1975 Monaco Grand Prix race report

Niki Lauda's Ferrari jumps through Casino at the 1975 Monaco Grand Prix

Niki lauda mastered Monaco in his Ferrari for the first time

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Lauda all the way
Monte Carlo, May 11th

Even as the dust was settling over the Montjuich Park in Barcelona there were worried mutterings about the race at Monte Carlo, for a more similar circuit would be hard to find. However, those who were determined not to miss their annual visit to the Principality of Monaco and hob-nob with Royalty and the aristocracy that is left in the world, thought everything would be all right as the average speed round the circuit was around 80 m.p.h., compared to the 100 m.p.h. of Barcelona. The AC of Monaco tightened their bolts, added a third layer of Armco in places and best off all joined the lower two rows together with heavy steel flitch plates at the centre of each span, thus minimising the chance of a car forcing the rails apart, as has happened all too often. Almost everyone outside the actual road of the circuit was protected from flying bits by wire mesh catch-fencing and the whole place looked a bit like a circus prepared for the lion-tamer act. Lead by Enzo Ferrari’s spokesman there was powerful lobbying to restrict the field to eighteen cars and this was decided upon the week before the event, by which time twenty-six drivers had been entered on the assumption that everyone was in. For a change the decision was simple, the fastest eighteen would be in the race, which was no problem for the aces and the hard-triers, but a worrying business for the hopeless and an impossible situation for the no-hopers, but there was little alternative. In addition there was a lot of muddled talk about altering the corner at Ste. Devote, suggesting it should be slowed down to second gear, instead of the existing glorious uphill charge in fourth gear. What happened in fact was that it was better than ever for the road resurfaced and built up on the sides to do away with the camber. Undoubtedly something will eventually happen at this corner or just off the line of the circuit the entrance to an underground car park is being built.


To ease the overall pressure on the town all the Formula One practice was restricted to Thursday and Friday, leaving Saturday for the Formula Three racing. This was a godsend to some of the teams whose unruly drivers ended practice with bent cars. Practice should have begun at 9 a.m. but last-minute attention to the barriers etc. held things up a bit and it was after 10.30 a.m. before the Formula One cars got under way. The regular circus were all present, with the exception of Rolf Stommelen who was recovering from his Barcelona crash, and Graham Hill was alone in his team. The Hesketh team had hired their spare car to Torsten Palm with Polar Caravans sponsorship, but the new qualification rule put him at a disadvantage on his F1 debut. While some drivers were feeling their way round out of natural caution or from a complete lack of knowledge of the circuit, others pressed-on instantly, one of the ideas being to establish a quick time as soon as possible before any outside influences, like a change in the weather or someone blowing up and spreading oil all over the circuit, affected things. A quick hard try in the opening stages would guarantee to get you somewhere in the middle of the eighteen qualifiers, and the rest of the time could be spent working away on details to improve your position up the grid, rather than being pushed down. Among those who made instant tries were Jarier (Shadow), Watson (Surtees), Lauda (Ferrari), and Laffite (Williams). Practice had not been going on long before there was a commotion on the “Mickey Mouse” section of the circuit on the harbour front as Regazzoni spun his Ferrari and in avoiding him poor John Watson severely damaged the Surtees car. Regazzoni limped back to the pits with a crumpled nose aerofoil and the right-front suspension bent, and got going again in the spare Ferrari while the other one was straightened out. Luckily Surtees had a spare car, but Watson had to walk back to the pits while the wreckage of his car was pushed through an opening in the Armco. Mario Andretti had the Hewland gearbox break up on the newly built Parnelli car, so he continued to practise with the spare car, but the Williams team were less fortunate for when Laffite crashed the new car there was no spare and Merzario had a smug look on his face as he continued to practise in the earlier Williams car. Graham Hill coasted to a stop out on the circuit as his Cosworth engine died and practice was held up for a time while the derelict cars were gathered up and returned to the paddock. This year the Formula One paddock was more conveniently situated on the harbour side down near the old Gasworks hairpin.

Tom Pryce oversteers through the Casino at the 1975 Monaco Grand Prix.

Tom Pryce showed off the Shadow’s one-lap pace with 2nd on the grid

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Activity got under way again, but not long for Reutemann who had a little excursion up an escape road, and could not restart the engine as an electrical wire had broken. He walked back to the pits looking rather disgruntled, and took out the spare Brabham. The noise of the cars bouncing off the barriers continued and Watson damaged his second car for the day, but not beyond repair, and after a lunch-break practice continued into the afternoon, running desperately behind schedule. For one hour in the early afternoon the pace continued and some semblance of form began to appear; Lauda was setting the standard for everyone to aim at, many people saying that the Ferrari flat-12 engine was more suited to the characteristics of the Monaco circuit than the Cosworth V8; they tend to overlook the fact that it didn’t show up badly on the high-speed Silverstone circuit, and when Monza time approaches these people throw their hands up in the air and say “the Ferraris will simply run away from everyone on sheer power”. Few people are prepared to give the Ferrari drivers much credit and when it was found Lauda was fastest in practice and Regazzoni was second fastest, the pundits said “There you are, you see”. A few minutes later Lauda crunched his Ferrari into the guard-rails on the same part of the circuit as Regazzoni had done earlier, and the voices repeated “There you are, you see”, though it was not quite clear what we were supposed to see. Lauda walked back to the pits and, with Regazzoni in the spare Ferrari, he had no option but to continue practice with Regazzoni’s bent car, which was more or less all right except for a slightly bent right-hand suspension mounting. In his own car Lauda had clocked 1 min. 27.16 sec., three-quarters of a second faster than all the best Cosworth-powered specials. In the repaired car he clocked a 1 min. 27.62 sec., still a quarter of a second faster than the opposition, and Regazzoni clocked 1 min. 27.70 sec. in the spare Ferrari. The best of the Cosworth runners was Peterson in the Lotus 72/R9 with 1 min. 27.93 sec. so some of us said that “perhaps we did see” when the pundits started banging on again. Either Regazzoni is a better driver than we think he is or the Aces are not as good as they would like us to think they are! In a British colony like the pits at Monte Carlo it is not the done thing to let it be known that you are a Ferrari enthusiast, but all round the circuit the spectators were not suffering from any inhibitions.

When practice was all over and done with the harbour front paddock rang to the sound of hack-saws, panel-beating hammers and pop-rivet guns as the ravages of the day were repaired. Even Miss Lombardi had joined in the spirit of the thing and crunched her works March, the Bicester mechanics keeping company with Ferrari, Williams, Surtees and Hesketh mechanics, while Tyrrell and Parnelli mechanics were mending gearboxes and Hill’s mechanics were working on engine problems. Hunt had clobbered the right-front corner of 308/2 and Scheckter had broken the gearbox on 007/2.

Next morning all was sunny and bright and practice got under way a mere 15 minutes late and was soon going with a swing instead of a bang. There was some heroic driving going on as twelve drivers got into the previously select 1 min. 27 sec. bracket and among those who could be seen to be trying were the two Ferrari boys, Tyrrell’s lads, Peterson as ever, Reutemann and Pace, Brambilla, Jarier and Pryce, while Hunt was justifying all the work put in to repair the damage to his car. This is not to suggest that the others were not trying, for Alan Jones must have been doing a good job to get himself on the back of the grid and Evans did not know any way of trying harder with the BRM. Suddenly all the excitement came to a stop for Donohue spun the Penske car going into Ste. Devote and put a dent in the guard-rails that creased the car very badly. Around the Monaco circuit enormous mobile cranes are stationed with long jibs that can reach out over the Armco wall and pick up a crashed car by the roll-over bar and lift it out of the way. In his enthusiasm to clear the track of the wrecked Penske the crane driver at Ste. Devote swung his jib and struck a lamp standard, causing its glass front to swing open and hang dangerously over the road. The fire-brigade had to be fetched with their longest ladder in order to deal with the offending lamp-post, which delayed proceedings for quite a time. It all started up again for a final desperate 30 minutes and Merzario was bumped off the grid by Watson, while Laffite beat his team-mate but missed last place on the grid by 0.16 sec on. Up front among the Aces and the heroes a lap in the 1 min. 27 sec. bracket got you safely on the grid, with low-twenty-sevens in the running for pole position and high-twenty-sevens putting you so far back you would not appear in the start photographs. As practice was drawing to a close Andretti bounced the spare Parnelli off the guard-rails on the harbour front, having already hit the chicane with the other car, and right at the end Lauda went out and did a shattering 1 min. 26.40 sec., which rocked everyone on their heels, just when Pryce had joined Lauda on the front row with a splendid 1 min. 27.09 sec. in his Shadow-Cosworth V8. It was as if Lauda had said to himself, “There are too many Aces up here with me in the 1 min. 27 sec. bracket, I’d better reset the Ace standard”.

With the whole of Saturday clear for car preparation the mechanics actually had time off for a beer or two on Friday night. While the eighteen qualified cars were got ready, and Frank Williams’ boys prepared their cars as first and second reserves, just in case, the Formula 3 field disported itself on the circuit on Saturday afternoon, many of the drivers hoping that F1 team-managers and sponsors were watching. The huge international entry had been sorted out during practice into two competitive heats and the best nine from each heat took part in the 24-lap final. Renzo Zorzi actually won the event in a Lancia-powered GRD, but not before a lot of faster drivers had had a dabble with the lead. Conny Anderson actually completed the 24 laps first, but was penalised a minute for jumping the start, which when announced had left Larry Perkins in the lead with Ron Tauranac’s Ralt, but when he was told by his pit staff he relaxed and had an accident, which left Alex Robiero from Brazil in the lead with a works March. Meanwhile Tony Brise in the works Modus was storming through the back-markers, having had trouble in his heat and being at the back of the grid for the final. As he was about to pass Robiero and take the lead the two cars collided and crashed, letting Zorzi into the lead. An interesting race, you might say!


Niki Lauda (Ferrari) leads at the start of the 1975 Monaco Grand Prix.

Niki Lauda takes the lead on a wet getaway

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On Sunday morning everyone was ready for the Grand Prix and all the havoc of practice had been put right, the two Parnelli cars being ready to go and the Penske having been completely rebuilt around a new monocoque. Lauda was sticking to his original car, 023, but Regazzoni stayed with the spare car, 018, which had had a new gearbox fitted. Everyone was ready for a really good Grand Prix, with Lauda and Pryce in the front row, followed by Jarier and Peterson, Brambilla and Regazzoni, Scheckter and Pace, Emerson Fittipaldi and Reutemann, Hunt and Depailler, Andretti and Ickx, Mass and Donohue, and in the back row Watson and Jones. Everyone was ready except the weather-man, for a blanket of cloud hung over the mountains behind the town and the rain was coming down vertically. It rained and rained all morning and right through the lunch hour, easing off as Prince Rainier and his family arrived for the start. The stewards announced that the condition of the race would be considered “wet” which meant that it would run its course, once started, for it was felt that the weather could only improve. Naturally everyone was mounted on the knobbliest wet-weather tyres that Goodyear could supply, with sets of dry “slicks” in the pits. A slight worry was the dry section of track in the seafront tunnel, for this could play havoc with the wet-tyres during the 78 laps of the race.

To alleviate the pushing and shoving into the first corner the two rows of cars were staggered, with Lauda on pole position ahead of Pryce so that the grid became virtually single-file and those at the back could barely see the starter’s flag. Everyone was on the dummy-grid in full working order so Laffite was wheeled back into the pits, having been waiting hopefully that someone would fail to appear. The eighteen cars moved forward to the starting grid and were then away in a cloud of spray with Lauda leading up the hill. In the scrabble of the opening lap there was a lot of bumping and boring, as was expected, and Regazzoni and Brambilla got elbowed to the back of the queue, with their cars a bit bent. Through the chicane it was Lauda in first place, followed by Jarier having a private accident which seemed to last all along the harbour front as the Shadow wrecked itself on the steel barriers. Treading very warily Lauda, Peterson and Pryce were leading from Scheckter, Fittipaldi and Pace, with Hunt and Depailler not far behind. Regazzoni was in sixteenth place and then Brambilla was heading for the pits for the March designer to have a look at the bent front suspension. In the next lap the leading Ferrari, second place Lotus, and third place Shadow were already pulling away from the rest of the field, but the circuit was so slippery, even though the rain had stopped, that there was no question of anyone doing any racing, though down at the back Reutemann let Ickx and Mass go by and the German took the opportunity to pass the Belgian, but it was not exactly Grand Prix racing. Watson was following them along, and when Donohue let them through the Irishman went with them, but all this only put Mass into tenth place. At 5 laps Regazzoni shot into the pits with his right-rear tyre flat and was soon back in the race with a new one fitted, but now too far back to figure on the scene.

Fittipaldi was getting to grips with his sliding McLaren and closing on Scheckter and Pryce was hanging on to Peterson, even though the Shadow had too much brake bias to the rear wheels, especially as the circuit was beginning to dry a bit. Andretti came into the pits to retire with oil leaking from his Cosworth engine and burning on the exhaust pipes, which caused the fire-brigade to jump about a bit, but the remaining sixteen cars were still going, with Reutemann and Jones losing contact with the field and Regazzoni and Brambilla having little hope of catching anyone. At 14 laps the sun broke through the overcast sky and the track was drying quickly, so everyone stood by with dry tyres. Regazzoni came in unexpectedly with his left-front corner damaged and then Hunt was the first one to come storming in for a change of tyres on the Hesketh. This was at 17 laps, at which time the order was Lauda, with Peterson right on his tail, then Pryce a few yards behind. After a gap came Scheckter and Fittipaldi, another gap and Pace, Hunt and Depailler, another gap and Mass, Watson, Donohue and Ickx, all very close together and then a long gap to Reutemann, while Jones was already lapped by the leaders.

Mass was in for dry tyres and a resetting of the rear aerofoil on lap 18, and on the next lap Pryce had a spin which dropped him down to fifth place. With slowing down, changing tyres and rejoining the race, Hunt and Mass were now a lap down on Lauda and on lap 21 Pryce, Pace and Watson made pit stops for tyres and two laps later Donohue did likewise, as did Reutemann, but he had already been lapped by the leaders. At 24 laps the pits were a sea of activity as Lauda, Scheckter and Fittipaldi came in in quick succession to change tyres. Pryce had made a long stop while the damaged nose on the Shadow was replaced, and was now right at the back. The Ferrari team excelled themselves on their wheel changing and as Peterson came in for dry tyres on lap 25, Lauda retook the lead, with Depailler in second place and Ickx third, as neither had yet stopped. McLaren’s pit work had also been good, having done a “practice run” on Mass before Fittipaldi arrived, so that the World Champion was still in fourth place ahead of Scheckter and Pace. At 26 laps Depailler made his stop, leaving second place to Ickx for one lap, as he then made his pit-stop. Peterson had rejoined the race behind Pace, so was now in fifth place, the order being Lauda, Fittipaldi, Pace, who had just passed Scheckter, then the South African, Peterson, Mass, Hunt, Depailler, Ickx and Donohue. Watson, Reutemann and Jones were still in the running, but all a lap behind the leading Ferrari.

Mark Donahue (Penske) leads Jacky Ickx (Lotus) at Loews during the 1975 Monaco Grand Prix.

Conditions improved as the race progressed

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The whole thing now became a procession with Lauda firmly in the lead and determined not to do anything stupid, while Fittipaldi was showing that if he shuts up talking and gets on with the job he can drive quite well. Scheckter looked as though he would have liked to have taken third place from Pace but didn’t know how he was going to do it, and Peterson was hard-pressed by Mass and Hunt, while Depailler was going great guns and closing on them. Scheckter’s hopes were dashed when his left-rear tyre deflated and he rumbled into the pits for a new one. Brambilla had had a big moment in front of Watson and while taking avoiding action the Irishman stalled the engine of his Surtees and could not restart it. Brambilla took the March into the pits where Robin Herd deemed it unwise to continue, the damage caused on the opening lap was spreading. Regazzoni had his final clash with the barriers at the chicane and a crane lifted the wrecked car out of the race, while Tom Pryce spun himself out of the race as he joined the sea-front damaging the rear of the car. Lauda was doing such a tidy job out in front that victory for Ferrari seemed assured, even though Fittipaldi was driving well and Pace was looking very determined. The only interest lay in the fact that Depailler was closing rapidly on the trio comprised of Peterson, Mass and Hunt. The Hesketh of Alan Jones began to lose a rear wheel and the Australian brought it all safely to rest up the hill to the Casino.At 60 laps we reached that strange phenomenon that so often occurs on a small circuit, where all the cars are concentrated on one section of the circuit, as the leader laps the mid-field runners, and the mid-field runners lap the tail-enders. After the continual passing of cars, you suddenly become aware that everything has gone quiet. It usually lasts only for a lap or two before things spread out again. On lap 64 Hunt had an accident down the hill out of Casino Square which ended his race and left Depailler hard on the heels of Mass, who in turn was leaning heavily on Peterson. At 67 laps Donohue had an accident which put him out of the race and there were now only nine cars left running.

FIA rules say that if 2 hours are up before the allotted number of laps have been completed, then the race shall be stopped one lap later. Due to the slow opening phase of the race and the slippery conditions it was clear that 17.35 hours, two hours after the start, was going to arrive before Lauda had completed 78 laps. Consequently as the time-keepers looked at their time-clocks, Lauda eased off the pace knowing he had enough in hand, even though Fittipaldi was going hard behind him. Compared to practice the pace had been pretty slow, and Depailler scored the fastest lap at 1 min. 28.67 sec. in his pursuit of Mass and Peterson. As the two hours was up Mass was so pre-occupied with his attempts to get past Peterson that he forgot to look in his mirrors, and as they approached the tunnel on lap 74, with one more to go, Depailler took the German by surprise and got his Tyrrell past the McLaren, into fifth place.

A very relieved Lauda received the chequered flag after 75 laps, 2 hr. 1 min. and 21.31 sec. after starting, to score the first Monaco Grand Prix victory for Ferrari since 1955, and that one was only the first for Ferrari, if you ignore the sports car race in 1952. It was sadly ironical that neither Graham Hill, who has won the Monaco GP five times, nor BRM who also have had five victories at Monaco, were able to qualify for the 1975 race. Times change and there is no point in dwelling on the past.

Niki Lauda stands on the podium after winning the 1975 Monaco Grand Prix.

Lauda on the podium with Princess Grace and Prince Rainier

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Monaco was very full with Italians and Austrians, and Ferrari Club banners and Austrian flags could be seen waving from high up on the rock faces overlooking the circuit. What had started out looking like a fiasco, had developed into quite a good event, or so the Ferrari enthusiasts were claiming.–D.S.J.


33rd MONACO GRAND PRIX – Forumla One – Race stopped at 2 hours and 75 laps – Monte Carlo
3.278 kilometres per lap – 245.850 kilometres – Wet and dry

1st:N. Lauda (Ferrari 312B3/023 (T4))…………2 hr. 01 min. 21.31 sec. – 121.552 kph

2nd:E. Fittipaldi (McLaren M23/9)……………….2 hr. 01 min. 24.09 sec.

3rd:C. Pace (Brabham BT44B/2)………………..2 hr. 01 min. 39.12 sec.

4th:R. Peterson (Lotus 72/R9)……………………2 hr. 01 min. 59.76 sec.

5th:P. Depailler (Tyrrell 007/4)……………………2 hr. 02 min. 02.17 sec.

6th:J. Mass (McLaren M23/8)……………………2 hr. 02 min. 03.38 sec.

7th:J. Scheckter (Tyrrell 007/2)……………………….1 lap behind

8th:J. Ickx (Lotus 72/R5)………………………………..1 lap behind

9th:C. Reutemann (Brabham BT44B/1)………………2 laps behind

Fastest Lap:P. Depailler (Tyrrell 007/4) on lap 68, in 1 min. 28.67 sec. – 133.087 k.p.h.

Retirements: J-P. Jarier (Shadow DN5/1A) accident, on lap 1; M. Andretti (Parnelli VPJ4/003) oil leak, on lap 9: G. Regazzoni (Ferrari 312B3/018 (T1)) accident, on lap 37; J. Watson (Surtees TS16/02-4) spun and no restart, on lap 37; T. Pryce (Shadow DN5/2A) accident, on lap 38; V. Brambilla (March 751/3) damaged suspension, on lap 50; A. Jones (Hesketh 308/1) wheel trouble, on lap 62; J. Hunt (Hesketh 308/2) accident, on lap 64; M. Donohue (Penske PC1/01-2) accident, on lap 67.


18 starters – 9 finishers