DSJ On...

The Began Formula 1 race (Began Grand Prlx 1972)

On paper the Belgian Grand Prix took place on June 4 over 85 laps of the new Nivelles-Baulers Autodrome just south of Bruxelles in the flat industrial area near Charleroi.

What happened in fact was a nice tidy race for Formula 1 cars on a standardised, characterless autodrome that could have been anywhere… But if it was the Belgian Grand Prix and the shape of things that have come, then we should seriously consider running the British Grand Prix at Mallory Park.

The start was really impressive as the 25 cars surged away up the slope, with Regazzoni (Ferrari) leading from Fittipaldi (Lotus), Ickx (Ferrari) and Hulme (McLaren)… After five laps with everyone nose-to-tail it looked as though the ‘Minny-Mouse’ circuit lacked anywhere for overtaking, and Fittipaldi was inding this out as he badly wanted to get by Regazzoni and get on with the motor race. He had one try while braking for the hairpin, to ind that it was too easy for Regazzoni to block the way, so he waited for a lap or two and then on the ninth lap he out-smarted the Swiss and nipped past… and that was it.

From then on it was a perfect drive in a perfect car, the young Fittipaldi just drove away from everyone and lapped most people, and Colin Chapman could be seen looking like the Cheshire Cat. In the beautiful relaxed and smooth style that Fittipaldi has worked away to develop, and which suits the Lotus 72 admirably, he never put a wheel wrong and pulled away from Regazzoni’s Ferrari and all the others relentlessly. When the Lotus 72 irst appeared in 1970 and got itself sorted out I regretted the lack of a smooth, relaxed genius like the late Jim Clark to get the best out of it. While I stood in the dusty Nivelles-Baulers autodrome I wondered whether perhaps we had found a new one?

Denis Jenkinson was our famous Continental Correspondent for more than 40 years.