At the start and even without the factory Porsches, the season was not expected to be a walkover. The Alfas that had outperformed the Ferraris in 1971 were still around, there was a brand new Mirage with former Gulf-Porsche boss John Wyer at the helm, and a new Lola as well.
But the 312 PB was a pearl of a machine, and it came powered by Ferrari’s still new flat-12 Formula 1 engine which offered the kind of power of which the Autodelta engineers tending to the Alfa’s elderly V8s could only dream. Even in detuned long distance specification, it gave 440bhp at, by its standards, a very leisurely 10,600rpm. Even in 1972, it was reliable to 12,500rpm in F1 trim, way beyond the reach of any competitor engine including the Cosworth DFV. Each titanium conrod cost £1000, which is around £13,000 today. And there were a dozen in each engine.
Not only that, but Ferrari drew upon literally the finest talent pool in racing at the time: during 1972 the 312 PB would be raced by amongst others, Ronnie Peterson, Jacky Ickx, Brian Redman, Clay Regazzoni, Arturo Merzario and Indy 500 winner and future F1 world champion Mario Andretti.
The result was total dominance as Andretti once made clear, commenting on rival teams, ‘they were just there. We never considered them opposition. The only competition was within the team. We gave [team manager Peter] Schetty grey hairs. The only pit boards he ever held out were ‘slow’ and ‘hold’. We would never obey…’