The 1978 Dutch Grand Prix, otherwise officially known as the XXV Grote Prijs van Nederland was the thirteenth round of the 1978 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Circuit Park Zandvoort on the 27 August 1978. The race would see title contending teammates Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson duel for victory as their employers Lotus won the International Cup for Constructors.
Qualifying would unsurprisingly see the two Lotus racers continue their domination, Andretti claiming the Norfolk squad's ninth pole of the season. Peterson was comfortable second ahead of Niki Lauda, a second off Andretti's best effort, with Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve completing the top five.
At the start it was Andretti who made the best getaway, easing across to block a lunge from Peterson into Tarzan. The rest of the field ploughed in behind them fairly cleanly, until Didier Pironi and Riccardo Patrese took each-other out, briefly blocking the circuit.
Indeed, their accident was so monumental, although fortunately lacking in injury, that Patrese's car was still sat in the middle of the circuit when Andretti and Peterson swept through at the start of lap two. Indeed, the two Loti were still battling for the lead as they simply disappeared from a fast starting Jacques Laffite in third, with Andretti going one side and Peterson the other.
The two Loti were soon out of sight, with Peterson told to hold fire as they pair settled down to lap at a leisurely pace, nose-to-tail. Behind, Laffite's pace soon drifted away, allowing Lauda, Reutemann, John Watson, Emerson Fittipaldi and Villeneuve to pass without issue.
Indeed, between half distance and the end of the race there would only be one more significant change to the order, with Reutemann dropping out of the points after a mistake at the first corner. That allowed Watson, Fittipaldi and Villeneuve to sneak past, with the Argentine unable to respond due to his overheating tyres.
With that the race was run, Andretti cruising home a third of a second ahead of Peterson to claim another crushing one-two, and a seventh International Cup for Constructors Championship for Team Lotus. Lauda was ten seconds back in a lonely third, while Watson fended off a late charge from Fittipaldi to claim fourth as Villeneuve drifted away to finish a distant sixth.
The F1 circus arrived at the picturesque Circuit Park Zandvoort for the thirteenth race of the 1978 World Championship tour, which remained unchanged since the visit in 1977. Indeed, the only change for the Grand Prix amid the dunes was the date, with the Dutch Grand Prix being held far later in the calendar than usual. Regardless, the usual F1 mob arrived to battle around the Park, albeit with news of some major changes for the 1979 season.
The most significant of these impeding changes was to come at Lotus, with title protagonist Ronnie Peterson set to leave at the end of the season. Indeed, the Swede had had enough of his role as number two to Mario Andretti, despite the fact that he and the American were in a duel for the title. The Swede duly waved away an improved financial contract from Colin Chapman, whom was informed of Peterson's intentions before the Swede agreed a deal with McLaren.
McLaren themselves were on the hunt for a new lead driver for 1979, for their most divisive ace James Hunt had grown tired of fighting at the back of the top ten. Teddy Mayer therefore decided to contact the aforementioned Peterson to join the team, offering the Swede the chance to lead the team alongside Patrick Tambay. Peterson duly signed the deal after rejecting Chapman's last minute offer, with the deal set to be announced at the US Grand Prix.
Back with Lotus and Chapman decided to contact another driver known to be upset with the conditions of his contract heading into the 1979 campaign. That man was Carlos Reutemann, who was not impressed with Ferrari opting to employ Jody Scheckter for the upcoming season. He was therefore keen to sign-up with the best team in 1978, and would duly sign a deal to join the Norfolk squad ahead of the race in the Netherlands.
Elsewhere, Alfa Romeo had been testing their long awaited Grand Prix car, with Italian racer Vittorio Brambilla, still at Surtees at the wheel. Indeed, the Italian had briefly shared the car with defending World Champion Niki Lauda, whom had been released by Brabham-Alfa Romeo to take part. The test was conducted at Le Castellet, and was so impressive that the Alfa Romeo bosses hoped to debut the car at the Italian Grand Prix.
Likewise, Ligier had been testing their first "wing car" ahead of the 1979 campaign, albeit in the form of a test bed. This test bed also appeared with a Ford Cosworth engine, rather than the Matra V12 that the French squad had been running since Guy Ligier signed up to F1. The eponymous Ligier had also been away securing funds to run a second car for 1979, although Jacques Laffite would likely race on his own for the rest of 1978.
Into the more immediate entry list and McLaren had added their third driver to the entry list, European F2 Champion Bruno Giacomelli returning to the team. Indeed, with the Italian already declared F2 Champion there was nothing stopping him joining the McLaren team for the rest of the season, joining the disillusioned Hunt and Tambay in the factory cars. Their customer team BS Fabrications were also fielding an enhanced line-up in Zandvoort, with Nelson Piquet again partnering Brett Lunger.
Elsewhere there would be a third Shadow in the field, and not in the form of a poorly disguised copy by Arrows. This genuine DN9 was instead the car sold to Danny Ongais ahead of the race in Long Beach, with Interscope Racing having finally gained enough funds to ship the car over the Atlantic. The American racer therefore joined Hans-Joachim Stuck and Clay Regazzoni in the factory cars, while the aforementioned Arrows team were unchanged, Riccardo Patrese and Rolf Stommelen at the wheel.
The final significant change to the entry came at ATS, whom had decided to take a financial offer from F&S Properties to take their second seat for the rest of the season. The Dutch firm duly employed Michael Bleekemolen to drive alongside Jochen Mass, who had been testing ATS' new "wing car" dubbed the D1. Bleekemolen would also try out the new car in the build up to the Zandvoort weekend, but opted to stick with their established HS1.
Into the Championship and victory for Peterson in Austria had ensured that the Swede remained in contention for the Championship with four races to go, nine points behind teammate Andretti. Indeed, the American ace was still the man to beat at the wheel of the Lotus 79, although Peterson's victory proved that he was more than a match for Andretti if the two had equal equipment and fortune. Behind, Patrick Depailler had moved into third, overtaking Lauda and Reutemann as those three entered the final phase of their fight for third.
The International Cup for Constructors, meanwhile, was all but over with four races to go, with Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth requiring just a single point to take their seventh Constructors' Cup. Indeed, the only team that could possibly deny them were Brabham-Alfa Romeo, although they would need to win all four races and see Lotus fail to score at all. They were instead in a fight for second with Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth and Ferrari, with those three separated by just five points heading into the final quarter of the season.
The full entry list for the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix is outlined below:
Qualifying for the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix would be staged across the Friday and Saturday ahead of the race, with no significant changes to the programme. Saturday morning was therefore again given over to "untimed" practice, leaving Saturday afternoon and the two Friday sessions free to set the grid. As for a target time Mario Andretti's pole claiming effort of 1:18.65 from 1977 was expected to fall, most likely at the American ace's hands.
Before the full qualifying sessions got underway, however, a pre-qualifying session was staged to reduce the field to 30 drivers from the entry list of 33. Eight potential victims were chosen from the entry, with the slowest three getting knocked out of qualifying before the weekend began. Those three victims proved to be Harald Ertl in the loaned out Ensign, Danny Ongais in his privately entered Shadow, and Rolf Stommelen in the new Arrows.
Into the full qualifying session and Lotus would indeed dominate all three sessions, with Andretti duly emerging ahead of Ronnie Peterson. The American ace set a new circuit record en-route to pole, a 1:16.36 putting him over half a second clear of second placed Peterson. The Swede himself seemed to be driving within himself amid rumours of his impending departure, although his running was interrupted by an engine failure.
The closest man to the Loti would be Niki Lauda in the first of the Brabham-Alfa Romeos, albeit a full second off of Andretti's ultimate pace. Regardless, the outgoing World Champion did enough to beat the two Ferraris of Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve, while Jacques Laffite made it four 12 cylinder engines in the top six in the Ligier-Matra. James Hunt and John Watson were next, sharing the fourth row, ahead of Jean-Pierre Jabouille in the turbocharged Renault, and Emerson Fittipaldi in his eponymous machine.
At the back of the field, meanwhile, there would be an intense fight to qualify, with the grid limited to 26 starters. Ultimately both ATS drivers Jochen Mass and Michael Bleekemolen failed to qualify, as did Clay Regazzoni in the factory Shadow. Arturo Merzario also failed to make the cut, despite matching Nelson Piquet's best effort, although the Italian would ultimately get to start after an accident for Rupert Keegan during the pre-race warm-up.
The full qualifying results for the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix are outlined below:
- 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.
- * Keegan was unable to start the race due to a crash during the warm-up.
- † Merzario was allowed to start at the back of the grid due to Keegan's absence.
- * Keegan was unable to start the race meaning Merzario was allowed to start at the back of the grid.
Raceday dawned very dark and wet, although the rain soon drifted away to be replaced by a strong wind, which dragged sand across the circuit. The pre-race warm-up was held in the worst of those conditions, resulting in Rupert Keegan having a huge accident at Tunnel Oost, ruling him out of the race. Arturo Merzario duly took over the Brit's spot on the grid, joining on a row of his own in his eponymous car.
Fortunately the circuit was completely dry by the time that the field assembled on the grid, meaning everyone would start on slick tyres. The start of the race would see the two Lotus drivers Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson streak away from the grid, flying in formation with the American ahead of the Swede. Behind Carlos Reutemann and Niki Lauda went toe-to-toe into Tarzan for third, only for Jacques Laffite to slither past in the Ligier-Matra.
However, while the start was clean the rest of the opening lap was not, with a dramatic accident through the second corner causing a lot of minor damage. Indeed, as the field swept through Gerlacht Didier Pironi and Riccardo Patrese glanced off one-another, sending both shooting across the circuit. Patrese's Arrows was even briefly airborne as it bounced back onto the circuit, with the cars around them bumping through the scene.
Fortunately both Patrese and Pironi would escape without injury, although there was not enough time to clear the former's ruined car from the middle of the track before the two Loti appeared to start lap two. Indeed, having already pulled out a small lead over Laffite, who was about to lose third to Lauda, both Andretti and Peterson were fighting for the lead, and duly had to sweep either side of the abandoned Arrows. Andretti just managed to hold on having gone to the inside of Patrese's ruined charger, with Peterson dropping back a few extra yards.
Patrese's car was dragged out of the way after the rest of the field had thundered past, meaning the track was completely clear. That, combined with an order for Peterson to stop his attack allowed the two Loti to ease away from third placed Lauda, whom was being harassed by Reutemann once the Argentine dealt with Laffite. Indeed, the Frenchman was struggling in the spare Ligier, his original race car having suffered a terminal oil leak en-route to the grid before the start.
Andretti and Peterson continued to move clear at the head of the field during the following laps, and with Lauda and Reutemann not close enough to fight all of the attention was focused on Laffite's demise. Indeed, the Frenchman simply lacked pace in the spare Ligier, and duly dropped behind John Watson, Emerson Fittipaldi, Gilles Villeneuve and Alan Jones. Elsewhere Keke Rosberg spun into the dunes and beached himself, twice, Patrick Depailler was out after his radiator was damaged by Derek Daly, while Nelson Piquet retired with a terminal transmission issue.
There were no significant changes to the order before half-distance, although Jean-Pierre Jabouille did manage to elbow his way past James Hunt at the back of the top ten. Vittorio Brambilla, meanwhile, was fighting hard with an uninspired Jody Scheckter outside of the top ten duly saw the "Monza Gorilla" skating into the gravel at the chicane. The marshals managed to push the orange Surtees back onto the track, but only after Brambilla had climbed out of the car to fetch them.
Reutemann would begin to struggle over the following laps, his Michelin tyres proving too soft to last the distance. Indeed, as Andretti and Peterson, still nose to tail, lapped the lack-lustre Scheckter, Watson sent his Brabham diving past the Ferrari for fourth. Fittipaldi duly followed the Ulsterman through a couple of laps later, leaving Villeneuve to find a way past his teammate on equally tiring tyres.
Lauda, meanwhile, was beginning to inch closer to the two Loti, taking a couple of hundredths out of them to move within three seconds of the duo with 30 laps to go. Seeing this, the Lotus pitcrew gave permission for Andretti and Peterson to push once again, with the gap quickly growing to four seconds. The two black-gold cars again settled down to lap a few hundredths slower than Lauda, only to speed up every time the Austrian racer got within three seconds.
This ploy would almost back fire, however, for Peterson would get caught behind a rather depressed Hunt in the midst of one of their mini-sprints, just as Lauda claimed the fastest lap of the race. The gap suddenly went from three seconds to one, with Lauda sizing up a move into Tarzan at the start of lap sixty, albeit from a long way back. However, with Hunt out of the way Peterson was able to push once again, and duly inched clear of the Austrian as the race entered its final throes.
Indeed, with five laps to go Peterson was back in Andretti's mirrors, and seriously threatening to throw the #6 car up the inside of the #5. Lauda, meanwhile, had had his anti-Lotus charge ruined by a lock-up, caused when the Austrian had to stamp on the brakes to avoid a spinning Bruno Giacomelli. That, combined with the strong headwind reducing his top-end speed, meant that Lauda ultimately settled for third.
With that the race was run, for Colin Chapman refused to allow Peterson to attack Andretti to claim victory. The American ace duly crossed the line a third of a second ahead of the Swede, sealing the International Cup for Constructors for the Norfolk based squad with three races to go. Lauda was a lonely third ahead of his teammate Watson, while Fittipaldi and Villeneuve completed the scorers, the latter having elbowed his way past Reutemann late on.
The full results for the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Brambilla was disqualified for receiving a push-start.
- † Keegan was unable to start the race after an accident in the pre-race warm-up.
- 25th Dutch Grand Prix to be staged.
- Lotus declared as the International Cup for Constructors Champions for the seventh time.
- 200th race to have an entry for a car using #3 as its race number.
- Mario Andretti claimed his fifteenth pole position.
- 12th and final victory for Andretti.
- Lotus secured their 71st victory as a constructor.
- Ronnie Peterson scored his 26th and final podium finish.
Victory for Mario Andretti ensured that the American ace had more than a race win's advantage over teammate Ronnie Peterson, and made it impossible for anyone bar the Swede to overhaul his lead. Indeed, Peterson would likely need to win all three remaining races with Andretti failing to finish second in at least one of them to beat his teammate to the title. Behind, Niki Lauda had moved to lead the fight to finish third, leaping ahead of Patrick Depailler and Carlos Reutemann.
In the International Cup for Constructors, however, the fight for the title was already over, Lotus-Ford Cosworth having claimed their second crown with their fourth one-two of the season. Indeed, the Norfolk squad would leave Zandvoort with almost double the number of points of closest challengers Brabham-Alfa Romeo, resigning their compatriots to a fight for second. Indeed, Brabham had Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth and Ferrari hot on their heels, with just eight points separating the trio.
Only point scoring drivers and teams are shown.
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 'Dutch GP, 1978', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr310.html, (Accessed 09/09/2018)
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 2.43 2.44 2.45 2.46 2.47 2.48 2.49 2.50 2.51 2.52 2.53 2.54 2.55 2.56 2.57 2.58 2.59 2.60 2.61 2.62 2.63 2.64 2.65 2.66 2.67 2.68 2.69 2.70 2.71 2.72 2.73 2.74 2.75 2.76 2.77 2.78 2.79 2.80 2.81 2.82 2.83 '13. Netherlands 1978', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/pays-bas.aspx, (Accessed 10/09/2018)
- ↑ 'Netherlands 1978: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/pays-bas/engages.aspx, (Accessed 09/09/2018)
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 'Netherlands 1978: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/pays-bas/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 09/09/2018)
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 'Netherlands 1978: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/pays-bas/classement.aspx, (Accessed 09/09/2018)
- ↑ '1978 Dutch GP', chicanef1.com, (Chicane F1, 2018), http://www.chicanef1.com/racetit.pl?year=1978&gp=Dutch%20GP&r=1, (Accessed 10/09/2018)
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