#218 1972 Italian Grand Prix

2022-01-31 23:00

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#1972, Fulvio Conti, Rebecca Asolari,

#218 1972 Italian Grand Prix

As reported last month in Continental Notes the Monza circuit was slowed down by the introduction of two chicanes so that when the teams begin testing


As reported last month in Continental Notes the Monza circuit was slowed down by the introduction of two chicanes so that when the teams begin testing and practicing for the 43rd Italian Grand Prix there is quite a lot to learn. The wide track in front of the pits is divide in two by a line of rubber cones which keep the cars in the right-hand lane, close to the pits, and this led them towards the entrance to the bank speed track, as they use to run when the combine road and track circuit is use. At the end of the Trade pits they have to brake really hard in a straight line, from about 150 m.p.h. and change down to 2nd gear and do an ess to the left through an opening in an Armco barrier wall that is wide enough for only one car. This takes them over to the left side of the wide pits straight just where it divide between road circuit and bank track, and the cars then accelerate up through the gears and into fifth gear as they round the Curva Grande. The central Armco wall is build onto two concrete plinths, with bevel edges to form curbs through the chicane, and if anyone overshot on braking he goes straight on towards the beginning of the banking until he stops and is then leave out through a gate by a marshal, when the course is clear, to join the road circuit after the chicane. If a car suffers complete brake failure it will hit a wall of straw bales across the bank track and if it bursts through them it can coast round the banking until it comes to rest. The result of this layout means that the drivers can break to the maximum from quite high speed, and if they overdid it there is plenty of escape room. The second chicane is just before the apex of the left-hand Vialone Curva, or Ascari bend, that leads onto the back straight. This is less of a chicane and more the introduction of a left-hand bend, a right-hand bend, and another left-hand bend, all in second gear, with a touch of accelerator in the middle. Its approach is entirely different, being on the beginning of a left-hand curve, so that braking has to be more subtle, and the new piece of road is two-cars or more in width, so that there is a definite line through the corners. Errors on braking mean a trip straight-on into a neutral area, that is the original circuit, and then a right turn onto a by-pass road that rejoins the track after the chicane.


The rest of the circuit is unchange, the difficult Lesmo corners still being difficult, and the long sweeping Parabolica corner at the end of the back straight being the same, but approach at a lower speed than before, while the exit is a bit tighter as you have to aim for the right-hand side of the pits straight. Needless to say the Ferrari team are the first ones to try the new circuit arrangements, almost before they are finish, and neither Ickx nor Regazzoni thought much of the idea, both preferring the old flat-out blind into the Curva Grande and through the Vialone. However, by the time official practice begin on Friday afternoon most teams are out testing, and the new arrangements are accept by everyone. In the very early hours of the morning there are the father and mother of all thunderstorms in the Monza area, but by the afternoon all is warm and dry, but not oppressively so. While all the business of making Formula One cars function properly go on as usual, the drivers have the chicanes to learn, and new braking points for the Parabolica corner, and with all the stopping-and-starting involve in one lap, there is no point in worrying about slip-streaming or for slow cars to get a tow from the faster ones. Major technical interest lay in the braking systems, for the brakes are getting far more work to do, with four very hard applications each lap, instead of two, and with little time between them to encourage heat dissipation. The result is enormous pad wear, in the region of five times that experience before the chicanes are introduce, but such is the margin on brakes today, encourage by short races, that the Ferodo engineers aren’t unduly worry, except in the case of the Matra, which uses smaller pads than most cars. The problem can’t be ignore, especially as drivers got braver on braking for the first chicane, and it make it obvious that Grand Prix car braking systems as supply by Girling and Lockheed, in conjunction with Ferodo linings, are well ahead of other developments for a long time, in that they still have something in reserve under these new and extreme conditions. There aren’t many circuits where you have to break from very high speed down to 50 or 60 m.p.h. 2nd gear corners, without much time for heat dissipation.


During the first afternoon almost everyone makes a trip up the escape road at the first chicane, as the only way to find the absolute limit of braking is to go beyond it, so that the gate-man is keeping very busy. Quite a lot of drivers are bumping the angled curbs at both chicanes, and at one moment Andretti put his inside front wheel onto the curb as he accelerates out of the second chicane and next moment his Ferrari is spinning round in the middle of the road. Just after this Stewart almost repeat the performance with his Tyrrell. At the first chicane Gethin lost control of his P160 B.R.M. under braking and spin through the gap without touching anything, ending up out of the chicane pointing the wrong way. Fittipaldi is really using the inherent stability of the Lotus 72, and it's very large inboard front brakes to the maximum, searching for the ultimate limit, which he find by taking to the escape road on two consecutive laps. Regazzoni is really stamping the accelerator pedal hard down in the middle of this chicane, whereas drivers like Cevert and Lauda wait until they are well clear and pointing straight before they turn the power on. Ganley is very smooth and quick with his P160 B.R.M., but none of the B.R.M.s were getting back on full song quick enough on the pick-up in second gear, especially compare with the Ferraris and the Matra, Amon’s car being particularly impressive. An extractor exhaust system involving the air outlets from the oil radiators is being tried on Cevert’s Tyrrell-Cosworth V8, and he is also using one of the new giant-size air intakes for the engine, though he fails to detect the calculate gain in power and speed. Stewart is out in the new Tyrrell-Cosworth and also in his spare car as well, and Hulme is out in the spare McLaren as well as his newer car, but the timekeepers fail to produce times for either of these training cars. John Surtees is highly delighted with the general feel of his new car, though the fuel system is playing-up, which prevent him doing any very fast and consistent laps.


After a short break, practice continues until the early evening and towards 6:00 p.m. lap times improve steadily as a result of drivers learning the new conditions, the car problems being solve and the air getting cooler. The first day ends with Stewart fastest, at 1'35"82 compare with the old record of 1'23"8, and last year’s fastest practice lap by Amon with the Matra, in 1'22"40 sec. Hulme is second fastest with a very unobtrusive drive in 1'35"97, and no-one else is below 1'36"0. As the accompanying table shows, the order of the next six being Ickx (Ferrari), Fittipaldi (Lotus), Revson (McLaren), Regazzoni (Ferrari), Amon (Matra) and Andretti (Ferrari). At the bottom of the list are Bell (Tecno), Beuttler (March) and Pace (March), all above the 1'40"0 for good reasons, the Tecno feeling so peculiar on corners and snaking down the straights that Bell is reluctant to try too hard, Beuttler’s March is delaye by a number of small niggling things so that he has very little time out on the track, and Pace’s engine never run properly and finally go blurp as the fuel-injection unit got itself in a muddle. Although there is a lot of over-shooting, spinning and kerb bouncing there is only one casualty, and that is Galli’s brand new Tecno, which suffers rear end damage, though it is repairable. On Saturday afternoon it all begin again, and this time the weather is very hot, so that for the first part of practice there is little hope of any improvements to lap times. There is still plenty of opportunity for errors, and Peterson did it all wrong at the second chicane and severely damage his March. Ganley is still trying very hard but his B.R.M. has a poor engine and he is lacking speed on the straights, so that his lap times are well down on those of Wisell who isn’t going round the corners anything like as well, which must be very frustrating for the New Zealander. Hailwood is going well, keeping very close to HuIme and Fittipaldi, while Amon does very little practice in the early part of the afternoon.


During a short break Peterson’s car is collected and then as the sun went down and the temperature dropped the activity not only increase in volume but in desperation as well. The escape road at the first chicane is use overtime as drivers continue to search for the ultimate breaking point, few of them being able to find it without going beyond it. The only one who has no option is Revson, who stood on the brake pedal on one lap and had the master-cylinder and reservoir for the rear brakes snap off its mounting flange on the front bulkhead. With rear brakes only he goes up the escape route quicker than anyone, with no damage, which satisfies the people who have done the layout for the braking area. During the final hour of practice drivers aren’t only trying hard for fast laps but are also doing some pretty serious practice at overtaking groups of cars under braking, and on two occasions it is a case of the last one into the chicane area being the first one out, as everyone doing about and some do straight on. The session ends on a lively note with the prospect of all the front runners finding themselves up the escape road in a confused jumble, while a back marker goes through into the lead. Three more drivers join the elite group who got under 1'36"0. these being Regazzoni, Amon and Ickx, the last two taking the front row of the grid, as Stewart don’t improve sufficiently on his first daytime to retain pole position. There are only very small fractions of seconds involve, but with the modern two-by-two grid line-up three-tenths of a second put Hulme in the third row, and one tenth of a second relegate Stewart to the second row. Wisell is a surprise leader of the B.R.M. quartet, and Beltoise in the revise P180 is disappointingly slow by comparison. As only 25 cars are being accept for the start, two have to drop out, and these are Pescarolo (March 721) and Bell (Tecno), both of them well over 1'40"0.


There is more rain in the small hours of Sunday morning, which leave parts of the track still damp when the cars are allow out for an hour’s untime practice at mid-morning. Pace is caught out by the damp patches at Lesmo and damage his car slightly, but by robbing Pescarolo’s car the 711 is make ready for the race. Peterson’s works March is in one piece again but the chassis isn't quite as straight as it should be and the road-holding is a bit odd. After a GT race just before lunch, which is win by John Fitzpatrick driving one of Kremer’s Porsche 911 coupés, Fangio present the Marlboro prize for Man of the Race in the Austrian GP to Mike Hailwood, and then a parade of old Italian racing cars on open transporters took place to celebrate the 50th year of the Monza track, exhibits being loane by Fiat, Alfa Romeo, the Monza Museum, and private-owners. The cars are mean to be representative of Italian winners of the Italian Grand Prix, but there are some glaring omissions, and the end of the parade is bring up by the giant Eldridge Fiat that is resurrect in England a few years ago, and is now own by Fiat (that’s where it went !). For anyone not interest in all these activities the restaurants are in full swing and there is a very complete exhibition of current racing cars and motorcycles from every imaginable category, from 500 cc Fiat-engine cars, to Proto-type Ferrari and Can-Am McLaren. The fiberglass and plywood Marlboro P180 B.R.M. is also on display. A good crowd line the track ready for the Italian Grand Prix to begin, but not a record crowd, and though the afternoon is cloudy with a chill north wind blowing from the Alps, the weather is set fair. Some of the drivers like Hill, Regazzoni, Cevert and Andretti come out of the paddock through the main gate in front of the grandstands, to enthusiastic applause (especially for Graham Hill) and walks down the track to the pits, while others enter the pits unseen through the backdoor.


One by one, in no particular order they set off in their cars on a warm-up lap, Ickx and Stewart getting vociferous acclamation from the main grandstand as they appear out of the pit road, and in pairs the cars line up on the dummy-grid. From the start the first chicane is to be by-pass, giving the cars a straight-through run up the left-hand side of the starting area to the Curve Grande, and though the grid is suppose to be in stagger pairs, they are more nearly one behind the other. On the dummy grid Stewart’s mechanics are adjusting the clearance on the clutch pedal movement on the Tyrrell 005, and when the field move forward to the main grid the front line is a mirror-image of 1971, with Ickx (Ferrari) in pole position and Amon (Matra) alongside him. Stewart (Tyrrell) and Regazzoni (Ferrari) are alongside each other in row two, whereas last year they have been in the fourth row together. Everyone make an excellent start but Stewart only go a bare hundred yards or so when all the drive from his engine to the gearbox disappeare and he is left free-wheeling in the middle of the track. There is some hair-raising dodging by all those behind him, by which time Ickx, Amon and Regazonni go past the chicane on the un-use part of the track and a fantastic dust cloud rose up and obliterate everything so that after dodging the Tyrrell everyone plung into a thick fog. It is the most perilous start situation that has arisen for many a year, and by luck and the skill and coolness of the drivers there are no collisions, though there are a number of pulse-rates that quicken almost audibly. By the time the Lesmo corners are reach Ickx has quite a long lead and as they all got in line, one behind the other, to go through the chicane on the back leg of the circuit, a typical Formula One procession is produce and it is a case of follow-my-leader at the end of the opening lap, at neat and tidy intervals and gone was the Monza scene of cars three and four abreast, with wheels bare inches apart at 150 m.p.h.


One by one they roar past the pits, brake hard, but cautiously for the chicane, follow one another through at regular intervals and set off for another lap. As a nice tidy modern Formula One race, with no need for heroics or bravado it is very satisfactory, but as a Monza race it is a farce, and I feel that the Italian Grand Prix is dying in front of my eyes the way the Belgian Grand Prix died last June. Only 23 cars go by at the end of the opening lap, for Stewart’s Tyrrell is abandone just out of sight of the start, and Lauda has to go to the pits with his March 721G as dust and stones have got into his throttle system and blocked it. The procession is in the order Ickx, Regazzoni, Emerson Fittipaldi, Andretti, Amon, Hailwood, Hulme, Reutemann, Revson, Hill, Wisell, Gethin and the rest. Revson moves up a place on the second lap, and Hailwood move up a place on lap 3. By five laps the scene is settled, with the two Ferraris of Ickx and Regazzoni ahead, then a small gap and Fittipaldi, Amon and Hailwood nose-to-tail, as distinct from side-by-side; then come Andretti and Hulme in a similar situation with Revson not far away, and the rest at tidy intervals, apart from de Adamich, who have make a quick pit-stop and Lauda who has lost three laps already. Hardly has the Austrian go than his team-mate Peterson is in to have his aerodynamic devices adjust to see if the bad handling of the bent chassis can be improve. On lap 7 Schenken shows a little bit of daring as he broke for the first chicane amidst a sea of B.R.M.s, but other than that nobody is taking any chances and risking being up the escape road while everyone else goes on their way. Obviously the lessons learn in practice are digest and drivers are controlling their natural instincts. As Galli breaks for the Parabolica curve the Tecno engine blows up, which give him quite a busy moment.


Still thinking of Monza in terms of the old flat-out blind in each others slipstream, and the nipping and tucking from one slip-stream to another, Ickx decides it isn’t a good thing to be out in front and setting the pace, so he don’t mind when Regazzoni goes by him and take the lead on lap 14. Almost unnotice Cevert free-wheel the second Tyrrell into the pits with a broken engine, and out of the race at this point, and Surtees bring his new car in for some brake adjustments. Regazzoni’s lead don’t last long for on lap 17 he sails into the second chicane on his usual line and at his usual speed and at the exit found Pace trying to sort out his March 711 after a spin in the middle of the corners. The Ferrari just clip the March, which pul the right front upright out if its mounting on the English car and brake the left-rear suspension on the Italian car. As the Ferrari skate to a stop a minor fire brake out among the auxiliaries alongside the gearbox, but it is quickly extinguish as the driver jumps out, both cars being out of the race. The leading group now comprise Ickx, back in front again, Fittipaldi, Amon and Hailwood in unchange order, but as they pass the pits to start lap 19 the air-collector box on top of the engine of the Surtees flow up in the air and land on the track. Poor Hailwood, who is enjoying his fourth place, now find he is 300 r.p.m. down on maximum speed, and with less obstruction to the wind over the rear aerofoil it is producing more downthrust on the rear wheels than the car is sadjuste for, with the result that the balance of adhesion between front and rear is upset and the handling characteristics change. While many drivers will have to stop at the pits to talk about the matter, or will ease up and stop trying, the ex-motorcycle King copes with the new situation and stays with the leaders by changing his driving methods to suit the car.


Retirements seem to be happening in all directions to the lesser lights, Schenken clipping the first chicane on lap 21 and bending the left-front suspension, and Reutemann walking back to the pits after abandoning his Brabham. His Brazilian team-mate, Wilson Fittipaldi abandone his Brabham at the pits with a broken ball joint as a result of hitting a chicane, and on lap 23 Andretti shot into the pits with the right-front tyre flat on his Ferrari, and after a quick change of wheel he is back in the race again. The B.R.M.s of Wisell and Ganley are in and out of the pits, and Surtees is in again, this time to retire as his fuel system is still starving and it isn’t fun having the engine cut-out in the middle of corners. By lap 26 the leaders are still in the same situation, but HuIme has taken to the escape route at the second chicane and Hill and Revson now have him in their sights, Hill driving an admirable race in sixth place, which he was enjoying enormously. On lap 29 the leading foursome are lapping some of the slower cars and Hailwood got separate from Amon for a moment, but it break him out of the Matra’s suction and with his engine being down on power through reduce breathing he can’t regain his tow and rapidly drop back. On the next lap, Ickx, Fittipaldi and Amon lap Andretti’s Ferrari, and next time round Ickx has his Ferrari well ahead of his two shadowers, but they soon catch him up again. Revson is looking for a way past Hill’s Brabham, and at the beginning of lap 33 he thinks he has found it as they break for the first chicane, but he is wrong and has to take to the escape road, making the McLaren team’s score one-all. Although it drops him back it doesn't lose him a place as Gethin, who is next along, isn’t very close. Beltoise is lap in the new B.R.M., and then Andretti pass the Frenchman, to take ninth place. At the end of 37 laps, with 18 still to run Fittipaldi begin to show signs of shaping up to have a go at getting past the leading Ferrari, are content up to this point with sitting close behind.


At the same time Amon feel his brakes go funny, and lost a lot of ground, and next lap he drive slowly into the pits with smoke pouring from the right-front brake. He has use up all the pad lining and the metal to metal contact make everything red hot, the caliper has expand and the flexible brake connection has come undone and the fluid has poure over the hot disc. The Matra mechanics try to do something about it, but it is impossible and Amon’s race is run, the French engineers wishing they have taken heed of the Ferodo representative’s warning in practice. The next question is whether Fittipaldi can do anything about getting by Ickx, the Lotus and the Ferrari being very evenly match. Just when it seems that a deadlock have reach the Ferrari engine go dead as it come out of the Parabolica curve and Ickx coast towards the pits to finish lap 46 as Fittipaldi sail by into the lead. Somewhere in the Ferraris complex wiring system there are a short-circuit which kills the battery and puts all the electrics out of action and with no current to the Dinoplexi transistor ignition system. Fittipaldi can now ease right up and nurse his brakes for the remaining laps as Hailwood has drops well back by now. Hulme is a steady third, Hill fourth, Revson fifth and Gethin sixth, the remainder are lapp. With five laps to go Hill found his Brabham running out of brakes and have to rely on his gearbox to slow him down, so that Revson goes by to follow his teammate home, while Hill struggles round the final laps with his brake pedal down on the floor and producing very little retardation. One by one the thirteen cars left running cros the finishing line, and it is hard to believe that the Italian Grand Prix at Monza have just finish. To anyone who has witnessed the wheel-to-wheel racing of past events at Monza, with finishes that have the spectators and blasé regulars like yours truly standing on their seats with excitement, to collapse in an exhaust heap afterwards, the 43rd Italian Grand Prix is a terrible let-down, and most people yawn, stretch themselves, and walk away wondering what those in control of the destinies of Grand Prix racing are doing to the sport.



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