D.S.J.’s comments in last month’s Continental Notes, concerning “sideways” drivers such as Rindt and Peterson, prompt the following thoughts:
I am not convinced that Rindt really did learn “that you went faster if you relaxed and drove smoothly”, although it is fairly often stated that he became a much smoother and more mature driver in 1970. True, we did not see him throwing the Lotus 72 sideways into the corners with the abandon which had characterised his earlier career, but was this because of a change in the driver’s make-up or was it in some way connected with the nature of the car? Surely the Lotus 72 was (and is) a car capable of a high-cornering speed, but very tricky to handle, even after suspension modifications had endowed it with a little more “feel”. I believe that Miles and Wisell, and perhaps even Fittipaldi, have appeared slower than they really are because they have had to learn Formula One driving with a difficult machine. (Think of Miles’ comparatively impressive performance in a BRM.) It certainly looks a difficult customer to drive on the limit.
Rindt clearly had the talent and experience to master the Lotus 72, and if he appeared smooth in it then that was because he was treating it with respect and was adapting his style to suit a car which just would not tolerate being thrown around. How he would have driven on returning to, say, a Brabham, we will unfortunately never know; but if we look at his Formula Two driving in 1970 we should see whether there really was a new, smooth Rindt, or whether he was just the same as ever underneath it all. I saw only the Crystal Palace F2 race, but suffice it to say that no programme was needed to tell spectators which competitor was Jochen Rindt!
Which leads me to ask why Ronnie Peterson must change his style, and to challenge D.S.J.’s comment “You don’t have to be on opposite-lock all the time to stay with Stewart” by saying, go on D.S.J., you prove it, because nobody else can manage it! As for the statement in a previous issue that Peterson is “a hard charger with not much racing intelligence”, his performance in the wet at Mosport Park is an eloquent answer—apparently it was Peterson, no one else, who realised that the outside edge of the road was the place to be, as it, drained better than the rest of the track, and Stewart and the rest only learnt by watching him. To some extent we can excuse D.S.J. his ignorance, for he spent 1969 covering an uninspiring Grand Prix season and thereby missed several opportunities of seeing Peterson display his “racing intelligence” in wheel-to-wheel Formula Three dices.