Scuderia Ferrari's 1973 season begins on Monday, Jan. 8, with a series of tests with the three-liter 312-P on the measured Fiat base, alongside the Turin-Savona highway, in preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans: at the wheel of Merzario, present are the team's technical-sports staff with Colombo, Caliri and Rosoni. The following day, the Italian driver shows his skill and experience as a driver when, while testing the Ferrari 312-P, a tire sags at 300 km/h, managing to stay on the road and decelerate slowly. The event happens around 3:00 p.m., when Merzario is driving along the base towards Turin. Suddenly, the right rear tire deflates and the car is subject to a skid. The driver slows down and returns to the control box with minor damage to the bodywork and suspension, damaged by the unusual strain. Merzario resumes practice moments later, after a brief stop to replace the tire and check the rear end. Practice would end on Wednesday, January 10, 1973, and then he would depart for Argentina, where on Sunday, January 28, 1973, the Grand Prix of the Argentine Republic, a Formula 1 race with which the World Championship would kick off, would be held at the Buenos Aires Municipal Autodrome, and would consist of fifteen races. On the banks of the Piata, for the Temporada - with which the World Championship traditionally begins - the best of the teams and drivers are gathered. The only team absent, among those that had announced their participation, is the American Shadow, which plans to enter Formula 1 racing this year with a single-seater designed by Tony Southgate, who until recently was in charge of the B.R.M. engineers, and with funding from Uop, which produces a special gasoline without lead-based additives that will be used for racing. Therefore, there will be nineteen cars participating in the South American Temporada (after Argentina, it will be run on Sunday, February 11, 1973, in Interlagos, Brazil). From the very first race of the season, a great battle is expected among the competitors to acquire the best placings. The points obtained in the first races-those in the southern hemisphere (Argentina, Brazil and South Africa)-are given special importance this year, because from the fourth round of the 1973 World Championship, i.e., the Spanish Grand Prix, to be held in Barcelona in April, Fiat's new regulations for this type of racing will come into force, and cars adapted to the new anti-fire regulations will present an uncertain performance.
Those who have the most points in the initial races will therefore be at an advantage. Those who have most thoroughly prepared for this initial phase of the 1973 World Drivers' Championship are undoubtedly the standard bearers of the Tyrrell-Ford teams (Scotsman Jackie Stewart) and JPS Lotus (Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi). Former World Champion Stewart had already come to Buenos Aires in early December to do some tire testing, and he had then done the same at the Brazilian circuit of Interlagos, along with his teammate, Frenchman François Cevert. At the same time, reigning World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi, having also done tests at his home circuit before coming to Buenos Aires, went to Kyalami, South Africa, to test tires for Lotus. All experts in things motorsports agree that the Grand Prix of the Argentine Republic-as well as the other two races in the southern hemisphere (Brazil and South Africa)-will see a heated duel between former champion Stewart, eager to regain the world title, and current champion Emerson Fittipaldi, determined to con servate the world title in the new season. Between the Scot and the Brazilian, the name of the winner of the first race of the Formula 1 world championship should come out, according to most experts. Next Sunday's race is the second edition of the new Argentine Grand Prix series. The first series is that of the so-called heroic times. Then, from 1953, when Alberto Ascari won in a Ferrari at an average of 125.747 km/h, to 1960, when Bruce McLaren won at an average of 136.254 km/h piloting a Cooper Climax, seven Grands Prix were run, with four victories by Fangio, who on one occasion shared the win with Luigi Musso. The track record in the race naturally belongs to the most recent race winner, Stewart, who won last year at an average of 161.632 km/h. The track record, in an absolute sense, and instead of the Argentine Carlos Reutemann, who in last year's qualifying practice with the Brabham BT-34 lapped in 1'12"46 on circuit number nine, which has a development of 3,345 meters. Everyone agrees that these records will be lowered this year. However, among the main protagonists of the Temporada Argentina one should not exclude Ferrari. Scuderia Ferrari will be at the start of the Argentine Grand Prix with two cars, entrusted to Belgian Jacky lckx and Italian Arturo Merzario. lckx is confident in his chances not only for next Sunday's race, but also for future ones. To reporters in Buenos Aires upon his arrival, he declares:
"1973 will be my year".
The sport of driving, unfortunately, is increasingly polluted by money and advertising, while the structures that govern it heavily denounce their archaic nature. Once upon a time, as Enzo Ferrari put it, competitions were supported by the manufacturers, who used them as a springboard for automotive progress and for the enhancement of their products, and by the accessory companies, which helped the technicians in the mosaic, and received a very just publicity return. Today, a little bit of everyone has entered the racing world, and while this testifies to the interest and fascination that such a world holds for the public, it has also contributed to the financial demands of many. Competitions, especially Grand Prix races, are in danger of being overly conditioned, and one wonders how it will turn out the day when such a firm, paying for the publicity gain achieved, decides not to invest further. Now, the manufacturers claim that they are in trouble, burdened with major expenses (drivers, cars, travel) and want from the organizers larger engagements, the organizers respond that they cannot do so, and the situation deteriorates. Campaigns for greater safety have led the CIS, always lackluster and eternally late in addressing and solving the industry's problems, in enacting new regulations on tanks. Manufacturers have been forced to remake their cars, and a new model is known to cost many dollars. The environment is tense, it is known that some Grand Prix are in danger of being excluded. It is in this atmosphere that the 1973 World Championship, the twenty-third in a series that began in 1950, gets under way. The exquisitely technical and sporting reasons are the same as in recent seasons, not least because Formula 1 does not change its regulations: since 1966 it has been reserved for single-seaters with a maximum displacement of 3000 cc or 1500 cc with a supercharger (a solution that no one adopts): the minimum weight has risen instead to 570 kg for new safety devices. On one side the eight-cylinder Ford-Cosworth, on the other the twelve-cylinder Ferrari and Tecno (boxer) and B.R.M., on one side for tires the Goodyear and on the other the Firestone, on one side the British school and on the other the Italian school, i.e. Ferrari.
The qualifying trials will be held in two fractions, Friday and Saturday. The race - 96 turn for a total of 321.168 kilometers - will begin Sunday at 4:30 p.m. The current battle between Grand Prix International, representing the circuit owners, and the entrants’ club, the Formula One Constructors’ Association, as mentioned in last month’s issue, has not really affected this race or, for that matter, the Brazilian or South African Grands Prix, and the inevitable clash or compromise is being put off until Spain. Meanwhile this season opener has been by no means certain due to the machinations of the current political scene in Argentina. There is a fear of kidnappings and also the current government are not keen to follow last year’s lead and guarantee the race financially. Instead, the organisers, the ACA (rather than the government-owned YPF Club who have previously been responsible for this race) have managed to gain some help from commercial sponsors although the race is certainly not a Fray Bentos Grand Prix, and after initial cancellation, the race is now back on. Sitting right on the outskirts of the city is the ideal venue, the long-established Municipal Autodrome in the Pare Admiral Brown which came in for a superb face lift some 18 months ago. It is a venue that almost unanimously has received approval from drivers, entrants, and mechanics alike, and the hot Argentinian summer sun seems to put smiles on the faces of even the most serious members of the Grand Prix set. The kidnap threat remains, some drivers like Stewart and Fittipaldi obviously having a high price on their heads and thus having their own personal armed guard. But nothing untoward has happened apart from the menacing looking alsatians of the police baring their teeth at the occasional mechanic. Only even numbers have been used on the entry list and taking Nos 2 and 4 are the Lotus 72s of Emerson Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson, the new joint No 1 racing for the first time in Formula One in a car other than a March. Who will be the quicker, they all ask? Nos 6 and 8 have been assigned to the pair that finished the 1972 season on top, Jackie Stewart and Francois Cevert in the Mk 2 Tyrrells 005 and 006. Next on the list comes the man who the majority of the crowd has come to see - Carlos Reutemann of Argentina. Reutemann, as he is known, is a national hero, his name is on the lips of almost every man in the streets of Buenos Aires at race time.
Thus, right back in ninth fastest place is poor Reutemann who naturally is feeling that he is letting his fellow countrymen down. But the Brabham will not handle and he also has lost almost a session with gearbox problems. This year we aren’t to have the spectacle of him coolly snatching pole position. He lines up on the fifth row with Mike Hailwood’s Surtees. Both the new Surtees cars are in trouble for, apparently, the toad springs have been heat treated incorrectly and the rates are nowhere near what they should have been. Only a brave effort with the patently bad handling car puts Hailwood as far up the grid as he was. Behind Reutemann and Hailwood comes an unhappy Revson, who had to sit out the last vital session due to a seized fuel pump, and Wilson Fittipaldi. Then there is Lauda who is delighted with his B.R.M., apart from it rolling too much for his liking, and Merzario in the second Ferrari. The Italian had to play underdog to Ickx and has spent two of the four sessions sitting on the pit wall, the first while Ickx decided which car he preferred and the second when Ickx’s choice has developed an engine fault and the Belgian has reverted to the other car. The grid is completed by Pace, in trouble with the Surtees (and missing the final session with engine trouble), Galli, Jarier, Beuttler and finally Ganley. The Williams cars have been plagued with problems, ranging from split fuel tanks to broken rear cross-members, throughout practice. Saturday’s practice session has filled out the stands to the region of some 30-40.000 racing fans, such is the popularity of the sport in Argentina, but this is nothing compared to the scenes as well over 100.000 fight to get through the gates on Sunday, including a large number of fans from neighbouring Brazil. Some estimates put the contingent at something like 10.000, most of whom seems to be waving Brazilian flags, just as last year the crowd roars and sings for Reutemann, and there is some hope for them because, in the morning untimed session, he has got the car set up much more to his liking and feels more confident.
"It was one of the most difficult races I have ever mal won".
Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi declares after crossing the finish line victoriously in his black JPS Lotus at the Formula 1 Argentine Grand Prix and thus accumulating the first nine points for the 1973 World Drivers' Championship.
"I am delighted, because a great number of Brazilians were able to see me win".
For their rey do carro (king of the car) thousands of Brazilians had descended on Buenos Aires with all available means of transportation, but especially with long caravans of cars and torpedoes, waving their flags at the racetrack. Now, the caravans of cariocas-which in the center of Buenos Aires on Sunday night will stage a kind of miniature carnival-will return to their homeland, and all will convene on Feb. 11 in Interlagos (São Paulo), where the second chapter of the thrilling novel of world Formula 1 racing in the southern hemisphere will take place. The third and final will take place at the Kyalami circuit in South Africa on Saturday, March 3, 1973. Fittipaldi had to work hard in Buenos Aires to beat the Tyrrell-Ford duo of Frenchman François Cévert and Scotsman Jackie Stewart, who held him back for many laps, leaving him no opening to pass. Emerson succeeded in extremis: Cevert's overtaking move came with ten laps to go. Previously, the race leaders had been the Swiss Clay Regazzoni (B.R.M.-P160) until lap 29, when he was undermined by Cévert, who, then had to give way to the Brazilian.
"It is true that, first Stewart and then Cévert, they hindered me".
Declares Fittipaldi, who repeatedly had raised his hand making gestures, which were interpreted as protest.
"But I don't think their behavior was intentional. What happened was that the Tyrrell cars were faster on the straights and I was marching faster in the curvy areas with my car, where I could catch up with them. They would try not to give up their positions".
The 1972 World Champion (who has already put a serious mortgage on retaining the title this season) is a true horseman, not only on the track but also off it. Emerson has a high regard for his opponents, whom he respects and fears, but he also has great confidence in his own qualities and the possibilities of himself and the JPS Lotus.
"We will try dl stay in possession of the title, and actually starting off on the right foot encourages the hopes of the whole team. Now, I will try to do the encore at home".
All the Argentine newspapers praised Emerson Fittipaldi's victory, in a race that took place without any incident, as had also happened during the practice days. Emerson disillusioned Tyrrell's ambitions. Stewart and Cévert had dropped into Buenos Aires in December for a long series of tire tests. Tires are one of the key factors in Formula 1 racing. Jacky Ickx, although protagonist of an honorable performance with his Ferrari (finished fourth, behind Fittipaldi, Cévert and Stewart) on a circuit certainly not suited to the characteristics of the Maranello car, was not satisfied with the performance of the tires placed on his 312-B2. Technicians spoke of suspension problems and also of gasoline running out. However, Ickx's Ferrari was, besides Emerson Fittipaldi's Lotus and the two Tyrrell cars, the only one to run all 96 laps of the circuit. Which means, according to Ickx himself, that on a faster track the matter should be entirely different.