History of the Swedish Grand Prix and Ronnie Peterson’s near victory in the inaugural event

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 1973 SWEDISH GRAND PRIX — Ronnie Peterson leads Francois Cevert at the start of the 1973 Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp. (Photo credit: FA Fanatic: The Independent F1 Blog)

The modern Swedish Grand Prix took place from 1973 to 1978 at Scandinavian Raceway, Anderstorp (Gislaved Municipality), Sweden.  The raceway was built on the site of an airfield. The circuit length was just over 4.0 km with a race length of 80 laps in 1973, 1974 and 1975; 72 laps in 1976 and 1977 and 70 laps in 1979.)   It is said that the deaths of both Ronnie “SuperSwede” Peterson (1944-1978) and Gunnar Nilsson (1948-1978) contributed to the discontinuance of the Swedish Grand Prix.  (A race had been scheduled for 1979 but was cancelled.)

Ronnie Peterson (Lotus-Ford), who had the pole position ahead of No. 2 Francois Cevert (Tyrrell-Ford), No. 3 Jackie Stewart (Tyrrell-Ford) and No. 4 Emerson Fittipaldi (Lotus-Ford), placed second in the 1973 Swedish Grand Prix.  Peterson led every lap of the race but developed a tire problem.  The finish was reported by F1 Fanatic — The Formula 1 Blog in an article titled “Last-lap heartbreak in first Swedish GP”:

[Peterson’s] chances were improved as Stewart . . . began to experience braking problems.  [Denny] Hulme [McLaren-Ford] passed [Stewart’s]Tyrrell and Fittipaldi as well, the Lotus’s gearbox surrendering with four laps to go. With his closest rivals suffering problems Peterson looked on course to finally score his first grand prix win and make amends for his near-miss in Spain three races earlier.  But he too was in trouble.  Increasingly troubled by a slow leak in his left-rear tyre, Peterson was surprised to see Hulme gaining rapidly.  As they came onto the long back straight for the last time, Hulme had the Lotus in his sights. . . . Hulme had been lying fifth with 20 laps to go and in the drama of his late-race charge had lost track of the number of laps remaining.  When he took Peterson on the final lap he thought he had at least four more to run.  The McLaren driver took the flag first with Peterson limping in four seconds behind. 

The race was also described in a photo book titled “Ronnie Peterson: a photographic portrait” (2008):

Ronnie brought massive crowds to the Scandinavian Raceway at Anderstorp for the Swedish Grand Prix, and he delighted his fans with pole position ahead of the Tyrrell drivers and team-mate Emerson Fittipaldi.  . . . If this was to be the scene of Ronnie’s maiden victory, he could not have chosen better.  With just over a lap to run, he was stymied by a puncture.  With Emerson out with a broken transmission, and the Tyrrells hampered by fading brakes and severe tyre vibrations, the surprised winner was Denny Hulme with his Yardley McLaren M23.  Ronnie followed across the line 4 sec later, with Cevert still a distant third.

The winners of the Swedish Grand Prix were: 1973 — Denny Hulme (McLaren-Ford); 1974 — Jody Scheckter (Tyrrell-Ford); 1975 — Niki Lauda (Ferrari); 1976 — Jody Scheckter (Tyrrell-Ford); 1977 — Jacques Laffite (Ligier-Matra), and 1978 — Niki Lauda (Brabham-Alfa Romero).

In addition to Peterson’s pole position in 1973, drivers with the pole position in the Swedish Grand Prix were: 1974 — Patrick Depailler (Tyrrell-Ford); 1975 — Vittorio Brambilla (March-Ford); 1976 — Jody Schekter (Tyrrell-Ford); 1977 — Mario Andretti (Lotus-Ford), and 1978 — Mario Andretti (Lotus-Ford).

In addition to Peterson’s runner-up finish in 1973, other runners-up were: 1974 — Patrick Depailler (Tyrrell-Ford); 1975 — Carlos Reutemann (Brabham-Ford); 1976 — Patrick Depailler (Tyrrell-Ford); 1977 — Jochen Mass (McLaren-Ford), and 1978 — Riccardo Patrese (Arrows-Ford).

RONNIE.PETERSON.PORTRAIT

RONNIE PETERSON

Peterson, who was born in Almby in the vicinity of Orebro, Sweden, died on Sept. 11, 1978 at a hospital in Milan, Italy, after a crash at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. (The cause of his death was a fat embolism due to medical negligence.)  Peterson was a two-time runner-up in the FIA Formula One World Drivers’ Championship.

Peterson’s Formula 1 race car driver friend, Gunnar Nilsson, was born in Helsingborg, Sweden. Nilsson died on Oct. 20, 1978 at London of testicular cancer.  Nilsson won the 1975 British Formula Three Championship. He also won the 1977 Belgian Gran Prix. Nilsson was only active in Formula 1 racing from 1976-77. Other Swedish Formula 1 drivers have included Conny Andersson (1976-77), Joakim Bonnier (1956-71), Slim Borgudd (1981-82), Marcus Ericsson (2014), Stefan Johansson (1980, 1983-91), Torsten Palm (1975), Berti Roos (1974) and Reine Wisell (1970-74).

Peterson’s first Formula 1 victory was the 1973 French Grand Prix in a Lotus 72. He also won the Austrian, Italian and US gran prix races during 1973. In 1974, Peterson won the Monaco, French and Italian gran prix races. He won the Italian Gran Prix in 1976. In 1978, he won the South African and Austrian gran prix races.

[2014 update: Marcus Ericsson, a Swedish F1 driver, planned to wear a replica of Ronnie Peterson’s helmet at the 2014 Monaco Gran Prix on May 25th. “The Swedish driver is paying homage to Ronnie Peterson, arguably the nation’s greatest Formula 1 racer, who won the Monaco Grand Prix 40 years ago.” A comment to this article stated: “Arguably the nation’s best of all time? He WAS the best Sweden ever had.” (Ericsson pays homage to Ronnie Peterson with Monaco helmet — motorsportstalk.nbcsports.com.) Nico Roseberg (Mercedes) has the pole for the second year in a row. Marcus Ericsson (Caterham-Renault) will start from the 22nd — last– position. Ericsson was penalized after initiating contact with Felipe Massa (Williams) during qualifying. Ericsson will be required to start the race from pit lane.]

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BARBRO PETERSON (CREDIT: formula1.com.)

At the time of Ronnie Peterson’s death, he was survived by his wife, Barbro Edwardsson Peterson, and a young daughter, Nina. Barbro later had a four to five year relationship with British race car driver John Watson. (Watson was the winner of five gran prix races with his first win being the 1976 Austrian Gran Prix and his last win being the 1983 United States Gran Prix West in Long Beach, CA.) However, Barbro’s relationship with Mr. Watson “couldn’t fill the empty space after Ronnie and Barbro withdrew even more in loneliness. The 19th of December 1987 Barbro was found dead in her bathtub. An unfortunate mix of alcohol and tranquilizers. She couldn’t get over the grief after Ronnie’s death and died only 40 years old. She is buried in Orebro, next to Ronnie.” (The Official Ronnie Peterson website: ronniepeterson.se.)

RONNIE.PETERSON.STATUTE

STATUTE OF “THE SUPER SWEDE” AT ALMBY, OREBRO, SWEDEN

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