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This is about the racing driver. For the ice hockey player, see Ronnie Pettersson.
Ronnie Peterson
Ronnie Peterson 1971 Hockenheim.JPG
Peterson in 1971
Nationality Sweden Swedish
Formula One World Championship career
Active years 1970 - 1978
Teams March inc. non-works, Tyrrell, Lotus
Races 123
Championships 0
Wins 10
Podiums 26
Career points 206
Pole positions 14
Fastest laps 9
First race 1970 Monaco Grand Prix
First win 1973 French Grand Prix
Last win 1978 Austrian Grand Prix
Last race 1978 Italian Grand Prix

Bengt Ronnie Peterson (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈrɔni ˈpɛtɛʂon]; February 14, 1944 - September 11, 1978) was a Swedish racing driver.

Peterson began his career of motorracing in kart racing, traditionally the discipline where a majority of race drivers begin their career in open wheel racing. After winning a number of karting titles, including two Swedish titles in 1963 and 1964, the Swede moved onto Formula Three where he won the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix Formula Three support race for the 1969 Grand Prix. Later that year he won the European Formula Three Championship and moved up into Formula One, racing for the March factory team. In his three year spell with the team, he took four podiums, all scored in 1971, and also finished runner-up in the Drivers' Championship that year as well.

After seeing out his three year contract at March, Peterson joined Colin Chapman's Lotus squad in 1973, partnering defending champion Emerson Fittipaldi. During his first two seasons with Lotus, the Swede took seven victories and scoring a career best 52 points in 1973. After a poor 1975 season, Peterson moved back to March and scored his final victory for the team at the Italian Grand Prix. After spending 1977 with Tyrrell, the Swede moved back to Lotus as a "number two" driver to Mario Andretti. Peterson still took two wins, at Kyalami and the Österreichring, but died from injuries received in a first lap collision at the Italian Grand Prix.

Contents

Early life

Peterson was born in Örebro, in the neighbourhood of Almby, Sweden. He developed his driving style at a young age while competing in karting, and rapidly worked his way up to the pinnacle of European karting before switching to cars.

Formulas Three and Two

After his karting years, Peterson entered Formula Three racing in the Svebe, a 1L, Brabham-derived Formula car he co-designed with his father Bengt (who by day made his living as a baker) and Sven Andersson.

Superb results from the outset quickly attracted the attention of the ambitious Tecno company from Italy, and he signed to race with them starting in 1968. The pairing produced some fine results, and he won the 1969 Formula Three Championship.

Even after his elevation to F1 status Peterson still drove in lesser racing series ( which was common at the time), winning the 1971 European Formula Two Championship driving for March.

Formula One

Early years

Peterson made his Grand Prix debut in a March 701 for Colin Crabbe's works-supported Antique Automobiles Racing Team, at the 1970 Monaco Grand Prix. The limited budget of Crabbe's privateer team allowed only minimal testing but Peterson qualified 12th of the 16 cars in the race. He was 10 places behind Jackie Stewart and Chris Amon, both on the front row of the grid in their newer specification 701s, but only just behind the more experienced Jo Siffert in the second works March. Peterson was the only March driver to finish the race, in seventh place.[1] In 1971 Peterson moved up to the full March works team, and made an instant impression. Five Formula One Grand Prix second places earned him the position of runner-up to Jackie Stewart in that year's World Championship. Peterson stayed at March until 1973, when he signed for John Player Team Lotus to partner Emerson Fittipaldi.

1973 - 1976

Lotus 72/R8 - Ronnie Peterson's main car during the 1974 Formula One season.
Ronnie Peterson at Silverstone in 1975.

His first Grand Prix win was at the 1973 French Grand Prix, held at Paul Ricard, in a Lotus 72. There were three more wins that year, in Austria, Italy and the United States, but poor reliability restricted him to only third place in the World Championship at season's end.

1974 yielded three more victories: the French and Italian Grands Prix, as well as the Monaco Grand Prix, the premier event of Formula One.

1975 was a bad year for Lotus. The Lotus 76 proved a failure, and he reverted to driving the 72F.

Peterson drove the first two races of 1976 in the Lotus 77 before rejoining March Engineering. Driving the March 761, he won the Italian Grand Prix.

1977 - 1978

In 1977, he raced for Tyrrell, driving the six-wheel Tyrrell P34B. His only podium finish was a third place at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Peterson surprised many by leaving Tyrrell to return to John Player Team Lotus for 1978. He won the South African Grand Prix, with a last-lap victory over Patrick Depailler, as well as the Austrian Grand Prix, in the innovative 'ground effects' Lotus 79. His teammate Mario Andretti won the Drivers' Championship with Peterson acting effectively as the Team "No. 2" with the pair scoring four 1-2 wins, all with Mario at the lead. Both of Peterson's wins were when Andretti encountered troubles, with Mario winning once when Peterson failed to finish (not including the Italian Grand Prix). Many times Peterson followed Andretti closely home, leading to speculation that 'Team Orders' were in place.

Throughout the 1970s Peterson had the reputation of being the fastest driver in F1 in terms of raw speed. During the 1978 season Andretti would frequently post the faster qualifying time. Perhaps refusing to believe the American could best Peterson in a head to head contest, many came to believe that team orders extended even to qualifying. To his credit, Peterson refused to contribute to any controversy, and on numerous occasions dismissed the speculation by stating that Andretti had simply turned the faster time.[citation needed]

Death

The 1978 Italian Grand Prix at Monza started badly for Peterson. In practice he damaged his Lotus 79 race car beyond immediate repair and bruised his legs in the process. Team Lotus possessed a spare 79, but it had been constructed for Mario Andretti, and the taller Peterson was unable to fit comfortably inside. The team's only other car was a type 78, the previous year's car, which had been dragged around the F1 circuit that season with minimal maintenance.

At the start of the race, the race starter threw the green light before the field was ready to start. Several cars in the middle of the field got a jump on those at the front, and the result was an accordion effect of the cars as they approached the chicane, bunching the cars tightly together. James Hunt collided with Peterson, with Riccardo Patrese, Vittorio Brambilla, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Patrick Depailler, Didier Pironi, Derek Daly, Clay Regazzoni and Brett Lunger all involved in the ensuing melee.

Peterson's Lotus went into the barriers hard and caught fire. He was trapped, but Hunt, Regazzoni and Depailler managed to free him from the wreck before he received more than minor burns. He was dragged free and laid in the middle of the track fully conscious, his severe leg injuries obvious to all. Hunt later said he stopped Peterson from looking at his legs to spare him further distress.

At the time there was more concern for Brambilla, who was hit on the head by a flying wheel and was slumped comatose in his car (he later recovered and drove on in F1 until 1980). Peterson's life was not seen to be in any danger. The injured drivers were taken to hospital in Milan and the race was restarted after the track was cleaned up.

At the hospital, Peterson's X-rays showed he had 7 fractures in one leg and 3 in the other. After discussion with Ronnie himself, the surgeons decided to operate to stabilize the bones. Unfortunately, during the night, bone marrow went into Peterson's bloodstream through the fractures, forming fat globules on his major organs including lungs, liver, and brain. By morning he was in full renal failure and was declared dead a few hours later. The cause of death was given as fat embolism.[citation needed]

Peterson's life would most likely have been saved had he received medical attention immediately after his accident. Track officials insisted on forming a human wall stopping anyone, including Professor Sid Watkins, the then Surgical Advisor to Formula One, from entering the crash site. After a delay of between eleven to eighteen minutes an ambulance was sent to the accident scene and Peterson was taken to the Monza medical centre.[citation needed]

Teammate Mario Andretti clinched the championship at the race.[2] "It was so unfair to have a tragedy connected with probably what should have been the happiest day of my career", Andretti said, "I couldn't celebrate, but also, I knew that trophy would be with me forever. And I knew also that Ronnie would have been happy for me".[2]

The statue of Ronnie Peterson in Almby, Örebro was unveiled in August 2003.

After the crash, Hunt (along with other drivers) blamed Patrese for starting the accident, and viewers of Hunt's commentaries of Formula 1 races from 1980-1993 on BBC Television were regularly treated to bitter diatribes against Patrese when the Italian appeared on screen. Nigel Roebuck was another who initially blamed Patrese but recanted.

Peterson ran a total of 123 Grand Prix races during his career, winning ten of them. He is arguably the greatest driver, along with Stirling Moss and Gilles Villeneuve, never to have won the Formula One World Championship.

Peterson's widow Barbro (née Edwardsson) never got over his death and committed suicide on December 19, 1987. She was buried, alongside Ronnie, in the Peterson family grave in Örebro.[3] She and Ronnie had a daughter named Nina Louise (named for Jochen Rindt's wife) who was born in November 1975.[3][4] There is a statue of Ronnie Peterson in Örebro, by Richard Brixel. The official Ronnie Peterson museum was officially opened by Nina Peterson in Örebro on 31 May 2008. However, it closed in October 2009 as it was not able to secure government funding.[5]

Complete World Championship results

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 WDC Pts.
1970 Antique Automobiles Racing Team March 701 Cosworth V8 RSA ESP MON
7
BEL
NC
NC 0
Colin Crabbe Racing NED
9
FRA
Ret
GBR
9
GER
Ret
AUT ITA
Ret
CAN
NC
USA
11
MEX
1971 STP March Racing Team March 711 Cosworth V8 RSA
10
ESP
Ret
MON
2
NED
4
GBR
2
GER
5
AUT
8
ITA
2
CAN
2
USA
3
2nd 33
Alfa Romeo V8 FRA
Ret
1972 STP March Racing Team March 721 Cosworth V8 ARG
6
RSA
5
9th 12
March 721X ESP
Ret
MON
11
BEL
9
March 721G FRA
5
GBR
7
GER
3
AUT
12
ITA
9
CAN
DSQ
USA
4
1973 John Player Team Lotus Lotus 72D Cosworth V8 ARG
Ret
BRA
Ret
RSA
11
3rd 52
Lotus 72E ESP
Ret
BEL
Ret
MON
3
SWE
2
FRA
1
GBR
2
NED
11
GER
Ret
AUT
1
ITA
1
CAN
Ret
USA
1
1974 John Player Team Lotus Lotus 72E Cosworth V8 ARG
13
BRA
6
MON
1
SWE
Ret
NED
8
FRA
1
GBR
10
AUT
Ret
ITA
1
CAN
3
USA
Ret
5th 35
Lotus 76 RSA
Ret
ESP
Ret
BEL
Ret
GER
4
1975 John Player Team Lotus Lotus 72E Cosworth V8 ARG
Ret
BRA
15
RSA
10
ESP
Ret
MON
4
BEL
Ret
SWE
9
NED
15
FRA
10
GBR
Ret
GER
Ret
AUT
5
ITA
Ret
USA
5
13th 6
1976 John Player Team Lotus Lotus 77 Cosworth V8 BRA
Ret
11th 10
March Engineering March 761 RSA
Ret
ESP
Ret
BEL
Ret
MON
Ret
SWE
7
FRA
19
GBR
Ret
GER
Ret
AUT
6
NED
Ret
ITA
1
CAN
9
USA
Ret
JPN
Ret
Theodore Racing USW
10
1977 Elf Team Tyrrell Tyrrell P34 Cosworth V8 ARG
Ret
BRA
Ret
RSA
Ret
USW
Ret
ESP
8
MON
Ret
BEL
3
SWE
Ret
FRA
12
GBR
Ret
GER
9
AUT
5
NED
Ret
ITA
6
USA
16
CAN
Ret
JPN
Ret
14th 7
1978 John Player Team Lotus Lotus 78 Cosworth V8 ARG
5
BRA
Ret
RSA
1
USW
4
MON
Ret
BEL
2
ITA
Ret
2nd 51
Lotus 79 ESP
2
SWE
3
FRA
2
GBR
Ret
GER
Ret
AUT
1
NED
2
USA
CAN

References

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Journals

Internet

  • Nyberg, R. & Diepraam, M. 2000. Super Swede. 8W, January 2000.

Citations

  1. ^ Lawrence, Mike (1989) The Story of March ; Four guys and a telephone Aston Publishing Ltd. p.36 ISBN 0-946627-24-X
  2. ^ a b Larry Schwartz. "Super Mario had speed to burn". ESPN. http://www.espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/andretti_mario.html. Retrieved 2007-07-12. 
  3. ^ a b The Official Ronnie Peterson Website
  4. ^ Formula 1 complete - all access F1 - Peterson, Ronnie
  5. ^ http://www.ronniepetersonmuseum.com

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Reine Wisell
Swedish Formula Three Champion
1968-1969
Succeeded by
Torsten Palm
Preceded by
Jean-Pierre Jaussaud
Monaco Formula Three
Race Winner

1969
Succeeded by
Tony Trimmer
Preceded by
Clay Regazzoni
European Formula Two
Champion

1971
Succeeded by
Mike Hailwood
Preceded by
Brian McGuire
Formula One fatal accidents
Sept. 10, 1978
Succeeded by
Patrick Depailler

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