The day before the Gran Prix of Japan opens on Saturday 15th October 1977 with a statement of Scuderia Ferrari, that informs:
"Niki Lauda phoned to Ferrari manager of sport managment saying that he did not feel able to take part to the Gran Prix of Japan. Consequentely, Reutemann and Villeneuve will take part to the competition".
Each request of comments has a negative answer, as already happened in the past and in particularly when the austrian driver himself made known that he would not compete in the Mosport race. Seems that Lauda, who became World Champion in the United States, suffers for a form of gastritis. Better, in every case, that the austrian stays at Salisburgo seen the already deteriorated relationships with Ferrari. On top of that, materials of the teams will not be avaible until Wednsday 19th October 1977, such precluding every possibility to do preliminar tests. However, Enzo Ferrari pretends that the Niki’s car is ready and shown in the box. Meanwhile, arrive Nosetto and his wife, Renata, in Japan, and later both Reutemann and Villeneuve with his wife, accompanied in Rolls Royce from the hotel to the circuit each day by Mike Knott, owner of a concessionaire of Ferrari and Rolls Royce in Tokyo. Although the Japanese Grand Prix is a new event to the Formula One World Championship series, a race under that title was first held as long ago as 1963. Then it was won by a certain P. Warr at the wheel of one of Colin Chapman’s little Lotus 23B sports racing cars. That of course was Peter Warr, then a keen amateur racing driver, more recently known for his role of team manager at Team Lotus and, from the start of 1977, Walter Wolf Racing. In 1963 the race was held at the Suzuka circuit and now, after two World Championship races at the Mount Fuji Speedway, there is every indication that the 1978 Japanese Grand Prix will return to Suzuka. The 1976 Japanese Grand Prix provided the organisers with a fairy tale finish to the World Championship as James Hunt snatched the drivers’ title by the proverbial whisker and Mario Andretti put Chapman’s Lotus team back in the winner’s circle after a two year drought. This year things are different, and the organisers have accepted that they are unlikely to be blessed with such a spectacular finale to the season as that enjoyed in 1976.
However, they were obviously, and justifiably, disappointed when they were deprived of 1977 FIA Points Champion Niki Lauda on the basis of the Austrian’s personal whim, in addition to former Champion Emerson Fittipaldi whose Brazilian financed team feels that they would be wasting their time going all the way to Japan for another disappointing performance. It is understandable that the Fittipaldi team sees a programme of testing in Britain as a much more sensible alternative to competing in Japan and they are only exercising their F1 Association right to miss one race outside Europe. However, with the French Renault RS01 also failing to make the trip along with Hesketh Racing and most of the privateers, the Japanese Grand Prix has something of a Race of Champions atmosphere about it. Compensating for loss of some of the international interest, there are three Japanese drivers in the race. Noritake Takahara and Kazuyoshi Hoshino have entered at the wheel of locally built Kojima 009s, developments of the very promising 007 version driven by Hasemi in last year’s race. The two Kojimas were fitted with Bridgestone tyres and Hoshino will be remembered as something of a local star in last year’s Grand Prix, working his Tyrrell 007 up into third place during the race’s early rain-soaked stages before being forced to retire for the unusual reason that his pit had run out of fresh Bridgestone tyres! Hoshino’s old Tyrrell appears again at Fuji in the hands of Kunimitsu Takahashi, this time running on Japanese Dunlop tyres. On the regular Formula One front there are still some driver changes to be seen in the dying moments of the Grand Prix year. Ian Scheckter arrives at Tokyo’s Haneya airport only to find that he is not going to be granted admittance to Japan on the particular visa that he has been issued with. After a day or so of wrangling the elder Scheckter brother is on a plane back to London without having left the airport area. This unfortunate mess up in March’s paperwork means that their second entry, the Rothmans-sponsored 771, is to remain vacant for the entire weekend, something that does not seem to bother March director Max Mosley unduly much since he is just about at the end of his tether with the disappointing way things have been going for his organisation this season.
"I am quite satisfied, but too much time the engine has betrayed me".
The Japan Gran Prix offers only a formal idea, given the conquered title by Niki Lauda, the austrian divorced from Ferrari and did not come to Fuji. Judging the results of the practice of cars in Maranello, pheraps he did not make a mistake to stay at home. Meanwhile, in Italy, during the first round of practice for the six hour of Vallelung scheduled for Sunday, the ninteen-year-old Eddie Cheever, that divides a BMW with Umberto Grano and Herbert Grohs, goes out of the road disastrously at over 230 km/h in the big courve downward before the Cimini curve. The Cheever’s BMW hits faster the protective barries on left and right side flipping and stopping half destroyed fifity metres away the first impact. The driver, extract immediately from the wreckage, gets along with a triple fracture at the left hand that force him to take for three months the plaster.
"I can not explain the incident, because the incident happened in an easiest place where are mistakes not possible. Pheraps break a suspension or I went on a oil stain".
The consequence of the incident will compromise even the Cheever activity that he does fo Ferrai, by which he was hired. The race starts exactly on time, another contrast with last year’s rain-soaked event. Anxious to show everybody his true capabilities, James Hunt makes an absolutely tremendous start and leads down into the first right hand corner while Andretti lets the revs drop away and his lotus is swallowed up by a great horde of rival F1 machinery. Scheckter and Regazzoni start off superbly as well, the Wolf slotting into second place with Mass just displacing the Swiss driver’s Ensign for third when he slides the number two McLaren, brakes locked up, through on the inside of the first corner. At the end of the first lap, Hunt is away on his own already. Second is Scheckter, then Mass, Regazzoni, Watson, Lane, Stuck, Andretti, Reutemann, Brambilla, Hoshino, Patrese, Nilsson, Jones, Depailler, Peterson, Villeneuve, Takahashi, Tambay, Jarier, Takahara, Binder and Ribeiro. Andretti is annoyed about his tardy start and rockets past Stuck at the end of the start/finish straight. Unfortunately, the rugged little American driver rather overdoes things half way round his second lap as he tries to run round the outside of Laffite’s Ligier as they round the long right-hand corner that leads into the left-hand hairpin behind the pits. With the French driver moving over to the outside of the circuit on the exit of the corner, his legitimate racing line, Andretti’s right front wheel comes into sharp contact with the Ligier’s left rear and in an instant the Lotus is sailing across the grass run-off area into the guard rail. The 78 sheds its left rear wheel as it hits the guard rail, bouncing this back into the path of Takahara’s Kojima which makes quite firm contact and eliminates the Japanese car from the race. Binder’s Surtees also spins in this debacle, catching debris from the accident and sliding onto the grass into retirement as well. All this fuss allows Hunt to get well clear and within seven laps Mass moves past Scheckter’s Wolf to leave us the imposing sight of the two McLaren M26s running in 1-2 formation.
Watson quickly follows Mass through into third place as Scheckter drops away, his Wolf understeering too acutely for the South African driver to maintain his place with the leading bunch. Close behind, pressing him hard, is Regazzoni while Stuck is busy holding up a huge bunch consisting of Reutemann, Brambilla, Lane, Nilsson and the two Shadows. Jarier’s hopes for a good result in the Ligier come to an end after three laps when something goes badly wrong inside the Matra V12 and he is forced to retire. As Hunt sets a cracking pace up at the front, things are going badly wrong down at the back of the field. Going into his sixth lap, Villeneuve inadvertently leaves his braking too late at the end of the start/finish straight and runs his Ferrari into the back of Peterson’s Tyrrell. The Italian car climbs up over the six wheeler, knocking off its rear wing in the process, before launching Villeneuve into a heart-stopping series of end-over-end somersaults. The Ferrari is totally destroyed during its crazy flight which unfortunately ends over the top of a track side guard rail and in amongst some onlookers, in a prohibited area. Villeneuve is a little chap and, by virtue of tucking himself deep down into the cockpit, luckily escapes without injury. Unfortunately a local marshal and a photographer die. Peterson, also, is out of the race as a result of the collision. Hunt is running superbly and there is quite obviously nobody to catch him while Mass is doing an excellent back up job in second place just in front of Watson. Then comes Scheckter and Regazzoni while Reutemann works his way to the head of the sixth place bunch by the end of lap 20, Stuck dropping away as his tyres start to go off and eventually dropping into the pits to change the whole set on the Brabham four laps later. Then, within two laps, Regazzoni suddenly finds himself promoted unexpectedly to third place. At the end of the 28th lap Mass’s McLaren crosses the start/finish line when its engine blows up spectacularly in a cloud of smoke and steam.
The German driver coasts to a standstill at the end of the pit lane and walks back to the pits, bitterly disappointed that his very last drive for the McLaren team ends on such a disappointing note. John Watson has less than a lap to enjoy second place for the gearbox of his Brabham suddenly begins playing up and eventually refuses to select any gears. At the end of the 29th lap he pulls into the pits to retire, so Regazzoni now looks secure in third place behind Scheckter. With Scheckter obviously in dire handling trouble, prospects look bright for Regazzoni and Team Ensign. Little by little he closes in on the Wolf and is right up in the blue car’s slipstream as he comes up to complete the 43rd lap. As he crosses the start/finish line Regazzoni nips out to the right of the Wolf and sits it out with Scheckter all the way down into the first right hander after the pits. The plucky South African driver doesn’t want to give way, but Regazzoni has the inside line and there is no way in which he is going to be prevented from taking second place. At the end of the lap on which he is passed by the Ensign, Scheckter brings the Wolf into the pits for a fresh set of tyres and an adjustment to the rear wing in an attempt to cure the car’s now near-terminal understeer. He charges back into the race, well back, but starts to lap much more quickly, obviously much happier with the car’s handling. Regazzoni, sadly, is not destined to take the second place that he has worked so hard to gain. For ten laps the Ensign circulates in second place, well ahead of Reutemann’s Ferrari which is now consolidating third place in the face of an attack by Laffite. The Ensign has been leaking oil on right handers for some distance and the lubricant is used up by lap 43, the oil pressure vanishes and Regazzoni drops out for good with 43 laps completed. Five laps later and possession of second place changes yet again as the hard-charging Laffite forces his Ligier past Reutemann’s Ferrari. Nilsson is now a fighting fourth, fending off a strong challenge front Jones’s Shadow, while Depailler is sixth in front of Patrese. It now looks as though the final race pattern has been finally resolved with just under 30 laps to go.
Unfortunately, there is to be one more disappointment, this time for the determined Nilsson who seems desperate to finish his season with Lotus on a decent note. On lap 58 he gives best to Jones, struggling with his gearbox as he is, and then relinquishes fifth place to Depailler on lap 67. On the next lap the disappointed Swede pulls into the pits to retire. His Lotus’s gearbox is becoming increasingly reluctant to select any gear and, for the last few laps Nilsson has been ramming them in with such brute force that the actual gear linkage in the cockpit is distorted. Sadly, it was a vain effort and eventually the Swede cannot select any gears worth having. There is one last twist to the Japanese Grand Prix. Jacques Laffite’s Ligier runs out of petrol on the very last lap, promoting Reutemann back into a very lucky second place and Depailler, who has forced a way past Jones on lap 66, into third. Laffite is eventually classified fifth ahead of young Patrese who has driven his best race to date in the Shadow DN8. Seventh is Stuck, after his pit stop, ahead of Brambilla’s Surtees (delayed after two pit stops for a change of plugs), Takahashi, Scheckter, Hoshino and Ribeiro. In the closing stages of the race Scheckter sets the race’s fastest lap, beating Laffite’s record from last year, a record incorrectly awarded to Hasenn’s Kojiuia at the time. But none of them can touch the superb Hunt. The McLaren team leader has been in a class of his own from the word go, proving that he is a fighter and never gives up trying. Unfortunately, he makes himself rather unpopular with the local dignitaries by failing to appear on the winner’s rostrum and leaving the circuit immediately after the race is over in order to catch a plane back to Britain that same evening. Reutemann fails to appear either, although he is still at the circuit. Hunt receives a great deal of criticism for his apparently thoughtless act but, disregarding this lapse, he certainly dominated the race in as impressive a fashion as anybody has managed in any Grand Prix this season. And, in the end, the name of the game is still winning we think.
On the other hand, just some moments before the tragedy, some marshals were working to keep away the spectators. One of the victims is one of theese marshals, Kengo Yuasa, 21 years old, the other victim is a fan from Osaka. Kazuhire Ohashi, 25 years old. Ferrari, fortunately, did not set on fire and the cockpit held up well with the crash. Villeneuve went out without injury meanwhile the race was continuing and first aids were organized. A drammatic scene, with the victims laid out on the grass, bloodied. Ambulances and elicopters have been back and forth with hospitals nearest to the circuit. Before the dramatic collision of Villeneuve and Peterson, in the same hard curve touched (during the second lap) Hans Binder’s Surtees and Noritake Takahara’s Kojima. The austrian and the japanese were unhurt and the cars stopped without making any damage. Even Mario Andretti, in the same second passage, was put out by an incident. The italian-american’s Lotus, that was hoping to win the Japan Gran Prix and to conquer the second place behind Lauda in the World Championship (second place that instead is got to Jody Scheckter, even him today forced to retire but for the engine failure), has lost a rear tyre and the car crashed onto the guardrail. Neither a scratch for the driver. The race resolved in a monologue of Hunt, that last year obtained at Fuji the world title. The drivers that were behind the english (Mass, Scheckter, Regazzoni) gradually retired or delayed by trivial troubles (Laffite, reutemann), so that overall Hunt had easy life. So unlucky Laffite. The french has remained withoud fuel in last laps ( and classified in fifth place), allowing to Reutemann to arrive second. In Ferrari team, where does not comment on Villeneuve incident, the argentine placement is judged as a consequence of a thought race.
"Pheraps Carlos could have pushed more the pace. With the departure of Lauda disappeared from the scene the driver that was able to exploit hundrend percent from the car that has been thought for him. Anyway the participation of Lauda could not change substaintally the result of the race".
"This season was not favourable, for us, in terms of results. But was a useful season".
To receive the laurel crown on the podium, at ended race, only shows Depailler. Other drivers rush immediately to Tokyo to take the first avaible fly to come back to Europe. Worse than that the Formula 1 World Championship could not close. When show becomes a tragedy, shows his limits and all problems that this amazing show is able to hide re-emerge in their negativity. In first plae the safety of tracks, that is, of drivers and spectators. For drivers, at the end, has been made more than for the spectators. Cars have been strengthen (only a Ferrari could save Gilles Villeneuve), fouel tanks and fire protection systems improved (terrible crashes of Villeneuve, Peterson, Binder, Andretti and Takahara did not triggered frightening fires), some circuits abolished (Nurburgring or the Montjuich, in Barcelona, where in 1975 died four spectators for the exit from the track of Embassy-Hill of Rolf Stommelen). Different speech for spectators, that have to be defended, even despite of himself. The behaviour of a car after a collision is unpredictable: can fly, can roll, can crawl for tens of meters while dangerous parts as wings, tyres, suspensions splatter away. Today spectators seat in certain circuits (Monte-Carlo in particular) just a few metres from the track. And sometimes, as in Japan, they settle unconsciously in dangerous zones, as can be a estern part of a curve. Japanese organizers have precise responsability: from not having prepared insurmountable hedge to not having cleared quickly and decisively people. For what concern the Villeneuve-Peterson incident, it was in practice of a high velocity rear-end collision, made still more serious by buildings characteristics of Formula 1 single-seaters. Theese cars are open-wheel, that is not covered with body work. Connections are easy and enormous rear tyres can become launch ramps when receive front tyres of an other car.
The photo of the collision suggest a precise responsability of Villeneuve (except for different reasons of technical nature, but who in statements after the race did not mention). A brake too late, a mistake in approaching the trajectory? Can be. A fact is sure: a part from polemics and unpleasantness in last months between Niki Lauda and Ferrari, the young canadian soon starts to bring out the austrian. Not because Lauda was an affirmed champion, much for how facing Formula 1: too much enthusiasm. In Canada Villeneuve went out of track both in practice and race, in Japan during the race. It is a disastrous start , for the driver and for Scuderia Ferrari. Some critics are now too easy, and is better abstain, but facts are facts. Would be better allow to Villeneuve to make his hand with 312 T2: burst in from snowmobile, from car CanAm and from Formula Atlantic to the wheel of a sophisticated Formula 1 car has been a step over the driver forces. It hopes now that in the two break winter months Gilles learns all the secrets of his new car. Otherwise the 1978 championship would be bitter for him, for Ferrari and for Ferrari’s fans. While the circus takes down the tents and comes back to Europe, the japanese police open an inquiry on the tragic incident that had has protagonists Gilles Villeneuve and Ronnie Peterson. The inquiry tends to ensure any responsability of drama protagonists. But if for Villeneuve and Peterson would not be particular problems (the incident fit in races risk, neither can be talk of particular improprieties of the two drivers or mechanical failures of culpable origin), organizers of the race have to explain how bad was allowed to the pubkic to settle in a forbidden zone. Just before the Gran Prix started eighty people climbed over a thin fence that divided the grass from the track to get closer to the track. Some marshals have tried to keep away the public, but the attempt was slow and not very persuasive. And the tragedy was accomplished. What will do now Enzo Ferrari?
"But what did he once do? The car breaker? In the next races will they give him a parachute?"
That is the question asked, given that after the incident happenend in Japan flourish first (heavy and unpleasant) jokes on Gilles Villeneuve. Who sees photos of Fuji tragedy, in reality, remains frozen. The black humor is pheraps only an attempt to forget that the biggest show in the world can become a bloddy corrida. But does not forget that races, naturally dangerous (that is for their intrinsic characteristics), they become more dangerous when are not followed basic rules of prudence. For example, keeping away the public - willingly or not - from the forbidden zones, from spots that for their particular displacement can become deadly. It is clear the organizers of Japan Gran Prix have certain responsability in the Sunday drama. It is not enough to sustain - as englishes do - that races are dangerous (by giving news to the spectators on tickets back) and leave that thinks go for their way. It is absurd define forbidden an area and that let the public going in. After the tragedy of 1975 the Gran Prix run on the street circuit of Montjuich was cancelled. It is up now to the Fuji? The track in himself is not unsafe as the spanish one, but if the organizers are not able to protect the safety of the public, so they have not to host a Formula 1 Gran Prix. It is a problem to solve soon, as the Villeneuve one. It is useless to spread pitiful veils over the canadian’s test: Gilles made a mistake and consequences, unfortunately, have been catastrophic.
"We do not know anyting. Nosetto? Mah, pheraps he is in Japan, pheraps is coming back by plane. We will see".
Only later it turns out, through a agency note retransmitted to Maranello via telex from Fiat, that Gilles Villeneuve has to extend his stay in Japan. The young canadian driver is in fact invited to collaborate with the police in the inquiry opened after the incident of which he was protagonist with his Ferrari and in which died two people and ten injured. Gilles Villeneuve, on Roberto Nosetto advice does not speak and does not sign any document, and often he falls asleep. Both Gilles Villeneuve and his wife, Johanna, are serene and quiet. Enzo Ferrari is immediatly informed. Compared to what is said publicly in Italy, early on Tuesday 25th October 1977 Nosetto makes Gilles Villeneuve and mechanics go fast, seen that it is not possible to board the car wreckages in the plane, always guarded by japanese authorities. Thus Ferrari will be informed with smallest details not only by the protagonist but also by witnesses, and not only about the incident, but of all the scenario. Roberto Nosetto, instead, remains at the disposal of the japanese authorities. In his favour moves Michael Knott, english, owner of the Ferrari concessionaire in Tokyo, who decided to call his lawyer to give behavioral directives, how asks details about the deads and/or the injured. and to send them flowers or messages, since it can be considered as a probable cause. In parallel, always on Tuesday 25th October 1977 a spokesperson of the police declairs that is hardly likely that the Ferrari driver could be condemned, unless it is not proved that he breached the race rules.
The same spokesperson also specifies that the inquiry must determine if there are responsability of the organizers. About that, is reminded that before the start to the Japan Gran Prix James Hunt ( that after he would win the last round valid for the Formula 1 World Championship), asked exactly to the organizers to move away spectators from the first curve forbidden zone, where then happened the incident. Meanwhile, although, two experts of japanese police proceed to integral disassembly of the Villeneuve's Ferrari, to examine tyres, brakes, engine and all other important part of the car. This because at the beginning it is suspected that the brake pedal could have broken during the race, with the resulting incident. As regards of the ten injured, police declared that two are still in life danger. Others are already on the path of healing. The exams of the Peterson car is already closed. In the Tyrell have not been found technical defects. In parallel to the car inquiry is going an inquiry to establish how a group of spectators was in a circuit sector that would have to be closed to public. The accusation being made to the race organizers - Japan Automobile Association and mount Fuji circuit managers - is of manslaughter for professional negligence. Organizers gave the start to the Gran Prix without making to leave a group of people from the forbidden zone where collapsed at 200 km/h Villeneuve’s Ferrari. Is the first time in japanese motorsport history that a competitive car is sequestred. An other day pass and on Wednesday 26th September 1977, three days from the Japan Gran Prix, in Maranello, finally, starts to arrive direct informations. The engineer Roberto Nosetto, manager of the team in the unlucky visit of Fuji, is able to call to Ferrari, communicating to have remained - rightly - in place to follow the police inquiry on the Sunday tragedy. From Maranello, although, Enzo Ferrari exclaims:
"Woe to him who touch the car. Nosetto do what you want but the car does not disassemble, much less the engine".
However, pushing for what remains of the pedal the brake works and lock the tyre. Nosetto knows that often Goodyear reverse the sense of rotation of tyres, during assembly phase, for that he phones to Enzo Ferrari and asks to send him a telex from Goodyear to confirm this particular. Verified that the brake pedal has broken after the impact caused by the steering box, meanwhile is send the telex from Goodyear that confirms what Nosetto said related to the mounting sense of the tyre. To this chaotic situation adds even the Gilles Villeneuve call: usual suspects received rumor that Enzo Ferrari will not confirm him for 1978, but Nosetto, exhausted, recommends to the canadian driver to directly call Ferrari. To this chaotic situation adds the will, from japanese authorities, of disassemble the remained tyre, but thay do not knwo how to do it and they blame the sports director fo Scuderia Ferrari of sabotage, threatening to destroy what is remained by hammer blows in order to do it. Only when he arrives at police station even the police chief, a compromise is reached: Nosetto will explain how to diassemble the tyre if the local police chief signs the release to come back in Italy with the car ( or what remains of it) and the several pieces. The police chief, that pheraps intuits that the situation can cause diplomatic incidents, writes on Nosetto agenda in a poor english the permission to leave, and he signs it. The order of Enzo Ferrari, though, is of not coming back in Italy without the car and the several pieces taht are stiil spread on the circuit grass, with armed soldier on guard duty. Hence, Nosetto and his wife Renata go to the circuit to collect all the car components left guarded on the grass. This makes soldiers suspicioud, that answer aiming to temples of the couple the guns: luckily, after few istants the police chief tells to soldiers to go back, leaving Nosetto and his wife free to collect the pieces left on the ground. Ended recovery practices, Nosetto signs - in Michael Knott office - letters of condolence and support for the dead and injured, that would be sent with a whisky bottle soon after their departure. Assisted by Michael Knott, Nosetto pays the airline in order that the car pieces would be placed in the aircraft hold, as they are regular luggage, and on Sunday 30th October 1977 starts from Japan to come back in Italy the nect day, Monday 31th October 1977. Thus is confirmed that japanese commitee of inquiry does not find in the incident, from the drivers, any violation of sports rules, as well as any guilt from Scuderia Ferrari or Tyrell. Is useless to say that in Maranello this drama saddens and embitters, and to Niki Lauda address are direct unfriendly thoughts. The austrian is considere the origin of any trouble, in the sens that his intention to leave Ferrari, keept secret until the end, has put in difficultu the team in the research of a substitute. Enzo Ferrari tells:
"Andretti, for example, has expressed to me all his sorrow for not have been able to come".
"What do you want that I think? That Wolf is not that friend that he said to be? That Amon for who knows what reason had bad suggest to us?"
The Villeneuve problem, anyway, looks to remain in auge: the young canadian can have a potential talent, but unfortunately in these first two races at the Ferrari wheel he did not express it, above all he showed to want much and soon, racing with too much impetus for his Formula 1 experiece. Seems that Enzo Ferrari intends to wait few days before take a decision. Villeneuve is back in Canada (and he has already had some telephone conversations with the constructor), but he should soon be in Maranello for tests and trials, because the presentation of 312 T3 is upcoming. What will do Ferrari? Seems that Enzo Ferrari is studying an emergency solution, that could be this: Carlos Reutemann - expert and trusted - as regular in ever Gran Prix of the next season; on his side, depeending on the availability of men for each race, the racer more suitable. An example? Emerson Fittipaldi in Brasile, if he would be free. And, naturally, Villeneuve himself or Eddie Cheever or De Angelis if, on the tests provided in Formula 2, they will give sufficient guarantees. A way to do not exlude Gilles Villeneuve, but to allow him to learn about european circuits, to integtrate him in the team, coming later in Formula 1 with more experience. However, any solution will be adopted, will be discussed, it will trigger other critics and polemics, because in 1978 will be needed to launch a new version of 312 T: it would be necessary serenity to face a very strong competition and to continue to worthily represent all the industry of the italian automobile. But if there will not be some battles, Ferrari would continue to have fun and passion? While in Italy is discussed and debated on these themes, on Thursday 27th October 1977 arrives from Japan a good news: the 312 T2 of Gilles Villeneuve, protagonist fo the Fuji dramatic incident, was fully efficient. Ferrari confirms it in a statement.
"Japanese competent judicial authorities, examinated the results of a technical expertise executed on Gilles Villeneuve’s car, have declared that has not been found absolutely nothing of irregular. The car, that has been disassembleed and examinated for each particular, will be returned on Thursday to engineer Nosetto of Ferrari and delivered on Friday to Italy".
The result of the expertise of japanese experts of Gotemba police station, near the Fuji Montain cirucit, about remains Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari keeps away even the small dubts on the cause of drama of Fuji. The rear-end collision, in theory, could have been even provocated by a brakes failure or by any problem of the steering wheel. Only in theory, because the dynamic of the incident and presents’ testimonies have immeidately put in evidance responsability of Villeneuve and Ronnie Peterson. Responsability, be clear, in sport-technic sense, not legal. Villeneuve let him self go to a declaration that smelled of a banl excuse.
"Brakes did not respond to duty".
But the system resulted in order, and, thus, the unique responsability of the incident is of Gilles Villeneuve, with the complicity more or less deliberately of the swedish driver. Back from Japan, Franco Gozzi, Enzo Ferrari’s secretary, decides to make lay a towel inside the esplanade of Scuderia Ferrari, in Maranello, and to put over fragmented pieces of the destroyed car in the Fuji circuit. After that he take a camera, go up a portable scale, and shoots a picture. After have developed the photo, Gozzi shows to Gilles Villeneuve, threating him to give one copy to newspaper if he would not had stopped to destroy Scuderia Ferrari’s cars:
"Ehi little man, put them away”.
"And then remember, incommensurable idiot, that cars are taken entire back at home. Entire, do you understand?"
Ended the World Championship, teams and drivers get ready for the first race of next season, that will open with Argentine Gran Prix, at the beginning of January. In this break of two months many things remain still to adjust, but already in London is planned that in 1978 battle will be even more uncertain and fought of the one just ended. After the so called silly season, the one characterized by the most bizzarre rumors that every year follow the open of the official driver market, now is the time of that in London call cloack and dagger, for find to take off guard rivals surprising them with new car. Colin Chapman is looking for money. Starting from next season, John Player will be replaced in the role of sponsor from Imperial Tobacco, which, even being linked with another big manufacturing of tobacco, but would have more financial means. In addition, Chapman would have obtained by italian sponsor of Ronnie Peterson 350.000 pounds to make him to race in Lotus. In conclusion, the enterprising sponso sold the two Lotus 78 to the mexican Rebaque, that in the next season will partecipate in the world championship thanks to the financial help of his bilionaire father. Mario Andretti meanwhile has imposed that to his actual contract with Lotus has to be added a set of conditions that garantee the position of first driver as well as an absolute priority in the choice of cars, engines and mechanics. They are conditions of fundamental importance, since of the new Lotus designed by Bellamy will be equipped , for the moment, only two copies, both available to Andretti. Thus Peterson will have to race with the actual JPS78 model probably untill the star of the european season, when will be prepared a third car. The new model will be presented on 12th December 1977. Apparentely, will be some others revolutionary innovations, the principal fo them will be an automatic trasmission system without clutch. The new car will be even significately smaller and lighter of the actual. The Shadow is goig through his hard period. His director, Jackie Oliver, decided to leave Shadow for difference of opinion with the american boss Don Nicholls. It meanwhile already gone the first driver, Alan Jones. The new DN-9 would be ready for the next season, but, apparently Ambrosio is not anymore the sponso. Pheraps Gunnar Nilsson will land at Ferrari (it seems that the swedish, ex Lotus, was in these days in Maranello) while Hans-Joachim Stuck is arrived in these days with the financial help of the german Tabatip. In these new situation the future of Patrese at the Shadow would become problematico. The new Tyrrell with four tyres called 008, designed by Maurice Philippe, will be presented on 17th November 1977. It is a car higly influenced by the complex sperimental program done by the american Karl Kempf, by connecting computers to electronic instrumentation on board of the new 008:
"We are able now to exactly understand the car behaviour while racing. We based the new development program on scientific data, other than on the tester driver opinion".
Declares the america, that runs the very expensive research and development department of Tyrell, sponsored by Elf and First National City Travellers Checks. The 008 would be teh most scientific car of the new season. The Tyrrell refuses to reveal who will be Depailler team mate. In London it is thought that the choice will fall on the french Didier Pironi, so far Formula 2 driver. The March will end its activiy in Formula 1 and its place will be taken by the german ATS, thus will enter in Formula 1 constractor association with all the advantages that come from it. It is under construction a car completely new, designed by Robin Herd and intended to substitute the current ATS-Penske. Team leader is Jochen Mass, that will be flanked by Bruno Giacomelli. The bresciano signed a contract with March-BMW for Formula 2. Fittipaldi is preparing a big come back in Formula 1 with a team widely rebuilt, with a car drastically changed respect to the actual and with a new designer, the fourth in the last four years. If the new program will not give desired results, Emerson will retire from races at the end of next season. Looks to the future even Brabham, leaded by Bernie Ecclestone, that on 4th November 1977 signs with Vincezo Moro the contract of renewal of the partnership with Alfa Romeo for 1979 season. The hot sun of Friday 11th November 1977 allows to Carlos Reutemann to reduce the Fiorano track record: setting the higher time in 1'09"0 the argentine driver improves of 0.7 seconds the record that was setted in the day of Thursday 10th November 1977 when he had beaten Niki Lauda’s records. Reutemann run with 312 T2 updated, with an expansion of front end. Overo 40 laps done only in afternoon with a very fast pace. The record comes out in a turn of practices where the worst time is of 1'10"2. Even Gilles Villeneuve confirms is progresses, running in 1'11"0 net. With record practice ends the work week for Ferrari, done on Fiorano circuit with collaboration of the Micheline house of tyres.
"If this kind of soluntion is not going good, and would be me the only to maintain this solution, there would be for sure my collegues of the technical office to change: if we maintain it is an indication that not only goes as the traditional, but even a little better".
New is the chassis structure, the suspensions geometry, weigth distribution and aerodynamics; but over all there is the concept of adattability of the car to variables situations. In practice the new Ferrari is a kind of module construction where every single element can be changed without disturb others: to come up to this decision has treasured of experieces, even bitter ones, of the championship just ended, when the tyres supply with different features could not to answer with an appropriate chassis setup. In T3 the distance is adjustable from 2.56 metres to 2.70 metres using interposition of spacers between engine and gearbox, between engine and frame or even with a different inclination of front suspension arm; this means not only a pace variation but even a barycentre shift, in the inertia moment, all things important for cornering. Naturally the most noticeable is the new shape of the chassis, realized after the experience in the wind tunnel both at FIat-Orbassano and Pininfarina, and characterized by high sides. But theese sides are removable and can be substitute with others of a different shape if testing on the road will require. Based on race experience, at Ferrari they have done a safe car in case of impact (and seems that Villeneuve needs it) with a remarkable manageability of maintenance and fixing; this justify the choice of building a semi-single-frame made of a tubolar frame on which are attached structural sheets; on this strong structure (and Forghieri ensures that is very storng) is mounted the chassis, made of many interchangeable panels. Simplicity in sophistication, seems to be the base concept present during the realization of this car, which the project started one year in advance and it enriched with experience matured with T2.
The engine has a power of 510 HP and 12.200 rpm and torque of over 33 kgm at 10.000 rpm: pheraps this is the only prolem of Ferrari, an engine that has maximum torque to a rpm where other (as Cosworth) have their maximum power, or nearly. It is a problem of power using with a more though guide and it is asked how far will be able to go drivers at the disposal of the team; even if on the home circuit, in Fiorano, they have recorded, even with the old T2, in a month they will be at work and it will be known if is always true the axiom that is Ferrari that makes driver and not the contrary. The baptism, how said before, is at Maranello Centro Civico, an authentic jewel of modern architecture, a kind of palace that will be uses precisely to social activiteis in the hard-working modenese center, placed in Dino Ferrari venue, in front of Fiorano Circuit, to realization of the one Enzo Ferrari contributed under the economic aspect. At cerimony are present Ferrari himself, technical staff of racing team, drivers Carlos Reuteman, Gilles Villeneuve and Elio De Angelis, company’s CEO, engineer Sguazzini, and leading executives. Duringthe morning the center of attention is engineer Forghieri, car designer, that answer to different questions, but the peak of the meeting arrives after lunch, at the end of award cerimony of Dino Ferrari competition (won for jurnalists by Ormezzano of Tuttosport jurnal and by photographer Piccinini of Attualfoto), when Enzo Farrari starts the analysis of the situation opening a debate with those present after he specified that the absence of engineer Roberto Nosetto, one of the major contritbutor of the team, is due only to the necessity of the technician to receive medical care in Fiuggi in the only available period, that is in these days.
"With the arriving of 312 T3 it is closed a cycle of four years that saw our cars at the top. From next season will open a new period that I think it will be very interesting because hard fought and balanced, with different force in the field. Ferrari as always will be there and will try to maintain tradition. We have two driver in which is placed our trust. Reutemann that would have released from certain psychological slaveries and VIlleneuve that we believe a potential talent. Many ask because I wanted that young canadian man: I already said reasons for which he was hired and I hope that he will answer in the best ways to our expectations even if sadly in two races he went against adverse and unfortunate occasions".
"T3 is not how some malignant said a copy of ohter cars. We worked and the new car is the result of our research and our studies, of sacrifies of our technicians and our workers. Obviously we can not talk of a completely new singleseater, because from 1948 to today has been a continuous evolution and steps are made little by little. This car is made of 8240 details that have to match at hundreth and our job is to obtain the best result".
To who asks him if ih the future something will change for Ferrari, engineer answer with accuracy:
"At the end of December we will communicate the staff of the team. Anyway Forghieri will come to races when depending on needs and on situation because is important his presence in the research office. As for me I will be in Fiorano all the year. But I will not do the Cincinnatus also because you can not ding in the cementer. I will be a spectator careful to happenings".
Someone makes notice too the absence of Eddie CHeever, the young american resident in Rome that Ferrari added in the Formula 2 team. It is said that Cheever absolutely wants to go in Formula 1 and that he alresy signed an agreement with Ralt. About the technical evolution of the car, Ferrari declairs:
"We have under studying a deep evolution of the boxer 12 cylinders engine. But at the same time the turbo is already running in test from a few months. If however, how has been asked somewhere, we will try to increase the coefficient of use of this kind of powertrain with the possibiliti of raising it to 1800 cc, in place of the current 1500 cc, thus favouring it significantly compared to the others traditional engine it will bring to Formula 1 ruin, thus as was alredy done in the world championship for makes. Remains tyres problem. We built T3 for the Goodyear but it is not excluded that we arrive to mount Michelin that gave good results".
The speech move then on some polemics arguments:
"I am in the constractor association and I remain, because when I left I had to ask the protection of the others. If this association manoeuvre to have more power is not its fault: demerit is of the FIA and CSI that have expressed weak men that have not been able to enforce rules. This situation led to a disgusting end of the season. Anyway it is a past to delete, I do not intend to say any more to what Lauda could have said or written".
On Sunday 13th November 1977, while Carlos Reutemann is going down on track at Fiorano to set up the new Ferrari 312 T3 (Villeneuve for the moment will only make kilometers with the old updated car), Niki Lauda arrives to Vallelunga, where he has scheduled a series of tests with Brabham. But the austrian will not have to disposal the car of aviation settings presented at end of the season by the Bernie Ecclestone’s english scuderia. By Niki Lauda admition, the revolutionary BT 46 will not be ready, before two or three seasons. Evidentely first done tests made design engineers back up and the driver suggested to move back to BT45 that used Watson and Stuck in the last season. Thus for Enzo Ferrari it is a victory to points in the first round: the modenese constructor was able to move on to prepare a car that soon would be more competitive than the previous one, while the defending World Chamipion will have to settle for the old car. Now is open war, no holds barred. Beyonf official declarations, of those of Lauda anyway shows his respect for the modenese constructor and of those of Ferrari himself, who affirms to have nothing left to say on his former driver, surely remains hatred between two sides. Not without reason in the interview broadcast on television, to the question on what he would do if Lauda would come to ask you to try the T3? Enzo Ferrari immediatly answered saying:
"It would not be a phrase suitable to spectators".
"With Ferrari is a closed soeech; I restart from zero".
Thus he goes in the cockpit, surrounded by mechanics that set up the car. Pretty laborious is found the work to find the right distance between the seat and the pedals. Looks like the tangible sing of the really new chapter for the World Champion. While Lauda does his first laps, journalists listen to Ermanno Cuoghi opinion, former Ferrari mechanic that the austrian driver wanted next to him.
"Even for me is the first time that I see the car, immediate impressions are favourable. In my opinion BT 45 is not behind times; I could say that is provided of avant-garde features, as the compressed air starting system, more valid than Ferraris".
But most interesting declaration are those released by BT 45 and 46 designer, Gordon Murray, who announce big news, in contrast with what was said about times of appereance on circuits of the new BT 46 (someone had predicted two years):
"Critics on futuristic techniques of the new car seems to me greatly exagerated. A break-in, that will be preciously indicative, it is being done by Watson in England. We predict two weeks long. If will not rise problems, BT 46 could even debut in Argentine Grand Prix. If it will not be possible for that date, the car will be surely used not long after, during the next phases of the racing season. Thus I deny in the most categorical way that the car still needs years to race".
Lauda, between morning and afternoon, does about twenty laps looking in good shape. In the fastest he record the time od 1'08"0 (record of the Vallelunga track belongs to the austrian driver himself that on board his Ferrari did stop the hands of stopwatches on 1'07"2). After some tests, Niki seems much more relaxed and inclined to conversation that before he denied. It is himself to explain reasons:
"I confess at the beginning I was afraid, I had always drived Ferrari cars. Now I am more relaxed, Brabham has been entrusted to me answered perfectly. I am satisfied. Things should even improve with the new BT 46 of which talked to me Watson in glowing terms considering it far over the BT 45. In this regard I want to clarify some of my statements that have been misunderstood, I never said that was needed to wait three years to develop the BT 46. My exact though is totally opposite: I am sure that in three years, considering the technique with which is designed, the new car will not need changes to be higly competitive".
Lauda continues thus the discussion on the old theme of excessively high number of races for the World Chamionship:
"Seventeen Grand Prix are too many, would be more that sufficient fourteen or fifteen races, by eliminating those less prestigious. Fault is of the constructor, that care too much to their interests".
"I did not see it either in a photo".
"The engine we tried today is a different design in the heads because our goal is to achive a better volumetric efficency with the same rotation speed. This engine develops 535 horsepower at the branch".
Lauda starts to run a bit lat, around midday, because the track is wet by a short rain. Suspended as the first day of tests at 1:30 p.m. to restart at 3:00 p.m. after that mechanics change some regulations and exhaust system. A little the cold, a little the new exhaust impede though the World Champion to still improve his already excellent performance of the morning. In total Lauda runs 53 laps. Tests stop just before the 5:00 p.m. both for dark and failure of the exhaust that, crawling on the asphalt, causes sparks. On Thursday tests will continue and seems indeed will be prolonged until Saturday morning. Next week is confirmed the presence in Vallelunga of the Ferrari. On Friday 18th November 1977 continue Brabham-Alfa Romeo tests on autodromo of Vallelunga track. Niki Lauda run in 1’06’’70, thus further improving the performance obtained two days before of 1'07"0. The new time record for Vallelunga track is made during tests done in the afternoon, after that on Brabham is mounted an other kind of engine. At the end twenty laps are done. In the morning instead the World Champion, in the twentytwo laps of tests, does the fastest lap in 1'07"06. On Tuesday 22 November 1977 ends Martini-Brabham-Alfa Romeo and Niki Lauda tests in Vallelunga. Later, the austrina driver will go on 5th, 6th and 7th December 1977 to test his new car in Rio de Janeiro. Meanwhile Bernie Ecclestone can not accept to have signed a contract in which the renewal for 1979 season is mandatory to the victory of World Championship, or at the most the second place. Thus, Ecclestone prepare a counterproposal, formulata in Balocco during the month of August: four victoires in 1978 as condition to reniew the contract for 1979 season. Vincenzo Moro, Autodelta president, does not get involved immediately, but he makes prepared two prespects, in which one has victories for each year, from 1973 to 1977, of the World Champion driver, and in the other victories made by Lauda (3), Scheckter (3), Andretti (4), Reutemann (1) and Hunt (3) in the just ended championship. By verifying that in fact four victories could be enough to win the World Championship, on Monday 21th November 1977 Moro announces that the article 7 has been expanded, and that the contract will be extended for 1979 even if Brabham-Alfa will conquer in 1978 at least five absolute victories, in which three in the last eight race. The next day, Tuesday 22th November 1977, Moro informs Ecclestone - by a letter - the decision. But the english menager does not agree, and on Thursday 8th December 1977 replies - through sending a letter - in order that the number of victories could be decreased to four.
"I still think that four victories would be more realistic".
A few days after Chiti hears on the phone Ecclestone, who answer with irony about that Autodelta imposed a limit of five victories for extension of the contract. Anyway, in a next note of Mario Mazzi addressed on Monday 19 December 1977 to Vincenzo Moro, in which Chiti says he is possibilist about to accept the constraint of five victories. Back to Vallelunga tests, pn Wednesday 23th November 1977, ended Niki Lauda tests with Brabham-Alfa Romeo, arrive to Vallelunga autodromo Ferraris for the traditional autumn test. On track goes the young Gilles Villeneuve on 312 T2 (Reutemann is awaited for Thursday) that between 12:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. does 70 laps stopping at box to change different tyres Michelin. The new driver of Maranello’s team looks in brilliant shape, recording in a lap the good time of 1'07"29. If considered that Villeneuve has approached for the first time with roman track, in unfavorable conditions because of cold and of wet track at the beginning of tests, the testing can be defined more than satisfying. In following days, both to the canadiand and Reutemann, new tyres should guarantee further progress. Lauda himslef before leaving Rome did not hide his concern that his recent record done in Vallelunga (1'06"70) can be lowered with french tyres. At the end of tests, Villeneuve declares himself particularly satisfied with the singleseater:
"It is a car that can reserve big results, I am even very glad for the welcome received from fans here in Italy. They are very similar to those in my country that are enhanced when things go well, but backpedaling otherwise, I really hope to not disappoint hopes that are placed on my possibilities".
"Let take it slow, in front of us there are sixteen practice of World Championship".
The argentine gradually gets closer to the new record (conquered in the afternoon) after stopped before, during the morning, the hands of stopwatches on the time of 1'06"8 followed by 1'06"1. Then he joins his teammate Villeneuve around a table set up between boxes, where stand out steaming rigatoni with sauce, Milanese cutlet ornated of baked potatoes. But do not miss even goosebumps caused by a spin of the young canadian at the start of tests disturbed by the presence of two wild dogs on track, captured after a hardworking hunt, and a violent impact of Reutemann car against straw bales placed around the Rome curve. No consequence for both cars and drivers, that can easily continue with testing. This testing are about Michelin tyres, that are mounted in different types on singleseaters. At this regard the responsable of race service of french factory, Dupasquier, declares:
"With Ferrari has not defined yet an agreement for 1978 but nothing is unlikely. We are now experiencing fifteen new types of compounds to find the best solution".
Gilles Villeneuve shows that he is doing considerable progress in knowing of the new car, as he points out, showing himself in addition very satisfied of new tyres. Talk a little with Carlos Reutemann is not easy in the chaotic attack of fans, armed with cameras and pencils for autographs, take continuosly to Ferrari box, forcing to a hardwork of rear-end collision the technical director Tomaini, assisted by mechanics, custodians and director of autodromo himself, the doctor De Luca. Is asked to him the following question: do the leaving of Lauda provides to Reutemann more psychological freedom? Seems that the question does not like to the argentine, that sharply replies:
"I never suffered of this things".
The talk about the austrian really looks as a closed chapter on which not only Reutemann, but even Tomaini and mechanics fly over, as if it is talking of an unknown character.
"Did you go on track with the only aim to beat Lauda record?"
Carlos Reutemann replies:
"I only thought to the car test. Being able to improve that record does not make on me any particular effect".
The discourse moves on T3.
"With this car I run only 350 kilometers in Fiorano. It is early to give an opinion and predict when it will enter on scene for World Championship. It will come its turn when it will be mature. For now I prefer T2, a car that can count on a testing of four years, to which miss, however, still a perfect recording of gearbox ratios".
"It seems to me early for reports we are here at Vallelunga only to test and to take us to an optimal condition. We do not come to establish records; it is a fact that can like to fans and after all to us too. But this is not the main goal. As regards tyres, I say that Michelin is part of the circle of scheduled tests".
On Friday 25th November 1977 Ferrari have scheduled an other day of tests. Autodromo managers are worried for public order. Nevertheless, Reutemann and Villeneuve regularly continue Ferrari 312 T2 tests, despite the bad weather (it rains all the morning) impede drivers’ work, forced to give up after only nine laps. There do not miss spectacular incident but luckely without serious consequences. Villeneuve goes of track at big curve, while Reutemann hits against straw bales at Rome curve. Without any damage the 312 T2 of the canadian, while the car of Reutemann goes out with the broken nose. Both drivers comes back to Modena in the early afternoon. On Tuesday 29th November 1977 Enzo Ferrari informs Roberto Nosetto that he will move to Fiorano, where he will be Circuit director, even because he is going to put an end to delay and get him elected as FOCA President. To the question:
"Thus I will not go anymore to races as sports director?"
Ferrari replies that he will go for meetings, but will not be anymore a sports director. There is his friend’s of Monte-Carlo, Marco Piccinini, that in this moment is ideal, journalists will find in front of them a wall of silence. It will be found out that has been tha mother of Marco Piccinini to ask to Enzo Ferrari to give any job to her son, as long as he would end to dilapidate family inheritance in race cars business. As always, Ferrari takes the opportunity, and hires Piccinini. For Nosetto is a hard hit. The now former sports directore does not says anything to his colleagues, that continue to behave as usual, as if his role remained the same. Piccinini comes to Maranello few days later, parking his Lancia Stratos in the courtyard, a privilege allowed hardly anybody. Enzo Ferrari, highly sensitive about restructuring of CSI and control over FOCA, he makes this substitution to insert Nosetto in the new structure that it is creating. According to Forghieri is a step forward in the carreer, but the former sports directore does not seems excessively glad,and asks to Piero Lardi if he has to move to Fiorano soon:
"If you do not mind, wait few days, your office is not ready yet".
About this, Franco Gozzi verify for Ferrari the mood of Roberto Nosetto, that for its part he is asking himself where he was wrong.
"You did nothing wrong, these are high and low of Ferrari, I have been put away after twenty years and now I am peer with any Mortara".
Ended tests, on Thursday 1st December 1977 Scuderia Ferrari announces to have suspended the collaboration that tied them to english factory of tyres Goodyear. The breakup it is only about Formula 1 races, while in Formula 2 relations between the two houses will continue regularly. Goodyeat will equip in fact two singleseater entrusted to italian driver, still to be designed, that will attend to conductors european championship using Ferrari engines. The announcement is no saying anyway with which brand of tyres Ferrari will continue his activity this year. But exist all the conditions to anticipate now officially that will be Michelin to equip Reutemann and Villeneuve wingleseaters. The announcement is not been given yet since with Michelin is not signed yet the contract. The agreement should be singed next week, after that will be possible to know better all the details of the new combination. The choice made by Ferrari has very specific reasons. The Maranello team, in fact, has encountered in a long serie of tests that radial shoe covers offered by Michelin have proved better than those of Goodyear used until now. Ferraris now will come back on track in days 7th-8th-9th December 1977 on Le Castellet track: Reutemann and Villeneuve will have to disposal two 312 T2 and a T3. Niki Lauda is again at wheel on Monday 5th December 1977 in Rio de Janiero, where at the end of January will run the Gran Prix of Brasil on the new circuit of Jacarpaguà. Brabham and Goodyear have scheduled three days of tests to try a circuit that no one knows and that is now doing is enters in Formula 1 Circus. In Rio is impressive hot, but the austrian is in good mood. Having changed air after four years in Maranello made him some good. He is relaxed, tanned nad jokes with mechanics, challenging them to change the engine in less than four hours. Indeed times are long to substitute twelve cylinder boxes remain, togheter with consume, one of the problems of the otherwise powerful Alfa Romeo engine.
On Wednesday 7th December 1977 Lauda goes down on track with determination, to obtain the best time possible and to understand real value of the new singleseater. But after only two laps the engine breaks. Forced at box for three hours, Lauda comes back on track only in the afternoon. When he mounts soft tyres, his times per lap start immediatly to decrease. At the end of the day, Niki Lauda lower the best time of the previous day of almost two seconds. BT45C is not the BT46, has anything of revolutionary, but seems solid and fast enough. Lauda and Murray are satisfied, as well as Ecclestone, that witness to all the three days of tests. While Lauda, Ecclestone and Brabham are in Rio de Janiero, in Brasile, Cortesi, Chiti and Alfa Romeo are in Bologna, in Italy, for the ceremony with which Autosprint awards as every december its Golden Helmets, statuettes trophy that portray a stylized driver with on its head an helmet and that are becames in the motorpost world what that Oscar are for cinema world. Cortesi and Chiti seat in front row and in absence of Enzo Ferrari, unwell, and Mario Andretti, coming with a flight form Bruxelles, are guests of honor of the big ceremony that the publisher Luciano Conti has created around ten years ago and that has carved out itself a particular place in Formula 1 enviroment, where even manifestations as this one certainly not lacking. Cortesi does not know, but he awaited by two surprises. Suddenly, in the big room echoes Enzo Ferrari voice. Sabbatini has not even to annouce him because in the moment when are heard modenese constructor first words, the room explodes in a roar that the italian journal Autosprint director is not able to interrupt for a few minutes. After having done his congratulations to the still absent Andretti for the exemplary correctness in interpersonal relations, in addition for the big talent, Ferrari is put in comunication with Alfa Romeo president, that everything he was expected except to have to duet in public with modenese constructor.
"Dear Ferrari, it is a surprise that makes me Sabbatini and I take this opportunity to remind you that I hope will you find a moment of good health to come at Alfa Romeo once, to see how they remember you and how much you gave to Alfa itself when you raced and did run our cars".
Alfa Romeo - that Ferrari continue actually to call Alfa, name that the company had when he first walked through the door near the end of second decade of twentieth century - is for costructor of Modena a kind of love, unforgotten.
"I did not forget for sure my sport mother and when I tried to make in Alfa the progess of car. Because I always considered races as a irreplaceable test bench and now Alfa takes advantage and technical progress from attending to races and from its collaborators born in Ferrari, all of them of great value".
"At this point can almost do a partnership. I am cheering for Ferrari because each its victory is a victory of italian industry. But now we have almost a National (of football) and all can cheer for this almost national a little bit unbalaced that is Ferrari together with Alfa in Formula 1 World".
sportspeople neither when he won, and in the divorce cause just consumed loudly in public are few to have taken his side. And then it should not be forgotten that in bolognese audience still rumbles the echo of Ferrari voice, with who Sabbatini and Cortesi dialogued earlier. But Sabbatini has not finished yet. He turns left and asks to Cortesi to come closer because, says to audience, he would that Alfa Romeo president in person, that from next season will have Lauda in his team, to give the World Champion Golden Helmet, in absence of the receiver, to engineer Roberto Nosetto of Ferrari, much maligned by austrian driver in goodbye moment. Cortesi does best of a bad situation, he adapts to the situazion and not only gives the statuette to Nosetto, but he actually lends himself to divide it for the joy of the public present in the room and for photographers flash.
"We give fifty percent of the golden iride to Lauda and other fifty percent to Ferrari".
Says with his unique smile Sabbatini.
"But Lauda has to go to Maranello to take his part".
Adds Sabbatini, annoyed of austrian absence, is true that he is in Brasil to test the new singleseater, but seems to always find a reason to not going to Golden Helmets, or at least this is what says Autosprint director. Cortesi remains at the center of the stage near Sabbatini to give an other Colden Helmet to Carlo Chiti for Alfa Romeo successes. Chiti has only to make few steps because he is sitting in front row. Very elegant and smiling, Chiti informs the audience of good times that Lauda realized in Brasile, ANd when Sabbatini asks news about Ecclestone, Chiti shows off a thoothy smile and a irreverent joke towards of his english interlocutor, putting the sedan the short stature of cross-Channel manager:
"Pheraps he is in a drawer".
Festive atmosphere is ruined only by the last question to Cortesi, a request of news on fully Alfa Romeo singleseater of which everyone is talking, but of which nothing is known. Pheraps worried to not disturb balance with Ecclestone now that, with the arrive of Lauda, the season of triumphs can really becomes reality, Alfa Romeo president put off and mention only to commercial successes of Giuletta, of which audience has little interest in and nothing to Sabbatini. On Wednesday 14 December 1977 Clay Regazzoni, improvised volleyball fan, is author of a quick appearence in Turin. The swiss driver is ending contracts for next Formula 1 season, and about that on Thursday 15th December 1977 will leave for London when within a couple of days should sing for an english scuderia. In all probability he will remain, as this year, at Ensign, but is not excluded a transition to Shadow.
"Problems with Ensign are only of economic order. We until now had to race with dropper, having engins that were certainly not the best. If they will not give to me guarantees, maybe I will go to Shadow, even because I am solicited in this sense by Villiger, of Tabatip, that should sponsor the scuderia. In any case, anyway, I will continue to be present in Grand Prix, even if I had advantageous offers to partecipate ot american championship of Indianapolis formula and to three 500 miles scheduled in United States. I could even race on two fronts".
According to Clay the season that will start in January with races in Argentina and Brasil, will be particularly vibrant.
"The arriving of Michelin in the market with his tyres will open for sure a big conflict. Goodyear will be stressed and we will see some good, because will jump out the famous special tyres to do times. For what concern predictions I put in first line Lotus, McLaren and the Brabham, while Wolf will continue its work of outsider. For Ferrari will need to wait but I believe that will have problems because are too many unkonws that will have to face. New tyres guarantee considerable performance but at the same time are missing experiences to know if will be competitive on all circuits and all conditions. In addition drivers chosen by Maranello are not the top. We all known how worth is Reutemann that is neither Hunt neither Andretti and neither Lauda, while Villeneuve will necessary be limited and learn about tracks, cars and rivals. I can not absolutely understand to explain to me because Ferrari hired the canadian, when on market could be found driver more qualified as the french Tambay that would come in Italy without asking a lire, I think there are many young with better chance of Villeneuve, such as for example Giacomelli who is a young man really good and smart. I understand only that an italian driver, arriving in Ferrari, would have big problems if they did not come soon to results, while pheraps with Villeneuve will be more patience".
"Tomorrow the meeting wtih Ecclestone and others will be hard, is a vital figth for Ferrari, they are all on Ecclestone side. Ferrari needs me; my mother, has already passed away, and she does not need me anymore. When she needed I was not there, now is useless, I remain for the meeting, to Turin I will go for the funeral".
The meeting will be hard, with exchanging of insults from both sides. Enzo Ferrari proposes as FOCA president Roberto Nosetto and the possibility to consult CSI when he wanted, and offers to Ecclestone vice presidency but english manager refuses the proposal, saying that him is never been vice of no one. Not finding any kind of agreement, Enzo Ferrari asks for advice to Nosetto:
"And now what we do?"
His former sport director, as always as a brilliant idea, and says to Ferrari:
"Engineer, last year offered you the presidence and you refused, says it once again, they can not refuse it, then you delegate me as your vice".
Ferrari understands the right move and so he is elected as FOCA president, with Roberto Nosetto as his vice, and Ecclestone as FOCA administrative president. It is ended so a personal figth, hard, between Ecclestone, Ferrari and Nosetto. A Nosetto strong and unrecognizable, by all accounts. Even Ecclestone, before getting on the bus that takes him ack to the airport, says to him:
"Good, continue to fight like this, good".
In next days preparations of Nosetto office in Fiorano proceed fast. Sante Ghedini comes temporarily back in Maranello to takes his things and he wave anybody, but the thing goes almost unnoticed because happens a very serious matter: Carlos Reutemann has forced the locker and has taken away tshirt and stickers, in addition he is found to refuel his own car with fuel of pump of the circuit. Unheard, he is rich, famous, but all are working in order to not make known of this to Enzo Ferrari, Mean while, on Friday 16th December 1977 on Paul Ricard track almost all teams that will participate to World Championship find themselves for last tests before to start in South America the long steps competition. Lotus, McLaren, Tyrell, Renault, some private and then on Saturday even Brabham, pheraps with Niki Lauda. A whirlwind of tests, tests that are followed by a quite large crowd, so interested in news. There is the biggest news: the new Lotus 1979, a black car, programmed - as now is usual - by a computer. A car, thath one prepared by Colin Chapman, that has of science fiction, over all for its concept and realization. A steel torpedo, that looks more short and reduced than all the other cars. And then, at the wheel other than Adretti, the swedish Ronnie Peterson, came back to Lotus after disappointing experience with Tyrell. The nordic driver immediately showed up in good shape: with model 78, that is last year updated car, Peterson registers on the track long 5.800 meters the time of 1'46"4, of 0.6 seconds less of the result done by Reutemann last week, new circuit record. The official record is of Niki Lauda, with Ferrari, with 1'47"1.
"I could not wait to try this car. I am excited and results confirm my inpressions. Finally I will have again the possibility to be competitive".
No alcohol, at most one cigarette. All of this to be in top form, to show on track soon in the morning withoud headache and clear idea. If you want to win, you have to do that, to becomes land registry employees and reserve follies for few days of the year in which is allowed to have fun. James smiles and jokes but looks to have lost even the enamel of a time. From hippy or - as he liked to define himself - gipsy of the car is remained a little. Pheraps the clothes, consisting of a salmon colored crumpled sweater and a pair of jeans. But is all: seen up close, for a few hour, seems to have left back even that charm of rough man that charmed girls. If he were not a former World Champion, a protagonist, probably he would be noted only for his back bit curve and that foot that arrives before him. The image changes completely when he goes on track. The red suit, the black helmet with special fireproof protection that makes him look like a diver. Hunt regains an extraordinary magnetism. Moving eyes, sure gestures, in cockpit of his english McLaren is at center of attention. As almost all his rivals is present in Paul Ricard for last tests of car before starting of World Championship. He has at disposal two models: M26, churned out from Teddy Mayer factories at half of last season, is an updated version of the same car, with wide vertical water radiator places almost alongside front tyres, probably a prototype of new M27. McLaren is back in south of France for second time with intend to make tests of aerodynamic and tyres. Agreement of Ferrari with Michelin raises fear and english teams do not wnato to find themselves unprepared. Goodyear park his huge van near red car of Hunt and Patrick Tambay (french driver that repleaced Jochen Mass and looked started to a brilliant carreer because it is said that he thinks and drives as Niki Lauda). Technicians of american tyres house are busy around Hunt and big slicks are changed more than once. James starts, runs fast, comes back to box, starts again, runs again, stops. Like that all the morning, without interruption, a few moemnts only to change car and tyres. A hard work that shows how the english worked hard. When are 1:00 p.m., finally test ends. The driver takes off the suit and shows a bandage that he has on the right arm.
"A small injury that I procured accidentally. But it does not bother, I can drive very well".
The discourse is very short because the driver of McLaren suggests to be in a hurry. Just the time of some words.
"In the ended championship I obtained six pole position, and if it were to make sum of scores of start positions I would largely win. Unforutnately something durign race went wrong. I made some mistakes, in other occasion or I was unlucky or they took me out of the way with incidents or failures. For this reason I am working hard with the team. We will find to make more reliable car and driver because the world title is within our reach".
This days Villeneuve will drive, for the first time, the new T3 too. On Wednesday 21th December 1977, with a time 1'10"0, Gilles VIlleneuve equals his personal record made in the previous day. On Thursday, though, the canadian driver will be behind the wheel of the new 312 T3, that shows to be highly competitive and to have nearly reached performance of the big sister, the T2. Villeneuve does over 100 laps with T3 and 25 with a T2, with which record the best lap in 1'10"4. Worth mentioning then the test of roman driver Andrea De Angelis, that with Formula 2 Chevron with Ferrari engines runs in 1'13"8, at average of 146.341 km/h. It is the new personal limit of the italian driver on Fioraro track. On Tuesday 27th December 1977, the issues about extension of contract between Brabham and Alfa Romeo, linked to obtaining five absolute victories in 1978 season, definitively ends with a letter send from Vincenzo Moro to Bernie Ecclestone, in which italian manager affirms that minimum number of victories is the maximum that Alfa Romeo is willing to offer. Two days later, on Thurday 29th December 1977 a careffree boat trip with family turns ina scary adventure fro Carlos Reutemann, the Ferrari argentine driver arrived at home in Santa Fé city for a short holiday, waiting to start training for the first race of Formula 1 World Championship, scheduled exactly on Buenos Aires track the next 15th January 1978, Reutemann organized an excursion with a boat on big Paranà river that runs near Santa Fé. Started during afternoon, with his wife Minicha, his two daughters, Cora eigth years old and Marianna four years old, from a small dock placed some kilometers away from his parents fazenda, he finds himself in trouble beacause of a sudden storm. He directed the powerful outboard toward one of the many small island that dot the course of the river, to take cover. But the boat, because of the violent waves and wind, has soon broke moorings and went down. On friday night Reutemann relatives, after having awaiteg the return for nothing of the driver, his wife and his two children, will give tha alarm but it has to wait until Saturday morning to start research. Luckly castaways are soon spotted and are taken to safe. Very scared, the cold of the night in the bones, but no damage. After some minutes Carlos and his family will be at home, refreshed and smiling. Will explain Carlos Reutemann to police, that intervened to researchs:
"I preferred to aim to a small island because I known better the place and I was sure to have no surprises. All went good and we never were hopeless to be spotted. We knew though from the start, when the boat broke away from moorings that we would have to face an hard try. Maria and children were splendid and together we took courage. Even this is an experience that can be useful in life".