and Lauda in the order. Jarier has a 25-second lead over Pace, and yet he’s still pushing. The Frenchman, however, is forced to retire, and gets out of the Shadow, making angry gestures. And that is understandable. Lauda and Regazzoni are among the first to go into the pits. They arrive at the wheel of the two red cars of Maranello. Lauda gets out of his car, opening his arms in a discouraged gesture. The Swiss driver says:
"There was nothing to do, the car was understeering from the start. Then, after the first few laps, the whole front end started vibrating. I tried to get to the end, I succeeded, it seems to me that in the conditions in which I started it can already be considered a decent result".
He shakes his head, while the managers of the Maranello team offer him a drink. Less calm, Ragazzoni complains about the attitude of the world champion Emerson Fittipaldi that more than once during the race has approached him dangerously on the series of curves that precede the entrance on the main straight, sometimes gesturing to get the position.
"At first I felt good, confident. The car was fine. I controlled the race without too much trouble, at least for the first fifteen laps. Then I don’t know what happened, but the B3 started to understeer and I got worried about the tyres. I was afraid of knocking them out and not being able to get to the end".
He looks at Luca Montezemolo and Mauro Forghieri for reassurance, but in the Ferrari clan, despite the satisfactory result, there is disappointment. An almost dramatic atmosphere welcomes us to the box of the Uop-Shadow: here Jarier has already taken off his suit and is cursing against bad luck. The technicians of the team try to calm him and lower the shutters to remove it from the sight of the curious. The atmosphere is the same in the box of the Argentine Carlos Reutmann and it makes open contrast with the party of the teammate Carlos Pace, who wins the first Grand Prix of his career, but probably not the last, given the style and confidence with which the Brabham driver led the race from start to finish. Less satisfied, almost annoyed, the World Champion in charge Emerson Fittipaldi speaks unwillingly.
"Regazzoni prevented me more than once from overtaking him in the corners between the straight and the finish line. He braked when I was already right behind him, and he can’t tell me he couldn’t help it because he got to 280 km/h, and me and everyone else at the end of the long straight were coming at around the same speed. Without Regazzoni’s stubborn resistance, perhaps I could have been closer to Pace. But that’s what happened, and the only thing left to say is that at least the Grand Prix was won by a Brazilian driver".
In the role of the anti-Fiittpaldi, Clay Regazzoni is in the middle of the controversy raised by the World Champion already in the race (Emerson threatened with strained fists the Ticino driver who did not let him pass) and then immediately after the end of the race. The winner of the Brazilian Grand Prix, José Carlos Pace, is a quiet man, almost shy, does not like controversies and when he got off the podium of triumph has returned to hide in his natural privacy. Emerson and Clay, instead, are the protagonists, the first as always careful not to miss the opportunity to denounce the alleged wrong suffered, with the sly look of those who want to imply that they have suffered many. It’s a story that repeats itself.
"Lauda, Reutemann and Regazzoni held me back for a long time. With Regazzoni ahead of me I turned several times with one hand on the steering wheel for how much I was forced to go slowly".
So you took the opportunity to show your fists to the Ferrari driver? The Brazilian responds by paying attention to his words:
"I had the fastest car, so I was entitled to pass. Several times I approached on the outside to show him the nose of my McLaren in his rearview mirror. But nothing, he didn’t move. I had to wait for the twenty-eighth lap and finally I passed him from the inside. However, it is not certain that if I could get rid of Regazzoni before, I would have been able to win. Pace was strong and was already far away".
Regazzoni, meanwhile, discovers what happened, and asks in disbelief to his friends who tell him: what? Did he really show me his fists? The Swiss driver says he didn’t notice it, otherwise he would have replied. And annoyed, he adds:
"Instead of showing his fists, he should focus on driving and overtaking when he can. I didn’t impede him irregularly: otherwise, I just had to change the trajectory of the two corners where he could overtake me and I could have left him behind until the finish line. It is clear that I had a position to defend: what did he want me to do, stand aside and say to him please, overtake me? I mean, everyone saw his bad start, immediately losing the first row and finding himself in seventh place after five hundred metres".
The Ferrari driver doesn’t know why there is so much controversy. He avoids to increase the controversy, but he says his opinion:
"The first part of the race, perhaps the entire Grand Prix, was characterised by Reutemann’s behaviour. The Argentine acted as a cap at the beginning, first forcing Jarier to stay behind him and then me. Had we not been held back, Pace and I, and even before us the Frenchman, we would have run straight ahead and then I would have wanted to see Fittipaldi chasing us for twenty-five or thirty laps. You can’t, there is a risk of getting too tired. But races are like this. There is no point in complaining. In Buenos Aires, in the Argentine Grand Prix, Ronnie Peterson kept me behind during several laps, I did not protest".
Regazzoni is the only one from Ferrari that talks a lot about the events of Interlagos. Niki Lauda, who listens to him, smiles. Affected from the start by the impossibility of tuning the reserve engine, which the mechanics fitted at record speed to replace the one that suddenly entered a failure just before the race, he raced only to finish the race and succeeded. Now he thinks about the South African Grand Prix, like everyone else.
"It could have been better and it could have been worse. We have improved significantly compared to Argentina and we will improve again. We are always among the first, but a team like Ferrari evidently aims to be the best of all".
Luca Montezemolo - who leads the Italian team - concludes, concerned above all to avoid any inconvenience that could affect the relaxed climate in which all the people of Ferrari work. There is waiting for the debut of the new 312 T, with enhanced engine (but, in practice, with the same horsepower reached by the B3 after the latest changes), new brakes and suspensions, and transmission in the transverse position, which will give it greater elasticity and balance.
"When will it get on track? From next Friday we will start the tests at the Fiorano circuit, in Modena, and we will continue for the entire month of February. We will hardly be ready for South Africa, even for production problems. It is certain, however, that the T will take part in the Spanish Grand Prix and then we will have a new chance".
Luca Montezemolo explains. From Kyalami onwards, however, Ferrari will have to deal with a new champion and rival, the Brazilian Pace, winner at Interlagos. Therefore, we will have to wait again to see a successful race of the Maranello team. As a minimum, at least until Sunday, March 2, 1975, when the South African Grand Prix will be held in Kyalami, or Sunday, April 27, 1975, on the occasion of the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. Last year too, the first seasonal success came from the Iberian race: Lauda triumphed in Madrid preceding Regazzoni. The direction of the championship in 1974 led to a certain optimism. Lauda and Regazzoni, in fact, despite not winning any race before the Spanish one, could then participate in the title fight, becoming protagonists. The final victory escaped in the last rounds of the long championship, which again this year is divided into fifteen races. The important thing now was to limit the damage, to collect some points to build a base, a springboard for the next races. And Regazzoni and Lauda are succeeding in this plan, perhaps not exciting, but certainly very valid on the practical level. The Swiss driver finished in fourth place in Argentina and at the Interlagos circuit.
The Austrian took a small step forward: sixth in Buenos Aires and now fifth. In the standings who is doing good is, of course, Emerson Fittipaldi with his 15 points, however Regazzoni at 6 points, and Lauda with 3 points have all the chances to catch up with the Brazilian. The championship is long and last year it was seen that the Brazilian driver ended up winning it thanks to the regularity of the results. Basically, Ferrari comes out of the South American Grand Prix in a discreet situation. The team of Maranello has played in defence and has collected precious points. It is obvious that the fans can not be very happy: 1974, disappointment apart, had them well accustomed. At this point, even if the B 3s are not to be thrown away, the launch of the new 312 T with transverse transmission is needed. In this regard, everyone talks about South Africa: very well, because debut cars always need a minimum break-in period. The Kyalami race and the following Barcelona race could be the best tests. Then, with the setup car, Lauda and Regazzoni can join the contention as protagonists again.
Ionana Alexandra Sandu
Translated by Monica Bessi