His Ferrari feeling like “a paper boat in a storm”, eyes unblinking because of their fried lids, Lauda disembarked after two laps. He had won a personal battle at Monza, not the war.
He had the skill but not the will. ‘The Computer’ was human and his adrenalin had run dry.
Barry Sheene, on hand to give Hunt moral and immoral support, knew in an instant: physical recovery was the easy part.
To stop was a decision braver than that to race in Italy.
Speaking of decisions why didn’t McLaren call Hunt in?
And why wasn’t he driving through puddles to keep his wet tyres intact on a drying track?
Truth be told, nobody wanted to make the decision. So close to the title that they could taste it, they could also smell the fear.
The prearranged signal’s jist was, ‘We’re ready when you are’. But, mind racing in a bad way, Hunt needed a command not a recommendation.
Bloody ‘Bubbles’ would have given one.
When he did pit, it was too late – two punctures forcing mechanics to heave the car onto the jacks – and he exited in a fury, unsure of his position, and drove in anger.
He was still fuming at the race’s end. And Mayer’s smug little mug didn’t help. So he let him have it. Both barrels.
As he had at Interlagos 10 months before, Teddy stood his ground. He held up three fingers and shouted: “Third place! You’ve done it, James!”
By a point.
No argument there.