Another comfortable Lotus victory
THERE ARE Grands Prix that are tense and closely fought with the lead see-sawing between several teams and the verdict in question until the closing few laps and there are others where the result looks almost a foregone conclusion, even in practice. But, in these cases, the unexpected sometimes happens and the cars that made the running in practice may hit trouble in the race leaving victory to someone who can count himself lucky. One of the great joys of motor racing is its very unpredictability and the way in which the status quo can change so rapidly. The Argentine Grand Prix, for instance, was a classic race where the lead was in doubt until the last ten laps and three different teams had led at various stages of the race. Yet two weeks later, in neighbouring Brazil, one racing organisation, John Player Team Lotus, dominated practice and the race so utterly and completely that the others were almost left wondering whether it was worth carrying on. Yet, almost certainly, at the South African Grand Prix the pendulum will swing again in someone else’s favour. However, the two opening World Championship Grands Prix did have one thing in common and that was the winner—Emerson Fittipaldi and his John Player sponsored Lotus 72.
In Buenos Aires it was a hard-fought victory for the Brazilian, but at his home circuit of Interlagos he was never challenged having taken the lead at the moment the starter’s flag dropped. It was something of a special occasion for Fittipaldi for it was the first Grand Prix he had actually led throughout and, of course, it was the first World Championship race ever held in his home country, one of the reasons for the event being the amount of motor racing success and prestige that he has brought to Brazil. The race also marked Lotus drawing level with Ferrari on the number of victories since the World Championship started. Both now have 49.
The Interlagos track has been the home of racing in Brazil since 1940 but it is only in recent years that it has become known internationally thanks to the enthusiasm and hard work of one of Brazil’s television stations, TV Globo. They have been instrumental in promoting Formula Ford, Formula Three and Formula Two series at the track with considerable success and Fiitipaldi competing in each as he moved up through the ranks of European racing. Wanting a World Championship Grand Prix, the organisers arranged a Formula One race last Easter time and, although it only attracted 12 cars and gave Reutemann his only F1 win to date, it qualified them for a full World Championship race this year.
The circuit itself measures just under 8 km. and twists and turns like a serpent. Basically there is an outer bowl off which the track snakes backwards and forwards as the map shows and then rejoins before the pits straight. The highest point on the circuit is the pits straight and along this is the majority of spectators’ accommodation, with huge grandstands as can he seen from the start picture of the race in our colour centre spread. From this vantage point the spectators can see almost the complete track. The corners of the outer bowl are banked while the rest offers various combinations of radius and severity. All in all Interlagos is a track well worthy of inclusion in the World Championship. Unfortunately it is set within the city limits of Sao Paulo in a rather unattractive and industrial area and the facilities in the pits and paddock are not yet to the standard set in Buenos Aires.
In total there was five hours of official practice covering Friday and Saturday with sessions of one hour and one hour and a half on each day, while on Thursday there had been a two-hour untimed practice period.
Team Lotus totally dominated practice, their two cars finishing first and second in all four official separate sessions. In the first three Ronnie Peterson sprung something of a surprise by recording the faster time of the pair while Fittipaldi was the faster in the fourth and final session. But that was held in altogether much hotter weather and he just failed to equal Peterson’s pole position time from the previous day. So, for the first time in his World Championship career, Peterson started on pole position with a time of 2 min. 30.5 sec. which left Emerson Fittipaldi’s lap record, set in the non-championship 1st Brazilian Grand Prix last Easter, of 2 min. 35.2 sec., looking very second-hand. Fittipaldi’s best was 2 min. 30.7 sec. and even this left the rest of the field looking slow in comparison. Completing the front row of the now rare (in Grand Prix racing) 3-2-3 grid was Jacky Ickx’s Ferrari with 2 min. 32.0 sec., hardly on terms with the Lotuses.
On row two was Regazzoni showing that his Argentina form was no flash in the pan for the BRM was fourth fastest at 1 min. 32.4 sec. while Hulme’s best of 1 min. 32.7 sec. completed the row. Regazzoni’s fast time was recorded on Friday using the same engine he had raced with in Argentina. As it was now rather tired it was replaced by a fresh one from Bourne which refused to run cleanly at all and the Swiss did not complete a flying lap on Saturday so it was changed again for the race. Carlos Pace indicated that now the Surtees TS14A has the correct springs there isn’t too much wrong with it and he also recorded 1 min. 32.7 sec. to share row three with Carlos Reutemann’s Brabham (also handling much better than at the previous race) and Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell. On the fourth row was Francois Cevert’s Tyrrell, just 0.1 sec, slower than Stewart and Beltoise’s BRM. It was certainly unusual to see the Tyrrells only eighth and ninth fastest in practice but they had worked fairly hard to be that far up, for the chassis just did not appear to suit the circuit. The second half of the grid was headed by Wilson Fittipaldi, who probably knows the Interlagos track better than anyone, and he was able to lap his Brabham in 2 min. 34.3 sec. A similar time was recorded by Peter Revson who missed both of Friday’s sessions due to a stomach ailment which laid him low in his hotel bed while that rank of the grid was completed by Niki Lauda’s BRM, which missed both sessions on Saturday due to various problems.
Behind them came Mike Hailwood who, unlike Pace, did not seem to be getting on with his TS14A very well and did not appear to have much appetite for the task at hand. He shared his row of the grid with March Engineering’s white hope Jean-Pierre Jarier. On the last but one row of the grid were the two Williams Specials sandwiching Merzario’s Ferrari while, right at the back, was Beuttler’s March and Bueno in the Surtees, neither of which had much practice, but had they done so it was unlikely to have made much difference.
While the crowds during practice had not been particularly large or noisy, in contrast to Buenos Aires, they certainty made up for it on Sunday. Brazilian racing fans started packing into the Interlagos track from the early hours of the morning in preparation for the 1 p.m. start. As on Saturday it was a sweltering hot day with the temperature, in the shade, in the high 90s and there were many cases of sunstroke. The fire brigade sprayed the main grandstands with water to cool down the fans but, while it may have done so physically, it certainly didn’t do so metaphorically, as the cheering and general bustle got louder and more excitable as the start of the race drew nearer. Tremendous displays of flying and sky-diving kept everyone amused for a while and then the grid started to form.
The poor Williams team, who had suffered various misfortunes during practice, could not believe it when two scrutineers sealing the oil tanks with locking wire almost simultaneously contrived to set off the fire extinguishers on both cars. These had to be replaced and Ganley and Galli arrived on the grid with only about five minutes to spare. All the teams-were protecting their drivers from the heat with parasols and, meanwhile, some enthusiasts with Scottish flags cavorted in front of the main grandstand and got empty beer cans hurled at them for their trouble!
At least this display seemed to inspire Jackie Stewart who had earlier given them a friendly wave for, when the engine notes rose and the flag dropped, he made a terrific, or even jumped, start along with Carlos Pace from row three, this pair sweeping around the two row two competitors. But there was no way either Stewart or Pace was going to pass Fittipaldi for the Brazilian had made the perfect get-away and was into the first corner at the head of the pack. That first lap order certainly bore little resemblance to the practice order for lckx had muffed his start, Reutemann, did likewise while Hulme’s throttles were sticking open and he was driving on the ignition while Regazzoni’s engine was fluffing. So as the cars weaved back towards the paddock on the infield section it was Fittipaldi in the lead from Pace, who of course is another Sao Paulo local, with Stewart third then Peterson, Ickx, Wilson Fittipaldi, Beltoise, Revson and the rest. But the elder Fittipaldi’s fortunes were short-lived a water hose suddenly blew off, and the car started to lose all its water. He motored slowly towards the pits where attempts at a repair were made and he made three or four more exploratory laps before calling it a day. It wasn’t his day because, in the morning warm-up session, his engine had thrown a connecting rod, unusual on Cosworth engines, and the new motor had to be fitted quickly perhaps too quickly.
Fittipaldi completed the first lap to an enormous roar from the appreciative crowd and he already had about a second’s lead over Pace who had Stewart, Peterson and Ickx on his tail. Then came Beltoise, Revson, Cevert, Hailwood (who had made an excellent start), Reutemann, Merzario, Regazzoni, Hulme, Lauda, Galli, Beuttler, Jarier, Ganley with Bueno bringing up the rear. Stewart’s problems seemed forgotten and he passed Pace on lap two, while Peterson remained a close fourth. Revson pulled into the pits thus losing seventh place, which was snatched up by Mike Hailwood. The American’s problem was in the gearbox for he only had the top two gears remaining and a couple of further laps convinced him it was no use continuing and he was actually the first retirement. The pinion shaft had somehow come unscrewed. On lap three, with the crowd still roaring as Fittipaldi flashed by, Peterson moved up to third place ahead of Pace while, the following lap, the fortunes of Hailwood started to wane when the engine went rough and he slowed. Thus Cevert and Reutemann moved up to seventh and eighth places behind Beltoise but then the Argentinian hit trouble. A ball joint in the throttle linkage had broken and he rolled into the pits and it took three laps to repair, robbing him of any chance of a position.
Right at the front there was still plenty of action which looked in Team Lotus’ favour. Fittipaldi had further increased his lead while Peterson was putting Stewart under considerable pressure for second place. But on lap six Peterson floored the throttle out of the second long corner and suddenly heard the revs race and felt the car start to lurch out of control. He thought it had jumped out of gear and in the fraction of a second he started to hunt for gears and control the wildly spinning car as well, but to no avail and it brushed the armco barrier. What had actually happened was that the centre had pulled out of the right rear wheel – one of those pressed and bonded Melmag types that Lotus and several other teams have been using for a while, and this had naturally thrown the car out of control. The Swede walked back to the pits unharmed.
Hailwood retired altogether on lap five with a fault suspected in the metering unit and Jarier stopped on the circuit with a broken crown-wheel and pinion while Pace started to slip further back as the car was now handling badly because its sticky Firestone tyres, upon which Pace had gambled, were already giving trouble. He actually retired on lap nine with this and a rear suspension problem which Team Surtees were not keen to talk about. So by lap ten, quarter distance, the order was looking very different from either that on the grid or the first lap. Fittipaldi now had a lead of at least five seconds over Stewart, who had an even larger margin over Ickx. Beltoise was a handy fourth, but was starting to come under pressure from Hulme, who was certainly making up for the first-lap engine trouble. Cevert was now sixth, ahead of Regazzoni, who was being challenged by Merzario who suddenly found form he had hardly demonstrated in practice. Lauda, the two Williams cars, Beuttler, Bueno and, back in the race, Reutemann completed those still running. Six cars were already out at quarter distance. Not a good omen, but after that only two further cars retired.
First and second places were now secure but third place was definitely in contention with Ickx, Beltoise and Hulme running in close quarters. Hulme was definitely in the mood for motor racing and he first passed Beltoise and then three laps later, on lap 15, put Ickx behind him as well. On lap 17, Cevert made a pit stop as the top of a front shock-absorber had come unscrewed, this took a couple of laps to replace, and he later made a pit stop with a puncture so he was effectively out of the running thus letting Regazzoni, his engine now sounding more healthy, into sixth position.
Ickx was the next to strike trouble and, soon after he had been passed by Beltoise, he came into the pits with a puncture in a rear tyre. In the rush Merzario’s spare somehow got fitted and this was a narrower rim and tyre which made the handling of the car somewhat odd for the rest of the race. The Belgian continued in eighth place. Beuttler was the next to go, his tired engine going onto five or six cylinders on lap 18 and he retired.
So, at half distance, the race order had Fittipaldi in front and still going away with a lead now over ten seconds. Stewart was a secure second and Hulme third unable to catch Stewart, as he had been doing earlier, because the clutch was now inoperative. In fourth and fifth places were the BRMs of Beltoise and Regazzoni while Merzario, still nagging at Regazzoni’s tail, found himself sixth ahead of the two Williams cars which were running reliably, although they were now about to be re-passed by lckx. Lauda had pulled up on the circuit when his engine stopped but he was somehow able to revive it by fiddling with the electrics and, subsequently, had to make a pit stop to have his seat belts tightened.
Carlos Reutemann, with absolutely no hope of a place, was nevertheless driving his Brabham as fast as it would go and was actually lapping as quickly as Stewart. He kept overtaking people but three laps of an 8 km. circuit is a lot to make up and the lap chart still showed him 13th and last.
On lap 24 little Merzario suddenly found himself in fourth place as both the BRMs started to falter. Beltoise actually ground to a halt when a flying stone knocked out his car’s electrics while Regazzoni was having to contend with tremendous understeer which brought him into the pits two laps later to have a worn-out front tyre replaced. Bueno was another pit caller with an electrical fault which was soon corrected. So with three-quarter distance approaching only the first four cars, plus the two Williams machines, had run without a pit stop. Ickx was already back up to fifth place and Ganley was sixth. If he could hold off a fast-closing Regazzoni he would give Williams his first ever point as a constructor. Out on the circuit Fittipaldi was driving in a beautifully relaxed style and was certainly not hurrying, as his fastest lap in the race indicates, and he even had time to make signs to his wife indicating it was all too easy. He was keeping the gap at around 14 seconds and, from then on, just reeling off the laps to the finish and a tumultuous welcome from his 80,000 fans. Some 13 seconds later came Stewart, no doubt happy and surprised to collect six championship points in the circumstances, while Hulme was third, the only other driver not lapped. The next four cars were all a lap behind with a tired, but delighted, Merzario finishing fourth in only his fourth Grand Prix, team-mate Ickx with the strange-handling Ferrari was fifth and Regazzoni stole sixth place front Ganley and the Williams team.
So the New Zealander was seventh, swerving wildly on the last lap to pick up the last dregs of fuel and, for that matter, the car was also out of oil and water so he would not have gone another mile further.
In eighth place, two laps down, was Lauda who headed home Galli, who has very few Grand Prix finishes to his credit, while there was a great race to line between Cevert and Reutemann for tenth place. The Argentinian caught up about twenty seconds in the last three laps as Cevert struggled in with a couple of gears missing, a punctured rear tyre and a soggy rear shock-absorber. But he made tenth place with just a length to spare. The final finisher in this Fittipaldi benefit was Bueno so it was Brazilians first and last.
Their first World Championship Grand Prix will not go down as a classic but it will be remembered as a race so totally dominated in practice by the Lotus team and, in the race, by the nation’s own World Champion. With two wins from two races Fittipaldi has certainly made an excellent start to the 1973 season.— A. R. M.
• Goodyear certainly dominated the two South American races and cars equipped with their tyres filled all six places in Argentina and the first five in Brazil. Only Regazzoni’s sixth place with the Firestone shod BRM at Interlagos stopped a complete rout.
• At a meeting during the Brazilian Grand Prix Denny Hulme was voted the new President of the GPDA.
• John Surtees was seen in overalls again during Thursday’s unofficial session when he tried Mike Hailwood’s TS14A for a few laps.
Notes on the cars at Interlagos
AS EXPECTED the line-up in Brazil was almost exactly the same as in Argentina and the notes on the cars at that race apply equally to this second round in the Championship with a few exceptions. The Motor Racing Developments had flown out some completely new front wheels for the two BT37s to a new pattern. Also attending the cars at the meeting was the firm’s new F1 designer, the young South African Gordon Murray, who has replaced Australian Ralph Bellamy who left the team for Lotus towards the end of last year. Bellamy was in attendance in the smart rig-out of John Player Team Lotus.
Team Tyrrell tested at the Interlagos circuit at the Goodyear sessions back in December and found the handling of their cars did not suit the bumpy circuit at all well. In an effort to counteract this, designer Derek Gardner came up with an aluminium distance piece to be fitted between the engine and chassis of Stewart’s 005 thus, effectively, lengthening the wheelbase by about 6 inches. The team tried a similar expedient with the older marque Tyrrell on a couple of occasions in 1971. Although the distance piece was used on the first practice day for Stewart’s car only, it was subsequently discarded.
Team Surtees had brought an additional car to Brazil to be hired to the local driver Luiz Bueno, who raced in Britain in Formula Ford back in 1969. This was the ex-Hailwood TS9B/005 chassis. Bueno’s only previous experience of Formula One was when he drove a March 711 in the non-championship Brazilian GP last year.
There were a few subtle changes to the Lotus 72s. Both cars had a new design of airbox with a larger orifice although this was hardly detectable to the naked eye. Modifications had been made to the oil tank of Peterson’s new car as this was thought to be the cause of his engine trouble in Argentina.
Some further changes had also been made to the rear suspension of the McLaren M19s. In Argentina new and lighter uprights of the type intended for the new M23 had been fitted along with new links but the job was completed in Brazil with the fitting of a new rear suspension bridge which re-located the shock absorber mountings and in so doing altering the geometry to suit the latest higher 26 in. diameter Goodyear tyres.—A.R.M.
Brazilian Grand Prix—Formula One—40 laps—Sao Paolo Municipal Speedway, Interlagos, 7.96 kilometres per lap—318.38 kilometres—Very hot
1st: E. Fittipaldi (Lotus 72D/R7) . . . . . 1 hr. 43 min. 55.6 see.—183.86 k.p.h.
2nd: J. Stewart (Tyrrell 005) . . . . . 1 hr. 44 min. 09.1 sec.
3rd: D. Hulme (McLaren M19C/1) . . . . 1 hr. 45 min. 42.0 sec.
4th: A. Merzario (Ferrari 312B2) . . . . 39 laps
5th: J. Ickx (Ferrari 312B2 No. 5) . . . . 39 laps
6th: G. Regazzoni (BRM P160/01) . . . . 39 laps
7th: H. Ganley (Williams FX3/2) . . . . 39 laps
8th: N. Lauda (BRM 160/03) . . . . 38 laps
9th: N. Galli (Williams FX3/1) . . . . 38 laps
10th: F. Cevert (Tyrrell 006) . . . . 38 laps
11th: C. Reutemann (Brabham BT37/2) . . . . 38 laps
12th: L. Bueno (Surtees TS9R/005) . . . . 36 laps
Fastest lap: 1st: E. Fittipaldi (Lotus 72D/R7) on lap 14 2 min. 35.0 see.—184.877 k.p.h. (new outright circuit record)