Ferrari F1, #2, 1970-1974, The 312B

Where we left off
In the first installment in this series we reviewed the failure of the Ferrari 312/66 to the 312/69 F1 cars, beaten by what Enzo had derisively called the twenty or so English “Assemblatori” or “Garagiste” teams, all with much smaller budgets and even smaller staff. Thanks to ever-increasing sponsorship, over the next decade F1 would transform from a 1960s club for wealthy enthusiasts to a battleground of sponsors, engineers and aerodynamicists. Ferrari would, in time, be back at the front of the pack thanks to the sale of a major stake in his road car business to Fiat, funding the 312B and the later and more successful 312 T cars.

The Flat-12 era
For the 1970 season Ferrari introduced both a new car, the 312B, and a new Flat-12 engine based on the European Hill-Climb Championship winning 212 E flat 12. The new 4-cam, 4-valve, Lucas injected Flat-12 was good for close to 450 hp at 11,000 rpm while giving a lower center of gravity and cleaner airflow over the rear wing. Unlike the dominant Cosworth DFV V8, Ferrari’s Flat-12 was not a fully-stressed member. Instead, it was mounted on extensions of Ferrari’s familiar semi-monocoque steel spaceframe, with stressed alloy panels for rigidity. Jacky Ickx returned to Ferrari from Brabham, joined by Clay Regazzoni and Ignazio Giunti. Ickx was now consistently among the fastest drivers, able to win three late season races while co-driver Regazzoni won the Italian GP, enough for Ickx and Ferrari to finish 2nd in the Driver’s and Constructor’s Championship’s.
Historically the 1970 season was exceptional in that it was won by a dead man! Lotus driver Jochen Rindt won five races and scored 45 points but was killed with four races to go. His points lead was enough to ensure that the Drivers’ Championship title was awarded posthumously with the Constructors’ title going to Lotus. F1’s tradition of killing drivers continued with Rindt, Bruce McLaren and Piers Courage all killed in 1970! In an effort to save lives, fuel bladders, double guard rails, spectators kept to a minimum of three meters behind guard railings and a barrier between pit lane and track became mandatory. The 312B Ferrari switched to a new numbering system, with s/n 001, 002, 003 and 004 built. All survive. The same sequential numbering system is still used today.

The best example of the innovative “Garagiste” of this era was Colin Chapman, who, in mid-1970 introduced the highly-pioneering Lotus 72, which featured a wedge shaped tub with side mounted radiators for better aerodynamics; a torsion bar suspension, inboard front disc brakes to reduce the dreaded un-sprung weight and an overhead air intake to feed the Cosworth V8. The lotus 72 also featured both anti-dive front and anti-squat rear suspensions, both of which would be mandatory to deal with the much higher levels of traction of the soon-to-be introduced slick tires.

The 1971 season would feature a battle of the 12 cylinder cars with Ferraris new Flat-12 versus the BRM and Matra V12s, all doing battle against the lighter Ford-Cosworth DFV V8 powered cars. Although the 312B2 was presented in January, the 312 B2 did not race until the third round in Monaco, followed with a win at the Dutch Grand Prix for Ickx. Slick tires were introduced by Firestone at the Spanish GP on 18 April, 1971, but the combination of the B2s unique rear suspension and the new Firestone “slick” tires caused severe vibrations when at the limit. A win at the South African GP for part-time Ferrari pilot Mario Andretti and at the Dutch GP for Ickx would be Ferrari’s only victories. Thanks to six 1st place finishes, Jackie Stewart in the Cosworth powered Tyrrell 002 easily won another championship, while Ferrari finished 3rd in the Constructor’s Championship. Racing continued to be lethal with drivers Jo Siffert, Pedro Rodriguez and Ignazio Giunti all killed in racing accidents. New safety regulations mandated job descriptions and a mandatory safety equipment list set for race marshals, signalers and supervisors. Drivers had to be able to be lifted from their cockpit in less than five seconds and all race distances were limited to 200 miles (320 km).Three 312B2s were built for the 1971 season, s/n 005, 006 and 007. All survive.

Stuck to the ground
The switch from hard treaded tires to much softer slick tires with a larger contact patch was a major F1 game changer. Jackie Stewart had done private testing for the March team in 1969/70 with a wet compound, soft for the time but hard by today’s standards, which gave excellent braking and traction under acceleration, but cornering grip lacked progression, sudden breakaway made the tire too difficult to drive at the limit. Dunlop quit F1 at the end of the 1970 season leaving only Firestone and Goodyear who promptly started a two-way tire war.

Goodyear fired a shot across Firestone’s bow with minimal tread at the 1971 season-opening race at the South Africa GP. Six weeks later, in Spain, Firestone countered with full slick tires for the Spanish GP and the tire wars were on. Tire technicians now roamed the pits with pyrometers, checking tire temps across the tire, allowing camber to be accurately set for improved contact patch and lap times. While aerodynamics were slowly improving, almost all grip was mechanical coming from the tire patch, at a time when launch control and anti-lock brakes were determined by a driver’s footwork, not by a box of electronics. In 1971 Dan Gurney introduced the “Gurney Flap”, copied from the Indy car series, a clever yet simple increase in downforce and rear traction at minimal cost.

Better, but not good enough
Moving on to the 1972 season, Ferrari’s revised B2 had a more conventional rear suspension but could not match the competition. While Ickx was on the pole at Spain, England, Germany and Italy, he won only a single race at his favorite track, the German GP at the Nürburgring, his last GP win, with Regazzoni close behind in 2nd. Team Lotus focused on the ‘JPS’ 72 chassis with sponsor John Player Special Cigarettes in black and gold livery, winning the championship with 25-year-old Brazilian driver Emerson Fittipaldi, then the youngest world champion. Ferrari finished 4th in the constructor’s championship. This was the first year where all the races were run on circuits with some improved safety features and no drivers were killed. Fuel cells now had to have foam inserts and all cars had red rear rain lights. Head rests, minimum cockpit dimensions, outside electrical and fire extinguisher handles and six point seat belts were also mandated. The three 312B2s from the 1971 season, s/n 005, 006 and 007, were re-used for 1972 plus a fourth car, s/n 008, was added. All survive.

In desperation Ferrari also tested a radical new car, s/n 009, the 312B3 ‘Spazzaneve’ or snow-plow late in the season. The Spazzaneve copied the Championship winning short wheelbase Tyrrells and Lotus 72 with the major mechanicals and radiators mounted inside the very short wheelbase; finished off with very square central bodywork and a steep full width nose for more downforce and less drag. The 312B3 Spazzaneve s/n 009 was never raced in period.

By 1972 Ferrari had opened the Fiorano test track across the street from the factory so their ability to test outside of rainy England compared to the smaller English teams should have been a huge advantage, but the advantage was squandered by internal squabbles and the lack of a serious test program.

Moving to the back of the pack
For the 1973 season Ferrari introduced the 312 B3 with a full monocoque, built by England’s TC Prototypes, under John Thompson’s guidance, with the engine as a fully stressed member. Fiat confused the chain of command by transferring team leader Mauro Forghieri to the experimental department; replaced by Sandro Colombo. In the first races Ferrari still used the now obsolete 312 B2s s/n 005; 006 and 008 for drivers Jacky Ickx and Arturo Merzario, without success. The new 312 B3 appeared at the Spanish GP, but proved to be even slower and less reliable than the B2. Ferrari’s F1 program was in trouble and Ferrari chose to skip some F1 races, notably the German GP at the Nürburgring. Because the Nürburgring was Ickx’s favorite track, Ickx quit the team and went to McLaren for the German GP where he took 3rd place behind the Tyrrells of Stewart and François Cevert, despite being given an older-spec Cosworth V8 and the hardest compound tires on offer.

Ferrari was simply not in the running in 1973 and didn’t take either a pole positon or a race win through the year. The 1973 season was won by Jackie Stewart in a Cosworth powered Tyrell. Ickx would finish 9th and Ferrari 6th in the Championship. Death continued with Stewart’s teammate Francois Cervert killed at Watkins Glen and British driver Roger Williamson killed at Zandvoort. The 1973 season also saw the first use of a safety car at the Canadian GP (although it took another twenty years to be standard practice) and for the first time the cars ran a full warm-up lap before gridding the race. 1973 was also the first season to use a formal numbering system based on previous successes for teams, with Lotus drivers #1 and #2; Tyrrell’s #3 and #4 and so on. For the first time all drivers were required to have a medical card and submit to medical exams before every race. Three new B3s were built for the 1973 season, s/n 010; 011 and 012. All survive.

Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the “Fixer”.
In desperation Enzo brought in his right hand man, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, then only 27 years old, in mid-season. Montezemolo immediately brought back Mauro Forghieri as chief designer in an attempt to improve the B3. Ferrari had ended support of the 512 S/M prototypes, would end support for the 312 PB prototypes and would wind down support for the 365 GTB/4C Comp Daytona GT cars to concentrate the racing department’s time, money and energy on the 1974 F1 championship.

For 1974 Luca Cordero di Montezemolo was now firmly in charge of the race team. Ferrari continued to run the earlier 312 B3s s/n 010, 011 and 012 plus a heavily revised model, the 312 B3-74, which was fast but unreliable; and signed now-ex-BRM drivers Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni for the fifteen race season. Lauda was able to take nine pole positons but won only two races, at Spain and Holland, while Regazzoni had multiple strong finishes and won in Germany. Emerson Fittipaldi in a McLaren M23 and Clay Regazzoni in the 312 B3-74 went into the last race of the World Championship even on points, but Regazzoni dropped down the field with handling problems, so Fittipaldi’s fourth place gave him the championship with 55 point over Regazzoni in 2nd with 52 points and Lauda in 4th with 38 points. Ferrari would finish 2nd in the Constructor’s Championship. This was the first title for McLaren and the first of many titles for a team sponsored by the Marlboro cigarette brand. 1974 also saw the entry of the larger-than-life Hesketh team which started by running James Hunt in a March 731 before introducing their own car, the Hesketh 308. Austrian driver Helmut Koinigg was killed in the last race of the season. Self-sealing fuel lines were now mandatory, sand traps were added to catch fencing and 2 x 2 staggered starting grid were standardized. Four new cars were built for the 1974 seasons, s/n 014, 015, 016 and 020. All survive except 016 destroyed in a test session at Watkins glen.

User friendly Ferrari F1s
Thanks to their semi-monocoque construction and mandatory fuel bags the 1970 312B and 1971 and 1972 312 B2s were a safer and more competitive car than the early 312s, but were still beaten by the English Garagistes teams on innovation, team consistency and mechanical reliability. The later 1973 and 1974 312 B3 were a much improved and much faster car thanks to monocoque construction, a full width front wing, side mounted radiators and overhung rear wings. Only sixteen 312B F1 cars were built for the 1970 to 1974 seasons, fifteen survive, few have changed hands and so it’s difficult to place a value on any of these cars. Many are display pieces, exotic interactive automotive art as the centerpieces of private collections although a few are actively raced. Like all F1 cars of this era they are pre-computer, can be started with a push of the starter button and can be maintained by a single mechanic from any qualified race shop. They can easily be stored in a private collection and can be taken to your local track for test days or practice sessions. All the 312Bs are eligible for both the European and US Masters Historic F1 Series, the Goodwood revival, the prestigious Monaco Historic GP and much more. Any 312B would sell for well into the low-mid seven-figures, on the rare occasion when they come to market; comparatively cheap in a world where pop artists such as Jeff Koons can sell a grotesque statue of a seated Michael Jackson cuddling Bubbles, his pet Chimpanzee, trimmed in gold-leaf, and claimed to be the world’s largest ceramic, for a staggering $5.6m at Sotheby’s New York in 1991. And it would certainly sell for far more today! Like almost all Ferrari F1 cars, few are ever advertised but instead trade discreetly between collectors and their agents. While both 312B F1 Ferraris and Jeff Koons ceramics and statues are Veblen Goods, the reader can decide which they would choose! Drop us an e-mail if you have a Ferrari F1 car, or any F1 car, on your mind.

The path to the podium
Following the disastrous 1970-1974 seasons, Mauro Forghieri and his team would develop the 312 T for the 1975 season, an uncomplicated and clean design, the main improvement being a transverse-mounted gearbox, hence the “T” in the name. The mass of the new gearbox was ahead of the rear axle, putting all major weight in the center mass, giving a low polar moment of inertia. The entire suspension would also be improved over the 312B3, the front of the chassis would be much narrower and handling would become much more neutral, eliminating the lap-time killing understeer of the earlier 312B3.

So what are they like to drive?
The 1970 312 B raced on rock-hard treaded tires mounted on 15 x 10 wide front and 15 x 12 wheels, had a front mounted radiator, add-on wings with minimal downforce and the driver’s helmet sat above the perfunctory roll bar. 1971 would see the introduction of slick tires and, by the 1973 – 1974 B3 much wider and softer slicks would be mounted on 10 x 13 front and 18 x 13 rear wheels for massively more traction. The 1973 – 1974 B3 would also feature side mounted radiators which allowed a full width front wing; the rear wing was overhung and pedestal mounted for more rear down force and the monocoque chassis and cockpit were larger, stronger and much safer. Laps times rapidly improved.

Without getting too technical, because the early cars had only mechanical grip (no aero) and treaded tires, going fast was all about being smooth. Minimize heavy braking on the way in to a corner (to avoid nose dive / weight transfer) to maintain the balance, kick the rear end out and use the rear tires to drive the car toward the apex as you drifted past it, balanced on the throttle. The 1973-74 B3, with its stiffer British monocoque, much more aero down-force, super-wide slicks and stiffer springs allowed later and more aggressive braking and turn in, followed by more aggressive throttle application, leading to faster mid-corner and correspondingly faster exit speeds = faster straightaway speeds = faster lap times. The net effect was that both car design and driver technique had to change very quickly so that cars could be driven on the knife edge of traction without stepping over the edge. The halcyon “yee-haw!” days of tossing a racing car into a corner were gone forever (except for the world of rally cars and, in the US, dirt track cars). Tire management, which had been a non-issue with rock-hard treaded tire, quickly became a major issue, with Goodyear and Firestone tire engineers roaming the pits with pyrometers, dispensing advice on suspension setup.

The F1 evolution
Click the Video below for a Shell commercial filmed on the streets of Rome, Rio, New York, Hong Kong, Honolulu and Monaco which shows the rapid evolution in Ferraris F1 cars and their sounds, from the basso-profundo notes of the low-revving early 1950s front-engine 4-cylinder era to the shriek of the 3 liter V10s F2001 at 18,500 RPM!

The next Chapter
Thanks to Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, Mauro Forghieri and Fiat money, Ferrari would start the 1975 season with an-all new car, the 312T, fitted with an all-new transaxle and much improved handling. With Nick Lauda, Clay Regazzoni, Gilles Villeneuve and Jody Scheckter at the wheel, the 312 T would be a far more competitive car and Championship winner, but all of that is a story for the next chapter. Stand by for the 1975-1980 312T-era.

Thanks to the following, in alphabetical order: John Amette, (Ferrari Newport Beach Classiche); Arnaud Blanfuney; Ross Bowdler; Jim Busby, (Busby Racing); Andy Dayes; Scott Drnek, (Virtuoso Performance); Richard Griot, (Griot’s Garage); Alistair Henderson; Brad Hoyt; Kevin Kalkhoven (Cosworth Engineering); Mike Matune; Paul Osborn (Cars International); Nigel Petras; Glen Smale; Thor Thorson (Vintage Racing Motors); Spencer Trenery (Fantasy Junction) and Matthias Urban (