• French Grand Prix

Peterson wins, Lauda slams 'stupid circuit'

Laurence Edmondson July 7, 1974
Ronnie Peterson gave the Lotus 72 its 20th victory in F1 © Sutton Images

Lotus's Ronnie Peterson notched up his second victory of the season at the French Grand Prix, held at the brand new Dijon-Prenois track.

In the end he won by 20 seconds from Niki Lauda, who took an early 7-second lead in his Ferrari but dropped a place to Peterson on lap 17 when his car developed a gearbox problem. It was the Lotus 72's 20th victory since its debut in 1970, the car still in service due to the new 76's appalling reliability record earlier in the season.

Welshman Tom Pryce had started from a very impressive third place in the UOP Shadow, but a botched getaway dropped him into trouble in the first corner. In a very similar incident to the second lap crash at the Dutch Grand Prix two weeks before, James Hunt's Hesketh piled into Pryce and both drivers were forced to retire.

Pryce takes up the story: "One car hit my front wheel [Emerson Fittipaldi], spinning the steering wheel out of my hand. Another [Carlos Reutemann] went over my wheel and shot into the air. Then someone [James Hunt] thumped me in the back."

Hunt, who was out on the spot, blamed Fittipaldi for cutting across Pryce and spent the next few laps waving his fist at the McLaren from the side of the track. Fittipaldi retired on lap 28 when his engine blew up, but by that time Hunt had forgiven his friend and the two embraced in the pit lane.

The rest of the race continued without serious incident and Peterson crossed the line ahead of Lauda and the second Ferrari of Clay Regazzoni in third. Despite taking pole and looking set for victory before his problem, Lauda slammed the brand new track: "I said before it was a stupid circuit. I say it now, and would have said it had I won."

Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1

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Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1 Laurence Edmondson grew up on a Sunday afternoon diet of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell and first stepped in the paddock as a Bridgestone competition finalist in 2005. He worked for ITV-F1 after graduating from university and has been ESPNF1's deputy editor since 2010