#206 1971 Italian Grand Prix

2022-08-23 00:00

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#1971, Fulvio Conti, Giulia Noto, Translated by Alessia Andreoli,

#206 1971 Italian Grand Prix

Ferrari is not going to take part to the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix on Sunday, September 5th, 1971, in the Autodromo of Monza. The rumour that is sp


Ferrari is not going to take part to the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix on Sunday, September 5th, 1971, in the Autodromo of Monza. The rumour that is spreading after the Austrian Gran Prix, although it is not official, is reliable, because it comes from sources that are usually well informed and close to the Ferrari technical direction. This unexpected decision would be due to technical reasons: there is not enough time to fix the problems highlighted by the results in the last races. However, a speaker for A.C. Milano declares:


"As far as we are concerned, the exact opposite is true. Ferrari is willing to take part in the race, with more cars than the two prepared for Ickx and Regazzoni".


The organizers notice also that Enzo Ferrari, even more than a great constructor, is a sportsman. Exactly by the virtue of this characteristic, Ferrari cars have always raced in the Italian Grand Prix, even when they were not competitive at all. Ferrari had a copy of the regulation at that time, and has recently asked for five more copies of the official regulation of the Italian Grand Prix. The rumour that has been circulating for two days in Modena, that Enzo Ferrari intends to surrender to race in the Italian Grand Prix, one of the most important events for Ferrari, is surrounded by mystery.  On one hand, the rumour could be supported by the fact that the Maranello team has not registered its cars yet, and the news supposedly comes from sources close to the team. On the other hand, it is not official: so, it is only possible to allege suppositions. According to the news, there is a ninety per cent of chance that Ferrari will race in Monza, clearly due to prestige reasons: the Maranello constructor has never surrendered this race, even when the cars were less competitive than the current ones. On the other hand, It is widely known that Enzo Ferrari has spent a lot of time in the Maranello factory these days, and has supervised personally the work in the building where everything is top-secret, since it is the race division. A news is spreading insistently about the commitment of the Ferrari’s technicians to fix the huge quantity of problems highlighted by the last races, and such news could be well-founded. Apparently, they are trying to fix a problem that seems to have no solution from a technical point of view. During the tests, the race cars’ engines provide all the power that the engineers expect, but this does not happen when the engine is placed on the car. Surely, in preparation for such an important race as Monza is, Ferrari has to solve a lot of problems, and very important ones.


This is not enough to justify a surrender that would be much more disappointing than a bad race, as the sport fans point out. As if that were not enough, contrary to the predictions, in Maranello they are sure that Enzo Ferrari cannot count on more pilots than the two of the official team. Regazzoni, who left for Vallelunga on Tuesday evening, is absent. So, on Wednesday, August 25th, 1971, only Jacky Ickx practises on the Monza track, driving the new Ferrari 312 B2. The Ferrari technicians take a lot of tests on the car. In particular, as the Sport Director Peter Schetty tells the journalists, they focus on the different vibrations of high-profile tyres and low-profile ones. Jacky Ickx sets a time of 1'25"1 with the high-profile tyres and 1'24"8 with the low-profile ones. But it seems that low-profile tyres cause the car to have more vibrations, especially in the turns. The suspensions and the wings have been tested too. Of course, the results obtained until now are top-secret. Schetty declares that he is satisfied, thought. The practice starts in the morning and continues all day long without interruptions, not even for lunch. The pilots, the technicians and the mechanics have a sandwich in the box. The team will stay in Monza also on Thursday morning, from 9.00 a.m. to 12.00 a.m. The wing will be further tested, and a new kind of gearbox will be installed. Once the practise is over, the following week, on August 31st, March 1971, Scuderia Ferrari announces that they will take part in the Italian Grand Prix taking place in Monza. The registration of the two official cars was submitted following the tests, so it depended on the results of the practice that the team has performed and is still performing in Monza and Vallelunga. About this, Enzo Ferrari declares:


"Ferrari will take part to the Monza Grand Prix with Ickx and Regazzoni, not just because we already solved the technical problems that caused the recent failures, but also because we believe that racing is the only way to understand and overcome the current difficulties. Last but not least, we don’t want to miss the event with the fans".


The Formula One Word Championship was already decided in August in Austrian Grand Prix. Stewart (Tyrrell factory) got an early win, defeating Ferrari. Nevertheless, there is absolutely no risk for the Italian Grand Prix to pass unnoticed, with the free practice in Monza staring on September 7th, 1971. The winner must prove that he is always the best, the loser must do whatever it takes to go back to the top. This is exactly the situation of Ferrari, whose results until now have been, unfortunately, negative. At the end of 1970, it looked like Ferrari was going to lead every race, with the team composed by Ickx, Regazzoni and Andretti: instead, the situation got worse, while the Stewart-Tyrrell pair was prevailing more and more. It could be tedious to go back to the problems that affected the Maranello cars. It is far more interesting, instead, to notice that in the last days Ferrari has made a lot of tests both in Monza and in Vallelunga, trying to fix the problem of the vibrations that heavily conditioned the performance. The tests have been made in the utmost discretion, because Ferrari is still far from solving the vibration problems. These are caused by the lack of apt tyres, by the kind of suspensions used and maybe also by the too narrow wheel-track. Despite this, Ferrari will take part to the race, since it cannot surrender the most important event of the year. Enzo Ferrari is not giving up, despite he himself being the target of strong protests from part of too intense fans who were exaggeratedly disappointed after the recent events. A fighting attitude: everyone hopes that the new 13-inches low-profile Firestone tyres give the desired reliability to Ickx and Regazzoni’s 312 B2 cars. But their performance on Monza’s superfast track is still unknown: for this reason, the first day of the free practice should be dedicated to solving the set-up problems more than setting record lap times. The main question regards the behaviour of the Maranello cars in a track that is less favourable to them than it could seem. The 12-cylinder boxer (480hp and 12.600 rpm) should prevail over the Ford-Cosworth, the B.R.M. and the Matra, which is back to the races after the Austrian Grand Prix. It should also prevail over the phenomenon of the cars entering into the riptide of the other ones when they are all close, which is a great advantage for the slower cars. Every car drags the others away, in a frightening 300 km/h whirlwind. At the present time, Stewart (Tyrrell) and Siffert (B.R.M.) are the favourites to win the race, and Silvio Moser (Bellasi-Ford) is again amongst the 25 drivers registered. About Ickx and Regazzoni, the question the same as always: will the 312 B2 cars hold up or will they retire?


Stewart predicts Siffert’s win, the Swiss man shrugs his shoulders. For sure, B.R.M. has tested a short-stroke engine in Zeltweg and appears to be one of the most strong and solid cars on the starting grid. Everyone is waiting for the other drivers’ practice, in particular of the March Italian pair, formed by Nanni Galli and Andrea de Adamich. The Tuscan man has a Ford-Cosworth, Andrea has an Alfa 8-cylinder engine. In the meantime, Chris Amon sets an unexpected record time lap on September 2, 1971, in Monza. The Swedish pilot sets the time of 1’23”8, which is the new unofficial record time, thanks to a perfect performance of the engine and to an aerodynamic improvement given by the new nose. Ferrari has made some successful tests on the tyres in Vallelunga, and on Friday it will be clear whether the improvements were effective or not. Before the meeting begins there is not too much enthusiasm among the Italian populace for the 42nd Italian Grand Prix, even though it is the 50th anniversary of the running of the first Italian Grand Prix. This is because the fortunes of the Ferrari team are at a very low ebb following defeat in the Austrian Grand Prix, the race in which they rose to the top last year. Added to this are a lot of newspaper stories that Enzo Ferrari is not going to send any cars to Monza, as a protest about something obscure, so it is not surprising that when practice begins on Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. the Monza Autodromo is pretty empty, apart from the competitors. There has been quite a bit of unofficial practice going on earlier in the week, with Tyrrell experimenting with a rear-mounted water radiator layout, and Goodyear and Firestone doing tyre tests with various of their customers or clients, while Dunlop has a new footbridge inaugurated on their behalf, it being in the classic half-tyre form across the Monza track just beyond the long Curva Grande at the end of the finishing straight. Everything is warm and dry when practice begins and Amon is first away, in the revised Matra-Simca V12, sounding as sharp and exciting as ever it does, and the driver sporting a brand-new moustache and mini beard. There is plenty of activity on this first afternoon and it is Cevert who is soon setting the pace, but there is no sign of a Lotus 72 for Herbert Muller, the Williams March 701 for Carlos Pace or the Bellasi for Silvio Moser. The Lotus 72 is to have been the ex-Robb Walker car which Siffert has bought to use as a T-car; the Williams March is not rebuilt and the Bellasi is not ready. 


Schenken has to stand around for a while at the beginning of practice as someone presses the fire-extinguisher button instead of the starter button on his Brabham and it takes some time to fit another extinguisher unit and mop up the mess. The works March 711 cars look very odd running without their nose aerofoil, although the rounded nose devoid of air-disturbing holes look very efficient. It is a change to see that most teams have come prepared to sacrifice cornering down-thrust from aerodynamic devices in favour of lower frontal area and drag, in the search for more maximum speed, whereas in the past everyone has arrived all kitted up with aerodynamic devices and gradually discarded them as practice progressed. Surtees sets off in the new TS9 with a plastic shield of deflector vanes under the wide nose and returns to the pits without them as they have been ground away under braking! Stommelen is waiting for his Surtees TS9 to be finished off in the paddock, not terribly happy with his association with Team Surtees as a customer, and less happy in the knowledge that Surtees has announced officially that the association would not be renewed in 1972. Amon does not do many laps before he is back in the pits to set off in the spare car while the water pump is changed on the best car. The Ferrari team begins confusing things by sending Regazzoni out in the spare car with Ickx’s racing number on it, while Siffert does a few laps in the spare B.R.M. Half-way through the afternoon there is a break of approximately one hour, during which time the Lotus mechanics lower the ratio of the central drive train on the turbine car, as it is over-geared, and a new filter system is taken out of the engine’s air intake as it seems to be short of breath. In the last part of the afternoon as the air temperature cools there is a lot of activity and a lot of nose-to-tail running and diving into the slipstream of faster cars and in one little flurry of activity Pescarolo gets himself a very quick lap.


The Formula One lap record officially is still held by Beltoise in 1'25"2 in 1969 with a Matra MS80, and last year Regazzoni has equalled it with a Ferrari 312B/1, but in practice last year lckx has made fastest lap in a similar car in 1'24"14. Naturally an improvement is expected and Siffert is fastest of the afternoon with 1'23"47, showing that his performance with the B.R.M. in Austria has not been a flash in the pan. However, what is surprising is the number of people who get below 1'24"0, for Cevert, Pescarolo, Gethin, Ganley, Peterson and Stewart are all in this select high-speed group with laps at well over 153 m.p.h. and a mere five-tenths of a second cover these seven. In the Ferrari pits there is a gloom as neither of the drivers is in the select group and the Firestone tyres are giving them trouble, so much so that approaches are made to Goodyear to try some of their tyres on the following day. As practice is finishing for the afternoon Stommelen has a lurid moment when a right rear tyre on his Surtees deflates and comes off the rim, sending him spinning into the Armco barrier on one side of the track and bouncing across the road to thump the barrier on the other side rather hard, but fortunately being able to step out shaken but unscathed. Enzo Ferrari arrives to the Monza circuit at 12:00 a.m. with a 250 GT 2+2: he is driving while Franco Gozzi is on the passenger’s seat. Behind them are sitting Ferrari’s wife Laura Garello and the loyal Peppino Verdelli, who accompanied Ferrari since the time he was his second pilot in the races. Ferrari has a curious “weakness”: in certain places, he expects to be recognised immediately, and Monza, the gates of the circuit, are definitely one of them. It should be granted: Gozzi has always the passes for the car and the passengers ready, but the security generally gives just a quick look and then open the gates without any further check:


"Open, quick, Enzo Ferrari is here".


But this time there are new members of the security staff, young people. Although Peppino is making eloquent gestures, they ask insistently to check the passes. Enzo Ferrari becomes sad, and as soon as he gets to the box he sees a mechanic smoking a cigarette. As if that were not enough, Ferrari calls his clerk Valerio Stradi in Maranello and finds out that he’s gone out for lunch. On the track, neither Ickx nor Regazzoni manage to set a good time. Some of the technicians blame the tyres, some others the suspensions. The drivers are not sure about it, probably it could be the tyres, but also the modified chassis, the B2 is worse than the B1 and the former B. About the setup, one driver asks to stiffen it, the other wants the opposite. Maybe, someone suggests, if we could try a different kind of tyre and see how it works with the suspensions...


"Why can’t you do it?"


Enzo Ferrari asks, and he is answered that there is a contract to fulfil. Ferrari raises his voce, he starts yelling that they can use the contract as toilet pap... pity that in that exact moment the loud noise of the cars on the track makes it impossible to hear the rest of the sentence, so the second function of the contract remains unknown. Ferrari starts to give orders; he wants to understand soon and to solve problems: this is made even more complicated by the tension and the lack of time. So, the team starts the most intense session of practice ever seen. The tyres imposed by the contract are compared to other kinds of tyres, not permitted: they are tried with different cars, different setups and different drivers. The fans don’t really understand what is going on, all they can see is a few laps continuously interrupted and bad times. This is why they start protesting, at first softly, then more loudly and finally with boos. Enzo Ferrari decides to go out of the box so that the fans can see him, hoping that this would calm them down. But instead, he causes the opposite reaction, and in the evening, while he is having dinner at the Hotel Sant'Eustorgio, he is still dazed and keeps murmuring We’ll see tomorrow. The discouraging truth highlighted by the first day of free practice for the Italian Grand Prix in Monza is that Ferrari is still far from solving its problems. The problems are the same as always: the vibrations and the tyres. The new tyres approved by Firestone in just a cupule of days have not performed well, on the contrary, they have degraded a lot. This is why Ferrari, March, B.R.M. and all the other factories that use Firestone tyres are forced to use the old kind of tyres, the ones used in France and in Great Britain. However, as it was already clear in Austria, B.R.M. can adjust best to these controversial tyres than the Italian cars. In fact, Siffert has set the best time, exploiting the phenomenon of the riptide with his teammates Gethin and Ganley. His time is 1'23"27 in the Monza 5750km long track, with an average speed of 248.588 km/h. This is a record lap, but also Cevert (Tyrrell), Peterson (March), Stewart (Tyrrell), Pescarolo (March), Gethin and Ganley (B.R.M.) have improved their performance in comparison with the time set by Ickx last year with the 312 B (1’24"14). All these drivers are very close, setting a time near to 1'23"0. It is worth mentioning also that Siffert has a new short-stroke engine (11.800 rpm). Cevert is using a new engine, while Stewart’s one had already been used in other races. Regazzoni sets the eight time (1’24"18) and Ickx the tenth (1'24"39). The two Ferrari drivers set these times with the usual tyres. Mauro Forghieri, technical director, explains:


"There are vibrations especially when the car is exiting from the parabolic turn, Jacky and Clay are forced to reduce their speed. I am really disappointed tonight...".


He goes on:


"I believe that we have more vibration problems than the other teams because the wheel-track of our 312-B2 is too narrow. Firestone will work hard to find a last-minute solution tonight, but what could you expect them to do in just a few hours?"


About this, there’s a rumour in Monza that Ferrari has secretly asked Goodyear for a set of tyres for Sunday. The one that is not discouraged, but open and combative, is Enzo Ferrari. He has come to Monza today and has closely supervised the work of the pilots, the technicians and the mechanics on his cars.


"I am selfish, I decided to take part to the Grand Prix because I like it. I am not a hero, nor a benefactor, I am just a man with enthusiasm and passion, who believes in races. We are on our knees now. Well, we can either fall completely or get up. In any case, I think that the defeats can also help us to improve. You see, people don’t fully realize how important tyres are nowadays. There is at least a difference of one second for lap between the 13-inches tyres and the 15-inches ones. I would like Michelin to become a supplier for Formula One. We saw what they can do with our Gran Turismo cars, and we are sure that they could fix our problems on Formula One cars too. Regarding the blame against my co-workers, I have the duty to defend them. We won’t change our coach".


Ferrari has presented the plan of the new Fiorano Circuit, that will allow them to try the cars on an ideal track, near the Maranello factory. Ferrari is projected towards the future, even though they are aware of the difficult situation in Monza. With this approach, they were able to overcome even harder difficulties. About the tyres, the situation the day before the practice was as follows. Firestone had brought new 13.5-inches tyres for the rear wheels, instead of the 15.0-inches ones that had been criticised (the front tyres were already 13.5-inches). But after a few laps during the first practice session, Peterson and Ickx were forced to return to the box because the right rear tyre was destroyed. Regazzoni too had to stop and after a quick reunion, the technicians decided to retire all the material. During the second practice session, Ferrari, B.R.M., March and others had to use the 15-inches tyres, which for Ferrari meant returning to the old problems. Overall, 312 B2 is the car that has managed to counteract Stewart’s Tyrrell better. It is a 12-cylinder boxer, 480 hp, 12.000 rpm. The performance of the Ferrari team has been limited by the problems to the tyres and by the too narrow wheel-track. With the start of the official free practise, the Formula One cars are back in Monza in a discussed Italian Grand Prix. The most famous drivers are racing on the most sophisticated cars, in a competition at approximately 300 km/h, on the fastest track of the world. Lotus factory, that gave Emerson Fittipaldi the permission to use the turbine 56B with a private team, and Dennis Hulme, who is taking part to the Can-Am Cup, will be absent. Nobody is likely to notice the absence of the latter, who didn’t stand out in Formula One this year. Jackie Stewart, the new world champion, as well as Ickx and Regazzoni’s Ferraris, will be the ones in the spotlights, as well as B.R.M., since Siffert won in Austria. Stewart is very appreciated by the Monza fans, and he will have to prove that his second world championship was well deserved in front of the Italian spectators. The Stewart-Tyrrell pair has dominated against a troubled Ferrari. Ferrari is a name loved to the limit of fanaticism: it can cause emotions like no other factory can do, may it be Italian or not. It has a lot of supporters, who are ready to go from love to hate. Someone has even booed Enzo Ferrari, who came to Monza in the last days to supervise the work of his men, who were working nervously to improve the 312 B2. An astonishing fact: Ferrari has replied to it confirming that they will be taking part in the race, even though it would have been cautious to take a break, just like Matra did withdrawing from the Austrian Grand Prix.


But Ferrari is not the kind of man who takes breaks. He and his factory have faced far worse situations. Moreover, several defeats on the track against a first-level rival are not something very dramatic. If there’s something to regret, it is that the situation has worsened, that some decisions were not taken before, that the problems affecting the tyres, the vibrations and the suspensions have prevented the 12-cylinder engine from emerging in the fight against Ford-Cosworth, and that this outstanding engine broke several times in the end. It is not worth forgetting the many exciting moments and the brilliant victories because of this anger. All we have to do now is waiting for the Grand Prix peacefully. Will the commitment of technicians and pilots turn into positive results? This is what Ferrari factory and its fans ask themselves. The mechanics have worked on the suspensions, on the aerodynamics, on the engines, on the tyres (Firestone has prepared a new kind of tyres). It is not an exciting topic, for those fans who until the middle of the season were used to the Ferrari-Tyrrell and Ickx-Stewart duel. It is a real topic though, and it is possible that a positive outcome will lead to a good performance. If this happened, Monza would be all coloured in read again. Saturday is as hot as ever with practice in the afternoon again, non-stop this time, and lckx has a set of Goodyear tyres on his 1971 Ferrari, while one of the 1970 cars have been brought along as a spare for Regazzoni, but the Ferrari confusion continues when lckx changes from the 1971 car to the 1970 car, taking the Goodyear tyres with him. Surtees has used bits of Stommelen’s wrecked car to convert his latest car back to front radiator layout and chisel nose, while Hailwood is out again after an engine change overnight, his Friday practice stopping prematurely when his engine shows signs of blowing up. The Bellasi arrives for Moser, and Pescarolo is content to scrub in some new tyres and then rest on his fast Friday lap time. Cevert does a quick try with the old-type Tyrrell chisel-nose cowling, minus the canard fins, and Stewart seems to spend more time in the pits with his Hewland gearbox in pieces than he spends out on the track. The Italians’ natural enthusiasm for motor racing overcomes the pre-race apathy and a vast crowd pours into the Autodromo for the Saturday practice. They get themselves well and truly jam in the foot-tunnel under the track, so that at mid-afternoon when most of the competitors are sitting around waiting for the cool of the evening to come there is more excitement and shouting in the public enclosures than on the track.


Just after 6:00 p.m. there is a bit of a rush and some exciting nose-to-tail stuff going on, with Siffert and Amon having a bit of a dust-up, the sound of the V12 B.R.M. and V12 Matra in close company keeping everyone happy. When Amon goes back to the pits Peterson has a bit of a go with the B.R.M. and during this time Siffert gets in a fastest lap at 1'23"03. Marko has a brief try in the spare B.R.M., and then just before practice ends at 6:30 p.m. there is a mad rush and cars can be seen going down the back straight at no more than 80 or 90 m.p.h. with the drivers peering intently in their mirrors waiting for someone to go by and provide a slipstream tow. Every now and then a bunch of cars would get together and there is some pretty hectic driving taking place as everyone tries to get an ultra-fast lap time. Most drivers get themselves confused with too many cars so that they get in each other’s way, but one or two timed things right and Schenken has his Brabham in the draught of a bunch of cars so that he is gaining speed, at which point Amon catches him up and uses his slipstream to waft by and get in a prodigiously fast lap of 1'22"40, an average speed of 251.213 k.p.h. (nearly 156 m.p.h.). The timekeepers are working overtime at this point to record all the lap times and are so overjoyed to record 1'22"82 for Ickx with the 312B/1 Ferrari, on Goodyear tyres, that they overlook Amon’s fast lap. As soon as the practise is over, Enzo Ferrari, Franco Gozzi, Laura Garello and Peppino Verdelli drive back to Modena early in the morning. Ferrari argues with his wife during the whole drive back home. The rumour that had spread on Friday has now become a reality after the two days of free practice. Ferrari has tried Goodyear tyres at the end of the second session of free practice: Goodyear is the rival of Firestone, a bizarre tyres conflict which seems to condition the World Formula One Championship.


It is an interesting experiment and quite an audacious one, given that changing the kind of tyres on a Formula One car is not as simple as changing them on an ordinary car, because the setup and the suspensions come into play. This experiment has moved the situation: on one hand, Firestone’s workers got offended for this decision, threatening that they would retire all their material. On the other hand, the factories that currently use Goodyear tyres are upset by the fact that Goodyear is providing tyres for Ferrari, which is a more and more competitive rival. Anyway, Goodyear’s workers, dressed in blue trousers and light blue jackets, and Firestone’s ones, dressed in white, ended up working together on the Ferrari cars. Goodyear attends Jacky Ickx, who uses only their tyres, moving them from the race car to the practice car. Firestone is attending Clay Regazzoni. The Swiss man has used the 13-inches tyres which he had already used on Friday. The tread has been modified, to solve the problems caused by the temperature and the degradation and to allow the driver to try them properly.  Indeed, it is Ickx who gives Ferrari a hope: he gets the second time, and he is driving his practice car equipped with Goodyear. He is behind Amon and the renewed Matra-Simca. Amon has taken advantage from the riptide of Schenken (Brabham), setting a time of 1'22'40 and an average speed of 251.213 km/h. The limit of 250 km/h as an average speed has fallen for the first time. Ickx has set a time of 1'22"82, that is still an outstanding performance, considered that Amon’s one was fantastic. Ickx ‘s time is even more special if we consider that he is driving a 312 B1, which is the last year’s car, the same car that Regazzoni was driving when he won the Italian Grand Prix. A strange coincidence, or better, this could be the proof that 312 B1, even though it has a new engine and other details were improved now, had a better structure than B2, for example, the suspensions and the wheel-track. About the tyres, 13-inches Goodyear, the same tyres that Stewart uses, performed well.


"No vibration".


Ickx says, adding:


"They are soft and flowing".


The mechanics had also tried these tyres on B2, but Ickx had to stop the practice after a few laps, because they were not working well with the car. Even though Ickx was happy about the practice, he was not sure whether to use 312 B1 with Goodyear tyres in the race: he fears that they will not perform well on the long distance. Despite this, it would be absurd to go for other solutions after the brilliant practice. Regazzoni set the sixth time of the day (1'23"6), and the eighth combined time, with the 312 B2 and Firestone tyres. This time the tyres performed well, allowing the Swiss man to do a brilliant job: the time is even better than the one he set on Friday (1'24"18). Clay used three out of the four 3B12 at his disposal in Monza. The engine of his practice car has broken down very soon, then his race car had to stop due to the breakage of the left joint at the end of the differential gear. Regazzoni uses Ickx’s 312 B2, which the Belgian man had driven only for a few laps because of some problems with the ignition. It has been a heart-pounding practice for Ferrari, technicians, pilots and mechanics. The disappointment affected the spirit, the other teams seamed out of reach. The practice with Goodyear tyres has been long, draining, the drivers went back to the box loads of times to adjust the setup, to analyse the aerodynamics, to adapt the car to the tyres in the best way possible. The outcome has been positive, and it is a fair prize for the hard work that all the group did, even though there are also some negative aspects. The engine gave signs of stress, and the mechanics are going to change two units in the night: one of them has been requested in Maranello and maybe it could be the new kind, more powerful. Nobody is deluding themselves, but surely Ferrari seems to have more chances for the race. And what about the rivals? Chris Amon is in pole position with Matra, B.R.M. has both Siffert and Ganley in the second raw, which gives a clear idea about the performance of these cars, which came back to the top in Austria. It seems like Siffert is not using the new short-stroke engine, since it is still not fine-tuned enough to face a full race.


Cevert e Peterson could do a surprising race, while Stewart is starting from the fourth raw, together with Regazzoni. The Scottish man seems to have lost part of his competitiveness after winning the world championship. The race day is the real feast in Monza, a chaotic reunion that resembles a hippy gathering a bit and a football match a lot. A chaotic and exited audience, who crowds into the circuit since the first hours of the day, alongside the traditional or improvised campers, who stayed into the Autodromo since Saturday, so as to avoid buying another ticket. Loads of people had this idea, but the organizers still manage to deal with the situation quite well, also because the capacity of the Autodromo seems to grow year after year, as a sort of miracle. Even though there are brand new grades all the way along the circuit, the lawns and the woods are still full of people: from there, you can imagine the race more than actually seeing it. As always, there are still people invading the limits of the track and climbing on the grades and on the billboards. Time passes wearily, in spite of the good performances of the drivers who are racing with the Gran Turismo cars, as people try to take control of a group of off-limits trees and the police removes some fans from an overcrowded trellis. Soon the first cars start to get on the track, the fans clap at the drivers who are arriving bit by bit, the race officers are on the track. The atmosphere electrifies and soon becomes tension. The cars are on the track, paired two by two. Only Stommelen’s Surtees is missing, because it was not possible to repair it after an accident on Friday. Just sixty seconds left for the start and the engines are on. When it’s thirty seconds left, the cars start to move slowly, until the first two cars, Amon’s Matra and Ickx’s Ferrari, are on the finish line. With Ickx on the front row of the grid, and as far as the general public are concerned, having made fastest practice lap, the crowds really pack the Monza Autodromo on Sunday under a typical Italian sunny sky. From 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. there is a session of extra practice for anyone who wants it and B.R.M. uses it for Siffert to bed in a new engine on P160/02, and Ickx tries the 1970 Ferrari on Firestone tyres, while Stewart tries a super-high fifth gear that would allow him to benefit from any slip-streaming without overstressing the Cosworth engine in his Tyrrell.


Also Regazzoni, Cevert, Beuttler, Surtees, Hailwood, Schenken, Hill, Oliver and Peterson all use this extra session, but Amon is content to stay away and take his time over breakfast. During this session Hill has his gearbox seize two gears together and Hailwood’s engine has a persistent misfire, so between 11:00 a.m. and the 3:30 p.m. starting time Hill’s Brabham has a change of gearbox and Hailwood’s Surtees has an engine replacement using the one taken out of Surtees’ own car during practice, the Team owner having had a new engine installed. Everyone who practices is on the grid, the line of paired cars stretching a long way down the track, and it is impressive that all but four of the entry have improved on the existing lap record and thirteen of them have improved on last year’s fastest practice lap, so it is obviously going to be quite a dice for the 55 laps, the race distance having been reduced from last year’s 68 laps in accordance with the CSI recommendations, though no-one seems to know why 320 kilometres are decided as the maximum for a Grand Prix. Twelve-cylinder engines are dominating the scene, with Matra and Ferrari on the front row with two B.R.M.s behind them, and as the cars are assembled on the dummy grid it  is noticeable that Regazzoni’s Ferrari, 312/2 No. 5 not No. 7 that he recordes his fastest laps with, is well out of line in row four, alongside Stewart. The twenty-three cars move forward towards the start-line, Amon and Ickx bring their cars to a stop, engines scream, the flag drops and Regazzoni takes his Ferrari down the outside of the grid line-up and is in the lead almost before the first row has got their wheels spinning. The grandstands shake with cheers and the whole Autodromo is really buzzing as Regazzoni leads the opening lap of the 42nd Italian Grand Prix. There is no need to look down towards the Curva Parabolica to see who is leading at the end of the first lap, the tumult from the crowd speaks for itself, but Siffert has his B.R.M. alongside the Ferrari as they cross the line, the two Swiss drivers giving no quarter. Stewart is third, Ganley fourth and Peterson fifth, the two starting grid leaders, Amon and Ickx having been swamped by the excited mob behind them, and being sixth and eighth, respectively. The race is on with a vengeance and Siffert is not going to mess about in second place behind a Ferrari driven by a chap from the wrong side of the Alps. Side-by-side they rocket round the Monza track, the Ferrari leading lap two by half a car’s length, while Peterson is alongside Stewart, moving up to third place in the next lap.


The third lap ends with the three foreign tearaways almost touching one another in echelon as they cross the line, the order being Regazzoni, Siffert, Peterson and there is no nonsense about race-tactics, it is Harry Flatters for all concerned. On lap four there is a big reshuffle as Peterson takes the lead with Stewart following him through into second place, and this pushes Siffert back to third and Regazzoni fourth, but it is all instant stuff for they are nearly touching one another. Ickx is in fifth place, and keeping out of the scrum because he doesn’t like this sort of racing, and Cevert has moved up into seventh place and takes sixth place from Ganley on the next lap. Amon is in trouble with his left front tyre coming up in blisters and drops back to watch developments so that Gethin soon passes him. Almost unnoticed Marko has brought his B.R.M. into the pits as the engine is not running properly, but he sets off again only to have the engine die completely before he can get back to the pits. Equally unnoticed Surtees starts lap 4 with his engine blowing up and as he walks back to the pits to sympathetic applause from the crowd he gets some consolation when the main bunch of the racers go by to see that Hailwood has the second Surtees TS9 in there with them. For the fifth lap the first five cars keep their positions, as if taking a short breather after the initial rush, but on lap six Regazzoni is past Siffert and into third place and from the back of the field Schenken retires his Brabham at the pits due to the suspension sub-frame under the gearbox breaking and Moser gives up with a broken shock-absorber mounting on the Bellasi. The leading bunch are lapping at just over 1'26"0, a speed of close on 150 m.p.h., 185 m.p.h. or more down the back straight, and still with their wheels almost touching one another. The afternoon heat is pretty severe and Ganley’s B.R.M. is running hotter than desirable and Siffert finds that when close behind other cars his water temperature is rising unduly, so he drops back slightly and Cevert moves into fourth place. For a brief moment on lap eight Stewart takes the lead but on the next lap Regazzoni gets his Ferrari ahead to the delight of the crowds and then Peterson goes into the lead again at ten laps, with the average speed now over 150 m.p.h. and on lap eleven Cevert goes by Stewart and took third place. Prize money is being given according to the race position at 13, 26, and 39 laps as well as the finish, and the first bag of lire goes to Peterson, while Cevert snatches second place from Regazzoni, who is followed by Stewart, Ickx, Siffert, Ganley, Hailwood, Amon, Gethin, Oliver and Pescarolo, but the last two are out of touch with the draught of the leaders.


Galli’s March 711 expires at the pits on this lap with electrical trouble and Jarrier’s March 701 has already been lapped. Nothing is settled among the first four cars and on lap 15 Cevert takes the lead, with Stewart behind him and Peterson down to third place and Regazzoni fourth. Then there comes a major change in the order for lckx is clearly in trouble and Hailwood and Ganley go by the Ferrari, while Siffert drops back dramatically to try and get his water temperature down. On lap 16 only one Tyrrell appears out of the Curva Parabolica, followed by Peterson’s March and Regazzoni’s Ferrari; it is car number two, Cevert, for his team-leader is coasting down the back straight with a wrecked engine, the super-Cosworth having suffered a major blow-up. Hailwood goes by in fourth place, followed by Ganley, Siffert, Amon and Gethin and Ickx is seen heading for the pits, his Ferrari engine having broken itself. Peterson now takes the lead again and the cutting and thrusting is all over for a few moments. On lap 18 Regazzoni’s Ferrari engine brakes and as the second Ferrari heads for the pits the Italian crowd are not at all pleased, but this let Hailwood take the Surtees into third place, with Ganley, Siffert, Amon, Gethin and Oliver following, while Pescarolo is much further back and on his own, and Hill, Beuttler, Fittipaldi, Bonnier and de Adamich are beginning to wonder where everyone has gone. Hailwood is obviously getting into the swing of this type of racing and he not only catches Peterson and Cevert but gets between them and then in front of them to lead the race on lap 25, a great moment for the ex-World Champion Motorcyclist and an even greater one for John Surtees, also an ex-World Champion motorcyclist, to see his own car in the lead of a Grand Prix. At the same time Siffert’s B.R.M. has recovered its breath and the Swiss opens up again, passes all the young heroes in front of him and takes the lead on lap 28. At the end of the thirtieth lap the B.R.M., the March, the Tyrrell and the Surtees cross the line almost side by side, and they very nearly run right over Bonnier’s old McLaren as they lap it. Behind them Amon is getting used to the handling of his Matra on its knobbly front tyre and passes Ganley and takes fifth place, while Gethin is running in a lonely seventh place. Pescarolo has gone into the pits as his March 711 is swooping about down the straights due to the gearbox bell-housing, on which the rear suspension is mounted, cracking, and Beuttler is having a keen race with Hill down in ninth and tenth places, the lonely orange McLaren of Oliver being in eighth place.


Siffert’s revival is short lived for his B.R.M. suddenly gets itself jams in fourth gear and all the leading bunch goes past him. There is no way of getting any other gear so poor Siffert has to resign himself going as fast as he can in one gear, easing off on the straights where he should have used fifth gear and stuttering out of the corners where he should have been in third gear. This puts him from the lead back to seventh place, and Cevert and Peterson continue to swap the lead with Hailwood behind them, between them and on lap 35 in front of them, and really enjoying himself leaning heavily on the two young aces in the corners. Not that anyone cares very much, de Adamich retires the Alfa-Romeo engined March 711 with trouble in the Alfa-Romeo port. While the three new-boys are playing games up at the front Amon decides it is time he joins in the race, the Matra-Simca being strong and healthy and fast on the straights, merely a bit odd on the right-hand corners, and in one lap he shoots from fourth place straight into the lead, which he holds from lap 37 to lap 41, with Peterson having a go at him on lap 40 and just failing to lead across the line, and Hailwood leading the Matra on lap 42 for a brief moment. At 45 laps, with ten to go Amon has showed that the Matra V12 has got the race in the bag in spite of the bubbly tyre for though Cevert, Hailwood and Peterson are right with the French car they are not going to get in front of it on speed and power. Ganley still has his B.R.M. in the wake of the leading group but has insufficient power to get in amongst them, his water and oil temperatures running high, but Gethin’s B.R.M. is very healthy and he has been scratching away ever since lap 19 when he gets rid of Oliver’s McLaren down in seventh place at that time. Slowly but surely Gethin has worked his way into the draught of Ganley’s car, which is always in the draught of the leading bunch, and he is using a consistent 11.500 r.p.m. in the gears, which is well over the normal limit, but the engine stands it without fuss. With lap 50 approaching and only five to go the leading group begins to flex their muscles for the final punch-up, and in readiness Amon takes off his top face-visor which is dirty and oily, in order to see more clearly through the clean one underneath. Unfortunately, both come off and he is left with no face protection at all, and that is all hope of a last minute battle gone for he has to slow down and drop back behind Gethin who is about to pass Ganley.


This leaves Peterson leading once more followed by Cevert and Hailwood as they cross the line on lap 49, but they are swopping places all the way round the circuit, each one planning and practising his final manoeuvre, hoping the others would not see exactly what is happening. It is still anyone’s race, and Hailwood leads at 51 laps, just as Gethin passes Cevert and on lap 52 Gethin takes his B.R.M. into the lead. Poor Amon has fallen right back for in addition to not being able to see properly the Matra V12 engine now begins to hum as air or vapour-lock affect the fuel-injection system. The battle for the lead is so wide open that happenings at the back of the field go unnoticed, and both Hill and Beuttler retire, the Brabham with another seized gearbox and the March with a broken engine. Throughout the race the Lotus turbine car has been whistling round at the back of the field, not going very well as it lacks power and brakes, but at least it is running through non-stop. Siffert has been lapped by nearly everyone and it says a lot for his tenacity that he keeps going in his one gear, when many other drivers would have given up and gone home. Lap 53 sees Gethin, Peterson and Cevert in echelon in that order as they cross the line, each certain that they know the other’s weaknesses in the sprint from the last corner and at the end of lap 54 it is Peterson, Cevert, Hailwood, Gethin. Any one of them can win and if they all make a nonsense on the last lap then Ganley can win, and none of them had ever won a Grand Prix before. It is truly the dice of the debutants. Down the back straight on the last lap Cevert leads; under braking for the last corner Peterson goes into the lead, and out of the corner Gethin is leading and it is all over, the B.R.M. leads up the finishing straight, the four of them closely bunch and lapping Bonnier yet again. The B.R.M. gets to the line first by mere inches from Peterson’s March, with Cevert’s Tyrrell and Hailwood’s Surtees only a few feet behind, and one has to realise that the 42nd Italian Grand Prix is over in 1 hr. 18'12"6. Another win for B.R.M., another withdrawal for the world champion Jackie Stewart, another bad day for Ferrari. Jo Siffert had some problems with the gearbox, so it was his second driver, the English Peter Gethin, arrived from McLaren this season, who won the Italian Grand Prix. Gethin won the race in a sloppy final sprint that showed once again that Monza’s track is not very selective, so it is out of date. Stewart’s engine broke, the super-Cosworth who seemed unstoppable. Ickx and Regazzoni’s Ferraris both broke the joint that connected the transmission to the gearbox.


The withdrawal was a big disappointment for the Ferrari fans in Monza (120.000 people), to whom Ickx’s performance during Saturday’s practice had given some hope. The Belgian man today began the race with 13-inches Firestone tyres. He didn’t use Goodyear tyres mainly for three reasons: first, it would not have been professional for a driver to change provider. Second, the performance has been good, but not that good, and third, there is a contract bounding Ferrari and Firestone, that expires at the end of the year and should be respected, at least until that date. However, either with Firestone or Goodyear, Regazzoni and Ickx’s start of race has been good, with the Swiss man starting very fast. Jacky drove an updated version of the 1970’s car and Clay used a brand-new model: the two 312-B cars have dealt good with the frantic pace of the other cars. There were up to thirteen cars all close in the first turns. After half an hour, an unexpected withdrawal. Stewart stops: there’s hardly the time to find out that the Scottish man has broken the engine, and shortly after Ickx stops, followed but his teammate almost at the same time. The withdrawal of the two cars is followed by some boos from part of the fans, which is quite unfair. The technical director, Mauro Forghieri, explains what happened: 


"A joint has broken in both Ickx and Regazzoni’s cars. We still don’t know why. We have been using these components for two years. I have to say that this had already happened in other races, in Austria and during the practice here in Monza".


Apparently, there’s a defective lot and it is made clear that a rubber component broke, maybe for superheating, maybe for the vibrations. The thing is that Ferrari must withdraw once again. This happened also in France, Great Britain, and Austria. The situation is getting more and more complicated, but it is not wise to let off steam and criticise. Passion and love, perhaps too much love, can lead to that: it is absolutely understandable that the fans, just like the technicians, are not satisfied with the poor results of the Maranello team in such an important competition as the Formula One World Championship. It is also fairly predictable that the mood in the team is not so good. And so? Ferrari can count on a lot of resources, both technical equipment and workers. It is necessary to get back to work with humility and focus on the next season. Now that potential protagonists like Stewart, Ickx and Regazzoni are out of the race and Siffert has slowed down, just Amon is left. He is fighting with some young talented drivers as well as some second pilots: amongst them we can find Peterson (March-Ford), Cevert (Tyrrell-Ford), and Gethin (B.R.M.) Amon, unlucky as usual, has had three problems at once: he has lost his visor, one of tyres degraded and he has power source problems. He must give up, and his rivals have battled for the win until the very last second. The good performance by Mike Hailwood is worth a mention: he fought with determination in his first race back in Formula One. Just a quick note: it is only due to the poor conditions of the Monza track that not so talented drivers like Gethin or Hailwood prevailed. The ones who have courage and a discrete engine, and can use the riptides well, can win here. It is a poor race also for Nanni Galli and Andrea de Adamich, the two Italian drivers. It was not their fault, though. Galli fought bravely, proving that the apprenticeship period is working. An unusual failure of his car forced him to retire, and the same thing happened to Andrea de Adamich. As long as they don’t have efficient cars, the two drivers won’t be able to be protagonists in the races. 


"Trash... trash".


The fans in Monza are yelling, angrily. Red faces, hoarse voices. Ferrari cars are pushed beside the box, lckx and Regazzoni quickly change their clothes and go away together with the rest of the team. It’s been a year since Clay’s win, with the 312 B car so glorified back then. The fans get insanely happy for a victory and very angry for a bad race. This is not awesome, maybe, but very human. They had bought the tickets for the Autodromo, which costed 12.000 Italian liras for the grades. The race lasted an hour and twenty minutes, scarcely, and was a boring race, with a final sprint in which they could easily confuse the first and the second driver. They had hoped in a good performance by Ferrari, but instead they got once again the proof that Ferrari is going through a difficult technical moment. Confusion, uncertainty, car components that are breaking. Stewart withdraws, Siffert is in trouble, finally Gethin gets the win: he is a good boy, absolutely, but definitely not a champion. The anger is understandable, then. Why, Ferrari, why? The fan is wondering, in his yellow shirt with the rampant horse on the chest. All of the fans are wondering. Enzo Ferrari had answered on Friday, when he came to supervise the first practice session, and in the evening he decided to try Goodyear tyres instead of Firestone. He had said: 


"The situation we are in depends on the suppliers for a half and on us for the other half".


Ferrari has three kinds of problems: tyres and rear suspensions failure, engine failure (piston rod), and joint braking. After the Monza Grand Prix, some disappointment can be perceived in Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni’s faces. The Belgian driver is laconic, he states:


"I though the race could have a different outcome. All was going well. The engine was ok, and the tyres were not giving any problems. A joint betrayed me".


This kind of problem is not new, as said before, it had already occurred four or five times. His teammate, Clay Regazzoni, says:


"Oh well. I had a great start, maybe a bit fast, but otherwise you stay behind. But it is not enough to start well, you have to end the race. There was oil on the track, and the car became to oversteer. I started to feel vibrations again".


Mike Hailwood was one of the protagonists of the Italian Grand Prix: he stayed in the top positions for the whole race, and finally he finished P4 with his Surtees. This has been a good test in preparation for his definitive entry in the English team. This result is very important for the ex-motorbike rider, above all for the experience that he has acquired. 


"They always reproach me that I am not good at strategies in the races. Maybe it is true, or maybe I was simply not used to it. When I run in motorbike races, with Mv and Honda, I always had the best motorbikes, while now I am getting cars that are good, but not winning, whatever the formula may be. You can understand that it is quite difficult to change mindset. Now I managed to do it, and I hope this is recognized by everyone. There is a total agreement with Surtees, but John has told that he would like me to be less busy, or ideally never involved into the motorbike races.  This year I can still decide, but next year I fear I won’t be racing with motorbikes anymore".


Hailwood talks frankly about the motorbike race scheduled for next Sunday precisely in Monza.


"I hoped that someone would give me a decent bike and a good salary to enliven the race a bit, but nobody showed up.  I am going back to England today and I am not coming back".


Everyone, friend and rivals, is congratulating to Peter Gethin, and he is toasting in Ferodo’s box. His young girlfriend is with him: she is from Milan, and was a hostess for Amalia, her name is Rossella Porta. The couple first met a year ago in South Africa. Then they met again in London, and it was love.


"He told me that he was going to give it all, but even he himself did not expect this win".


Gethin nods, he explains how the final sprint was, and adds:


"It was the most difficult moment. For the rest of the race, I did not have many problems. The engine performed well from the start to the end of the race, only I could not pass Peterson, he was having fun trying the sprints, as well as Cevert. I saw that Cevert was going to the left of the turn, and Peterson was trying to pass him on the inside. I followed Ronnie, he entered the turn too fast, and he lost control. I took this chance to pass him, I nearly touched Cevert but it all went just fine. Maybe I should write to Hulme and McLaren".


Gethin left McLaren in August to race with B.R.M. starting from the Austrian Grand Prix. He finished P10 back then. He is 31 years old and is the son a famous jockey. He started racing in 1962, with a Lotus Seven. He then drove sport cars and Formula 3 and Formula 2 cars. The usual apprenticeship. Peter had a good season in 1969 with a McLaren-Chevrolet in Formula 5000. A lot of races, a lot of victories, so McLaren decided to hire him. François Cevert has been defeated at the final sprint and he admits: 


"The brakes of my Tyrrell had a problem. I preferred not to risk too much, I still hoped I could beat Peterson, though: we were rivals in many Formula 2 races. I thought I could do it when I saw he was in some trouble, but then Gethin arrived with a hard breaking. If I had driven internally, I would have hit him. So, I lifted the throttle. Well, to be honest, I lack a bit of experience to engage a battle as that".


Ronnie Peterson goes on:


"I am disappointed, I thought I had won. I had passed Cevert, but I did not realize I had Gethin close to me. I did not see him coming in the rear-view mirror. I realized he had won only after I crossed the finish line".


The engine of Petersons’s March had lost power during the last laps. The Swedish man did a god job and managed to stay with the rest of the group. Racing in Monza at an average speed of 250 km/h, or even more in the practice like Amon did on Saturday, requires you to drive at more than 300 km/h on the two straights. The Autodromo is the fastest track of the world, a track that permits the creation of groups of cars, at the point that the competition turns into a column of cars, with a sprint end. Not any car can reach such a speed, with a 3000 CC engine and a weight of 53 kilos approximately. But they can do it by taking advantage of the riptides of the other cars. This effect is bigger if the two cars are only a few meters apart: despite this, even if a few dozens of meters are separating the two cars, the riptide allows the slower car to achieve the same speed as the faster one. If the two cars achieve the same speed, the car which is behind can get close to the other one rapidly and pass it quite easily. If the cars and the pilots are equally good, the roles can be inverted. But the advantages are not only for the car which is behind. The car which is ahead can also improve its top speed a bit, if the two vehicles are very close. This is because the turbulence is partially transferred to the back car: the front car has all the front resistance, but less turbulence on the back of the car. The opposite happens to the back car. The riptide effect combines with the big dynamic air vents placed on the Cosworth and Matra engines: the outcome is still to be seen. Ferrari and B.R.M. cannot use such vents because their air vents are separated and placed on two rows. The advantage is that the engine receives compressed air: the faster the car, the bigger the effect. The speed of the car is linked to the aerodynamics of the whole vehicle. Nowadays, the designers of the cars are focused on developing car designs that minimize the resistance without affecting the adherence and the roadholding.


©​ 2024 Osservatore Sportivo


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