The 1975 Spanish Grand Prix, otherwise known as the XXI Gran Premio de España, was the fourth round of the 1975 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Montjuïc Park Circuit in the city of Barcelona, Spain, on the 27th April 1975. The race, which saw numerous new cars debuted as the season entered its European phase, would be among the most controversial in F1 history, concluding in a huge accident for Rolf Stommelen that claimed the lives of five spectators.
The entire weekend would be one to forget for the organisers, for the Grand Prix Drivers' Association immediately went on strike upon arriving at the circuit, citing issues with the Armco barriers as a safety concern. All bar the non-GPDA drivers duly sat in the garages on Friday, and only a concerted effort by the FIA, race organisers, and ultimately team bosses, saw the work carried out.
The GPDA still felt uneasy about taking part on Saturday, although most of its members decided to do so once team owners revealed that neither they, nor the teams, would be paid unless they ran on Saturday. With so little running a rather jumbled grid was the result, with Niki Lauda on pole from teammate Clay Regazzoni, while Mario Andretti appeared on the second row, just behind James Hunt. Championship leader Emerson Fittipaldi only completed three laps, deeming the circuit unsafe and so refused to take up his grid slot.
Given the confusion over the previous two days it was perhaps no surprise when the start of the race went awry. Vittorio Brambilla was the cause, punting Andretti into the back of Lauda with enough force to launch the Austrian into teammate Regazzoni. Both Ferraris were out before the end of the first lap, while Patrick Depailler picked up suspension damage by hitting the debris.
Wilson Fittipaldi and Arturo Merzario opted then and there to stop altogether, deciding it was too dangerous to continue. Out front, meanwhile, it was Hunt leading from Andretti, John Watson, Rolf Stommelen, Brambilla and a quiet Carlos Pace, although the relative calm after the first lap was only to last so long.
The next problem came on lap four, as Jody Scheckter suffered an engine failure, and duly dumped a full tank of oil over the circuit as he came to a halt. Next on the scene were debutante Alan Jones and Mark Donohue, and both unsurprisingly went hurtling into the barriers. Three laps later and Hunt followed them into the barriers, leaving Andretti leading from Watson and Stommelen, until the Brit picked up a vibration and stopped in the pits.
Andretti's lead lasted seven laps before he succumbed to a suspension failure, meaning he became the latest driver to visit the barriers. Peterson was next when he clipped François Migault while lapping the Frenchman, the latter managing to continue on after a lengthy stop in the pits.
Then came the fateful moment, for as race leader Stommelen crested the rise into turn one on lap 26 a catastrophic rear wing failure pitched his new Hill into the barriers. Pace was next on the scene and duly smashed into the side of the Hill, forcing it into a damaged set of barriers that inevitably launched the car into a spectator area. The ruined Hill killed five spectators and left Stommelen seriously injured, although the organisers still took four laps to call the race to a premature end.
The result was declared as the order stood at the end of lap 29, meaning Jochen Mass claimed a maiden win from Jacky Ickx. Jean-Pierre Jarier finished third but was found to have overtaken Carlos Reutemann under a yellow flag, meaning it was the Argentine who collected the final podium spot, while Brambilla limped on to fifth. Then came Lella Lombardi in the second March, meaning she became the first woman to score a point in a World Championship race.
After the race the FIA and race organisers decided to only award half-points, a first for the Championship. There would also be no legal action taken as a result of the race ending accident, although Montjuïc Park lost the rights to host a Grand Prix event for ever more.
Two months had passed since the conclusion of the previous race in Kyalami, in which time there had been two non-Championship rounds, a wave of car launches, and a few minor changes to the entry list. In the non-Championship rounds it had been Tom Pryce and Niki Lauda who tasted champagne, taking victory in the Race of Champions and International Trophy respectively. Otherwise there were a host of new cars for the field to familiarise themselves with, after a surprisingly smooth arrival in Spain to visit the ever picturesque Montjuïc Park.
For 1975 the organisers had finally decided to make use of the abandoned Olympic Stadium that sat in the midst of the Park, meaning the transporters, cars and teams set up shop in the middle of a 54,000 seater stadium. Mario Andretti was heard stating that the running track could be used as a "midget speedway" with the addition of a little water, a suggestion that may have appealed to some after the track inspection held on Friday morning. There, led by Championship leader Emerson Fittipaldi, the entire membership of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association decided that the circuit was unsafe and so immediately went on strike.
Their concerns came from the fact that the barriers were poorly mounted, although they were at least in the right place. Most had bolts only just made finger tight, although many rails lacked a bolt altogether. Even more disturbing were the areas where the rails were not attached to the supports at all, that factor leading Fittipaldi to lead the entire field into the McLaren teams' truck until the issue was resolved. With nearly five miles of Armco to effectively replace instant action was out of the question, and so none of the GPDA drivers would complete any running on Friday.
Away from the GPDA strike the familiar full season entrants had arrived with either brand new, updated, or at the very least heavily cleaned, cars. McLaren had their usual trio of M23s prepared for Fittipaldi and Jochen Mass, with a matching set of Texaco-Marlboro transporters lined up behind them in the stadium. Ferrari were in a similar position, a trio of 312Ts on offer for Clay Regazzoni and Niki Lauda to run, although the moment the GPDA decided to strike Luca di Montezemolo had their cars loaded back into their transporter.
Brabham had their pair of Martini liveried BT44Bs ready for action, Carlos Reutemann and Carlos Pace ready and waiting to go, while Tyrrell had a trio of 007s for Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler. Lotus continued to rely on the 72E for the time being, much to the dismay of Ronnie Peterson and Jacky Ickx, although the latter was one of only two non-GPDA drivers in the field, a significant fact when the organisation striked. The other un-unionised driver was to be found in the bright orange March with Vittorio Brambilla painted on the side, partnered once again by Lella Lombardi in a now bright white Lavazza sponsored March 751.
Shadow were keen to show their pace once again after Pryce's win at Brands Hatch, with Jean-Pierre Jarier keen to put his Welsh teammate in his place. BRM and Surtees continued to field one car apiece, Bob Evans and John Watson at the respective wheels, while the American efforts of Parnelli and Penske saw Andretti and Mark Donohue brought along once again. Wilson Fittipaldi made the trip over the Atlantic after some private testing with his self built machine, while James Hunt was given his usual pair of Hesketh 308s to run.
Frank Williams Racing Cars, meanwhile, had been busy during the break, completing work on Frank Williams' first self-built car, the FW04. Effectively an evolution of the team's old Iso-Marlboro built FWs, which were four years out of date, the FW04 arrived with more contemporary bodywork, revised suspension and a larger wheelbase. Arturo Merzario was the man to get the first taste of the car in Spain, while Tony Brise was drafted in to race one of the old FWs (renamed an FW03) as Jacques Laffite was away racing in Formula Two.
Another team that had been kept busy in between Grand Prix were the Embassy Hill crew, who, under the direction of team boss Graham Hill and designer Andy Smallman had constructed the new GH1. Borrowing little from its predecessor, the Lola T371, which had been designated a GH1 for 1975, the GH1 sported very flat sidepods, inline radiators and Lotus 72 style bodywork around the rest. Rolf Stommelen would debut the car in Spain having been effectively promoted to lead driver as Hill himself recovered from injuries sustained in South Africa. He would draft in BRM refugee François Migault for the weekend, the Frenchman getting his hands on an old GH1, with its sister car sat in the back of the transporter as a spare.
Completing the field were two new faces to the F1 scene, both using year old equipment but with a fair amount of sponsorship backing them. The more promising of the pair was an Australian racer named Alan Jones, whose backers had bought the original Hesketh 308 after his impressive debut in the car at the International Trophy two weeks earlier. The second newcomer was a Dutchman called Roelof Wunderink, whose sponsors were the latest in a long line of foreign investors into the ill-fated Team Ensign effort, which had missed the first part of the season as Morris Nunn searched for sponsors.
Although he had failed to score in South Africa, it was still Emerson Fittipaldi who held the lead in the World Championship, although his advantage had been cut to three points. Pace was the man who had made the cut, as his teammate Reutemann leapt back into the top three. South African home hero Scheckter moved into the top four with his victory, while Hunt continued to slip down the order, arriving in Spain in fifth.
There were still only five scorers in the International Cup for Manufacturers, with Brabham-Ford Cosworth now leading the charge as McLaren-Ford Cosworth failed to score. Three points was the margin between first and second, before a five point gap back to Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth as they became the third different team to win in the opening three races. Ferrari were yet to break double figures in fourth, just a point ahead of Hesketh-Ford Cosworth, while Lotus-Ford Cosworth were yet to score at all.
The full entry list for the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix is outlined below:
Two days and three sessions were given over to practice/qualifying, with sunshine and warm temperatures lasting throughout. However, with the G.P.D.A. locking themselves up in the McLaren team motorhome there would be very little action on Friday. The meeting was chaired by former world champion, Denny Hulme who was determined to assure the drivers' safety in the race. In the film, 1, Emerson Fittipaldi was being described to have "replaced Jackie Stewart as both the fastest man and the voice of reason." With the recent deaths of François Cevert, Helmuth Koinigg and Peter Revson, all due to ill-fitted armco barriers, Fittipaldi was absolutely steadfast against racing on the negligible Montjuich circuit. Fittipaldi recalled, "I remember in Barcelona going on Friday morning after practice and I saw the armco barriers held together with bolts, no nuts and wire. I remember, I touch one, I kick, it fall." March's team manager, Max Mosley was equally amazed, stating "this is a world sport. I cannot believe a world sport is run like this."
There were growing fears among the press that the drivers' planned to pull out of the race. However, Graham Hill emerged from the motorhome flanked by Emerson Fittipaldi and Bernie Ecclestone to assure the press that negotiations were going positively. In his speech to the assorted press, a light-hearted Hill stated "we've just had a meeting with the organisers and they agreed they are going to be working all night. They've got all the necessary equipment and are going to do what they can to get the circuit into the state that is required by the G.P.D.A". Behind the scenes, Fittipaldi alluded to a much more heated atmosphere, noting "we had to fight with the organisers, I mean really fight."'
Saturday's final session therefore saw almost all of the entertainment, although that was only after a near-complete revamp of the Armco barriers, and a threat of financial retribution if the drivers did not take to the track.
The first man out onto the circuit on Friday would be Jacky Ickx in the second Lotus effort, the Belgian the only member of the field not aligned with the G.P.D.A. However, a lack of confidence in both car and circuit saw Ickx only run at half speed for most of the session, until he was joined by the late arriving Vittorio Brambilla, whom had missed all of the drama to that point. By the end of the session Ickx had recorded a 1:32.10, sixteen seconds clear of Brambilla, with a local Formula SEAT 1800 race staged before a group of workers descended on the circuit to begin replacing the barriers.
The first session on Saturday would once again be dominated by Ickx, the Belgian ramping up the pace to a 1:28.60 after overnight work to his car. Elsewhere, Brambilla opted to join the protest in the McLaren motorhome, while Roelof Wunderink and Bob Evans decided to pull on their overalls and get to work. Evans' input proved particularly valuable to the team managers, the Brit reporting that only one section of Armco seemed unsafe after the extensive repair work.
A 16:00 deadline was set ahead of the final practice session for the drivers to get to the pits, before the organisers cancelled the event and refused to pay anyone any money. As such several team owners, including Colin Chapman, personally dragged their drivers back to the pits, leaving all bar Emerson Fittipaldi, the instigator, in the motorhome. He too would eventually make his way to the pit lane just after the cutoff time passed, with the crowd making their opinion of the Brazilian World Champion very clear with cat-calls and gestures.
It would ultimately be a tame session despite the fact that the entire field were on circuit, with 26 drivers competing for 26 grid slots, and all less than satisfied with the safety barriers. Fittipaldi continued to cause a stir by crawling round the circuit a couple of times before withdrawing from the weekend completely. The session would also end in a controversial fashion, with the timekeepers getting confused between the two close running Ferraris, while Patrick Depailler tested the revamped barriers by crashing in the closing stages.
The controversial timekeeping resulted in a Ferrari one-two, with Niki Lauda on pole ahead of Clay Regazzoni, the latter's time the one in question, while Lauda blitzed the old lap record at 1:23.40. James Hunt pushed hard to get the Hesketh into third on the grid, ahead of an equally excellent Mario Andretti in the Parnelli. Brambilla put his brief Friday run knowledge to good use to claim fifth, while John Watson pushed the Surtees to its highest position in years with sixth.
The full qualifying results for the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix are outlined below:
|3||24||James Hunt||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:23.80||+0.40s|
|4||27||Mario Andretti||Parnelli-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:23.90||+0.50s|
|5||9||Vittorio Brambilla||March-Ford Cosworth||1:48.90||—||1:24.20||+0.80s|
|6||18||John Watson||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:24.30||+0.90s|
|7||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:24.40||+1.00s|
|8||16||Tom Pryce||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:24.50||+1.10s|
|9||22||Rolf Stommelen||Hill-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:24.70||+1.30s|
|10||16||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:25.00||+1.60s|
|11||2||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:25.20||+1.80s|
|12||5||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:25.30||+1.90s|
|13||3||Jody Scheckter||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:25.40||+2.00s|
|14||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:25.80||+2.40s|
|15||7||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:25.80||+2.40s|
|16||6||Jacky Ickx||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:32.10||1:28.60||1:26.30||+2.90s|
|17||28||Mark Donohue||Penske-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:26.30||+2.90s|
|18||21||Tony Brise||Williams-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:26.40||+3.00s|
|19||31||Roelof Wunderink||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||—||1:32.50||1:26.60||+3.20s|
|20||25||Alan Jones||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:26.70||+3.30s|
|21||30||Wilson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:27.20||+3.80s|
|22||23||François Migault||Hill-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:27.90||+4.50s|
|24||10||Lella Lombardi||March-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:30.30||+6.90s|
|25||20||Arturo Merzario||Williams-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:54.30||+30.90s|
|26||1||Emerson Fittipaldi||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||—||—||2:10.20||+46.80s|
- 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.
It was dry and warm on race morning, although the occasional cloud drifting over the Catalan Capital prevented temperatures from climbing too high. However, despite the pleasant conditions there was a frosty atmosphere in the paddock on raceday, with G.P.D.A. president Emerson Fittipaldi leaving the circuit overnight stating that the circuit was too dangerous. Others had signalled their lack of comfort with racing although, after a delayed start to allow the pre-race entertainments to be completed, 25 drivers were sent to line up on the grid.
In spite of the chaos that had plagued the weekend ahead of the race, the start was nothing short of immaculate, as pole sitter Niki Lauda sprinted clear. Teammate Clay Regazzoni slotted into second as the field shot away from the grid, with Mario Andretti getting up with the scarlet Ferraris over the hill. His charge was aided by an unusually sloppy start from James Hunt, the Brit ending up in fifth as Vittorio Brambilla swept past to claim fourth.
Unfortunately, chaos would return as the field hit the brakes for the hairpin that effectively formed turn one, with Lauda braking hard and diving for the apex to fend off a challenge from Andretti. However, the mistimed dive from Lauda meant that the American's front right fin slid under the rear left of the Austrian's car, pitching the #12 Ferrari into the sister car of Regazzoni. Lauda's car was then smacked into the barrier, while an unsighted John Watson had no where to go other than the back of Andretti's Parnelli.
The rest of the field came plunging into the hairpin, but somehow managed to escape with only minor bodywork damage. The man to make the most of the accident ahead would be the slow starting Hunt, however, with the Brit amazingly squeezing his Hesketh through an ever closing gap before Andretti got his car back under control. The American managed to bounce back into second with Watson's bent Surtees behind, while Rolf Stommelen had weaved his Hill through the carnage to claim fourth.
Come the end of the opening lap it was still Hunt leading from Andretti and Watson, before a small gap back to Stommelen. Next came Brambilla and Carlos Pace in a private duel, although both were being caught by Ronnie Peterson, whose Lotus looked immaculate despite being in the midst of the melee. The rest of the field charged past in the wake of Jody Scheckter, while Regazzoni limped into the pits a new front wheel. Lauda was out of his car and walking away, while Wilson Fittipaldi Júnior and Arturo Merzario retired their cars, a promise they had made before the start after personal fears of safety.
The field had barely thundered past to complete the first tour when the second accident of the day claimed another chunk of the field, this time caused by Scheckter's broken Ford Cosworth. The South African racer's engine expired just as he crested the rise on the run to the first hairpin, and in its final throes the Cosworth unit dumped its entire supply of oil over the circuit. The pack behind had no way to avoid the slick, with debutante Alan Jones the first to suffer from a severe lack of grip.
The Australian was running just behind the Tyrrell when then engine expired, and as his Hesketh hit the oil patch, Jones was instantly pitched into the barriers. Mark Donohue, a few cars back in the train, was next and slammed into the barriers, with an unsighted Carlos Reutemann spinning in avoidance. The Argentine's Brabham was miraculously avoided by the following pack, although Roelof Wunderink clipped the wall while taking avoiding action.
Quick work from the marshals meant that Donohue's abandoned car was dragged off to the side of the circuit, just in time for race leader Hunt to slam into the piece of barrier the Penske had just vacated. Hunt's accident brought an end to the chaos for the time being, with Andretti duly inherited the lead in a car precariously balanced with damage to the right front and left rear corners. Watson moved into second and was trying desperately to harass the Italian-American, so much so that he locked a wheel and gave himself a puncture, while Stommelen was fighting an excellent rear-guard action against Pace and Peterson.
Watson's puncture went undiagnosed until lap eleven, with the Ulsterman reluctantly stopping in the pits thinking he had broken the suspension. Elsewhere, Patrick Depailler had been forced to stop with the damage sustained from the two accidents in the opening stages, while Bob Evans was out with a fuel system failure on the BRM. Then, Andretti's race came to an end moments after Watson disappeared, the Italian-American's suspension finally failing after its punishment at the first corner.
That left Stommelen leading from Pace and Peterson, the latter really pushing his Lotus to the limits as he tried to elbow his way into the lead. Their fight was briefly overshadowed by some action behind, as Tony Brise fought Tom Pryce and François Migault for sixth, until the latter had to stop to have his nose unbent. Pryce and Brise continued to scrap until the inexperienced Williams racer hesitated out of one corner, leaving Pryce with no option but to hit the back of his compatriot and leave both cars with damage.
Migault's involvement was not over, meanwhile, and as the leading trio came to lap the Frenchman on lap 24 another couple of cars were claimed by Montjuic Park's barriers. Stommelen and Pace flashed past the Frenchman as the group dropped towards the first hairpin, but Migault moved across to take the racing line as Peterson came past. The Swede, whose Lotus was being masked by Pace's Brabham, smacked into the barriers which duly broke the suspension, while Migault headed back into the pits to have more damage repaired.
A couple of laps later, however, and all previous incidents in the race were overshadowed. Having just started the 26th tour of Montjuic Park, Stommelen was just about to climb over the rise, only to have his rear wing completely collapse. The sudden loss of rear downforce pitched the Hill into the barriers, which after a whole afternoon of punishment only managed to deflect the German, still travelling at 130mph, across the circuit and over the crest.
Momentum carried Stommelen's car onto the barriers on the other side of the crest, with the German skating along the edge of a spectator area until the Hill slammed into a lamp post. Miraculously, Stommelen was found alive in the cockpit, although in the wake of his wrecked Hill four spectators and a fire marshal had been killed. Another ten were carrying injuries, and as the full extent of the accident was reported around the circuit, the officials ended the race with 29 laps on the board.
The lap charts eventually revealed that Jochen Mass had inherited the win, despite a last gasp duel with Jacky Ickx as attention swept to the scene of the accident. Reutemann was classified in third, the sister car of Pace having been taken out in Stommelen's huge accident, while Jean-Pierre Jarier came home a shocked fourth. Fifth went the way of Brambilla, while Lella Lombardi claimed a stunning sixth, earning a little place in history for herself on one of F1's darkest days.
Given the circumstances of the accident, the FIA and organisers opted not to restart the race, meaning the result was declared as the order stood on lap 29. Because of the reduced race distance, the organisers could only award half points, the first time this had happened by virtue of a prematurely ended race.
The full results for the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Regazzoni and Migault could not be classified as they failed to complete 90% of the adjusted race distance.
- The Hill GH1 made its debut for the first time as a Hill car. However, technically, the identical Lola T371 made its debut in South Africa when the car was still under Lola ownership.
- Fourth and final time that the Montjuïc Park Circuit hosted the Spanish Grand Prix.
- First Grand Prix to award half-points to the top six finishers based on race distance.
- 10th pole position for Niki Lauda.
- 20th pole position for car 12.
- 75th race entry for car 25.
- 75th race entry for car 27.
- 20th race entery for Ensign.
- 25th race entry for Jody Scheckter.
- 75th race entry for Shadow.
- Jochen Mass claimed his maiden (and only) victory in a World Championship race.
- Mass became the first driver to be awarded half-points solely for winning a race.
- Fourteenth victory for a McLaren chassis.
- Jacky Ickx earned his 25th and final podium finish.
- Ford Cosworth made their 220th visit to the podium as an engine supplier.
- Lella Lombardi scored her first Championship point.
- In doing so Lombardi became the first woman to score in a World Championship event.
- Mario Andretti recorded Parnelli's first and only fastest lap.
- Most Retirements - Lotus (291)
- Most Laps led - Lotus (4015)
- Most Race Entries - Lotus (686)
- Most Poles - Ferrari (71)
- Most 2nd Place qualifications - Ferrari (69)
- Most 16th Place qualifications - Lotus (45)
- Most 24th Place qualifications - March (14)
There was only one major change to the standings after a horrific afternoon in Spain, with Jochen Mass leaping into the top four with his half-win. Emerson Fittipaldi continued to lead by three points from Carlos Pace, who was joined on the tally of twelve by teammate Carlos Reutemann. Jody Scheckter was a half point behind Mass in fifth, as four drivers added their names to the scorers list in Spain.
If the Spanish Grand Prix had done anything positive it was to close up the fight in the International Cup for Manufacturers, for Brabham-Ford Cosworth and McLaren-Ford Cosworth could not be closer. Indeed, just half a point seperated the pair after the first European race of the season, before an eight and a half point gap opened to third placed Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth. Ferrari were in fourth ahead of Hesketh-Ford Cosworth, while Lotus-Ford Cosworth were finally on the board in sixth, ahead of Shadow-Ford Cosworth and March-Ford Cosworth.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: SPANISH GP, 1975', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr254.html, (Accessed 11/07/2017)
- D.S.J., 'The Spanish Grand Prix - Catastrophic', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, June 1975), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/june-1975/36/spanish-grand-prix-catastrophic, (Accessed 11 July 2017)
- 'Spain 1975: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/espagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 11/07/2017)
- 'South Africa 1975: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/espagne/classement.aspx, (Accessed 07/09/2017)
- 'Spain 1975: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1975/espagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 07/09/2017)
|V T E||Spanish Grand Prix|
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