The Grand Prix Scene

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If all goes well the Grand Prix season will begin at the end of this month with the Argentine race on the Autodrome in Buenos Aires; I say, if all goes well, because at the time of writing there are political upheavals going on in Argentina, and in the racing world there are Union clashes between the F1 constructors and the organisers. Leaving aside the sordid background of motor racing and looking at the facts the season is set fair for being a very long and busy one, with 15 races counting for the World Championship and this total includes two new ones and the re-instating of an old favourite. Last year Brazil held a small Formula One event on their Interlagos Circuit, and as it seemed to go off all right they have been allotted a Championship round, to be held on February 11th. Sweden have been allocated June 17th for a Championship Formula One race, to be held in all probability at the Anderstorp Stadium, and the Swedes seem to have achieved this without holding a preliminary Formula One event first of all! On July 29th the Dutch Grand Prix is due to return to the calendar, various problems concerning the Zandvoort circuit and its management having been solved, and this is welcome news for the Dutch Grand Prix has always been one of the happier events in the past. The rest of the events are the classics and near-classics and the Spanish Grand Prix on April 29th is an important event because it is the date by which all Formula One cars must comply to the new constructional regulations. These new rules are quite sound and reasonable and ensure that the “tub” in which the driver is lying, with petrol tanks on each side, is of strong construction, able to withstand crash damage structurally and prevent the fuel tanks bursting. The new rules provide for a deformable structure to surround the tanks and the cockpit, and to accommodate this the overall width limit has been increased. We saw the first 1973 design last year at Monza in the shape of the Surtees TS14, the Monocoque being constructed to the new rules. Up to the date of the Spanish Grand Prix, cars not complying to the 1973 rules can be used, but from then on they must all comply, unless the CSI rule-makers change their minds, which they do quite often.

The designers have got plenty to keep them occupied, building to the new rules, and at the same time they have still got to come up with something that is better than the four year-old Lotus 72, which set the standards for most of last year. Just recently designers have been flitting about from one team to another, the way drivers do, and this personal instability could well be a reflection on the overall instability of the Formula One scene. This instability can be put down to the fact that most of the people involved in Formula One racing have no real purpose in life and are not really sure why they are in Formula One. Ferrari races in Grand Prix because he loves it and it has always been his life, but also the technical feed-back goes into his production design department. Colin Chapman is in a very similar position, and the design and development of Lotus cars benefits front the feed-back supplied or inspired by Team Lotus. For the rest of the contestants it is difficult to understand why they are involved in Grand Prix racing, especially teams like BRM, Tyrrell, Williams, Tecno and the odd private venture, while teams such as March, Surtees, Brabham and McLaren can tie their racing to the racing-car sales programme of Formula Two and Formula Three single-seaters, but their small industries cannot possibly maintain a Research and Development department large enough to support a Grand Prix team, and the R and D must be synonymous with GP, if not the same thing, in order to he successful in competition. On the designer front Ralph Bellamy has left Brabham and joined Lotus, and Tony Southgate has left BRM and joined an entirely new team, their various assistants continuing where they left off. With industrial strife in Italy Ferrari is having some of his “tinbashing” for his new monocoques made in England, and Tecno are shopping around for a new chassis, for their flat-12-cylinder engine, to be made in England as well.

The B3 Ferrari which never appeared in public is now obsolete, but much of the aerodynamic thought behind it should appear in the 1973 Ferrari and basically there will only be one entry, for Ickx, but it is very possible that a second car will be entered for Merzario, though it is unlikely to be in all the races.

The other flat-12-cylinder-powered car from Italy, the Tecno with the Pederzani engine, is to continue though the brothers Pederzani have split up, but the Rossi family are continuing their financial support and David Yorke is still trying to knock the whole operation into some semblance of a team. Last year’s drivers Bell and Galli have left the sinking ship and we shall see for sure who is going to drive the new car when it makes its first 1973 appearance, though Schenken is mentioned. Matra have gone to ground with their V12-engined car and appear to be concentrating on a category they can win, which is sports car racing. The fourth of the 12-cylinder brigade is BRM, who seem to be as strong as ever they were and during the off-season tried just about every “free” driver, hopefully looking for a Stewart or a Fittipaldi. What they have got is a Regazzoni to set the pace and Vern Schuppan to do the leaning as the “new boy”. Noises off say that BRM are going to run only two cars per race, so one wonders why they spent so much time trying other drivers. This time last year they were going to run at least five cars in every race and the management talked of running as many as seven or even eight cars. We all know what happened to that idea!

The main-stay of the Grand Prix entry lists will continue to be made up by the special-builders, using the Cosworth V8 and Hewland gearbox layout, and to the regular list of Lotus, McLaren, Tyrrell, Brabham, March and Surtees we must add the new UOP-Shadow team. American Don Nichols has had a Shadow running in Can-Am racing for some time, with Jack Oliver driving and Universal Oil Products putting up the finance. Now the operation has moved to England and are embarking on a Formula One programme, with a second car to be driven by George Follmer. As mentioned earlier Southgate is designing the car, with a Cosworth V8 attached to the rear of the monocoque and the team intend to run two cars in all the major events. UOP are a large research organisation, selling knowledge to all branches of the oil industry as well as other industries and their financing of the Shadow F1 team is is all part of their overall research programme. Oliver’s ability in Grand Prix racing is a known quantity, but Follmer’s is entirely new, even newer than Revson last year, but the American has shown his ability with the 850 h.p. turbo-charged Can-Am Porsche 917/10, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on with the Formula One “kiddy-car” with its 450 h.p. Looking back on Southgate’s brief career one hopes he makes a better job of the UOP-Shadow than appeared to be the case with his BRM’s, the P180 not really getting off the ground, and breakages in the supervisions of the P160 being too frequent for comfort or confidence.

Team Lotus are going to have another go at running a team of two number one drivers, with Fittipaldi and Peterson this time, but the Brazilian World Champion will be number one in everyone’s eyes if not officially. They will use the Lotus 72, uprated for 1973, until the need for a radical new design is called for. Tyrrell’s Elf-supported team are unchanged from 1972, a healthy sign in an unhealthy world, and having finished last year on a high note their band of followers are hoping it will continue. Stewart was right back on form at the end of the season and as long as he doesn’t worry himself sick again there are not many drivers who can hope to be in front of him, though there is quite a struggling bunch just behind him. The McLaren team seem to be remaining as solid as ever and have Jody Schekter lined up for future stardom and are interested in other “young chargers” as well. The Surtees team look set fair for a solid season, with promising new cars and the Brazilian Carlos Pace backing up Hailwood, but like all the Cosworth “special-builders” their ultimate fortunes depend entirely on the efforts of Keith Duckworth and Cosworth Engineering. The Ecclestone Brabham team will be running only two cars this year, for Reutemann and the elder Fittipaldi brother, and Frank Williams will be running Cosworth powered cars for Ganley and Nanni Galli. It seems that Politoys, the Italian model manufacturers, have withdrawn their support so the Williams Special, designed and developed by all and sundry, will have to be renamed. The March team have gone back to square one, with Amon returning to the fold, so perhaps by starting all over again they might achieve something this time.

There are numerous small people trying to get into Formula One, starting all their plans around a Cosworth engine and Hewland gearbox, but whether any of them get to a starting line only time will tell. So far, the only one to make the grade has been the Connew, while others have not even got as far as the drawing board. It never ceases to amaze me how the builder of a Formula Vee car or a Formula Ford car, aspires to building a World Championship Formula One car, without going through the apprenticeship stages of Formula Three, Two, F5000 or Sports Cars. Every year there are some budding new Colin Chapmans appearing on the scene, who aim to get to the top without looking at the long path the successful ones have had to tread. You only have to look at Chapman, Brabham or Tyrrell to see that the top is not easily or quickly reached. In the struggle between the Manufacturers Union and the Organisers Union the cry has often been heard that the F1 teams cannot make money at Grand Prix racing, and in fact they are all losing money. If this is true then I wonder why there are so many teams in Grand Prix racing, why so many of them stay in Grand Prix racing, and why there are so many people trying to get into Grand Prix racing. The teams say the Organisers are making too much money and they asked for a 100% increase on start money and prize money, in total. The Organisers offered them a 12½% increase, and meanwhile the CSI and the GPDA are calling for more and more expenditure on safety precautions and the paying public are calling for better viewing facilities, so that it is a wonder anyone ever takes on the job of organising a Grand Prix. It is pretty obvious that Grand Prix racing is a good business to be in, no matter which part you are involved with, and that it is stronger and better than it has been for a long time. There are fifteen different countries clammering to hold a Grand Prix, there are twelve teams clammering to take part, there are nearly thirty drivers clammering to drive in Grand Prix races, the Press, the Radio and the Television give it top rating where motor racing is concerned; public enthusiasm is higher than ever it was, even though it would appear they prefer to watch it on Television rather than pay large sums of money to go and watch. All round Grand Prix racing is filling the air, we have quantity, but whether we have quality is another matter altogether. — D. S. J.

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