1975 Swedish Grand Prix race report

Niki Lauda (Ferrari) throws his car into a corner at the 1975 Swedish Grand Prix.

Niki Lauda continued his dominant form for Ferrari by taking another win

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Ferrari Again
Anderstorp, June 8th
A very complete field of runners turned out for the Swedish Grand Prix and all twenty-six were guaranteed a start as the Anderstorp Raceway is large and spacious. As it was built on a flat piece of waste land there are no interesting contours for the circuit to follow and in consequence the corners and straights are all very geometric requiring a car to be carefully adjusted to a well-balanced condition of handling and there is little opportunity for the driver to re-adjust the balance of the car by his driving technique, always assuming he is capable of doing so. On most circuits you have to adjust the car to be as near right as possible on one or two corners and make do with it on others, so that you tune the suspension and handling for the corner you like best and on which you feel you can make up most time, but this means you then have to compromise on other corners and even be less than right on corners that are not important. At the Anderstorp Raceway, because of the similarity of all the corners, if you get the handling wrong on one you are liable to find it wrong on all of them. However, the reverse applies, though not many drivers seem capable of getting it right. This really was the overall problem that confronted everyone in practice and while some drivers were attempting to get scientific about their overall handling problems, others were getting on with their driving, accepting that the car did not feel very good anywhere on the circuit, except down the long run-way which forms the main straight.

Summer was in Sweden in a big way and a cloudless sky greeted everyone on Friday morning when practice began. Since last year the pit area had been completely rebuilt to an “open-plan” arrangement covered by a large concrete walk-way for spectators and each car had its own space, angled to the direction of the track. An access road started at the outside of the apex of the penultimate corner before the pits and this led into a lane behind the row of pits. From there a driver turned right into his pit area and on leaving he continued on out the front and turned left into the exit road, re-joining the circuit on the outside of the bend after the pits. This was an excellent scheme which worked well in practice, but prevented any possibility of a quick pit stop during the race, the tortuous passage in and out wasting more time than was reasonable. The morning was spent by most teams in settling in and there were three newcomers on the scene in the driver line-up, while there was nothing new at all in the array of cars, apart from detail changes, all the regular drivers being mounted on their usual machinery. The Frank Williams team were starting all over again with two new drivers as Merzario was at long last out of favour and had “gone off on holiday”, his place in FW/03 being taken by Damien Magee, while Laffite was away at a European Championship Formula 2 race, so his place in the 1975 Williams FW/04 was taken by Ian Scheckter, the elder brother of the Tyrrell driver. In Graham Hill’s Embassy-sponsored team Migault was out of favour so his place was taken by Vern Schuppan in the latest Hill car, while Brise had the original one. The Hesketh team had all three of their cars out, with Torsten Palm in 308/3 with the car covered in Polar Bears, this being the advertising emblem of the Polar Caravan company of Sweden who were sponsoring the Grand Prix overall.

In the Brabham team there was an air of expectancy as Carlos Reutemann had cut his hair quite drastically, so that his ears showed in an old-fashioned way, and he was convinced this would change his luck. More significant was the fact that he had appeared for breakfast happy and smiling and saying “What a beautiful day”. This indicated that he was in a good mood and there was every chance of him being really on form. He has a very deep and unpredictable nature and if he doesn’t feel right he drives in a mediocre fashion; if he feels good then he is one of the best. The trouble is that no-one can find out what makes him feel good or bad.


Vittorio Brambilla in his March at the 1975 Swedish Grand Prix.

Vittorio Brambilla surprised many by putting his March on pole

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From the start of practice Reutemann was obviously on form and you did not need a stop-watch to see that he was really trying. Another driver who was quietly getting on with the job was Depailler, while Jarier was driving with all the flair one expects from him. It was accepted that Lauda would be among the front-runners, for anyone using Cosworth V8 power is convinced that the Ferrari is far superior on sheer speed, on pick-up from slow corners, on torque right through the range, on superior braking and road-holding and to listen to some people you wonder why anyone goes on using the Cosworth DFV. The question of Lauda’s driving ability never seems to come into it, but Lauda himself believes that he is putting quite a lot of effort into the overall performance of the Ferrari and while he does not accept all the advantages claimed for the Ferrari, he does admit that it is a very good car. However, in this first practice the combination of Lauda and the Ferrari was not quite good enough to beat Reutemann and his Brabham. The Argentinian was fastest with 1 min. 25.297 sec., Lauda did 1 min. 25.457 sec., Depailler 1 min. 25.602 sec. and Jarier 1 min. 25,894 sec., so it was clear that a lap in the 1 rnin. 25 sec. bracket was going to be the standard for anyone who wanted to be classed as an “Ace”. After the performance by Vittorio Brambilla in the works March at Zolder everyone had been wondering if it had been significant or merely a flash-in-the-pan and when he didn’t appear in the “Ace” category at the end of the first practice, people said “Oh well, there you are, you see”. Even the Ferrari team had got number 9 on one of the buttons on their electrical Heuer timing machine, but began to think it was a waste of a good button. The acknowledged “Ace” drivers like Fittipaldi, Peterson, Scheckter, Hunt and Pace were all busy trying to “tune” their cars for the geometric corners but not making much headway, while others were quite simply having trouble. Magee had hardly started off in the Williams before it died on him out on the circuit with the throttles stuck shut and he had to get help from his mechanics, and Ian Scheckter was wishing he had brought his Tyrrell with him from South Africa as the new Williams car was not consistent in its feel which did not encourage him to go too near the limit. Alan Jones had the throttles stick open on the Hesketh 308/1 and went off the circuit through a catch fence, damaging the nose cowling and front suspension and the Hill team began a long saga of engine trouble. Brise had the Cosworth V8 blow up in GH1/1 so he transferred to GH1/3 and Schuppan was relegated to the Lola HU3 which was being used as a spare car. The Parnelli team were in trouble with a front brake shaft breaking, just like a Lotus 72, apart from being on their own without a designer behind them as Maurice Phillipe had left the team. The team owner, Vel Miletich was not in Sweden, nor were the bosses of the BRM team, the Surtees team, the Hesketh team, the Penske team or the Ferrari team, but then the Ferrari team have always had to get along without their leader, and never seem the worse for it. After the lunch interval Robin Herd and the March men began to show their hand, which looked suspiciously like a serious attempt at Gamesmanship to upset the opposition, and later turned out to be exactly that. First of all Brambilla went out in Lella Lombardi’s car, which foxed a lot of people who saw it ahead of them and assumed that they would soon catch it up, but then found they could not. Brambilla’s normal car is painted in the bright orange of the Beta tool company who sponsor him, whereas Lombardi’s car is white, so the sight of the white car going indecently fast must have unnerved some people. When Brambilla got back into his own car he really turned on the steam and was continually putting in laps in the 1 min. 24 see. bracket which made the Ferrari timekeeper get excited and the other top teams get agitated. It wasn’t that the March had suddenly become a Super-Car, for its set-up was not necessarily any more nearer the ideal than anyone else’s, but the driver was making full use of what he had got and not worrying unduly about the fine details, as were drivers like Fittipaldi and Scheckter. In the Lotus camp there was little joy for Peterson came in with the nose cowling knocked off 72/R9 and had to continue practice in the spare car, which only added to their confusion. The Ferrari team fiddled about with all their adjustments and made no improvement at all and they were particularly embarrassed by being unable to match the speed of Brambilla. To have Fittipaldi or Peterson, or even Scheckter in front of them was explainable if not acceptable, but Brambilla was going to take some explaining away to the Commendatore.

The stocky little Italian, who at 37 is an old man by Grand Prix standards, is not known as the “Monza Gorilla” for nothing and after he had clocked a best lap of 1 mm. 24.63 sec. merely said “Vittorio is good, car is good.” There was a lot of muttering up and down the pits about “understeer”, “oversteer”, “imbalance”, “down-force”, “up-force”, “aerofoils”, “tyres”, “too much weight”, “too much track”, “wheelbase”, “steering ratio” and so on, but not very much about enthusiastic driving. The morning “Aces” in the 1 min. 25 Sec. bracket were now looking like “Jacks” and there were one or two “Jokers” about as well! Some of those who had got things adjusted nearly right, lost confidence and got in a muddle, while those who were still trying to get some sense from the adjustments got completely confused. If it had been Lauda and the Ferrari who had got into the 1 min. 24 sec. bracket there would have been a resigned air of “Oh well, naturally”, but Brambilla and the March!

It was not real. Saturday was cool and overcast and the “roundy-round” of chasing Brambilla started all over again. With the circuit now becoming well-used, not only by the Formula One cars but also by Formula Super-Vee, Formula 3 and a multitude of saloons, conditions were not so good as previously and times generally were slower, but even so it was still Brambilla and the March who were fastest, but Jarier, Lauda, Pace and Pryce was not far behind. Scheckter was good to watch, but not fast enough, the fire seemed to have gone out of Peterson, and Fittipaldi was positively boring. Reutemann seemed to be deteriorating and Regazzoni was showing that there must be something in Lauda’s driving, and it is not just the Ferrari that is so good. John Watson was beginning to get to grips with the Surtees, though its transition from understeer to oversteer was much too sudden and vicious. The Hill team had gone back to square one, with a new engine in GH1/1 for Brise, so that Schuppan could start all over again with GH1/3, but practice had barely begun before the new engine had valve trouble and there was Brise being fitted into GH1/3 while poor Schuppan was watching the old Lola being prepared for him once more, just like yesterday. Torsten Palm was going quite well in the Hesketh until he lost control on the corner by the pits and hit the retaining wall, so another Hesketh front-end had to be dug out of the spares box in the transporter.

During the lunch hour there was an air of gloom and despondency in the McLaren pit as nothing they did seemed to satisfy Fittipaldi, the Tyrrell team were equally confused about how to make Scheckter happier (and faster), Team Lotus were wondering where Peterson’s fire had gone and in the Ferrari pit there was an air of incredible disbelief and a reluctance to telephone Modena! In the March pit the mechanics seemed unable to believe that Father Christmas really does exist, Robin Herd was chuckling over the discomforture of the other teams and Brambilla was awaiting further instructions from the boss. The Brabham team had a straight-forward problem in that Reutemann’s car had broken a tooth off the crown-wheel in the final drive, it being one of the teeth that is drilled across its root to improve the oil flow in their attempts to improve on Hewland’s design. While this car was repaired, and prepared for the race Reutemann used the spare Brabham.

There was now only one hour left for honour to be achieved and some semblance of order on the starting grid to be finalised, so away they all went on their Brambilla chase. The March driver contented himself with a few averagely-fast laps, though to some people they would have been heroic, and then returned to the pits and left the car to join Robin Herd on one of the corners to watch the opposition in their attempts to first of all get below 1 min. 25 sec. and then to challenge his 1 min. 24.63 sec. Whether the sight of the orange-overalled Italian standing watching gave the others a morale boost in the hope that the March had broken, or added to their despair by the sheer confidence of March in not bothering to practise any more, is difficult to say. Depailler got on to some rough stuff and a stone punctured an oil radiator and unknowingly he carried on until all his oil was gone and the engine seized. This caused a slight pause for cleaning and the retrieving of the Tyrrell and then it all started up again for a final 15-minutes. Brambilla put his helmet and gloves on and sat in his March, all buckled in and ready to go, while Robin Herd stood by the pit wall and kept a watch on the opposition. Drivers like Jarier, Pryce, Lauda, Scheckter, Watson and Andretti looked to be trying all they knew, the two Shadow drivers in particular being good spectator value, but no-one was approaching 1 min. 25 sec. Jarier was the fastest with 1 min. 25.263 sec. so Brambilla was content to sit quietly in his car until the chequered flag came out and Robin Herd indicated to him that it was all over.

In Belgium Brambilla and the March on the second row of the grid and in the lead of the race for a lap or two was all good fun, but Brambilla and the March on pole position was not at all funny for the other teams. Added to this was the knowledge that before leaving England for Sweden he had recorded an “unofficial” fastest-ever lap at Silverstone with the March test-car, and it was easy to see why such an air of discomfort lay over the Anderstorp paddock. It did not seem possible that Brambilla had suddenly found exceptional driving form, nor that the March had suddenly become a better car than all the others or even that it had a better Cosworth V8 engine than everybody else. It could only be that Brambilla and the March were getting on with the job and somewhere along the line the others had become muddled and confused. Pole position had not been gained by genius or technical superiority, it was a case of being “less worse” than all the others. Nonetheless it was all very gratifying and some people were delighted at the discomforture of the “prima-donnas”.


Vittorio Brambilla leads into the first corner of the 1975 Swedish Grand Prix, Anderstorp.

Brambilla leads into the first corner

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Sunday morning saw an untimed half-hour of practice for final adjustments, as if the previous two days had not been enough. For some teams, like Tyrrell, it was useful for Depailler to try out the new engine installed in his car and Ferrari were able to try Lauda’s car which had been equipped with a new gearbox overnight, as these days they leave nothing to chance. Regazzoni had had his new one the day before, as the engine was being changed anyway, so the whole job was done in one go. They normally reckon to start the races with new gearbox/transmission units and when you realise that Lauda had done 134 laps of practice it can he seen that the Ferrari team were not being over-cautious. Through the two days the Formula One cars had covered 2,854 timed laps, and this did not include the opening and slowing down laps which do not get timed. Add to this the efforts of all the supporting races and you get some idea of how much a racing circuit gets used at a Grand Prix. The 80-lap race was due to start at 1.30 p.m., by which time it was very hot indeed, but the crowd was not as large as in previous years for this time the whole event was being televised and the Swedish Government had been encouraging people to stay at home and watch. They do not like large gatherings of Swedes at the best of times, and get worried when the seemingly placid Swedish populace foregather in large numbers at a motor race. The Anderstorp Raceway is unique in having the main grandstands and start-line at one end of the circuit and the pits and the paddock at the other end. The first impression is that it would encourage chaos, but in fact It seems to work well. The cars line up in grid formation outside the pits, this time all eyes having to be on Brambilla in pole-position, and he then led the field of 26 cars round the circuit to the starting-line; there they paused briefly and the flag dropped and the race was on. The Italian made no mistakes and was away into the lead, followed by Depailler, Jarier, Pace, Reutemann, Lauda, Hunt and Watson, the Hesketh driver making a really storming start from the middle of the grid. Pryce had got off the mark well only to have a cloud of dust and grit go down the air intake and jam the throttle slides nearly shut. While everyone chased off after Brambilla the Welshman trickled slowly round the opening half lap to the pits, where the slides were freed up. During the opening lap Brambilla had gained quite a few lengths on Depailler, who had the rest quite close to his Tyrrell. As Pryce rejoined the race, a lap in arrears, he entered the circuit in the gap between Brambilla and Depailler, so that to anyone not paying careful attention it looked as though the Shadow was in second place! Pryce’s problem was whether to stay where he was or move out of the way, but he realised that if he let Depailler by he would have to let at least another sixteen cars past, for they were all running nose-to-tail. As he could comfortably stay with Brambilla and Depailler was not gaining on them he decided to stay where he was. Apart from Reutemann taking third place from Jarier, the high-speed procession in the wake of Brambilla was content to sit one behind the other, in the order Depailler, Reutemann, Jarier, Pace, Lauda, Hunt, Watson, Regazzoni and Andretti, while the rest, which included a miscellaneous collection of Super Stars and newboys, were beginning to drop hack to form a second race.

Nobody could really believe that Brambilla could stay in the lead, except perhaps Brambilla himself, and five laps went by with no change, and then 10 laps and still the orange March was out in front, though the pack were closing imperceptibly. Lella Lombardi drove into the pits to retire, her Cosworth engine sounding flat as something had gone wrong in the metering unit for the fuel injection and on lap 15 Depailler was heading up the pit road with a leak in a rear brake pipe. It was not so much that the pack were closing on the leading March, as that the March was slowing, for the left front tyre was taking a lot of punishment and getting overheated, causing the pressure to rise and lose adhesion. As there are five major right-hand bends on the circuit this was serious and first Reutemann got by and then Jarier, putting Brambilla back to third place. As this started to happen Tom Pryce moved out of the way and relinquished his position of being second “on the road”, even though he was in last place in fact. After 18 laps Brambilla headed for the pits and the March mechanics had a new front wheel and tyre on in an incredibly short space of time, but even so it dropped Brambilla down to fifteenth position.

The race now took on some semblance of order according to the text book, with Reutemann leading Jarier and pulling away, with Pace third, Lauda fourth, Hunt fifth, Regazzoni sixth, Andretti seventh and Watson eighth. In the “also-rans” race Scheckter was leading Peterson and E. Fittipaldi, but as Donohue in the Penske was keeping up with them they could not have been using all their available skill and brilliance. Right at the back of the field Torsten Palm had been a bit overwhelmed in his first Grand Prix start and got away in last position, but he then settled in and made a good showing. He picked-off the tail-enders in a very determined manner, passing Lombardi (before she retired), Wilson Fittipaldi, Evans, Schuppan and Ian Scheckter. In the first race Hunt retired with a brake-fluid leak from a rear caliper, Pryce was still in amongst the leading group, though a lap behind, and Andretti was pressing hard on the heels of Regazzoni. Both Brambilla and Depailler were working their way up through the slower cars after their pit-stops and Jody Scheckter had dropped back some places. Alan Jones spun his Hesketh and took a long time restarting, which put him to the back of the field and Mass retired at the pits with a damaged water pipe under the car as a result of some kerb bashing.

Carlos Pace (Brabham) leads Niki Lauda (Ferrari) and James Hunt (Hesketh).

Lauda leads Hunt

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Just before half-distance Brambilla retired with a broken driveshaft universal joint and Jarier dropped out when his oil pressure gauge zeroed. This left Reutemann with a healthy lead and looking extremely confident. Pace and Lauda were some way back and the supposed superiority of the Ferrari was not very obvious, while Regazzoni was having to work hard to stay ahead of Andretti and Watson. The “other race” was almost too depressing to watch with Mark Donohue the star among Fittipaldi, Peterson and Scheckter. Passing through this lot after a slow start was Tony Brise, his Graham Hill car having to be set-up for the race by sheer guesswork as a result of all the practice troubles. Once Brise had “played himself in” to the feel of the car, which he had only driven for a handful of laps in practice, he began to work his way up to the fallen-stars and then go by them fairly easily, actually elbowing his way by the reigning World Champion as if he was a Formula Atlantic driver! Almost as the race was half-way through Carlos Pace got into a big slide as he joined the runway straight and slid over a landing light (did the GPDA inspector miss that?) crumpling the Brabham’s monocoque pretty badly and retiring in a cloud of dust and earth.

This put Lauda in second place but he was discovering that his much-vaunted Ferrari was in no way superior to the Brabham. However, by driving as hard as he knew how he could keep the gap between the two cars at 10 seconds, at which it had been for some time, with Pace’s Brabham in that gap. All this time Tom Pryce had kept his Shadow in this 10 second gap between Reutemann and Lauda, and as they lapped the slower cars Pryce went with them so that he moved up to eleventh place from twenty-sixth as the race progressed. All this while he had been driving with an inoperative clutch and when he overdid things a bit on lap 54 at the end of the straight, going into the chicane and took the escape route he stalled the engine and could not get going again. Schuppan had retired the latest Hill car with a broken output shaft in the Hewland transmission and Ian Scheckter had a rear tyre go down suddenly on his Williams as he was rounding the long corner after the pits and this spun him off into the rough.

It looked as though stalemate had set in and Lauda could see no way in which he was going to win, unless something happened to Reutemann or the Brabham. By driving as hard as he knew how he could just stay that 10 seconds behind the Brabham and he kept that pressure on for lap after lap and by lap 55 his pit signal at last showed a minute diminution in the gap. Knowing he had made no more effort, or gone any faster, because he couldn’t, he realised that something must be happening to Reutemann and the Brabham so he kept on driving on the limit. Sure enough, the Brabham’s rear tyres were not gripping so well as earlier, not so much because of wear, as the fact that the track surface was deteriorating with a coating of rubber and continual polishing. This was reducing the balance of the Brabham through the right-hand bends, whereas the Ferrari was unaffected as it was running on a different type of Goodyear tyre, a choice that Lauda had demanded of his team-manager and which was now paying off. The chink in the Brabham armour had only started as the merest fraction of a second, but it was sufficient, and soon the fractions became a second and the seconds mounted up and Lauda had the Brabham in sight. Reutemann did not give up, though the realisation that the Ferrari now had a slight advantage must have weakened his determination. He kept the red and white Ferrari at bay as long as he could, parrying Lauda’s attempts to sneak through on the inside of corners, with a healthy chopping manoeuvre, but finally Lauda gathered up enough added momentum out of the long semi-circle after the pits to pass the Brabham down the straight and then it was all over. This took until lap 70 but then the last ten laps were all plain sailing and Lauda brought the Ferrari home first for the third Grand Prix in succession. It was not so much that he had won the Swedish Grand Prix as that Reutemann had lost it. There was no arguing the fact that Lauda had worked, really hard for this victory. Regazzoni added to the joy-day for Italy by coming home a worthy third, having been harassed by Andretti for nearly the whole race. In a good fifth position and on the same lap as the leaders was Donohue with the Penske car, very satisfied at finishing so well up and wondering how it was that Fittipaldi, Peterson and Scheckter were not in their usual position of lapping him. Brise had actually been in fifth place after a very determined drive but dropped back when the Hewland gearbox began to break up internally and bits locked the mechanism in fourth gear. He struggled along valiantly to the finish, but dropped back to sixth place.

John Watson’s early promise had faded when his Surtees ran low on fuel and he had to stop for a refill and later do the same things again. The fuel system was playing up and blowing out as much as the engine was using so that consumption was abnormal. On the last lap Torsten Palm had his Hesketh run low on fuel and not being used to the vagaries of the Cosworth fuel-injection and Formula One fuel system he let the engine die on him and though it did not lose him a place it put him two laps behind the leader, whereas he was only one lap behind in reality. Magee finished in his first Grand Prix, Bob Evans kept the BRM going non-stop once more and Wilson Fittipaldi was happy to finish another race with his own car, even though he lost a lot of time at the pits having the front wheels changed and looking for the source of a vibration.

Niki Lauda (centre) faces the press at the end of the 1975 Swedish Grand Prix, Anderstorp.

Lauda (centre) faces the press

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On paper the Swedish Grand Prix looked as though it had all run to form, with Lauda victorious over Reutemann, but as you will have realised by now there was much more to it than that. The race organisers had laid on a police escort to guide the racing teams transporters from Anderstorp to Gothenburg, where they were due to catch the 8 p.m. boat to England after the race, for these days there is little time to spare. In a very short space of time the transporters were loaded and one by one they formed up outside the circuit for the dash for the boat. As the Frank Williams transporter left the paddock a bit late in a cloud of dust with its horn blowing, someone remarked that “the real race of the day was about to begin”. Apart from a few caravans all that was left in the paddock was the victorious Ferrari team, for they live on the European mainland and could drive home in their own time, and carry the good news back to Modena.—D.S.J.