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He was in my eyes one of the greatest F 1 drivers of all time. Though he never came to win the World Championship, which he should have done the second year he drove in 1972. In 1973 he teamed up with Emerson Fittipaldi, the current World Champion, he won three races that year and finished third in the World Championship. The following years he had limited succes until 1978 when he returned to Lotus as a number two to Mario Andretti. Mario at first questioned this arrangement as he well new that Ronnie was no number two. As an indication of his character Ronnie accepted this position without malice; a far cry from the political intrigue that is Formula 1 today. Together they dominated the 1978 season in the Lotus 79 with Peterson scoring a pair of spectacular wins. Peterson acted the loyal number two but there were times when his brilliance could not be masked. He out qualified his teammate at Brands Hatch even though he was using hard compound tires, rather than the qualifiers which were held for Andretti, and a half tank of gas!. Here is a comment of Colin Chapman's from the time Ronnie and Emmo were team-mates at Lotus: "

"Ronnie was hopeless when it came to the technical things such as setups. He would go out in a practise session, mess around the track for a while, and come back in none the wiser. You´d ask him how the setup was, he'd say: "Slides a bit." - "Where? Front or back?" you'd ask him. He'd shrug his shoulders. His natural way was always to drive around the setup problems, rather than adjust the setup. When we got to qualifying, he would copy Emerson's setup and put the car on pole. Used to drive Emmo nuts, and I can't blame him"

That says a bit bout his skill i think.
 

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Ronnie was special indeed. His death hit me real hard. By that time I had been following F1 since 1962 but when he died I stopped watching for ten years.

1977 served as the low point of his career and for 1978 he returned to Lotus as a number two to Mario Andretti. Mario at first questioned this arrangement as he well new that Ronnie was no number two. As an indication of his character Ronnie accepted this position without malice; a far cry from the political intrigue that is Formula 1 today. Together they dominated the 1978 season in the Lotus 79 with Peterson scoring a pair of spectacular wins. Peterson acted the loyal number two but there were time when his brilliance could not be masked. He out qualified his teammate at Brands Hatch even though he was using hard compound tires, rather than the qualifiers which were held for Andretti, and a half tank of gas! After his victory at Zeltweg in Austria he trailed Andretti by only 9 points with 4 races remaining. It was well known that he would be with another team in 1979 and some suggested that he should just go for the championship with nothing to lose. Nothing except his word: "I'm going to McLaren next year" , he said. "It's not announced yet, but Mario knows, Some of these people," he sighed, "who say I should forget our agreement now... I don't understand them. I had open eyes when I signed the contract, and I also gave my word. If I break it now, who will ever trust me again?" At the next race Andretti's car broke an exhaust and lost power yet Peterson followed him over the line. Peterson felt that his time would come next year, as he had been offered a number one position with McLaren.

Some quotes:

"Ronnie drives absolutely flat-out, all the time," said Chapman after his first few races with the Swede. "If he's off the pace, then it might be the car. Not him."

Colin Chapman

"That would be a bloody fantastic spectacle, I can tell you. We would take corners one gear lower than we do now, and get the cars sideways. You know, people still rave about Ronnie Peterson in a Lotus 72, and I understand that. I agree with them. That's the kind of entertainment I want to give the crowds. Smoke the tyres ! Yeah ! "

Gilles Villeneuve discussing his ideal car and driver.

"I worshipped him, that's why my own helmet is blue and yellow."

Michelle Alboreto discussing Ronnie Peterson

 

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Hello

Thank you for those quotes Dennis. It´s great to see that there are people "close by" that also admired Ronnie. Some fanatics would most likely say that Ronnie don´t count, since he never did win a Championship. Well I think that he most likely would have done so in 1978 had he lived. And even if he hadn´t won I still hold him as one of the best since he was the only driver that really could take a inferior car and...win. Past and Present.
 

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Larsson, with no disrespect for Ronnie Peterson, but there have been others who were able to win with inferior cars, or who at least carried that reputation.

Dennis, wasn't this something that was often said about Tazio Nuvolari?
 
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I have always love the drivers that could win with an inferior car Clark, Senna, Moss, Peterson says it all really a truly great driver.

Jeff
 

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Ronnie Peterson.... any excuse to go through my photographs. I had the pleasure of seeing him race in F3, F2 and in F1 and his press on style was always great to watch.

My strongest memory was at the 1971 Daily Express Trophy race at Silverstone when his March-Alfa 711 crashed head on in to the bank right at my feet - it wasn't driver error, his throttles had jammed open - his car had come towards me for about 200 yards with the front wheels locked and plumes of smoke pouring off the tyres. The ground shuddered in the impact and there was a worrying ten minutes or so as the marshalls and medical team carefully got him out of the car, thankfully he was just battered and bruised.

I then watched him at various events over the next seven years and like so many others always had a soft spot for this very likeable man who seemed to race for the love of it. This side to his character and his innate skill that allowed him to drive round a problem in the car probably prevented him from being ultimate world champion material but he was always brilliant entertainment.

He was a great loss.


Ronnie approaching Hawthorn Bend at Brands Hatch - Lotus 72


Leading the Daily Express Trophy at Silverstone - Lotus 76


Braking for Druids Hill Bend at Brands - March 761


Again at Hawthorns, this time in the Race of Champions - Tyrrell P34


Practice for the 1978 British GP using the car he would race at Monza... Lotus 78


Race car for the British GP 1978 - Lotus 79

David
 

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I believe George Harrison dedicated the track "Faster" to the memory of Ronnie Peterson. The lyrics are easily found with a search engine. On the track you can hear a soundbite of the two JPS Lotus' zipping past the sound recorder, Andretti with his number 2 right behind keeping him honest.
 
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