The 1977 Spanish Grand Prix, officially recorded as the XXIII Gran Premio de España, was the fifth round of the 1977 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Circuito del Jarama on the 8 May, 1977. The race, which was the first of the season to be held in Europe, would be remembered for a dominant display by eventual winner Mario Andretti.
Indeed, the American would be in top form throughout the weekend, claiming pole position in one of the busiest qualifying periods of the season. Jacques Laffite was the closest man to the Lotus racer in second, while the Ferraris of Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann shared the second row.
Andretti's charge would be made all the more easy on race morning, Lauda having to go off to hospital after stopping his warm-up run with chest pain. The Austrian was quickly diagnosed with a snapped rib, a legacy of his huge accident at the Nürburgring which had been aggravated when the #11 Ferrari hit a bump.
At the start there would be no-one to challenge the aforementioned Andretti, with the #5 black-gold Lotus streaking off the grid to claim an early lead. Laffite led the chase from Reutemann, with he rest of the field making it through the opening lap without issue.
Laffite was able to keep the Lotus in sight during the early stages of the race, but a loose rear wheel on the Ligier-Matra forced the Frenchman into the pits. Reutemann duly inherited second, while defending World Champion James Hunt would drop out early with a misfire. The Brit had been jousting with John Watson for third at the time, although a few laps after Hunt disappeared the Ulsterman would find himself facing in the wrong direction.
Watson rejoined behind Jody Scheckter and Jochen Mass, although he would not see the chequered flag due to a fuel issue. That promoted Gunnar Nilsson and the second Brabham-Alfa Romeo into the points, with no major changes coming to the order in the closing stages.
All that was left was for Andretti to sweep home to claim a second victory in a row, much to the delight of Colin Chapman and Lotus. Reutemann was almost twenty seconds behind in second, while Scheckter completed the podium after a race-long duel with Mass. Nilsson and Stuck would complete the points, while Laffite clawed his way back up to seventh.
From the streets of Long Beach in the United States the F1 circus returned to Europe for the European leg of the season, starting at the Circuito del Jarama in Spain. According to the previous agreement between the FIA and the Real Automovil Club de España, the 1977 edition of the Spanish Grand Prix should have been staged at the Montjuïc Park Circuit in Barcelona, but after the disastrous 1975 race, the Gran Premio de España found a permanent home in Jarama. Unfortunately for the FIA, and their subsidiary World Championship Racing, the ACE signed a new contract with the Formula One Constructors Association, meaning the race would be staged on their terms.
The circuit itself was unchanged from 1976, with the long start/finish straight ending in a tight hairpin. Off track the sand and gravel traps had been extended slightly, with the grandstands also receiving some attention to appease an expected huge crowd. The entry list was also vastly improved ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, although only really in terms of number rather than talent.
After finding themselves worryingly off the pace in Long Beach, the McLaren arrived with the latest version of the new M26 for lead driver James Hunt, who had fallen out of love with the old M23. The new M26 received vast improvements to the prototype destroyed in South Africa, with cockpit adjustable rear anti-roll bars, modified monocoque and modified bodywork. Jochen Mass would, however, continue to use his "new" M23, with Hunt's old car becoming the spare, while Spanish privateer Emilio de Villota would race an ex-factory M23 with backing from Iberia Airlines.
Over at Tyrrell there had been time invested in a new chassis, with Patrick Depailler going back to the 1976 specification rather than the updated version. Peterson, however, would continue to use his "B-spec" P34, with the team's primary spare another of the updated cars. In spite of the specification differences there would be some new similarities between Depailler and Peterson's cars, with a cockpit controlled brake-balance adjuster coupled with some new brakes.
The P34 would not be the only six-wheeled car in Spain, however, as March unveiled their new 2-4-0, plastered in sponsorship from Rothmans International. Yet this new car, which featured four full-sized rear wheels, would not actually head onto the circuit, instead staying near a hotel Madrid to generate huge publicity. Indeed, both Alex Ribeiro and the returning Ian Scheckter would use the factory 761Bs raced in California.
Yet, the Spanish Grand Prix of 1977 promised to be something of a renaissance for Max Mosley's team, with no fewer than six additional 761s, of various specification, entered in private hands. Leading the way would be Arturo Merzario, who bought the first of the "761Bs" to race for his newly founded Team Merzario effort. It would not be the newest 761, however, for Frank Williams, having founded his new Williams Grand Prix Engineering effort, buying the parts for a 761 which would be assembled and modified, by Williams, for Patrick Nève to race.
There would be some confusion over which March chassis Williams were actually using, however, for Brian Henton also arrived with the "seventh" March 761 chassis to have been produced. The Brit, racing for his British Formula One Racing Team, also had his chassis built in private hands, under license from Mr. Mosley, meaning there were two officially registered March 761/7s in existence. The other cars would be found in the hands of RAM Racing/F&S Properties, who entered to cars for Boy Hayje and Mikko Kozarowitzky, while Brett Lunger was back with his American registered March with Chesterfield Racing.
Elsewhere, and another team seemingly back up to full strength, were Hesketh, which arrived with two "E-spec" versions of their 308 for the first time all season. British racer Rupert Keegan was listed as their main driver, using the Penthouse Rizla sponsored car on his F1 debut, while Harald Ertl rejoined the team with a newer 308E. The new "E-spec" version was an evolution of the old design, updated by the team's new lead designer Frank Dernie.
Another team sporting new equipment would be Shadow, although their new "low-drag" DN8 was only scheduled to run in practice. Indeed, both Alan Jones and Renzo Zorzi would use their cars from Long Beach, which had received the latest version of the Hewland six-speed gearbox after identical failures in the US. Otherwise the team was unchanged from the race in North America, with many still depressed over the loss of Tom Pryce.
Elsewhere it was business as usual, although the newly rejuvenated Lotus team would busy themselves by using a variety of tuned Ford Cosworth engines. They were one of a number of teams to arrive in Jarama a week early to complete some testing, with both Gunnar Nilsson and Mario Andretti getting a lot of time on track trying out no fewer than four different custom Cosworths. Ultimately, however, the Norfolk squad would settle for the newest factory creations, with Andretti also getting the latest 78 to use.
Ferrari also arrived in Spain earlier than most, although neither Niki Lauda nor Carlos Reutemann would get anything new to try. Likewise, the F12 Brabham-Alfa Romeos would test extensively without modification, with John Watson and Hans-Joachim Stuck both satisfied with their BT45Bs for the time being. Other non-Cosworth cars would also attend the testing week, with Jacques Laffite using his newest Matra engined Ligier JS7, while Swede Conny Andersson became the latest driver to try the new, and disappointing, BRM.
Surtees arrived with their familiar pair of cars for Hans Binder and Vittorio Brambilla, the Italian hoping to complete more than a lap in the race after a poor start to the season. This was a contrast to the optimistic Ensign and Fittipaldi efforts, with both Clay Regazzoni and Emerson Fittipaldi causing major upsets with their Cosworth "kit-cars", with the Brazilian crew ahead by virtue of actually finishing races. Likewise, the Canadian Wolf effort was back to impress with Jody Scheckter at the wheel again, as was Jean-Pierre Jarier in the German owned Penske. Finally, to round out an extensive list of entries, would be David Purley's LEC, a brand new car designed by Mike Pilbeam and built, according to rumour, in a refrigerator factory.
Into the Championship and Long Beach winner Andretti had shot up into fourth in the title hunt at his home race, although the American racer would still be eight points behind the leaders. Indeed, Jody Scheckter and Lauda headed into the European season level on nineteen points, the South African ahead on count back, with Reutemann just ahead of Andretti in third. Hunt, meanwhile, had slipped to fifth, while Jarier had become the fourteenth driver to add his name to the scorers list with sixth in Long Beach.
Ferrari-CON had seen their lead in the International Cup for Constructors grow to nine points over Wolf-Ford Cosworth in California, with the Canadian team still surprising many in their debut season. Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth were up in the top three thanks to Andretti's American victory, moving ahead of McLaren-Ford Cosworth to be the best British constructor. Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth had held on to their top five status, while Penske-Ford Cosworth were tagged onto the bottom of the table in tenth.
The full entry list for the 1977 Spanish Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice/qualifying would be staged across Friday and Saturday, with the familiar pattern of three "timed" sessions broken up by a single "untimed" period. Both days would be bathed in sunshine, although the best conditions would be found during the opening session on Friday morning, the first of the three "timed" periods. As such, if anyone was going to beat the circuit record, a 1:18.44 set by Niki Lauda in 1974, it was going to be early in the weekend.
However, although the conditions were near perfect on Friday morning, a much more pertinent issue would come to the fore: traffic. Indeed, with over thirty drivers attempting too qualify for twenty-four grid slots, and Jarama being a relatively short circuit, there were lots of abandoned quick laps, although the pace would be frantic throughout. There would be numerous spins, clashes and mechanical issues to produce an every increasing list of variables, making Mario Andretti's table topping time all the more impressive.
Indeed, the American racer seemed to be the only driver managing to avoid getting baulked on a quick lap, the black-gold Lotus weaving past the traffic with ease. Come the end of the morning Andretti had recorded a 1:18.70, a full seven tenths faster than his closest competitor meaning that the American was the only man to break the 1:19.00 barrier. Jacques Laffite proved to be his closest challenger in the Ligier-Matra, a 1:19.42 for his troubles, while John Watson and Carlos Reutemann were the only other drivers to set a sub-1:20.00 time.
Elsewhere, both Tyrrell and McLaren were having a miserable start to the weekend, both struggling to get their equipment running comfortably. Indeed, while James Hunt was the faster of the McLaren duo in the new M26, teammate Jochen Mass looked more composed in the older M23. For Tyrrell, it proved to be the reverse, with Ronnie Peterson faster than teammate Patrick Depailler, despite the fact that his P34 was rarely pointing in a straight line.
It was much the same in the hotter afternoon session on Friday, although even Andretti could not match his heroics from the morning run out. The American would still end the session with the fastest time, a 1:19.55, and provisional pole, with Team Lotus opting to focus on race pace during the session. Other men to set "ace" times included Watson and Jody Scheckter, those two the only other racers to set a time under 1:20.00.
Elsewhere the McLaren misery continued, with Hunt fortunate not to receive catastrophic damage after bouncing over Hans-Joachim Stuck in the second Brabham-Alfa Romeo. The Brit's car was left with suspension damage, but was able to carry one, while Stuck had to stop to have his rear-end rebuilt. Elsewhere the Penske of Jean-Pierre Jarier failed to get out of the paddock with an issue, while the BRM continued to look pathetic, regardless of whether Conny Andersson pushed or not.
The "untimed" session was staged on Saturday morning, although, as usual, none of the teams really used the session for its intended purpose. Some, such as the ATS team running Jarier's Penske, used the session to tryout their third set of gearboxes, while David Purley spent the session surprising many with his pace in the LEC. Hunt, meanwhile, made his weekend all the more difficult by losing the M26 at the final corner, smashing the nose to pieces, with the Brit still less-than-satisfied with the new car.
The final hour of "timed" running on Saturday saw the track once again flooded with F1 machinery, making it nigh-impossible to match Andretti's stunning effort from Friday morning. Indeed, the American racer duly claimed pole thanks to his Friday effort, a time he so nearly matched on Saturday afternoon with a 1:18.78. Most of his rivals also fell shy of their Friday times, although Lauda did manage to join the "ace" section with a 1:19.48 to move into third on the grid.
Elsewhere the fight was on to qualify, with seven of the field set to miss out on a starting slot. Unsurprisingly the BRM was to be found at the bottom of the pile, five and a half seconds off the pace, with Purley a second quicker but frustrated given his impressive times during the "untimed" session. Also out were Brett Lunger, who was deemed the "first reserve" as the fastest non-qualifier, Jarier, Alex Ribeiro, Boy Hayje and Brian Henton, the latter three (plus Lunger) seeing the March contingent culled from eight to three, with Mikko Kozarowitzky also failing to appear.
The full qualifying results for the 1977 Spanish Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||5||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:18.70||1:19.55||1:18.78||—|
|5||20||Jody Scheckter||Wolf-Ford Cosworth||1:20.15||1:19.81||1:19.57||+0.87s|
|6||7||John Watson||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:19.99||1:19.89||1:19.87||+1.17s|
|7||1||James Hunt||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:20.18||1:20.92||1:20.11||+1.41s|
|8||22||Clay Regazzoni||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:20.13||1:21.11||1:20.34||+1.43s|
|9||2||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:21.32||1:21.27||1:20.14||+1.44s|
|10||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:21.05||1:20.64||1:20.16||+1.46s|
|11||19||Vittorio Brambilla||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:20.39T||1:20.91T||1:20.26||+1.56s|
|12||6||Gunnar Nilsson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:20.38||1:20.39||1:20.44||+1.68s|
|13||8||Hans-Joachim Stuck||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:20.60||1:21.23||1:20.55||+1.85s|
|14||17||Alan Jones||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:20.74||1:21.24||1:21.14||+2.04s|
|15||3||Ronnie Peterson||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:20.96||1:21.00||1:21.30||+2.26s|
|16||24||Rupert Keegan||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:21.03||1:21.55||1:21.66||+2.33s|
|17||10||Ian Scheckter||March-Ford Cosworth||1:21.05||1:21.96||1:22.26||+2.35s|
|18||25||Harald Ertl||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:21.16||1:21.87||1:23.67||+2.46s|
|19||28||Emerson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:21.87||1:22.71||1:21.56||+2.86s|
|20||18||Hans Binder||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:23.11||1:23.06||1:21.73||+3.03s|
|21||37||Arturo Merzario||March-Ford Cosworth||—||1:21.82||1:21.83||+3.12s|
|22||27||Patrick Nève||March-Ford Cosworth||1:22.32||1:22.29||1:21.92||+3.22s|
|23||36||Emilio de Villota||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:21.97||1:22.78||1:22.48||+3.27s|
|24||16||Renzo Zorzi||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:22.74||1:22.18||1:22.09||+3.39s|
|DNQ*||30||Brett Lunger||March-Ford Cosworth||1:22.53||1:23.05||1:22.24||+3.54s|
|DNQ||34||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Penske-Ford Cosworth||—||—||1:22.27||+3.57s|
|DNQ||9||Alex Ribeiro||March-Ford Cosworth||1:22.36||1:22.30||1:23.24||+3.60s|
|DNQ||33||Boy Hayje||March-Ford Cosworth||1:22.39||1:22.92||1:22.98||+3.69s|
|DNQ||38||Brian Henton||March-Ford Cosworth||1:23.57||1:23.50||1:22.57||+3.87s|
|DNQ||31||David Purley||LEC-Ford Cosworth||1:33.73||1:23.38||1:22.89||+4.19s|
|WD||39||Mikko Kozarowitzky||March-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
- T Indicates a test/spare car.
- * Lunger was classified as the "first reserve".
|24||Emilio de Villota|
- * Lauda was unable to start after being injured in the pre-race warm-up.
- † Lunger was allowed to start due to the absence of Lauda having qualified as "first reserve".
Raceday dawned bright and warm, with no threat of rain during either the morning or in the build up to the race. There would be a change to the grid, however, as Niki Lauda was forced to withdraw from the race after finding he had cracked his ribs during the morning warm-up. It was likely an aggravation of his Nürburgring injuries, although, regardless of the origin, it did mean that Brett Lunger could join the field at the back of the grid.
The start was scheduled for 4:17pm, and after two parade laps and the arrival of the King Juan Carlos I of Spain, the starter's lights duly flickered on at the appointed time. A few seconds later and the switched to green, with pole sitter Mario Andretti immediately streaking away to claim the lead. He duly left Carlos Reutemann to challenge Jacques Laffite for second into the hairpin, while a stunning start from James Hunt saw the Brit weave the #1 car up from eighth to fourth before the first corner.
The rest of the opening lap would see the order settle down into a long train behind Laffite, with Andretti continuing to stretch his lead as he completed the first tour. Behind Laffite remained Reutemann and Hunt, with John Watson, Jody Scheckter and Clay Regazzoni in close attendance. Vittorio Brambilla was next having copied Hunt's flying start from lower in the pack, with Lunger at the back of the field having been allowed to start at the back of the grid.
The early stages saw much the same pattern, although Laffite did manage to break away from the peleton with Reutemann, as the rest got baulked by Hunt. Indeed, the Brit had suffered a misfire on the first parade lap, which the McLaren had seemingly managed to cure with a new set of spark plugs. Yet, within five laps Hunt had fallen back behind Watson and Scheckter, prompting him to stop and have the McLaren crew change the ignition unit.
Indeed, Hunt's disappearance, which was soon to become a retirement, would ultimately prove to be the major factor in the race, with no real changes to the order coming through overtakes. Indeed, Andretti would continue to eek out his lead ahead of Laffite, while the Ligier-Matra would soon follow Hunt into the pits with a loose rear-wheel. The Frenchman stopped in the pits, contributed to the arguments among his pitcrew about the rear wheel, and duly rejoined with a full set of fresh tyres, albeit a lap behind when he did head back out.
Laffite's disappearance from the top of the field handed Andretti a much more healthy advantage at the head of the field, meaning the American could nurse his fragile Lotus for the rest of the afternoon. Reutemann, meanwhile, was left in an increasingly lonely second, meaning the fight for third between Scheckter, Watson, Jochen Mass and Gunnar Nilsson became the centre of attention. Elsewhere, Brambilla's first lap heroics were overwritten when he took himself and Regazzoni out of the race, the Italian rather pertinently opting to keep his helmet on as he apologised to a disgruntled Ensign pilot.
It would not be the first collision of the race, with Alan Jones hitting Ronnie Peterson up the back not once but twice into the hairpin, although both would continue. However, the Australian's third attempt at passing the Swede would ultimately do the damage, the Shadow glancing off one of the Tyrrell's rear wheels and breaking its suspension. The final blow also proved terminal to Peterson's hopes of a strong finish, with the third Shadow strike managing to finally break one of the Swede's anti-roll bars. The #3 Tyrrell would continue on, however, albeit with wayward handling for the rest of the afternoon.
Back with Laffite and the Frenchman was soon carving his way up the order, although his progress was hampered when he tried to unlap himself from Nilsson, who was in the middle of a fight with Watson. Indeed, the fight for third had broken up into two pairs, Scheckter defending heavily from Mass, while Watson and Nilsson exchanged blows for fifth. Ultimately, however, both the Lotus and Brabham-Alfa Romeo would fatigue during the race, with Watson forced to stop for fresh tyres.
It proved to be a fateful move by Watson, for his Alfa engine refused to fire again after the Brit stalled in the pits. His retirement, later traced to a fuel pimp issue, was the last of the race, with other incidents having thinned the field. For example, debutante Rupert Keegan had been running inside the top ten when a gearbox issue threw his Hesketh into the barriers at high speed, while Arturo Merzario hit the kerbs once too often to smash his suspension.
Elsewhere, Emerson Fittipaldi was having a miserable afternoon, caught in the middle of a rather bruising fight between Hans Binder and Patrick Nève. The Brazilian, having received several near-misses from his inexperienced rivals, decided to pit for fresh tyres in hopes of reigniting his race. The Fittipaldi, however, proved even less responsive on fresh rubber, meaning the Brazilian ultimately slipped to the back of the field behind Emilio de Villota.
Ultimately, however, there was no stopping Andretti, who hit every apex like a metronome to claim a dominant victory for Team Lotus, the American racer some fifteen seconds clear of Reutemann when the chequered flag finally fluttered. Reutemann himself was a handful of seconds clear of the fight for third, with Mass' last lunge at Scheckter ultimately ending with the German running wide into the first hairpin. That meant it was the black-gold Wolf that completed the podium ahead of the McLaren, with Nilsson and Hans-Joachim Stuck completing the points.
The full results for the 1977 Spanish Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Lunger was allowed to start in place of Lauda as "first reserve".
- † Lauda was unable to start after picking up an injury during the warm-up session.
- Jochen Mass made his 50th Grand Prix start.
- Gunnar Nilsson entered a race for the 20th time.
- Maiden Grand Prix start for Rupert Keegan.
- Alfa Romeo started their 50th race as an engine supplier.
- First entries made by Williams Grand Prix Engineering and Team Merzario.
- Mario Andretti claimed the 85th pole position for Ford Cosworth.
- Fourth career victory for Andretti.
- Lotus claimed their 60th win as a constructor.
- Engine partner Ford Cosworth powered a car to a 99th triumph.
- Maiden fastest lap set by Jacques Laffite.
- This was also the first fastest lap set with a Ligier.
Scheckter held onto his lead in the World Championship after the first European race of the season, although race winner Mario Andretti closed the gap to three points with victory. Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann were level on points in third, dropping a point behind the American, while James Hunt remained fifth. Emerson Fittipaldi was next up in sixth ahead of Patrick Depailler, while Hans-Joachim Stuck became the latest driver to add his name to the scorers list.
Ferrari continued to hold the lead in the International Cup for Constructors, leaving Spain with an eleven point advantage over Wolf-Ford Cosworth. The Canadian squad themselves were being drawn in by the revived Lotus-Ford Cosworth squad, who closed to within a point of their similarly liveried rivals, with McLaren-Ford Cosworth dropping away in fourth. Behind, Brabham-Alfa Romeo moved ahead of Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth, with Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth remaining in seventh.
Only point scoring drivers and constructors are shown.
Images and Videos:
- 'SPANISH GP, 1977', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr285.html, (Accessed 06/04/2018)
- D.S.J., 'The Spanish Grand Prix: Andretti and Lotus in form again', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/06/1977), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/june-1977/24/spanish-grand-prix, (Accessed 06/04/2018)
- 'Spain 1977: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1977/espagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 06/04/2018)
- 'Spain 1977: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1977/espagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 07/04/2018)
- 'Spain 1976: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1977/espagne/classement.aspx, (Accessed 09/04/2018)
|V T E||Spanish Grand Prix|
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