The 1975 British Grand Prix, officially known as the XXVIII John Player British Grand Prix, was the tenth round of the 1975 FIA Formula One World Championship, held at Silverstone on the 19th July 1975. The race would be remembered for a huge accident in the closing stages, as a hail storm brought the meeting to a premature conclusion.
Qualifying had seen Welshman Tom Pryce claim a memorable pole position for Shadow, sharing the front-row with Carlos Pace. Championship leader Niki Lauda was a surprise third alongside Ferrari teammmate Clay Regazzoni, while Vittorio Brambilla completed the top five.
It was an overcast, but significantly dry, start to the race, with Pace surging ahead of Pryce to take the lead into Copse, while Regazzoni beat Lauda to claim third. Behind came a fast starting James Hunt, up to fifth from ninth on the grid, while Emerson Fittipaldi daringly passed Mario Andretti on the outside of the first corner.
The early stages of the race would see Regazzoni move into the lead, well timed dives carrying the #11 Ferrari past Pryce and Pace by lap thirteen. Pryce would also take Pace in short order, while Hunt lost out to Jody Scheckter and Fittipaldi in subsequent laps, although the order of the race was about to be thrown into the air.
Rain began to fall after Regazzoni moved into the lead, and it was the Swiss racer who became the first casualty of it by spinning into the wall at Club on lap nineteen. Pryce inherited the lead as Regazzoni pitted for repairs, although the Welshman was soon seen skating off the circuit and into retirement. That promoted Scheckter into top spot after two unseen moves on Pace and Lauda.
The increasing amount of water on circuit would force the entire field into the pits for wet tyres over subsequent laps, although Pace, Fittipaldi, Hunt and Jochen Mass all stayed out on slicks as the rain had stopped. Scheckter, an early stopper, caught and passed them quickly, but soon found that his tyres were overheating and so had to pit again for slicks.
Hunt moved into the lead after this, but his Hesketh had an engine issue and so Fittipaldi moved into first, soon followed by Pace. As Scheckter passed the limping Hesketh the clouds burst once again, this time adding hail into the mix to once again throw the result into the air.
Over the next three laps everyone bar Fittipaldi, Brambilla, Lauda, Andretti and Regazzoni would spin out of the race, with a red flag thrown at the end of lap 57. The result was subsequently declared as the order had been at the start of lap 56, meaning Fittipaldi claimed victory ahead of Pace and Scheckter. Hunt was classified in fourth ahead of Mark Donohue, while Brambilla was frustrated to finish sixth having survived long enough to run in second before the red flag.
Silverstone returned to host the British Grand Prix in 1975, although the familiar blast around the airfield would be slightly different than it had been before. As circuit safety became something of a catchphrase for the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, the fearsome Woodcote corner was turned into a chicane to slow the cars down, prompting a mixed response upon first inspection. The new chicane reduced speeds from 150mph to around 100mph through the final corner on the circuit, although the rest of the circuit remained untouched bar some extra catch fencing.
There were some notable changes to the entry list ahead of the British Grand Prix, with the biggest change coming at Lotus. Belgian racer Jacky Ickx had grown increasingly frustrated with the former World Champions lack of progress over the previous two years, and so left the squad with only Ronnie Peterson on the books. To appease title sponsors John Player, Colin Chapman drafted in British racer Jim Crawford to replace Ickx, while a third car was run for Brian Henton.
Other changes to the entry list saw Ian Ashley join Jacques Laffite at Williams, although the Brit's weekend was in doubt from the start as the team had not had Jean-Pierre Jabouille's blown engine from France rebuilt. Surtees added a second car to their entry after drawing in a sponsor, meaning John Watson would be aided by Dave Morgan for the weekend. Elsewhere, Roelof Wunderink made his long awaited return for Ensign, who entered two cars for Wunderink and Gijs van Lennep, John Nicholson returned in the ill-fated Lyncar, while Hiroshi Fushida reappeared with the Maki.
More changes came at March, who had two additional cars in action in time for their home race. For the main squad, Vittorio Brambilla would have a new rear-wing, while the #10 Lavazza sponsored car was handed to German racer Hans-Joachim Stuck. Lella Lombardi was therefore relegated to third driver, but would race in the #29 car, while the newest 751 would race in Penske colours. The American squad and driver Mark Donohue agreed that the Penske needed a major redesign to be made competitive, and so vowed to use a customer car for the rest of the season.
Into the stable section of the entry list, and Ferrari arrived with a trio of cars for Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni to drive. Brabham went one better by bringing four chassis for Carlos Reutemann and Carlos Pace to test, although the ended up using their regular cars as the spares both blew their engines. McLaren also brought along a spare, although neither Emerson Fittipaldi nor Jochen Mass would bother to try out the oldest surviving M23.
Bourne based Tyrrell arrived with just the two entries at Silverstone, Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler hoping that their strong one-lap pace would finally translate into race pace. Shadow arrived in the midst of their move to the British isles, bringing three cars for Tom Pryce and Jean-Pierre Jarier, while Parnelli had two cars for Mario Andretti. Hill were satisfied with their partnership of Tony Brise and Alan Jones, while Wilson Fittipaldi had his usual pair of self-built cars to himself once again.
Lauda's fourth victory in five races in France moved the Austrian racer a crushing 22 points clear of the chasing pack in the World Championship standings, making him the favourite to win a maiden title. Reutemann had remained his closest challenger but faced a fight to retain second, as Emerson Fittipaldi and Hunt drew within three points of the Argentine. Pace completed the top five, just two points ahead of Regazzoni.
Ferrari had managed to increase their lead in the International Cup for Manufacturers, moving fourteen points clear of Brabham in second. The British squad looked set to fight for second rather than challenge the Italian firm as McLaren moved closer, while Hesketh overtook Tyrrell at the tail-end of the top five. Team Lotus were therefore left to look on, having once again failed to score.
The full entry list for the 1975 British Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice/qualifying would be held in four parts across Thursday and Friday, with six hours of total running scheduled. Thunderstorms roamed around the circuit throughout the two days, although the F1 action somehow remained dry as the multiple support series got drenched. Otherwise, the addition of the chicane at Woodcote was thought to have added three seconds to the lap, meaning that Ronnie Peterson's 1973 pole time of 1:16.3 was likely to remain untouched.
Jody Scheckter would get the ball rolling on Thursday, the South African racer ending the morning fastest with a 1:19.96, just a hundredth faster than Carlos Pace. Niki Lauda was next, another hundredth behind, with the rest of the field in the 1:20.00s or higher. Surprisingly, given the cloud cover, the morning session passed without disruption, with most of the field attempting to increase the downforce levels on their cars.
Thursday afternoon likewise remained surprisingly dry, as Pace went to the top of the timesheets with a 1:19.58. Teammate Carlos Reutemann, meanwhile, was successfully destroying engines in the spare Brabhams, leaving Vittorio Brambilla an opportunity to end the afternoon second fastest overall. Lauda ended the day third fastest, with Regazzoni unable to improve, causing hopes among the Ford Cosworth majority that the Ferrari F12 was not going to dominate at Silverstone.
Friday followed much the same pattern as Thursday, with dark clouds continuing to orbit the circuit without affecting the running. Tom Pryce stole the show that morning by setting the fastest time of the weekend, a 1:19.36 to claim provisional pole ahead of the two evenly matched Ferraris. Another man to standout was the returning Hans-Joachim Stuck, who was set to go faster than his then best effort of 1:20.46, only to pitch himself into a confidence shattering spin.
The final session of practice/qualifying would see Pace get ahead of the two Ferraris, but was unable to best Pryce's time from the morning session. The two scarlet cars were therefore left to share the second row, with the rest of the field struggling to beat their times from earlier in the day. This was particularly bad news for Roelof Wunderink and Hiroshi Fushida, who both failed to qualify for Ensign and Maki respectively.
The full qualifying results for the 1975 British Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||16||Tom Pryce||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:20.2||1:19.8||1:19.36||1:19.7||—|
|2||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:19.97||1:19.58||1:19.7||1:19.50||+0.14s|
|5||9||Vittorio Brambilla||March-Ford Cosworth||1:20.6||1:19.63||1:20.1||1:20.5||+0.27s|
|6||3||Jody Scheckter||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:19.96||1:20.2||1:21.3||1:19.81||+0.45s|
|7||1||Emerson Fittipaldi||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:20.03||1:19.9||1:19.91||1:20.7||+0.55s|
|8||7||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:20.5||1:20.0||1:20.04||1:21.5T||+0.68s|
|9||24||James Hunt||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:21.4||1:20.5||1:20.14||1:20.4||+0.78s|
|10||2||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:20.7||1:20.3||1:20.18||1:21.9||+0.82s|
|11||17||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:20.33||1:20.6||1:20.4||1:20.7||+0.97s|
|12||27||Mario Andretti||Parnelli-Ford Cosworth||1:23.0T||1:21.6T||1:20.9T||1:20.36T||+1.00s|
|13||23||Tony Brise||Hill-Ford Cosworth||1:20.5||1:20.5||1:20.41||1:21.0||+1.05s|
|14||10||Hans-Joachim Stuck||March-Ford Cosworth||1:21.0||1:21.8||1:20.46||1:24.0||+1.10s|
|15||28||Mark Donohue||March-Ford Cosworth||1:20.7||1:20.9||1:20.8||1:20.50||+1.14s|
|16||5||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:20.6||1:20.58||1:22.3||1:21.4||+1.22s|
|17||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:21.2||1:20.60||1:21.2||1:20.9||+1.24s|
|18||18||John Watson||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:21.2||1:21.6||1:20.83||—||+1.47s|
|19||21||Jacques Laffite||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:21.01||1:21.3||1:21.2||1:22.0||+1.65s|
|20||22||Alan Jones||Hill-Ford Cosworth||1:22.0||1:21.6||1:21.19||1:21.4||+1.83s|
|21||15||Brian Henton||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:22.1||1:21.5||1:21.36||1:25.0||+2.00s|
|22||29||Lella Lombardi||March-Ford Cosworth||1:21.60||1:22.1||1:23.2||1:23.4||+2.24s|
|23||19||Dave Morgan||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:21.65||1:22.5||1:22.5||1:22.1||+2.29s|
|24||30||Wilson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:23.1||1:21.67||1:22.1||1:23.4||+2.31s|
|25||6||Jim Crawford||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:22.6||1:21.86||1:22.1||1:23.7||+2.50s|
|26||32||John Nicholson||Lyncar-Ford Cosworth||1:23.8||1:23.3||1:22.86||1:23.1||+3.50s|
|DNQ||31||Roelof Wunderink||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:30.5||1:25.9||1:25.02||—||+5.66s|
|DNQ||35||Hiroshi Fushida||Maki-Ford Cosworth||1:27.5||1:26.61||—||1:27.2||+7.25s|
|WD||20||Ian Ashley||Williams-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
|WD||34||Gijs van Lennep||Ensign-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.
- * All times given to the nearest tenth unless specified.
The same dark clouds that had loomed over Silverstone across Thursday and Friday were still hanging around on race-morning, although there was no rainfall during the pre-race warm-up. Likewise, the increasingly dark clouds refused to burst as the 26 car grid assembled alongside the pits, with the catch-fencing at the new Woodcote chicane removed so that the grid could actually form. The Grand Prix Drivers' Association also issued a dictate that there would be no overtaking into the new chicane on the opening lap, a response to Jody Scheckter's infamous antics two years earlier.
Carlos Pace would jump into the lead at the start, sprinting past pole sitter Tom Pryce as the field swept into Copse for the first time. The rest of the field got through cleanly, with James Hunt moving through the middle of the pack to rise from ninth to fifth before the Hanger Straight. Clay Regazzoni, meanwhile, would move ahead of Niki Lauda, a move which held Scheckter up enough to allow Hunt to dive past the #3 Tyrrell.
By the end of the opening lap the order had been artificially settled, yellow flags having been thrown after Abbey to enforce the G.P.D.A.'s overtake ban into Woodcote. That meant that Pace retained the lead from Pryce, Regazzoni, Lauda, Hunt, Scheckter and Fittipaldi, before a small gap back to Mario Andretti. The rest then thundered past in the wake of the Parnelli, as the yellow flags at Abbey were withdrawn for the foreseeable future.
It took until the tenth lap for anything to seriously affect the order, as Regazzoni moved past Pryce down the hanger straight, leaving Lauda to defend from Scheckter, Hunt and Fittipaldi. Three laps later and Regazzoni was diving past Pace on the brakes into Woodcote, an impossible move two years previously made all the more spectacular by the fact that the two cars went into the narrow chicane side-by-side. This, however, was the only real positive event in the opening stages, with the only other shuffles in order coming through retirements.
Out already were Carlos Reutemann and Ronnie Peterson with engine failures, while Lella Lombardi was well adrift of the rest having had to stop with a misfire. Elsewhere, it looked increasingly likely that Pryce would be the only Shadow to make the finish, Jean-Pierre Jarier hitting the Woodcote kerbs so frequently that suspension damage seemed inevitable, while Jacques Laffite was out having broken his gearbox. Tony Brise, meanwhile, had been looking strong after an unseen move on Andretti, only to stop in the pits with a loose wheel.
Fortunately for the onlookers the race was about to take a dramatic turn, for the dark clouds hanging above Silverstone finally dumped some rain on the Grand Prix cars. The eighteenth tour proved to be the fateful one, with rain falling on Stowe and Club before sweeping across the circuit. First on scene would be Regazzoni, and it was he who was caught out first a lap later, spinning into the barriers at Woodcote to break his rear wing.
As Regazzoni limped into the pits, Pryce inherited the lead, only to throw himself off the circuit at Becketts just two laps later, his Shadow terminally tangled in the catch fencing. As the Welshman pulled himself out of the cockpit, Scheckter streamed past to take the lead, having pounced on Lauda after the Austrian racer saw Regazzoni facing the wrong way at Woodcote. However, the South African racer would not end the lap in the lead, instead diving into the pits for wets.
Lauda had already stopped for the treaded tyres, and so it was Pace who moved back into the lead at the end of lap 21, with Fittipaldi and Hunt tucked in just behind. Those three, along with a chasing Jochen Mass would stay out as the rain began to stop, although their pace was tepid at best. Scheckter was therefore closing them down at a rate of knots, while Lauda had to stop again as one of the Ferrari's wheels fell off on the run to Woodcote a lap after his stop.
Scheckter's charge carried him back into the lead on lap 27, charging past the entire leading quartet on the outside of the track as Pace and co. stuck rigidly to the drying racing line. Jarier was back underway in a repaired Shadow and tailing Scheckter, at one point the fastest man on track, while Lauda was taking it easy after his pit dramas. The dry quartet, meanwhile, were fighting amongst themselves as Mass and Hunt fought past Fittipaldi and Pace to lead to group.
As half distance approached it was clear that the circuit was coming back towards the slick-shod cars, meaning it was a gamble as to whether Scheckter and Jarier could build a big enough gap to retain the lead. By lap 32 Scheckter dived into the pits as the dry shod quartet had gone quicker the lap before, although he would emerge behind them. Jarier continued on for a further three laps before stopping, but emerged well behind Scheckter.
In the meantime, Hunt had moved ahead of Mass for the lead of the race, the home-crowd even more delighted when the German had to drop into the pits to have his front bodywork remounted after a partial collapse. Fittipaldi had now glued himself onto the back of the Hesketh, while Pace was still a threatening third. Yet, before Hunt could truly establish himself in the lead he suffered a drop in power, his exhaust system splitting apart to give Fittipaldi and Pace a simple move on the Brit.
The two Brazilians now pulled clear as the race wore on, while Scheckter was making little to no progress on the back of Hunt's ailing Hesketh. Jarier, meanwhile, was suffering from his constant kerb strikes and had fallen behind Vittorio Brambilla and Mark Donohue, who were having an excellent duel in their factory and customer Marchs. Mass was next as the last man on the lead lap, with Lauda and Regazzoni both two laps down for Ferrari.
Yet, as things began settle down on track the skies opened once again, a cloudburst drawing over the circuit from Stowe once again on the 53rd lap. Within two laps the storm front had hit Woodcote, just in time to throw Jarier off the circuit and into the crash fencing. The Frenchman was worryingly pulled from his car with damage to his helmet, diagnosed with minor head injuries, while a spectator was struck with debris from the fencing.
The race continued on unabated, with the leaders all refusing to stop for wets believing that the downpour would only last for a few laps. Hunt went for a pirouette on lap 53, allowing Scheckter to slither past for third before the Brit could recover, while Brambilla stopped for wets while running in fifth. The following laps would see the rain intensify, particularly at Club and Stowe, with the leaders now in a train of backmarkers.
It was therefore inevitable that carnage would ensue on lap 56, with Fittipaldi and the lapped Regazzoni delicately slithering through the sector as Pace spun onto the grass at Becketts. He recovered just behind Scheckter, moments before Mass, Donohue and John Watson went sailing into the fencing at Stowe. As they clambered out of their cars, Scheckter and Pace lost control at Club, soon to be joined in the fence by Hunt, Tony Brise, Dave Morgan, Brian Henton, Wilson Fittipaldi and John Nicholson. Patrick Depailler would also find his way into the fence at Copse.
Race leader Emerson Fittipaldi crawled in for wet tyres at the end of lap 56 as news of the accident at Club filtered to the pits. In the chaos a marshal and spectator had been struck by debris, while Brise had received some nasty cuts to the face, although all were fortunate not to receive serious injury. More worryingly, the entire section of fencing at Club, which had done its job in catching the sliding cars, leading the Chief Marshal at that post to deemed the circuit dangerous.
With the Club Chief Marshal's call the race officials threw the red flag at the end of the lap 57, with Fittipaldi, Brambilla, Lauda, Alan Jones, Andretti and Regazzoni all stopping at Copse as the only finishers. In the lap and a half since the accidents at Stowe and Club the lap charts had been completely scrambled, with no clear order regarding the six finishers. The R.A.C. then stepped in, deciding that the result should be declared as the order had stood at the end of lap 55.
With that, Emerson Fittipaldi was declared the premature race winner, but would collect full race points as the race had passed the two-thirds minimum distance requirement. Pace and Scheckter were put back onto the podium with Hunt fourth, while Donohue was placed ahead of Brambilla as the former had stopped at the end of that lap. Lauda was relegated to eighth behind Mass, Jones tenth behind Depailler, while Andretti and Regazzoni were twelfth and thirteenth respectively.
The full results for the 1975 British Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Indicates a driver was still classified despite retiring as they had completed 90% of the race distance.
- 50th Grand Prix start by Carlos Reutemann.
- Maiden (and only) pole position for Tom Pryce.
- Shadow claimed their third and final pole position.
- Fourteenth and final victory for Emerson Fittipaldi.
- Fifteenth win for McLaren as a constructor.
- Ford Cosworth earned an 84th triumph.
Victory moved Emerson Fittipaldi into second place in the hunt for the World Championship in 1975, although he was still fourteen points off the lead. Niki Lauda was still the man to beat in-spite his first non-score in five races, with the rest of the field running out of time to close the gap. Carlos Reutemann and James Hunt were now level on points in third, while Carlos Pace completed the top five.
Ferrari continued to lead the International Cup for Manufacturers' charge, although their non-score at Silverstone had allowed Brabham-Ford Cosworth to close the gap to eight points. McLaren-Ford Cosworth had also edged closer, moving within three points of Brabham, while Hesketh-Ford Cosworth cemented their position in fourth ahead of Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth. March-Ford Cosworth, meanwhile, had moved ahead of Penske-Ford Cosworth thanks to Mark Donohue's change of allegiances.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: BRITISH GP, 1975', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr260.html, (Accessed 24/11/2017)
- D.S.J., 'The British Grand Prix: Chaotic', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/09/1975), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/september-1975/45/british-grand-prix-chaotic, (Accessed 24/11/2017)
- 'Britain 1975: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/grande-bretagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 24/11/2017)
- 'Britain 1975: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/grande-bretagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 24/11/2017)
- 'Britain 1975: Results', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/grande-bretagne/classement.aspx, (Accessed 24/11/2017)
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