#224 1973 Spanish Grand Prix

2022-07-07 01:00

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#224 1973 Spanish Grand Prix

Alternating as it does, between Madrid and Barcelona, the Spanish GP returns this year to the circuit round the Montjuich Park in the city of Barcelon

Alternating as it does, between Madrid and Barcelona, the Spanish GP returns this year to the circuit round the Montjuich Park in the city of Barcelona. The Park, with its ornamental gardens and historic Palace, is on a hill between the docks and the southern end of the town centre and the road around the grounds provides a circuit as exciting and spectacular as the Jarama circuit north of Madrid is dull and boring. With no appreciable straight, only a short stretch of level road, two hairpin bends and some staggeringly fast blind corners, it is not a circuit for the timid or cautious. With the lap record standing at almost 100 m.p.h. average speed, and every prospect of it being improved upon, as the last GP at Montjuich was in 1971, a very full Grand Prix field prepares for practice, with the top drivers having their sights on 1'25"1, which Ickx recorded during the 1971 race when he was hounding Stewart for lap after lap. Practice should have begun on Thursday April 26th, and though the circuit is ready the financial committee of the Formula One Constructors Association decides their members are not ready, so none of them turns out. However, Graham Hill is ready with his Embassy sponsored Shadow, and not being in the Union he starts to practise, until he is asked to support the cause and stop, which he does; the cause being that the Constructors consider they are only being paid sufficient money to warrant two days of practice. Surely it was only yesterday they were bleating at certain organisers because there wasn’t enough practice. On Friday things get under way more or less in an orderly fashion, there being three hours of practice with a short break half-way through.
Some teams are out to win from the moment the circuit is open, others are prepared to blow up in the attempt, some are putting on a brave show, while some are merely hoping it will be seen that they are in Grand Prix, and there are those without hope of anything other than personal enjoyment. There are twenty-five entries, reduced to twenty-three when the Tecno for Amon is withdrawn and the Ensign for von Opel fails to materialise. Team Lotus has 72/R7 for Fittipaldi and 72/R8 for Peterson, while 72/R5 is on its way from Zolder, in Belgium, where Fittipaldi has been doing some testing. All three cars are of the 1973 specification, as already seen at Brands Hatch and Silverstone. and still in the black and gold of John Player cigarettes. Stewart has the latest Tyrrell, that he raced at Silverstone, 006/2 to the 1973 shape, with inboard front brakes, like the Lotus 72, but using large diameter tubular drive shafts, unlike the small-diameter solid ones on the Lotus. The rebuilt Tyrrell 005 was standing by as a spare for Stewart, while Cevert had 006. The McLaren team has three identical M23 cars in the paddock, all scintillating in the white and orange Yardley colours. Hulme has M23/1, Revson has M23/2 and the brand new M23/3 is a stand-by should either of them be in need. Ferrari has entered Ickx and Merzario, but unsatisfactory results of testing in Italy have caused the second entry to be withdrawn. However, they arrive with two brand new cars in the B3 series, 010 and 011, both at the disposal of Ickx, and they are described elsewhere in this issue as are the other new cars. The John Surtees team and their mixed sponsors have Hailwood in TS14A/04 and Pace in TS14A/ 03, while March are represented by a lone factory car, the up-rated 721G/4 for Pescarolo as Jarier is away at a Formula Two race, and the private March, 721G/1, of Beuttler’s Stock Exchange friends, it too being up-rated to 1973 specification.
The B.R.M. team in the red and white colours of Marlboro cigarettes, has four P160 models, all rebuilt to 1973 form; with Regazzoni leading the way with P160/07, accompanied by Beltoise with P160/03 and Lauda with P160/01, while P160/05 is standing by as a spare. Ecclestone’s Brabham team has been hard at work since the Race of Champions last March when their brand new 1973 car was written off. Not only have they built two more new cars, but a new transporter as well, the interior fittings and layout all being done by the Brabham mechanics. Both new cars are the BT42 models, number 2 for Wilson Fittipaldi and number 3 for Reutemann. John Watson, who has crashed BT42/1 when the throttles stuck open at Brands Hatch, is spectating in the paddock, still on crutches but mending well.The Don Nichols team of UOP-Shadow cars, in their sinister black finish are as seen at Silverstone, with Oliver in DN1/1A and Follmer in 2A. A third Shadow, DN1/3A, has been built independently of the Universal Oil Products team, and painted as white as the UOP cars are black, with some red stripes to emulate Embassy cigarettes, for Graham Hill’s new team. Frank Williams, having lost the support of Politoys, has gained the support of Iso-Rivolta, the small Italian luxury car firm, and Marlboro cigarettes, so his 1973 specials are called Iso-Marlboros and painted a mixture of green, white and red. Of the two cars in the paddock IR/01 driven by Galli did some testing and a demonstration at Dijon before the 1.000-kilometre race, while IR/02 is brand new for Ganley. The IR in the nomenclature stands for Iso-Rivolta. Lastly there is the 1972 Brabham BT37/1, suitably up-rated, painted white with green and red stripes for Andrea de Adamich and his Italian backers Ceramic Pagnossin, some of this backing seemingly rubbing off on the Ecclestone BT142s.
De Adamich should have been in a TS14A Surtees but the arrangement fell through and the Italian had to switch makes at the last moment. All is set for a very healthy practice battle, with numerous problems ahead for everyone, for like Monaco the Montjuich Park cannot be used until official practice begins. At permanent Autodromes the more affluent are out testing and practising long before the official time, so that practice becomes a bit of a formality, and anyone unable to afford the time and money for unofficial practice is at a disadvantage. At Montjuich no-one has any knowledge other than that which theywere left with in 1971, and those who have had entirely new cars since then have much to learn, while everyone has to learn about new tyres, different makes of tyre, more powerful engines, improved suspension geometry, new springs and shock absorbers and so on, while some drivers have never been to Barcelona before, even with F2 cars or sports cars. Not surprisingly there is terrific activity in the pits, and it is only a matter of time before the old lap record is passed by anyone prepared to have a bit of a go. With two years’ continuous development in Formula 1 racing it would have been very depressing if the 1971 time of 1'25"1 was not surpassed. Ickx starts off in car number 011, with the side radiator layout, carrying racing number 8, so that Merzario is credited with his time, even though he is not in Spain. However, only two flying laps are made by Ickx, among a number of starting and stopping laps, which do not get a time, and then the car is put way and he concentrates on 010, with the front-mounted radiator and racing number 7. It is not long before Peterson is down to the existing lap record times, having few problems and pressing on furiously. Fittipaldi is not at all happy with 72/R7, as it does not feel right although nothing can be found amiss.
He spends a long time in the pits while the left front hub assembly is dismantled and checked on R7, as R5 has not yet arrived at the end of its long journey from Zolder. Cevert is driving hard, the continual racing he is getting with Matra sports cars keeping him on form between Grand Prix events, and is soon finding a lack of brakes; while Stewart is not happy with the handling of his Tyrrell so is not yet in the leaders’ battle. In the McLaren camp Hulme is quietly getting on with things, there being no special problems with Gordon Coppuck’s M23 design, and the swarthy new President of the GPDA is soon faster than Peterson. While Hulme is doing this Follmer is following him and obviously learning fast, for he is down to 1'26"0. Peterson gets below 1'25"0 and Hulme does 1'24"6 and then 1'24"0; this inspires Peterson and he also does 1'24"6 and then 1'23"7 but Hulme replies with 1'23"5. Shortly before the interval Peterson gets really wound up and goes round in 1'22"9 and then 1'22"4 which leaves everyone breathless. While the Swede does not look flustered when he stops there is a rather glazed look in his eyes! In fact, it is noticeable that the lateral G-forces are straining the eye-balls of the faster drivers, and whereas at one time you can tell how hard a driver has been trying by the sweat between his ‘shoulder blades, now you can tell by the look in his eye-balls as he lifts up his visor! Lapping the Montjuich Park at over 100 m.p.h. average speed is obviously generating some high centrifugal forces. While all this is going on Regazzoni keeps the B.R.M. flag flying with a lap in 1'23"9 and the timekeepers credit Fittipaldi with 1'23"0 although Team Lotus and the World Champion himself have doubted it, as he is not feeling that confident in the balance of R7. A foretaste of the Team Surtees role at this race is given during this first practice when Hailwood’s car stops out on the circuit when a fuel metering valve sticks and he is stranded until mechanics can get to him. With Peterson and Lotus in such terrific form there seems to be a slight reluctance for everyone else to get going again after the brief interval.
When they do start, trouble is rife, for Ickx does only a few laps in 010 before complete ignition failure strands him out on the circuit and Revson has an even worse time. Starting off in M23/2 he only gets in one timed lap before the engine goes sick and when he takes over M23/3, the brand new McLaren, that too goes sick on him. Peterson is back at his role of pacesetter, with a time of 1'22"0 but nobody else is with him, least of all his co-number one driver in the John Player Specials we call Lotus 72s. Stewart tries the spare Tyrrell briefly, and then gets among the faster drivers with 1'23"9 in his newer car but it means trying all he knew, and more, and ends in an ignominious spin into the Armco barriers, which puts a dent in the right front corner of the Tyrrell 006/2. Peterson shows no inclination to wait for any opposition to appear and goes faster and faster, ending up at a demoralising 1'21"8, the next best being Hulme with a quiet and confident 1'22"5. If we assess the Aces to be those below 1'24"0, it makes Peterson a Super-Ace. The Heroes are under 1'25"0, the odds and sods are around the old lap record mark and the no-hopers can not even see the old lap record, but even so a slow lap is still something to be satisfied with round this spectacular circuit. The atmosphere is a bit breathless when it is all over and work immediately starts to make ready for another whirl on the Saturday and two of the biggest headaches are brakes and tyres for both components are being strained to the limit, not in their ability but in their staying powers. While some types of tyre are giving fast lap speeds they can not hope to last the race, and a change to a more durable tyre means a rebalance of the car by means of anti-roll bar changes, aerodynamic changes and so on. The faster everyone goes the hotter become the brake discs and the more heat the pads have to absorb, and whereas few people give much thought to brakes at most circuits, the Montjuich circuit is causing a lot of frying to take place and close watch on wear-rates to be kept.
In addition brake systems are getting hotter than usual and expansion is causing trouble as is fluid overheating. The weather gets a lot warmer on Saturday, which does nothing to help the brake and tyre problems, and practice is in one complete session of two hours from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. As everyone scrabbles out of the paddock the spare McLaren M23/3 is left standing-by with Revson’s number on it and the spare Lotus 72/R5 with Fittipaldi’s number on it. Also there is Pace’s car, left behind with a fuel pump problem, but the Surtees mechanics soon cure it. Fittipaldi is soon using his spare car and feeling a lot happier with it, though not matching Peterson’s lap times. Brakes are the subject of study in the pits of Lotus, Ferrari, Tyrrell, and Shadow, while the amount of smoke coming off the brakes of the spare B.R.M. which Lauda has been using, not only indicates that he has been trying hard, but that they too are thinking about brakes. Hulme makes an early claim for the fastest Saturday lap with 1'24"1, but not for long as Peterson is soon out and recorded 1'23"6 to which the crafty old Hulme replies with 1'23"5, which makes Peterson go out again and do 1'23"2. Suddenly, Stewart gets switched on and also puts one in at 1'23"2. Some drivers are getting nowhere at all, Hill not being able to make his brand new Shadow go very well and Oliver having no chance for most of the afternoon as his car is having a new clutch fitted. The two Iso-Marlboro Williams Specials are being sorted out, this being their first race, and Pace is still having a bad time for his Surtees now breakes a drive-shaft and strands him out on the circuit. The other Surtees has had aluminium air-baffles added along the sides of the monocoque, but Hailwood is nowhere in the running, and Hulme has some laps in the spare McLaren. As practice nears its end Peterson was out again, doing 1'22"7 and then 1'22"1 and finishing up with a repeat of yesterday with another 1'21"8, thus making best time on all three sessions, with no-one really anywhere near to him.

On Sunday morning, as the Park begins to fill to capacity, with most spectators walking to the circuit, arriving by bus or underground train or by taxi, the sun is warm and the skies clear, and there is a further hour of practice for last-minute decisions, but with no time-keeping. For some it is a case of checking decisions already made, while others are still adjusting suspensions to suit new tyre grades, and others merely have more trouble. The engine in Hailwood’s Surtees blows up, and that in Oliver’s Shadow breaks a driving belt at the front end, so both cars have to be torn apart in the short time available before the 12 noon start. By the time the music and pre-race presentations are over it is 12:15 a.m. before the race starts, for which the Surtees mechanics are very grateful. Twenty-one cars go off on a warm-up lap and then line up on the dummy-grid, the missing car being the Surtees of Hailwood, which is still in the paddock being finished. Peterson is on pole position and ready to demoralise everyone, Stewart is in 006/2 and determined not to let the Swede get away, Ickx isin the Ferrari with the front-mounted radiator and planning how he is going to get into the lead and Fittipaldi is in Lotus 72/R5 and quietly contemplating his situation, which is in the fourth row alongside Regazzoni. They all move forward to the proper grid and are off, Peterson forging ahead as they go up the hill and over the brow to the first hairpin. They are not long gone when Hailwood comes out of the paddock and screams off up the pit lane after them. It is Peterson all the way, the Lotus looking beautifully steady and very fast through the uphill curves at the end of the opening lap. Hulme, Stewart, Cevert, Beltoise, Fittipaldi and Lauda follow, with the rest in a struggling mob with Hill bringing up the rear, apart from Hailwood who is half a lap in arrears. On the third lap Stewart forces his Tyrrell into second place and by five laps there is a semblance of order, with Peterson three seconds ahead of Stewart and the Scot unable to do anything about it.


Then come Hulme, Cevert and Fittipaldi in a very close bunch, followed a while later by Beltoise with the struggling mob of Lauda, Revson, Reutemann, lckx, Regazzoni and Follmer at his heels. While the leading group remains unchanged the mid-field goes through a lot of changes and there is some pretty unruly manoeuvres going on. Revson gets himself clear of them, then Reutemann does so, and Follmer begins to force his way by the whole B.R.M. team and the Ferrari as well. Peterson is now out of sight before Stewart appears and at twelve laps Regazzoni has to stop at the pits as his tyres are overheating and four laps later Lauda’s B.R.M. suffers the same trouble. While these two are driving with fury and having tyre trouble, Beltoise is being more steady and having no problems. At eighteen laps the picture is still of Peterson running away from everyone, with Stewart in a firm second place, followed by Hulme, Cevert and Fittipaldi in a dead-lock. Then come Revson and Reutemann, followed by Follmer and Ickx having a real wheel-to-wheel battle and after that Beltoise led Oliver, Beuttler, Wilson Fittipaldi, Galli and Pescarolo, while Ganley struggles hopelessly at the back with the engine in his Iso-Marlboro cutting in and out as if he is playing with the ignition switch. He is already lapped by the leader, as are Hailwood and Hill, while Pace has already retired as has de Adamich, the latter in a lurid fashion when his hired Brabham BT37 has the left rear stub axle shear with the wheel flying off and the car destroying itself against the Armco barriers while the driver remains safe inside the monocoque. This overall situation does not last long for Hulme has the balance weights fly off a front wheel on his McLaren and has to give away third place while he stops at the pits for a wheel-change, letting everyone move up a place.


The pace is so furious that the quickest wheel-change possible means you will be more than a lap behind when you rejoin the race. At 25 laps Peterson goes through the tail-enders as if they are not there, while Stewart gets hung up by them and on lap 27 Cevert goes swerving into the pits with a flat rear tyre, but convinced a front one is flat. Both right side tyres are changed and he is off again, but like Hulme is now right out of touch with the leaders, so that after all this Fittipaldi is up to third place, well ahead of Revson and Reutemann, while the Follmer/Ickx battle is continuing unabated, the outcome now being for sixth place. Oliver retires out on the circuit with a broken Cosworth engine and Hailwood arrives at the pits in a cloud of smoke caused by an oil leak, while Regazzoni stops driving in a great fury to have some more tyres fitted to his B.R.M. It takes Stewart four laps to get clear of the group comprising Beltoise, Beuttler, Wilson Fittipaldi and Pescarolo, by which time all hope of ever seeing Peterson again is gone. As the Swede breasts the fast rise before the pits, where he changes up a gear, on lap 31 he misses the change, but next time round all seems well. On this same lap Ickx finally manages to scratch by Follmer, but five laps later the Ferrari’s brakes disappear and he is in the pits to have the system bled, leaving the American in his black Shadow securely in sixth place, the last runner not lapped by the flying Peterson. On this same lap Revson is firmly in fourth place when there is a funny noise as an exhaust pipe split and the slight loss of power soon allows Reutemann to move up a place. At 40 laps, with twenty-five still to run, Hulme has to stop again, this time with a flat tyre, and complete stalemate has settled over the race, with Peterson reeling off the laps as cool as can be, Stewart resigns to second place and Fittipaldi a long way back in a lucky third place.


Then come Reutemann, Revson and Follmer, all driving hard but not actually racing with anyone, though still on the same lap as the leaders. Profiting by running non-stop are Beltoise, Beuttler and Pescarolo, but Cevert is carving his way back through the tail-enders, as is Hulme until he has his second stop. Ickx rejoins the race but too far back to do much good, other than race-test the new Ferrari, and at 45 laps Follmer is eventually lapped by Peterson. At 48 laps Stewart’s race is run, after a moment braking for a hairpin, for the drive-shaft to one of the inboard front brakes has broken its strap-joint and he limps round to the pits to retire, leaving the John Player Team Lotus cars in complete command, in first and second places, with only Reutemann on the same lap, for Revson has dropped back behind Follmer. On lap 55 Reutemann’s Brabham is suddenly, noticeably and dramatically closer to Fittipaldi’s Lotus, and the gap continues to reduce, because Fittipaldi is going slower, not because Reutemann is going faster. While everyone except Fittipaldi is puzzling over this, as he knows his left-rear tyre is deflating, Peterson’s Lotus suddenly comes to a juddering halt on the lower part of the circuit. First he can not get fifth gear, then third, and finally he gets first and there the gear-lever sticks, with the gearbox and final drive chews up, and certain victory is snatched from him, which shows all over his face as he walks back to the pits, accompanied by the plaudits of the crowd which he totally ignored. This leaves Fittipaldi in the lead, but with Reutemann really trying hard now and closing the gap at an alarming rate. Looking completely unruffled and balancing the car on its soft rear tyre through the right-hand bends, the reigning World Champion has shown yet another streak of Jim Clark, and maintains first place.


At 63 laps Reutemann is only 44 seconds behind, and needs no urging on, and two laps later he has the Lotus in sight. Just when it seems that an international incident might break out in South America, the Brabham goes clattering towards its pit, the inner universal joint on the right-side drive-shaft is broken and Team Lotus breathes a sigh of relief and the unflappable Emerson Fittipaldi is relatively safe once more, the safety pegs keeping the deflating tyre on the rim. On the same lap, but too far behind to be a danger is Cevert, driving his Tyrrell in splendid fashion and up to second place, having finally found a way past Follmer, and very incensed because the new-boy American did not move over and wave the lovely French star graciously by. Follmer is a hard racer, and if anyone wants to take second place from him they have got to work for it, and he’s not going to help them. The sort of attitude we could do with a lot more of in Grand Prix in order to make it proper racing. With Peterson’s retirement the first three are all on the leading lap again, and thus they finish, Fittipaldi’s balancing of the Lotus through the right-hand corners, as the car leans on its soft rear tyre, is brilliant, and though he profits from the misfortunes of others it is no easy victory for him. Revson comes home fourth with a very sick McLaren, for in addition to the split exhaust a crack in one cylinder head, down in the plug recess leaves pressure leak into the recess and eventually it blows the plug lead and caps off, the engine keeping going on seven cylinders. Beltoise follows him home having pussy-footed along and preserves his tyres, while his two B.R.M. team-mates are less cautious and throw caution and their tyres to the winds. Hulme’s miserable day is concluded by low fuel level in the tanks causing the engine to die on him in the closing laps and he nearly gives up in despair, but struggles on to finish sixth. After pit stops have delayed them, Wilson Fittipaldi and Galli finish, and Ickx is still running at the end, the Ferrari sound in wind and limb.


Lara Ferrari


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