Le Mans, Sebring, Monza: 46 year-old Mike Parkes from Hailebury, England, had played with death on the most famous circuits in the world. He met her during the evening of Sunday, August 28, 1977 on the state of Asti, at the deadly bend of the junction of Riva di Chieri, crashing after a long skid on the asphalt slime of rain against a truck. A former Formula 1 driver who had achieved so many important successes at the wheel of the Ferrari, he disappears as a common motorist right where, in the last five years, twenty-five people had already lost their lives. And in the same way: the car that takes a wrong turn in the tight curve almost elbow, the driver who realizes he has the wrong trajectory, that brakes, the car that zigzags, invades the other lane, collides with the cars that arrive. The disaster happens shortly after 11:30 p.m.: Parkes returns to Turin, where he has long held a high position in the racing department of the Lancia, with his Beta 1600 under the storm of the storm: at the turn of Riva di Chieri comes perhaps too fast, the car performs the usual, tragic carambola. He could end up in the meadow, but in his race he crashes against the truck of Bruno Colognese, 40, via Nicomede Bianchi 114. A violent impact, the Beta is reduced to a twisted pile of sheets, for Parkes the death is instantaneous. The end of the former driver revives the controversy on the grim curve of Riva. An authentic cemetery, they say in the village. Now the dead and the wounded are not counted, especially in winter, with the fog, or when it rains that road is terrible. Mike Parkes seemed a lovely English gentleman of the country, calm and serene, almost detached. And, instead, he was a careful man, accustomed to quick decisions, which is normal for those who work in the racing world: first as a driver, then as a technician of great value. Parkes was the son of a car test driver. Born on September 24, 1931 in Hailebury, after high school he joined Rootes as a worker, clerk, and finally a skilled technician.
Meanwhile he started to race in cars and in 1950 he started to participate in Sport races with a Ferrari drink from the English dealer. For Parkes it was the passport to enter the Scuderia Ferrari. It arrived in January 1963 and was very familiar with the province of Emilia. At the wheel of the cars of Maranello he won numerous affirmations so as to deserve in 1966 the promotion in Formula 1. But in this field his career was short: in June of the following year Parkes had a dramatic accident in the Belgian Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. His single-seater slid on a stretch of track full of oil and flew at 200 km/h against an embankment, capsizing several times. Parkes broke his legs and a wrist, suffered a severe concussion. Recovery was slow, difficult and painful. A year and five months after the accident the tenacious English driver returned to Maranello. Still limping, as a Formula 1 ace his career was over. And another, equally brilliant, began, dedicating itself first to the racing department of Scuderia Ferrari, then to Scuderia Filipinetti, where he resumed driving. For some years Parkes had been at the Lancia, where he directed the development of the competition Stratos. An excellent engineer and designer, a test driver of rare sensitivity. He was in love with Italy, which by then had become his second home. He drove, of course, excellently, with that confidence and ease that only a former car champion can have. For a pilot like him it seems almost a bitter twist of fate to die like this, in a banal road accident. The next day, another twist comes from the world of Motorsport with incredible news: Niki Lauda leaves Ferrari. The Austrian driver, who won the Formula 1 World Championship with the Scuderia Ferrari in 1975 and who this year is just a step away from a new victory, it will probably race next season with the Brabham-Martini-Alfa Romeo. The news arrived on Monday, August 29, 1977, confirming the rumors that in recent days had become insistent, but that Lauda had denied. It is the same Ferrari to eliminate any doubt with an official note.
"Lauda met with Ferrari executives today. It was decided that the collaboration relationship started in 1974 will end on Sunday, October 30, 1977, at the conclusion of the World Championship in progress. Ferrari would like to thank its driver for his active cooperation and wishes him every success in continuing his work. Niki Lauda thanks Ferrari for the four years of exemplary collaboration and addresses a special grateful thought to Enzo Ferrari who in May 1973 invited him to be part of his House".
The announcement comes in the aftermath of Lauda’s brilliant success in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. Just in Zandvoort, late last week. Lauda has secretly signed the contract that binds him to the English team Brabham, financed by Martini and technically helped by Alfa Romeo, engine supplier. Of course, the Austrian driver remains with Ferrari until the end of the Formula 1 World Championship. For this reason, together with team-mate Carlos Reutemann, Tuesday, August 30, 1977 will take to the track in Monza to complete testing ahead of the Italian Grand Prix of 11 September, race that could award him the world title 1977. This is what happens shortly before: Monday, August 29, 1977, at 4:00 p.m., Niki Lauda shows up in the office of the old headquarters in Via Trento and Trieste in Modena, certain that it is only a formality to have to inform Enzo Ferrari that will not renew the contract. For his part, even Enzo Ferrari is convinced that this is a formality, saying to Franco Gozzi:
"I have little time, I have to go to Maranello. Has it arrived?"
"As for money, let it be clear: I give it only contingency, nothing more than contingency".
Lauda arrives accompanied by Luca Montezemolo, and the meeting will last about an hour. Lauda, who regrets this behavior, consumes his revenge, hatched for a whole year. The previous year, in fact, Enzo Ferrari - convinced that Lauda would never be back in shape - first asked him to become team principal, and then agreed to let him run but on the condition of second driver. However, the almost mathematical conquest of the 1977 World Championship by Niki Lauda changes the balance and perspectives of Enzo Ferrari. Now, however, Lauda is anxious to consummate his revenge. And he is satisfied to know that his departure would have been a slap in the face to Enzo Ferrari. But, as Lauda will say, this is an unequal battle: the Austrian is young and strong, and can decide for himself, while Ferrari is a 78-year-old man, surrounded by consultants who aim at his own interests, who is informed second and third hand. Thus emerges all truth, to the point that the offer of Enzo Ferrari becomes almost ridiculous. There is talk of about 530.000.000 lire. But Lauda says that the real problem is not of an economic nature, but linked to the search for stimuli: she wants to experience elsewhere and with new men. In fact, as the lawyer Gianni Agnelli later stated, the situation was irreconcilable. The relations between Lauda and engineer Forghieri were worn and if once there was Montezemolo to act as a shock absorber, now these are no more, because recalled in Fiat by the Agnelli family (Not surprisingly, the two had asked for the removal of Forghieri from the task of following the team to the circuits, but Enzo Ferrari had replied: "If you find me one that replaces it, I change it"). With replacements, Daniele Audetto in 1976 and Roberto Nosetto in 1977, did not reign harmony. Yet, Enzo Ferrari is of another idea, and he expresses it to Franco Gozzi, telling him:
"What does it look like to you? I was the one who said he had the elusive look. I think he needs money and is acting in a state of need. Keep this in mind: I want to write a book about the little Austrian. Like Fangio, I want to write a whole book. And he will name it: Little Austrian Jew".
After the session, Niki Lauda - instead of going to Maranello - goes to Bologna airport, where his plane is located. Meanwhile, the news of the divorce is given a preview on the radio and is learned by the Austrian shortly before taking off. From the control tower recognize the initials of the aircraft Oscar Eco Golf November Lima and ask:
"Hi Niki, is it true that your relationship with Ferrari has ceased?"
Response from the jet:
At 5:30 p.m. Ansa announces the separation, just before the last practice, in view of the next Italian Grand Prix. Lauda leaves by plane to go to Monza, where Tuesday, August 30, 1977, together with team-mate Carlos Reutemann, will conclude the series of tests planned for the Italian Grand Prix. Meanwhile, Gilles Villeneuve arrives in Modena, speaking with Enzo Ferrari, just hours after the divorce with Lauda was finalized. A few years later Piero Lardi, present in the office with Enzo Ferrari and Niki Lauda, will tell:
"One day, Lauda calls us asking for an appointment as soon as possible in my father’s offices. We were so far from having to change the first driver of our team that Dad was a little surprised. You’ll see that he will ask us to double the engagement, he said. After all, he had just won a world championship and he was the best driver of his generation. And as he said it, an increase in Lauda’s engagement was even right for him. But things went very differently. Niki walked into the room, more abrupt than usual. And without even sitting, he shot: I have decided that for you I will not run anymore. Just that morning my father had read some rumors about the Corriere della Sera, but he was convinced that they were nonsense. In that moment he realized that they were not. There he tried to keep him. He told him to sit down, he first faced the question of money, which in a negotiation is never a good way to start: If you have other offers, know that I am willing to equalize them quietly, he said. But it wasn’t about money. Lauda told us that she had already signed up for another team and that she had no intention of retracing her steps. We were stunned. Dad took a while to recover. But when he came to his senses he was furious. Lauda’s farewell, even if unexpected, could have accepted it. What he could not accept was the way the Austrian had chosen to end a story that had been glorious anyway. Leaving Maranello, always trying to justify his decision, he said something that would not bring him luck: We will see from here to two years where I will be and where Ferrari will be".
The announcement of the departure of Lauda from Ferrari is a real big blow for the drivers market that for several weeks was in turmoil and that suggested a series of changes precisely in function of this possible divorce between Ferrari and its Austrian driver. Always confused is Reutemann’s position. The Argentine, despite having played a positive season, still fears not to be confirmed by Ferrari. Now, however, with the start of Lauda, his chances of staying in Maranello certainly increase because Ferrari needs a driver who already knows the car. Hunt is now confirmed at McLaren and could go alongside Tambay for the link that binds him with the sponsor Marlboro. Mass will instead pass ATS Penske together with Stuck, which will not be renewed the contract by Brabham-Alfa Romeo. Brambilla has received several offers, but will probably remain at Surtees. The Monzese driver was also contacted by March, who would gladly take him back, in view of a more serious commitment in Formula 1, and by Ensign. However, everything is linked to the possible financial contributions of sponsors. Alan Jones could be reconfirmed by Shadow together with Patrese, but the Australian driver is also interested in Teddy Jip, the Hong Kong billionaire, who wants to sponsor a new team with cars designed by Ron Tauranac. With Brambilla and Patrese, another Italian will probably enter the world of Formula 1: it is Bruno Giacomelli, for whom March seems willing to field a car. The same Giacomelli, during the weekend of the Italian Grand Prix, talks to the Ferrari sports director, Roberto Nosetto: venting, the Italian driver confesses to Nosetto that Ferrari had asked him to race for him, but this would have been impossible since he already had contact.
"Don’t worry, I have lawyers who know how to free you".
Subsequently, however, Ferrari will not concretize the contract with Giacomelli, who at first does not say anything publicly, with the hope that something will unlock, especially now that Lauda has decided to continue his career elsewhere, and asks Nosetto for guarantees, that even the latter cannot have for himself and for the rest of his career as sports director. At Ligier-Matra there are no news as Laffite should be confirmed. Renault, given the progress of the last race, intends to field two cars for next season, and they are named Peterson or Nilsson, alongside the current Jabouille driver. After four years of fruitful collaboration Niki Lauda and Ferrari break up. It is a perfect pair, or almost, that splits, a winning combination that divides: each on its own, looking, of course, for other claims. A separation that will leave some aftermath: both the Austrian driver and the Scuderia Ferrari will lose something, perhaps more Ferrari than Lauda. But better a clean divorce to a marriage in crisis that drags between uncertainties and some friction. Misunderstandings, friction, the feeling of not being helped properly in carrying out a delicate and highly responsible work. Friction, in particular, with technicians: Lauda does not want to hear that the car is always fine and that any lack of competitiveness depends on him (or Reutemann). Lauda is no longer a beginner, he is a World Champion, about to win the second title, after a dramatic experience like that of Nurburgring. He’s looking for a team that works just for him, where he can work without too many problems. It is difficult to win in Formula 1, let alone when to the fight on the track if you add even worse.
"Many teams have asked me, last year several had judged me finished, now everyone believes in me".
Contacts with Bernie Ecclestone, patron of Brabham, had been ongoing for some time. Ecclestone, disappointed with John Watson and Hans-Joachim Stuck, was looking for a driver who was an experienced test driver and tyre technician. A driver who ran with his head, who was able to win a World Championship. Who better than Lauda who managed to be at the top with a Ferrari that for two months has gone through this year a not indifferent technical crisis? There was also a funding problem for Ecclestone. Martini began to be tired of victories that did not come and Alfa Romeo threatened to build a car all its own. In Monza, on the wall of the box Ferrari had been written with red paint a peremptory Go Niki. Nearby there is a Forza Ferrari that is evidence of support and enthusiasm. Two incitements that date back to last year, when Niki Lauda returned to a Ferrari after the Nurburgring drama. Even today the Austrian champion sits behind the wheel of a Scuderia Ferrari car: he is healed, he is the ace of all time, Sunday he won at Zandvoort the Dutch Grand Prix and is on the eve of regaining the title of Formula 1 World Champion, the most coveted in motor sports. It is in Monza for a series of tests. The sky is gray and stormy, sometimes it rains. On the track yellowed leaves. A slightly melancholy atmosphere, suitable for the moment: because Lauda decided to leave Ferrari, breaking a union that seemed perfect. The ritual of the tests follows known patterns. Ferrari deposited on the track by the truck that transported it from Maranello, the mechanics ready to work. And Lauda changing in the van: wool under-suit, flame-proof suit, helmet, gloves, two earplugs to place in the ears to withstand the roar of the engine. Methodical gestures, as it is in the costume and style of this 28-year-old pilot who for the coldness, the ability to calculate, the tactical intelligence was called a steering wheel computer. On a terrace, on the roof of the pits, a group of fans: a warm applause, a few whistles. Ferrari ultras do not forgive the driver the divorce, the others are also grateful for what he has been able to give to Ferrari in four years of constant commitment. But everyone wonders why. Lauda explains her reasons in a long interview, between tests and the next. There are many around him, and he has to repeat the same answers several times. He is serene, witty, even brings out some bad words in his curious Italian with expressions in Modena dialect learned by mechanics. He has the air of a man who has lifted a heavy burden from his heart, of a man who, after pondering, has finally taken a path, right or wrong, it does not matter. So, what’s with Niki?
"I’ve been working with Ferrari since 1973, I’ve won fifteen Grands Prix and one title, I’m close to win another one. Together we did the best we could. I have no more valid reasons to continue with Maranello. You’ve lost what drives you, what makes you do. I found myself at a crossroads: continue in the pilot business or stop, dedicate myself to my wife Marlene, to the house and undertake another kind of work. I decided not to retire, because I like running. I also decided, however, to do it in a new way, that is leaving Ferrari and starting from scratch, in another environment, in another team, with other people. It’s an adventure, I know, but I think it’s worth living it".
It is an answer that can surprise those who do not know Lauda, those who confuse the pilot with man, those who consider dry and icy a sportsman only because he knows how to be reserved. The Austrian, in fact, is a man full of pride, tenacious, stubborn, perfectionist, with a great desire to do.
"There are no other reasons. It is nobody’s fault if I leave Ferrari nor are there any economic problems. Let’s say a natural thing happened, like two people who don’t love each other anymore. They’ve been together for years, then the relationship doesn’t arouse the same enthusiasm anymore. The woman tries to make herself more desirable, she goes to Switzerland for a beauty care. But it is useless, if love vanished".
They ask him why this divorce falls on the eve of the Italian Grand Prix, if perhaps it would not have been better to wait a few days. Lauda spreads his arms.
"It would have been useless and harmful to beat around the bush. I love sincerity. With Ferrari, with Enzo Ferrari we have worked in a magnificent way in these years. I have waited to have clear ideas. Once I made a decision, I had to tell her, and now. I also had a moral obligation, because three months ago I told him I wouldn’t leave Ferrari until he was there. So I was with him yesterday in Modena. Good morning, Commander, how are you? I asked him. We talked for a long time, I explained my reasons, my problem. He understood. We wished each other good luck".
The Austrian champion does not say when he decided at a great pace.
"If I answer a month or three days ago, some might argue that it took a little or too long. It’s a subjective question. Nor did anyone influence my choices, let alone my wife Marlene".
"The only one who knew anything was my dog. And he approved".
The day of testing proved to be fruitless for Niki Lauda and Ferrari, who had come to Monza to finish the preparation for the Italian Grand Prix, the fourth act of the World Championship. The bad weather, which has raged for several days on northern Italy, does not allow the regular conduct of the tests. Throughout the day a heavy rain falls in Monza that only for a few moments subsides. The Austrian driver takes advantage of these breaks to test on the track, but after only two laps he stops because along the path, at the underpass and inside the bend, dangerous puddles have formed. The public, rushed to follow the tests and to see Lauda at the first official release after the clamorous announcement of his divorce with Ferrari, applauded him. However, he is ready to whistle in the afternoon when, since the rain does not stop, after three more laps Niki Lauda gives up permanently to continue training. In these few laps the Austrian uses the only set of rain tires available, but it turns out defective (the rear tires have a different diameter). The tests are then postponed to Wednesday, August 31, 1977 and on track, along with Lauda, there will also be Carlos Reutemann, whose car will arrive in the evening in Monza back from the Netherlands. Admits Tomaini, technical manager of the team:
"We have to test shock absorbers, tires and spoilers, we hope that time will allow us".
In view of the race, in Monza comes also Jody Scheckter with his Wolf, but, given the prohibitive weather conditions, does not go on track, preferring to postpone everything to Wednesday. Scheckter, who is in the company of his wife and the team manager of Wolf, Peter Warr, stops for a long time at the Ferrari box chatting with Lauda and the other members of the Maranello team. The South African driver, as is well known, is very popular with Ferrari. Already last year the rumor spread that Ferrari intended to hire him in place of Clay Regazzoni, but then he was preferred the Argentine Carlos Reutemann. Jody has now returned to the 312T2. Scheckter, asked about it, does not. unbalance himself.
"My idea is to race in the next championship with Wolf, who is a great team and this year offered me every possible help".
But is Scheckter connected to Wolf for 1978?
"No, I have a contract with the team that expires at the end of the year, but is renewable. Let’s say that the renewal depends on various factors".
On Lauda’s decision, Scheckter comments:
"If Niki has decided to leave Ferrari, it means that he had good reasons. He is certainly not a fool".
Speaking of Lauda’s substitutes and possible changes to the Maranello team, we have the feeling tonight that Reutemann’s position has strengthened. The Argentine should have good chances to stay in Maranello, and, in fact, it is not understandable why Ferrari should not confirm this. He’s a serious man and pilot, Scheckter and Reutemann together, then, in 1978? It could be, even if the chances of Ronnie Peterson or Emerson Fittipaldi should not be underestimated. Patrick Tambay’s candidacy is down. According to reliable sources, the young Frenchman has already signed for McLaren and would run in place of the German Jochen Mass. Returning to Lauda, the decision to leave Ferrari was commented with regret by technicians and mechanics.
"We are a bit surprised. Niki is a serious driver, one with whom we worked well together. We hope he will at least give us the world title".
Sante Ghedini, head of the team for the logistic-sporting part and great friend and collaborator of Lauda, is also asked if he intends to follow Niki.
"No kidding, I am a simple employee of Ferrari".
Meanwhile, in Maranello Lauda’s decision seems to have not created drama, at the highest levels of the management team: the biggest problem seems to remain that of a valid replacement. Among the workers of Ferrari, in particular among the highly specialized mechanics of the racing department, there is unanimous recognition of the skills of the Austrian driver, but now comes to light perhaps even a pinch of ill-concealed dislike that had been hatching for some time. Lauda - it is well known - has a very cold character not only in racing: it seems that often among the mechanics of the team became icy. Not to mention the comments circulating in Modena among fans, in sports environments. To the fans of Modena, those who follow the races on television, Lauda in recent weeks had given a real disappointment, with his detached statement to a broadcast weekly. Lauda, in one of his acts of generosity (rather rare as these fans say) had paid homage of 100 bottles of white wine from Styria, to the mechanics of the racing team, after a recent victory.
"So they’ll stop drinking that Lambrusco crap".
Don’t touch Ghirlandina and Lambrusco in Modena, not even as a joke. While Lauda is in Monza, in Maranello there are almost all the mechanics of the racing department. To the inevitable question about Lauda’s decision, they answer unanimously, with a certain diplomacy.
"It is Ferrari that wins because at the moment it is the strongest car; for us, therefore, one driver is as good as another. Lauda is accurate in everything and of course is also very demanding. On the other hand we always do everything we can to put the drivers in the best technical conditions. Ferrari will therefore continue to win".
Ermanno Cuoghi, chief mechanic of the racing team, usually reserved to talk to journalists, must have obtained some clearance on this occasion.
"In four years Lauda gave his best; in my opinion he could not do more, that is, he could not give anything else. It was a cycle that had to close sooner or later. It is the car that wins, another driver will certainly get the same results. For a new driver, indeed, the satisfactions may be greater for this reason. In four years, however, an affection was born and also a lot of esteem. For this reason everyone regrets the detachment".
Speaking with another character from Maranello, Athos, the manager of the restaurant that at Cavallino is used to talking to all the big names in the sports car world, it emerges that Lauda:
"He’s a great guy to me. But I wouldn’t dramatize".
The delivery of silence applies instead in the clan of leaders. The head of the press office, Franco Gozzi, replies that he is absent: the designer, engineer Mauro Forghieri, hides behind a no comment. They called it a computer, a cold steering wheel robot, unable to love and attached to money. The portrait of Niki Lauda that emerges from the long interview in Monza is instead that of a driver with the fair-play of an English gentleman and a sentimental and adventurous soul. It is an interview in which the Austrian probably preferred this second option. He does so after some uncertainty and many meditations, because the decision was difficult, but now he is convinced that he has chosen well. Therefore, the interview continues with Lauda who adds:
"When there is no more love it is useless to continue".
But why is this love over? Yes, goals count, but other factors are also valuable, such as the lack of confidence within the team, the disconnections between technicians and driver, the return of controversy and accusations that seemed to have ended in Maranello, (the fault is always the driver, never the car). But Lauda limits herself to speaking of stimuli, of enthusiasm, of love. And it’s a good thing: why should he emphasize aspects of a union that has been very beautiful, that has borne abundant fruit, that has refreshed the image of Ferrari and made known in the world the name of Niki Lauda? Two aspects of this divorce are underlined by the Austrian champion: first, there were absolutely no financial reasons behind the decision; second, only now will Lauda be interested in perfecting its future with another team. Obviously there have been several contacts but no contract has been signed yet, nor will it be before the Italian Grand Prix.
"I intended to tell Ferrari first what I had decided to do. It was a moral obligation to him. Our cooperation has been splendid, I have always respected his orders, he has offered me all the possible help. The commander was understanding, he understood my reasons".
Lauda claims to have had verbal contact with Brabham, McLaren and Shadow, but it remains confirmed that Brabham, strong with Martini and Alfa Romeo, remains the number one candidate for the Austrian. An agreement - in the sense of putting it in writing - is next, and it is logical for both sides. The Anglo-Italian team desperately needs a test driver like Lauda, Lauda wants to enter a rich team with good prospects. And there is no shortage of the latter, with the sci-fi single-seater designed by Gordon Murray and the powerful 12-cylinder boxer supplied by Alfa Romeo. A Lauda at the wheel of a Martini Brabham-Alfa Romeo becomes the man to beat in 1978, especially for those who will replace him in the Maranello team. Ferrari will also want to show that with its cars any driver of a certain level can assert himself. And probably so. For now, for sure, only Lauda’s departure remains. The Austrian, however, still has to win with the 1977 title: here is the driver to continue his work with the usual commitment. The following day, Wednesday, August 31, 1977, just over a week after the Italian Grand Prix, at the Monza circuit you can already breathe the atmosphere of the race days. In fact, Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann with Ferrari cars, Jody Scheckter with Wolf and Arturo Merzario with March are on the track. Fans do not miss the opportunity to attend these training sessions and numerous, over 20.000. The eyes are of course all for the red cars of Maranello, which run for a long time stopping occasionally in the pits for the necessary adjustments. Lauda makes 57 laps, getting the best time of the day in 1'41"2. This time is almost a second higher than the performance recorded fifteen days ago by Reutemann, but it should be noted that the track is judged by all politicians very slippery. Says Niki Lauda:
"Everything regular, good work, no problems".
Reutemann, for his part, made 71 laps, the best of which in 1'41"7. In the morning Lauda is also the author of a spin, at the chicane before the turn of Lesmo. Numerous laps (70) also for Scheckter, which in addition to the search for the best set-up tries a new fairing with air intakes for the engine on the sides of the passenger compartment. The best lap time scored by the South African driver is 1'42"9. Some problems instead for Arturo Merzario, which covers only 16 rounds, the best of which in 1'44"4. Merzario then ran out of track at the first chicane, ruining the front of the car. Meanwhile, the public is in turmoil because of the Lauda-Ferrari divorce. From above the pits the fans, every time Lauda gets out of the car, shout to the Austrian:
"Niki, go to Brabham and they will come for you".
"You are the best, but Ferrari is more beautiful than you".
Listening to the Italian fans, Lauda laughs, amused. Allegro is also Carlos Reutemann, who initially does not want to unbalance himself on his future, but who then admits:
"I’m going to Maranello tomorrow to talk to Ferrari engineer".
That the Argentine driver remains in the Italian team is now practically certain, also because he seems to have already had telephone insurance. Forghieri is also targeted with questions, the most recurring is to ask him if one of the causes of Lauda’s divorce is him.
"I don’t think I’m so important that I can influence the decision of a smart driver like Lauda".
Lauda’s decision to leave Ferrari puts the circus in turmoil and on Wednesday there is another proof when Bernie Ecclestone, with whom it is now certain that the Austrian has agreed, arrives in Milan decided to score another hunchback blow. Being able to offer a driver like Lauda and a revolutionary car like the Brabham BT 46, the English boss now plays to the upside with the intent to get more money from his financiers. For this reason he meets with the managers of Parmalat and it is not unlikely that, to the sound of hundreds of millions of liras more, he reaches a sponsorship agreement of his team for next season. In this case, Lauda’s divorce would also have caused another important separation: that between Martini and Brabham that lasted for three seasons. Meanwhile, however, on Wednesday, August 31, 1977, Luigi Preti, President of the Italian Social Democratic Party, addressed a question to the Minister of State Participation to find out whether the press reports, according to which Alfa Romeo, with a modest contribution of two other car manufacturers, would be committed to pay 3,000 lire a day for next year to the famous racer Niki Lauda. It should be noted that expenditure far exceeds any historical precedent and that a company as passive as Alfa Romeo should try to economize in the non-essential sectors. On Mr Preti’s question, Alfa Romeo states that it has not conducted any negotiations concerning Niki Lauda, whose contractual relations, including any economic aspects, are of Brabham’s concern. This is because Alfa Romeo, which would participate in the operation together with Bernie Ecclestone, is an Italian state company, despite Sunday, September 4, 1977 Carlo Chiti says he has not yet received confirmation from Ecclestone that Lauda has signed with Brabham.
"I have said it a thousand times that the topic pilots is something that concerns Brabham and only her. The Autodelta has nothing to do with it".
Four days later, Thursday, September 8, 1977 Carlo Chiti, Vincenzo Moro and Mario Mazzi will meet with Bernie Ecclestone, and on this occasion the British manager informs the Alfa Romeo group that Parmalat is ready to invest $ 3.000.000 for the next two seasons and that it will help to pay half the salary of Niki Lauda (to which is added the oil sponsor Fina, who pays 40.000 dollars per year). Ecclestone adds that martini&rossi changed its attitude to the approach that was given to a redefinition of the contractual agreements, at the meeting of Balocco, and asks the Italian executives if they are prepared to make direct contact with Parmalat to inform the managers of the Emilian company that Alfa Romeo and Autodelta would not hinder a sponsorship of Brabham, in the event that the relationship with Martini should fall. Clearly Ecclestone is in a hurry to close the contract with Parmalat, because he is afraid of losing the performance of Niki Lauda. Obviously, Mazzi, Moro and Chiti agree. Taking advantage of the moment, Ecclestone tries to retract the layout or size of the Alfa Romeo lettering and logos on the cars, asking for $200.000 in case of opposition to the question (figure that the English manager could have asked another sponsor) but the Italian executives oppose any proposal. In this context, Ecclestone refuses to accept the increase in the cost of engine overhauls, at 6.800.000 Italian liras per car and race. In this regard, Ecclestone is given in the days leading up to the meeting a report signed by Mayer, in which he indicates the costs of overhauling Cosworth engines for car and race, which are lower than required by Autodelta. Chiti, in turn, has prepared a document in which he explains the reasons why an Alfa Romeo engine has such high costs, and puts it to the attention of Moro and Mazzi the day before the meeting, Wednesday, September 7, 1977. Carlo Chiti writes:
"The Autodelta basically only performs the assembly of the engine without performing any machining of its components. All the pieces are realized near external suppliers, is like castings, print or forgings that like mechanical workings. Cosworth, on the other hand, works in its own workshop with all the components and also has its own small foundry. Our engine is designed and built with the concept of serving for the use of a stable and not to be built in small series, as was done for the Cosworth cn construction of suitable equipment for production. Our engine is a twelve cylinder and for itself costs more than an eight cylinder".
Bringing these arguments together, Chiti and Moro stand against Ecclestone’s desire to reduce the cost of revisions, and the two sides come almost to the point of breaking collaboration. On the one hand, however, Ecclestone knows that it has a very lucrative sponsor and the opportunity to hire Lauda, on the other Alfa Romeo does not want to lose the huge investments. Therefore, after a brief interruption of the meeting, it is decided to postpone the subject of the costs of overhauling the engines to a subsequent meeting with the president of Alfa Romeo, Cortesi. It remains therefore to define the contract of collaboration for the 1979 season. Also in this case, there are contrasts. Ecclestone does not want to subordinate the renewal to the victory of the 1978 World Championship, or to the achievement of the second place. Mazzi and Chiti point out to Ecclestone that the latter had not opposed this clause two weeks before, in Balocco, by the president of Autodelta, Moro. But the British manager claims that the president of Alfa Romeo, Cortesi, had promised him that any contractual extension would be linked not to the aforementioned parameter, but to the evaluation of a reasonable performance. After the meeting, held Thursday, September 8, 1977, Ecclestone is brought to lunch, at the end of which the English manager proposes to close the issue relating to the issue of refunds for engine overhaul in exchange for the global recognition of 10.000.000 lire per race. Chiti and Moro reserve to think about it and give an answer to Ecclestone at the end of the Italian Grand Prix, which will be attended by six Italian drivers. In addition to Vittorio Brambilla (Surtees), Arturo Merzario (March) and Riccardo Patrese (Shadow), the test will be attended by Bruno Giacomelli, McLaren M23, Giorgio Francia, with the Brabham-Alfa Romeo BT 45 and Lamberto Leoni with the Surtees. The driver from Brescia is back from an excellent season in Formula 2, in which, among other things, he won in two races. The Italian driver has been hired by Marlboro and, thanks to his interest, will be able to debut in Formula 1.
Giorgio Francia, the employee-test driver of Autodelta, will also have the satisfaction of debuting in Formula 1 on a car driven by the engine of his team. France has demonstrated its skills by racing Alfa Romeo sports cars. Leoni is 24 years old and has put himself in the spotlight in Formula 2. This year, with a single-seater driven by the Dino Ferrari engine, he won the Misano Grand Prix. Friday, September 2, 1977 Leoni tries at Brands Hatch, in England, the Surtees with favorable outcome. Wednesday, September 7, 1977, two days before the start of the official practice of the 48 Italian Grand Prix, fourteenth act of the Formula 1 World Championship, it is not yet known with certainty how these tests will be held. The fact emerges during the official presentation of the event carried out by the Automobile Club of Milan, which is the organizing body. The high number of members of the Grand Prix (36) creates difficulties on how to carry out the qualifying tests. The Italian organizers, contrary to what happened in other nations during previous races of the World Championship, rightly avoid to have a certain number of drivers, not part of the team of the Formula 1 Manufacturers Association, the preliminary admission tests, considering valid the right for all competitors to participate in the actual training. Now, however, we are faced with too many cars: it is impossible to admit them at the same time on the track because the track is approved for a maximum of thirty cars. The leaders of the ACI in Milan propose to divide the competitors into two groups, but against this proposal is expressed, on behalf of the Formula 1 Association, Bernie Ecclestone. The solution of the two groups (often adopted in the minor formulas) has some questions if we consider that the 24 drivers who will have obtained the best times without taking into account the group they belong will be admitted to the start. In fact, during the day, there may be atmospheric changes (more heat or rain) that significantly affect the performance of an entire group. With this eventuality you could consider - declares one of the organizers - the best twelve performances of each group, but at this point to determine the method by which to divide the competitors is certainly not easy.
The solution of even and odd numbers (commonly used in minor formulas) would bring together in one group almost all the first guides of the various teams (Hunt, Peterson, Andretti, Watson, Lauda, Jabouille, Jones, Brambilla, etc.), with the consequent elimination of leading drivers that with regular tests would certainly be among the starters. In any case, now the International Sports Commission will decide. Impressive as every year the security services. On the route for fire services will be deployed 100 men with 23 vehicles (11 of which consist of fast cars specially equipped). In practice you will have a fire engine every 250 meters. They will also be arranged hand extinguishers along the entire route to the extent of a fire extinguisher every twenty meters. For first aid services will be available a helicopter, three mobile centres of resuscitation with a specialized medical team, seven ambulances with doctor and resuscitation equipment and 36 nurses placed along the runway at the stations of the route stewards. In addition, on three fast vehicles of the fire service (also equipped with stretcher) will also take place a resuscitator doctor for immediate interventions along the circuit. A special health service (consisting of four tents with ambulances, doctor and nurse) will work for assistance to the public. The interest for the Italian Grand Prix grew day by day and the press office of the Automobile Club of Milan received another thousand requests for photographic and journalistic services. The competition will be broadcast by fifteen foreign television networks and commented by 22 foreign radio stations. The organizers sell about 78,000 tickets, 18,000 of which, those relating to the numbered stands, are sold out. Meanwhile, at the Monza circuit, the week opens with the roar of the turbo Renault that performs the planned tests in view of the now next race. The French car, driven by Jean-Pierre Jabouille, proves to adapt well to the Lombard track and does not complain of major drawbacks. During the day he covered 67 laps, the best of which in 1'40"7, a time of only 0.3 seconds higher than the record time recorded by Carlos Reutemann with Ferrari in mid-August practice. Jabouille declares at the end of the tests:
"I am satisfied, because the car responded well throughout the day and did not suffer any problems. We are particularly fast on the long straights and this should be a favorable track".
The Renault tested in Monza, compared to previous appearances, has a wider front track and mounts the front nose with spoilers, the same used at Silverstone. On track also Arturo Merzario who covers 30 laps, the best of which in 1'44"2. Merzario, however, complains about problems with a broken fuel line and a drop in engine. The Renault turbo tests will continue on Thursday and, together with the French car, Bruno Giacomelli will also train, whose McLaren M23 arrives in Monza on Wednesday.
"It’s important that I try a bit because I’ve never driven this car, let alone a car with a six-speed gearbox. My goal is to enter among the qualified drivers. I hope to succeed".
Mario Andretti at Ferrari? It is no longer a hypothesis to be discarded. The Italian-American driver will be on Friday or perhaps Monday after the Italian Grand Prix, in Maranello to talk to the Ferrari commendator.
"We should discuss several things. The real problem will be whether my commitments for the American races are compatible with the needs of Ferrari".
Mario Andretti said during a meeting with Italian journalists at the Martini Terrace in Milan. Andretti is currently considered one of the most complete drivers is the only one, of those in business, that can boast, in addition to the successes in Formula 1, in the Sportscar World Championship and in the USAC Championship, a victory in the prestigious Indy 500. The Italian-American has already been a Ferrari driver from 1970 to 1972 for some sports races with a single-seater of the Maranello team, and won in 1971 in Kyalami, in South Africa, his first Formula 1 Grand Prix. In the last two seasons he has been the creator of the rebirth of Lotus and this year he confirmed himself as one of the protagonists of the World Championship, imposing himself in the tests of Long Beach, Jarama and Dijon. Serious professional, skillful and decisive, although on the race fields Andretti retains that charge of humanity and sympathy that make him one of the most beloved characters of the circus.
"Sincerely I would be very interested in returning to the Italian team. Of course we will talk about it".
If he were to go to Ferrari, would Reutemann be welcome as team-mate?
"Yes, very well. I have no problem with the other drivers".
What do you remember about your time at Ferrari?
"I keep a very good and positive memory. I am still a friend of all and in these years my heart has always been a little with them. It’s a very serious team, with very trained people, capable of facing any situation. When I was racing with Sports they were very efficient machines and I still remember the wonderful victories achieved in pairs with Jacky lckx".
What are the commitments that bind Andretti to Lotus?
"I have already reached an agreement with Chapman even if I have not yet signed a real contract".
For Ferrari, would you stop racing in America?
"It’s not easy to answer. I have a lot to evaluate. If I had to come to a decision now, I wouldn’t know what to answer. I’m interested in continuing to race in America to keep myself trained in that kind of competition because when I stop racing in Formula 1 I will return to participate totally in American races".
At the moment, what are the American commitments for next season?
"I am committed to the same races that I raced this year, that is to say for the three 500 Miles".
What does the Italian Grand Prix matter at Monza?
"Monza is like Mecca for me. It’s the track I knew first and therefore winning in Monza is for me one of the things I want more".
Do you consider the current World Championship over?
"I think so. And now I’d like to be in Lauda’s shoes. To hope for something more I had to win in Holland, but it broke again a connecting rod and goodbye hopes. Lauda is worthy of the success because to Zandvoort he made a masterpiece".
Do you think the championship will be decided in Monza?
"It is difficult to say if you will come to the mathematical conclusion: however for Lauda the task is quite easy".
What do you think of the good times obtained by Renault Turbo these days?
"For the French team these performances are very encouraging, but I hope that things will not go so well for her, because otherwise I will have an additional opponent".
the change of team will cost a lot of reflection?
"When one has to make a decision one is always assailed by the doubt of making a mistake; however one must go ahead".
Already in Spain, at the Grand Prix, the differential war broke out. It was said that the phenomenal performance of Andretti’s Lotus was due to the differential, or rather, to the lack thereof. Since then there have been rumors about who used the differential and who didn’t. It is known that on certain occasions racing cars can run without this device. Porsche, for example, eliminated him for the Can-Am series. Even in Indianapolis, as far as we know, most cars have no differential, so it is obvious that Mario Andretti, strong of his American experience, may have recommended this solution to Lotus. The differential is that group of gears that connects the driving wheels to each other, so that one can turn faster than the other when, in a curve, the outer wheel takes a longer path than the internal one. But it is known that the differential allows a single wheel to turn by sliding if the ground does not have the same consistency and anyway if the available power is a lot. In racing cars you want to avoid this slip that wastes time and risks compromising the correct trajectory in the curve. The so-called self-locking differentials, which in fact only limit the possibility that each wheel has to slip, have been adopted for some time. They are constructed so that if one wheel slides, the other receives a good part of the power: this percentage serves to indicate the type of differential. Formula 1 cars use devices calibrated to 75 or 80%. Various Formula 1 teams have tried differentials with blocking percentages of up to 90%, and now it is rumored that Ferrari is experiencing an adjustable type.
This would be an advantage not so much in racing, as to facilitate and make faster tuning on the circuit, With an adjustable system, instead, the driver can try various solutions, practically every lap, if desired. The secret consists in a hydraulic system applied to a self-locking differential of the type with calibrated clutches. The clutches serve to predetermine the percentage of power applicable to each wheel, and instead of using springs (which would require disassembly whenever you want to change the calibration) a hydraulic system such as that of the brakes is used, In this way it is possible to vary the stress on the clutches and ultimately the locking of the differential, from 0% up to 100%. In the old circuit of Monza, which at the end of next year should close its doors in homage to ecology, will begin Friday, September 9, 1977 tests for the Italian Grand Prix. This race and the Lombard track have always played a leading role in the Formula 1 World Championship. In over fifty years of history, men and cars have been the protagonists of legendary episodes, uncontrollable joys and terrible tragedies. Every time Monza proposes stimulating themes, collects enthusiasm and tensions, excites fantasies. Today as yesterday, even if the sport of the steering wheel, at least at the level of Formula 1, has undergone profound changes and tends to approach an exact science. Since he decided his divorce from Ferrari, all we talk about is Lauda, in the racing world. On Sunday in Monza almost all spectators go to see the Italian Grand Prix exclusively to enjoy the joy of seeing it hurtling. But after he said everything he had to say, the Austrian now thinks only to conclude the season, but there are others who speak. Let’s take Regazzoni, who through the Turin sports newspaper states:
"Lauda was wrong to leave Ferrari. The driver’s car counts more. Ferrari will certainly find a good replacement, while Lauda with another car may not get the same results".
While through another Milanese newspaper, Regazzoni declares:
"Lauda leaves Ferrari because the car doesn’t work anymore. The Italian engine is great, but the chassis isn’t".
And then releases a long series of negative considerations on the account of engineer Forghieri. Meanwhile, the problem of qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix, which will officially start on Friday, September 9, 1977, is resolved in extremis with the admission of all registered competitors. It is a fact that is incredible if you think that for several weeks now this issue had been under discussion and that it was only concluded during the late evening of Thursday, September 8, 1977. In the past, such a problem had never occurred, because the number of aspiring competitors had always been lower. This year the number of registrations has increased from trial to trial and so it has come to admit to training too many competitors compared to the maximum number allowed by the circuits based on safety considerations. Previously, the FOCA (the Association of Formula 1 Manufacturers) had tried to overcome the inconvenience with the proposal to have the drivers not belonging to the association of preliminary tests. The organizers Monzesi, instead, rightly considering that all members have the right to participate in the actual training, have decided not to play these pre-prove, referring to the International Regulation, that, art. 74 of the Sports Code, provides that the organizers must accept all registrations received by known pilots. In this case it is the task of the organization to provide as many series of tests as the circumstance requires. In particular, for Formula 1 there is a special statute, drawn up in 1976, bulletin FIA n. 104 of the month of April, and still valid as confirmed by telex of 12-4-1977 by the CIS. This regulation, page 20, art. 36, provides: the maximum number of cars admitted to a series of tests is represented by the maximum number of cars admitted to the start plus five. In the specific case of the Italian Grand Prix, the cars allowed to start from the particular rules of the race is 24 (page 7, art. 4, paragraph B, of the Rules of the Grand Prix). The limit of cars in Monza was already known, and had been agreed with the FOCA on 11 March 1977. On that occasion it was decided to contain in 24 cars allowed on the Milan track, for safety reasons. The engineer Nosetto, representing Ferrari, before the meeting, had specified that he wanted the regulations to be respected (in a nutshell, that the tests were carried out in two groups), for obvious safety reasons, being the track approved for 29 cars, and therefore not suitable to accommodate 35. At the end of the meeting, attended by Ecclestone. Mosley and Nosetto for the constructors, Restelli and Maffezzoli for the organizers, and the CSI delegate, Cormist, were agreed to start all the drivers together. Here is the statement issued by the Formula 1 Manufacturers Association.
"At the recent meeting in Rome, the CSI accepted the new rules to overcome the problem of registrations in Formula 1. At Zandvoort, both organizers and competitors agreed that all machines test together. The FOCA, in an effort to help the organizers of Monza for what is now the last race in which this problem arises, has established that all machines test in the same session according to FIA regulations, the supplementary rules of the tender and the contract between the FOCA and the organisers. Ferrari expressed its disagreement on this decision".
However, Scuderia Ferrari will issue a statement shortly after, explaining that:
"Ferrari confirms that it has not lodged any complaint regarding the criterion adopted for the qualification tests. It only drew the attention of the organizers and members of the FOCA so that everything will take place in accordance with the provisions of the CSI. Ferrari will however comply with the decision of the sports stewards, hoping for a smooth running of the tests, without prejudice to the observation that on this occasion, as in other previous ones, we tend not to respect the sports law".
The number one problem of racing cars is the engine: once you find the right one, with enough power, a good manufacturer can make a good car even in a small workshop. The so-called assemblers have always existed, the same Enzo Ferrari likes to remember that he began by combining Alfa Romeo engines to his cars. The flourishing of English manufacturers has depended on the ease of finding the main organs that form a car, but especially the engine: the Coventry Climax before and the Cosworths later (and until today). In Italy the panorama could have been different if, for example, Ferrari had sold its engine? Probably yes, because at least a couple of teams would have produced cars, but the story is not written with if. However, today the situation has improved for the sake of interest in racing. As shown in the multiplication table, in Monza we will see five types of engine for Formula 1, with a variety really worthy of note. There are the two rivals of all time, Ferrari and Cosworth: the first only equips the cars of Maranello, the other numerous teams, but it’s not like it used to be, when there were two Ferraris against 24 Cosworths. The comparison then was too favorable to the English eight-cylinder, also for the superiority of some frames. Now on track are also the two Brabham cars with Alfa Romeo engine, Ligier with Matra and Renault with its engine, and the results were seen: the Brabham-Alfa were often in the lead, Ligier won in Sweden, Renault is emerging. Cosworth cars don’t dominate like they used to. Formula 1 that seemed to languish (at least from the point of view of the engine) in the monotony of the Ferrari-Cosworth comparison has really revived. As you know, the regulation requires engines to have a maximum of 12 cylinders and a displacement of 3000 cc if aspirated and 1500 cc if supercharged. There are no other restrictions except in the type of fuel that must be super gasoline (and you will remember the dilemma of last year at Monza when some cars used a super that was too super, ie had up to 107 octane, instead of 101 regulations). Ferrari and Alfa have chosen the solution 12 cylinders boxer, that is with the two rows of six cylinders horizontal and opposed. The motor is low and compact, but creates some difficulties of assemblage in the loom. Furthermore, the motor block is not rigid enough to be cantilevered. The Matra by Ligier is a classic 12-cylinder V of 60 degrees, excellent in every respect and just a bit 'more bulky than the boxer.
Cosworth begins to show the years (he turned ten celebrating the hundred victories), but remains a great engine, especially from the point of view of performance in relation to the price. A Cosworth today costs 18.000.000 lire new (as much as the price of a couple of revisions of the 12-cylinder boxer), and allows poorer teams to participate in various races with the same unit. Finally, the latest addition, the Renault with turbocharger: it must overcome the problems of youth and those associated with the enormous power that must be developed with such a small displacement. The power of the Renault is approximately eight times greater than that of a production car engine of the same displacement (using the same gasoline). Speaking of engines and drivers, as widely anticipated, the Italians will greet, inside the old track of the Autodrome, the combination that seemed perfect between Niki Lauda and Ferrari, which will begin the tests after a long series of private tests. Monza is a circuit where the 312 T2 can develop its power, although the chicanes introduced in recent years bring to the forefront features such as handling and road holding. If Lauda, Reutemann and the Maranello technicians can find - tyres permitting - a valid compromise. But the Brabham-Alfa Romeo and the new Renault with a supercharged engine should not be underestimated. The Anglo-Italian team has a potentially competitive car. The day you succeed in realizing the undoubted possibilities, may those who can be saved. Renault is growing from race to race. In the pre-Monza tests it proved to be a formidable reality. Thursday, September 8, 1977 everything is well that ends well: the proverb - used not by chance - is appropriate to the eventful events that accompany the performance of the Grand Prix single formula for rock crusher, held yesterday in Piazza dei Partigiani. From 11:00 a.m. the first motoring enthusiasts begin to take their seats in the grandstands arranged on the perimeter of a rectangle at the center of which is the path of 150 meters. Nine of the most prestigious steering axles, in addition to Giacomo Agostini, give life to the whirling top speed of 12 kilometers per hour, the extravagant trophy. Each rock crusher bears the driver’s name on the side: Hunt, Regazzoni, Merzario, de Adamich, Reutemann, Mass, Peterson, Murari, Scheckter and Agostini. On the stretch of sea in front, the square, to offer a hint of color to the numerous cameramen and photographers, there are fifty sailboats, most of the sailing school of the nautical club. The stands flourish with shirts with the most disparate writings, while restless crowds of children run from one side to the other. Luisella, animator of Radio Montecarlo, stands as mistress in the center of the track and does the honors of house.
"The steering wheel aces will be at Alassio around 5:00 p.m.".
They say the speakers. Then, according to the program, here’s the fashion show. From 5:00 p.m. the appointment slips around 6:00 p.m. Luisella announces:
"The plane that has to take the pilots from Bern to Villanova is a few minutes late".
Thank goodness there is at least one rider: Clay Regazzoni, who de good Swiss is punctual like a stopwatch. Clay, with a mild and conversational character, lends himself to a very long interview. He explains with keenness the world of Formula 1, the fatigue of Lauda that leaves Ferrari (he In that experience there has already passed). It’s 6:00 p.m. but no word on the plane. A subtle annoyance takes over part of the audience, which begins and becomes impatient, even if it will never transcend. The entrance ticket costs 3.000 lire: the collection is close to 7.000.000 lire. It is 6:30 p.m. but no communication from Villanova. Where are the organizers and patrons of the event, the Councillor, Tomagnini? Luisella, left alone with the impatient public, does not know what to say. Meanwhile, calls are intertwined with the control tower of Villa nova airport. It is finally reported that the flight plan calls for landing at 7:25 p.m. But there is a further delay. It is nightfall. There is a danger that landing is no longer possible. It was then decided to send home the audience, giving appointment at 11:30 p.m. A car will inform of the postponement, passing through the city streets. The long-awaited plane, after some attempts, finally lays the wheels on the track of Villanova: there are Hunt, World Champion, Mass and Laffite. At the night shoot, Hunt explodes his whimsical temperament, gives show, amuses. The frowning faces of the spectators smile again, and the organizers return to their seats for the awards. Meanwhile, the motor show starts. Hunt drives barefoot, having recently reported a slight sprain his right ankles by kicking a ball. The Englishman, during the race, holds a bottle of beer, on the other a cigarette. His stone crusher zigzags in a worrying way and, when it is seen now passed, takes shortcuts and is disqualified. The young English ace sends kisses to her admirers, making gallant appreciation at the microphone on the beauties of Alaskan. In the end it is he who tries to open the giant bottle of champagne, but the cork does not want to go out: you will have to resort to a prosaic and whistled (by the audience) corkscrew. Going from city organization to sports organization, every year also the organization of the Italian Grand Prix in Monza seems to have reached the top of the disorder, the nets are holes, the services only poor service, the work of those who run almost impossible. This year has reached another negative limit, that of the cars on track and the test carousel becomes laborious, stressful since Friday, since The weather service does not predict changes.
"What I’m fighting is amateur racing. These taxi-racers who collect money for one or two races, which hinder our work, professional, must be eliminated for the good of all, including theirs, since they do not learn and throw means that could use differently".
Bernie Ecclestone speaks with conviction. He refuses somewhat derogatory nickname of godfather of Formula 1, but not the role and when he speaks he never does so in a personal capacity, but on behalf of the association, the FOCA, which is his creation and on which he continues to maintain the parental authority. It is easy to oppose him yet another protest of Merzario concretized this time in a withdrawal, but he finds the reply:
"Against Arturo we have nothing. He is certainly not an amateur, but he has not yet regularized the position of his team. We have our own rules, but he will be back in the big business next year".
Just on a Brabham will run the young Giorgio Francia: a race, an appearance, not a serious program.
"I had a lot of pressure from the Alfa, and I couldn’t say no. Of course it’s wrong, he shouldn’t run like that either".
The argument is marginal, but serves to frame well this character, the authoritarian but also skillful dialectic, well detached from too rigid ethical schemes but basically respected in an environment where these lambs are few and are eaten immediately, but where too much wolf is soon found the whole pack against. The problem of drivers' participation in Grands Prix is one of many and Ecclestone has at least six or seven more important issues to solve, but he doesn’t give up.
"It’s a feature of mine. I never neglected any detail and so I always managed to reach the final goal".
It is a fine statement and he is pleased with it, but perhaps it is not quite true, because for example the British who remember him racer around 1957-1958 qualify him bluntly unskilled. Yet if he had not had that experience as a pilot, then that of a small manager Connaught who rotated among many aspiring champions, probably would not be the Bernie now. Others say that it would not be even if it had not worked in the following years in some obscure areas of Import-Export, where the money was at least for a few years rather easy. What was it about? Cars, though Bernie slips elegantly over the subject and only says that he prefers the current craft, because it paradoxically allows him to stay more time at home. He lives on the top floor of a skyscraper. on the Albert Embakment, and the Thames seems to flow only for him beyond the windows of a great stay. He is married, has no children, loves stamps and modelling, say his biographies. He simplifies and enriches himself:
"I love life".
Back to the present, from the particular, the participation of the drivers, to the general, what is this time the final goal?
"You have to decide new rules, adjust the rides to the size they took".
Remember that in Japan, on that day full of non-decisions that preceded the dispute of the most discussed Grand Prix of the year, the members of the CIS were bloody Stupid, their behavior from unconscious their non-existent competence. He was right, but in the cold it takes more diplomacy, which does not shake even the most open provocation. Ecclestone wants to take over the entire Formula 1 business?
"Everyone says it’s already my domain, but it’s not true. The president is the Ferrari commander, I try to look after everyone’s interests. We can no longer deal with sloppy organisations on the one hand and an inconsistent sporting body on the other. But do you remember how Tom Pryce died? That’s a stupid death that must never happen again. Then the wrongdoing? This year there has been an escalation, but the explanation is soon given: the commissioners on the track have neither the authority nor especially the competence to identify impropriety. It is a world to be rebuilt, at least to change a lot".
To Bernie I am more or less everyone agrees in giving confidence, also the other managers who also have conflicting interests. At Bernie renews the contract Alfa Romeo, who also had Individualistic ambitions, and almost certainly does the same for Martini. Especially with Bernie goes Niki driver more good and the team relaunches towards goals never achieved so far (given also the fact that in the days before the race, Niki Lauda and Bernie Ecclestone meet inside the car of the English manager in the Park of Monza, to close the agreement). Making this assessment out loud, Ecclestone smiles smugly, but remains discreet:
"There is nothing official yet, everything can change from today to tomorrow. Let’s say I try to do things for the best, for me and for everyone".
Sure, with a world title. Despite annual rumours that the race must be moved eventually owing to various local objections, legal sanctions or whatever, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza continues to be the final race in the European Formula One season. Over the years we saw the Milanese circuits change and evolve in many ways, going from road circuit to a combination of road and banked circuit and then, when the banking begun to deteriorate and prove too punishing for the frail Grand Prix cars of the early 1960s, it reverted to a pure road circuit once more. For more than ten seasons Monza has been a slipstreaming blind where the drivers’ iron nerves and reliable machinery have been more important than sheer skill; but that stopped in 1972 when two stupidly conceived chicanes were installed, one immediately after the pits and one at the Ascari curve. Fortunately, after a few years of silly spins, shunts and coming-togethers, the whole affair has been redesigned for 1976. There’s now all ess-bend at the Ascari Curve, and two relatively easy chicanes, one before Curva Grande and one before the Lesmo curves. Now the cars come rushing out of Parabolica, fan out across the wide start/finish straight and rocket away on full song. You could happily sit in the main grandstand today and imagine there were no chicanes at all for the Italian Grand Prix. Despite rumours that there might be a third Ferrari at Monza for the young American driver Eddie Cheever, the Maranello team brings along their usual trio of 312 transversales for Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann. It has been left to the Brabham team to pander to their Alfa Romeo engine suppliers by installing local hero Giorgio Francia in BT45/1B in the first practice session, even though team chief Ecclestone has assured everybody the previous week that he would be running only two cars in the Italian Grand Prix.
In fact, he has been right to the letter of his assurance, because Francia has been allowed only a handful of painfully slow laps before Stuck commandeered it after the clutch centre plate sheared on BT45/3B. Another local driver making his first appearance in Formula One at Monza is Lamberto Leoni, the Young Italian who recently won the Formula 2 Misano race in a Chevron-Ferrari V6, and he has been installed in the second works Surtees TS19, recently vacated by the disillusioned Schuppan. Similarly the McLaren team has given Formula 2 ace Bruno Giacomelli his Formula 1 debut in M23/8, in much the same way as they recruited Villeneuve for the British Grand Prix. at Silverstone. Using Ferrari 312/031 Lauda opens off the first session in fine style on Friday morning, the Austrian driver clearly keen to prove that he is the driving force behind the current level of the Ferrari team’s competitiveness. He ends up fastest after the first hour and a half with a 1'38"97 best. It is a reflection on the progress made on the tyre front since last year that the 1976 pole position time of 1'45"35 (established by Laffite’s Ligier-Matra JS5) was left behind very early on. Reutemann backs up his team-mate admirably with a 1'39"18 best and then comes Watson in Brabham-Alfa BT45/5B on 1'39"21, which leaves a lot of happy cheering faces in the spectator grandstands, as one can imagine. McLaren team leader James Hunt, for whom things simply don’t seem to have clicked in recent races, starts off practice with the built-in handicap of having sprained a ligament in his right foot while playing in a football match in Switzerland earlier in the week. For a couple of days there were fears that he would not be fit enough to race at Monza, but by Friday morning his foot is feeling much better and he is able to practise M26/2 as usual.
Monza is to be Regazzoni’s 100th Grand Prix race and he is anxious to do well, so he feel cautiously optimistic with a 1'40"70 best in a car that hasn’t been unduly noted for its straight line performance throughout the season. Slightly faster than Regazzoni have been both Vittorio Brambilla, uncharacteristically under control in his Surtees TS 19/06, and Jacques Laffite in his Ligier-Matra JS7/03, while both the Tyrrells have managed times in the mid-1'40"0 bracket although neither Depailler nor Peterson can interpret these performances with any air of optimism. One gets the impression, both from the overall demeanour of the drivers and from the team, that the six-wheeler project is virtually over and everybody is simply marking time until the 1978 season arrives with a new car and at least one new driver. In the Shadow team Jones has a hectic time on Friday, recording 1'40"63, before spinning off into the sand at one of the chicanes and sustaining suspension damage on his race car as the marshals pull it out at the end of the session. He uses the spare DN8 briefly before returning to his regular machine in the afternoon only to clip a chicane kerb and bends a suspension rocker arm. Patrese, the young Italian anxious to do well on home soil, records a 1'41"87 best before ignition failure leaves him stranded somewhere out on the circuit for much of the second session. After the success of the team in Austria, first Zandvoort and now Monza haven't seemed to be going the same way. Down at the tail of the field there are all the regular hopefuls camped out on the grass at the far end of the pit lane, the poor relations of Formula One who are so far down the pecking order that they don’t get a proper pit or garage provided. The Monza pits were built in the days when there were far fewer entries for World Championships Grands Prix, and their instigators could hardly have envised the number of cars we are seeing this year.
"I hope that the weather conditions, now beautiful, remain good because and leaves falling from the trees worsen the visibility and enter the air vents of the car. Tomorrow, however, in the last rehearsal, will be the moment of truth. It is useless to let go of easy enthusiasms, because others could also arrive where we arrived".
"However, it takes nothing to lose a race. We go first and second, but we have to deal with opponents and luck. Lauda had problems this morning with a front tyre that lost pressure and Reutemann had the same problem twice on the rear tyres. It was probably a fun set of tyres. Let’s hope the trouble doesn’t happen again in the race".
hose who came hoping to witness a moral lynching of the Austrian pilot can leave disappointed. For the crowd Lauda and Ferrari today are still the winning combination, divorce is an annoying cloud that melts in the heat of enthusiasm. It’s time to forget the controversy and criticism, as is right. Lauda smiles and smiles the men of the Maranello team. The atmosphere is serene, everyone performs their work with commitment and competence. There is no tension, except that logic of these hours of testing in which every driver and every team fights to emerge. But it is logical: we are among professionals, among people who. Beyond personal likes and dislikes, knows to operate not only for itself but also and above all for Ferrari and wants to reach an important and useful destination for everyone like the Formula 1 World Championship. Journalists talk to Lauda in the big van of Ferrari. He is busy planning his travels from Monza to the hotel where he lives. He says:
"Too much confusion in Monza, I preferred to settle with Marlene at the Villa d'Este in Como. My friend Wolf lent me the helicopter to come and go".
Speaking of Walter Wolf, the wealthy Austrian oil tanker who emigrated a few years ago to Canada, there’s a rumor that Niki can join his team. Is it true?
"It’s true, I’ve had contact with him too. We’ll see, we’ll see...".
Talk about the audience.
"Those applauses pleased me. They mean that people are objective, that they appreciate me even if I leave Ferrari".
As always, Niki doesn’t want the forecast for Sunday. It’s too early. He just says, -It’s life, though not like last year. But here, compared to the other Grand Prizes, there is more pressure. I really hope that Carlos will give me a hand, drive for me. I will need it to close the title speech right away-. Lauda adds that the work was done normally, that with the team nothing has changed. Grumbles Mauro Forghieri, who by some has been referred to as an enemy of Niki:
"And I would like to see it. No kidding. We are on the same boat until the end of October, so we work together as professionals. It is not about personal matters".
Then he adds with a bit of controversy:
"Sure, if this morning he wanted to make a good time he had to adjust the car as we suggested".
"For us from a technical point of view it is as if nothing had happened. The opinion on the Lauda driver does not change. For the rest everyone can think as he wants. One fact, however, is sure: Ferrari can not do without only one person, Enzo Ferrari. He’ll determine who happens to Niki. He is a bold and courageous man, he will be able to find a driver with a sense of speed, that is, capable of immediately obtaining remarkable performances".
The problem of divorce, therefore, is not a real problem for anyone. Lauda and Ferrari leave as good friends. Comments Cristiano Rattazzi, racing enthusiast, grandson of Giovanni Agnelli:
"Also because it is appropriate to remain in good relations with Lauda. What if in a year or two Ferrari needs him again and decides to take him back?"
A question that perhaps hides a desire not only personal. However, everything seems easy for Niki Lauda and Ferrari. The Austrian driver, with the best time scored in official practice of the Italian Grand Prix, seems to have automatically nominated for the victory and for the conquest of his second world title. Only if Niki were to have the misfortune to leave or at least not to take too many points, and if Jody Scheckter won the Monza test, the fight would still be open. But Lauda, who seems to have the confidence of those who know he is the strongest, does not seem willing to leave the road to his rivals. Few drivers will be able to oppose his march. Four, however, are the names of the opponents who might worry him, regarding the conquest of pole position in the last official practice on Saturday afternoon. These are Mario Andretti, James Hunt, Jacques Laffite and Scheckter himself. Andretti did not have the time to develop his Lotus, but it is well known that the Italian-American still has some resentment for what happened in Holland, when he eliminated himself in the accident with Hunt.
"If I can balance my car well, I’d like to get my revenge. I’ll run in front of a friendly audience, because fans can’t and shouldn’t forget my Italian name. And then there are so many other reasons. In these last races of the championship we play next season, the engagements and sponsors, cars and situations. Who will win in Monza, apart from Lauda who has now divorced, could be considered by Ferrari, and I think many people are betting on this goal. Personally, I have not concluded anything, I have not yet signed contracts. I would therefore like to make a great race, a race that convinces everyone about my chances of aiming for the title next year".
James Hunt does not speak much, but it is clear that the English, outgoing World Champion, is at this time driven by the great will to achieve a prestigious result that can at least rehabilitate him of a season not too bright. The speech, although for other reasons, also applies to Laffite and Watson, the Frenchman knows he has a weapon in the Ligier-Matra with winning chances. The engine of the car of the blond Jacques contends to Ferrari the dominance in terms of reliability and power and Laffite could repeat the success achieved in Sweden. Power also carries on John Watson’s Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo. The Englishman, who holds the unluckiest driver of the year, would like for once not to disappoint technicians, mechanics and managers of his team, and in particular men. Alfa Romeo, like the engineer Chiti, who are just waiting for a victory to see consecrated many sacrifices and many years of work spent to make Brabham go strong. Lauda’s opponents should not forget his teammate, Carlos Reutemann, who got the second half. The Argentine, after being confirmed by Ferrari, seems another man, more smiling, less upset, able to fully exploit his undoubted value as a driver. For Reutemann a victory in Monza would mean the first great satisfaction since he climbed into Ferrari and the demonstration that there is not only Lauda capable of bringing the car of Maranello to first place. A success would also put him in a position to prove that the confidence given to him is worth, whatever Enzo Ferrari’s decision regarding the appointment of another driver. All that remains is to wait for further developments. And it is not said that Enzo Ferrari, Sunday, glued to the video, does not take his decision based on the result of the race. Of course, if Niki Lauda wins, despite the happiness for the world title practically achieved, the embarrassment will be very great.
"You’ll see, now they will favor Reutemann".
"Ferrari will punish Lauda for betrayal, will make him lose the title".
In fact, behind the scenes Enzo Ferrari had let his collaborators and Nosetto know that he would have liked the victory of Reutemann, and in this regard the Argentine driver is given an engine with a few more horses than the one given to the Austrian driver. Lauda, however, is serene, and jokingly asks Forghieri and Nosetto:
"So where do you suggest I go? Brabham or Wolf?"
Despite the fact that the new Brabham BT46 is not tested on Friday, Carlo Chiti explains that the few laps that Gordon Murray’s new single-seater has performed in Balocco have highlighted cooling problems, John Watson is the closest driver to Lauda and Reutemann.
"I could have done even better if in the last hour of the test the track had not worsened because of the wind, which brought on the path many leaves. In tomorrow’s session, if the weather is favorable, I have a good chance of success in the fight to start In the front row. Today, Ferrari has been able to take advantage of the indications obtained from the tests carried out in recent weeks, and the excellent times scored immediately in the morning are the confirmation".
This despite the Goodyear technicians discover that in Monza their tyres are less efficient at high temperatures. Despite some problems, Mario Andretti defended himself well, recording the fourth half of the day.
"In the morning session, my Lotus had some flaws in the setup. In the afternoon there was an annoying wind, which decreased the performance of the engine, but, despite this, I retouched my performance. This is a good sign for tomorrow".
"The foot didn’t bother me much; the car, on the other hand, had problems with grip, so much so that when I tried to force I ran into a spin at the Ascari variant".
Renault did well too, but after half an hour only the French car had to stop the tests due to the engine failure. Jean Sage, one of the leaders of the French team, said:
"It was a real shame, because everything was going so well. A valve broke, which pierced a piston. This engine had already covered over 600 km and a failure was predictable".
The revelation of the day is Bruno Giacomelli. At the debut with the McLaren M23, the Brescian amazes everyone, scoring a time such as to insert him in front of colleagues much more experienced.
"I am satisfied, but there is still work to improve the machine".
Disturbed by many little troubles, Vittorio Brambilla admits:
"It was a particularly laborious day, because I had a lot of trouble. In the first session I lost time for an imperfect carburetion; then, in the last hour, I felt vibrations at the left rear wheel. I stopped to replace a spring, but in the operation a bolt was spread and I could only make five turns".
Riccardo Patrese says instead:
"The strong wind made me lose about a thousand laps and made the estate of my Shadow precarious, and this did not allow me to improve my time of the morning. Then, the gas pressure dropped to zero, and I had to stop".
Lamberto Leoni. also a newcomer, takes the satisfaction of entering the middle of the ranking:
"Too bad that in the last few minutes I had to abandon because the oil pressure had dropped to zero. I’ll see to do better tomorrow".
A few laps, only four, for Giorgio Francia: the Milanese driver could not assert himself because he had to give up his car to Stuck. He’ll make up for it in rehearsal on Saturday. Saturday morning’s untimed session is brought to an early stop after a short while when Tambay’s Ensign MN08 is involved in a huge accident coming round the first Lesmo curve. At a point where the French driver is just changing from third to fourth gear, the Ensign suddenly whips sideways, hits the guard rail and flips over onto its rollover bar, skating down the circuit for some distance in a shower of sparks. Most cars trickle into the pits, fearing the worst, and some stop at the scene of the accident to lend assistance. Fortunately the Ensign is a stoutly built car (what else would you expect from a place like Walsall?) and Tambay crawls out, unhurt, from the wreckage almost before the marshals reach the hint. Looking remarkably nonplussed about the whole affair, Tambay returns to the pits on foot and the Ensign team begin fitting him out in Regazzoni’s spare MN06 for the afternoon session. Later in the morning Lauda goofs while trying out a set of special Goodyears, spinning his Ferrari into the barrier coming out of Parabolica and returning to the pits on foot to report minor rear end damage. The rear suspension of 030 has been thus grafted onto the back of 031 for the final hour of practice, Reutemann switching to 312/029 for business on Saturday. The final hour proves to be a tremendously exciting battle with the two Ferraris trying desperately to protect their front row grid positions from the combined assaults of Andretti’s Lotus, Scheckter’s Wolf and Hunt’s McLaren. Down tumbled the times into the low 1'39"0 bracket, then past Lauda’s Friday best and into the low 1'38"0 bracket. Within ten minutes of the end of the session it seems certain that Reutemann will take pole position with 1'38"15. But Hunt slips in a tremendous 1'38"08 to take pole position in the dying moments of practice, which prompts a great deal of smiling in the McLaren pit after their shameful treatment at the hands of the Italian organisers at last year’s Grand Prix. Jody Scheckter improves to 1'38"29 after yet another bout of fuel pressure trouble which has been traced to a faulty pressure relief valve, while Andretti secures the other place on row two with a strong 1'38"37. Lauda is just about to try for a flyer right at the end when his Ferrari starts to misfire as it ran low on fuel, so he peels off into the pits and has to settle for a 1'38"54, which puts him on the third row.
"It was quieter in the pits, where there were at least three hundred people around each car, than on the track, where you could not make a lap without finding obstacles scattered along the path".
So it happened that Hunt went faster than everyone else and only Reutemann with the #12 Ferrari maintained the position he had conquered on Friday, a second place that will allow him to start in the front row next to the World Champion. Lauda had to give way to Jody Scheckter and Andretti, who will start in the third row, next to Riccardo Patrese, Italian hero of the day, along with the debut Giacomelli who celebrates his twenty-fifth birthday with a promising fifteenth time. Niki could not materially do better because of an accident that, in the free practice of the morning, forced him to adjust the car. The Austrian ended up against the guardrails at the exit from the parabolic curve damaging the nose and the left rear suspension.
"It was all my fault, I went like crazy and Nilsson was right in front of me. I thought: now it comes off, now it comes off and instead the Swede has gone over the limit undaunted. He managed to save himself with a frightening skid, I ended up out".
Lauda then drove back to the pits and got on the forklift. In the hour and a half of suspension between free practice and official practice, the mechanics took the suspension of the forklift and mounted it on the race car. As a result, when the training session began, at 1:00 p.m., Niki had to do the fine-tuning work again, and he didn’t have enough time for a new exploit. This fact would then explain his fifth time, although the performance of other drivers remain unchanged in their value. Lauda, however, was not the only one with problems. Andretti, for example, ran out of fuel a few minutes before the end of practice and was unable to get back on track for time The biggest thrill, however, certainly proved the young Frenchman Patrick Tambay, that in the morning, at the second corner of Lesmo lived moments of authentic terror. Because of the seizing of a wheel, his Ensign crashed and went twice in the head tail, overturning with the tires to air. Rescued by the rollbar, Tambay still scraped his helmet off the asphalt. Fortunately, he did not suffer any damage and was very quick to get out of his uncomfortable position. Soon after, Lauda and Peterson arrived and stopped to help. Other minor incidents have punctuated the evidence but, fortunately, nothing serious. The trouble, if anything, occurred in the pits, especially in that of Brabham where no one can explain the eleventh time of Stuck and the fourteenth of Watson. Engineer Carlo Chiti only said that it was the other drivers who went strong but it seems that the Anglo-Italian cars had problems with wing and trim and that the engines were not very bright. Patrese, however, was particularly brilliant, imitated by Brambilla who promises for tomorrow, on the home track, a nice race. The race will certainly be lively: The four or five who will lead the race at the beginning will inevitably detach the others and the victory will be played among a few. With Reutemann in the front row and Lauda in the third, who adds to the previous statements:
"Too bad, because at the start I will have to beware of the risk of accidents at the entrance to the first chicane and therefore I will have less chance of moving forward".
"You say I go to Ferrari? Okay, okay. I don’t know yet. Of course no Ferrari driver refuses to go, if only he has a little intelligence, and so if they want me I’m ready".
It is the first time that I exchange with Scheckter more than the usual words of convenience but he immediately shortens the distances, a bit because of the language that uniforms everything to you, and a lot because it is in the characteristics of man to find a direct contact between insiders, with clearly different functions.
"I like Ferrari because it is the symbol of Formula 1. I like to race and with Ferrari I think we can run well".
He speaks willingly, even if he distracts a little with all that gesturing he does. He is always busy checking that every part of his body is present, reaching it with his arms through strange contortions. As a pilot he is an undisputed talent, as a man he has always been considered a protester, a free spirit, and in this environment, linked to schemes euphemistically definable as authoritarian, it is more a fault than a merit. At Ferrari we know that we do not tolerate indiscipline, indeed we do not even accept individualism: what does he think?
"I am a normal man. I was a pilot because I liked the adventure of racing. If you take away my imagination, I am no longer me. All I ask is this and in return I give everything I am capable of. No one will ever say that Jody did not commit to the race".
He is South African, a citizen of a country that has against the whole world. Do you feel different?
"I am not responsible for the politics of my country. For my part I cannot give an answer because I am not a rich man, so I have never had too many privileges, those who probably want to defend themselves with apartheid”.
Is it true that if you didn’t have the pilot, you would have joined the army?
"I also had that idea, but only because it seemed to me a way to get out of the boredom of everyday life and to have an assured future".
Approaching the patron Wolf, Austrian emigrated to Canada. Jody turns to him in a humming tone to say:
"There’s another one that wants me at Ferrari".
Wolf smiles with his large face, because behind his conspicuous mass appears none other than Niki Lauda, the polar opposite of the dilemma. Niki describes the morning incident, with his usual verve, mimicking what happened. To see them close make a strange contrast, characters very different from each other, as well as pilots with different characteristics. There will be a problem of succession also for this, for the change of environment that the rotation proposes.
"I don’t believe in these difficulties. The important thing is that when the car gets on track it goes faster than the others. Wanting the problem is only this since all brands have new weapons, and especially Brabham has already realized the future".
"I had been chasing a result like this for some time, in the last few months it had all gone wrong and my morale had also suffered. Today, after I developed the Shadow, I went to the end of my skills and the time has come. The car responded well, but it is a performance desired and obtained with the heart. Tomorrow’s race, like all races, is a rebus. Anyway, I plan to make a good impression and place myself in the first".
Vittorio Brambilla got the tenth best performance.
"I really hope to have a good race, the car is perfectly on track and this is already a great thing. In the morning I had fitted a softer rear berrà and I had reduced the downforce both front and rear. With these modifications the Surtees became faster without losing anything in the outfit. There was a lot of discussion, in recent days, on the problem of possible overtakings with thirty-five cars on track, but I must say that I did not have these problems. For tomorrow my goal is to get into the top six, but it will be a fiery race, open to every result and who knows that some surprise is born".
"In the first session I blocked the throttle to the maximum and to avoid getting into spin I turned off the engine. Unfortunately, I was unable to start the car again and I lost the whole hour and a half of training".
Among the Italians also included Giorgio Francia, but the Milanese, who on Friday had had to sell the Brabham-Alfa to Stuck after just four laps, could not even get in the car. Ecclestone considered it essential to have the forklift as a spare car for Stuck and Watson. France, clearly disappointed, leaves immediately after the tests the circuit and goes to Balocco to carry out tests for the Alfa Romeo, of which it is dependent. It is unfortunately painful to see how lightly they deluded for days and days the Italian driver to then serve him this treatment on the day he long awaited the debut in Formula 1. Moreover, at the end of qualifying, the worst of the entire season of Brabham, the president of Alfa Romeo, Cortesi, writes a personal and confidential letter to Bernie Ecclestone, in which he specifies:
"When we said goodbye yesterday afternoon you told me you were sorry for our position on the starting grid; the worst to date in 1977 and, what’s worse, on our home track, where the commercial and image stakes are higher than elsewhere. Certainly Watson and Stuck did what they could yesterday, as did his organization. But why should I hide my disappointment that Alfa Romeo’s skills and judgment are often ignored? I can not understand why the other teams came to test in Monza last week, while we did not, even with a single car (among other things Balocco is always available). I’m sure we would have benefited".
Then he adds:
"What benefit can Carlo Chiti have as an observer? There is nothing personal about my reminding you, as a businessman, that your technical decisions can have a great and costly impact on our public image. For this reason, without implying that a team can be managed by two leaders, I believe I have a reasonable right to be consulted before any technical decision, and to expect all the preparation and experimentation possible before each race".
On Sunday morning the usual vast crowd pours into Monza from an early hour, banners in the public enclosures and grandstands obviously proclaiming allegiance to the Ferrari team with at least one begging Lauda not to leave Maranello to join the Brabham-Alfa set-up. Brambilla has written off TS19/06 in the morning warm up at the first chicane, but as Leoni hasn’t qualified he has taken over TS19/07 for the race, while one spectator was killed and several injured when an advertising hoarding they were spectating from collapsed under the strain of too many people. Eventually, almost half an hour prior to the half-past-three start, the cars trickle out onto their grid and Hunt definitely takes up pole position, refusing to be ruffled by the catcalls and jeers from the crowd. Meanwhile, the last race of Niki Lauda with Ferrari in Italy is being prepared. A day that, despite the triumphant second place of Bunny (nicknamed so for his protruding teeth), leaves to those who know him a little 'regret, like all goodbyes. Saturday night, Roberto Nosetto talks to Carlos Reutemann at dinner, saying:
"Do your race, but do not forget that you run for the Ferrari".
The next day, minutes before the race, Niki Lauda asked Roberto Nosetto if he should consider Carlos Reutemann an opponent or teammate. The answer is diplomatic:
"Think of the race, and not of Carlos or the others".
A few days before, Mauro Forghieri said:
"Many newspapers have often treated him badly, others spoke of him in a calm tone but always with a certain detachment. He had to leave Ferrari to become the good Niki. What do they believe? We are also sorry that he is leaving and the reason is double: he is a good driver and in addition he will race for someone else and we will find him against us".
The computer, as they called it so falsely, comes to the box and immediately the cries of the crowd are great that is crowded on the terrace above:
"Niki. Good luck. Niki you’re the best".
Over a few isolated whistles. Then a huge applause when he passes on the straight of the stands to get to the starting grid. Ferrari team managers are not entirely calm. The front tires slightly lose air where the Goodyear brand is imprinted.
"I have my ass wringing because after a few turns the texture dilates and becomes porous".
Says Mauro Forghieri, before the mechanics remedy the inconvenience by brushing the spot with liquid rubber. While in the box there is not an inch of space even for Marlene, Lauda’s wife, even Carlos Reutemann, the man who remains, collects his dose of clapping at the entrance to the track. Then the whistles rain on Hunt that just does not collect the sympathy of Italian fans. On the wall that separates the pits from the track there is Philippe Niarkos, son of the owner with his girlfriend and, a little further on Mimicha, Reutemann’s wife, who holds the tachometer of the Grand Prix. There are a few minutes to go and still the speaker Incita some fans, entered you do not know how on the track, to get out of the way to Lauda’s car. If Niki is cold, he still managed to arouse warmth and sympathy among fans of Maranello cars. At 3:31 p.m. the race starts. Marlene takes refuge under a colorful parasol. The hand that holds it trembles slightly, the right covers her lips that chews nervously, to hide the anxiety that torments her. At each step he will try to penetrate through the wall of heads in front of him, in order to perceive the red flash of #11.
"I can’t see".
She will say almost enraged, trying to climb on the wall of the box. But she will be forced to leave in search of a better position because whoever took her place before her does not give up. Everyone wants to be there to celebrate with the team a possible victory. Slowly they depart on their pace lap and, bang on time the starting light turns to green to unleash the field. Hunt and Reutemann find themselves swallowed up by Andretti and Lauda as they sprint down to the first chicane with Regazzoni bursting through to take a brief second place. Out of the chicane it is Scheckter’s Wolf in the lead, the young South African ace not messing about or waiting for anybody and extending his lead all the way round the first lap, emerging from Parabolica with a huge advantage over Hunt’s McLaren. Andretti dives past Regazzoni at Parabolica and is third ahead of the Ensign, Reutemann, Lauda, Mass, Brambilla, Watson, Stuck, Patrese, Depailler, Peterson, Jones, Jarier, Giacomelli, Nilsson, Jabouille, Tambay, Keegan, Lunger, Ian Scheckter and Neve. Laffite’s Ligier has overheated on the grid and then stalled, so the French car has been late away after attention at the side of the track, while the Renault has bashed its left nose spoiler against somebody’s rear wheel and this is now sticking up in the air. Laffite has stopped at the end of his first lap for more water to be added, but the Ligier continues at the back of the field and races on without any further problems all the way to the finish.
"Nothing is true, he is not only good but also nice. Ask the boys, I lived next to him for four years, we often went out together for breakfast or lunch".
"No, of course. It has its own character that you just understand. Something must not be forced upon him, but he accepts everything on the basis of reasoning and on the line of logic. On the other hand this is his strength, reason and understand, what makes him not only a great driver but also a good technician for the development of the machines".
Marlene returns to the pits and realizes that Scheckter is gone.
"What’s Niki’s position?"
They answer her.
"So what does he have to do to become World Champion? He just needs a second place?"
Almost. It’s not perfect math, but the title is pretty much done. It is beautiful this foolishness of Marlene who only trembles for his man without even knowing what is the mathematical calculation that will lead him to the coveted final conclusion. On lap 33 Forghieri, while Reutemann and Niki keep the second and third position says:
"Now we can only hope that the race ends like this, if they lowered the checkered flag at this time they would make us happy".
Soon after, however, he runs to the mechanics beating his forefinger on his ear. He heard a strange noise as the Argentinian passed:
"The right exhaust extension is cracked. I hope Carlos continues because it takes at least four minutes to change it. Many. Too many".
Unfortunately, it’s the prelude to Reutemann’s retirement. On lap 39 the last major incident of the race occurs when Giacomelli’s McLaren blows its engine as it crosses the start/finish line. The little Italian driver continues down to the first chicane, leaving a swathe of oil in his wake before spinning on his own lubricant as he comes out of the tight chicane. The two Ferraris are coming up to lap Giacomelli at this point and while Lauda sees the oil and moves to one side, Reutemann doesn’t and spins quickly off the circuit into the sand. A mechanic who follows the race from a portable television runs to say that Carlos turned to the first variant and perhaps also touched Lauda who had overtaken him a few laps earlier.
"Niki and Carlos in an accident".
Forghieri shouts to Ghedini and Nosetto who are at the timekeeper.
"Calm and steady, let’s see what happened".
Twelve long endless seconds then Lauda appears without damage. It is a sigh of relief as Mimicha, who was now hoping for her husband’s third place, leaves the tachometer with a gesture of anger. Reutemann walks to the box to the applause of the crowd. They are rightfully due to him because until now he has led an exemplary race and he did not deserve to end it so sadly on an oil stain. A few seconds later he is followed off the circuit by Patrese’s Shadow, which spins in exactly the same place, the DN8 striking a marshal but not injuring him seriously. From this point onwards any vestige of racing is over. Andretti reels off the remaining 13 laps in superbly confident style to score a personally gratifying victory in front of a crowd that he considers to be made up of his compatriots. It is the fifth victory for Colin Chapman’s Lotus 78 (including Nilsson’s win at Zolder), an endorsement of the fact that Team Lotus are back in business in the best possible way. Lauda finishes a steady second, to the accompaniment of cheers from the crowd, while Jones is a deserved third after a lot of hard work. Mass, Regazzoni and Peterson trail across the line in the next three places while Neve is seventh, Laffite a hard-charging eighth and Keegan ninth and last after spinning his Hesketh a couple of times and making a pit stop as well. Not a great race by any means, but, to judge from the reaction of the crowd as they swarm across the circuit on the slowing down lap, a very popular victory indeed. Mario Andretti can be happy and unhappy at the same time. Happy for a victory in front of an audience that feels his, discontent because it is useless for the World Championship. Mario has thrown away this year all ambition, a bit for his mistakes (the collision with Watson in Belgium, the one with Hunt in the Netherlands) a bit for mistakes of his team (gasoline in Sweden) a little 'for the crisis of Cosworth engines, exploded on his car too many times. A real shame for him, who at 37 years is committed with youthful enthusiasm in Formula 1. His Lotus is undoubtedly the most competitive car in the industry, even if known were missing positive moments and negative moments: but those positive, mistakes apart, are superior to the negative. Reliability was lacking, which was instead the basic dowry of Ferrari, the one that allowed an intelligent and careful Lauda to get to the title, winning valuable placements and sometimes unexpected victories.
In Monza, the Austrian raced as an accountant, without a rush, but precise and opportunistic, and once again he was right. Scheckter’s Wolf engine failed, Hunt retired due to brake problems. Mario Andretti took away the satisfaction of winning the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and Niki Lauda won 99.99% his second Formula 1 world title. This is the summary of a race saddened by the tragic prologue of the collapse of a billboard crowded with unconscious spectators and then dragged with a certain monotony for 52 laps. Andretti took his fourth win of the season. Lauda now has 27 points ahead of Scheckter and three Grands Prix still to run: USA East, Canada (if the safety committee gives its approval) and Japan. Since the winner of each race takes 9 points, Scheckter could reach Niki (and then beat him for the most statements, as the rules state in the event of a tie) only triumphing in all three tests. But it is not enough: the Austrian, at the same time, should not conquer even a point (equivalent to a sixth place). It is a valid argument for mathematics and theory, certainly not for practice. Lauda and Ferrari have now won the World Championship. They did so with more luck and with more merit than in 1975, the season in which the Lauda-Ferrari duo prevailed with an extraordinary superiority. This year everything has been difficult and suffered, complicated by a technical crisis and a moral crisis. The first, good or bad, was resolved, the second resulted in the divorce between the driver and the Maranello team. A divorce that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, because it had proved too valid in these four years the union between the young Austrian ace and the Scuderia Ferrari. But there is nothing eternal, and the challenge that in 1978 will be held among the former could be a stimulating theme for the championship. If Monza, therefore, has rewarded in a different way Andretti and Lauda, it was once again stingy with the Italian drivers. Many things were expected from the Italian drivers in this Grand Prix, and hopes were fairly well founded after Riccardo Patrese had recorded an excellent time in practice, so that he could start in the third row, and that Vittorio Brambilla, the local idol, was lined up in the fifth row and enjoyed the advantage of experience in addition to knowing every secret of the track. Last but not least, Bruno Giacomelli was at his first race in the top formula. Unfortunately, for all three, the race ended badly. Says Patrese, with a tense face from which shines anger for a failed good placement:
"It’s a race to forget. Already at the start I got stuck in the second gear and I was overtaken by other drivers then, on the thirteenth lap, I dropped the left rear tyre and I had to go back to the box to replace it. Finally, after being rounded by Reutemann, I was in his wake when, at the braking before the chicane at the bottom of the starting straight, I slipped on the oil left on the track by Giacomelli and I came out. At this juncture I also feared to finish straight against the Ferrari of Reutemann, which had preceded me in the exit of the track, because my car had become unworkable. Fortunately, as I entered the sand, it deflected slightly and I stopped, touching Ferrari. Unfortunately, in the skid, I touched with the aileron a fireman who had promptly entered the track to rescue Reutemann".
Bruno Giacomelli was forced to leave.
"I left cautiously, because I didn’t want to risk it. In fact, at the first chicane I was paired with Watson, but I let him pass by preferring to wait for the race to settle. The trouble started immediately on the third lap when I lost a balancing weight of a front wheel and the car started to vibrate. After two laps the engine decreased in power, so much so that in the straight I did not exceed 9,800 laps. My aim, however, was to complete the race and for this reason I continued with my rhythm".
"I had a good start and I felt I could keep the pace of the former without too much difficulty. At the second lap I almost was not put out of the race by Watson who after a skid in re-entering the track has touched me a few millimeters. Unfortunately, after only four laps the oil pressure went to zero and I realized that there was nothing more to do. I continued the same for two more rounds, then seeing that the red lubricant light had also turned on I preferred to turn off the engine to not send everything roast. Of course I have no luck at Monza".
Jody Scheckter, dark in the face, smoky in London, kicks a beer can and hits the trailer door. The goal does not satisfy him. Says the South African:
"Only by winning at Monza could I still hope to get to the world title. When I broke the engine I closed my eyes and cursed. It couldn’t get any worse. But I already realized that I would not be able to get to the line well when Andretti passed me at the parabolic curve".
A dark face also for Carlos Reutemann, who was very hopeful in the Italian Grand Prix to fully secure the trust of Ferrari that renewed his contract for next year. Carlos started badly because he did not see the traffic light that gave the green signal, he had some uncertainty and then ended his race before the time coming out on the sand of the variant after the straight He has no difficulty explaining what happened:
"I was in the wake of Lauda because I had previously broken an exhaust pipe and the engine made less. I was hoping to stay in that position when I got into the chicane. I didn’t see, just because I was behind Niki, the reports of the commissioners waving flags for oil on the track and I ended up on it. It was impossible to avoid going off the road. Too bad, because I was hoping to get a good result in front of the Italian audience".
The climate is no better on McLaren’s stand, despite Mass’s fourth place. James Hunt seems more hunchback than usual and his eyes are fixed in the void. He was in the car for a long time waiting for the technicians to solve his problems, then he had to leave.
"The brakes gave me away. I was walking like I was on a bicycle with one wheel and a couple of times I risked a bad accident. I thought I had a good race in Monza, but this year I don’t like one. Perhaps the luck that had accompanied me in 1976 with the victory in the world title this time has abandoned me to visit someone else...".
Satisfaction for Clay Regazzoni, on the other hand. The Swiss won an excellent fifth place. He says with confidence:
"I could have done even better, because I had a great start: I got in the middle of the others and I was in a good position. Maybe I could have risked a little more and even gone ahead. But it’s better not to overdo it. I’ll settle for fifth place".
The Italian Grand Prix has experienced many difficult moments over the years, all linked to the race. This year the drama happened about six hours before Mario Andretti won for the fourth time in the year and that Niki Lauda almost won his second world title. A billboard, on which dozens of spectators had climbed since 6:00 a.m. collapsed. Sixty or so people remain involved, including one dead and 23 injured, including five dying. The others are hospitalized with prognosis ranging from 120 days to a week. At the end of the race the only serious accident, the one that involved Reutemann and Patrese, ended up on the oil lost by Giacomelli, caused another injured, the race commissioner Pasini who has a fractured leg. Never before has the Grand Prix been so successful as this year, and it was precisely the crowds that exceeded all limits that caused the accident. The facilities of the circuit are inadequate and those who pay the ticket to see nothing, look with a lot of recklessness even at the risk of their lives, the best position. The accident happens around 11:00 a.m., while on the track the protagonists of the Alfasud Trophy battle, all the same cars, unleashed in a fight with doors. the public is already intent on the show, in particular the luckiest that has taken possession of one of the largest scoreboards, that of Gulf gasoline located in a dominant position on the chicane that closes the finish straight. The heavy trellis painted in orange and blue is high at the maximum point eleven meters: but without warning it folds back on itself, towards the grove, and overwhelms in the fall the occupants of the lower sectors, projecting away at a distance those at the top. The subsidence is caused by the increasing weight and the progressive weakening of the wooden and sheet structure: each spectator, in order to make his own space, had released one of the metal panels that, despite being stuck on the wood, were in turn bearing. No one has time to prepare for the leap, which is equivalent, for those higher up, to a flight from the third floor of a house. Shortly after, Angelo Gandolfi, a boy from Calolziocorte, still in shock, says, white on his face and with a sore leg:
"We were at the top from 6:00 a.m. and people kept coming down. Since Friday, all the young people were coming up and nothing had happened. It was like in the grandstand, the one that costs 30.000 lire, a little more uncomfortable only. I work as a bricklayer and the height doesn’t scare me, but this time I felt that I was missing everything below and I didn’t have time to react. I was flying, then I ended up in the branches and I ran over them".
"For us it doesn’t matter, but there are those who really got hurt".
The ambulances will shuttle with the hospitals of Monza and Sesto. Carabinieri and policemen will get into a lot of trouble because the public, attracted by the sound of sirens, will begin to rush disorderly, hindering the rescue. A young brigadier will say angrily:
"To think that up until ten minutes ago we were yelling at them to come down and they were making fun of us from above. We knew the risk was there, but they probably thought we just wanted to keep order".
Fake tickets, traffic cops turned into scalpers, car columns that make the trees in the park cough. Monza this year seems destined to burst and the public becomes crowds already at 8:00 a.m.: half a day in front to pass before seeing the race. The very serious incident of the Gulf scoreboard shakes more than other morbid curiosity at the moment, a few episodes of sports looting (runaways over the controls, reconquering the places abandoned by those who were afraid, etc.)a little 'of pain for those guys who drag around all the pieces, their poor things lost, especially a day that could be happy turned into sad return and for someone even in pain not soon exhaustible. No one realizes the seriousness of the incident, The fact that there was a dead, and many serious injuries: the speaker’s invitations to leave the most dangerous locations fall into the void; later, just before the start of the race, Proserpio (this is the name of the owner of one of the most famous voices in Italy: all sports events, Giro d'Italia in the head) will say:
"I was tempted to say: guys have already died one don’t do anything crazy. Then I was afraid of the panic that could come out of it. Never before have I felt responsible for the moods of the crowd".
Nevertheless, the after race has only one predominant theme: American Ferrari or better Italian-American? The victory of Mario Andretti in the Italian Grand Prix in fact proposes the candidacy of the driver of Trieste origin to replace Niki Lauda, after the divorce of the Austrian. Currently the driver has at his disposal one of the most competitive cars, the Lotus, perhaps the car that best suits the different circuits, and a very respectable team as organization and financial possibilities. The agreement with Colin Chapman, patron of the team is perfect and Andretti well liked by technicians and mechanics. So what should Scuderia Ferrari offer to support Carlos Reutemann with the Italian-American champion? Probably all the possible guarantees to bring Mario to the world title. In the after race Andretti speaks clearly:
"Winning in Monza was one of my two dreams. Now I miss realizing the other, to become World Champion".
In the week (or perhaps already Tuesday, September 13, 1977, when Enzo Ferrari will talk to the journalists he will invite to Maranello for a meeting defined explanatory) we will know how it will end the story. Almost excluding Emerson Fittipaldi who cannot leave the Copersucar, the shortlist of drivers who can go to Ferrari narrows down. In addition to that of Andretti, he has made the name of Jody Scheckter but just the Canadian billionaire of Austrian origin Walter Wolf very strongly says that he will not like interference with his programs on South African.
"Many teams, including Ferrari, contacted Jody ahead of time to ask him if he would be willing to transfer. This fact, among other things, may have upset him and have reduced his performance in recent races. One thing, however, must be clear: Scheckter’s contract is in my hands and I will make life very difficult for anyone who wants to disturb my plans".
"Yes, Commander, today the little guy ran well. He did what he could with a good car. Yes, yes, he behaved better than expected, thoughtful and intelligent".
The reference clearly seems to fit in with Andretti, one of the drivers designated to take the place of Lauda next season. Almost as a continuation of the speech, which concerns more the future than the present, Forghieri, in fact, continues, talking about Scheckter:
"He had a lot of bad luck. I think his car was inferior to Lotus. It was an engine problem, not a mistake".
For the Scuderia Ferrari drivers, just a few words.
"Niki won well. Yes, he won, he won the World Championship. Now it’s just more about getting a point. Reutemann had bad luck on the road, but more bad luck before. It wasn’t an engine defect, but the extension of an exhaust that came off. No, no problem, Ferraris always come at the bottom".
In fact, the reliability of the Maranello cars is now proverbial: suffice it to mention that in fourteen races the two 312 T2 totaled twenty places, with an average of ten per car. It is no coincidence that Scheckter’s Wolf, who is still in second place, scored seven places, while Lotus averaged six and McLaren averaged five and a half. Since these machines use the same type of engine it is evident that the different positions are to be found in the different chassis set-up and also in the different engine preparation. It has been seen that when Cosworth engine users wanted to play on more powerful versions they regularly lost due to increased fragility: The risk of breaking increases fearfully with even small increases in power. If the first part of the Italian Grand Prix can serve as an element of judgment, then certainly Lotus and Wolf are good as a chassis, or at least they adapt very well to the driving of their drivers. It could also be, as many people say, that Andretti and Scheckter risk more than Lauda: obviously this could be tried only with Andretti and Scheckter on Ferraris and on the same track, which is impossible, at least for now. But it could be instead that Ferrari pays in terms of a slight difference in road holding that exceptional reliability: and this championship has clearly shown that reliability is more important than absolute speed. Let’s not forget that the rankings are based on the final placings of each race and not on the test laps. Lauda, Forghieri and his companions have not lost sight of this crucial detail and have worked towards this end. Among other things, it should be noted the continuous recovery of Shadow (since the Southgate designer has returned to the team), with an exceptional time in Patrese and a third place for Jones already winner in Austria. The McLaren instead goes at times: this time the cars were betrayed by the brakes, more often it was the engine but it is clear that the M26 still needs a lot of work. The drop in Brabham-Alfa is inexplicable.
"You must always tell me everything, even when it is not sure, this time all the more since your wife was sure, speaks and understands English".
The following day, Tuesday, September 13, 1977 Eddie Cheever tries to Fiorano, and later is invited to dinner by Nosetto and his wife. The American driver never misses an opportunity to underline his point of view about Ferrari’s commitment to make him race in Formula 2, rather than in Formula 1. Cheever adds that if they take an established driver in place of Niki Lauda, like Andretti or Scheckter will be fine, but if they were to put it aside in favor of hiring Tambay or Villeneuve would not accept it:
"I stick those when I want to".
Exclaims the American pilot. The Scuderia Ferrari, meanwhile, continues its testing with Carlos Reutemann, in secret, the Michelin tires, which are competitive but after a while vibrate, leading the Argentine driver to numerous track outings. In the meantime, a phone call comes to Maranello from Marcheggiani who reads a Ansa news regarding some statements by Niki Lauda recently released, in which the Austrian driver expresses his opinion on his decision to leave the Maranello team:
"The Commander can say what he wants of me, I will always love him. The mechanics are wonderful. Forghieri has a difficult character, but we always got along. I leave Ferrari because of the presence of Roberto Nosetto, who I think is incompetent".
The news surprised the Scuderia Ferrari sports director, who responded by saying:
"Niki has always told me facts and not words. The facts are that Ferrari is making him win the world championship, nothing more to add".
Despite the diplomatic response, the engineer Nosetto remains disheartened. Subsequently, the newspaper Stadium publishes the reasons why Lauda considered Nosetto an amateur: before the Italian Grand Prix the Austrian driver had asked the Ferrari sports director if Reutemann would help him in the race, but Nosetto had told him not to worry and to make his run, using the same words with his teammate. Lauda, however, had interpreted Nosetto’s words believing that he would be helped by his teammate, only discovering in the race that he had to consider him an opponent like everyone else. But in fact, it remains that Roberto Nosetto had only followed the orders of Enzo Ferrari.