#261 1975 German Grand Prix

2021-12-21 23:00

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#1975, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Alessia Bossi, Maria Ginevra Ferretti,

#261 1975 German Grand Prix

Once a year the Formula 1 Grand Prix circus has to face up to the challenge of the 22.835 kilometres of the Nurburgring and they usually manage to com


On the eve of the eleventh round of the season, the German Grand Prix, Niki Lauda had 47 points (obtained with four wins, a second place, two fifths and a sixth) and Emerson Fittipaldi 33 (two victories, as many a fourth place). The Austrian and the Brazilian have a large margin of advantage over the other riders. Hunt and Reutem ann are on 25 points (i.e. 22 points from Lauda and 8 from Fittipaldi), Pace on 24 while Scheckter and Regazzoni have just 19 and 16 points. A small group that can no longer say anything in the fight for the title, except to look for some good affirmations and hinder - to the advantage of one or the other - the march of the first two. It was the foolish outcome of the British Grand Prix that changed the fate of the World Championship which, after Lauda's fourth success, now seemed to be defined. Fittipaldi himself, at the end of the French Grand Prix, had made it clear that he had lost hope of opposing Ferrari's rival and regaining the title. At Silverstone, on the other hand, Fittipaldi won while Lauda didn't finish in the top six. Result: 9 points for the Brazilian and zero for the Austrian, whose lead dropped from 23 to 14 points. It is still a large margin, which should allow Niki and the Maranello team to face the last five races with serene commitment: Germany, Austria , Italy, Canada and the United States. Unfortunately, for Ferrari the good Emerson is a bit of a bete noire. Last year he snatched the championship from Regazzoni, this time he re-emerges on Lauda's path. It doesn't seem, however, the need to worry too much: Fittipaldi is an intelligent and expert man and driver (with that pinch of luck that so often becomes an essential component of a victory) and his McLaren is proving to have returned to valid levels of competitiveness, but Lauda has the necessary temperament and class to overcome this delicate moment; moreover, his Ferrari still has something more than all the other single-seaters. A decisive turning point in the events of this championship, held so far under the sign of the Maranello team, should come from the German Grand Prix. A new affirmation by Lauda would be decisive, especially if accompanied by a modest placement by Fittipaldi. It would be so not so much from a mathematical point of view, but from a practical and psychological one. In the following races the Brazilian should always establish himself or, at least, conquer second places, and Lauda does not achieve useful results. A double combination that is not easy to achieve continuously. And Lauda and his 312 T approach the German race with better chances than the Fittipaldi-McLaren pairing. The Austrian (with Stuck and Mass) is the driver who knows the difficult  circuit best of all , and the Ferrari is made to measure for this tortuous track, full of ups and downs, fast sprints, treacherous turns. After all, in recent years, the cars from Maranello have always performed very well in the hills of the Eifel: lckx established himself in 1972, Regazzoni in 1974 and, again in the last edition, Lauda obtained pole position in training with the fantastic time of 7'00"8 (at an average of 195.35 km/h). Too bad that then, at the start, Niki made a mistake and ended up against Scheckter's Tyrrell, bouncing off the road. Says Luca Montezemolo, on the eve of the Gran Germany Award:


"We only hope that we have exhausted the dose of bad luck in England, a race that really brings us little satisfaction. If we have a normal race in Germany, I think we can make a good impression. Let's remember that at Silverstone Regazzoni had taken the lead and was knocked out by the first storm and a puddle of water. As always. Niki will race thinking about the title, if he returns to win as much as he can".


That's what Maranello's fans are also hoping for. After the black Saturday at Silverstone, another good Sunday for Enzo Ferrari? It is commonly said that only a true ace and a great car can dominate the German Nurburgring circuit. It is a conviction that arises from the characteristics of the track, present in the green hills of the Eifel, near Bonn and Cologne, and which draws strength from the examination of the roll of honor of the German Grand Prix, of which Sunday 3 August 1975 - Niki Lauda and Ferrari on one side, Emerson Fittipaldi and McLaren on the other protagonists - the 37th edition is underway. The Nurburgring was wanted at the beginning of the century by German industry as a testing ground for automobile testing. The war events delayed its construction, which was completed in 1927. The name means Circuit (ring) of the Nuerburg. which Nuerburg is a castle from the 1100s that rises near the grandstands and box, austerely dominating the landscape. From the 1930s to today, the design of the circuit has remained unchanged, but the track has undergone significant modifications to increase the safety of drivers and spectators. In 1970 Jackie Stewart boycotted the Nurburgring and the German Grand Prix was held at Hockenheim. The managers of the German Automobile Club spent over 200.000.000 lire to set up fences, barriers, areas without obstacles, to widen the roadway, to smooth certain points (bumps, curves) considered too dangerous. Result: the track has become faster and smoother, perhaps less demanding than it used to be. The difficulties, however, are always numerous, especially in comparison with those offered by other plants. The length, first of all: 22,835 km, six times - for example - the Monte-Carlo circuit. There are 176 curves (85 to the right and 91 to the left), but there is also a straight stretch of over a kilometer in which modern Formula 1 single-seaters can reach speeds of up to 300 km/h. Breathtaking descents - such as the one following the pit area - and steep climbs - there are gradients of 13/14% - yes, they alternate, with sharp turns, sharp stretches, natural or artificial chicanes. It is not a circuit, but a sum of circuits, even if it can be called a fast-mixed path.


And the time obtained last year in qualifying for the German Grand Prix by Lauda and the Ferrari 312 B3 is astonishing: 7'00"8, while in the race Jody Scheckter, with the Tyrrell, conquered the official lap record in 7'11"1 (at an average of 190.688 km/h). Outstanding performance. The great Jim Clark, just in 1965, with the Lotus 1500, lapped in 8'24"1; in 1956 Juan Manuel Fangio, with the Maserati 2500, spun on the Nurburgring in 9'17"4. From Lauda to d Achille Varzi (whom Enzo Ferrari compares to the Austrian), who in 1931 at the wheel of the Bugatti 2300 covered the distance in 11'48"0, almost five minutes go by. A lifetime. And who wins in the ring of the Eifel has also become - with some exceptions - World Champion. In the past, for example, it was the turn of Ascari, Fangio, Graham Hill, more recently Jim Clark, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart. Who has never managed to conquer the title despite having raced splendidly in the Nurburgring is Jacky lckx, who won in 1969 with Brabham and in 1972 with Ferrari. On this track, the problems for technicians and drivers are magnified. The set-up is delicate, difficult , complicated by the need to harmonize the different needs that arise from the characteristics of the circuit. It is not easy to find the best compromise between the straight and the bends, adopting aerodynamic solutions and suspension settings that are valid at every point of the track. At the same time, the engine must be capable of providing vigorous acceleration when exiting the corners and high power for high straight-line speeds. Assumptions to which it is necessary to combine a very important element: reliability. Woe to the fragile and delicate car, the Nurburgring must also be robust. Transmission, brakes, steering are subjected to a test of 14 endless laps. The drivers, in turn, must remember not five or six corners, but at least the twenty or thirty where a slight hesitation, a minimal mistake causes a slowdown. There aren't many aces capable of making 4 or 5 rounds without making a mistake. And even physical fatigue has its weight: accelerations, decelerations, changes in slope subject the body to a tour de force similar to that of the car. That's why winning at the Nurburgring is a particularly prestigious feat for man and single-seater. Lauda has every chance of achieving it, and it would be a double success, because 90% of the world title would become his. Once a year the Formula 1 Grand Prix circus has to face up to the challenge of the 22.835 kilometres of the Nurburgring and they usually manage to come away reasonably unscathed and occasionally with a feeling of a job well done.


Even after the Nurburgring’s wild and craggy nature is somewhat tamed by the monumental facelift and tidying up process that is carried out in 1970/71, the new-look Nurburgring produces an even bigger challenge by being so much faster than before, with the lap speed average around 120 m.p.h. This year, however, the majority of teams comes away, bowed, bloody, and humiliated, wondering if the Nurburgring isn’t more than they could cope with. Apart from a brief rain shower on the first day of practice the Eifel mountains are enjoying a heat wave and the Nurburgring is at its best, drawing a record crowd estimated at 400.000. Even if the estimate is wildly optimistic and is 100% out, that still leaves 200.000 people, and certainly the traffic flow towards the Nurburgring is very heavy before practice even started. Apart from Team Surtees everyone seems to have recovered from the Silverstone shambles, and B.R.M. are still awaiting delivery of sufficient power to make their car competitive; as someone remarks, they’ll wait for ever, unless they fit a Cosworth engine. John Watson is on loan to Team Lotus for this race, if only to prove that the 1975 Lotus trouble has been in the cockpit, and the bearded Irishman proves just that, making Peterson remove his Swedish finger a bit, but not enough to catch the newcomer. There are a lot of drivers who feel they could or should win the Grosser Preis von Deutschland, in particular Jochen Mass, who lives in nearby Cologne. It is not for want of trying that he does not succeed, for he is flinging his McLaren round the 14-mile lap with impressive confidence, but his enthusiasm got the better of his skill and he flies off the road during the Saturday morning practice. His compatriot Hans-Joachim Stuck is equally keen to win his own Grand Prix, but not so obsessed and merely gets on with the job. Scheckter really feels he could win this one, especially as he holds the lap record from last year in 7'11"1, and does a lot of practice in full-race trim as regards fuel load and tyre and suspension settings. Although the Tyrrell is a terrible handful on parts of the circuit, compared to a car that is set-up for practice laps, Scheckter is confident in the outcome. The Ferrari duo of Regazzoni and Lauda feel this race has to be theirs, Lauda’s fastest practice time last year of 7'00"8 being the target of everyone to aim at, while his unofficial test-lap in under 7'00"0. Is still waiting to be confirmed. Regazzoni may not be very high in some people’s estimation as a driver, but he enjoys the Nurburgring and takes some beating on the mountain circuit.

Practice has barely begun before Lauda sets the standard with a lap in 7'00"6 and it is clear that anyone who could not improve on Scheckter’s lap record is not going to feature in the start photographs. The practice system at the Nurburgring is that you can circulate round the short circuit comprising the Sudkurve and the Nordkurve, joined by the starting straight and the longer straight behind the pits, and when you feel ready for a full 22.835 kilometre lap you can peel off at the North Curve and set off over the bridge and down the swerves to Hatzenbach, but once over the bridge you are committed, there is no turning back. As the pits-loop is longer than the Mallory Park circuit or the Brands Hatch Club circuit it is easy to see why a lot of drivers are happy to keep circulating round the loop, needing to screw up all their courage to set off on a full lap. When you do set off it is with the full knowledge that you might never be seen again until practice is over, for if your car breaks down at an inaccessible point on the circuit you are stuck there, unless you can show resourcefulness like Patrick Depailler does in the first practice session. His Tyrrell breaks a front suspension, letting that corner sag down, so he borrows some tools from a spectator and slackens off completely the shock-absorber on the diagonally opposing corner at the rear and screws up the other two corners until the suspension is virtually solid. This causes the car to sit lop-sided with the damaged corner up in the air and virtually off the ground, and that way he is able to drive slowly back to the pits. Apart from accidents to Mass, Brise, Ashley and Trimmer, whose cars have to be returned by the breakdown service, there is not too much trouble in practice and with a seven minute lap as the clear objective there is more than enough to get on with. The duel between Niki Lauda and Emerson Fittipaldi, between Ferrari and McLaren for the Formula 1 world title, finds its best expression on this first day of testing. Lauda, with the 312 T, was formidable, lapping in 7'00"6 (at an average of 195.449 km/h) and improving by 0.2 seconds the unofficial record of the infernal German track, which he set himself last year. But Jochen Mass. teammate of Fittipaldi, answered him in 7'01"8 and Fittipaldi in 7'02"7. Finally, Clay Regazzoni, with the other Ferrari, obtained the fourth fastest time, lapping in 7'04"3. The gaps between the other drivers and the other cars are of a certain consistency, with the always good Vittorio Brambilla (March, 7'0 6"0), Scheckter (Tyrrell, 7'07"2) and Jarier (Shadow, 7'07"6) in order. Lauda, of course, was happy, even if he still had a touch of annoyance.


"I could have gone below the 7-minute wall if I hadn't had to slow down at the chicane that leads into the pit straight, where the timekeepers are,: it was a waving of danger yellow flags, because there was oil on the track and some workers had come down to the roadway to spread some powder. Too bad, I would have liked that. We will see, if ever, that we can do it on Saturday".


As is known, the Austrian has 47 points in the standings, against the 33 of his Brazilian rival. Counting the German race, there are five races to go at the end of the season and a success for Niki at the Nurburgring would probably extinguish Fittipaldi's ambitions.


"Ferrari is a bit better here than the other cars, so it's easier to win, at least compared to Zeltweg or Monza, I'd like to get maximum points. With success I would then calmly face the next commitments. The key moment will be the start. If I manage to take the lead, goodbye everyone, we'll meet again at the finish line. This can happen because the Nurburgring is a circuit that enhances the characteristics of Ferrari. Uphills, downhills, bends, straights: a complete track for a complete car like the 312 T. You need a good chassis, a good engine, good suspension, in short, a car that is perfect in every component. I don't think special skills are necessary on the driver's part: the changes made to the track in recent years have improved visibility and made the driver's task less difficult. After two or three laps, in my opinion, a Formula 1 racer can deliver a very good performance. There's only one secret, and it's the usual one: press the accelerator as much as possible and make no mistakes. In 1974 I did one and had to retire. I don't think I will do it again. In life we evolve, we learn by making mistakes, but we need to elevate ourselves, climb, in a word, improve".


This year Lauda made no mistakes in the race.


"Yes, in practice, like in Monte-Carlo, but the important thing is not to make mistakes in the race, when it's no longer possible to fix it".


And if the sin belongs to others, for example to mechanics?


"Patience, at Silverstone they made me restart from the garage with a loose wheel. It can happen, we are all men. I repeat, what matters is learning and not turning a mistake into a habit".


Lauda talks about men. How do you find the definition with which it is now called, i.e. that of pilot-computer?


"Inaccurate, because I am not, nor do I feel like a machine. I'm not programmed by anyone, it's me who sets my plans and chooses a path, accepting the sacrifices it entails. Perhaps, it may be difficult to understand me, but I believe that I am simply a person who has dedicated himself with commitment to a certain job and who tries to do it in the best way, whether it goes well or badly. For example, the best moment of 1975 was not in Monte-Carlo or in Sweden, winning a Grand Prix; I stayed in Sardinia, because I was free, on vacation, by the sea and in the sun. And the worst moment was the return home, not the stop at Silverstone. It's the truth, believe me".


On the upcoming races of the World Championship, apart from Germany, Lauda says:


"It won't be an easy race for Ferrari in Austria: it's always too hot in Zeltweg and the engines suffer; in Italy, the prospects are uncertain, it will depend on the climatic conditions of Monza: in Canada, the race looks favorable; finally, in the United States, we had tire problems in the past: another difficult Grand Prix".


And Fittipaldi? The answer is diplomatic.


"A good and nice driver".


From Lauda, we immediately moved on to the Brazilian, who today had engine overheating problems due to a water leak.


"After the success at Silverstone my chances have improved, but Lauda always has better chances than me. Niki feels like complaining: his Ferrari is the strongest everywhere, while I think my McLaren can perform well here, in Austria and Canada, and badly in Italy and the United States. The 312 T is a single-seater of a superior category: Lauda is smart, the chassis of the car is good, but the strength lies in the engine, in all those horses behind it. McLaren is back to being competitive. The new Goodyear tires had put the car's suspension in crisis, after the first three races in Argentina, Brazil and South Africa. We changed the geometry five times, and only now am I satisfied. We've closed a long negative parentheses, but I'm not deluding myself: Ferrari remains a stronger car than mine. For me too, as for Lauda, Sunday will count on collecting as many points as possible".


Lauda and Fittipaldi at the center of attention, therefore, leaving little room for the other protagonists of the German Grand Prix. The German Mass, who is at home at the Nurburgring, and Regazzoni, who has always performed excellent races here (last year he won as ruler), will support their respective teammates. The Swiss also found yellow flags on his way, slightly compromising his performance. Among others, the debut, albeit limited to testing, of James Hunt's new Hesketh, who will race with the usual model on Sunday, the absence of B.R.M. and Surtees (whose driver Watson has provisionally moved to Lotus), the The modest debut of the Austrian Ertl with a golden yellow Hesketh. The Brahbams did badly, with gear, gearbox and tire problems, the Shadows didn't shine, while Depalller, with the Tyrrell, broke a suspension. Who always goes well, who is - everywhere - at the top or in the very first positions is only Ferrari. Meanwhile, the rumors about the pilot market thicken. Many, for example, speak of Regazzoni retiring from racing and Ronnie Peterson joining Ferrari next year. In reality, the Swede will in all likelihood leave Lotus for Shadow and Regazzoni will remain with Scuderia Ferrari, together with Lauda. In this regard, no official decision has yet been taken in Maranello, but everything suggests that the Lauda-Regazzoni partnership will continue. The Swiss say. In this regard:


"I have no intention of retiring. I still enjoy it too much. Of course, staying at Ferrari is my ambition".

In the round of Formula 1 it is also said that Jean-Pierre Jarier would switch from the Shadow to the new Ligier and that Jody Scheckter would abandon Tyrrell for Lotus, in turn replaced by the almost European Formula 2 champion, the French Jacques Laffite. Still inside the paddock it is said that in all likelihood the Canadian Grand Prix will not take place. On Saturday 2 August 1975, the manufacturers held - in this regard - a meeting on the Nurburgring circuit , deciding not to participate in the race for financial and logistical reasons. But, as always, an official statement is awaited in this regard. It is clear that without the Canadian race, Lauda's chances of taking the world title are further increased. Basically, if Niki prevailed in Germany and Fittipaldi didn't get even one point, the Austrian would practically have won the World Championship. In fact, the Brazilian should then establish himself in Austria, Italy and the United States and the Austrian should always stop. In the last practice period Lauda and Regazzoni look to have the front row of the grid once more, like last year, with Lauda at 7'00"6 and Regazzoni at 7'01"6, but Depailler ousts the swarthy Swiss with a stirring lap in 7'01"4 and then Scheckter does 7'01"3. With barely time left for another full lap Lauda goes out and put a stop to the challenging nonsense, as he does at Monaco and Paul Ricard, with a lap in 6'58"6. This really rocks everyone on their heels and represents a lap speed of 196.383 k.p.h. (approx. 122 m.p.h.) and it overshadows a final effort by Carlos Pace who gets round in 7'00"0 dead, relegating the two Tyrrells to the second row of the grid, while Regazzoni is back to the third row.
Unless something untoward happens it looks as though Lauda is going to run away with the German Grand Prix like he has with the French Grand Prix. Niki Lauda, with his Ferrari, concluded a historic feat on the Nurburgring circuit at 1:22 p.m. during the second day of practice for the German Grand Prix. The Austrian broke the seven-minute barrier, which had stood since 1969, lapping in 6 '58"6, at an average speed of 196.383 km/h. It is a formidable performance, one of those which illuminate motor sport and which make technical progress concrete in a number, in a figure. And, in an international context of such prestige, this umpteenth reconfirmation of the skills of Italian work fills us with joy for many reasons that it is useless to list. Lauda is a champion, but the The car produced in Maranello gave him an inimitable weapon.The race could reward this exploit or cause disappointment to the fans of the Maranello team, but whatever outcome it has, it is legitimate today to underline the merits of the Lauda-Ferrari pairing. It is a unique circuit in the world: 22.835 meters of curves, ups and downs, straight lines in the middle of the green hills of the Eifel.Only a driver of great class and a car that is balanced and perfect in every component can achieve such a result. But when the lap record was announced, the spectators burst into applause, the Ferrari flags started waving and the mechanics of the Maranello team raised their fists to the sky with huge smiles. Lauda, perhaps not a computer pilot but certainly an ice man, remained very calm. Getting out of his Ferrari #12, having taken a sip of mineral water, the Austrian, who is just 26 years old, says:


"I'm happy, but not for breaking the seven-minute mark. I am only interested in having conquered my sixth pole position. Honesty is an important fact, because it means that the whole team and I worked well. I feel nothing particular about having succeeded in this endeavor. I'm glad, but nothing more. On the other hand, I had already dropped below seven minutes last year during a private Ferrari practice series. The pole position is the confirmation that the 312 T is superior to the other single-seaters here. My engine was also a bit tired. On Sunday, unless abnormal events occur, Regazzoni and I say goodbye to everyone".


Lauda is optimistic about the outcome of the German Grand Prix, and he is doubly right. With a full tank (170-180 liters against the 50-60 liters usually filled in the tanks during practice) Niki lapped in 7'07"8, about six seconds less than Carlos Pace, who joined him with the Brabham in the front row obtaining an excellent time: 7'00"0. For the Brazilian, a leap forward of 13 seconds compared to Friday. Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler also improved considerably, achieving the third and fourth times with the Tyrrells: 7'01"3 and 7'01"4. A remarkable result. Clay Regazzoni dropped to fifth position, i.e. on the third row of the Grand Prix starting grid, despite going from a time of 7' 04"3 to a time of 7'01"6. Those who failed to progress were bypassed. This is the case of Jochen Mass (protagonist of a frightening exit from the track at the Fontanella curve: car semi-destroyed, he was unharmed and able to immediately resume training with the reserve single-seater) and Emerson Fittipaldi. The two McLaren drivers finished in sixth and eighth positions. Fittipaldi, who was in the second row on Friday and will start in fourth row on Sunday, is a little worried. The Brazilian - who is at stake here for the World Championship - was also overtaken by Stuck (March).


"I had some problems with the tires, and then I punctured twice. The same happened to Mass, Depailler and other riders. The track is too dirty: there is debris and pieces of glass. An incredible thing. I have complained to representatives of the Automobile Club of Germany. For me, running on Sunday just got harder. We're not in Monte-Carlo, it's true, but starting from the fourth row means having to overtake a lot of riders, while Lauda will have the chance to get away from the lead right away. Even in England I started rather behind, but races like the one at Silverstone don't always happen. It will also be a matter of luck: whether the track will remain dirty, puncturing a tire or not will depend on the case".


The Brazilian will also have to hope for Peace. If Carlos manages to anticipate Lauda at the start, the race could get complicated for the Austrian. The Brabham team driver, however, specifies:


"Beating Niki and Ferrari will be quite difficult. My Brabham is finally fine. We put the correct ratios and I set the engine carburetor perfectly, but the eight-cylinder Cosworth has less power than the Ferrari engine. Here Lauda and Regazzoni must necessarily travel at a higher pace. Still, it's going to be a good race".


It's a bit of everyone's opinion, even if Lauda and Ferrari remain on a higher step. Except for the Austrian and Regazzoni, significant improvements were recorded by those who on Friday had obtained modest times for the possibilities of their cars, such as Carlos Pace and Jody Scheckter or Patrick Depailler, while others, such as Vittorio Brambilla (March) and Jean-Pierre Jarier (Shadow) have lost many positions. And a further element must be considered to fully evaluate the performance of the Italian machines: the heat was considerable and it is known that the twelve cylinders produced in Maranello suffer from high ambient temperatures. With fresco, what would have been Lauda's advantage? Luca Montezemolo, rightly happy, comments:


"Any appreciation of Lauda's feat is superfluous. Once again Ferrari is the car to beat. I'm sorry that Regazzoni is a little behind, but I expect him to help Niki a lot: Clay is there in the middle of the group, he will be able to assert himself. We will do everything possible to win, to practically bring home the world title. We should succeed, if abnormal things don't happen. I don't hope for luck, I just hope the race goes well. That would be enough. Unfortunately, a trifle can ruin everything. For example, today, in the first part of practice, Lauda wasted a lot of time finding the right tires: the wrong sets of tires happened to him three times".


If everything goes smoothly, then. Lauda could be ninety percent World Champion on Sunday evening. And if that weighs, a suspense that makes this German Grand Prix electrifying, which is about to attract over 300,000 spectators. The Nurburgring and its woods have been transformed into an immense tent city. People are waiting for a Ferrari show. Lauda against everyone, as always. On Sunday morning, the Formula 1 Constructors' Association announced its intention not to participate in the Canadian Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday 21 September at the Mosport circuit. The rumors are confirmed in an official press release issued shortly before the start of the German Grand Prix.


"Despite numerous requests from the Formula 1 Constructors' Association to have a meeting with the organizers of the Canadian and US Grands Prix, requests made in the last three months, only on 23 July, i.e. just six weeks before the start of the teams for North America, it was possible to meet. At the meeting and during subsequent discussions, the Canadian organizers refused to make the normal financial commitment necessary for racing outside Europe. At this point the members of the Association regret to report that they will not be participating in the 1975 Canadian Grand Prix. We are however pleased to confirm that an agreement has been reached with the organizers of the United States Grand Prix, which will be held regularly on 5 October at Watkins Glen".


Bernie Ecclestone, manager of Brabham and President of the Association, said:


"It is an economic and logistical problem. To go to Canada we have to face huge expenses for the transport of men and cars. Our requests have not been accepted and our decision not to race is irrevocable".


The package (fees, prizes, various items) that a European organizer pays to the teams is around 100.000 pounds. The others have to add £12.000 to £20.000 to cover the cost of chartering two air freighters and the price of tickets for pilots and mechanics. Naturally, the Canadian Grand Prix could still take place. According to the international regulations, even cars that do not properly belong to this formula can participate in a Formula 1 race valid for the title. However, the great protagonists would be missing. Finally, John Watson, who had already raced with Lotus in Germany, was hired by Colin Chapman for 1976. The English manager was negotiating Ronnie Peterson's move to the American team with those of Shadow. Between Shadow and Matra, which has prepared a 12-cylinder engine for the US team, there is an air of crisis. The French company would like to sign a contract with Shadow immediately, while the Americans intend to wait at least for the outcome of a race. While the future is being talked about in the pits, the fields and woods of the Nurburgring are transformed into an immense tent city. Spectators at the German Grand Prix number over 300.000. Many are in bathing suits: it's hot (30 °C) and it seems to be on the Riviera Romagnola (in Italy). Luca Montezemolo, with his left foot still in a cast, takes care of arranging men and equipment. There is also Peter Schetty, the former sporting director of the Maranello team, who lends a hand to the signalmen. It's a very delicate task, especially here: if a driver doesn't see a signal or it isn't promptly given to him, he stays in the dark for 7-8 minutes (the time of a lap). The drivers take a test lap of the Nurburgring. During the starting line-up, some suspense for Emerson Fittipaldi and Carlos Pace: the former had to have the front suspension adjusted, while the latter had the mechanics repair the fuel system on the fly. Sunday sees the Nurburgring in superb form, with not a cloud in the sky and every vantage point packed with spectators from all over Europe. Everyone sets off bravely on a complete lap to warm up, apart from Ertl with his newly acquired Hesketh 308/1 and Pace, whose Brabham is suffering from fuel pressure trouble. Everyone gets back to the starting grid safely and Pace and Ertl join them. There are 24 cars on the grid for the 1:30 p.m. start as Ashley’s practice accident precludes him from taking part, and Tony Trimmer just fails to go fast enough in the Japanese Maki to qualify.


While some drivers are uncertain about the start, Lauda makes no mistake and shoots off into the lead with Pace and Depailler hard behind him. Scheckter makes a complete nonsense, nearly burning out his clutch and almost everyone passes him, while Peterson is left behind with a slipping clutch, struggling along after the tail-enders. Before the leaders have gone from the sight of the pits Depailler has moved his Tyrrell into second place and is hard behind Lauda’s Ferrari as they start the first of the fourteen laps. Jochen Mass does not get far, as a front tyre bursts at the bottom of the steep descent at Fuchsrohe and the McLaren M23 destroys itself as it bounces about on the guardrails, the driver stepping out shaken but unhurt. Near the back of the field Donohue suffers a flat tyre on the Penske March 751 but manages to limp back to the pits. He has barely started his second lap when another tyre literally explodes, showering the track with bits of rubber and the March skates to rest at Aremberg. As the field starts its second lap the order is Lauda (Ferrari), Depailler (Tyrrell), Pace (Brabham), Reutemann (Brabham), Regazzoni (Ferrari), Stuck (March), Fittipaldi (McLaren), Hunt (Hesketh), Jarier (Shadow), Brambilla (March), Andretti (Parnelli), Watson (Lotus), Pryce (Shadow), Brice (Hill), Scheckter (Tyrrell), Jones Laffite (Williams), Ertl (Hesketh), Fittipaldi (Fittipaldi), van Lennep (Ensign), Lombardi (March) and Peterson who stops at the pits to see if his clutch slip could be cured. The Swede sets off again, but it is useless and he returns to the pits by the North Turn slip-road and retires. During the second lap Emerson Fittipaldi suffers a flat tyre and limps round to the pits after everyone has gone off on their third lap, except that is Mass, Peterson and Donohue who have all retired. Fittipaldi rejoins the race but is put off by a bad vibration that seems as if it is going to shake the car to pieces, so after three more laps he gives up. On the third lap Watson has the front suspension of his Lotus collapse and is fortunate to slide to a stop undamaged, not far from Donohue’s March, and Scheckter, who is just behind, has an anxious moment deciding on which side to pass the stricken Lotus. Brambilla runs into tyre trouble on this lap and retires, but near the front of the race, Regazzoni has stormed past Reutemann into fourth place, and Hunt has moved ahead of Stuck, and shortly afterwards the March engine breaks.


Andretti has to make a pit stop to replace a damaged wheel, caused when someone nudges him off course, and after five laps Regazzoni has moved up into third place, but not within sight of his team-mate who is still leading from Depailler. The Brabham of Carlos Pace has collected a puncture, and though he gets back to the pits for a new tyre, it drops him to ninth place and one lap later the rear suspension collapses and strands him out on the circuit. Depailler is really into the swing of the Nurburgring and is much too close to Lauda for the comfort of the Ferrari pit, for it is one thing to be a length behind on a slow hairpin but another thing altogether to still be that close on a 160 m.p.h. downhill sweep, as he is through Schwedenbreuz. At half-distance these two are out on their own, Regazzoni is safely in third place, followed by Reutemann and Hunt, though the Hesketh’s engine is misfiring badly at high revs. Then comes Scheckter, who has fought hard up to sixth place, followed by Jarier and Pryce; Laffite is a lonely ninth and at intervals come Brise, Jones, Ertl, van Lennep, Lombardi and Andretti. During the eighth lap Scheckter has a high-speed spectacular accident when something let go at the back and Jarier runs over some of the wreckage and punctures a rear tyre. He limps the stricken Shadow along to try and get back to the pits but the flat tyre disintegrates and wounds itself round a driveshaft and brings the whole lot to a grinding halt. The whole thing seems to be getting too much for the circus and on lap nine Regazzoni’s Ferrari engine loses all its oil pressure as he is starting the descent from the start and finish plateau. At this point he is actually in second place, for Depailler’s Tyrrell has broken a top rocker-arm on the front suspension and the Frenchman has limped into the pits. Hardly has Regazzoni expired than Brise goes off the road in a big way, wrecking the Hill but escaping uninjured, the crash being blamed on a rear suspension failure. Just when Lauda appears to have the race all sewn-up it is his turn to collect a flat tyre and this lets a surprised but happy Reutemann through into first place, followed by Pryce and Laffite, while Lauda limp along to the pits for a new tyre. In reality Hunt should be in second place but the Hesketh is in trouble with what seemd like clutch-slip or wheelspin and though Hunt starts lap 11 he realizes he was not going to finish it and turns off at the North Curve slip-road and returns to the pits. All the driving pins in a rear hub has sheared, only the limited-slip differential allowing the car to drive along through one wheel. There are still three more laps to go and it begins to look as if no-one would finish.


Team Tyrrell has obviously thought this and has replaced the broken rocker-arm on Depailler’s car and puts him back in the race, albeit a lap behind the existing leader. However, Reutemann has no intention of losing this race, and he picks a wary path over the stones that are causing some of the tyre troubles, stones swept onto the track by drivers sliding a rear wheel off the edge of the tarmac as they power out of corners. In second place Tom Pryce is in real trouble for the fuel filler cap behind the cockpit is leaking and apart from sitting in petrol he is suffering from the fumes getting up into his helmet. In a dazed and uncomfortable state he keeps going but is forced to slow his pace and Laffite passes him on lap 12 and Lauda passes him on the last lap, but the courageous Welshman keeps going to the finish. He undoes his safety harness Reutemann makes no mistake and comes home a delighted winner a long way ahead of Laffite who has driven Frank Williams’ car in his usual determined fashion and has profited from others drivers’ misfortunes, much to the joy of Frank himself. Another struggling team usually at the back who enjoys equal fortune is Morris Nunn’s Ensign team, van Lennep netting a well-deserved sixth place with a non-stop run in the latest Ensign in only its second race. Almost unnoticed is Alan Jones in fifth place with the Hill car, having driven a good, tidy race without trouble and moving up the leaderboard as others fall by the wayside. On the penultimate lap Andretti coasts to a stop, out of fuel due to a leakage that has been seeping into the cockpit. Seventh and eighth are Lella Lombardi and Harald Ertl, the Hesketh driver having to ease up in the closing stages when he runs out of rear brakes. Last, but by no means least, is the dynamic little Patrick Depailler, a lap behind the leader but driving as hard as ever, because he is not one to give up in the face of adversity. Niki Lauda and Ferrari will still have to suffer for a while. Emerson Fittipaldi retired, but the Austrian failed to win the German Grand Prix, and therefore ninety percent of the world title. The race saw the success of the Argentine Carlos Reutemann and Brabham, ahead of the almost European Formula 2 champion, the French Jacques Laffite, and his Williams. Lauda finished third after dominating the race: a puncture slowed him down, and the mechanics of the Maranello team were excellent in changing the front left tyre, allowing him to limit the damage; in this regard, Teddy Mayer, the manager of the McLaren team, accuses Ferrari of having employed eight mechanics to change the tire punctured by Lauda. It was a bit like the Grand Prix of punctures, given that many riders were slowed down or stopped by tire injuries.


It was the turn of Fittipaldi, Mass (who went off the track), Brambilla, Jarier and others. However, as the riders themselves acknowledged, the fault does not lie with the tyres. At the end of the German Grand Prix , Goodyear, the tire company that supplies all the Formula 1 teams, issues a statement to explain the high number of punctures.


"The cause lies in the many debris that was on the track, not in tire defects. We have invited the organizers to provide for the future".


The circuit was strewn with debris: pieces of earth, stones, gravel. Emerson Fittipaldi comments:


"Not everyone can drive on asphalt. And here, when you put a wheel out of the way, you bring in a lot of dirt".


The organizers should be quicker to clean up the track, but this one is over 22 kilometers long. How do you do it? It's an old Nurburgring problem and it's unlikely that it can be solved. Lauda too, therefore, paid his toll of bad luck. The anger is greater because the Austrian was leading a splendid race: nine laps in the lead, the ninth even ahead of his teammate Clay Regazzoni, author of a beautiful, gritty comeback, after an unhappy start. And, a very bitter combination, in the same tenth passage which marked the collapse of Lauda's ambitions, Regazzoni retired due to engine failure. Fittipaldi had dropped out on the second lap. From that moment on, Lauda was almost champion, also given the cancellation of the Canadian Grand Prix. However, the Austrian's situation remains excellent, indeed it has strengthened. Niki reached 51 points, Reutemann overtook Fittipaldi: 34 points against 53. The other drivers in contention did not score any points (Hunt, Pace, Schcckter retired). Lauda therefore now has a 17-point lead over his closest pursuer, whereas before he had 14. Three points more, and there are only three races left (Austria, Italy and the United States) until the end of the World Championship. Another solid step towards winning the title. Reutemann is very sincere about this.


"I have no illusions that I can still compete with Lauda. The championship is over, I should always win it and Niki will not arrive. Why should this happen? Ferrari is a competitive and robust car. Even today, for example, if Lauda hadn't had to stop to replace the tyre, he would have easily won. With Regazzoni retiring, I would have finished second, nothing more".


The Argentine's speech is logical and sensible, but that victory that got out of hand in an instant gives a feeling of bitterness to the Ferrari men. Luca Montezemolo confesses:


"For a moment I thought that Lauda and Ferrari had really won the title. Niki was first, Regazzoni second. Patience. It seems to me that Lauda has kept his promises in practice, and that our car and our team once again made a good impression in front of everyone. It was a roulette race with these punctures, but I'm not complaining, after all, Lauda is closer to the title, I have a lot of confidence. One thing is certain: we will continue to work with the utmost commitment, with all tenacity".

Niki Lauda, as usual, is serene, impassive.


"Puff , the tire sagged. I hadn't touched anywhere, I had carefully avoided the pieces left by Schcckter's car at the Karussell. I really don't know where I could have drilled. I did almost seven kilometers with the tire tearing. The mechanics were very quick in the change: I thank them from the bottom of my heart. For eight laps I had Depailler and Tyrrell behind me, but I didn't worry. I had a lead of two or three seconds, enough to keep the situation under control. When Regazzoni arrived, I saw the signal and thought we could take first and second place. But I consider my placement equally positive, given that the others, especially Fittipaldi. they got no points. After all, here I was trying to win, but in my opinion it's always the same: if you can't assert yourself, at least you need to get as many points as possible".


Reutemann's opinion on the fate of the world championship is clear: Fittipaldi's, although more cautious, appears quite similar.


"Niki and I were unlucky, but he was less than me, because he was able to partially remedy the puncture. I'm not saying that the championship is over yet, because in racing you never know, certainly the situation has become very heavy for me. I have 18 points of detachment. I should be really very lucky in the next races".


Clay Regazzoni reiterates the concept expressed on the eve of the German Grand Prix.


"Even if he didn't win, Lauda is already a champion: even more so today. At the start, I was hampered by Sector , then I started walking well. Pace got in my way a bit. Unfortunately, the oil pressure dropped under braking. I managed to get behind Niki, but on the descent towards Adenau, after the pits, the engine stalled. I stopped and amen, I was a spectator".


There were several engines that gave way: the Nurburgring forces the engines to accelerate violently, and at the same time to maintain very high revs in the long straight ahead of the grandstands. Many suspensions also broke. The bumps, even if smoothed, of this terrible circuit do not forgive the most fragile cars. Now the Formula 1 circus moves to Austria, to Zeltweg. Will it perhaps be at home that Lauda and Ferrari will finally be able to obtain the title they have by now amply deserved with a simply splendid season? In Italy, it is hoped, also because in the general crisis that has affected the car sector, the collapse of sales in the grand touring sector stands out with particular importance. Sports cars from Modena hardly find a few buyers. Maserati is in liquidation, Ferrari has resorted to layoffs for 600 of its 1150 employees for two weeks, with the intention of lightening the storage of unsold cars. The Lamborghini is in similar conditions. The situation is hopeless. De Tomaso, the Italian-Argentine manufacturer who remains the only grand tourer manufacturer in Modena to have no problems, is willing to buy the Maserati, benefiting however from an intervention by Gepi. The agreements between Gepi and De Tomaso have already been finalized, thanks also to the allocation guaranteed by Parliament in favor of public finance. Maserati would be the first grand touring car manufacturer to face the crisis by resorting to a production conversion. There is talk of motorcycles, a sector in which De Tomaso already has considerable experience, and of a mysterious three-wheeled vehicle with very low consumption. Before reaching this result, however, the not easy purchase of the company, now in the hands of Citroen, should take place. The French house has a debt situation of around 12 billion in Italy, which it could remedy with the sale of Maserati. The operation is considered too onerous by De Tomaso and by Gepi, since the company's warehouses are poorly equipped, the obsolescence of the machinery is considerable, the staff is excessive compared to the needs of many departments and the current 800 employees should be brought to 600, and perhaps to decrease further when measures to convert production are used. Even for Ferrari we are talking, but very hypothetically, of new products not exclusively linked to competitions.


A first substantial step towards new productions will be taken in September 1976, when Scaglietti, the body shop that is part of Ferrari, will begin the production of tractor cabs, following orders placed by Fiat Trattori of Modena. The union organizations attribute great importance to the conversion of production, which they had already indicated as a means of overcoming the crisis of the grand tourers. Recalling the development that is intended to be attributed to public transport, it had been suggested, albeit indirectly and generically, to evaluate the possibility of also obtaining engines for coaches and coaches from the Maranello factory. The subject, barely touched upon, seems to have fallen into thin air, because a conversion requires surveys and market studies that are neither quick nor easy . Ferrari relies on the prestige of international successes to revive its sales and normalize the situation, which sees a stock of 471 cars, which should drop to 224 by the end of 1975, also resorting to the expedient of suspending overtime work. Ferrari's problem does not seem serious. Moreover, the management of the plant has asked for just two weeks of layoffs for a limited number of internal sectors, ensuring the full efficiency of the racing department and customer assistance. The problem of Lamborghini appears more complex, which refers to the crisis of grand touring cars, but which has no if not indirect links with the situation in Modena, since the complex operates in the province of Bologna. The request for layoffs was quite sensitive and the solution to the crisis is also entrusted to market research and possible conversions. There is talk with some insistence of an industrial vehicle that could be produced by the Sant'Agata Bolognese complex. The state of difficulty has been recognized for the entire grand touring car sector and this has made the government and trade unions' commitment to defending employment levels more decisive, especially at Maserati, but negotiations with Citroen are stalled, despite the mediation of the Italian minister Donat-Cattin. A solution will perhaps be found at an international level in the complex of trade and economic relations between Italy and France, by evaluating the unfortunate experience conducted by Citroen: an experience which ended with a large deficit but certainly not attributable to the specialized Italian workers, above all to those of Maserati, which remains a highly prestigious complex precisely due to the ability of its technicians and employees. 


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