Despite a brilliant battle between eventual winner Ronnie Peterson and James Hunt, the whole US Grand Prix race weekend was overshadowed by the death of Francois Cevert during practice.
Through the uphill Esses at Watkins Glen, Cevert lost control of his Tyrrell and rebounded off one barrier before hurtling across the circuit and sustaining fatal injuries against the other. Tyrrell withdrew its cars from the race as a mark of respect and team leader Jackie Stewart, who had intended to retire at the end of his 100th race the next day, took part in one more practice session to prove to his mechanics that the accident was not their fault. He spent the race as a spectator in the knowledge that his third and final title was in the bag.
"It was a horrendous accident which took the life of a wonderfully charming, personable, handsome young man, who was a tremendous friend," Stewart said.
The race itself saw Ronnie Peterson in the Lotus hold off a very determined effort by James Hunt in the Hesketh. Hunt's car was a slightly modified March 731 and shouldn't have been troubling the Lotus, but the Hesketh's Firestone tyres were perfectly suited to the cooler conditions and provided more grip than the Good Years on Peterson's Lotus.
Peterson was still faster in the corners due to his superior chassis but Hunt found a straight-line speed advantage and looked able to exploit it until his car started oversteering as the fuel level came down. The pair were separated by 0.688 seconds as they crossed the line, the closest Hunt came to winning in his debut season. His team were understandably ecstatic.