Monday, 19 September 2005 19:48
Ronnie Peterson (Bengt Ronnie Peterson)
Bengt Ronnie Peterson, (February 14, 1944, Örebro, Sweden - September 11, 1978, Monza, Italy) was a Swedish racing driver.
Formulas Two and One
1973 - 1976
1974 yielded three more victories, France and Italy again, but also at Monaco, the blue riband event of Formula One. After a bad year with Lotus in 1975, in which the Lotus 76 proved a failure and he reverted to driving the 72F, Peterson drove the first two races of 1976 in the Lotus 77 before rejoining March Engineering, with whom he won yet again in Italy, driving their 761.
1977 - 1978
Come racing time, the grid lined up as normal. The race starter, however, was overenthusiastic and several cars in the middle of the field got a jump on those at the front. The result was a massive crush of cars up to the recently added chicane just before 'curva grande' corner and all hell broke loose. James Hunt collided with Peterson, with Riccardo Patrese, Vittorio Brambilla, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Patrick Depailler, Didier Pironi, Derek Daly, Clay Regazzoni and Brett Lunger involved in the ensuing melee. (Later on, Hunt, among other drivers, unjustly blamed Patrese for starting the accident, and viewers of Hunt's commentaries of Formula 1 races from 1980-1993 on BBC Television were regularly treated to bitter diatribes of Patrese when the Italian appeared on screen).
Peterson's poorly maintained and flimsy Lotus went into the barriers hard and caught fire. Though trapped, Hunt, Regazzoni and Depailler managed to free him from the wreck before Peterson received more than minor burns. He was dragged free and laid in the middle of the track fully conscious, his severe leg injuries obvious to all (Hunt later said he stopped Peterson from looking at his legs to spare him further distress). Scandalously, it took 20 minutes before the Italian circuit dispatched medical help to the scene. At the time, there was more concern for the Italian Brambilla (who as a matter of fact was born in Monza), who had been hit on the head by a flying wheel and was slumped comatose in his car (he later recovered and drove on in F1 until 1980). Peterson's life was not, however, seen to be in any danger. The injured drivers were taken to hospital in Milan and, after a major cleanup job, the race was restarted (for those with undamaged or spare cars at least).
At the hospital, Peterson's X-rays showed he had 17 fractures in one leg and 3 in the other. After discussion with Ronnie himself, the surgeons decided to operate to stabilise the bones.
Unfortunately, during the night, bone marrow from the fractures had got into Peterson's bloodstream forming fat globules on his major organs including lungs, liver, and brain. By daybreak he was in full renal failure and was declared dead a few hours later. The cause of death was given as fat embolism.
The tragedy was that Peterson's life would most likely have been saved had he received medical attention immediately after his accident.
Ronnie Peterson ran a total of 123 Grand Prix races during his career and was the winner in ten of them. He is arguably the greatest driver, along with Stirling Moss and Gilles Villeneuve, to have never won the Formula One World Championship.
Ronnie Peterson married former top model Barbro Edwardsson in April 1975 and they had one child, a daughter, Nina, born later that year. Barbro never got over his death and committed suicide on December 19, 1987. She was buried, alongside Ronnie, in the Peterson family grave in Örebro.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 October 2006 13:09|