#226 1973 Monaco Grand Prix

2022-07-05 01:00

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#226 1973 Monaco Grand Prix

As all the teams gather in the pit area on Thursday afternoon it almost seems a pity to disturb the happy scene by starting up a racing engine. There

As all the teams gather in the pit area on Thursday afternoon it almost seems a pity to disturb the happy scene by starting up a racing engine. There is a short delay while some oil spilt by a Formula Three car is cleared up, and then like an explosion it all begins to happen, and it is Stewart in Tyrrell 006/2 who leads the way out onto the revised circuit. In fact, he continues to lead the way, setting fastest practice lap during this first one-and-a-half-hour session. His teammate Cevert in Tyrrell 006 is not far behind him. Every year there has to be some technical problem to worry the drivers, and this year’s problem is brakes. As the cars get bigger and heavier and faster they take more stopping and, added to this, the tyres are giving more adhesion so the brakes can be used harder, and circuits are getting smaller rather than longer so the brakes get less rest to cool down, and so it goes on. Bigger calipers, thicker pads, thicker discs, more cooling, air ducts, air scoops, tubes, deflectors, everything is being tried and the Lockhee and Girling technicians are being over-worked, and the heat being generated is melting the grease in universal joints and hubs, and it is all quite fascinating. The problem used to be roll-bars, then it was spring-rates and shock absorbers, then ignition units, then tyre vibrations, then differentials. This year it’s brakes. Fortunately there are bigger, more powerful, heavier and faster racing cars than Formula One cars, like the Can-Am McLarens and the Porsche 917/10 turbocharged sports cars, so that both brake firms have information and material to draw on to solve the Grand Prix problems. In addition to all the regular Formula 1 runners the field is joined by Merzario, taking over the second Ferrari, and two English drivers with private teams courageously tackling an entry into the sanctity of Formula 1.


These are James Hunt driving a March for the Hesketh Racing team, the car all pure and white and Lord Hesketh’s own personal property, he being his own sponsor if you feel a team must be sponsored these days, and David Purley driving his own March and publicising his family’s Lec Refrigeration firm. The only person missing from the scene is Peter Revson, who is on his way from the disastrous Indianapolis 500-mile race, though his car is in the pits as a T-car for Hulme. Twenty-six drivers are entered and only twenty-five are going to start, so there is a bit of a scrabble not to be odd-man out, though until Revson arrives there are no problem. Just as no-one likes to be last, everyone likes to be first, and in addition they can all see that the slow section is going to hold things up if you are not in the lead at that point on the opening lap, for previously the fast scrabble down to the old Gasworks Hairpin is one of the few places where you can be brave and overtake, and that is now gone. The Lotus team are back to three cars, as Peterson’s second one at Zolder had yet to be repaired, so the Swede has to be careful for there is no question of borrowing Fittipaldi’s spare car. Although he is careful it does not stop him from being fast and he vies closely with Stewart for fastest time of the day, being only three-tenths of a second behind the Scot. The Brazilian World Champion is dragging his feet again, trying both his cars, but not being very impressive with either of them, brakes still being his main worry, until the gear-lever linkage on R7 gives trouble, whereupon he switches to R5 until that is sidelined with clutch bothers, so that in spite of having two cars he is standing around in the pits for quite a time. Although Ickx is third fastest with his Ferrari he is almost a second slower than Stewart, which is a lot on the Monaco circuit, and the new section added six seconds to the lap time and took some 6 m.p.h. off the average speed.


Hulme tries Revson’s McLaren briefly to make sure it is working properly and Stewart goes out in the spare Tyrrell, back in standard form since Zolder, as is his own car. The first signs of trouble from the bumps and tight turns are seen when Cevert’s Tyrrell stops with a broken gearbox. While some drivers are taking a long time to get into the swing of the new circuit, others plunge straight in and twitched their way from one corner to the next, notable among these being Merzario, Follmer and Ganley, while Amon is not disgracing himself with the Tecno. Through all the twitching from right to left, accelerating, braking and generally untidy scratching through the new track, one driver stands out way above all the others, and that is Stewart, for he makes his Tyrrell flow smoothly and effortlessly through it all in the same way he does through fast corners. After the Formula Three cars woke everyone’s slumbers on Friday morning the Grand Prix cars appear again, after an early breakfast, and practice runs from 8:40 a.m. until 10:10 a.m., or thereabouts, and once more it is Stewart who impresses with his smooth driving and the easy way he makes the Tyrrell flow through the succession of corners. He improves his best time by exactly one second, doing 1'27"5, but all the while Peterson is with him, now being only two-tenths of a second slower, whereas on the first day he has been three-tenths slower. While Stewart looks as though he could go on all day at this pace, and surely can, Peterson never gives the same impression. Give a dog a bad name and he’ll keep it for ever. Somehow one just feels that Peterson can not keep it up, or the Lotus will falter or an accident will happen; no doubt, all very unjust thinking, but honest thoughts nevertheless. Also driving smoothly and unflurried and never looking fast is Hulme, the McLaren riding the bump out of the new hairpin bend better than most, and his result is a mere one-tenth of a second slower than Peterson’s time, giving him third fastest of the morning.


While all this smooth driving is going on Ickx clouts a kerb with his Ferrari, which bends the front suspension, and parking it at the far end of the circuit he returns to the pits and has a go in Merzario’s car. However, it is not to his liking and he soon gives it back to the skinny Italian. The entire Brabham team has come to a grinding halt with various mechanical problems, the BT37 and one mechanic being all that is left in the pits, the two BT42 cars being abandoned out on the circuit. The UOP-Shadow team are not much better off for Follmer’s rear aerofoil breaks away from its mountings and flies up in the air and into an empty spectator enclosure, and the mountings on Oliver’s car are found to be cracking. Hill’s Shadow is all right as his aerofoil is in its original designed position the works cars experimenting with theirs move farther back. Jarier’s works March breaks the left-rear driveshaft, and most teams are keeping an eye on the rear end of their cars generally, in view of the pounding that shafts, differentials, gearboxes, hubs and suspension components are getting. With the end of the second practice a normal pattern is beginning to take shape, with Stewart, Peterson, Hulme, Emerson Fittipaldi, Cevert and Lauda, in that order, in the Ace category, the first three being Super-Aces, and Ganley, Beltoise, Amon, Hailwood, Pace, Merzario and Regazzoni being in the hardtrier category of those who gets a lap in under 1'30"0. For a first time out in such company Hunt is well up among the odds and sods, just one-tenth of a second slower than Beuttler. As Revson has still not arrived from Indianapolis everyone is still on the starting grid, but there is no doubt that the American will slot straight in among the O and S, and even with only one practice session left will probably be among the hard-triers, though after the 180-200 m.p.h. of Indianapolis the new circuit of Monaco is going to be a bit of an anti-climax. On Saturday practice takes place in the afternoon on a circuit made slippery and polished by two Formula 3 heats, so the overall tempo is slower for the fast drivers.


However, Revson has appeared and this makes the tail-enders get their skates on for someone who is going to get left off the starting grid. There is no sign of the front row of the grid being altered, with Stewart and Peterson side by side, but Cevert and Lauda improve their positions and Ickx retrieves a semblance of hope for the Ferrari team, his car repaired after its kerb-striking incident. The UOP-Shadows are back in the field, their aerofoils re-positioned and braced by struts running forward to the engine air-intake; these struts have been part of the original design and were used in South Africa but subsequently discarded. Practice has barely begun before the next rear-end strikes trouble, and this is Peterson’s Lotus, which breaks its gearbox. During the afternoon Beltoise has his B.R.M. break its outer universal joint on the left drive-shaft, just as he is about to leave the pits, and Ganley’s Iso-Marlboro Williams breaks a universal joint in a drive-shaft as he accelerates from the hairpin. Oliver arrives at the pits with his left-front nose fin all crumpled, having got it under someone’s rear wheel! just as practice is ending Follmer and Merzario have a violent coming together up the hill from Ste. Devote, and as the dust settles they can both be heard claiming it was his fault. The result is a written-off Shadow, with all the wheels torn off, and a badly bent Ferrari. At this point de Adamich is about to be left off the grid, but one look at the Shadow is enough to remove Follmer from the list, in twentieth place, and move the remainder up one. As expected, Revson gets  among the hard-triers. Now that the revised circuit has been used in anger, with Stewart on pole position with 1'27"5, the organisers do some sums and estimate that the proposed 80 laps might run for over two hours, and as the regulations impose this time limit, the race is shortened to 78 laps to be on the safe side. It is suggested that Formula One drivers, being artisans, are paid by the hour, and extra time on Sundays rates double pay, but this seems unlikely.


To try and describe race day last year to anyone on the morning of the 1973 race, with the sun blazing down, the town packed out, the harbour full of yachts, the pits full of dollybirds and hangers-on, most of whom had long since given up trying to justify their existence, would be a waste of time. Suffice to say that Monte Carlo is in great form as the Prince and Princess arrive in a royal Daimler, and then drive a lap of the circuit in a Mercedes-Benz, to start the official proceedings. The Grand Prix contenders (and pretenders) have a brief warm-up session during which Hulme’s Cosworth V8 seems a bit down on power, and his gear ratios are changed in the Hewland gearbox in the hope it will pull better out of the tight corners. Merzario tries out his rebuilt Ferrari and Team Tyrrell, Team Lotus, Team Surtees and BRM all have their training cars standing by in case of last-minute trouble with any of the team cars. From the 2 x 2 x 2 grid Cevert shoots past Peterson and Stewart to lead the field on the opening lap, and Regazzoni follows him through to tuck in behind the Swede and ahead of the Scot. Cevert’s glory lasts but one lap for on the second lap he clouts a kerb with his right-front wheel and punctures the tyre, finishing the lap after everyone but Galli has gone by. This leaves Peterson out on his own for Regazzoni is not fast enough to keep up and though in second place he has a steaming mob queueing up behind him, for overtaking is not easy. Heading the queue is Stewart, cursing himself for being beaten away at the start, and desperately looking for a way by before Peterson gets too far away. Right with him is Fittipaldi, Lauda, Ickx and Wilson Fittipaldi, ahead of Amon and Ganley. This queue lasts for five laps, during which time Peterson is getting further and further away, and as the high-speed crocodile pours out of the arcade down to the chicane the leading B.R.M. locks its wheels and goes skating up the escape road, out of harm’s way.


Now the race can start to sort itself out, and while Regazzoni stops at the pits to say his brakes do not work properly Stewart and Fittipaldi pour on the coal and gather in the leading Lotus, spacing the others out behind them. Just about at this point the leading car is in trouble with dropping fuel pressure to the injection unit, and though Peterson has switched on the electric fuel pump, to try and boost up the pressure from the mechanical one, it is not enough to give full power and he gradually drops back. Now it is Stewart’s turn to take the lead, which he does on lap 8, with Fittipaldi following him through into second place. On lap 9 Lauda, Ickx and Wilson Fittipaldi are by the Swede and pulling away from him. After three more laps things settle down, with Stewart leading Fittipaldi by just over three seconds and stalemate is setting in, the gap remaining very constant while each waits for the other to make a mistake or for the Tyrrell or the Lotus to fail. Then come Lauda, Ickx and Wilson Fittipaldi, one behind the other, the elder Brazilian brother driving the race of his life, and they are followed by Peterson in the sick Lotus leading Amon in the Tecno, Ganley, Hulme, Hailwood, Pace and Jarier, all nose to tail, and then Revson, Hunt, Reutemann and Merzario in a procession with the rest trailing along and Cevert right at the back but gaining ground after his pit stop. Round and round the streets of the town the procession winds, there being little hope of anyone doing any overtaking unless the chap in front is nice and gives way, and as they are all still on the same lap this is not likely to happen. All that can happen is trouble, and Amon is the first to drop out of the merry-go-round when he goes into the pits with his left-front tyre flat, rejoining the race at the back. Cevert gets by three of the slow cars at the back when they move over, these being Galli, Hill and Oliver, and then Stewart is amongst them, about to lap them. Although Cevert is catching the slower cars.


Stewart is catching him, and as the Scot is weaving through the slow traffic Fittipaldi is following him through and not losing too much ground. While the Lauda, Ickx, W. Fittipaldi trio is lapping the tail of the field the Austrian driver’s gearbox breaks, which leaves Ickx into third place, but not a very impressive one, for Stewart and Fittipaldi are well out of sight and drawing away all the time. The elder and taller Fittipaldi is really enjoying himself, keeping his Brabham BT42 right on the Ferrari tail and going strongly. The Tecno disappears from the scene when Amon finds it swooping from side to side under braking, and after 30 laps Stewart has enlarged his lead to 8.6 sec. over the black and gold Lotus, but is conscious of the ever-present threat. Having galloped past the Os and Ss with comparative ease Cevert is now up behind the hardtriers and they have no intention of moving over, so he is stuck there for a time, in fifteenth place behind Reutemann, who is up behind Merzario, who is up behind Revson, who is up behind Hunt, the new boy leading this group worthily. The other new boy, Purley, has been chasing de Adamich down near the back of the race and after 32 laps his engine dies in the slow section. The fuel collector tank on the March has split and he simply runs out of petrol, and has to push the car to the end of the new section while everyone squeezes by under yellow flags. Cevert eventually gets past Reutemann, but is then behind Revson, who is not one to be impressed by a pretty face, and while he is stuck there Stewart comes up to lap them. Stewart nipped by his team-mate, and while a Tyrrell with flashing eyes and a French smile is one thing in the mirror, a Tyrrell with the beady eyes of a ruthless Scot in the mirror is another thing altogether, and Revson moves over. Cevert sees his chance and tucks in tight behind his team-leader and follows him by the McLaren. The same thing happens with Merzario and then with Hunt, as they move over to let Stewart through to lap them.

In quick succession Cevert is up three places and he continues to stick to Stewart’s tail, even though he is a lap behind Fittipaldi is still in second place, but not quite so quick through the traffic and at 40 laps he is 13 sec. behind Stewart. In third place comes Ickx, still followed by W. Fittipaldi, then Hulme who has struggled past Peterson, followed by Ganley and Beltoise, except that while on his fortieth lap Beltoise slides wide out of the Casino square, strikes the guard rail which crumples the left-rear suspension and nearly tears the wheel off, and with only three brakes effective and not much steering control the B.R.M. clangs into the guard-rail at the foot of the hill and smashes the front end pretty thoroughly. For what it is worth this let Hailwood into eighth place, about to be lapped by Stewart with Cevert in tow, so Hailwood is almost immediately relegated to ninth place. As this happens Ganley’s Iso-Marlboro Williams breaks a rear drive-shaft universal, just as he had in practice and at the same point on the circuit. This loses him a steady seventh place and lets everyone move up one. Without warning Ickx disappears from third place when his Ferrari breakes its right-hand drive-shaft, right at the spline roots, a most unusual happening for a Ferrari, and this lets a delighted Wilson Fittipaldi into third place behind his kid-brother. Hulme is now fourth, but not for long as a bolt loosens off and falls out of his gear linkage, and a pit-stop to have it replaced drops him back. At the same time Reutemann retires at the pits, his gearbox locked in 4th gear, jammed there by a broken 2nd-gear pinion. The two Tyrrells are still circulating nose-to-tail and anyone who has not been paying attention can be forgiven for thinking they are first and second, instead of first and fifth and a lap apart. For ten laps nothing much happens, and then Merzario’s Ferrari falls by the wayside with sagging oil pressure, and it begins to look as though there will hardly be enough finishers to collect all the prizes, and all the 12-cylinder-engined cars are gone.


At 67 laps Hailwood gets a flat right front tyre and the pit stop to change it dropps him from sixth place to eighth place, and at 70 laps, with eight to go, an unexpected situation arises, that could have resulted in a glorious end of race fracas, but somehow just fizzles out. Wilson Fittipaldi’s fine drive comes to an end on lap 72, when his fuel system fails to pick up the last few gallons of petrol and the engine dies. Stewart has everything in hand with an 8-sec. lead over Fittipaldi, with Cevert between them on the road but a lap behind. All three of them are closing up on Peterson whose Lotus is still running poorly compared with the leaders, and nobody likes to be lapped in the closing stages of a race, especially as it will also let Cevert by as well, which would put him into the third place, which the Swede is holding. With Stewart taking it easy on the last few laps, Fittipaldi is closing up and being encouraged to try that much harder. So the scene is set for a super scrap between two Tyrrells and two Lotus, with no one else in the way. If Peterson could baulk Stewart (in a gentlemanly Jack Brabham fashion, of course) it would help Fittipaldi to catch the Tyrrell, but equally Cevert is in a similar position to baulk Fittipaldi in his chase. On the other hand if he sticks with Stewart he is in a position to snatch third place from Peterson. It is the Frenchman who is the first one to chicken out when he sees Fittipaldi pressing in his mirrors and ahead can see Stewart shaping up to lap Peterson. He drops right back and says afterwards that he could see the makings of a nasty, rough situation in which someone might get hurt and wanted no part of it. Peterson is so depressed by his miserable race that he hardly notices Stewart going by on lap 74 and the whole affair comes to nought, with Fittipaldi setting a new fastest lap on the last lap and finishing 1.3 sec. behind Stewart. Oh well! It has been rather a dull race anyway, but something has gone out of Grand Prix racing. The problem is to decide when it went. Was it with Farina, Behra, Brabham, Bandini, Rodriguez, or wasn’t it ever really there? Perhaps it is just that the wrong people get into the right situations.


Lara Ferrari


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