At age 25, Emerson Fittipaldi became the youngest World Champion to date just two years after making his Grand Prix debut. The Brazilian and the three-year-old but ever more competitive Lotus 72 dominated the European races and he secured the title with two events to go. Lotus sponsors Players cigarettes switched marketing to their John Player Special brand, and the classic black and gold livery appeared for the first time.
Reigning champion Jackie Stewart was Fittipaldi’s closest challenger, despite missing the Belgian GP due to a stomach ulcer. Equipped with a new Tyrrell, Stewart soon returned to form, winning the final two GPs of the season.
Jean-Pierre Beltoise scored the only win of his F1 career – his BRM dominating at Monaco in one of the wettest races on record. This proved to be the last victory for the once-great BRM marque. Jacky Ickx’s win at the Nurburgring was the highlight of a disappointing year for Ferrari, while Ronnie Peterson and Niki Lauda had disastrous seasons in the difficult March 721X. A more conventional car (the 721G) was introduced at the French GP but Peterson’s third-place in Germany was the team’s only podium finish.
Bernie Ecclestone, a successful businessman who had occasionally entered ex-works Connaughts in 1958, bought the Brabham team from Ron Tauranac. Carlos Reutemann qualified on pole position for his home Argentine GP on his debut for the team and he confirmed his promise by then winning the non-championship Brazilian race.
Denny Hulme scored McLaren’s only win of the year at Kyalami and Jody Scheckter made an impressive start in the formula with the team at the final round. The South African qualified fourth and ran third before spinning. Chris Amon showed promise in the new V12 Matra but, as ever, he scored no victories. He qualified on pole and led convincingly in France before a puncture thwarted his hopes.
Rival tyre companies Firestone and Goodyear introduced qualifying tyres in their fight for pole position. These were made of a super-soft compound of rubber, which gave improved performance, but they only lasted for a few laps and increased costs.