Francois Cevert

Full Name:
Albert Francois Cevert
Born:
25th February 1944
Paris, Ile-de-France
Died:
6th October 1973 (Aged 29)
Watkins Glen, New York (USA), United States GP practice
Nationality:
French
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

One-time Grand Prix winner François Cevert is among the most charismatic drivers of the 1970s. His death robbed Ken Tyrrell of the natural successor to Jackie Stewart and deprived the sport of a true star.

Upbringing and early career

His father was a Russian Jew who emigrated to escape persecution and then adopted his French wife’s surname to avoid a repeat in Nazi-occupied Paris. François Cevert was born there during World War II and became interested in motor racing when his older sister Jacqueline started dating her future husband – Jean-Pierre Beltoise.

Having finished his national service, Cevert won the 1966 Volant Shell scholarship and started his own racing career. French Formula 3 Champion two years later and fourth in the Monaco F3 race with a Tecno-Ford – he obviously had talent to go with his good looks.

His Grand Prix debut followed at the Nürburgring in 1969 when driving a works Tecno-Cosworth in the Formula 2 class – his progress in the junior categories had been rapid.

Formula 1 with Tyrrell

Cevert attracted Stewart’s attention by refusing to yield during a battle for the lead of the 1970 F2 race at Crystal Palace. When Johnny Servoz-Gavin suddenly quit Formula 1 that season, Stewart recommended Cevert to Ken Tyrrell. The Frenchman made his debut in the team’s second March 701-Ford in the Dutch GP and finished sixth at Monza. His relationship with Stewart became one of the strongest in F1 history with Cevert keen to learn from the master.

In 1971, Cevert delivered real success with the new Tyrrell-Ford. He twice finished second to Stewart and ended the season by scoring his breakthrough victory in the United States GP. Cevert took the lead on the 14th lap after Stewart had destroyed his tyres and he then held off Jacky Ickx’s spirited challenge to become only the second Frenchman to win a world championship GP.

Third in the 1971 points, he could only record three top-six finishes the following season but he was second at Le Mans with Howden Ganley in a Matra-Simca MS670.

The 1973 season would be Jackie Stewart’s last in F1 and Cevert dutifully supported his team-mate’s third championship victory with another six second place finishes. It was obvious he was ready to lead the team and he was the quicker driver on occasion. Although not announced until after the season, Stewart decided to retire while at the top with his successor as Tyrrell team leader already in place.

The final race of the season was at Watkins Glen once more but Cevert lost control at the Esses during practice and was killed on impact. With undoubted star quality, Francois Cevert’s sole victory does no justice to his talent, promise or the affection with which he is still remembered.

Championship seasons