#243 1974 Netherlands Grand Prix

2022-08-24 00:00

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#1974, Fulvio Conti,

#243 1974 Netherlands Grand Prix

Zandvoort, June 23rd: The Grand Prix scene moves from the flat Anderstorp circuit in Sweden to the undulating Zandvoort circuit in Holland in a period


Zandvoort, June 23rd: The Grand Prix scene moves from the flat Anderstorp circuit in Sweden to the undulating Zandvoort circuit in Holland in a period of two weeks, and between times quite a lot happens. Team Lotus called in at Zandvoort on their way back from Sweden and Peterson tests the Lotus 76-JPS/9 and promptly has an accident when some experimental brake pads give trouble. The Lotus is quite badly damaged and the Swede is knocked a bit unconscious, but otherwise escapes injury, and is all fit and ready to go again when everyone gather for the Dutch Grand Prix. During the intervening period there is a bit of a shin-dig at high levels involving the CSI, the Formula One Constructors Association and the Dutch organisers, over who should be invited to qualify and who should not. On the practical side of things, such as paddock and pit space, circuit length, practice time available and so on, there are beginning to be too many aspiring Formula One contestants for the situation, but this indicates that the racing scene is outgrowing the circuit scene, so that the circuits should be enlarged, not the entries reduced, and certainly not reduced by closed shop union methods such as the Formula One Constructors are trying to do. The CSI, pressured strongly by the RAC, comes out on the side of freedom and liberty and said that anyone and everyone should be given the chance to qualify for the starting grid of a Grand Prix, the number of starters being dependent on the length of the circuit, as always, and that any organiser who refuses to do this would not be granted World Championship status next year. If the pits or paddock are not big enough for the current scene then they should be enlarged. This little argy-bargy clears the air a bit and puts certain entrepreneurs, who think they ought to be running the scene, in their right and proper place. The number of cars permitted to run on the Zandvoort circuit is 25, and a total of 28 drivers are milling around the pits ready to start practice, with some 38 cars between them, but when practice gets under way at mid-day on Friday June 21st there are only 27 drivers active.


John Surtees and Carlos Pace are in the throes of a personality conflict, not surprising after Pace’s childish showing in Sweden, with the result that the Brazilian is standing about idly while his car, Surtees TS16/03, never leaves the paddock. In the B.R.M. pit Pescarolo goes all temperamental because Beltoise wants to try both of the new P201 cars, which leave the three-times Le Mans winner with an old P160 BRM, so he wanders off in a gloom. Everyone else is either happy, like the Ferrari team, confident like the Tyrrell team, optimistic like the Hesketh team or hopeful like the Graham Hill Lola team. There are no revolutionary breakthroughs on the mechanical scene, but lots of detail they do before the event, and there are some personnel changes. Lotus was relying on their two usual 72 models for Peterson and Ickx, the cars scintillating like never before in new coats of black and gold John Player paint, while Lotus 76-JPS/10 is ready for Ickx to experiment with, having its water radiators mounted much further forward, just behind the front wheels, with new side ducting. The Tyrrell pair, Scheckter and Depailler, has their usual cars, with the Donington Collection’s Tyrrell 006/2 in the paddock for emergency use, and among the detail experiments they are trying there are some extended shrouds over the side-mounted water radiators on Depailler’s car. Fittipaldi and Hulme has the Texaco-Marlboro supported works McLarens with their usual variety of instant adjustments to wheelbase, rear end geometry and aerofoil position, while Fittipaldi’s car, M23/5 has new inlet trumpets to its Cosworth engine, bringing them closer together towards the centre of the car to allow a new slimmer and smoother air-collector box. The spare car is marked down to Fittipaldi, while the show-car is lying in the sand in the entrance road to the circuit, with Dutch enthusiasts climbing all over it. The Brabham team have their usual trio of BT44 cars for Reutemann and von Opel, with Pace sniffing round to see if he can fit into a Brabham. In conjunction with Goodyear Reutemann is trying some new tyres on 10 inch diameter rims, that really do look like cotton-reels. 


Stuck and Brambilla are in the works March cars and Regazzoni and Lauda has Ferrari 014 and 015, respectively, with 011 standing by as a spare, with Regazzoni’s number on it, but it isn't used. The rear aerofoils on the Ferraris has a new trailing edge shape, which is of vee formation, but the engineers do not seem to be letting on as to why. B.R.M. are still trying to run three cars, with their two P201 models, and P160/10, for Beltoise, Pescarolo and Migault, and the Shadow team has three cars but are content to run only two drivers, Jarier joined by the Welshman Torn Pryce take Redman’s place. Team Surtees is making a big effort to get rid of the Shambles Trophy, and has a brand new car ready to go. A sizeable amount of weight is being transfered to the rear, by moving the battery to a mounting behind the gearbox, and making new water radiators that lay across the rear of the car, just under the rear aerofoil. This allows a much smoother and longer nose cowling, devoid of openings, and the flat extensions on the cockpit sides has been done away with. In addition the front suspension geometry is being revised and all in all it hopes that this new car, TS16/05 for Jochen Mass, would not suffer the same dreaded understeer of which the drivers are complaining. An indication of the situation in the team is that John Surtees enters himself as driver in the spare car, TS16/04, but he never shows signs of taking up the option. Frank Williams is happy to have the effervescent Merzario back in the cockpit, even though his damaged hand is still not fully mended, and in the second Williams car, Gijs van Lennep is having a go at qualifying for his own Grand Prix, all part of the Williams fluid-team, sponsored by Marlboro. Teddy Yip is happily putting some Eastern hieroglyphics on Maurice Nunn’s Ensign MN02, which spells out Theodore Racing, for those who understand Chinese or Japanese, or just plain fretwork, and Schuppan drives as usual, and next to them Ron Tauranac had the Trojan for Tim Schenken, with a new full-width front aerofoil above the nose, like a Ferrari, among other mods in the search of raceworthiness of a new design. 


M’Lord Hesketh is back to strength with his two Hesketh cars for Hunt, but the prototype 308/1 is strictly an emergency spare and not a time-wasting alternative to 308/2. Hill and Edwards have their usual three immaculate Lolas, sponsored by Embassy, and the lonesome Hailwood with his Yardley McLaren is alongside the other works McLarens in spirit if not colour. There is more than sufficient time for practice, and most people put in a phenomenal number of laps in getting ready for the 75-lap race. Most of Friday and Saturday gives over to practice, with a break halfway through to collect up any derelict cars, and for a general gathering of the breath. A strong wind along the main straight makes the drivers keep their heads down, and aerofoil experts are fiddling with their fins and wings and things, trying to cut down drag along the straight without losing out on down-force round the corners. However, the main thing that everyone is doing is to try and see which way the two Ferraris are going, for Regazzoni and Lauda power off into the distance from the word go, leaving all the Cosworth runners breathless, while the B.R.M. team hardly seems to be breathing at all. Poor old Surtees is still in trouble for just when Mass is getting all enthusiastic about the new car the Cosworth engine arise an oil leak and the stocky German has to revert to the practice car, and as the team juggles with the stick on numbers, the time-keepers and few others have much idea of what Surtees car is doing what. B.R.M. are also confusing the time-keepers by changing numbers about on their three cars, using 14, 14T, 15, 37 and 37T between their three drivers, not that it has any effect on the overall scene. As expected it is never-say-die Peterson who is hard on the heels of the two Ferraris in the first half of practice, with 1'20"22, but it is a fair distance from the red cars, which are doing 1'19"51 and 1'19"71, respectively, for Regazzoni and Lauda.


During the breathing space it is clear that a lap in under 1'20"0 is the aim for any Cosworth-powered driver, if he is to keep the Ferraris in sight, and after the break Scheckter does just that, with 1'19"91, but Lauda rewrites the standards with a lap in 1'18"91, so everyone has to have another think. While Peterson  tries hard to keep the Lotus flag flying Ickx is doing some test driving with the Lotus 76 and it is beginning to show promise, though the Belgian is not over-enthusiastic about it. On Saturday the wind is still blowing, but it is still fine and dry, if somewhat grey, and practice starts at mid-morning, with everyone pretty firing up with some objective in mind, either to keep the Ferraris in sight, to justify their positions, not get left behind, or not to be odd men out at the back, it is clear now that Pace will not be driving his Surtees, but Pescarolo joins in, somewhat disgruntling, so the slowest two drivers are going to be nonstarters. The Cosworth brigade are getting to grips with the under 1.20 target, Fittipaldi, Hunt and Hailwood joining Scheckter in the elite group, but Lauda rewrites the standard once more with a lap in 1'18"31, a huge improvement on the fastest practice lap of 1973 which was Peterson’s 1'19"47. The Swede makes his bid for the front row on the previous day, spending the Saturday practice running in race-trim, with full tanks and race tyres, rather than short-life practice tyres. In full view of his pit Ickx has the Cosworth engine in his Lotus 72 blowing up and coasting to a stop in a cloud of oil smoke and nasty noises, having to continue practice back in the Lotus 76. Team Surtees repairs the new car for Jochen Mass and he gets along fine with it when he goes off the road at the new ess-bend on the back of the circuit and does more damage to the monocoque than could be repaired in the paddock, so he goes back to his older car. The speed of the two Ferraris gets all the top runners in a bit of a twitch, not to say something of a panic, and Scheckter tries out a different top gear ratio only to go slower and have to have it changed back to what is been calculated to be correct.


With Lauda and Regazzoni firmly establishing on the front row of the grid the Scuderia Ferrari is able to free-wheel through the last part of practice and when it is all over they are the only two in the 1'18"0. bracket, with Fittipaldi, Hailwood, Scheckter and Hunt in the 1'19"0 bracket. Then comes a whole bunch in the 1'20"0 bracket, comprising Jarier, Depailler, Hulme, Peterson, Pryce, Reutemann and Watson. Of these Pryce is particularly praiseworthy, it being his first time out in a UOP-Shadow, and Watson equally so as his Brabham is privately run by the Hexagon-of-Highgate team and is a 1973 model. At the back of the field it is Schenken and van Lennep who get left behind, a mere three-hundredths of a second separating them, and a mere three-tenths from Migault putting them out of the race. Ron Tauranac takes his Trojan away not convinced it is that bad, but equally not wanting to say his driver was not fast enough, while van Lennep wonders if he ought to stick to long-distance racing. Among the back half of the field Edwards is going very well in the Lola, his knowledge of driving on the circuit a short time before in a Formula 5000 race standing him in good stead, and this effort spurs Graham Hill on to better things. Disappointing is Stuck in the works March, who was way down the back, his talents justifying something better in the way of machinery and expertise. As Saturday afternoon ends it really is all over this time, for the usual half-hour non-timed session on Sunday morning before the race is not permitted. Local bye-laws prohibit racing-car-type noises before 11:00 a.m. on Sundays, and with the race due to start at 1:15 p.m. a test-session later than 11:00 a.m. is impractical. All Is fine and dry as the cars assemble in front of the pits to make ready for the race, everyone seeming to be in good order with Reutemann in the third of the BT44 Brabhams, Beltoise in the second of the P201 B.R.M. cars, Ickx in 72/R5 with a new engine installed, Mass in the older Surtees TS16, Pescarolo the P160 B.R.M. and Migault in the first of the P201 B.R.M.s, only because Pescarolo could not fit into it.


Lauda makes an absolutely text-book start and get to the first corner well in the lead, thus avoiding any nonsense like he suffered at Monte-Carlo when Regazzoni held him up. Hailwood get the jump on Regazzoni and is in behind Lauda, while Hunt is slow off the mark, being passed by quite a few cars before he really get under way. He then charges for a gap in the traffic to make up for his slow start, the gap closed and he hit Pryce’s Shadow, sending the black car helplessly off course with a broken right rear suspension, while the Hesketh carries on with a bent left rear suspension. As the dust from this incident is settling Stuck has a private accident two corners further on and ends up in the catch fence where he stays while the rest gets on with the race. From the opening lap race is not the operative word, for Lauda simply running away from everyone, putting on a demonstration that is inspiring for Ferrari enthusiasts, but soul-destroying for anyone else. For one glorious lap Hailwood stays in front of Regazzoni’s Ferrari, but then the second red car passes on braking for the Tarzan hairpin and it is all over. The demonstration race by the two Ferraris is simple and uncomplicated, Lauda goes further and further into the lead, while Regazzoni keeps on the pressure and rather than holding back the Cosworth hordes, he is making them pant for breath to keep him in sight, at the same time racing amongst themselves. This is fine, except that it means that Lauda cannot really ease up at all, for if he does his fiery team-mate begin to get too close for comfort. The Ferraris run strongly, so there are no problems and round and round goes Lauda, never putting a wheel wrong and leading from starting flag to finishing flag, an undisputed winner. Behind Regazzoni the Cosworth race is quite good, though it is of no great significance in the overall picture.


Hailwood in the Yardley-backed McLaren led Depailler (Tyrrell), Fittipaldi (McLaren) and Scheckter (Tyrrell), while Reutemann, Peterson, Jarier, Hulme and Watson are tagging along behind. Edwards is leading the rest after Mass stops with his engine misfiring, due to grease getting in the electrical master switch! As the grease comes from a split rubber gaiter over a drive-shaft universal joint, he does not leave the pits again. Jarier’s run does not last long as the throttle control cross-shaft in the vee of the Cosworth engine breaks. After a long time in the pits having it replaced he gets going again, only to stop later with clutch slip. Another car in the pits for a long time is the Hesketh, for after a lap Hunt realised he has damaged his suspension. The damaged links are being replaced, but fifteen laps go by so M’Lord Hesketh decides it is pointless going on. The moments of excitement in the Cosworth race for third place overall are few and far between, though Depailler livenes things up by driving through on the inside of Hailwood on the twelfth lap as they break for the Tarzan hairpin, and powering round it in a spirited fashion. On the seventeenth lap Peterson does the same thing to Reutemann and Watson would have liked to be brave enough to do the same thing to Hulme, but the wily old bear make sure he is on the inside of the corner as he breaks. Hailwood slips down into fifth place, behind Fittipaldi and it then seems to be over, apart from cars falling apart or blowing up. Beltoise retires his B.R.M. with the gearbox showing signs of seizing up, Hill retires his Lola with the back end falling apart, Edwards has to give up with an engine that refuses to run properly, Merzario coasts to a stop with a broken gearbox and Migault does likewise, on the same part of the circuit when a small Allen socket-screw falls out of the gear linkage of his B.R.M. With the end almost in sight Hulme’s Cosworth engine just goes dead on him, the ignition unit fails, and for the rest who do not have trouble it is a case of hoping not to be lapped by the flying Lauda.


Depailler’s courageous efforts in third place disappears as the fuel load goes a down and his tyres wear down, for the handling of the Tyrrell changed drastically. Although he alters his cornering technique to allow for it, Depailler can not hope to stay ahead of healthy rivals like Fitripaldi and Hailwood, nor even his team-mate Scheckter, but he manages to salvage sixth place. Watson’s determined drive, keeping up with the establishment is negated slightly towards the end of the race when the thin aluminium spoiler-strip across the rear aerofoil becomes detached at one end and stuck out the back like a radio aerial. Although it is hardly noticeable both Team Lotus cars are still running at the end of the race, though both have been in and out of the pits for a variety of reasons. The most serious is wheel nuts coming loose, due to a fault In the inspection department (assuming Lotus have one), adding to which Peterson locks up his front brakes at one point and put flats on his tyres, stopping to change them. Anyone who cannot not stay in the forefront of the Cosworth race seem to have some sort of tyre-trouble, even though most of them are on Goodyear tyres, as were the two Ferraris, which have no trouble at all. Reutemann get confused by this rubber-herring, though Schuppan has a visible trouble right in front of the pits, when a tyre burns on the Ensign. He comes to a stop just beyond the pits and his mechanics fit another one on the spot, but it entailes exclusion under the no work outside the pit area rule. As the Scuderia Ferrari packs up their equipment and loads their two very healthy cars into the transporter, along with the spare car that have never even been started up, they are all smiles. On their way back to Maranello they are going to call in at the Osterreichring to make preparations for the Austrian Grand Prix on August 18th. The rest go home to lick their wounds or have a serious chat with Keith Duckworth and Cosworth. The B.R.M. team goess back to Bourne to their own troubles.



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