Zunino replaces Lauda!

18. Apr 2023 
by Ziv Knoll

When Niki Lauda, in the middle of a free practice session prior to the 1979 Canadian Grand Prix, suddenly decided to retire from racing, the Argentinian Ricardo Zunino was called to replace him at Brabham. Zunino tells the story: “I debuted in Formula 2 in 1977, then I stayed in that category for the next two years, and despite not driving an official car, I scored many good results, especially in 1978.”

Then came the unexpected debut in Formula 1 with Brabham in 1979, Zunino remembers: “I was ready to race (in F1), but in fact it was a surprise to start that way. In the previous weeks I had tested at Silverstone, I had also tried the Arrows and Bernie Ecclestone took me to the races.”

Zunino continues: “With Ecclestone, I already had an agreement to race in 1980, and when Lauda suddenly said enough, Bernie ordered me to take Niki’s car. I didn’t have any gear with me, and Lauda kind to leave me his helmet and gloves. What a situation! I got into the car and everything was set for Lauda: the seat, the dimensions of the cockpit… but the team was great, and set everything up for the next day though.”

Zunino concludes: “I was in Montréal as a spectator and I didn’t have my material, and Niki’s helmet was too big for my head. Everyone in the paddock was nice to me though: Jacques Laffite lent me his spare race shoes while Gilles Villeneuve lent me a pair of his gloves. Then, for the race? I managed to run with my stuff, because in the meantime we had everything shipped directly from England.”

In these circumstances, Ricardo Zunino did well to qualify in 19th position, and was classified seventh, 4 laps down on winner Jones in his Williams. Zunino is seen, picture below, in the Brabham BT49-Cosworth, wearing Lauda’s helmet!

Source: DR

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