Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
He was born in Írebro, in the neighbourhood of Almby, and developed his special driving style at a young age, when he was competing in karting. Even when he was driving Formula 1 cars he still drove them like a kart. He made his Grand Prix debut, driving for March, at Monaco in 1970. In 1971 he won the European Formula 2 Championship driving a March and five 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. 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 America. 1974 yielded three more, France and Italy again, but also in Monaco, the blue riband event of Formula 1. After a bad year with Lotus in 1975 in which the Lotus 76 proved a failure and he reverted to driving the 72F, Ronnie drove the first two races of 1976 in the Lotus 77 before rejoining March Engineering, and won yet again in Italy, driving their 761. Another poor year in 1977 with the six-wheel Tyrrell P34B followed, before Ronnie returned to his spiritual home at John Player Team Lotus for 1978. Two wins followed, in South Africa and Austria, the latter won in the innovatory 'ground effects' Lotus 79. He died following an accident at the very first corner of the Italian Grand Prix at the Monza racetrack on September 10 1978, where he was seriously injured and died the following day.
The cause of Peterson's accident has remained subject to controversy; at the time a number of leading drivers, including former champions Niki Lauda and James Hunt, attempted to lay blame on a fast-starting Riccardo Patrese, judged to have triggered the melee by colliding with Hunt on the run down to the first chicane. However, subsequent video and photographic evidence suggests that no collision occurred between the cars of Patrese and Hunt, though contact between Hunt and Peterson certainly occurred. There has been some suggestion that a photograph of tyre marks on the track surface immediately after the incident show that the Swede's car had already begun to veer towards the trackside barriers prior to the contact with Hunt's McLaren, opening up the possibility of mechanical failure on the Lotus.
Ronnie Peterson ran a total of 123 Grand Prix races during his career and was the winner in ten of them. He is arguably the greatest driver, along with Stirling Moss, to have never won the Formula One World Championship.
Trivia: According to the shops selling flowers in Írebro, there has never been an Írebro funeral with more flowers that the one of Ronnie Peterson. Furthermore, there is a statue of Ronnie Peterson in Írebro (made by Richard Brixel). The same artist RB was in 2005 asked to make a statue of racing driver Ayrton Senna from Sao Paulo.
- Ronnie Peterson - Grand Prix
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