1971 South African Grand Prix
- Saturday, March 6, 1971
- South African Grand Prix
- F1 World Championship
Kyalami, South Africa, March 6th
Mario Andretti, the three times American USAC Champion, has long been considered by the Grand Prix circus as a potential winner of World Championship races and this has been the little Italian-born driver’s big ambition. However, occasional races with Lotus in 1969 always ended in retirement, usually when high placed, while last year’s effort with an STP March was almost completely abortive, apart from a third place in the Spanish GP. During this time Andretti had also driven occasionally for Ferrari in long-distance sports-car races, and when it was announced that he had further extended the deal in 1971 to take in Formula One races with Ferrari as a third member of the team, which already included Ickx and Regazzoni, everyone was very interested to see how he would get on.
The answer was provided conclusively at the opening round of 1971 World Championship at Kyalami when Andretti took his 1970-type flat-12 Ferrari to victory with team mates Regazzoni third and Ickx eighth (after he had been slowed by a puncture). To start three Grand Prix cars in a race and have them all finish on full song is quite an achievement these days. But despite predictions to the contrary it was not all easy sailing for the Maranello team. The Cosworth-engined cars offered quite a challenge but, surprisingly, it was not the Tyrrell of Stewart, complete with the latest “11” series engine, but the new Formula One cars from McLaren and Surtees stables with Denny Hulme and John Surtees driving them. Both were put out of the running by annoying little failures rather than major mechanical disasters, Hulme when he was conclusively in the lead with only four laps to the flag.