The XXVII John Player British Grand Prix, otherwise known as the 1974 British Grand Prix, was the tenth round of the 1974 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at Brands Hatch on the 20th July 1974. The race weekend would see an inflated entry list battle to qualify, ahead of a race which saw Jody Scheckter inherit the victory late on.
Qualifying had seen numerous drivers make their World Championship debuts, the most notable being the female Italian racing driver Lella Lombardi, using the a Brabham with #208 as its race number. Unfortunately for her she failed to qualify, one of ten to miss the mark, as Niki Lauda swept to pole for the sixth time in eight races.
It was the pole sitter who reacted fastest at the start of the race, Lauda sending his Ferrari sprinting ahead of second placed Ronnie Peterson. Indeed, the Swede paid for a poor start, losing out to Scheckter and Clay Regazzoni into Paddock Hill Bend.
Another man to make a poor start was James Hunt, who slipped well down the pack on the line before quickly picking his way back up on the opening lap. His race, however, was ended on the third tour when a suspected suspension failure pitched him into the gravel, leaving him on the sidelines with Peter Gethin.
The order at the front of the field remained unchanged until the midway point, when Carlos Reutemann sent himself into a pirouette while running in the top five. As he recovered, Peterson and Regazzoni dived into the pits with punctures, picked up from Hans-Joachim Stuck's private accident a lap earlier. The German had spun into the barriers at Dingle Dell, before ricocheting back across the tarmac and litter the circuit with bits of March.
After that brief flurry of action monotomy set in once again, with Lauda now leading from Scheckter and Emerson Fittipaldi. The Austrian looked set to claim a dominant victory, until one of his Goodyears hit some debris and developed a slow puncture. With only a handful of laps to go Ferrari hoped that Lauda could limp on to the win, but the continuing loss of pressure allowed Scheckter to claim more and more ground.
Scheckter duly blasted past with a handful of laps to go, prompting Ferrari to call the Austrian in, moments after the tyre fell apart. The Austrian dropped to fifth during his stop and lost a lap, with Scheckter duly crossing the line unchallenged to take a shock victory for Tyrrell. Fittipaldi cruised to second ahead of Ickx, while Regazzoni recovered to fourth and was closing in on the #2 Lotus in the final laps.
It was the turn of Brands Hatch to host the British Grand Prix in 1974, with John Player claiming title rights as sponsor of the meeting. The dips and dives of the Kent based circuit remained unchanged since its previous race in 1972, although there were a few more bumps reported when the circuit hosted the Race of Champions in April. As ever, a whole host of British based single car efforts came to join the normal F1 circus, despite attempts by the Formula One Constructors Association to reduce the field on the grounds of safety.
Lotus arrived with their pair of black-gold John Player backed 72Es for their home race, with Ronnie Peterson and Jacky Ickx at the wheel as usual. New, drilled, brake disks were fitted to both of the cars, while Colin Chapman also trialled a titanium roll-hoop on Ickx's car, hoping to reduced weight and add strength to the 72. The Norfolk squad also brought one of the 76s along, although neither Peterson nor Ickx seemed overly keen to use it.
The rivals Tyrrell had produced a new 007 chassis in time for the British Grand Prix, meaning the battle hardened 006 that had taken Jackie Stewart to the 1973 World Championship could finally be retired. The car, which had been used as a spare for Patrick Depailler remained with the team, just in case it was needed, although with three 007s on offer it seemed unlikely that either Depailler or Jody Scheckter would need it. As for the new 007 there was little difference between it and its older siblings, with only minor bodywork tweeks between the three.
Surtees were another team with a fresh chassis sat in the paddock for their home race, with a heavily modified TS16 featuring redesigned front suspension and rear mounted radiators. The team also fielded a new driver line-up, John Surtees having persuaded Derek Bell to sit in a Grand Prix car at his home race. The Brit, who was expected to complete the season with the team partnered Jochen Mass for the weekend, with both getting time in the new car when their practice schedule allowed.
Elsewhere, it was business as usual at McLaren, with the quintet of M23s race ready for Emerson Fittipaldi, Denny Hulme and Mike Hailwood, although the former would be using a brand new chassis for the team's home race. Championship rivals Ferrari were likewise untroubled, although there was some concern that their F12 engined cars would struggle around the twisty Brands Hatch layout. Regardless, their hardworking drivers Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni would do their best to extract the team's inherent pace, with extra motivation from their Championship positions.
Bernie Ecclestone, meanwhile, had put form over finance at Brabham after the French Grand Prix, deciding to drop out of form Liechtensteiner Rikky von Opel after a dismal time with the team. In to partner Carlos Reutemann came the promising talent of Carlos Pace, promoted from satellite Brabham effort Hexagon of Highgate after just one outing. The British privateer squad would continue to field John Watson in one of the their BT42s, before loaning out the other car to Italian racer Lella Lombardi. Lombardi was the first woman since Maria Teresa de Filippis to take to the track at a World Championship round in 1959, and would use a car number #208 due to a sponsorship deal with Radio Luxembourg.
The rest of the regular F1 crowd saw some minor changes, with Frank Williams bringing in Dane Tom Belsø to partner Arturo Merzario, despite attempts to bring in a British driver for his second Iso-Marlboro seat. Lola also had a fresh driver in one of their cars, deciding to give Peter Gethin a go in Guy Edwards car after the latter broke his wrist in a Formula 5000 accident, while Graham Hill continued to lead their effort. Shadow continued with Tom Pryce and Jean-Pierre Jarier in their cars, March sent Hans-Joachim Stuck and Vittorio Brambilla into battle, while BRM continued to field an increasingly unhappy French trio of Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Henri Pescarolo an François Migault.
Into the single car efforts and Lord Hesketh had loaned out Hesketh Racing's heavily modified March 731, while also bringing along a brand new Hesketh 308 for James Hunt to try. The "Hesketh-March" went to British privateer Mike Wilds, making his Grand Prix debut, who brought a fair number of sponsors with him for what was expected to be a one off outing. More Brits were to be found in the form of David Purley, who took over the Token, and Andy Sutcliffe after he was pencilled in for Scuderia Finotto's single BT42 entry.
Elsewhere, there would be a healthy number of Antipodeans in the field, as Tim Schenken raced the Trojan and Vern Schuppan continued on in the Ensign. Howden Ganley was also back with the Japanese built Maki, although expected to struggle, while debutante John Nicholson raced the long awaited Lyncar project. Leo Kinnunen completed the field with his privately owned Surtees.
With Fittipaldi failing to score it would be Lauda who left France with the lead in the World Championship standings, surging to a four point lead. His teammate Regazzoni had also snuck ahead of the Brazilian, a point ahead of the former World Champion, while Scheckter retained fourth but lost ground overall. French Grand Prix winner Peterson climbed into the top five, but required a complete reversal in fortune to challenge for the title, while Ickx climbed up the table with a strong points finish.
Lauda's second place finish was enough to put Ferrari to the top of the International Cup for Manufacturers' standings, the Italian firm taking away a two point lead over rivals McLaren-Ford Cosworth. Dropped scores denied the British squad the lead, although only they and the tifosi could really entertain hopes of the title. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth and Lotus-Ford Cosworth were leading those in the battle to be third, while BRM had their early season form to thank as they desperately hung onto their fifth place spot.
The full entry list for the 1974 British Grand Prix is outlined below:
The afternoons of Thursday and Friday were given over to practice/qualifying for the Grand Prix cars at Brands Hatch, with two sessions each day for a combined total of six hours of running. Consistently dry, if overcast, weather conditions meant that the pace could gradually improve throughout the weekend. As for a target time, the official lap record of 1:24.0 had been blown away during the Race of Champions, meaning the top teams would be targeting Emerson Fittipaldi's circuit record of 1:20.8, set back in 1972.
A rather tentative start to the weekend saw the entire field gradually ramp up the pace throughout the first session on Thursday, with all of the regular F1 combatants setting a time under the old lap record. The sole exception was Guy Edwards, whose wrist injury prevented him from completing more than a couple of timed laps. Peter Gethin, already on call as the Lola squad's reserve, duly took over the seat for the rest of the weekend and slowly brought himself up to speed.
At the front meanwhile, there was some shock when Tom Pryce registered the fastest time of the session for Shadow, a 1:21.4 getting him within sight of Fittipaldi's circuit record. Niki Lauda was, unsurprisingly, second fastest in the Ferrari, having yet to truly push, while his teammate Clay Regazzoni finished the session in third. Carlos Reutemann and James Hunt were the only other drivers to dip into the 1:21.0s, while Jody Scheckter had a scary moment when a top link failed in his suspension while he was pushing through Dingle Dell.
The later session on Thursday saw more on track action than the earlier run, as the pace slowly ramped up through until the final moments. Given the pace earlier in the day it was no surprise that Fittipaldi's record went before the end of the session, with Lauda flinging his Ferrari around the circuit to record a 1:20.6. However, the Austrian's best effort would be matched before the end by Ronnie Peterson, while Scheckter joined them as the third and final driver to record a lap in the 1:20.0s before the overnight break.
It was another fairly quiet session on Thursday afternoon, with no major dramas for anyone despite safety concerns from F.O.C.A. over the number of cars on circuit. Indeed, Jochen Mass was the only man to suffer a major failure, an engine issue on his car forcing him to use the Surtees spare until a fresh unit could be installed overnight.
Friday followed much of the same pattern as Thursday, with very few dramas and a gradual improvement in pace across the field. The earlier session saw Lauda once again end the session fastest, improving to a 1:20.3, although Pryce once again stole the show by recording the second fastest time of the session at 1:20.6. Carlos Reutemann managed to match the young Brit late on, while James Hunt dipped into the sub-1:21.0s in the new Hesketh.
As for the strugglers, Maki were finally able to complete some running with Howden Ganley at the wheel, without threatening the top teams. Tom Belsø was also in trouble and out of the fight to qualify after an issue late on in the session, a failure which ultimately denied the Dane a run in the final session. Then there was the increasingly dire BRM squad, who had their trio of cars running with minor, and time consuming, issues during the first session on Friday, with the threat of failing to qualify looming large over all three drivers.
Into the final session and the fight for both pole, and to qualify truly began. The decisive move for pole, however, would come in the first minutes of the session, as Lauda caressed his scarlet Ferrari around to record a 1:19.7, a time unmatched in Brands Hatch's twenty-six year existence. That was, until Ronnie Peterson fought his Lotus around the circuit in the dying moments of the session to claim a 1:19.7 meaning it was a deadheat for pole when the chequered flag fluttered. Pole would ultimately go to Lauda by virtue of the fact that he had recorded the time first, although many felt that Peterson's efforts were equally worthy in the ageing Lotus.
As for the fight to survive, seven from the thirty-three remaining runners continued to fight it out to the last, although when the final order was released there were few surprises among them. Tim Schenken was the last man to make the grade, just a fraction of a second behind two of the BRMs, while a late run from Peter Gethin saw him trump the best effort of double World Champion Graham Hill in the sister car. Out therefore went David Purley, Belsø, Lella Lombardi, Vern Schuppan, John Nicholson, Ganley, Mike Wilds and Leo Kinnunen, in spite of a near universal improvement for them in the final practice/qualifying session.
The full qualifying results for the 1974 British Grand Prix are outlined below:
|2||1||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:22.1||1:20.6||1:21.7||1:19.7||+0.0s|
|3||3||Jody Scheckter||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:22.1||1:20.8||1:22.0||1:20.1||+0.4s|
|4||7||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:21.9||1:21.9||1:20.6||1:20.2||+0.5s|
|5||16||Tom Pryce||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:21.4||1:21.3||1:20.6||1:20.3||+0.6s|
|6||24||James Hunt||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:21.9||1:21.1T||1:20.7T||1:20.3||+0.6s|
|8||5||Emerson Fittipaldi||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:22.0||1:21.7||1:21.5||1:20.5||+0.8s|
|9||9||Hans-Joachim Stuck||March-Ford Cosworth||1:22.9||1:22.5||1:22.6||1:20.7||+1.0s|
|10||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:23.3||1:22.2||1:21.2||1:20.8||+1.1s|
|11||33||Mike Hailwood||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:22.2||1:21.2||1:22.3||1:21.7||+1.5s|
|12||2||Jacky Ickx||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:23.1||1:22.1||1:21.2||1:22.2||+1.5s|
|13||28||John Watson||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:23.0||1:22.5||1:21.3||1:22.7||+1.6s|
|15||20||Arturo Merzario||Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth||1:26.5||1:21.6||1:22.3||1:22.2||+1.9s|
|16||17||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:23.1||1:22.6||1:21.6||1:22.0||+1.9s|
|17||19||Jochen Mass||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:24.5||1:24.0T||1:21.6||1:22.2||+1.9s|
|18||10||Vittorio Brambilla||March-Ford Cosworth||1:25.5||1:24.6||1:22.5||1:21.6||+1.9s|
|19||6||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:23.2T||1:21.7||1:23.4||1:22.6||+2.0s|
|20||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:23.0||1:22.3||1:21.7||1:21.9||+2.0s|
|21||27||Peter Gethin||Lola-Ford Cosworth||1:24.1||1:22.9||1:22.8||1:21.7||+2.0s|
|22||26||Graham Hill||Lola-Ford Cosworth||1:22.9||1:22.8||1:21.9||1:22.2||+2.2s|
|25||23||Tim Schenken||Trojan-Ford Cosworth||1:25.2||1:24.1||1:23.8||1:22.4||+2.7s|
|DNQ||42||David Purley||Token-Ford Cosworth||1:25.6||1:24.5||1:22.7||1:22.8||+3.0s|
|DNQ||18||Derek Bell||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:24.8||1:24.3||1:24.4||1:22.7||+3.0s|
|DNQ||21||Tom Belsø||Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth||1:24.8||1:23.3||1:23.8||—||+3.6s|
|DNQ||208||Lella Lombardi||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:26.2||1:23.6||1:24.4||1:23.3||+3.6s|
|DNQ||22||Vern Schuppan||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:26.7||1:24.6||1:23.6||1:23.4||+3.7s|
|DNQ||29||John Nicholson||Lyncar-Ford Cosworth||1:26.3||1:23.6||1:24.4||1:24.5||+3.9s|
|DNQ||25||Howden Ganley||Maki-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:28.8||1:23.7||+4.0s|
|DNQ||35||Mike Wilds||March-Ford Cosworth||1:26.0||1:25.4||1:25.8||1:24.1||+4.4s|
|DNQ||43||Leo Kinnunen||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:28.8||1:29.8||1:27.4||1:25.6||+5.9s|
|DNQ*||27||Guy Edwards||Lola-Ford Cosworth||1:34.9||—||—||—||+15.2s|
|WD||41||Andy Sutcliffe||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
- * Edwards effectively withdrew from the weekend during the first practice/qualifying session.
After two days without rain, race morning was surprisingly dry, with a mid-morning warm-up session allowing teams to test out overnight repairs as usual. Only Carlos Reutemann and Jochen Mass opted not to take part, while James Hunt reluctantly had to accept that he was going to have to use the older, less competitive Hesketh. Once that, and an ever chaotic British Saloon Car Championship had passed the Grand Prix cars were wheeled out for the race start, with 75 laps of determined driving awaiting the twenty-five qualifiers.
There were no shocks off the line, as pole sitter Niki Lauda sprinted into Paddock Hill Bend in the lead after an ultra-clean start. Ronnie Peterson, in contrast, tried to use too much throttle and spun his rear wheels, and so was instantly mugged into the first corner by Jody Scheckter and Clay Regazzoni. The rest of the field then came streaming down the Hill and then up through Druids Bend in one huge bunch, as Lauda escaped out ahead.
Come the end of the opening lap and the Austrian in the scarlet Ferrari had established a two second advantage over Scheckter, as the South African battled against his Ford Cosworths power deficit. He was therefore left to fight Regazzoni and Peterson as Lauda disappeared up the road, although the Swiss pilot Ferrari had a Swede peddled Lotus crawling over the back of him. Behind them came Carlos Reutemann leading Emerson Fittipaldi, Tom Pryce, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Jacky Ickx and Mike Hailwood.
James Hunt entertained the home fans over the next couple of laps, scrambling back up the order after a dreadful start, although his race was over when his rear suspension failed at Pilgrim's, pitching the Hesketh into a race ending spin. Elsewhere, Mass was having to fight a rear guard action to deny Arturo Merzario and Jean-Pierre Jarier, with Vittorio Brambilla and the BRM trio looked on. Peter Gethin had disappeared at the end of the first lap, deciding that he was too uncomfortable in a cockpit built for someone half his size again, although the sister Lola of team boss Graham Hill was battling well with the BRMs.
Out front, meanwhile, Lauda was continuing to stroke out his lead, the Austrian keep a light hand at the wheel as he gracefully swept his scarlet car around Brands Hatch. This was a stark contrast to those behind, with Scheckter throwing his car at every corner as he tried in vain to keep with the Austrian. His cause was still being aided by Peterson's laboured attempts to take third away from Regazzoni, although that fight would come to a disappointing conclusion.
The cause of the disappointment would be Hans-Joachim Stuck, who was out of control through Dingle Dell before smacking into the barriers at the entry to Stirling's Bend. The German escaped unharmed, but his March had spread bits of suspension and bodywork across the tarmac, just as the leaders came around to complete the "Grand Prix" loop. Quick work by the marshals saw the car dragged away from the circuit in a little over a minute, although by that stage the entire field had been past the scene.
It would be a lottery as to who picked up a puncture, and when Peterson fell away from the back of Regazzoni over the following lap the Swede was the unlucky winner. Yet, before Peterson left the pits a lap later, the Swiss racer was in with a punctured tyre, leaving both to tumble down the order as a result. On an unrelated note, a black flag was being shown to François Migault, whose rear wing was perilously close to falling off after a partial failure.
With Regazzoni losing a lap, and Peterson two, it was Fittipaldi who moved into the final podium spot, a few seconds ahead of a spirited Pryce. Next came an excellent scrap between Mike Hailwood and Jacky Ickx, although that came to a premature end when Hailwood pitched himself into a spin at Hawthorns and stalled. He joined a growing list of retirements that included engine failures for Merzario and Depailler, and a split chassis on Jean-Pierre Jarier's Shadow.
Unfortunately the latter issue was also affecting the sister car of Pryce, although the Brit quickly adapted to the problem and kept his car in the race. His pace was affected however, the constant warping at the rear end of the car causing the gear linkages to slip, meaning he could only rely on fourth and fifth gears to get round. He was still in the points, however, with only a handful of healthy cars behind him.
With twenty laps to go the fight for the win looked settled, with Lauda holding a healthy twenty second lead over Scheckter. However, all was not well in the #12 car, for the Austrian was beginning to lose pressure in his right rear tyre, and so his pace began to dip. A few laps later and the gap between Scheckter and Lauda was noticeably shrinking with every lap, with Ferrari reluctantly preparing to call their driver in before the end of the race.
Lauda, however, seemed to have other ideas and continued to pound round, attempting to make it to the end of the race with a tyre with next to no pressure. Scheckter, however, was in a completely healthy Tyrrell, and with six laps to go the South African pulled smartly onto the back of the Austrian, and began waving to get out of the way. Lauda, ever his stubborn self, refused to get out of the way, forcing Scheckter to drive right around the outside of the wounded Ferrari on the sweeping start/finish straight at the end of the lap.
Another man making a late, but ultimately futile defence in a wounded car was Pryce, who was finally dumped out of the points by Hulme with a handful of laps to go. The Kiwi had to get his elbows out at South Bank and force the Brit wide, having seen Reutemann dance away from the Shadow a few laps earlier. Reutemann himself had escaped to try and unlap himself against the limping Lauda, who was just about to fall behind title rival Fittipaldi.
With a lap and a half to go Lauda's tyre failed completely, meaning he had to drive around for more than two kilometres with a tyre flailing around the back of his car. The Austrian stopped by the pits at the end of the lap, and stunningly quick work from his pitcrew saw the car turned around in a less than half a minute. Yet, the Austrian was prevented from re-entering the circuit, for the pitexit had been blocked by press and mechanics awaiting the arrival of Scheckter to take the win, denying Lauda the chance to claim points.
As for Scheckter, a lucky lead was converted into a second victory of the season for Tyrrell, with the South African in jubilant mood. Fittipaldi claimed second and, more importantly, the Championship lead, while Ickx cruised home to third without the need to defend from anyone after Hailwood's demise. Regazzoni finished on the lead lap in fourth, Reutemann claimed fifth ahead of Hulme and the wounded Pryce, while a heartbroken Lauda was classified down in ninth.
However, Ferrari decided to appeal against the result after the race, with the FIA deciding to amend the finishing order ahead of the German Grand Prix. Lauda was duly moved back into fifth, the position he would have finished in had he not been denied the chance to rejoin the circuit, meaning he retained the Championship lead. McLaren and Fittipaldi opted not to challenge the amendment, knowing the result was not likely to be modified again.
The full results for the 1974 British Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Migault could not be classified as he had failed to complete 90% of the race distance.
- First entry for racers Andy Sutcliffe, Mike Wilds and John Nicholson.
- Lella Lombardi entered a Grand Prix for the first time.
- Peter Gethin made his thirtieth and final Grand Prix start.
- Tyrrell entered a Grand Prix for the fiftieth time as a constructor.
- Second career win for Jody Scheckter.
- Schectker claimed Tyrrell's eighteenth victory as a constructor.
After the late shuffle to the order in the final laps, Niki Lauda's advantage at the top of the World Championship standings had been cut to a single point. Emerson Fittipaldi was the man to close the gap after finishing second, while Jody Scheckter continued to entertain hopes of the title by claiming victory. The South African found himself ahead of Clay Regazzoni, three points off the lead fight, with a sixteen point gap back to fifth placed Ronnie Peterson.
McLaren-Ford Cosworth and Ferrari swapped places in the International Cup for Manufacturers' standings in Brands Hatch, the former retaking the lead with Fittipaldi's second place. Their private scrap since the start of the season was now being briefly threatened by the good form of Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth, Scheckter's victory getting them within ten points of the leaders, although the Surrey squad remained dark horses for the time being. Lotus-Ford Cosworth looked to have secured themselves in fourth, bad luck and poor reliability costing them points once again, while Brabham-Ford Cosworth moved into the top five.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: BRITISH GP, 1974', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr245.html, (Accessed 28/04/2017)
- A.H., 'The British Grand Prix: Scheckter finishes first', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/09/1974), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/september-1974/47/british-grand-prix, (Accessed 28/04/2017)
- 'Britain 1974: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1974/grande-bretagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 28/04/2017)
- 'Britain 1974: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1974/grande-bretagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 29/04/2017)
- zarniwup123, 'F1 1974 Brands Hatch GP', youtube.com, (YouTube, 12/06/2013), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wL2UCGv4TFU, (Accessed 29/04/2017)
- 'Britain 1974: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1974/grande-bretagne/classement.aspx, (Accessed 29/04/2017)
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