The 1976 Canadian Grand Prix, otherwise known as the XV Canadian Grand Prix, was the fourteenth round of the 1976 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at Mosport Park on 3 October 1976. The race would see James Hunt claim victory to close the gap at the top of the World Championship, leaving him just eight points behind Niki Lauda with two races to go.
Hunt would start the weekend perfectly claiming pole position, while arch-rival Lauda found himself down in sixth, still recovering from his fiery crash at the Nürburgring. In between would be Ronnie Peterson, Vittorio Brambilla, Patrick Depailler and Mario Andretti.
Both Hunt and Lauda would lose a position at the start, Peterson blasting past the Brit, while Jody Scheckter sprinted past the Austrian. Brambilla would be another to lose out, falling behind Depailler, with the rest of the field thundering through behind Lauda.
The opening stages of the race would see Brambilla fall behind Andretti, Scheckter and Lauda, while Hunt claimed the lead from Peterson. Peterson's race would fade soon after, following the tumble of teammate Brambilla, with both Marches falling behind Jochen Mass.
The race settled after that point, with no major changes coming until Lauda hit handling trouble on the 59th lap. That allowed Mass, Clay Regazzoni and Carlos Pace to pass without much resistance, dumping the Austrian out of the points. Hunt, meanwhile, was seeing his lead slowly chipped away by Depailler, with Andretti also in the chase.
Ultimately, however, neither Depailler nor Andretti would manage to catch the McLaren, leaving Hunt as the victory from the Frenchman and American. Scheckter came home a lonely fourth ahead of Mass, while Regazzoni just fended off Pace for the final point. Lauda's pace dropped off badly in the closing stages to leave him a lonely eighth as the final man on the lead lap.
After a year out the Canadian Grand Prix and Mosport Park returned to the calendar in 1976 by popular demand, its removal in 1975 having been a matter of principle. Regardless of whether a circuit should bend to the FIA or the Formula One Constructors' Association, Mosport Park remained physically unchanged, with a lot of enthusiasm in the pits to tackle the flowing circuit. Furthermore, Mosport Park's future would be tied to Formula One for the foreseeable future, having been included in the provisional calendar for the 1977 season.
Away from the circuit and there was important news regarding the current Championship, as James Hunt had been retroactively disqualified from the results of the 1976 British Grand Prix by the FIA Court of Appeal. The FIA had agreed with Ferrari's belief that Hunt had received outside assistance in the chaos after the original start to the race, meaning that the Brit should not have been allowed to restart. McLaren were left without the option of an appeal, and so Hunt lost nine points to Niki Lauda, who also inherited the Brit's victory.
In spite of this set back, the McLaren team were optimistic of their chances ahead of the North American tour, arriving with three cars for their two drivers. Hunt would use his familiar M23, while Jochen Mass was listed in a new M23 as the team decided the new M26 required more development work. Mass' old M23 was also shipped over as the team's spare car, with all three chassis identical to one another.
Ferrari, meanwhile, had been wading through their own issues ahead of the race, having managed to acquire three contracted drivers shortly before the Italian Grand Prix. This had not been an issue in Monza, with the Scuderia able to field three cars, but with the costs of shipping to North America the team could only really afford to support two drivers. It was therefore decided that Carlos Reutemann would miss the race of the season, before coming in to replace Clay Regazzoni for 1977.
Although both had reluctantly agreed, the major issue for Ferrari came from star driver Lauda. The Austrian, who was still receiving treatment after his fiery accident in the German Grand Prix, saw no reason for Regazzoni to leave the team, and had made public statements to that effect in the paddock in Canada. Indeed, Lauda and Regazzoni had a long history together in Formula One, having partnered each other at both Ferrari and BRM since 1973, with Regazzoni himself the then longest serving driver in the Scuderia's history.
Away from the political aspects of Formula One, and Lotus arrived with some interesting parts for their 77s, Colin Chapman deciding to experiment with their cars for the rest of the season. As such, both Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson had new brush-like trim fitted to the underside of the monocoques on their cars, designed to create a low-pressure zone under the car. It was expected that this innovation, if successful, would be applied to the new 78, set to debut the following season, with Andretti signing a new deal after trying out the updated 77.
Elsewhere, Tyrrell were unusually quiet, the team having sorted out their path for 1977 in the summer. Both Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler were eager to get into the action after dramatically falling back during the Italian Grand Prix. To do this, the team had brought along three chassis across the Atlantic, which were expected to last through until the start of the 1977 campaign.
Over at Brabham-Alfa Romeo there had been another driver change, the team hiring Boro racer Larry Perkins to partner Carlos Pace. The Australian had impressed in the fake Ensign, and so, with Rolf Stommelen unavailable, Bernie Ecclestone decided to hire Perkins, an experiment to decide who should race for them in 1977. The team had shipped three cars over for the North American tour, a new chassis for Pace, his old car becoming the spare, while Perkins inherited Reutemann's old car.
March arrived with their familiar trio, headlined by Ronnie Peterson after the Swede's victory last time out in Italy. The team hoped that this was not another false dawn, their only other victory as a factory team having come when Vittorio Brambilla claimed a very short win in Austria in 1975. The Italian would once again partner the Swede in their "A" team, while Hans-Joachim Stuck continued on alone in the "B" team.
The Shadow team arrived with their mix of the enthusiastic Tom Pryce, using the new DN8 once again, and the rather depressed Jean-Pierre Jarier in the DN5B. They were expected to fight Surtees, who had Brett Lunger and Alan Jones in action once again, with a third TS19 making the trip privately for Henri Pescarolo. Hesketh had also found funds to send two cars over for Harald Ertl and Guy Edwards, as had Austrian privateer Otto Stuppacher in an old Tyrrell.
Elsewhere, the Canadian owned Wolf-Williams team had gone for broke at their home race, tempting Chris Amon back to the F1 circus to partner Arturo Merzario for the North American tour. The Kiwi had seemingly given up on racing after witnessing Lauda barely cheat death on the Nordschleife, but had been offered a seat in the second FW05 after a private conversation with Walter Wolf. His old team, Ensign, also made the trip, continuing to field ex-Wolf-Williams racer Jacky Ickx whom had rediscovered his old form since leaving the Canadian backed effort.
Completing the field would be the single car efforts of Ligier-Matra, Penske and Fittipaldi, two of which were sporting new cars. John Watson, who had helped to reignite interest in F1 in the United States by winning for Penske, was given the newest PC4 for the North American tour, while Emerson Fittipaldi had a freshly rebuilt car given to him by his older brother. Ligier, meanwhile, had nothing new for Jacques Laffite to use, opting to put all effort into their 1977 project, meaning the Frenchman would race with no spare, and only a skeleton crew.
Into the Championship and Hunt's failure to score in Italy meant it had been a hugely successful return for the injured Lauda, who miraculously managed to extend his lead in the Championship upon his return. The gap would stand at seventeen points as the field arrived in Canada, Hunt's retroactive disqualification from the British Grand Prix effectively doubling his lead. Elsewhere, Scheckter knew he would have to win all three remaining races to stand any chance of claiming a maiden title, with everyone else officially out of the hunt.
The timely Ferrari revival in Italy ensured that they extended their lead in the International Cup for Manufacturers' standings, leaving their home race with a 23 point advantage. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth were promoted to second once Hunt was disqualified from Britain, meaning McLaren-Ford Cosworth slipped to third, while Ligier-Matra had moved into fourth. March-Ford Cosworth were the big winners, moving into sixth ahead of Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth.
The full entry list for the 1976 Canadian Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice/qualifying in Canada would follow the new-for-1976 standard pattern of three "timed" sessions, supported by an "untimed" session to allow teams to try some race length running. The "untimed" session was reserved for Saturday afternoon, leaving the whole of Friday, and Saturday morning, for drivers to set their best qualifying effort. The target for the top teams would be Emerson Fittipaldi's pole time from 1974, a 1:13.188.
James Hunt would dominate the opening session of qualifying, the Brit recording a 1:13.381 after a series of sub-1:14.000 laps towards the end of the morning. Indeed, only two other drivers managed to record a time in the 1:13.000s would be Mario Andretti, who was so impressed with his updated Lotus 77 that he would sign a new contract with Team Lotus before the end of the day, and John Watson. The American was the quicker of the two, a 1:13.882, although Watson in the new Penske was within a tenth of the #5 Lotus.
Elsewhere, the two Ferraris were pacing themselves, neither Niki Lauda nor Clay Regazzoni attempting to push, leaving them down the order. Indeed, they were being paced by Jacky Ickx in the Ensign for most of the session, until the Belgian's engine expired towards the end of the session. That left him out of action of the rest of the day, a similar fate that would befall Larry Perkins in his Brabham-Alfa Romeo.
Unfortunately the second session on Friday would be overshadowed by a huge accident that would ultimately end the career of one of Formula One's longest serving drivers. Chris Amon, famed for his poor luck throughout his career, had been tempted into the ill-handling Williams FW05 for the weekend, and was punished for letting a faster car pass on a downhill left-hander when the Wolf spun. Unfortunately, as the Kiwi attempted to rejoin, the charging Hesketh of Harald Ertl, itself out of control, smashed into the front right of the Wolf Williams, writing off both cars. Both drivers received bad bruising to their legs, eliminating both from the race.
In terms of the pace, there would be no improvement from Hunt, although he spent the entire afternoon in the 1:13.000s, meaning there was an opportunity for someone to steal provisional pole overnight. The man to do so would be Vittorio Brambilla, who shaved a few hundredths off of Hunt's morning best to claim pole overnight, a 1:13.333 the result. His pace was backed up by teammate Ronnie Peterson, who ended the day third overnight, just ahead of Clay Regazzoni, who was over half a second clear of his teammate Niki Lauda.
Overnight work and warmer temperatures on Saturday morning meant that the fight for pole was on, the "aces" in the field aiming to break into the 1:12.000s. Four would manage to smash their way past the 1:13.000 barrier, with Hunt the man to do so first, ultimately ending the session with a 1:12.389. Second would go to Peterson, almost half a second behind, while Brambilla and Patrick Depailler completed the top four.
Elsewhere the freshly re-signed Andretti just fell shy of the sub-1:13.000 group leaving him fifth, with Lauda just a few thousandths behind in sixth. Jody Scheckter was next in the second Tyrrell, while Hans-Joachim Stuck made it three Marches in the top eight with a 1:13.322. Jacques Laffite and Carlos Pace completed the top ten after having mutually trouble free runs all weekend.
Down at the back of the field the elimination of Amon and Ertl meant that there were to be no non-qualifiers, although Otto Stuppacher was deemed too-slow on Friday and so was duly asked the leave. The back row would therefore be made of Arturo Merzario and Guy Edwards, with the three Surtees, and Perkins, clustered just ahead. Elsewhere, Tom Pryce seemed to be fighting the new Shadow, drifting around Mosport Park while battling severe understeer, while Ferrari were given a headache when a C.S.I. technical delegate deemed that their oil radiators were mounted too far back.
The qualifying results for the 1976 Canadian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||11||James Hunt||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:13.381||1:13.440||1:12.389||—|
|2||10||Ronnie Peterson||March-Ford Cosworth||1:15.100||1:14.425||1:12.783||+0.394s|
|3||9||Vittorio Brambilla||March-Ford Cosworth||1:14.764||1:13.333||1:12.799||+0.410s|
|4||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:14.106||1:14.333||1:12.837||+0.448s|
|5||5||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:13.882||1:13.444||1:13.028||+0.639s|
|7||3||Jody Scheckter||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:14.378||1:14.031||1:13.191||+0.802s|
|8||34||Hans-Joachim Stuck||March-Ford Cosworth||1:15.640||1:14.823||1:13.322||+0.933s|
|10||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:14.296||1:14.541||1:13.438||+1.049s|
|11||12||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:15.100||1:14.425||1:13.439||+1.050s|
|13||16||Tom Pryce||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:14.721||1:14.177||1:13.665||+1.276s|
|14||28||John Watson||Penske-Ford Cosworth||1:13.973||1:14.145||1:14.934||+1.584s|
|15||6||Gunnar Nilsson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:16.323||1:15.179||1:14.397||+2.008s|
|16||22||Jacky Ickx||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:15.804||—||1:14.461||+2.072s|
|17||30||Emerson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:16.046||1:14.712||1:14.471||+2.082s|
|18||17||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:19.744||1:17.220||1:15.113||+2.724s|
|19||7||Larry Perkins||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:16.763||1:16.055T||1:15.598T||+3.209s|
|20||19||Alan Jones||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:16.687||1:15.652||1:15.992||+3.263s|
|21||38||Henri Pescarolo||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:16.910||1:15.979||1:15.846||+3.457s|
|22||18||Brett Lunger||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:19.880||1:16.790||1:16.201||+3.812s|
|23*||24||Harald Ertl||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:16.743||1:16.534||—||+4.145s|
|24||25||Guy Edwards||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:19.956||1:18.208||1:17.217||+4.828s|
|25||20||Arturo Merzario||Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:18.314||1:23.470||1:17.288||+4.899s|
|26*||21||Chris Amon||Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:18.202||1:46.921||—||+5.813s|
|DNQ||39||Otto Stuppacher||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:29.124||1:25.084||—||+12.695s|
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
- T Indicates a test/spare car.
- * Ertl and Amon were unable to start the race after their accident on Friday.
- * Nilsson did not start on the race from his grid slot.
Raceday was another dry and warm affair, meaning there were no issues for the teams during the early warm-up session. The crowd would steadily build throughout the morning, with the stands full as the field assembled on the grid ahead of the start. Furthermore, there were no major revisions to the grid order, only confirmation that Chris Amon and Harald Ertl would not be starting.
It was a stunning start to the race as the starting lights flashed to green, with James Hunt and Ronnie Peterson blasting off the front row to leave the rest of the field virtually standing. The March would ultimately make it into the opening corner first by virtue of starting on the inside, leaving Hunt to filter in behind. The rest of the field went charging in behind them, while Gunnar Nilsson joined from the pitlane after an issue on the parade lap.
Come the end of the opening tour Peterson had barely consolidated his lead over Hunt, although the Brit was only just ahead of Patrick Depaillr, Mario Andretti, Vittorio Brambilla, Jody Scheckter and Niki Lauda. They formed a tight first group, with a small gap back to Jacques Laffite who led the rest of the field across the line. Nilsson was around half a lap behind on his own and last in the field after an unusually trouble free opening lap.
The early stages of the race saw a lot of close running, although overtaking on the flowing Mosport Park circuit was proving exceptionally difficult. Hunt, for example, was seriously harassing Peterson throughout the opening laps, although the McLaren was unable to pull off a clean move. Lap eight presented his best opportunity, Hunt slinging the McLaren past the Swede's March into the hairpin, only for Peterson to expertly retake the lead by cutting back inside the Brit as the McLaren slid wide.
The next time the pair came into the hairpin it would be a different story, with Hunt again surging past Peterson on the brakes while flinging his McLaren up the inside of the March. This time, however, the Brit was able to get his car stopped on the apex, meaning Peterson could not perform a cutback to retake the lead, although he tried his best to get back ahead. The Swede's efforts were in vain, however, with Hunt duly disappearing up the road leaving Peterson to fight for second.
Most of Peterson's struggles could be traced to his March, the drive-ability of which was deteriorating quickly as the race wore on. As such, the Swede was fighting a losing battle in his attempts to remain at the front of the field, although he denied Depailler second until the thirteenth lap. A further three laps passed before Andretti and Depailler elbowed the March down to fifth, with Lauda following through two laps later.
Peterson would ultimately fall out of the top ten entirely, a fate shared by teammate Brambilla after the Italian suffered a gearbox failure. Elsewhere, Clay Regazzoni and Carlos Pace were enjoying a furious duel, the Swiss racer needing multiple attempts to pass the Brazilian, only for the Brabham-Alfa Romeo to attack the Ferrari in return. They would steadily draw in Lauda as the race wore on, while Jochen Mass added his name to the top ten by hurdling the fading Marches.
Back with the leaders and Depailler managed to inch himself onto the back of Hunt after passing Peterson, reducing the Brit's lead from three seconds on lap twenty to just under a second by the end of the fortieth tour. The two were weaving in and out of traffic as they did so, meaning the gap wavered between them, before a thick cluster of cars allowed Hunt to grow the gap out a little larger. They were both being stalked by Andretti, who was unable to seriously close the gap in clean air or in the traffic, while Scheckter was a lonely fourth.
Mass was the man on the move in the meantime, catching and passing the Pace/Regazzoni tussle before closing in on Lauda. As he did so there would be three quick fire retirements to join Arturo Merzario on the sidelines, the first being Hans-Joachim Stuck when he decided his March was simply undriveable. Emerson Fittipaldi was next with a broken exhaust pipe, having already had to stop in the pits having burned through a set of tyres, before Laffite detonated the gearbox in his Ligier-Matra, the result of changing to 1st instead of 4th while weaving around behind Peterson.
Lauda was the next man to suffer an issue, the Austrian suddenly losing rear end stability as a suspension link failed on his rear-right corner. The methodical Austrian duly eased his pace to prevent a major accident befalling him, allowing Mass, Pace and Regazzoni to charge past in short order. He would fall no further, however, for Peterson had dropped a long way behind, and was now acting as a road block for John Watson and Tom Pryce.
Pryce himself had had a busy race, having been on the verge of taking Peterson in the first half of the race, only to be blocked by his teammate Jean-Pierre Jarier while lapping him. That had relegated the new Shadow down behind Laffite, Watson and Jacky Ickx, meaning the Welshman had to fight his way back up the order. He duly passed the Ligier and the Ensign before getting onto the exhaust of the Penske, although the Shadow would go no further.
Into the closing stages and Depailler had made no further ground on Hunt, remaining just under a second behind the McLaren, but too far to seriously threaten an attack. Behind Andretti, Scheckter and Mass were all cruising, while the Regazzoni/Pace fight was getting increasingly physical. Indeed, with just four laps to go the Swiss racer lost control on the exit of the final corner, only just managing to keep his car pointing in a straight line by bouncing off Pace's Brabham before pushing the Brazilian against the wall. The right hand side of Pace's car would remain in contact with the pitwall for several seconds, but was miraculously unharmed in the incident.
With that the race was run, meaning Hunt claimed victory for Depailler to regain all the ground he had lost to Lauda in the Championship after his retroactive disqualification from the British Grand Prix, confirmed in the build up to the race. Andretti cruised home third, later discovering that he had been racing with a broken stub-axle, with Depailler, Scheckter and Regazzoni completing the points. A protest against Regazzoni would be logged by Brabham boss Bernie Ecclestone, but was ultimately rejected, leaving Pace in seventh ahead of Lauda, the last man on the lead lap.
The results for the 1976 Canadian Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Ertl and Amon were unable to start due to injuries sustained during practice/qualifying.
- Fifteenth Canadian Grand Prix to be held as part of the Formula One World Championship.
- James Hunt started his 50th Grand Prix.
- Sixth career victory for Hunt.
- McLaren claimed their twentieth win as a constructor.
Victory allowed James Hunt to close within eight points of Championship leader Niki Lauda, although he could have been four ahead if he had not been excluded from the British Grand Prix. Lauda, meanwhile, could take the title if he won in Watkins Glen, although the Austrian's dramatic fade during the race caused concern that he was not fully fit. Elsewhere Jody Scheckter was officially out of the fight in third, ten ahead of Patrick Depailler, while Clay Regazzoni completed the top five.
The International Cup for Manufacturers fight was still active going into the final two rounds, although the Ferrari team had to score just three points between those two races. McLaren-Ford Cosworth were the only team capable of besting the Italian team, but would have to win both races, while Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth were out of the fight in third. Ligier-Matra and Lotus-Ford Cosworth were level on points in fourth, the French squad ahead based on results, while Penske-Ford Cosworth were a point behind in sixth.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: CANADIAN GP, 1976', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr278.html, (Accessed 15/03/2018)
- A.H., 'The Canadian Grand Prix: Justice for Hunt', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/11/1976), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/november-1976/58/canadian-grand-prix, (Accessed 15/03/2018)
- 'Canada 1976: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1976/canada/engages.aspx, (Accessed 15/03/2018)
- 'Canada 1976: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1976/canada/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 16/03/2018)
- 'Canada 1976: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1976/canada/classement.aspx, (Accessed 22/03/2018)
|V T E||Canadian Grand Prix|
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