Carlos Reutmann's Brabham sandwiched between the Ferraris of Regazzoni and Lauda at the start of the 1974 South African GP.
Carlos Reutmann's celebrates victory at the 1974 South African GP.
Niki Lauda was very unlucky in the 1974 British GP at Brands Hatch when his Ferrari suffered a flat rear tire 6 laps from the finish. Officials and mechanics that had gathered at the end of the pits to see the finish prevented Lauda from re-joining the race after changing the tire. He finished ninth, but a subsequent protest saw him awarded 2 championship points.
Jody Scheckter took the lead of the 1974 British GP after Lauda's puncture and went on to win. Scheckter left Tyrell at the close of the 1976 season and switched to Wolf Team, and debuted with a win in the 1977 Argentine GP.
1974 began with doubts over the very future of the sport, brought on by the energy crisis of the winter months. Out of the gloom came one of the most exciting championships ever. With Stewart gone, drivers began a major reshuffle of their services. Fittipaldi went to McLaren, Ickx to Lotus, Lauda to Ferrari and Regazzoni back to Ferrari ; Revson joined Shadow and Ken Tyrrell set out to rebuild his team with jody Scheckter and Frenchman Patrick Depailler. At last, the domination of the Cosworth DFV was being challenged by Ferrari's flat-12. Reutemann, leading his home Grand Prix in Argentina had his own fuel crisis one and a half laps from home and handed victory to Denny Hulme, followed by the Ferraris of Lauda and Regazzoni.
Fittipaldi scored his first win for his new team in front of his home crowd in Brazil after a duel with Peterson. The race was shortened to forty laps after a sudden cloudburst. Regazzoni's second place for Ferrari put them on top of the title table. The South African Grand Prix was put back into the calendar at the end of March, having been cancelled during the winter. It seemed that there was something to be happy about after all, but it was all forgotten when Peter Revson's Shadow
crashed head on into the barriers during practice, killing the very popular US driver instantly. The race saw the introduction of the new John Player Specials, or Lotuses by any other name, but it was an inauspicious debut, with the type 76s eliminating each other on the first lap.
Lauda started the race from pole but the glory went to Reutemann who gained his first win and the first for Brabham for four years. Into a sensational second came Beltoise with the new BRM P201. Ferrari finally came in from the cold with a magnificent one-two finish at Jarama after a race turned topsy turvy by rain. Ronnie Peterson had a more encouraging outing with the Lotus 76, now running with a conventional clutch. He started from the front row and roared away in the lead with Ickx backing him up in third place but when the rains came the Lotus pit work was shambolic while Ferrari's was exemplary; Lauda won his first Grand Prix at an average speed of 88.48mph. Fittipaldi took victory at Nivelles by the narrowest of margins (0.35 seconds) from Lauda, after driving the race of his life. It put him into the lead of the championship by one point.
In Monaco, Lotus reverted to using the 72Es and Peterson showed that there was life in the old cars yet by claiming victory in a race which saw almost everyone, including Ronnie, fall off at some stage. His average speed was 80.74mph and he took fastest lap at 83.42mph. With this win 'in the bag, Lotus went to Sweden full of confidence but the establishment was stood on its ear by the new Tyrrell twins who filled the front row of the grid and finished first and second in the race, with Scheckter beating Depailler by 0.38 seconds. James Hunt was now equipped with Hesketh's own car and gave it its first points with a fine third place, while Graham Hill with a Lola was sixth; Scheckter's win made him the sixth different winner from the first seven rounds!
Ferrari steamrollered all the Ford opposition at Zandvoort with Lauda winning his second race of the season from Regazzoni, while Fittipaldi and Hailwood in McLarens headed the vain chase by the 'Formula Ford' cars. Notions that the reign of the DFV was over were firmly quashed when Peterson led home Lauda and Regazzoni at Dijon, the fifteenth new home of the French Grand Prix. Lauda thus went to Brands Hatch with a four point lead in the championship. After leading all the way from Scheckter's Tyrrell 007, the flying Ferrari became one of many to fall victim ofa puncture. Lauda struggled on, falling to third place by the closing stages. With only two laps to go, the tire had disintegrated completely and Lauda was forced into the pits.
By the time the new wheel was on, Scheckter was well on his way to the flag and the pit exit road was so crowded that Lauda was unable to rejoin the race. It was not until two months later that a tribunal awarded him fifth place. Ferrari honour was restored at the Nurburgring
where Regazzoni was uncatchable. Lauda was eliminated in the season's sixth first-lap accident - a sure sign of the extraordinary intensity of the competition. Scheckter set fastest lap at 118.49 mph on his way to second place and Reutemann was third. Mike Hailwood's career came to a sad and premature end at Pflanzgarten when he landed all awry and smashed into the barriers, severely damaging his legs.
Reutemann won his second race of the season in Austria, heading Hulme and Hunt by a healthy margin. Regazzoni's fifth place sent him to Italy with a five point lead over Scheckter in the championship and the kind of support that comes only to Ferrari at Monza. Alas, both Maranello cars were sidelined by engine failures and Peterson went on to win from Fittipaldi - by 0.8 seconds. Fittipaldi won in Canada with Regazzoni finishing second which resulted in the amazing situation of those two drivers going to the last round at Watkins Glen with 52 points each. Scheckter, with 45 points, also had a mathematical chance of winning. It turned into something of an anticlimax. Reutemann disappeared into the distance while Regazzoni fought unpredictable handling back in ninth place and Scheckter dropped out when a fuel pipe broke.
Fittipaldi's fifth place was unspectacular but enough to earn him his second championship in one of the most closely fought series ever. Once again, the end of the series was overshadowed by tragedy. Helmuth Koinigg was killed when his Surtees ploughed under a guard rail on lap nine. The DFV engine's incredible run of success was finally halted in 1975 when Ferrari put everything right at the same time to take the championship away from the Ford-powered cars for the first time since 1967. Niki Lauda applied all his single minded determination to winning the title and win it he did.
Ferrari started the season with the latest 312B3 cars but they were soundly beaten in the opening round in Argentina by Fittipaldi and by Hunt - with the Hesketh 308; Regazzoni was third and Lauda sixth. Jarier had been sensationally quick in practice to put the new Shadow DN5 on pole but the car broke on the warm up lap and did not start. CarIos Pace was the second Brazilian race winner in two events when he delighted everyone by storming home first in Brazil. His Brabham BT 44B led home compatriot Fittipaldi's McLaren M23 by 5.79 seconds; Jarier had led with ease before the Shadow again failed.
South Africa saw the debut of the Ferrari 312T, with transverse gearbox, which was to end Ford's domination. It was not to happen in this race, however, for Scheckter became the second 'home' winner of the season by beating Reutemann into second place. The Spanish race started with arguments and ended with tragedy. On arriving at Barcelona's Montjuich Park, the teams took one look at the shoddilly erected safety barriers and said 'no way!'. After much wrangling and work by the teams themselves, the race was grudgingly staged - albeit without Fittipaldi, whose principles were more important to him than his contract and who with- drew.
Tragically, the Embassy-Hill-Lola of Rolf Stommelen, which had inherited the lead as others fell by the wayside, crashed heavily on the 25th lap, seriously injuring the driver and hurling debris over the barriers which killed three officials and a photographer. The race was stopped four laps later and Jochen Mass was declared the winner for McLaren and awarded half points. Lella Lombardi of Italy came home in sixth place with her March 751 to give a rare break in the total male domination of Grand Prix racing and collected I half a point. It was not, however, a weekend for celebration. Monaco, with some similarity to Montjuich as a true road circuit, was obviously in the public eye and happily it was a classic race with no squabbles or major incidents.
The organisers made great efforts to make the race safe by limiting the grid to 18 cars, but this prevented Graham Hill from qualifying on the circuit of his greatest triumphs. Lauda gave the new Ferrari its first win at 75.55 mph after a race dominated by the weather and pit stops. Fittipaldi was second, 2.78 seconds adrift. The race was shortened by three laps as the rain came down again and whether Emerson might have caught Lauda's ailing Ferrari remained a matter for conjecture. It did not seem to trouble Lauda unduly as he reeled off the laps to win in Belgium and again in Sweden after a rousing battle with Reutemann who came home second. One of the most impressive performances in Sweden came from young Tony Brise in the new Hill GH1 : he finished sixth. His promise was lost to the world when he was killed with Hill himself and other team members in a plane crash in November 1975 at Hendon.
The Dutch Grand Prix was again influenced by tire changes: James Hunt judged the time for a change to slicks to perfection on a rapidly drying track and his pit crew were ultra quick. james went back out and built up a commanding lead before the others read the signs and then fought a magnificent running battle for many laps as Lauda reeled in his advantage. He beat the Ferrari by 1.06 seconds to give the Hesketh team a well deserved win. The French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard saw the status quo restored, with Lauda turning the tables to beat Hunt by 1.59 seconds at 116.60mph. Mario Andretti brought the Parnelli VPJ-4 into fifth place. The British Grand Prix was at Silverstone and again the weather decided the outcome.
A deluge of rain on. the 56th lap sent car after car crashing into the barriers, leaving Emerson Fittipaldi - who had called at the pits while everyone else was slithering off - as the winner. Reutemann showed his skill at the Niirburgring to win at 117.73mph from a very surprising J acques Laffite in Frank Williarns' Williams FW 04. A host of punctures and mechanical failures decimated the field. The Austrian Grand Prix was wet. Race day was marred by an accident in unofficial practice which was to cost the life of Mark Donohue, driver of the Penske PCI. The race itself was shortened by rain once again and thewinner was surprised and delighted. Clark's Lotus did not let him down at Silverstone however and he scored his fifth British Grand Prix win in six attempts, 3.8 seconds ahead ofHulme and 14 seconds ahead of Amon. The gremlins hit Lotus again in Germany and Hulme and Brabham were again ready to pounce for the first two places. Hulme's winning average was 101.47mph.
The Formula One establishment was almost dealt a severe shock by young Belgian Jacky Ickx, who held fourth place in his Formula Two Matra before retiring. Canada hosted her first Grand Prix in August and saw yet another one-two for Brabham and Hulme, from Gurney's Eagle. The Monza race was sensational. After early problems, Clark drove the race of his life to retake the lead, only to lose it again on the last lap when he ran short of fuel. Surtees and Brabham swapped places all the way round that final tour until Surtees took the flag by just 0.2 seconds at an average of 140.5 mph. In making up a deficit of a whole lap Clark left the lap record at a staggering 145.3mph.
It was Lotus's turn to score first and second here in the USA with Hill winning from Clark, whose suspension was rapidly falling apart! Hulme kept his sights on the title with third place, and finally resolved the battle by finishing in the same position in Mexico, behind Clark and Brabham. Clark's victory brought his total tally to 24, the same as that of Juan Manuel Fangio. Alas there was to be only one more.
Much driver shuffling in the closed season saw Emerson Fittipaldi in the latest McLaren M23. In a season where McLaren tried numerous variations of track, wheelbase and aerodynamics, Fittipaldi emerged as 1974 champion. It was one of the most competitive seasons ever: McLarens took only four of the season's fifteen races, the rest being shared between Brabham, Ferrari, Lotus and Tyrrell. Brabham's winner was one of the most attractive cars of the whole formula, the BT 44 designed by Gordon Murray. In this car, Murray had used a monocoque with sloping sides whose angle matched that of the cam covers of the OFV engine, resulting in a beautifully neat and compact car.
The Ferrari team was at last emerging from the doldrums and the performances of the 312B3s were more impressive than their results record. The car had been constantly developed around the very powerful flat-I2 engine, until it had superb traction and handling to match its near 500 bhp. Lotus's wins came once again from the 72, now in 72E guise, the team having quietly abandoned the revolutionary Lotus 76. That car was introduced with an automatic clutch and split, two-footed brake pedal. These features and a: two-tier wing which was on the original car were soon dropped and the team reverted to the ever faithful 72.
Tyrrell's fortunes seemed to take a turn for the better with the introduction of 007, which was again a development rather than a revolution. 1974 was a year which saw many other new cars, none with much distinction and all built to virtually the same formula of simple monocoque chassis and Cosworth engine, the major differences being in the aerodynamics of the cars. One that did stand out a little way from the crowd was the BRM P20 I, another slope-sided monocoque, this time using a V12 engine, and flattering in its early performances only to deceive.
Parnelli and Penske
Attempts at breaking into Grand Prix racing at the bottom end of the financial scale, by teams such as Token and the disastrous Japanese Maki, foundered rapidly. Even the reasonably wealthy, Frank Williams run Iso team found it very hard to break into the big league. The emergence of two new American teams, Parnelli and Penske came too near to the end of the season to show much other than that the cars were totally conventional and superbly presented.