The 1973 Argentine Grand Prix, otherwise known as the X Gran Premio de la Republica Argentina, was the opening round of the 1973 FIA Formula One World Championship, held on the 28th of January 1973. The race would see the resumption of the Lotus / Tyrrell battle from 1972, with the two British teams locking out the podium.
Qualifying, however, had seen an upset for the two pre-season favourites, as BRM swept to pole courtesy of new lead driver Clay Regazzoni. He would share the front row with defending World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi, while the second row would see Jacky Ickx beat Jackie Stewart to third.
When the flag fell on raceday it would be a stunning three way battle into the first corner, with Fittipaldi, Regazzoni, and rising star François Cevert going wheel to wheel after excellent starts. A sensational drive carried young Cevert through to the lead, having started down in sixth, with Regazzoni carrying the fight into turn two to snatch the lead.
The opening phase of the race would see very little change at the front of the field, with attention focusing on Stewart as he climbed up the order after a poor start. The Scot's charge would end up with the #6 Tyrrell in second on lap 32, after both he and teammate Cevert moved past Regazzoni when the Swiss racer began to struggle with tyre wear.
Regazzoni would ultimately tumble down the order over the following laps, with Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson making their way through on laps 33 and 34 respectively. The two Tyrrells and the two Loti would then run together at the front of the field in a stalemate, suggesting that the Tyrrell 005 and Lotus 72D were very evenly matched.
It seemed as if the only thing that would upset the top four would be mechanical trouble, demonstrated on lap 68 when Peterson's engine expired. Tyre wear then came into play, Stewart's pace deteriorating on lap 76, allowing Fittipaldi to cruise past for second.
The Brazilian was therefore left with a chance to attack Cevert for the lead, with a terrific duel between the two resolved in favour of Fittipaldi ten laps from the end. Fittipaldi therefore had the perfect start to his title defence with victory ahead of Cevert, while Stewart held onto third despite a late charge by Ickx. Denny Hulme and Wilson Fittipaldi Júnior completed the scorers.
The winter of 1972/3 had seen the FIA backed Grand Prix International organisation, representing circuit owners and race organisers enter a dispute with the teams, who were united under the Formula One Constructors' Association banner. The issue was largely over prize money and funding, although those issues were not present for the season opener, despite a brief period in which the event had been cancelled due to finances. Safety concerns off the circuit were also addressed, an increased police presence ensuring the teams, drivers and 100,000 fans could travel to the Autodromo Municipal Ciudad de Buenos Aires in relative peace. The circuit itself was unchanged from 1972, all of the major upgrade works having been completed prior to the previous season's event.
Into the entry list and Lotus-Ford Cosworth had spent big in the winter, signing 1971 runner-up Ronnie Peterson to partner defending World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi, with the pair given equal status. Their challenger, the Lotus 72D remained unchanged over the winter, although Colin Chapman was plotting an update for the car to appear later in the season. Indeed the only change for the Norfolk squad was a new tyre deal, with Goodyear obtaining a deal to supply the World Champions after Firestone announced their plan to withdraw from the series, only to commit to a further season.
Lotus' major rivals in 1973 were once again expected to by Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth, who had moved into new premises in Ockham, Surrey to prepare for the new season. The team would field double World Champion Jackie Stewart alongside promising youth François Cevert, the pair using the same cars that they had finished the 1972 Championship in. That said the teams' lead designer Derek Gardner had come up with the new 006/2, an evolution of the teams current 005 and 006 chassis, set to appear at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Bernie Ecclestone had increased his shares in Brabham during 1972, and in the winter the businessman had installed Herbie Blash as sporting director to replace Keith Greene. Another new face would be South African engineer Gordon Murray, who had spent the break designing the new BT42, although time restraints meant that it would only arrive in time for the European season. Their driver line up also featured some changes with Carlos Reutemann, responsible for most of the fans in Argentina, promoted to lead driver, while Wilson Fittipaldi Júnior came in to fill the second seat. This change had been prompted by Graham Hill, whom had left at the end of the 1972 season after a rumoured fallout with Ecclestone.
McLaren arrived in Argentina after another quiet winter, with lead designer Gordon Coppuck designing the new M23, although it was not quite ready for the start of the season. Drivers Denny Hulme and Peter Revson would therefore start the new campaign in their familiar M19Cs, which were to remain dressed in the colours of title sponsor Yardley.
Elsewhere John Surtees and his Team Surtees effort had been busy evolving their Surtees TS14 design, which would start the season as the "TS14A". The car had been through an extensive testing programme, conducted by Surtees and Tim Schenken after the debut of the TS14, although they would not be racing the car in 1973. Instead the new TS14As would be put into the hands of Mike Hailwood and Carlos Pace, the latter hoping the update design would turn promise into results.
March, in contrast, were in a real mire at the start of the 1973, down to just one factory backed 721G for Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jarier. A second 721G could be found in the semi-factory blessed hands of Mike Beuttler, who had a large number of backers for the new season, although both cars were well prepared. Indeed, there was some speculation that the 721Gs were well under the minimum weight limit that the FIA had implemented on the 1st of January, although the two cars went through scrutineering without issue.
The departure of Matra at the end of the 1972 season had caused some concern that F1 was losing its appeal, with the French firm quitting Grand Prix racing in favour of their more successful endurance programme. However, the incredible Ford Cosworth DFV engine was countering this threat, with new constructors signing up before the start of the season. Two of these, Shadow and Ensign, based in the United States and Brazil respectively, hoped to debut their cars at the start of the European season, if not earlier, while third firm Iso-Marlboro were in Argentina.
Indeed, Iso-Marlboro had partnered with the bankrupt Frank Williams Racing Cars effort at the end of 1972, effectively saving Frank Williams' team on the basis that they would use the Renzo Rivolta/Philip Morris creation. Two chassis were an evolution of Williams' old Politoys FX3 chassis from 1972, with almost every component improved, while the team also found replacements for outgoing drivers Henri Pescarolo and Pace. In came New Zealander Howden Ganley and Italian Nanni Galli to pilot the new cars, both bringing some minor sponsors into the team.
The non-Cosworth powered section of the field was down to just two entrants with Ferrari and BRM, both having difficult winters after struggling in 1972. The relationship between Enzo Ferrari and FIAT had deteriorated amid a poor season, with funds and personnel being withdrawn from the F1 team as fiscal reality hit the team. That said, there would still be two scarlet cars in the field for the season opener, with Jacky Ickx and Arturo Merzario partnered together to race the now three year old 312B2s.
As for BRM, their troubles over the winter had been eased by a major sponsor deal with Marlboro, allowing them to continue their trend of running three cars. Their trio consisted of Clay Regazzoni, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and upcoming youth Niki Lauda, with fourth driver Vern Schuppan left back in the U.K. The cars themselves were unchanged, the P160 a well engineered, if underdeveloped, design that should allow BRM to at least hold on in the midfield pack.
Several big names would not make an appearance in Argentina, while there were no privateers in customer cars. Hill had left Brabham to form Embassy Hill with ambitions to race one of the new Shadows, while Chris Amon was signed up by upstarts Tecno, conspicuous by their absence. Pescarolo was focusing on endurance racing rather than F1 having left Williams, while countless other stars were absent having failed to secure deals at their preferred teams.
The full entry list for the 1973 Argentine Grand Prix is outlined below:
Five hours of running was scheduled for the first round of the 1973 season, with both Friday and Saturday hosting two sessions apiece to allow the nineteen drivers to practice and qualify their cars. Four sessions would be split into two runs of one hour and two runs of one and a half hours, the latter being held as the earliest session on each day. The target time for almost all of the drivers would be the circuit record of 1:12.46, set by Carlos Reutemann en-route to pole in 1972.
After an unofficial "training" session on Thursday to allow both teams and drivers to familiarise themselves with the circuit, Friday's first session saw all of the field get out and record a time. Cool temperatures meant that everyone avoided engine trouble, although Ronnie Peterson would miss out on a fair amount of running after a bearing failure. The pace in the early session was also impressive, with Clay Regazzoni surprising many by claiming provisional pole before the break with a 1:11.53, almost a second quicker than the old record.
Friday afternoon saw the pace inch up again, with Regazzoni just falling shy of his best time before a wheel failure ended his running for the day. Emerson Fittipaldi, meanwhile, was quietly going about his business, and a late run saw the Brazilian snatch provisional pole just before the end of the session, claiming a 1:11.18 on his last attempt. Jackie Stewart pushed Regazzoni down to a provisional third, while Jacky Ickx and Jean-Pierre Beltoise also snuck into the 1:11.00s before the end of the day.
Warmer temperatures on Saturday meant that times were expected to come down as tyres came to the fore, despite increased concern for the engines in the increased heat. Goodyear and Firestone had arranged for their teams to be separated in the pits, and given the fact that Goodyear supplied the cream of the crop, almost no attention was paid to those at the Firestone end of the pitlane. This fact would catch out everyone in the final session, when the pace really ramped up, with the early session seeing the cars adapted to cope with the heat.
The circuit was quiet until the final half an hour of the final session, with temperatures just beginning to fall as the sun dropped lower in the sky. First out to set a quick lap was Peterson after a difficult Friday, with the young Swede battling his way to a 1:11.06, just edged out by double world Champion Stewart with a 1:11.03. Both were then surpassed by the scarlet Ferrari of Jacky Ickx, who had spent the earlier session getting his spare car up to speed, the Belgian besting the Scot by just 0.02s.
Next to set a strong time would be Emerson Fittipaldi, dipping under the 1:11.00 mark for the first time, in the midst of a relatively long run. But, as the Brazilian racer attracted the eyes of the fans with his steady climb in pace, Regazzoni went out and recorded a stunning 1:10.54, before returning to the pits before anyone bar the officials had noticed. Fittipaldi, meanwhile, came into the pits a few minutes later thinking he had pole, Team Lotus confirming he had set a 1:10.84, only to find that a red faced Regazzoni had beaten him by 0.30s.
The full qualifying results for the 1973 Argentine Grand Prix are outlined below:
|2||2||Emerson Fittipaldi||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:11.87||1:11.18||1:11.87||1:10.84||+0.30s|
|4||6||Jackie Stewart||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:11.72||1:11.31||1:11.53||1:11.03||+0.49s|
|5||4||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:14.08||—||1:11.87||1:11.06||+0.52s|
|6||8||François Cevert||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:13.36||1:12.06||1:23.36||1:11.46||+0.92s|
|8||14||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:27.41||1:11.88||1:15.62||1:11.70||+1.16s|
|9||10||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:13.49||1:12.66||1:15.24||1:12.08||+1.54s|
|10||26||Mike Hailwood||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:13.79||1:13.59||1:13.84||1:12.13||+1.59s|
|11||16||Peter Revson||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:14.21||1:12.22||1:12.79||—||+1.68s|
|12||12||Wilson Fittipaldi||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:14.06||1:13.78||1:13.04||1:12.31||+1.77s|
|15||28||Carlos Pace||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:13.76||1:12.80||1:13.13||—||+2.26s|
|16||36||Nanni Galli||Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth||1:17.81||—||1:16.37||1:13.97||+3.43s|
|17||24||Jean-Pierre Jarier||March-Ford Cosworth||1:15.37||1:15.04||1:14.64||1:14.27||+3.73s|
|18||22||Mike Beuttler||March-Ford Cosworth||1:15.98||1:15.30||1:15.91||1:15.15||+4.61s|
|19||38||Howden Ganley||Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth||1:19.62||—||1:15.36||1:15.29||+4.75s|
- T Indicates a driver set their best time from that session in their test/spare car.
Overnight the crowd would swell to 100,000 fans, with an estimated 10,000 coming over from Brazil, to support the South American contingent, Carlos Reutemann being adored by the home fans. Unfortunately for them the Argentine racer would start his home race down in ninth, but a pre-race shakedown session in the morning had seen his pace improve, with everyone else ready to battle. After a parade of drivers, Marlboro girls and security vehicles the field was ready to go, with the gleaming field all sat on the grid awaiting the fall of the flag at precisely 3:00pm.
A huge cloud of dust erupted the moment the nineteen Grand Prix cars got underway, so it was only those sat on the outside of the first corner that got to see the three way fight for the lead. Into turn one went Clay Regazzoni, Emerson Fittipaldi and a blue-white Tyrrell in the hands of François Cevert side-by-side, and it was the young Frenchman who swept into the lead on the outside. Cevert's time in front was to be cut short just one corner later, however, as Regazzoni sent his BRM down the inside of the Frenchman into turn two, with Cevert just about able to deny Fittipaldi from second.
The rest of the opening lap was a lively affair, with Mike Hailwood getting as high as sixth in the Surtees, only to go for a spin partway round the lap to drop back down the order. Jackie Stewart, meanwhile, had made a poor start to lose out to Cevert and Hailwood, before a rare mistake through turn one saw him edged back to eighth. He spent the rest of the opening lap glued to the back of Denny Hulme, while home hero Reutemann was stuck just behind in ninth.
The early laps breezed past for the leaders, with Regazzoni trying everything he knew to build a lead over Cevert. After four laps the Swiss racer had built a three second lead, but his attempts to pull further ahead were in vain, the gap remaining at three seconds as the 10 lap mark flashed past. Cevert, for his part, was being stalked by the two black-gold Loti of Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson, while Stewart moved past Hulme and Jacky Ickx to sit behind former teammate Jean-Pierre Beltoise, with the top four pulling away up the road.
Only one driver had retired in the opening laps, that man being Nanni Galli in one of the Iso-Marlboros on the opening lap with a loss of power to the water pump. Then, on lap 11, Team Surtees lost both cars to unrelated mechanical problems, much to the 1964 Champion's dismay. First out went Hailwood with a driveshaft failure while trying to climb up the order, before a suspension failure forced Carlos Pace into the pits just as he was challenging for a top ten spot.
The stalemate at the front of the field was ongoing as Team Surtees hit trouble, with Stewart the only man to make any progress when he finally elbowed his way past Beltoise. The moment the Scot broke free he was on the hunt, quickly closing onto the back of Peterson to put the Swede under some immense pressure. As this was going on Regazzoni's lead was slowly being chipped away, the Swiss racer's tyres beginning to lose their edge due to the high pace.
By lap 29 the Swiss racer could not hold on and Cevert duly swept into the lead without much resistance, before quickly establishing a small lead. Yet, before the two Loti could elbow their way past the BRM, Stewart came scything through to take all three of them on lap 32. From nowhere there was now a Tyrrell one-two, while it took Fittipaldi and Peterson another lap to move past the struggling Regazzoni.
Half distance flew past a few laps later with the top four glued together, while Regazzoni fell into the sights of teammate Beltoise, just as the Frenchman's tyres lost their edge. They were soon claimed by the Ferrari of Ickx, who was much happier now that the car was losing weight through burning fuel, and the two orange McLarens. Joining those two would be Wilson Fittipaldi in the Brabham, who had been able to progress through the field once the third BRM of Niki Lauda hit tyre troubles.
Overheating tyres were affecting several drivers as the race headed towards its conclusion, Stewart the most high profile of those having to cope with a badly blistered tyre. For the time being his pace was holding, enough to keep teammate Cevert in sight while also fending off the Lotus threat behind, although the intense pace was not aiding his cause. Peterson was also hanging on in the lead quartet, but his race would come to an end on lap 67 when his Cosworth engine lost oil pressure.
Back with Regazzoni and the Swiss racer had given up on his tyres, pitting for a fresh set of Firestones for the final thirty laps. His pace on the fresh set was impressive, equalling the best times of the leaders, but the change had pushed the Swiss racer back by three laps. Teammate Beltoise made a similar move a few laps later, only to have his engine expire, while the third car in the hands of Lauda went out after a sudden drop in oil pressure.
The Stewart/Fittipaldi fight was drawing the collective eye of the fans as the race entered the final quarter, with the Brazilian trying everything he could to force the Scot into a mistake. Ultimately, the pressure would tell, with the black/gold Lotus outbraking the blue/white Tyrrell into the final chicane, causing the stands to erupt in excitement. Stewart's tyres were shot by this stage leaving him unable to respond, allowing Fittipaldi to scamper away in pursuit of Cevert, the Frenchman's lead having ballooned out during the Scotland/Brazil battle.
The fastest lap of the race was set on lap 79, in the middle of Fittipaldi's charge, a 1:11.22 putting him right onto the back of Cevert's gearbox. Yet, the Frenchman was determined to claim victory, and so a terrific scrap between the pair saw Cevert make no mistakes to thwart the World Champion. Yet, the Brazilian still had a trick up his sleeve, and on lap 86, just ten from the end, Fittipaldi managed to get his nose up the inside of Cevert into turn ten, get two wheels on the inside kerb and beat the Frenchman on the brakes into the chicane, before pulling away down the start/finish straight, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
With that the race was run, Fittipaldi sweeping home to take the first win of the season for Team Lotus, 4.7 seconds ahead of Cevert. Stewart suffered a slow puncture in the closing stages, just avoiding the attentions of Ickx, who was on course to take the final podium spot until his Ferrari engine starved itself of fuel. Behind Ickx came Hulme in fifth, a position he inherited when a late race failure put teammate Peter Revson out of contention, while Wilson Fittipaldi survived to claim his first Championship point in sixth, two laps ahead of the flying Regazzoni, who just fell shy of the fastest lap on his fresh tyres.
The full results for the 1973 Argentine Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Ganley could not be classified as he had not completed 90% of the race distance.
- Eleventh and final pole position for BRM.
- Emerson Fittipaldi earned a seventh career win.
- Fittipaldi recorded his first fastest lap.
- Lotus claimed their 48th victory.
- Tyrrell claimed their twentieth podium finish.
Victory for Emerson Fittipaldi ensured that the defending World Champion started his title defence in excellent form, leaving the opening round with nine points. François Cevert and Jackie Stewart were next having completed the first podium of the season, while Jacky Ickx sat in fourth. Ex-World Champion Denny Hulme had two points to his name in Argentina, while Wilson Fittipaldi Júnior completed the scorers list.
The Lotus-Ford Cosworth/Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth scrap for the International Cup for Manufacturers had seen the former claim first blood in the 1973 campaign, courtesy of Fittipaldi's victory. Cevert's second place left Tyrrell in second, three points down on the Norfolk squad, while Ferrari sat in third thanks to Ickx. McLaren-Ford Cosworth and Brabham-Ford Cosworth were also on the scorers list after the opening bout.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: ARGENTINE GP, 1973', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr221.html, (Accessed 12/02/2017)
- D.S.J., 'Argentine Grand Prix: Lotus Win a Classic Race', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/03/1973), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/march-1973/54/argentine-grand-prix-lotus-win-classic-race, (Accessed 12/02/2017)
- '1: Argentina 1973', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/argentine.aspx, (Accessed 12/02/2017) Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "RR" defined multiple times with different content
- 'Argentina 1973', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/argentine/engages.aspx, (Accessed 12/02/2017)
- 'Argentina 1973: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/argentine/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 12/02/2017)
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