To a new young lion like Jody Scheckter, who is 23 and still given a bit to pitching his car into the corners, they are the best drivers in all of racing. He can sense and admit that this elite, these men of the Grand Prix, have something special—maturity. "Oh, I suppose you could call them gentlemen, if you will. But I would say mature: they know it's a dangerous job and they have respect for each other." That sums them up, and it is one reason Scheckter has decided to concentrate on Formula I racing when he gets to be a big boy, which is just about now.
He will be joining a vintage lot. Three weeks ago, in a stirring chase that carried him from 17th to a fourth-place finish at Monza, Scotland's Jackie Stewart cinched his third world driving championship. Stewart has been around a long while, so it has special meaning when he calls this the best year Grand Prix racing has ever had. His leading opponents tend to agree. Despite a series of crashes, competition has never been keener nor the margins of finish finer than this season. Next week comes the 1973 final at Watkins Glen, an event whose own fierce glamour and $275,000 purse, the biggest in Grand Prix, keep it from being an anticlimax.
Any one of the eight drivers pictured here could win it; all of them expect to. Drawing on the events of this waning season and the talent that Scheckter calls maturity, they offer these glances at the premier motor sport of them all.
Jackie Stewart: It's been a good year for me so far. I'm satisfied, I feel I've earned most of my races. But, yes, I've thought of quitting. In mid-October I'll sit down calmly and think everything over. I never said I would quit when I beat Jimmy Clark's record of 25, I said it would be nice to do it. As for those crashes this year, there is a comradeship between racing drivers—but there also is the ability to blank out the emotional ducts in one's body to a larger extent than I assume is possible by other people.... In racing, the important thing is to never, never give up. At Monza race day started out badly. In morning practice we had engine failure from a bad valve. Then on the warm-up lap the ignition wasn't working right. We had to bleed the brakes on the starting grid. On the eighth lap I had to stop for one minute and nine seconds to change a flat tire. When I got back in the race I knew it would be difficult to reach fifth or sixth place to get the championship points—but when I got to sixth, I thought I'd try for fifth. And when I was fifth, I thought, maybe fourth. I knew I was world champion when I saw them jumping up and down outside the pits.
Graham Hill, 44, England: I never think back, I always look forward. Quit? No, I don't think about it, but one day I will. Motor racing is a very exciting, challenging, satisfying sport. I have always felt I would retire when I stopped enjoying racing, but it has occurred to me recently that I may have to find another reason because I may never stop enjoying racing. Oh, well. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Fran√ßois Cevert, 29, France: The competition has been very tough all season. The winner has never had more than six or 10 seconds over the next man. And as for the accidents and tragedy—the circus goes on. There's no room for tears.
Jacky Ickx, 28, Belgium: I'm living the life I want and I feel the future will be even better. Auto racing is the chance to use your life as you want, at the speed you want. Racing is very important to me, but not overimportant—it gets maybe 50% to 60% of my time. I have other things to do and I enjoy them.
Emerson Fittipaldi, 27, Brazil (the 1972 world champion): This year quite a few bad things happened to me. The worst was an accident in practice at Zandvoort; until then I was one point behind Jackie. I still had a good chance of keeping the championship but I've had problems with my injured foot and my car, one or the other—so what can you do? Still, you learn something in every race and after an accident you clear your mind. But you have to think about why you had the accident—so it won't happen again.
Peter Revson, 34, U.S.: The accidents this year have driven home some of the dangers of motor racing, but you just have to think of the race ahead. And while the relationship between drivers is fairly superficial, we're the only ones who can talk to each other regarding what we do. We have nobody else to relate to concerning our mutual problems.
Jody Scheckter, South Africa: I really haven't had enough races to prove myself yet—but next year I will give my main attention to Formula I. When I first came to the U.S. I won a few races in Formula 5,000 right away, plus some of the other classes, too, and everybody said I was just lucky. Not that I could drive, just that I was lucky. In Grand Prix the drivers don't say a thing like that if you win a race. If you win in Formula I they know you were fast enough and good enough—not lucky enough—to win.
Ronnie Peterson, 29, Sweden: I've been leading most of the races this season but including those races I won, I haven't finished more than five or six. Still, although I've had a bit of bad luck, I'm quite happy about my year. I never think of quitting. I'm simply one year older. That's the only way this season has affected me.