The 1960′s had been a period of change and innovation for Formula 1, and the 1970′s would only build on that, especially when it came to safety measures. The mortality rate slowed significantly in the 1970′s but was still not low enough by the end of the decade as tragedy was still a highly common occurance. The decade began with the arrival the new March team and the wonderful Lotus 72. March proved to be very useful in their 1st season, supplying chassis to many privateers as well as supporting their own works team. This was handy for defending champion Jackie Stewart as Ken Tyrrell had split with Matra over his decision to use the Ford Cosworth DFV instead their own V12, Stewart and his Swiss team-mate, Johnny Servoz-Gavin would persevere with the March, while Tyrrell worked on his own chassis. John Surtees also built his own chassis for 1970. The arrival of the Lotus 72 was not enough to for the team to retain Graham Hill, who defected to Brabham at the end of the season, leaving Austria’s Jochen Rindt as lead driver supported by Britain’s John Miles. Jochen Rindt had made his debut back in 1964, but had not won until the 1969 United States Grand Prix, his only win to date. After scoring 1 win in the opening 4 races with the old 49, Rindt dominated in the 72, taking 4 straight wins. The Austrian was firm favourite for the title by this time, but then tragically, he crashed fatally in practice at Monza. There were still 4 races to go, but no-one overhauled Rindt’s tally, making him F’1′s only posthumous World Champion. His nearest challenger overall was Ferrari driver Jacky Ickx with 3 wins after a disastrous 1969 season for the Prancing Horse. There was to be 1 win apiece for Jackie Stewart, BRM’s Pedro Rodriguez, and new-comers Clay Regazzoni and Emerson Fittipaldi, and Jack Brabham before the latter’s retirement from F1 at the end of the season. Rindt’s death was just the tip of the iceberg, as Bruce McLaren died at Goodwood, and Piers Courage at Zandvoort.
The 1971 season saw the arrival of the new Tyrrell chassis, after a brief appearance at the end of 1970, with Jackie Stewart now partnered by Frenchman Francois Cevert after Johnny Servoz-Gavin retired. It was all change at Lotus as well, Emerson Fittipaldi now racing full-time and partnered by Sweden’s Reine Wisell as John Miles had retired in the wake of Jochen Rindt’s death. Although the Lotus 72 was already a world-beater, Colin Chapman still spent 1971 experimenting with the gas-turbine powered Lotus 56, meaning a winless season for the team. The year began on a low note with Ferrari’s Italian protege Ignazio Giunti perishing pre-season. The Prancing Horse was to draw 1st blood with promising American driver Mario Andretti winning in South Africa. Thereafter, Jackie Stewart dominated with the new Tyrrell, winning 5 of the next 6 races, only Ferrari’s Jacky Ickx interrupting his run. The last 4 races saw 4 different winners for 2 teams, Switzerland’s Jo Siffert in Austria, and Britain’s Peter Gethin in Italy both for BRM, and Stewart and Cevert in Canada and the United States for Tyrrell. Being the only driver to win more than once in 1971, Jackie Stewart easily won his 2nd World Title. The Italian Grand Prix saw the closest finish ever when Gethin beat Sweden’s Ronnie Peterson in the March by a hundredth of a second, followed Cevert’s Tyrrell, British driver Mike Hailwood in the Surtees, and Kiwi Howden Ganley in another BRM, all covered by 6 hundredths of a second. Tragically, Jo Siffert was killed in a non-championship race at Brands Hatch at the end of the season, and Pedro Rodriguez perished in a sportscar crash during the summer, thus joining his younger brother Ricardo on the list of motor racing fatalities. The Austrian Grand Prix saw the debut of local driver Niki Lauda in a March where he retired.
After a disastrous 1971 season, Lotus struck back in 1972 with a striking new black and gold livery in reference to their new sponsor John Player Special. Their lead driver, Emerson Fittipaldi came of age, winning 5 races, whereas new team-mate Dave Walker from Australia failed to score. It was Fittipaldi against Jackie Stewart, with Fittipaldi coming out on top, thus becoming F1′s youngest World Champion to date at the age of 25. With Stewart taking 4 wins, the only other winners were Denny Hulme in South Africa for McLaren, their 1st since 1969, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Beltoise in Monaco for BRM, their last ever win and Jacky Ickx at the Nurburgring for Ferrari. A promising Argentinian named Carlos Reutemann made his debut for Brabham at his home Grand Prix, taking pole position and finishing 7th. Two well-known names disappeared at the end of the season, 1964 Champion John Surtees retired after a troubled couple of seasons with his own team, and the Matra team.
It was Jackie Stewart v Emerson Fittipaldi again in 1973, with both drivers taking 3 wins apiece in the opening 6 rounds. But then Fittipaldi’s position as team leader at Lotus came under threat from his new team-mate Ronnie Peterson, the Swede ultimately claiming 4 wins in an extended 15 race calendar, while Fittipaldi didn’t win at all. Stewart took 2 further wins during the season, and with Fittipaldi and Peterson constantly taking points off each other, the Scot had a relatively easy run to title number 3, finally winning the title at Monza after a great comeback drive from 19th place to 4th place, where Peterson led a Lotus 1-2. The other 3 races were won by McLaren with Denny Hulme winning the inaugural Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp, and American driver Peter Revson winning in Britain and the United States. The British Grand Prix would become famous for a gargantuan pile-up at Woodcote corner, caused by South African newcomer Jody Scheckter in a 3rd McLaren. After winning his 3rd World Title, Jackie Stewart immediately announced his retirement, the season closing United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen would be his 100th and last Grand Prix. But he was destined not to rack up a century of Grand Prix starts as the Tyrrell team withdrew from the race after his team-mate Francois Cevert was killed in practice. Jackie Stewart had been campaigning for improvement in safety standards in F1 and this tragedy only strengthened that campaign. Tragedy had already occured at the Dutch Grand Prix when British newcomer Roger Williamson crashed his March. The car instantly caught fire, from which he would not escape, despite a brave attempt by his compatriot David Purley in an privateer March to save him. As one British driver was retiring, another Brit was making his F1 bow, his name was James Hunt in a March entered by Lord Alexander Hesketh. Jackie Stewart now held the record for the number wins in F1 with 27, the previous record holders had been his late compatriot Jim Clark (25), and before that, Juan Manuel Fangio (24).
The Lotus 72 had been the car to beat over the past 4 seasons, but now it was getting long in the tooth, and at the same time, McLaren had come up with a world-beater of their own, the M23. Unsurprisingly, Emerson Fittipaldi left Lotus to join McLaren, replacing Peter Revson who moved to Shadow. After a dreadful 1973 season with Ferrari, Jacky Ickx took Fittipaldi’s place at Lotus alongside Ronnie Peterson. Tyrrell were in need of 2 new drivers, so they hired Jody Scheckter and Frenchman Patrick Depailler. Ferrari also signed 2 new drivers, Clay Regazzoni and Austria’s Niki Lauda, both switching from BRM. There were plenty of new teams arriving over the course of the season such as Hesketh, Amon, Token, Trojan, Penske and Parnelli. Denny Hulme took his last win before retiring at the end of the season at the curtain-raiser in Argentina. 6 other drivers won races that season, the most successful being Fittipaldi, Peterson and Carlos Reutemann with 3 apiece. The Brabham team had not won since their founder Jack Brabham had retired at the end of 1970, despite the best efforts of double World Champion Graham Hill, but Carlos Reutemann brought them back to winning ways in South Africa. There were 2 wins each for rising stars Jody Scheckter and Niki Lauda, the only other winner was Clay Regazzoni, who was to be Emerson Fittipaldi’s nearest challenger for the title despite taking just 1 win. The consistency of both drivers was the key, but in the end, it was Fittipaldi who triumphed in the season-closing United States Grand Prix, finishing 4th while Regazzoni faded away. This season marked the 1st Driver’s and Constructor’s titles for McLaren after 8 years of competing. The United States Grand Prix was blighted by tragedy for the 2nd year running when Austrian rookie Helmuth Koinigg perished during the race, this followed an earlier tragedy at the South African Grand Prix where Peter Revson died in practice.
The 1st half of the 1970′s had already seen 2 world-beating F1 cars, the Lotus 72 and the McLaren M23. Now it was Ferrari’s turn to produce the class of the field, the result was the 312T, which proved unstoppable in the hands of Niki Lauda. The Austrian took 5 wins and was seldom challenged as he clinched his 1st World Title and Ferrari’s 1st since John Surtees in 1964. Lauda’s team-mate Clay Regazzoni won just once. Indeed, the only other driver to win more than once was Emerson Fittipaldi for McLaren. There were plenty of 1sts in 1975, the 1st wins for Brazilian Carlos Pace for Brabham, Britain’s James Hunt for Hesketh, German Jochen Mass for McLaren and Italian Vittorio Brambilla for March. The Spanish Grand Prix was the 1st race where half points were awarded as it stopped after 29 of 75 laps following a huge accident for German driver Rolf Stommelen, driving for Graham Hill’s team. Mass was declared the winner, and consequently, March driver Lella Lombardi from Italy became F1′s 1st female points-scorer. The Austrian Grand Prix was also stopped early enough for half-points to be awarded, where Brambilla was declared the winner and promptly crashed, at the end of a highly accident prone weekend that witnessed the death of American driver Mark Donohue in the Penske. Carlos Reutemann in the Brabham and Tyrrell’s Jody Scheckter also won a race in 1975. There were no wins at all for Lotus as their 72 was outdated and it’s successor, the 76, was uncompetitive. After a few troubled seasons with Brabham and latterly his own team, double World Champion Graham Hill retired mid-season, having become the most experienced F1 driver at the time with 176 starts. He would sadly perish in a light aircraft accident in Elstree that November, along with his protege and compatriot Tony Brise.
Niki Lauda looked set to pick up where he left off in 1976, winning 4 of the 1st 6 races, with only team-mate Clay Regazzoni and James Hunt managing to beat him. Hunt had joined McLaren for 1976 after Emerson Fittipaldi defected to his brother Wilson’s team, coincidentally after the older Fittipaldi had retired, but the Brit was initially disqualified from his win in Spain. This handed victory to Lauda, but ‘Hunt the Shunt’ was later reinstated on appeal. The Swedish Grand Prix saw a stunning 1-2 for Tyrrell with Jody Scheckter taking the win. What made this victory so memorable was that it marked the 1st victory for a 6 wheeler, as Tyrrell’s new chassis, dubbed the P34 (Project 34), had been designed with 4 wheels at the front. Hunt then won the French Grand Prix, and the British Grand Prix as well, only to be disqualified from the latter for having switched to the spare car after a first lap crash in which he was involved. It was Lauda who inherited the victory, but then at the Nurburgring, disaster struck. Lauda crashed in flames and was badly injured, Hunt won the race, but it looked as though Lauda’s injuries would prove fatal. In the end, Lauda survived but was out of action for 2 races, 1 of which went to James Hunt, the other to his compatriot, John Watson driving for Penske. Ironically, Watson won for Penske in Austria, where their previous driver Mark Donohue perished the previous year. Hunt won 3 of the next 4 races, with only Ronnie Peterson, now driving for March, interrupting his run at Monza, where Niki Lauda marked his return to F1 with 4th place. The Austrian only scored a 3rd in the next 2 races meaning that he lead Hunt by just 3 points going to the final round held at Mount Fuji in Japan for the 1st time. It rained heavily during the race, and after just 2 laps, Niki Lauda pulled out of the race due to his still not having fully recovered from his Nurburgring shunt. Hunt carried on and eventually finished 3rd, clinching the title by a solitary point, although the race was won by Mario Andretti in the Lotus. The American had originally began the season with Parnelli, but had switched to Lotus after that team folded, just in time to build on the promise shown by the new 77 chassis. This season marked the retirement of New Zealander Chris Amon, who had raced in F1 since 1963 but somehow or somewhat, never won a race.
Niki Lauda was to regain his title in 1977, as McLaren and James Hunt struggled with the ageing M23 and its less competitive successor, the M26. But Lauda faced stiff competition from his new team-mate Carlos Reutemann, a partnership that would end in complete acrimony, and Lauda’s exit from Ferrari. There was also Mario Andretti in the new ground-effect Lotus 78, and Jody Scheckter with the fledgling Wolf team. It was these 4 drivers who shared the 1st 6 races, 2 each for Lauda and Scheckter who drew 1st blood in Argentina, 1 each for Reutemann and Andretti. The next 6 races had a different winner in each, Sweden’s Gunnar Nilsson in the 2nd Lotus, France’s Jacque Laffite for Ligier, Andretti, defending champion James Hunt, Lauda and Australia’s Alan Jones in the Shadow, the only win for that team. The British Grand Prix was memorable for many reasons. James Hunt’s victory aside, that race also marked the debut of Canadian driver Gilles Villeneuve in a 3rd works McLaren and Renault with their unique 1.5 litre turbo powered car, driven by French newcomer Jean-Pierre Jabouille. The next 4 races were shared by Lauda, Andretti, Hunt and Scheckter, come the last of these, Lauda had taken the title with 4th place in the United States Grand Prix, and immediately split with Ferrari amid the acrimony, Villeneuve took his place for the last 2 races. The season-closer at Mount Fuji provided a 3rd win of the year for James Hunt. Sadly, Shadow driver Tom Pryce was killed along with a track marshall, after the British driver hit the marshall head on during the South African Grand Prix. That race would also mark the ignominous final appearence of the once proud BRM team.
1978 was all about Lotus, their 78, and latterly their 79. Both were world-beaters, and Mario Andretti and the returning Ronnie Peterson were unstoppable in them, winning 8 races between them. Only Ferrari managed to beat Lotus on a regular basis with lead driver Carlos Reutemann taking 4 wins, and new team-mate Gille Villeneuve winning the 1st Canadian Grand Prix to be held in his native Montreal. Reigning champion Niki Lauda switched to Brabham after his fall-out with Ferrari and claimed 2 wins, at Anderstorp in the controversial Brabham BT46B ‘fan-car’ which was instantly banned, and Monza. The only other winner was Patrick Depailler at Monaco in the Tyrrell, now back to the traditional 4-wheel configuration after the 6-wheeler had faded away the previous year. No-one could provide a consistent enough challenge to the Lotuses, and unsurprisingly, only Andretti and Peterson were in contention for the title come the Italian Grand Prix. The race started with a massive pile-up in which 10 drivers were involved. One of whom was Peterson, whose legs were broken in the incident, he was immediately hospitalised along with Surtees’ Vittorio Brambilla, but died from an embolism the next day. Andretti was champion but in tragic circumstances, he won the race but was penalised and demoted to 6th, and failed to score in the United States and Canada. There were no wins for Wolf or McLaren, so Jody Scheckter and James Hunt moved on at the end of the season. Many future stars made their F1 bows during the season, including Brazilian Nelson Piquet for Ensign, Finland’s Keke Rosberg for incoming Theodore and Frenchman Rene Arnoux for incoming Martini. This season marked the departure of Surtees and Hesketh, and the arrival of Williams and Arrows. The latter team was formed by a break-away group from Shadow, and attracted plenty of controvesy, accused of copying Shadow’s DN9 when designing their FA1, and lead driver Ricardo Patrese being blamed for the accident that killed Ronnie Peterson in the former’s home Grand Prix. Arrows’ original signing had been Gunnar Nilsson, but the Swede had contracted cancer midway through the 1977 season, and was destined never to drive for Arrows, for he lost his battle with cancer shortly after the season had finished. In the space of just 6 weeks, Sweden had lost both of its current F1 stars.
After dominating preceedings in 1978, Lotus didn’t win at all in 1979, the 79 was no longer the car to have and the new 80 was a dud. It was Ligier who were the early pace-setters with Jacques Laffite winning the 1st 2 races, then the next 2 went to Ferrari’s Gilles Villeneuve, before Patrick Depailler triumphed in Spain in the 2nd Ligier. There followed 2 wins for Jody Scheckter who had replaced Lotus-bound Carlos Reutemann at Ferrari, the 2nd of those races marked the swansong of 1976 Champion James Hunt, who had been Scheckter’s replacement at Wolf after just 92 starts. The next race was the French Grand Prix at Dijon, where local hero Jean-Pierre Jabouille gave his home crowd a home win, fittingly in a French car, his turbo-powered Renault which had previously been unreliable. The race was more memorable for a thrilling battle for 2nd place between Villeneuve and Jabouille’s compatriot Rene Arnoux in the 2nd Renault, which Villeneuve won. Then came the British Grand Prix where Clay Regazzoni took the spoils for Switzerland, taking the 1st win for the Williams team. It was Alan Jones in the 2nd Williams who cleaned up in the next 3 races, the last of which was the Dutch Grand Prix where Villeneuve memorably attempted to nurse his 3-wheeled Ferrari back to the pits after a tyre blow-out. The Ferraris had been the most consistent performers of 1979 though, and by the next race, the Italian Grand Prix, only Scheckter or Villeneuve could win the title. But team-orders intervened during the race, and Villeneuve dutifully held station behind Scheckter, who led a Ferrari 1-2 in their home Grand Prix and became World Champion in doing so. Jones then denied Villeneuve a 2nd home win in as many years in Canada, before the French-Canadian rounded off the season with a win in the United States Grand Prix, where Italian newcomer Elio De Angelis made his mark with 4th place in his uncompetitive Shadow. After James Hunt had retired suddenly at Monaco after a disastrous stint with Wolf, his former rival Niki Lauda did likewise in Canada after a disastrous season with Brabham, their places were taken by Keke Rosberg and Argentine newcomer Ricardo Zunino. As well as Ferrari’s success, the Italian Grand Prix was memorable also for the return of the original dominant force of Formula 1, Alfa Romeo with Bruno Giacomelli and the experienced Vittorio Brambilla, both Italian, as their drivers.