Mario Andretti made history on this day in 1971 when he scored his first Grand Prix victory in the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami (see video below).
Fittingly, the Italian-born American’s first victory came at the wheel of a Ferrari. Andretti cemented his position in the team’s history by winning on his debut for them.
Team mate Clay Regazzoni led the early running having passed pole sitter Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell. But Denny Hulme was working his way through the field, passing Emerson Fittipaldi, Jacky Ickx. He took the lead off the Ferrari driver on lap 17.
Meanwhile Andretti had moved up from his seventh place on the grid to hold second. Hulme’s lead looked secure until a suspension part failed with four laps to go, allowing the flat-12 engined Ferrari 312B to sweep by.
This was a double American triumph, for Andretti’s victory came on Firestone tires. The Ohio company, prior to its purchase by Japanese giant Bridgestone, had won all bar two of the previous year’s races.
But it was to be Andretti’s only victory for the Scuderia. At this stage in his career he only competed in world championship events sporadically, prioritizing competitions in America. His greatest F1 successes including his 1978 championship triumph came with Lotus.
However he returned to Ferrari in their hour of need in 1982 when the team had lost both its drivers during the course of the season. On his comeback at Monza he was quickest in qualifying, and so Andretti’s first victory and last pole position both came with Ferrari.