Spanish Grand Prix 1975: Tragedy at Montjuic Park
Right from the start, the drivers who were members of the Grand Prix Drivers Association were furious that the barriers weren’t bolted together properly. Thus, they went on strike. Most of the sport’s major players refused to take part in practice. Jacky Ickx was not a member of the GPDA, and one of the few marquee drivers who did practice.
Track staff worked overnight to fix the barriers, and to make sure everything would be fixed in time for qualifying on Saturday, some of the teams sent out mechanics to help. The drivers, though, still weren’t convinced, but the race organizers threatened legal action if no race was run. This, and rumors that the Guardia Civil would seize the cars which were in the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys stadium that served as paddock, forced the drivers to call off the strike.
The defending World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi, however, was still furious. He did the minimum three laps, but at a very slow pace, then pulled into the pits. The next morning, Fittipaldi announced he wouldn’t run, and went back home. Also during race day morning, Ken Tyrrell went out onto the circuit with his spanner to make sure the barriers were how they should be.
The two Ferraris of Niki Lauda (on pole) and Clay Regazzoni qualified on the front row, but their glory wouldn’t last long. At the start, Vittorio Brambilla’s March tangled with Mario Andretti’s Parnelli. Andretti’s car hit the back of Lauda’s, sending him into Regazzoni. Lauda was out immediately, while Regazzoni took his car to the garage, where repairs were made, and Regazzoni was sent back out. Patrick Depailler also retired on the first lap because of suspension damage, and Wilson Fittipaldi and Arturo Merzario withdrew in protest.
After the first-corner madness ceased, James Hunt was shown as the leader. Shockingly, Andretti had managed to keep going, and was running in second. John Watson was in third, Rolf Stommelen was fourth, Brambilla fifth, and Carlos Pace sixth.
On lap four, the engine in Jody Scheckter’s Tyrrell blew, and the oil dumping onto the circuit caused Alan Jones and Mark Donohue to crash. Three laps later, Hunt also slipped in the oil and crashed. The top three had become Andretti, Watson, and Stommelen. Watson’s car suffered from vibrations and dropped out. Andretti’s rear suspension lasted only seven more laps before it failed, causing him to crash out of the lead. Jean-Pierre Jarier and Brambilla stopped to change tyres, whilst Tom Pryce and Tony Brise tangled. Stommelen was now in the top spot, followed by Pace, Ronnie Peterson, Jochen Mass, and Ickx. On lap 24, Peterson was out after he tangled with François Migault while trying to lap the Frenchman.
Two laps later, tragedy struck. The rear wing on Stommelen’s Embassy Hill-Lola broke, sending him into the barrier, ironically at the point that his own mechanics had worked on. He bounced off it and back into the road, hitting the barrier across the way, and flying over it. While trying to avoid Stommelen as he crossed the track, Pace crashed. Stommelen broke his leg and wrist and cracked two ribs, but four people (a fireman, a photographer and two spectators) were killed.
The race continued for four laps, during which Mass passed Ickx for the lead. On lap 29, the race was called with Mass the winner, Ickx second, and Carlos Reutemann rounded out the podium. Jean-Pierre Jarier finished fourth, Brambilla fifth, and Lella Lombardi took sixth. Because the race only lasted half its distance, only half points were awarded.