The LXI Grand Prix de France, otherwise known as the 1975 French Grand Prix, was the ninth round of the 1975 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Circuit Paul Ricard on the 6th July 1975. The race would see Niki Lauda cruise along at the front of the field, leaving the rest of the runners to fight for the podium spots.
The Austrian had been quiet all weekend until the final practice/qualifying session, before putting a crushing lap to claim pole by over a quarter of a second. Jody Scheckter ended the session second fastest having topped the timesheets all day on Saturday, while James Hunt and Jean-Pierre Jarier shared the second row.
Given his sudden turn in speed on Saturday, there was no surprise when Lauda shot into the elad at the start of the race, leaving Scheckter to fend off Hunt and Jarier for second. Tom Pryce, meanwhile, made a miserable start from sixth to fall to the back of the field, promoting Jochen Mass into fourth.
A fairly tame race developed over the opening laps, with Lauda pulling clear of Scheckter as the top six pulled away from the rest of the field. Among the top six it was Clay Regazzoni who provided all the entertainment, as the Swiss racer moved from sixth to second in the opening six laps, only to pull off into retirement on the seventh tour.
With Regazzoni out it was Sckeckter and Hunt left to duel for second, with the Brit diving past the South African two laps after the Regazzoni's disappearance. Hunt then charged off after Lauda but was not allowed to get within a second, while Scheckter gradually slipped down the order in the Tyrrell.
The order remained unchanged among the leaders for the rest of the race, with Lauda taking victory from Hunt and Jochen Mass. Defending Champion Emerson Fittipaldi claimed fourth ahead of Mario Andretti, while Patrick Depailler rounded out the scorers.
The Circuit Paul Ricard was chosen as the host of the French Grand Prix for the third time in 1975, as the oldest Grand Prix in the world continued its hunt for a regular venue. Of the circuit, the particularly uninspiring layout of Paul Ricard would challenge the engineers as much as the drivers, for its huge straights were punctuated by medium speed sweepers. This would call for a balance between top speed and cornering grip, with everyone expecting to hit trouble at some point with engine issues.
Regardless, leading the charge to Paul Ricard would be the Tyrrell team, who were out to bring title sponsor ELF a home win amid rumours the French brand were to depart. They therefore brought along their newest 007 for Jody Scheckter, which had new rear bodywork and had lost around 50lbs in weight. Patrick Depailler would race his usual charger, while the team's familiar spare car was handed to another French racer in the form Jean-Pierre Jabouille.
Arch-rivals Lotus were also early arrivals at Paul Ricard, conducting some tests on new suspension parts for both Ronnie Peterson and Jacky Ickx to use on their venerable 72Es. As the Norfolk squad had to make do with old, Ferrari arrived with another new chassis for Clay Regazzoni, their twelfth of the season, and the fifth to use the "transverse gearbox". Ferrari's Championship leader Niki Lauda, meanwhile, would continue to use the car that he had already piloted to three wins in 1975.
More new cars would arrive in the paddock as the European season truly got underway, with the Hill effort unloading a new GH1 for Tony Brise, leaving Alan Jones with Brise's old car. The Ensign team were back seemingly on a regular basis, Gijs van Lennep remaining in the hot seat, while Mario Andretti was back with some minor updates to the oldest of the Parnellis. BRM also had a new car for Bob Evans to race, although he ultimately picked his usual charger for the race, while Penske had some minor modifications on display for Mark Donohue.
At Williams there had been another shuffle to the driver line-up, with Jacques Laffite and François Migault in action after Arturo Merzario publically ended his relationship with the team. As they shuffled around, March arrived with their mismatched Italian duo of Lella Lombardi and Vittorio Brambilla, while Shadow had their usual partnership of Tom Pryce and Jean-Pierre Jarier. Single car effort Surtees were likewise unchanged, once again fielding John Watson in an unchanged TS16.
This lack of change was reflected at the top of the field too, as Brabham arrived with Carlos Reutemann and Carlos Pace ready to race, amid rumours that Alfa Romeo were to partner with them in 1976. There was no question of an engine change at McLaren, who continued to deploy Emerson Fittipaldi and Jochen Mass, while James Hunt arrived with his established pair Heskeths. The last car on the entry list, bar the Ensign, was Wilson Fittipaldi's self-built effort from Brazil.
Despite missing out on victory, Championship leader Niki Lauda was able to extend his lead in the title hunt, moving thirteen points clear of second placed Carlos Reutemann. The Argentine himself was now four points ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi, who was in a miserable run of form, with Carlos Pace closing the gap to the top three to just three points. Clay Regazzoni, meanwhile, had moved into the top five, level on points with race winner James Hunt.
Ferrari managed to draw their lead out to five points in the International Cup for Manufacturers standings in Zandvoort, with Brabham-Ford Cosworth remaining their closest challengers. McLaren-Ford Cosworth remained in third ahead of Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth, neither having scored, while Hesketh-Ford Cosworth closed the gap to the pair of them with Hunt's win. Lotus-Ford Cosworth slipped further behind their rivals after another non-score, while Shadow-Ford Cosworth moved back ahead of Parnelli-Ford Cosworth to be the best of the American constructors.
The full entry list for the 1975 French Grand Prix is outlined below:
Four sessions lasting an hour and a half each were scheduled across Friday and Saturday ahead of the French Grand Prix, with both days bathed in sunshine. Of the two days it was Saturday that proved to be the better, as the mountain winds so frequently encountered at Paul Ricard dropped for the final session. As for a target time, most of the field would aim to beat Jackie Stewart's circuit record of 1:48.37, set back in 1973.
There would be relatively little to report across the four practice sessions, with no major incidents or spectacular shows of pace until the final session. Fastest on Friday morning would be Jean-Pierre Jarier, three tenths shy of Stewart's old mark, with the two Ferrari next up but outside the 1:48.00s. Others to impress were Jody Scheckter, splitting the scarlet cars, while Patrick Depailler and James Hunt matched to the nearest hundredth just behind.
The pace would creep up across the board on Friday afternoon, as drivers and mechanics worked together to find a balance between straight-line speed and cornering agility. Jarier would once again top the charts, sneaking under Stewart's old record with a 1:48.44, just a tenth ahead of Scheckter who surprisingly got ahead of the two Ferraris. Most of the rest of the field would get into the 1:50.00s or below before the end of the day, with the Ford Cosworth faction seeming happy that the Ferraris were not blasting away down the nearly two kilometre long Mistral.
Saturday's drop in wind allowed the drivers to have more stability throughout the morning session, meaning most managed to break through the 1:50.00 barrier before the lunch break. Jarier, meanwhile, was finally ousted from provisional pole by James Hunt in the Hesketh, the Brit recording a 1:48.25 as the Frenchman failed to improve. The Ferrari's seemed to be edging closer to the front without truly showing their hand, while François Migault had his weekend but into doubt when he blew up the last of Williams's engines.
The final session saw one of the Ferraris finally show what they could do, with Niki Lauda storming round Paul Ricard to claim pole with a 1:47.82, the only man to smash through the 1:48.00 barrier. Scheckter would share the front row with the Austrian, just edging out Hunt's morning mark, while Jarier slipped to fourth having once again failed to improve. Lauda's teammate Clay Regazzoni focused almost exclusively on race pace and so was down the order in ninth.
The full qualifying results for the 1975 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
|2||3||Jody Scheckter||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:49.03||1:48.55||1:49.20||1:48.22||+0.40s|
|3||24||James Hunt||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:49.43||1:48.84||1:48.25||1:48.40||+0.43s|
|4||17||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:48.67||1:48.44||1:48.56||1:48.57||+0.62s|
|5||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:49.81||1:49.48||1:48.48||1:48.78||+0.66s|
|6||16||Tom Pryce||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:49.58||1:49.07||1:50.32||1:48.48||+0.66s|
|7||2||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:50.32||1:49.51||1:48.68||1:48.54||+0.72s|
|8||9||Vittorio Brambilla||March-Ford Cosworth||1:50.55||1:49.31||1:49.03||1:48.56||+0.74s|
|10||1||Emerson Fittipaldi||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:50.18||1:48.75||1:49.64||1:49.48||+0.93s|
|11||7||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:50.23||1:49.27||1:49.16||1:48.85||+1.03s|
|12||23||Tony Brise||Hill-Ford Cosworth||1:50.21||1:50.42||1:50.47||1:49.21||+1.39s|
|13||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:49.41||1:49.31||1:49.42||1:49.54T||+1.49s|
|14||18||John Watson||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:53.62||1:50.95||1:49.70||1:49.97||+1.88s|
|15||27||Mario Andretti||Parnelli-Ford Cosworth||1:54.68||1:50.26T||1:49.72T||1:50.19T||+1.90s|
|16||21||Jacques Laffite||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:52.35||1:55.80||1:49.85||1:49.72||+1.90s|
|17||5||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:50.73||1:50.55T||1:50.26||1:50.04||+2.22s|
|18||28||Mark Donohue||Penske-Ford Cosworth||1:51.31||1:50.87||1:50.31||1:50.15||+2.33s|
|19||6||Jacky Ickx||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:51.89||1:52.34||1:51.36||1:50.94||+3.12s|
|20||22||Alan Jones||Hill-Ford Cosworth||1:54.48||1:53.15||1:53.15||1:51.02||+3.20s|
|21||15||Jean-Pierre Jabouille||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:51.56||1:51.06||1:51.30||1:51.23||+3.24s|
|22||31||Gijs van Lennep||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:51.47||1:51.71||1:51.81||1:51.21||+3.39s|
|23||30||Wilson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:56.42||1:51.70||1:51.64||1:51.92||+3.82s|
|24*||20||François Migault||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:52.84||1:51.82||1:56.00||—||+4.00s|
|26||10||Lella Lombardi||March-Ford Cosworth||1:57.61||1:56.47||1:52.97||1:53.91||+5.15s|
- 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.
- * Migault was unable to start the race after an engine failure.
|______________||Gijs van Lennep|
- * Migault was unable to start the race after an engine failure.
Sunday proved to be the hottest day of the weekend, meaning the thirty minute warm-up session was most spent exposing more of the engine to open air to aid cooling across the field. The heat continued to rise as the 2:30p.m. start time approached, with François Migault officially listed as a non-starter as his engine could not be repaired. That left 25 sweaty F1 drivers to crawl to the grid after the parade lap, ahead of a two hour battle in the midst of a Southern French summer.
After his striking pace late in the day on Saturday, there was little surprise when pole sitter Niki Lauda shot into the lead at the start, although Jody Scheckter was able to draw alongside as the pair dived into the first "ess-bend". Behind came James Hunt and Jean-Pierre Jarier, while Tom Pryce was caught completely flat-footed and so dropped to the back of the field. The Welshman's problem proved to be a dragging clutch, meaning he had to hold his car on the brakes at the start and so was left with little option than to plummet to the back of the pack.
The fight for the lead would only last for a handful of seconds, for Lauda was able to take the "ess-bends" flatout using the inside line, forcing Scheckter to lift or crash. There was therefore little surprise when the scarlet Ferrari reappeared at the end of the opening tour with a sizeable lead, leaving Scheckter to lead the pack from second. As the rest of the field thundered past, the Porsche 911 "marshall's" car returned to the pits having followed the pack round the first lap, with Pryce's limping Shadow trying its best to catch the pack appearing a few moments later.
The race seemed to settle into a steady rhythm from that point on, with Lauda escaping up the road as Scheckter held up the rest of the top six. The South African racer was not happy with his Tyrrell's handling, and so was determined that he would delay the rest of the field and fight for second, rather than try and chase Lauda and likely crash. That meant that Hunt, Jochen Mass, Carlos Pace, Clay Regazzoni and Vittorio Brambilla were weaving around behind the blue Tyrrell trying to find a way past.
Ultimately, the only man in the group to make any progress forwards would be Regazzoni, picking off a car a lap to rise from sixth to second. All four moves would come on the Mistral straight, the Ferrari F12 engine able to easily draw past the V8 Ford Cosworths in the 1.8km run, before calmly slotting into position on the brakes. However, all was not well within the bowels of Regazzoni's Ferrari, and just a lap after he pulled past Scheckter, the Swiss racer was grinding to a halt with ominous white smoke pouring from the exhausts.
The Scheckter train would break up after this point, with Hunt finally managing to elbow his way past on lap eight. As the Brit sprinted away, Pace's race was ruined by a misfire, forcing him into the pits, while Brambilla was out of action after a partial collapse of his rear suspension. With those two out of the way, Mass and teammate Emerson Fittipaldi drew onto the back of Scheckter, with Jarier shadowing them after being elbowed out of the Scheckter train early on.
The two McLarens of Mass and Fittipaldi would work together to pass Scheckter, although in the four laps it took to get by, Hunt had already got out of reach. Hunt himself, meanwhile, was having little joy in catching race leader Lauda, who was now pacing himself against the Brit having seen Regazzoni's engine expire a few laps earlier. Mass and Fittipaldi would likewise make little progress in their hunt for Hunt, while Scheckter dropped into the sights of Jarier.
The race became rather stale from that point on, the only action of note being a typical Mistral pass on Scheckter by Jarier. Patrick Depailler was the only other source of entertainment, passing Ronnie Peterson and Carlos Reutemann, before proceeding to drift his car around Paul Ricard in hopes of catching his struggling teammate. Elsewhere, Lella Lombardi went a lap behind, Pryce's Shadow was officially retired, and Jacky Ickx quietly disappeared when his Lotus broke a driveshaft.
There would be another all-to-brief flurry of activity before the halfway mark, as Mario Andretti surged past Tony Brise as the pair sparred with the ailing Scheckter. As they squabbled, Pace's race came to an end with a shattered driveshaft, moments before Andretti elbowed his way past Scheckter, a move that also opened the door for Brise. That left the South African racer down in eighth, and with teammate Depailler steadily drawing in.
The rest of the afternoon was largely spent seeing whether Mass could pounce on Hunt, for the German racer was gracefully pulling closer to the back of the Hesketh with every lap. With Lauda cruising and untouchable ahead and Fittipaldi acting as a "rear-gunner", Mass was free to attack Hunt, but his increasingly aggressive moves in the Brit's mirrors failed to provoke the reaction he hoped for. Their pseudo-duel was briefly interrupted by a fight at the back of the order, as Peterson and Jacques Laffite duelled at the lower end of the top ten.
The Hunt/Mass duel would last to the flag, with both closing onto the back of Lauda as the chequered flag was thrown. Lauda duly collected a fourth win in five races to take a daunting lead in the World Championship, while Hunt held on for second ahead of Mass. Fittipaldi was a quiet fourth after passing Scheckter, while Jarier's race had been ruined by a late problem that dropped him out of the points three laps from home.
Depailler's charge, meanwhile, ended with a move on Brise in the closing stages to steal the final point, with Jarier sweeping home just behind. Scheckter cruised home a dejected ninth, while Peterson and Laffite screamed across the line as one, the Swede just ahead to complete the top ten. Jean-Pierre Jabouille finished his first race on the lead lap after a quiet afternoon, with six other drivers making it to the finish.
The full results for the 1975 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
- First race for Jean-Pierre Jabouille.
- Fourteenth pole position taken by Niki Lauda.
- Ferrari claimed their 75th pole position.
- Sixth career win for Lauda.
- Also the Austrian racer's tenth podium finish.
- 56th victory for Ferrari as a chassis builder and engine supplier.
- Maiden fastest lap for Jochen Mass.
Niki Lauda's fourth victory in five races 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. Carlos Reutemann remained his closest challenger but faced a fight to retain second, as Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt drew within three points of the Argentine. Carlos Pace completed the top five, just two points ahead of Clay Regazzoni.
Ferrari managed to increase their lead in the International Cup for Manufacturers, moving fourteen points clear of Brabham-Ford Cosworth in second. The British squad looked set to fight for second rather than challenge the Italian firm as McLaren-Ford Cosworth moved closer, while Hesketh-Ford Cosworth overtook Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth at the tail-end of the top five. Lotus-Ford Cosworth were therefore left to look on, having once again failed to score.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: FRENCH GP, 1975', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr259.html, (Accessed 23/11/2017)
- D.S.J., 'The French Grand Prix: Runaway win for Ferrari', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/08/1975), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/august-1975/57/french-grand-prix#, (Accessed 23/11/2017)
- 'France 1975: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/france/engages.aspx, (Accessed 23/11/2017)
- 'France 1975: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/france/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 23/11/2017)
- 'France 1975: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/france/classement.aspx, (Accessed 23/11/2017)
|V T E||French Grand Prix|
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