The French Grand Prix was the sixth race of the 1972 season, and returned to the Charade Circuit, near Clermont-Ferrand. In a race dominated by stones thrown onto the track by the cars, Jackie Stewart drove a careful race and inherited the win, ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi. Pole sitter and front runner Chris Amon lost almost a lap from a flat tire caused by the stones, but recovered at a furious pace to finish third, setting fastest lap along the way. Early in the race, Helmut Marko was hit in the eye by a stone kicked up by Emerson Fittipaldi, and lost most of his sight in that eye, ending his driving career.
The Charade circuit had an unusual element of danger attached. It was built around an extinct volcano, and a large number of small (but very hard and sharp) igneous rocks were used for the foundation of the roads. As the cars got wider, it became increasingly common for a driver to put a wheel into the rocks, flinging a number of them onto the track and at following cars. The large number of flat tires, lack of run off room, and Marko's injury, all combined to ensure that this was the final Formula One race at the circuit.
There was another very large entry of 29 cars, and since only 24 would be allowed to start, some folks would be going home unhappy. Because of the cancellation of the Dutch GP, there had been a four week gap since Belgium, and a number of teams had modified their cars.
The Formula One world was also saddened by the death of Jo Bonnier, who had been killed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, three weeks earlier.
- Brabham: Carlos Reutemann's car was fitted with a revised rear suspension, in anticipation of a new model of Hewland gearbox (which had not yet arrived). All three cars had their rear wings moved further back.
- BRM: the car of Jean-Pierre Beltoise had been fitted with P180 front and rear suspension, giving the car a 5cm wider track. The car was designated a P160C, even though it was one of the P160B chassis. The team felt this move would allow them to evaluate the suspension independently, helping to sort the P180s.
- Ferrari: Mario Andretti was at the USAC Pocono 500, and Clay Regazzoni had suffered a broken wrist in a soccer match. So the team obtained Nanni Galli on loan from Tecno. Since Belgium, the cars had had their rear suspensions modified, and the rear wings moved further back. Jacky Ickx decided that the spare car was better suited for the circuit, and drove it in the race.
- Lotus: The cars all had the rear wings mounted atop the oil tank, with the oil radiators on either side of the tank, further improving the airflow.
- March: In the four weeks since Nivelles, the team retired the 721X cars, and built their own 721Gs, similar to Mike Beuttler's car. But the team claimed that they had made 43 improvements to the original design. And the experimenting continued: Ronnie Peterson's car had an aluminum rear wing, whereas Niki Lauda's car had one made of fiberglass.
- Matra: Now that Le Mans was over with, the factory could pay some attention to the F1 team. They arrived with a brand new MS120D chassis, looking much smoother and efficient than the previous cars. Chris Amon was obviously pleased with it, and spent much of the weekend showing the field that the old spark was still there.
- McLaren: Peter Revson was at the USAC race, so once again the team welcomed Brian Redman in his stead. The cars had their rear wings moved further back, on very sturdy supports. The oil tanks were now mounted between the rear bulkhead and the engine, and the oil coolers were mounted lower next to the gearbox. There were some tweaks to the suspension, too.
- Tecno: With Nanni Galli at Ferrari this weekend, Derek Bell was given a shot. This was the second chassis built, and with it Galli had finished third (out of seven starters!) at the non-championship race at Vallelunga.
- Tyrrell: Jackie Stewart returned to the team, looking rested and fitter than he had for a while. For the second time in less than two years, the team startled the paddock by arriving with an unsuspected brand new design. Chassis 005 was a major upgrade on the 001 series. The full width nose was lower, except for the section just in front of the tires, but still enclosed the water radiator. The chassis was rectangular, as apposed to the bulbous oval of the 001 series. On either side of the driver were inlet ducts, like the Lotus 72, but these were for the oil radiators. The bodywork continued on a gentle upward slope until the very rear of the car, and the rear wing had a fairing that continued back from the engine airbox. The whole effect was very neat and aerodynamic, with the bodywork covering almost all of the car. Since Stewart was still on the mend, he stuck with his normal 003 car, and 005 was entrusted to François Cevert in his homeland. In addition, the team entered promising Formula 2 driver Patrick Depailler in 004, and Cevert's old 002 chassis was kept as the spare. Unfortunately, Cevert would have to resort to the spare, when he crashed the new car in the first session, after breaking the lap record.
The full entry list for the 1972 French Grand Prix is outlined below:
|11||3||Jacky Ickx||Ferrari||37||+1 Lap||4|
|12||20||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Ford||37||+1 Lap||17|
|13||30||Nanni Galli||Ferrari||37||+1 Lap||19|
|14||28||Andrea de Adamich||Surtees-Ford||37||+1 Lap||12|
|15||5||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||BRM||37||+1 Lap||24|
|16||10||Rolf Stommelen||March-Ford||37||+1 Lap||15|
|17||27||Tim Schenken||Surtees-Ford||36||+2 Laps||5|
|Ret||15||Mike Beuttler||March-Ford||33||Out of fuel||23|
|NC||8||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford||33||+5 Laps||16|
|Ret||25||Helmut Marko||BRM||8||Eye injury||6|
Standings after raceEdit
- Pritchard, Anthony (1973). The Motor Racing Year No4. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.. pp. 81-90. ISBN 0-393-08677-1.
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