The 1975 Austrian Grand Prix, otherwise officially known as the XIII Memphis Grand Prix and the 1975 European Grand Prix, was the twelfth round of the 1975 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Österreichring on the 17th August 1975. The race would see a shock victory for March in heavy rain, although the entire weekend would be marred by the deaths of Mark Donohue and a track marshal after an accident in the warm-up.
Qualifying had passed with only one major incident, Wilson Fittipaldi breaking two bones in his hand, as Niki Lauda swept to yet another pole in the dry. The Austrian racer was keen to win his home race, and knew that victory would secure him a maiden World Championship for Ferrari. He would share the front row with junior rival James Hunt, while Emerson Fittipaldi and Hans-Joachim Stuck split the second row.
Donohue's accident came during the warm-up session on Sunday morning, a tyre failure sending his March over the barriers at Hella Licht and into an advertising hoarding. The American racer received an ultimately terminal blow to the head, while pieces of catch fencing and car struck two marshals. All three would be taken off the Graz for hospital treatment by helicopter, as the rest of the day was delayed due to the accident.
The delay allowed some dark clouds to gather over the Styrian Mountains, which duly dumped their contents on the circuit as the field gathered on the grid. That, however, would not be enough to deny Lauda an early lead at his home race, the Austrian race sprinting clear of Hunt off the line.
Lauda quickly established a small lead, leaving Hunt to fend off the chasing pack as the rain continued to hammer onto the circuit. Hunt's extra-wide Hesketh allowed Vittorio Brambilla to weave his way up the order, the Italian rising from the lower reaches of the top ten to third in a little over five laps.
Brambilla's sudden climb prompted Hunt into action, the Brit suddenly beginning to draw in Lauda as Brambilla latched onto his gearbox. On lap fifteen both went sailing past the Ferrari to take the lead, Lauda opting for a more cautious approach as the rain continued to lash down. His lack of pace would ultimately allow Tom Pryce, Jochen Mass and Ronnie Peterson to get ahead of him before the finish.
Out front, Brambilla would continue harrassing the back of Hunt's Hesketh, awaiting more than a half chance to take the lead. That opportunity would ultimately come on the nineteenth lap as the pair came to lap debutante Brett Lunger, with Brambilla diving past an unsighted Hunt before establishing a small lead of his own.
With that the race was done, with several team bosses calling for the race to be stopped. The result was duly declared at the end of lap 29 to leave Brambilla as the winner, although the Italian's celebrations caused him to crash on his slow-down lap. Hunt cruised home second well clear of Pryce, with Mass, Peterson and Lauda completing the scorers.
Two days after the race, it was announced that Donohue and one of the marshals had succumbed to their injuries, both suffering complications as a result of severe head trauma.
Two weeks after the annual visit to the Nürburgring, the F1 circus arrived in Austria to take on a less stressful challenge: The Österreichring. The circuit hidden around the Styrian mountains remained unchanged since 1974, although the run-off areas did feature some extra tiers of catch fencing. Likewise, the entry list featured some more padding than it had previously, with some notable returnees to the paddock hoping to make a mark.
Heading the charge into Austria would be the Ensign team, who drafted in F1 veteran Chris Amon to lead their two car effort, partnering Roelof Wunderink. Another man making a comeback was the previously injured Rolf Stommelen, who rejoined Hill to partner Tony Brise. This left Alan Jones without a seat, although rumours around the paddock suggested that the Australian racer would be back before the end of the season after an impressive couple of races.
Surtees, meanwhile, made a comeback after missing out on the German Grand Prix, John Watson returning to lead a two car effort alongside local racer Ewald Boisitz. Another effort making a comeback were Matra, whom had decided to supply engines to Shadow as they sought to move beyond the Ford Cosworth faction they usual led. Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jarier was therefore handed the wheel of the new DN7, while Tom Pryce was left with the pick of the three Cosworth engined DN5s.
Elsewhere, Hesketh were back up to fielding three drivers, as American racer Brett Lunger was partnered with James Hunt in the "factory" cars. The third car was to be found in the hands of Austrian journalist Harald Ertl once again, whose sponsor the Warsteiner Brewery had had the car painted gold. The new 308C was also expected to make an appearance, but neither news nor sight of the updated design.
BRM were back with a two car effort, although with only one driver in the form of Bob Evans, they could only hope that enough cars ahead of them retired. Williams had also managed to get back to a two car effort, with Ian Ashley's wrecked FW rebuilt around a new monocoque the team had "found" in their parts bin. The Brit was still recovering from his ankle injuries, however, and so Swiss racer Jo Vonlanthen was handed a debut alongside podium finisher Jacques Laffite.
A rejuvenated March quartet arrived in Austria unchanged after the battle with the Nürburgring, with Vittorio Brambilla leading their charge in the orange-white Beta Tools liveried car. The two Levazza sponsored cars of Hans-Joachim Stuck and Lella Lombardi were also in top condition, as was the customer car run by the Penske team for Mark Donohue. The latter pairing's arch rivals Parnelli, meanwhile, arrived with their two familiar cars for Mario Andretti to pick from.
The rather gloomy Lotus effort would arrive at the Österreichring in no better shape than before, with Ronnie Peterson and Brian Henton having to run without a spare car. McLaren were in a similar position, albeit with a far more competitive pair of M23s for Emerson Fittipaldi and Jochen Mass. Those two British efforts were therefore outnumbered by the two back marker teams Maki and Fittipaldi, whom both had two cars for Tony Trimmer and Wilson Fittipaldi respectively.
Healthier efforts were to be found at Tyrrell, who had their usual three car compliment for Patrick Depailler and Jody Scheckter to try. Likewise, the ever professional Brabham effort had three BT44Bs prepared for Carlos Reutemann and Carlos Pace, amid speculation that a deal with Alfa Romeo had been signed. Completing the charge into Austria, however, would be the Ferrari effort, who fielded three cars for Championship leader Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni, all freshly rebuilt. Of the two it was Lauda who was expected to shine, knowing that he could win the World Championship with victory on home soil, a rare achievement in any sport, let alone Formula One.
Victory in Germany had allowed Reutemann to move back ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi in the World Championship standings, but Lauda's third place on the Nordschleife was enough to draw his lead out to seventeen points. Hunt had retained fourth ahead of Pace, both still in the fight for second, while Scheckter remained in sixth. Elsewhere, Laffite was in the top ten after his maiden podium, while Jones and van Lennep broke into the top twenty.
Ferrari saw their lead over Brabham-Ford Cosworth cut to just three points in Germany, the attritional race meaning the British squad still had real hopes of taking the International Cup for Manufacturers. McLaren-Ford Cosworth had lost ground in third, while Hesketh-Ford Cosworth were still fending off Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth for fourth. Shadow-Ford Cosworth, meanwhile, moved ahead of Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth, leaving the Norfolk squad level on points with new boys Williams-Ford Cosworth.
The full entry list for the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix is outlined below:
Friday and Saturday were handed over to practice for the Austrian Grand Prix, with four sessions scheduled across the two days. The weather remained consistent on Friday, staying dry and warm, but Saturday would be cold and grey, with the final session proving to be a near washout. Regardless, the "ace" drivers at the front of the field would be aiming to best the circuit record, currently held by Emerson Fittipaldi with a 1:34.98, set in 1973.
The first session of the weekend was, somewhat inevitably, dominated by Niki Lauda, the Austrian racer recording a 1:35.14 to head the time sheets at the end of the Friday morning. Teammate Clay Regazzoni was also up in the 1:35.00s, although the two Ferraris were split by Fittipaldi's McLaren. Patrick Depailler would be the only other man to record a sub-1:36.00 effort as the field broke for lunch.
Elsewhere, Carlos Reutemann went for a walk around the Österreichring after breaking his transmission, although he barely managed half a lap in the spare car before it dumped its oil on the track. Mario Andretti, meanwhile, would blow an engine in his preferred Parnelli, while Vittorio Brambilla had to stop early as his March lost oil pressure. Then, just as the session came to a close, Ronnie Peterson found himself sliding into the barriers after having to take avoiding action when trying to pass a slower car.
Peterson's car looked to be a write-off when it was dumped back in the Lotus pitbox during lunch, meaning the Swede took over teammate Brian Henton's car. The Brit was therefore left to sit and watch as Lauda once again stole the show, breaking the circuit record with a 1:34.85 to claim provisional pole. Indeed, the only man to get close to the Austrian would be James Hunt, who benefited from cooling temperatures late in the afternoon to record the only other time in the 1:34.00s.
Trouble still lurked throughout the field however, as Andretti crawled to a stop with his second engine failure of the weekend. Bob Evans was another left out on the circuit when his BRM engine expired on the far side of the circuit, while Regazzoni suffered a rare failure early on in the F12 Ferrari. Then, at the end of the session, Wilson Fittipaldi went flying into the catch fencing after a suspension failure, the new Fittipaldi destroyed and its owner pulled out with a broken hand.
The miserable start to Saturday meant that there would be no real improvement at the peak of the field, although that did not meant that it was impossible for drivers to find time. Indeed, the fastest man on Saturday morning proved to be Hans-Joachim Stuck, a 1:35.38 putting him up to fourth and therefore ahead of the second Ferrari of Regazzoni. Teammate Brambilla also moved up the order by recording the second fastest run of the morning, although they were the exceptions to the rule.
Indeed, most of Saturday morning was spent testing overnight repair work, as Peterson was handed his theoretically written off car after an all-nighter by Lotus. This was fortunate, as teammate Henton would end the session by spearing the barriers in the #6 car, ending his hopes of a start on the spot as the Norfolk squad had run out of spares. Others to suffer were Andretti, who blew his third engine in as many sessions, Carlos Pace who went pirouetting into the fencing at Hella Licht after a rear-axle failure, and the Maki which lost drive to the rear wheels.
The dark clouds that had gathered over the Österreichring on Saturday morning would finally dump their load over the circuit over the lunch break, meaning the final session was a near washout. Most would venture out for a couple of laps amid reports that the end of the race could be affected by rain, but there was little enthusiasm to do so. As such it was Regazzoni who recorded the fastest time of the afternoon, a 1:54.09, although it was teammate Lauda who would start from pole.
The full qualifying results for the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|2||24||James Hunt||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:36.26||1:34.97||1:39.89||1:58.21||+0.12s|
|3||1||Emerson Fittipaldi||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:35.21||NI||1:36.36||1:59.59||+0.36s|
|4||10||Hans-Joachim Stuck||March-Ford Cosworth||1:36.43||1:36.38||1:35.38||1:55.49||+0.53s|
|6||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:35.71||NI||1:38.35||—||+0.86s|
|7||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:35.78||NI||1:37.82||1:55.57||+0.93s|
|8||9||Vittorio Brambilla||March-Ford Cosworth||1:37.36||1:36.01||1:35.80||1:55.50||+0.95s|
|9||2||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:36.88||1:36.12||1:37.52||1:56.81||+1.27s|
|10||3||Jody Scheckter||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:36.39||1:36.14||1:37.52||1:56.81||+1.29s|
|11||7||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:36.43||NI||1:37.98||1:58.75||+1.58s|
|12||21||Jacques Laffite||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:38.44||1:37.60||1:38.25||—||+2.75s|
|13||5||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:37.61||—||1:37.70||2:01.72||+2.76s|
|15||16||Tom Pryce||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:37.64||1:37.70T||1:39.01||1:55.21||+2.79s|
|16||23||Tony Brise||Hill-Ford Cosworth||1:42.47||1:37.69||1:39.00||1:56.12||+2.84s|
|17||25||Brett Lunger||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:39.49||1:37.87||1:39.78||2:00.68||+3.02s|
|18||18||John Watson||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:38.32||NI||1:37.96||2:07.44||+3.11s|
|19||27||Mario Andretti||Parnelli-Ford Cosworth||1:39.61||1:37.97T||1:40.05||1:56.09T||+3.12s|
|20*||30||Wilson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:38.14||NI||—||—||+3.29s|
|21†||28||Mark Donohue||March-Ford Cosworth||1:39.52||1:39.00||1:38.19||2:02.01||+3.34s|
|22||29||Lella Lombardi||March-Ford Cosworth||1:38.87||1:38.86||1:38.43||—||+3.58s|
|23‡||6||Brian Henton||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:39.27||—||1:38.72||—||+3.87s|
|24||31||Chris Amon||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:39.40||1:38.75||1:40.31||1:57.29||+3.90s|
|26||22||Rolf Stommelen||Hill-Ford Cosworth||1:39.56||NI||1:46.01||1:57.25||+4.71s|
|27||32||Harald Ertl||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:41.41||1:40.72||1:42.25||2:15.20||+5.87s|
|28||33||Roelof Wunderink||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:42.58||NI||1:46.35||2:09.25||+7.73s|
|29||20||Jo Vonlanthen||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:46.33||1:42.80||1:57.72||—||+7.95s|
|DNQ||35||Tony Trimmer||Maki-Ford Cosworth||1:47.76||1:44.88||1:45.40||—||+10.03s|
|WD||19||Ewald Boisitz||Surtees-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.
- NI - No Improvement: The timekeepers in Austria did not record a driver's best time on Friday afternoon unless they improved on their morning effort.
- * Wilson Fittipaldi was unable to start after breaking his hand on Friday.
- † Donohue was unable to start the race due to his fatal accident in the warm-up.
- ‡ Henton unable to start after crashing on Saturday.
- * Wilson Fittipaldi, Donohue and Henton were all unable to start the race after accidents, meaning they were removed from the grid.
Race morning on Sunday dawned bright and warm, with an estimated 140,000 strong crowd gathering at the side of the circuit, many of whom had camped out since Friday. The teams had been busy working overnight to get their cars fighting fit, although there was conformation at Lotus that Brian Henton could not start. That gave Tony Trimmer and the Maki half a chance of starting, but the organisers decided that he had lapped too slow to safely take part.
The now familiar pre-race warm-up session began at 9:00am, with most of the field taking to the track to check their cars were fighting fit. In the middle of the session, Mark Donohue suffered a puncture while taking the flat-out Hella Licht corner at the start of the lap, sending his March into the crash fencing. However, the American racer was carrying so much momentum that the fencing simply bundled under the car and launched it over the Armco, with Donohue and bits of fence slamming into the advertising hoarding just behind.
Donohue was pulled from the car having taken a blow to the head, but was conscious when he arrived at the medical centre at the circuit. Two marshals were also brought in to the medical centre as the accident was cleared, although all three were taken by helicopter to a hospital Graz. En-route to hospital, Donohue fell unconscious and would subsequently die following an operation to relieve the pressure in his head. His death, and that of one of the marshals, would be reported in the week following the race.
As Donohue and the marshals were whisked away, the organisers saw their schedule completely demolished, with support races shortened to try and keep the Grand Prix start on time. It was not to be, however, and as the cars finally made their way to the grid, rain began to pound around the Styrian mountains. The result was chaos as teams furiously worked to put wet tyres on their cars, although all 26 starters were more or less ready when the starter's flag finally dropped.
With the rain now hammering down the twenty-four qualifiers, as well as Jo Vonlanthen and Roelof Wunderink who were allowed to start after Donohue and Henton's troubles, lined up on the grid decked out in full wet attire. For all the drama of the morning, however, the start of the race proved to be rather tame, with pole sitter Niki Lauda slithering into the lead. Behind, James Hunt held his Hesketh in second, while Patrick Depailler shot through the spray to third, having lined up in seventh.
The opening lap saw the field quickly settle into a steady rhythm, the only change to the order after the first corner coming when Bob Evans pulled the BRM off with a ruined engine. Lauda duly headed the train across the line from Hunt and Depailler, with Vittorio Brambilla tucked in the spray in fourth. The order would go unchanged through to lap three, when Mario Andretti spun into the barriers after hitting a deep puddle.
As Andretti dropped out, Lauda and Hunt began to pull clear of Depailler, leaving the Frenchman to defend from the charging Brambilla. Depailler's task was made all the more difficult as his front wheels were out of balance, meaning the #4 Tyrrell had some bizarre handling characteristics. He was able to hold off the Italian until lap five, by which stage a train had formed up behind him covering himself in fourth to Tony Brise in tenth.
Indeed, Brise was among those really beginning to thrive in the conditions, looking set to take Tom Pryce and Jochen Mass as the trio fought one another to make progress. Their battle opened just as the heavy rain stopped, causing most of the pit crews to dart into the paddock for slick tyres, particularly as the spray began to disappear. By lap ten the rain had stopped completely, although dark clouds still loomed around the circuit.
Out front, meanwhile, Lauda was edging clear of second placed Hunt as the Brit began to glance in his mirrors to check on the incoming Brambilla. Ronnie Peterson, meanwhile, had barged his way past Depailler for fourth, finally showing some of his lost fire, while Emerson Fittipaldi lost out to Mass after a failed attempt to take the ailing Tyrrell. Indeed, Mass was able to take both Depailler and Fittipaldi in short order, before tagging onto the back of Peterson as the Swede tried to sprint away.
Elsewhere, Jody Scheckter was out of serious contention after a puncture, picked up on the fourth tour while he was running in seventh. Hans-Joachim Stuck had also been in a promising position until he hit trouble, the March spinning into the barriers on lap twelve. Jean-Pierre Jarier was a frequent pit visitor with a fuel feed issue, ultimately retiring after twelve slow laps, while Brise's encouraging run was over after fourteen laps when a wheel weight flew off the Hill, forcing him to stop for a new set of tyres.
As Brise swooped into the pits, the rain returned to the Österreichring, falling significantly harder than before. Lauda immediately reduced his pace at the start of the onslaught, allowing Hunt and Brambilla to slither up behind him at the start of lap fifteen. Indeed, the Austrian was so put off by downpour that Hunt and Brambilla elbowed their way past into Hella Licht, before quickly disappearing into the distance.
The rain continued to hammer the circuit as Hunt and Brambilla sprinted into the lead, with the Italian's March slithering around in the wake of the Hesketh with clear intent to get past. Three laps of intense pressure ultimately proved enough for Brambilla to take the lead, the Italian sending his March sliding past Hunt's Hesketh into Bosch. Such was Brambilla's pace that Hunt was denied the chance of taking retribution, the Italian pulling over a second clear before the end of lap nineteen.
As they duelled for the lead, Lauda was left in a lonely third, the immediate pressure off as Peterson swept into the pits for a clear visor. Carlos Pace, meanwhile, was out of action with a number of issues on the Brabham, having had an ill-sounding engine since the start. Depailler's hopes of points were also over as he finally stopped to get his front wheels changed, while late comer Vonlanthen was out with an engine issue.
Back with the healthy runners and Lauda looked to have lost all his confidence, allowing Mass and Pryce to charge past without any resistance. The sister car of Clay Regazzoni had been at the tail end of the top ten all race and was also struggling, almost getting broadsided by a charging Peterson as the Swede recovered up the order. As the Ferrari's struggled on track, their team boss led a call to have the race stopped prematurely, with thunder and lightening hailing another increase in rain fall.
The teams' petition ultimately saw the chequered flag thrown at the end of lap 29, with the result to be declared as the order had stood at the end of thje lap. This was particularly good news for Brambilla, who spotted the chequered flag, waved to the March team to celebrate his victory, before spinning into the barriers to wipe off the front of the March. Hunt cruised home to second, while Mass spun on final tour, recovering back onto the circuit moments after Pryce flashed past for third.
Elsewhere, Peterson took both Ferraris in the closing stages to claim fifth, leaving Lauda and Regazzoni to finish sixth and seventh, claiming a measly half-a-point between them. Scheckter came home a lap down in eighth ahead of Fittipaldi, while John Watson completed the top ten. Ultimately, eighteen cars made it to the flag in one of Formula One's wettest races, although there were to be some minor protests to restart the race, as the sun finally broke through the clouds just as Brambilla mounted the podium to celebrate his first victory.
The full results for the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Wunderink could not be classified as he failed to complete 90% of the race distance.
- First entry for Brett Lunger.
- First and only Grand Prix start by Jo Vonlanthen.
- Matra returned as an engine supplier for the first time since 1972.
- Last entry by Mark Donohue.
- Sixteenth pole position recorded by Niki Lauda.
- Ferrari claimed their 77th pole as both a chassis and engine supplier.
- Vittorio Brambilla earned his first (and only) victory.
- It was also Brambilla's only visit to the podium.
- March had their second win as a constructor, and first as an entrant.
- Engine suppliers Ford Cosworth recorded an 86th triumph.
- James Hunt earned Hesketh's seventh and final podium.
- Maiden podium finish by Tom Pryce.
- Brambilla recorded his first and only fastest lap.
Half-points, combined with his failure to win, meant that Niki Lauda would have to wait at least another week to seal his maiden World Championship crown, needing only three points at the final two races. Carlos Reutemann and Emerson Fittipaldi were now the only two drivers would could deny the Austrian, but one of them would have to win both the remaining races to stand any chance. Realistically, they were instead fighting for second, with James Hunt and Carlos Pace also in that fight.
Ferrari left Austria having added half a point to their International Cup for Manufacturer's lead, now 3.5 ahead of second placed Brabham-Ford Cosworth. Those two looked set to duel for the title for the rest of the season, as McLaren-Ford Cosworth were ten points behind but secure in third. Hesketh-Ford Cosworth, meanwhile, would head into Italy still in fourth place, ahead of ex-Champions Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth.
Images and Videos:
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: AUSTRIAN GP, 1975', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr262.html, (Accessed 26/11/2017)
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 2.43 2.44 2.45 2.46 2.47 2.48 2.49 2.50 2.51 2.52 2.53 2.54 2.55 2.56 2.57 2.58 2.59 2.60 2.61 2.62 2.63 2.64 2.65 2.66 2.67 2.68 2.69 2.70 2.71 2.72 2.73 2.74 2.75 2.76 2.77 2.78 2.79 2.80 2.81 2.82 2.83 2.84 2.85 2.86 2.87 2.88 2.89 2.90 2.91 2.92 2.93 2.94 2.95 2.96 2.97 2.98 D.S.J., 'The Austrian Grand Prix: A washout', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/10/1975), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/october-1975/35/austrian-grand-prix , (Accessed 26/11/2017)
- ↑ 'Austria 1975: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/autriche/engages.aspx, (Accessed 26/11/2017)
- ↑ 'Austria 1975: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/autriche/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 26/11/2017)
- ↑ 'Austria 1975: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/autriche/classement.aspx, (Accessed 27/11/2017)
|V T E||Austrian Grand Prix|
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