• United States Grand Prix

Cevert rounds off season in style with maiden win

ESPNF1 Staff
October 3, 1971
A jubilant Francois Cevert celebrates his first GP victory after the final round of the season © Sutton Images

Francois Cevert secured his maiden victory in the final round of the season at Watkins Glen.

Cevert's team-mate Jackie Stewart, seeking a seventh win to equal Jim Clark's record, took pole ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi's Lotus and Denny Hulme's McLaren while Cevert lined up fifth on the grid alongside Clay Regazzoni's Ferrari.

Stewart made the best start to lead the race with Hulme taking second ahead of Cevert as the cars headed to turn one. Regazzoni assumed fourth place ahead of Siffert but Fittipaldi made a bad start in comparison and slumped to eighth place in the Lotus 72.

Cevert charged past Hulme for second place on lap seven and after 13 laps was close enough to challenge Stewart for the lead. Stewart was suffering from oversteer and he was struggling for pace which made Cevert's task easier as he swooped by into first place.

Hulme, like Stewart, was struggling with handling problems and he fell away as Ickx moved up to third place and then second when Stewart was unable to hold him off. Jo Siffert's BRM was the next to take Stewart and Cevert sustained intense pressure from Ickx as the Ferrari harried the Tyrrell for numerous laps.

On lap 40, however, Ickx developed a problem with the Ferrari's engine and he fell away before retiring. It allowed Siffert up to second behind Cevert with Ronnie Peterson completing the podium finishers and Stewart finishing down in fifth.

"I always wanted to drive Formula One and a drivers' ambition is to win a grand prix and perhaps one day a world championship," Cevert said. Tragically, he was to die in this same race two years later.

The season had one last twist. In a non-championship Formula One victory race arranged at Brands Hatch later in the month Siffert crashed and his BRM exploded as the petrol tank ruptured. He died of asphyxiation.

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