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Photographer Rainer Schlegelmilch
Where Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Italy
When Sunday, September 10, 1972
Details Emerson Fittipaldi sat in his Lotus 72D Ford.
The story behind the shot

Champion in waiting

Emerson Fittipaldi lines up sixth on the grid for the Italian Grand Prix.

It hasn’t been an easy weekend for the championship leader so far. His usual Lotus 72D had been damaged on the journey to Monza, and Fittipaldi had to settle for another. Then there was the new Monza layout to get to grips with, with heavy braking and two new chicanes to navigate.

Here, he can’t be sure what will happen over the next 55 laps. He just has to get his braking points right and hope those around him aren’t too daring on the new, tighter circuit.

Drama starts immedietly, with Jackie Stewart losing drive before the first cover. Fittipaldi and the rest of the field work their way around the Tyrrell, only to be created with a cloud of dust as the front runners cross an unused part of the track.

As the order settles out, Fittipaldi is running third, behind Clay Regazzoni and Jacky Ickx. On lap 17, Ragazzoni collids with backmarker Carlos Pace, promoting Ickx and Fittipaldi to first and second, but Ickx has the measure of the Brazilian.

Fittipaldi spends most of the race second until, at the end of the 46th lap, Ickx coasts into the pits. A short circuit has put his electrics out of action and he’s forced to retire.

The next nine laps are relatively simple for Fittipaldi. Ease up, try not to put too much pressure on the brakes, get the car to the chequered flag in one piece. Mike Hailwood is too far back to put up a challenge.

Fittipaldi does it, finishing 14.5s ahead of the rest of the field. Victory in the 43rd Italian Grand Prix puts him 30 points clear in the drivers’ championship and, with three rounds remaining, Fittipaldi is crowned the youngest ever champion at 25 years and 273 days.