The 1973 British Grand Prix, otherwise officially advertised as the XXVI John Player British Grand Prix, was the ninth round of the 1973 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Silverstone Circuit on 14th July, 1973. The race was marred by a first lap accident triggered by Jody Scheckter, which effectively knocked nine cars out of the race and ended the career of Andrea de Adamich, who broke his leg after slamming into the wall. There would be a ninety minute delay as the carnage was cleared, with the race restarted afterwards.
Qualifying had seen Ronnie Peterson carry his form over from France to take a fifth career pole, with the Swede sharing the front row with the two McLarens of Denny Hulme and Peter Revson. Championship leader Jackie Stewart would share the second row with arch-rival Emerson Fittipaldi, while Scheckter would line up in sixth.
The first start proved to be fairly chaotic, with Niki Lauda suffering a driveshaft failure and failed to move, leaving Jackie Oliver to slam himself into the back of him and eliminate the pair of them. At the front, meanwhile, Stewart shot into the lead after a strong start, elbowing Peterson out of the way through Becketts, while Carlos Reutemann was an equally impressive third ahead of the soon to be eliminated Scheckter.
At the end of the opening lap the South African lost control, spinning into the pitwall at the exit of Woodcote before bouncing back into the middle of the circuit. Unable to go anywhere, eight cars then slammed into the McLaren, with Jean-Pierre Beltoise, George Follmer, Mike Hailwood, Carlos Pace, Jochen Mass, Graham Hill, Roger Williamson and Andrea de Adamich broadsiding the stranded Scheckter. The huge accident blocked the circuit and caused the race to be stopped, with de Adamich requiring medical attention for what was later revealed to be a broken ankle.
Only one car survived the accident, that being the Shadow of Hill, who joined the rest of the now nineteen car field for the restart, which reset the field to grid order. Lauda was also back in action and mad a blistering start to jump into second behind Peterson, although the Austrian was soon relegated to third by a charging Stewart.
Lauda was left to battle Fittipaldi for the final podium spot, although both would be promoted when Stewart spun from second, the Scot suffering from a gearbox issue. Lauda soon followed Stewart's tumble down the order, while Hulme, Revson and a very impressive James Hunt closed onto the back of Fittipaldi, although none of them could find a way past the #1 Lotus. Then, on lap 37 Fittipaldi dropped out with a driveshaft failure, releasing Revson to chase down a cruising Peterson.
Indeed, the Swede was in a rather relaxed rhythm out front, leaving Revson with an easy pass before Peterson realised what was happening. Before Peterson really got going the American was clear, leaving the Swede to simply battle for second with a fired up Hunt, who had leapt past Hulme moments after Revson claimed the lead.
Unfortunately for the home fans the Hunt challenge would fade due to tyre temperatures, with the Brit slipping behind Hulme in the closing stages. Out front, meanwhile, Revson maintained a four second gap to claim a maiden victory ahead of Peterson, who just held off Hulme's late charge for second. Hunt claimed fourth, thirty seconds ahead of François Cevert, while Carlos Reutemann claimed the final point.
The British Grand Prix returned to Silverstone in 1973, with rumours that the circuit would be receiving a face lift to counter the ever impressive form of 1970s Grand Prix cars. That would be in the future, however, with the F1 circus heading to a Silverstone circuit that had remained basically unchanged since it hosted the first ever Formula One World Championship race back in 1950. A huge prize fund was on offer after title sponsorship was paid for by John Player Cigarettes, with a huge entry list for the Grand Prix to be supported by an equally large support programme of Formula Three, historics and the British Saloon Car Championship.
Leading the charge to Silverstone would be Lotus, who arrived with their John Player sponsored quartet of cars for Emerson Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson in near perfect condition. The Norfolk based effort were determined to win in front of both their home crowd and title sponsors, with the black-gold cars issued #1 and #2, while the spare pair were labelled as cars #40 and #41. All four were also given fresh Ford Cosworth engines for the weekend.
At Tyrrell there were no major changes, their trio of cars all fighting fit after the battle in France, with Championship leader Jackie Stewart hoping to claim another "home" win, with teammate François Cevert also fairly hopeful of a strong result. McLaren were in a similar position, although they would be fielding three drivers in Northamptonshire, with Peter Revson returning after his U.S.A.C. commitments. He would partner lead driver Denny Hulme as usual in the two full season cars, while impressive youngster Jody Scheckter would go into battle in the third car, the newest of the M23s.
Brabham caused a stir when their transporter deposited for BT42s in the paddock, two more than anyone thought existed. Those four were split between the two factory drivers Carlos Reutemann and Wilson Fittipaldi, with one also loaned to the semi-works effort of Andrea de Adamich. A fifth Brabham was also set to be in action with work support, de Adamich's old BT37 painted "chocolate" brown and handed to promising youth John Watson, who had recovered from injuries which had denied him a start in France.
Elsewhere, Shadow arrived with their usual trio of cars for Jackie Oliver and George Follmer, with the third car of Graham Hill again running in Embassy Racing colours. Surtees would also run a trio of drivers, German racer Jochen Mass joining Mike Hailwood and Carlos Pace for the team's home race, all using the TS14A. BRM were also fielding a triumvirate, with Clay Regazzoni getting the newest P160E alongside familiar teammates Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Niki Lauda.
The March quartet arrived in the usual split of one and a half factory efforts and two privateers, although new identification plates rather confused which car was which. There were also changes to line-up for the factory efforts, Jean-Pierre Jarier ending his contract after losing heart with the team, Roger Williamson being promoted to the seat, while Mike Beuttler was back in the semi-works car after recovering from his Formula Two effort. The privately developed Hesketh Racing effort of James Hunt arrived with slightly different bodywork and a small hint of sponsorship, while David Purley completed the quartet with his self-funded effort.
At Ferrari, Silverstone arrived at a rather poor time, the Italian giants looking set to feature among the also-rans despite entering two cars for Jacky Ickx and Arturo Merzario, only for the latter to fail to arrive. Ensign also arrived with their bright green effort for Rikky von Opel, thankful it had survived its debut at Paul Ricard without any issues, and were in a better position than the other new comers in 1973. Indeed, Tecno arrived after a seismic split in the team, designer Alan McCall having left the effort after the owners commissioned a new car for the rest of the season. This new design, penned out of house by Gordon Fowell, was built in time for the British Grand Prix, although its angular design and innovative touches meant that Chris Amon was likely to be simply entering the British Grand Prix as a test driver rather than a racer.
Stewart moved to the top of the standings with his fourth placed finish in France, overhauling the fuming Fittipaldi who had led the Championship since the start of the season. Cevert had continued to cement himself in third ahead of Peterson, who had climbed ahead of Hulme with his maiden victory. Elsewhere, a sixth place finish had put Hunt on the board after just two races, the Brit having become the seventeenth scorer of 1973.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth returned to the top of the International Cup for Manufacturers' standings after Peterson's victory at Paul Ricard, completing the first half of the season with a one point advantage over Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth as dropped scores came into play. McLaren-Ford Cosworth were a lonely third at the halfway stage, the only other team to have tasted victory in 1973, while Ferrari just held onto their advantage over Brabham-Ford Cosworth for fourth. At the foot of the table, meanwhile, Tecno were overhauled by March-Ford Cosworth, courtesy of the former marque's better form throughout the season.
The full entry list for the 1973 British Grand Prix is shown below:
Practice/qualifying were combined across Thursday and Friday, two sessions allowing for around five hours of total running, after an unofficial run on Tuesday. Thursday's session would run from 11:45 until 2:15pm, while Friday's run would last from 1:30pm until 4:00pm, with both days threatened by rain. As for target times the BRDC International Trophy meeting back in April had seen Ronnie Peterson set a new lap record at 1:17.5, a time which the top teams should easily surpass with summer temperatures and half a years worth of development.
The first session of the weekend was opened at the end of a brief shower of rain, although before the panic in the pits for wet tyres ended the circuit had dried. Unfazed, Jackie Stewart led the field out onto the circuit in a very slick shod Tyrrell, with the Scot determined to claim a record equalling third victory in Northamptonshire. He would duly become the early pace setter, although later laps from Denny Hulme, Emerson Fittipaldi and Peterson dumped him down to fourth at the end of the day.
Indeed, for those who were out to win in Silverstone, Thursday provided an enticing battle to be outright fastest as Peterson's old lap record quickly disappeared. Hulme was in outstanding form, a second quicker than teammates Peter Revson and Jody Scheckter, while Stewart and Fittipaldi were close behind. Peterson was also up there in his spare Lotus, not using his #2 labelled car at all, with everyone else bar Revson still outside the Swede's old mark.
Away from the top teams Thursday was a rather testing day, as proved by Clay Regazzoni in the new BRM who completed just sixteen laps before a spectacular engine failure. Scheckter hit trouble with an oil leak, requiring the who backend to be removed from his McLaren to cure, while Roger Williamson crashed at Abbey after trying to go through the bend without lifting off in the Iso-Marlboro. Elsewhere James Hunt was in trouble for a long time with gearbox issue, although when the Brit was on circuit he proved to be blisteringly quick, only to end the day in the grass having pushed too hard at Becketts.
Saturday's session followed an incredibly similar pattern, with the top five from Friday all involved in the fight for pole, right from the get go. Before the end of the first hour all of the quintet were in the 1:17.0s, joined by the two McLarens of Hulme and Scheckter, who all over shadowed the Loti of Peterson and Fittipaldi. A furious Colin Chapman appeared at the front of the garage as his two drivers slipped down the order, with Stewart edging closer to Hulme's Friday time in the Tyrrell to relegated the two John Player cars to the second row.
The final moments, however, would see Peterson put togetehr a spectacular lap to snatch pole away from the Kiwi, the Swede dancing the #2 Lotus around Silverstone for a 1:16.3. It was a superb display of car control, Peterson almost drifting around Woodcote and Copse, with many believing he was doing so at every other corner too. Time would run out before Hulme could really get a decent effort in to challenge, Revson instead providing the late challenge to the Swede in the dying seconds of the session, claiming third as he matched his teammate's time.
The rest of the order was somewhat jumbled behind the top six, with François Cevert a fair way off the pace of his teammate Stewart in the second Tyrrell. Hunt impressed again to claim eleventh, only just edged out of the top ten by a late improvement by the BRMs of Niki Lauda and Regazzoni, while Howden Ganley managed to get his Iso-Marlboro ahead of Jacky Ickx in the Ferrari. Rikky von Opel had a trouble free run in the Ensign to beat the factory March and Shadows, while Chris Amon was an unsurprising 29th and last in the developmental Tecno.
The full qualifying results for the 1973 British Grand Prix are outlined below:
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
|Andrea de Adamich|
|______________||22||Rikky von Opel|
- * Purley would not start the race after an issue on race morning.
Raceday saw a huge crowd gather at Silverstone for a full day of motorsport action, with the gates opening at 6:30am, and staying open well beyond the 2:00pm start time for the Grand Prix itself. The was a huge sense of occasion as the cars were announced onto the grid from the pits, with everyone bar David Purley surviving the early morning warm-up session after a late accident. 28 drivers therefore lineup up to take the start, with the universal sense of tension instantly broken by the flutter of the starter's flag.
With a huge roar 27 of the 28 drivers leapt away from their grid slots, Niki Lauda the man who failed to move as his BRM broke a driveshaft. In the cloud of oil and tyre smoke it seemed inevitable that the Austrian would be collected, with Jackie Oliver duly ploughing into the back of him having been completely unsighted in the Shadow. Those two were quickly pushed into the pits and off the circuit, as the rest of the field dived into Copse behind the pole sitting Ronnie Peterson.
The Swede had made an excellent start from the front row, although he was instantly under attack from an even faster starting Jackie Stewart, who challenged the Swede into Becketts and duly took the lead. The Scot then proceeded to pull away over the rest of the lap, leaving Peterson to fend off Carlos Reutemann, who had bypassed two entire rows to claim third ahead of Jody Scheckter. Denny Hulme was next ahead of François Cevert, James Hunt and Peter Revson, while Emerson Fittipaldi was already getting cut adrift with the rest of the field.
Then, as the leaders made their way through Woodcote to complete the lap, Scheckter got on the power too soon and spun, almost gracefully pirouetting into the pit wall as Hulme and co. blasted past. Unfortunately the South African racer hit the wall at high speed, meaning his McLaren bounced back and into the middle of the circuit, just getting clipped by the sister car of Revson as it came back across the circuit. For those behind there was little to be done, with a cloud of dust and smoke quickly hiding the scene, with the race called to a stop just seconds later.
When the dust settled the accident was slowly pieced together, as attention immediately focused on Andrea de Adamich who was struggling to get out his car having slammed into the barriers. The Italian had a broken ankle from the accident, the Brabham having been hit by another car and sent sailing into the barriers at over 100 mph, with marshals carefully extracting him over the next half an hour. Scheckter's car was a wreck after getting broadsided by the two Surteess of Carlos Pace and Mike Hailwood, while the third car was also out after Jochen Mass hit Pace's ruined effort.
Other drivers climbing out of ruined cockpits were George Follmer from a split Shadow, Jean-Pierre Beltoise via a wheel-less BRM and Roger Williamson from a badly damaged Iso-Marlboro. Graham Hill also received seemingly terminal damage in the accident, but limped around to the pits for repairs, as everyone bar de Adamich headed to the medical centre to be looked at. Fortunately they all managed to escape with some bruising, while de Adamich was whisked away to hospital as the clean up began.
Ninety minutes later and the accident was cleared and a fairly battle scarred group of nineteen cars were assembled on the grid, starting from their original grid slots. There were two surprises among them, Hill's Shadow having been repaired after receiving rear suspension damage in the collision, while BRM had completely replaced the rear end of Lauda's car after his failure at the start. Minor work ranging from tyre changes to replacement body panels had also been applied to those who had to dart through the chaos, with a rather less dramatic start being staged at around 3:30pm.
This time Peterson made an unchallenged getaway, while a hastily rebuilt Lauda shot into second after a stunning start, empty grid slots ahead opening the door for the fast starting Austrian. Stewart made a slightly less impressive start to jump into third ahead of Fittipaldi, who had been disappointing at the original start, with Hulme, Revson and Cevert falling in behind. Clay Regazzoni led the rest of the field through to complete the second opening lap, although he was quickly replaced by Hunt who had been unable to match his earlier heroics.
There would be another casualty on this opening lap, Graham McRae getting dirt stuck in his throttle slides, meaning he was forced to stop with a full jammed loud pedal. Out front, meanwhile, Peterson had quickly built a small lead over the second placed Lauda as the leaders started the second lap, with the Austrian having to fend off the attentions of Stewart as the pack blasted into Copse for the second time. The Scot got a good run and duly swept past the BRM into Becketts, leaving Lauda to fend off Fittipaldi and co. as he went after Peterson.
By lap seven the Scot had reeled in the Swede out front, with both pulling clear of the traffic jam that had formed behind Lauda. Stewart decided to immediately try and take the lead from Peterson as he hooked onto the back of the black-gold Lotus, sending a dive into Stowe and forcing Peterson to make room. Unfortunately the Scot misjudged his entry speed, and as he changed down while trying to hit the apex the Tyrrell snapped into a spin, with the Scot disappearing towards the infield of the circuit as the Lauda train thundered past.
Stewart would rejoin in thirteenth, and would be plagued by a gearbox problem for the rest of the race, rather hindering his progress through the field. Lauda, meanwhile, was finally beginning to struggle, with Fittipaldi moving past moments after Stewart spun out of contention to make it a Lotus one-two. It was not long before Hulme and Revson also barged past the young Austrian racer to form a McLaren three-four, while Hunt caught Cevert napping to claim sixth and become the next driver to attack the BRM.
The following laps saw several visits to the pits by those in the lower reaches of the field, the most high profile being Stewart who had his nose replaced and dirt cleared from the radiators. He rejoined a lap down, on track behind Hunt, but was only able to match the pace of the top six, and so made little progress. Elsewhere, Chris Amon was forced to retire the Tecno after a fuel feed issue, Graham Hill stopped with a puncture, and debutante John Watson was in and out of the pits with a sticking throttle.
As this was going on Hulme decided to release teammate Revson, believing that the American stood a better chance of taking Fittipaldi who was acting as a rear gunner for his teammate Peterson. Unfortunately for the Kiwi his hopes of taking advantage of a Revson move were hindered when Stewart barged past him, with the Scot dragging the young Hunt along with after the English racer finally passed Lauda. After being overtaken by his old Formula Three rival, Lauda had decided to pit for a tyre change, the BRM chewing through its Firestone rubber at its usual rate to promote an increasingly dispirited Cevert.
The simultaneous pushes of Revson and Hunt saw the entire top five, including the errant Stewart, close up together, Peterson's lead quickly falling apart as Fittipaldi pushed on. It was not long before Stewart decided to remove himself from the fight, a mix of personal sportsmanship and a lack of progress forcing his hand, leaving the lead quintet to fight amongst themselves. Yet, even as the Scot dropped out of the fight fate threw up another twist for the leaders, this time in the form of a very brief shower.
The shower coincided with a failure for Fittipaldi, who managed to limp along for a lap before a driveshaft completely locked a rear wheel. That released Revson onto the gearbox of Peterson, while Hunt took advantage of the rather hydrophobic Hulme to move into third, duly gluing himself to the back of the two leaders. Hulme, for his part, quickly dropped off the back of them as the shower quickly disappeared, while Cevert continued to circulate in a lonely fifth.
At the end of the shower Revson seemed to be the most confident driver in spite of the greasy conditions, and duly snatched the lead with a five at Stowe. Then came next twist five laps later, when Wilson Fittipaldi suffered an engine failure in his Brabham, dumping a large amount of oil at Woodcote. The leaders were next on the scene but received ample warning from the marshals, all three skating across the circuit but managing to hold on. It was during this three lap period of oil assisted sliding that Revson established a small lead, while Peterson and Hunt slowly stumbled into the sights of a resurgent Hulme.
With ten laps to go Revson had established, and was maintaining, a five second lead, while Hulme was right on the tail of Hunt, who was unable to get his March past Peterson's Lotus. Indeed, Hunt was trying all he could to get past at the expense of his tyres, and as the race entered its final throes the Brit had burned through his tyres, leaving Hulme with an easy pass. The Kiwi was now right on the back of Peterson, who was slowly closing in on the back of Revson, while Hunt continued to push his over stressed tyres to try and hang on to the back of lead fight.
With three laps to go there were four seconds covering the top four, who were all closing in on a private duel at the bottom of the field between Howden Ganley and Jacky Ickx, which had been raging on for most of the race. Fortunately for Revson, Ganley instantly baulked and let the leaders through, while Ickx's pace suddenly quickened and managed to pull away. With that the lead quartet were left with a clear run to the flag, although with Hulme attacking Peterson Revson was able to pull ever so slightly further up the road.
When the chequered flag finally waved it was Revson who duly swept across the line for victory, a three second advantage having opened out on the final lap. The reason for this had been his teammate Hulme, whose last minute lunge at Peterson through Woodcote cost both a second or so, with the Swede hanging onto the second podium spot by just a few inches as the pair flashed across the line. Right behind them came a jubilant Hunt, who had become an instant fan favourite after a battling display, while Cevert was a further thirty seconds back. Reutemann was a lonely sixth ahead of Regazzoni, Ickx finished on the lead lap after escaping Ganley, while Stewart completed the top ten at the expense of Mike Beuttler.
The full results for the 1973 British Grand Prix are outlined below:
- Last World Championship race to be held on the original Silverstone layout.
- John Watson, Roger Williamson and Jochen Mass made their Grand Prix debuts.
- First (and only) start by Graham McRae.
- McRae's addition to the field meant there were a record four New Zealanders on the grid.
- Final race start for Andrea de Adamich.
- Ronnie Peterson claimed his fifth pole position.
- First victory for Peter Revson.
- McLaren claimed their seventh victory as a constructor.
- Also engine partner Ford Cosworth's 60th win.
- Tenth career podium for Peterson.
- Maiden fastest lap recorded by James Hunt.
With the two title pretenders failing to score there was no change at the top of the table, with Jackie Stewart maintaining his one point advantage over Emerson Fittipaldi. Behind them was François Cevert, who closed to within nine points of the two leaders, effectively becoming a dark horse for the title, with Ronnie Peterson also gaining ground. Victory for Peter Revson allowed him to re-close the gap to teammate Denny Hulme, while James Hunt was on the fringes of the top ten after his second point score.
It was still an all Lotus-Ford Cosworth/Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth affair at the top of the International Cup for Manufacturers, with the Norfolk squad opening out a five point gap over their Ockham based rivals. McLaren-Ford Cosworth closed the gap after Revson's victory, further establishing themselves in third, while Brabham-Ford Cosworth moved past Ferrari on countback. Shadow-Ford Cosworth and BRM remained level on five, while March-Ford Cosworth pulled clear of Tecno with Hunt's point finish.
Images and Videos:
- Enrico Brunoni, 'Andrea de Adamich Brabham, British GP 1973', pinterest.com, (Pinterest, 2017), https://www.pinterest.com/pin/490399846908728910/, (Accessed 05/03/2017)
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: BRITISH GP, 1973', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr229.html, (Accessed 05/03/2017)
- ↑ 2.000 2.001 2.002 2.003 2.004 2.005 2.006 2.007 2.008 2.009 2.010 2.011 2.012 2.013 2.014 2.015 2.016 2.017 2.018 2.019 2.020 2.021 2.022 2.023 2.024 2.025 2.026 2.027 2.028 2.029 2.030 2.031 2.032 2.033 2.034 2.035 2.036 2.037 2.038 2.039 2.040 2.041 2.042 2.043 2.044 2.045 2.046 2.047 2.048 2.049 2.050 2.051 2.052 2.053 2.054 2.055 2.056 2.057 2.058 2.059 2.060 2.061 2.062 2.063 2.064 2.065 2.066 2.067 2.068 2.069 2.070 2.071 2.072 2.073 2.074 2.075 2.076 2.077 2.078 2.079 2.080 2.081 2.082 2.083 2.084 2.085 2.086 2.087 2.088 2.089 2.090 2.091 2.092 2.093 2.094 2.095 2.096 2.097 2.098 2.099 2.100 2.101 D.S.J., 'R.A.C. British Grand Prix: A Momentous Occasion', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/08/1973), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/august-1973/25/rac-british-grand-prix-momentous-occasion, (Accessed 05/03/2017)
- ↑ 'Britain 1973: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/grande-bretagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 05/03/2017)
- ↑ 'Britain 1973: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/grande-bretagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 05/03/2017)
- ↑ 'Britain 1973: Results', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/grande-bretagne/classement.aspx, (Accessed 05/03/2017)
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