A win, three seconds, one third, two fourths, one pole and three fastest laps in his first eight GPs — an amazing tally. It couldn’t last.
Clay remained at the Scuderia in ’71-72, but the thrill had gone. A handful of front-row starts resulted in a handful of podiums. He moved to BRM for ’73 and scored a remarkable pole at the first race, but the team went into free fall.
He negotiated a return to Maranello for ’74, but found a very different Ferrari to the one he had left. He had a sniff at the title that year, but the di Montezemolo Lauda link was being forged and that early promise had dissipated. Clay was cast into the number two role, which is where he’d remain — a reminder of how easy it is to lose momentum in F1 .Those heady days of 1970 seemed a long time ago. So had the talent faded? No. Bear in mind he jumped into the second-best car of ’70 (I dare say Button might have a victory to his name had he driven a Ferrari this season). In terms of qualifying, team-mate Jacky lckx held a slight edge over ‘Regga’ in their two-and-a-half years together, yet Icloc had been well tucked up by Chris Amon when they were paired at Ferrari in ’68. Regazzoni was a hard racer, one of the strongest number twos ever, but once that initial impetus had been lost, he didn’t have sufficient talent to kick-start it.
So Button must view his Benetton move with some caution. He does have time on his side, though. At 20, he is 11 years younger than was Regazzoni when the racer from Switzerland grabbed his F1 chance so spectacularly. DM