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The Complete History of Grand Prix Motor Racing by Adriano Cimarosti
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F. Gordon Crosby - Nazzaro wins the French GP at 42

 
 




The Lauda Years

Lauda would bring to Ferrari new blood and along with the promotion of a young lawyer, Luca di Montezemolo, to head the F1 team Ferrari's fortunes would take a turn for the better. Ironically it was Regazzoni who at first was considered the leading driver. Lauda soon got down to work. After taking up residence at the Canal Grande Hotel in Modena he spent endless days testing and working with the engineers and mechanics to improve the performance of the Ferrari 312B3. The chief rivals to Ferrari would be the McLaren M23s of Emerson Fittipaldi and Denny Hulme, the Lotus of Ronnie Peterson, the Brabham driven by Carlos Reutemann and the Tyrell of South African Jody Scheckter. McLaren drew first blood in Argentina in the hand of Denny Hulme. Moving to Brazil it was teammate Fittipaldi's turn as he battled Ronnie Peterson before a puncture ended the Swedish driver's challenge. Even though McLaren took the first two races it was evident to all that the Ferraris of Regazzoni and Lauda would soon be heard from. Meanwhile Brabham showed that they couldn't be counted out when Carlos Reutemann won in South Africa. At Jarma, Spain Ferrari was back on top with Niki Lauda taking the victory.
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Next in order came the Belgian Grand Prix, this year run at Nivelles,  which was claimed by Fittipaldi, Monaco which went to Peterson and Sweden which was won by Scheckter.

Niki Lauda The race for the Championship was now wide open but it was the dependability of McLaren and Fittipaldi which would soon see them through. Lauda and Regazzoni scored a strong 1-2 at the Dutch Grand Prix and Scheckter returned to the winner's circle at Brands Hatch. Regazzoni was victorious at the Nurburgring while Lauda was unable to finish the first lap when he uncharacteristically made an error. Reutemann became a double winner at the Österreichring ad Peterson did at Monza. The Championship moved to North America and Fittipaldi  became the first three time winner. The title race was now a tie between Fittipaldi and Regazzoni but with fourth place at Watkins Glen, the race being won by Reutemann, the Brazilian became a two time World Champion as Regazzoni could not keep pace due to mechanical problems. McLaren also won the Constructors Championship but Ferrari served notice that they would be a potent force in the years to come.

In 1975 Ferrari regained the top step of Formula 1, after 11 years the Constructors Championship as well as the World Driving title was returned to them courtesy of an Austrian driver who had to buy his way into Formula 1. Niki Lauda won five races to triumph over last year's champion Emerson Fittipaldi. The season started off with a surprise when Jean-Pierre Jarier in a Shadow started the Grand Prix from pole position. The race played more to form with Fittipaldi assuming the lead from the Hesketh of Hunt and continued on to victory. Graham HillIf once wasn't enough Jarier again started from pole in Brazil only to watch local star Carlos Pace score a well received victory. At the South African Grand Prix Ferrari replaced the 312B3 with the 312T ("T " for transversely mounted gearbox). Carlos Reutemann was able place his Brabham on the front row but again the race was won by a native son, Jody Scheckter in a Tyrrell. At Montjuich in Spain both Ferraris started from the front row but the race turned to tragedy when the rear wing broke lose on the race leaders car causing a crash that killed several spectators. The race was soon halted and Jochen Mass was declared the winner though he was only awarded half points for his victory.

Lauda then took over and won 4 of the next five races including Monaco, Zolder, Anderstorp and Paul Richard. Only Hunt's victory in Holland interrupted Lauda's run for the championship. Silverstone saw a crash marred race won by Emerson Fittipaldi. Reutemann scored a victory In Germany but tragedy struck again in Austria when American ace Mark Donahue suffered fatal injuries during practice. The rain-shortened race was won by Vittorio Brambilla in a March. With a third place at Monza Lauda clinched his first World Championship while teammate scored his first victory of the year. The season ender at Watkins Glen saw Lauda celebrate his title with another victory. In November Graham Hill who had retired earlier in the year after a legendary career was killed in an airplane crash with other members of his team including promising driver Tony Brise. With Hill's retirement and death came the end of an era.

The next year, 1976, started with a few surprises. The racing season was expanded to sixteen races. Two-time World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi quit McLaren and joined his brother at Copersucar. James Hunt who was without a drive when Lord Hesketh decided to pull out of Formula 1 was hired to replace the Brazilian. The remnants of the Hesketh team was purchased by Frank Williams who along with his partner, Austrian-Canadian oil millionaire Walter Wolf would contest the new season. On the technical side Tyrrell produced a six-wheeled car, the P34, with four small driving wheels while Brabham was now powered by Alfa Romeo engines. Lotus was still struggling with their Type 77. Ickx had left to join Wolf-Williams and his seat was taken by Mario Andretti.

Tyrrell P34The first two races, Brazil and South Africa were both won by Lauda for Ferrari. The South African Grand Prix did see James Hunt starting from pole. Peterson fed up at Lotus, and his relationship with Chapman deteriorating quit to re-join March. A second US Grand Prix was added to be run on the streets of Long Beach, California. This race was dominated by Clay Regazzoni who started from pole and won a popular victory. At Spain, Ferrari debuted their 312T2 and looked like the winner of the race when Hunt was disqualified only to be reinstated. Lauda went on to win at Monaco and Belgium. The Swedish Grand Prix proved to be the high-water mark for the six-wheeled Tyrrell when Jody Scheckter led his teammate, Depailler to the checkered flag. Hunt retaliated with another victory at the French Grand Prix but at Brands Hatch, Hunt was again disqualified after an opening lap melee which saw the race restarted. This time the results stood and Lauda moved up from second to first. The battle between these two drivers became the talk of the paddock. Each driven to win but with completely different personalities. Hunt the non-conformist playboy who was known as "Hunt the shunt" in his earlier days and Lauda the serious strategist. The only thing they seemed to have in common was their speed.

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The season moved to Germany and the forbidding Nurburgring. Hunt qualified on pole but Niki Lauda was right beside him on the front row. The crowd was set for what looked to be a fantastic battle between the two main rivals for the championship. Lauda still held a sizable lead but Hunt was coming on strong. On the second lap Lauda's Ferrari spun across the track and hit the barriers at over 150 mph. The Ferrari burst into flames and was rammed by a following car. Several drivers arrived at the scene and managed to pull their colleague from the stricken car. Lauda had somehow lost his helmet when the car overturned and suffered major burns to his head, face, arms and hands while his lungs were also severely damaged. Helicoptered to the hospital he was given last rites by a Roman Catholic priest. Amazingly he fought back from his injuries, his face permanently scarred, and competed in the Italian Grand Prix 6 weeks later! James Hunt went on to win the German Grand Prix.

James HuntWhile Lauda was recuperating Ulsterman John Watson scored a tremendous victory in the Austrian Grand Prix at the Osterreichring and fought a wheel-to-wheel duel with James Hunt at Zandvoort before succumbing to gearbox trouble. Lauda with one more victory continued to gain on the idle Lauda. September came on this long season and that meant Monza and the Italian Grand Prix. Hunt must have felt that he was racing against a ghost when Lauda climbed back into his Ferrari.  Whether this added pressure caused him to spin out of the race is not known but Lauda was able to finish a courageous fourth and earn some valuable points. The race was won by Ronnie Peterson in a March. Hunt rebounded with wins at Canada and Watkins Glen to set the stage for the final shootout in Japan. Hunt qualified on the first row but was beaten to the pole by Mario Andretti who through hard work and talent brought Lotus back to the sharp end of the grid. The race was run in monsoon conditions. Lauda once again displaying his own brand of courage for which he was unfairly criticized and withdrew after two laps. Lauda would rightly claim that his life was more important than the World Championship.   Now all Hunt had to do was finish third or higher to claim the title. Hunt was in the lead when he had to slow down due to tire trouble and was passed by Depailler and Andretti. Andretti driving the race of his life soon passed the Tyrrell and assumed the lead. Hunt pitted on the 68th lap and returned to the race in 5th with four laps to go. All seemed lost until both Regazzoni and Jones, 2nd and 3rd respectively, suffered tire problems and Hunt was given third place and the four points necessary to pass Lauda for the World Championship. Andretti served notice of things to come with a stirring victory followed by Depailler in the Tyrrell.