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The 1979 French Grand Prix, officially known as the LXV Grand Prix de France, was the eighth round of the 1979 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Dijon-Prenois circuit on the 1 July 1979.[1] The race would go down in F1 and automotive history as the first Grand Prix to be won by a turbocharged car, as Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Renault swept to a memorable home victory.[1]

Indeed, Renault would start the weekend in a rather dominant mood, with Jabouille edging out teammate René Arnoux to grab pole as the yellow-black cars locked out the front row.[1] Gilles Villeneuve in the #12 Ferrari was their closest challenger, with Nelson Piquet the best of those on Goodyear tyres in fourth.[1]

Things would not go Renault's way at the start of the race, however, for Villeneuve would charge past the two yellow-black cars to claim the lead into turn one.[1] Jabouille would go sprinting after the Canadian in second, while a miserable start for Arnoux saw the #16 Renault tumble to ninth.[1]

The early stages would soon come to be dominated by Arnoux's recovery through the field, with the Frenchman weaving back up to third by lap fifteen.[1] By that stage Villeneuve and Jabouille had disappeared into the distance, with Arnoux himself soon on his to leave Jody Scheckter to defend fourth from Piquet.[1]

Villeneuve's time in the lead would come to an end shortly after the halfway point, the Canadian having burned through the best of his tyres early on.[1] Jabouille duly went screaming past and disappeared into the distance, while Villeneuve began a slow tumble back towards Arnoux.[1]

Arnoux would catch the Canadian with a handful of laps to go, and duly went charging through with three laps to run, only for an engine issue on the penultimate tour to gift second back to Villeneuve.[1] The duo subsequently engaged in a thrilling duel across the entire final lap, with Villeneuve just hanging onto second by two tenths.[1]

Out front, meanwhile, Jabouille secured an imperious maiden victory for himself and Renault, fifteen seconds clear of the fight behind him.[1] Elsewhere, Alan Jones would inherit fourth after Piquet and Scheckter hit trouble, with Jean-Pierre Jarier and Clay Regazzoni completing the scorers list.[1]

BackgroundEdit

There was an unexpected five week break between the Monaco and French Grand Prix of 1979, due to the late cancellation of the Swedish Grand Prix in mid-June.[2] Unfortunately the deaths of Sweden's two most renowned racing drivers, Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson in the second half of 1978 had destroyed any interest in the race, leaving the organisers with little hope of affording the race at the Scandinavian Raceway.[3] As such, the organisers contacted both Bernie Ecclestone and Jean-Marie Balestre, leaders of the Formula One Constructors Association and the Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile to state that they could not host the race.[3]

A Swedish StandoffEdit

However, just a day after informing both FOCA and FISA that the Swedish Grand Prix was off an oil company agreed to fund the race, paying the money directly to FOCA and Mr. Ecclestone.[3] The Brabham boss duly announced the race was to be staged, only for Mr. Balestre and FISA to re-affirm the fact that the race was cancelled, leading to another standoff between FOCA and FISA.[3] Ultimately, however, the potential expense of racing in Scandinavia, combined with a general apathy for the Anderstorp raceway from the teams, would lead to Ecclestone and FOCA backing down, and hence the race was officially dropped.[3]

Regardless of the latest FISA/FOCA standoff the teams would spend their free time testing, while five drivers entered the inaugural Gunnar Nilsson Memorial Trophy, a time-trial event for Formula One cars held to raise money for the Gunnar Nilsson Cancer Foundation.[3] The winner of said non-Championship event, staged at Donington Park on the 3 June, would be Alan Jones, who recorded a circuit record time of 1:01.37 for Williams.[3] He would defeat James Hunt and Mario Andretti by over a second in the final standings, with Nelson Piquet and Rupert Keegan the only other attendees.[3]

Ligier LossesEdit

That time trial proved to be Hunt's last appearance for Wolf, the Brit deciding that he would rather retire than continue driving a car that was rarely able to challenge for points.[2] A furious Walter Wolf was hence left to find a replacement, and ultimately opted to employ Keke Rosberg, who had been without a drive since leaving ATS.[2] Hunt, meanwhile, would soon find his talents in demand, with an intriguing set of events almost leading the Brit to landing a seat in one of the title challenging Ligiers.[3]

Indeed, with no races to occupy himself, and teammate Jacques Laffite continuing to serve as Ligier's lead test driver, Patrick Depailler would opt to go hang-gliding, a rather dangerous pursuit even for an F1 racer.[3] Somewhat inevitably the Frenchman suffered a double leg-breaking accident in the hills of Clermont-Ferrand, with Depailler later remarking that he 'thought everything was over'.[3] Fortunately a series of operations would prevent the injuries from threatening Depailler's life, although the Frenchman was set to miss the rest of the F1 season.[3]

With that, Guy Ligier was forced to look for a replacement to partner Laffite, and initially contacted Hunt after the Brit made it clear he was leaving Wolf.[3] Given Ligier's pace through the first half of the season it was no surprise that Hunt entertained the offer, but ultimately decided to decline in fear that ex-boss Mr. Wolf would come knocking with a lawsuit.[3] Several other drivers were vetted, including Formula Three star Alain Prost and Henri Pescarolo, before Ligier settled for veteran racer Jacky Ickx.[3]

Ickx 1979 French Grand Prix

Jacky Ickx would return to the F1 field in Patrick Depailler's Ligier.

The decision to give Ickx the drive came as something of a surprise, largely due to the fact that the Belgian had not driven a ground-effect car before.[3] Indeed, Ickx himself had become steadily disillusioned with F1 during the latter half of the 1970s, but decided he would try and have one last hurrah in a race winning car.[2] He would hence complete a tyre test in the #25 JS11 at the Dijon-Prenois circuit ahead of the weekend, before officially being listed as Laffite's teammate for the rest of the campaign.[2] The duo would be handed four JS11s for Ligier's home race, with an old JS9 out on display at the entrance to the circuit.[2]

A Fighting FieldEdit

The rest of the entry list was unchanged, barring a change at Ensign after Derek Daly walked away having decided that there was little chance of success in Morris Nunn's latest creation.[2] His spot was therefore inherited by Patrick Gaillard, a recent graduate to the European Formula Two Championship, who had had some respectable results in both F3 and Formula Renault.[3] The car he inherited had had some major updates to the suspension, but was otherwise as it had appeared in Monte Carlo.[4]

Elsewhere, Ferrari were also out in force, bringing along four 312T4s for their title challenging duo of Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve, knowing that they had a perfect opportunity to gain the upper-hand against the weakened Ligier effort.[2] Likewise, Lotus had thrown everything they had at the Dijon circuit, with Mario Andretti getting two Lotus 80s, while Carlos Reutemann had two of the 79s at his disposal.[2] Of these the newest Lotus 80 had had a severe update, with revised suspension, nose and the rear wing removed, all in an attempt to counter the horrendous warping the car went through when cornering.[4]

Another team with updates after the extended test month would be Brabham-Alfa Romeo, who arrived with various upgrades including new sidepod sculpting and revised nose, as well as some deflectors on the ends of the exhaust to prevent the gases interfering with the rear wing.[4] The updated design had been put through its paces at Silverstone, with all three BT48s receiving the upgrade in time for the French Grand Prix.[4] The result was a very happy duo of Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet, using the two newest cars, with a fourth BT48 set to appear at the British Grand Prix.[4]

Tyrrell, in contrast, had spent the break building a replacement car for Didier Pironi, while Jean-Pierre Jarier continued to race his recently acquired 009.[4] Shadow had also been busy building a new car during the break, although the latest DN9 was only meant to serve as a second spare car, largely due to the fact that Elio de Angelis and Jan Lammers often found themselves waiting to use the other spare.[4] In contrast, rivals Arrows arrived with two brand-new designs for the French Grand Prix, with the A2 penned by Tony Southgate featuring a smooth yet chunky body, no front wing and a lot of focus on generating a low pressure zone underneath the car.[4] Both Riccardo Patrese and Jochen Mass would get an A2 to race in Dijon, although they would have to fight for Mass' old A1B should the new design have hit trouble.[4]

McLaren, meanwhile, had only managed to update Patrick Tambay's M28 to bring him level with teammate John Watson, although all of their efforts were instead being thrown at the M28's much needed successor.[4] Likewise, Emerson Fittipaldi was stuck with his last F5A as the replacement was still being revised, while Alfa Romeo and Bruno Giacomelli returned with no major changes to the 177, which was still being treated simply as a testbed.[4] Alternatively, Williams had not made any changes at all during the break, and hence fielded three unchanged FW07s for Jones and Clay Regazzoni.[4]

Completing the field would be the unchanged Merzario, piloted by its creator Arturo, the ATS of Hans-Joachim Stuck, and Héctor Rebaque in his privately entered Lotus 79.[2]

Into the Championship and with seven races down the first of the drop-scores had been applied to the standings after the Monaco Grand Prix, with drivers dropping their three worst results from the first seven rounds, as per the FIA's rules. Regardless of this rule, however, it was Sheckter who led the title hunt, six ahead of Laffite after the drop scores were applied. The biggest loser as a result of the scoring rule proved to be Reutemann, whose loss of five points dropped him from a potential second back to fifth behind Laffite, Villeneuve and the injured Depailler.

In the International Cup for Constructors the scoring system was far less convoluted, largely due to the fact that both cars could score points for each team. That meant that Ferrari arrived in France with the lead with half the season gone, holding an eight point advantage over Ligier-Ford Cosworth. Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth were next, nine further back, while Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth and Williams-Ford Cosworth completed the top five.

In the build-up to the race it was announced that pre-war Grand Prix legend, and one of those to head the "Age of the Titans", Louis Chiron had died at the age of 79.[3] Famed for his efforts in the races of the 1920s and 30s, Chiron had notably stood on the podium at the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix at the age of 51, before sweeping to victory in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1954.[3]

Entry ListEdit

The full entry list for the 1979 French Grand Prix is outlined below:

No. Driver Entreat Constructor Chassis Engine Model Tyre
1 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Martini Racing Team Lotus Lotus 80 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
2 Argentina Carlos Reutemann United Kingdom Martini Racing Team Lotus Lotus 79 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
3 France Didier Pironi United Kingdom Candy Tyrrell Team Tyrrell 009 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
4 France Jean-Pierre Jarier United Kingdom Candy Tyrrell Team Tyrrell 009 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
5 Austria Niki Lauda United Kingdom Parmalat Racing Team Brabham BT48 Alfa Romeo 1260 3.0 V12 G
6 Brazil Nelson Piquet United Kingdom Parmalat Racing Team Brabham BT48 Alfa Romeo 1260 3.0 V12 G
7 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M28C Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
8 France Patrick Tambay United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M28C Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
9 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck West Germany ATS Wheels ATS D2 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
11 South Africa Jody Scheckter Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 M
12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T4 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 RS10 Renault EF1 1.5 V6t M
16 France René Arnoux France Equipe Renault Elf Renault RS10 Renault EF1 1.5 V6t M
17 Netherlands Jan Lammers United Kingdom Samson Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN9 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
18 Italy Elio de Angelis United Kingdom Interscope Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN9 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
20 Finland Keke Rosberg Canada Olympus Cameras Wolf Racing Wolf WR8 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
22 France Patrick Gaillard United Kingdom Team Ensign Ensign N179 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
24 Italy Arturo Merzario Italy Team Merzario Merzario A2 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
25 Belgium Jacky Ickx France Ligier Gitanes Ligier JS11 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier Gitanes Ligier JS11 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
27 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Albilad-Saudia Racing Team Williams FW07 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
28 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Albilad-Saudia Racing Team Williams FW07 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
29 Italy Riccardo Patrese United Kingdom Warsteiner Arrows Racing Team Arrows A2 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
30 West Germany Jochen Mass United Kingdom Warsteiner Arrows Racing Team Arrows A2 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
31 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Mexico Team Rebaque Lotus 79 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
35 Italy Bruno Giacomelli Italy Autodelta Alfa Romeo 177 Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 V12 G
Source:[5]

Practice OverviewEdit

QualifyingEdit

The practice/qualifying format was changed ahead of the French Grand Prix of 1979, much to the ire of the teams who had just got used to the procedure introduced at the 1979 United States Grand Prix West.[2] Indeed, the organisers opted to revert to the former system, with both Friday sessions, as well as Saturday afternoon, given over to "timed"/qualifying practice, while Saturday morning was dedicated to race practice.[2] As for a target time the top teams would aim to beat Mario Andretti's circuit record of 1:12.21 by a significant margin, which had been set back in 1977 using an early ground-effect creation, the Lotus 78.[2]

Friday QualifyingEdit

Unfortunately for Andretti his latest ground-effect based charger, the second of the Lotus 80s, was not proving to be the all conquering car that its predecessor had been.[2] Indeed, after just a handful of laps in the newest of the "Type 80s", Andretti would switch to the original version of the car, largely due to the fact that the new car was having even worse "porpoising" issues that the older version.[2] Indeed, Andretti was well down the order come the end of the session, a second off his Lotus teammate Carlos Reutemann in the older Lotus 79.[2]

A stark contrast to this were the Renault squad whom, barring a small gearbox issue on René Arnoux's car at the start of the session, would come to dominate Friday's session.[2] Indeed, Jean-Pierre Jabouille instantly went to the top of the timesheets in the new RS10, and was soon joined by Arnoux when the #16 Renault was finally coaxed into life.[2] Their combination of a twin-turbocharged engine, Michelin tyres, and ground-effect clearly showed, with Jabouille on a 1:07.41, and Arnoux ending the morning with a 1:07.96, leaving them in a class of their own.[2]

The only driver even remotely close to their pace proved to be Gilles Villeneuve in the second of the Ferraris, the Canadian ace just falling shy of breaking the 1:08.00 barrier.[2] The fact that he was also using Michelin tyres was not missed by the rest of the field, although his Championship leading teammate Jody Scheckter was not as happy, ending the morning at the lower end of the top ten.[2] Best of the Goodyear contingent proved to be Nelson Piquet and the Brabham-Alfa Romeo in fourth, while Alan Jones led the Ford Cosworth powered faction in fifth.[2]

Elsewhere it proved to be a session of minor headaches and surprises, with both Loti out of the picture, while Tyrrell simply lacked pace.[2] The Arrows, meanwhile, were working through the usual headaches of running a brand new race car for the first time, with Riccardo Patrese and Jochen Mass both spending more time in the pits than planned.[2] Elsewhere, Keke Rosberg was safely in the midfield in the Wolf, while Jacky Ickx was slowly getting used to his race winning Ligier.[2]

Into the afternoon session and Renault continued to lead the charge without any real challenge, with Arnoux able to close to within four hundredths of his more experienced teammate.[2] They duly ended the day with a provisional front row lock-out, half a second clear of third placed Villeneuve, and with no signs that the new V6t engine was as volatile as its predecessor.[2] Villeneuve himself, meanwhile, would spend more time on race-setup than pace setting, meaning Jones would end the session third fastest to the flying Renaults.[2]

Patrese 1979 French Grand Prix

Riccardo Patrese would eventually make the cut in the new Arrows A2.

Elsewhere the Lotus squad were still struggling, with an electrical issue on Reutemann's car meaning he had to switch to the spare 79, while Andretti worked on the new 80.[2] Alfa Romeo, meanwhile, would spend the day trying new upgrades, leaving Bruno Giacomelli in the midfield, while Mass finally got some strong running in the new Arrows.[2] Patrese, in contrast, was still having issues with the new car, and hence found himself last of 27 drivers in the field, and alongside Arturo Merzario and Patrick Gaillard in the elimination zone come the end of the day.[2]

Saturday QualifyingEdit

Saturday morning's untimed session would see no sign that the overall order was to be challenged at the head of the field, with those that had spares using them instead.[2] Indeed, Lotus, Brabham, Ligier and Tyrrell all sent their drivers out in spare cars, while Wolf decided to experiment by taking the wings off of Rosberg's car.[2] Williams, meanwhile, spent the session bedding in Jones' new engine after his original had failed early on Friday, only for the Australian to pick-up an issue that caused his front brakes to bind solid.[2]

The only solution for Jones' practice issue was a complete rebuild of the front end of his Williams, meaning he returned to the spare for the final hour of timed running.[2] Elsewhere, several drivers had complained of neck issues after Friday's running was completed, attributed to the ever increasing G-forces that the latest generation of F1 cars were capable of producing.[2] Wolf and Ligier duly decided to build up head-restraints in their car to ease the suffering of their drivers, while Andretti, when asked whether he had had issues with G-force, simply stated that he wished his car could generate enough 'to give him a pain the neck!'.[2]

Into the final hour and Jabouille duly swept to the second pole position of his career, ending the afternoon unchallenged with a 1:07.19.[2] The reason for his lack of challenge came from the fact that teammate Arnoux only managed to set a couple of laps before his engine failed, leaving him on the sidelines with most of the session still to run.[2] They would also have a fair amount of luck on their side, with the only two drivers capable of challenging their times having their best efforts ruined.[2]

Indeed, midway through the session Jones, back with his proper race car, was set to record a sub-1:08.00 lap, only for Didier Pironi to go charging into the barriers at the final corner.[2] Yellow flags were thrown instantly, just as Jones came up to the scene, with the Australian duly slowing down.[2] He still successfully recorded a 1:07.99, although this was subsequently struck from the timesheets as it had been set under yellow-flag conditions.[2]

The yellow flags stayed out for four laps, before the session was halted for an hour to remove Pironi's car from the barriers.[2] The session duly resumed with twenty minutes remaining, although Jones' hopes of challenging the Renaults would die with his second Cosworth engine of the weekend, leaving him to end the day in the spare.[2] That left Villeneuve as the only man capable of beating at least one of the two Renaults, although he ultimately fell shy on a 1:07.65, two tenths off of Arnoux's best from Friday.[2]

At the back of the field, meanwhile, Patrese finally overcame his issues with the new Arrows to make the cut, as did teammate Mass and Giacomelli in the Alfa.[2] Out therefore went Elio de Angelis, Gaillard and Merzario, although de Angelis was to get a late reprieve when ATS went on a personal crusade regarding their Goodyear tyres.[2] The withdrawal of Hans-Joachim Stuck subsequently put the Italian and the newest of the Shadows onto the back of the grid, with Héctor Rebaque moving up one position.[2]

Qualifying ResultsEdit

The full qualifying results for the 1979 French Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Time Gap
Q1 Q2 Q3
1 15 France Jean-Pierre Jabouille France Renault 1:07.41 1:07.88 1:07.19
2 16 France René Arnoux France Renault 1:07.96 1:07.45 1:10.56 +0.26s
3 12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Ferrari 1:08.18 1:08.55 1:07.65 +0.46s
4 6 Brazil Nelson Piquet United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:08.19 1:08.73 1:08.13 +0.94s
5 11 South Africa Jody Scheckter Italy Ferrari 1:08.58 1:09.25 1:08.15 +0.96s
6 5 Austria Niki Lauda United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:08.45 1:09.40 1:08.20T +1.01s
7 27 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Williams-Ford Cosworth 1:08.23T 1:08.27T 1:08.73 +1.04s
8 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Ford Cosworth 1:08.95T 1:10.45T 1:08.55T +1.36s
9 28 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Williams-Ford Cosworth 1:09.97 1:09.01 1:08.65 +1.46s
10 4 France Jean-Pierre Jarier United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:09.85 1:09.38 1:08.80 +1.61s
11 3 France Didier Pironi United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:09.70 1:08.95 1:10.78T +1.76s
12 1 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:11.08T 1:10.67 1:09.35T +2.16s
13 2 Argentina Carlos Reutemann United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:09.96 1:13.43T 1:09.36 +2.17s
14 25 Belgium Jacky Ickx France Ligier-Ford Cosworth 1:10.82 1:09.68 1:10.00 +2.49s
15 7 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:09.97 1:11.56 1:11.04 +2.78s
16 20 Finland Keke Rosberg Canada Wolf-Ford Cosworth 1:10.66 1:10.15 1:10.45 +2.96s
17 35 Italy Bruno Giacomelli Italy Alfa Romeo 1:11.79 1:11.02 1:10.59 +3.40s
18 14 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 1:12.90 1:11.12 1:10.61 +3.42s
19 29 Italy Riccardo Patrese United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth 1:13.89 1:12.88 1:10.70 +3.51s
20 8 France Patrick Tambay United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:11.10 1:10.92 1:11.40 +3.73s
21 17 Netherlands Jan Lammers United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:12.10 1:12.11 1:11.14 +3.95s
22 30 West Germany Jochen Mass United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth 1:14.08 1:11.89 1:11.14 +3.95s
23* 9 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth 1:12.10 1:12.54 1:11.75 +4.56s
24 31 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Mexico Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:12.25 1:12.40 1:11.97 +4.78s
25 18 Italy Elio de Angelis United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:12.34 1:12.30 1:12.23T +5.04s
DNQ 22 France Patrick Gaillard United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 1:14.29 1:14.03 1:13.00 +5.81s
DNQ 24 Italy Arturo Merzario Italy Merzario-Ford Cosworth 1:14.95 1:17.23 1:17.05 +7.76s
Source:[2][6]
  • 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.
  • * Stuck was unable to start due to a tyre issue, meaning de Angelis was promoted to the grid.[6]

GridEdit

Pos Pos
Driver Driver
______________
Row 1 ______________ 1
2 Jean-Pierre Jabouille
René Arnoux ______________
Row 2 ______________ 3
4 Gilles Villeneuve
Nelson Piquet ______________
Row 3 ______________ 5
6 Jody Scheckter
Niki Lauda ______________
Row 4 ______________ 7
8 Alan Jones
Jacques Laffite ______________
Row 5 ______________ 9
10 Clay Regazzoni
Jean-Pierre Jarier ______________
Row 6 ______________ 11
12 Didier Pironi
Mario Andretti ______________
Row 7 ______________ 13
14 Carlos Reutemann
Jacky Ickx ______________
Row 8 ______________ 15
16 John Watson
Keke Rosberg ______________
Row 9 ______________ 17
18 Bruno Giacomelli
Emerson Fittipaldi ______________
Row 10 ______________ 19
20 Riccardo Patrese
Patrick Tambay ______________
Row 11 ______________ 21
22 Jan Lammers
Jochen Mass ______________
Row 12 ______________ 23
24 Héctor Rebaque
Elio de Angelis ______________

RaceEdit

Raceday dawned cool and overcast, conditions which both Renault and Michelin believed would aid their mutual bid for victory at their home race.[2] Indeed, both would come through the pre-race warm-up without issue, with only Brabham having to make a late engine change after Niki Lauda ground to a stop late on.[2] Regardless, he would join the grid for the start, as would Jacky Ickx in-spite of a wheel smashing spin on his way to the grid.[2]

ReportEdit

Gilles Villeneuve made the best getaway at the start of the race, blasting between the two Renaults to lead pole sitter Jean-Pierre Jabouille into the first corner.[2] For René Arnoux, however, the start would be nothing short of miserable, with the Frenchman making a mess of his getaway to find himself in the middle of the swarm heading into the first corner.[2] As the field sorted itself out through the opening corners Arnoux would find himself down in ninth, with Renault's hopes of a dominant victory put into doubt.[2]

Indeed, come the end of the opening tour Villeneuve would open out a fair lead over Jabouille, whose counter-charge was being undermined by the presence of Villeneuve's teammate Jody Scheckter.[2] They were chased by Nelson Piquet and a fast starting Jean-Pierre Jarier, with Lauda, Jacques Laffite and Alan Jones staying ahead of Arnoux.[2] Didier Pironi was next ahead of Mario Andretti, with the whole field making it around the first lap without issue.[2]

Villeneuve continued to dance his Ferrari away from Jabouille at the head of the field, although the Frenchman did manage to drop Scheckter early on.[2] That meant most of the home-crowds attention was left to focus on the progress of Arnoux, who picked his way back up the order after his poor getaway.[2] Fortunately for them Arnoux's progress was rapid, with quick-fire moves on Jones, Laffite and Lauda putting him back into the top six.[2]

The only man to give Arnoux some signs of resistance proved to be Jarier, who would bravely keep his Tyrrell between the Renault and fifth position until lap seven.[2] Four laps later and Piquet fell the #16 Renault, before Arnoux came sweeping onto the back of Scheckter a few laps later.[2] Indeed, come the end of lap fifteen Arnoux had his Renault sliding inside the #11 Ferrari at turn four to claim third.[2]

Mass Villeneuve 1979 French Grand Prix

Jochen Mass in the new Arrows A2 was to be lapped by Gilles Villeneuve early on.

With that the top three seemed settled, for Villeneuve was safely ahead of Jabouille, although still pushing hard, while Arnoux was chasing hard to catch his teammate.[2] Scheckter was next, in what was to become an increasingly lonely fourth, while Piquet was really struggling to keep Jones at bay for fifth.[2] The Brazilian's issues came from the fact that his Brabham was becoming jittery mid-corner, with the rear of the car twitching at the worst moments.[2] Elsewhere, Mario Andretti was out of contention with a brake issue, while Jochen Mass was already a lap down after a skirt came apart on his new Arrows.[2]

The race settled down after that, with the overall picture staying the same for ten laps, until Lauda threw himself into a spin on lap 24 and could not restart.[2] That coincided with the beginning of a push from Jabouille to catch Villeneuve out front, with the Renault ominously closing in on the Ferrari by a few tenths a lap.[2] By lap thirty Villeneuve's lead was all but gone, although Jabouille was to be denied an early move.[2]

For lap after lap Jabouille saw his efforts to pass Villeneuve swatted aside, with backmarkers and untimely slides preventing the Renault from moving clear.[2] Half-distance came and went with no sign that it would change, with the pair also pulling away from Arnoux in third.[2] Indeed, there seemed to be a general stalemate throughout the field, for Jones was unable to pass the broadsiding Piquet, while Andretti was in and out of the pits with leaking brakes.[2]

The lead fight only intensified after lap 40, however, with first Keke Rosberg and then Elio de Angelis inadvertently getting involved and finding the Ferrari and the Renault screaming either side of them.[2] Indeed, it was the latter's involuntary involvement that gave Jabouille the lead, for Villeneuve went to the outside of the Shadow through the final corner and hence compromised his exit.[2] Jabouille was therefore clear to power inside both the Shadow and the Ferrari to charge through into the lead on the start/finish straight, with the 100,000 strong crowd roaring in delight.[2]

With that Jabouille was out of reach, and duly disappeared into the distance from Villeneuve who was beginning to struggle with his tyres having pushed so hard early on.[2] He duly began to slide into the sights of Arnoux, just as Piquet slid off the circuit backwards and into the catch fencing, his reflexes having finally been overcome by his twitching rear-end.[2] That put Jones up into fifth place, which would soon become fourth when Scheckter's pace dropped as his tyres also faded amid the strain.[2]

Villeneuve Arnoux 1979 French Grand Prix 1

René Arnoux would launch a series of attacks at Gilles Villeneuve late on.

Indeed, both Ferraris would come under pressure from behind as the race wore on, for Scheckter would have to resist Jarier and Clay Regazzoni, while Arnoux quietly closed on Villeneuve.[2] Scheckter was the first to fall, with first Jarier and then Regazzoni passing without any real issue, before Arnoux latched onto Villeneuve's tail with ten laps to go.[2] By that stage Villeneuve had also begun to nurse a brake issue, and hence it seemed inevitable that Arnoux would sweep through to second.[2]

Unfortunately for Arnoux no one had told Villeneuve that he would be unable to defend, for the #12 Ferrari simply swatted aside Arnoux first two attempts on laps 71 and 72.[2] Arnoux then found himself baulked on the following couple of laps by backmarkers, before launching another attack at Villeneuve on lap 75.[2] Again, Villeneuve seemed to gain just enough grip to prevent Arnoux slipping ahead, with Arnoux taking that as a sign to pause and plot a last gasp assault.[2]

That assault came just two laps from the flag, with Arnoux finally getting a run on Villeneuve out of the final corner to pull ahead as the pair started the penultimate lap.[2] Yet Villeneuve was not to be denied, and duly shot back into second as Arnoux ran wide midway through the penultimate tour.[2] They then came streaking through to start the final lap side-by-side, with the pair literally going wheel-to-wheel as they hit the brakes for the first corner.[2]

A thrilling final tour saw Villeneuve and Arnoux run virtually as one through the first half of the lap, with both briefly able to get their nose ahead.[2] Halfway around and Villeneuve seemed to have the upper-hand, holding the inside line through the hairpin, only for Arnoux to get a better exit and shoot past on the sweep down the hill.[2] Then, on the run to the final corner the Renault V6 hiccoughed to gift Villeneuve a run at Arnoux into the final corner, and with the better inside line.[2]

Villeneuve Arnoux 1979 French Grand Prix 2

Villeneuve would ultimately keep Arnoux's Renault at bay. Just.

All eyes would be on the final corner as the pair charged into the right-hander wheel-to-wheel, Jabouille having long since swept home to claim his and Renault's first victory.[2] With the crowd still roaring at the sight of Jabouille becoming a national hero, Villeneuve's scarlet Ferrari appeared fully ahead of Arnoux's yellow-black Renault, although the Frenchman was closing onto Canadian's gearbox.[2] They duly flashed across the line almost nose-to-tail, with Villeneuve still ahead, although both were more than satisfied after their thrilling duel.[2]

As the crowd began to calm down from the late duel and Jabouille's victory the rest of the field came across the line, with Jones a lonely fourth ahead of Jarier and Regazzoni.[2] The latter pair had had a late duel for fifth, although not to the extent of the fight for second, but were both satisfied with their day's work.[2] Scheckter was a lonely seventh having had to stop for fresh tyres, while Laffite was a very quiet eighth for Ligier.[2]

ResultsEdit

The full results for the 1979 French Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 15 France Jean-Pierre Jabouille France Renault 80 1:35:20.42 1 9
2 12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Ferrari 80 +14.59s 3 6
3 16 France René Arnoux France Renault 80 +14.83s 2 4
4 27 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Williams-Ford Cosworth 80 +36.61s 7 3
5 4 France Jean-Pierre Jarier United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 80 +1:04.51 10 2
6 28 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Williams-Ford Cosworth 80 +1.05.51 9 1
7 11 South Africa Jody Scheckter Italy Ferrari 79 +1 Lap 5
8 26T France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Ford Cosworth 79 +1 Lap 8
9 20 Finland Keke Rosberg Canada Wolf-Ford Cosworth 79 +1 Lap 16
10 8 France Patrick Tambay United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 78 +2 Laps 20
11 7 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 78 +2 Laps 15
12 31 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Mexico Lotus-Ford Cosworth 78 +2 Laps 23
13 2 Argentina Carlos Reutemann United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 77 +3 Laps 13
14 29 Italy Riccardo Patrese United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth 77 +3 Laps 19
15 30 West Germany Jochen Mass United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth 75 +5 Laps 22
16 18 Italy Elio de Angelis United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 75 +5 Laps 24
17 35 Italy Bruno Giacomelli Italy Alfa Romeo 75 +5 Laps 17
18 17 Netherlands Jan Lammers United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 73 +7 Laps 21
Ret 3T France Didier Pironi United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 71 Suspension 11
Ret 14 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 53 Engine 18
Ret 6 Brazil Nelson Piquet United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 52 Accident 4
Ret 1T United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 51 Brakes 12
Ret 25 Belgium Jacky Ickx France Ligier-Ford Cosworth 45 Engine 14
Ret 5T Austria Niki Lauda United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 23 Spin 6
DNS* 9 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth
DNQ 22 France Patrick Gaillard United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth
DNQ 24 Italy Arturo Merzario Italy Merzario-Ford Cosworth
Source:[7]
  • T Indicates a driver used their test/spare car.
  • * Stuck was unable to start the race after a dispute about tyres before the race.[2]

MilestonesEdit

  • Maiden entry for Patrick Gaillard.[8]
  • 50th entry for Alfa Romeo as a constructor, and their 200th as an engine supplier.[8]
  • Second pole position for Jean-Pierre Jabouille.[3]
    • Also the second pole for Renault as a constructor and engine supplier.[3]
  • Maiden victory for Jabouille.[3]
    • Also the Frenchman's first visit to the podium.[3]
  • Renault claimed their maiden victory as both an engine and chassis supplier.[3]
  • René Arnoux secured his first podium finish.[3]
    • It was also the Frenchman's first recorded fastest lap.[3]
    • This was also the first fastest lap set by a Renault powertrain and chassis.[3]

StandingsEdit

With all of the major players in the Championship bar Gilles Villeneuve failing to score in France there was no real change at the top of the table. Indeed, only the aforementioned Villeneuve would gain ground, the Canadian ace moving up into second, four behind teammate Jody Scheckter at the head of the pack. Elsewhere, race winner Jean-Pierre Jabouille would leap into the top ten after his victory, while his teammate René Arnoux ended the afternoon in thirteenth.

In the International Cup for Constructors it was still Ferrari who led the way, leaving France with a fourteen point lead over Ligier-Ford Cosworth. Likewise, Lotus-Ford Cosworth and Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth had held station in third and fourth, with both being drawn in by the ever improving Williams-Ford Cosworth squad in fifth. Renault, meanwhile, would move to within a point of Williams in sixth, having become the tenth squad to register a points finish in 1979.

Drivers' World Championship
Pos. Driver Pts. +/-
1 South Africa Jody Scheckter 30 (34)
2 Canada Gilles Villeneuve 26 ▲1
3 France Jacques Laffite 24 ▼1
4 France Patrick Depailler 20 (22)
5 Argentina Carlos Reutemann 20 (25)
6 United States Mario Andretti 12
7 France Jean-Pierre Jabouille 9 ▲13
8 France Jean-Pierre Jarier 9 ▲1
9 France Didier Pironi 8 ▼2
10 United Kingdom John Watson 8 ▼2
11 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni 7 ▼1
12 Australia Alan Jones 7 ▼1
13 France René Arnoux 4 ▲6
14 Italy Riccardo Patrese 2 ▼2
15 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi 1 ▼2
16 West Germany Jochen Mass 1 ▼2
17 Austria Niki Lauda 1 ▼2
International Cup for Constructors
Pos. Team Pts. +/-
1 Italy Ferrari 60
2 France Ligier-Ford Cosworth 46
3 United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 37
4 United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 17
5 United Kingdom Williams-Ford Cosworth 14
6 France Renault 13 ▲4
7 United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 8 ▼1
8 United Kingdom Arrows-Ford Cosworth 3 ▼1
9 United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1 ▼1
10 Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 1 ▼1

Only point scoring drivers and constructors 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 'French GP, 1979', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr321.html, (Accessed 24/12/2018)
  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 D.S.J., 'The Grand Prix of France: A great Renault victory', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/08/1979), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/august-1979/68/grand-prix-france, (Accessed 24/12/2018)
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 3.23 3.24 3.25 3.26 8. France 1979', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1979/france.aspx, (Accessed 24/12/2018)
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 D.S.J., 'Notes on the Cars at Dijon', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/08/1979), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/august-1979/69/notes-cars-dijon, (Accessed 24/12/2018)
  5. 'France 1979: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1979/france/engages.aspx, (Accessed 24/12/2018)
  6. 6.0 6.1 'France 1979: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1979/france/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 24/12/2018)
  7. 'France 1979: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1979/france/classement.aspx, (Accessed 24/12/2018)
  8. 8.0 8.1 '1979 French GP', chicanef1.com, (Chicane F1, 2015), http://www.chicanef1.com/racetit.pl?year=1979&gp=French%20GP&r=1, (Accessed 24/12/2018)
V T E 1979 Formula One Season
Teams Alfa Romeo • Arrows • ATS • Brabham • Ensign • Ferrari • Fittipaldi • Kauhsen • Ligier • Lotus • McLaren • Merzario • Rebaque • Renault • Shadow • Tyrrell • Williams • Wolf
Engines Alfa Romeo • Ferrari • Ford Cosworth • Renault
Drivers Andretti • de Angelis • Arnoux • Brambilla • Brancatelli • Daly • Depailler • Fittipaldi • Gaillard • Giacomelli • Hunt • Ickx • Jabouille • Jarier • Jones • Laffite • Lammers • Lauda • Lees • Mass • Merzario • Patrese • Piquet • Pironi • Rebaque • Regazzoni • Reutemann • Ribeiro • Rosberg • Scheckter • Stuck • Surer • Tambay • Villeneuve • Watson • Zunino
Cars Alfa Romeo 177 • Alfa Romeo 179 • Arrows A1 • Arrows A2 • ATS D2 • ATS D3 • Brabham BT46 • Brabham BT48 • Brabham BT49 • Ensign N177 • Ensign N179 • Ferrari 312T • Fittipaldi F5 • Fittipaldi F6 • Kauhsen WK • Ligier JS11 • Lotus 79 • Lotus 80 • McLaren M26 • McLaren M28 • McLaren M29 • Merzario A1 • Merzario A2 • Merzario A4 • Rebaque HR100 • Renault RS01 • Renault RS10 • Shadow DN9 • Tyrrell 009 • Williams FW06 • Williams FW07 • Wolf WR7 • Wolf WR8 • Wolf WR9
Tyres Goodyear • Michelin
Races Argentina • Brazil • South Africa • United States West • Spain • Belgium • Monaco • France • Britain • Germany • Austria • Netherlands • Italy • Canada • United States
Non-championship Races Race of Champions • Dino Ferrari
See also 1978 Formula One Season • 1980 Formula One Season • Category
V T E France French Grand Prix
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Dijon-Prenois (1974, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1984)
Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours (1991–2008)
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