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#255 1975 Monaco Grand Prix

2021-12-27 23:00

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#255 1975 Monaco Grand Prix

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Following the Barcelona tragedy, the Italian delegation to the International Sports Commission (CSI) held a meeting in Milan on Wednesday 30 April 1975 to examine the initiatives to be taken at international level. The president of the Csai, Alberto Rogano, who is the head of the Italian delegation too, made a statement, the most important points of which are summarised below.

"We believe that the drivers' protest must be attributed to a worrying state of general unease and a growing distrust of the sporting authority. In a similar way, in our opinion, the position of the organisers and their unacceptable threat can be explained. As for the immediate cause of the accident - the detachment of the wing of Stommelen's car - we could only regret the dilatory attitude of the manufacturers tolerated by the international body towards the Csai proposal for a new Formula 1. Ultimately, we believe that the events of Barcelona can be traced back to a single matrix: the objective institutional weakness of the CSI and therefore its inability to solve the major problems of our sport, first and foremost that of greater safety".

 

Three initiatives must be taken to resolve the situation. Rogano proposes a reform of the statute to strengthen the operational structures of the ISC; an urgent modification of the international sporting code so as to give the ISC greater powers at least for international championship competitions; respect for the rule valid for all sporting disciplines according to which the only authority competent to settle any disputes is the sporting authority; the relaunch of the ISCIA proposal for a new regulation of Formula 1 (elimination of wings, reduction of the tyre section, increase in weight. Engineer Rogano's proposals are interesting. There is only one doubt: but isn't the president of Csai the only Italian member of the CSI executive committee and isn't Erasmo Sasempre of Csai among the CSI delegates who rejected the drivers' protests in Barcelona? Rogano criticises himself. There are two hypotheses: either he counts for nothing in the CSI or he has some weight, in which case this intervention has the air of an indirect defence against criticism or an electoral tirade. As for the technical proposals, one remark: Rogano and his staff haven't even bothered to consult Enzo Ferrari, the only real Formula 1 constructor among the English.

The Formula 1 world, still shaken by the Barcelona tragedy and the subsequent controversy, is moving. This time, spurred on by Ferrari, the manufacturers' association took a position on the circuit and conditioned the holding of the Monte-Carlo Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday 11 May 1975, to the participation of only eighteen cars and not twenty-five as the organisers had planned. In this regard, two documents were issued on Friday, 2 May 1975, one from the association and one from Ferrari. A premise is necessary: the term constructor refers to the teams, all English-speaking, that field single-seaters set up by enriching a basic chassis with parts sourced on the market from a series of accessory manufacturers and suppliers, and it also refers to Ferrari, which, in reality, is the only real constructor left in Formula 1. The weight of tradition, the prestige of Enzo Ferrari, the strength of truly representing a manufacturer in a clutter of assemblers, managers and car hire companies give the men from Maranello a particular following. Ferrari, who with Luca Montezemolo had, with a very sporting gesture, left Lauda and Regazzoni free to race or not at Montjuich, thought about the dangers of Monte-Carlo (Enzo Ferrari didn't forget that he had lost one of the drivers dearest to him, Lorenzo Bandirli, in the terrible 1967 fire), the track-bud and the complications of a large number of competitors. Informs a communiqué from Maranello:

 

"Thus, Ferrari, having examined the regulations of the Monaco Grand Prix where at art. 4/B provides for the absurd number of twenty-five Formula 1 cars starting, with the option of supplementing this number with Formula 2, Formula Indy, Formula 5000 and Formula A cars from the Sport Car Club of America, asked the Formula 1 Manufacturers' Association to decide by majority vote whether or not to take part in the Monte-Carlo race and, in the event of a positive decision, to demand a limitation to eighteen Formula 1 cars starting in accordance with the criterion adopted for safety reasons in 1971 and never again respected. At its meeting on 1 May in London, the association voted by a majority to participate in the Monaco Grand Prix, at the same time making Ferrari's limiting request its own, which has now been forwarded to the International Sporting Commission".

 

In their letter to the CSI, the Formula 1 manufacturers blame the organisers for the tragedy in Barcelona.

"Many things can cause accidents in racing, but it is essential that all organisers take appropriate measures to prevent such accidents involving spectators".

 

The document also argues that:

"It is necessary to re-examine all automobile circuits".

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Nevertheless, on Thursday, 8 May 1975, the drivers arrived in Monte-Carlo without any problems or disputes. Perhaps, on the one hand, the Barcelona disaster is already far away and, on the other, the organisational efficiency of the Automobile Club of Monaco has calmed the spirits. However, it is useless to delude oneself: the danger remains, and a serious one, especially since human errors or mechanical failures cannot be sufficiently contained. The thread that divides the harmless exit from the dramatic one is very thin. Whoever makes a mistake isn't forgiven, at the very least contact with the barriers is certain. As on other occasions in the past, it was possible to realise this on this first day of practice for the Monaco Grand Prix, which was even exciting for Ferrari and its drivers. Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni, with the new 312-Ts, are the best, turning in 1'27"16 (average 135.392 km/h) and 1'27"70. Only Peterson (Lotus), Pace (Brabham) and Scheckter (Tyrrell) managed to limit the gap to the two drivers from the Maranello team to less than a second - and that's already a lot: all the others, including Emerson Fittipaldi (McLaren) and Reutemann (Brabham), suffered heavy gaps, at least on such a short - 3,278 metres - and relatively slow circuit. Well, it was Lauda and Regazzoni who gave the Italian fans a thrill and reconfirmed that racing at Monte-Carlo is a bit like playing Russian roulette. In the same hundred metres of track, the ones around the pool facing the harbour, just before the Rascasse turn, the Austrian and the Swiss crash into the guardrails, damaging their cars not seriously. Amidst the agitation of the yellow danger flags, the other drivers perform stunts to avoid the two Ferraris: John Watson, in the Surtees, only partly succeeds in avoiding Regazzoni's single-seater and, in turn, ends up against the barrier. The two episodes deserve to be described precisely to highlight the risks of the Monte-Carlo street circuit.

 

Regazzoni's right rear wheel grazes the guardrail bordering the swimming pool and the 312-T spins out, staying stationary in the middle of the track, about seven metres wide, with its nose pointing in the opposite direction. Watson can't find a space to squeeze into and, in order not to hit Regazzoni's car head-on or on its side, he gives a great steering stroke, almost spinning around. Surtees with a wheel passes over the front wing and a tyre of the Ferrari, then falls back onto the metal barriers. Out of caution, a fireman opens his fire extinguisher, but there isn't even a start of fire. Lauda, however, gets his right foot caught between the accelerator and brake pedal. The Austrian driver removes it too late and his car slides straight onto the guardrail, obstructing the march of the other cars. It takes a few minutes to move it. Some distressing questions immediately arise: what if Watson had hit Regazzoni straight on? What if such an accident happens in the first few laps of the Monaco Grand Prix, when all the cars are lined up one after the other? What if the safety tanks don't hold? One does make the best of it, of course, but certain reflections are better done before and not after. Jackie Stewart and Emerson Fittipaldi, the old and new standard bearers of the campaigns to make racing safer, are, however, quite calm. The Scottish driver says that the Monte-Carlo circuit is fine and that, in relation to its characteristics, it is no more dangerous than others. The Brazilian affirms that there are more risks here than at a racetrack, but that, at least, the various protection works have been set up properly. On the other hand, the drivers themselves don't always agree on the safety measures to be taken. Opinions differ on the width of the chicane or variant that leads into the section of the circuit along the harbour after the fast tunnel section.

Fittipaldi and Beltoise (who doesn't race but represents - despite his track record - the Racers' Association in track inspections) wanted this chicane to be nine metres wide instead of last year's fourteen to force the cars to slow down more, but Peterson objected, arguing that there was a risk of an accident on entry or exit. In the end, a Solomonic decision: an eleven and a half metre width was established for the chicane. Be that as it may, for now everything ended well and Lauda and Regazzoni could be happy with their exploits, comforting testimony to the 312-T's value. The Austrian and the Swiss dominated this day of practice (which started with an hour and a half delay to complete the assembly of the guardrails), divided into two rounds. Regazzoni was the fastest in the first, Lauda retaliated in the second. Not only that: Niki, after going off the track, climbed into the car that Regazzoni had left in the hands of the mechanics after the accident with Watson and that was quickly put back in order, while Clay continued to run in the third car and obtained an exceptional time of 1'27"62, despite a slightly bent right suspension support. With all due respect to Lauda and Regazzoni, the qualities of the new Ferrari with transverse gearbox must be highlighted. In fact, if Peterson, Pace and Scheckter (who later broke the gearbox) did well, not so good were their respective teammates lckx, Depailler and Reutemann. Fittipaldi was in trouble: the McLaren had serious problems with road holding, nor did the mechanical control to adjust the front suspension setting - an interesting device already adopted at Silverstone - allow the Brazilian to improve. At the end of practice, a delighted Niki Lauda admits:

"I am delighted with this double performance. I think it shows everyone that the 312-T has a chance to do well in Formula 1. We didn't underperform last year, but we have to consider that we had higher quality tyres in 1974. Goodyear, the only company left in the market, restricted its financial and technical commitment, limiting the number and types of tyres. This led to a certain deterioration".

For Regazzoni, too, the new Maranello single-seater is competitive.

"It is difficult to make comparisons with 1974, precisely because we have changed the tyre equipment. However, at least here, the 312-T seemed more agile and manoeuvrable than the previous version. The car has been made more compact and lighter and the weight distribution has also improved. These initial results seem normal to me".

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After the unfortunate performance of the B3 version in Argentina and Brazil, Ferrari had decided to bring forward the debut of the new model. The debut in South Africa had been disappointing - but this was the fault of the engines and not the car itself - and had naturally raised the usual criticism and controversy, with more or less veiled accusations of improvisation for the Maranello team. At Silverstone, in a race not valid for the World Championship, Lauda had won by beating Flttipaldi, and in Spain Lauda and Regazzoni had taken the front row of the grid. In the race the unfortunate collision caused by Mario Andretti had prevented the Italian cars from emerging. These first tests on such a difficult circuit as Monaco now reaffirmed the competitiveness of Ferrari's latest and its considerable chances in the challenge against the British teams. The Swede Ronnie Peterson, in the timeless Lotus model 72 (a car at least five years old), Carlos Pace, in the Brabham, and Jody Scheckter, in the Tyrrell, limited the gap to Lauda to less than a second, but the other drivers, including the World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi, suffered considerable delays, at least for the characteristics of the Monaco circuit. It is now a matter for Ferrari to maintain this margin and, above all, to win the Monaco Grand Prix: only victory really closes any discussion. Of course, it isn't easy feat, despite appearances. On this circuit it is easy to make mistakes and mistakes are paid for harshly, because the single-seaters have no space between the limits of the track. There is a solid guardrail and whoever goes out immediately ends up against the metal strips. It is not fair for the drivers and the public, but nobody dares to give up the street circuit and the Monaco Grand Prix.

 

The deal is too big for everyone, as long as it holds out, it goes ahead. Fittipaldi has assured that he will try to persuade his colleagues to stop coming to Monte-Carlo, but the enterprise seems lost at the start. The Principality, in terms of spectacle and prestige, represents an exceptional moment. The organisers are diligent and this year have spent some fifty million lire to increase the protection along the track. It is to be hoped that the professionally erected safety barrier, the thick fencing and the removal of the public from the most dangerous places will be sufficient. Otherwise, the spectre of Barcelona and Montjulch would return. The engineers are working hard to fine-tune the Formula 1 single-seaters to race on the Monte-Carlo circuit. There are considerable complications from the point of view of road holding due to the characteristics of the track, which is extremely twisty and also has considerable variations in the cross slopes of the roadway. In an attempt to solve this problem McLaren experimented with a device consisting of a manual front anti-roll bar hardness adjuster. The driver - in the case of Emerson Fittipaldi - has a lever with which he searches for the best point, varying the length of the bar actuating arms. In this way, at least in theory, the set-up should be quicker, but in practice the Brazilian was unable to get one of those first positions he is used to. In general, the cars have a special set-up that is good, when it goes well, only for Monte-Carlo: ailerons with very strong downforce as the speeds are low and therefore the aerodynamic effect is less, shock absorbers with a strong braking effect and a higher general set-up of the car, to easily overcome the concrete kerbs that delimit some points of the track.

 

In addition, of course, gear and axle ratios suitable for the low speeds and continuous acceleration required. The fundamental problem, however, is always the tyres: nowadays, with only one type of tyre available, all the suspensions have to adapt to the same ones and this isn't easy because the mechanical characteristics of the various cars are very different even if, on the surface, they look the same. There have been, during practice, desperate races against the clock to change sets of tyres and try to get better times: a racing tyre for the first two laps (i.e. when the casing is cold) has slightly better grip characteristics, translatable into a tenth of a second per lap, a difference that can gain positions on the starting grid. In order to do this, racing tyres have a preferential direction of rotation, but some teams, including Ferrari, have also tested with tyres mounted in such a way as to turn in the opposite direction to that indicated by the manufacturer to see if it was possible to improve. It is clear, however, that in racing the tyres are used in the correct direction, because this way the grip of the plies is better guaranteed. At the end of practice, the echoes of hacksaws, hammers banging against panels, and rivet guns repairing cars resound from the paddock in front of the harbour. Lella Lombardi also joins the March mechanics, while Tyrrell and Parnelli mechanics repair gearboxes and Hill's mechanics work on engine problems. During practice James Hunt hit the front right corner of 308/2 and Scheckter broke the gearbox on 007/2. This year the Formula 1 paddock is more conveniently located on the harbour side, near the old Gasworks hairpin.

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Friday 9 May 1975 all the competitors present at Monte-Carlo go on the assault of the Ferrari in the last two hours of practice for the Monaco Grand Prix. But Mannello's red stagecoach vigorously resists with Niki Lauda, while Clay Regazzoni owes his unbridled rivals the second best time achieved during the first day of practice. Certainly for the Scuderia Ferrari it would have been better to have two single-seaters on the front row, especially on a circuit as full of risks and difficult for overtaking as this one in Monte-Carlo, but remembering what happened last year right here and in other races, the team feels almost relieved: when the Austrian and the Swiss started side by side it always ended badly, except in Holland. And in the world of racing certain negative combinations are soon coloured by superstitious reasons. Lauda, therefore, proves he fears no one and even on the second day of practice he is the fastest driver on the track, beating even himself: on Thursday the Austrian had lapped in 1'27"16, while on Friday morning he set a time of 1'26"40 (at an average speed of 136.582 km/h), beating the official record of Peterson and the Lotus (which was 1'27"09) and touching the unofficial one (which was 1'26"30) set last year by him in the Ferrari 312-B3. It should come as no surprise that the old single-seater in 1974 was only slightly faster than this splendid newcomer called the 312-T.

 

The circuit has changed slightly (the variant is narrower, there are concrete kerbs delimiting some corners and altering the trajectories) and the tyres made available to Ferrari, like those of the other teams, are fewer in number and type than last season. One has to make do at the expense of performance. Once again, however, Lauda and Ferrari are the man-machine duo to beat, the reference point for drivers and technicians. What is surprising in the Austrian is the ease with which he improves his times and in the new Maranello creature - here at its third race after its debut in South Africa - the ease with which it has adapted to the Monte-Carlo circuit, one of the most difficult and complicated in the world because of its curves, its gradients, its hairpin turns. Certain hasty critics who pontificated on the inappropriateness of placing the gearbox in a transverse position, or who spoke of excessive haste in making the car's debut must have their ears pricked up these days. Regazzoni did not keep up with Lauda and was overtaken by the Shadow of Pryce and Jarier, the timeless Lotus of Peterson and the surprising March of the equally surprising Vittorio Brambilla. The Swiss, however, was less fortunate than his teammate in his choice of tyres. The Scuderia Ferrari mechanics, doing acrobatics, managed to find a set of new tyres very suitable for the circuit and mounted them on Lauda's car. When Regazzoni's turn came, practice was coming to an end and Clay didn't have time to get on the track.


"Even the engine was not as brilliant as the one I had yesterday".

 

While Regazzoni managed to make a modest improvement (from 1'27"7 to 1'27"55), Pryce lowered the time of the first day's practice by almost two seconds, Jarier by one second, Peterson by half and Brambilla, with a car that was finally efficient, by two. Emerson Fittipaldi is only on the fifth row alongside Reutemann: in the Principality the McLarens and Brabhams, single-seaters with a rather long wheelbase, have never behaved well. For Ferrari appear dangerous the Shadow (a car financed by an American company but built in England, which has the hero Zorro as its symbol) and the Lotus of Peterson, who is always wild in Monaco. Even during the last practices there was no shortage of accidents. The most spectacular was that of Mark Donohue. The American crashed at 180 km/h against the guardrail of the bend named after the patron saint of the Principality, remaining unhurt. A fire start is quickly extinguished by the fire brigade. The ridicule - which blatantly demonstrates the anachronism of city circuits - comes when a crane lifts Donohue's Penske to move it off the track immediately. In the manoeuvre a street-light pole is hit, which breaks. Practice is interrupted for half an hour and the electricians, summoned urgently, repair the damage.

 

And if it had happened on Sunday, would they have suspended the Grand Prix? Racing in Monte-Carlo is truly absurd. However, eight of the twenty-six drivers who took part in these two days of practice will not. They are the unqualified ones, the ones who are too slow because of their cars or their relatively poor skills. Among them, unfortunately, are Merzario and Leila Lombardi, and there is also Graham Hill, who won five times in Monaco. In the last thirty minutes available to the drivers, following the repair of the lamppost, Merzario is eliminated from the top eighteen qualified by Watson, while Laffite beats his team-mate but loses the last place on the grid by 0.16 seconds. As practice drew to a close Mario Andretti crashed his spare Parnelli into the guardrails in the harbour area after hitting the chicane guardrail with the other car, and James Hunt justified all the work done to repair the damage to his car. With the entire Saturday free to prepare the car, the mechanics have some free time to have a beer or two on Friday night. And so, chatter and considerations take place, in anticipation of the start of the Monaco Grand Prix, to be held on Sunday 11 May 1975 on the Monte-Carlo street circuit.

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The Fiat 131 Mirafiori 1300 Special 4-door version has 65 horsepower, weighs 995 kilos and reaches 150 km/h. It travels 1000 metres from a standing start in 36 seconds. It is a modern mid-size car tailor-made for European tastes. The Ferrari 312-T with a 3-litre engine has 495 horsepower, weighs 580 kilos and reaches 300 km/h. It takes less than 15 seconds to pass the kilometre. It is a Formula One Grand Prix car. Both are called cars, but these few figures alone highlight just how much difference there is between a normal production model, for all drivers, and a Formula 1 car, entrusted to a small number of drivers. And this difference becomes even more evident when observing the Grand Prix single-seater running on the Monte-Carlo circuit, that is, in a setting of houses, streets and pavements usually reserved for ordinary cars. The Formula 1 cars clash with the scenery. With their ailerons, huge rear tyres, big air intakes for the engine, and visible suspension play, they look like huge, fast spiders. The drivers drive semi-recumbent, and from the cockpit in which they are encased only their helmets emerge, connected by a tube to an oxygen cylinder that kicks in in case of fire. The term formula refers to the set of standards that sets certain technical characteristics to be observed by manufacturers.

 

In particular, the current regulations - which came into force on 1 January 1966 - stipulate a maximum cylinder capacity of 3000 cc with a limitation on the number of cylinders to twelve; a minimum dry weight of 575 kilos, special fire-fighting petrol tanks, deformable structures, and ailerons with clearly defined dimensions. Today, anyone can make a Formula 1 car: a pencil, a drawing sheet, a copy of the regulations. The engineers end up, more or less, making the same choices. Ferrari has more scope because it builds the entire car in house, from the chassis to the engine, from the suspension to the gearbox, but the British designers go to the same supplier, like to the supermarket. For example, twenty-three of the twenty-six single-seaters engaged these days in Monte-Carlo adopt the same eight-cylinder engine. Over the course of the season, the cars undergo continuous updates. The engineers strive to improve performance in every possible way and the life of a Formula 1 car is very short. A competitive car today, can be outdone tomorrow. Ferrari, which excelled in 1974 with the 312-B 3 (3-litre, 12-cylinder, flat engine, third version), was forced this year to accelerate the debut of the 312-T (the T indicates the transverse gearbox arrangement), a more compact aerodynamic handling car. In the past, improvements and advances made in Formula 1 were quickly reflected in series production.

 

The case of disc brakes is well known, first used on aircraft, later passed on to racing cars and finally adopted on everyday cars. Many accessories (tyres, ignition and injection systems, electrical systems) have also benefited from sporting applications. Today, the situation has changed and the cars that race in Monte-Carlo only provide the production cars with indirect assistance. These single-seaters without power brakes and power steering (drivers want to feel the slightest reactions of each organ), with a very direct drive and a very sensitive steering wheel, can be considered as experimental laboratories on four wheels. By looking for new alloys and materials, novel solutions, lightening, the engineers sometimes find elements that can be transferred to series production. However, this applies especially to Ferrari, which is - in addition to a racing stable - a real factory. By now, considering this type of racing and these cars as an eminent factor of technical progress is rather risky. Single-seaters and production cars have taken too different paths. Just think of the consumption: to run the 3 kilometres of the Monte-Carlo circuit, each car consumes almost two litres, i.e. it runs 1500 metres on one litre of petrol. A world, this one of technology and research, that fascinates its fans more and more every day. There is a town in Sicily called Misterbianco. It is in the province of Catania, perhaps on the other side of the world from the sophisticated kingdom of Prince Ranieri. Well, from Misterbianco. after an interminable journey through Italy, a group of Ferrari fans has arrived in Monte Carlo. They have flags and banners, shouting:

"Be it Lauda or Regazzoni. as long as it is Ferrari".

 

It goes without saying: to win the Monaco Grand Prix, the second Italian Grand Prix of the year. It is in these circumstances that one feels in tangible form, beyond all rhetoric, the allure of the Ferrari name, the popularity of a manufacturer of luxury cars reserved for a select few, the weight of a prestige, of a tradition that knows no social or economic differences. One believes in Ferrari, one loves Ferrari, one cheers for Ferrari with a passion that is reminiscent of the world of football. The rest doesn't  count today. Nor does the name of the rider of these red steeds that on Sunday will race through the streets of Monte-Carlo in the craziest Grand Prix of the year count. There are those who prefer Niki Lauda, Austrian, 26 years old, champion talent, and there are those who swear by Clay Regazzoni, Swiss, 35 years old, great experience. The cheering is stronger in Monte-Carlo because this is an important race. This Grand Prix - with all the perplexities and fears it arouses - remains a unique spectacle. There is no other race so followed. Whoever wins in Monaco becomes, at least for one day, the most famous sports personality. Unfortunately, tradition - if detail can count in an activity now tied to technical factors and exaggerated professionalism - is not in favour of Ferrari. Red has not been on the Grand Prix roulette since 1955: Maurice Trintignant won while Alberto Ascari flew his Lancia into the sea. Twenty years have passed since then and, for one reason or another, Ferrari drivers have not been able to repeat the Frenchman's success. On the opposite. Monte-Carlo is linked to a tragic moment in the activities of the Scuderia Ferrari: the burning of Lorenzo Bandini at the port chicane. It happened on Sunday 7th May 1967 and the memory still hurts.

"This time Lauda wins, this time Ferrari wins".

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Italian fans who came to Monte-Carlo say. In practice the young Austrian proved to be the fastest. When they told him to get in the car, to improve his times because other drivers were pressing, the Austrian driver did it with incredible ease. And here you have to know how to drive, not just have courage and press on the accelerator. Lauda, like Regazzoni, could count on one of the most competitive Ferraris that ever raced in the Principality, the 312-T with transverse gearbox. The new weight distribution makes the car particularly good on twisty circuits. The two drivers claim that the car is more agile than last year's B-3.

"In the hairpin corners you enter faster and can accelerate with a few moments to spare".

In racing, there can be a trivial inconvenience that wipes out days of preparation and erases a car's chances, but the 312-T presents itself as a splendid reality. So much for the untimeliness of anticipating its debut in South Africa or the unfortunate choice of the transverse gearbox technical solution: with this car Lauda and Regazzoni could win, at least calmly face the British cars, from Pryce and Jarier's Shadow to Peterson's Lotus. And since Emerson Fittipaldi, with the McLaren, and Pace and Reutemann with the Brabhams, gave the impression in practice that they did not have competitive single-seaters for this track, the drivers of the Maranello team could climb high in the championship standings. Only one man is missing in the Principality, a very important one: Enzo Ferrari, who will watch the race on television. He was 56 years old when Trintignant won at Monte-Carlo. Lauda and Regazzoni can give him a good Sunday.

 

"The important thing tomorrow will be to get away first, because if you lose the turn at the start, coming back then becomes a hard task. Monte-Carlo is a circuit where it is impossible to overtake another driver under normal conditions. You can, yes, but only if you take advantage of the mistakes of others or if those ahead of you spontaneously step aside to let you pass. If not, all you can do is stay in line".

Admits Niki Lauda, according to whom this Grand Prix is physically and psychologically exhausting: you have to change eighteen times per lap, steer, accelerate, decelerate, always holding on to the wheel, without ever a moment's relaxation. Not the slightest mistake is allowed. One tap on the guardrails and you end up with a broken wheel or suspension. In a two-hour race, physical fitness must not drop, neither must concentration, and the car must be perfectly tuned.

"Let's imagine that we have already completed one lap and are back on the start straight. I'm in fifth gear, at about 220 km/h. A quick glance at the signals they give me from the pits and the indicator lights that flash as another car comes onto the track. I downshift into third with a slam of the brakes, at the Saint-Devote curve, and climb the slope leading to the Casino, putting back into fourth and shifting into fifth gear at 220-230 km/h. I hit a bump, brake, turn at the Hotel de Paris in third gear, entering the Casino square. Still in third gear, I go on the change of gradient between the square and the narrow descent leading to the Mirabeau. where I engage fourth gear for a moment. At Mirabeau I engage second gear after a big braking section. This is the slowest part of the circuit and I shift into first gear when I can, without skidding with the wheels. Once past the Portier curve we enter the tunnel: I engage third gear, fourth and fifth, until I hit 250 km/h in the fastest part of the racetrack. In a moment I brake and return to third gear to pass the Chicane, which is even slower because it has been narrowed. I complete a few dozen metres in fourth gear and third again, for the Tabaccaio curve. I continue in the same gear up to the Piscina variant, which I do in second gear. At the Gasometer I'm back in third gear, then off at speed in fourth gear and fifth on the pit straight".

 

In Ferrari's headquarters, at the ultra-modern Mirabeau hotel, calm reigns. Only the siege of a few more excited fans forces Niki Lauda, Clay Regazzoni and the Maranello team members into a few unscheduled slaloms in the hotel's vast halls. The whole day without rehearsals allows everyone a certain amount of freedom. Regazzoni wastes no time and devotes himself to his favourite pastime, tennis. In the evening, the Swiss and Lauda, with all their colleagues involved in the race, go to the Palace for a reception hosted by Rainier of Monaco. The whole family was present, of course, with Grace, Caroline, Albert and little Stephanie. A social interlude also intended to forget all the controversy of recent days about the dangerous nature of the circuit. The meeting makes the atmosphere more relaxed. One comments, however, positively on the decision to let only eighteen competitors start. Lauda, of course, is happy to be able to start from pole position, on the front row.

"It will be difficult at the start, but if I manage to stay in the lead, it will be unlikely that I can be overtaken".

On the other hand, Regazzoni, while not too happy about starting on the third row, doesn't create too many problems for himself.

"Last year I started ahead of everyone and then what happened was that happened. So Niki and I can race independently".

The starting position of the two Ferrari drivers practically resolved any doubts about the tactics that Luca Montezemolo, Enzo Ferrari's assistant, studied to achieve victory.

"Niki attacks and Clay follows ready for any eventuality. I think it's quite simple. I am just a little apprehensive for the fans who have come to Monte Carlo to see a Ferrari cross the finish line first. I wouldn't want the practice times to have created too much optimism. The cars didn't have any problems; you know the drivers. But we know how these races are, it takes little to ruin even the most careful plan".

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Actually, it isn't only the fans who are waiting for a Scuderia Ferrari success in Monaco. Even Dr. Giovanni Agnelli, between Juventus in Florence and Ferrari in Monte-Carlo, chose the latter. Agnelli attends Sunday morning's practice session from the pits, talking at length with Niki Lauda, Clay Regazzoni and Luca Montezemolo. In particular, Agnelli asks the two drivers to what extent the weather conditions could affect the race. Before the race, journalists ask Agnelli whether he would prefer a Juve win or a Ferrari victory today.

"I have no preference, I would like both".

The Fiat president will watch the Grand Prix at a friend's house. Having spent Saturday in a variety of ways, on Sunday 11 May 1975 all the competitors are ready to take part in the Monaco Grand Prix. The two Parnelli team cars are ready to start and the Penske has been completely rebuilt around a new monocoque. Lauda will regularly drive his original car, the 023, while Regazzoni will drive the spare car, the 018, on which a new gearbox is fitted. Around 3:23 p.m. the engines start for the practice lap leading to the grid. Lauda is at the wheel, in front of the car Sante Ghedini, Ferrari's sports secretary, Ermanno Cuoghi, chief mechanic of the Austrian's 312-T and the other mechanics. Regazzoni is still standing and puts on his helmet and gloves. At around 3:33 p.m. Sante Ghedini, in the pits, lines up the signposts in good order, while the eighteen single-seaters that have completed the lap are stopped at the false line-up before moving, in the same order, to the start. There is a three-minute delay on the timetable as everything is ready except the weatherman, because a blanket of clouds looms over the mountains behind the city and the rain falls vertically. It has been raining and raining all morning and throughout lunchtime, only stopping when Prince Rainier and his family arrive just in time for the start of the race. The stewards announced that the race conditions would be considered wet. Naturally, all the cars are fitted with Goodyear's wet-weather tyres.

 

There is, however, a slight concern about the dry section of the track under the waterfront tunnel, as this could wreak havoc on the wet tyres during the seventy-eight lap race. In order to avoid the first corner, the two rows of cars are staggered, with Lauda in pole position ahead of Pryce, so that the grid becomes practically single file and the drivers at the back can barely see the mover's flag. All the drivers are present on the grid, so Laffite's car is brought back to the pits, having waited hopefully for someone not to show up. The eighteen cars move forward to the starting grid, and at 3:35 p.m. Sante Ghedini, standing on the fence, clicks off two stopwatches as the drivers pull away from the main straight, creating a cloud of water. The sun betrayed the Grand Prix but not the crowd, which, despite the raging spring thunderstorm, filled every corner of the Principality from early morning. Impossible to find a parking space, difficult to get a place in the first rows anywhere on the circuit. Naturally, tickets for the numbered seats were sold out, and therefore excellent takings for the Automobile Club of Monaco, which replenished its purse as always happens on this occasion. Sky-high prices even for breathing. The usual affair, in short, which goes against all the controversy over the dangerous track, especially with the solid contribution of the numerous Italian fans. The bad weather somewhat spoils the choreography around the race and even delays the start by a few minutes. While lining up, Niki Lauda, in first position, on the right of the grid, tries unsuccessfully not to step on the pedestrian zebra crossing that is right under the wheels of the 312-T.

The Austrian driver tries to move back, fearing to skid, but the marshals are adamant, holding him in his assigned position. The start unleashes the usual ruckus. A deafening roar of engines (with cars spinning a very short distance from the press box, throwing up a cloud of water), while the rain magically ceases. All the competitors start on wet tyres. Lauda is quick to take the lead, followed by Jarier, Brambilla, Pryce and Peterson. The French driver eliminates himself by touching in the S of the pool, while in the very tight curve of the old station Pryce goes wide touching Brambilla who had made a masterpiece of a start. The bang started the Italian driver's ordeal, who had to stop several times. In this first phase of the race the circuit is quite slippery, even though the rain has stopped falling, so no driver tries to force the pace, although at the back of the group Carlos Reutemann lets Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass pass, and the German takes advantage of this to overtake the Belgian. Watson followed them, and when Donohue let the group pass, the British driver took advantage to recover a position. The first ten laps serve to settle positions, but they also kick off the unfortunate series of accidents that punctuate Clay Regazzoni's race. The Swiss driver, already on the first lap, had to surrender to an unfair manoeuvre by Jody Scheckter. The South African, who was on the left, cut off the Ticino driver, going too wide to enter the variant. The 312-T took the blow, coming in sixteenth and penultimate position on the first pass.

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At 3:41 p.m., Luca Montezemolo, Enzo Ferrari's assistant, comes into the pits and Cuoghi has the slicks checked: it is likely that the rain tyres fitted on the two Ferraris will have to be replaced. It is no longer raining and the wet track, from lap fourteen onwards, is rapidly drying out. In the meantime, however, at the end of the fifth lap Clay Regazzoni is forced to stop to have his sagging left rear wheel (a piece of the tyre flew off while he was passing in front of the grandstands) and the nose replaced. In less than a minute the tyre and nose are replaced. Behind Lauda came Peterson in his John Player Special, followed by Pryce, Scheckter, Fittipaldi, Pace, Hunt, Depailler, Mass and Watson. The leading trio immediately took a sizeable lead, gradually pulling away from their pursuers. During the ninth lap Mario Andretti went off the track: an oil pipe broke and the liquid, dripping onto the exhaust pipes, caught fire. The Italian-American returns to the pits and the firemen extinguish the flames enveloping the engine. Naturally, the times of the first laps are higher than those recorded in practice, due to the wet track. At 3:58 p.m. a pale sun appears. Montezemolo invites the mechanics to get ready to change the tyres: the men in anoraks line up with slicks and tools. Two minutes later, at 4:00 p.m. Regazzoni doesn't pass in front of the pits. From the grandstands they shout to be careful.

Clay Regazzoni stops at the end of lap 17, and the mechanics carry out the change of the nose and the front left tyre, which has dechapped rubbing against the spoiler moustache. Operation performed in 43 seconds. In the meantime, the track, due to the continuous passing of the cars, has gradually dried out and it is therefore necessary to fit slicks, i.e. tyres with a smooth tread. Jochen Mass began the series of pit stops, followed by Vittorio Brambilla, Carlos Pace and James Hunt. On the following nineteenth lap Pryce was the victim of a spin that dropped him to fifth place. With the slowdown, tyre change and re-entry into the race, Hunt and Mass were now a lap down on Lauda. On lap 21 Pryce, Pace and Watson pitted to mount slicks; two laps later Donohue also made a tyre change, as did Reutemann. A little later, on lap 24, Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter and Emerson Fittipaldi also return to the pits, with Ronnie Peterson passing first. In the Scuderia Ferrrai pit box, Cuoghi leads the operation of Artoni, Corradini, Castelli, Scaramelli and Bellentini. The mechanics outdo themselves by operating in about 30 seconds. A round of applause starts from the grandstands. Lauda retook the lead, with Depailler in second place and Ickx third, as neither of them had stopped yet. McLaren's pit work was also good, having made a practice pit stop with Jochen Mass before Fittipaldi's arrival, so that the World Champion is still in fourth place ahead of Scheckter and Pace.

 

On lap 26 Patrick Depailler  made his stop too, leaving second place to Jacky Ickx for one lap. Ronnie Peterson re-enters the track behind Carlos Pace, so he is now in fifth place, preceded by Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi and Carlos Pace, who has just passed Jody Scheckter. He is followed by Ronnie Peterson, Jochen Mass, James Hunt, Patrick Depailler, Jacky Ickx and Mark Donohue. John Watson, Carlos Reutemann and Alan Jones are still in the running, but all within a lap of Niki Lauda's Ferrari. Finally all on new tyres, the sixteen remaining drivers resume the duel at a higher pace. Jody Scheckter seems intent on snatching third place from Carlos Pace, but has no idea how he can overtake him, while Peterson is closely followed by Mass and Hunt. Scheckter's hopes were dashed when his car's left rear tyre suddenly deflated, forcing him to return to the pits to fit a new one. On lap 36 John Watson ended the race after spinning out, and Tom Pryce also crashed into the guardrail and retired on lap 39. At 4:25 p.m., with one hand Clay Regazzoni, once again back in the pits, signals to his mechanics that the car is spinning at the front. The mechanics fix his nose better, also checking his steering. It is 4:26 p.m. when the Swiss driver returns to the track. There is tension in the Scuderia Ferrari box, Lauda's lead is reassuring, but too many times bad luck has struck the Maranello team. Montezemolo is getting paler and paler.

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So we come to the first hour of the race. Niki Lauda still leads by around 33 seconds over Emerson Fittipaldi, who has moved into second position (Peterson had lost time in the tyre change). The race moved on: Mark Donohue didn't let Lauda pass, keeping him behind for six laps, at the end of which the Austrian found himself with an almost halved lead (17 seconds) over Fittipaldi. After John Watson's stop (caused by a spin at the pool, in avoiding contact with Vittorio Brambilla; the British driver switched off his engine in the action and was no longer able to restart it) on lap 36, thirteen cars remained in the race. In the meantime, Clay Regazzoni's race comes to an end: the Swiss driver arrives a little long at the chicane, perhaps even disappointed and deconcentrated after the numerous pit stops, and crashes into the metal belts. The car suffers damage and the Ticino driver returns to the pits on foot. Having taken note of Regazzoni's retirement, from the pits Montezemolo incites Lauda with his fists raised, while the TV operators move closer to the Scuderia Ferrari pits. After a while, around 5:00 p.m., Clay walks back into the pits, sucked in by the journalists. Without his team-mate (after all, the number 11 Ferrari was never in the thick of the race), Lauda continues his steady march, travelling 15-16 seconds ahead of Fittipaldi. Around 5:15 p.m. Ghedini and Montezemolo continue their reports, while Mariella, Lauda's girlfriend, and Maria Pia, Regazzoni's wife, chat quietly. In the meantime, behind Lauda and Fittipaldi comes Carlos Pace, who has very well contained the return of Ronnie Peterson and Jochen Mass.

In the final, however, the German McLaren driver had to give up his position to Depailler. During the forty-eighth lap Vittorio Brambilla returned to the pits; Robin Herd considered it unwise to continue, due to the incident at the start of the race. During the sixty-first lap Alan Jones, while he is engaged with his Hesketh to face the uphill, loses a wheel but luckily the Australian driver manages to control the car, and a few laps later, during the sixty-third lap James Hunt is victim of an accident on the descent from Casino Square that puts an end to his race and leaves Patrick Depailler in pursuit of Jochen Mass, who in turn is close to Ronnie Peterson. Ten minutes to go. The public begins to fear for Lauda, seeing that every lap Fittipaldi gains a few seconds, but it is all calculated. From the pits they make a sign to the Austrian not to force so as not to run unnecessary risks and Niki no longer runs at full throttle, while Fittipaldi tries to do his best to gain ground in a spectacular but useless chase. The last, small twist is granted by the international regulations for Formula 1 races: originally, calculating a higher average speed, the drivers should have completed seventy-eight laps. Instead, by turning less fast, the rule that no more than two hours of racing is allowed is triggered. Meanwhile, a technician from a foreign television station slips a flying microphone into Montezemolo's breast pocket, and hears the sports director say:

"Five laps to go, guys relax".

 

Then, at 5:34 p.m. Montezemolo invites Regazzoni to signal the last lap to Lauda. Despite Fittipaldi's return, Montezemolo invites the race director to signal the last lap, as he is at the two-hour mark. Therefore, the chequered flag is lowered on lap 75, sealing Niki Lauda and Ferrari's triumph. The early end of three laps stops Emerson Fittipaldi, rabidly launched in pursuit of Lauda, and greets Enzo Ferrari's young assistant, lawyer Luca Montezemolo, who is busy defending himself from the circuit stewards while he is literally entering the circuit to celebrate the Austrian driver's arrival at the finish line and to make sure that the race director would lower the chequered flag, resulting in a punch thrown at the incautious steward. An episode that was immediately forgotten in the victory celebration, given that a few moments later, after the return lap, Cuoghi, Montezemolo and all the Scuderia Ferrari mechanics poured onto the finish line to wait for Niki Lauda.

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Then, at 5:34 p.m. Montezemolo invites Regazzoni to signal the last lap to Lauda. Despite Fittipaldi's return, Montezemolo invites the race director to signal the last lap, as he is at the two-hour mark. Therefore, the chequered flag is lowered on lap 75, sealing Niki Lauda and Ferrari's triumph. The early end of three laps stops Emerson Fittipaldi, rabidly launched in pursuit of Lauda, and greets Enzo Ferrari's young assistant, lawyer Luca Montezemolo, who is busy defending himself from the circuit stewards while he is literally entering the circuit to celebrate the Austrian driver's arrival at the finish line and to make sure that the race director would lower the chequered flag, resulting in a punch thrown at the incautious steward. An episode that was immediately forgotten in the victory celebration, given that a few moments later, after the return lap, Cuoghi, Montezemolo and all the Scuderia Ferrari mechanics poured onto the finish line to wait for Niki Lauda.

 

Luca Montezemolo, having already taken a beating from the stewards when Lauda crossed the finish line, climbed over the guardrail again to enter the track and wait for the Austrian driver. But this time he is followed by Sante Ghedini, the sports secretary, Ermanno Cuoghi, in charge of Lauda's car, followed by all the other mechanics. Niki arrives and they extract him by weight from the narrow cockpit of the red 312-T. They are all around him, this little wren who has so skilfully mastered the 500 horsepower of his Ferrari on the tormented Monegasque racetrack. In the grandstands opposite, people applaud, laugh, Ferrari fans hug each other, three Austrians pass by, waving loudly with their national flag that bears the following written on the central white stripe: Niki. These are all images that resurface now that the race is over. In the Ferrari pits there is great confusion. The men from Maranello are surrounded by journalists, film and television operators, photographers. The mechanics have been very good at the tyre changes. They worked so quickly that they drew applause from the fans. Cuoghi and Borsari, the chief mechanics responsible for Lauda and Regazzoni's cars respectively, said:

"We had trained on purpose. We knew how important it would be to be fast so that our driver could maintain his position. Lauda then did a lap behind Peterson. For once Ferrari did not pass first".

At the same time, Luca Montezemolo finally stopped gnawing at his nerves, and thanked the journalists:

"I have to thank you all, because you  helped us to win too. Thanks to the trust you had in our work, even when, after the South African Grand Prix, the 312-T was considered a bluff, such an atmosphere was created in our team that spurred us on to the maximum. The victory in Monte-Carlo, a circuit so different from Silverstone where the 312-T took its first win, means that the car is a reality. We will do even better than today, we are back on top. It was also important not to have disappointed all the fans who came to Monte-Carlo today. I think they can feel satisfied and have left the Principality with a little piece of Ferrari in their hearts. Thanks to the confidence we had in the 312-T. It is clear that the commitment now becomes greater and that we will do everything to maintain the pace we have set and to improve. Next week engineer Mauro Forghieri, together with Lauda, will travel to Sweden for a series of tests at the Anderstorp circuit. At the end of the tests I phoned Enzo Ferrari, telling him that Lauda had set the best time. Ferrari answered me that it was no longer time for brilliant times in practice, but that it was time to win. We did it".

 

Luca Montezemolo's exuberant joy at the arrival of Niki Lauda, which cost Enzo Ferrari's young assistant a sharp-edged melee with the Monegasque marshals, constitutes the most vivid and sincere image of the enthusiasm of the Italian fans and of all the men at Maranello for the triumph of the Austrian and the 312-T in the Monaco Grand Prix. Enthusiasm for the fading shadows and uncertainties, enthusiasm for the prospects that were opening up in the Formula 1 World Championship. In the concrete and steel gut of Monte-Carlo Ferrari had to win. For many reasons it was at a key moment, as often happens in sport. It was necessary to demonstrate that the new car debuted in advance at Kyalami was capable of competing with the British single-seaters, to improve Lauda's or Regazzoni's position in the world rankings by preventing Fittipaldi, Pace and Reutemann from gaining an excessive advantage, to reward with a positive result those who, at Maranello as on the track, had been working hard for months. Unfortunately, this pivotal moment presented itself for Ferrari in the least suitable place, not so much for technical reasons as for superstition and the thousands of difficulties that a city circuit like Monte-Carlo could present to even the strongest man-machine duo. Those damned twenty years of abstinence were taking their toll. The ever-painful memory of Lorenzo Bandlni's fire, of so many races that ended in disappointment, of so many aces - from Wolfgang von Trips to Phil Hill, from Richie Ginther to Chris Amon, from Jacky Ickx to Niki Lauda - who had failed to repeat Maurice Trintignant's victory made the Maranello team's horizon dark on Saturday, despite the exciting performances offered by Lauda and the 312 T in training.
 
And in the speeches on the eve of the race, although comforted by the absence of the slightest problem during the days of practice, the men from Maranello listed the traps of the pseudo-track: the lapped driver who spins out in front of the Ferrari's nose, the smallest mistake that turns into a disastrous collision with the protective barriers, the cheap mechanical failure as deadly as an engine breakage, and so on. On Sunday 11 May 1975, however, something happened that hadn't happened in twenty years. Fate didn't deal any blows and the Monaco Grand Prix ended up with the best driver and the most competitive car, Lauda and the 312 T. A winning combination, moreover supported by a first-class organisation, working on the drawing boards, in the workshop, on the track. A unique organisation, because none of the multi-coloured and sponsored Formula 1 teams were born as true manufacturers. And if the magnificent work of the mechanics in changing tyres has been admired by thousands of spectators, just as good, though less visible, is the work done by those in the factory. Shadows and uncertainties vanished as if by magic. Ferrari's goal was double: winning the most spectacular and important Grand Prix of the year and reaching the key milestones. Automatically rosy prospects opened up for the fate of the challenge for the world title, which in 1974 Clay Regazzoni missed by a thread. At this point one had to have faith in Lauda and in the new weapon developed by the Maranello team. The Monte-Carlo circuit was a first-rate test in the Grand Prix season, which consisted of fifteen episodes, of which five (Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Spain and Monaco had already taken place).

 

A test that doesn't forgive driver and machine. A winner like the Austrian driver is a champion and the machine in his hands must necessarily be the best. Looking at the test of the most valid rivals, the black Shadow cars were betrayed by the drivers, too impulsive and immature (Pryce even damaged Vittorio Brambilla, who had had a very happy start) and Peterson's Lotus by the slowness of the mechanics in changing the tyres, while the McLarens, Brabhams and Tyrrell cars - quite simply - were unable to keep up the pace of the Lauda-Ferrari pairing. Some might ask: Monaco was a twisty circuit, but how will these new 312 T cars fare on fast tracks? The answer is already there: at Silverstone, at the very circuit where the British Grand Prix will be held in July, Lauda beat Fittipaldi in a race not valid for the title. What better guarantee? Add to that the seriousness with which the Maranello team prepares its next commitments: Lauda, with a host of technicians and mechanics is about to travel to Anderstorp to test for the Swedish Grand Prix. The Ferrari 312-T in which Niki Lauda won at Monte-Carlo is certainly the best of the current Formula 1 cars, in terms of modernity of conception and accuracy of construction. In the meantime, it immediately stands out from its British competitors because of its powertrain, which is entirely built in Maranello by Ferrari itself, while the British teams all use the same engine and gearbox made by small factories.

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Ferrari's engine, a 12-cylinder with horizontal, opposed cylinders in two groups of six, has a bore and stroke of 80x49.6 millimetres and a displacement of 2992 cc, as required by regulations (maximum 3000 cc). It delivers 495 horsepower at 12,200 rpm and in this it is superior to rival engines; the car also benefits from the fact that the horizontal engine is lower than the V-shaped ones, and therefore has a lower centre of gravity. The gearbox with the transmission shafts transverse and parallel to the wheel axis is what gave the 1975 model car its name, or rather the initials T. Thanks to this gearbox, but not only this, the car is more manoeuvrable in bends, and thanks to the engine it is faster in straights. In addition, Ferrari did a great deal of testing work to fine-tune the engine and the entire car, with hundreds of hours of testing on the specially equipped Fiorano track. So when the weather changed at Monte-Carlo and it became necessary to adapt the car to the wet track, the engineers had everything ready: the settings of the suspension anti-roll bars were modified, as were the shock absorbers; the braking ratio between the front and rear wheels was changed (to prevent the former from locking), the radiators and brake vents were paralysed and, of course, the special tyres with sculpted tread were fitted. Then, when the track dried out after the first third of the race, the mechanics performed a masterpiece of speed in changing the tyres and at the same time bringing certain set-ups back to the state required for the dry track.

 Still from a construction point of view, the Ferrari 312-T has more advanced details than competing cars: the wheel hubs are large in diameter, hollow and with special ball bearings that ensure greater precision in wheel positioning; the suspensions, especially the front ones, are built in such a way as to offer the best compromise to the various requirements of road holding and at the same time present the least aerodynamic resistance. Characteristic of this front suspension is the very short anti-roll bar connected by rocker arms to the two suspension arms. The same care can be seen in all the construction details, from the Marelli electronic ignition system to the various auxiliary systems for oil, water, fire extinguisher and oxygen for the driver. Nothing appears to have been left to chance; on the contrary, all the important components, such as the suspension, steering and transmission, are much more robust and safer than those of the competition; in fact, the Ferraris are the cars that have never shown failures in organs that would jeopardise the safety of the drivers, and this is due to a precise approach dictated by Enzo Ferrari. And yet this car, thanks to patient refinement work, now weighs exactly what the regulations require as a minimum limit, namely 575 kilos with water and oil. Finally, the Ferrari 312-T is very compact, with a wheelbase of 2518 millimetres and track widths of 1510 millimetres and 1530 millimetres, as well as a carefully studied bodywork from an aerodynamic point of view, while the ailerons help keep it glued to the ground.

 

In short, it is the car to beat and, barring unforeseen events such as Barcelona, the opponents' task this year is very difficult. The situation in the classification offers Lauda promising developments. Emerson Fittipaldi is still in the lead, with 21 points, followed by another Brazilian, Carlos Pace, with 16 points. The Austrian has 14 points. A number of points play in his favour: as a driver he has matured and certain mistakes of last year should no longer be repeated; the 312 T is a higher class single-seater than the 312/B 3, which was the real protagonist of the 1974 season; internal competition from Regazzoni should no longer be there. This last argument may be unpleasant, but it is better that the situation be clarified now. Lauda, because of his qualities and his championship points, is the man on whom Ferrari must concentrate its efforts to beat Fittipaldi and regain - after eleven years - the world title. Regazzoni, a loyal, experienced driver, invaluable in any team, will be able to help his companion and, perhaps, take his place in some cases if circumstances dictate. But the winning ace - it is now clear - is only Lauda. The Viennese driver's waltz was perfect: Niki Lauda drove a masterpiece race, without the slightest flaw. He was also good in the finale, when from the pits Luca Montezemolo signalled to him not to push too hard. Formula 1 drivers aren't always willing to respect this instruction and more often than not end up making a mess of things when they have victory within reach. Lauda therefore confirmed himself not only as one of the fastest drivers in the world, but also as one of the most controlled, cool-headed, temperamental drivers.

"I never had any doubts about this victory, as I saw everything running smoothly. The car was really splendid, a real gem. I only had to avoid getting involved in dangerous and unnecessary brawls in the tightest parts of the circuit. Otherwise there were no problems. I owe Enzo Ferrari and the mechanics the victory at Monte Carlo, which was more beautiful than the ones I got last year in Spain and Holland. The commentator gave me a wonderful car to race in and the guys were great. These nine points bring me to third place in the World Championship standings: a good position to aim for the title. I can do it, because I think the 312-T is the most competitive car of all. Even last year we could have won at Monte-Carlo, but Regazzoni spun and I was stopped by a silly breakdown. This time with a car more valid than the old B3 Clay was stopped by Scheckter, but I didn't have the slightest problem. Donohue made me lose some time, but I was calm: I knew I could control Emerson".

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Born in Vienna on 23 February 1949, Lauda quickly made a name for himself in the automotive world, soon replacing the late Jochen Rindt in the hearts of Austrian fans. Lauda started racing with good results in 1968 with a Mini, which he replaced the following year with a Porsche. In 1971 he made his appearance in single-seaters, in Formula 2, then quickly moved up to Formula 1, where he made his debut in a March, sponsored by a bank. It was Clay Regazzoni who pointed him out to Ferrari as one of the most promising youngsters, after seeing him at work especially in the Belgian Grand Prix. Lauda is engaged to a beautiful girl named Mariella. Ten years more, all experience, didn't help Clay Regazzoni to imitate his teammate's exploits. Certainly a Ferrari one-two with a first and second place at Monte-Carlo would have been a dream come true, but unfortunately the Swiss driver was hit by Tom Pryce during the first lap. From that moment on it was practically a continuous pit-stop for Regazzoni, until he finally retired after forty laps. Pieces of the tyres of his 312 T flew into the grandstands, his front spoiler broke and, in the end, he crashed into the guardrails of the harbour variant. In short, an unfortunate race from the start without being able to get into the race.

"If that jerk Scheckter hadn't bumped into me and closed the road, I wouldn't have been in last position on the first lap. And it's clear that on this circuit being behind everyone, even by just ten metres, means being a thousand kilometres behind. I hope to be luckier next time".

 

Monday 12 May 1976 Emerson Fittipaldi leaves the hotel with a strange smile on his lips. It is not clear whether he is satisfied or disappointed. Dark glasses and increasingly flamboyant sideburns, Emerson Fittipaldi cannot avoid the onslaught of his admirers, who are numerous. He is off to Switzerland, where he normally resides when he isn't in Brazil. The World Champion doesn't have a moment's free time: everyone wants him but he thinks above all about racing and his family. As soon as he can, he retreats to private accommodation in search of the necessary concentration and tranquillity. A brief commentary on the race, however, is necessary and Fittipaldi gladly agrees to delay the trip for a few minutes.

"The six points taken could be very precious. Now, I am leading the championship standings with a good margin over Pace and Lauda. I believe I am in a position to face the next world championships with some assurance that I will not have to scramble and win at all costs".

Could the fact that you finished the race on lap 75 and not on lap 78 as planned have damaged Fittipaldi, given that he had finished behind Lauda?

"I don't think so. For one thing I only had three laps to overtake the Ferrari, not an easy feat at a circuit like Monte-Carlo. If I made such a controversy I would be stupid. Besides, in order to catch the Ferrari I raced at the limits, risking every lap to finish outside or to break everything. No, I don't think there is anything to say about the order of arrival".

 

What can he say about the Ferrari, seen competing on these roads, certainly not suitable for a Formula 1 car?

"The Italian car is going very well. It dominated the race from start to finish. I don't think it could have been beaten in any way. Only an accident could have taken it out of the way, but Lauda was very good at avoiding any danger. At the end, then, at the suggestion of the pits, he slowed down a lot. That's also why - I think - I came so close. Otherwise there would have been nothing to do. Apart from any consideration then, it is very difficult to catch and overtake someone who starts in the lead".

Scuderia Ferrari's victory in Monaco after twenty years, however, doesn't allow anyone to forget what happened in Spain a few weeks earlier. In the wake of the tragedy in Barcelona, the International Sports Commission becomes the promoter in Monte-Carlo of a meeting between the main components of the Formula 1 Circus concerning racing safety. Representatives of the drivers, constructors, organisers and those who finance the teams' activities, the so-called sponsors, are invited to the meeting. In this regard, the CSI issued a short communiqué informing that all parties recognised the need to create a new working group that will bring together constructors, drivers, organisers and sponsors under the leadership of the CSI. The group will be charged with monitoring the development of safety and compliance with the rules laid down in the international sporting code. A more rational development of Formula 1 cars will be studied too, again with the aim of making them safer and, from now on, circuits will be supervised by delegates from the drivers, manufacturers and organisers under the supervision of the CSI. This is a small step towards improving the situation. In anticipation of more substantial measures, such as the abolition of city circuits or the downgrading of the Monaco Grand Prix to a non-valid test for the Formula One World Championship (a proposal suggested by Enzo Ferrari), two things must be noted: first, action is always taken after a tragedy; second, the sponsors, i.e. the brands of cigarettes, toys, perfumes, etc., have been included in the working group, an inclusion that is due to purely economic reasons.

 
Simone Sabatini

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