22 into 16 won't go...

Spanish GP, Jarama, 1970
People accuse F1 of being too political in the modern era, but distasteful spats are by no means a fresh invention
Writer Simon Arron, illustrator Guy Allen

The 1969 Spanish Grand Prix had been laced with controversy – Team Lotus’s collapsing wing pillars triggering a couple of massive accidents and, subsequently, a regulatory rethink. One year on, Formula 1 was flirting with a different strain of sinister.

There had been only 14 cars on the grid for Spain’s previous GP, at Montjuich Park, but now there were 22 drivers scrapping for just 16 available places at Jarama – as many as the promoter claimed its insurer permitted.

The selection policy was on the wayward side of odd: irrespective of practice times, it was announced that 10 grid positions would be pre-allocated, one each to a factory driver from Ferrari, Lotus, Brabham, BRM, McLaren, Matra and March, plus the three world champions plying their trade elsewhere – Jackie Stewart, John Surtees and Graham Hill. The rest would have to qualify for six spots, on the basis of practice times, but the organisers kept changing their minds about which sessions counted and which didn’t, sometimes announcing the fact retrospectively.

On the eve of the race, March director Max Mosley believed he’d forged a deal to get all 22 cars into the race, but that was just another thing that could – and would – be changed.

Four non-qualifiers – Jo Siffert, Andrea de Adamich, John Miles and Alex Soler-Roig – attempted to claim a place on the grid, but arguments descended into shoving matches and baton-wielding police became involved.

The race eventually started with a field of 16, Stewart winning in Ken Tyrrell’s March 701, but DSJ hadn’t been terribly impressed. In the May 1970 edition of Motor Sport he wrote: “Never has a Grand Prix been so fraught with wrangles and complaints, a disease that used to affect sports car racing when Grand Prix racing was a good, clean sport. Since the introduction of big-business interests, Grand Prix racing has gone to the dogs.”