Austrian GP 1975
AUGUST 17, 1975
Austrian GP, 1975
Niki Lauda arrived at his home race with a strong lead in the World Championship with a healthy lead in the World Championship and his chasers were struggling. McLaren had only two serviceable cars as Jochen Mass had written off two M23s at the Nurburgring. Team Lotus was in similar trouble but as Surtees had managed to rebuild a car for John Watson (the team having missed the German GP after the multi-car crash at Silverstone) Lotus had to rely on new boy Brian Henton. Alan Jones stood down from his drive with Hill to make way for Rolf Stommelen who was back in action after his crash in Barcelona while Chris Amon also returned at the wheel of an Ensign. Shadow appeared with one car fitted with a Matra V12 engine and this was driven by Jean-Pierre Jarier.
Qualifying resulted in the usual pole position for Lauda with James Hunt a tenth slower in his Hesketh. Third fastest was Emerson Fittipaldi in his McLaren with Hans Stuck fourth for march. The third row featured Clay Regazzoni (Ferrari) and Carlos Pace (Brabham) while the top 10 was completed by Patrick Depailler (Tyrrell), Vittorio Brambilla (March), Jochen Mass (McLaren) and Jody Scheckter (Tyrrell). Jarier qualified the Shadow-Matra 14th. In the course of qualifying Wilson Fittipaldi crashed his Fittipaldi heavily and broke two bones in his hand but there was a far more serious accident in the race day warm-up when Mark Donohue went off at the Hella Licht Corner after a tire failure. The Penske March had cleared the barriers and collided with an advertising hoarding, hitting two marshals as well (one of whom later died). Donohue was conscious and talking but he then lapsed into unconsciousness and despite an operation to relieve the pressure in his brain he died in Graz on the Tuesday after the race.
As the time for the start approached the weather clouded over and it began to rain heavily. Lauda took the lead while Depailler made a good start to take third place behind Hunt. Then came Stuck, Fittipaldi, Brambilla and Scheckter. It was Brambilla who made the biggest impression in the early laps as he overtook Fittipaldi, Stuck and then Depailler.
On lap 15 Hunt and Brambilla caught and passed Lauda and began to pull away from the Ferrari. On lap 19 as Hunt came up to lap Lunger, Brambilla blasted past both cars in one move and began to build a lead. Conditions deteriorated to such an extent that eventually the organizers were petitioned to stop the race. The chequered flag was shown and Brambilla in his excitement lost control of his car and crashed. He was able to rejoin and completed his victory lap with the front end of the car in a state of considerable disrepair.
It had taken five years but the March factory team had finally won a race although as half points were awarded it was, in effect, half a victory.