Niki Lauda dominates but year is marred by Hill's death
Niki Lauda dominated the season in brilliant style. Amazing to record, it was Ferrari's first championship since Surtees had triumphed 11 years earlier. Graham Hill's death in a plane crash brought a tragic end to the year.
The winter season saw few changes among the front-runners. Graham Hill planned a switch from Lola to his own Hill team. Following the first two races, he announced his retirement after an incredible 176 starts.
Fittipaldi won in Argentina for McLaren, ahead of Hunt's Hesketh after the Englishman lost the lead with a mistake. In Brazil, Pace scored a popular first win in his home country, ahead of local hero Fittipaldi. Pace and Reutemann shared the front row in South Africa, but Scheckter scored a home win for Tyrrell.
At the Spanish race the Ferraris were the pacesetters, with Lauda and Regazzoni on the front row. But the event was beset by a dispute over safety standards at the Montjuich Park track. Eventually a boycott was avoided, but the race turned to chaos. Half the field crashed, including the Ferraris. Rolf Stommelen led in the Hill, but crashed when the rear wing broke, killing several onlookers. The race was stopped early with Mass leading.
In a soaking wet race at Monaco Lauda and the 312T came good, winning from Fittipaldi. Lauda followed that with wins at Zolder and Anderstorp. Zandvoort brought a popular first win for Hunt and the Hesketh team. James had developed into a top-rank driver, and in Holland beat Lauda in a dramatic wet/dry fight. The result was reversed when Lauda won at sunny Paul Ricard.
The rain returned at Silverstone - for another dramatic weekend which saw 15 cars crash. Pryce stunned everyone with pole and he, Pace, Regazzoni, Jarier and Hunt all took turns in the lead. When the crashes finally forced a red flag, Fittipaldi was ahead. Surprisingly, it was to prove his last ever Formula One victory.
In Germany, Reutemann survived as most of the front-runners had punctures, and then in Austria rain and confusion struck once more. The popular Brambilla was ahead when the race was curtailed to give the works March team its first win - and the first for any March since 1970. Tragically, however, American driver Mark Donohue crashed in the warm-up and subsequently succumbed to head injuries.
Lauda had been quietly racking up the points, and clinched his first title with a third at Monza, as team-mate Regazzoni won. Just Watkins Glen remained, and Lauda added yet another win.
November brought a tragedy which shocked the racing world. On the way back from a test session at Paul Ricard, Graham Hill crashed his light plane. The double world champion and several of his team were killed.