#295 1977 United States Grand Prix

2022-07-12 13:25

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#1977, Fulvio Conti,

#295 1977 United States Grand Prix

With Jody Scheckter’s retirement and the second place of Niki Lauda in the Italian Grand Prix won by Mario Andretti, the Formula 1 World Championship


With Jody Scheckter’s retirement and the second place of Niki Lauda in the Italian Grand Prix won by Mario Andretti, the Formula 1 World Championship has been closed in Monza. Lauda is the virtual winner and in the next events of USA, Canada and Japan will just have to offer a mathematical imprimatur to this title. For a chapter that closes, another opens: Tuesday, September 13, 1977 in Modena, in the headquarter of the old Scuderia Ferrari, Enzo Ferrari will exhibit the new programs for the 1978 and will express his thoughts about the divorce with Lauda. With a simple and linear run, almost boring for those who were on the edge of the track, Andretti conquered in Monza his fourth success of the year. The Italian-American, 37 years old, wife, three children, has overtaken with his Lotus the McLaren of James Hunt after two laps and the Wolf of Scheckter after ten, going safely to the finish line. For Mario, who doesn’t forget being born in Italy, an affirmation of particular value, worthy of that obtained in 1967 at Indianapolis. But there's a goal that Andretti hasn’t reached yet, the World title of Formula 1.


"It’s the dream of my life as a driver".


A dream that Mario could have concretized this year thanks to the competitivity of the Lotus, car number one of the championship in terms of performance, in particular in the medium-fast circuits, but has vanished for three reasons: first of all Andretti has lost lots of opportunities to win for too much of a hurry, like in the case of Belgium and the Netherlands, where he has been starring of crashes with John Watson (Brabham-Alfa) and Hunt; the Lotus has made some banal mistakes, like in Sweden, where the Italian-American driver has run out of fuel to some laps to the end of the race while he was leading; the technical crisis of Cosworth hasn’t saved the British team; Mario, in the crucial mid-season phase, has been repetitively stopped by the failure of the engine. To Andretti and the Lotus, basically, has been lacking from one side the tactical intelligence of Lauda and on the other the reliability of Ferrari. Niki Lauda, in addition to having won three times, has built this second title with patience, cunning and, at times, luck (or, if you prefer, the exploitation prompt and notice of the gullibility of others). Unexpected successes and precious positions have been followed by an incredible continuity. Suffice it to recall that out of thirteen races held (in Spain the Austrian didn’t get on track due to pain in his rib), Lauda crossed the finish line eleven times, always taking points. Even Sunday in Monza the almost World Champion has disputed a race without particular elances, but precise and opportunistic and, another time, he has reason. The engine of Scheckter’s Wolf has collapsed, Hunt has retired for brakes issues after having lost every chances in a banal spin, Reutemann - tenace e grintoso like rarely you’ve seen him - hasn’t been capable of miss, like Lauda, the oil left on track by the McLaren of the unlucky rookie Bruno Giacomelli and has finished off track.


Lauda also confided to Andretti (the two embraced after lining their cars in the parc fermé of Monza at the end of the Grand Prix) of not being able to push more because the engine wasn’t very bright and that he was amazed by the enthusiasm of Reutemann. Perhaps, if the Argentinian hadn't gone off track, we could have seen a family fight a bit absurd, seeing the circumstances. And we say family because the Austrian is a Maranello driver until October 30, 1977. However, Niki Lauda now has 27 points of advantage on Scheckter. Since the winner of every race takes 9 points, the South African could reach Lauda (and then beat him for the highest number of confirmations, 5 vs 3, like established by the rules in case of equality) only by winning in the USA, in Canada and in Japan. But it is not enough: the Austrian, simultaneously, couldn’t even collect a single point, that is a sixth place. The speech, then, is purely theoretical. Lauda and Ferrari now have the World Championship. They’ve done it with more luck and more merit than in 1975, a season where everything was easier. This time the driver and the team have faced difficult and suffering times, complicated by a technical crisis - solved thanks to the generous commitment of every man - and by a morality issue in the divorce between the Austrian and the Scuderia Ferrari. A separazione that puzzles and bitterly shocks too valid and beautiful having proved in these four years the union between the young Viennese ace and the Scuderia Ferrari. Lauda’s future is still uncertain, while the Ferrari one will be announced soon.


The meeting of Enzo Ferrari, like always, it’s awaited with interest and sympathy for this vigorous young man born in 1898 who follows with inalterable passion and acumen stories about his Scuderia and of the competition in general. It’s presumibile that Ferrari will answer to Lauda’s motivations about the divorce, in particular to that alleged lack of affection highlighted in various shapes by the Austrian driver; that confirmed the re-engagement of Reutemann and the hiring of Eddie Cheever, the young American driver based in Rome lightning himself in Formula 2; that announces for next year the debut in a car with new features, worth of the Maranello’s tradition; that shows some projects, like the one of the supercharged engine; that reiterate the Ferrari’s support to friends teams for a customize Formula 2 programme for Cheever, who would been promoted to the highest formula only in 1979, at least under continues way. And Andretti? Yes, perhaps Ferrari could even announce that the Italian-American is destined to substitute Lauda. Mario’s candidacy has gained momentum, even because Walter Wolf, the Canadian billionaire of Austrian origin, seems now determined not to give up Scheckter, who is stalling. On the market, however, there’s Ronnie Peterson, the Swedish disappointed by the Tyrrell of 6 wheels. Whoever is Lauda’s substitute, one fact is sure. His commitment will be doubly demanding: first, because he will replace Niki Lauda, second, because he will have the honor of driving a Ferrari. The Italian-American left Monza on Monday evening after celebrating the victory of the Italian Grand Prix and had stopped to sleep at the Agip Motel in Modena.


"I go to Ferrari because I have been officially invited. My relations with the Commendatore and the whole team have always been great. I will hear what he has to propose to me for 1978. For now, I haven't signed any contract, neither with Lotus nor with others. I add that my commitments in the USA have been limited to a few races and that my goal remains the Formula 1 World Championship. Unfortunately, this year I’ve missed it. It’s logical that I’ll try again".


During the morning of Tuesday, September 13, 1977 takes to the track, in Fiorano, the young American Cheever, Roman by adoption, aboard a Ferrari 312 T2. Cheever took part in Imola the September 25, 1977 to a Grand Prix not valid for the World Championship. The nineteen year old driver did only a few laps, before the car crashed due to a breakdown. Finally, in the afternoon Reutemann arrives also. The Argentinian carries out a series of scheduled tests in collaboration with Goodyear. While Cheever’s tests in Fiorano, in Monza exploded the green berets’ scandal, the private police service used in many racetracks in Europe, in particular in Monza, where it was involved in serious accidents. The green berets are a group of 40 ex para framed in the Brigade de Sureté canine armed with green batons and flanked by forty wolf dogs, under the orders of a certain Mr. Grondati, stationed in Toulon. A paramilitar body, they were blue jeans as uniforms, and green berets complete with insignia. They have been hired by the Milan Automobile Club since last year to protect the racing teams. The incident that focused attention on this private police and made a case of it, is the complaint of an Austrian citizen, the 26-year-old Philips engineer Hubert Deutz, from Andelsbuch, hospitalized in Monza hospital with injuries to the head, legs and a laceration in the left eyebrow arch which required plastic surgery. He was found to be curable in eight days. The engineer said he was attacked by the green berets and was bitten on the night between Saturday and Sunday by their dogs.


"Saturday afternoon I regularly entered the Monza racetrack with a ticket. Around midnight I was walking with a Swiss friend of mine from St. Gallen near a gate. I was confronted by a patrol of these men who wanted to see the ticket. I had them in the car. They tried to get me away from the gates while my friend went to get them. I took some batons and I reacted. Then they released the dogs, one of which bit me in the leg. I fell and these men flew at me hitting me with fists, kicks and batons".


The Automobile Club of Milan, for its part, has released a version of the chief of the mercenaries, quite surprising: the Deutz was drunk and would have tried to enter the racetrack without a ticket. He denied that his men used the truncheon and pointed out that the perfectly trained dogs just dropped him to the ground without damage. 


The manners of the vigilantes, however, are today under accusation: they used their hasty manners even against journalists who tried to reach Niki Lauda after the Italian Grand Prix. Even a track commissioner would have threatened to have recourse to the green berets’ dogs to drive away the engineer Nosetto who was in the Ferrari pits:


"If he doesn’t go I’ll have the dogs come".


But Nosetto replied:


"No one has ever had the courage to send the dogs against Ferrari. These should be the guardians of our interests".


The best way to follow an automobile Grand Prix is certainly to sit down with a drink in front of the television. If the shot is valid, if the information is accurate (this unfortunately is not always the case of Italian television) the spectator, the fan, can enjoy the show in detail, realize what is happening on track. The accidents, the overtakes, the decisive episodes do not escape a careful eye and in the end you can have an exact idea of the progress of the race. This is the impressione one gets after years of activity not only related to motorsport. But, there’s always a but, whoever is satisfied with the comfortable seat at home will never know what is really a Grand Prix, what it means go to Monza on the day where the racing cars of Formula 1 run. Print media, which is subject to competition from television, is a tough job. You have to endure the long queues to enter the circuit, the difficulties in getting around the track, from early morning to evening. In general, when you have the opportunity to form a team, the tasks are divided: one in the pits to see what happens in the stops of the cars, which are the orders of the stables, one ready for interviews, another in the stands for follow the carousel of the protagonists and then again, if there are still people available, it takes people in the crucial points of the track, in the most dangerous curves. In the end we all meet and the race is reconstructed to reveal to the interested, the background of a show that is not always possible to understand. If a reporter, therefore, does not have direct commitments on the progress of the race, he can go around the circuit and realize what lies behind this huge circus which on Sunday in Monza had at least 200.000 spectators. First of all, it must be said that there are many people who see nothing.


The race, the cars that travel very fast on the track are not interesting. They are distant, unapproachable. Someone does not even try to get close to the circuit. Young and old, women and children, the fans wander with their eyes fixed on the meadows, the woods, especially along the networks that divide the privileged who are in contact with the pilots from mere mortals. Police, carabinieri, special paramilitary corps with ferocious wolf dogs are on guard so that no one enters the circuit. Obviously they can't. The boys jump over the nets and arrive in the pits, friends, relatives have special cards, cards that travel from one hand to the other passing through the nets, so that with a single coupon (when there are no fake ones) they can let dozens of people in. After all, there is not even too much resistance. The circus wants its entourage: beautiful girls with extravagant attires, people of all kinds, curious, characters. Behind the stands, autograph seekers gather, who then, more often than not, have to limit themselves to seeing their favorites from afar, shouting their name in vain. The sponsors, that is, the companies that pay drivers and technicians, who support the various manufacturers, compete to stand out. T-shirts of all colors with incredible advertising writings, hostesses who distribute stickers, invitations to lunch and dinner for everyone. To have the most famous characters in their boxes, you can eat for free almost everywhere. At Marlboro you can meet Agostini with his blonde girlfriend who talks to Hunt, at Ligier-Gitanes they give cigarettes, at Parmalat there is Lauda at the table with Marlene, Fittipaldi who talks to Clay Regazzoni, at Alfa Romeo they cook wonderful grilled steaks, while the engineer Chiti and Bernie Ecclestone prepare the future of Brabham.

At Magneti Marelli there are color TVs to follow the races, at Ferodo you can drink refinedly, at Fiat you can climb the tower that dominates a large part of the Monza park. There is only the difficulty of choice. Some organize shows with bands and majorettes, others give precious gifts. A babel of languages, a hullabaloo of displacements, of people moving at a perpetual rhythm from one box to another. Outside, in the woods, people drink wine from the bottle, have breakfast in the morning at seven with a beer, camp with tents for the night. They say that at least 100.000 people spent the hours between Saturday evening and Sunday morning in Monza, wandering around the stands where flags, T-shirts and hats are sold, sleeping under a tree, lying in a meadow. Then when the time for the race arrives, most of them massing into the most spectacular points of the circuit with tremendous dangers, climbing on every building that can guarantee a better view or, at least, not to remain in the crowd. So then tragedies happen, like the one of the collapsed billboard with deaths and injuries. But the fans seem careless in front of any danger. After the accident, the loudspeakers repeatedly asked people to get out of precarious places: no one moved. The ritual of the Grand Prix must be carried out to the end, even with its dramas. If one were to think about these facts with a minimum of conscience, one would have to ask oneself the reason for all this, the reason for this collective madness, why people go to car races where they don’t see and won’t see anything. Maybe they’re the stars, the Niki Laudas, the Mario Andrettis, the James Hunts who attract the crowd, perhaps the Ferrari, with its charm, with its myth of an unreachable car that attracts 200.000 people for a day different from the others. In this whole world with its sometimes bleak background, perhaps the only factor that has reason to exist, assuming that human progress has any real value, comes from the fact that Formula 1 is the field of action of the most advanced automotive experimentation, of the avant-garde technique. In the middle of the incredible confusion, technicians, engineers, scientists try their latest innovations, their inventions that will then be applied in everyday life, not just for cars. A bit like it happens in aerospace research where the launch of a rocket towards unknown shores is not an end in itself. But let's go back to the main issue: who will replace Lauda? The protagonists of the story are Enzo Ferrari, Mario Andretti and Jody Scheckter. Now we just have to wait.


It is probably a matter of hours, given that Enzo Ferrari will speak with reporters. Someone says that the Commendatore will not discover all his papers but will limit himself to clarifying some aspects of what has happened so far and above all he will explain the divorce with Lauda. But a meeting with Enzo Ferrari can always be a surprise. The most important question will be about Lauda's replacement. Who will be the driver who will join Carlos Reutemann next season? The names made in these days are many, but the shortlist of candidates, all in all, is getting smaller and smaller. The first on the list is Mario Andretti, winner in Monza. The Italian-American driver is in Maranello and has tested the 312 T2. Simple curiosity or an interesting visit? The second hypothesis is more to be believed. Andretti is certainly interested in going to Ferrari for several reasons: for a financial question, for the prestige it would have, for the technical guarantees that the Maranello team can undoubtedly offer. Assuming that Andretti can actually please Ferrari. So what prevents the conductor of Trieste origin from signing the contract immediately? There are certainly the pressures of Colin Chapman who wants to confirm him at Lotus, there’s the recall of a car that has proved to be more than competitive and then there are the American problems of Mario, who doesn’t want to give up American racing as he probably should do, if he accepted the engagement. Therefore he’ll be who will set the conditions. If the deal doesn’t go through, there are several solutions left. There is Jody Scheckter who has always been one of Enzo Ferrari's most admired drivers but in this case different combinations should be verified for the South African driver to join the Italian team. If Lauda, ​​for example, agreed with Wolf, instead of Brabham, the Canadian billionaire would no longer have any objections to Scheckter's departure, but he is not willing to let go if Niki doesn’t arrive. Ronnie Peterson is also on the market, but the Swede, all in all, has done so far very little to deserve the call of Ferrari. Young people remain: there is a lot of talk about Gilles Villeneuve, the young Canadian who has been highlighted in some races. But it is a leap in the dark. The word, therefore, to Enzo Ferrari. It is up to him to clear up any doubts. If the main theme of the meeting held on Tuesday, September 13, 1977 in Modena by Enzo Ferrari is the divorce between the Maranello team and Niki Lauda, ​​other topics emerge in the two and a half hours of discussion and traditional blowback between the manufacturer and the journalists. 


From the Ferrari plans for 1978 (just mentioned, however) to the name of the Austrian driver's replacement (who remained mysterious), from the judgements on the International Sports Commission to tire problems, and others. Ferrari will continue its Formula 1 activity with a car - the 312 T3 - which is expected to be very competitive. In fact, Enzo Ferrari says:


"This is an inedit car, currently under investigation. Obviously there is no new single-seater that does not retain something of the previous versions".


On the other hand, there is no program in the silhouettes or sport sector.


"There’s no time, the costs are too high and there's a lack of specialized personnel".


Confirmed the interest for Formula 2, considered like a training ground for young drivers.


"Let’s follow soccer's example, we create a nursery".


A friendly team will be supplied the Dino Ferrari engines for British-made chassis, as indeed has already partially happened this year. Again there is that this team will have to make use of two young people appreciated in Maranello and that is Elio De Angelis and Eddie Cheever. A 1978 of experience for an eventual jump to Formula 1 in the following year. The team of Maranello will continue to explore the road of the supercharged engine. Now are ongoing tests with the old six-cylinders of 1500 horsepower, which will be followed by a new engine with turbocharger. Ferrari declares also that the divorce with Lauda has been for him a surprise blow, almost a betrayal. The fact now complicates the situation.


"I’m still not in the condition to tell you how we will be made up the team in 1978. However, even if I didn’t make him sign the contract yet, Carlos Reutemann will be renewed. There are some ongoing negotiations, but nothing concrete. I would sell smoke if I mentioned names".


Essentially, a double path opens up for Ferrari: to hire, if possible, an established champion like Mario Andretti or Ronnie Peterson, or to find a young Lauda, so a driver like Niki was in 1973 when he was hired by Scuderia Ferrari. A boy who promised well, but nothing more. In this regard, it seems that the number one candidate could be the Canadian Villeneuve, on which, by the way, the McLaren would have an option for next year. It’s clear that Ferrari would love Andretti, but the commitments of the Italian American are too much, in particular in the United States. The deal is difficult. On the other hand, Jody Scheckter’s candidacy has fallen permanently. Ferrari has read a long text of Peter Warr, Wolf’s manager, and of Walter Wolf, where the two have informed the Italian constructor to have a solid contract with Scheckter for 1978 and an option for the following season.


"We don’t want drivers who already have commitments. We will be glad to engage Scheckter the day he will be free".


Ferrari reveals that Wolf, before the Italian Grand Prix, has asked for a pairing with Parmalat, offering an option on Lauda. Is it the truth or it’s the history of Wolf to hook the rich Emilian company? Parmalat, really active on the market, has asked Ferrari for a car for Fittipaldi, but the answer has been negative. Very harsh was Enzo Ferrari’s judgment on the International Sports Commission (CSI), defined as:


"Powerless and unable to enforce the sporting regulations. What happened in Monza, with all the drivers admitted to testing, had the flavor of capitulation".


The lack of authority by the CSI and the massive entry of the sponsor in Formula 1 are at the basis, according to Ferrari, of the moral degeneration of the world of Grand Prizes.


"The CSI has been allowed to remove from the cars the national color and to substitute the name of the constructor, the sponsor one. A shame".


Regarding the tyres, Enzo Ferrari declares:


"The tyres affect Ferrari, because we’re obliged to mount coperture adapted to other cars. To make us win the championship, Goodyear needs simply to respect the contract and fornire the adacted tyres. Now there’s Michelin, with whom we had collaborated in the past. A comeback of Pirelli in Formula 1 is talked about. Everything is possible, but we can’t make short-term plans at the moment".


But Michelin, for example, would be willing to reach an agreement with Ferrari?


"It’s obvious that Ferrari will remain with Goodyear also in 1978, for better or worse".


It’s interesting to note the climb of Pirelli that, after having dominated in the Rally, passed to experiments in sports cars with Alfa Romeo and is now about to take the big leap. Changing the subject, there’s often talk about an Alfa Romeo-Ferrari duel, sometimes small controversies arise between the men of the two teams. But Enzo Ferrari is sharp in his judgment:


"With Alfa I won’t ever enter into polemics, I’m born in Alfa, never could I say a word against my mother. I’m not like some drivers or technicians that leave their Home and then don’t recognise their virtues".


All here, in the basic lines. We can add that Bernie Ecclestone, the owner of Brabham-Alfa Romeo and the head of the Formula 1 Constructors' Association, was spoken of:


"A man of formidable activism, who does what others don’t".


Of the unfairnesses that some drivers do in the races:


"The stewards don’t have the strength to take action".


Of the Formula 1 regulations:


"Change it? Maybe, but it’s a topic that I haven’t taken into consideration".


And of the Imola race on September 25, 1977:


"For us, Cheever will go".


Returning for a second to the topic about Niki Lauda, during the conference Enzo Ferrari declares:


"I had faith in him, so he made me look like a fool".


This was one of the many phrases with which Enzo Ferrari talks about Niki Lauda. The Modenese manufacturer was expected to announce the name of the driver destined to replace the Austrian driving the Ferrari 312 T3, but the elderly manager preferred to clarify the story of the divorce from his side. Even if Ferrari's words weren't particularly harsh, Lauda came out of the whole speech as a fairly ambiguous figure, attached to money, unable to justify his action. But what mattered most to Enzo Ferrari was perhaps to downsize the figure of the driver and re-evaluate that of the car.


"Forget computers, even Lauda had his limits. He was stubborn, precise, meticulous, but when it came to making suggestions, proposing a change, he didn’t know what to say, he was just unhappy, shaking his head".


This is true indeed. It happened several times to observe Niki during the official and free practices: Forghieri had to take the words out of his mouth and he was not always able to get an explanation of what exactly he wanted from the car. The manufacturer then makes a rather important reference to the market that operates around the drivers and its protagonists, saying that they have the grace of the salami mediators. Ferrari in fact never wanted that on its cars to appear sponsors’ writings that weren’t directly linked to car production and official Scuderia Ferrari suppliers. Only the drivers have on their overalls the sponsor of brands that have nothing to do with motoring. Someone claims that, in every case, Lauda’s escape from Ferrari took place civilly, with some possibilities from the Austrian to return to Maranello if one day he feels it appropriate. But Enzo Ferrari excludes this possibility.


"Life taught me to not believe in the fable of the prodigal son".


Back home, after having won last Sunday the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Wednesday September 14 1977 Mario Andretti puts aside the reserve maintained in recent days about his contracts with Ferrari and clarifies the negotiations with Scuderia Ferrari. The Italian American says he has time until Tuesday, September 20 1977 to decide whether or not to race for Ferrari in 1978. Andretti specifies that until a week ago he was almost convinced that he could not accept the offer. Ferrari normally engages its drivers exclusively while Mario does not disdain to participate, from time to time, in races such as the Indy 500. Talks with Ferrari managers would have dispelled such fears.


"They told me that they would allow me to participate in any competition that does not create conflicts with the Formula 1 World Championship; also, if I don’t want to, I won’t have to live in Italy. In short, they accepted all my requests".


Meanwhile, on Thursday, September 11, 1977, the long story between Niki Lauda, Ferrari, Bernie Ecclestone, Brabham, Alfa Romeo, Martini and Parmalat officially ended. At the Parmalat on Court, a tennis tournament organized by the company of Parma at the Holiday Inn, on the ancient Aurelia, in Rome, where from Tuesday, September 13, 1977 there are Verini, Munari, Regazzoni, Hunt, Brambilla, Patrese, Laffite, Fittipaldi and Leoni, as well as personalities from the Italian show business, during a conference held at 5:00 p.m., Niki Lauda - called to referee at the tournament finale - announces that next year is going to drive for the team of Bernie Ecclestone, the Brabham-Alfa Romeo, that will be sponsored by Parmalat, which takes the place of Martini. What was expected in the previous days has promptly come true and the announcement has been given in Rome during a press conference held at the Holiday Inn where, in these days, a singular tennis tournament between actors and drivers promoted by the same Emilian company was held. 


A press release has been issued announcing the establishment of the Parmalat Racing team which in 1978 and 79 will participate in the Formula 1 World Championship with the Anglo-Italian cars. For 1978 the drivers are going to be, indeed, Lauda and Watson. In this sense, Dr. Domenico Barili, commercial director of the dairy company declares:


"After the successes obtained in other sports, we plan to propose ourselves again in motoring alongside two brands, Brabham and Alfa, already established and with drivers of the caliber of Lauda and Watson who certainly do not need any introduction. Financing the team costs us about one billion lire. We do not yet know what colors the cars will be painted with, whether with our corporate colors, white, light blue and blue, or whether we will keep the red which is the national color for racing cars. We will also continue with the personal sponsorship policy for drivers and particularly in favor of young Italians".


At this point the most awaited character enters the room: Niki Lauda. The Austrian driver arrived in Rome two hours earlier, just in time to freshen up, discuss the details of the press conference with Calisto Tanzi and wear the t-shirt with the new sponsor’s logo. After the assault of photographers and cameramen, Lauda replies to a journalist of RAI, the Italian television, who immediately calls him a servant of advertising.


"I’m happy to be a servant of Parmalat advertising. I’m happy with this new agreement, which has allowed me to enter an excellent team, with a revolutionary car, a good engine and a sponsor that suits me".


Then, turning to Domenico Barili, Lauda whispers:


"Great asshole that journalist, he is a servant of advertising too. Who pays for his television and his newspaper? Where does he live, on the moon?"


Some days ago Ferrari said that you are a betrayer. What do you think?


"Ferrari has done a lot for our sport, he can tell me what he wants and I don’t take offense. He can also call me stupid, but for me it’s the same. I’ll continue to respect him. Forghieri, of whom it was said that I wanted to kick him out, he’s a genius who has done a lot for the team of Maranello. Of course he has a difficult character and getting along with him is not the easiest thing. This wasn’t the real problem".


So what was it?


"He was the managerial lead of the team. With Montezemolo things went in the best way; then came Audetto, a person of the job, prepared, and it was fine. This year, with Nosetto, there’s been a lot of confusion. For example, what happened in Monza during the recent Italian Grand Prix can give you an idea of ​​what kind of person he was: before the race, which for me was the most important of the season, I asked Nosetto if Reutemann was on my side or if I had to consider him an opponent. Nosetto confirmed that Reutemann would help me. In the race, however, I only managed to pass him when he had problems with the car. After the Grand Prix, in an interview on Austrian television, Nosetto said that Ferrari does not have first guides, but that the drivers can do their own race. If he told me before, I would have adapted to considering Reutemann like any other opponent. We are professionals and respect professionalism. For this I want to thank all the mechanics, and in particular my chief mechanic Cuoghi, because in recent years they have always given their best professionally. But at Ferrari there are also the Nosettos, who are amateurs. This is the real reason why I left Ferrari, hoping not to have the same problem at Brabham".


What do you think of the Brabham BT46?


"I can't say because I haven't tried it yet. Certainly there will be work to be done because it is a new machine, with interesting solutions. I will test it after the expiry of the contract with Ferrari".


When did you reach the agreement with Bernie Ecclestone?


"I had talked to Ecclestone many times, but I gave him the final handshake after the Dutch Grand Prix. I delayed the announcement because Parmalat also had its problems to solve".


While the Parmalat party continues throughout the evening, the first rumors about the turnover between Niki Lauda, ​​Brabham, Alfa Romeo and Parmalat are already beginning to circulate. According to reliable sources, the Emilian company has tied up with the English team for two years, pledging to pay 3.000.000 dollars. Lauda would receive 350.000 dollars from Parmalat and 270.000 indirectly from Alfa Romeo, which would operate a discount to Brabham on engine overhauls, a discount (4000 dollars per engine) that would end up to the Austrian. Lauda again: it seems that he must have 80,000 dollars from Goodyear and 100.000 from Marlboro (cigarettes) and Romerquelle (mineral water). Overall, Niki would have a whopping 800.000 dollars for a year. This operation arouses perplexity especially as regards Parmalat, which has to export a huge amount of money, and Alfa Romeo itself. While on the field the protagonist of the scene Vittorio Gassman and the seducer of the tracks James Hunt play with Guido Oddo and Maurizio Verini, winning the challenge and two beautiful sculptures by Francesco Messina, Niki Lauda answers for the first time to the questions and the microphones of a press conference after the solo by Commendatore Enzo Ferrari. All in a tour of cameras, cameras, paparazzi unleashed in search of the forbidden shot. From Sydne Rome to the second-rate actress easily available at the first call of James Hunt, the sexiest of the Formula 1 drivers. But he, the supersex of the driving, cares little about Niki, his accusations against Nosetto, in the fight field under the orders of Gassman who guides him with great skill from the bottom, giving advice with a thundering and imperious voice. 


Hunt, at a bad start with the rubber shoes, who would always be barefoot, confirms himself as the strongest, well set in the shots, even if he refuses to wear the regular shorts, preferring a tiny bathing brief for greater excitement of the female audience present.  The actress, in search of notoriety to steal some attention and some shots of film, is forced to price two handsome hunks to be thrown dressed in the pool. So she then has the opportunity to walk for a long time in the hotel lobby with a tiny thong and a T-shirt with the inevitable Parmalat advertising image while waiting for the dresser to dry her transparent dress. The sorrows for Enzo Ferrari are not limited to the abandonment of Niki Lauda. On Tuesday, September 20, 1977, during a press conference, the Automobile Club Bologna announced the suspension of the Formula 1 race scheduled for Sunday, September 25 1977 in Imola as the Formula 1 Dino Ferrari European Cup. Unfortunately, after the confirmation of Friday 16 September 1977, when the doubt about the participation of Brabham-Alfa Romeo had been happily resolved, on Monday, September 19, 1977 the communications of the defections of the drivers group of the English teams not part of the Formula 1, in addition to that of Jean-Pierre Jarier, who had to race with a Ligier-Matra. All this after ch. Enzo Ferrari had agreed to bring to Imola a second Ferrari with Carlos Reutemann. The final blow to the race was, at the end of the Monza Grand Prix, the announcement that the CSI declared itself opposed to the European trophy of which the Imola race was to be the prefiguration, postponing the discussion of the project, which it did not find the support - already assured - of the international representatives of Italian nationality at the Roman meetings of the CSI. The organizing committee of the Dino Ferrari Cup could perhaps have attempted the running of the race by completing the starting grid with Formula 2 cars. 


But precisely in the spirit and meaning of the scheduled event, as well as with respect for the public and the official Ferrari teams themselves and Brabham-Alfa Romeo, the decision was made to suspend the race. ACI Bologna thanks the drivers and teams who have maintained their membership, and the sponsors Marlboro, Agip and Renault who would have completed the event with an Italian championship test. ACI Bologna is committed to bring Formula 1 to Imola now that the Dino Ferrari racetrack is in full efficiency in all aspects. For this purpose, the project for an alternative Formula 1 trophy will be maintained with the immediate calling of a group of interested European organizers. A request for a new date will be immediately forwarded in the already very busy international calendar of 1978: probably in March or April. At the same time, Automobile Club Bologna asks the president of CSAI that also in Italy could apply from next year the rotation of the Italian Grand Prix, saying that it can't remain the unique heritage of a single racetrack. As if it wasn’t enough, on Wednesday, September 21, 1977 the news arrives that Mario Andretti would not go to Ferrari to replace Niki Lauda. This was announced by the British manufacturer Colin Chapman, owner of the Lotus team. With a brief press release, the British team made it known among other things that it has already renewed the contract for 1978 to the Italian-American driver who will continue to compete for John Player's Lotus. This news should eliminate one of the men who were considered among the most likely engagements by the Maranello team. Meanwhile, in Fiorano, Niki Lauda tests for the last time on Ferrari's private track. In this circumstance, Niki Lauda happens to encounter Enzo Ferrari. The latter, shouting, asks if Lauda still had the courage to shake his hand.


"Of course, certainly".


Responds the Austrian driver before shaking his hand. Ferrari starts shouting again, saying it's sheer audacity for Lauda to try to take away even his employees. As for my chief mechanic, Ermanno Cuoghi, Lauda admits he would like to persuade him to resign, but Cuoghi is still uncertain, he loves Ferrari, and also needs some security for his family and is afraid to move to England. However, Lauda has nothing to do with Ghedini: as much as he appreciates him as a person, he has never made him any offer since he has no job offer for him. Lauda also tells this to Enzo Ferrari and adds that he can be sure that instead, given the situation, he would certainly have found a position for Ghedini. At this point, Enzo Ferrari is so angry that he only shouts nonsense, and Lauda starts shouting too. The discussion ends when the Austrian driver is kicked off Enzo Ferrari's property: except for work reasons, the Austrian driver should no longer set foot there. But in the meantime, Lauda takes Ferrari's hand, shakes it, says goodbye, turns around, and leaves him there, shouting like a madman. This move may seem ruthless, however, Lauda is sorry to see Ferrari among his people, angry and powerless. In Lauda's opinion, Ferrari is simply too old, unable to connect things anymore, doesn't understand the situation, and unnecessarily remains upset. Niki Lauda will later say:


"Why did all these emotions have to be vented? Why did all the ties have to be broken, instead of accepting the end of our working relationship as such according to the normal rules of the business world? It's heartbreaking: you live together for four years, despite all the differences you always come down to a common denominator, you share successes, and then within a few days, everything is trampled on as if the entire four-year relationship had been a single mistake".


It is not excluded that Enzo Ferrari, after having received the communication regarding Andretti, will make a decision today for the driver to choose for next year. The rumors that Carlos Reutemann would be the first guide flanked by the young Eddie Cheever are becoming more and more insistent. How is the driver market going after Andretti and Scheckter's no to Ferrari? In London, Gunnar Nilsson's departure from Lotus is taken for granted for two reasons; because he aspires to be promoted to number one in another team, which should be Shadow, and because Chapman is now with little money, having had to use many more to secure Andretti again. The most likely contender for Lotus' second seat is Rupert Keegan, again for two reasons. Sponsor John Player is pressuring Chapman to include an English driver in the team, as McLaren has been doing for some time with Marlboro as its main sponsor. 


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