A Grand Prix tragedy. American driver, Mario Andretti won the world racing driver's Championship at?
A Grand Prix tragedy. American driver, Mario Andretti won the world racing driver's Championship at Monza on Sunday (10 September) when the race was re-run after a multiple crash in which Andretti's nearest challenger, and team-mate Ronnie Peterson was fatally injured. The Grand Prix was halted after the first-lap crash involving ten cars. It was not restarted for almost three hours, after arguments between the drivers and race officials about the safety of the Monza circuit.
SYNOPSIS: Up until the tragedy struck, Andretti and Ronnie Peterson, driving John Player Team Lotus cars for Colin Chapman, had combined throughout a very successful season.
Ronnie Peterson, a thirty-four year-old Swede was due to leave the Lotus after this season for McLaren, where he would have been Number One driver.
The pile-up came within seconds the cars bunching into the first chicane. One car spun off the track; another hurled from the right. It struck James Hunt, who rode up on Peterson's Lotus sending it into a guard rail, where it exploded and rebounded onto the track.
James Hunt dived into the blazing car, kicked Peterson's seat belt free, and helped by Clay Regazzoni and race marshals, dragged Peterson from the car. Hunt's action saved Peterson from being burnt to death. Race officials said Peterson's rescue, from the time his car-exploded to his being carried away on a stretcher, took forty-five seconds. Italian Vittorio Brambilla, knocked unconscious in the pile-up, was also taken to hospital.
As mangled cars were cleared away Peterson, with seven leg fractures and third-degree burns, was rushed to a Milan hospital. After an operation to set the fractures he lapsed into a coma and died on Monday (11 September).
This is Brambilla's car. He is in hospital critically ill with a fractured skull. After the pile-up drivers and race officials argued for almost three hours about safety on the Monza circuit.
In the re-run Gilles Villeneuve of Canada, driving a Ferrari, took the lead at the start from Mario Andretti. Nineteen of the original twenty-four starters were in the race, which was reduced from fifty-two to forty-laps. The race jury imposed a sixty seconds penalty on Andretti and Villeneuve for a false start thus giving first place to Austrian Nikki Lauda.