French GP 1974
JULY 7, 1974
French GP, 1974
The French Grand Prix continued to be a race in search of a home and arrived in 1974 at Dijon-Prenois. It was the sixth different circuit in nine seasons. The 2.0-mile track was not really up to standard and with 30 entries the paddock was packed. There were several important changes. Carlos Pace had found a job with the Hexagon of Highgate Brabham team, alongside John Watson, while his place at Surtees had gone to Frenchman Jose Dolhem . The Iso Marlboro team rented out its second car to another Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jabouille, while the Finnish Colt Surtees reappeared in the hands of Leo Kinnunen and Gerard Larrousse was back in his Finotto Brabham. The organizers decided that only 22 cars should start and so eight failed to qualify. Attempts were made by FOCA to get the organizers to restrict the entry and these caused considerable discontent amongst the small teams.
Pole position went to World Championship challenger Niki Lauda (Ferrari) with Ronnie Peterson alongside him on the front row in his Lotus. Third on the grid was the very impressive Tom Pryce (Shadow) alongside the second Ferrari of Clay Regazzoni while World Championship leader Emerson Fittipaldi was fifth, just beating his McLaren team mate Mike Hailwood. The top 10 was completed by Jody Scheckter (Tyrrell), Carlos Reutemann (Brabham), Patrick Depailler (who had to race in an old Tyrrell after crashing his 007) and James Hunt (Hesketh).
At the start Pryce was worried about his car overheating and was watching his gauges when the flag was dropped. Reutemann made a good start and tried to pass the cars ahead of him and ran into Pryce, punting the Shadow into the path of Hunt. The two British drivers were both eliminated as they had been a fortnight earlier in Holland. Reutemann also retired at the end of the lap.
At the front Lauda was head of Peterson and Regazzoni with Hailwood and Scheckter giving chase. Further back Fittipaldi made rapid progress through the field and overtook Jacky Ickx (Lotus) for sixth place on the fifth lap. Next time around Scheckter overtook Hailwood for fourth. Hailwood then dropped behind Fittipaldi as well, the Brazilian then closing up on Scheckter. he overtook the South African on lap 15.
Two laps later Peterson was able to dive ahead of Lauda and take the lead. He quickly pulled away from Lauda, who was suffering from a vibration problem. Regazzoni was left alone in third place while fourth-placed Fittipaldi closed in on the Ferrari but then went out with engine failure on lap 28. This promoted Ickx to fifth and Denny Hulme (McLaren) to sixth. The order remained unchanged for the last 50 laps although Scheckter provided some excitement by closing right up to Regazzoni in the closing stages. The pair finished just two-tenths apart. Ickx and Hulme also crossed the line separated by tenths.
The result meant that Lauda took the lead in the World Championship with Regazzoni moving up to second place ahead of Fittipaldi.