In the jargon of motor racing there are numerous clichés that are often made in jest, but which are only too true. Saying such as “the name of the game is winning” or “finishing first isn’t everything, but it’s better than being second”, or “it’s the name in the Golden Book that is important”, and recently a well-known racing motor-cyclist from Derby said: “It’s first under the linen that counts”, meaning the first under the chequered flag. This fellow, John Cooper by name, but no relation to previous well-known John Coopers, achieved enormous acclaim by reason of beating World Champion Agostini on two occasions, riding a British BSA three-cylinder. There were people who were quick to point out that Cooper’s bike was 750 c.c. against Agostini’s 500-c.c. MV Agusta and it was to these people that the bespectacled Cooper made his classic remark. He also won a much-publicised race at the American Ontario Speedway, using the power of his 750-c.c. BSA to nip by his Japanese two-stroke opposition as they accelerated from the last corner. Once again there were those who decried Cooper’s win because he was on the biggest and most powerful motorcycle and once again his classic remark was most appropriate.
This season there have been numerous drivers in Grand Prix racing who have made a good impression and have had their supporters praising them loudly, but they did not win a Grand Prix. Some of those who did win a Grand Prix or Formula One race caused their opponents to say, “Yes, but…”, either because some luck came into the results, or there was not much opposition or the chap who was second had led for most of the race. The Italian Grand Prix at Monza was a splendid case in point when all the drivers who had made the running were out-smarted by Gethin to the last corner. Never has John Cooper’s remark been so appropriate, “It’s first under the linen that counts.” For this reason I am reviewing the 1971 Grand Prix and Formula One season with photographs of all the drivers who achieved something during the season, and as most of the photographs of them during races have shown them completely covered up in a Bell-Star helmet and face-mask, so that readers have had to take our word for who is in the car, I am portraying them all bare-headed and bare-faced.
You only have to look at the list of achievements under each photograph to see who was the 1971 Champion driver, the points gathered in Championship events being of little importance when “the name of the game is winning” and personally, if a World Championship was acclaimed by points total gathered from consistent second or third places I would not be too impressed, though I would appreciate his consistency. The six Grand Prix victories by Stewart show that he is not only a Grand Prix driver, but a successful one, and the other ten drivers depicted are successful to a lesser degree. There were other drivers who did great things and one day very soon must surely win a Grand Prix, high on the list being Peterson, while Emerson Fittipaldi cannot be far away from winning another Grand Prix. He won the United States GP in 1970. Schenken is another drier who has made good progress and when he wins a Grand Prix it will be no surprise, but when others like Wisell, Pescarolo, Beltoise or Oliver win a Grand Prix it will be a surprise.
Two of this year’s winners will regrettably never be able to win another race but their names are indelibly written in the Golden Book, these being Rodriguez and Siffert, both natural “chargers” and winners that caused no surprise. Their deaths in minor races, Rodriguez in a sports-car race in Germany and Siffert in the end-of-season event at Brands Hatch, were black spots on the 1971 scene, but the racing world does not forget Courage, Rindt and McLaren or those that died before them, like Clark and Bandini, nor will they forget the “Mexican Bandit” and the “Crazy Swiss”.
New names to the winners’ list are Cevert and Gethin, the former having worked hard and conscientiously all season as number two to Stewart, the fruits of his work giving him victory in the United States Grand Prix when Stewart ran into trouble. A victory for Gethin seemed to be on the cards quite a time ago but with the McLaren team he got nowhere; his change to the BRM team saw him up with the competitors and he thoroughly deserved his last corner victory at Monza. His victory in the minor Brands Hatch race was an unhappy one, the race being stopped after Siffert’s accident, and though it was almost certain that Fittipaldi would have got by had the race run its full distance, “it’s first under the linen that counts”. —D. S. J.