“Thoughts on François Cevert”
With Jackie Stewart set to retire from Formula One at the end of the 1973 season, preparations had been made to promote his understudy, François Cevert, to the lead seat in Ken Tyrrell’s world championship winning team.
At this stage, already a winner of one Grand Prix, overall podium finisher at Le Mans and a French Formula 3 champion, Cevert was deemed ready to make the step up.
It was not to be. As he vied for pole position with Ronnie Peterson for the final World Championship Grand Prix of the year at Watkins Glen, Cevert spun off during morning qualifying at the Esses and hit the barrier head on.
Such was the angle and speed, the Tyrrell compromised the guardrail and Cevert was killed instantly. The venue where Cevert had two years previously claimed his sole Grand Prix success, would also be where he was cut down at the tender age of 29.
Stewart, by now sickened by the human damage inflicted by the sport, walked away after practice and never raced; however he would continue on his charge to make motor racing a safer sport to practice.
Adding to feeling of misery at Tyrrell was the knowledge that two of the candidates under scrutiny for the second seat with the team in 1974 – Roger Williamson and Gerry Birrell – had also been killed behind the wheel during the year.
For Cevert, wider success was considered a possibility and with Emerson Fittipaldi moving to McLaren and Niki Lauda getting comfortable alongside the already settled Clay Regazzoni at Ferrari, it surely would have been stellar battle to take Stewart’s crown.
Tyrrell’s vacant drives would eventually go to the inexperienced pairing of Patrick Depailler and Jody Scheckter; the latter of that pairing would go on to claim two race victories in 1974 – at Anderstorp and Brands Hatch – taking 3rd in the World Championship. For his efforts, Depailler took a pole position and a podium at the Swedish track, behind the affable Scheckter.