from Autosport 18th November 1976
by Chris Witty
Undoubtedly the find of the year must have been Riccardo Patrese, the 22-year-old ex-World Karting Champion from Italy who was embarking on his second season of racing and, like Giacomelli, his first year in Formula 3.
Patrese ran a works-supported Chevron B34 for the Italian Chevron importer Pino Trivellato. His first appearance was at the Nurburgring, where he gave Andersson a scare by staying right on the pace at this daunting German track. When it started to rain, everyone expected the Italian to fall off (as most of them do), but young Ric eased back to consolidate and finish third. It had been his first experience of driving on slick tyres in the rain. From there onwards the seed was sown.
Concentrating on the European Formula 3 Championship, Patrese’s natural flair started to show through, and along with it the results started to flow as well. His success did wonders for the Bolton company, who suddenly became inundated with orders from overseas and could not cater for their own works-assisted team which, in retrospect, was unfortunate for Geoff Lees who was to be their driver.
A former team-mate to Eddie Cheever in the Italian karting team, Patrese’s approach to the job in hand showed remarkable maturity for one so young. And yet, as with Cheever, we tended to overlook that he had been racing in tough competition for quite a few years beforehand.
But as the year progressed and the tension began to mount, Patrese’s cool and calm approach began to change. He started to let his emotions get the better of him and, following an incident at the penultimate round of the European Championship in which another competitor knocked him off, the Italian press started a slur campaign against Andersson who, for some crazy reason, they thought to be the root cause behind the incident. With Patrese adding coals to the fire at every opportunity, the final round turned into a bout of uncontrolled histrionics, with the Italian venting his feelings towards Andersson’s race tactics with a tearful outburst. But out of it all came the European and Italian Championships!
Providing he can control his emotions, his dedicated and smooth driving style will, no doubt, see him progress – providing he can control himself, and the Italians treat him as a mortal and not like a second Messiah.
© Autosport magazine – Reproduced with permission