The XVII Großer Preis von Österreich, otherwise known as the 1979 Austrian Grand Prix, was the eleventh round of the 1979 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Österreichring on the 12 August 1979. The race would be remembered for an excellent duel in the opening stages between Alan Jones and Gilles Villeneuve for the lead, before the former streaked away to claim a second straight victory.
Qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix had seen René Arnoux emerge as the class of the field for Renault, with their twin-turbo engine having an even greater power advantage due to Österreichring's home in the Styrian mountains. He hence bested Jones to pole by two tenths of a second, while Villeneuve found himself starting in fifth.
Yet, Villeneuve would start the race in stunning fashion, leaping into the lead to lead the field into the Hella Licht Chicane for the first time. Jones would lead the counter-charge on the opening tour, Arnoux having slipped to fifth, while Jean-Pierre Jabouille tumbled to ninth as he limped off the line with a clutch issue.
Villeneuve and Jones would begin squabbling at the end of the opening tour, with the pair also managing to pull clear of third placed Niki Lauda as they fought. For three laps the Canadian's Ferrari would frustrate the Australian's Williams, before Jones finally managed to pull off a lunge into the Hella Licht Chicane and snatch the lead.
With that Jones was off, the #27 simply pulling away from Villeneuve, who was about to be caught and passed by both Renaults. Indeed, Jabouille, running without the use of his clutch, would fight his way through to second before the end of lap twelve, having followed teammate Arnoux through past Villeneuve's Ferrari.
Unfortunately for Jabouille his race would end soon after, his clutch issue eventually causing enough damage to his transmission that he had to retire. The order would hence remain static with Arnoux safely in second ahead of Villeneuve, until a fuel issue in the closing stages saw Arnoux's pace collapse.
Jones, meanwhile, would complete a dominant victory at the head of the field, crossing the line almost forty seconds clear of Villeneuve. They would be joined on the podium by Jacques Laffite, who mugged Jody Scheckter for third on the final tour, while Arnoux ended the race a lap down in sixth behind Clay Regazzoni.
The ever popular Österreichring was prepared to host the eleventh round of the 1979 campaign, with the fast, flowing circuit enjoyed by both drivers and fans alike. Indeed, a near week long festival atmosphere would greet the field upon arrival at the circuit, with the stunning sights of the Styrian mountains further helping to draw a strong crowd. Likewise a very familiar entry list was submitted for the weekend, with just one new car, and a single change in driver.
The new car was to be found at ATS, who had had finally built a purely ground-effect based car, the D3. Hans-Joachim Stuck's previous charger, the D2, had only had some minor ground-effect design elements retroactively added across the season. The new car was therefore, unsurprisingly, vastly different from its predecessor, sporting a Lotus 79-esque body and rear suspension setup. There had also been a change to the team management, with ex-F1 racer Vic Elford drafted in as Team Manager for the rest of the season.
Elsewhere the new face in the field was to be found in the Tyrrell garage, where Derek Daly had been hired for a one-off drive, replacing Geoff Lees. Ken Tyrrell was using the absence of the ill Jean-Pierre Jarier to test potential future employees, with both Jarier and Didier Pironi attracting interest from other teams. In terms of equipment, however, the team's compliment of 009s were unchanged, with no news of a major update on the horizon.
Over at Lotus, meanwhile, there would be an interesting modification made to two of their Lotus 79s, with elements of its successor, the Lotus 80 incorporated in a seemingly desperate search for pace. Both Mario Andretti and Carlos Reutemann's cars would receive the Frankenstein treatment, with the majority of the Lotus 80's rear end, including the Lotus developed gearbox, bolted to the monocoque and front end of their Lotus 79s. While this rather ruined the 79's previously sleek design, it was hoped that the 80's upgraded suspension geometry, as well as a switch to outboard brakes, would make up for the increased amount of drag. Out of the cockpit, meanwhile there was a fall out between Andretti and Reutemann, with Andretti proclaiming that the Argentine was little more than a mercenary, at least in the words of a Swiss journalist.
Williams, meanwhile, arrived with no changes to their trio of cars, knowing that the FW07 was, according to recent form, the fastest car in the field. As such Alan Jones and Clay Regazzoni arrived at the Österreichring knowing they were among the favourites for victory, having taken a win apiece in the previous two races. Furthermore, engine suppliers Ford Cosworth had decided to hand the team one of their newest evolutions of their DFV V8 engines, which was duly installed in Jones' car.
Indeed, the only team that looked capable of defeating Williams in the Styrian Mountains looked to be Renault, whose twin-turbocharged V6s would have an even greater power advantage at the high altitude circuit. The RS10s of Jean-Pierre Jabouille and René Arnoux were therefore, unsurprisingly, unchanged from their last appearance in Hockenheim, although there were some minor revisions made to the spare car. Regardless, the weekend was set to be a battle between Renault power and Williams poise, with the rest of the field set to fight to be best of the rest.
Elsewhere there were no changes at Ferrari, despite Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve shared concern that they were falling to far off the pace of Renault and Williams. Ligier were in a similar position, Jacques Laffite and Jacky Ickx again piloting their cars, with rumours that the French government were considering withdrawing their funding from the team. McLaren had also arrived in Austria with no changes for their two entries, John Watson and Patrick Tambay, while Alfa Romeo had reinforced the exhaust systems on Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet's Brabhams.
Shadow were down to three cars for Elio de Angelis and Jan Lammers, deciding that providing four DN9s for each race was restricting their development back at their base. Rivals Arrows, meanwhile, were still waiting to finish their third A2, meaning Riccardo Patrese and Jochen Mass had to use an older A1B as a spare. The Wolf squad, meanwhile, would have a similar mix of old and new for their lone entry of Keke Rosberg, with modifications made to the rear wing of the older WR8, while the Fittipaldi brought their old F5A back from Brazil to serve as a spare for Emerson Fittipaldi.
Into the Championship and, in spite of a lack of overall pace, it was Scheckter who led the charge after the German Grand Prix, his consistent scoring proving to be more valuable than outright speed. Laffite, meanwhile, had moved back up into second at the Hockenheimring, seven behind the South African racer, with Villeneuve having slipped nine points behind his teammate in third. Elsewhere Regazzoni moved up into fourth, while German GP winner Jones had leapt into the top ten after his second F1 triumph.
Likewise, in spite of not having the fastest car in the field, Ferrari had managed to extend their lead in the International Cup for Constructors in Hockenheim, leaving Germany with a healthy 14 point advantage. Their closest challengers according to the points table still appeared to be Ligier-Ford Cosworth, although Williams-Ford Cosworth's recent form had seen them leap into third, having scored 24 points in two races. Their new tally of 38 had moved them a point ahead of pre-season favourites Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth, while Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth completed the top five.
The full entry list for the 1979 Austrian Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice/qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix would follow the new-for-1979 format, with four sessions split evenly across Friday and Saturday prior to the race. The morning sessions on each day would be reserved for race practice, leaving the two hour and a half long afternoon periods to be used to set the grid. In terms of a target time the pole time from the 1978, a 1:37.71 set by Ronnie Peterson, was expected to be beaten by a fair margin, with most of the field expected to best it.
Unfortunately the Styrian Mountains were to be coated in cloud when the circuit opened for practice on Friday morning, with the Österreichring more of a river than a Grand Prix circuit. Conditions would improve throughout the session, with the rain stopping and the worst of the cloud drifting away. Yet, that would not be enough to prevent a few high speed spins, the worst of which saw Nelson Piquet bend his suspension after pirouetting into the barriers.
Fortunately for Piquet the Brabham crew would get his car repaired in time for the first qualifying session, by which stage the circuit was relatively dry. Indeed, within a few minutes the entire field was on the track, and all pushing hard to record an early time in case the rain returned. As such there was to be a intense ramp-up of pace throughout the session, with Williams and Renault exchanging impossibly quick times at the head of the field.
First blood would go to the French squad, with Jean-Pierre Jabouille the first driver to dip under Peterson's old record, despite the fact that the circuit still had some damp patches. Clay Regazzoni then dipped into the 1:36.00s, to be countered by René Arnoux with a series of laps in the 1:35.00s, before Jabouille again hit the front with a 1:34.45. However, come the end of the session he would be pipped to provisional pole by Alan Jones, who used a set of ultra soft Goodyear tyres to record a 1:34.30.
Into the less spectacular end of the field and Niki Lauda was running without the front wing on his car, deciding that the fins were only adding drag without enhancing the handling. Jacques Laffite, meanwhile, was swapping between his and the spare Ligiers, without much progress, while the modified Loti were in their increasingly familiar midfield positions, with Mario Andretti just ahead of his former teammate's mark from 1978. Likewise, Ferrari were well off the outright pace shown by Renault and Williams, finding themselves mixing with Brabham and Tyrrell.
Elsewhere the Merzario and Ensign were stranded out on track, causing the session to be paused to remove them as Arturo Merzario and Patrick Gaillard had abandoned them in dangerous positions. Elio de Angelis, meanwhile, would suffer a wheel failure, putting him in the spare Shadow, while Hans-Joachim Stuck suffered a high speed puncture in the new ATS and had to switch to his spare. Patrick Tambay, meanwhile, would bounce his nose to pieces when running wide, while Regazzoni had to end the day in the spare Williams when his Ford Cosworth engine blew itself apart.
Fears of another rain affected day evaporated as Saturday morning dawned bright and clear, although the temperatures were still very low compared to what was usually experienced in the European summer. That meant that it would be a very busy practice session to open the day, with most teams getting their spare cars up to speed, although Jabouille resolutely stuck with his race car, until an off track moment passing Derek Daly saw him destroy a turbo. Elsewhere, Jones would smash the spare Williams at the Hella Licht Chicane, Andretti decided to adopt the spare Lotus as his own, while Stuck had the new ATS back in action and on the pace of the green-gold cars.
Into the final qualifying session and temperatures improved enough to ensure that there were perfect conditions at the Österreichring, with no threat of rain to confuse things. Ultimately, however, there would be no real change to the overall picture at the head of the field, with Jones, Jabouille and Arnoux setting the pace from the get go once again. Indeed, all three would get into the 1:34.00s before the middle of the session, although everyone was surprised when Arnoux emerged as the fastest of the trio.
That fight would have to wait until the second half of the session, however, for an oil flinging engine failure for Emerson Fittipaldi meant that the circuit required a twenty five minute clean-up before the final half an hour. Only when the session resumed would Arnoux steal the show, with the Frenchman dancing his Renault around to record a 1:34.07, almost half a second faster than Jabouille's best effort. Jones tried hard to best Arnoux's stunning time, but would have to settle for a 1:34.28 having burned through almost a dozen sets of Goodyear softs before the end of the day.
The best of the rest spot behind the top three, for Regazzoni was struggling to get among them, would go to Lauda as the Austrian tried to appease his home fans. Gilles Villeneuve was next, having bested Regazzoni's effort late in the day, while Piquet found himself in seventh ahead of Laffite, who was still swapping between the Ligiers. Behind Championship leader Jody Scheckter claimed ninth, while Didier Pironi did just enough to beat temporary teammate Daly in their Tyrrells.
Elsewhere John Watson would test a new steering setup on his McLaren, with little success, although they still found themselves down the order, among the two Loti. Indeed, Andretti had missed a fair amount of the session due to an oil leak, and duly found himself behind Tambay, having failed to beat his best effort from Friday. Stuck, meanwhile, would successfully qualify the new ATS, leaving Patrick Gaillard and Héctor Rebaque to duel for the final qualifying spot, Arturo Merzario being a long way off even their pace. Ultimately it was the Frenchman who did enough to make the grid, although the Ensign racer was still over seven seconds off of Arnoux's pole winning time.
The full qualifying results for the 1979 Austrian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|2||27||Alan Jones||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:34.30||1:34.28||+0.21s|
|4||5||Niki Lauda||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:36.72||1:35.51||+1.44s|
|6||28||Clay Regazzoni||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:36.86T||1:35.82||+1.75s|
|7||6||Nelson Piquet||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:37.03||1:35.85||+1.78s|
|8||26||Jacques Laffite||Ligier-Ford Cosworth||1:35.92T||1:36.39T||+1.85s|
|10||3||Didier Pironi||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:36.98T||1:36.26||+2.19s|
|11||4||Derek Daly||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:38.64||1:36.42||+2.35s|
|12||20||Keke Rosberg||Wolf-Ford Cosworth||1:37.82||1:36.67||+2.60s|
|13||29||Riccardo Patrese||Arrows-Ford Cosworth||1:39.30||1:36.71||+2.64s|
|14||8||Patrick Tambay||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:37.87||1:36.72||+2.65s|
|15||1||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:37.11||1:37.32T||+3.04s|
|16||7||John Watson||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:37.16||1:39.80||+3.09s|
|17||2||Carlos Reutemann||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:38.80||1:37.32||+3.25s|
|18||9||Hans-Joachim Stuck||ATS-Ford Cosworth||1:41.08T||1:37.93||+3.86s|
|19||14||Emerson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:40.30||1:38.38T||+4.31s|
|20||30||Jochen Mass||Arrows-Ford Cosworth||1:39.28||1:38.85||+4.78s|
|21||25||Jacky Ickx||Ligier-Ford Cosworth||1:40.66||1:39.31||+5.24s|
|22||18||Elio de Angelis||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:42.86T||1:39.44||+5.37s|
|23||17||Jan Lammers||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:40.69||1:39.45||+5.38s|
|24||22||Patrick Gaillard||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:45.59||1:41.10||+7.03s|
|DNQ||31||Héctor Rebaque||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:43.35||1:41.16||+7.09s|
|DNQ||24||Arturo Merzario||Merzario-Ford Cosworth||1:45.74||1:46.91||+11.67s|
- 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.
|Elio de Angelis||______________|
Raceday dawned as another day of clear skies and cool temperatures, with no concerns of rain to affect the Grand Prix. The morning warm-up would see Patrick Tambay and Jacky Ickx suffer engine issues, although their respective issues were cured long before the 1:30pm start time. As such all 24 qualifiers would make it around the parade lap without issue, before lining up on their grid slots to await the starters lights.
As the lights flashed to green there was to be a flash of red that went streaking into the lead, with Gilles Villeneuve getting a demonically good start to leap from fifth to first. He was chased by Alan Jones, who would lead briefly before the Canadian charged past, while Niki Lauda shadowed the Williams claimed third. Indeed, it was a miserable start for the two Renaults, with pole sitter René Arnoux slipping to fifth, while Jean-Pierre Jabouille tumbled to ninth with a clutch problem.
He would at least get away from the grid, unlike Mario Andretti in the spare Lotus which shredded its clutch as he tried to pull away. Miraculously the entire field managed to dodge around the limping Lotus, although there were a few near-misses, particularly for teammate Carlos Reutemann who started just behind. Andretti duly limped to the end of the pitlane and pulled off the circuit, with the rest of the field also making it to the Hella Licht Chicane without issue.
It was to be an excellent opening lap, with Jones throwing his Williams at the back of Villeneuve's Ferrari, while both dropped Lauda. Indeed, the pair were almost a second clear of the Austrian racer at the end of the opening tour, with Lauda instead having to watch out for a recovering Arnoux, who had scrambled back ahead of Clay Regazzoni. Elsewhere Jabouille was still in the middle of the pack, his clutch issue not improving, while there was a very sick sounding Ford Cosworth engine in the back of one of the Arrows.
That engine belonged to Jochen Mass, and duly destroyed itself at the end of the second tour, with a cloud of smoke erupting from his exhausts. Out front, meanwhile, Jones was still looking for a way past Villeneuve, with the Australian's lunges always getting blocked by Villeneuve's defensive driving. Towards the end of lap three it seemed as if Jones would never get past, until Villeneuve made his first mistake of the day.
The #12 Ferrari would get a little wayward through the final corner at the end of lap three, and hence compromised Villeneuve on the exit. That gave Jones the perfect opportunity to draft alongside the Canadian down the start/finish straight, before holding the inside line for the Hella Licht Chicane. They duly braked side-by-side into the chicane, with Jones scrambling through ahead of the Ferrari, much to the delight of the Williams pitcrew.
With that Jones was away, dropping Villeneuve at an impressive rate knowing that the two Renaults were making their way back through the field. Indeed, by the time Jones had taken Villeneuve, Arnoux had taken Lauda, and was setting about catching the lead duo. Jabouille was also on the move, weaving past Jody Scheckter, Didier Pironi, Jacques Laffite and Clay Regazzoni in short order, while Lauda slipped down the order after making a rare mistake at the Hella Licht.
Yet Jones' fears would be somewhat unfounded, for it took Arnoux until the end of lap eleven to catch and pass Villeneuve, whose Michelin tyres were already losing their edge. Jabouille followed his teammate through on the following tour, and would briefly run in second when Arnoux waved him past, until his clutch issue finally destroyed the rest of his transmission. That put Villeneuve back onto the podium, while Arnoux found himself unable to catch the charging Jones out front.
Elsewhere, Scheckter was a very distant fourth, keeping Laffite at arm's length, with the Frenchman having just vaulted past Regazzoni. Jacky Ickx, meanwhile, would hit trouble with the sister Ligier, his engine sounding as if it was grinding itself to pieces, and duly retired at the halfway point. Reutemann, meanwhile, was having an even more ignominious race, finding himself unable to escape from Elio de Angelis in the Shadow at the back of the field.
Indeed, Reutemann would soon abandon his lowly position, going a lap down when he decided to try a new set of Goodyear tyres. However, within two laps the Argentine was back in to ask for his original set to be bolted back on, with a weary Colin Chapman instead telling him to switch off the engine and retire. By that stage Reutemann had slipped behind Patrick Gaillard in the Ensign, although the Frenchman was to lose a heap of time as he pitted to have a brake problem cured.
Laffite would become the centre of attention as the race wore on, the Frenchman going on the offensive in the Ligier and hence began to attack Scheckter ahead. Unfortunately he would soon find that he would have to fight with effectively on hand tied behind his back, for his Ford Cosworth engine had picked up a rev-limiter problem, which was cutting in too early in higher gears. Regardless, the Frenchman was slowly getting closer to the back of the Ferrari, leaving Regazzoni in a lonely fifth well ahead of Lauda. The Austrian was not enjoying his home race, having been briefly passed by teammate Nelson Piquet before his engine blew-up, and was now a lap down.
It was not long before Lauda himself disappeared from the action, his Alfa Romeo engine having lost all of its oil pressure. He joined an incredibly long retirement list, which had received a recent wave of names including Keke Rosberg, out with an electrical issue, and Hans-Joachim Stuck as the new ATS destroyed its engine. Riccardo Patrese would also disappear when his Arrows became too wayward for his liking, before Arnoux disappeared from second in the closing stages when he lost all of his fuel pressure.
Fortunately for Arnoux he was in the downhill final sector of the lap, and was hence able to splutter into the pits to get a late fill-up. He duly scrambled back onto the circuit a lap down and having dropped to sixth, leaving Villeneuve in a content second and Scheckter in third. That was not likely to last, however, for with just two laps to go the Ligier of Laffite was right under his rear wing.
Out front, meanwhile, Jones would complete an incredibly dominant victory at a cruise, his pace having rarely dipped dropped below a 1:38.00 for most of the race. Villeneuve was still driving hard as he cross the line in second, ten seconds clear of Laffite, who mugged Scheckter on the final tour as the South African ran out of brakes. Fortunately for Scheckter he was just far enough ahead of Regazzoni to claim fourth, while a frustrated Arnoux blasted across the line in sixth, believing it was a race lost for himself and Renault.
The full results for the 1979 Austrian Grand Prix are outlined below:
- T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car.
- Tenth race for Elio de Angelis and Jan Lammers.
- Maiden pole position for René Arnoux.
- This was also the tenth pole for a car using #16 as its race number.
- Third career victory for Alan Jones.
- Williams earned their third victory as a constructor.
Jody Scheckter had finally seen his title lead reduced having again missed out on a podium spot, although the South African racer remained six ahead of his nearest challenger. That challenger proved to be his teammate Gilles Villeneuve, with the Canadian himself level on points with Jacques Laffite, but ahead on count-back. A seven point gap then separated them from race winner Alan Jones, who had shot into fourth with his second victory in two races, with Clay Regazzoni completing the top five.
In the International Cup for Constructors, meanwhile, it was still advantage Ferrari in the hunt for the crown, the Italian squad leaving Austria with a 19 point lead. Their closest challengers were still Ligier-Ford Cosworth, although the French squad were now under serious threat from Williams-Ford Cosworth after their stunning improvement in form. Indeed, the English based team were just six behind the Frenchmen, having been more than thirty points off just three races earlier.
Only point scoring drivers and constructors are shown.
Images and Videos:
- F1-history, '1979 Austrian Grand Prix', deviantart.com, (DeviantArt, 14/08/2012), https://www.deviantart.com/f1-history/art/1979-Austrian-Grand-Prix-321170278, (Accessed 31/12/2018)
- F1-history, 'Alan Jones | Gilles Villeneuve (Austria 1979)', deviantart.com, (DeviantArt, 18/09/2012), https://www.deviantart.com/f1-history/art/Alan-Jones-Gilles-Villeneuve-Austria-1979-327882892, (Accessed 31/12/2018)
- F1-history, 'Jacques Laffite (Austria 1979)', deviantart.com, (DeviantArt, 23/09/2012), https://www.deviantart.com/f1-history/art/Jacques-Laffite-Austria-1979-328725903, (Accessed 31/12/2018)
- 'Austrian GP, 1979', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr324.html, (Accessed 31/01/2018)
- D.S.J., 'Austrian Grand Prix: Third win for Williams', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/09/1979), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/september-1979/29/austrian-grand-prix, (Accessed 01/01/2019)
- '11. Austria 1979', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1979/autriche.aspx, (Accessed 31/12/2018)
- 'Austria 1979: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1979/autriche/engages.aspx, (Accessed 31/12/2018)
- 'Austria 1979: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1979/autriche/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 31/12/2018)
- 'Austria 1979: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1979/autriche/classement.aspx, (Accessed 31/12/2018)
- '1979 Austrian GP', chicanef1.com, (Chicane F1, 2018), http://www.chicanef1.com/racetit.pl?year=1979&gp=Austrian%20GP&r=1, (Accessed 31/12/2018)
|V T E||Austrian Grand Prix|
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