François Cevert was born in Nazi occupied Paris in February 1944. His father was Charles Goldenberg whose parents had taken him to Paris from Russia to escape the Russian revolution in 1905.
When he was 16, François Cevert began his motorsport career on two wheels, rather than four, initially racing his mother’s Vespa scooter against friends, before graduating to his own Norton at the age of 19.
After completing his National Service, Cevert switched his attention to cars. In 1966 he completed a training course at the Le Mans school, before enrolling at the Magny-Cours racing school. At the same time he registered for the Volant Shell scholarship competition, which offered the top finisher the prize of an Alpine Formula Three car. Cevert duly qualified for the final race and won.
In 1969 he joined to Formula two, and finished third overall, as well as driving in the F2 class of the 1969 German Grand Prix. At the time, Formula Two was an ideal training ground for strong-minded drivers, as many top Grand Prix drivers also competed in the F2 class, when their Formula One schedules permitted. When Jackie Stewart had a hard time getting around Cevert in an F2 race at Crystal Palace the same year, Stewart told his team manager Ken Tyrrell to keep an eye on the young Frenchman.
When Johnny Servoz-Gavin suddenly retired from the Tyrrell Formula One team three races into the 1970 season, Tyrrell called upon Cevert to be his number two driver, alongside defending World Champion Stewart.
The 1973 United States Grand Prix
During qualifying for the final race of the season at Watkins Glen everything went horrifically wrong. As Cevert was going through the fast “essess” section his Tyrrell ran just a fraction wide. The car clipped the kerbs sending it to the right of the track. The Tyrrell brushed the wall and this sent it straight toward the barrier on the other side of the track.
The car smashed into the barrier at 90 degrees, uprooting the whole barrier. Cevert died instantly of truly horrific injuries. He was so clearly dead he was just left in the car, telling you something about the attitude of the day. Stewart said he was “disgusted by the severity of the impact.”
Jackie Stewart was one of the last on the scene of Cevert’s accident and said later “They [the marshals] had left him [in the car], because he was so clearly dead.” Stewart immediately left the scene of the accident and returned to the pits. Because of Cevert’s death, Tyrrell withdrew its entry for this GP, and Stewart did not run his final, and 100th race.
Cevert was 29 years and 224 days old. François Cevert is buried in the Cimetière de Vaudelnay in the village of Vaudelnay, Maine-et-Loire
Described by Jackie Stewart as ‘the best French driver of all time’, Francois Cevert was killed, at the age of 29, during qualifying for the United States Grand Prix in 1973.
Stewart, who as I said was already going to retire at the end of the season withdraw from the race, ending his career on a very tragic note.
Francois Cevert could, and probably would, have been a world champion. Cevert would have been a serious title challenger in 1974. He was as good as Jackie Stewart by the end and for me that is a fairly good endorsement of driving talent
#RIP – Francois Cevert (1944-1973) (Wiki/Various Web Sources)