1974 Monaco Grand Prix
Peterson clips a barrier and spins from third place, is struck by Carlos Reutemann’s Brabham, which retires on the spot, and loses three places. Fewer than 30 laps later, the inspired Swede and his warhorse take a lead that they hold to the finish.
The replacement Lotus 76 had been a disappointment – in fairness it had a lot to live up to – and Peterson in particular would remain unconvinced. He stuck with the 72 to win the French GP and, as late as September’s Italian GP, left the unloved ‘future’ languishing in the transporter to win in the ‘spare’: the 20th and final GP victory for a 72.
It couldn’t last, of course, and time eventually overtook even this futuristic machine. When ‘likely lads’ John Watson, Jim Crawford and Brian Henton got their hands on it – in its final form, with coil springs at the rear – the 72’s story was to all intents and purposes over.
Henton was still running at the finish of the 1975 Grand Prix of the United States but was 10 laps down – after a damaging spin and a later collision with a barrier – and was unclassified.
‘Superhen’ was driving a reconstituted R5. The mangled original was for a time used to store technical drawings back at HQ, but Classic Team Lotus has since rebuilt it. A reunion at Goodwood’s 2019 Festival of Speed brought Fittipaldi to tears.
Lotus 72 is that sort of car – as charismatic as it was successful – its legacy assured even before factoring its inspiring of a pre-teen Adrian Newey.
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.