Harman Patil

1974 United States Grand Prix

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Date  October 6, 1974
Course length  5.435 km (3.377 mi)
Course  Permanent road course
1974 United States Grand Prix
Official name  XVII United States Grand Prix
Location  Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race Course Watkins Glen, New York
Distance  59 laps, 320.67 km (199.24 mi)

The 1974 United States Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on October 6, 1974, at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race Course in Watkins Glen, New York.

Contents

This was the last race for the 1967 world champion Denny Hulme, who scored 8 wins and 33 podiums in 112 starts.

Summary

Carlos Reutemann won from the pole, ahead of Brabham teammate Carlos Pace, while Emerson Fittipaldi's fourth place clinched his second World Championship in three years and the first for Team McLaren. American Mario Andretti, after qualifying in an excellent third position, was disqualified when the engine in his Parnelli stalled on the grid and his crew push started him.

Emerson Fittipaldi of McLaren and Ferrari's Clay Regazzoni came to the final race of the season even in the Driver's Championship standings with 52 points; Tyrrell's Jody Scheckter, with 45 points, also held an outside chance of overtaking them both. Knowing that tactics could play an important role in the race, McLaren had the two-way radios from their USAC team fitted in the F1 cars at Watkins Glen.

Early in the year, Peter Revson, one of only five American drivers to win a Grand Prix, had died in a testing crash, but the American crowd had countrymen Mario Andretti and Mark Donohue at The Glen to carry the star-spangled banner, and they were both driving American-built cars for American teams.

Andretti gave the home crowd a charge when he was fastest on Friday in the British-designed, California-built Vel's Parnelli Jones car, just two weeks after its Canadian debut. His time of 1:39.209 still had him on the provisional pole halfway through Saturday's session, when a rear brake failure put him off and damaged the nose and steering. By the time Andretti returned to the track, with ten minutes left in the session, Reutemann and Hunt had pipped him and he would start third.

Donahue, in the second race for the Penske First National City Travelers Checks Special, made less of a splash, as his lack of experience with the car made setup difficult. He and Penske were both pleased, however, with his 14th position in final qualifying.

Scheckter was the top qualifying championship contender, in sixth, with Fittipaldi directly behind him in eighth and Regazzoni in ninth. Sunday was a glorious day, clear and warm. On the parade lap, Andretti developed an ignition fault, and the start was delayed 25 minutes while the crew scrambled to solve the problem. Finally, Mario took his place on the grid, but when starter Tex Hopkins dropped the green flag, the Parnelli car sat still, and the field had to scramble to avoid him. His crew eventually got the car push started two laps late, but Andretti was black-flagged for getting assistance on the course.

From the start, Reutemann led James Hunt, Pace, Niki Lauda, Scheckter, Fittipaldi and Regazzoni. Gradually, the gap between Reutemann and Hunt widened, and by the end of the third lap, it was clear that all was not right with Regazzoni, as a train was forming behind the Ferrari. Lauda, in fourth and just ahead of Scheckter and Fittipaldi, began to do his part in the Championship battle by holding them up for his teammate, the struggling Regazzoni, whose front end was heaving and wallowing with a defective damper.

On lap 10, the Surtees of Austrian Helmuth Koinigg, in just his second Grand Prix, went off in the hairpin where Regazzoni, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Andretti had crashed in practice, probably due to a deflating rear tire. On impact with the Armco barrier, as in François Cevert's fatal crash at The Glen one year earlier, the bottom rail gave way but the top one did not, and young Koinigg had no chance and was decapitated.

On lap 15, Regazzoni pitted in desperation, but a tire change didn't improve his car. The Ferrari pit now told Lauda to go on, and he quickly pulled 2.5 seconds clear of Scheckter. Fittipaldi made half-hearted attempts to outbrake the Tyrrell, but, with Regazzoni out of the picture, he knew that if he could stay close, the Championship would be his.

Beginning on lap 24, a faulty shock absorber slowed Lauda, and he was caught by the group of cars he had left behind. Regazzoni pitted again, as the crew adjusted the rear anti-roll bar, but the Ferrari challenge was crumbling. When Lauda came in on lap 38, the crew discovered the offending shock absorber; when the Austrian also learned of his countryman's death, he gave up the chase.

Insistent on fighting to the end, Scheckter continued to hold fourth, ahead of Fittipaldi, throwing the Tyrrell around in opposite lock slides, as the McLaren clung to his gearbox. On the 44th lap, Scheckter's engine suddenly lost fuel pressure when a feed pipe broke. He coasted to a stop as Fittipaldi slashed by, knowing that a second World Championship in three years was his.

After the race, Scheckter admitted that he knew he was holding Fittipaldi up. "But I didn't think he should pass, although he was being pushed from behind by Arturo Merzario. He tried three times to outbrake me, but I wouldn't let him get away with it." With Scheckter out, McLaren also clinched its first Constructor's Championship, ten years after Bruce McLaren and Teddy Mayer had founded the team.

At the front, Reutemann was in no trouble. Hunt, however, was struggling with fading brakes, and Pace, in third with the second works Brabham, was ready to pounce. When he saw his opportunity, he set the race's fastest lap just five laps from the finish, and on the next lap, he took second place from the ailing Hesketh of Hunt, completing a one-two for Brabham.

The red and white uniforms of the McLaren crew mobbed the circuit to honor their World Champion, the Brabham team celebrated their victors, and the crowd– especially the Brazilians among them– poured over the fences and jammed the pit area. The win was the 100th for the Cosworth Ford engine in Formula One, but for the second year in a row at the Glen, it was tragically flawed by the death of a promising young driver. It was also the last US driving appearance of two-time World Champion and three-time USGP winner Graham Hill, who finished eighth in his own Embassy Hill Lola.

Championship standings after the race

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings. Only the best 7 results from the first 8 races and the best 6 results from the last 7 races counted towards the Championship. Numbers without parentheses are Championship points; numbers in parentheses are total points scored.
  • References

    1974 United States Grand Prix Wikipedia


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