The 1975 Belgian Grand Prix, otherwise known as the XXXIII Grote Prijs van België, was the sixth race of the 1975 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at Circuit Zolder in the 25th May, 1975. After two chaotic races in Spain and Mote Carlo, the Belgian Grand Prix would be a rather tame affair.
Man of the moment Niki Lauda claimed pole position during qualifying, his tenth in the sixteen races since the last F1 visit to Belgium. Carlos Pace managed to take second on the grid ahead of Vittorio Brambilla in a resurgent March, while Tony Brise starred on his debut for Hill by claiming seventh.
When the flag fell on raceday, it was Pace who sprinted into an early lead, while Lauda just managed to fend off Brambilla. The second Ferrari of Clay Regazzoni battled with Jody Scheckter for fourth, while Jochen Mass crashed out on the opening tour after running wide.
Brambilla moved into the lead after a handful of laps, copy cat moves on Lauda and Pace leaving the bright orange March in the lead. Lauda followed the Italian past Pace a few moments later, leaving the Brazilian to fight with Scheckter. By lap six the order had shuffled once again, with Lauda sprinting clear of Brambilla, while Scheckter leapt past Pace.
The following laps saw quali-hero Brise disappear with an engine failure, just after Scheckter elbowed his way past Brambilla. A circuit wide procession followed the South African's move, the only changes coming when cars hit mechanical strife.
Indeed, the only major change between laps 9 and 70 came on the 49th tour, when Brambilla pitted for fresh tyres. That allowed Reutemann to move past Pace and claim the final podium spot, as the Brazilian himself struggled with tyre wear. He would tumble out of the points during the final stages of the race, as would Championship leader Emerson Fittipaldi.
That last shuffle left Lauda as the race winner from Scheckter and Reutemann, twenty seconds apiece separating them. Patrick Depailler, Regazzoni and Tom Pryce snuck into the points as Fittipaldi and Pace faded, as half the field made it to the chequered flag.
Two years on from an ill-prepared debut for the Zolder circuit as a Grand Prix venue and F1 was back, a desire to keep the Belgian Grand Prix alive outweighing personal concerns about the circuits. Fortunately, the owners of the Zolder circuit had invested money into their venue, with the little Belgian circuit sporting new tarmac and a new chicane. The improvements also included a complete check of the Armco barriers to satisfy the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, amid murmurs from their leaders that a return to Spa-Francorchamps was their desire.
The big news in terms of the entry list was the retirement of Graham Hill from active racing duty, the Brit taking his miserable display in Monte Carlo as a sign that he was finally past it. With Rolf Stommelen still recovering from injury, Hill would draft in Tony Brise for the Belgian Grand Prix, the Brit having gained a little experience with Williams at the Spanish race. François Migault would pilot the other car, which were the team's older GH1s.
Frank Williams himself, meanwhile, continued to use Arturo Merzario and Jacques Laffite for the time being, the latter getting the newer of the teams' cars once again. Mario Andretti missed out in the Parnelli as he focused on the Indy 500, while Mark Donohue did the opposite, arriving with the oldest Penske. Hesketh were another team running just a single car for James Hunt, although Alan Jones did make the trip with his privately entered variant.
BRM had brought a pair of cars to try in Monte Carlo, although Bob Evans was listed as their only pilot. Likewise, Surtees delivered two chassis to the circuit for their lone ranger John Watson, Henri Pescarolo having ended his interest in the effort for the time being. Elsewhere, Wilson Fittipaldi dragged his self-built effort to the sandy terrain of Zolder, while a Formula 5000 crash amid the dunes of Zandvoort had ruled out Roelof Wunderink from the entry list, meaning there would be no sign of the Ensign in the paddock.
Tyrrell had three cars prepared to battle in Zolder, although both Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler preferred their usual chargers. Fallen giants Lotus once again championed the Lotus 72, with Ronnie Peterson and Jacky Ickx in the hot seats, although the latter likely saw his chance of a famous home win evaporate as the old Lotuses were unloaded from the team's lorry. March were far happier after their recent revival, once again fielding Vittorio Brambilla and Lella Lombardi, with both cars picking up sponsorship after every race.
Of the big teams, McLaren had no major concerns ahead of the Belgian battle, bringing along a trio of cars for Emerson Fittipaldi and Jochen Mass. Ferrari also had a trio of cars for Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni, the latter getting a rebuilt car after repeatedly bending his usual car on the barriers in Monte Carlo. The single lap stars Shadow were another team to bring a trio of cars for Tom Pryce and Jean-Pierre Jarier, although Brabham trumped them all by bringing along a quartet of cars for their pair of Carloses, Reutemann and Pace.
With the halfway point in the season fast approaching, it was still Fittipaldi who led the way in the Drivers' Championship after the annual tour of Monte Carlo, pulling five points clear of the rest of the field. Pace remained his closest challenger in second, while victory for Lauda had moved the Austrian to third, seven points back. Reutemann had slipped to fourth, while Mass was the first of those with half a point in fifth.
It was a one point five point lead for McLaren-Ford Cosworth after the opening five rounds of the International Cup for Manufacturers, the British effort leading their compatriots Brabham-Ford Cosworth with two wins apiece. Ferrari moved into a solid third place thanks to Lauda's win, while Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth held their own in fourth. Hesketh-Ford Cosworth remained a point ahead of the fallen Champions Lotus-Ford Cosworth, with Shadow-Ford Cosworth and March-Ford Cosworth the only other scorers.
The full entry list for the 1975 Belgian Grand Prix is outlined below:
Both Friday and Saturday were given over to practice/qualifying, with two sessions each day split by a lunch break. That would be as far as the similarities went, however, with Friday perfectly dry, while Saturday saw the circuit battered by rain before being baked for the final session. Otherwise it was business as usual for the F1 elite, with the lap record of 1:24.42, set by the late François Cevert not out of reach despite the re-profiled chicane at the end of the lap.
The nature of the Zolder circuit meant that an overtly aggressive lap could reward a driver as much as an effort full of precision, meaning a close result was predicted as the field swept onto the circuit on Friday morning. Niki Lauda, the man dominating qualifying for over a year since getting his first pole, was among the first to set a serious time. Others to hit the ground running were Championship leader Emerson Fittipaldi, Vittorio Brambilla in the March, and Tony Brise, whose ultra-aggressive technique put the Hill into the top ten early on.
Lauda would ultimately end the first session fastest, although the Austrian did crack an exhaust towards the end of the session, revealing that Ferrari had brought an as-yet-unseen update to Belgium. As his old exhaust system was installed, Mark Donohue put his Penske into the barriers, leaving him on the sidelines for the rest of the day as his mechanics repaired the front end. Elsewhere, Bob Evans suffered an engine failure in the BRM, leaving him in the team's spare for the rest of the weekend, while François Migault missed out on any running at all as the Hill squad finished reconstructing the team's old "spare".
After the lunch break on Friday the pace marginally improved, although everyone was over a second or more off of Cevert's old record. Carlos Pace ended the afternoon on provisional pole, a 1:25.47, three tenths up on Lauda. That said, the Brazilian had had to use the spare Brabham, for his Ford Cosworth engine had been one of a number to expire in the summer heat.
Indeed, after the lunch break, cooling would be the order of the day rather than outright pace, with several of the Cosworth V8s expiring in the heat. Tom Pryce was among those to chose to swap an engine during the session, while Evans was careful not to destroy the last healthy BRM V12 on Continental Europe. Most also suffered from overheating brakes at one point or another during Friday, with attempts to cool the brakes on some cars taking priority over aerodynamic efforts.
At the end of Friday's running the G.P.D.A. caused some headaches by holding a compulsory meeting, much to the ire of the media in the Brabham-Martini area, although the free Martinis seemed to calm the mood. Fortunately, the meeting seemed to be little more than a briefing, and there was no threat of protest or withdrawal due to safety planned for Saturday. As it turned out, rain in the opening moments of the first Saturday session left most of the field in the pits.
Fortunately, some early summer heat and sunshine cracked through the clouds before the lunch break, and as the drivers strapped in to start the second Saturday session the circuit was largely dry. Star of the show ultimately proved to be the ever-enthusiastic Brambilla, who slithered the #9 March to a 1:25.66, splitting the two Ferraris on the day, and claiming third overall. Indeed, Lauda went to great lengths to overhaul Pace's best effort from Friday, but could only snip 0.04s from the Brazilian's best to claim pole.
Other drivers to impress were Brise, who somehow dragged his Hill into seventh overall, while Alan Jones was only half a second slower than James Hunt in the sister Heskeths. Indeed, just two seconds covered the top sixteen come sessions end, although beyond that the times did go out rather alarmingly. The stragglers included usual suspects Wilson Fittipaldi, Donohue and Lella Lombardi, although some were surprised by John Watson's lack of pace, the Ulsterman simply hoping he could "get with it" on Sunday.
The full qualifying results for the 1975 Belgian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|2||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:28.02||1:25.47T||1:47.97||1:27.41||+0.04s|
|3||9||Vittorio Brambilla||March-Ford Cosworth||1:27.09||1:26.83||1:34.45||1:25.66||+0.23s|
|5||16||Tom Pryce||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:29.58||1:27.61||1:34.10||1:25.94||+0.51s|
|6||7||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:27.87||1:26.47||1:46.61||1:26.09||+0.66s|
|7||23||Tony Brise||Hill-Ford Cosworth||1:27.81||1:27.39||1:35.93||1:26.22||+0.79s|
|8||1||Emerson Fittipaldi||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:26.82||1:26.26||1:36.13||1:26.58||+0.83s|
|9||3||Jody Scheckter||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:27.05||1:26.38||1:44.18||1:26.36||+0.93s|
|10||17||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:27.02||1:26.38||1:37.35||1:26.77||+0.95s|
|11||24||James Hunt||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:27.81||1:26.58||1:43.46||1:26.51T||+1.08s|
|12||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:27.34||1:26.95||1:39.06||1:26.74||+1.31s|
|13||26||Alan Jones||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:28.11||1:28.08||1:56.51||1:27.05||+1.62s|
|14||5||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:28.52||1:27.47||1:36.02||1:27.17||+1.74s|
|15||2||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:28.48||1:27.93||1:35.33||1:27.38||+1.95s|
|16||6||Jacky Ickx||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:29.19||1:28.45||1:35.64||1:27.40||+1.97s|
|17||21||Jacques Laffite||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:30.15||1:28.36||1:41.73||1:27.70||+2.27s|
|18||18||John Watson||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:28.31||1:28.01||1:40.46||1:28.17||+2.58s|
|19||20||Arturo Merzario||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:29.49||1:28.69||1:36.10||1:28.18||+2.75s|
|21||28||Mark Donohue||Penske-Ford Cosworth||1:31.71||—||1:38.40||1:28.65||+3.22s|
|22||22||François Migault||Hill-Ford Cosworth||—||1:35.65||1:43.06||1:29.57||+4.14s|
|23||10||Lella Lombardi||March-Ford Cosworth||1:31.56||1:32.48||1:46.76||1:29.71||+4.28s|
|24||30||Wilson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:36.14||1:31.23||2:01.06||1:30.27||+4.84s|
|WD||31||Roelof Wunderink||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
|WD||35||Dave Walker||Maki-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.
Raceday dawned with very dull grey skies, although there was no threat of rain as the start time approached. Indeed, it was a rather flawless day for racing as the field was wheeled onto the dummy grid, with no major issues during the pre-race warm-up session staged that morning. As such, all 24 qualifiers were ready to start after a single lap parade, with pole sitter Niki Lauda opting to take the grid slot on the inside of the circuit.
When the flag dropped the race truly did burst into life, with Lauda, Carlos Pace and Clay Regazzoni going three abreast into the first corner. Ultimately, it was Pace who emerged triumphant, braking later than the two Ferraris flanking him to dive into the corner first. Regazzoni, on the outside, was elbowed back down to fourth by Vittorio Brambilla, with the rest of the field charging through the first corner without issue.
Unfortunately the well mannered start to the race would only last so long, and as the field streamed into the Esses Jochen Mass lost control. The McLaren racer got out of shape on the brakes and spun across the circuit, causing the pack behind to take avoiding action as the German wrote his car off on the barriers. John Watson bent his nose in avoidance, while Jacques Laffite slammed into the back of Alan Jones, spearing the oil radiator on the Hesketh to leave the Australian on the sidelines.
By the end of the first lap it was Pace leading from Lauda and Brambilla, although as the trio braked for the first corner the Italian caught the Austrian sleeping and duly slithered into second place. Behind them came Regazzoni, being hounded by Jody Scheckter, while Carlos Reutemann fought off Tony Brise. Tom Pryce was next fighting Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt, while Ronnie Peterson and Jean-Pierre Jarier led the rest across the line.
All of the attention would be placed on the fight for the lead in the early stages, particularly when Brambilla dived past Pace at the start of the third lap, prompting a cheer from the grandstands. The Italian's move also opened the door for Lauda to move past the Brabham, with Pace's pace declining once the other two barged past. Brambilla was left to defend his lead from Lauda, although his resistance was finally broken on lap six.
The imperious Lauda quickly established a small lead over the Italian, although both knew that the Ferrari was a far superior car to the Italian's March. Behind, Scheckter vaulted past Regazzoni before pouncing on Pace, the South African proceeding to hunt down Brambilla as Lauda pulled clear. By the start of lap nine, the Tyrrell was on the back of the March, and as the pair came to start the tenth tour, the South African was ahead.
Scheckter's driving style meant that he was no threat to Lauda, and so any hopes of a fight for the lead quickly faded. Pace's plummet therefore drew some attention, with the Brazilian soon slipping behind Regazzoni, just before Brise spun himself out of contention at the Esses. His demise left Pace fending off an impressive train of cars, with Reutemann, Pryce, Fittipaldi, Jarier, Hunt, Patrick Depailler and Peterson all in a long train behind the Brazilian.
Regazzoni eventually managed to relegated Brambilla down to fourth, although his efforts drained too much life from his front tyres, forcing the Swiss racer into the pits. As the #11 Ferrari darted back out having dropped to twelfth, Fittipaldi began to carve his way through the order, moving into the top five after a series of simple moves. Jarier, meanwhile, beached himself in the sand, having got out of shape when braking for the chicane, while the sister car of Pryce lost out to Depailler and Peterson.
A gearbox problem for Pace sapped away what little pace the Brazilian still had, and so he was duly dumped out of the points when he lost third gear. With Pace out of the way, Depailler and Peterson were released to chase down Reutemann and Fittipaldi, who were themselves harassing third placed Brambilla. Lauda, meanwhile, continued to hold an imperious lead over Scheckter, with the Austrian pulling a little further ahead every time the two lapped a back marker.
Half distance flashed past as Brambilla put up his spectacular defence, although the Italian racer was beginning to struggle with tyre wear. He would, ultimately, have to stop on lap 49 before his front tyres delaminated, releasing Reutemann and co. to try and hunt down the long-gone leaders. The Italian emerged just ahead of a charging Regazzoni, although in truth the Swiss racer was only really pushing to prevent himself being lapped by teammate Lauda.
Brambilla's race soon came to a premature end on lap 54, the Italian suffering a brake failure to join teammate Lella Lombardi on the sidelines. The two Loti of Peterson and Jacky Ickx were also out, both suffering brake failures although the former doing so in dramatic, crash-fencing destroying fashion. The two Williamss were also out with clutch and gearbox failures, while Hunt and Brise had both dropped out early on.
The rest of the race was a rather tame affair, the monotony only broken twice before the chequered flag. The first was the sight of François Migault sailing off the circuit, the Frenchman throwing up a cloud of dust as he rejoined with a bent rear wheel assembly. The second saw Depailler sweep past Fittipaldi for fourth, the latter suffering from high brake wear in the closing stages.
Regardless, it was Niki Lauda who swept to victory at Zolder, the Austrian holding a twenty second lead at the line despite cracking an exhaust. Scheckter claimed second despite crawling over the line with only a few fumes of petrol left, while Reutemann cruised home for third. Depailler's late move left him fourth ahead of Regazzoni and Pryce, those two promoted into the points when Fittipaldi's pace deteriorated quicker than his brakes.
The full results for the 1975 Belgian Grand Prix are outlined below:
- Fourth victory for Niki Lauda.
- Ferrari earned a 54th triumph as both constructors and engine suppliers.
- Tenth podium taken by Carlos Reutemann.
A second victory in a row, with Emerson Fittipaldi failing to score, put Niki Lauda to the top of the World Championship standings, the Austrian taking a two point lead. A five point gap remained between Fittipaldi and third placed Carlos Pace, with the latter level on points with his teammate Carlos Reutemann. Jody Scheckter moved into the top five, while Tom Pryce was finally on the board after a promising but pointless start to the season.
A two and a half point gap had opened up in the International Cup for Manufacturers standings, with Brabham-Ford Cosworth overtaking McLaren-Ford Cosworth once again. However, Lauda's double win meant both were under threat from the third placed Ferrari effort, with the Italian squad moving to within half a point of McLaren. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth, meanwhile, had solidified their fourth place in the table, while Lotus-Ford Cosworth endured another pointless performance.
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 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: BELGIAN GP, 1975', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr256.html, (Accessed 12/09/2017)
- ↑ 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 D.S.J., 'Grote Prijs van Belgie: Another Ferrari Domination', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/07/1975), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/july-1975/34/grote-prijs-van-belgie, (Accessed 12/09/2017)
- ↑ 'Belgium 1975: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/belgique/engages.aspx, (Accessed 12/09/2017)
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 'Belgium 1975: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/belgique/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 10/09/2017)
- ↑ 'Belgium 1975: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/belgique/classement.aspx, (Accessed 13/09/2017)
|V T E||Belgian Grand Prix|
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