Emerson Fittipaldi becomes the youngest champion
Lotus returned once again to the top of the podium. Its rising star, Emerson Fittipaldi, who had shown much promise the previous year, became the youngest world champion. There was no-one else able to offer a season-long challenge.
Lotus went into 1972 armed with an updated version of the appropriately named 72 chassis, plus a dramatic new colour scheme. Gold Leaf had been replaced by the black and gold hues of John Player Special. Other sponsors had been in the news as well. Yardley left BRM to join a revitalized McLaren effort, in which Hulme was partnered by Peter Revson, returning some eight years after a shaky debut in the mid-1960s.
Meanwhile BRM found major backing from Marlboro and, in what proved to be an over-ambitious plan, ran up to five cars per race. Brabham was acquired by Bernie Ecclestone. Hill was joined by Argentina's Carlos Reutemann, the first talent to emerge from that country since the 1950s.
Newcomer Reutemann stunned the field when he took pole for his debut at Buenos Aires, but it was back to normal when he had to pit for tyres and Stewart won from Hulme. The Kiwi went one better in South Africa, giving McLaren its first win since the 1969 Mexican Grand Prix. Fittipaldi dominated the Spanish Grand Prix for JPS. Monaco brought a total surprise when, in wet conditions, Beltoise drove a fine race for BRM. It was to be the marque's last-ever win.
Fittipaldi won at the new and boring Nivelles track in Belgium, and Stewart triumphed at Clermont-Ferrand after Amon again lost a race in the late stages - this time with a puncture. Ickx's Ferrari led the British Grand Prix until the Belgian was stricken with an oil leak, allowing Fittipaldi to win. Ickx fought back with victory at the Nurburgring, ahead of team-mate Regazzoni. Fittipaldi won the next race in Austria and then triumphed again at Monza to clinch the title.
Stewart had not had much luck, but a new car, introduced in Austria, improved his form. He finished the season with wins at Mosport and Watkins Glen, heading home Revson in the first race and Cevert in the latter. It was enough for Jackie to make a late run to second place in the championship, ahead of Hulme. The previous year's runner-up, Peterson, had a poor season. March's new car failed and a slightly more successful replacement was hastily built. However, Peterson had impressed the right people: for 1973 he earned himself a Lotus ride, alongside champion Fittipaldi.
But there was sad news for Ronnie's country as well. In June veteran Jo Bonnier was killed when his Lola crashed at Le Mans. He raced from 1957 to 1971, but never matched the form which had given him BRM's first win in 1959.