F1 Legend

Jody Scheckter

South African

  • East London, Cape Province, Union of South Africa Place of Birth
  • 29 January 1950 Date of Birth
  • 1972 United States Grand Prix F1 Debut
  • Ferrari Current/Last Team

Jody Scheckter burst onto the Formula 1 scene as an erratic, crash-prone daredevil whose risky manoeuvres endangered himself and his peers. He became infamous for causing one of the largest accidents in F1 history, leading to calls for his banishment from the sport. Instead, Scheckter reformed his approach, channelling his talent and ambition towards becoming a World Champion. He achieved this goal with Ferrari, a team that wouldn’t see another champion for 21 years, and then promptly retired.

NationalitySouth African
BornJody David Scheckter
29 January 1950
East London, Cape Province, Union of South Africa

Born on January 29, 1950, in East London, South Africa, Scheckter’s early life revolved around his father’s Renault dealership. As an engineering apprentice, he learned to drive at a young age, adopting a flat-out style that naturally led him to racing. Initially racing motorcycles and then saloon cars, his aggressive driving got him black-flagged in his first national race for dangerous driving. Over time, he learned to balance aggression with skill, becoming a regular winner. In 1970, he won the South African Formula Ford series and received the Driver To Europe scholarship. This prize, including £300 and air tickets to England for him and his wife Pam, launched his quest to become the world’s best driver.

In England, Scheckter quickly earned a reputation as the “South African Wild Man” in Formula Ford and Formula Three, where he was both a frequent spinner and winner. His rugged features, fierce temper, and blunt manner matched his headstrong driving style. Despite his frequent crashes, his undeniable speed and occasional brilliant car control caught the attention of talent scouts. McLaren gave him a trial at the 1972 US Grand Prix, then occasional rides in the 1973 season.

At the 1973 French Grand Prix, Scheckter impressed by leading at the start but then collided with Emerson Fittipaldi in the Lotus, causing a dramatic crash. Fittipaldi labelled him a menace who didn’t belong in F1. The criticism peaked at the 1973 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, where Scheckter’s crash caused a massive pile-up, destroying eight cars and injuring Andrea de Adamich. The Grand Prix Drivers Association called for his ban, but McLaren chose to “rest” their rookie driver.

Returning for the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport, Scheckter collided with Francois Cevert’s Tyrrell. Despite this, Ken Tyrrell signed him to replace the retiring Jackie Stewart for the 1974 season. Tragically, Cevert was killed in practice for the 1974 US Grand Prix, an event that deeply affected Scheckter. He later said, “From then on all I was trying to do in Formula One was save my life.”

Under Tyrrell’s guidance, Scheckter refined his skills, focusing on finishing races without mistakes. He won two Grands Prix in 1974 and finished third in the standings. Despite more wins in subsequent seasons, Scheckter felt Tyrrell’s cars couldn’t win the championship. In 1977, he joined the new Wolf Team, winning three races and finishing second overall. Seeing Ferrari as his best chance for a title, he joined them in 1978.

While Ferrari’s 1978 cars weren’t championship material, the 1979 season was different. With Gilles Villeneuve as his teammate, Scheckter adopted a conservative points strategy, winning three races and securing the World Championship. Enzo Ferrari praised him as a “wise coordinator of his own capabilities.”

Having achieved his goal, Scheckter coasted through the 1980 season before retiring at 30. He became a successful businessman, founding a high-tech security company in America and later focusing on organic farming in England while supporting the racing careers of his sons, Tomas and Toby.

Jody Scheckter Formula One World Championship career

F1 Career1972 – 1980
TeamsMcLaren, Tyrrell, Wolf, Ferrari
Entries113 (112 starts)
Championships1 (1979)
Wins10
Podiums33
Career points246 (255)
Pole positions3
Fastest laps5
First entry1972 United States Grand Prix
First win1974 Swedish Grand Prix
Last win1979 Italian Grand Prix
Last entry1980 United States Grand Prix

Sources: Formula1.com and Wikipedia.com

Teammates

Driver Nationality Current/Last Team F1 Debut Status
New Zealand McLaren 1965 Monaco Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend

Teams

Team Nationality Debut Season Status
Tyrrell British 1970 Historic
McLaren British 1966 Current
Wolf Canadian 1977 Historic
Ferrari Italian 1950 Current