JACKIE STEWART ON CEVERT'S ACCIDENT
“I am sure it was human error – it's not a kind thing to say but it's not an unfair thing to say either. It was a righthander followed by a lefthander followed by a righthander. At the crest of the hill there was a bump. The barrier was three high on either side, so it was a real funnel.
“The 006 was a short-wheelbase car, very twitchy, and I'd decided that I was going to run in fifth through there, even though it was the wrong gear. It settled the car more so it was less nervous. I'm sure that Francois was going through there in fourth gear. When he realized he hit the bump, I'm sure he came off the power, and I think when he came off the power he just got into oversteer, hit the barrier on one side, and the car rocketed over to the other and just demolished itself.
“I didn't know where he was, because there was so much of the car on the track. In fact he was over the barrier, with the main part of the monocoque. I regret to this day that I didn't stay with him. But in my mind there was nothing to stay for, as it was so horrific, so horrendous, just…brutal. I got back in the car and went back to the pits, and I was angry – the waste, the destruction, the scale of the accident. But there was nothing to be done.
“Although we didn't race, I actually went back out to drive the car in the afternoon, for all the Tyrrell boys. They felt it was a mechanical failure, and I said it wasn't: I felt the need to demonstrate that with the confidence of going back out and driving. And I had exactly the same thing happen to me on that bump as happened to him. But I was in fifth gear…
“By 1973, Francois was very quick. I think he could have won the World Championship in '74, because that car was better than in '73. And I would have been there, because I'd have gone to all the races with him. His father and mother were lovely people, and his sister and brothers too. I send flowers to his grave every year, and his mother wrote me a letter every year.”
KEN TYRRELL (team owner, interviewed in 1998)
…on Cevert's potential
“Francois was a natural candidate for us. Everybody said it was because of Elf, but it was really because of what Jackie said about him. We'll never know if he could have gone on to become World Champion, but if you ask Jackie the question, I think he'd say that Francois was as quick as him at that time. He was obviously a great natural talent but, like with everybody else, it takes time to develop. There's no question that in his last year, in at least two races where they finished first and second, Jackie said to me after the race that Francois could have passed him.”
…on Cevert's personality
“He was a very charming young man. He was very handsome, so the girls all loved him. He only had to flutter his eyelashes and the girls fell about. He wasn't just an employee of the team. The whole team and the family were very upset about it. I had to decide whether I wanted to continue. I sort of felt that it was perhaps best to do something about making the cars and circuits safer rather than just go away.”
…on Cevert's fatal accident
“When he went out he said, ‘I'm going to put this car on pole now,' and he'd gone out to do that when he lost it. I was at the Canadian GP this year, and afterward, I went down to Watkins Glen, and dedicated a plaque to him in the pavement in the main street. Then we went up to lay some flowers where he was killed. The awful thing is that, looking at the place where it happened, you realize that if he'd been driving a modern car he would have walked away from it.”
JABBY CROMBAC (journalist, interviewed in 1998)
“Francois was a real gentleman, very courteous, very intelligent. He had everything going for him. But young enthusiasts were jealous, because he was so handsome, from a rich family – and he'd slept with Brigitte Bardot!
“He was a personal friend of mine, and after the accident I had to help. I took Jean-Pierre Beltoise to the phone, and we had to call the family. I was given some dreadful tasks by Ken: I had to go with [Ken Tyrrell's wife] Norah and pack Francois' things. That's one of the saddest things you can do – open a wardrobe and take the suits of a friend of yours who's been killed, and pack his suitcase. And I had to go and choose a coffin. That's one of the worst memories of my life.
“I also had to organize how to bring the body back, because in America you need all sorts of rubber stamps. I called Francois Guiter from Elf, who used to be in the secret service. The next morning, a guy turned up from the French secret service, and he pulled strings immediately, so we were able to bring him back.
“I'm pretty sure that if Francois hadn't been killed, he would have been World Champion the following year. Jackie had opened everything to him, and the reason he was so good was because he was younger, greedier – because he hadn't had the title yet – and he had acquired the experience from Jackie. Jody Scheckter used the Tyrrell 006 for the first three races of 1974. It was not a good car, but Jackie and Francois had learned how to manage it. Jody didn't score any points until they had the 007 ready, but at the end of the year he was not very far off winning the title.”