Lotus 72

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Lotus 72
1971 Emerson Fittipaldi, Lotus 72 (kl).JPG
Emerson Fittipaldi driving the 72 at the Nürburgring in 1971
CategoryFormula One
ConstructorTeam Lotus
Designer(s)Colin Chapman
Tony Rudd
Maurice Philippe
Predecessor49 / 63
Successor56B / 76 / 77
Technical specifications
ChassisAluminium monocoque
Suspension (front)Double wishbone, inboard spring/damper.
Suspension (rear)Parallel top links, lower wishbones, twin radius arms, outboard spring/damper
EngineFord Cosworth DFV, 2993cc V8, naturally aspirated, mid-engine, longitudinally-mounted
TransmissionHewland FG400, 5-speed manual
Power440-465 hp @ 10,000-10,800 rpm[1]
Tyres1970-1972, 1974: Firestone
1974: Goodyear
Competition history
Notable entrantsGold Leaf Team Lotus
John Player Team Lotus
Notable driversAustria Jochen Rindt,
Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi,
Sweden Ronnie Peterson,
Belgium Jacky Ickx
Debut1970 Spanish Grand Prix
Constructors' Championships3 (1970, 1972, 1973)
Drivers' Championships2 (Rindt, 1970; Fittipaldi, 1972)
n.b. Unless otherwise stated, all data refer to
Formula One World Championship Grands Prix only.

The Lotus 72 is a Formula One car designed by Colin Chapman and Maurice Philippe of Lotus for the 1970 Formula One season. The 72 was a pioneering design featuring inboard brakes, side-mounted radiators in sidepods (as opposed to the nose-mounted radiators, which had been commonplace since before World War II), and aerodynamic wings producing down-force.


The overall shape of the 72 was innovative, resembling a wedge on wheels which was inspired by the earlier Lotus 56 gas turbine car. The shape made for better air penetration and higher speeds. In a back-to-back test with the Lotus 49, the 72 was 12 mph faster with the same Cosworth engine.

Chapman's and Phillippe's efforts produced one of the most remarkable and successful designs in F1 history. Taking the stressed engine layout technique from the Lotus 49 and adding advanced aerodynamics produced a car that was years ahead of its rivals. To begin with, however, problems with the handling of the car had to be overcome, due to a lack of 'feel' caused by the anti-dive suspension geometry – which was designed to prevent the nose of the car dipping significantly under braking – and the anti-squat set-up at the rear, which was supposed to stop the car 'squatting down' under acceleration. Once the suspension was modified, there were no further major problems aside from front inboard brake shafts failing. The car caused a sensation amongst the media and fans, with many people clamouring to see the remarkable car in action.[2]

A total of nine chassis were built.[3]

Race history[edit]


Jochen Rindt driving the 72 at the 1970 Dutch Grand Prix.

The car was introduced at the Spanish Grand Prix in April, the 2nd race of the 1970 season, and continued the red, cream and gold paint scheme of Gold Leaf cigarettes, first introduced with the Lotus 49. The cars were driven by Jochen Rindt and John Miles, but the 72 was withdrawn from competition after Spanish Grand Prix, due to poor performance, for suspension modification.

It was re-entered for the Dutch GP, and Rindt soon made the car successful, by winning the Dutch, French, British and German Grands Prix in quick succession. Rindt was almost certainly going to win the world championship but was killed in a qualifying crash at Monza, driving the 72 with its wings removed, when a front brake shaft failed sending the car at high speed into a poorly installed safety barrier. His replacement, Emerson Fittipaldi, won the United States race, helping Rindt become F1's only posthumous world champion. Rindt's and Fittipaldi's combined points for the season helped Lotus to its fourth constructors' championship.


Fittipaldi at the wheel of the Lotus 72D at the 1972 Austrian Grand Prix.

The car was developed during 1971 by Tony Rudd who had formerly worked at BRM. He worked especially on redesigning the rear suspension and modified the rear wing to produce more downforce. Fittipaldi struggled during the season but scored good results and finished a respectable sixth, whilst the following season was much better. The development work done behind the scenes helped him become the youngest world champion in F1's history in 1972 winning five races in the 72, whilst Lotus again won the constructors' championship. The car now sported a striking paint scheme of black and gold; Imperial Tobacco had introduced a new brand, and decided to increase exposure and provide more funds to Lotus as part of the deal. Lotus was now sponsored by John Player Special cigarettes.[3]


The 1973 season saw new rules introduced to increase car safety. This included mandatory deformable structure to be built into the sides of the cars, causing the 72 to be further updated with integrated sidepods, larger bodywork and new wing mounts. Fittipaldi was joined for 1973 by Swede Ronnie Peterson. Peterson fell in love with the 72. In his first season with Lotus, Peterson won four races, while Fittipaldi won three, but a number of retirements helped Jackie Stewart snatch the drivers' championship, although the large points tally built up by their two drivers helped Lotus keep the constructors' championship. Fittipaldi left for McLaren in 1974, to drive a car closely based on the 72, the McLaren M23.[4]


This left Peterson as team leader, while Jacky Ickx joined the team to partner him. The 72 was meant to be replaced by the Lotus 76, intended to be a lighter and leaner version of the 72, but the car's technology proved to be too ambitious and the project flopped.[5] Lotus turned to the venerable 72 for the 1974 season. A further update to the car, increasing the front and rear track kept the car competitive. Peterson won another three races and challenged for the championship in a very closely contested season, ably supported by Ickx who turned in solid performances and scored several podiums. The now aging 72 did remarkably well for a four-year-old design, finishing fourth in the constructors' championship.


An ex-Ronnie Peterson Lotus 72E

For 1975, without a replacement chassis, the 72 was again pressed into service. By now it was obvious that the car, even with further modifications including a wider track and redesigned suspension, was no match for the new Ferrari 312T, which took the title, or even the latest Brabham BT44 and Lotus finished 6th in the constructors' championship.[6]

After 20 wins, two drivers' and three constructors' championships, the 72 was retired for the 1976 season and replaced by the Lotus 77. This longevity makes it one of the most successful ever Formula 1 cars.[7]

Historic Formula One Championship[edit]

The car was later used to win the 1996 Historic Formula One Championship.

Complete Formula One World Championship results[edit]

(key) (results in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Chassis Entrant Engine Tyres Drivers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Points WCC
1970 72
Gold Leaf Team Lotus Ford Cosworth DFV F RSA ESP MON BEL NED FRA GBR GER AUT ITA CAN USA MEX 591 1st1
Jochen Rindt Ret 1 1 1 1 Ret DNS
John Miles DNQ Ret 7 8 Ret Ret Ret DNS
Emerson Fittipaldi DNS 1 Ret
Reine Wisell 3 NC
Brooke Bond Oxo Racing Graham Hill DNA DNS NC Ret Ret
World Wide Racing Alex Soler-Roig DNQ
1971 72C
Gold Leaf Team Lotus Ford Cosworth DFV F RSA ESP MON NED FRA GBR GER AUT ITA CAN USA 21 5th
Emerson Fittipaldi Ret Ret 5 3 3 Ret 2 7 NC
Reine Wisell 4 NC Ret DSQ 6 8 4 5 Ret
Dave Charlton DNS Ret
Villiger Cigar Team Herbert Müller DNA
1972 72D John Player Team Lotus Ford Cosworth DFV F ARG RSA ESP MON BEL FRA GBR GER AUT ITA CAN USA 61 1st
Emerson Fittipaldi Ret 2 1 3 1 2 1 Ret 1 1 11 Ret
David Walker DSQ 10 9 14 14 18 Ret Ret Ret Ret
Tony Trimmer DNA
Reine Wisell Ret 10
Scribante Lucky Strike Racing Dave Charlton Ret DNQ Ret Ret
1973 72D
John Player Team Lotus Ford Cosworth DFV G ARG BRA RSA ESP BEL MON SWE FRA GBR NED GER AUT ITA CAN USA 92 (96) 1st
Emerson Fittipaldi 1 1 3 1 3 2 12 Ret Ret Ret 6 Ret 2 2 6
Ronnie Peterson Ret Ret 11 Ret Ret 3 2 1 2 11 Ret 1 1 Ret 1
Scribante Lucky Strike Racing Dave Charlton Ret
1974 72E John Player Team Lotus Ford Cosworth DFV G ARG BRA RSA ESP BEL MON SWE NED FRA GBR GER AUT ITA CAN USA 422 4th2
Ronnie Peterson 13 6 1 Ret 8 1 10 Ret 1 3 Ret
Jacky Ickx Ret 3 Ret Ret 11 5 3 5 13 Ret
Team Gunston F Paddy Driver Ret
Ian Scheckter 13
Scribante Lucky Strike Racing G John McNicol DNA
1975 72E
John Player Team Lotus Ford Cosworth DFV G ARG BRA RSA ESP MON BEL SWE NED FRA GBR GER AUT ITA USA 9 7th
Ronnie Peterson Ret 15 10 Ret 4 Ret 9 15 10 Ret Ret 5 Ret 5
Jacky Ickx 8 9 12 2 8 Ret 15 Ret Ret
Jim Crawford Ret 13
Brian Henton 16 DNS NC
John Watson Ret
Team Gunston Guy Tunmer 11
Eddie Keizan 13

^1 Includes 14 points scored using the Lotus 49.
^2 Includes 3 points scored using the Lotus 76.

Non-championship Formula One results[edit]

Jacky Ickx in a 72E, after taking victory at the 1974 Race of Champions


Year Entrant Engine Tyres Drivers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1970 Gold Leaf Team Lotus Ford Cosworth DFV F ROC INT OUL
John Miles 17
Jochen Rindt 2
R.R.C. Walker Racing Graham Hill Ret
1971 Gold Leaf Team Lotus Ford Cosworth DFV F ARG ROC QUE SPR INT RIN OUL VIC
Reine Wisell Ret Ret Ret 13 10
Emerson Fittipaldi Ret Ret 7 2
Tony Trimmer Ret DNS
David Walker 9
1972 John Player Team Lotus Ford Cosworth DFV F ROC BRA INT OUL REP VIC
Emerson Fittipaldi 1 Ret 1 2 1 Ret
David Walker 9 5 DNS Ret
1973 John Player Team Lotus Ford Cosworth DFV G ROC INT
Emerson Fittipaldi Ret Ret
Ronnie Peterson Ret 2
1974 John Player Team Lotus Ford Cosworth DFV G PRE ROC INT
Jacky Ickx 1
1975 John Player Team Lotus Ford Cosworth DFV G ROC INT SUI
Ronnie Peterson 3 DNS 4
Jacky Ickx 4
Jim Crawford DNS


  1. ^ "Engine Ford Cosworth • STATS F1".
  2. ^ "Grand Prix Cars - Lotus Ford 72". www.grandprixhistory.org. 23 November 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b Wouter Melissen. "1970 - 1975 Lotus 72 Cosworth". Ultimate Car Page. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  4. ^ "The end of the Lotus 72". Motor Sport Magazine. 4 September 2014. Archived from the original on 12 December 2019. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  5. ^ "Lotus 76 car-by-car histories". oldracingcars.com. oldracingcars.com.
  6. ^ "A pretty Lotus but ..." humansideofracing.com. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  7. ^ Selby, Ben (22 May 2019). "Revolution: The Lotus 72 Story". DriveTribe. Archived from the original on 13 December 2019. Retrieved 13 December 2019.