The XI Grosser Preis von Österreich, otherwise known as the 1973 Austrian Grand Prix, was the twelfth bout of the 1973 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Österreichring on the 19th of August, 1973. The race would not go down as a classic in F1 history, as Ronnie Peterson claimed victory after teammate Emerson Fittipaldi retired from the lead.
Qualifying saw Fittipaldi, having fully recovered from his accident in the Netherlands, claim pole, sharing the front row with Lotus teammate Ronnie Peterson. Championship leader Jackie Stewart, meanwhile, found himself in a lowly seventh, behind the two McLarens, Carlos Reutemann and a heavily revised Ferrari of Arturo Merzario.
When the flag fell on raceday it would be Peterson who shot into an early lead, while teammate Fittipaldi slipped behind another fast starter Denny Hulme. Peter Revson, meanwhile, caused a traffic jam for the rest of the field as he suffered a clutch failure, although the only other man to suffer from this was Mike Beuttler, whose sustained an incurable oil leak after contact.
The top three slowly pulled away from the rest of the field over the following laps, with Merzario keeping Stewart at bay until the end of lap four. The Scot duly sprinted away to try and catch the leaders, soon followed by Carlos Reutemann and Carlos Pace. François Cevert was the next man to try an nudge Merzario down the order, but contact between the two forced the Frenchman into retirement.
Hulme, meanwhile, was doing a good job of splitting the two Loti, only for his McLaren to suffer an engine issue, the Kiwi having to stop to have a plug lead reconnected. Fittipaldi therefore inherited second before being waved through for the lead, for Stewart was slowly closing in on the pair.
With five laps to go it seemed as if the Lotus one-two would last, only for a fuel pipe to burst on Fittipaldi's car and leave the Brazilian on the sidelines. Peterson therefore inherited the lead and began to pull clear of Stewart, who was just within sight of the two when Fittipaldi disappeared, while Pace was promoted onto the podium after taking Reutemann.
With that the race was run, Peterson duly sweeping home for a second career win, ahead of Stewart and Pace. Reutemann came home in fourth ahead of the two BRMs of Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Clay Regazzoni, while Merzario and Hulme finished a lap down after their problems. The result effectively meant that Stewart could claim the title with victory at the next race in Italy, with Cevert and Fittipaldi over twenty points behind.
Despite being a relatively new edition to the Formula One calendar, the purpose built Österreichring was already becoming a fan and driver favourite, despite being buried in Styrian Hills. With state of the art pit facilities, a huge prize fund from a title sponsor, and three good races behind it, the Österreichring was expected to draw a record crowd for the Austrian Grand Prix. The only thing to derail these hopes was the fact that Austria's new hero Niki Lauda was a doubt for the race, having crashed heavily and injured his wrist at the Nürburgring just two weeks earlier.
The Austrian racer would, however, make the trip over the boarded from Germany, joining up with his BRM colleagues Clay Regazzoni and Jean-Pierre Beltoise after being checked over by the onsite doctor. Their trio of cars remained unchanged, although the front end of Lauda's car had to be rebuilt before the weekend, with a fresh set of Marlboro stickers adorning all three cars. They would also be supported by a brand new P160E, the chassis having originally been delivered to the team back in Germany alongside a full set of spare engines, with the Bourne Boys hoping to claim an upset.
Elsewhere the March effort was back at near full strength, with the factory team returning to the fray with Jean-Pierre Jarier, the Frenchman having been tempted back to the seat after the tragic death of Roger Williamson. Unfortunately this reunion was upset by the termination of STP's sponsorship, a change that saw the team plunge even further towards financial oblivion, and so the team would race David Purley's dark-blue car instead. The semi-works car of Mike Beuttler was also in action, while Hesketh Racing returned with James Hunt at the wheel, with a heavily updated 731 arriving before the weekend to complete some unofficial practice, testing out some new aerodynamic designs. The "Hesketh-March" would sport a new nose, a more angular design than Harvey Postlethwaite's original design, a re-positioned rear wing to push the rear tyres further into the tarmac, and a reshaped monocoque to promote better air flow after the radiator.
McLaren were another team to arrive at the Austrian circuit to complete some unofficial running, with two entries for Denny Hulme and Peter Revson. This put them up among the favourites for victory, although Lotus and Tyrrell were still expected to be the teams to beat having dominated throughout the season. Title pretender Emerson Fittipaldi was now fully fit after his accident at Zandvoort, hoping to challenge teammate Ronnie Peterson in the now "re-branded" John Player Loti once again. The Tyrrell pair, meanwhile, had their usual trio of cars for the weekend, with Championship leader Jackie Stewart and François Cevert having no concerns ahead of the weekend.
At Brabham, meanwhile, there had been no changes for their effort, with Carlos Reutemann and Wilson Fittipaldi joined by the semi-works entry of Rolf Stommelen, still racing instead of the injured Andrea de Adamich. Surtees were down to two cars again for an increasingly unhappy Mike Hailwood and a relatively jubilant Carlos Pace, with Jochen Mass' car from Germany serving as a spare. The two Iso-Marlboros arrived with a mix of old and new monocoques, Howden Ganley joined this week by Gijs van Lennep, while Ensign returned after a few days testing for Rikky von Opel.
Outside of the Anglo-sphere and Ferrari were back with a heavily revised 312B3, although they would only field Arturo Merzario as Jacky Ickx became increasingly close to leaving the team. The new car, meanwhile, had been reworked from the nose back by a reinstated Mauro Forghieri, with the nose radiator replaced by two long, thin rads along the sides of the cockpit, mounted to allow air to flow from the underside of the car to the top surface. The air intakes had been re-positioned to the roll-hoop to match the growing trend, while the oil tank and oil radiator were moved either side of the F12 engine, effectively lowering the centre of gravity. A new suspension design further enhanced this new weight distribution, with the entire car encased in brand new body work.
Elsewhere, Tecno had been busy at Goodwood to complete some testing in the new car, with the team arriving at the Österreichring needing to rebuild the engine before Chris Amon could get out on circuit. Completing the entry were the two factory Shadows for Jackie Oliver and George Follmer, the latter getting a brand new car after crashing at the Nürburgring, with design cues including a Lotus-esque air-intake. The third car in the colours of Embassy Racing was also in action, with Graham Hill at the wheel as usual.
Stewart had left the Nürburgring with a fifteen point lead over the rest of the field after his dominant victory, leaving the Scot as the now undisputed favourite for the title. His teammate Cevert had moved into second after finishing second, relegating the recovering Fittipaldi down to third, in spite of the Brazilian's early season supremacy. Peterson, Revson and Hulme all held station in Germany, while Ickx had moved back ahead of Hunt after his podium.
Another poor show of reliability for Lotus-Ford Cosworth saw them slip eleven points behind arch-rivals Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth, as those two headed into the final four races as the only two teams with a realistic shot at the International Cup for Manufacturers. McLaren-Ford Cosworth had inched closer to the fight after Ickx's podium, but still trailed the Norfolk squad by seventeen points, while Brabham-Ford Cosworth moved clear of Ferrari almost thirty points further back. Surtees-Ford Cosworth were finally on the board, leaping ahead of newcomers Tecno and Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth, with eleven different constructors on the board.
The full entry list for the 1973 Austrian Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice/qualifying were scheduled across Friday and Saturday in Austria, with one session each day lasting for three hours, with a brief break in the middle of each. Both days proved to be dry, with Saturday seeing temperatures soar throughout the session to cause some overheating issues for several teams. As for a target time, the top teams would be aiming to beat the official circuit record of 1:38.30, set by François Cevert in a Matra sportscar, although the unofficial record was also in their sights, standing at 1:35.97 and held by Emerson Fittipaldi on his way to pole in 1972.
The first man to head out of the pits on Friday afternoon would be James Hunt in the "Hesketh-March", the Brit having done all of his running in, and a lot more besides, in the week prior to the race meeting. He quickly got below the old lap record as the rest of the field began to appear on circuit, with further improvements seeing him dip into the 1:36.00s. He would soon be joined at the top of the standings by the two McLarens, with Denny Hulme and Peter Revson both taking turns on the spare car when their usual chargers were being adjusted.
Elsewhere, home hero Niki Lauda was forced to withdraw after a single aborted tour, his injured wrist causing him too much pain to really drive the BRM at all. His car was just being pushed into the paddock when teammate Clay Regazzoni stopped out on track, the Swiss racer's engine having spectacularly failed when a connecting rod smashed through the casing. At Tecno, Chris Amon was kicking his heels as they rebuilt his engine after their Goodwood test, while Hunt's running in the Hesketh-March was brought to a premature end by an engine issue.
After the break the pace began to ramp up, with Hunt slowly falling down the order as the afternoon wore on. The two McLarens improved into the 1:35.00s, prompted to push on when the Lotus cars broke into the 1:36.00s, signalling the start of the real quali-battle. Indeed, it was their star Swede Ronnie Peterson who ended the day with the fastest time, a 1:35.37, while Hulme recorded the McLaren best at 1:35.69. Surprise absentees from this fight were Tyrrell, with Jackie Stewart distracting himself by counting photographers in "dangerous" places, while Cevert complained of a brake problem.
After an evening spent carrying out repair work and fine tuning, the field once again came out to do battle on Saturday, with the Grand Prix Drivers' Association also forcing through a media ban in the pitlane. The start of the session would feature a test run of the new "pace-car control system", a method of controlling the field while marshals were working on the circuit. The idea of using a rather standard road car to slow the entire field to a crawl had been pushed through by the C.S.I., Formula One Constructors' Association and the G.P.D.A., and was deemed a success as the journalists protested their ban with the organisers.
Once the "pace" car disappeared into the paddock the session really got going, with Emerson Fittipaldi quickly climbing the order with a strong series of laps. The Brazilian was on top form, and a determined lap at the end of the afternoon saw him snatch pole, a 1:34.98 also making him the first man to dip under the 1:35.00 barrier. This was in stark contrast to title rival Stewart, with the Championship leader struggling on the "special" Goodyear tyres, ultimately giving himself a rear left puncture on his last set after pushing too hard in the final sector.
Elsewhere, Peterson's time from Friday was good enough for second, making it a Lotus lockout on the front row, while Hulme and Revson shared row two. Arturo Merzario impressed in the revised Ferrari to claim sixth, ahead of the two Tyrrells, while Hunt ended up in ninth having failed to improve, although most of his day had been spent running in his brand new Ford Cosworth engine. At the back, meanwhile, Howden Ganley suffered an engine failure and dumped oil across the start/finish straight, Graham Hill was simply off the pace, and Mike Hailwood spent most of the day getting towed back to the pits in the Surtees, a fuel feed issue providing a constant headache for his mechanics.
The full qualifying results for the 1973 Austrian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||1||Emerson Fittipaldi||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:36.71||1:34.98||—|
|2||2||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:35.37||1:35.97||+0.39s|
|3||7||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:35.69||1:35.75||+0.71s|
|4||8||Peter Revson||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:35.86||1:26.41||+0.88s|
|5||10||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:36.01||1:36.29||+1.03s|
|7||5||Jackie Stewart||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:36.84||1:36.44||+1.46s|
|8||24||Carlos Pace||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:37.55||1:36.48||+1.50s|
|9||27||James Hunt||March-Ford Cosworth||1:36.63||1:37.47||+1.65s|
|10||6||François Cevert||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:37.98||1:36.77||+1.79s|
|11||15||Mike Beuttler||March-Ford Cosworth||1:38.29||1:36.83||+1.85s|
|12||18||Jean-Pierre Jarier||March-Ford Cosworth||1:39.40||1:36.93||+1.95s|
|15||23||Mike Hailwood||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:37.60||1:38.29||+2.62s|
|16||11||Wilson Fittipaldi||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:37.81T||1:38.51||+2.83s|
|17||9||Rolf Stommelen||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:40.53||—||+2.87s|
|18||17||Jackie Oliver||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:39.75||1:37.97||+2.99s|
|19||28||Rikky von Opel||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:38.22||1:39.29||+3.24s|
|20||16||George Follmer||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:41.26||1:38.30||+3.32s|
|21||25||Howden Ganley||Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth||1:40.75||1:39.38||+4.40s|
|22||12||Graham Hill||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:40.18||1:39.50||+4.52s|
|24||26||Gijs van Lennep||Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth||1:41.04||1:41.41||+6.06s|
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
- * New Zealander, Amon, with his Tecno would not take the start on the grid of the race.
- † Lauda did take part in practice, but failed to set a time and withdrew due to his injured wrist.
|______________||Rikky von Opel|
|______________||Gijs van Lennep|
A warm and dry Sunday would play host to the race, with a huge 130,000 strong crowd swarming to the circuit ahead of what was fast becoming Austria's biggest sporting event. The pre-race warm-up session passed by without any major incidents, although Chris Amon decided that the Tecno was not worth his time and walked out of the paddock. Otherwise twenty-two drivers would line-up for the start, with the two black/gold Loti on the front row awaiting the fall of the starter's flag.
In a crescendo of V8 and F12 screams it was Ronnie Peterson who reacted fastest to dart into the lead, with Denny Hulme following him through before pole sitter Emerson Fittipaldi really got going. Behind them, however, there would be chaos, for Peter Revson was only just managing to creep along after a clutch failure, and was desperately trying to drag the car out of the way. Unfortunately his limping McLaren still managed to cause a bottleneck, with many drivers getting caught out.
One of those would be François Cevert, who suddenly swept across the path of Mike Beuttler, with the Brit forced to lift off the throttle to avoid the weaving Tyrrell. Unfortunately the March had wandered across the track, and an unsighted Mike Hailwood smacked into the back of him. The Surtees somehow escaped without terminal damage, while Beuttler limped around to the first corner before pulling to the side, having dumped all his oil onto the circuit after Hailwood removed his oil cooler.
Untroubled by this, Peterson completed an excellent opening lap to open a small lead over Hulme, although the Kiwi was keeping the Swede honest as the pair flashed across the line. Fittipaldi was next ahead of a delighted Arturo Merzario, who somehow managed to avoid Revson at the start, while Jackie Stewart was up in fifth after a dive into turn one. This lead group was completed by the two Carloses Reutemann and Pace, with Cevert and James Hunt breaking away with them.
The order slowly began to settle over the following laps, with Stewart pouncing on Merzario on lap four, although this move already looked to have been made too late, for Peterson, Hulme and Fittipaldi were already out of sight. The Scot charged off to catch them regardless, while teammate Cevert elbowed Reutemann and Pace out the way to attack the Ferrari. Unfortunately his attempts to get past Merzario on the sixth tour would not go so well, with the Frenchman misjudging a gap, bouncing off the Ferrari and breaking his suspension, although he still managed to scream into the pits at the end of the lap to try and have it fixed.
As this had been going on, Hunt had disappeared with a fuel metering issue, while George Follmer disappeared in the Shadow with a misfire. The sister car of Jackie Oliver was the next to go, suffering a similar issue, although Follmer was soon back up to speed after his issue was cured. Oliver followed him out a few moments later, but his issue proved far more troublesome prompting the team to call time on his race after nine laps.
Out front, meanwhile, Peterson was keeping Hulme at bay, with the Kiwi constantly weaving around behind him to try and take the lead, and fend off Fittipaldi. Those three were pulling clear of a rather unhappy Stewart, who simply could not match their pace, while Reutemann became the latest driver to escape the Merzario train. The scarlet Ferrari was still hanging onto a point as things stood, although with Pace, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Wilson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni all tucked up behind him it seemed only a matter of time before the Italian tumbled out of the top ten.
The pace out front was particularly brutal, with Peterson, Hulme and Fittipaldi all under the latter's old lap record. It seemed inevitable that one of the infamously fragile Loti would break as a result, and as the trio passed the pits to start the twelfth lap there was a flat-sounding Ford Cosworth engine. The source of this issue, however, was to be found on the McLaren of Hulme, who was starting to lose power. Next time by and the Kiwi was running on seven cylinders and falling into the sights of Stewart, Fittipaldi having gone past on the run out of turn one.
Hulme completed another lap before slithering to a stop in the pits, with the McLaren mechanics swarming to the car having abandoned attempts to get Revson into the fray. It was not long before the source of the misfire was found, a loose plug lead, with the Kiwi soon roaring off in a cloud of dust and tyre smoke to rejoin the race. Unfortunately the delay had been enough to relegate him down to fifteenth, well behind the Merzario train and almost a lap behind the flying Loti out front.
With Hulme gone and Stewart unable to match their pace, the two black-gold cars swapped places, Peterson waving teammate Fittipaldi through on lap seventeen. This was part of a pre-race agreement between the two, whereby the Swede would give the Brazilian the lead if the pair were clear of the rest of the field, given that Fittipaldi was fighting for the title. After the shuffle the pair continued to circulate nose-to-tail, #1 ahead of #2, a perfect replication of the Tyrrell dominance in Germany just two weeks earlier.
Such was their domination that a large number of fans began to lose interest, the vast hills surrounding the circuit quickly beginning to empty with more than half the race still to run. In truth there was very little to be looked at, although Pace was putting his Surtees through its paces once again, and slowly creeping onto the back of Stewart. Indeed it was in the pits where most of the entertainment was provided, with Howden Ganley, Rolf Stommelen and Hulme keeping their pitcrews busy with a variety of issues. Retirements also came in a steady stream, with Graham Hill dropping out with a suspension mounting issue, Follmer disappearing with a gearbox failure, Rikky von Opel losing fuel pressure, and Jean-Pierre Jarier suffering a combined engine and gearbox failure.
Into the closing stages and the make up of the podium looked increasingly in doubt, for Pace was lapping faster and faster with every tour, claiming a new lap record as he closed in on Stewart. This was enough to refocus everyone's attention, just in time to see one of the imperious black-gold Lotus 72Es pull off the circuit with a dead engine. The helmet revealed that the failed Cosworth belonged to Fittipaldi, with his title hopes all but evaporating as his car slowly rolled to a stop.
Peterson was left to collect a rather lonely victory, while Stewart only held onto second because Pace suffered a fuel feed issue, leaving him to limp along to complete the final lap. Reutemann just fell shy of taking the final podium spot away from the young Brazilian, while a pair of healthy, but otherwise unimpressive BRMs of Beltoise and Regazzoni completing the points. Merzario ended the race a lap down in seventh, the revised Ferrari at least making it to the end, while Hulme was very unhappy in eighth, a rear wing failure on the final lap rather summing up his race. Gijs van Lennep, Hailwood and Ganley also made it to the chequered flag.
The full results for the 1973 Austrian Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Fittipaldi was still classified despite retiring as he had completed 90% of the race distance.
- † Ganley, in contrast, could not be classified as he failed to complete 90% of the race distance.
- Second victory for Ronnie Peterson.
- Lotus claimed their 52nd victory as a constructor.
- 43rd and final podium finish for Jackie Stewart.
- Carlos Pace claimed his maiden podium finish.
- It was also the second and final podium for Surtees.
- Pace also claimed the third and final fastest lap for a Surtees chassis.
With just three races to go Jackie Stewart held a twenty-one point advantage at the top of the Championship standings, meaning the Scot could take his third World Title at the next race in Italy. His hopes were aided by the fact that teammate François Cevert and Emerson Fittipaldi failed to score, while race winner Ronnie Peterson was too far back to be a threat. The rest of the point scorers remained largely in the same positions, although Carlos Pace managed to breech the top ten with his maiden podium finish.
Whereas the driver's fight looked to be over, the International Cup for Manufacturers battle remained a very close affair, with Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth only nine points clear of Lotus-Ford Cosworth, and almost certain to drop a score from the second half of the season. McLaren-Ford Cosworth, meanwhile, were effectively declared in third, Brabham-Ford Cosworth the only team capable of catching them but would have to win every race, with Ferrari completing the top five. Elsewhere, BRM moved ahead of March-Ford Cosworth, while Surtees-Ford Cosworth moved up the board after Pace's podium performance.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: AUSTRIAN GP, 1973', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr232.html, (Accessed 07/03/2017)
- D.S.J., 'The Austrian Grand Prix: The best laid plans go wrong', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/10/1973), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/october-1973/42/austrian-grand-prix-best-laid-plans-go-w, (Accessed 07/03/2017)
- 'Austria 1973: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/autriche/engages.aspx, (Accessed 07/03/2017)
- 'Austria 1973: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/autriche/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 07/03/2017)
- 'Austria 1973: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/autriche/classement.aspx, (Accessed 07/03/2017)
|V T E||Austrian Grand Prix|
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