1973 Canadian Grand Prix - A race of confusion

The 1973 Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix at Mosport Park turned out to be the strangest and most controversial of all.

1973 Canadian Grand Prix - A race of confusion
Covered Shadow DN1 Fords of Jackie Oliver, George Follmer in the pits
Start: Peter Revson, McLaren M23, Ronnie Peterson, Lotus 72D
Jackie Oliver, Shadow DN1 Ford, Graham Hill, Shadow DN1 Ford, Jean-Pierre Jarier, March 731 Ford, François Cevert, Tyrrell 006 Ford
Peter Revson, McLaren M23
Jackie Stewart, Tyrell 006 Cosworth
Ronnie Peterson, Lotus 72E Ford, Niki Lauda, BRM P160E, Jody Scheckter, McLaren M23 Ford
Wilson Fittipaldi, Brabham BT42 Ford, James Hunt, March 731 Ford
Ronnie Peterson, Lotus 72E Ford, Jody Scheckter, McLaren M23 Ford, Niki Lauda, BRM P160E
Peter Revson, McLaren M23 Ford
Peter Revson, McLaren M23 Ford
Peter Revson, McLaren

The highly unpredictable microclimate that reigns over the region of Mosport Park, adjacent to the immense Lake Ontario, played a crucial role in the September 23rd weekend as fog interfered with practice and rain turned the race into a nightmare.

The official timekeepers and scorers experienced huge difficulties at identifying the cars are they blasted in front of them in the spray, and the dampened laps charts were soon filled with errors. No wonder the eventful Formula 1 race was quickly nicknamed ‘The Grand Prix of Confusion’!

That year, the Canadian race was the penultimate round on the calendar. Jackie Stewart had just clinched the World Championship in Monza two weeks before and was ready to retire from the sport.

Driving a Lotus 72-Ford, Ronnie Peterson clinched pole position ahead of Peter Revson in a McLaren, Jody Scheckter in the other McLaren, Carlos Reutemann in a Brabham Emerson Fittipaldi in the other Lotus 72 and François Cevert, Stewart’s teammate, in a Tyrrell.

It rained very hard on Sunday morning and the organizers had little choice but to postpone the start of the race by one hour.

Racing in treacherous conditions

The green flag eventually waved and Peterson immediately took the lead. The track then began to dry, and the running order changed constantly as drivers stopped for slick tires and repairs of all sorts.

On Lap 35, the track got partially blocked by the wrecked Tyrrell of Cevert and the McLaren of Scheckter after the two rivals fought for the same piece of tarmac.

For the first time in Grand Prix history, a pace car (a Porsche 914) took to the track. However, it held the position in front of the wrong car, allowing those in front of it a clear catch-up run around the track and gain on lap on the wrong leaders.

This factor and the never ending pit stops made the hand-made lap charts to be filled with mistakes. On Lap 45, the race was restarted and no one was really sure about who was (really) leading the race…

In fact, several drivers had led the race, including Peterson, Niki Lauda, Fittipaldi, Stewart, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Jackie Oliver.

On Lap 80, Lotus’ boss Colin Chapman, who was convinced that Fittipaldi was the winner, began to celebrate only to realize that the official had not waved the chequered flag! It was finally shown several seconds later for a group of four cars bunched up together. It is total chaos in the pit lane.

Three drivers – Peter Revson, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Jackie Oliver, driving for Shadow – were each convinced to have won the race. The officials took the time to compare their lap charts to those of the teams. After four hours of intense revisions, Revson was declared the winner ahead of Fittipaldi and Oliver. Frenchman Jean-Pierre Beltoise took fourth place for BRM ahead of Jackie Stewart and Howden Ganley in the Iso-Marlboro.

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