- October 10 down the years
A snowstorm at Watkins GlenWhat happened on this day in Formula One history?
James Hunt closed to within three points of Niki Lauda in the 1976 championship race after winning the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glenn. The weekend got off to shaky start with terrible conditions on Friday that McLaren team boss Teddy Mayer said, "resulted in the drivers finishing in reverse ratio to the proportion of their IQs." During the session an air bottle fell off Hunt's McLaren and hit Patrick Depailler's six-wheel Tyrrell, breaking the front two wheels. After the session as Hunt stood next to a much larger four-foot, 150-pound air bottle, ex-team owner Rob Walker asked: "Was that the one you threw at Depailler?" Hunt answered: "No, we are keeping that one for Niki on Sunday." Hunt finished the opening day fastest and, as worse conditions - including snow in the evening - hit the circuit on Saturday, he was on pole for the race. On Sunday he was beaten away from the lights by Jody Scheckter but kept on the Tyrrell's tail in the opening stages and finally snuck past on lap 46. Further down the field, Jacky Ickx had a horrifying accident that saw his Ensign split in two as it made contact with the barrier. The rear end ricocheted back into the track in a ball of flames as the Belgian extracted himself from the cockpit and limped to safety before collapsing. It was a stark reminder of the dangers of the sport for Lauda, who had narrowly escaped death during a crash at the Nurburgring earlier that year. The Ferrari driver eventually finished third to take four valuable points, but shocked onlookers after the race as he removed his helmet to expose a balaclava soaked in blood from his burns. Hunt took the title at the Japanese Grand Prix two weeks later after Lauda retired, considering the conditions too dangerous to race.
Country gentleman and professional racing driver Eugino Castellotti was born into a wealthy Italian family in Lodi near Milan. At the age of 20 he bought a Ferrari and campaigned it with some success around his home country in 1951 and 1952. His performance at the Mille Miglia, where he ran as high as second, attracted Lancia's attention and he was given a drive in the 1953 Carrera Panamericana. He finished third and was signed up for the marque's F1 programme, making his debut in 1955 at the wheel of a Lancia D50. He finished second in Monaco and then took pole in Belgium as he briefly became the No. 1 driver after Alberto Ascari's death. Midway through the season Lancia sold its cars to Enzo Ferrari, but with plenty of top-level drivers already at Ferrari, Castellotti had to settle for sportscar racing. He took victories at the Sebring 12 Hours and the Mille Miglia in 1956 and then continued to make regular appearances at grands prix. However, his record in F1 was tainted by several mechanical failures and shared drives and his season best in 1956 was second at the French Grand Prix behind team-mate Peter Collins. He continued to race from time to time in 1957 but gained a greater reputation for his affair with opera singer Delia Scala. He was reportedly annoyed when he was called upon by Ferrari to try and better a new lap record at Modena set by Jean Behra in a Maserati 250F. On his third lap of the test he lost control of the car and was killed when it crashed into a grandstand.
Michael Schumacher broke another small piece of Formula One history at Suzuka, by qualifying on pole and winning a grand prix on the same day. Typhoon Ma-on had hit the circuit on Saturday, meaning qualifying was postponed until the morning of race day. The race itself was relatively dull with Schumacher leading his brother Ralf throughout but never coming under threat in dry conditions. Further down the field Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard made contact and both retired to the pits. But with the title sewn up by Schumacher three races earlier, neither appeared particularly fussed and put the collision down to a racing incident. The most bizarre retirement was Mark Webber's, who returned to the pits with burnt buttocks after his Jaguar overheated. It was unfortunate as the wet weather had allowed him to qualify third for the race and fight for points. He later explained his decision to stop: "We could not find the cause for the heat and so I carried on in the hope that it would cool down or at least remain static. It didn't and the heat soon became excruciatingly hot and I had no option but to retire. You need to be completed focused on the race and when the temperature is so high that you are being physically affected and thus distracted then you need to take the decision to stop. I am of course disappointed that I could not have continued with the race and finished in the points."
Eddie Jordan signed Japanese driver Takuma Sato in an attempt to gain favour with engine supplier Honda. The Japanese motoring giant had signed engine deals with both Jordan and BAR earlier that year and made clear that the more successful team would get a works contract long term. But despite Jordan's best efforts and his team beating BAR over the next two seasons, Honda still plumped for tobacco-financed BAR outfit.