On 9 September 1977, the engines started up for the first free practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. In the paddock, tension was brewing between Niki Lauda and Scuderia Ferrari who, after four seasons together, three Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles and another two on the horizon, were to part ways ahead of the 1978 season.

At that time, the Maranello marque was evaluating some young drivers to the point that rumour had it Ferrari would run three drivers at the race: Lauda, his team-mate Carlos Reutemann and Eddie Cheever, a promising 19-year-old Italian-American who had just performed well at a test session at the Fiorano track. In the end, the Italian team only ran the two usual drivers at its home race.

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