The 1978 Spanish Grand Prix, otherwise officially known as the XXIV Gran Premio de España, was the seventh round of the 1978 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Circuito del Jarama on the 4 June, 1978. The race, which was staged to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Real Automóvil Club de España, would see Lotus claim another one-two, despite making a poor start.
Indeed, qualifying had suggested that there was little hope of beating the black-gold cars, with Mario Andretti claiming pole while Ronnie Peterson put the sister car alongside. Carlos Reutemann of Ferrari was best of the rest, a second slower than the two Loti, with James Hunt, Gilles Villeneuve and Niki Lauda completing the top six.
Yet, when it came to start the Grand Prix both Loti would be found lacking, with Peterson in particular making a horrendous start to slip to ninth. Andretti, meanwhile, would briefly slip to third, before running around the outside of Reutemann to reclaim second, for Hunt had gone streaking into the lead off the line.
The order remained fairly stable during the early stages, although there was a general sense that Andretti was only biding his time before pouncing upon Hunt for the lead. On lap six the naturalised American duly sent his Lotus skating past into turn one, before disappearing out of sight.
With Andretti clear attention turned to Peterson, who demonstrated his intentions immediately with a move on Scheckter to claim eighth. That became seventh after Villeneuve began to struggle with his tyres, sixth when Riccardo Patrese suffered an engine failure, and fifth once Reutemann abandoned his Michelin tyres.
The Swede's charge was interrupted by Jacques Laffite, although the Ligier-Matra would drag the Lotus past John Watson when the Ulsterman got baulked by a back marker. Peterson would have to wait a lap longer elbow the Frenchman out of the way for third, before beginning a sustained push to catch Hunt.
Hunt would, however, provide little resilience, allowing Peterson to catch, pass and disappear from the McLaren with ease of lap 53. Hunt duly dropped back behind Laffite and Lauda, although the Austrian's race was over a lap later when his engine failed.
Arguably the most significant incident of the race would come in the closing stages, with Reutemann's Ferrari suddenly launching into the air. A drive shaft failure while going through one of Jarama's high-speed corners had flicked the Ferrari into the barriers, although an bizarre bounce ultimately caused the car to skip over the barrier and into the catch fencing behind. Fortunately Reutemann escaped uninjured, although his scarlet Ferrari was a write off.
With that the race was run, with Andretti and Peterson both able to cruise home in the closing stages to claim their second one-two in two races. Laffite survived to claim third ahead of Scheckter, Watson and Hunt, with fifteen of the twenty-four starters completing the minimum race distance.
The F1 circus headed to the Circuito del Jarama for the seventh race of the 1978 campaign, the 1978 Spanish Grand Prix. The circuit itself was unchanged from F1's last visit, although the Real Automóvil Club de España, celebrating the 75th anniversary of their establishment, had conducted a minor upgrade of the pit facilities. This was fortunate, for there was another 30+ strong entry list submitted for the event, with more than forty cars unloaded into the paddock for the Grand Prix alone.
Such a strong entry list would, once again, require a pre-qualifying session, although there would only be one drop-out from the five drivers told to prove their worth. That quintet would feature three drivers from constructors, including the Theodore of Keke Rosberg, Arturo Merzario in his self-built machine, and Rolf Stommelen in the second of the Arrows. They were joined by two of the privateers Héctor Rebaque and Brett Lunger, while Spanish racer Emilio de Villota was given a surprise bye straight into the qualifying session.
Into the "qualifying" list and Lotus brought along a huge transporter for the weekend having shipped four cars for their drivers Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson. Indeed, the Norfolk squad had built a new "Type 79" for lead driver Andretti, meaning Peterson inherited the 79 that the naturalised American had won with at Zolder. However, history suggested that the phenomenally fast new Lotus would be a fragile one, and so Colin Chapman decided to drag along the team's two battle hardened "Type 78s" as spare cars.
Elsewhere, Brabham-Alfa Romeo brought just the three cars for their drivers Niki Lauda and John Watson, although their equally massive transporter was filled with three cars worth of spares instead. Likewise, Ferrari had loaded up on parts for Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve, while Tyrrell, in contrast, had downsized to just the three cars for Patrick Depailler and Didier Pironi. Arrows also decided to bring along three cars for their drivers Riccardo Patrese and Stommelen, as did McLaren, although they had far more than three cars in attendance.
Indeed, not only would "factory" McLaren drivers James Hunt and Patrick Tambay get three works M26s to play with, but there were four older cars in the hands of privateers. Of those Lunger was the better equipped having one of the newer M26s as well as the last of the M23s, while de Villota had two ex-factory M23s at his disposal for his home race. That brought the total of McLaren chassis to seven in Spain, a figure that would have been higher had Bruno Giacomelli not decided to go racing in Formula Two that weekend instead.
The two car contingent would see ATS once again field their revised driver line-up of Jochen Mass and Alberto Colombo, with no sign that Jean-Pierre Jarier would be returning any time soon. Shadow had just two DN9s available for Clay Regazzoni and Hans-Joachim Stuck, with the third example owned by Danny Ongais not in attendance. Surtees also had just the two chassis available for their drivers Rupert Keegan and Vittorio Brambilla, although their issues were more down to the fact that the new TS20 was being plagued by minor issues.
Ensign also had a pair of cars ready for the Spanish race, although Jacky Ickx remained as their sole pilot as the team failed to attract a local racer to join their ranks. Likewise, Williams had decided to stick with their lone driver Alan Jones, as had Ligier-Matra with Jacques Laffite. Wolf used similar logic with Jody Scheckter their sole survivor, while Emerson Fittipaldi continued to be the only driver deemed worthy to drive his brother's cars. Completing the entry list would be a pair of Renaults for Jean-Pierre Jabouille, with the team hoping not to burn through as many turbochargers as they had done in recent races.
Into the Championship and second victory of the season for Andretti in Belgium had left the Italian-American ace holding a four point lead over Depailler with a third of the season gone. Momentum seemed to be shifting towards Andretti, with Depailler having dropped into the sights of Reutemann and Peterson behind. Elsewhere, Lauda had slipped further back in fifth, with a nine point gap opened between himself and teammate Watson in sixth.
In the International Cup for Constructors it was still an all Norfolk affair, with Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth continuing to lead the way arriving in Jarama. Indeed, the Lotus team would arrive in Spain holding an eleven point advantage, with Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth hanging on as their closest challengers. Ferrari were next ahead of Brabham-Alfa Romeo, while Ligier-Matra had moved level with Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth in fifth.
The full entry list for the 1978 Spanish Grand Prix is outlined below:
Qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix of 1978 would be two-phase affair, with five of the drivers sectioned off to "pre-qualify" in a session held before the weekend. Those four would then join the other twenty-four drivers to fight for one of the twenty-four slots on the starting grid, with three timed sessions scheduled across Friday and Saturday. There would also be a single "untimed" practice session on Saturday morning, as usual, as the top teams aimed to beat the Niki Lauda's circuit record, a 1:18.44 set back in 1974.
It would be an 8:00am start for the five pre-qualifiers on Friday morning, with an hour and a half session staged for their benefit. Ultimately the man to miss out would be Keke Rosberg in the Theodore, with the Finn more than a second off of Brett Lunger, the final qualifier. At the head of that group would be Héctor Rebaque in his ex-factory Lotus, with Rolf Stommelen and Arturo Merzario splitting him from fellow privateer Lunger.
The full pre-qualifying results for the 1978 Spanish Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||25||Héctor Rebaque||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:19.84||—|
|2||36||Rolf Stommelen||Arrows-Ford Cosworth||1:19.97||+0.13s|
|3||37||Arturo Merzario||Merzario-Ford Cosworth||1:20.03||+0.19s|
|4||30||Brett Lunger||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:20.19||+0.35s|
|DNPQ||32||Keke Rosberg||Theodore-Ford Cosworth||1:21.25||+1.41s|
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
- T Indicates a test/spare car.
The four pre-qualifiers would join the rest of the field at 10:00am sharp on Friday morning for the first official session of the weekend although they, like everyone else, would be blown away by the two Loti. Indeed, both Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson got within sight of Lauda's old mark during the first runs, before quickly delving into the 1:18.00s. Furthermore, it seemed as if the pair would go even quicker if anyone got within so much of a second of them, with Andretti and Peterson getting into the 1:17.00s before most of their rivals had beaten Lauda's old effort.
Furthermore the two Loti were recording 1:17.00s in heavy traffic, both Andretti and Peterson catching back markers at the most costly moments. Indeed, Andretti was on for a time potentially in the 1:15.00s, only to get baulked in the penultimate corner. He duly went out for another run, but ran out of fuel on his final flying lap, having again been set to break into the 1:15.00s.
Peterson would fair marginally better, and duly ended the morning with a crushing 1:16.68, while Andretti had to settle for a 1:16.98. That, however, was nothing compared to the gap back to the rest of the pack, with Carlos Reutemann their closest challenger on a 1:17.64, two hundredths ahead of James Hunt. John Watson was next, the only other man in the 1:17.00s as the "aces", while the sheer pace of the Loti made Jody Scheckter, Lauda and Gilles Villeneuve look like mid-field runners.
In terms of drama the most significant issues had happened to those outside of the fight for the second row, the first incident being an engine failure for Jochen Mass. Elsewhere, Alan Jones was delayed by a gearbox failure, while Jacques Laffite had to give-up using the new Ligier JS9's massive rear-wing after a structural failure. Patrick Tambay, meanwhile, would complete the session in a lot of pain, his ankle still badly burned for his incident three weeks earlier, although he was safely ahead of the non-qualifying zone.
Into the afternoon session and, in spite of a large rise in temperature, there was little hope of anyone defeating the two Loti, although McLaren would try one novel solution. Indeed, channelling their M7A design from 1968, the British squad sent James Hunt out at the start of the session with a full wing mounted on struts above the nose. The experiment seemed to falter, however, for Hunt duly switched to a more conventional front end before the end of the day, although everyone, including the two Loti, would struggle to get within a second of their morning efforts due to the intense heat.
Furthermore, Lotus revealed that their cars were still fragile, for Andretti lost a lot of time with a series of heat related issues. In truth neither himself nor Peterson was particularly pushing, both conducting tyre tests until Andretti had his vapour lock issue, thought to be the result of the Lotus 79's wrap around bodywork, which trapped heat around the engine. Regardless, once the heat was bled away Andretti managed to set the fastest time of the afternoon, a 1:17.61 as Peterson ended the day on provisional pole.
Otherwise there was little action of note during the session, until Spanish racer Emilio de Villota threw his privately entered McLaren into the barriers at the final corner, with the Spaniard spinning back across the circuit. Clay Regazzoni, next man on scene, just managed to avoid the spinning car, before Hunt hit his old M23 square in the side, destroying the front right corner of his new M26. Hunt climbed out with a bruised right hand, with the monocoque a write off, while de Villota escaped with no injuries at all, apart from that taken to his wallet.
Fortunately both Hunt and de Villota would be back in action for the "untimed" session on Saturday morning which, as ever, was not used for its intended purpose of preparing the field for the race. Instead, the majority of the field went out to prepare their cars for the final qualifying session, resulting in a trashed engine for Tambay towards the end of the session, causing a mad rush to get a fresh Ford Cosworth installed ahead of the final hour. Lotus, meanwhile, were one of the only teams to actually complete some race running, with their pace on full tanks as good as most could achieve running on fumes. Indeed, the only sign of weakness from the two 79s was their cooling, with both cars encountering issues when lapping at a slower pace.
Into the final qualifying session itself and any hopes of the Loti being challenged were ended almost instantly, for Andretti went out right at the start of the session and duly recorded a crushing 1:16.39 to claim pole. Peterson, meanwhile, kept seeing his hopes of challenging his American teammate evaporate in the traffic. Regardless, the Swede would still share the front row with Andretti, albeit in second, with the rest of the field still a second off their pace.
Indeed, Reutemann would end the afternoon as their closest challenger again, although his 1:17.40 was made to look slow given their pace. Hunt then led the anti-Michelin and/or anti-Lotus charge in fourth ahead of Villeneuve, while Lauda and Watson in the F12 Brabham-Alfa Romeos were the only other drivers in the 1:17.00s. At the back, meanwhile, the non-qualifiers would be Merzario, de Villotta, Alberto Colombo and Lunger, the latter having effectively gone out mid-session by throwing his newer McLaren into the gravel.
The full entry list for the 1978 Spanish Grand Prix is outlined below:
|1||5||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:16.98||1:17.61||1:16.39||—|
|2||6||Ronnie Peterson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:16.68||1:18.33||1:17.96||+0.29s|
|4||7||James Hunt||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:17.66||1:19.43||1:18.28T||+1.27s|
|6||1||Niki Lauda||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:18.30||1:18.19||1:17.94||+1.55s|
|7||2||John Watson||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:17.98||1:18.86||1:18.57||+1.59s|
|8||35||Riccardo Patrese||Arrows-Ford Cosworth||1:19.20||1:19.99||1:18.14||+1.75s|
|9||20||Jody Scheckter||Wolf-Ford Cosworth||1:18.24||1:18.85||1:18.54||+1.85s|
|12||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:19.06||1:19.32||1:19.40T||+2.67s|
|13||3||Didier Pironi||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:20.32||1:19.55||1:19.11||+2.72s|
|14||8||Patrick Tambay||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:19.76||1:20.17||1:19.28||+2.89s|
|15||14||Emerson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:20.50T||1:20.27||1:19.33||+2.94s|
|16||19||Vittorio Brambilla||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:19.71||1:20.38||1:20.54||+3.32s|
|17||9||Jochen Mass||ATS-Ford Cosworth||1:20.50||1:20.82||1:19.98||+3.59s|
|18||27||Alan Jones||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:19.99||1:20.37||1:20.41||+3.60s|
|19||36||Rolf Stommelen||Arrows-Ford Cosworth||1:20.03||1:20.72||1:20.25||+3.64s|
|20||25||Héctor Rebaque||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:20.21||1:21.51||1:21.54T||+3.82s|
|21||22||Jacky Ickx||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:20.36||1:21.08||1:21.54||+3.97s|
|22||17||Clay Regazzoni||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:21.30||1:21.13||1:20.67||+4.28s|
|23||18||Rupert Keegan||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:22.93||1:21.99||1:20.77||+4.38s|
|24||16||Hans-Joachim Stuck||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:20.87||—||1:21.51||+4.48s|
|DNQ||37||Arturo Merzario||Merzario-Ford Cosworth||1:21.42||1:21.43||1:20.91||+4.52s|
|DNQ||30||Brett Lunger||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:21.17||1:22.07||1:21.51T||+4.78s|
|DNQ||28||Emilio de Villota||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:21.55||1:22.41||1:22.84T||+5.16s|
|DNQ||10||Alberto Colombo||ATS-Ford Cosworth||1:23.11||1:22.05||1:21.59||+5.20s|
|DNPQ||32||Keke Rosberg||Theodore-Ford Cosworth||1:21.25|
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
- T Indicates a test/spare car.
Conditions were cooler on raceday, with cloudy skies blocking out the worst of the early Summer sun without bringing a threat of rain. The pre-race warm-up passed without issue ahead of the long programme of pre-race entertainment, including a presentation of the Grand Prix drivers to King Juan Carlos I of Spain to celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Real Automóvil Club de España. Once that was done the field assembled on the grid for the start, with the ominous black-gold Lotus cars expected to dominate the moment the starter's lights flashed to green at 4:00pm.
Unfortunately for fans of the Norfolk squad this was not to happen, for the McLaren of James Hunt would go charging past Carlos Reutemann and Ronnie Peterson, before sweeping around pole sitter Mario Andretti into the first corner to take the lead. Andretti just managed to beat Reutemann into turn one, before setting his sights on the escaping Hunt, while Peterson made a mess of his start. Indeed, the Swede quickly fell back to ninth before the first corner, with Jody Scheckter and Niki Lauda his most immediate opponents.
Come the end of the opening tour it was still Hunt leading from Andretti, with a small gap already opening up between them and Reutemann. The Argentine himself was at the head of a small group featuring John Watson, Gilles Villeneuve, Riccardo Patrese and Jacques Laffite, while Scheckter, Peterson and Lauda ran together a few yards back. Didier Pironi and Patrick Tambay were next, while Jean-Pierre Jabouille in the Renault was in trouble having been spun out of the pack at the start.
The early stages would see Hunt throw his car around the Circuito del Jarama, knowing that his only chance of victory was to really break Andretti's confidence. Unfortunately the naturalised American was content to just sit and watch the McLaren, with the Lotus remaining glued to the circuit while Hunt slithered around every corner. After five laps of following the McLaren, however, Andretti seemed to grow bored, and duly went streaking past Hunt with ease, diving inside Hunt on the brakes into turn one.
Andretti quickly built a small lead over Hunt, before allowing the Brit to dictate the pace from second, much as the Italian-American had let Villeneuve do in Belgium. Behind them, and dropping away at a fair rate, was Reutemann, with the Argentine himself having a small gap over the Watson group behind. Peterson, meanwhile, had swept past Scheckter and was hounding the back of the Watson quartet, leaving Lauda to try and force his way past the Wolf. Jabouille was also putting in an impressive display after his miserable start, the Renault simply blasting past its opponents down the straights after the French manufacturer claimed that their turbocharged V6 could produce 500 bhp.
As the race wore on it became clear that the Michelin shod Ferraris were struggling, for both Reutemann and Villeneuve would begin to slip off the pace of those around them. It was the Canadian whom hit trouble first, slipping out of the Watson group, while Reutemann gradually slipped back towards the #2 Brabham and its associates. Hunt was another using a set of tyres that were really too soft for the conditions, although the Brit's Goodyears were not suffering as badly as had been predicted.
Elsewhere, Emerson Fittipaldi abandoned his starting set of tyres, deciding that he lacked both pace and grip, while Tambay had got stuck in the gravel after throwing his McLaren off the circuit. That spin was a result of Tambay trying to drive around his burnt left ankle by not using the clutch pedal to change gear, meaning the Frenchman effectively retired an otherwise perfect car. Patrese was another early casualty when his Ford Cosworth engine destroyed itself, while Héctor Rebaque was making a tremendous racket at the back of the field as his exhaust system had split apart after the Mexican racer hit a kerb.
Just before half distance the Ferrari team decided to abandon their soft Michelin tyres, for Reutemann had drifted into the sights of Watson, and Villeneuve was on the verge of dropping out of the top ten regardless. Both drivers were signalled to stop on the same lap, and the Ferrari crew just managed to get the Argentine out before the Canadian swept into the pit box. Unfortunately the delay in getting set-up for Villeneuve cost the Canadian a lot of time, meaning the #12 Ferrari came out a lap down on the fearsome Andretti out front.
Reutemann would rejoin in tenth, just behind the two Tyrrells, but would require those two to begin fighting with Scheckter to have any hopes of getting past. Up ahead, meanwhile, Reutemann's stop had gifted third to Watson, although the Ulsterman was still stuck with Laffite, Peterson and Lauda glued to his tail. Indeed, the fact that they were in a fight for the podium seemed to finally wake Peterson up, for the Swede suddenly went weaving past the Ligier and the Brabham to head the group as the quartet came through a group of lapped cars.
Watson would be the big loser from that two lap brawl, ending up at the back of the quartet complaining of gearbox trouble. He duly began to slip away from his rivals, with Peterson dragging Laffite and Lauda onto the back of Hunt over the following laps, while Reutemann dealt with Patrick Depailler and Scheckter to move into seventh. Elsewhere, Villeneuve was told to abandon his second set of Michelins having failed to make progress, while Hans-Joachim Stuck joined the small list of retirements after deciding that his Shadow had a serious handling issue.
Peterson caught and passed Hunt with ease on lap 53, the Brit's tyres having begun to cry enough, before disappearing off to try and get onto the back of teammate Andretti. Hunt, meanwhile, was left to conduct an ultimately pointless defence from Laffite, although it took the Frenchman three laps to slip past the Brit into turn one. Seeing this the McLaren team prepared a set of fresh tyres for their star driver, although Hunt decided to stay out until lap 60 having seen Lauda stop out on track with a trashed Alfa Romeo.
Indeed, Hunt had also waited to make his stop because of the exploits of Reutemann, whom had been sweeping towards the McLaren until his Ferrari went flying, literally, off the road. Indeed, a driveshaft failure had seen the #11 Ferrari suddenly throw itself sideways off the track at high-speed, before bouncing over a tyre barrier and into the crash-fencing behind the paddock. Reutemann climbed out with a bruise riddled chest, but otherwise unharmed, while his car was left hanging off the floor amid the wire fencing.
Once Hunt had stopped and rejoined in sixth the race was effectively over, with Andretti and Peterson cruising around the final fifteen laps to claim another seemingly dominant one-two for Team Lotus. The late-race incidents for Lauda and Reutemann had left Laffite a lonely fourth, while Scheckter had survived almost unnoticed to claim fourth. Watson came home fifth, still complaining about a gearbox issue, while Hunt was an exhausted sixth ahead of an unusually quiet Vittorio Brambilla.
The full results for the 1978 Spanish Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Regazzoni was still classified despite retiring as he had complete 90% of the race distance.
- Mario Andretti and Jody Scheckter entered their 75th Grand Prix.
- Ninth career victory for Andretti.
- Lotus claimed their 67th victory as a constructor.
A third victory of the season ensured that Mario Andretti established a commanding lead in the World Championship hunt, the American ace leaving Jarama with a ten point advantage. Second would be his teammate Ronnie Peterson, with a further three points back to Patrick Depailler in third. Carlos Reutemann was an additional point back in fourth, with Niki Lauda slipping further back in fifth.
Like their lead driver Andretti, Lotus-Ford Cosworth had gained a huge advantage in the International Cup for Constructors, a twenty point lead having been established in Spain. Their closest challengers would be arch-rivals Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth, with Ferrari and Brabham-Alfa Romeo tied for third. Ligier-Matra were a distant fifth, the final team in double figures, while Wolf-Ford Cosworth had finally overtaken Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth.
Images and Videos:
- 'Spanish GP, 1978', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr304.html, (Accessed 10/08/2018)
- D.S.J., 'The Spanish Grand Prix: Lotus annihilate the opposition', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/07/1978), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/july-1978/60/spanish-grand-prix, (Accessed 11/08/2018)
- 'Spain 1978: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/espagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 10/08/2018)
- 'Spain 1978: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/espagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 10/08/2018)
- 'Spain 1978: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/espagne/classement.aspx, (Accessed 10/08/2018)
- '1978 Spanish GP', chicanef1.com, (Chicane F1, 2018), http://www.chicanef1.com/racetit.pl?year=1978&gp=Spanish%20GP&r=1, (Accessed 10/08/2018)
- '7. Spain 1978', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/espagne.aspx, (Accessed 10/08/2018)
|V T E||Spanish Grand Prix|
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