The Formula 1 World Championship ended on Sunday, July 6, 1975 with the victory of Niki Lauda and Ferrari in the French Grand Prix? Clarified immediately that from the mathematical point of view the Austrian cannot be sure of the title, it must be said that it is very difficult to lose it. Six races to go (Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Italy, Canada and the United States) his main opponents, Carlos Reutemann and Emerson Fìttipaldi, are convinced.
"By now, we have no hope. Lauda and his car are too strong a pair".
Niki Lauda and Luca Montezemolo, the young assistant to Enzo Ferrari, play the role of realists.
"Stay calm, let’s not get excited".
In fact, Niki, always responsible and cold, and Montezemolo are not all wrong: six Grands Prix are still many, each race presents risks and surprises, the team must - those who operate on the track and those who work at home - continue in his strict commitment without relaxation. However, it seems that Reutemann and Fittipaldi aren’t wrong. And for many reasons, all very solid: the Lauda-Ferrari combination is clearly superior to those rivals, perhaps with a greater margin on mixed circuits than on others. Lauda is an ace in the tuning of the car, but in the tests he performs exploits that lead him to the conquest of pole position, and in racing he drives with an intelligence and an experience as a champion. In addition, the 312 T proved to be the best car of the season, both in performance and reliability. The Ferrari team works harmoniously in the study of new solutions, car preparation, and work in the box. To this is added two other considerations: first of all there is no human-machine combination able to offer the overall performance of the one composed by Lauda and the Ferrari 312 T, nor the new models prepared by the British teams (such as Hesketh) will be able in an instant to impress a change of trend to the championship. Second, Lauda now has 22 points ahead of Reutemann, 23 points ahead of Fittipaldi and 25 points ahead of Hunt. This means that the Austrian could also lose three races in a row and not be reached by Reutemann or Fittipaldi. The Argentine and the Brazilian should win two Grands Prix and get a second place to overtake: a feat virtually impossible, given the situation of McLaren and Brabham. The same Fittipaldi, who won two titles showing great tactical intelligence, frames the development of the championship in line with what Lauda had already said.
"From now on, Niki just needs to place. He doesn’t need to risk to win. We should attack him. But how? Lauda is very good and the 312 T, with its formidable engine, is unreachable".
Fittipaldi, therefore, gives reason to the prudent tactic inaugurated by Lauda in Holland, when, not to risk excessively and not to lose safe points, he preferred to delay the change of tires and then not to overtake Hunt. In France the Austrian could not help but win. Magnificent start, Scheckter to act as a buffer with Hunt, Mass and the others, last laps in agony for the progressive degradation of the front tires, then success. Niki would probably settle for second or third, but he wouldn’t waste points. And the facts are proving, once again, that he is right. The next two rounds of the World Championship - the Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone, and that of Germany at Nurburgring - are in favorable light also for the characteristics of the two circuits on which they take place. Lauda has already won at Silverstone with the 312 T (which was in his second race after his debut in South Africa) beating Fittipaldi. Very strong was Hunt, who in these last races was the fastest on the English field. About Nurburgring Niki knows the track perfectly. With two more positive results the World Championship would finish seriously ahead of time. Lauda plans to close the game, also mathematically, in Monza, on the occasion of the Italian Grand Prix. It would be wonderful, for the Austrian and for that 77-year-old young man named Enzo Ferrari. Wednesday 9 July 1975, waiting to participate in the British Grand Prix (which the circuit will present with two big news: one is the chicane at the beginning of the straight grandstands, and that forces to slow down in a very fast first corner, about 270 km/h while now it is at least 140 km/h; the other is the complete reconstruction of the pit area with a wide runway and a work area), Responding to the call of Goodyear, Ferrari and Shadow take to the track in Monza to perform a series of tests on certain types of tires. The Maranello team is present in Monza with a 312 T, at the wheel of which alternate Clay Regazzoni and Niki Lauda.
In truth, the checks are carried out almost all by the Swiss driver, because Lauda arrives only in the late afternoon with his personal plane and is limited to make a few rounds. Today’s tests, and also those that will be held on Thursday, July 10, 1975, will be used to study various types of compounds, to choose, therefore, those tires that will best suit the track of the Monza circuit, ahead of the next Italian Grand Prix in September. In addition to the tyres, Regazzoni also tests the aerodynamic set-up of the car and checks the engine, which seems to have given some problems to the mechanics. For Shadow takes to the track, for some practice laps, Tom Pryce. Lauda had been busy preparing for his exhibition in Salzburg: about 40 models of cars, including eight Formula 1 cars, all the Ferraris of recent years. The exhibition will take place from 30 November to 8 December 1975, in Salzburg. Lauda, correctly, does not want to damage the show of Jochen Rindt (organized by his widow Nina, now moved to a new wedding), to be held in Vienna a week later. In these days on the eve of the British Grand Prix, the British do not agree with CSI’s proposals to make major changes to Formula 1 cars, perhaps starting next year. This would mean throwing away practically most of the experience and current material, including tires. An editorial from Autosport magazine this week clearly proposes changing the CIS, instead of changing the rules governing the construction of Formula 1 cars. This state of mind is easily explained by the fact that Formula 1 in England is a major technical and commercial undertaking, and that many manufacturers have new cars in the pipeline for next year, and even for what remains of the championship. This is the case of Lotus, Shadow and other manufacturers who are renewing the material. This is also the case of Brabham, which, despite news to the contrary published recently, is working hard on the new car with the Alfa Romeo engine. In fact, when Martini decided last year to sponsor Brabham, the British brand was considered for several reasons of technical validity, but also for the Alfa Romeo program, which for the Italian sponsor was a nice link. The designer of Brabham, Gordon Murray, is a young talented technician and has thrown himself on the problem of the new car with Alfa Romeo engine in a total way: the chassis is in an advanced phase of construction, but as in all completely new realizations the problems are many and must be solved, more than on paper, in the actual construction.
But since we got to understand after a visit to the Brabham workshop in London, there is now no doubt that this brand focuses on the Alfa Romeo engine for the near future. A change of plan or even a delay at this point would be seriously detrimental to the competitiveness of the team. For its part, Southgate of Shadow has already completed the new car with the Matra engine, whose tests will begin in a week or two, and whose debut should take place in Austria or at least in Italy. For the Italian Grand Prix, at Monza, Chapman also promised the new Lotus, model 77, which should also have the most powerful Cosworth engine: about this special version, we have confirmed that it exists and that the horses are there, but it is not safe instead the strength. The B.R.M., which defected to the British Grand Prix in order to make a thorough examination of the situation, and rework its twelve-cylinder engine, sore point of the car for too long. Now that the twelve-cylinder Ferrari has amply demonstrated its supremacy in Formula 1, there is likely to be serious thinking in England about the need for a new engine for British teams; they are, as we know, many and if they don’t find a valid engine they will lose many chances of being competitive. It is therefore interesting to mention the fact that a new engine already exists, albeit only drawn, in the drawer of Harry Mundy, the technical director of Jaguar, already famous for having designed together with Wally Hassan both the Coventry Climax 8 cylinders 1500 cc (Formula 1 of the period 1960-1965) and the current 12-cylinder for the Jaguar cars series. Mundy has made a very detailed study of the problems of the racing engine and, based on the current limit of three liters, came to the conclusion that the best solution is that (already adopted in the past for aviation engines Napier Lion) of the twelve cylinders on three rows of four cylinders each arranged at 60 degrees one from the other, at W. Even at Ferrari, not many years ago, they thought about this solution, which has the advantage of being able to build a compact engine and a little more than a four-cylinder, so much so that in Maranello they had built a module of three cylinders to study the problems of the connection. Obviously, the problems appeared to be greater than the advantages, because this idea was abandoned in favour of the solution known today.
Brambilla has a new rear aerofoil treatment on his March, with deep side-plates to the main aerofoil and with wedge-shaped extensions out each side, well below hub level, filling in the space behind the rear wheels. It is claimed that these improve the down-force at the rear even though they are in the most turbulent air imaginable, though it is more likely that the increased weight of this structure out behind the rear wheel centre-line is having an effect. With Stuck taking her usual car, the Italian girl in the March team is given the prototype test car, and has four mere males slower than her by the end of practice. Ferrari has three cars, 024, 023 and 021, unchanged from the French GP in specification and Regazzoni uses 024, with a few laps in 021, while Lauda stuck to 023. The lone B.R.M. entry is withdrawn as it is felt that the new VI2 engine is not competitive, which seems a bit late in the day to find that out. Rather like Ickx deciding to give up. Team Surtees has a newcomer in their ranks in the shape of Dave Morgan, driving TS16/ 02-4, but their number one driver is having a bad time with two Cosworth engines blowing up behind him during practice. Frank Williams is in Cosworth trouble, being unable to replace the two that are wrecked at the French GP, the Northampton engine firm closing for summer holidays just at the height of the season. Consequently the second Williams car that Jabouille is going to drive has to be withdrawn. The Parnelli team has a setback in the first practice when the car they propose to race breaks a front brake shaft and Andretti goes off the circuit, damaging the front end slightly. Although it is repaired this means they have to use the spare car, VPJ4/00I, for the rest of practice and the race. Throughout practice the weather is very unsettled, with thunderstorms intermingling with periods of bright sunshine, but luckily the Formula One practice session is not unduly upset by the rain. Thursday, July 17, 1975, in less than a second there are eleven drivers with two Ferraris, two Brabham, two Tyrrells, two McLaren, one Shadow, one March and one Hesketh. Ferrari went very well. Says Luca Montezemolo, at the end of the first day of practice:
"As expected, the British are very suitable for this circuit which is their home track where they all try, it’s their Fiorano. For this there will be a fight that will ennoble the winner even more; we are calm, with the machines in place, and we will try above all to accumulate points, all the better if we win. Let’s remember what Silverstone was for us two years ago".
Engineer Forghieri, for his part, adds that he will do some tests of aerodynamic variation to possibly lower the time of a few hundredths of a second. About aerodynamics was noted with great interest the new solution tested on the March of Brambilla: these are two horizontal fins about 30-50 cm large placed behind each rear wheel, and whose purpose is to reduce the turbulence behind the wheels themselves. Max Mosley, the head of the March, says that this solution makes one hundred revolutions per minute of the engine speed at maximum speed, as to say a speed increase of about 3-4 km/h. These ailerons have been contested by some competitors, but at a meeting on Thursday evening it was made clear that they do not conflict with any rule of the current Formula 1 regulation. There are many other innovations in this Grand Prix: the American driver Donohue of the Penske team was on board a flaming March bought for twenty thousand pounds. This, which he himself defines as an experiment, is due to the fact that the car of the American team did not make what they wanted, and then was chosen the way of comparison with a car of proven efficiency, like the March. Several new drivers in Formula 1 debuted for the occasion: two are from Lotus, Crawford and Henton. In this Grand Prix, which is partly supported by the same sponsor of the Lotus team, there are three cars racing: in the following races only one of the two debutant drivers will be called to replace the Belgian lckx driver, who left the Lotus team a few days ago, but Colin Chapman still doesn’t want to specify which of the two newcomers will be the chosen one. Debut also for a driver and a new Japanese car. This is the Maki, built in Japan for the chassis, but otherwise equipped by the usual English Cosworth engine, and developed in England by a team of Japanese mechanics. The driver is called Fushida and despite having a good experience in Formula 5000 and Formula 2 will certainly not be able to do great things in his first race in Formula 1. The German driver Hans Stock is also back in the limelight with a third March car, while other second-best drivers will probably not even be able to qualify for the start. The weather in this first day of testing, which threatened rain in the morning, then got nice favoring averages rather high. If it rains on Friday, as it seems, there will be no chance of improving the timing of the British Grand Prix.
The second day of testing for the British Grand Prix was characterized by extremely variable weather, which often made the track unusable for puddles. So, on the few occasions when it was possible for drivers to engage thoroughly, not everyone managed to get the most out of the cars. Typical the case of Niki Lauda who, put the new tires just towards the end of the last training session to try to improve the time, he discovered that a front tire was defective and laminated, that is, lost the tread sheet. So he had to settle for the excellent time in the morning, which differs by just 0.01 seconds from that of Regazzoni. Ferrari are perfectly calm and satisfied with this result that puts the two cars in the second row, and therefore in a sufficiently good position for the race on Saturday. Luca Montezemolo says he would gladly accept a final result identical to the starting grid, because this would mean other points for the championship. The race will be extremely selective even in the opinion of the engineer Forghieri, who sought the ideal arrangement in the set-up of the cars in order to have the best compromise in terms of both the road holding, both the maximum speed, both the wear of the tires. Surprising, but not so much, considering the already good performance on Thursday, was the time made by Pryce with Shadow, who got the pole position overtaking Pace, who on Thursday had achieved the best time with Brabham. Both the English driver and the designer of the Shadow are radiant and do not hide their optimism for Saturday; they know they have a very fast car and would be even more so, they say, if there were no new chicane, which in a way levels the chances of the best. Excellent also the performance of Brabham, with the two cars in the first eight classified. Reutemann, however, is not entirely satisfied and hopes that by Saturday morning will solve the small problems of centering his car. Brambilla could not improve his already excellent time on Thursday, and he went into fifth position followed by Scheckter and Fittipaldi; the World Champion says that obviously, on this track, it is a problem of power and aerodynamics; if you have a lot of power you can charge the car more with the spoilers and get more grip and more speed when cornering.
His McLaren is well balanced, but evidently can not give more than it gives. Undoubtedly, if it does not rain on Saturday you will see an extremely interesting race, because very hard fought both on the plane of the competitiveness of men and on that of the efficiency of the cars. The machines will be forced to the maximum from the first laps, and it is simply impossible for all engines to resist. So, even among the best will be a strict selection, so of the ten best classified in practice, probably no more than six will be on arrival. In addition, the chicane is built in such a way that many drivers try to find a shortcut by jumping first with the wheels on the left curb and then on the right one; this extra work imposed on the suspension will eventually damage some, adding more unknowns to the race. It must be said that, faithful to their reputation as very manageable cars, Ferraris behave very well at this delicate point of the circuit. A novelty concerns Hesketh, which in these last races had always behaved very well, in particular with the beautiful victory of Hunt at the Dutch Grand Prix. A new car has been prepared in these days and will be tested in view of its debut at the Austrian Grand Prix, too late however to bring back in competitive conditions his driver who at Silverstone could not do much, placing only 11th on the starting line-up. After practice, Graham Hill, twice World Champion, announced his retirement from racing. The 46-year-old English driver, who has not been racing since April this year, says that from now on he will be engaged in the technical direction of his Formula 1 team, the Embassy. Hill is the only driver to have won two World Championships, the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His racing career spanned about twenty years. He won the world titles in 1962 and 1968, finishing second in 1964. In 1968 he fractured his legs in a crash at the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, but the following year he returned to racing. Six years ago, in 1969, Queen Elizabeth gave him the Order of the British Empire. His career began in 1954. He won the Dutch Grand Prix for the first time in 1962. Since 1973 he has managed the Embassy team and last year, due to mechanical failures, he collected only one point for the World Championship ranking. Hill tells reporters that he has decided to retire from racing after practice for the Belgian Grand Prix in May:
"Tony Brise of our team qualified for seventh place and was very impressed. I thought the best thing for the team would be my retirement. It did not benefit anyone if I had kept racing to beat my own drivers, which I try to grow".
"Race is dangerous".
The English say, but at Silverstone it was really played by chance and if the balance, in the end, is very small, especially in relation to what could have happened, We must give credit to the circuit protection systems and the relative robustness demonstrated by the machines. There was a lot of space and the cars were able to decelerate before ending up against the networks - arranged in multiple rows - or against the machines already stopped. If we had found ourselves in Barcelona or Monte-Carlo, with the guardrails only two meters from the track, another tragedy would surely have happened. The fire tanks withstood the impact and the flames did not burst. The episode happened on the English circuit, on the other hand, confirms how precarious is the balance that holds up in the race, with these cars weighing less than 600 kg and that are driven by engines with 480-500 hp of power. Single-seaters that travel to the limit of grip thanks to the action of the aerodynamic elements and tires. If, for whatever reason, one of these supports fails, here is the accident. In Barcelona he gave up a wing, in Silverstone the drivers suddenly found themselves on the wet asphalt with completely smooth covers, without, that is, tread pattern and relative sculpting. At this point, however, there is considerable responsibility on the part of the organizers. It cannot be said that it was not possible to anticipate the flood by two or three minutes (even television commentators had shown the thickening of dark clouds on the circuit). Later, a faster use of the warning signs and the red flag to stop the race could limit the consequences of the rain. Yet, Enzo Ferrari comments serenely on the phone:
"Who does not work, never risks anything".
The incident at the Silverstone Club corner and the unlucky Ferrari test of Lauda and Regazzoni are at the center of the discussions. Jody Scheckter’s story is also dramatic:
"I saw a wall of water and I realized that there was nothing to do: I felt my Tyrrell leave crazy. There was at least 200 meters of road before the protection nets and I hoped I could make it. Instead, I realized with terror that the car, crosswise, never stopped: I ended up in the protective nets that braked the car, but not much, and I hit the barrier while the nets wrapped me like a spider’s web of steel. I had to struggle to extricate myself and get out while other cars rushed near me".
"The lesson to be drawn from this type of accident is that we need to tighten the protective nets always elastic but a little more robust than those used here".
Regazzoni, also the protagonist of a road exit, complains that the danger of water has not been reported in time. Pace, on the other hand, says that the flood was so rapid that it prevented any reporting. In the accident, Carlos Pace hit his head so hard that his helmet was injured. The Brazilian complained to Regazzoni.
"Despite being voiced he did not let me pass, while I was fighting to win".
Enzo Ferrari’s assistant, Luca Montezemolo, expresses bitter words towards the race direction.
"They should know what the risks are that drivers are exposed to in the event of rain on the smooth tyres currently used. The British leaders should have studied the way to regulate a possible collective stop of the machines in case of rain, in order to allow everyone to change the tires and put the wet ones".
The opposite change, that is to put the dry tires when it stops raining, does not create problems as there are no safety problems, but only a matter of convenience of the drivers. But obviously the race management thought differently because listening to a conversation already before the race between one of the commissioners and an English team manager, a precise request for clarification was confirmed that even in case of rain there would be absolutely no collective stopping maneuver. Still says Montezemolo:
"Fittipaldi has approached Lauda, but Niki retains a wide margin of safety. I’m sorry for Regazzoni, who had made a beautiful race, confirming his class. Our machines have proven to behave well here too. Too bad it ended this way".
For too many races everything was fine for Lauda and for Ferrari. Something was expected to happen. Damage is limited, although the winner of Silverstone is Emerson Fittipaldi. Lauda’s lead over the Brazilian is 11 points. A margin for dealing calmly with upcoming commitments. At the end of the race, Scuderia Ferrari filed a complaint with the British Grand Prix management, challenging the official ranking issued by the timekeepers. According to the Maranello team, it is irregular to draw up a ranking based on the positions of the drivers before the accident at the Club corner. It should have been completed after the accident, when at Fittipaldi, leading the race, the red stop flag was displayed. In this case, from the ranking would disappear Pace, Scheckter, Hunt, Donohue and Mass, involved in the outings of the track, and Lauda would be third. Once upon a time the English sporting leaders were considered masters, competent and serene gentlemen, who faced the races with lucid skill. After the Great Prix of Great Britain of 1974 (to Brands Hatch) and 1975 (Silverstone) the judgment must be revised. The Lauda deal of last year, and now this multi-car accident, followed by the publication of a phantom ranking, constitute a real scandal, one of the many unfortunately seen recently on the tracks of the Formula 1 World Championship. The Silverstone disaster (also financial, because between the single street exits and the crowded to the Club curve have damaged a dozen cars) confirms at least two facts. First of all, the Formula 1 cars with their monstrous tires are too exasperated, and subject to every slightest foreign factor (let alone when a downpour occurs and the drivers travel with dry tires). Secondly, it is difficult for sports managers to keep a race under control when abnormal events of a certain severity occur. In particular, the British have left the pilots at the mercy of bad weather intervening late. In case of rain, the Grand Prix organizers generally stop the race. Silverstone did not set up any program on the subject, strong space in the pits, which in theory should have allowed the teams to replace the tires without problems.
"The RAC regulation had to be applied, since the international rules on the subject are silent".
As it turned out, the written reservation of Ferrari and March was rejected by the leaders of the Royal Automobile Club, which was responsible for the organization of the British Grand Prix, and the ranking of the sanctioned race. The British are never wrong, at least in motor racing. Also last year, for the Lauda case, they rejected the protest of Ferrari, which was only supported by the CSI. Vittorio Brambilla, therefore, remains sixth, and Lauda eighth: at Silverstone everything was regular. Now, at Maranello they hope that Lauda will restore serenity inside the Scuderia Ferrari in Germany, on the Nurburgring circuit. The English race is a closed chapter, therefore now more than ever counts beating Fittipaldi in the fight for the title. However, what happened on Saturday at Silverstone in the British Grand Prix, beyond the responsibilities of the race direction and the jokes of the time, brings to the forefront - for the umpteenth time - the problem of tyres in Formula 1. Today the choice of covers for single-seaters is such a delicate dilemma to become a kind of lottery. The fact that the various types of tyres are identified by means of numbers helps to give this impression, so that during the tests of a Grand Prix the specialists of the sector can be heard to give encrypted orders. In fact, once you know Goodyear’s secrets - the only company in business in Formula 1 - things are less complicated. There are two sets of tires, one with a normal tread compound and one with a harder compound to solve cases of excessive wear. In each group we have three types of front tires and two types for the rear ones. These types differ in the elasticity characteristics of the carcass. Thus, for a first test of a car are mounted so-called normal tires; the front ones are marked by the number 28 and the rear by 34. Numbers 30, 31 and 32 indicate more rigid covers, which are used to control drift effects, in practice oversteer and understeer.
Then, if you want to try with a harder tread, you switch to types 35 for the front and 27 for the rear, possibly changing on the other types of the same family. What you never, or almost, do is use tires of the two families or groups simultaneously. Of course, everything changes if it rains, because so far we have considered the case of dry track. With the asphalt wet, the normal dry-bottom tires, which are smooth, offer virtually no grip, and it was seen at Silverstone. It is therefore necessary to mount covers with a more or less classic tread with grooves that drain the water and allow an acceptable grip. The rain tires are of one type and two sizes for the front and rear axle. In fact, when it rains, you are far from the lateral sealing limits that can be reached on dry land and therefore you do not need to choose the stiffness of the carcass. The right combination of tyres and set-up, that is to calibrate the suspension, must be sought case by case in each track and on the same track for each driver. It happens in fact that a regulation and a type of covers that are fine for one. are not at all suitable for another. The development of a chassis, which should be an exact science, thus becomes a rather mysterious alchemy for everyone, including car manufacturers. The cars, which are similar, are then different in the geometry of the suspension and then the tires react differently. The new Hesketh, which was seen on Saturday in the pits, for example, has suspensions with rubber elastic elements for the four wheels, with very special geometries. Since the current car is very good, it seems that the new one has to be even better. Finally, we must remember that the special racing tires are handmade one by one and therefore also present the unknown of craftsmanship: this explains why sometimes a cover breaks down, lose the tread or otherwise does not withstand the fatigue adding a dangerous unexpected in the complex story of motor racing.