GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #27 - Jody Scheckter

17-02-2020 19:00
by Adam Newton
General
GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #27 - Jody Scheckter

Hello and welcome back once again to GPBlog’s Top 50 F1 drivers of all time. It’s less than four weeks now until the return of F1 in Melbourne and we’re getting down to the business end of this countdown, with legend after legend appearing in our list. Yesterday was about F1’s first champion, Giuseppe Farina and today we’ve got another one time champion, Jody Scheckter.

Scheckter became F1’s only ever African champion when he took the title in 1979, a title that had been a long time coming with the South African showing his pace for years before his golden year.

He made his debut with McLaren in 1972 with a one-off appearance in the USA before returning for his home race in 1973.

However, early in his career he was considered as a reckless and dangerous driver and was facing a ban from the sport, instead sitting out four races.

Scheckter put to bed his aggressive style after witnessing the horrific accident of Francois Cevert, who was set to be his teammate in 1974 after he signed with Tyrrell.

He won two races in a consistent year that saw him finish third in the standings and the following year took victory in his home race at Kyalami.

In 1976 Scheckter took to the track in the incredibly different and strange Tyrrell P34, the six wheeled car. He fared pretty well, winning in Sweden and finishing third once again in the championship.

He went one better in 1977 with new team Wolf, finishing on the podium when reliability allowed, but Niki Lauda and Ferrari were too good and Scheckter finished a distant second.

1978 was tougher but a move to Ferrari gave Scheckter the best car on the grid for the first time in his career.

Scheckter had a tough start to the year, scoring just one point in the Argentine and Brazilian Grands Prix, whilst Jacques Laffite won both in his Ligier. The following round saw his season get off the ground, as he came third in South Africa. His teammate Gilles Villeneuve won the race, leaving Scheckter fifth in the standings.

Reliability was an issue for everybody back in the 70s and it was no different this year. Whilst Scheckter cashed in with back to back wins in Belgium and Monaco, the only championship rival to score points was Laffite, and even he had retired in the previous three races. The win in Monaco allowed Scheckter to take the championship lead for the first time.

As the South African's nearest rivals struggled, especially teammate Villeneuve, Scheckter continued to pick up regular points, with a podium in the Netherlands and victory in Italy, which secured his title with two round to spare.

1980 was disastrous for Ferrari, who gave their champion no chance of retaining his title, as he managed just two points, retiring at the end of the season.

Coming into F1 as a fast but erratic driver, Scheckter quickly changed his ways to get more results, becoming a consistent challenger and race winner, even in cars that weren’t the best. He deserved his title in 1979, owing to his consistency and reliability.

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