Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

F1's Back to the Future, or not Kiwi gold // What if the 1971 GP of Argentina was a race that counted?

Published by Jordan F1

Ahhh, Chris Amon, the most famous of all the Kiwi F1 drivers out there, despite (or because of) not even having a World Championship to his name. Heck with that, despite even not having won an F1 championship race! This is not to say that he did not try, as he had led more than his fair share of races, and that he could and did win F1 races. It is just that, as non-championship races, they did not count towards the driver's championship title. He won at the International Race Of Champions at Silverstone in 1970 and the 1971 Argentine Grand Prix.

Of these two races, knowing that the FIA was a little bit more strict in the regulations concerning one Grand Prix per country, it follows that the 1971 race should be the one we attempt to turn into a full-fledged F1 race, so invoking the "one slight change rule that we are allowed under the conditions of "Jordan F1's F1 What-Ifs?" somewhere in the later part of the 1969 season, we find out that Argentina will host the opening round of the 1971 season, on January 24th, 1971. What you did not remember that announcement? Yeah, well I do not blame you, as early as July 20th, 1969, JYS won the 1969 season with only Hill possibly tying Stewart on points. Maybe the predecessor of Mr C at Monocoquetickertape, "Mr B", either got tried of covering the 1969 season or he forgot to number the punch cards that where used to program the computers that ran the Internet in those days and was tripped.

Making it official

The first problem we run into is that the actual 1971 Argentine Grand Prix was run as a combination event between F1 and F5000 cars and that, well, only ten F1 drivers showed up in their previous season or older cars. So this means that some 15 additional F1 drivers and cars have to be added to the entry list. To tell you the truth, finding the additional 15 drivers was not as difficult as finding 15 cars for them to race. But more on that later.

Everyone will notice the absence of Ferrari with their 312B's. Well, that is because two weeks prior to the Grand Prix, the 1000 km Buenos Aries race for the International Championship for Makes was held and there was a fatal crash that took the life of Ferrari driver Ignazio Giunti and injured Jean-Pierre Beltoise in the Matra to the extent that he could not race this weekend nor the South African Grand Prix. Following tradition, Ferrari withdrew their team for the next race, the Argentinean Grand Prix. This is important to note as with the death of Jochen Rindt at Monza in 1970, Ferrari seem to be the favourites to win races. With them gone, it is anybody's race.

None of the teams were able to create a new 1971 car for the Argentinean Grand Prix, which means everyone was either using a 1970 or later car except March. At the beginning of 1971 there seems to be only one March 701 unaccounted for and therefore might it be under March ownership and that is March 701/8. I suspect something happened to this car over the off-season as March was forced to withdraw their only driver entered in this event, Ronnie Peterson.

That's not to say that there would be spare March 701's at the paddock, as chassis numbers /2, /4, and /7 were held by Tyrrell, and Jo Siffert did race March 701/5 in the real race, but in this "what if" he is a BRM driver. Maybe Jo would keep March /5 as a spare car?

A 100 lap race

Jordan's what-if list
Entry list (tap to view larger)

The actual race was held in two heats with 50 laps each. This What-if features a 100 lap race. The events of note in the first half of the race are that Jackie Stewart's string of bad luck continues in the Tyrrell 001, as it has suspension problems on lap 42.

Both Derek Bell and Wilson Fittipaldi are a lap down and Emo is three laps down due to a nose fin replacement. Rolf Stommelen is currently in the lead, with just over six seconds gap to a battle for second between Siffert, Pescarolo, Amon and Wisell, just 1.58 seconds separating the four as they cross the line to start their 51st lap.

By lap 55 Siffert is closing on Stommelen and Amon has passed Pescarolo to take third and is closing on the two leaders. Siffert and Amon are closing on the Surtees.

On 59 Siffert takes the lead of the race with both Stommelen and Amon in his slipstream. Amon, after using the double slipstream of Siffert and Stommelen to close the gap on Siffert dives to the inside as Stommelen checks one mirror and then the other. Stommelen then dives inside of Siffert as Amon comes alongside Stommelen. Stommelen collides with Amon sending the Matra flying off the track. Amon does recover the car to get back on track but he is forced to retire on lap 61 due to gearbox problems that where caused by the accident with Stommelen.

Sadly for our favourite Kiwi, we have already used the allotted "One small change rule" of Jordan F1 "What If's" and therefore, in this case, Chris Amon's claim to fame that "he never won a F1World Championship Race" still holds true.

Conclusion

I left a lot of the details deliberately vague here but the main facts still check out. In the first ten laps of the second heat of the actual 1971 Argentine Grand Pix, Amon did try to take second from Stommelen and the lead from Siffert in one passing move as described, and this move did cause a collision between Stommelen and Amon but it was Stommelen that went off the track, only to retire with gearbox issues on the 10th lap of the second race.

Would having a twelve event season make any difference to the leader board of the final Standings of the 1971 season? Well, there was no way anyone could catch Stewart, so he would still be the Driver's Champion that year, but anyone from the 3rd placed Cevert down had a good shot of losing positions due to the results of the Argentinean Grand Prix. So, I leave you this one last thought.

Don't Cry for me Argentina. The truth is I actually won you. Back in '71. My mad dash from fourth. I kept my promise. Victory, don't keep your distance.