The 1975 Italian Grand Prix, otherwise known as the XLVI Gran Premio d'Italia, was the thirteenth and penultimate round of the 1975 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on the 7th September, 1975. Serving as the 45th Italian Grand Prix, and the final European race of the 1975 Season, the race would see Ferrari wrap up both the Drivers' and Constructors' World Championships for the first time since 1964.
Qualifying had seen the Italian squad delight the ever loyal tifosi, as Championship leader Niki Lauda smashed the circuit record en-route to pole, while teammate Clay Regazzoni completed a front row lock-out. Soon-to-be ex-World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi was best of the rest in third, sharing the second row with Jody Scheckter, while Jochen Mass claimed fifth ahead of the impressive Tony Brise.
Race day dawned with some dark clouds overhead, with a cloudburst shortly before scheduled start time seeing the race delayed. The delay lasted long enough for the teams to fit slick tyres to their cars for the start, a boost to the Ferraris which had struggled in the wet in Austria.
It was Regazzoni who made the better getaway from the front row, sprinting past pole-sitter Lauda to take the lead into the Rettifilo. Mass shot between second row starters Fittipaldi and Scheckter to claim third, with the latter of that duo slotting into fourth. The South African would then take third from the German through Curva Grande to chase after the scarlet cars out front.
It was still Regazzoni leading from Lauda at the end of the opening lap, with Scheckter still in third until a mistake at the Rettifilo at the start of the second tour. The South African took to the escape road as Mass challenged him into the chicane, causing the German to hit a kerb and break his suspension. Ronnie Peterson then damaged his car taking avoiding action, Mario Andretti and Rolf Stommelen crashed into one-another, Brise spun and stalled, while Harald Ertl vaulted over the top of Hans-Joachim Stuck.
As the chaos unfolded behind, Regazzoni and Lauda continued to pound around out front, pulling clear of the now third placed Carlos Reutemann. The Argentine was duly left to fight for the final podium spot with Fittipaldi, James Hunt and Patrick Depailler, although the 200,000 strong crowd were only interested in the duo out front.
Fittipaldi moved past Reutemann on lap fourteen, four laps after Depailler had dived past Hunt. As the Brazilian charged off after the imperious Ferraris, Depailler made a mistake at the Rettifilo and allowed Hunt and Pryce to move back ahead. The Frenchman's confidence took a severe knock after the incident, leaving him in a lonely seventh for the rest of the afternoon.
Out front, meanwhile, Regazzoni had pulled clear of Lauda, while Fittipaldi was catching the Austrian for second. As they drew closer, Hunt and Pryce duelled relentlessly for fifth behind Reutemann, who had just enough pace to keep the two fighting Brits behind.
Into the closing stages and Fittipaldi had spoiled the serene sight for the tifosi, elbowing his way past Lauda for second. He, however, would run out of time to catch Regazzoni, who duly swept home to claim his second Italian Grand Prix victory for Ferrari. It was a victory that also ensured that Ferrari had won the Constructors Championship.
Moments later and Lauda crossed the line a few seconds behind Fittipaldi, causing a second eruption from the tifosi as the Austrian was declared World Champion. Reutemann, Hunt and Pryce completed the scorers, while Depailler was a lap down in seventh.
The F1 circus headed to Italy in a rather odd mood ahead of the 1975 Italian Grand Prix, the news of Mark Donohue's death in Austria still hanging over everyone's heads. Unsurprisingly, the American's team Penske opted not to make the trip to Italy, although the rest of the field arrived as normal. On a lighter note, the tifosi were set to arrive in Monza in full force, as their heroes Ferrari looked set to break an eleven year duck.
Indeed, the Italian firm were on the verge of taking both the World Drivers' Championship, and the International Cup for Manufacturers, at their home race after a dominant season for Niki Lauda. Indeed, the Austrian star only needed to finish fifth in Monza to take the crown, although that was only if his two title rivals managed to take victory. As for Ferrari themselves, the Manufacturers' Cup would be theirs if either Lauda or Clay Regazzoni claimed victory, with rivals Brabham finishing lower than fourth.
Bernie Ecclestone's squad themselves arrived knowing that only a perfect weekend would keep them in the hunt, with lead driver Carlos Reutemann one of the two who could deny Lauda the title until the finale. However, both the Argentine and teammate Carlos Pace would have to fight against their under-powered Ford Cosworth engines, having lost their priority relationship with the English engine builders. This was due to their impending deal with Alfa Romeo for 1976.
Emerson Fittipaldi was the other man still in the hunt to defeat Lauda, although the Brazilian's inconsistency throughout the season meant he had little hope of defending his crown. His team McLaren were also suffering from an erratic season, with Jochen Mass in particular struggling to find a comfortable setup throughout the season. They brought with them a full set of spare engines ahead of the annual Monza torture, with Cosworth handing them their newest engine set.
Elsewhere, Tyrrell arrived with Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler hoping to cause an upset, despite the fact that the team were entirely focused on their 1976 challenger. Shadow had four cars for their pairing of Tom Pryce and Jean-Pierre Jarier, the latter set to use the team's single Matra engined car once again. They had also completed their move to the UK, and confirmed that they would race as a British team from 1976 onwards.
Vittorio Brambilla had stolen the show in Austria by taking victory for March, and so arrived at his home race full of confidence. March would also supply cars to Hans-Joachim Stuck and Lella Lombardi once again, with those two still considered factory drivers for the time being. Fellow Brits BRM arrived with them, although it seemed as if the ex-Champions time in F1 was over, with Bob Evans sent with only a single car and engine.
Hill had been busy since the race in Austria, getting four cars prepared for Rolf Stommelen and surprise of the season Tony Brise. Frank Williams Racing Cars had shuffled their drivers once again, bringing Italian Formula 3 star Renzo Zorzi to partner semi-regular runner Jacques Laffite. Elsewhere, Ensign brought a pair of drivers along, partnering Roelof Wunderink with F1 veteran Chris Amon, while the Maki were back again with Tony Trimmer.
Hesketh were finally prepared to bring their new 308C to play at Monza, amid speculation that lead driver James Hunt was looking elsewhere for 1976. Regardless, the Brit would have the choice between his usual 308 and the new car, while the Hesketh Racing team supported American Brett Lunger once again. Their third and oldest car was once again loaned out to Harald Ertl, who had been getting more comfortable in the car with every outing.
With Penske absent, the American manufacturers were limited to a sole entry by Parnelli, who had their Italian-American star Mario Andretti in the cockpit once again. However, there were rumours that the California native was looking to join Lotus in the upcoming season, despite the Norfolk squad's dismal season in 1975. Lead driver Ronnie Peterson arrived expecting very little from their relatively ancient 72E, while Jim Crawford was handed the wheel of the 72F.
With Surtees absent due to a lack of funds, the grid was to be rounded out by Arturo Merzario, who took over the Fittipaldi after owner/driver Wilson Fittipaldi's crash in the Styrian Mountains. The Italian's return meant there would be twenty-eight drivers attempting to qualify, with twenty-six grid slots allocated by the organisers.
Half-points in Austria, combined with his failure to win, meant that 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. 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 Hunt and 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.
The full entry list for the 1975 Italian Grand Prix is outlined below:
As ever, four sessions of practice/qualifying were scheduled for the Italian Grand Prix, each lasting an hour and a half and spread across Friday and Saturday. All four sessions would be run in dry conditions, although whereas Friday proved to be warm and bright, Saturday proved to be dull and cool. Regardless, the top teams, including home favourites Ferrari, were aiming for the circuit record; a 1:33.16 set by Niki Lauda en-route to pole in 1974.
Given their dominance over a single lap in 1975, there was little surprise when Lauda himself shot to the top of the standings in the first practice session, the Austrian quickly getting down to the 1:33.00s before the lunch-break. Indeed, Lauda would break his own circuit record before the end of the session, ending the morning with a stunning time of 1:32.94. Teammate Clay Regazzoni was also running strong, settling for a 1:33.12 to end the session second fastest, while the closest Ford Cosworth powered car was some almost a second and a half back, peddled by Carlos Pace.
As Ferrari dominated, their rivals battled against mechanical strife, with McLaren among those to struggle. First, Emerson Fittipaldi blew an engine and had to walk back to get into the spare, moments before Jochen Mass blew the engine in his car. As the German's car was wheeled away, Fittipaldi damaged the spare car, hitting a kerb hard enough to break the monocoque, meaning McLaren's running for the morning was over within an hour.
The second session proved to be more of the same out front, with Lauda finding another tenth to end the day with a 1:32.82 and provisional pole. Regazzoni also improved to a 1:33.11, while the only other man to record a sub-1:34.00 proved to be Carlos Reutemann in the #7 Brabham. Indeed, Reutemann and teammate Pace had spent the morning pirouetting in their attempts to catch the Ferraris, so their proximity to the scarlet cars was rather welcomed.
Elsewhere, McLaren managed to get some limited running done in the final part of the session, the spare car having been repaired while Mass had a fresh engine installed in short order. Vittorio Brambilla, meanwhile, was receiving a lot of plaudits for a less than impressive performance, the Italian racer still two seconds off Lauda's effort. He was not alone, however, as the majority of the field were yet to break into the 1:34.00s, underlining how dominant the Ferrari F12 engine was in 1975.
The cooler conditions on Saturday allowed the Cosworth engined contingent to close the gap to the prancing horses somewhat, although no one was going to unsettle Lauda out front. Indeed, the Austrian racer would end the morning with a 1:32.24, almost a second faster than his old record and half a second clear of teammate Regazzoni, his closest challenger. Fittipaldi, meanwhile, would end the session as their closest competitor, somehow recording a 1:33.08 despite his relative lack of running.
However, while the reduced temperatures hinted at better performance, Monza's layout still proved to be a brutal element on the field's engines. Regazzoni was among those to hit trouble, his F12 engine breaking early on to leave him in the spare car, while Patrick Depailler broke two engines over at Tyrrell. Elsewhere, Tony Brise was the mowing through the Hill wares, trying out every conceivable car the team had, while Jim Crawford looked a little shell-shocked in the second Lotus. He found himself battling with Lella Lombardi, Arturo Merzario and Roelof Wunderink to qualify heading into the final session.
Lauda eased off in the final session of practice/qualifying, meaning it was Regazzoni who ended the session fastest to guarantee himself second on the grid, a 1:32.75 set in the spare Ferrari. Fittipaldi almost matched his morning time to cement himself in third, while a late battle between Mass and Jody Scheckter saw the South African racer complete the second row. Brise, meanwhile, caused a stir by getting into the top six again, a 1:33.34 meaning he leapt ahead of Reutemann, who had somehow slipped to seventh despite ending Friday as the closest challenger to the scarlet cars.
At the back of the field, meanwhile, Tony Trimmer and the Maki failed to qualify, neither the Brit nor his Japanese car looking comfortable on the high-speed Monza circuit. That left one of Lombardi, Crawford, Merzario and Wunderink to drop at the end of the day, although an anti-climactic end saw Wunderink drop as the only one of the quartet to fail to improve. Lombardi duly qualified on the penultimate row of the grid, while Crawford and Merzario started for the back of the field.
The full qualifying results for the 1975 Italian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|3||1||Emerson Fittipaldi||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:36.05T||1:34.49T||1:33.08||1:33.13||+0.84s|
|4||3||Jody Scheckter||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:35.96||1:34.34||1:33.62||1:33.27||+1.03s|
|5||2||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:39.20||1:35.20||1:33.46||1:33.29||+1.05s|
|6||23||Tony Brise||Hill-Ford Cosworth||1:35.18||1:34.69||1:34.20||1:33.34||+1.10s|
|7||7||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:34.65||1:33.99||1:33.94||1:33.44||+1.20s|
|8||24||James Hunt||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:35.01||1:35.33||1:34.77||1:33.73||+1.49s|
|9||9||Vittorio Brambilla||March-Ford Cosworth||1:35.43||1:35.01||1:33.90||1:34.39||+1.66s|
|10||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:34.72||1:34.46||1:34.19||1:34.17||+1.93s|
|11||5||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:35.19||1:35.39||1:34.51||1:34.22||+1.98s|
|12||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:34.75||1:34.36||1:39.67||—||+2.12s|
|14||16||Tom Pryce||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:35.45||1:35.30||1:34.71||1:35.06||+2.47s|
|15||27||Mario Andretti||Parnelli-Ford Cosworth||1:35.66||1:35.17||1:34.72||1:34.86||+2.48s|
|16||10||Hans-Joachim Stuck||March-Ford Cosworth||1:36.95||1:37.59||1:36.10||1:35.29||+3.05s|
|17||34||Harald Ertl||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:36.19||1:35.43||+3.19s|
|18||21||Jacques Laffite||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:36.39||1:35.86||1:35.48||1:35.48||+3.24s|
|19||32||Chris Amon||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:37.73||1:37.57||1:36.69||1:35.56||+3.32s|
|21||25||Brett Lunger||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:37.65||1:36.56||1:36.21||1:36.11||+3.87s|
|22||20||Renzo Zorzi||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:40.50||1:39.31||1:37.81||1:36.19||+3.95s|
|23||22||Rolf Stommelen||Hill-Ford Cosworth||1:37.69||1:37.73||1:36.44||1:37.92||+4.20s|
|24||29||Lella Lombardi||March-Ford Cosworth||1:38.38||1:38.24||1:37.22||1:37.06||+4.82s|
|25||6||Jim Crawford||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:38.95||1:38.34||1:37.23||1:37.14||+4.90s|
|26||30||Arturo Merzario||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:39.03||1:38.26||1:37.57||1:37.33||+5.09s|
|DNQ||31||Roelof Wunderink||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:37.64||1:38.24||+5.40s|
|DNQ||35||Tony Trimmer||Maki-Ford Cosworth||1:41.85||1:43.33||1:39.65||1:39.44||+7.20s|
|WD||18||John Watson||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.
Raceday dawned with very dark skies above the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, rain having pounded the circuit since Saturday evening, although the worst of the storm had passed by the start of the half-hour warm-up session. That session proved uneventful as only a handful of drivers ventured out to find a largely flooded circuit, causing the front aerofoils to scoop up the water under heavy braking. The storm returned soon after and delayed the start, although by 1:00pm the rain had abated and the sun emerged. Ultimately, the race would get underway just fifteen minutes late at 3:30pm local time on a completely dry circuit.
Any hopes that the delayed start would put off the dominant Ferraris were immediately blown away, as Clay Regazzoni and Niki Lauda blasted away from the front row amid a huge 200,000 strong roar from the tifosi. Indeed, pole sitter Lauda made a marginally weaker start than teammate Regazzoni, and so was left to watch as the Swiss racer swept into Curva Grande with the lead, the Rettifilo chicane deemed too dangerous to tackle at the start. The rest of the field thundered into the flat-out curve in their wake, led by Jochen Mass.
The first lap proved to be a more dramatic affair away from the leaders, with most of the field having to dodge around Vittorio Brambilla as the Italian crept off the grid in second gear. The Italian had suffered a clutch failure on one of the two warm-up laps, meaning he had to get creative to make the start at all. He just managed to get going before deciding that he had very little chance, just as Bob Evans came past and suffered a complete failure of the BRMs electronics. As he coasted to a stop, Rolf Stommelen and Jim Crawford collided while dodging around the limping pair, causing ultimately terminal damage to both.
Come the end of the first lap it was still Regazzoni leading from Lauda, with a gap already forming behind to Mass in third, although the German had his own issues to worry about. Indeed, Jody Scheckter had a run on the #2 McLaren coming out of the Parabolica and came across the line in third, although as the Tyrrell braked for the Rettifilo chicane the South African got all his wheels looked up. He was left to skid across the chicane, while Mass had been forced across one of the high kerbs, breaking his suspension.
Furthermore, the nature of Monza meant that the entire pack behind Scheckter and Mass were running in a group at the end of the opening tour, and so a large number of drivers inadvertently got involved in the accident. First, Tony Brise spun in the middle of the pack trying to avoid the rejoining Mass, forcing Ronnie Peterson to take avoiding action. The Swede hit Mario Andretti and damaged his engine, while the American was collected by Stommelen putting both out of action. Finally, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Harald Ertl came together, the Austrian vaulting over the top of the German in a scary looking incident, although both would continue with only minor damage.
As the damaged cars limped back to the pits for repairs or retirement, Regazzoni continued to build his small advantage over Lauda as both were gifted a huge advantage over the rest of the field. Carlos Reutemann had survived the melee to run in third, although he was being hounded by Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt who had likewise emerged unscathed. Patrick Depailler was next hanging just off the back of the trio, while Carlos Pace led the next bunch across the line.
The race soon began to settle after the chaotic second tour, with Regazzoni and Lauda looking imperious out front. Indeed, there would only be a couple of changes to the order between lap three and lap ten, the most notable being Depailler tactfully elbowing Hunt out of fifth on the tenth tour. Pace, meanwhile, dropped out with a throttle failure, while Jacques Laffite went out with a damaged gearbox moments later.
Depailler's move on Hunt seemed to wake up something in Fittipaldi, for a lap later the Brazilian finally tried a serious move on Reutemann, taking third at the Rettifilo. Depailler then took a couple of laps to size up a move on the Argentine, although his attempt backfired completely when he missed his braking point at the Rettifilo on lap fifteen. As he slithered up the escape road to rejoin Hunt and Tom Pryce flashed past, the latter having broken away from the Pace pack shortly before the Brazilian's engine expired.
Half-distance flashed past with Regazzoni opening a decisive lead over Lauda, the Austrian opting to run at a consistent pace and claim the Championship rather than push and risk retirement. That decision was allowing Fittipaldi to inch his way onto the back of the #12 car, although the soon-to-be ex-Champion had little immediate joy in overtaking his successor. As they fought, Pryce caught onto the back of Hunt and engaged his countryman in a duel for fifth, with Depailler dropping ever further back having lost confidence in his brakes.
With a stalemate between Lauda and Fittipaldi the attention was focused on the Hunt-Pryce duel, with the Welshman gaining the upperhand when Hunt overshot the Rettifilo chicane. Hunt, however, would not let the Shadow disappear up the road, and after ten laps of staring at the back of the Ford Cosworth engined creation finally gained retribution into the Parabolica. As he did so, Fittipaldi began to seriously harass Lauda for second, lining up a move with six laps to go.
Indeed, with six laps left it seemed as it Fittipaldi would never pass the Austrian, so it came as a huge shock when the #1 McLaren slithered past the #12 Ferrari on the brakes into Rettifilo at the start of lap 46. Lauda was caught out by the move and so was unable to exact immediate retribution, allowing Fittipaldi to jet off after Regazzoni. However, the Swiss racer was already twenty seconds up the road, and would set the fastest lap of the afternoon on lap 47 to end any thoughts of a Fittipaldi fight.
With that the race was run, with Regazzoni crossing the line to claim victory for Ferrari, cementing them as Manufacturers' Champions. Fittipaldi cut the gap to seventeen seconds as he shot across the line in second, while Lauda cruised home in third to claim his maiden World Championship. That fact sent the 200,000 strong crowd into orbit, with Regazzoni and Lauda both mobbed when they pulled up in the pits. Reutemann finished well back in fourth ahead of Hunt, while Pryce had fallen away in the final laps but still claimed sixth as the last man on the lead lap.
The full results for the 1975 Italian Grand Prix are outlined below:
- Niki Lauda declared as World Champion for the first time.
- Lauda became the second Austrian to win the title after Jochen Rindt.
- Ferrari claimed the International Cup for Manufacturers for the third time.
- Maiden Grand Prix entry for Renzo Zorzi.
- Final entry for Jim Crawford.
- Seventeenth pole position set by Lauda.
- Ferrari claimed their 78th pole as a constructor and engine supplier.
- Third career victory for Clay Regazzoni.
- Ferrari triumphed for the 57th time as both an entrant and engine supplier.
- Regazzoni set his tenth fastest lap.
- Ferrari claimed their 70th fastest lap as a constructor and engine supplier.
Third place proved to be more than enough for Niki Lauda to become Austria's second World Champion, earning the crown with a race to spare. Emerson Fittipaldi was now sixteen and a half points back having lost his crown, although he was still in the midst of a fight for second. The Brazilian would duel with Carlos Reutemann for the runner-up spot at the season finale in Watkins Glen, with James Hunt unable to best his score on count back.
Clay Regazzoni's victory ensured that Ferrari had claimed the International Cup for Manufacturer's crown in front of the adoring tifosi for the first time in over a decade, much to the delight of team boss Luca di Montezemolo. Their nine and a half point lead over Brabham-Ford Cosworth meant it was a decisive performance from the Italian firm, which had barely managed to score double figures prior to di Montezemolo's appointment as boss in 1973. Brabham, meanwhile, had a seven point advantage over McLaren-Ford Cosworth heading to the finale, with Hesketh-Ford Cosworth fighting Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth for fourth.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: ITALIAN GP, 1975', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr263.html, (Accessed 08/01/2018)
- D.S.J., 'The Italian Grand Prix: A Ferrari Walk-over', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/10/1975), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/october-1975/21/italian-grand-prix, (Accessed 09/01/2018)
- 'Italy 1975: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/italie/engages.aspx, (Accessed 09/01/2018)
- 'Italy 1975: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/italie/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 09/01/2018)
- 'Italy 1975: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/italie/classement.aspx, (Accessed 09/01/2018)
|V T E||Italian Grand Prix|
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