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#290 1977 British Grand Prix

2022-07-17 01:24

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#290 1977 British Grand Prix

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Sunday, July 10, 1977, three red Alfas 33 cross the finish line almost together. In the first car there is Arturo Merzario, on the second one Vittorio Brambilla, on the third one Spartaco Dini, who, at mid-race, made an exchange with Giorgio Francia. For the manufacturer and the Italian drivers it’s a triumph. Even if it doesn’t have the comfort of mathematical security, Alfa Romeo is the 1977 World Constructor Champion. With 100 points and 5 successes on five disputed races, Alfa Romeo should not take some points in the three remaining races to lose this title that would be the fourth: the previous have been those of Farina (1950) and Fangio (1951) in Formula 1 and in the Constructors' Championship in 1975. An eventuality that certainly won’t be repeated, given the superiority of the sport vehicles, made by Autodelta, have shown since the start of the season. It’s not been a difficult victory, but a World title has always a big value and it’s certainly not Alfa Romeo's fault if the opponents didn’t show up. With the achievement in Portugal, on the Estoril circuit, Alfa Romeo has basically conquered the sportscar World Championship, repeating the 1975 affirmation. The title has been reached through a chain of wins that would make them proud if it wasn’t that, the Milanese brand, had to compete just between itselves. There weren’t competitive rivals, therefore, they should moderate the enthusiasm. Nevertheless, it wasn’t Alfa Romeo’s fault if the other brands didn’t want to (or were unable) to take part in the championship. The absents - you know - are always wrong. Our brand is on track with its cars, its drivers and its technicians, led by the engineer Carlo Chiti, the father of that twelve cylinders boxer engine that it's making honors on Formula 1 on the Brabhams.

 

On the long straight of the circuit of Estoril, with the presence of about 10.000 spectators (the organizers will say that there are at least 50.000), eight cars at the start. There are in front the three Alfa Romeos. Merzario starts fastly like always and immediately takes a little gap of advantage. Brambilla, with the car number 2, spins in the first hairpin, betrayed by his impetuosity. He must chase immediately. First he overtakes Francia, who has started very well, but with the car not totally fine because of power trouble. The Milanese, in fact, must stop almost immediately to adjust the carburetor to make it more oily. Brambilla continues his pursuit and he’s at the fourteenth lap behind Merzario. With an angry brake, quite reckless, he overtakes him in a left hander quite narrow. The two Alfas 33 are side-by-side for a hundred meters and then Brambilla, with a fast shot, takes the lead. But his action lasted very little: the next lap, always on the same point, the Monzese driver spins suddenly when he had already set the turn. On that point there’s a jump and the car got sideways just for this defect of the tarmac. Merzario takes advantage, he slips in first position and escapes fastly with about 25 seconds of advantage. Brambilla must renounce to catch up. We reach mid-point, around 45 laps, with the refuellings in program ed eventual reparations. Merzario is the first one to stop at the box, with a pit-stop of about 28 seconds. He just refueled and restarted. Brambilla, who was tailing him, takes the lead, but on the next lap he must stop in turn. He stayed at the box for 38 seconds, because the mechanics must control the suspensions that could be damaged from the two spins that the 33 had suffered at the start of the race. There aren't any problems behind it.

 

Francia conducts on the third place in front of Chris Craft and the gap of advantage is so wide that when he stops to pick up Dini, the stop is of above a minute. It continues on this pattern, with Merzario in the lead with over 20 seconds on Brambilla and one lap on Dini. The race revives on the end, when Brambilla, retaking the rhythm of before (his fastest lap was 1’37’’73, with an average of 160.230 km/h) and he restarted to dig in. At this point it seems all finished but it's not. We are in the last stages, at lap sixty-eight, just few remaining. From the garage, for a couple of passages, the gaps are not signed. The engineer Chiti has in mind to make the cars arrive on parade and prepares a billboard with written on which should be the arrival order: Merzario, Brambilla, Dini. Merzario sees the signal slow and slows down a bit the pace. Brambilla, who was recovering around a second, a second and a half per lap, doesn’t seem to slow down the rhythm and in a short time he reaches his team-mate. Despite the segnalations, he overtakes Merzario and takes the lead. For two laps the Como-based passed in front of the garage moving furiously with his arms to ask explanations about this overtake, when it was asked to slow down. At that time comes out peremptory the order to change positions. And in fact Brambilla lets himself be overtaken on the straight line by Merzario. The two drivers in pairs, with the complaints of the audience that don’t accept this non-sporting solution, wait for Dini and reach side-to-side the finish line. In fact the idea of making arrive the car together is amazing: but it could, if it wanted to, make it a little smarter, telling before to the drivers to acquire the positions at some point of the race without making know everybody about the fact that the race could be managed from distance, even if the race was obvious. At the end of the race, Merzario doesn’t release comments: he won like he wanted. Brambilla, instead, declares:

 

“I don’t want to get into controversies, but I don’t like these solutions controlled by the garage. I’ve done my race and I would be willing to continue until the end. By the way I’ve obeyed the orders”.

 

Nevertheless, they have won, like obvious, the cars of Alfa Romeo, too competitive compared to the two liters that have made the World Championship adventure (to highlight in particular is the Torinese Osella), with a staff of people too harmonious. So, where Alfa Romeo - to defend a magnificent sporting tradition and the quality of its brilliant production - wants to compete, why not try something really serious, in a game, to be clear, that is worth the risk. And this game, today, is just one: Formula 1. This for the circuits. For the street races there are the Rallyes, another category that the Milanese manufacturer has neglected too early. In Formula 1 Alfa Romeo has glorious traditions that it’s useless to remember here. Today it’s at half-service with Brabham, to which it supplies the engines. A partnership that, beyond any good purpose and every peaceful word, it’s difficult. The boss of the Anglo-Italian is Bernie Ecclestone and not Chiti, so, the people from Alfa must undergo choices and decisions that they don't approve of. Chiti let it slip recently that in a year we will see an Alfa Romeo all italian. Then, there have been steps back, almost for the fear of having said too many things or too early. There are contracts, partnerships and questions of funding. We understand everything, but the Milanese brand, because it’s not a small team, has the duty to talk clearly and early. And its dirigeants have to convince themselves that a season at the top of Formula 1 is worth more than hundred Sport championships. The adventure, with the possible delusions and disappointments, deserves to be lived. It doesn’t show up, maybe, exactly the Ferrari? For the Alfa Romeo now there are still three races remaining: there won’t be anymore title problems, but eventually the comeback of some important rivals. At Le Castellet, Sunday, July 24, 1977, in fact, both Porsche and Renault should be back on track. Let’s hope that these news match the reality and that we’ll finally see a fun race under all aspects.

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Saturday, July 16, 1977 took place at Silverstone the British Grand Prix, tenth stage of the Formula 1 World Championship. In the week before the event, Wednesday 6 and Thursday, July 7 1977 are held the unofficial practices at Silverstone, which take in only the teams and the drivers most important. The British Grand Prix is taking place on the circuit of Silverstone. Despite the race starting at 3pm, the activities of the weekend starts Wednesday, July 6 1977 when the Formula One Constructors’ Association occupied Silverstone for a day of preparation tests for the official practices that were going to start on Thursday, 14 July 1977. Confirming his exceptional moment of form, the Italian-American Mario Andretti marks the best time on the first session of unofficial practises at Silverstone; in addition, with the time of 1’18’’54, Andretti has also beaten the record of the track that used to belong to the brit James Hunt, who scores the second fastest time of 1’19’’03. The third time is signed by Niki Lauda’s Ferrari of 1’19’’22. Amazing and fortunately without consequences the incident occured to Jody Scheckter who broke the rear wing of his Wolf while driving at 200 km/h. The South African, after a series of spins, can stop the car right in the middle of the track. Unlucky is the session of Jean Pierre Jabouille: the engine of his Renault-turbo broke after a few laps, preventing him from continuing. The next day, Thursday, July 7 1977, at the end of the two sessions, Mario Andretti makes the best lap in 1’18’’54 with the Lotus 78, with Watson (Brabham-Alfa Romeo), Hunt (McLaren M26/2) and Lauda (Ferrari) within 0.5 seconds or more. Everything is not official and, rigorously, at closed doors for the club Ecclestone-Mosley, even if strangely also the team Renault-Sport, racing section of Regie Renault, takes part in the tests.

 

Obviously lots of people are around the Renault that mounts a turbo engine ½ liters V6 with Michelin tyres; however, this fashion show won’t last long, considering that during the tests the engine broke. Despite this, Jean Pierre Jabouille managed to score his best lap in 1’21’’0, a remarkable time. Waiting for the official practices to start, in the paddock, people talk about the fact, that seems confirmed, that from the 1978  Argentine Grand Prix, first race of the World Championship of the next season, a new car will hit the track. It will be the first Alfa Romeo to use its own engine of 12 cylinders, now used by team Brabham sponsored by Martini. In this way, the two cars of Bernie Ecclestone now racing, driven by the Irish John Watson and the German Joachim-Hans Stuck, will continue to use this 12 cylinders boxer engine until the end of this season. Then, from January, Brabham will have to search for a new engine supplier, while Alfa Romeo will have to deal with its own car. The problems continue for the new Renault’s car. After the long speculations on the possibilities of a debut at the French Grand Prix (with four local drivers on track and two cars entirely), at the last minute it was announced the withdrawal from the race because the car wasn’t entirely ready. It has been then announced that it was almost sure that the first race would have been the British one, even if the manager, Gerard Larrousse, wasn’t so sure. Nonetheless on Thursday, July 7, 1977 the team Renault announced publicly that its new car will debut at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone.

 

After having studied all weekend the causes of the engine failures of the French vehicle during the first day of private tests, the decision to participate in the Grand Prix has been taken. Even if the problem seems solved, this first Grand Prix where Renault will kick off will be considered as an experiment from the management of the French manufacturer. Logically it was considered to start to relieve the eagerness of the driver Jabouille and of the mechanics. Even though it didn’t show any requests for the Formula One Constructors Association, the French company has been offered a place in the association. Thus, Jabouille hasn’t to take part of the session of special tests for the qualifying reserved to the drivers not classified that want to take part of the race. Renault will take it part regularly at the first practices on Thursday and, if it qualifies in the twenty.six fastest car of the thirty entrants, it will attend the British Grand Prix. Renault's presence, that has Michelin tyres, probably will cause (even before knowing if they will have success or not) an answer from Goodyear, the only brand that so far have provided tyres to the Formula 1 cars. Alongside word comes that Arturo Merzario is building his own car that hopes to be ready for the Italian Grand Prix that will be held in Monza in September. The works - at the hands of Merzario - started immediately after the Monaco Grand Prix. The type of engine that will be fitted on the car hasn’t been announced yet, but Merzario hopes to get a twelve-cylinder Alfa Romeo. The twelve-cylinders engine, in the case if the Italian manufacturer terminates the exclusive agreement with Brabham, it will be used in the car of the Italian driver, which will be branded with the name ‘Merzario’. For many participants of the Formula One World Championship, the main difficulty of this season is represented by the tyres’ usage.

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The American company Goodyear, suppliers of tyres, doesn’t want to assume its responsibilities for the poor performances of the cars and has provided to the participants of the British Grand Prix a total of 140 tyres of seven different typology - or tyres compositions - to make to the teams possible to do every kind of test. Suffice it to say that Ferrari, during the tests of Silverstone, had at his disposal the tyres that it would use during the twenty-two Grand Prizes. This doesn’t mean, obviously, that the team of Maranello has used all of them. The German driver Hans Heyer made his debut at the German Grand Prix of Formula 1, which was held on Sunday, July 31, 1977 on the circuit of Hockenheim. Heyer is a former Gran Tourism European Champion and has a great experience in Formula 2. The team leader for the Grand Prix of Formula 1 will be the French driver Jean-Pierre Jarier. Even if it has been reported that Heyer will drive for B.R.M., it’s more logical that, since his team bossi is Jean-Pierre Jarier and drives for the team ATS-Penske, is one of the models that the German driver will use for his planned entry in Formula 1. Finally, news reaches that the Argentinian driver Carlos Reutemann is going to stay in Ferrari in 1978 and his contract will be definitely renewed the upcoming September, when Enzo Ferrari will decide his future program. The news comes from sources close to Maranello and coincides with the statements given by the engineer Roberto Nosetto, Sporting Director of Scuderia Ferrari. Nosetto affirms that Enzo Ferrari is really satisfied about the hiring of Reutemann, who has done with a great devotion and professional precision of his job.

 

The problems that have affected the French Grand Prix, by the presence of a number of cars higher than the one that the French organizers were initially willing to admit (with the support of the rules established by the CSI), will be multiplied during the British Grand Prix. If in Dijon, after a last-minute agreement - as far as questionable - have been accepted by all those who submitted the application by time (with the exception of the Spaniard Emilio de Villota and of the Swiss-born Loris van Kessel, that, for administrative mistakes, have submitted the apply after the deadline), at Silverstone the solution is really different and much more logical. For the first time in the history of the actual Formula 1, the number of participants of a race of the World Championship have risen to forty-one, between the drivers from factory or private teams. They will battle to conquer one of the twenty-six places of the race. Forty-one drivers in a Grand Prix is a sign, in a side, that that wellbeing of Formula 1 is excellent despite the mistakes and the failures made - the race of Dijon is not an exception - so far in this season and in the previous ones; an absolute challenge that the money invested in this formula, the prices of which are increasing, it’s profitable from the advertising point of view. Otherwise nobody would be able to explain the reason for this high number of requests and because some of them continue to keep going despite the repeated failures. And in this need to be recognised the merit of an excellent racing driver, son of a sports journalist - journalist himself - Jacky Ickx. The Belgian driver has recently launched an idea that has lots of logic and smart thinking: why don’t split the Formula One World Championship in two groups or categories?

 

One, the League A, and the other, the League B. To ensure that a Formula 1 race has a certain interest, it is necessary to have a certain number of cars on track; a number too low of cars makes the race less interesting; an excessive number of cars can obstaculate the performance of the race. Twenty or twenty-two cars seems the right limit which can be attractive and at the same time the maximum safety of everyone. The idea of Ickx is therefore the one to permit the best twenty-two (or twenty-three, if necessary, because now there are more applications from the Formula One Constructors Association) of taking part at the World Championship A, that would be identical to the one underway. The others, all those new drivers that want to reach Formula 1 and that sometimes find themselves to fight with the best ones without experience, could take part in the World Championship B. There, the new models could be tested. The same it would be for the non-championship Grand Prizes because the Formula 1 it’s already full. In the interest of everybody, it should create a promotion system and control demotion between the two categories. As a proposed solution, to avoid problems of participants to which is denied the registration or the possibility to take part of the race or for who is doomed, without remission, to not qualify or to race in the back, far from the first positions, the triumph and the promotion seems a sober reason. For sure many of them that now hope to get a place on the starting grid would be interested to join the League B. Sure, the idea wasn’t born from CSI and so nobody accepts that this organism, always more hostile and isolated, will welcome it with sympathy, but this is another conversation; the money or the interests - or more simply the sympathy or the antipathy - can make an idea so logical, unrealizable. But there’s not anybody who can deny the opportunity or the reason for that great driver that answers to the name of Jacky Ickx.

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Wednesday, July 13 Formula 1 Circus restarts to move, since the RAC invites all the people that are not part of the Formula One Constructors Association at Silverstone, to try to qualify and receive the permission to take part in the qualifying for the British Grand Prix. The members of the Formula One Constructors Association can’t take part on this day of tests, while those who are not in the association will gain access to two sessions of an hour and a half to qualify for the Grand Prix. Firstly twenty-three applications are accepted, to which are added the five best drivers of these special practices. From the seventeen drivers that should take part of the two sessions of practice three participants don’t show up and from the remaining fourteen, two eliminate themselves because of accidents along the way, one of minor damage and the other instead, very serious. Mikko Kozarowitsky (RAM driver) demolishes his car in the exit, without however bring relevant physical damages; David Purley, because of lock of the throttle of his LEC, he entirely cut the Becketts turn and goes from 170 to 0 km/h in seventy centimeters: a deceleration close to 180 G, that will cost him a few fractures and several months of hospitalization. The rescuers employ fifteen minutes to release the driver from the sheets of his single-seater. The fourteen drivers that take part to the sessions of practice are Tambay (Ensing), de Villota (McLaren), Nève (March), Lunger (McLaren), Purley (McLaren), Villeneuve (McLaren), Kozarowitsky (March), Merzario (Penske), Edwards (B.R.M.), Sutcliffe (March), Trimmer (Surtees), McGuire (McGuire), Henton (March) and Jarier (Penske).

 

From the original list therefore they lack Rabaque (Hesketh), because of problems with his team, Hayle (March), Prophet (Surtees) and Bell (Penske), while Andersson’s seat's taken - in the team B.R.M. - by Edwards. It’s astonishing that the fastest time it’s made by the young Canadian Gilles Villeneuve, that he’s making his Formula 1 debut and he’s the fastest, affirming the optimistic exceptions about him, and on the fact that Merzario and Nève, two experienced drivers that had showed in other races to match the bests of the second group, didn’t reached their goal. Naturally, the performances of four of the five drivers qualified can be considered normal, with the exception of Villeneuve, who has almost imposed himself. However, there’s still a lot of talk on the exact number of cars that will take part to the practice; even if the organizers (completely submerged by journalists and media) claim that there will be just twenty-eight cars, the Formula One Constructors Association is invited to accept the presence of thirty participants. This could permit Merzario and Nève to enter, while Villota would be excluded anyway. Following Ertl’s absence, only twenty-two cars relied on the association of constructors that, with the five drivers admitted from the pre-qualifying, would take to twenty-seven the number of drivers admitted to the qualifying. For this reason Arturo Merzario and Patrick Nève are readmitted. From the second session of Thursday also Emilio de Villota is readmitted, in order to reach the number of thirty drivers participants of the practices for the determination of the starting grid. Basically, from the twelve competitors remaining just seven are competitive and close in the times, costringing the RAC directors to call Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One Constructors Association boss, to ask him to admit all the seven best drivers of the practices of the British Grand Prix, and not only the best five, to practices with the experienced drivers during the Thursday.

 

Ecclestone accepted, and the seven drivers were admitted to the applications of the British Grand Prix. From these outstanding figures Gilles Villeneuve, a young Canadian driver that records the fastest time of these practices of 1’19"48 aboard a McLaren M23. The other members are Tabbay, Jarier, Lunger, Henton, Merzario and Nève. The morning of Thursday, July 14 1977 was sunny but fresh when the drivers were preparing on time to take part in the first session of practices, as is customary for the members of the constructors association. Some of the drivers that have done practice the previous day, instead, have already run one hundred laps and now they have to restart, since the recorded times on Wednesday don't count as official practices. In addition, being able to use the unofficial Goodyear tyres, gaining at least a second per lap, the drivers who have contended the application need to show their real value. In fact, all the seven drivers have been capable of scoring times less than the limit of 1’20"00. Thursday, instead, the rules must be respected, and this applies to all (except for team Renault, that uses Michelin tyres); but the results don't change. A few drivers already signed can be faster than the drivers that had taken part to the practices of the following day, being still filled by the adrenaline after the activities of Wednesday, even if a second slower because of the regulation tyres, remain faster than drivers like Reutemann, Mass, Patrese, Regazzoni and Fittipaldi. While everyone waited that Mario Andretti called the pace with his Lotus 78, the majority of the people underrated James Hunt with the McLaren M26.

 

The competitiveness of the team based in Colnbrook emerges with its new car, at least for James Hunt, now that Jochen Mass drives a M26. In the hour and half morning session, Hunt recorded the fastest lap of 1’18"99, repeating himself also in the afternoon session with a time of 1’18"49. In the meanwhile Mario Andretti is in trouble: the morning passes discretely well, but in the afternoon the Italian-American driver find in front of him Vittorio Brambilla, victim of a moment of defaillance, so to avoid his Surtees, the Lotus’ driver finishes his run in the fields and there is no way to get it out without the help of the soccoritors. Gunnar Nilsson stops to give a lift to the box to his team-mate, while Team Lotus prepares the reserve car. But the Italian-American driver will be able to do just a couple of laps before his transmission brakes. The mechanics of Lotus, in the meanwhile, recover the 78/3 that is damaged just on the surface, even if land and grass appear from strange sides. Andretti continues to take part in the practices but the rhythm to get to a fast lap is slowed down by the continuous problems. In the box alongside, team Wolf doesn’t proceed in the wanted way, while in the box of Scuderia Ferrari the things seems go well for Niki Lauda, that scores a sign of 1’18"93, second only to the time of James Hunt; these two are still the only ones to go down to the limit of 1’19"0. The time that approaches more to the one of the two leading drivers is Jody Scheckter, who with his Wolf marks a time of 1’19"05. Despite all the problems, Mario Andretti scored a time of 1’19"11 right before the end of the practices.

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At the end of the first day of practice, we can say that Niki Lauda wants to fight James Hunt on the favorite track of the reigning World Champion. The British driver, aboard his McLaren obtains the best time on practice but the Ferrari of the Austrian keeps the pace, proving to be competitive on a fast circuit like Silverstone. The things could change maybe on Friday, after the last session of practices, maybe with the insertion of Watson, but it is undoubted that the power of the 12-cylinders engine of the car from Maranello will be heard.

 

"My car is going very well. We have changed the steering and I don’t have sealing problems anymore. We still have to perfectionate some particulars. Tomorrow, though, I’m convinced that Lauda will try everything. On this very fast track his Ferrari seems not affected by the inconvenience they had in tracks most convoluted. It will be like coming back to the old times, to last year when we were fighting head-to-head for the title".

 

James Hunt hopes to be able to start to climb the stope. From the start of the season with the old McLaren M23 didn’t have so much luck. Also the arrival of the new M26 has been hard-working and the results haven’t come immediately like the English hoped. Only in Dijon, where he started from the first row and stayed on the lead for four laps, the reigning champion seems to be back on the levels of last year. But then, literally for steering problems, James Hunt had to slow down and he settled for third place. The results of the practices have another time highlighted the importance of tyres, shown by the difference registered between identical cars. This would explain the gap between the McLaren of Hunt and the one of Mass and between the Ferraris of Lauda and Reutemann, classified just twenty-first. The Argentinian driver of Ferrari wanted to assemble, on his new car, tyres harder than usual and the technicians have worked a lot to adapt suspensions and aerodynamics. Despite the hard work, Reutemann doesn’t manage to be close to the firsts (Hunt, Lauda, Scheckter, Andretti, Stuck) and he stayed in 1.5 seconds approximately from his team-mate. Friday the Argentinian should significantly improve his performances. In fact it’s predictable that a little of all the drivers try to modify their situation. Mario Andretti, who had an accident (he had found Brambilla sideways on the road and he couldn’t avoid finishing off track, damaging his Lotus) will find an aerodynamic solution that allows him to be faster on the straight line. Also Watson with the Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo will finish   to stay at least in front of his team-mate Hans Stuck. The fast British track on which it'll be contesting the tenth race of the Formula 1 World Championship reserves in the first day of official practices big surprises.

 

The times scored represent an authentic subversion compared to those recorded in the last Grand Prizes and particularly in Belgium, Sweden and France. James Hunt, with the McLaren M26, is the fastest with a lap of 1’1"49, followed by Niki Lauda with the Ferrari that had his clocked time of 1’18"93, obtained in the afternoon, in the second session of training. The British and the Austrian are the only two drivers to go under the time of 1’19"0, with times that constitute a remarkable progress compared to the track record who was in possession of Clay Regazzoni, who two years ago had brought the limit to 1’20"09 with the Ferrari. It should be noted the average of Hunt: 216.390 km/h. Behind the reigning champion and Lauda are inserted in the order Scheckter (Wolf), Andretti (Lotus), Stuck (Martini Brabham Alfa), Nilsson (Lotus), Jones (Shadow), Keegan (Hesketh), Watson (Brabham), Merzario (March) and Peterson (Tyrrell). Reutemann, who had clutch problems, beside grip is at twenty-first place. The current situation, naturally, could change Friday and Saturday during the race, both for a different behavior of the cars, both for uncertain weather conditions, that is a tradition of this circuit. By the way, the times done on Thursday allow us to make some considerations: the best cars of Formula 1 like Ferrari, McLaren, Wolf, Brabham Martini and Lotus, are never a long way off each other in terms of performances. The technicians of Ferrari have, however, shown to have gained some results on the attempt to adapt the car to the conditions created by the new tyres. All the teams go ahead with the experiments. Just to make an example, the relatively poor times of Watson have been caused by the kind of rear tyres very hard that they wanted to test. Viceversa, the refounded competitiveness of McLaren it’s been attributed from Hunt to a steering modification.

 

"The steering box that we had ceded under stress, so we did a new one, more rigid which allows me to better control the car".

 

For his part the engineer Forghieri, technical director of Scuderia Ferrari, seems relaxed and satisfied about the obtained result.

 

"We continue to work without making controversies and we believe to obtain still good results".

 

Which modifications have been made to the Ferraris? All really little, like for example, the variations of the corners of the wings and naturally the suspension assets. What happens at Lotus? Something quite predictable, the car, really maneuverable in the mixed circuits, loses on speed here at Silverstone, where the turns are all really fast. Andretti goes out of the road at the turn Chapel apparently to not hurt a car that was sideways, but the fact is that the gap compared to Lauda is remarkable, and also the one of Nilsson with the same car. Good performance of Merzario, that records the thirteenth time. Saturday we will know lots of truths related to the merits of the cars in this track: practices over, starts the engine changes. Almost everyone will have new engines, thus even this factor will be held in a crucial way, together with the choice of the right tyres. The most sensible drivers have noticed that Goodyear tyres, even of the same type, are not all the same, but rather can have circumferences that vary by some centimeters for effect of the centrifugal force, causing imbalancing; from there a work to find the pairs of tyres identical to use tomorrow. From Northampton in the meanwhile, the news were quite good: the medical conditions of David Purley improved, the British driver was injured in a crash when he went out of track at over 230 km/h.

 

"He’s still severe but he’s improving slightly".

 

The nurse, of the hospital where the thirty-two-year-old is hospitalized, explained. The crash has been caused by the throttle got stuck thoroughly run. The brakes weren’t enough for Purley who went to overwhelm five consecutives barriers of metal mesh at the height of Beckett's turn Beckett. The car was damaged to the point that it took more than half an hour to release the driver. Purley is very popular and really loved in Great Britain, where millions of viewers were following from the television screens his heroic attempt to overthrow the burning car of his friend and colleague Roger Williamson, after an accident at the Dutch Grand Prix some years ago. In the meanwhile, the volcanic mind of Bernie Ecclestone produces a new invention: the British manager proposes what he calls an old idea of two years ago, that is the creation of a formula of race limited exclusively to cars with Ford Cosworth 8V engines, with power limited to around 370 horsepower. Says Ecclestone joking and affirming that this new formula could interest not less than twenty drivers, for which it could be organized as a sort of european championship with ten races: it could be call Formula 0.8.

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Friday, July 15 1977, during the morning we proceed with the practice program, that includes an hour and a half of practice not cronometrated and later the last hour where there’s the qualifying to allow a good spot in the starting grid; but in this case, however, just to twenty-six drivers will be allowed to take part of the British Grand Prix. This means that four drivers are going to watch the Grand Prix instead of taking part in it. As it stands at the end of the day of practices of Thursday, Jabouille’s Renault didn’t qualify, like the Copersucar of Fittipaldi and Vern Schuppan, that he's still searching the right feeling with his new Surtees TS 19/07, since John Surtees has replaced his previous drivers that had run with his car sponsored by the condoms company Durex. The team Hesketh Motor Company has at disposal more cars than can be used, nevertheless Hector Rebaque and Harald Ertl have drained their funding and have to renounce the rental of these cars, unlike Rupert Keegan that will take part at the qualifying with the British cars. To replace the vacated seat of Ertl the organizers allows the Spanish Emilio de Villota to take part of the practices with his McLaren M23. With the three members of the Formula One Constructors Association not qualified even before starting the practices, the last hour of training becomes interesting. During the Thursday just Hunt and Lauda have managed to lower the limit bringing it under of 1’19’’0, but during the day also Watson with his reserve Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo, Scheckter with his Wolf-Cosworth and Nilsson with his Lotus-Cosworth succeed in the enterprise.

 

The young Gunnar Nilsson is very competitive; even in the absence of the personal attention of Colin Chapman, already busy with Andretti, the Swedish driver manages to score really interesting times, while his team-mate seems absolutely unable to be at ease, not having the manageability that he desires. At the end of the afternoon, the first driver of Lotus, Mario Andretti, stayed behind his brilliant team-mate Nilsson, in sixth place. John Watson marks the best time of the afternoon session, of 1’18"77, but he doesn’t manage to beat James Hunt’s time, done during the previous afternoon. Nevertheless, the British driver conquires a place in the first row, alongside the reigning champion. Following in third place Niki Lauda, determined with his Ferrari to conquer a good result despite the Austrian driver has recently declared that the 312 T2 is a car now obsolete, with Jody Scheckter aboard his Wolf will start next to the driver of the team of Maranello. In fifth and sixth position will start the two Lotus, which seems totally black, since the gold color of the sponsor John Player has been removed to give a bone to the Health Department of the British Government. In seventh and eighth position follows Hans-Joachim Stuck and Vittorio Brambilla. From ninth place, instead, will start a surprise the young Canadian driver Gilles Villeneuve, on board of an affiliated McLaren-Cosworth, a part of the separate organization from the principal factor, that is behind Hund and Mass. The Canadian driver qualified with a time of of 1’19"32 on his first Formula 1 event.

 

For this reason, the young driver of McLaren not only deserves a big recognition for the effort, but also earned the attention of the paddock staff and some disinterested glimpse. Carlos Reutemann started from the fourteenth position, followed a short distance from Jacques Laffite, since none of the two drivers managed to find the right pace on the high speed corners of the circuit of Silverstone. Is instead surprising the performance of Rupert Keegan, since usually the British driver manages to qualify in the lower positions of the grid and instead at Silverstone he manages to score the thirteenth best time, and of Patrick Tambay with the brand-new Ensign MN08, built for the Theodor Racing of Hong Kong for Teddy Yip’s, that will start from the sixteenth position. From the twenty-first position will start the Renault Turbo of Jean-Pierre Jabouille, while the promising Riccardo Patrese will start from twenty-fifth with his new Shadow DN8. Alex-Dias Ribeiro is once again the first driver to not qualify, while an engine problem doesn’t permit to Brian Henton to protect his position, and the British driver drops in twenty-eight position. Nobody expected that de Villota could have a good time, but the biggest surprise has been for sure the absence of Clay Regazzoni, who didn't manage to qualify his Ensign-Ford-Cosworth. There’s not something in particular that doesn’t work, but like happened to Reutemann and Laffite, the Swiss driver doesn’t have a good rhythm e so, for a time, the Chasetown’s team will sit down and take a tea while the other participants will race.

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On the home track, James Hunt confirms to be in net recovery and has taken his fourth pole position of the season.

 

"I’m happy about the obtained performance, that confirms the good level reached by my new McLaren. Pity that these results arrived with some Grand Prizes of delay, because if I had succeeded to grow before the M26 now I’ll be in the fight for the World Championship. Now, for the title, I have just a little hope but certainly I won’t be among the bests in the next races".

 

In the team Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo, after the disappointment suffered in Dijon, it comes back to hope. Watson once again on the first row, hopes that tomorrow will be the good one for the victory.

 

"I had some problems, because the set-up of the car wasn’t ok. I’ve preferred then to use the forklift, which instead proved to be perfectly efficient. Tomorrow I’ll run with this car and I hope to get the success that I have been chasing since the first race".

 

Satisfied also the engineer Chiti:

 

"I’m really happy for Watson that showed to have passed the shock undergone on Wednesday when the crash occurred to his close friend Purley. His mediocre time yesterday was probably due to this fact and the current performance confirms".

 

Confident are also the managers of team Ferrari. States in this regard the engineer Nosetto, Sporting Director of Scuderia Ferrari:

 

"The intense job of the last weeks gave its first results, at least for Lauda who obtained the third time. Still some problems instead for Reutemann, who lamented poor grip and for this reason he’s been the author of two spins. The Argentinian remains to be praised for his usual commitment and the willingness proven. Tomorrow the race will be wide open and we have with Niki, that is among the first, some cards to play".

 

Even Vittorio Brambilla tomorrow has good possibilities to get a good result.

 

"The car works well, even if in some turns I still have some grip problems. I’m satisfied though and I hope to arrive among the first six tomorrow".

 

James Hunt is the man to beat in the tenth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. Tomorrow the British will start in first position with his McLaren, he will be advantaged from the perfect knowledge of the very fast track and will have the car that seems more competitive on the long straights of Silverstone. It won’t be easy homework for the World Champion: next to him there’ll be John Watson with his Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo and behind him Niki Lauda and the Ferrari. Two cars driven by powerful engines against one that has a powertrain less fractionated. The last session of practices for the British Grand Prix hasn’t modified the situation created on Thursday: almost all the drivers have improved their times but from the ones that hadn’t done it there are Hunt, Andretti and Stuck, while a progress there’s been for the respectives team-mates; Mass with the McLaren, Nilsson with the Lotus and Watson with the Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo. Despite he was committed at the maximum, however, John Watson didn’t managed to tear the pole position to Hunt, that had already earned it in the previous practices, with a time of 1’18"49 that was e remains exceptional; 0.028 seconds separe him to Watson and only 0.07 seconds, a blow, divide the latter by Niki Lauda, that seems to have found his Ferrari, if not full competitiveness, at least for the road to arrive.

 

John Watson cared a lot about its privileged position, which offers lots of advantages even on this track. His second absolute time allows him to start on the front row: engine problems, even if not serious, delayed him in the morning, and in the afternoon he had to use a car older and heavier. The weather definitely hot has created some issues with the development of the engines, in addition to the difficulties due to the exasperated research of a winning solution to reach the highest speed possible of almost continuous straights connected by wide corners but also the gear ratios more appropriated. In the second row will start Niki Lauda, who continues the recovery operation of the 312 T2 and, next to him, Scheckter, who with the Wolf is always competitive; followed by the two Lotus of Nilsson and Andretti in third row. Reutemann didn’t manage in his attempt to find a personal setup for his Ferrari and he’s only in seventh row: in the eighth follow Laffite with Ligier, who couldn’t do much even if he’s a car that can really adapt to the fast circuit. As for the Italians, there will be three at the start: both Brambilla, Merzario and Patrese are classified. Brambilla has been particularly good, he’s in eighth position and he’s doing a good job with the Surtees; Merzario had issues with the gearbox, and Patrese complained about the poor aerodynamic efficiency of the car.

 

Also the solution of the supercharged Renault engine is complicated, but after the first difficulties has acted reasonably and all the team and Jabouille hope to finish the race, even if they admit that is a difficult task. But the solution of the turbocharger is destined to not remain only prerogative of Renault: in fact, Walter Wolf said that the next step in his climb to the supremacy of Formula 1 will be the one of build also an engine to not have depend more on others, as happens now; in fact, even if the performance of his car is always excellent, he doesn’t believe to get the best Cosworth engines so he decided to take the building of his own engine for next season. In that case, most likely, the type of powertrain would fall on the one with a turbocharger: seen as Wolf has made it so far in his programs, this possibility presents itself very interesting for the variety that will show on track. Fighting for tomorrow’s win, we find the leading men that have already taken the first places in the championship standings, Lauda, Andretti, Scheckter, along with those who, like Watson and Hunt, are climbing from their current positions. Hunt seems in good shape, but also Watson is no less, seeking of that affirmation that seems at hand but so far has escaped him. As for Lauda, he’s not to underrate, same for Scheckter. But it’s tradition that the British Grand Prix reserves surprises and so we wait for a thrilling race.

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Saturday, July 16 1977 the procedure of the entire entertainment day, that starts at 3:00 p.m, has been meticulously respected. The British Grand Prix will be held on a 68 laps distance of the high-speed circuit of Silverstone. Some drivers are more than happy of racing only 68 laps, since Jacques Laffite had already completed 123, without counting the two days of testing of the previous week and the hour and a half of Friday morning. The majority of the drivers has completed more than one hundred on the Silverstone track from the start of the event, like for example Brett Lunger that has completed 213 laps, Patrick Nève has concluded 207 and Gilles Villeneuve stopped at 169 laps. Obviously, the difference lies in the fact that now the goal is the one to cover all the 68 laps planned for the race as soon as possible and without stopping. Nevertheless, Saturday morning the organizers grant an additional window of practice of thirty minutes, before the quiet comes down in the paddock while all the drivers and the teams are preparing the start. John Watson decides to use the reserve Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo BT5/1B instead of the latest, because he feels more comfortable with this kind of car, despite the extra weight. Jacques Laffite chose the recent one between the two Ligier-Matra, even if he doesn’t feel comfortable with both. The McLaren team is more than satisfied with the new M26, and the Hesketh Group gives to Rupert Keegan the 308E/3, previously driven by Rebaque. At last minute Patrick Depailler confuses even more the team Tyrrell trying the reserve car not modified, but decides finally to take part of the race with his usual P34/7. The team Wolf, as perfectly planned, uses the WR1, and the team ATS uses the Penske PC4/02, as planned. Colin Chapman decides to install a different engine in Andretti’s car, replacing the development engine of Ford-Cosworth, while James Hunt and Ronnie Peterson will take part in the race with a special engine.

 

During the lunch-pause lots of mechanics make tests of tyre replacements and in the meanwhile the sky becomes gray with a threatening-looking, while the crowd of 80.000 paying spectators flock along the 4.719 kilometers’ circuit. Shortly after the cars are taken out of the boxes to be arranged on the starting grid, while the reserve single-seaters of Hunt, Watson and Lauda are pushed towards the pit lane exit, if necessary at the last minute. After having made the warm-up, Gunnar Nilsson goes back to the boxes to make a last modification to the injector, then he makes another lap and aligns with the other twenty-five participants, with the last rows that will start at the level of the escape zone of the Woodcote chicane. After having started the engine, James Hunt leads the group and makes the formation lap. Very neatly, the drivers pass under the Daily Express bridge, passing the Woodcote and taking place on the starting grid. The red light turns on, the roar of the engines rises and the green light is waited to give the starting signal to the twenty-six drivers. The red Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo of Watson immediately takes the lead of the race, with Lauda and Scheckter behind him. During the start Hunt hesitates, therefore the order at the end of the first laps sees Watson on the lead, followed by Lauda, Scheckter, Hunt, Nilsson, Andretti, Villeneuve and Mass. Only twenty-five are the cars that complete the first lap, given that Rupert Keegan was victim, with his Hesketh of an accident even before completing just half of the first lap. At the third lap also Ronnie Peterson’s Tyrrell stops, because of a failure of the Cosworth engine and also the new Ensign of Tambay turns off in the middle of Woodcote chicane because of electric issues. At this point the group stabilizes, and sees John Watson in command, followed by Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter and James Hunt busy in his own comeback.

 

Following Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson, after that between the two Lotus drivers the positions have been inverted, while the young Villeneuve maintains the pace of the more experienced drivers in a very confident way, followed by Mass, aboard the second McLaren M26. The second part of the group is driven by Brambilla, that precedes Laffite, Reutemann, Stuck, Merzario, Jones and Depailler. Followed Ian Scheckter aboard the March with Jarier and the turbo Renault of Jabouille behind him. To close the group there are Patrese, Fittipaldo, Lunger and Schuppan. James Hunt, clearly not happy to have to follow Scheckter, especially since Watson and Lauda are creating a gap, manages to overtake the Wolf during the seventh lap and starts his run to Niki Lauda’s Ferrari. In the meanwhile Carlos Reutemann arrives at Woodcote with just the rear brakes working and ends up spinning his Ferrari, swerving without hitting anything. The Argentinian driver must, however, wait for all the participants to pass before being able to return to the race. At the end of the next lap Reutemann comes to the pits and the mechanics discover that a pipe of the front brake is broken. This one it’s replaced and the tank of the braking system is refilled. Five laps later, the Argentinian driver, really upset, will come back to the race. Ten laps have passed since Hunt has left behind Scheckter, Andretti and Nilsson and is fast approaching Watson and Lauda. Always stable at the seventh place, Gilles Villeneuve lose a little bit of gap compared to the firsts but nevertheless his Formula 1 debut is astonishing, considering that he’s still in front of the more expert Jochen Mass. This until the water-temperature indicator begins to point upwards, instead of downwards. Given that the young Canadian driver has done during the first laps a short trip on the grass around the circuit, he thinks to have damaged something in the hydraulic system. For this, at the end of the first ten laps, Villeneuve leaves Mass in seventh place and heads to the pits.

 

While the mechanics check the car, the young Canadian undoes the belts and exits from the vehicle thinking that his race is over, but the mechanics conclude that there’s nothing broken and that it is only a valve problem. Time to go back in the car, fasten his seatbelts and come back on track, the Canadian loses two laps and finds himself in front of the group composed of Scheckter, Andretti and Nilsson. The race reaps another victim when Jabouille takes to the pits his Renault with the damaged collector of extraction, after a very short race of just twelve laps. In the boxes the Renault’s mechanics make a fast reparation and then Jabouille can re-enter the competition. But at this point, the team and the French driver's goal was to make more laps possible. Jabouille’s race, however, lasts just another five laps before the turbocompressor brokes definitely. In the meanwhile, slowly, but constantly, Hunt reaches Lauda, driving in a hard and determined way. After seventeen laps, the British driver is in less than 0.5 seconds from the Ferrari, while Watson has an advantage of 0.75 seconds compared to the car of the Austrian driver. This trio proceeds in unison, while between them and the trio of drivers that follows there is Villeneuve. Scheckter approaches the Canadian driver, that moves to make pass all the three pursuers at the same time, putting himself in the queue and restarting to drive at the same rhythm. During the sixteenth lap Patrick Depailler is forced to retire, since the brakes of his car with six wheels suddenly stop working and the French driver finishes his race demolishing the front part of his P34/7. Four laps later also Riccardo Patrese stops with his Shadow, because of a lack of pressure of the carburetion.

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During the twenty-third lap, while Hunt and Lauda are busy with the braking that precedes the chicane, the British driver overtakes the Austrian, taking himself in second position. Therefore, Hunt moves away from Lauda and approaches John Watson. The McLaren M26 appears really competitive, and the British driver is in his best form. The gap of Watson of three seconds immediately disappears and it reduces in little time in just one second, that means that Hunt can study all the details of the rear of the Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo, before trying an eventual overtake. In the meanwhile, Scheckter, Andretti and Nilsson don’t impede themselves, while Jochen Mass continues his race lonely in seventh position. Vittorio Brambilla is followed by Laffite and Stuck, while the determined Merzario retires during the twenty-eight lap with the transmission broken because of a joint. In the back, Alan Jones doesn’t manage to recover the gap lost at the start of the race, when a wrong gear change slowed him down. The Australian driver is followed by Jarier and Fittipaldi, while Nève and Schuppan have already been lapped. In the process Brett Lunger is forced to stop in the pits to change the ignition unity and he’s far behind compared to the others, same as Reutemann. Halfway through the race, the distance of Watson’s Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo and Hunt’s McLaren is 1.05 seconds. Like already happened to Andretti in Dijon, also Hunt discovers that in the drive and tactics of John Watson there aren’t weaknesses: the only hope for the McLaren driver of taking the lead of the race is that the compatriot could be betrayed by his car reliability. For four laps Hunt takes his car to the same high of Watson’s one when he reaches the braking point of the chicane, but in Watson’s style guide there aren't any mistakes and the fellow-countryman can’t find openings. For this, the reigning World Champion is forced to step back for a few moments from the car that precedes him, to make the mechanic of his McLaren breath. Then, at the end of lap forty-four, James Hunt focuses and with majestic drop tries to take the first position from John Watson.

 

The two cars are wheel-to-wheel and seem to touch each other while the drivers stay ready to activate the brakes but Watson is not intimidated, he’s brave, and doesn’t give a centimeter to his rival. In the meanwhile Niki Lauda procedes his run in third position, but he’s delayed compared to the first two, since also his lack of confidence with the brakes of his Ferrari that don’t work like expected. The Austrian driver advances with caution, to the point that for a moment he’s even overtaken by Scheckter, but then immediately takes back the third position. At lap fifty of the sixty-eight planned, the fuel pressure of the Alfa Romeo engine of the Martini-Brabham of Watson suddenly falls and Hunt finds himself leading the race while the unlucky connational driver goes to the pits. In the vain hope to find a solution, some fuel is added in the Brabham’s tank and Watson returns on track, now on twelfth position; but this desperate operation seems vain, and after another two laps Watson is forced to come back to the pits and retire the car from the race, losing like this another triumph opportunity without having done any mistakes. At this point of the race, James Hunt finds himself totally undisputed at the head of the race, and relieved from the signals from the McLaren box he relaxes waiting for a comfy win in his home Grand Prix. In the meanwhile, Jody Scheckter increases his gap from the two Lotus, since Mario Andretti’s engine is not extremely competitive and Gunnar Nilsson doesn’t want to overtake his team-mate. During the lap fifty-three, by the way, the Swedish driver decides to break the tie and overtakes his team-mate, determined to recover the distance that separates him from Jody Scheckter and eventually overtake him. While Andretti’s engine weakens and the Italian-American driver continues to lose ground, Nilsson is close to Scheckter that, in turn, warned of the Swedish driver's comeback, does the fastest lap in the race at the end of lap fifty-nine. At the start of lap sixty, Scheckter’s Cosworth engine sells the effort, and the Southafrican driver is forced to stop, leaving Nilsson in third place. The Swedish però, not satisfied, after having reduced the gap from Jody Scheckter, starts to execute the same thing with Niki Lauda.

 

Andretti’s engine sells permanently in the lap sixty-two, while the Italian-American driver goes under the Daily Express bridge, when there are just five laps remaining, spraying oil, water and smoke from the rear of the car. The Lotus driver stops in the escape route of the chicane, managing to keep the disaster out of the racing line. While Andretti jumps out of his Lotus, Nilsson is always faster and always more engaged in the pursuit of Lauda’s Ferrari. At the end of the sixty-eight laps planned, an happy James Hunt crosses the finish line and wins the British Grand Prix. Gunnar Nilsson scores his fastest lap and finishes, fighting, in third place, to just a second from Niki Lauda’s Ferrari. Jochen Mass finishes on his own in fourth position, while Hans-Joachim Stuck subtracts the fifth place to Jacques Laffite, who ends sixth, with the McLaren of James Hunt in between who was busy to complete the lapping of the two drivers. Alan Jones concludes the race in seventh position, followed by Vittorio Brambilla, who recriminates a lost fifth position cause of a flat tyre, forcing him to stop to the pits to make a tyre change, Jean-Pierre Jarier, that has disputed a race without stops finishing in ninth position and Nève. Gilles Villeneuve ends his first race career in eleventh position, a result that doesn’t reflect the calm and secure way he has driven, but it’s for sure to consider him the man of the weekend. And not for nothing, at the end of race, he receives the Driver of the day’s trophy, for his run as a gritty and tenacious rookie. Vern Schuppan, Lunger and Reutemann close the group. James Hunt arrives at the finish line in an hour, 31 minutes and 46.06 seconds, dissipating thus the thoughts of people about the fact that the British driver had lost his best shape this season. The work of McLaren with the M26 finally manages to collect a reward. Tra l’altro, while putting pressure on Watson, Hunt does also the fastest lap of the race in 1’19"6, beating the best lap of the fellow-countryman that was of 1’19’’63 seconds; a minimum difference, but not for this less important. In Formula 1 it’s always about being fast for a question of thousandths of a second.

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It’s been the day of the two 1976 rivals: James Hunt and Niki Lauda. The first one has one, closing perhaps a long negative period, while the Austrian, with the second place, has gained other points for the Formula 1 World Championship. Important points, because, simultaneously, Mario Andretti and Jody Scheckter had to retire. So, Lauda strengthens his leading position in the championship standings and the Ferrari can return to hope. It’s a fun situation. The 312 T2 is not the most competitive single-seater, criticisms and controversies have surrounded the men of Maranello, and yet Lauda is in front and takes, race per race, podium and points. But a little the inability to gain from Ferrari’s issues by the most dangerous rivals, a little help of the luck and, mostly, the tenant of technicians and drivers are making a miracle, or almost. another consideration must be done. In the races you win o, at least, you run in the very first positions when the performance is unit with the reliability, that is the hold of the distance of the car. Andretti’s Lotus and Scheckter’s Wolf have broken the engine, the Brabham-Alfa Romeo of Watson ceded for problems with electric petrol pumps. Especially, this latter, that reproposes the perplexities of the expertise of mechanics with the British team in finalizing the cars. It’s useless and demeaning in first place for who provides Brabham excellent engines: Alfa Romeo, for a reason or another, is unable to find the street of success in Formula 1 (although in co-ownership with Brabham). If Hunt has done a good race, showing to be capable of taking McLaren back to a good level of competitiveness, Lauda has disputed an exemplary race. The Austrian, like always, has driven with intelligence, letting the rivals vent, juggling with a car that had some issues with the front brakes. It’s seen and appreciated more the value of Niki now than in 1975 or 1976, when everything was easy and safe. Of course, now it makes you wonder: if Lauda and Ferrari didn’t have all the struggles that we know, where would they be at this point of the World Championship? The dream of John Watson and all the Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo’s technicians to conquer the first success, has lasted this time just fifty-one laps. Somber in expression, in the post-race, the Irish rails against the misfortune:

 

"I’ve been betrayed by alimentation issues. I don't know what happened exactly but the fuel couldn’t get in the engine regularly. I’m really sorry, because this time I had the feeling I could make it".

 

He’s echoed by the engineer Carlo Chiti, who with disconsolate air adds:

 

"The tank float has broken. As a result, the fuel contained couldn't be drawn and for this the engine was not getting enough fuel".

 

Not too far, James Hunt is radiant:

 

"I’m happy, I expected this win, because I felt that today was the right day. I don’t believe that I could overtake Watson, who was faster than me in the straights. I had some difficulties at the start with the clutch that hasn’t worked properly. Like I had predicted yesterday, with these nine points I repurchase some chances for the title"-

 

Then Teddy Mayer, manager of McLaren adds:

 

"The car is clearly improved, already from the free practices of this morning I got that our possibilities were good. If we’ll continue to improve to get positive results we could definitely insert ourselves in the championship fight".

 

Particularly please of the second place Niki Lauda, that happily accepts to comment his race:

 

"It’s a really precious placement because permis me to consolidate my position at the lead of the championship. My Ferrari had brakes issues that weren’t working correctly and for this reason I couldn’t maintain the rhythm of Watson. For the rest the car has answered well and this is a good symptom because the tracks that will host the next Grand Prizes are mainly fast and for this reason we’ll have other good chances".

 

Lastly underlines the engineer Roberto Nosetto, Scuderia Ferrari’s Sporting Director:

 

"It’s been a positive day for us, in particular if we consider that Niki has had braking issues on a fast track like this constitute a real handicap".

 

Vittorio Brambilla, author of a good start, could have gotten some points if the bad luck wouldn’t force him in a fast but compromising pit stop.

 

"I punctured the rear right tyre when I was now underway to a good ending result. Without this inconvenience I would have finished in fourth or fifth place, instead in the finale I had to struggle once again because the same tyre was slumped".

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James Hunt, by winning the British Grand Prix and obtaining a success totally British (driver and car) that doesn’t repeat from Stirling Moss’ times, has made, on his way, tribute to Queen Elizabeth, who this year celebrates the twenty-fifth anniversary of regno. For this reason the race was named Jubilee Grand Prix. The electrifying success of Hunt has taken enthusiasm to the 80.000 spectators who were at Silverstone, who to see their favorite had percorred the last fifteen kilometers to reach the circuit inside of an exhausting queue. On this occasion, the proverbial composure of the British fans has been denied, since at the end of the race hundreds of fans have flooded the track thus giving rise to the first pacific invasione never seen in Great Britain. The fatigue of the race for Hunt was prolonged in McLaren’s van, stormed by dozens of journalists and television crews eager to interview the winner.

 

"I want to get drunk. I wanted this victory for two reasons: for myself, who in this season hadn’t gotten yet a first place; for my fans, that in the home track expected a prominent performance".

 

Did you have difficult moments during the race?

 

"Yes, on exactly two occasions I was afraid to not complete the race. The first moment was at the start, when the starter waited too long to give the start and my clutch subriscalded, at that moment I feared to stay al palo, but fortunately the car started and for the rest of the race I didn't have a problem with the clutch. The other scary moment I got twenty laps to go, when in the pits they showed me the signal that said to use the accelerator with parsimony maybe because the fuel wouldn’t have been enough until the end".

 

Without the problems that Watson had, could you overtake him?

 

"I am extremely sorry for John. He has driven a fantastic race and what happened to him was really cruel. I was behind him for lots of laps, I don’t think I could have passed him, if not during the overtakes to some lapped. Honestly, without these problems, Watson would have won the race".

 

With this success, do you think you will enter the championship fight?

 

"It’s early to say if I can maintain the title. Give me some days for the celebrations and then I’ll start to think about the German Grand Prix".

 

Who logically can’t give himself peace for this setback is John Watson.

 

"With this, are two races in a row that I could have won and that instead I didn’t win. It must be a period in which bad luck is focused on me. What else I can say, I have to think about working for the next race but, at this moment, I don’t even want to see my cars, and much less put myself in the driver’s seat".

 

Though not having shone, like happened in the latest practices, the slim single-seaters of Colin Chapman, made more sinister by the lack of the golden friezes for television filming’s reasons, had gained with Gunnar Nilsson a flattering third place.

 

"It’s been a hard race, because for lots of laps I’ve been in Andretti’s slipstream, that was losing oil from the first laps. I found myself with the visor full of oil and finishing the race in those conditions wasn’t for sure easy".

 

At the end of the race, particularly happy is also Jackie Stewart, because his pronostics about the first two classified had proved correct.

 

"Hunt has done a fantastic race, while Watson has been really unlucky. Hunt and his team have crossed a bad period and it happens to everyone after winning a title. It’s a period in which, despite the efforts, the results don’t come. The current win is, by the way, the first step towards recovery".

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The cars that have run the British Grand Prix have written on the tarmac of Silverstone things really clear for who wants to read them. First of all, the Ferrari 312 T2, that lots have give for dead, it’s still alive, to not talk about Niki Lauda: we know really well that the ifs and the buts in the race don’t count, and then it’s not the case to say if Lauda had the brakes alright, because it’s likely that Hunt would have gone stronger. Instead, both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo engines are proving to have an enviable reliability. The cases of engine failure are now rare. When the cars are lingered, they are for breakdowns or faulty assembly quite mundane. For example, Watson was about a fault in the older car, which has been forced to use for not being able to finish in time the development of the new one. In this latter the inconvenience of the gasoline draft pipe would have not manifested. Niki Lauda and his Ferrari 312 T2 are now at the top of the world standings because, even without the car at the maximum of its possibility, it holds a notable reliability that allows it to arrive while the others swift changes at the victory. In England the two Ferrari’s engines (and the two Alfa Romeos) have worked well. Instead, out of twenty Cosworth engines present, at least four have been for sure the cause of the stop of the car (Andretti, Scheckter, Peterson and Tambay) and also for the Patrese one is at least suspected. Like saying, a collapse from twenty to twenty-five percent. It’s clear that as long as they’re many, someone can win easily, but here comes the Ferrari, that maybe doesn’t win but is always close to the firsts. Obviously, the ones of the Maranello team were quite happy, but to whom stood there to hear Mauro Forghieri saying joking:

 

"Here is, you won’t write that the Lotus, so fantastic two weeks ago, now it’s worthless?"

 

Clear reference to some heavy criticism received from some haters of Ferrari events. Little, for now, can be said about Renault: the turbocompressor creates big problems with set-up. Said Gordini, the elderly technician transplanted in France, that in Formula 1 there are excessive pressure and temperature changes caused by the continued variations of speed and gear changes. Every variation corresponds to an expansion and a contraction of the metal. In Indianapolis, instead, the engine works with a power almost steady. Evidently with a bigger experience of racing the evil will be cured. After ten rounds, the Formula 1 World Championship maintains its beautiful uncertainty. No driver has emerged in a particular way, a lot of them can still hope to succeed. And, in this situation, there’s still those who dream (with real bases) a reunion at the top. It's the James Hunt case. The World Champion, after arriving second in Brazil and fourth in South Africa, has struck a really negative series, from which he came out in France taking the third place behind Andretti and Watson. His haul of points was thin, by the way he just had to win in Silverstone to be at 22 points, so behind the first four that were driving the World Championship standings for a while. At the top there’s Niki Lauda with 39 points, versus the 32 of Andretti and Scheckter and the 28 points of Reutemann. Lauda is in the lead thanks to Ferrari’s reliability, his class and his tenacity.

 

Andretti, with the Lotus, could have been in a better situation, but a story a bit unlucky took from him statements almost obvious. Scheckter, after the excellent start, completed by a fantastic win in Monaco, has declined with his Wolf, not doing anything good anymore. Finally, Reutemann, with the other Ferrari, has defended like Lauda. It’s clear that Lauda is in a more favorable situation: even if a few, seven points of advantage are a satisfying gap, in particular considering that has been reached during a period of technical decline of Ferrari. And the hopes increase for two reason: first, the 312 T2, thanks to the efforts of Lauda and Reutemann and of all the men of Maranello, seems to have refind a greater competitiveness; second, the circuits where will be held the next four races (Hockenheim, Zeltweg, Zandvoort and Monza) are fast, so more in favor to the characteristics or the Italian car and their powerful engine. In this perspective, good chances are offered to Brabham-Alfa Romeo. Also the Milanese engine, full of horsepower, should permit the British single-seaters higher performances. But Brabham’s problems were others. Of course, if Watson had more luck (and if, especially, they prepared the car better), some wins could arrive. In an indirect way - and maybe not required - to help Lauda, seeing that Watson has very few points in the championship.

 

Ludovica Dell'Aquila

 

Translated by Alessia Koua N'zi

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