The 1976 Swedish Grand Prix, otherwise officially known as the XII Gislaved Sveriges Grand Prix, was the seventh round of the 1976 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Scandinavian Raceway, Sweden, on the 13 June 1976. The race would go down in F1 history as the only Grand Prix to be won by a six-wheeled car, although that was only after the dominant force in the race prior to that had been eliminated.
Qualifying itself truly set the tone, as Jody Scheckter put his six-wheeled Tyrrell P34 on pole for the first time, sharing the front row with Mario Andretti in the less extraordinary Lotus 77. Third place was another shock in the form of Chris Amon, piloting the lowly Ensign, while Niki Lauda, the man who had dominated the F1 scene in 1976, was down in fifth.
A dramatic start would see Andretti leap into the lead off the grid, with Scheckter instantly slotting into second, despite the fact that the back markers were still yet to get into their grid slots. This slight confusion soon developed into a full on discussion among the officials, which would ultimately result in Andretti getting slapped with a one minute time penalty.
The Lotus pitcrew were quick to learn of Andretti's penalty, with team boss Colin Chapman informing the American-Italian of his fate via the pitboard from the third lap onwards. Andretti duly worked his way clear of the chasing pack, a sprint which would ultimately ensure that the Swedish Grand Prix became one of the dullest in F1 history.
Indeed, the only changes to the order came in the form of failures, the first seeing Gunnar Nilsson steer himself into the pitwall on the third lap. Amon, meanwhile, was running in a competitive fourth until he suffered a suspension failure, with all other retirements before that point coming from the back of the pack.
However, the next retirement proved to be the decisive one, as Andretti's Ford Cosworth engine expired in a cloud of smoke, handing the lead over to Scheckter. He was left with a fair advantage over teamate Patrick Depailler, who was duly told to do all he could to keep Lauda at bay. However, the Austrian had long since decided that the race was over, and so the race would draw to a tepid conclusion.
Scheckter duly came home to record the first ever win for the six-wheeled P34, creating history and, ultimately, a change to the technical rulebook. Depailler cruised home to make it a one-two for Tyrrell ahead of Lauda, while a quiet Jacques Laffite came home fourth in the Ligier-Matra. James Hunt's miserable pointless run came to an end with fifth, with Clay Regazzoni completing the points after producing two overtakes in the closing stages.
From the narrow, squeezed in feel of the Circuit de Monaco, the F1 circus of 1976 headed to the vast expanse of the Scandinavian Raceway in Anderstorp, Sweden. The Anderstorp circuit was renowned for its lack of any real change in altitude, the result of being formed from an active airfield, while the rather clinical layout, modified to include an even tighter chicane at the end of the main straight, did little to demonstrate natural ability. Regardless, the event had been well attended and exuded a pleasant atmosphere, while the deceptive layout ensured that the mechanics were kept on their toes trying to find the perfect setup.
Into the entry list and two teams in particular had spent a few extra days at the circuit ahead of the race, testing out new ideas. Of these McLaren seemed to have the more immediate, and more curable, issue, as they tested a set of updated Hewland gearboxes. Whether these new six-speed efforts would prove to be the key for James Hunt and Jochen Mass to rediscover their form remained to be seen.
The other early arrival was Lotus, who knew that there would be no quick solution to their miserable run of form. Regardless, Gunnar Nilsson and Mario Andretti, fresh from the shortest ever Indy 500, arrived in Sweden early to get to grips with the inconsistent Lotus 77. Time would tell as to whether their efforts in the week had been for the best, although Colin Chapman and home hero Nilsson appeared to be happier than normal when practice/qualifying got underway on Friday.
Elsewhere the unstoppable force Ferrari arrived with their all conquering three car compliment, with Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni using their usual chargers. They were the best set of the non-Ford Cosworth engined entries by a large margin, although the all French Ligier-Matra squad were happy with their first season together. Indeed, sole driver Jacques Laffite was confident that his V12 engine would be the key to victory, with Matra slowly evolving the engine they had first created back in 1972.
In contast, the Brabham-Alfa Romeo squad were still struggling to get both pace and reliability out of their F12 units, only really managing to get one without the other. This meant that both Carlos Reutemann and Carlos Pace were beginning to get fed up with the situation, with increasing murmurs of discontent from the Bernie Ecclestone camp as a result, although the Martini money was calming things for the time being. Two further Brabhams were entered too, with British privateers RAM Racing submitting two, year-old BT44Bs for Loris Kessel and Dane Jac Nellemann.
Into the Cosworth contingent and the March quartet found themselves at the centre of attention for the home fans, entirely down to their star man Ronnie Peterson. Indeed, the Swedish star was hoping that his Monte Carlo form would carry over to his home race, and had been doing his annual promotional tour to bring in the crowds. He would be joined by full teammate Vittorio Brambilla, as well as the sister entries of Hans-Joachim Stuck and Arturo Merzario.
Shadow were next up, fielding their usual partnership of Tom Pryce and Jean-Pierre Jarier, who were both questioning why the team's new DN7 was not being developed. Surtees, meanwhile, were back up to two cars with Brett Lunger and Alan Jones in action, the former getting the newest of the TS19s after his old car was sold off. The Wolf-Williams squad also entered two cars, this time for Tom Belsø and Michel Leclère as Jacky Ickx had commitments elsewhere, although Belsø ultimately proved to be a no-show.
Into the single entrants, and Hesketh only brought a single car along for Harald Erlt to try, the Austrian's money just enough to keep the team from folding completely. Penske, meanwhile, had developed an updated car, the PC4, essentially a refined version of the PC3, although John Watson was happy enough with the new design. Ensign had Chris Amon on hand once again, staggered by the Kiwi's form in a car previously denounced as undriveable, while the "Boro" machine was back with Larry Perkins at the wheel. Fittipaldi also made the trip to Sweden, although they were down to just a single driver in the form of Emerson Fittipaldi.
Finally, there was the Tyrrell team, who arrived with their newest P34s, both sporting minor revisions to suspension and steering setups. Their stunning front-end grip in Monte Carlo had seen Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler somewhat steal the show from race winner Lauda, and both were quietly confident ahead of the race in Sweden. Indeed, many saw them as dark horses for a race that relied as much on setup as talent, with the P34 seeming remarkably adaptable for a car with too many wheels.
Into the Championship and victory in Monaco had ensured that Lauda, regardless of whether Hunt was reinstated as the winner of the Spanish Grand Prix, had total command of the World Championship. The Austrian left Monte Carlo with a 33 point lead, with teammate Regazzoni remaining in second, level with Hunt on fifteen points if the Brit had his score corrected to include his Spanish victory. Depailler and Scheckter completed the top five, now level on fourteen points.
Ferrari continued to dominate the International Cup for Manufacturers after the battle of the Principality, their fifth confirmed victory in six races handing them a 29 point lead. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth had moved to second after their double podium, with McLaren-Ford Cosworth dropping to third after lead driver Hunt's miserable weekend. Ligier-Matra arrived in fourth, while March-Ford Cosworth had moved into the top five, ahead of Shadow-Ford Cosworth and Lotus-Ford Cosworth.
The full entry list for the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix is outlined below:
The now familiar four session practice/qualifying schedule would be used in Sweden once again, with three "timed" sessions across Friday and Saturday combined with an additional "untimed" session. The "untimed" period, set to be held on Saturday, was to ensure that teams could complete some race simulation running without affecting their qualifying prospects, although with both Friday and Saturday remaining dry in Anderstorp this was not a concern. As for a target time the minor modifications made to the end of the straight meant that Vittorio Brambilla's 1975 pole time of 1:24.630 was likely out of reach.
Just how far out of reach Brambilla's 1975 time would be was revealed on Friday morning, as Niki Lauda, the dominant force in 1976, failed to come close to the Italian's former mark. Indeed, the Austrian would top the time sheets for most of the session, scraping a few hundredths of a second off with every setup tweak to ultimately end the morning with a 1:27.534. Yet, provisional pole would end up in the hands of Patrick Depailler, with the planted front end of the Tyrrell P34 allowing the Frenchman to record a 1:27.076 towards the end of the session.
Elsewhere, Harald Ertl went for a bounce across the airstrip after a mistake, having to reverse across a deep patch of grass to rejoin. A more serious looking incident saw Tom Pryce go charging into the catch fencing after a front suspension failure, the Shadow ending up tangled in the safety nets with heavy damage. Fortunately the Brit was able to get a lift back to the pits and take over the team's spare DN5, which was more than could be said for Carlos Reutemann, who spent most of the morning in the Brabham-Alfa Romeo pit with gearbox gremlins.
The session itself was stopped part way through after Pryce's incident, allowing his Shadow to be dragged back to the pits and a full inspection of the crash fencing to take place. This allowed James Hunt to swap to the older McLaren M23, which proved to be a wise decision, while also gave Michel Leclère a chance to try Jacky Ickx's usual Wolf-Williams. Jody Scheckter, meanwhile, would have a somewhat confusing incident after the restart, striking the kerbs at the chicane hard enough to lose one of his four front wheels. Fortunately the South African was able to make it back to the pits without issue, despite only having the five wheels to limp back on.
The Friday lunch-break would see the paddock become a hive of activity, with the March team in particular buzzing about far more than usual. This was due to the fact that they had to rebuild the rear section of Ronnie Peterson's car, having tried to give the Swede an advantage by turning his car into a long-wheel base version of the March 761. To do this they had simply taken an old gearbox casing and inserted it in between the engine and gearbox, before bolting the rear assembly back on an extra eighteen inches further back than usual. Although the ploy had worked to get the Swede up the order on Friday morning, the #10 was getting some serious cooling issues, and so the experiment was curtailed.
The Swede would rejoin the fray towards the end of the session, and managed to best his earlier time by a few tenths. However, he would be well off the ultimate pace come the end of the session, as Lauda found a second over the break to end the day with provisional pole, recording a 1:26.535. Scheckter and Depailler were left without a response, the latter failing to best his morning effort, meaning the Austrian was over seven tenths clear overnight.
Elsewhere, Sweden's other racer Gunnar Nilsson was in trouble of failing to qualify, the Swede's Lotus suffering from an incurable ignition issue. Clay Regazzoni was also struggling, first swapping to the spare Ferrari after finding his usual charger undriveable, only to suffer a monumental oil leak. Fortunately the leak was stopped before serious damage was done, unlike the F12 Alfa Romeo engine in the back of Carlos Pace's Brabham, which decided to eject all of its oil over the Brazilian's rear brakes, sending him across the grass several times before he finally stopped to complain.
The "untimed" Saturday morning run would be marked by a collision, as Scheckter managed to put Carlos Reutemann into a concrete wall having chopped across the Brabham sooner than expected. The result was a heavily damaged Brabham, which needed to be collected from the barriers, a banged up hand for Reutemann and a talking to for Scheckter by the stewards. Everyone else, meanwhile, would go about things as usual, with experimental cooling ducts and engine and gearbox changes aplenty.
Into the final qualifying session and Scheckter and Depailler stole the show, with the South African in particular becoming the star. Indeed, Scheckter had clearly put his early incident to the back of his head as he charged around the Scandinavian Raceway, ending the day with pole and a 1:25.659, the only man to dip below the 1:26.000s. Teammate Depailler hit traffic on his best effort and so could only manage fourth place.
Indeed, a surprising session would see two unexpected drivers split the two Tyrrells, with Mario Andretti getting his Lotus onto the front row after a quiet couple of days. Indeed, Andretti had looked set to perhaps topple the #3 Tyrrell, only to miss out on the final minutes of the session when his gearbox decided to break third gear. His efforts, however, were completely overshadowed by the man in third, as Chris Amon put the underfunded, underdeveloped Ensign into third, a shock result for the team, let alone any observers.
Elsewhere, Lauda slipped to fifth having only found a tenth of a second overnight, while Nilsson battled gearbox, ignition and suspension failures to leap into sixth, much to the home fans delight. Fellow countryman Peterson also had reason to be happy, ending the day best of the Marches in ninth, with Jacques Laffite, James Hunt and Pace the others to get into the top ten. At the back of the field, meanwhile, it was between the two RAM Racing Brabhams to see who would missout on a starting spot, that dishonour ultimately befalling Dane Jac Nellemann, just two tenths off teammate Loris Kessel.
The full qualifying results for the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||3||Jody Scheckter||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:27.480||1:27.244||1:25.659||—|
|2||5||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:27.270||1:26.614||1:26.008||+0.349s|
|3||22||Chris Amon||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:27.731||1:27.232||1:26.163||+0.504s|
|4||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:27.076||1:27.386||1:26.362||+0.703s|
|6||6||Gunnar Nilsson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:30.156||1:33.023||1:26.570||+0.911s|
|8||11||James Hunt||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:28.674||1:28.382T||1:26.958T||+1.299s|
|9||10||Ronnie Peterson||March-Ford Cosworth||1:27.882||1:27.586||1:27.040||+1.381s|
|10||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:28.159||1:28.692||1:27.133||+1.474s|
|12||16||Tom Pryce||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:29.259T||1:29.396T||1:27.527T||+1.868s|
|13||12||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:29.569||1:29.348||1:27.568||+1.909s|
|14||17||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:28.622||1:28.491||1:27.618||+1.959s|
|15||9||Vittorio Brambilla||March-Ford Cosworth||1:28.979||1:27.819||1:27.640||+1.981s|
|16||7||Carlos Reutemann||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:28.279||1:28.474||1:27.762T||+2.103s|
|17||28||John Watson||Penske-Ford Cosworth||1:28.195||1:28.508||1:28.065||+2.406s|
|18||19||Alan Jones||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:29.750||1:28.369||1:28.207||+2.548s|
|19||35||Arturo Merzario||March-Ford Cosworth||1:28.221||1:28.638||1:28.439||+2.562s|
|20||34||Hans-Joachim Stuck||March-Ford Cosworth||1:29.545||1:29.509||1:28.230||+2.571s|
|21||30||Emerson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:29.102||1:29.390||1:28.670||+3.011s|
|22||37||Larry Perkins||Boro-Ford Cosworth||1:31.057||1:30.359||1:28.815||+3.156s|
|23||24||Harald Ertl||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:32.500||1:29.624||1:28.885||+3.226s|
|24||18||Brett Lunger||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:30.395||1:30.425||1:29.343||+3.684s|
|25||21||Michel Leclère||Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:31.166||1:29.597||1:29.923||+3.938s|
|26||32||Loris Kessel||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:30.020||1:30.455||1:30.088||+4.361s|
|DNQ||33||Jac Nellemann||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||1:31.269T||1:30.668T||1:30.259||+4.600s|
|WD||20||Tom Belsø||Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
Raceday dawned cool and grey, but with no threat of rain there were no concerns about the race, set to start at 1:30pm, lacking any pressing television coverage. 33,000 people turned up to watch the event, heralded by a display by the Swedish airforce once the morning warm-up had been completed. With them gone the field was sent out to complete a warm-up lap, lining up halfway around the circuit from the pits, as per the circuit layout.
The unusual start procedure would cause controversy, with the starter raising the Swedish flag just as the final cars came around the final corner, still a few dozen metres from the grid slots. However, a marginal twitch from the starter caused Mario Andretti, who had already stopped in his grid slot, to leap into action, shooting past pole sitter Jody Scheckter to take the lead. The South African was quick to take the American's queue and duly shot away, with the rest of the field charging forward in his wake.
The opening tour was equally eventful, with John Watson shooting off the circuit at the 180° Södra corner, his throttle having jammed open on the Penske. The Brit did all he could to stop the car, managing to switch off all of the electrics, but was unable to prevent the Penske from shattering itself against an earth bank. The ruined car came to rest just shy of a spectator area, although fortunately neither Watson nor any of the observers came to serious harm.
Come the end of the first lap it was still Andretti leading from Scheckter, Patrick Depailler, Chris Amon, Gunnar Nilsson, Niki Lauda and Jacques Laffite. However, as the rest of the pack thundered past, there was a big discussion going on between the officials regarding the start, which ultimately concluded that Andretti had jumped the start. The Italian-American was duly handed a one minute time penalty, with Lotus unable to protest.
Colin Chapman was informed during the second lap of the race, and began signalling to Andretti that he had a minute to make up from lap three onwards. As this was going on, teammate Nilsson saw his home race come to an end, the Swede losing control in the final corner on lap three and duly slamming into the pitwall backwards. His car came to a rest directly in front of the Lotus garage, with stern looks suggesting that the team knew exactly who was to blame for the accident.
The opening stages of the race were otherwise fairly tame, Carlos Reutemann another early faller having decided his hand injury from Saturday was too much to overcome, particularly with his flat sounding Alfa Romeo engine. Loris Kessel, meanwhile, sent himself spinning onto the grass and into the crash fencing, while Emerson Fittipaldi stopped his race short having burned through a set of tyres within ten laps. The Brazilian had tried to improve his Fittipaldi's pace by completely removing the front anti-roll bars, which worked, but also ensured that the front tyres scrubbed across the circuit far more than they should have.
By the time Fittipaldi climbed out of the cockpit there had been little change to the order, with Andretti pulling clear of the rest, who were themselves being dropped by Scheckter. Depailler was defending his teammate excellently in third, keeping Amon at bay, while Lauda's precision style driving was not enough to drag him further up the order. Next up was Laffite, some distance back, leading an eleven strong train featuring James Hunt, Ronnie Peterson, both Shadows, Clay Regazzoni, the other three Marches and Alan Jones. Four other drivers were still in the running, but had been dropped by the rest of the field as expected.
Andretti's relentless push to escape a minute clear ensured that the front of the pack became stretched over the following laps, meaning there was little action on track. Indeed, the only major changes to the order came in the pack chasing Hunt, and only when someone suffered a failure. Larry Perkins suffered an engine failure in the "Boro", before Vittorio Brambilla went for a bounce across the grass, damaging the nose on his March.
Half-distance came and went without much change, the only on-track action coming when Arturo Merzario completed a series of overtakes on Tom Pryce, Jean-Pierre Jarier and Jochen Mass. Then, up ahead, the little Ensign finally broke from the strain of running in the lead pack, just as Amon pulled onto the tail of Depailler to fight for third. A suspension failure pitched the car off the circuit on the back straight, with Amon powerless to prevent the car slamming into the barriers after barrelling through two rows of catch fencing. The Kiwi climbed out with a pair of badly bruised legs, but was miraculously uninjured.
The race continued its monotonous tone, however, although there was to another major dropout a few laps after Amon's sudden exit. This time the victim would be Andretti, whose Ford Cosworth engine detonated at the start of lap 46, just as Ken Tyrrell arrived at Race Control to discover whether the American's penalty was genuine. Regardless, it was now a Tyrrell one-two out front, with the Brit returning to his pitcrew, telling them to signal both Scheckter and Depailler to ease off.
Once again a rather tepid atmosphere descended upon the circuit, with Scheckter, Depailler, Lauda and Laffite all secure in their positions and cruising. Hunt, meanwhile, was beginning to get sucked in by Peterson, who had begun to push after half-distance, while Pace was having to fend off a charging Regazzoni, who suddenly seemed to wake-up during the race. The appearance of Brambilla's bent nose signalled his arrival in ninth, with teammate Merzario waving his fist and demanding to be let through just behind.
With everyone cruising, and time running out for those who were chasing, there was little else to note during the Swedish Grand Prix, bar a couple of late overtakes by Regazzoni. That meant that Scheckter and Depailler were able to cruise home to record a historic one-two for the Tyrrell P34, with Lauda an rather disinterested third. Laffite was a happy fourth, well clear of Hunt, while Regazzoni's late charge put him into sixth.
The full results for the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Merzario was still classified despite retiring as he had completed 90% of the race distance.
- First and only entry for Jac Nellemann.
- Maiden pole position for Jody Scheckter.
- Tyrrell claimed their fourteenth and final pole position as a constructor.
- Fourth career victory for Scheckter.
- Twentieth win by a Tyrrell chassis.
- Patrick Depailler claimed the 250th podium finish for Ford Cosworth.
- It was also Tyrrell's 50th podium visit.
- Twentieth podium finish for Niki Lauda.
The first ever victory for the Tyrrell P34 propelled Jody Scheckter up into second in the World Championship hunt, although he still had less than half the number of point of runaway leader Niki Lauda. Patrick Depailler, meanwhile, had moved up into third, swapping places with James Hunt (post restoration), while Clay Regazzoni tumbled down to fifth. The only other significant change came in the fight for sixth, with Jacques Laffite moving ahead of Jochen Mass.
In spite of suffering their first officially recognised defeat of the season, Ferrari continued to hold a huge advantage atop the International Cup for Manufacturer's standings. Their advantage over one-two finishers Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth stood at 24 points, although depending on whether Hunt was reinstated in Spain that advantage could have stood at 27. McLaren-Ford Cosworth themselves remained in third, just ahead of Ligier-Matra and the legion based March-Ford Cosworth effort.
- * Corrected to show points after Hunt was reinstated as the winner of the 1976 Spanish Grand Prix.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: SWEDISH GP, 1976', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr271.html, (Accessed 12/02/2018)
- D.S.J., 'The Swedish Grand Prix: The Six-wheelers Win', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/07/2018), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/july-1976/23/swedish-grand-prix, (Accessed 12/02/2018)
- 'Sweden 1976: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1976/suede/engages.aspx, (Accessed 12/02/2018)
- 'Sweden 1975: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1976/suede/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 12/02/2018)
- 'Sweden 1976: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1976/suede/classement.aspx, (Accessed 13/02/2018)
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