After a late season rush many felt that Ferrari would be the class of the field in 1971. Ferrari must have felt that way also as they attempted to sign Jackie Stewart for the upcoming season but Stewart decide to stay with Tyrrell. Derick Gardner had designed a new car for Stewart to drive and coupled with the Series 2 Cosworth engine the team was ready to enter the new season as a constructor. Jack Brabham had retired at the end of last season and his team was now run by Ron Tauranac. The defending champions, Lotus, suffered one of their periodic down years as much of their resources was taken over by their efforts to build a competitive turbine car. McLaren who lost their founder during a testing accident had a new car designed by Ralph Bellamy, the McLaren M19A with Denis Hulme now the team leader. Ferrari unable to sign Stewart turned to American Mario Andretti while March reeling from their disappointing first season turned to Robin Herd and Frank Costin. Their car sported an oval airfoil mounted over its nose and was dubbed the coffee or tea table.
The first championship race was the South African Grand Prix with Andretti taking the lead from Hulme and scoring his first Grand Prix victory. Matra showed up at the race with a tall air-scoop above the engine, a feature that was to become universal to this day. Stewart won the next two races at Spain and Monaco while Ickx won a wet Dutch Grand Prix. Stewart returned to his winning ways with victories in France, Britain and Germany. The string was finally broken by Jo Siffert in a BRM at Zeltweg, Austria. Further back on the grid in a March was a local Formula 2 driver by the name of Niki Lauda.
The Italian Grand Prix at Monza witnessed the closest race in history. Its hard to imagine these days but the Monza circuit used to play host to tremendous slipstreaming duels of which 1971 was the greatest. Clay Regazzoni's Ferrari blasted into the lead from the fourth row but on the fourth lap he was passed in turn by Peterson, Stewart and Jo Siffert. Stewart and Peterson would trade the lead for the next couple of laps. Resembling not so much a Grand Prix race but an American stock car race, all that was missing was the fender bending. The lead group consisted of no less then 12 cars racing flat out nose to tail but soon this murderous pace began to take its toll. Both Ferraris and Stewart's Tyrrell were out while Mike Hailwood, the motorcycle champion, was now in the lead from his 17th position at the start of the race. Chris Amon decided to make his move and went from fourth to first in one lap with eighteen to go. With seven laps to go he accidentally tore the visor on his helmet and had to drop back. The lead group now consisted of four cars, Peterson, Cevert, Hailwood and Gethin. Entering the last lap Peterson was in the lead but was passed by Cevert entering Lesmo. Peterson took this in stride as he was planning to resume the lead at Parabolica where he had a definite advantage over the Frenchmen who he felt to be his biggest challenger. Just as he was lined up to make his move he saw out of the side of one eye a blur streak by. That blur turned out to be Peter Gethin passing on the grass and seemingly out of control. Fearing the worse both Peterson and Cevert hesitated as Gethin with all four wheels locked up and smoking furiously was able to regain control and cross the finish line 0.01 sec in from of Peterson. In the end 0,61 seconds covered the first five cars. The rest of the season proved anti-climatic as Stewart and his teammate Cevert traded wins at Canada and the United States respectively. With sixty-two points Stewart was an easy winner over second place Peterson in the March. On a final tragic note Jo Siffert lost his life in a non-championship event at Brands Hatch which replaced the canceled Mexican Grand Prix.
The 1972 season looked set to be a repeat of last year which was dominated by Jackie Stewart and Tyrrell. Ferrari had the experienced Ickx ably joined by Regazzoni and American Mario Andretti when his schedule would permit. Lotus without Jochen Rindt and led by a young 25 year old Brazilian, Emerson Fittipaldi was not thought to be a major challenger. Now called John Player Specials after the cigarette brand, they were painted in a stunning black and gold. Another major tobacco company, Phillip Morris paid a large sum to BRM who would now be called Marlboro-BRM. Unlike the gentleman drivers of the past the sport saw the rise of the paid driver who would purchase his seat in a team with personal sponsorship money.
In Niki Lauda's case it was by means of a bank loan from and Austrian bank as he joined Peterson at March. The Brabham team was bought by Bernie Ecclestone then a wealthy London businessman, now a very wealthy London businessman! McLaren led by Denis Hulme was joined by Peter Revson. The rest of the grid was filled by a motley group of teams, one that would eventually become the world beating Williams Grand Prix, the others long forgotten. In the middle of a tire war between Goodyear and Firestone, the use of special "qualifying tires" became widespread. Lasting only three to four laps they would eventually be joined by the "qualifying engine."
The first race of the championship season was the reinstated Argentine Grand Prix which saw a sensational performance by a local driver name Carlos Reutemann. Driving a Brabham he came out of nowhere to gain pole position. The race though was won by Jackie Stewart, starting where he had left off last year. The next race was South Africa and again Stewart led but on lap 45 he suffered transmission problems and the race was won by Denis Hulme in a Mclaren. The tour now moved to Europe and the Spanish Grand Prix which was won by Emerson Fittipaldi. Monaco was run in a tremendous downpour with spinning cars in all directions. Jean-Pierre Beltoise, in a BRM, would teach the field a lesson in wet weather driving, leading from start to finish to score his first and only championship victory. Stewart suffering from a severe stomach ulcer had to miss the next race, the Belgian Grand Prix which was won by Fittipaldi on a new track near Nivelles.
Stewart was back for the next race, the French GP which he won after race leader Chris Amon suffered a late race puncture. Fittipaldi came in second. The order was reversed the following race in England with Fittipaldi leading Stewart. Lotus which seemed to be in a state of transition was now leading the championship with Fittipaldi. Ferrari after many disappointments was finally able to win a race and did it one better when they finished 1-2 at the Nurburgring with Ickx leading Regazzoni. Fittipaldi extended his lead for the title by winning the Austrian Grand Prix and clinched it at Monza. Stewart won the final two races of the season but The World Championship went to Fittipaldi while Lotus garnered the Constructor's Cup. Fittipaldi became the youngest World Champion in history and would double the score two years later.
The year 1973 marked the retirement of Jackie Stewart but before he was done he would win five more races for Tyrrell and his third World Championship. The season was dominated by three drivers - Stewart and Lotus teammates Emerson Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson. Matra was no longer in Formula 1, BRM was in its death throes and Ferrari was in turmoil. Ralph Bellamy left McLaren to join Lotus and replace the recently departed Maurice Phillippe. At McLaren Gordon Coppuck designed the new wedge shaped M23 which would be McLaren's mainstay for the next four-odd years. Brabham had a young designer of its own in Gordon Murray who would become one of the leading designers in all of Formula 1. As every year there were a number of Cinderella teams such as Shadow and Ensign.
The Championship season began with a shock when Clay Regazzoni, formerly with Ferrari scored the last pole for BRM at the Argentine Grand Prix. The race though was won by Fittipaldi followed by the Tyrrells of Cevert and Stewart. The Brazilian Grand Prix was held for the first time and was won by native son Fittipaldi. After the two Latin American races the championship moved to South Africa which played host to the debut of the new McLaren M23. As on cue the car was promptly placed on the pole by Denis Hulme. Unfortunately for McLaren their lead lasted only four laps when Hulme was overtaken by a local lad Jody Scheckter. Two laps later he in turn was passed by the eventual winner Jackie Stewart. Fittipaldi returned to the winner's circle at the next race in Spain and after four races he held a commanding lead. Unfortunately for the Brazilian this was to be his last win for Lotus. The Belgian Grand Prix, run at Zolder, saw a Tyrrell 1-2 with Stewart leading Cevert. Stewart won again at Monaco which saw the debut of a young Englishman by the name of James Hunt driving for the Hesketh team of Lord Hesketh.
The next race was the Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp and here Denis Hulme brought the first victory for the new McLaren. Lotus won the next race in France but this time it was Fittipaldi's teammate Peterson who took the flag. The British Grand Prix after a re-start following a multi-car pile-up was won by Hulme teammate, American Peter Revson. The Championship had now seen five different winners but at Zandvoort the results saw another Tyrrell 1-2 with Stewart winning a race marked by the death of Englishman Roger Williamson. The Nurburgring saw the same Tyrrell 1-2 but the sensation of the race was the record lap posted by Carlos Pace in a Surtees. Pace repeated this feat in Austria which was won by Peterson. Peter Revson scored his second and last win in Canada under adverse weather conditions. There was some dispute amongst independent observers on whether second place finisher Fittipaldi had actually won. The United States Grand Prix was won by Ronnie Peterson but it was Stewart who clinched his third and last World Championship. What should have been a Tyrrell celebration was marred by the tragic death of Stewart teammate Francois Cevert during practice. Stewart who had decided to retire at the end of the season would not start the race which would have been his last.
After a disastrous season Ferrari decided to quit sports car racing and concentrate on Formula 1. The Ferrari 312B which was redesigned last season by Mauro Forghieri would show immediate results from the renewed focus of the Italian Factory. Clay Regazzoni returned from his unlucky year at BRM and with him came the Austrian Niki Lauda. Many who knew only of Lauda as a paid driver were surprised of his selection by the Prancing Horse but he would soon show that he belonged at the top.