On this day in F1 06 March, is brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler: Samora Machel
– Andretti wins maiden GP 1971
“My Home” well not really MY home, but the circuit in South Africa whose name literally translates to that in the native Zulu. Kyalami. The opening round of the 1971 Formula One Season is underway. Unlike what we might be used to nowadays though (boy are we spoilt!), Spa and Interlagos aren’t part of the roster (how did they live like that?), some teams have three cars on the grid and the season is only 11 races long (this is just sad). The anticipation is probably greater than what we face now because the last running was about 4 months prior.
Ferrari has three 312B’s on the grid. They have lost their recently re-signed driver, Ignazo Giunti, after a tragic race incident in the 1000Km Buenos Aires race. The young American, Mario Andretti is called upon to replace the fatally injured Ignazio in the third Ferrari. A belated birthday present perhaps, having celebrated his 31st birthday barely a week before. And it is important to point out now, that by the day’s standards, 31 years of age was considered ‘young’.
In this age of unrestricted power under the hood, The Scuderia is packing 12 cylinders of fire power, while most of its rivals are running the 8 cylinder Ford-Cosworths. They are therefore viewed as the favorites to fight for the tile after finishing on the top podium on four of the final five races of the previous season.
The first shocker comes through qualifying when Jackie Stewart fires to pole position in the dazzling blue Ford-powered Tyrell 001 (probably the prettiest car of the season). The closest Ferrari is Clay Regazzoni’s, 0.9 seconds behind. This places the Swiss driver on the second row, right behind the pole-sitter, next to his Ferrari team mate, Andretti. A good start ensures Regazzoni flees away to lead the race for the first 16 laps, the cars ahead having suffered slow starts.
It’s the orange McLaren of Denny Hulme however, that stirs things up a bit after he takes the lead from Regazzoni and leads the race for the next 58 laps. He however doesn’t escape the fate that befalls his team mate, Jo Bonnier, suffering a suspension problem. This allows Mario Andretti to sail through into the lead, and 3 laps later, to his maiden Formula 1 win. It’s another 4 years till Andretti participates in an entire Formula 1 season, but he had by now cemented his name in the Formula 1 chapter of the book of open-wheel racing.