The 1978 Canadian Grand Prix, otherwise officially known as the XVII Grand Prix du Canada, was the sixteenth and final round of the 1978 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Circuit Île Notre-Dame in Quebec, Canada, on the 8 October 1978. The race would see future F1 legend Gilles Villeneuve claim his first F1 victory after a dominant Jean-Pierre Jarier dropped out with a brake issue.
Things were going well for Jarier in his temporary Lotus seat, the Frenchman claiming his third career pole in a tight qualifying session on the recently opened Circuit Île Notre-Dame. Indeed, Jarier would only edge out Jody Scheckter in the Canadian Wolf by a hundredth of a second, with Villeneuve third and World Champion Mario Andretti down in ninth.
It was damp and miserably cold on race day, although that did not hamper the enthusiastic home crowd, keen to see their man Villeneuve challenge for victory. Unfortunately for them the young Ferrari pilot dropped behind Alan Jones at the start, as Jarier slithered into an early lead from Scheckter.
The rest of the opening lap saw Emerson Fittipaldi taken out by Hans-Joachim Stuck in the middle of the pack, an accident that also dropped Jacques Laffite to the back as he dodged to avoid. Out front,meanwhile, Scheckter ran wide on cold tyres and allowed Jones to dive past, while Jarier built a small lead over the chasing pack.
Jarier continued to pull away from the fight for second during the early stages, leaving Jones, Scheckter and Villeneuve to plot their next move. Behind them, Andretti was sizing up a move on John Watson, only to make a mess of his eventual lunge and put both into a spin. Watson would ultimately retire from a second accident a few laps later, while Andretti continued on after a stop for fresh tyres.
Villeneuve then became the star of the show, battling away with Scheckter as Jones briefly pulled clear in second. However, the Australian's charge was to be ruined by a slow puncture, dumping him behind the battling pair, before Villeneuve dived past Scheckter to claim second, prompting a huge cheer from the 72,000 strong crowd.
Unfortunately for the Canadian racer Jarier had pulled out a half a minute lead over them during that time, and as half distance came and went there seemed little chance of the Frenchman being caught. Yet, with twenty laps to go the black-gold Lotus was spotted scything into the pits, a hole in the brake system ultimately ending Jarier's hopes of a victory.
That left Villeneuve with a healthy lead, which the Canadian racer duly converted to a maiden victory, sending the home crowd wild. Scheckter survived to finish second ahead of Carlos Reutemann, while the previously banned Riccardo Patrese ended the season in fourth, ahead of Patrick Depailler and Derek Daly.
The season finale for the 1978 World Championship tour would be staged at a new venue, the Circuit Île Notre-Dame. Indeed, taking over from Mosport Park as host of the Canadian Grand Prix, the Circuit Île Notre-Dame in Montreal, Quebec was an entirely new circuit carved from the access roads around an artificial island in the St. Lawrence River. Indeed, the circuit was so new that it had only been "regulated" two weeks prior to F1's arrival, with a Formula Atlantic race staged as a test event.
Into the entry list and there were no major revisions made since the US Grand Prix, largely due to the fact that the races were just a week apart. Indeed, only Brabham-Alfa Romeo and Ensign had revised line-ups, the former adding Nelson Piquet to their ranks, as expected, while the latter lost Brett Lunger. Piquet therefore joined Niki Lauda and John Watson for the finale in a third potentially race winning Brabham BT46A, while Derek Daly was on his own with two Ensign N177s to pick from.
Elsewhere, World Champions Lotus arrived with their trio of Lotus 79s, with Mario Andretti and Jean-Pierre Jarier returning to the cars they had used in qualifying for the US race. Likewise, Tyrrell were unchanged barring some car swapping between Didier Pironi and Patrick Depailler, as were McLaren with Patrick Tambay and James Hunt. ATS were similarly unchanged fielding Michael Bleekemolen and Keke Rosberg, the latter having raced in the Formula Atlantic race to gain experience of the circuit.
The only other F1 driver to have started that race was found in the form of Bobby Rahal, who was given a second race in the Canadian run Wolf. He would partner outgoing Wolf tamer Jody Scheckter, with the pair swapping cars again at the behest of the South African. However, while Wolf were set to have a large number of fans backing them on home turf, they were not the main attraction for the French speaking population in Montreal.
Instead, most of the home crowd would be chanting the name of Gilles Villeneuve, who had secured a second season with Ferrari after a strong debut season. The young Canadian racer would partner Carlos Reutemann for one final time before the Argentine left to join Team Lotus, leaving Villeneuve to partner Scheckter in 1979. Regardless, the three 312T3s were unchanged ahead of the season finale, with the Maranello squad not giving preference to either driver.
It was business as usual at Shadow, with Clay Regazzoni and Hans-Joachim Stuck together once again, while Surtees again tried out their new combination of René Arnoux and Beppe Gabbiani. Arrows, meanwhile, were back up to full strength, with Riccardo Patrese allowed to race again after his impromptu, unofficial, and controversial, ban in the US. He returned to partner Rolf Stommelen in the team's pair of A1s.
Into the single car entries and Renault arrived with hopes of another strong result, Jean-Pierre Jabouille happy with the RS01s performance. Their compatriots Ligier-Matra were also in attendance, with Jacques Laffite set to use a Matra V12 for the last time ahead of their switch to a Ford Cosworth V8 in 1979. Williams, meanwhile, would make the trip with Alan Jones at the wheel, with Arturo Merzario in his eponymous car, Emerson Fittipaldi in his brother's creation, and privateer Héctor Rebaque completing the entry.
Into the Championship and with Mario Andretti already declared as Champion, and the late Ronnie Peterson almost out of reach in second, it was the battle for third that was the centre of attention arriving in Montreal. Indeed, victory at the Glen had duly propelled Reutemann into the position, a result which moved the Argentine level with Lauda on 44 points, but with more wins to his name. That left it mathematically possible for one of the two to overhaul Peterson for second, while Depailler had dropped out of the fight in fifth.
In the International Cup for Constructors it was much the same story, with Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth having already secured the crown. The fight for second was therefore the main draw heading into the finale, with Ferrari moving within four points of second placed Brabham-Alfa Romeo in the US, in what had become a two-horse race to be runner-up. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth had fallen too far back in fourth, while Renault had got onto the board for the first time, albeit outside of the top ten.
The full entry list for the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix is outlined below:
Qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix of 1978 would follow the established pattern of three "timed" periods separated by a single "untimed" session. The "untimed" session would be staged on Saturday morning, leaving Saturday afternoon and the whole of Friday free to set the grid. As for a target time there were no real references for the drivers, although everyone would expect to beat the best Formula Atlantic effort of 1:44.650.
Unfortunately both of Friday's sessions would be held in between deluges of rain, meaning no representative times, or indeed running, could be completed. Regardless, everyone would complete a handful of laps in both sessions, with Carlos Reutemann topping both sessions. Indeed, the Argentine ace was well ahead of the field in both, ending the afternoon with a 1:57.940 in his Ferrari.
It seemed as if the Ferrari team as a whole were the team to beat in the wet around the Circuit Île Notre-Dame, for home hero Gilles Villeneuve was second fastest with a 1:58.605 in the afternoon. Their closest combatants were Mario Andretti in the Lotus 79, and a surprised Hans-Joachim Stuck, whom danced his Shadow around Montreal to match the American's 1:59.150. Future Ferrari racer, and Wolf tamer Jody Scheckter was next and the last of those to break the 2:00.000 barrier, with Jean-Pierre Jarier in the second Lotus and Alan Jones in the Williams just falling shy.
Other impressive displays came from Keke Rosberg in the ATS, using his minimal circuit knowledge to record a 2:02.014, while Beppe Gabbiani and René Arnoux were well up the order. Indeed, with the grid restricted to just 22 starters, six of the entrants would miss the chance to start. Furthermore, with reports of more miserable weather on the way for Saturday, the grid was set to be more jumbled than usual.
With conditions as poor as they were throughout the two sessions there were an unsurprisingly high number of incidents during the session, resulting in a lot of work on Friday night. Indeed, Nelson Piquet proved how hard the conditions were even for a F3 star, who simply slid straight into the barriers at low speed, bending the front right corner. A more severe accident for Clay Regazzoni ended his running prematurely on Saturday afternoon, the Swiss racer damaging his monocoque, while Michael Bleekemolen sent his ATS sliding into the barriers nose first.
Elsewhere, Jacques Laffite sent his Ligier-Matra sliding backwards into the barriers, damaging the rear end bodywork. He would manage to pull away, only to grid to a halt with a seized gearbox a couple of hundred yards later, the result of a sump plug getting dislodged. Bobby Rahal, meanwhile, would destroy his Wolf late in the day, with the Canadian team having to snatch their old Wolf WR1 away from a hotel foyer in Montreal where it had been on display, while Derek Daly tipped Héctor Rebaque into a spin, without damage.
Saturday morning's conditions were a slight improvement, for while the water had drained from the circuit, a bitter northerly wind dragged temperatures towards freezing, with a threat of snow to boot. Regardless, the morning session past without issue, with most of the field ahead of, or close to, the Formula Atlantic record before the chequered flag appeared. With that, the teams prepared themselves for a final hour of dry qualifying, with no real sense to how the final order would emerge.
For most of Saturday afternoon session it seemed as if Villeneuve would get a dream pole position, for a strong run early on had left the Canadian racer on a 1:38.320, with most of the field still stuck in the 1:40.000s. Indeed, even Carlos Reutemann struggled to match the Canadian's pace, with the Argentine over a second off his young teammate's pace after a late run. It was only in the closing moments of the session that Villeneuve was finally challenged, with two drivers knocking the Canadian onto the second row.
The first to charge across the line was Scheckter, who slithered his Wolf around to claim a 1:38.026, just as the chequered flag was being brought out. Moments later and Jarier came sweeping through to record a 1:38.015, snatching pole and moving a second clear of Andretti, who was struggling with a balance issue in the newest Lotus 79. Villeneuve was left gutted in the Ferrari pitbox having been dumped to third, sharing the second row with John Watson.
At the back of the field, meanwhile, Riccardo Patrese just sneaked onto the grid, despite running out of fuel on his fastest lap. Piquet also qualified despite his accident on Friday, while James Hunt and Patrick Tambay were left down the order with electrical issues and contact damage respectively. Indeed, Tambay's damage had come at the expense of Rebaque, who failed to qualify after being rear-ended by the #8 McLaren at the hairpin. Regardless, the Mexican racer would be joined on the sidelines by Regazzoni, Gabbiani, Rolf Stommelen, Arturo Merzario and Bleekemolen.
The full qualifying results for the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||55||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||2:08.775||2:00.214||1:38.015||—|
|2||20||Jody Scheckter||Wolf-Ford Cosworth||2:08.329||1:59.916||1:38.026||+0.011s|
|4||2||John Watson||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||2:10.458||2:05.758||1:38.417||+0.402s|
|5||27||Alan Jones||Williams-Ford Cosworth||2:10.427||2:00.244||1:38.861T||+0.846s|
|6||14||Emerson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||2:09.735||2:03.200||1:38.930||+0.915s|
|7||1||Niki Lauda||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||2:12.573||2:09.328||1:39.020||+1.005s|
|8||16||Hans-Joachim Stuck||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||2:05.779||1:59.150||1:39.081||+1.066s|
|9||5||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||2:06.562||1:59.071||1:39.236T||+1.221s|
|12||35||Riccardo Patrese||Arrows-Ford Cosworth||2:14.815||2:00.861||1:39.491||+1.476s|
|13||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||2;11.975||2:02.316||1:39.619||+1.604s|
|14||66||Nelson Piquet||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||2:07.920||2:07.920||1:39.624||+1.609s|
|15||22||Derek Daly||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||2:08.945||2:00.260||1:40.042||+2.027s|
|16||18||René Arnoux||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||2:10.773||2:02.776||1:40.515||+2.500s|
|17||8||Patrick Tambay||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||2:09.034||2:02.681T||1:40.669||+2.654s|
|18||3||Didier Pironi||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||2:05.957||2:09.362||1:40.959||+2.944s|
|19||7||James Hunt||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||2:11.597||2:03.347||1:40.970T||+2.955s|
|20||21||Bobby Rahal||Wolf-Ford Cosworth||2:10.604||2:07.283||1:40.983T||+2.968s|
|21||10||Keke Rosberg||ATS-Ford Cosworth||2:06.345||2:02.014||1:41.611||+3.596s|
|DNQ||17||Clay Regazzoni||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||2:08.835||2:02.351||1:41.739||+3.724s|
|DNQ||19||Beppe Gabbiani||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||2:08.702||2:02.060||1:41.799||+3.784s|
|DNQ||37||Arturo Merzario||Merzario-Ford Cosworth||2:09.694||2:04.148||1:41.962||+3.947s|
|DNQ||25||Héctor Rebaque||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||2:13.035T||2:06.309||1:42.413||+4.398s|
|DNQ||36||Rolf Stommelen||Arrows-Ford Cosworth||2:07.974||2:02.023||1:43.267||+5.252s|
|DNQ||9||Michael Bleekemolen||ATS-Ford Cosworth||2:18.508||2:12.211||1:45.553||+7.538s|
- 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.
Conditions were, thankfully, more akin to Saturday rather than Sunday on race morning, although the temperature remained bitterly cold. Indeed, the temperature would just peak at 5°C as the field started the parade lap, heralded by Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Regardless, all 22 qualifiers would take the start, with the medical car once again lining up behind the field.
Pole sitter Jean-Pierre Jarier made the best getaway as the lights flashed to green, the black-gold Lotus streaking ahead of Jody Scheckter in second. They were chased by Alan Jones and Gilles Villeneuve into the first chicane, those two squeezing through side-by-side, moments before Hans-Joachim Stuck made a mess of things. Indeed, the German racer messed up his braking in the middle of pack and spun, sending his Shadow sailing across the path of several drivers as they turned into the chicane.
Stuck's inevitable victim would be Emerson Fittipaldi, who suddenly found himself being bounced into the catch fencing and out. Jacques Laffite was also caught up in their accident, spinning to avoid major contact, and duly rejoined after the rest of the field had filtered through. Stuck also rejoined, but had to retire upon returning to the pits with heavy suspension and steering damage.
Otherwise the rest of the opening tour was uneventful, although Jones managed to squeeze past Scheckter at the end of the lap to grab second. That move had allowed Jarier to eek out a small lead over those two, with Villeneuve also lining up a move on the Wolf as they opened the second tour. Behind him came John Watson, Mario Andretti, Patrick Depailler, Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann, with the rest of the field already falling back.
Jarier would go on to dominate over the following laps, building a seven second lead over Jones before the end of lap three. The Australian racer, meanwhile, was having to fend off the attentions of Scheckter and Villeneuve, only to pick-up a slow puncture before the end of lap five. Jones continued to battle on regardless, albeit losing more time to Jarier out front who was already easing off.
Behind, Andretti was trying hard to move into fifth, ultimately throwing a frustration fuelled lunge at the Ulsterman into the hairpin on lap five. Inevitably Andretti's dive resulted in wheel-to-wheel contact, forcing both into spins that ended with pair facing one-another on opposite sides of the circuit. The marshals quickly got Watson back on track, although the Brabham-Alfa Romeo quickly disappeared into the pits, while Andretti resumed almost a lap down.
Watson's race was soon over, for while the Ulsterman had come back out of the pits almost immediately, his car was too badly damaged to catch the field. Elsewhere, Bobby Rahal made the first of ultimately three stops for a misfire on his Wolf, while Laffite came in to have his rear-wheels replaced. Lauda was another early casualty as his brakes cooked themselves, while Depailler abandoned fifth place on lap seventeen to have a harder set of Goodyear tyres fitted, rejoining in thirteenth.
Back with Jones and it was clear as lap 20 approached that his hopes of holding second were all but gone, with Scheckter and Villeneuve crawling all over him. Indeed, within the space of three corners on lap eighteen Jones would slip from second to fourth, with Scheckter and Villeneuve duly sprinting clear to chase after the long since departed Jarier. Jones, meanwhile, opted against stopping in the pits, for Reutemann was still too far back to immediately challenge the Williams.
Jones would stay out until Reutemann eventually caught and passed him, by which stage his gearbox had begun to struggle as a result of the added friction from the deflating tyre. Regardless, a slick stop followed by a stunning first lap on fresh rubber saw Jones consistently set new fastest laps until the end of the race, despite having no hope of getting back into the points. Out front, meanwhile, Jarier was continuing to simply pull away from second placed Scheckter, who still had Villeneuve glued to his tail.
Ultimately, however, Jarier's hopes of a maiden f1 victory would be ended by an oil leak with twenty-five laps to go. Indeed, the dejected Frenchman had lost pace dramatically a few laps earlier, his brakes having begun to lose pressure before the engine lost oil as well. Regardless, as Jarier was consoled by Colin Chapman in the pits, the Canadian crowd threw a huge cheer, for their man had suddenly inherited the lead.
That man was Villeneuve whom, in the midst of Jarier's dramas, had finally pounced on Scheckter, sweeping past the Wolf after the South African was baulked by Nelson Piquet in a wounded Brabham-Alfa Romeo. Furthermore, by the time Jarier did reluctantly retire, the French-Canadian had pulled out a sizeable lead over Jarier, leaving him on his own out front. Indeed, Scheckter was having to glance in his mirrors rather than chase Villeneuve, for Reutemann was steadily gaining on the blue-gold Wolf as the race wore on.
Into the closing stages and barring a few more retirements there was little of note, for Reutemann was not catching Scheckter fast enough to challenge for second. Depailler therefore became the centre of attention, the Frenchman putting his new tyres to good use to storm into the points with a series of lunges into the hairpin. Elsewhere, James Hunt dropped out of the race after a spin, René Arnoux went out with an engine failure, while Keke Rosberg spent as much time in the pits as he did out on circuit.
With that the race was run, with Villeneuve cruising home to claim a famous maiden victory in front of his home fans. Scheckter was still a healthy second ahead of Reutemann, while Riccardo Patrese had a quiet run to fourth ahead of Depailler. Derek Daly grabbed an impressive point for Ensign in sixth, having fended off Didier Pironi for most of the afternoon.
The full results for the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Rosberg was unable to be classified as he had failed to complete 90% of the race distance.
- First race to be staged at the Circuit Île Notre-Dame.
- 200th race to feature a car with #1 as its race number.
- 100th Grand Prix starts for Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann.
- Ligier entered their 50th race as a constructor.
- Third and final pole position recorded by Jean-Pierre Jarier.
- Maiden victory for Gilles Villeneuve.
- 73rd win for Ferrari as a constructor and engine supplier.
- Jody Scheckter claimed the thirteenth and final podium finish for Wolf.
- Maiden points finish for Derek Daly.
- Final race for Bobby Rahal.
With that came the end of the 1978 FIA Formula One World Championship, with Mario Andretti officially declared as World Champion, becoming only the second American driver to do so. He ended the campaign thirteen clear of the late Ronnie Peterson, who became only the second driver to finish as runner-up posthumously. Carlos Reutemann's strong end the campaign saw him claim third ahead of Niki Lauda, while Patrick Depailler completed the top five as 21 drivers claimed points.
Likewise the International Cup for Constructors had long since been settled before the season finale, with Lotus-Ford Cosworth finally officially declared as Champions. Ferrari, meanwhile, had claimed second from Brabham-Alfa Romeo on the final day, ending the season five ahead to be the best non-ground effect team. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth were fourth ahead of Wolf-Ford Cosworth, while Ensign-Ford Cosworth registered their first point of the campaign to make it fourteen constructors on the board.
Only point scoring drivers and teams are shown.
Images and Videos:
- 'Canadian GP, 1978', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr313.html, (Accessed 18/09/2018)
- A.H., 'The Canadian Grand Prix: Villeneuve at home', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/11/2018), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/november-1978/23/canadian-grand-prix, (Accessed 19/09/2018)
- 'Canada 1978: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/canada/engages.aspx, (Accessed 18/09/2018)
- 'Canada 1978: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/canada/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 18/09/2018)
- 'Canada 1978: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/canada/classement.aspx, (Accessed 18/09/2018)
- '1978 Canadian GP', chicanef1.com, (Chicane F1, 2015), http://www.chicanef1.com/racetit.pl?year=1978&gp=Canadian%20GP&r=1, (Accessed 18/09/2018)
- '16. Canada 1978', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/canada.aspx, (Accessed 18/09/2018)
|V T E||Canadian Grand Prix|
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