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The 1978 Italian Grand Prix, otherwise officially known as the XLIX Gran Premio d'Italia, was the fourteenth round of the 1978 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on the 10 September 1978.[1] The race would see Mario Andretti secure his maiden World Championship crown with two races to spare, as teammate and rival Ronnie Peterson lost his life in a huge first lap incident.[1]

Qualifying would see Andretti claim first blood in the latest round of "battle" between the two teammates, with Peterson unable to match his teammate's pace.[1] Indeed, the all conquering Lotus 79s were not their usual selves around the formidably quick Monza circuit, for while Andretti would start from pole, Peterson would only manage fifth behind Gilles Villeneuve, Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Niki Lauda.[1]

Unfortunately Peterson's demise would come as a result of a chaotic start, with the starter's lights flashing to green before the backmarkers had come to a stop in their grid slots.[1] As such the entire field, bar Villeneuve, who shot off into the lead, and Andretti, found themselves in a mob, with a lot of minor contact which soon escalated.[1]

The catalyst proved to be Riccardo Patrese, who forced his Arrows back onto the circuit with a touch on the back of James Hunt, which duly nudged the McLaren into Peterson's Lotus.[1] Peterson's car immediately snapped sideways and destroyed itself in the barriers, catching fire as the rest of the field crunched in behind them.[1]

Hunt and Clay Regazzoni managed to drag Peterson clear of the flames, although the Swede had severely broken legs.[1] Vittorio Brambilla was also in bad shape having been knocked out by an errant wheel, while Hans-Joachim Stuck was feeling sick after his head had been struck by debris.[1] A long delay followed, only for the restart to be delayed further when Jody Scheckter suffered a failure on the the pre-restart formation lap, destroying the barriers at Lesmo.[1]

The race eventually restarted just after six o'clock in the evening, although in their eagerness to sprint clear both Villeneuve and Andretti jumped the start.[1] Regardless, those two sped off to duel for victory, only to be slapped with a one minute time penalty after the race.[1]

Andretti would have to fight hard to claim the lead, doing so on lap 35 before the race was stopped due to low-light at the end of lap 40.[1] Their one minute penalties subsequently relegated them down to sixth and seventh, with Niki Lauda taking victory from John Watson and Carlos Reutemann instead.[1]

Regardless, the result effectively made Andretti World Champion, for Peterson was set to be out for the rest of the season.[1] Unfortunately complications after the Swede's initial surgery saw Peterson lapse into a coma overnight, before breathing his last breath in the early hours of the following morning.[1]

BackgroundEdit

The European phase of the 1978 World Championship tour came to an end at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, with the F1 circus arriving in early September to do battle.[2] The Autodromo was unchanged for the 1978 visit, with no further tweaks to the Rettifilo chicanes after their successful introduction in 1976.[2] What would change was the entry list, with a bumper 33 driver strong list submitted, with a significant increase in local talent to bolster the field.[2]

However, rising above that entry list would be a wave of rumours about the future of Alfa Romeo, whom had reportedly conducted a test at Le Castellet with a "wing car".[3] This new "Alfa-Alfa" had been tested by Vittorio Brambilla and Niki Lauda, and was set to appear for its debut in Monza, only for the project to be reportedly aborted after the Dutch Grand Prix.[3] Naturally, the Italian fans whom believed the rumour arranged a protest in the Royal Park, with two targets in their sights.[3]

Those targets were the aforementioned Lauda and Bernie Ecclestone, owner of the Brabham-Alfa Romeo team.[3] Indeed, the partisan Italians decided that it was the machinations of Ecclestone and Ferrari "traitor" Lauda that had killed the "Alfa-Alfa" project, and duly made their thoughts known.[3] The whole atmosphere across the weekend would be one of unrest, with countless posters attacking Ecclestone and Lauda for destroying Italian dreams.[3]

As for Ecclestone and Lauda themselves they had no interest in what the Italian crowds were up to, or indeed in the event itself.[3] Indeed, the two were instead evaluating the prospect of challenging the dominant Lotus team in 1979, with Brabham-Alfa Romeo bringing along a number of minor updates.[3] Yet, neither Lauda nor John Watson would use the updates, applied to the spare car, which were instead intended for the next Gordon Murray creation.[2]

Elsewhere, the all conquering Lotus arrived having already been declared as the International Cup for Constructors Champions, and with Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson leading the Drivers' Championship.[2] Furthermore, with Peterson repeatedly stating that he would stick to his "number two" contract, the title was already in Andretti's hands, despite the fact that Peterson arrived just nine points behind.[2] As such, Lotus had decided to experiment with their compliment of cars, installing a new knob in Andretti's car to let the American racer fiddle with his brake balance on the go.[2]

Ferrari were also unchanged heading into their home race, with Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve hoping for better fortune at the tifosi's home track.[2] Likewise, Tyrrell had no new parts for their duo of Didier Pironi and Patrick Depailler, although did know that they would have to find a new lead driver for 1979.[2] Indeed, Depailler revealed that he had signed up to join Jacques Laffite at Ligier for 1979, with the latter set to drive alone in Monza in the French constructor's two Matra engined JS9s.[2]

There were changes afoot at ATS, with Jochen Mass out of commission after a hefty accident testing their new D1 at Silverstone.[2] His seat was handed to the recently acquired Michael Bleekemolen, who was making his Monza debut, while Harald Ertl was given the Dutchman's #10 car.[2] That was a fortunate set of circumstances for the Austrian journalist, who had failed to qualify his semi-factory Ensign for the race earlier in the week.[2]

Likewise, Surtees had had to bring in a new driver for the Italian Grand Prix, for Rupert Keegan was out with a sprained wrist, the worst of his injuries from his warm-up accident in Zandvoort.[2] They duly hired the highest paying driver they could find to partner the "Monza Gorilla" Brambilla, resulting in the little known Carlo "Gimax" Franchi getting his F1 debut.[2] The Italian racer was essentially just a club racer, who had never competed outside of his native Italy.[2]

More Italian interest came at the Merzario team, with the eponymous Arturo letting veteran F2 racer Alberto Colombo take over the spare car.[2] Unfortunately Colombo's third attempt at qualifying for a Grand Prix would end before it began, with the Italian failing to get through the pre-qualifying session ahead of the weekend.[2] He was joined by Keke Rosberg in the Theodore Racing run Wolf, who had simply lacked straight line speed during the pre-qualifying session.[2]

McLaren also had an Italian at the wheel of one of their cars, with European Formula 2 Championship Champion Bruno Giacomelli again brought along as their third driver.[2] He joined normal factory duo James Hunt and Patrick Tambay as before, with no changes made to the factory team's cars.[2] There were also no changes made to their customers BS Fabrications' cars, although both Brett Lunger and Nelson Piquet would make it through pre-qualifying.[2]

Arrows entered their usual duo of Riccardo Patrese and Rolf Stommelen, but lost Stommelen's services ahead of the race weekend when the German racer failed to qualify once again.[2] Their court rivals Shadow were in a better mood, with Clay Regazzoni and Hans-Joachim Stuck both using their new rear wing design.[2] Renault had also been busy applying pre-tested updates, with Jean-Pierre Jabouille's spare car getting the new intercooler design introduced in Austria.[2]

Wolf had their two newest creations available for the departing Jody Scheckter, with no news as to whom would replace the South African racer.[2] Alan Jones, meanwhile, had just the single Williams to play with, although his old FW06 was ready to race in the back of the team's trailer.[2] Emerson Fittipaldi, meanwhile, had two cars to play with, and was in a buoyant mood having tested the latest Fittipaldi creation in his native Brazil.[2]

Completing the entry list were Ensign, with just Derek Daly to service once Ertl failed to qualify the Sachs Racing entry.[2] Héctor Rebaque, meanwhile, successfully navigated the pre-qualifying session to get his two ex-factory Lotus 78s into the paddock, bringing the final entry tally to 30 for the 49th Italian Grand Prix.[2]

Into the Championship standings and victory for Andretti in the Netherlands had ensured that the American ace had more than a race win's advantage over teammate 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, Lauda had moved to lead the fight to finish third, leaping ahead of Depailler and Reutemann.

In the International Cup for Constructors, however, the fight for the title was already over, Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth having claimed their second crown with their fourth one-two of the season. The Norfolk squad had left 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 with 27 still in play.

Entry ListEdit

The full entry list for the 1978 Italian Grand Prix is outlined below:

No. Driver Entreat Constructor Chassis Engine Model Tyre
1 Austria Niki Lauda United Kingdom Parmalat Racing Team Brabham BT46 Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 F12 G
2 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Parmalat Racing Team Brabham BT46 Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 F12 G
3 France Didier Pironi United Kingdom Elf Team Tyrrell Tyrrell 008 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Elf Team Tyrrell Tyrrell 008 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom John Player Team Lotus Lotus 79 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
6 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom John Player Team Lotus Lotus 79 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
7 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M26 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
8 France Patrick Tambay United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M26 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
9 Netherlands Michael Bleekemolen West Germany F&S Properties/ATS Racing Team ATS HS1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
10* Austria Harald Ertl West Germany F&S Properties/ATS Racing Team ATS HS1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
11 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 M
12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T3 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 M
14 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi Automotive Fittipaldi F5A Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
15 France Jean-Pierre Jabouille France Equipe Renault Elf Renault RS01 Renault EF1 1.5 V6t M
16 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN9 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
17 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN9 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
18 Italy Gimax United Kingdom Team Surtees Surtees TS20 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom Beta Team Surtees Surtees TS20 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
20 South Africa Jody Scheckter Canada Walter Wolf Racing Wolf WR5 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
22 Ireland Derek Daly United Kingdom Team Tissot Ensign Ensign N177 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
23* Austria Harald Ertl West Germany Sachs Racing Ensign N177 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
25 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Mexico Team Rebaque Lotus 78 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier Gitanes Ligier JS9 Matra MS78 3.0 V12 G
27 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Williams Grand Prix Engineering Williams FW06 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
29 Brazil Nelson Piquet United Kingdom BS Fabrications McLaren M23 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
30 United States Brett Lunger United Kingdom Liggett Group/BS Fabrications McLaren M26 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
32 Finland Keke Rosberg Hong Kong Theodore Racing Hong Kong Wolf WR4 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
33 Italy Bruno Giacomelli United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M26 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
34 Italy Alberto Colombo Italy Team Merzario Merzario A1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
35 Italy Riccardo Patrese United Kingdom Arrows Racing Team Arrows A1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
36 West Germany Rolf Stommelen United Kingdom Arrows Racing Team Arrows A1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
37 Italy Arturo Merzario Italy Team Merzario Merzario A1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
Source:[4]
  • * Ertl drove two cars, Ensign (pre-qualifying) and ATS (qualifying).

Practice OverviewEdit

QualifyingEdit

Practice/qualifying would follow the conventionalise pattern, with Friday and Saturday hosting four sessions between them.[2] Saturday morning's session would be an "untimed" session, allowing teams to focus on race set-up, leaving the two Friday sessions, and Saturday afternoon, to focus on qualifying.[2] As for a target time the circuit record of 1:30.08, set by James Hunt in 1977, was in the sights of all of the top teams.[2]

Friday QualifyingEdit

Indeed, Mario Andretti proved that the Brit's old record was a simple matter to beat, for the American would get within sight of the old mark before the end of his first run.[2] By the end of the session the record had fallen, with Andretti claiming a 1:37.780 to put himself half a second clear of the rest of the pack.[2] His closest challenger proved to be teammate Ronnie Peterson, despite the fact that the Swede had been forced to revert to the Lotus' old, spare, Lotus 78.[2]

Peterson was not the only driver to lose the use of his car due to mechanical fatigue on Friday morning, with numerous reports of failures throughout the session.[2] Derek Daly was among those with issues, burning up his brakes in his Ensign after a brake caliper began binding, while Héctor Rebaque swapped to his spare Lotus with a binding wheel bearing.[2] Gilles Villeneuve then destroyed his Ferrari engine having just beaten teammate Carlos Reutemann's best effort, while both Brabham-Alfa Romeos were in trouble with engine issues from the start.[2]

In truth one of the Brabham issues was self inflicted, for John Watson had smacked a kerb at high speed, cracking the sump as a result.[2] Rebaque would duly spin off into the gravel at the suspected scene of Watson's whack, although the Mexican escaped without major damage.[2] In between the major incidents there were all sorts of spins and trips through the gravel, meaning there was a lot of work for the mechanics to complete to get the field ready for the afternoon session.[2]

Into the afternoon session and the work to replace engines at Brabham and Lotus had not been completed, meaning that Peterson and Lauda would both continue on in their spare cars.[2] Brett Lunger, meanwhile, was on the sidelines as his team replaced his gearbox, with the spare car in the hands of a young Nelson Piquet, while Daly was forced to use the spare Ensign as the team could not get the brakes right on his race car.[2] Rebaque, meanwhile, was back in the fray with his original car, while Watson had had a new sump fitted before the end of the morning session.[2]

Regardless, the overall pace in the afternoon session was down on the morning, with even Andretti failing to break through the 1:38.000 barrier.[2] Indeed, the American still ended the session with the fastest time, a 1:38.401, with Villeneuve his closest challenger, a tenth behind.[2] Reutemann was the only other driver to dip under the 1:39.000 mark, with the rest of the field struggling to break 1:40.000.[2]

Elsewhere, Rebaque threw his repaired Lotus off the circuit again, this time at the chicane, and duly did some substantial damage to the nose having escaped damage earlier.[2] The Renault was also looking fast, so long as it was heading in a straight line, with Jean-Pierre Jabouille over 5 mph faster than anyone else in the Williams arranged speed trap.[2] Otherwise it was a fairly tame end to the day, with no major changes to the order at either end of the spectrum.[2]

Saturday QualifyingEdit

Saturday morning saw the dry yet cool conditions remain around the Monza circuit, with most of the teams having spent a long time overnight working on their chargers.[2] For some, however, that work was made redundant, with another brutal, and "untimed" session, seeing more problems arise across the field.[2] Indeed, Peterson would suffer from overheating rear brakes and clutch problems in his preferred Lotus 79, Jacques Laffite destroyed his spare engine, while Niki Lauda, Clay Regazzoni and Patrick Tambay all blew up their race engines.[2]

Lauda would get things underway in the final qualifying session, albeit in the spare Brabham as his own was still being rebuilt.[2] Likewise, Peterson was stuck with the spare Lotus 78, his 79 being stripped down to have a new clutch fitted, while Reutemann and Regazzoni were using their spare cars.[2] As such, there were none to oppose the Italian-American ace Andretti, who was out to impress his former home crowd.[2]

Indeed, with the Alfa Romeo engined Brabhams, and the scarlet Ferraris both lacking pace, it was left to Andretti to impress the baying crowd.[2] The Italian-American ace duly delivered the best time of the weekend, a 1:37.520, with the black-gold Lotus in a class almost of its own.[2] Indeed, the Italian crowds would have to wait until the dying moments of the session to get into second, recording a 1:37.866.[2]

That late lap edged out the very impressive Renault in the hands of Jean-Pierre Jabouille, which had sat in second for most of the afternoon as the Frenchman recorded a 1:37.930.[2] Lauda would almost joint the elite group, ending the afternoon fourth with a 1:38.215, just ahead of Peterson who ran out of time to switch to his race car before the session came to an end.[2] Alan Jones was next ahead of Watson, while Laffite edged out Jody Scheckter and James Hunt.[2]

At the back of the field, meanwhile, there were four drivers prevented from joining the 24 qualifiers for the grid.[2] Those four were Rebaque, Michael Bleekemolen, Carlo "Gimax" Franchi and Harald Ertl, who had previously failed to pre-qualify before getting a shot in the ATS for qualifying.[2]

Qualifying ResultsEdit

The full qualifying results for the 1978 Italian Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Time Gap
Q1 Q2 Q3
1 5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:37.780 1:38.401 1:37.520
2 12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Ferrari 1:39.046 1:38.513 1:37.866 +0.346s
3 15 France Jean-Pierre Jabouille France Renault 1:38.439 1:39.242 1:37.930 +0.410s
4 1 Austria Niki Lauda United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:39.378 1:39.092 1:38.215 +0.695s
5 6 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:38.256 1:40.518 1:38.634 +0.736s
6 27 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Williams-Ford Cosworth 1:39.181 1:39.143 1:38.271 +0.751s
7 2 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:38.610 1:39.376 1:38.611 +1.090s
8 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra 1:39.195 1:40.370 1:38.917 +1.397s
9 20 South Africa Jody Scheckter Canada Wolf-Ford Cosworth 1:39.170 1:39.017 1:38.937 +1.417s
10 7 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:39.475 1:39.166 1:38.938 +1.418s
11 11 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Italy Ferrari 1:39.395 1:38.959 1:38.969 +1.439s
12 35 Italy Riccardo Patrese United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth 1:40.264 1:39.831 1:39.179 +1.659s
13 14 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 1:40.170 1:40.665 1:39.421 +1.901s
14 3 France Didier Pironi United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:41.223 1:41.465 1:39.531 +2.011s
15 17 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:39.621 1:39.675 1:40.880 +2.101s
16 4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:40.934 1:40.774 1:39.630 +2.110s
17 16 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:39.701 1:40.550 1:39.882 +2.181s
18 22 Ireland Derek Daly United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 1:40.075 1:40.674 1:40.382 +2.555s
19 8 France Patrick Tambay United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:40.290 1:41.202 1:40.163 +2.643s
20 33 Italy Bruno Giacomelli United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:40.715 1:41.483 1:40.199 +2.679s
21 30 United States Brett Lunger United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:52.164 1:44.285 1:40.302 +2.782s
22 37 Italy Arturo Merzario Italy Merzario-Ford Cosworth 1:41.561 1:45.963 1:40.702 +3.182s
23 19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1:40.805 1:41.088 1:40.860 +3.285s
24 29 Brazil Nelson Piquet United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:40.846 1:41.548 1:41.080 +3.326s
DNQ 25 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Mexico Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:41.260 1:41.063 1:41.116 +3.543s
DNQ* 10 Austria Harald Ertl West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth 1:43.538 1:43.351 1:41.185 +3.665s
DNQ 9 Netherlands Michael Bleekemolen West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth 1:41.677 1:42.432 1:41.814 +4.157s
DNQ 18 Italy Gimax United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1:49.914 1:46.080 1:44.408 +6.888s
DNPQ* 23 Austria Harald Ertl West Germany Ensign-Ford Cosworth 1:40.274
DNPQ 32 Finland Keke Rosberg Hong Kong Wolf-Ford Cosworth 1:40.751
DNPQ 36 West Germany Rolf Stommelen United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth 1:40.935
DNPQ 34 Italy Alberto Colombo Italy Merzario-Ford Cosworth 1:42.558
Source:[2][5]
  • 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.
  • * Ertl failed to qualify in both qualifying sessions.

GridEdit

Pos Pos
Driver Driver
______________
Row 1 1 ______________
Mario Andretti 2
______________ Gilles Villeneuve
Row 2 3 ______________
Jean-Pierre Jabouille 4
______________ Niki Lauda
Row 3 5 ______________
Ronnie Peterson 6
______________ Alan Jones
Row 4 7 ______________
John Watson 8
______________ Jacques Laffite
Row 5 9 ______________
Jody Scheckter 10
______________ James Hunt
Row 6 11 ______________
Carlos Reutemann 12
______________ Riccardo Patrese
Row 7 13 ______________
Emerson Fittipaldi 14
______________ Didier Pironi
Row 8 15 ______________
Clay Regazzoni 16
______________ Patrick Depailler
Row 9 17 ______________
Hans-Joachim Stuck 18
______________ Derek Daly
Row 10 19 ______________
Patrick Tambay 20
______________ Bruno Giacomelli
Row 11 21 ______________
Brett Lunger 22
______________ Arturo Merzario
Row 12 23 ______________
Vittorio Brambilla 24
______________ Nelson Piquet

RaceEdit

Raceday dawned bright and warm, with a morning warm-up session staged to give teams a final chance to set-up their cars, with Héctor Rebaque allowed to join them as first reserve.[2] That session would run smoothly, until Ronnie Peterson destroyed his Lotus 79 at the second chicane, a crash blamed on a brake failure.[2] Lotus were therefore forced to set the Swede up with the spare car for the race, with no other changes to either drivers nor order as Mario Andretti led the field away for the formation lap.[2]

ReportEdit

1978 Italian Grand Prix accident

First start accident

Unfortunately the start of the race would be conducted very poorly, with the starters lights flashing to green before the backmarkers had lined up in their grid slots.[2] While this did not affect front row starter Gilles Villeneuve, who duly streaked into the lead ahead of Andretti, it did cause the midfield to become very compressed.[2] Indeed, as the field hurtled down towards the Rettifilo chicane one group of cars were briefly five abreast, before Riccardo Patrese tried to move across before the grass.[2]

Indeed, the Italians move from the old banked circuit to the road-course caused James Hunt, who was inside the Arrows to jerk sideways, with the Brit later claiming that there was contact.[2] Regardless, that twitch put the nose of the McLaren right into the side of Peterson's Lotus, which duly spun across the circuit and into the guard rails.[2] Unfortunately the Swede's car was collected by a hard charging Vittorio Brambilla, causing the Lotus to split apart and burst into flames.[2]

Also involved, albeit in reactionary accidents, were Carlos Reutemann, Didier Pironi, Clay Regazzoni, Patrick Depailler, Derek Daly, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Brett Lunger.[2] However, all of the attention would be placed on the burning Lotus, with Hunt and Regazzoni sprinting to the car which had been carved in two.[2] Those two managed to drag Peterson clear, for the Swede had been stuck in the car with two badly broken legs and burns.[2]

The circuit helicopter was swiftly dispatched to take Swede to hospital, while Brambilla was taken to hospital by ambulance having been knocked out cold by an errant wheel.[2] There was optimism about both of their conditions as they left the circuit, with Brambilla up and talking and an initial assessment of Peterson suggesting that there were no serious injuries other than those to his legs.[2] Another driver in trouble was Stuck, who had picked up a concussion having been struck, like Brambilla, by a wheel.[2] However, while the German refused to go to hospital immediately, he did acquiesce to advice not to take the restart.[2]

With the drivers rightly taken care of first the remains of their cars were dragged back to the paddock, with news that those who had been taken out could use their spares.[2] This was fortunate for Hunt, whose McLaren was missing both the front and rear bodywork, as well as Regazzoni and Reutemann whose cars were severely bent.[2] Depailler was also set to use his spare with heavy damage to his Tyrrell, as would Daly in the spare Ensign, while Lunger and Pironi were out as their cars could not be repair.[2]

An Abandoned RestartEdit

There were nineteen cars left to take the restart, which was scheduled for 5:15pm with the circuit cleared and the barriers repaired.[2] The order was reset to the original qualifying grid, with slots left clear for those who were out of action, leaving nineteen drivers to take the restart.[2] However, while nineteen drivers set out to complete the formation lap, only eighteen would return to the grid, resulting in a delay to the restart.[2]

This time the cause was Jody Scheckter, who had lost control of the Wolf through the second Lesmo, the result of a steering failure at 130 mph.[2] The South African duly shot into the barriers on the outside of the circuit, before bouncing back across to wipe-out the barriers on the inside, destroying his car.[2] Fortunately Scheckter escaped uninjured and duly got an ambulance to take him back to the paddock, with Wolf preparing the spare car for the South African.[2]

A Shortened AffairEdit

The extensive barrier damage at Lesmo, as well as the retrieval of bits of Wolf, resulted in the start being delayed until 6:00pm, meaning that the race would inevitably run out of light.[2] As such the race distance was reduced to 40 laps, meaning that the officials could still award full points, but without the risk of running into darkness.[2] For the third time, Andretti led the field around to complete the formation lap, with nineteen cars, including Scheckter lining up on the grid to start.[2]

This time the errors were made by the drivers rather than the officials, as two of the main players in the race jumped the start.[2] Indeed, in his eagerness to repeat his getaway from the original start Villeneuve jumped the lights, streaking clear as the final red light came on.[2] Andretti, seeing the Ferrari already beginning to nudge forwards reacted too, with the rest of the field waiting another second before the lights finally flashed to greens.[2]

It was an otherwise clear start, with everyone bar Emerson Fittipaldi, whose clutch was suffering from the long hold, making it through the Rettifilo without issue.[2] However, all of the attention was on the fight for the lead, with Andretti hounding Villeneuve's Ferrari through the lap.[2] Indeed, the pair would end the lap side-by-side through the Parabolica and onto the start/finish straight, with a huge roar from the crowd pushing the Canadian on to hold the lead through the Rettifilo at the start of lap two.[2]

Behind, them would come Jean-Pierre Jabouille, the Renault having drafted its way into third after a customarily slow start due to its turbocharger.[2] The Frenchman was keeping Niki Lauda at bay in the Alfa Romeo engined Brabham, with Reutemann and Alan Jones tucked in right behind.[2] They were chased by Patrese, Daly, Jacques Laffite, Scheckter, John Watson, Patrick Tambay and Regazzoni, with the rest of the field led by Bruno Giacomelli a few yards back.[2]

The following laps saw Villeneuve and Andretti simply drift away at the head of the field, with only the Renault of Jabouille able to even vaguely keep up with their pace.[2] That was, until the yellow car destroyed its engine on lap six, handing a lonely third to Lauda as he had briefly pulled clear of Reutemann.[2] Behind, Watson was picking his way back through the field, his Alfa F12 running cleanly, while Regazzoni was in and out of the pits with a reported brake issue.[2]

Back with the leaders and Andretti had lined up a move on Villeneuve through Ascari, and duly managed to wrestle the Lotus ahead of the Ferrari as they dived on the brakes for the Parabolica at the end of lap eight.[2] However, the canny Canadian managed to hold on inside the Lotus through the corner, and duly emerged back int he lead, with the pair still dropping Lauda at an alarming rate.[2] The Austrian himself was still on his own, albeit being slowly drawn in by Reutemann and Watson, while Jones, Patrese and Laffite were fighting hard for sixth.[2]

After that the race settled, with the only major shake up to the order coming on the time sheets after half-distance, for Villeneuve and Andretti had both been slapped with one minute time penalties.[2] Unfortunately for Andretti his immediate hopes of moving more than a minute clear of Lauda were hampered by his rear brakes, which were beginning to overheat in the wake of Villeneuve's Ferrari.[2] The American duly dropped back to allow his brakes to cool, just as Hunt's engine blew up at the back of the circuit.[2]

Indeed, Andretti would have to wait until the Canadian's Michelin tyres began to fade, the intense pace of Villeneuve's push ultimately burning them up with ten laps to go.[2] Andretti steadily closed the then five second gap, and with five laps to go duly sent his Lotus skating past the Ferrari at the Rettifilo, having had more grip through Parabolica and on the brakes.[2] He duly danced clear over the following lap to prevent Villeneuve from responding, with the light fading drastically as dusk approached.[2]

Indeed, as Andretti slithered out of Parabolica for the fortieth and final time the sun had begun to dip below the horizon, although the ever vocal crowd had stayed to celebrate what they believed as an Andretti victory.[2] However, regardless of the vigour of the Italian fans' calls both Andretti and Villeneuve were slapped with their one minute time penalties, dumping them down to sixth and seventh respectively.[2] That was still technically enough to give Andretti the World Championship, although he was in a sober mood after the horrific accident and condition of his friend and teammate.[2]

Their penalties meant it was tifosi traitor Lauda whom ultimately inherited victory, with his Brabham teammate Watson in second having taken Reutemann once the Argentine's tyres ran out of grip.[2] Reutemann did, however, secure third despite his lack of grip, well clear of Laffite in fourth.[2] Indeed, the Frenchman had run on his own after Patrese and Jones hit trouble, but was almost overhauled by Tambay in the closing stages.[2]

The morning after the race it was revealed that Peterson had died in the early hours, a fat embolism following surgery on his legs ultimately ending the life of one of Formula One's most affable drivers.[2]

ResultsEdit

The full results for the 1978 Italian Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired* Grid Points
1 1 Austria Niki Lauda United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 40 1:07:04.54 4 9
2 2 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 40 +1.48s 7 6
3 11 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Italy Ferrari 40 +20.47s 11 4
4 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra 40 +37.53s 8 3
5 8 France Patrick Tambay United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 40 +40.39s 19 2
6 5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 40 +46.33s 1 1
7 12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Ferrari 40 +48.48s 2
8 14 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 40 +55.24s 13
9 29 Brazil Nelson Piquet United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 40 +1:06.83 24
10 22 Ireland Derek Daly United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 40 +1:09.11 18
11 4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 40 +1:16.57 16
12 20 South Africa Jody Scheckter Canada Wolf-Ford Cosworth 39 +1 Lap 9
13 27 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Williams-Ford Cosworth 39 +1 Lap 6
14 33 Italy Bruno Giacomelli United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 39 +1 Lap 20
NC 17 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 33 +7 Laps 15
Ret 35 Italy Riccardo Patrese United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth 29 Engine 12
Ret 7 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 19 Distributor 10
Ret 37 Italy Arturo Merzario Italy Merzario-Ford Cosworth 14 Engine 22
Ret 15 France Jean-Pierre Jabouille France Renault 6 Valve 3
Ret 6 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 0 Fatal accident 5
Ret 19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 0 Accident 23
Ret 30 United States Brett Lunger United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 0 Accident 21
Ret 3 France Didier Pironi United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 0 Accident 14
Ret 16 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 0 Accident 17
DNQ 25 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Mexico Lotus-Ford Cosworth
DNQ 10 Austria Harald Ertl West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth
DNQ 9 Netherlands Michael Bleekemolen West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth
DNQ 18 Italy Gimax United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth
DNPQ 23 Austria Harald Ertl West Germany Ensign-Ford Cosworth
DNPQ 32 Finland Keke Rosberg Hong Kong Wolf-Ford Cosworth
DNPQ 36 West Germany Rolf Stommelen United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth
DNPQ 34 Italy Alberto Colombo Italy Merzario-Ford Cosworth
Source:[6]
  • * The race was shortened to 40 laps due to encroaching darkness, but full points were awarded as this new race distance was more than 75% of the original specified distance.[2]
  • Andretti and Villeneuve were both penalised 60 seconds for jumping the start. Without the penalty they would have finished 1-2.[2]
  • Regazzoni couldn't be classified as he had failed to complete 90% of the race distance.[2]

MilestonesEdit

StandingsEdit

Ronnie Peterson's sad demise effectively ended the World Championship hunt in 1978, for Mario Andretti could no longer be caught. Indeed, there were rather muted celebrations from the American in the pits, who would later remark that he would trade his title away "to have my friend back."[9] The question now was whether Peterson's tally of 51 would be beaten, with Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann both mathematically able to catch the Swede.

In terms of the International Cup for Constructors the race in Italy had all but secured second place for Brabham-Alfa Romeo, whom moved thirteen clear of Ferrari in third. They were still 33 behind pre-crowned Champions Lotus-Ford Cosworth, whom no longer needed to compete with Andretti taking his title. Regardless, it was up to the Norfolk squad as to whether they would compete again in 1978, particularly given the circumstances in which they would have to compete.

Drivers' World Championship
Pos. Driver Pts. +/-
1 United States Mario Andretti 64
2 Sweden Ronnie Peterson 51
3 Austria Niki Lauda 44
4 Argentina Carlos Reutemann 35 ▲1
5 France Patrick Depailler 32 ▼1
6 United Kingdom John Watson 25
7 France Jacques Laffite 19
8 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi 15
9 South Africa Jody Scheckter 14
10 Italy Riccardo Patrese 8
11 Canada Gilles Villeneuve 8
12 United Kingdom James Hunt 8
13 France Patrick Tambay 7 ▲2
14 France Didier Pironi 7 ▼1
15 Australia Alan Jones 5 ▼1
16 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni 4
17 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck 2
18 Italy Vittorio Brambilla 1
19 Mexico Héctor Rebaque 1
International Cup for Constructors
Pos. Team Pts. +/-
1 United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 86
2 United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 53
3 Italy Ferrari 40
4 United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 36
5 France Ligier-Matra 19
6 Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 15
7 Canada Wolf-Ford Cosworth 14
8 United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 14
9 United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth 8
10 United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 6
11 United Kingdom Williams-Ford Cosworth 5
12 United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1

Only point scoring drivers and teams are shown.

ReferencesEdit

Images and Videos:

References:

  1. 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 'Italian GP, 1978', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr311.html, (Accessed 10/09/2018)
  2. 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 2.104 2.105 2.106 2.107 2.108 2.109 2.110 2.111 2.112 2.113 2.114 2.115 2.116 2.117 2.118 2.119 2.120 2.121 2.122 2.123 2.124 D.S.J., 'The 49th Italian Grand Prix: A hollow victory', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/10/1978), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/october-1978/27/49th-italian-grand-prix, (Accessed 10/09/2018)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 D.S.J., 'Reflections in the Royal Park', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/10/1978), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/october-1978/33/reflections-royal-park, (Accessed 10/09/2018)
  4. 'Italy 1978: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/italie/engages.aspx, (Accessed 10/09/2018)
  5. 'Italy 1978: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/italie/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 10/09/2018)
  6. 'Italy 1978: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/italie/classement.aspx, (Accessed 10/09/2018)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 '14. Italy 1978', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/italie.aspx, (Accessed 10/09/2018)
  8. 8.0 8.1 '1978 Italian GP', chicanef1.com, (Chicane F1, 2018), http://www.chicanef1.com/racetit.pl?year=1978&gp=Italian%20GP&r=1, (Accessed 10/09/2018)
  9. Mario Andretti, 'Letter to My Younger Self', theplayerstribune.com, (The Player's Tribune, 09/06/2016), https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/2016-6-9-mario-andretti-racing-letter-to-my-younger-self, (Accessed 10/09/2018)
V T E Italy Italian Grand Prix
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V T E 1978 Formula One Season
Teams Arrows • ATS • Brabham • Ensign • Ferrari • Fittipaldi • Hesketh • Ligier • Lotus • March • Martini • McLaren • Merzario • Renault • Shadow • Theodore • Tyrrell • Williams • Wolf
Engines Alfa Romeo • Ferrari • Ford Cosworth • Matra • Renault
Drivers Andretti • Arnoux • Binder • Bleekemolen • Brambilla • Cheever • Colombo • Daly • Depailler • de Dryver • Ertl • Fittipaldi • Gabbiani • Galica • Giacomelli • Gimax • Hunt • Ickx • Jabouille • Jarier • Jones • Keegan • Laffite • Lauda • Lees • Leoni • Lunger • Mass • Merzario • Nève • Ongais • Patrese • Peterson • Piquet • Pironi • Rahal • Rebaque • Regazzoni • Reutemann • Rosberg • Scheckter • Stommelen • Stuck • Tambay • Trimmer • Villeneuve • Watson
Cars Arrows A1 • Arrows FA1 • ATS D1 • ATS HS1 • Brabham BT45C • Brabham BT46 • Brabham BT46B • Brabham BT46C • Ensign N175 • Ensign N177 • Ferrari 312T2 • Ferrari 312T3 • Fittipaldi F5A • Hesketh 308E • Ligier JS7 • Ligier JS7/9 • Ligier JS9 • Lotus 78 • Lotus 79 • March 781S • Martini MK23 • McLaren M23 • McLaren M26 • Merzario A1 • Renault RS01 • Shadow DN8 • Shadow DN9 • Theodore TR1 • Tyrrell 008 • Williams FW06 • Wolf WR1 • Wolf WR3 • Wolf WR4 • Wolf WR5 • Wolf WR6
Tyres Goodyear • Michelin
Races Argentina • Brazil • South Africa • United States West • Monaco • Belgium • Spain • Sweden • France • Britain • Germany • Austria • Netherlands • Italy • United States • Canada
Non-championship Races International Trophy
See also 1977 Formula One Season • 1979 Formula One Season • Category
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