The 1977 Brazilian Grand Prix, otherwise known as the VI Grande Premio do Brasil, was the second round of the 1977 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Autódromo do Interlagos on the 23 January, 1977. The race would be remembered for a large number of accidents, as well as a strong recovery drive from defending Champion James Hunt.
It had been a strong start to the weekend for the Brit, with Hunt claiming pole position from new Ferrari racer Carlos Reutemann. Mario Andretti and Jochen Mass shared the second row, while home hero Carlos Pace would start from fifth in the Brabham-Alfa Romeo.
It was the aforementioned Pace who made the best getaway from the grid, any suggestions of a jump-start waved away by the Brazilian officials. Reutemann was the man to lead the chase, retaining second, while Hunt slipped to third ahead of McLaren teammate Mass.
Unfortunately the track, bathed in intense heat since early morning, would begin to break up in the early stages, meaning Pace was unable to establish a safe lead. This was made even more evident when Hunt barged his way past Reutemann for second, putting the Brit right onto the back of the Brabham-Alfa.
Yet, Hunt would never get the chance to attack the Brazilian, for Pace ran wide while dodging a lump of tarmac, allowing Hunt to try a move on the Brazilian around the back of the circuit. Pace duly swept back onto the circuit and smacked into the side of the McLaren, severely damaging his own suspension. Pace therefore shot into the pits and out of contention, while Hunt continued on with barely a mark on his car.
A rather bizarre accident would follow a few laps later, as Mass went spinning off the circuit and into some catch-fencing, which somehow managed to land onto the circuit. Next on the scene were Clay Regazzoni and Ronnie Peterson, and both were powerless to avoid the tangled fencing. They therefore joined Mass on the sidelines in a knotted mess of netting and broken bodywork at the side of the circuit.
Back on track and Hunt was beginning to struggle with excessively worn tyres, so much so that Reutemann was able to catch and pass the Brit on lap 23. That move prompted Hunt to stop for fresh tyres, allowing Niki Lauda, John Watson and Tom Pryce to pass.
Hunt would spend the rest of the afternoon chasing down the trio, taking all three before Watson joined the pile of cars at the scene of Mass' earlier accident. Other accidents claimed Vittorio Brambilla, Patrick Depailler, Jacques Laffite and Pace, the latter quartet all hitting cars left abandoned on the side of the circuit. Pryce, meanwhile, would disappear in the closing stages with an engine failure.
With that the race was run, Reutemann able to cruise home to claim victory for Ferrari, a few seconds clear of the charging Hunt in second. Lauda also cruised home in third as the last man on the lead lap, with Emerson Fittipaldi avoided trouble to finish a strong fourth ahead of Gunnar Nilsson and Renzo Zorzi. Ingo Hoffmann was the only other finisher, in a race which had seen fourteen retirements and numerous incidents.
Two weeks after the season opening round in Argentina and the F1 circus arrived in Brazil for the annual battle around the Autódromo do Interlagos. Indeed, the 1977 visit promised to be one of the best attended Grand Prix ever in South America, with no fewer than four Brazilian drivers in the field, two of whom were native to São Paulo. In terms of the circuit there were no major changes to the layout, although some minor resurfacing had been required after a particularly brutal winter.
Into the entry list and there were no changes to the field after the Argentine Grand Prix, although there had been some major work completed by several teams. By far the busiest were Lotus, who had shipped Mario Andretti's car back over the Atlantic, rebuilt it, and got it to Brazil in pristine condition. That meant that the American racer could join teammate Gunnar Nilsson for practice, with both hoping that their 78s would perform well on the sweeping Brazilian circuit.
McLaren had been marginally less busy since the trip to Argentina, completing a forensic investigation of James Hunt's suspension failure in Buenos Aires. Their investigation resulted in some reinforced parts for both Hunt and Jochen Mass' cars, although for Brazil the team only had time to modify the bolts within both sets of rear suspension. The spare car had been left untouched owing to time, although neither Hunt nor Mass were expected to use it for the race.
Elsewhere there were mutual panics for Shadow and Surtees, who were both told that the airliner they had used had lost one of their cars. Fortunately the crates they were stored in were found, meaning both appeared in Brazil at full strength. That meant that Tom Pryce and Renzo Zorzi were again partnered in the black Shadows, while Vittorio Brambilla and Hans Binder continued on for John Surtees' team.
More paperwork drama would see the Wolf of Jody Scheckter mistakenly registered as a Brabham-Alfa Romeo, a fact which almost saw the Canadian creation shipped to Europe by mistake. The reason for this mix-up was the fact that Carlos Pace's Brabham BT45 had been too badly damaged to be fixed in South America, and so had to be shipped back to Europe for a rebuild. That was not the end of the issue, however, as Brabham designer Gordon Murray was unable to find the car upon its return, spending almost a week searching for the chassis before it was found safe in its crate at Rome Airport.
Once located Pace's car was shipped to the U.K., rebuilt, and sent back across the Atlantic to join John Watson's car in Brazil. The Brit would spend time on the beach along with a host of his fellows, while Pace spent his time training after being struck by heat exhaustion in Argentina. Indeed, with the Brabham-Alfa looking to be among the strongest cars in the field, Pace felt the pressure to perform in front of his literal home crowd more than ever.
On the topic of shipping issues, the lone BRM of Larry Perkins joined the fray in Brazil, the British squad having missed the season opener after their shipping crate proved too large to fit into a Boeing 707. Their new creation, the P207 looked radically different to the rest of the field, with a delta shaped front wing and squared off bodywork encasing their home-made V12 engine. The team had also secured a title sponsorship deal with the London based Rotary Watch company, although many doubted that the new car would revive the former Champions' fortunes.
Elsewhere, Tyrrell were given a minor headache when a set of spare bodywork went missing, although those parts were found just before Ronnie Peterson and Patrick Depailler landed in Brazil. Ferrari, in contrast, had no issues regarding their cars, meaning Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann would have no issues ahead of the race in Brazil. Their ex-driver Clay Regazzoni, meanwhile, would again race in the Ensign, while Jacques Laaffite had the new Ligier-Matra at his disposal once again.
Completing the field would be March with their pairing of Alex Ribeiro and Ian Scheckter, the former getting his first taste of racing in front of his home fans. The two Fittipaldis also made it to their home race, with both Emerson Fittipaldi and Ingo Hoffmann's cars receiving full services to give both the best chance of impressing. Those two rounded out a list of 22 entries for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Into the early Championship standings and victory for Jody Scheckter in Argentina had ensured that he, unsurprisingly, led the World Championship hunt after the opening round, three ahead of Pace. Reutemann was a content third having secured his first points for Ferrari, with Fittipaldi equally happy with fourth for his home-made effort. Andretti and Regazzoni completed the early scorers list.
A maiden victory on their "debut" meant that it was Wolf-Ford Cosworth who led the International Cup for Constructors charge after the opening round, three ahead of Brabham-Alfa Romeo. Ferrari opened their title defence in third, while Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth were a record fourth after the opening round. Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth found themselves in fifth ahead of Ensign-Ford Cosworth, both hoping that this result was a sign of things to come.
The full entry list for the 1977 Brazilian Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice/qualifying would return to the 1976 format in Brazil, with three "timed" sessions supported by an additional "untimed" period. Friday would host two of the "timed" sessions, both held in dry conditions, while Saturday would host the final "timed" period in the morning ahead of the lone "untimed" session. This gave the entire field three attempts to beat the target time, a 2:32.50 set by James Hunt en-route to pole in 1976.
The opening session of the weekend would be all about the fight to be the best British team, with McLaren, Lotus and Brabham all fighting to be top. All three would exchange chart topping time throughout Friday morning, before Carlos Pace settled the issue in the final half hour with a 2:30.57. Much of Pace's end of morning advantage came in the fact that the Alfa Romeo engined Brabham was 10 mph faster down the straights, leaving Jochen Mass, in second, almost a second behind.
Elsewhere, Pace's teammate John Watson was struggling with an engine issue, leaving him out of the fight, while Andretti's partner Gunnar Nilsson was learning the circuit. Ferrari, meanwhile, were being humbled by former driver Clay Regazzoni in the Ensign, the Swiss racer ending the first session three tenths clear of Carlos Reutemann. The other Ferrari of Niki Lauda, meanwhile, was to be found well outside the top ten, the Austrian entering several heated conversations with designer Mauro Forghieri over the #11 car's wayward handling.
Into the second session on Friday and it was Andretti who topped the times, albeit unable to best Pace's time from the morning with a 2:30.83. The American was, like Pace, the only man to get into the 2:30.00s during the session, with the rest of the field, including the Brazilian in the 2:31.00s or slower. Hunt therefore ended the session second fastest with a 2:31.29, half a second clear of Pace on 2:31.86.
Away from the pinnacle and both of Tyrrells looked impressive, as long as the observer only saw them on the straights. Indeed, both Patrick Depailler and Ronnie Peterson were struggling with horrendous understeer, prompting the latter to return to his old method of throttle based control. Tom Pryce adopted a similar style in the Shadow, while Vittorio Brambilla pushed so hard that he ripped a radiator off his Surtees.
Brambilla's teammate Hans Binder was less impressive, the inexperienced Austrian suffering a huge accident at the Curva do Sol, smashing into the barriers to write off his car. Ian Scheckter was a few seconds behind the Austrian's accident, and duly managed to remove the nose of his March while avoiding the larger chunks of Surtees. Binder himself was able to escape uninjured, but had to wait until Saturday morning to take over the delayed spare car.
Saturday itself saw marginally cooler conditions for the morning session, meaning the field were able to get better performance out of their engines. Ultimately, however, the fight for pole would be settled early on, with Hunt heading out early to record a session best of 2:30.11 to claim pole. The Brit was given a late scare by Reutemann late in the session, who just fell shy of pole having had a new rear-wing fitted overnight, while Andretti improved to claim third, in spite of running with excess fuel due to a fuel feed issue.
In contrast to his teammate's sudden improvement, Lauda would end the session in a lowly thirteenth, forced to swap to the "muletta" after his race car suffered a catastrophic fuel leak. Jacques Laffite, meanwhile, did his best to burn through Ligier-Matras supply of engines, blowing up two in two days, while Jody Scheckter encountered his first issues with the new Wolf, keeping him down the order. Finally, at the very back of the field there came the new BRM, with Larry Perkins unable to complete more than two laps in a row before the chunky car overheated. Indeed, the Australian's best effort of 2:42.22, some twelve seconds off of Hunt's pole time, cause many to question whether the BRM should race at all.
The "untimed" session on Saturday afternoon was a rather more eventful affair, Andretti's car spontaneously combusting at the hairpin due to a fuel leak. Quick reactions from the American racer saw him leap out of the cockpit before the car came to a stop, with the Lotus 78 quickly coated in extinguishant by the marshals, while Andretti himself was left with a few burn marks on his race suit. Teammate Nilsson stopped to pick up Andretti and get an explanation, with the Lotus crew getting the car back to the paddock to rebuild before the race.
The full qualifying results for the 1977 Brazilian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||1||James Hunt||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||2:31.64||2:31.29||2:30.11||—|
|3||5||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||2:32.21||2:30.83||2:30.35||+0.24s|
|4||2||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||2:31.50||2:32.68||2:30.36||+0.25s|
|5||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||2:30.57||2:31.86||2:30.82||+0.46s|
|6||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||2:32.99||2:49.13||2:30.69||+0.58s|
|7||7||John Watson||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||2:32.65||2:32.30||2:31.09||+0.98s|
|8||3||Ronnie Peterson||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||2:33.29||2:33.97||2:31.63||+1.52s|
|9||22||Clay Regazzoni||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||2:31.69||2:34.24||2:32.29||+1.58s|
|10||6||Gunnar Nilsson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||2:34.82||2:34.37||2:32.14||+2.03s|
|11||19||Vittorio Brambilla||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||2:35.38||2:33.19||2:32.19||+2.08s|
|12||16||Tom Pryce||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||2:34.32||2:34.54||2:32.22||+2.11s|
|15||20||Jody Scheckter||Wolf-Ford Cosworth||2:32.81||2:33.24||2:33.32||+2.70s|
|16||28||Emerson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||2:32.94||2:33.13||2:32.98||+2.83s|
|17||10||Ian Scheckter||March-Ford Cosworth||2:37.89||2:36.86||2:33.46||+3.35s|
|18||17||Renzo Zorzi||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||2:38.60||2:36.22||2:34.62||+4.51s|
|19||29||Ingo Hoffmann||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||2:39.00||2:38.04||2:35.57||+5.46s|
|20||18||Hans Binder||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||2:36.81||2:35.79||2:36.42T||+5.68s|
|21||9||Alex Ribeiro||March-Ford Cosworth||2:36.70||2:37.55||2:36.19||+6.08s|
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
- T Indicates a test/spare car.
Raceday proved to be the warmest part of the weekend, with the start time set for 12:00pm local time. The pre-race warm-up passed without issue, with Lotus miraculously managing to completely rebuild Mario Andretti's car before the early morning session. The American was therefore able to join the other twenty-one starters on the grid, who would all leap into action as the starters' lights flashed to green on the stroke of midday.
Virtually everyone's starts would be overshadowed by that of Carlos Pace, the Brazilian reacting suspiciously quickly to the lights to jet to the head of the field. Indeed, so impressive was his start that most of the fans forgot to note that it was actually the Brazilian's former teammate Carlos Reutemann who scythed into the first corner with the lead. In truth, Reutemann's lead was but a side note, with Pace slicing past the Ferrari into the banked turn three a few seconds later.
Come the end of the opening tour Pace had established a healthy lead out front, a couple of seconds clear of Reutemann in second. James Hunt was next ahead of his teammate Jochen Mass, while Andretti was harassing them along with Clay Regazzoni. A small gap preceded the next group led by Patrick Depailler while, unsurprisingly, the BRM of Larry Perkins quietly retired at the end of the lap having overheated. Again.
The early stages of the race would see Pace continue to eek out his lead, although his escape was aided by the fact that Reutemann was having to resist intense pressure from Hunt. The Brit would ultimately elbow his way through during the third lap and duly cruised onto the back of Pace, but was alarmed to see the Brabham-Alfa Romeo simply pull away down the straights. The McLaren was clearly superior in the corners, however, and so Hunt was more than happy to simply harass Pace for the time being.
That left Reutemann to defend from Hunt's teammate Mass, although the German himself was on the defensive from Andretti, whose Lotus was darting around in his mirrors. Regazzoni stuck with them the entire time, hoping to slip past the drivers ahead if and when a move was made. Elsewhere, Gunnar Nilsson had to pit for a puncture, Vittorio Brambilla stopped to have a radiator repaired having struck another kerb, while Ian Scheckter was out with an oil starved gearbox.
There would be a brief, driver instigated pause to the action as a small grass fire started at the side of the final corner, causing smoke to spill across the circuit until it was put out. Once that was out the fight for the lead resumed, with Hunt getting close enough to worry Pace at the end of the second straight, causing the Brazilian to run wide into turn three. Running wide caused Pace to run into a damaged piece of circuit, the result of being mislaid badly during the winter, which duly sent the Brabham drifting back across the track.
Try as he might, Hunt had no way to avoid the oncoming Brabham, although he miraculously managed to avoid damage as Pace's nose drifted into the Brit's rear wheel. Hunt duly sprinted away, while Pace's race was effectively over a hundred yards down the road when the entire nose section of his car flew into the air, taking out the remains of a damaged radiator on its way. The frustrated Brazilian was left to limp back to the pits for repairs, although he would rejoin several laps down.
That incident left Hunt leading from Reutemann, Mass and Andretti, although that little trio was about to be broken up. Indeed, as Mass dived onto the brakes into turn three the McLaren suddenly jerked right, throwing the German into the catch fencing on the outside of the circuit. The fencing was sent swirling into the air, landing just in time to collect Regazzoni as the Ensign rounded the corner a few seconds later.
The Swiss racer had barely gone off the circuit when the next group arrived, Depailler sending himself into a spin while trying to avoid the mess spewing out in front of him. He recovered having dropped to the back of the pack, a far better fate than his unsighted teammate Ronnie Peterson who suddenly found himself flying off the circuit. The Swede had been right behind Tom Pryce's Shadow in the middle of Depailler's train, and therefore had little chance to take action when the Welshman jinked out of the way of the incident at the last moment.
More drivers would narrowly avoid the incident in the following moments, both Niki Lauda and John Watson coming within inches of the wrecked cars having run wide at turn three. A large factor in the accident, and its subsequent impact, was the continued deterioration of the tarmac on the outside of the circuit, which would be described by the aforementioned Lauda as "just like black ice". Yet, despite the obvious danger the race continued on unabated, with the order substantially changed across the field.
Indeed, Hunt was now left with a solid lead over Reutemann, the Argentine becoming the new target for Andretti's marauding Lotus. Pryce now found himself in fourth having scraped through the incident as the Tyrrells spun around him, with Jacques Laffite behind in fifth. Lauda and Watson were next after their brief scares, with the rest of the field someway behind after their own dramas earlier on.
As half distance came and went, however, Hunt's supremacy at the front of the field was coming under increasing scrutiny, with Reutemann able to close onto the McLaren at a fair rate. The Brit had been fighting with alarming front tyre wear, a result of the team's established race-setup to deploy a car with natural understeer, while the Argentine had been released from Andretti's grasp when the Lotus' electrical system failed. On lap 23 the Ferrari barged past the McLaren for the lead, prompting Hunt to pit for fresh tyres at the end of that lap.
The defending World Champion rejoined just behind Lauda and Watson, dealing with them in short order before sprinting off after the now second placed Pryce. The Welshman, however, had a sizeable advantage over the Englishman, although his Shadow was struggling with an overheating engine. Time would tell as to whether Hunt could catch Pryce before the end of the race, with Reutemann already cruising with a huge lead at the head of the field.
Elsewhere, Depailler had been forced to stop in the pits after his spin, seeing a punctured tyre and radiator replaced, before crashing into the remains of Mass' McLaren just after half-distance. That wrote off both cars, which had only suffered minor damage to that point, a few laps before Laffite did the exact same to Brambilla's Surtees, which had come to a stop at the corner before Mass' accident. Four laps passed before Watson charged into the wreckage, although he at least had the excuse of a punctured front tyre.
A couple more laps passed before the seventh visitor to the turn three scrapyard arrived, Pace arriving far too fast to avoid the damaged tarmac to park his Brabham alongside his teammates. Hans Binder, meanwhile, had found a different corner to crash at, the Surtees suffering a front brake failure, although he, like everyone stranded at turn three, climbed out uninjured. Moments later and the fifteenth retirement of the day was confirmed, with Pryce's Shadow expiring at the side of the circuit with an engine failure.
With that the race was run, with Reutemann cruising home to record his first victory for Ferrari, ten seconds clear of the charging Hunt, who had just pulled in sight of Pryce's Shadow as the engine expired. Lauda was a quiet third and the last man on the lead lap, while Emerson Fittipaldi brought an unscathed Fittipaldi home fourth in spite of a late stop to replace a punctured tyre. Nilsson recovered to fifth after his early dramas with Renzo Zorzi claiming the final point in sixth for Shadow. Ingo Hoffmann was the only other recorded finisher, having been a non-factor throughout, but importantly on the circuit at the chequered flag.
The full results for the 1977 Brazilian Grand Prix are outlined below:
- Mario Andretti made his 50th Grand Prix start.
- First start for BRM since the 1976 Brazilian Grand Prix.
- Tenth pole position for James Hunt.
- Carlos Reutemann claimed his fifth career victory.
- 65th win for Ferrari as both a constructor and entrant.
- First and only points finish for Renzo Zorzi.
A maiden victory for Carlos Reutemann at his new team was enough to propel the Argentine racer to the top of the standings, four ahead of Jody Scheckter in second. Three drivers were now level on six points, Carlos Pace ahead of James Hunt and Emerson Fittipaldi by virtue of count-back, with Niki Lauda two behind in sixth. Other drivers to add their name to score sheet included Gunnar Nilsson and Renzo Zorzi, meaning there were ten drivers with points to their name after just two races.
The double podium for Ferrari was enough to put them atop the International Cup for Constructors standings, leaving South America with thirteen points to their name. Wolf-Ford Cosworth slipped to second ahead of Brabham-Alfa Romeo in third. The latter squad found themselves level on points with McLaren-Ford Cosworth and Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth, with Lotus-Ford Cosworth a couple behind in sixth.
Images and Videos:
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: BRAZILIAN GP, 1977', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/races/brazilian-gp-1977.html, (Accessed 30/03/2018)
- ↑ 2.000 2.001 2.002 2.003 2.004 2.005 2.006 2.007 2.008 2.009 2.010 2.011 2.012 2.013 2.014 2.015 2.016 2.017 2.018 2.019 2.020 2.021 2.022 2.023 2.024 2.025 2.026 2.027 2.028 2.029 2.030 2.031 2.032 2.033 2.034 2.035 2.036 2.037 2.038 2.039 2.040 2.041 2.042 2.043 2.044 2.045 2.046 2.047 2.048 2.049 2.050 2.051 2.052 2.053 2.054 2.055 2.056 2.057 2.058 2.059 2.060 2.061 2.062 2.063 2.064 2.065 2.066 2.067 2.068 2.069 2.070 2.071 2.072 2.073 2.074 2.075 2.076 2.077 2.078 2.079 2.080 2.081 2.082 2.083 2.084 2.085 2.086 2.087 2.088 2.089 2.090 2.091 2.092 2.093 2.094 2.095 2.096 2.097 2.098 2.099 2.100 2.101 2.102 2.103 A.H., 'The Brazilian Grand Prix: Reutemann wins through the carnage', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/03/1977), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/march-1977/55/brazilian-grand-prix, (Accessed 30/03/2018)
- ↑ 'Brazil 1977: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1977/bresil/engages.aspx, (Accessed 30/03/2018)
- ↑ 'Brazil 1977: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1977/bresil/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 31/03/2018)
- ↑ 'Brazil 1977: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1977/bresil/classement.aspx, (Accessed 31/03/2018)
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