THE McLAREN team had a new tweak on M23/9, which World Champion Fittipaldi used all during practice and in the race itself. This was a lever on the left of the cockpit coupled to the ends of the front suspension anti-roll bar by Bowden cables. Moving the lever backwards or forwards caused the roll bar arms to extend or contract, thus allowing the driver to alter the roll stiffness of the front suspension at will, the idea being to use it as the fuel load lessened or road conditions altered, Not a new idea, it having been tried many times by many designers, its limitation would seem to lie in the technical sensitivity of the driver. (Personally, I shall always regret that Colin Chapman had a misfortune when making his debut as a Grand Prix driver in the Vanwall team in 1956, and never got another opportunity to become the archetypal designer/Grand Prix driver for he would have made maximum use of such devices.) The other two cars in the McLaren team in use in Monte Carlo were M23/8, driven by Mass, and M23/6 which spent the whole time standing by as a team spare, apart from a couple of unofficial laps driven by Fittipaldi with a cine-camera attached to the roll-over bar. The Tyrrell team were another group not to have need of their spare car, which was 007/5, though it was always standing by fully prepared. Scheckter used 007/2 with the normal front nose section with vertical spoilers at each end of the aerofoil fins, while Depailler started with the modified nose cowling without vertical spoilers and later reverted to the earlier form on his car, 007/4. Peterson and Ickx were driving their usual cars, Lotus 72/R9 and Lotus 72/R5, respectively and as they both managed to “stay on the island”, the spare car 72/R8 was not used. Brabhams had B1, B2 and B3 of their 1975 modified BT44 series on hand for Reutemann, Pace and as a spare, respectively. Reutemann used BT44B/3 during the first day of practice, when his own car died out on the circuit, and for race day B3 was prepared with springs, shock-absorbers, roll-bars and geometrical suspension adjustments all set for torrential rain conditions, in view of the way the day had started. There were no numbers on the car and Gordon Murray preferred not to say who was going to drive his “secret-weapon” in the event of the weather deteriorating, but my guess is it would have carried number 8. As the weather improved B3 was not needed.
The Scuderia Ferrari arrived with three 1975 cars, all with transverse gearbox layout, with yet another new one, 023, the fourth to appear in this configuration, which was consigned to Lauda. Team-mate Regazzoni had 021, and the first in the series, 018, was the spare car. Due to both drivers doing bouncing acts off the guard-rails in practice, Regazzoni took over 018 and raced it, ultimately bouncing it off the chicane, while Lauda used 021 in slightly secondhand form when he crashed 023 on the first day of practice. However, 023 was repaired for the final practice and he used it to win the race, keeping it away from the steel barriers. Bob Evans drove the lone BRM entry P201/05, although P201/02 was standing by as a spare but was not needed. The young English driver neither crashed the car nor blew the engine up in his attempts to qualify among the select eighteen fastest drivers, and though he failed to make the grid he returned the car in good condition, which was some consolation to the impoverished team. In contrast, the wealthy UOP-Shadow team finished up with no results and a sizeable repair bill. Jarier and Pryce were good boys in practice using DN5/1A and DN5/2A, respectively, without drama, while DN5/3A stood by and was used very briefly by Jarier at the end of practice, to see if it was all in working order. In the race they both pranged their cars, Jarier on the opening lap, and Pryce twice during the race.
Poor old John Surtees had every reason to be back to the glooms, but managed to stay cheerful, for his Irish lad with the beard just could not seem to get in step. TS16/04-4 arrived with “Keep Britain in Europe” painted on the sides of the monocoque and while the television and media moguls were getting in a flap, Watson clanged the car into the guard-rails while trying to avoid Regazzoni’s first accident, which was taking place mere feet in front of him. He continued with the spare car, TS16/02-4 and still on the wrong foot he bounced it off the chicane. Of the two, the spare was least damaged but in the race he had another excursion off course when Brambilla’s March collapsed in front of him. It just wasn’t the weekend of the Johns. Brambilla was using March 751/3 as usual, and going well all weekend, while Lella Lombardi had little hope of qualifying for the race but did her best with 751/2. She got a bit crossed-up in practice and bent the left-front corner, but some “DIY-design as we go” efforts by Robin Herd and his merry men got the car drivable again.
After Merzario’s Spanish debacle and his hopeless efforts at the Spa sports car race the weekend afterwards, Frank Williams demoted him to the older of the team cars, and put Jacques Lafitte in the new car, which had made such an inauspicious debut in Spain. Unfortunately the swarthy Frenchman responded by crashing the new car in the first practice session, but at least he was trying hard. The damage was not too bad and was repaired quickly but both cars failed to qualify by under a quarter of a second. Graham Hill’s Embassy-sponsored team was reduced to one car, with himself driving, after the unfortunate Barcelona accident, the remaining car being GH1, which first appeared in South Africa as Lola T371/HU1, even though it was known to have been built outside the Lola factory. As a stand-by Hill had one of his 1974 Lola cars, this being HU3. The Hesketh team were out in full force with Hunt in 308/2, Alan Jones in 308/1 still with coil spring suspension on the front, and Torsten Palm was in 308/3. This last entry was sponsored by Polar Caravans, the car being covered in polar bears. As it was Palm’s first attempt at Grand Prix it was hardly surprising that he did not qualify, so the car was returned to the Teddy Bear team as an emergency stand-by on race day for Hunt, the polar bears being removed.
The American teams of Vel Miletich and Roger Penske were on hand with Vel’s Parnelli having a new car, VPJ4/003, replacing the one bent in Barcelona, and VPJ4/001. During practice Andretti managed to bend both cars and it strained the team’s resources to rebuild both cars in time for the race, the rebuilt-rebuilt car 003, being used. Penske’s lot had PC1/01, which Donohue bent pretty thoroughly in practice and a new monocoque had to be used to rebuild it in time for the race. Wilson Fittipaldi’s little Brazilian team with FD/02 seemed to be out of their depth all weekend, and Morris Nunn’s Ensign team were tackling more than they could really hope to cope with, the starters being limited to eighteen.—D.S.J. • –•