1975 Swedish Grand Prix
- Sunday, June 8, 1975
- Polar Sveriges Grand Prix
- F1 World Championship
In the Brabham team there was an air of expectancy as Carlos Reutemann had cut his hair quite drastically, so that his ears showed in an old-fashioned way, and he was convinced this would change his luck. More significant was the fact that he had appeared for breakfast happy and smiling and saying “What a beautiful day”. This indicated that he was in a good mood and there was every chance of him being really on form. He has a very deep and unpredictable nature and if he doesn’t feel right he drives in a mediocre fashion; if he feels good then he is one of the best. The trouble is that no-one can find out what makes him feel good or bad.
From the start of practice Reutemann was obviously on form and you did not need a stop-watch to see that he was really trying. Another driver who was quietly getting on with the job was Depailler, while Jarier was driving with all the flair one expects from him. It was accepted that Lauda would be among the front-runners, for anyone using Cosworth V8 power is convinced that the Ferrari is far superior on sheer speed, on pick-up from slow corners, on torque right through the range, on superior braking and road-holding and to listen to some people you wonder why anyone goes on using the Cosworth DFV. The question of Lauda’s driving ability never seems to come into it, but Lauda himself believes that he is putting quite a lot of effort into the overall performance of the Ferrari and while he does not accept all the advantages claimed for the Ferrari, he does admit that it is a very good car. However, in this first practice the combination of Lauda and the Ferrari was not quite good enough to beat Reutemann and his Brabham. The Argentinian was fastest with 1 min. 25.297 sec., Lauda did 1 min. 25.457 sec., Depailler 1 min. 25.602 sec. and Jarier 1 min. 25,894 sec., so it was clear that a lap in the 1 rnin. 25 sec. bracket was going to be the standard for anyone who wanted to be classed as an “Ace”. After the performance by Vittorio Brambilla in the works March at Zolder everyone had been wondering if it had been significant or merely a flash-in-the-pan and when he didn’t appear in the “Ace” category at the end of the first practice, people said “Oh well, there you are, you see”. Even the Ferrari team had got number 9 on one of the buttons on their electrical Heuer timing machine, but began to think it was a waste of a good button. The acknowledged “Ace” drivers like Fittipaldi, Peterson, Scheckter, Hunt and Pace were all busy trying to “tune” their cars for the geometric corners but not making much headway, while others were quite simply having trouble. Magee had hardly started off in the Williams before it died on him out on the circuit with the throttles stuck shut and he had to get help from his mechanics, and Ian Scheckter was wishing he had brought his Tyrrell with him from South Africa as the new Williams car was not consistent in its feel which did not encourage him to go too near the limit. Alan Jones had the throttles stick open on the Hesketh 308/1 and went off the circuit through a catch fence, damaging the nose cowling and front suspension and the Hill team began a long saga of engine trouble. Brise had the Cosworth V8 blow up in GH1/1 so he transferred to GH1/3 and Schuppan was relegated to the Lola HU3 which was being used as a spare car. The Parnelli team were in trouble with a front brake shaft breaking, just like a Lotus 72, apart from being on their own without a designer behind them as Maurice Phillipe had left the team. The team owner, Vel Miletich was not in Sweden, nor were the bosses of the BRM team, the Surtees team, the Hesketh team, the Penske team or the Ferrari team, but then the Ferrari team have always had to get along without their leader, and never seem the worse for it. After the lunch interval Robin Herd and the March men began to show their hand, which looked suspiciously like a serious attempt at Gamesmanship to upset the opposition, and later turned out to be exactly that. First of all Brambilla went out in Lella Lombardi’s car, which foxed a lot of people who saw it ahead of them and assumed that they would soon catch it up, but then found they could not. Brambilla’s normal car is painted in the bright orange of the Beta tool company who sponsor him, whereas Lombardi’s car is white, so the sight of the white car going indecently fast must have unnerved some people. When Brambilla got back into his own car he really turned on the steam and was continually putting in laps in the 1 min. 24 see. bracket which made the Ferrari timekeeper get excited and the other top teams get agitated. It wasn’t that the March had suddenly become a Super-Car, for its set-up was not necessarily any more nearer the ideal than anyone else’s, but the driver was making full use of what he had got and not worrying unduly about the fine details, as were drivers like Fittipaldi and Scheckter. In the Lotus camp there was little joy for Peterson came in with the nose cowling knocked off 72/R9 and had to continue practice in the spare car, which only added to their confusion. The Ferrari team fiddled about with all their adjustments and made no improvement at all and they were particularly embarrassed by being unable to match the speed of Brambilla. To have Fittipaldi or Peterson, or even Scheckter in front of them was explainable if not acceptable, but Brambilla was going to take some explaining away to the Commendatore.
The stocky little Italian, who at 37 is an old man by Grand Prix standards, is not known as the “Monza Gorilla” for nothing and after he had clocked a best lap of 1 mm. 24.63 sec. merely said “Vittorio is good, car is good.” There was a lot of muttering up and down the pits about “understeer”, “oversteer”, “imbalance”, “down-force”, “up-force”, “aerofoils”, “tyres”, “too much weight”, “too much track”, “wheelbase”, “steering ratio” and so on, but not very much about enthusiastic driving. The morning “Aces” in the 1 min. 25 Sec. bracket were now looking like “Jacks” and there were one or two “Jokers” about as well! Some of those who had got things adjusted nearly right, lost confidence and got in a muddle, while those who were still trying to get some sense from the adjustments got completely confused. If it had been Lauda and the Ferrari who had got into the 1 min. 24 sec. bracket there would have been a resigned air of “Oh well, naturally”, but Brambilla and the March!
Permanent road course
Niki Lauda (Brabham BT46B-Alfa Romeo), 1m24.836, 106.299 mph, F1, 1978
First Race1970 Anderstorp F5000