#248 1974 Italian Grand Prix

2022-08-19 00:00

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#1974, Fulvio Conti,

#248 1974 Italian Grand Prix

The cast for the last Grand Prix in Europe for 1974 is fairly stable, the only new car on the scene being a fourth B.R.M. P201, which Pescarolo is dri


The cast for the last Grand Prix in Europe for 1974 is fairly stable, the only new car on the scene being a fourth B.R.M. P201, which Pescarolo is driving, the Bourne team having got themselves sort out for a brief moment; Beltoise has P201/03 and Migault P201/02. Team Lotus has make a decisive move in taking their two Lotus 76 models and one Lotus 72 to Monza, the idea being to race the new cars and have the old one purely as a stand-by; it is Peterson’s usual mount, 72/R8, the new cars being the troublesome JPS/9 and JPS/10. Elf Team Tyrrell are in their usual good order, with their three 007 cars for Scheckter and Depailler, and the McLaren team are with their usual three cars for Fittipaldi and Hulme, and the Yardley sponsors M23/4 for David Hobbs, still standing-in for Mike Hailwood, who is report to be recovering well and with enthusiasm. The Texaco-Marlboro sponsors McLarens aren’t using the transparent skirts round the base of the monocoque that they try in Austria, not because they are not beneficial, but because there isn’t way they can be prevent from rubbing themselves away and if they didn’t touch the ground they are ineffective. Any method of keeping them in contact, rising and falling as the suspension works, will have contraven the moveable aerodynamic device rule. The Brabham team are in good spirits after their win in Austria, confident that their cars will be equally as good on the fast Monza circuit. The two South American drivers are unconsciously urging each other on to greater efforts in friendly rivalry, Reutemann knowing he can go faster than Pace, and vice-versa. John Watson, in the brown Hexagon Brabham BT44/4, with support from the works team, is equally happy and confident, being delight with his new car. Surprisingly, Ferrari keep to their usual two-car team for their home Grand Prix, instead of co-opting anyone into a spare car, as they have done in the past. Regazzoni and Lauda have the same two cars they use in Austria, which are 014 and 015, respectively. The Shadow team is unchanges, although their spare car has been straighten out, but Pryce is still feeling a bit bewilder and very lucky at having escap injury in a Formula 2 crash at Enna a short time before.


Team Surtees has call the Formula 2 driver Jose Dolhem into his trouble team once more, with Derek Bell in the number one car, and Frank Williams has Merzario and Laffite in his cars once more, while Graham Hill has Stommelen with him in the Lolas, as he has done in Austria. The private efforts of Amon, Kinnunen, Hunt and Schenken are unchange and the Ensign has revertes to its original green and yellow colour scheme, no longer being support by Theodore Racing, and as in Austria Mike Wilds is driving it. Ian Ashley’s backers have drop the Token car and bring the Brabham BT42/2 that Watson is racing all season, but it can’t be make ready in time for the Italian race. The Swiss/ Italian team run by Finotto/Bretscher have only one of their cars running, although they have enter two, and Carlo Facetti is the driver. The March team is unchange, with Stuck and Brambilla in the 741 cars, the stocky Italian keen to do well on his home ground, Monza being his local circuit. The Formula One Constructors Association plan the distribution of the pits, there being more cars and teams than Monza can really deal with, so a sad little group farms out onto the grass verge at the beginning of the pit road, while the rest have enough room in the concrete covered pits. The outcasts are Facetti with the bright blue Brabham, Ron Tauranac with his Trojan, Chris Amon with his own car, Wilds with the Ensign, Kinnunen with his Surtees and Graham Hill with his Embassy-Lola team, the last-name being something of a surprise decision by the selection committee. Fortunately the weather is typically Italian, so being put out to grass isn’t as disastrous as it maybe is. Most of the competitors have retain the same racing number all season, but for this race there is a bit of shuffling round among the tail-enders, with Amon, Kinnunen, Wilds, Schenken and Migault having different numbers in the entry list, though the third B.R.M. reverte to its normal 37. Practice is hold on Friday and Saturday, from about midday to 3:30 p.m. each day, with a half-hour break for towing in any cars that have breakdown, or repair any ravages cause by over enthusiasm.


The sun shone down splendidly as the two Ferraris begin to set the pace, but it is soon obvious that Reutemann and Pace in the Brabham aren’t going to let them got away, these four being the pacemakers, join after a while by Fittipaldi and Depailler. The Frenchman’s Tyrrell has extra water radiators on each side of the car, mount just in front of the rear wheels. Scheckter is feeling a bit off colour, and not being encourage by his Cosworth engine suffering from fluctuating fuel pressure, so he isn’t going as fast as expects. He does a few slow laps in the spare car, but all tell isn’t in his usual fast form. Team Lotus seems to be making little progress, and for the second half of Friday’s practice Peterson go out in his Lotus 72, abandoning the Lotus 76. Since last year the permanent chicane on the back leg of the circuit is make even more permanent and generally tidy up so that the exit is much quicker, while the chicane on the pits straight remains ostensibly unalter, with an escape road for anyone overshooting. Last year’s fastest practice lap was 1'34"80, set by Peterson in the Lotus 72, and this is well beaten during the first half of Friday’s practice. Reutemann is fastest with 1'33"64 and a lap in the 1'33"0 bracket is clearly going to be an ace time, Lauda joining the Argentinian in this select group. During the second half Stuck’s March has its nose-cone mounting break away and this send him off the road in a spectacular way after the Curva Grande, the car being badly bend but the young German stepping out unscath. The furious pace being set by the Brabhams and Ferraris is leaving everyone else behind and rather depres, particularly the Lotus team who are virtually also-rans in the battle for the front row of the grid. Peterson give up the struggle with the Lotus 76 and revert to his old-faithful Lotus 72/R8, but Ickx hasn’t alternative but to stick with the new car. Some drivers are as many as seven seconds slower than Reutemann, which must is very depressing for there cannot be that much difference in Cosworth engines.


Building a Formula 1 car is one thing, getting all the adjustments in unison is another thing all together, and watching the Brabhams through the Curva Parabolica it is very clear that they are nicely balance and the drivers can really get on with the business of cornering fast, without having to worry about the car changing its attitude angle once it is aim right. The Williams cars are also nice and smooth in their handling, but some of the others are horrible to watch, the drivers having to take big handfuls of opposite lock at the wrong moment to counteract a slide. At Monza there are raise concrete benches all along the public enclosure and you can virtually look down into the cockpits and see the driver working, in spite of what vintage mind people may say. Reutemann ends the day with the fastest lap, in 1'33"27, but Lauda and Regazzoni are right behind him, no-one else being in their league. That evening an almost tropical rainstorm hit the northern part of Italy and it clears the air and got rid of the heaviness in the atmosphere, so that Saturday is warm and clear and hotter than ever when practice starts again at midday. Reutemann do a few laps in the spare works Brabham, but soon returns to his usual car, whereas Peterson continues to work away in his spare car, virtually abandoning the Lotus 76. The March mechanics have straighten out Stuck’s car and he resumes practice only to come to another stop, more gentle this time, when a drive-shaft brake. Before the half-way pause there is an involuntary break when Hobbs clips the exit of the chicane on the pits straight and bounces across the road and into the barriers, bending the front of the car, so everyone stop while the breakdown lorry collects the bend car. Carlos Pace has now joins the 1'33"0 group, as has Fittipaldi, while both Ferraris are well into it, with Lauda down to 1'33"16, which take pole position on the grid from Reutemann. With 31 drivers competing for 25 positions on the starting grid there are a few traumas going on amongst the rabbits at the end of the field, though some are so hopeless (relative to the top group that is) that they more or less give up all hope of getting into the race.


Peterson has one final fling with the Lotus 76 in the last part of practice, but isn’t as fast as he is in the Lotus 72, and that isn’t fast enough to be impressive anyway. The outcome is becoming very clear, it is two Brabhams against two Ferraris, with Fittipaldi in his McLaren hovering just behind them, but the Maranello hopes receive a surprise blow when John Watson pulls out all the stops and does 1'33"63 in the Hexagon-of-Highgate semi-works Brabham, thus ousting Regazzoni from the second row of the grid. Watson’s progress during practice is a model of a driver getting on with the job as the car is trimmed to suit the conditions, from knowledge and information imparts to the small private team by the Brabham designer, Gordon Murray. Watson’s best times in the four sessions were 1'35"31, 1'34"99, 1'34"08, and 1'33"63. And then the brown Brabham spin off the course at the Lesmo bends and destroys itself, the driver stepping out unhurt! Its not a case of over-enthusiasm, a rear wheel has a brake and sends the car helplessly out of control. So practice finishes with a Ferrari on pole position with three Brabhams very close behind it and blocking the second Ferrari, which has a McLaren breathing hard on it. The Hexagon Brabham BT44/4 is too badly bend to be repair in the paddock, but Bernie Ecclestone don’t hesitate about offering the loan of the spare works car to Watson. There are a few minor problems to sort out, such as making it fit the beard Irishman, and the fact that the works cars run on Goodyear tyres while the Hexagon car run on Firestone tyres, but all go well and Watson is ready to give the car a try-out in the untime practice on Sunday morning, which is the reason for the extra half-hour usually provides on race morning. Lauda is also grateful for it as his car has a new engine fits on Saturday night. It doesn’t need much of a clairvoyant to know who the unlucky ones are going to be when there are more drivers than places on the starting grid and once again there are no surprises; Dolhem (Surtees), Facetti (Brabham), Bell (Surtees), Wilds (Ensign), Amon (Amon) and Kinnunen (Surtees) being left behind.

It is still blazing hot on Sunday and the Monza Autodrome is packs to capacity, the majority of the spectators being Ferrari supporters needless to say, and with Lauda on pole position and Regazzoni in the lead of the World Championship for Drivers, all is set for an Italian joy day. Before the start there is a bit of a rhubarb, for Goodyear has decides that the latest type can’t be use and all the contract runners have to back-pedal one step and revert to the not-quite-so-good tyres, and the odd one or two on Firestone tyres actually think they maybe have a chance of winning a Grand Prix, but it all turn out to be relatively unimportant. One by one the cars set off on a warm-up lap, doing a flying lap as well before forming up on the dummy-grid in two-by-two formation. Lauda (Ferrari) and Reutemann (Brabham) are on the front row, follows by Pace (Brabham) and Watson (Brabham) on row two, the Irishman in the white spare works Brabham in place of his usual brown one. Then come Regazzoni (Ferrari) and Fittipaldi (McLaren), Peterson (Lotus 72) and Hunt (Hesketh), Jarier (Shadow) and Depailler (Tyrrell) and Beltoise (B.R.M.) and Scheckter (Tyrrell), follow by the rest down to Pescarolo all alone in the back row, while Dolhem as first reserve waits at the ready in the pits in case anyone fail to line up at the last moment. All 25 runners are in good order, or seem to be, and the field moves up to the start line, ready for the 52 lap race. Lauda make the most blatant jump-start, but overdid the wheelspin and don’t rocket away from Reutemann and the others as expect, though he does lead into the Curva Grande, the chicane not being uses on the opening lap. In the middle of the field, and pulling off to the side was the B.R.M. of Beltoise, its engine having die on him, the remaining 24 cars disappearing in a dust cloud.
Down the back straight Lauda pulls out all the stops and is well ahead as they brake for the Curva Parabolica, and his lead as he comes into view of the pits and grandstands is such that the Ferrari followers cheer hysterically while the rest gasp in disbelief. The order of the main pack as they go by is Lauda, Reutemann, Pace, Watson, Regazzoni, Peterson, Fittipaldi, Hunt, Brambilla, Depailler, Scheckter, Ickx and Jarier. As the tail-enders go by Migault can be see heading for the pits, his B.R.M. suffering from a broken shaft in the gearbox. Next time round Regazzoni and Peterson have got by Watson, the Irishman finding that his car has far too much braking on the rear wheels, there are no time during his brief acquaintanceship with the new car to sort out the balance. Halfway round the third lap the Hesketh blew up its Cosworth engine and Hunt starts a hot walk back to the pits, and next time round it is Pescarolo who starts to walk, his B.R.M. breaking its engine pretty disastrously. The dust from the start has hardly settle and all three B.R.M.s has retire. Regazzoni has overtake Pace on this lap and on lap 5 he overtake Reutemann to move into second place, and as he come into view from the Curva Parabolica the Swiss contingent in the main grandstand are delirious. This is indeed a joy-day for Italy and Ticino, and Ferrari flags and Swiss flags are waving all round the circuit as the two red, cars power away into a commanding 1-2 domination, with Lauda nearly 7 seconds ahead of his team-mate. Watson is losing ground due to being unable to brake to the limit, and Pace begin to drop back when a rear tyre begin to lose bits of its outer skin. Pryce makes a stop to change the left-front tyre on his Shadow on lap 8 and on the next lap Watson go straight on at the pits chicane due to being unable to stop, and spend a long time sorting himself out, so that he drops to the back of the field.
By ten laps a pattern is appearing, with Lauda way out in front on his own, Regazzoni in second place, with Reutemann keeping in touch, and in fourth place the black and gold Lotus of Peterson, in a far better position than practice will have suggest. Fittipaldi is fifth, and a courageous Brambilla is sixth. Then come a gap, and the struggling Pace led the midfield runners who comprise Scheckter, Depailler, Ickx, Jarier, Stommelen (doing extremely well with the over-weight Lola) and Schenken who is making good progress with the Trojan. After another gap come Stuck leading Merzario, Laffite and Hulme, the New Zealander has commit an indiscretion in the opening laps which has drop him to his lowly position of seventeenth. Bringing up the rear are Graham Hill and David Hobbs, having a nice little race all on their own. Watson and Pryce are far beyond trying to make up for lost time. Ronnie Peterson (Lotus) leads Emerson Fittipaldi (McLaren) at the 1974 Italian Grand Prix, Monza). At the end of 12 laps Reutemann heads for the pits, and Peterson moves up into third place, behind the two Ferraris. The Brabham team leader has feel an awful rumbling and vibrating coming from the back of the car, and it doesn’t take long for his mechanics to diagnose that the Hewland gearbox is breaking up, and the car is wheel away. On the same lap Stuck come in to say that his March is feeling peculiar, and as it is about to break in two, where the engine joins the monocoque, this isn’t surprising. On lap 15 the Trojan retires, with gearbox failure, and at that point the Italian commentator is just praising Brambilla, who isn’t only the leading Italian in the race but also in a very worthy fifth position, when the stocky little man from Monza clips the pits chicane on the exit and bounce off into the barriers, just as Hobbs has done in practice, the March coming to a halt rather bent. As Brambilla walks back to the pits he got a very big ovation from the crowd, for no-one minds a driver making a mistake when he is having a real go.
The pits are still very busy for Ickx has crept quietly in with a broken ball-joint in the throttle linkage and Stommelen is forces to stop as his Lola seems to be steering itself. While Ickx’s car is repaire and he rejoin the race for a time until another part of the linkage broke, for Stommelen its the finish, for the rear suspension is coming adrift. With all this trouble in the mid-field the tail-enders who are having trouble-free runs are moving up impressively on the lap charts, and Merzario is up to eighth place by lap 20, and Jarier retires when his engine seizes up. Laffite is the next to go as his engine fails on lap 22, and on the next lap Depailler misjudg the pits chicane, bounces off the kerb and limps round to the pits to have a new rear wheel fit to the right-hand side. Ever since he has got into second position, on lap 5, Regazzoni is holding the gap between himself and Lauda pretty constant, even closing it up slightly at times, and at 25 laps it is 6.7 seconds, but he can now see signs of trouble ahead, for on the over-run the leading Ferrari is begin to puff out blue smoke from its exhausts, a sign of something going wrong inside the engine. By lap 28 it is really smoking badly, and slowing, and on lap 30 Regazzoni take the lead as Lauda’s car slowes dramatically. At the end of lap 32 it is all over for the young Austrian, and once again the Ferrari engine that everyone thinks is so strong has let him down. He goes into the pits not to return, the engine having suffer internal damage, and Regazzoni is left in a strong position, more than 12 seconds ahead of Peterson, who still has Fittipaldi nibbling away at his exhaust pipes. A bare ten laps more and Regazzoni’s car begin to smoke in the same way that Lauda’s has done and the Ferrari supporters and the Swiss spectators nearly wept as the smoking got worse. Its clear that Peterson and Fittipaldi are soon going to be racing for first place, and on lap 39 the Brazilian outbreak the Swede into the pits chicane and got in front, albeit slightly out of control, so that he takes quite a time to got sort out after the chicane, and Peterson is back in front in no time at all.
At 40 laps Regazzoni head for the pits, the Ferrari engine about to do itself a serious mischief, and after everyone have gone by he rejoins the race, urge on by the vociferous crowds, but he only got as far as Lesmo when the flat-12 cried Enough and he parks the car on the grass verge. The Italian and Swiss supporters roll up their flags and set off for home, bitterly disappoint after such a glorious beginning. This left Peterson and Fittipaldi battling for the lead, although it isn’t much of a battle, for the Brazilian has make his pass to take the lead, and it hasn’t come off, and there doesn't seem much more he can do except keep pressing the Lotus in the hope that it will break down. In truth it's making an odd noise, but it's only a loose tail-pipe, and providing Peterson can keep going for the remaining twelve laps the Italian Grand Prix is his. Thus its, with the faithful old Lotus 72 chalking up yet another victory and Fittipaldi following home in second place, these two are up at the front for the whole race. Scheckter is third, having moved steadily up from tenth place as those in front struck trouble, and by the same process Hulme moves up from seventeenth to sixth place by the end. Ronnie Peterson celebrates on the podium at the 1974 Italian Grand Prix, Monza. Merzario has moves up in a similar steady manner to finish fourth, and in fifth place is a fighting Carlos Pace. The Brazilian Brabham driver has to struggle on with his tyre disintegrating until he is force to stop and have it change, when it is find that the out-of-balance vibration has break one of the mountings of the rear anti-roll bar. It can’t be repaire so he rejoins the race knowing full well why his car isn’t handling as well as it should. This is on lap 22, when he is lying eighth, and the stop drops him to the back of the field into 12th place. Once he got the hang of the different handling he really fought his way back up to fifth place and in doing so he made the fastest lap of the race in 1'34"2, which is a new lap record.


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