Motor Racing...and Ronnie Peterson, the world's second-ranking racing driver, died on Monday (11 September) less?
Motor Racing...and Ronnie Peterson, the world's second-ranking racing driver, died on Monday (11 September) less than 24 hours after being dragged from the blazing wreck of his car soon after the start of the Italian Grand Prix. The blond Swede, at first believed not badly hurt, fell into a deep coma around down on Monday (11 September) after an operation and died before his wife Barbro could reach his hospital bedside from England.
SYNOPSIS: 34-year-old Ronnie Peterson was considered to be the fastest driver on the Grand Prix circuit but one frustrated by bad luck with cars and having to play second fiddle in the teams he drove for. Fellow Formula One drivers called him one of the most popular, experienced and exciting drivers of the past decade. Peterson drove for the Lotus team this season as number two to Mario Andretti. Andretti's contract with the team stated that Peterson was not allowed to pass him.
One of Peterson's best drives of the 1978 season was in the Austrian Grand Prix. He was, as one British Writer put it, a man born to race and perhaps the finest natural driver of his day. But even before breaking into Formula One racing Peterson had become known as the perpetual number one. Heshook off that title with a string of seven victories in 1969...and two years later was a serious contender for the World Championship. But Jackie Stewart won that year and Peterson ended up number two.
It had been a good season for the Swede this year. A win here in Austria followed a first in South Africa and second places to Andretti in the Dutch, Belgian, Spanish and French races to make him the only serous contender to Andretti's lead in the drivers' championship.
Ronnie Peterson had been racing since he was 16. First go-karts, then Formula Three cars and then eight years ago the big Formula Ones. He came into his own at Monza, the Italian circuit. He had won a record three Italian Grand Prix there before his crash on Sunday (10 September). With the race just a few seconds old his car crashed and exploded. Peterson was only in the car for a few seconds before other drivers pulled him out ...but it was long enough for him to inhale a large quantity of high-octane fumes ...and doctors say it was that as much as multiple fractured that killed him. Peterson was one of more than 50 drivers who have been killed on the high-speed track at Monza. He said before the race he had no thoughts of retiring. Two years ago, Ken Tyrell described Peterson as a potential world champion, but it was not to be Ronnie Peterson...dead at the age of 34.