The 1970 Formula 1 season saw the return of the Austrian Grand Prix. It was no longer held on the runways of Zeltweg airport, as it had been in 1964, when Lorenzo Bandini won for Ferrari, but instead at the new Ӧsterreichring. It was considered a brilliant circuit: very modern facilities, with similarities to the Nürburgring in its climbs and drops and blind corners, and it was very fast which made for very quick lap times. It also featured first-rate safety standards. In the blind sections, there were light panels which warned the drivers of potential dangers, whilst the pits were spacious and had high-tech facilities.
Ferrari arrived in Austria confident of success. At the German Grand Prix, the Italian team had been beaten by a whisker, just seven tenths, by the Championship leader Jochen Rindt in the Lotus. Therefore when the championship arrived in Austria the weekend of the August bank holiday, many predicted that the 312B would be among the front runners. This was the reason thousands of fans from the north of Italy crossed the Alps to the track in the Styrian mountains. As it was a completely new and complex circuit, 11 hours of free practice were allowed, starting on the Thursday, when Clay Regazzoni in the Ferrari shone in only his fourth Formula 1 race, along with the third driver, the young Italian Ignazio Giunti. Jacky Ickx was missing and arrived at the end of the day saying he did not feel at all well: he had a fever and a cold, but the following day he went out on track and he too was fast straightaway.
It rained before qualifying which affected all of the grid deciding session. To the joy of the local fans it was Rindt who took pole position in the Lotus. Regazzoni was second, 47 hundredths behind the Austrian, while Ickx, who had started to feel better, was third, 63 hundredths behind. Giunti put his Ferrari in fifth position, just under a second down.
On race day, under a cloudy sky, Rindt had a bad start and Regazzoni took the lead. On the second lap, the Swiss played the loyal teammate, waved his arm and allowed Ickx to take the lead. Meanwhile Rindt was third, followed by Jean-Pierre Beltoise in the Matra, then Giunti’s Ferrari and Chris Amon’s March. On the third lap, there was a groan from the stands: Rindt had made a mistake and lost three places. The Austrian set off in pursuit, overtaking Amon and chasing down the Ferrari. The screams of the local fans could clearly be heard, but so could those of the huge numbers of Scuderia supporters who implored Giunti not to give up. On the 22nd lap, the fans in the stands could not believe what they heard from the commentator: Jochen Rindt had retired with a broken engine.
Out in front, the two Ferraris of Ickx and Regazzoni were firmly in command but Beltoise in the Matra was always on their tails, ready to make the most of any wrong move. The altitude was a hard test for the V8 engines. They started to overheat in the sun which had popped out from behind the clouds and its effect was magnified by the new track surface which was very black. As well as Rindt, there were other retirees: Tim Schenken in the De Tomaso, John Surtees in his eponymous car and Denis Hulme in the McLaren.
The Ferrari pit wall was calm: the two 312Bs were commanding the race with just six tenths between them, and there were three laps left. Beltoise was not so calm and was reporting fuel surge issues and was forced to pit for a refuel. His stop promoted Rolf Stommelen in the Brabham to third, even though the German was practically a lap down.
The chequered flag waved at the Austrian track: Ickx won, seemingly feeling much better from all the excitement, and was accompanied to the finish line by Regazzoni, who finished on the podium for the first time in only his fourth race in Formula 1. It was victory number 43 for Ferrari, the 24th one-two finish and the first during the partnership with Marelli which provided the ignition system for the 312B. The results of the Ӧsterreichring race showed that it had been a triumph for the V12 engines. There were six of them in the top seven. Behind Stommelen were Pedro Rodriguez and Jackie Oliver in the BRMs, Beltoise’s Matra and Giunti in the Ferrari, who had not been able to finish higher due to a puncture.
Beer flowed in the stands near the paddock and the Italian fans stayed late into the evening celebrating the first win of the year, a win convincing enough to promise a competitive second half of the season from the Scuderia. And indeed it would be, although Rindt would take the title in the end.