It’s a truism that the tougher times become, the more many of us take refuge in the comfort of the past. As one who can hardly bear to watch such sporting contests as Six Nations rugby or an England test match, or indeed the America’s Cup sailing live – because I don’t handle tension too well – yet who will avidly devour the replay once I know the (too often awful) outcome, I have much sympathy with this mindset.
It’s always convenient to consider bygone history in 10-year chunks. This year the motor racing world will be looking back in particular to 1961 – the year of the then brand-new 1½-litre Formula 1, so dominated by the ‘Sharknose’ Ferraris – but against that background it’s quite interesting to leap forward in 10-year slices. A decade after the ‘Sharknose’ and Phil Hill’s win for them in the Drivers’ World Championship, Ferrari launched into 1971 riding high on the success of its gorgeous 3-litre flat-12 312B cars during the second half of the 1970 season. Then it had won four of the last five Championship-qualifying rounds, the first three of those consecutively – the Austrian, Italian and Canadian GPs. Emerson Fittipaldi struck back by scoring his breakthrough GP victory for Lotus at Watkins Glen, but then Jacky Ickx renewed the Italian team’s winning streak with a great performance in Mexico.
Into the 1971 season Ferrari then seemed to be in tremendous shape. After Chris Amon’s long-awaited win for Matra in the Ferrari-free non-Championship Argentine GP, the Italian steamroller resumed what had become normal service at Kyalami with Mario Andretti driving the winning 312B. Clay Regazzoni then followed up with another win for Ferrari in the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, and Mario triumphed again in the Questor GP at Ontario Motor Speedway, California. But the wheels then fell off the Italian campaign.