The 1979 Spanish Grand Prix, otherwise officially known as the XXV Gran Premio de España, was the fifth round of the 1979 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Circuito del Jarama on the 29 April 1979. The race, which was the 25th Spanish Grand Prix to be staged, would see Patrick Depailler sweep to victory after defeating teammate Jacques Laffite in an early fight for the lead.
Qualifying had seen the latter claim pole position, Laffite adding another circuit record to his collection, with Depailler three tenths back in second. Third would go to Championship leader Gilles Villeneuve, while defending Champion Mario Andretti would open the European phase of the Championship from fourth.
Depailler ultimately made the best getaway at the start, easing ahead of Laffite before they braked for the first corner. Villeneuve tried to go with them, but only succeeded in bouncing off the side of a fast starting Carlos Reutemann, and hence went spinning to the back of the pack.
The two Ligiers quickly pulled clear of the chasing pack, while Villeneuve began a race long crusade to get back into the points. Indeed, other than the fight out front it was the Canadian's progress that proved to be the main draw, although minor damage on the #12 Ferrari was hampering his progress.
Laffite, meanwhile, would have one good shot at taking the lead from Depailler on lap fifteen, only to miss a gear and detonate his Ford Cosworth engine. Depailler was hence left with a healthy lead over Reutemann, with the Argentine himself otherwise occupied defending from Jody Scheckter.
It proved to be a very long battle for second, until Scheckter lost out to Niki Lauda in the closing stages, allowing Reutemann pulled clear. The Austrian then began to hunt down Reutemann, but his Alfa Romeo engine expired before he could attack the Argentine's Lotus.
Scheckter was hence promoted back into third, only to be caught by Mario Andretti during the final laps. The American ace duly blasted past with a couple of laps to go, although Scheckter did his best to keep with the #1 Lotus as the final laps ticked away.
Out front, meanwhile, Depailler was left to cruise home, twenty seconds clear of the two Loti, to claim his first win for Ligier. Reutemann was a safe second ahead of Andretti and Scheckter, while Jean-Pierre Jarier and Didier Pironi denied Villeneuve a points finish, the Canadian simply running out of time to catch the two Tyrrells.
Formula One finally headed to its historical heartland in Europe for the fifth race of the 1979 campaign, arriving at the Circuito del Jarama near Madrid for the Spanish Grand Prix. In the three weeks since the US Grand Prix West a fair number of the field had competed in the 1979 Race of Champions, which had seen Gilles Villeneuve fly to a third straight victory, albeit one that did not count to the Championship. That race saw several a couple of teams debut new cars, although the majority of new equipment would instead be seen in the paddock at Jarama.
Arguably the most anticipated of the new designs was the new Lotus creation, the much hyped and tested Type 80, which had made a cameo appearance at the Race of Champions. Mario Andretti was handed the wheel of the new car, which was completely different to the 79 handed to Carlos Reutemann in almost every way, barring the central design principle: Ground-effect. Indeed, the entire car was covered with a single, flowing, piece of bodywork, with extended skirts to seal the underside of the car, "coke-bottle" sidepods, revised suspension, brakes, cooling system and transverse, Lotus-derived, gearbox. Colin Chapman's design team had also flirted with various ideas, including adding a duct through the nose to channel air underneath the car, although this had to be dropped when the car began "porpoising", literally warping, when cornering at high speed.
In contrast, Renault waited until the Spanish Grand Prix to unveil their new creation, the Renault RS10 which would replace their original turbocharged V6 engine testbed, the RS01. The new car, to be piloted by long-term Renault racer Jean-Pierre Jabouille, was set to be another engine testbed, this time for a twin-turbochanged V6 although it did adopted the ground effect concepts introduced by Lotus and the 79. As such, the yellow-black machine sported a new nose, revised sidepods, skirts and a new rear-wing design, albeit debuting with the original Renault V6t engine. Furthermore, the new car would run directly against the old, with René Arnoux issued with Jabouille's old RS01.
Williams were the third major team with a new design, although unlike Renault and Lotus they had managed to get two cars built for their drivers Alan Jones and Clay Regazzoni. The new FW07, designed by Patrick Head, was yet another Lotus 79-based creation to grace the field, albeit with some actual in-house development work to enhance the concept of ground-effect. As such, the new FW07 had new sidepods and skirts, centre-mounted rear-wing, and the latest Hewland gearbox, while the team had also tried running with and without a front wing.
The final new car in the field was from a new entrant to F1, coming in the form of another "Ford Cosworth kit-car", this time coming from West-Germany. The man behind the project was Willi Kauhsen, who had formed his own team to run cars in the World Sportscar Championship and Formula Three, before developing his F1 own car, the WK, and hiring the largely unproven talents of Gianfranco Brancatelli. The car itself was unremarkable, following many of the recent trends introduced by Lotus, albeit without much understanding, although Kauhsen had already made waves in the paddock after issues surrounding his £15,000 entry fee.
In the grey-zone between old and new in Spain would be McLaren, whom presented a completely new version of the M28 for John Watson, but declined to declare it as a "B-spec" design. This new version of the M28, which was essentially a complete rebuild of the original prototype, saw a new monocoque design implemented to counter the car's horrendous drag without affecting its ability to generate ground-effect. The chassis was also shortened to reduce the wheelbase, bodywork re-sculpted along the lines of the impressive Ligiers, and rear-suspension updated to pull various components out of the airflow. Patrick Tambay, meanwhile, would stick with his original M28, which had some, but not all, of the updates added.
Speaking of Ligier, the French squad themselves arrived with no changes to their JS11s, with Jacques Laffite and Patrick Depailler satisfied despite their issues in Long Beach. Likewise, Ferrari had made no modifications to Jody Scheckter or Villeneuve's cars, although they had built a new 312T4 to serve as the spare. Brabham had gone one-further by building two new BT48s for Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet, only to decide to ship the original three cars over to Spain for their duo.
Tyrrell were unchanged upon arrival in Jarama, their trio of 009s still lacking sponsorship despite the relatively strong start to the season from their drivers Jean-Pierre Jarier and Didier Pironi. Wolf, meanwhile, had their newest car on hand for James Hunt, while the new Fittipaldi F6 was entered for Emerson Fittipaldi at the Brazilian's brother's team. Shadow were still limping along with their duo of Jan Lammers and Elio de Angelis, the former's DN9B having been restored to its original livery, while rivals Arrows were unusually quiet with their pairing of Riccardo Patrese and Jochen Mass.
Completing the entry list would be the handful of cars presented by ATS, Ensign, Merzario and Team Rebaque, all of which were expected to be fighting with the new Kauhsen to qualify. Of the quartet Héctor Rebaque likely stood the best chance in his privately entered Lotus 79, although Hans-Joachim Stuck had managed to qualify his ATS D2 at the last three rounds. Derek Daly had also qualified for three of the races in his Ensign N177, the new N179 withdrawn for further testing, while Arturo Merzario had his "ground-effect" car on hand.
Into the Championship and Villeneuve's second victory of the season in Long Beach had put the Canadian ace on top of the table, two points clear of the only other race winner in 1979, Laffite. Those two would hence start the European season as the favourites, with five more points between Laffite and third placed Scheckter. The South African racer himself was a point ahead of Reutemann, with the Argentine ace a point clear of Depailler in fifth at the start of the Spanish weekend.
Elsewhere, Ferrari had moved to the top of the International Cup for Constructors standings with four races gone, and left the US with a four point lead. Yet, early pace setters Ligier-Ford Cosworth were not too concerned by their sudden lack of pace and reliability, particularly given that they had dominated the opening two rounds. Regardless, they were still in the Championship hunt early in the season, while defending Champions Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth were sat nine points behind in third.
The full entry list for the 1979 Spanish Grand Prix is outlined below:
Qualifying/practice for the Spanish Grand Prix would follow the new format introduced during the weekend in Long Beach, with four sessions split between "timed" and "untimed" practice. The two "timed" or qualifying sessions would be staged on the afternoons of Friday and Saturday, while the morning sessions on each of the two days would be dedicated to race practice. As for a target time the aces in the field would be aiming to best a 1:16.39, set by Mario Andretti at the wheel of his Lotus 79 in 1978.
Friday's qualifying session would get underway two hours later than planned, after delays prior to the start of practice due to dust on the circuit, among other things. Conditions remained very cold due to the northern winds sweeping across the circuit, although there was no threat of rain due to the completely clear skies. Regardless, the majority of the field would head out in the opening minutes, with Nelson Piquet and Jochen Mass setting the early pace.
Unfortunately for Piquet his Brabham would be the cause of the only stoppage of the session, for his Alfa Romeo engine blew itself apart early on. That delay did, however, allow Gianfranco Brancatelli and the new Kauhsen to finally make an appearance, having had to coax their spare car into life after the original car set itself on fire earlier in the day. He, however, would not put in a particularly impressive time, as did Arturo Merzario who failed to set a representative time at all before he hit trouble in his self-made machine.
At the front of the field, meanwhile, Gilles Villeneuve was carrying his race-winning form on, literally flinging his Ferrari around Jarama at unabated speed. Indeed, the Canadian ace would ruffle several drivers with his exuberance, particularly when he barrelled past Andretti without giving the American racer time to really react. Unsurprisingly, Villeneuve ended the session fastest with a 1:14.87, and was the only man to break the 1:15.00 barrier.
The Canadian racer's teammate would end the session second fastest, although Jody Scheckter was only a fraction ahead of the two Ligiers of Jacques Laffite and Patrick Depailler. Carlos Reutemann was next ahead of teammate Andretti, the American ace completing an increasingly familiar top six with the new Lotus 80 taking time to bed in. Elsewhere, Williams experimented running with and without front wings, with very little difference in times, while Jean-Pierre Jabouille was slower than teammate René Arnoux despite using the newest Renault.
Saturday's qualifying session was staged in warmer conditions, meaning times were set to rise across the board, with most having lapped faster in the untimed practice earlier in the day. However, most of the field were complaining about the lack of available tyres, for Goodyear could only manage to supply a handful of teams with a few of their "quali" compound, while Michelin's two teams had a near limitless supply. Indeed, other than the chosen few, notably Lotus, Brabham, McLaren and Ligier, most of Goodyear's customers would be left with only one set of "quali" tyres for the afternoon.
Yet, regardless of the tyre situation it was, ultimately, a Goodyear shod car that rose to the fore during Saturday's running, much to the ire of Ferrari. Laffite proved to be the man to beat, the Frenchman finding almost three quarters of a second to claim pole, while teammate Depailler claimed second, albeit three tenths behind. Villeneuve, meanwhile, would improve on his Friday best to hold third, despite feeling that an overnight change of gearbox ratios, made upon the suggestion of teammate Scheckter, was hampering his pace.
Scheckter himself would fail to improve during the session, having spent the entire session in the spare Ferrari, ensuring it was setup to his specification. That opened the door for Andretti to move into fourth at the wheel of the new Lotus, which delivered some of its much hyped promise with a 1:15.07. His teammate Reutemann, using the now "outdated" Lotus 79, however, would slip to eighth behind the two Brabhams, although his running had been ruined by a split radiator.
Elsewhere, Williams finally settled on running with the front wings attached to their cars, although they were still beaten by the two Tyrrells and the Renaults. McLaren, meanwhile, were in an equally confused state, for John Watson in the completely redesigned M28 was only a few hundredths faster than teammate Patrick Tambay, and still in the middle of the pack. At the back, meanwhile, the new Kauhsen of Brancatelli failed to qualify, remaining well off the pace, as did Merzario in his new car and Derek Daly in the old Ensign.
The full qualifying results for the 1979 Spanish Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||26||Jacques Laffite||Ligier-Ford Cosworth||1:15.27||1:14.50||—|
|2||25||Patrick Depailler||Ligier-Ford Cosworth||1:15.40||1:14.79||+0.29s|
|4||1||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:15.69||1:15.07||+0.57s|
|6||5||Niki Lauda||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:16.48||1:15.45||+0.95s|
|7||6||Nelson Piquet||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:17.87T||1:15.61||+1.11s|
|8||2||Carlos Reutemann||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:15.67||1:15.94||+1.17s|
|10||3||Didier Pironi||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:16.36||1:16.04T||+1.54s|
|12||4||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:16.58||1:16.08||+1.58s|
|13||27||Alan Jones||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:18.70||1:16.23||+1.73s|
|14||28||Clay Regazzoni||Williams-Ford Cosworth||1:18.60||1:16.61||+2.11s|
|15||20||James Hunt||Wolf-Ford Cosworth||1:17.45T||1:16.88T||+2.38s|
|16||29||Riccardo Patrese||Arrows-Ford Cosworth||1:17.41||1:16.92||+2.42s|
|17||30||Jochen Mass||Arrows-Ford Cosworth||1:17.61||1:17.04||+2.54s|
|18||7||John Watson||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:17.11||1:17.60||+2.61s|
|19||14||Emerson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:19.97||1:17.35T||+2.85s|
|20||8||Patrick Tambay||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:18.60||1:17.45||+2.95s|
|21||9||Hans-Joachim Stuck||ATS-Ford Cosworth||1:18.61||1:17.57||+3.07s|
|22||18||Elio de Angelis||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:19.14T||1:17.85T||+3.35s|
|23||31||Héctor Rebaque||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:19.35||1:18.42||+3.92s|
|24||17||Jan Lammers||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:19.23||1:18.79||+4.29s|
|DNQ||22||Derek Daly||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:20.61||1:19.30||+4.80s|
|DNQ||24||Arturo Merzario||Merzario-Ford Cosworth||1:41.00||1:20.46||+5.96s|
|DNQ||36||Gianfranco Brancatelli||Kauhsen-Ford Cosworth||1:25.82||1:23.24||+8.74s|
- 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||______________|
It was a cloudier, but marginally warmer day on the Spanish plains ahead of the race, although the icy-cold winds from the North kept the temperatures well below what would be expected of a mid-Spring day in southern Europe. The warm-up passed without issue, before the field were assembled on the grid in front of an ever growing crowd. With that, and a presentation of the drivers to King Juan Carlos I of Spain, the race was set to get underway, with all 24 drivers returning to the grid from the formation lap without issue.
The two Ligiers would ace the start to sprint into an early lead off the line, with Patrick Depailler sweeping ahead of pole starting teammate Jacques Laffite into the first corner. Gilles Villeneuve tried to go with them, only for Carlos Reutemann, up from eighth on the grid, to force him to defend heavily into the first corner and drop too far back to challenge. The rest of the field thundered through behind them without issue, although Jean-Pierre Jabouille had issues getting off the line in the new Renault.
An otherwise tame opening lap saw the order change very little out front, with Depailler still leading from Laffite, while Villeneuve kept Reutemann at bay in third. Behind them came Jody Scheckter, squabbling with Mario Andretti after the American got pushed wide into the first corner, while the two Brabhams scrapped with the Tyrrells to complete the top ten. The rest of the field then followed through in a long train as expected, with no issues reported.
However, there would be a significant change on the second tour, for Villeneuve dramatically lost speed around the back of the circuit and hence dropped back behind Reutemann. That allowed the two Ligiers to build an even bigger margin out ahead, while Villeneuve just recovered enough to keep Scheckter at bay. Indeed, the issue only served to wind up the French-Canadian, who immediately launched an attack at the Canadian but had to back down.
With that the race for victory was all but over, for the Ligiers simply disappeared up the road from their challengers. Reutemann, meanwhile, was left to defend heavily from Villeneuve, until the Ferrari ace decided to throw his car up the inside of the Lotus on the brakes for the hairpin on lap four, only to lock the rear axle and spin. Scheckter and Andretti flashed through without issue, although Niki Lauda and Jean-Pierre Jarier had to take avoiding action as Villeneuve brought the car back under control.
It was all going wrong for Villeneuve, for another spin at the hairpin on the following lap dropped him back behind the two Williams and to thirteenth overall. Elsewhere, Jabouille was struggling to get the new Renault up to speed, having briefly had flames shooting out of the exhaust, while John Watson was having a miserable afternoon for McLaren, with teammate Patrick Tambay just behind. James Hunt was also down the order after an early stop, while Elio de Angelis had an early off at the hairpin and was now a lonely twenty-second.
The race settled down after that point, with Depailler and Laffite working together to pull clear of Reutemann, while the Argentine slowly inched clear of Scheckter and Andretti. They were chased by Lauda and Jarier, while Nelson Piquet was able to match their pace, having almost been wiped out by Villeneuve during the Canadian's second spin, until his throttle jammed on lap sixteen. The cause ultimately proved to be a fuel injector, which had broken apart and got caught in the throttle mechanism, which was diagnosed after the Brazilian climbed out his gravel beached car.
However, as Piquet climbed out of his car all of the attention was on Laffite, whose Ligier suddenly erupted in white smoke a few hundred yards on from Piquet's abandoned Brabham. Indeed, Laffite had made his first mistake of the weekend after being given the all clear to attack teammate Depailler, and duly missed a gear-change under breaking. That caused his Ford Cosworth to over-rev and blow itself apart internally, with the Frenchman grinding to a stop just before the final corner.
That promoted Reutemann into second, although it only seemed a matter of time before the Argentine was taken by Scheckter, who was throwing his Ferrari around to try and force Reutemann into a mistake. Elsewhere, Jabouille finally gave up in the Renault, succumbing to a turbo failure, while Watson disappeared with his own engine dramas in the updated McLaren. Hunt had also dropped out, albeit when his Wolf ran out of brakes, while Clay Regazzoni was just getting into the swing of things when his engine went off key in the #28 Williams.
Shortly before half-distance the leaders began lapping the back-markers, although even this would not phase Depailler, who continued to cruise around with a ten second lead over Reutemann in second. The Argentine himself, meanwhile, would slowly drop Scheckter as they came across traffic, while Andretti got badly baulked as they came through a cluster of cars. Furthermore, the #1 Lotus would then get clobbered by Tambay as Andretti tried to lap the Frenchman, resulting in some front wing damage and an easy move for Lauda to claim fourth.
Andretti would not, however, simply drop away from Lauda over the following laps, and instead managed to adjust his anti-rollbar setup on the fly to compensate for the lost front wing. Instead, the biggest loser from the incident would be Alan Jones, who hit the broken bit of Lotus and picked up his second puncture of the day, his first having come jinking to avoid the spinning Villeneuve. Lauda, meanwhile, would take heart from taking Andretti, unaware of the American's issues, and duly harassed Scheckter as the laps ticked away.
On lap 60 Lauda finally managed to make a move stick on Scheckter, shooting past the Ferrari at the hairpin as Andretti pulled onto their tails. Unfortunately for Lauda his glory run in third would only last a couple of laps before his Alfa Romeo engine boiled over, the result of a worsening water leak. He came limping back to the pits to retire at the end of the lap, while Scheckter was left to defend heavily from the now charging Andretti.
Andretti duly swept past the Ferrari with a handful of laps to go, bringing to an end any hopes of a change to the order for the podium. Hence, the only interests in terms of on-track action in the final laps came at the lower-end of the top six, for Villeneuve put in a late run of ultra-fast laps in the 1:16.00s. Indeed, having nothing left to fight for the Ferrari team had decided to put the Canadian on some of the soft Michelin tyres mid-race, allowing Villeneuve to go record hunting and, potentially, inherit some points.
Ultimately, however, time would run out for Villeneuve, who finished five seconds shy of Pironi albeit with a stunning new lap record of 1:16.44. Out front, meanwhile, Depailler was able to cruise home some twenty seconds clear of Reutemann to claim his second victory, and the third of the season for Ligier. Reutemann himself was seven seconds clear of Andretti, while Scheckter, Jarier and Pironi completed the points ahead of the charging Villeneuve.
The full results for the 1979 Spanish Grand Prix are outlined below:
- 25th Spanish Grand Prix to be staged.
- Kauhsen submitted their first entry into a Grand Prix.
- Maiden entry for Gianfranco Brancatelli.
- Jacques Laffite secured the 110th pole position start for a Ford Cosworth engine.
- Patrick Depailler claimed his second (and final) race victory.
- Ligier earned their fourth victory as a constructor.
- Engine supplier Ford Cosworth claimed their 120th victory.
Victory for Patrick Depailler would catapult the Frenchman up into second in the Championship, level on points with current leader Gilles Villeneuve. The French-Canadian ace was adjudged to be ahead by virtue of his two wins to Depailler's one, with a similar distinction keeping Jacques Laffite in third ahead of Carlos Reutemann. Behind, Jody Scheckter had slipped back down to fifth, while Mario Andretti held onto sixth and remained within a win's worth of points of the lead.
In the International Cup for Constructors a game of leap-frog had developed at the top of the table, with Ligier-Ford Cosworth moving back ahead of Ferrari to take the lead. The French squad ended the weekend two ahead of their Italian challengers, while defending Champions Lotus-Ford Cosworth held on in third, six behind the Scuderia. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth were now an increasingly distant fourth, the last team in double figures, with McLaren-Ford Cosworth, Williams-Ford Cosworth, Brabham-Alfa Romeo and Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth the only other scorers.
Only point scoring drivers and constructors are shown.
Images and Videos:
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- F1-history, 'Reutemann| Villeneuve| Scheckter (1979 Spanish GP)', deviantart.com, (DeviantArt, 14/08/2012), https://www.deviantart.com/f1-history/art/Reutemann-Villeneuve-Scheckter-1979-Spanish-GP-321159987, (Accessed 08/11/2018)
- F1-history, 'Jochen Mass (Spain 1979)', deviantart.com, (DeviantArt, 30/12/2012), https://www.deviantart.com/f1-history/art/Jochen-Mass-Spain-1979-345631971, (Accessed 08/11/2018)
- F1-history, 'Patrick Depailler (Spain 1979)', deviantart.com, (DeviantArt, 22/09/2012), https://www.deviantart.com/f1-history/art/Patrick-Depailler-Spain-1979-328603516, (Accessed 08/11/2018)
- 'Spanish GP, 1979', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr318.html, (Accessed 08/11/2018)
- D.S.J., 'The Spanish Grand Prix: Not very exciting', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/06/1979), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/june-1979/70/spanish-grand-prix, (Accessed 08/11/2018)
- D.S.J., 'New cars at Jarama', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/06/1979), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/june-1979/53/new-cars-jarama, (Accessed 08/11/2018)
- 'Spain 1979: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1979/espagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 08/11/2018)
- 'Spain 1979: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1979/espagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 08/11/2018)
- F1gameshowsradio4 , 'Formula 1 1979 Spanish Grand Prix Highlights', youtube.com, (YouTube: F1gameshowradio4, 31/08/2012), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOrZxa0p0Tw, (Accessed 11/11/2018)
- 'Spain 1979: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1979/espagne/classement.aspx, (Accessed 08/11/2018)
- '1979 Spanish GP', chicanef1.com, (Chicane F1, 2018), http://www.chicanef1.com/racetit.pl?year=1979&gp=Spanish%20GP&r=1, (Accessed 08/11/2018)
- '5. Spain 1979', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1979/espagne.aspx, (Accessed 08/11/2018)
|V T E||Spanish Grand Prix|
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