The Formula One Situation

Apart from one mild fluttering the situation in Formula One racing regarding teams, drivers and cars, was surprisingly stable when the 1975 season began in Buenos Aires on January 12th. A full three months had elapsed since the last Grand Prix race in 1974, which was at Watkins Glen on October 6th, and during that time things have been very quiet from the point of view of drivers changing teams, or teams changing drivers, or designers changing jobs or new cars appearing. One could look at all this as a sign of stability having been reached, or a state of contentment among those concerned, but in reality I think it was a sign of nervous tension at what the future holds. Those with good steady jobs were making sure they kept them by doing like Brer Fox and "lying low and saying nothing". Although there has been a three month respite there was not a great deal to show for it mechanically, as the season began, only Shadow and Brabham announcing new cars during the winter months, and both were logical developments of existing designs. The Shadow DN5 of the UOP concern does not break any new ground, though the aerodynamic shape has been improved, as have the aerodynamic aids in the form of the nose fins and rear aerofoil. The driving seat is moved 2½ in. further forward, improving weight distribution and allowing ancillaries to be tucked away behind the seat. New front suspension has the coil-spring, damper and anti-roll bar all mounted inboard and new I2-in, diameter front wheels are used. The team personnel is unchanged, at the moment, with Jean-Pierre Janet being the leading driver, but there was some "cloak and dagger" stuff going on with Team Lotus to trade the UOP number two driver, Tom Pryce, for Chapman's number one driver, Ronnie Peterson, with a suitable cash adjustment. The Shadow team were among those who spent some of the winter in the sunny south of France, doing test-running with their new car. As UOP are deeply interested in lead-free petrol they are continuing to run their Cosworth DFV engine on their own petrol which is free from lead and therefore does not exude harmful exhaust gases compared to other petrols.

The Brabham designer Gordon Murray, who produced a very effective Formula One car last year in the shape of the BT44, has been quietly getting on with improvements to details of the design and the BT44B is the result, the strong South American team of Argentinian Carlos Reutemann and Brazilian Carlos Pace remaining faithful to Bernard Ecclestone, the Brabham team owner. Last year the Brabham cars were almost pure and white, with only Goodyear providing any large assistance, but this year the colour has changed for the Martini International Racing Team have joined forces with Ecclestone, with accompanying money, colour and international organisational assistance which must be very welcome. Last year Martini were tied in with the works turbocharged Porsche Carreras in long-distance racing, but now that Porsche are resting on their laurels for 1975, awaiting the new form of long-distance racing in 1976, Martini have backed a popular and successful Formula One team. Two years ago they got themselves involved through patriotic fervour with the abortive Tecno Formula One effort, which was a disaster for the Martini family, but 1975 should be a different story.

Before the 1974 season finished Ferrari released details of a new car, designated 312T, in which the gearbox was in unit with the final drive, but transversely mounted instead of pointing rearwards, the rest of the flat-12-cylinder-engined car being similar to the 3I2B. Although a lot of winter testing was carried out on the Ferrari test-track by Lauda and Regazzoni, both of whom are staying with the Maranello team for another season, it was decided that the new car would not be used to begin with, the 1974 cars sufficing. In the middle of last season there was a great gloom and despondency on the edges of the ranks of the Cosworth V8 engine users, because the flat-12 Ferrari engines seemed to have far superior horsepower. To the more hysterical observers the end of the Cosworth V8 was not only in sight, but had actually arrived, though neither Keith Duckworth nor Mike Costin, or anyone else at Cosworth Engineering, really believed this. That hysterical cry went up after the Dutch GP, yet Ferrari won only a single victory in the succeeding seven races, though they were ever-present and a constant menace and were not to be ignored. In the Italian GP they ran away from the Cosworth powered cars, but then blew up, and that sort of performance does not win races or championships. Cosworth Engineering never tell you what they have done to keep their engine ahead of the opposition, and there are seldom any visible external changes, the only known change being that the price of this remarkable "production" Grand Prix engine has grown from £7,500 to £9,000, which is still absurdly cheap in comparison to designing, building, testing and developing your own engine. On sheer weight of numbers the Cosworth V8 continues to dominate the Formula One scene, while its list of successes is getting almost unbelievable. McLaren, Tyrrell, Lotus, Brabham, Surtees, Williams, Shadow, Hesketh, Lola, Parnelli, Penske and the new Fittipaldi car all utilise the Cosworth V8 engine, either because they believe it to be the best or they have no alternative. With more than 20 Cosworth V8 engines in a Grand Prix ranged against two Ferraris and one BRM 12-cylinder engines it would be a poor state of affairs if the worthy British V8 did not win the majority of races. Imagine the results if there were 20 Ferrari engines and two Cosworth engines. If there were 20 BRM V12 engines and two Cosworth engines, the V8 might well win for the only hope of a BRM victory in the near future would appear to be if the entire entry was BRM mounted. Not so long ago the ruler of BRM fortunes claimed he would be entering as many as nine cars from Bourne in some races. This never came about and at the moment the reconstituted BRM team, divorced from the Rubery Owen empire, are hard put to field a single mediocre entry. The driver, Mike Wilds, has made it clear that his philanthropic property friends, Dempster Developments, are sponsoring him and not the BRM. If he does not stay with the team then neither does the sponsorship money. The sadness in the BRM affair is that the three willing, but not very talented, French drivers who took money to Bourne last year are now all out of work, as far as Formula One is concerned, neither Beltoise, Pescarolo nor Migault have any immediate work in view. Once again there is talk of a "new" BRM V12 engine, but when you see broken crankcases being "reclaimed" by patching and welding you cannot take their engine department top seriously.

Whether in desperation or by design, one or two people have actually acquired an Alfa Romeo fiat-I2 engine, as used in the Auto Delta sports cars last year, but I can't say I can see the logic of this, especially when Matra won nine out of the 10 classic sportscar races last year. To utilise the Matra V12 engine in a Formula One car would make more sense, and indeed Matra offered certain teams an engine supply and maintenance deal, but no one could afford it, or at least no one has afforded it yet, although there are strong suggestions that Shadow might take up the option. The Matra racing team is run on a sound engineering basis of research and development, to a standard of work and cost beyond the imagination of most people in Formula One, but to standards that Porsche understand. This is why a V12 Matra engine can be driven unmercifully for 1,000 kilometres or 24 hours and any team they have an involvement with must think along the same lines; they are not likely to be interested in a "one-man back-yard" effort.

One man in his back-yard who is taken seriously, however, is Ken Tyrrell, who continues into 1975 with his amicable tie-up with ELF petrol and oil, and he retains his same two drivers, Scheckter and Depailler. Their performances in 1974 were truly remarkable, but whether this was due to emerging brilliance or the fact that the overall standard in Grand Prix driving was not very high last year, is a matter of opinion. The quiet, tightly-knit Tyrrell team certainly get results and how they fate this year will be an indication Of the worth and merit of their 1974 year. The 007 cars did not appear to be lacking very much last year, apart from the occasional breakage of chassis parts and the design has been carried through to the new season. Team Lotus, whose leader started the upward path of the back-yard special-builder many years ago, are continuing to use their 1974 cars, not for the same reason as Tyrrell, but because the 1974 Lotus 76 was something of a failure, and its replacement has yet to be designed. While the basic layout of the Lotus 72 can be traced back to 1970 the present cars can hardly be described as being four years old, and they are still competitive even if they can no longer set the pace. Backing for the black and gold cars Is still coming from John Player & Sons, the cigarette people, and at the first Grand Prix of the year Peterson and Ickx were still driving for the team, but in the world of motor racing business and politics anything can happen.

In the McLaren team one thing that has happened relatively quietly has been the withdrawal from racing by Denis Hulme, the swarthy New Zealand driver deciding he had done enough racing. Without any fanfare of trumpets or tearful and heart-rending public appearances, Hulme said "That's it, I've finished racing". His 1974 partner Emerson Fittipaldi, who joined McLaren from Lotus on something of a gamble as far as machinery and team were concerned, hit the jack-pot by winning the World Championship. He had already hit the financial jack-pot by joining forces with the Marlboro cigarette people and the Texaco fuel people, so not surprisingly he is still leading the Marlboro/Texaco sponsored McLaren team, in an up-rated M23 McLaren car, with the stocky German Jochen Mass as his protege, and has started the year right by winning the Argentine GP, even if his new team-mate did finish last.

Nobody will deny that Grand Prix racing is an expensive game, it always has been, and while Tyrrell has been to great lengths to explain how a season will dispose of £600,000, which is over half-a-million pounds, it does not have to COST that much. A small private team with one car and without an expensive "ace" driver, can get along on a great deal less money, but nonetheless a sizeable sum. Last year the team run by Paul Michaels, of the Hexagon of Highgate motor firm, ran a lone Brabham driven by Jiihn Watson, and while the team put up many valiant performances they seldom finished high enough to reap the benefit. In spite of financial support from various outside firms their resources were dwindling and by the end Of the season they had to call a halt. Now Watson had been loaned to Hexagon by the Brabham factory, and many people hoped that Ecclestone would enlarge the works team to three cars to include John Watson, but it was not to be so the bearded Ulsterman took the offer to join John Surtees, practising the Vic Elford philosophy that it is better to be in an uncompetitive Formula One car than not in a car at all. Battling against his 1974 misfortunes, John Surtees has continued with his TS16 design, modified and altered almost beyond recognition, hopeful of better luck this year. Whether he runs a second car and if so, who drives it, has yet to be decided, though during the winter he offered test-drives to a remarkable selection of comparatively inexperienced drivers.

Like the disappearance of the Hexagon team due to a shortage of money, the lone Trojan of Ron Tauranac and Peter Agg has had to be put away before it bankrupts its owners, which has meant that Tim Schenken is once more back on the Formula One breadline. For different reasons the Ensign team has disappeared from the scene, but this would seem to be in the nature of a temporary move, and the Japanese Maki which arrived last year with a publicity flourish, only to fail completely, has returned to watch the sun rise in the far east, and perhaps think again, this putting Howden Ganley out of work. The interesting Anion-Dalton Formula One car has gone to ground after an abortive season and the now not-so-young Chris Amon is once more on the side-lines, having had a brief flirtation with BRM at the end of last season and deciding it would be better to be unemployed than be in a BRM.

Since the formation of March Engineering in 1969 the firm seems to have rocketed up and down between various people's fortunes as their financial wizard, Max Mosley, has done some precarious balancing acts with outside backers. Before this season began they announced the end of their activity in Formula One, due to a money shortage, but at the last moment revived themselves with a single 1974 car for Vittorio Brambilla, sponsored by money from the Italian firm of Beta Tools, and have promised a 1975 version to be known as the March 751, In other formulae the March fortunes are strong, and their tie-up with BMW in Formula Two and 2-litre sports-car racing is excellent. This recession in Formula One by March has meant that Hans Stuck Jnr. has dropped out of the scene, but as he has plenty of opportunity to continue racing in Formula Two, saloons and GT cars he might well mature sufficiently for a Grand Prix team to recall him. An unfortunate disappearance from the scene is that of ever-popular Mike Hailwood, firstly on account of his accident at Nurburgring last August, from which he is still not fully recovered, and secondly by the withdrawal of Yardley from the McLaren team, and just as the Brabharn team could not see their way to fielding three cars, neither can the McLaren team. Although there has been talk of Hailwood returning to motorcycle racing when he is fit, it seems fairly unlikely, though he has suggested he might return to Formula 5000 "for a bit of fun".

And talking of fun, the Hesketh team are still going strong, with Hunt driving as hard as ever, even if he does overdo it a bit, as in the recent Argentine GP, but at least he was in the lead when he over-cooked things. While the Hesketh financial fortunes do not appear to fluctuate, the racing fortunes have their ups-and-downs and last year, on numerous occasions when it looked as though the whole Hesketh set-up was a big joke and "mickey-taking" of the Formula One scene, things would go right and they would put up a stirring performance, though three third places was all they could muster in the major events. They are continuing with their basic 308 design, but improving it with interesting things such as front suspension by rubber instead of coil-springs.

The remaining British teams of Frank Williams and Graham Hill are continuing as last year, Merzario and Laffite still driving the Williams cars with backing from Marlboro and Fina petrol, while Embassy cigarettes are still behind Hill's Lola cars, with Rolf Stommelen in the second seat. While they are racing the second and third of their 1974 Lola cars, the first one is being used as a guinea-pig to try out a flat-12 Alfa Romeo engine. Two private ventures which appeared last year are still in existence, though their activities this year are likely to be limited, these being John Nicholson's Lyncar and Ray Jessop's Token, both built around the standard package of Cosworth V8 engine and Hewland gearbox.

The two American Formula One teams, of Roger Penske and Parnelli Jones, that appeared briefly at the end of the 1974 season, have now established themselves in England as a base from which to operate for the whole Grand Prix season. Penske has set up his racing department at Poole, in Dorset, and Parnelli Jones at Griston in Norfolk, not far from the Lotus factory. When I refer to these as American teams a friend of mine in California gives a hollow laugh, for the only things American about them are the dollars that are paying for it all and the drivers. While no-one will dispute that Mark Donohue, who is driving the Penske, is an "all-American boy", there are those who will claim that Mario Andretti, who is driving the Parnelli, is really an Italian, which he undoubtedly is by birth. My Californian friend claims that Lance Reventlow's Scarab team in 1959/60 was the only "real" American Grand Prix team, and that Dan Gurney's Eagle team of 1966/68 was only part-American, and I must say I agree with him. Both of today's USAinspired teams use Cosworth V8 engines and Hewland gearboxes, and don't try to tell me that a Cosworth DFV is in reality a Ford engine and that Ford is American, so therefore the Cosworth V8 is an American engine, for I just will not believe it, just as I will not believe that a Lotus 72 is a John Player Special and a few years ago refused to accept Frank William's first "special" as a Politoys Formula One car, nor that subsequent ones were Iso-Marlboros. The Penske car has a long and complicated name which is that of its major financial backer, but the name is too long to get on a badge, almost too long to get on the side of the car, and certainly too long to put in any historical table of results, always assuming it gets results.

From South America, Brazil to be precise, has appeared a Formula One car designed around the ubiquitous Cosworth/Hewland package which goes under the name of Copersucar. Designed by Richard Divilla and Wilson Fittipaldi it is designated the FD/01 and by all reasons of logic can be called a Fittipaldi. It made its maiden appearance in the recent Argentine GP and was not exactly a roaring success, but few new cars are on their first outing.

While that is the scene as it stood just after the Argentine GP, and it is basically similar to last year, there is no guarantee that the racing will be like last year, though the signs are that not a great deal will change. Undoubtedly Ferrari will challenge the Cosworth-powered cars, but I cannot really see the Alfa Romeo 12-cylinder engine or the BRM V12 engine providing anything but light relief in a heavily weighted V8 scene. Equally, Goodyear should continue to dominate the tyre scene, with only the Parnelli car running on Firestone tyres, but there is always the possibility of Dunlop returning to the scene or Pirelli or Michelin joining in, and if Matra were to return with their powerful VI2, Michelin might well become patriotically interested.

On the driver front there are a few surprises in store, Lauda, Peterson, Jarier, Pace, Reutemann, Hunt, Scheckter and Fittipaldi E., are all good front-runners, though no single one can be said to be outstanding, and few of them can be looked upon as guaranteed winners. Andretti cannot be overlooked, and Regazzoni and Depailler will always be close behind, but that is about the lot. Certainly there is no lack of quantity on the Formula One scene, on any account, but exactly what the quality is depends on the viewer, for quality is like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. —D.S.J.