Ronnie Peterson  Sweden

  • Full name Bengt Ronnie Peterson
  • Birth date February 14, 1944
  • Birthplace Örebro, Sweden
  • Date of death September 11, 1978 (34 years 209 days)
  • Place of death Milan, Italy
  • Teams March, Team Lotus, Tyrrell
driver portrait
World Championship Career
Year Car Race Start Won Pod Class Best Pole Front Best Lap Hat Pts Pos
1970 March 9 9 0 0 4 7 0 0 9 0 0 0 -
1971 March 11 11 0 5 9 2 0 0 5 0 0 33 2
1972 March 12 12 0 1 10 3 0 1 3 0 0 12 9
1973 Team Lotus 15 15 4 7 9 1 9 12 1 2 0 52 3
1974 Team Lotus 15 15 3 4 9 1 1 4 1 2 0 35 5
1975 Team Lotus 14 14 0 0 8 4 0 0 4 0 0 6 13
1976 Team Lotus, March 16 16 1 1 6 1 1 2 1 1 0 10 11
1977 Tyrrell 17 17 0 1 7 3 0 0 3 1 0 7 14
1978 Team Lotus 14 14 2 7 9 1 3 6 1 3 1 51 2
Total 123 123 10 26 71 1 14 25 1 9 1 206
Race Circuit Date
First race Monaco Grand Prix Monaco May 10, 1970 Race results
Last race Italian Grand Prix Monza September 10, 1978 Race results
Profile

Ronnie Peterson typified the glamour that surrounded Formula One in the 1970s, his seat-of-the-pants driving style and astonishing car control winning him an army of fans, his death in 1978 only heightening the legend.

His father built him his first vehicle when he was eight, and was Swedish karting champion five times before he switched to Formula Three in 1966. Within two years he was national champion and in 1969 he won seven major international races, including the Monaco F3 event

In 1970 he made his F1 debut as a private entrant but showed enough form to be taken on as a team driver by March. In 1971 he enjoyed a remarkable year , taking four second places, and was runner-up, albeit a distant one, to Jackie Stewart in the World Championship.

In 1972 success was harder to come by and he switched to John Player Lotus in 1973 where he secured his maiden grand prix win in France and went on to add three more before the year was out, again finishing behind Stewart in third.

In a car which was rapidly being surpassed he scored three more wins in 1974, but by 1975 the Lotus was uncompetitive and after a wretched campaign and two early-season drives he rejoined March. It was not a successful move, and again he struggled with reliability but there was one rare highlight when he won his third Italian Grand Prix in four years - but it was his only top-five finish of the season.

In 1977 he was lured to Tyrrell to drive the controversial six-wheeler, but it was another disastrous decision, and one which for the first time had critics questioning his ability.

The merry-go-round continued when he rejoined Lotus in 1978 as No. 2 to Mario Andretti, but the pair utterly dominated. He finished second to Andretti four times as well as winning in South Africa and Austria, and but for respecting his position in the team, would probably have won more times and even have taken the title. "On many occasions he proved himself the equal of his partner," The Times noted, "but he honoured the letter of the agreement he had made not to do anything to jeopardise Andrettis chances." His excellent form resulted in him being offered the No. 1 seat at McLaren in 1979.

But at Monza, the third-last grand prix, a chaotic start resulted in a mass pile-up on the first corner. James Hunt collided with Peterson, and a number of other crashes followed. Peterson's Lotus careered into the barriers and caught fire, and it took three other drivers - Hunt, Clay Regazzoni and Patrick Depailler - to pull him clear. As he lay on the track fully conscious but with broken legs, it took 20 minutes for medical aid to come, and when it did the priority was Vittorio Brambilla who had been hit on the head by a flying wheel.

Peterson, whose injuries were not considered life threatening, was taken to hospital and operated on that evening. But a bone marrow embolism entered his bloodstream, and he died the following morning. Had he received medical attention more promptly he would probably have survived.

"He was widely respected by his contemporaries, both for his rare natural skill in the cockpit and for his stature as a fair-minded and thoroughly professional competitor," said the Times obituary.
Martin Williamson

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September 10, 1978

Cars are strewn over the track after a mass pile-up at Monza

September 10, 1978

Cars are strewn over the track after a mass pile-up at Monza

August 27, 1978

Mario Andretti leads Ronnie Peterson

     

Ronnie Peterson Formula 1 photos

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