Fittipaldi wants the McLaren

15. Jan 2024 
by Ziv Knoll

End of 1973, Emerson Fittipaldi took the decision to leave Team Lotus and join McLaren. Emerson remembers: “For me it was a very difficult decision for sure. Lotus was a great team and I felt very much at home there, like a family.” At the same time, however he was unhappy about the division of resources that Chapman’s ‘dual number one’ policy created. “The team’s efforts are concentrated neither on Ronnie (Peterson) nor on me, but are divided in two.”

Meanwhile McLaren had produced a new car, the M23, launched early in the 1973 season. Driven most successfully by Denny Hulme and Peter Revson, it scored three wins during the year. “I had some of my toughest races in 1973 against the McLarens,” reflected Fittipaldi who was impressed by Gordon Coppuck’s design (picture-above at Watkins Glen); here clearly was a car with potential.

His first impression of the M23 was positive. “It’s a very conventional car, built very simply,” said Emerson. “It’s a car that’s easy to make handle well on any circuit in the world because it’s so simple. It’s very, very quick, perhaps the quickest of all the cars in fast corners. And it’s a very forgiving car to drive. You can keep it on the limit all the time. And Teddy Mayer’s team is fantastic.”

These first impressions were proven right all through the 1974 season, where Fittipaldi was fast and reliable at the forefront, won in Brazil, Belgium and Canada, stood 4 more times on the podium, and took his second drivers’ world title, after a season long battle with Regazzoni (Ferrari), Scheckter (Tyrrell) and Lauda (Ferrari).

Source: Karl Ludvigsen

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