ONE thing about the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch is that you know exactly where it is. In Brazil there is a variety to the location of the venue for the Brazilian Grand Prix. Some say it is at Rio de Janeiro, others say the Jacarepagua circuit, many describe it as the Rio Centro Autodromo, or the Autodromo Riocentro and those with space and time say the Autodromo Internacional do Rio de Janeiro, while the “with it” people talk loosely of it being at Rio. It is without doubt in Brazil, unlike the forthcoming Swiss Grand Prix which is going to be in France! The recently built Autodromo at which the Brazilian Grand Prix was held does not seem to excite those that go to it, mainly because there is a much better circuit at Interlagos, where the race used to be held. Our man on the scene, A.H. describes it as being like Jarama without the hills. As Jarama is built on undulating scrubland in Spain, and is one of the duller European circuits it easy to see why most people are not impressed with Rio de Janeiro’s autodromo.
The fact that it was blistering hot and drivers succumbed to the heat was quite like “the good old days” as in 1955 in Buenos Aires and 1959 at Reims, when drivers were prostrate with the heat. At one of the Buenos Aires races which was in two Heats the drivers flaked out in the interval but recovered to start in the second Heat. Later Stirling Moss was telling me about it and how the Mercedes-Benz team, for whom he was driving, had a sort of medical tent behind the pits in which he was able to lie down. Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins were listening to this narrative and said to Stirling “Didn’t you get a jab with the needle?” to which Moss asked “What needle?”. Hawthorn and Collins then explained that they had staggered off to the circuit medical centre where an Argentinian doctor had injected something into their arms which made them like new. They had stormed off from the start of the second heat but then the drug had worn off and they slowly pooped out again. In his special tent Moss had none of this sort of treatment and had still been feeling clapped-out when he started the second Heat. He said “I was wondering what got into you two at the start of the second Heat, I just couldn’t believe you were fitter than me”. They were the “good old days”. The actual heat in a cockpit is not the serious aspect of such conditions, it is the rate at which the driver perspires that is critical, which is called the “sweat-rate” and under conditions such as those in Brazil some of the drivers must have been closer to death than they have ever been by their driving skills, or lack of them. In Aviation Medicine where the human body is monitored accurately, the doctors would never let a man get as close to his limit of “sweat-rate” as a racing driver does, even under experimental conditions.
What was very clear by the way he was driving, was that Nelson Piquet learnt a lot last year during his battles with Alan Jones. The way he leant on Villeneuve, causing the French-Canadian to get his left-side wheels on the grass and spin off, was ruthlessly classical. Just the sort of thing Jonesey-boy was doing last year, and the way Piquet dealt with Rosberg’s unruly driving was beautiful to see on the Television play-back after the race. Rosberg dodged so the left and deliberately blocked Piquet down the straight, in a sort of schoolboy Formula Ford manoeuvre, whereupon Piquet shot out to the right, zapped by Rosberg on the wrong side and chopped him up very neatly as they went into the left-hand bend. My feeling is that if Rosberg goes on driving like he did in Brazil he is going to come to a sticky end, because someone is going to help him off the track into the barriers at some time. Without doubt he has a lot of courage and is very brave, but he doesn’t show too much in the way of judgement. Now that he is in a Williams and up amongst the front runners he is in a different class altogether. Possibly he is out his depth. We shall see.
At the 6,000ft altitude of Kyalami the song was “It’ll be different at sea-level”. On the edge of the Atlantic at Rio de Janeiro there were two turbo-powered cars on the front of the grid, and in the opening stages turbo-cars were running 1-2-3. Seems as if height is not all that important. Perhaps we ought to run a race below sea-level, then perhaps the Cosworth supporters will really admit there is no substitute for horsepower and BHP is really the name of the game in motor racing. To listen to some commentators you would think it was immoral and against the rules to have 50-80 BHP more than your rivals. — D.S. J.