The 1977 Belgian Grand Prix, otherwise known as the XXXV Grote Prijs van Belgie, was the seventh round of the 1977 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Circuit Zolder on the 5 June, 1977. The race would be remembered for an exellent display by Swedish youngster Gunnar Nilsson, who was force to fight back through the field after a botched pitstop.
The young Swede would start the race from third place on the grid, just behind pole sitting teammate Mario Andretti. John Watson would split the two Loti in the Brabham-Alfa Romeo, while Championship leader Jody Scheckter was to start alongside Nilsson in fourth.
Raceday proved to be a damp day in Zolder, with heavy rain soaking the circuit, although the clouds began to drift away as the start time approached. All bar James Hunt would start the race on Goodyear's "wet" tyres, with the Brit instead gambling on slicks.
As it happened, Hunt's gamble would backfire spectacularly, with the Brit plummeting down the order after the first corner. Out front, meanwhile, it was Watson who won the duel into the first corner with Andretti, while Nilsson held the Wolf of Scheckter at bay. At the back, meanwhile, there would be harmless spins for Ian Scheckter and Harald Ertl.
Come the end of the opening tour, however, there would be a race altering change, as Andretti misjudged his braking into the chicane and smacked into the innocent Watson. Both were out with heavy damage, while Nilsson had to take avoiding action to dodge his spinning teammate.
All that meant it was Scheckter who led the field at the end of the opening lap, with Nilsson just scrambling back onto the circuit ahead of Jochen Mass and Carlos Reutemann. The rest of the field thundered through behind Patrick Depailler, while Hunt completed a very slippery opening tour in eighteenth.
Nilsson would begin stalking Scheckter as the pair pulled a small lead over the pack, although it soon became clear that the circuit was drying. Indeed, the rate of improvement was to be demonstrated by Reutemann, who scythed past Mass for third, only to go spinning out of the race a few laps later with chewed up tyres. Hunt, meanwhile, was so far off the back of the field that he was a non-factor.
Reutemann's spin prompted a flood of cars into the pits, with Scheckter, Nilsson, Niki Lauda and several others headed into the pits in short order. It was in this chaotic period that Nilsson dropped to eighth, a sticking wheel nut the cause, while Scheckter dropped down the order due to his inexperienced pitcrew.
Vittorio Brambilla would remain on the circuit longest after the initial stops, hoping that the looking clouds would return to Zolder to appease his wet tyres. As such he was fodder for Lauda, who had leapt up the order thanks to his pitcrew, while Nilsson soon picked his way past the Italian as the Surtees faded. Before that the Swede would also take compatriot Ronnie Peterson, Jacques Laffite and Scheckter, who would promptly stopped a second time when a shower hit the circuit.
Most, bar Scheckter, would hold out for the circuit to dry during the shower, with the rain lasting around ten laps. In that time Nilsson would pass a crashing Mass, before drawing in Lauda at an impressive rate, passing the Ferrari as the rain eased. Scheckter, meanwhile, would make a third stop for new slicks, only to have his engine expire a few laps later.
Nilsson duly sprinted away to claim a maiden victory, with Lauda and Peterson completing the podium. Brambilla made a late switch to slicks and so battled back to fourth, almost snatching a podium spot from the aforementioned Peterson, while Alan Jones and Hans-Joachim Stuck completed the points. Hunt, meanwhile, would end the day in seventh as the only driver not to stop.
A rather begrudging return to Zolder would be made for the seventh round of the 1977 World Championship tour, with many ruing the decision to leave Spa-Francorchamps made seven years earlier. Yet, the organisers had signed a contract with the F.O.C.A., who seemed to have won the war with WCR as the true puppet masters of Formula One. As such there would be a full roster of entries for the battle of Zolder, supported by several new and returning faces in updated equipment.
Indeed, such was the strength in the number of entries that the smaller efforts were not able to fit in the pitlane, leaving several efforts camped at the side of the circuit. The most extreme lack of facilities was faced by Brian Henton's British Formula One Racing Team, whose engineers had to work on Bernard de Dryver's car in the sand. Henton would ultimately remark that it was "like being on Skegness beach", while also noting that his crew were inside of the Armco barriers.
Elsewhere, the Fittipaldi team had commissioned designer David Baldwin to design a new car, which had been assembled in the U.K. The new car, dubbed the FD05, was based heavily on Baldwin's dark-blue Ensign template, although fitted with new suspension, revised radiators and a marginally different nose. Emerson Fittipaldi was satisfied with the result after a test, although the team still brought along one of ht Richard Divilla cars as a spare.
March also had a brand new design for the Belgian Grand Prix, with Ian Scheckter and his backers Rothmans International getting their hands on the new 771. The new car, which would partner Alex Ribeiro's upgraded 761B, featured a revised driving position, front mounted radiators, re-positioned fuel tanks and various weight saving changes, making it a substantial evolution of the established March template. The South African's old car became the team's spare, with their reserve of 761s still being sold off to private entrants.
Indeed, in addition to the two factory entries, and de Dryver's rather sandy effort, there would be no fewer than seven Marches entered for the Belgian Grand Prix. The better prepared of these cars came via Williams Grand Prix Engineering, who fielded Patrick Nève at his home race, while the eponymous Team Merzario also appeared with Arturo Merzario at the wheel. RAM Racing, meanwhile, had secured two chassis for Mikko Kozarowitzky and Boy Hayje, although the Dutchman was the driver to turn up for them once again.
Another March was expected to appear in the colours of Chesterfield Racing, the backers of Brett Lunger, although they had instead got their hands on a set of McLaren M23 parts. The American effort commissioned B&S Fabrications to build the car, which, being built to factory specifications, was the thirteenth M23 to be built. The car would be registered as M23/14, however, as neither firm nor owner wanted to risk the curse of 13. Another, ex-factory, M23 would appear in the hands of Spaniard Emilio de Villota and Iberia Airlines.
The factory McLaren squad themselves would also run a pair of M23s, although team leader James Hunt would race the newer M26 as his preferred option. The M26 was largely unchanged from its last appearance, although the oil radiators had been moved to a mutual position in the nose. The other M23s, one for Jochen Mass and the other as Hunt's spare, were unchanged from Monte Carlo.
Elsewhere, Hesketh had built a brand new 308E, although this had immediately been sold to the backers Mexican racer Héctor Rebaque. The 21 year old youth would get his first taste of F1 in Belgium, having raced in a variety of small single seaters. His brand new car was identical to the factory efforts of Rupert Keegan and Harald Ertl, and run by their engineers, although it was littered in sponsorship from Marlboro.
Lotus, meanwhile, felt they had no need to build another 78 for the time being, bringing the three original cars for Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson. The Norfolk squad would, however, arrive at Zolder a week early to go testing, trying out some new gearboxes from Hewland. They also tested some solid rear axles once again, although reverted back to their usual differentials for the race.
Their rivals Tyrrell had also gone testing after the race in Monte Carlo, although their P34s were still being modified during practice. Indeed, neither Patrick Depailler or Ronnie Peterson seemed happy with their cars, with the spare car also receiving extensive treatment. The Brabham-Alfa Romeo crew were a stark contrast, with both John Watson and Hans-Joachim Stuck happy with their updated BT45Bs, which both sported new aerofoils and air ducts.
Ferrari arrived unchanged from Monte Carlo, meaning Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann would run as usual. Shadow were also unchanged, again fielding their revised line-up of Riccardo Patrese and Alan Jones, while Ligier-Matra continued with their lone entry for Jacques Laffite. Surtees, meanwhile, had plucked Hans Binder out his seat, replacing the Austrian racer with BRM refugee Larry Perkins, while Vittorio Brambilla continued to lead their effort.
BRM themselves were also back to ruin their reputation, Conny Andersson back at the wheel of the wedge shaped P207. Ensign, meanwhile, had officially entered two cars for Clay Regazzoni, who had a disappointing Indy 500 debut, and Jacky Ickx, although the Belgian did not head out on circuit. The lone Wolf was back, although Jody Scheckter technically had two cars to choose from, while the Penskes owned by ATS were back for Jean-Pierre Jarier.
Two new F1 designs would complete the entry list for the Belgian Grand Prix, although only one of them would actually make the trip to Zolder. That car was the LEC, built by and for David Purley, and was unchanged from its debut back in Spain. The other car was the Swiss built Apollon Fly, a design evolved from an old FW03 sold to Loris Kessel earlier in the season. They, however, would be unable to get to Zolder after a shipping issue.
Into the Championship and victory for Jody Scheckter in Monte Carlo had allowed the South African racer to extend his Championship with 32 points to his name. Lauda, meanwhile, had moved into second to become Scheckter's closest challenger, effectively swapping places with Andretti, with Reutemann splitting the two of them. Hunt left Monaco in fifth, but was already looking like a non-factor in the title hunt, while Jones had become the sixteenth scorer of 1977.
Ferrari had continued to hold their lead in the International Cup for Constructors, although Canadian newboys Wolf-Ford Cosworth had cut the gap to eight points. Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth had also managed to secure themselves in third, eight points further back, while McLaren-Ford Cosworth found themselves slipping back in fourth. Brabham-Alfa Romeo and Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth were tied for fifth, with Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth stuck in seventh.
The full entry list for the 1977 Belgian Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice/qualifying would be staged across Friday and Saturday ahead of the race, with four sessions split into the standard format of three "timed" periods and a lone "untimed" run-out. Friday would host two of the "timed" periods, either-side of a lunch break, while qualifying would conclude on Saturday afternoon after the "untimed" period that morning. As for a target time, the "aces" in the field would be aiming to best the circuit record, a 1:25.43 set by Niki Lauda back in 1975.
It would be a mixed start to qualifying on Friday morning, with some teams heading straight out and quick, while others opted to experiment with spare cars. Ultimately, it would be those who pushed from the start who got the best result, with drizzle hitting the circuit after the first half-hour. Indeed, while the rain was light at first it did get steadily heavier as time went on, with the afternoon session predicted to be a washout.
As such it was the fast starting Mario Andretti who ended up topping the time sheets, a 1:26.51 set just before the drizzle putting Lotus at the top. John Watson was another man to get out of the blocks early, ending the morning as the only other man in the 1:26.00s, with James Hunt a fraction shy in third. Others to impress were Arturo Merzario, the Italian thrashing the factory March team in inferior equipment, and David Purley in the LEC.
In contrast, Tyrrell were misguided in their decision to start with their spare car, meaning Patrick Depailler was well down the order. Ensign, meanwhile, were forced to install Clay Regazzoni in their spare car after his race car's engine had detonated in the garage. The Swiss racer would get some competitive laps in, however, finishing the morning mid-pack, while the smaller teams at the end of the pitlane rushed to cover-up their tools and cars.
The fears of the weather persisting into the afternoon session on Friday ultimately proved true when the circuit re-opened at 1:00pm local time, with rain hammering the circuit throughout the hour. Previously this would have seen everyone stay in the pits, but with the G.P.D.A. no longer taken seriously there would be a surprising amount of action amid the miserable conditions. In truth the running was in vain, with no impact on the grid, with most of the top drivers opting to use their spare cars if they did head out.
One of the "aces" to step out into the rain would be Jody Scheckter, with the spare Wolf ultimately recording the fastest time of the afternoon at 1:48.29. Next up were Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson, with Andretti next having been forced to use his race car as Nilsson commandeered the spare. In contrast, neither the work McLarens nor Watson would head out, deeming the conditions too treacherous, while wet weather specialist Vittorio Brambilla was left frustrated in the pits as his Surtees had destroyed its engine just before the session started.
The "untimed" session on Saturday came as another grey skied affair, although the rain held off throughout, allowing teams to get their cars setup properly for the final period. The Lotus duo of Andretti and Nilsson were "unofficially" on their own at the head of the field, although the team were given a mini-heart attack when their drivers failed to appear on schedule towards the end of the session. As it happened, the Swede had had an engine failure in his race car, a violent enough failure to blow a hole in the casing, just in front of teammate Andretti, with the American racer deciding to stop and give Nilsson a lift back to the pits.
Into the final hour on Saturday afternoon and there would be a lot of confusion in the pits, summed up by Hunt sprinting down the pitlane, through hundreds of spectators and cameramen, to get back to the McLaren garage. His M26 had headed the queue to hit the circuit at the start of the session, only to suffer an engine failure as he pulled out of the pitlane. The smoking McLaren was left abandoned in front of Belgian racer Bernard de Dryver's pitbox, much to Brian Henton's annoyance, while Hunt was strapped into the as yet unused spare M23.
On the topic of de Dryver the officials had made a late decision to allow 26 qualifiers to start, rather than limit the field to 24 as had been the plan. This was done to increase the chances of be de Dryver, and compatriot Patrick Nève, getting into the race, with both hovering around the 24th position mark heading into the final session. They would enter a fairly tense fight at the bottom of the pack, although that would be overshadowed by a stunning time at the head of the field.
The man to stun everyone would be Andretti, who weaved his way around Zolder to record a 1:24.64, a full second and a half clear of the rest of the field, including teammate Nilsson. Most were certain that the Lotus team had got the time wrong, having displayed a 1:24.7 on Andretti's pit-board, only to be silenced when the official results were published at the end of the session. Most were struggling to reach the 1:26.00 barrier, with Watson ultimately coming closest, just ahead of Nilsson in the spare, undeveloped, Lotus.
All of this would overshadow the story at the back of the field, where Nève had snuck onto the grid in 24th, just ahead of Harald Ertl and Jean-Pierre Jarier. The other Belgian de Dryver had fallen out of contention early, even falling behind the BRM of Conny Andersson, while Dutchman Boy Hayje was registered as "first reserve" in 27th. Elsewhere Purley was surprised to be up in the top twenty, sharing the tenth row with Rupert Keegan, while Riccardo Patrese was best of the rookies in fifteenth.
The full qualifying results for the 1977 Belgian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||5||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:26.51||1:49.39||1:24.64||—|
|2||7||John Watson||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:26.95||—||1:26.18||+1.54s|
|3||6||Gunnar Nilsson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:27.85T||1:49.37||1:26.45T||+1.81s|
|4||20||Jody Scheckter||Wolf-Ford Cosworth||1:28.31||1:48.29T||1:26.48||+1.84s|
|5||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:36.73T||1:51.75||1:26.71||+2.07s|
|6||2||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:29.10||—||1:26.81||+2.17s|
|8||3||Ronnie Peterson||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:29.52||1:49.04||1:26.95||+2.31s|
|9||1||James Hunt||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:27.14||—||1:27.04T||+2.40s|
|12||19||Vittorio Brambilla||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:29.36T||—||1:27.23||+2.59s|
|13||22||Clay Regazzoni||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:28.51T||1:57.36T||1:27.28T||+2.64s|
|14||37||Arturo Merzario||March-Ford Cosworth||1:28.39||—||1:27.33||+2.69s|
|15||16||Riccardo Patrese||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:28.55||1:51.56||1:27.35||+2.71s|
|16||28||Emerson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:28.66||2:03.16||1:27.47||+2.83s|
|17||17||Alan Jones||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:29.68||—||1:27.55||+2.91s|
|18||8||Hans-Joachim Stuck||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:28.18||1:52.95||1:27.75||+3.11s|
|19||24||Rupert Keegan||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:35.27||—||1:28.02||+3.38s|
|20||31||David Purley||LEC-Ford Cosworth||1:30.42||1:52.04||1:28.10||+3.46s|
|21||10||Ian Scheckter||March-Ford Cosworth||1:36.52||1:52.10||1:28.50T||+3.86s|
|22||30||Brett Lunger||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:29.76||2:17.68||1:28.51||+3.87s|
|23||18||Larry Perkins||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:31.57||1:54.15||1:28.53||+3.89s|
|24||27||Patrick Nève||March-Ford Cosworth||1:31.26||1:57.75||1:28.67||+4.03s|
|25||25||Harald Ertl||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:31.63||1:53.71||1:29.02||+4.38s|
|26||34||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Penske-Ford Cosworth||1:29.22||1:51.48||1:29.11||+4.47s|
|DNQ*||33||Boy Hayje||March-Ford Cosworth||1:29.68||—||1:29.46||+4.82s|
|DNQ||36||Emilio de Villota||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:32.70||1:55.29||1:30.12||+5.48s|
|DNQ||9||Alex Ribeiro||March-Ford Cosworth||1:33.31||1:58.44||1:30.24||+5.60s|
|DNQ||38||Bernard de Dryver||March-Ford Cosworth||1:33.19||1:58.50||1:30.42||+5.78s|
|DNQ||39||Héctor Rebaque||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:33.30||1:58.75||—||+8.66s|
|WD||21||Jacky Ickx||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
|WD||32||Mikko Kozarwitsky||March-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
|WD||41||Loris Kessel||Apollon-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
- T Indicates a test/spare car.
- * Hayje was allowed to join the back of the grid as "first reserve".
- * Lunger was unable to start the race due to an engine failure.
- † Hayje was allowed to start at the back of the grid as "first reserve".
The build up to the race on raceday would be dominated by the pace of Lotus, with a popular theory emerging that Goodyear had given the team a "special" set of tyres. The reason for this was the impending arrival of Michelin, who intended to break the American firm's monopoly on Formula One, although when Colin Chapman, Lotus' founder, arrived this theory was quickly shuffled away. Indeed, the Lotus boss was still annoyed as the field headed out for the warm-up, his engineers having shown their hand too much in his absence.
It was a fairly drama free warm-up session until the closing stages, with several teams given last minute head aches due to mechanical issues. Ferrari had to get their "muletta" prepared for Carlos Reutemann after his race car dumped its oil on the circuit, while Hesketh had to rebuild Héctor Rebaque's car with parts of Rupert Keegan's 308E after finding a crack in the suspension mounting. This was a trivial problem, however, compared to that of Brett Lunger, whose engine expired spectacularly at the end of the session, meaning his Chesterfield Racing crew had to complete a full engine swap in just two hours.
They would ultimately miss the drive to the grid by five minutes, a split fuel line deep within the engine the final nail in the coffin. Boy Hayje was sent out in Lunger's place, joining on at the back of the field, although as the cars pulled onto the grid rain began to hammer the circuit. Indeed, the field would complete the formation lap just as the Chesterfield crew began packing up, only to be told that the start had been delayed.
The start would be delayed for almost an hour, with the officials declaring that the race was to be deemed "wet". Most would, however, wait until the last second to change to wet tyres, a process started by John Watson and the Brabham-Alfa Romeo crew as it became clear that the race was going to start regardless. Yet, there was a chink in the dark grey clouds hanging above Zolder, a gap that James Hunt and McLaren ultimately decided to gamble on, leaving the World Champion as the only man still on slicks.
With that, and no additional formation lap, the race got underway, with Watson shooting past pole sitter Mario Andretti off the line. The rest of the field entered the fray behind them, creating a solid wall of spray as the twenty six starters, including Hayje, piled through the first corner. Most, including the slithering Hunt, would make it through without issue, although, right at the back, Harald Ertl and Ian Scheckter would go spinning off on their own.
The rest of the opening tour would see Hunt literally slip down the order, although that would overshadowed by a race-changing accident out front. Indeed, coming into the Kleine Chicane half-way around the lap Andretti completely misjudged his braking point, and duly went sailing into the back of Watson, forcing both into spins. Gunnar Nilsson, who was right behind his teammate, just managed to dodge the incident, skating across the grass to do so, while the rest thundered into the chicane as Andretti and Watson slithered to a stop on the grass. Both were out with heavy damage, although it was, fortunately, only a short walk back to the paddock.
Nilsson, meanwhile, would scramble back onto the circuit still in the lead, although he was powerless to stop Jody Scheckter streaming past at the end of the straight, the Wolf having momentum on its side. The Canadian would continue to lead come the end of the opening tour, a fraction ahead of a now fully recovered Nilsson, while Jochen Mass stalked them from third. They were already clear of fourth placed Reutemann, who had Patrick Depailler, Jacques Laffite and Ronnie Peterson glued to the back of the "muletta".
The early stages would see Scheckter pull out a small advantage over the field, largely due to the fantastic duel between the two number twos behind him. Indeed, Nilsson and Mass were lunging at one another all the way around Zolder, giving the rather wet crowd something to cheer about. Elsewhere, Hunt continued his slide to the back of the field, Emerson Fittipaldi retired with a sodden set of electronics, and Hans-Joachim Stuck went skating off the circuit, knocking his nose out of joint as he did so.
The rain would begin to ease off on the seventh lap, although this was of little joy to Hunt as he was lapped by the leaders, still at the back of the field. Indeed, the only man still behind the World Champion was Stuck, who had been forced to stop for a new nose after his off, and was now closing in on the #1 McLaren. Yet, before he could get there, the German almost joined his teammate at the first chicane, sending himself into a lonely spin while trying to catch up.
Another spinner would be Mass, whose latest lunge for second had ended up with the German sending himself into a pirouette which he expertly caught. That was enough, however, to let a resurgent Reutemann go through into third, the Argentine having dropped his pursuit after the opening lap. Nilsson was now left to chase after Scheckter, who had just seen elder brother Ian slide into retirement in the factory March.
The track was drying incredibly fast now that the rain had stopped, aided by an incredibly strong breeze. By lap thirteen a clear "dry-line" had emerged, prompting Peterson to dive into the pits for slicks at the end of that lap. Yet, off the drying line the circuit remained hazardous, regardless of tyre choice, as Riccardo Patrese would prove when he hurtled into the barriers. The Shadow was out with heavy damage, although the Italian climbed out without injury.
Most teams would wait to see how Peterson got on after his stop, the Swede's tyres needing to get to operating temperature before he could realistically challenge the leaders. The Ferrari team were the first to react two laps later, however, with Niki Lauda coming in at the end of lap fifteen. An incredibly slick sixteen second stop saw the Austrian steam out of the pits in ninth, well clear of Peterson and the lacklustre Hunt, who was beginning to catch the back markers.
Indeed, so stunning was Lauda's slick stop that the events on circuit were hardly noted, including a race changing spin at the head of the field. Scheckter, having built a commanding lead in the wet, had gone spinning off at the back of the circuit as the Austrian slithered out of the pits, and had only got back into the fray with aid from the marshals (a fact that was only revealed after the race). The South African would rejoin just ahead of the now charging Lauda, while Nilsson took the Wolf's off as a sign to stop.
Others to encounter on-track issues before they could switch to slicks included Lauda's teammate Reutemann, who had burned through his tyres and slithered into the barriers. He climbed out just in time to see Keegan write off his Hesketh on the same set of Armco barriers, the Brit pushing to try and catch teammate Ertl in spite of the Austrian's early spin. Their retirements meant that there were six cars already on the sidelines, with more than three quarters of the race to run.
The drama would not be limited to the circuit, however, as Nilsson found to his cost when a wheel-nut refused to go back onto the left-front axle. The Swede rejoined a lap behind an as-yet-to-stop Mass, and down in thirteenth, although the German was in at the end of lap nineteen. Vittorio Brambilla therefore inherited the lead for the time being, with Jacques Laffite and a stunned David Purley completing the top three.
Laffite would last a couple more laps before stopping the Ligier-Matra, with Brambilla and Purley coming in a lap later. That left Lauda at the head of the field ahead of Mass, while a quick stop by Shadow had promoted Alan Jones up to third. Purley, meanwhile, would be left to rue his decision to stop along with Brambilla, for not only would he and the LEC led a World Championship race, but his pitstop went awry when he stalled the engine.
By the 25th lap the order had finally settled, with Lauda leading at a cruise from Mass and Jones, neither of whom were pushing. Brambilla was next after a quick stop by Surtees, while Scheckter had recovered to sixth after his time wasting spin, running a long way behind Peterson. Laffite had rejoined just ahead of a charging Nilsson, who was back on the lead lap, while Hunt was still slithering around at the back of the field on his original set of slicks.
Lauda's advantage would continue to grow over the following laps, aided by a pirouette from Mass as the German began to push his McLaren. Mass would rejoin still in second but with his confidence bruised, while behind Peterson went charging past Brambilla and Jones. There were changes behind that group too, with Nilsson lunging past Laffite, before latching onto the back of Scheckter, who had gambled on a fresh set of wets.
Ultimately, the black-gold Wolf and the similarly liveried Lotus would storm past the cars ahead of them, although Scheckter quickly went back into the pits having burned out his tyres. That left Nilsson a now lonely third as the race hit lap 40, although that was to quickly become second when Mass sent himself skating into the catch-fencing. The #6 Lotus was left over a quarter of a minute behind Lauda, although it soon became clear that the Lotus was going to catch the Ferrari before the end of the race.
Nilsson, however, would pull onto the back of the #11 Ferrari far earlier than anyone expected, duly lunging into the lead on lap 50 at the Kleine Chicane. The #6 Lotus duly stormed off to establish a lead, leaving Lauda to cruise, while, twenty seconds behind, Brambilla copied Nilsson's dive on Peterson. Yet, unlike the young Swede, the Italian would be unable to build a gap over the Tyrrell, with Brambilla running wide at the next corner to allow Peterson back into a solid third.
With that the race was run, Nilsson able to cruise home to collect an excellent maiden win from Lauda, who had also reduced his pace once the Lotus disappeared from view. Peterson was within sight of the Ferrari come the end of the race, but had to settle for third, while Brambilla never managed to catch back up to the Tyrrell and was therefore left in fourth. Jones kept his sick sounding Shadow going on the lead lap to claim fifth, while Stuck was miraculously classified in sixth, despite losing a whole lap to a very frustrated Hunt, whose gamble at the start ended with the Brit just shy of the points in seventh.
The full results for the 1977 Belgian Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Hayje was unable to be classified as he failed to complete 90% of the race distance.
- † Lunger was unable to start the race after an engine failure during the morning warm-up.
- 100th Grand Prix entry for Ronnie Peterson.
- Vittorio Brambilla entered his 50th Grand Prix.
- Mario Andretti earned the 70th pole position for Lotus as a constructor.
- Maiden victory for Gunnar Nilsson.
- It was also Nilsson's first and only fastest lap.
- 61st victory for Team Lotus.
The maiden victory for Gunnar Nilsson had propelled the young Swede into the top five in the Championship, although he remained some way behind lead protagonist Jody Scheckter. Indeed, the South African racer had Nilsson to thank for holding his lead, for Niki Lauda had closed the gap to just a single point with his second place. Carlos Reutemann and Nilsson's teammate were next, a point apart but eight behind Lauda, while defending Champion James Hunt slipped to sixth.
As ever it was Ferrari who continued to lead the way in the International Cup for Constructors, leaving Zolder with a healthy thirteen point lead. The revived Lotus-Ford Cosworth team were now the Italian firm's closest challengers, a point ahead of new-boys Wolf-Ford Cosworth, while McLaren-Ford Cosworth continued to slip away in fourth. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth, meanwhile, were up to fifth after Ronnie Peterson's podium, while Surtees-Ford Cosworth became the eleventh different constructor to score in 1977.
Images and Videos:
- F1-history/Schlegelmilch Photography, '1977 Belgian Grand Prix Start', deviantart.com, (DeviantArt, Inc., 04/02/2014), https://f1-history.deviantart.com/art/1977-Belgian-Grand-Prix-Start-431777489, (Accessed 13/04/2018)
- F1-history, 'Jody Scheckter (Belgium 1977)', deviantart.com, (DeviantArt, Inc., 22/02/2014), https://f1-history.deviantart.com/art/Jody-Scheckter-Belgium-1977-435888539, (Accessed 13/04/2018)
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|V T E||Belgian Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Spa-Francorchamps (1950 - 1970, 1983, 1985 - Present), Nivelles (1972, 1974), Zolder (1973, 1975 - 1982, 1984)|
|Races||1950 • 1951 • 1952 • 1953 • 1954 • 1955 • 1956 • 1957 • 1958 • 1959 • 1960 • 1961 • 1962 • 1963 • 1964 • 1965 • 1966 • 1967 • 1968 • 1969 • 1970 • 1971 • 1972 • 1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1977 • 1978 • 1979 • 1980 • 1981 • 1982 • 1983 • 1984 • 1985 • 1986 • 1987 • 1988 • 1989 • 1990 • 1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998 • 1999 • 2000 • 2001 • 2002 • 2003 • 2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007 • 2008 • 2009 • 2010 • 2011 • 2012 • 2013 • 2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 2018 • 2019 • 2020 • 2021|
|Pre-1950 races||1925 • 1930 • 1931 • 1933 • 1934 • 1935 • 1937 • 1939 • 1946 • 1947 • 1949|
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