1973 United States Grand Prix


1973 United States Grand Prix

Infobox Grand Prix race report
Type = F1
Country = United States
Grand Prix = United States
Official name = XVI United States Grand Prix
Date = October 7
Year = 1973
Race_No = 15
Season_No = 15
Location = Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race Course Watkins Glen, New York
Course = Permanent road course
Course_mi = 3.377
Course_km = 5.435
Distance_laps = 59
Distance_mi = 199.24
Distance_km = 320.67
Weather = Cool, cloudy
Pole_Driver = flagicon|Sweden Ronnie Peterson
Pole_Team = Lotus-Ford
Pole_Time = 1:39.657
Fast_Driver = flagicon|UK James Hunt
Fast_Team = March-Ford
Fast_Time = 1:41.652
Fast_L

First_Driver = flagicon|Sweden Ronnie Peterson
First_Team = Lotus-Ford
Second_Driver = flagicon|UK James Hunt
Second_Team = March-Ford
Third_Driver = flagicon|Argentina Carlos Reutemann
Third_Team = Brabham-Ford

The 1973 United States Grand Prix was a Formula One race held on October 7, 1973 at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race Course in Watkins Glen, New York.

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Ronnie Peterson ended his first year with Lotus by taking his fourth win of the season, as a thrilling two-man battle ended with Peterson beating James Hunt to the flag by the smallest winning margin in USGP history at that time. The Englishman finished less than a second behind in his Hesketh March, but the normal celebrations were tempered by the death of François Cevert in practice the day before, and the retirement of three-time World Champion Jackie Stewart.

Though Stewart had already clinched his third and finest World Driver's Championship when the teams came to Watkins Glen, the final Grand Prix of 1973 was to be his swan song. "I had decided in April that I would retire at the end of the season, win or lose," Stewart recalled. "Watkins Glen was going to be my last race in a Formula One car. François Cevert was going to be number one in the team for 1974, although he never knew it. Ken Tyrrell and I had kept it a secret that I was going to retire after that race. In fact, not even my wife, Helen, who was with me that weekend, knew." Tragically, it didn't work out that way. It all went wrong when, with just a few minutes left in the Saturday morning qualifying session, the track suddenly fell quiet.

Cevert had crashed violently in the uphill Esses heading onto the back of the circuit. Fighting the car as he went up the hill, he brushed the curb on the left, whipped across the track and hit the guardrail on the right. The car began to spin, and he swerved back across the track at 150 mph and hit the outside guardrail almost head-on.

Jody Scheckter's McLaren was close behind, and he stopped and rushed over to help Cevert out of the car, but there was no use. Racing had lost a dear friend, Ken Tyrrell a great driver and Jackie Stewart an outstanding teammate at the circuit where Cevert had taken his only Grand Prix win. "It was a horrendous accident which took the life of a wonderfully charming, personable, handsome young man, who was a tremendous friend to both Helen and me," Stewart said.

When qualifying resumed, Peterson's time from the morning session stood up for his ninth pole of the year. The Tyrrells of Stewart and Chris Amon had earned the fifth and twelfth spots on the grid, but the team decided to withdraw, and Stewart's driving career was over after 99 races and an all-time record 27 Grand Prix wins.

A huge crowd turned out on a cool, overcast day for the race on Sunday. On the grid, in seventh spot, Peter Revson felt his car creeping forward as the flag was raised. Rather than hold it with the brakes, he took it out of gear just as the flag dropped. He waved his arms in the air and waited for the field to roar past, then set off in last place.

The front runners got away well, and at the end of the first lap, Peterson led Carlos Reutemann, Hunt, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mike Hailwood and Scheckter. On lap 4, Hunt passed Reutemann for second, and began his chase of Peterson's Lotus. To the surprise of everyone as the race progressed, Hunt was able to stay around one second behind Peterson. Occasionally the gap would widen slightly, but again and again, the extreme straightline speed of the Hesketh March would close it again.

Reutemann kept pace as well, two to three seconds behind Hunt, until he lost nine seconds attempting to lap Graham Hill. From then on, he ran a lonely race to a third-place finish.

Revson, meanwhile, was rocketing through the field from his last place start, and at the midway point, he had gone from twenty-third to seventh. He took sixth from Emerson on lap 40 when the Brazilian pitted to replace his front tires that were flat-spotted when he had to avoid a spinning Scheckter.

For the last 15 laps, Hunt continued to follow Peterson, between .7 and 1.4 seconds behind. He pulled alongside at one point, but could not finish the pass. "I looked over at Ronnie, and he looked fiercer than me," he explained after the race.

Hunt had decided to bide his time until the final 10 laps, then make a bid to pass Peterson, but his car developed oversteer with a lightening fuel load. This kept him from taking the final corner before the back straight flat out, and effectively took away his speed advantage. He maintained the challenge to the flag, however, and his next to last lap was the race's fastest. Peterson's winning margin of .688 seconds was the smallest in USGP history until 2002.

Reutemann had to weave to the line, virtually out of fuel, but held on to third; Denny Hulme ran a steady race to fourth; Revson made it up to fifth with his splendid drive from the dead last; and Emerson Fittipaldi took sixth after having to stop for tires. With both cars in the points, John Player Team Lotus captured the Constructor's Championship, despite Stewart's Driver's title for Tyrrell.

Classification

F1 race report
Name_of_race = United States Grand Prix
Year_of_race = 1973
Previous_race_in_season = 1973 Canadian Grand Prix
Next_race_in_season = 1974 Argentine Grand Prix
Previous_year's_race = 1972 United States Grand Prix
Next_year's_race = 1974 United States Grand Prix

References

* Doug Nye (1978). "The United States Grand Prix and Grand Prize Races, 1908-1977." B. T. Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-1263-1
* "15th U.S. Grand Prix: Easy One For Ronnie". (January, 1974). "Road & Track", 64-67.


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