Ferrari and Formula One

Enzo Ferrari has never been greatly enamoured of Formula One and the multimillion-pound entertainment business that the Jackie Stewarts of this World proclaim it to be. Ferrari has always believed in Grand Prix racing being racing for Grand Prix cars, an event to be won by his cars and his drivers, not just another round in a Championship series in which points-collecting is more important than winning. He believes that a manufacturer who wins more races than anyone else can justifiably claim to he the Champion Manufacturer of Grand Prix cars. Champion drivers are incidental to the main purpose. He is not alone in those views and nor am I in supporting him.

After Lauda’s difficult-to-explain accident at the Nurburgring it was generally accepted, though not whole-heartedly agreed with, that a link in the rear suspension had broken on the Ferrari causing the Austrian to spin the wrong way, into the catch fences. It was difficult to accept this for Ferraris are not in the habit of breaking suspension bits, unlike some other makes that I could mention, but equally it was difficult to accept that Lauda had made a driving error, for that was something he was not in the habit of doing. Enzo Ferrari was naturally incensed when it was suggested his car had failed structurally and while Lauda’s condition was still unsure, he announced that he was withdrawing his team from Formula One for the rest of the 1976 season, on account of the doubts cast upon his engineers and technicians by those who said the suspension broke. Of course, there was more to it than that. It was the final straw, the last in a long line of dissatisfaction that Ferrari has endured over a number of years and particularly this year. He said, in effect, “I am fed up with the whole boiling issue, I’ve had enough, I am pulling out until common sense prevails”, and who can blame him. He has been in Grand Prix racing for longer than most of the whizz-kids of the Formula One entertainment world would believe. Many of them think Grand Prix racing started in 1950 and some of them even say as much and write as much. Some actually know that Ferrari cars first appeared in Grand Prix racing in 1948, but few seem to realise or accept that Grand Prix racing started in 1906, and Ferrari has been involved in it since 1919. There is not much in the racing world that is new or exciting to Enzo Ferrari. He rules his Scuderia from the confines of Modena and Maranello, seldom venturing into the outside World and never out of Italy, his employees representing him at any important meetings, just as they do at race meetings. In Mauro Forghieri he has a very competent engineer and an intelligent man who keeps him fully informed of the goings on in the world of the Formula One Constructors’ Association, the CSI or the FIA, and you can rest assured that he is fully aware of all the contrivings and machinations of those who run Formula One racing. Many years ago when Carroll Shelby was running his Cobras, trying to beat the GT Ferraris, he said: “Man, you’ve got to get up really early if you are going to beat old man Ferrari”. Enzo Ferrari has been in the racing business a long while, he has enormous support from faithful employees and followers and he probably knows what is going on in the minds of new-boys like Ecclestone, Mosley, Mayer or Tyrrell before they are even clear themselves. When commercial interests divorced from motor racing moved in on the Formula One scene, Ferrari made it abundantly clear that he disapproved. Time and again he has stated that while he is alive his cars will be called Ferraris and they will carry the red of Italian racing. Italian racing cars are red and no other colour, says Ferrari; he would never let his cars look like packets of cigarettes or soap powder, any advertising carried on the cars would be for products directly concerned with the operating of the cars. When the tobacco barons got stroppy because the Ferrari drivers donned a Goodyear cap after winning a race, instead of a Marlboro cap to justify the money they were putting directly into their pockets outside of their Ferrari contracts, the “old man” read the riot act and said: “Wear the Goodyear cap, my cars win races on Goodyear tyres, they do not win races on Marlboro cigarettes.”

The petty wrangling of big business annoyed Ferrari and he felt Grand Prix racing could do without it. The sea of rules and regulations, which get bigger every year, are another thing he dislikes; having been racing when the basic rules were sufficient and the details were left to the integrity of his engineers. The lowering of overall standards of engineering by the encouragement of backyard (I nearly said “wood-yard”!) teams has required minute and pettifogging detail rules and regulations and has turned Grand Prix racing into Formula One. Having made all these rules and regulations the CSI then made a mockery of them by reversing the decision made at the Spanish GP and allowing McLaren to win with an illegal car. As Mauro Forghieri said, if he’d known they were going to be allowed to cheat he would have used a 4-litre engine “…only a few millimetres bigger in bore size and only a few cubic centimetres over the 3,000-c.c. limit”. When Forghieri makes comments like that you can rest assured he is speaking for Enzo Ferrari. When the RAC made a complete nonsense of the interpretation of the racing regulations at the British GP and Forghieri protested, through the Ferrari team manager of the moment, you can rest assured that he knows he will have the full backing of Enzo Ferrari. When the race Stewards came up with a different wording to the rules after the British GP, to the words they used before it, Ferrari was not amused, and when the Stewards of the RAC reworded the whole affair in favour Of James Hum when Ferrari appealed against the first decision, it was not surprising that he sent his envoys direct to higher authority, the Fl A itself. The Italians as a race have never been very impressed with “the sporting British” and the last few British Grand Prix events have done nothing to alleviate this antagonism. Small wonder that the Italian Press, and some of the European Press as well, have been running a campaign against “the Mafia of Formula One”, and openly describing Bernard Ecclestone as the “father of the Formula One Mafia”.

Ferrari never did like the idea of the Formula One Constructors’ Association and stayed out of it for as long as was politic. Now he has more or less said “To hell with Ecclestone and his Association” and by withdrawing from the Austrian Grand Prix he has broken faith with the constitution of the Association. During pre-season negotiations between Ecclestone and the race organisers for yet more and more money and bigger and better conditions, the deals are done on the basis of the fidelity of the Association members and their guarantee to field two cars in every Grand Prix. A year or two ago John Surtees failed to turn up with his cars for one race and Ecclestone fined him £800. I wonder who delivered the summons to Maranello? If Ferrari stays away for the rest of the season he will be expelled from the Formula One Constructors’ Association, under some rule about attendances, and this will mean he will not be allocated racing numbers for his cars in 1977 by the Ecclestone Club, and this will mean he won’t be able to enter races. Ferrari is a member of the Formula One Constructors’ Association and must abide by the rules, it is said.

I can see the RAC refusing the Ferrari entries for the British Grand Prix. but I cannot see his entries being refused at Monaco, Buenos Aires, Monza, Nurburgring and one or two other places, Ecclestone numbers or no Ecclestone numbers. If someone was to form a European Constructors’ Association to get the Grand back in Grand Prix racing I feel Ferrari would be the first member, closely followed by Ligier, Renault. Alfa Romeo, and some British teams,while Porsche, BMW and Ford (Cologne) would no doubt join “just in case we need to go Grand Prix racing”.

Last year in Barcelona the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association was seen to be no stronger than a puff-ball and no more united than any other group of human beings. The human frailty of the Formula One Constructors’ Association is beginning to show and their apparent solidarity looks as if it might be built on quick-sand.

At the time of writing Ferrari is adamant about not sending his cars to any more races this year. He has climbed down in the past, even if it was a bit sideways; he could climb down again and may well do so for the Italian Grand Prix. Even his rivals want him back, which must be the greatest mark of respect anyone can give.—D.S.J.