1973 British Grand Prix race report - A momentous occasion
There may be a lot of things wrong with the Silverstone airfield circuit, but one thing is definite, it is not a "Mickey-Mouse" circuit.
Flat it may be, wide it may be, and fast it most certainly is, but at the lap speeds of today, it produces almost knife-edge situations and calls for a finesse in driving and a skill to go with bravery that sorts out the top Grand Prix drivers. If you are going to lap at close on 140mph then there is no place for untidy driving, raggedness or poor judgement, which is why there is a span of more than four seconds between the fastest and the slowest in a Formula 1 field at Silverstone. With the performance of today's 450 horsepower, lightweight cars, with their phenomenal cornering powers produced by modern tyres and aerodynamic downthrust and today's outstanding braking capabilities, the Silverstone circuit has become almost a Speed-Bowl rather than a road-racing circuit, yet the shape of the circuit has remained unchanged since 1949.
Ronnie Peterson leads away at Silverstone from Denny Hulme and Peter Revson. Photo: Motorsport Images
With Great Britain being the home of most of the teams involved in Grand Prix racing today, as well as many of the drivers and the people putting money into the racing, it was no surprise to find one of the largest entries ever seen, arriving for practice. There were no fears about having to qualify for a starting grid place, for they could all be accommodated on the wide 4.71-kilometre circuit, so their only problem was exactly where they would be on the grid. Official practice took place on Thursday from 11:45 am to 2:15 pm and again on Friday from 1:30 pm to 4 pm, a total of five hours practice for a race that was going to last for less than 1-1/2 hours, being run over 67 laps. In case this was not enough there was an unofficial practice day on the previous Tuesday, and if this still was not enough there was a further 30 minutes available on the morning of the race, which was Saturday, July 14th.
As the John Player cigarette firm were backing the meeting and doing all the high-pressure publicity to bring the required crowds to buy the very expensive tickets to pay for the enormous field of Grand Prix cars, to say nothing of the Formula Atlantic cars, the Formula 3 cars, the Saloon cars and the Historic cars, the John Player backed Lotus team were out to win. They were more determined than before if that was possible, and Fittipaldi and Peterson had their two cars each in the same condition as used at the Grand Prix of France, with the rear aerofoils mounted well back, the Brazilian having R5 and R7 and the Swede R6 and R8. In order to avoid the confusion that nearly all other organisations suffer from when a driver has two cars at his disposal, the first cars were given the normal racing number, and the spare car an entirely different number. In Fittipaldi's case, R5 was race number 1 and R7 was number 40 and Peterson's pair were 2 and 41, respectively. This sensible system avoided the use of 1T or 2T which invariably confuses the timekeepers.
The poor old muddled Ferrari team arrived with two cars for Ickx and no sign of Merzario, even though he was entered. The Belgian was using 010 as his number one car and had 012 as a spare. Tyrrell's smart blue cars were his usual trio, the spare car having the chisel-nose and side water radiators, but there was no question of having any drivers other than Stewart or Cevert in the car. On the other hand, the McLaren team had all three of their M23 models entered and ready to race, with Hulme as usual in M23/1, Revson in M23/2 and Scheckter in M23/3.
Ecclestone's Brabham team surprised everyone when they unloaded four BT42 cars, 42/2 for Wilson Fittipaldi, 42/3 for Reutemann, 42/4 for de Adamich and a brand new one, 42/5, as a spare for Reutemann, it being finished off in the paddock. In addition, the modified 1972 car, BT37/2, previously raced by de Adamich, was now being driven by John Watson, backed by Hexagon of Highgate, the used-car dealers, and it was painted chocolate brown, though some people called it another sort of brown.
The UOP-Shadow team were unchanged from previous races, with Follmer and Oliver driving, and Graham Hill with his Embassy-cigarette backed Shadow was there to support and oppose the works team. BRM produced a brand new P160, number 9 in the series, for Regazzoni, while Lauda and Beltoise had their usual cars. John Surtees entered his full set of TS 14A cars, with Hailwood in 04, Pace in 03 with the vented side sponsons, and the German saloon-car driver Jochen Mass in the oldest car, number 01, and not being involved in any complicated sponsorship programme it was painted white. Frank Williams had both of his Marlboro and Iso Rivolta backed cars in side-radiator form, and co-opted the New Zealand Formula 5000 driver Graham McRae into the team to join Ganley. There were four March cars entered, the works car, the Stockbroker car, Lord Hesketh's car and David Purley's car, and since they were built as new cars for 1973, from the basics of the 1972 cars, some new chassis recognition plates have been made and riveted onto the monocoques. The works car is 721G/4 or 731/4, the Stockbroker car 721G/2, the Hesketh car 731/3 and Purley 731/2, which give slight variations on the original designations and definitions.
Jackie Stewart and Jody Scheckter make time for a quick chat ahead of the race. Photo: Motorsport Images
There were two important moves within the March camp, one being that Jean-Pierre Jarier was no longer in the works car, due to the ending of various complicated deals, and Roger Williamson took his place, due to the commencement of even more complicated deals. Beuttler was fully recovered from his Formula 2 accident and was back in the yellow Stockbroker car, Hunt was driving for Lord Hesketh in the car modified by Harvey Postlethwaite and Purley had his car back after its brief loan to Wisell for the Swedish Grand Prix. The smooth green Ensign was having another stab at this Formula 1 business, driven by von Opel and last, and unfortunately least, was the trouble-torn Martini Racing Tecno team with Amon as driver. They had their original 1973 car, designed by Alan McCall, before he disappeared and left them high and dry, and the brand new car designed by Gordon Fowell and his Gorted Design firm. The new car was very smooth, but angular looking, monocoque with orthodox suspension and the flat-12 Pederzani engine and Hewland gearbox cantilevered out the back of the cockpit structure. The water radiator lay very flat at the front with air for it being taken in through a duct under the wedge-shaped nose cowling.
With 35 cars in the paddock there was much to see and in the tiny Silverstone pit lane, there was as much confusion as there is at Brands Hatch, even though all 35 were never out at the same time. Fortunately Lotus were able to overflow into the area beyond the pits, Ferrari did not use their spare car, Brabham's spent most of the time finishing off their latest car and Tyrrell put one of his away when he brought out his spare, but even so the tail end of the entry overflowed into the Trade drinking pits.
The GKN-Daily Express meeting back in April gave a good indication of what to expect as far as the top drivers and cars were concerned. The two Lotus drivers and Stewart could be guaranteed to go quickly, even though the Tyrrell does not seem to handle too well on the flat airfield circuit, while the McLaren's were sure to be deceptively fast, being very stable and giving their drivers a comfortable and confident ride, Hulme being belligerently fast providing conditions were good, and Revson's smooth driving and USAC high-speed experience paying dividends on corners like Stowe or Woodcote compared to the harbour front at Monte Carlo, for example.
Cevert always seems to get left behind on corners calling for bravery and finesse, and none of the other teams ever seem to look like providing a natural winner or a serious challenger. However, there were a number of interesting asides and these were to see how Scheckter would perform after his meteoric drive at Paul Ricard, how Williamson would get on in his first drive in a Formula 1 car, how Mass would fare in the Surtees, how McRae would go in the Williams car, whether Ickx would get anywhere with the Ferrari, and how the new Tecno would perform.
Just as everyone was getting ready for the first practice a summer shower of rain fell lightly on the scene and while everyone went into a flap it stopped and dried up almost instantly. As the skies were still overcast and the overall weather forecast for the next three days was uncertain, one driver in particular was determined to get in a quick lap before rain slowed everyone up. This was Stewart, and as soon as the circuit was open for practice he was away like a jack-rabbit. The weather stayed dry, though threatening, and for two-and-a-half hours everyone went round and round, some going faster and faster, some going slower and slower, and some coming to a grinding halt. One of these was Regazzoni, who did a mere 16 laps with his brand new BRM and brand new engine before all the bearing metal ended up in the oil tank.
Ronnie Peterson is challenged by the McLaren's of Denny Hulme and Peter Revson at Silverstone. Photo: Motorsport Images
Others stopped and were able to get going again, thanks to some speedy work by their mechanics, like Scheckter, whose Cosworth engine in his McLaren sprung a leak in its high-pressure mechanical petrol pump. Replacing it meant removing the exhaust system and water plumbing from the left side of the engine, so the South African lost quite a lot of practice time. Williamson went grass cutting out of Abbey curve after trying to take the bend without lifting off and made a mess of the nose cowling, and Peterson had a lot of oil leaking out of the gearbox on his spare car which he was using until his first choice was ready.
Hunt spent a long time in the pits while his gearbox was made to work, an incorrect spacer allowing the gear cluster to float about, and when he did get going he not only went very fast. but put himself up with the fast Goodyear-shod runners, even though he was on Firestone tyres, which BRM and Team Surtees have been telling everyone are no good. While he was busy winding himself up to even greater things the front suspension of the March collapsed at Becketts Corner and with the left wheel turning itself on full left lock, and Hunt turning the right one onto full right lock to counteract it, the car slid straight on and stopped on the grass, luckily without any serious damage.
With little fuss and a lot of determination, Hulme made fastest lap, the McLaren handling so nicely that it never looked very fast and he was a whole second faster than his team-mates. As expected Peterson, Fittipaldi and Stewart were hard on Hulme's heels, the primitive RAC timekeeping unable to decide the differences closer than one-tenth of a second. Peterson never did go out in his number one car, while Fittipaldi never went out in his practice car. Cevert tried the spare Tyrrell briefly, but Amon was stuck with the earlier Tecno as the new one had something wrong with its engine and kept blowing all its oil into its catch-tank instead of returning it to the oil tank even when warming up in the paddock. Mass was getting the feel of the Surtees so well that he was as fast as Pace, and they were both fractionally faster than Hailwood, and de Adamich was taking time to get used to the more forward driving position of the BT42 and the different feel, compared to the old BT37. Watson was making the best of what he had got in the way of a Cosworth engine in the brown Brabham, but McRae could not get much joy with the Williams car and was wishing he had his Formula 5000 car to drive.
Ickx and the Ferrari were an embarrassment to all the Ferrari enthusiasts, though the noise was some consolation, but he seemed unwilling to hurl the car into the corners with the sort of carefree abandon that the McLaren and Lotus lads were displaying, yet it was arriving into the braking areas as fast as any of the cars. By the time this first practice session finished Stewart had completed 66 laps, Hulme 60 laps, Fittipaldi and Ganley 59 laps, Peterson 51 laps, and Wilson Fittipaldi 50 laps. Saturday's race was to be over a mere 67 laps, and there was another 2-1/2 hour practice session yet to run. One could not help feeling that either there was an awful lot to learn, or they were slow at learning!
On Friday it all started up again, with the same people being fast, the same ones being courageous, the same ones being slow and many of the same troubles appearing, as well as some new ones. Regazzoni had another engine in his BRM and was going well. Lauda was still driving hard and bravely. Peterson got his hands on his proper car and Fittipaldi tried his spare one briefly. Poor Amon did one lap in the new Tecno before the catchtank was full of oil and then returned to the old Tecno, and Stewart had a brief go in the chisel-nose Tyrrell. He did this while 006 was being repaired, for he had taken to the grass in a big way at the exit of Woodcote Corner on one lap and damaged the nose-cowling and the left-front suspension. A new nose cowling was fitted and a new lower wishbone member and he was away again. Williamson was also on the grass at Woodcote, but at least he was in good company, but Purley went off at Becketts and bent his March too badly to continue or even repair it in time for the race.
The McLaren team were very happy for Revson equalled HuIme's time of yesterday and Scheckter was less than half a second behind them, so the Yardley firm who back the McLaren team with money were even happier. Colin Chapman was not at all happy that his ace drivers were not up at the front but as practice drew to a close Peterson rose to the occasion and in a display of driving that gladdened the hearts of Silverstone "old timers" who thought the spectacle disappeared with Fangio and Gonzalez, he snatched pole position away from the McLaren team with a lap in 1 min 16.3 sec compared to their 1 min 16.5 sec. The first time the Lotus went through Woodcote Corner at 145-150mph in an opposite-lock slide on full power, everyone said "Good Lord!", the next time they said "Cor" and when he did it on every lap even the most anti-modern-racing enthusiast said "Good Grief! it's fantastic" and it was, because if he was driving like that on Woodcote Corner he was obviously doing the same thing on Copse, Stowe, Club and Abbey. The pale-faced Peterson was fully wound up and it was terrific to see it happening. While the Lotus enthusiasts were bubbling over with joy, the Ferrari fans were hiding their heads in shame for Ickx with the 312B3 flat-12 was only as fast as the newcomers von Opel and the Ensign, and no Ferrari can possibly be that bad. It was obvious that McRae should have stuck to Formula 5000 for he was not as fast as his team-mate Ganley, but the works Shadow drivers were overjoyed for they were a full three-tenths of a second faster than Graham Hill. There was some slight consolation for Amon when he saw the newest Brabham BT42 set off from the pits with Reutemann and not reappear, dying out on the circuit.
"To all those who saw the cause of the accident, it was obvious that Sheckter had "over-cooked" it and had a classical Woodcote corner high-speed spin in just the same way that Mike Hawthorne had done in 1953."
When it was all over and the timekeepers had sorted it all out into some semblance of order and a starting grid, everything was in its right perspective. The front row was Peterson, Hulme, Revson, the second row Stewart and Fittipaldi, the third row Scheckter, Cevert and Reutemann and then the miscellaneous lot that make up the field but seldom look like winning, and there were 28 all told, for Purley's March was beyond immediate repair.
On Friday, there had been the sort of public attendance that would have gladdened the hearts of most race organisers, but on Saturday there was an enormous crowd, proving that motor racing needs to be in the centre of a country, attainable from North, South, East and West, not tucked away in an inaccessible corner. The gates opened at 6:30 am and from that moment on there was a continuous scene of activity, both racing and non-racing so that anyone who participated in it all must have been completely worn out by 2 pm when the British Grand Prix was due to start.
For those whose only concern was the Grand Prix, the real activity began to occur about 1:30 pm when the cars and drivers began to gather for the entrance into the pits, with the lucky chief mechanics having the honour of driving the cars from the paddock round to the pits. The drivers then drove round the circuit to the starting grid, where everyone was marshalled into their grid position, and then a fine parade was carried out in front of the main grandstand. Row by row, the cars were wheeled along the track by the mechanics while the drivers and the team-managers or team owners walked alongside and the commentator "presented" the contestants to the "Tribune d'Honneur".
It was as good as a bull-fight and gave you the feeling of participating in the great manifestation that was about to begin. The drivers then donned their helmets and gloves, were strapped in their cars by their mechanics and set off on a serious warm-up lap in grid formation, led by Peterson. It was a splendid sight as the 28 cars in rows of three-two-three appeared under the bridge before Woodcote Corner in an orderly array, just like an Indianapolis rolling start. They paused on the dummy-grid and then moved forward to the starting grid, the Union Flag went up, was lowered and amidst smoke and rubber dust the British Grand Prix was underway with at least five drivers determined to win, another half dozen out to profit from any weakness amongst the five, many more hoping to keep up the pace, and the rest just hoping. Two drivers gave up hope almost before the flag had reached the ground, one being Lauda whose BRM broke a drive-shaft as he let the clutch in and the other was Oliver who charged through the smoke from the back of the grid and hit the back of the stationary BRM. The Shadow limped away along the pit straight with its front end damaged, while Lauda's mechanics hustled the BRM across the track and into the pits.
A crash at the start collects multiple drivers including Jody Scheckter, Peter Revson and Carlos Pace. Photo: Motorsport Images
Peterson had got away first, but at Becketts corner, Stewart nipped by into the lead and by the end of the opening lap he had pulled out a phenomenal lead. Peterson was next into view, then Reutemann, then Scheckter followed by Hulme, Cevert, Hunt and Revson. As they streamed through Woodcote corner, nose to tail, it was the tail of Scheckter's McLaren that began to slide out and he was too late in applying correction. In a graceful pirouette, the McLaren spun right across the track and it hit the retaining wall of the pits and bounced back into the middle of the track. While it was in this long-drawn-out classical spin Hulme, Cevert, Hunt, Revson and Regazzoni went by, but as it ricocheted back from the pit wall the McLaren of Revson struck the tail and then all hell broke loose as the rest of the field crashed into the wrecks or dodged about to miss the wreckage. The race organisation acted instantly and the officials appeared with the chequered flag and red flags, indicating without argument or discussion that the race was stopped and would be re-started at a later time.
Meanwhile, those ahead of the accident were still racing, until they ended the lap when they all came to a rapid stop at the scene of the crash. When the dust had settled it was seen that nine cars were involved in the pile-up, the Brabham of de Adamich had crashed headlong into the barriers on the outside of the track and he was trapped in the cockpit with a broken ankle. Apart from minor bruises and shakings, no-one else was hurt, but the Surtees cars of Mass, Pace and Hailwood were smashed, the Shadow of Follmer was ripped open, the BRM of Beltoise was wrecked, the March of Williamson was wrecked, as was the McLaren of Scheckter. The Shadow of Hill had been struck in the rear and a wishbone broken, but it was limping round to the pits under its own power. It took some 40 minutes to release de Adamich from the wreckage of the Brabham and even longer to clear away the wrecks and the debris. In the meantime, those cars that escaped were wheeled back to the starting grid and Hill's car was repaired in the pits, and Lauda's BRM that had been in the pits all the time had a new drive-shaft fitted.
To all those who saw the cause of the accident, it was obvious that Sheckter had "over-cooked" it and had a classical Woodcote corner high-speed spin in just the same way that Mike Hawthorne had done in 1953 with his Ferrari and many years later Christobel Carlisle had done with a BMC Sprite when she killed one of the scrutineers. It was a simple matter of "too fast without the reflexes and skill to catch the rear-end breakaway". There were those who said the left-front tyre had burst and others who said the right-front tyre burst, but a pause for thought would have put them right. Agreed the left front tyre was developing most of the cornering power to absorb the cornering force, and could quite reasonably have collapsed under the strain, but had it done so it would have reduced the cornering power of the front end of the car almost to zero and nothing on earth would have made the tail of the car slide out and overtake the front end. The car would have slid more or less straight off the corner at a tangent. For those who suggested that the right front tyre burst there are two answers, one that it was lightly loaded and would not have upset the balance so dramatically and the other was the photograph in the Daily express of the McLaren on the rebound after striking the pit wall and quite clearly the right front tyre is sound in wind and limb, even though the accompanying text said it was punctured. John Surtees summed the whole thing up when he said: "a certain driver thought he was going to win the race on that opening lap". Bravado and enthusiasm may be all right around the stop-and-go corners at low speed at Paul Ricard but on the 140-150 mph knife-edge of Woodcote corner, a certain amount of finesse and fine judgement is needed, especially on new and un-warmed sticky tyres.
Emerson Fittipaldi in his black and gold JPS Lotus R5. Photo: Motorsport Images
It was 3:30 pm before the track was cleaned up and there were nineteen out of the original twenty-eight cars available for the restart, Lauda's BRM and Hill's Shadow having been repaired during the lull. The unfortunate de Adamich had been taken to hospital with a broken ankle and everyone was marvelling that there had not been more personal injury and designers were feeling justifiably pleased with the crash-resistant properties of their monocoque structures as far as the drivers were concerned. John Surtees was nearly in tears at the sight of his entire team wrecked almost beyond repair but was thankful that Hailwood, Pace and Mass were unhurt. The Shadow team were taking a resigned attitude, having become used to the sight of their cars being wrecked during their short time in Formula 1, and others were making some pretty caustic remarks to the McLaren team about their hot-headed young South African charger, but secretly wishing they had a driver with as much fire in their own team.
The onlookers in the start area were beginning to realise exactly what the Indianapolis 500 Mile race is like, and at 3:35 pm the depleted field moved up on to the starting grid. Everyone took up their original positions, leaving gaps for those who had been eliminated. Purley was missing anyway, Oliver had eliminated himself on his won, but Scheckter, Hailwood, Pace, Mass, Beltoise, de Adamich, Williamson and Follmer were missing as a result of the pile-up.
On the second Grand Prix start of the day there wasn't quite the same tension and excitement, even though all the principal contenders were still there, and while Peterson led away Lauda shot through from the fourth row, using the vacant grid position in front of him to advantage and was into second place behind the Lotus, followed by Stewart, Fittipaldi, Hulme, Revson, Cevert, Regazzoni, Hunt, Ganley, Reutemann and the rest, except for McRae whose throttle slides became jammed with dust from the cars in front and the Williams expired on the opening lap. Nose to tail they charged round on the opening laps, Ickx getting ahead of Ganley and Stewart passing Lauda on the second lap. It was clear that the young BRM driver was not going to keep up this pace, and while Stewart closed up on Peterson the rest were lined up behind the BRM. On lap seven, Stewart was attempting to pass Paterson and made his bid at Stowe, but it didn't come off for he muffed his gear-change, struck the rubber markers on the inside of the corner and went spinning off onto the infield.
This left Peterson on his own, Fittipaldi had got past Lauda, so Team Lotus were first and second in their sponsor's Grand Prix and everyone was happy. Not so the rest of the challengers for Revson and Hulme were soon past Lauda, while Hunt had passed Cevert, taking sixth place. Stewart's spin had dropped him to thirteenth place, but he was going again and about to start another handicap race like he had done at the GKN meeting earlier in the year and recently in the French Grand Prix. Peterson was well out on his own, followed by Fittipaldi who was in a nice position to apply some "team driving" and prevent Revson and Hulme getting at the Swede, while behind them Hunt was preparing to take fifth place from Lauda, and Cevert was tailing along at the end of the leading bunch.
Ronnie Peterson leads in his Lotus with Jackie Stewart behind him in the Tyrrell. Photo: Motorsport Images
Reutemann was leading the next group which consisted of Regazzoni, Ickx, Gantley and Fittipaldi, W., and then Stewart was seen heading for the pits, with the nose of the Tyrrell coming adrift. It was refixed and the earth and grass removed from the radiator and he was back in the race, but now a lap behind the leader. He joined in again just behind Hunt, but a lap down, and was circulating at the pace of the leaders, but no more. Of the rest of the runners the dismal Tecno effort expired on lap 6, Graham Hill had a pit stop to change a tire on his Shadow and Watson was in trouble with the Hexagon Brabham with sticking throttles, so this left Beuttler and von Opel bringing up the rear. Lauda was being steadily elbowed back down the field, first Hunt passing him, then Cevert, then Reutemann and then the BRM found its proper level in company with its fellow driven by Regazzoni.
Up at the front of the race, Stewart had passed Hunt, then he passed Hulme and was between the two McLarens, but Revson was putting the pressure on Fittipaldi and they were closing up on Peterson. Hulme had dropped back but could not relax for Hunt was right behind him, going splendidly and refuting all the stories about what was wrong with March cars and Firestone tyres, and the Hesketh team were enjoying the whole thing. At 25 laps the situation was unchanged, except that Lauda had stopped to have a tyre changed and Graham Hill had disappeared from the back of the field, but Peterson's lead was not so secure for his team-mate was getting closer due to the pressure that Revson was keeping on the second Lotus. By 30 laps they were right up with the Swede, and as Stewart was not making much progress as regards regaining the lap he had lost he eased his pace only to find Hulme up close behind him because Hunt was on his tail.
So we had the interesting situation of a Lotus out in front, closely followed by another Lotus with a McLaren breathing down its neck, followed by the second McLaren being lent on by a March, with a Tyrrel unintentionally in the middle of it all, the second Tyrrell having been left behind on the high-speed corners. In modern motor racing jargon the situation was that a John Player was leading, but the second John Player was being pressured by a Yardley, while the second Yardley was being hard-pressed by Lord Hesketh's chauffeur, and there was an ELF mixed up in it all through no fault of its own, while the second ELF was doing nothing to help.
Realising he was getting nowhere, Stewart got out of the way of the Hulme/Hunt battle and let them go by and they began to close up on the leaders. Peterson had a bare two seconds lead at 34 laps and Revson was looking for a way by Fittipaldi. Then there came a light shower of rain; not enough to cause a panic, but sufficient for everyone to exercise a certain amount of discretion, but just as this happened, on lap 37, Fittipaldi pulled off to one side of the track with the drive to the Lotus rear wheels gone, and Revson had a clear view of the leading Lotus. Not being a wet weather enthusiast Hulme eased right off, and Hunt, who doesn't care whether it's wet or dry, shot past into third place. Revson's smooth and relaxed high-speed driving (high-speed for Grand Prix racing, but slow compared to Indianapolis or Pocono) was now paying off and on lap 39 he went by Peterson into the lead, and Hunt was now pressing hard on the tail of the Lotus, while Hulme had dropped a long way back. Down at the back of the field Cevert was just circulating, Reutemann and Regazzoni were racing with no one in particular, but Ickx, Ganley and Fittipaldi, W., were having a splendid scarp together with no real result in view, and then came Stewart, followed by Beuttler, with von Opel, Watson and Lauda still going round.
Peter Revson stands on the top step flanked by teammate Denny Hulme and Lotus' Ronnie Peterson. Photo: Motorsport Images
Luckily the rain shower did not develop or wet the track badly, and serious racing was soon resumed, the order now being Revson, Peterson and Hunt one behind the other, a small gap and Hulme, a much longer gap and Cevert, another gap to Reutemann and Regazzoni and a further gap to Ickx, Ganley and Wilson Fittipaldi, who were still racing each other. Stewart and Beuttler were a lap behind.
As Wilson Fittipaldi came into Woodcote to end lap 44 there was a cloud of smoke from the back of the Brabham and he laid a stream of oil round the corner as he coasted to a stop beyond the pits. When the leaders came round next time the oil flags were waving furiously and they all picked their way gingerly across the slippery surface, and for two or three laps they had to be extra careful. It was noticeable that Revson was much faster and more stable than anyone across the skating rink and this let him pull out quite a lead over Peterson. By the time everyone had soaked up some of the oil on their tyres and disposed of it round the circuit, Revson had pulled out a five-second lead by lap 50, but Peterson still had the irrepressible Hunt pressing him hard. As the surface dried up Hulme got back into his stride and zoomed up behind the Lotus and March, and on lap 56 he went by Hunt into third place and began attacking Peterson, spurred on by the knowledge that Revson was still out in front. Hunt was now in trouble with a large blister appearing on his left front tyre, but undeterred he hung onto Hulme's tail, as he and Peterson chased after the elusive American driver. At the back of the field, Ickx and Ganley were still battling away and it could be seen that the leaders were going to lap them before the end of the 67 laps. Sure enough, on lap 63 they were behind Ganley and on the next lap were by as he moved out of the way so that their progress was not impeded. There was no way Peterson was going to let Hulme by into second place, and while Revson came home to a well-deserved and popular victory, Peterson led Hulme across the line by mere inches, with Hunt right behind them, and a truly momentous British Grand Prix was over.– D.S.J.
RAC British Grand Prix – Formula One – 67 laps – Silverstone – 4.71 km/lap – 315.57 km – Dull & Overcast
1st: P. Revson (McLaren M23/2) ..... 1 hr 29 min. 18.5 sec – 212.03 kph
2nd: R. Peterson (Lotus 72/R6) ..... 1 hr 29 min. 21.3 sec
3rd: D. Hulme (McLaren M23/1) ..... 1 hr 29 min. 21.5 sec
4th: J. Hunt (March 731/3) ..... 1 hr 29 min. 21.9 sec
5th: F. Cevert (Tyrrell 006) ..... 1 hr. 29 min. 55.1 sec
6th: C. Reutemann (Brabham BT42/3) ..... 1 hr. 30 mins. 03.2 sec
7th: G. Regazzoni (BRM P160/09) ..... 1 hr. 30 min. 30.2 sec
8th: J. Ickx (Ferrari 312B3/010) ..... 1 hr. 30 min. 35.9 sec
9th: H. Ganley (Williams IR/02) ..... 1 lap behind
10th: J. Stewart (Tyrrell 006/2) ..... 1 lap behind
11th: M. Beuttler (March 721G/2) ..... 2 laps behind
12th: N. Lauda (BRM P160/08) ..... 4 laps behind
13th: R. von Opel (Ensign MN01) ..... 6 laps behind
Fastest lap: J. Hunt (March 731/3) on lap 63, in 1 min. 18.6 sec. – 215.75 k.p.h. (134.06 m.p.h.) Retirements in first part of race: J. Oliver (Shadow DN1/4A), accident on start line; J. Scheckter (McLaren M23/3), accident at end of lap 1; J. Mass (Surtees TS14A/05), A. de Adamich (Brabham BT42/4), J-P. Beltoise (BRM P160/01), R. Williamson (March 721G/4), M. Hailwood (Surtees TS14A/04), C. Pace (Surtees TS14A/03), G. Follmer (Shadow DN1/5A), all eliminated in multiple accident caused by Sheckter's accident.
Retirements in second part of race: G. McRae (Williams IR/01) on lap 1, jammed throttle slides; C. Amon (Tecno PA123/6) on lap 7, fuel pressure; G. Hill (Shadow DN1/3A) on lap 25, steering failure; J. Watson (Brabham BT37/2) on lap 37, accelerator control failure; E. Fittipaldi (Lotus 72/R5) on lap 37, transmission; W. Fittipaldi (Brabham BT42/2) on lap45, oil leak.
28 starters – 13 finishers