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 GH2. Borrowing little from its predecessor, the Lola T371, which had been designated a GH1 for 1975, the GH2 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 Wunderlink, 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:
The full qualifying results for the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix are outlined below:
- 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.
The full results for the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix are outlined below:
- 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.
- Debut race for Alan Jones, Tony Brise and Roelof Wunderink.
- Hill entered for the first time as a constructor.
- 10th pole position for Niki Lauda.
- 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.
- Also the British squad's 50th visit to the podium.
- Engine supplier Ford Cosworth claimed an 82nd triumph.
- 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.
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:
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: SPANISH GP, 1975', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr254.html, (Accessed 11/07/2017)
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 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)
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