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The 1976 French Grand Prix, otherwise known as the LXII Grand Prix de France, was the eighth round of the 1976 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Circuit Paul Ricard on the 4 July 1976.[1] The race would be noted as the turning point of the 1976 Championship campaign, as Niki Lauda failed to finish for the first time since winning the World Championship in 1975.[1]

Qualifying would see the Austrian racer beaten to pole by James Hunt, who was finally able to get some reliable running out of his McLaren.[1] Lauda, meanwhile, would slot into second in his Ferrari, while Patrick Depailler lined up the now race winning Tyrrell P34 into third.[1]

The start would see the continuation of the trend of the second place starter getting off the grid fastest, with Lauda duly shooting ahead of Hunt off the line.[1] The Austrian's teammate Clay Regazzoni followed his lead by beating Depailler into turn one, with the rest of the field filtering through behind John Watson.[1]

Ronnie Peterson would be the star of the opening lap, charging past the two Tyrrells to move into fourth, while Lauda pulled clear of Hunt and Regazzoni ahead.[1] That, however, was about to change when the Austrian's engine expired on the ninth lap, gifting the lead to Hunt.[1] Regazzoni remained a threat to the Brit for another nine laps, until his F12 Ferrari unit expired too, leaving the McLaren with a clear lead.[1]

The twin Ferrari failure meant that Depailler and Scheckter were promoted into the podium spots, both elbowing Peterson out of the way as the Ferraris detonated.[1] Watson was next and challenging the Swede for fourth, while a series of retirements lower down left Carlos Pace in sixth.[1]

Peterson would ultimately rediscover his form after winning his scrap with Watson, charging off and passing Scheckter as half distance came and went.[1] The South African himself would tumble down the order with an engine issue, dropping behind Watson, Pace and Mario Andretti, while Peterson chased down Depailler.[1] Whether the blue-yellow March could challenge the #4 Tyrrell would remain a mystery, however, as a fuel starvation issue caused the Swede to stop three laps from the end.[1]

With that the race was run, with Hunt cruising home to record his second win of the season, and first not to be contested by the scrutineers.[1] Depailler came home second ahead of Watson, claiming his and Penske's maiden podium finish, although only after an FIA tribunal on the 24 September 1976 overturned their initial disqualification. Pace, Andretti and the limping Scheckter rounded out the points.[1]

BackgroundEdit

The Circuit Paul Ricard would return as host to the French Grand Prix in 1976, becoming only the second circuit in a quarter of a century to host the World's oldest Grand Prix in consecutive seasons.[2] Whether the new circuit, which was also hosting the race for the fourth time in six seasons, would secure itself as the permanent home of the French Grand Prix was yet to be seen, with the hot temperatures of southern France a major deterrent.[2] Regardless, the class of 76' would return to the Paul Ricard Autodrome at the behest of the FIA, who overruled the FFSA's wish to host the race at the Charade Circuit.[2]

Into the entry list and there were several changes to the lower orders of the field, which continued to grow as old machinery was sold out of the big teams.[2] Absent entirely were the Boro squad, who had spent most of their budget to get Larry Perkins into an occasional top ten spot as they tried to overhaul Ensign.[2] The Ensign team themselves were in a worse state than usual having lost the services of Chris Amon due to his Swedish accident, meaning they had to bring in Patrick Nève on loan.[2]

Nève's usual team, the British privateers RAM Racing, received a fair sum of money for loaning out the Belgian, allowing them to hire Damien Magee to partner Loris Kessel.[2] Their pair of old Brabham BT44Bs looked rather healthy, particularly when compared to their successors being run by the full Brabham squad.[2] Unfortunately for Carlos Reutemann and Carlos Pace, the team's decision to run with Alfa Romeo engines had yet to pay off in 1976, with failures and overheating still major concerns.[2]

Elsewhere, Ingo Hoffmann made his return in the second Fittipaldi, partnering Emerson Fittipaldi once again now that the younger Fittipaldi's car had been rebuilt.[2] Henri Pescarolo was also back with his privateer Surtees, run by British firm BS Fabrications, as was Guy Edwards in the second of the Heskeths.[2] The factory Surtees effort was operating at full strength, fielding Alan Jones and Brett Lunger as usual, while the full Hesketh team were once again supporting Harald Ertl alongside Edwards' Rizla sponsored entry.[2]

Into the more financially stable section of the entry list and Ferrari arrived in good spirits, in spite of their first confirmed defeat of the season in Sweden.[2] Both Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni were among the favourites to win at Paul Ricard, the 312T2 looking well planted regardless of whether the circuit was a stop-start affair akin to Monte Carlo, or flowing like the Autódromo do Interlagos.[2] The Italian squad also brought their usual spare car along too, which had been fitted with some updated suspension and bodywork.[2]

Elsewhere, Tyrrell arrived fresh from their historic victory at the Scandinavian Raceway, Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler keen to demonstrate the P34's superior front-end grip once again.[2] Lotus were also happy despite their effort falling apart in Sweden, with Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson both spending time testing the newest Lotus 77.[2] Shadow, in contrast, seemed to be lost in their search for pace, with Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jarier hoping a strong result in France could tempt another team to take him on, while Tom Pryce looked nonplussed.[2]

McLaren had also been scratching their heads over their form, with James Hunt and Jochen Mass still stuck with a set of unreliable Hewland six-speed gearboxes.[2] March, meanwhile, would arrive in their usual legion form, with Vittorio Brambilla and Ronnie Peterson once again listed as their "A" team.[2] Their "B" squad was also unchanged with Hans-Joachim Stuck and Arturo Merzario in action, with the latter getting an "new" 761 chassis.[2]

Into the lower end of the entry list and the Wolf-Williams squad were back up to their full strength, Jacky Ickx rejoining Michel Leclère in the team after his third victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.[2] Penske also made the trip to southern France, once again fielding John Watson with a wave of backers and sponsors also attending the event.[2] Finally came the home heroes Ligier-Matra, who would enter Jacques Laffite as their sole entry, desperate to get onto the podium in front of the French crowd.[2]

Championship-wise, the first ever victory for the Tyrrell P34 last time out had propelled Scheckter up into second in the World Championship hunt, although he still had less than half the number of point of runaway leader Lauda. Depailler, meanwhile, had moved up into third, swapping places with Hunt (post restoration), while Regazzoni had tumbled down to fifth. The only other significant change came in the fight for sixth, where Laffite moved ahead of Mass.

In spite of suffering their first officially recognised defeat of the season, Ferrari continued to hold a huge advantage atop the International Cup for Manufacturer's standings. Their advantage over one-two finishers Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth stood at 24 points, although depending on whether Hunt was reinstated in Spain that advantage could have stood at 27. McLaren-Ford Cosworth themselves remained in third, just ahead of Ligier-Matra and the legion based March-Ford Cosworth effort.

Entry ListEdit

The full entry list for the 1976 French Grand Prix is outlined below:

No. Driver Entreat Constructor Chassis Engine Model Tyre
1 Austria Niki Lauda Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 G
2 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 G
3 South Africa Jody Scheckter United Kingdom Elf Team Tyrrell Tyrrell P34 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Elf Team Tyrrell Tyrrell P34 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom John Player Team Lotus Lotus 77 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
6 Sweden Gunnar Nilsson United Kingdom John Player Team Lotus Lotus 77 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
7 Argentina Carlos Reutemann United Kingdom Martini Racing Brabham BT45 Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 F12 G
8 Brazil Carlos Pace United Kingdom Martini Racing Brabham BT45 Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 F12 G
9 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom Beta Team March March 761 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
10 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom March Engineering March 761 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
11 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M23 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
12 West Germany Jochen Mass United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M23 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
16 United Kingdom Tom Pryce United Kingdom Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN5B Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
17 France Jean-Pierre Jarier United Kingdom Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN5B Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
18 United States Brett Lunger United Kingdom Team Surtees Surtees TS19 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
19 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Team Surtees Surtees TS19 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
20 Belgium Jacky Ickx Canada Walter Wolf Racing Wolf-Williams FW05 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
21 France Michel Leclère Canada Walter Wolf Racing Wolf-Williams FW05 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
22 Belgium Patrick Nève United Kingdom Team Ensign Ensign N176 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
24 Austria Harald Ertl United Kingdom Hesketh Racing Hesketh 308D Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
25 United Kingdom Guy Edwards United Kingdom Penthouse Rizla with Hesketh Racing Hesketh 308D Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier Gitanes Ligier JS5 Matra MS73 3.0 V12 G
28 United Kingdom John Watson United States Citibank Team Penske Penske PC4 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
30 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Copersucar-Fittipaldi Fittipaldi FD04 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
31 Brazil Ingo Hoffmann Brazil Copersucar-Fittipaldi Fittipaldi FD04 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
32 Switzerland Loris Kessel United Kingdom RAM Racing Brabham BT44B Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
33 United Kingdom Damien Magee United Kingdom RAM Racing Brabham BT44B Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
34 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom March Engineering March 761 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
35 Italy Arturo Merzario United Kingdom Ovoro Team March March 761 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
38 France Henri Pescarolo United Kingdom Team Norev/BS Fabrications Surtees TS19 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
Source:[3]

Practice OverviewEdit

QualifyingEdit

Practice/qualifying would follow the new pattern established by the FIA for the 1976 season, with three "timed" sessions, supported by a single "untimed" period, spread across Friday and Saturday.[2] The "untimed" hour and a half was meant to allow teams to tryout some race simulation running without risking their grid position, scheduled for Saturday morning.[2] As for a target time the top drivers would be hoping to best a 1:47.82, set by Niki Lauda en-route to pole in 1975.[2]

ReportEdit

There was to be a surprise result during the first "timed" session on Friday morning, as Carlos Pace set the proverbial pace in the Brabham-Alfa Romeo, ending the opening period with a 1:48.75.[2] It appeared that the sweeping curves of the Paul Ricard Circuit suited the Alfa F12 more than the recent run of "stop-start" circuits that had hosted Formula One for most of the season.[2] The sister car of Carlos Reutemann was proving less spectacular, but ran reliably enough, meaning the door was open for James Hunt to end the session second fastest in the McLaren.[2]

Others, however, were not enjoying the flowing nature of Paul Ricard, for the hot temperatures and pursuit of speed meant that some teams were suffering from a range of engine issues.[2] Particularly dejected were the March team, who lost Ronnie Peterson's engine in the opening moments of the session, while Hans-Joachim Stuck opened a Pandora's Box of issues the moments he left the garage.[2] The sister car of Arturo Merzario was also having dramas, the Italian managing to rip the nose off after visiting the gravel trap, leaving Vittorio Brambilla as the only March racer not having a major issue.[2]

Elsewhere, there were issues for the Tyrrell team as Jody Scheckter arrived back in the pitlane on foot having only completed half a lap.[2] The South African's P34 had shed one of its four front wheels early in the lap, and, despite his best efforts, Scheckter had had to abandon the car out on track.[2] Furious, Ken Tyrrell proclaimed that the issue was electrical as a crew was sent to retrieve the car, upsetting the Lucas employees in the paddock who supplied the team's electrical components.[2]

After the lunch break, which saw a large amount of work in the pits for Brabham as Pace came leaping out of his cockpit at the end of the morning with boiling water filling the cockpit, the searing heat of Friday afternoon greeted the field.[2] Pace's engine dramas meant he was powerless to prevent his slip down the overall order, as Hunt hit the top of the timesheets with a 1:47.89 to claim provisional pole.[2] Lauda also joined the fray having spent the morning in the "muletta" Ferrari, ending the day second fastest with teammate Clay Regazzoni just behind.[2]

Elsewhere, Peterson was back in the fray and doing well, immediately establishing himself as the fastest of the Marches, although that was only good enough to nudge the top ten.[2] Patrick Depailler, meanwhile, looked a threat for pole after a strong day in the healthier of the Tyrrells, ending the day fourth fastest, just ahead of Pace, while Scheckter was still a second off.[2] Mario Andretti was another to end the day on a high note, ending Friday sixth fastest, as Lotus teammate Gunnar Nilsson spent the afternoon in the paddock waiting for his gearbox to be changed.[2]

Away from the pinnacle of the field and there was a real scrap to make it onto the grid, with thirty drivers battling to fill twenty-six grid slots.[2] Among the four set to missout at the end of the Friday were Harald Ertl, Loris Kessel and Ingo Hoffmann, with two of the three within a second of twentieth placed Merzario.[2] Jacky Ickx was also in the bottom quartet, although his presence was due to the fact that the Belgian's engine needed to be changed having expired early on in the morning session.[2]

Overnight Friday, and the morning Saturday session, would see lots of teams complete major revision work to their cars, from engine changes to rebuilds.[2] Team Lotus were among those with a huge list of work to complete having discovered that Andretti's car had collapsed at the back of the cockpit.[2] The American then spent the morning trying out the team's spare car, only to suffer a catastrophic transmission failure.[2] Jochen Mass, meanwhile, suffered a total engine failure on his McLaren, as did Patrick Nève in the Ensign.[2]

Unfortunately, Saturday afternoon proved to be even hotter than Friday, meaning there were no major changes at the top of the timesheets.[2] Hunt duly secured pole ahead of Lauda, Depailler and Regazzoni, while Pace's effort from Friday morning was still good enough for fifth.[2] Indeed, only Peterson made an impression in the top ten on Saturday afternoon, moving up to sixth after a late room.[2]

In contrast, the fight to qualify would become more heated, although that was only because Ickx got a clean run in finally to leap into the top twenty.[2] Nève was out of action after his morning engine failure, meaning he would slip towards the danger zone as the afternoon came to a close, while Damien Magee was dumped into Ickx's spot.[2] Ultimately, however, the Brit would join Hoffmann, Ertl and Kessel in the dropout section, with Ertl nominated as first reserve having ended the day with the only healthy car as the other three encountered a mechanical issue towards the end of the day.[2]

Qualifying ResultsEdit

The full qualifying results for the 1976 French Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Time Gap
Q1 Q2 Q3
1 11 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:49.12 1:47.89 1:49.45
2 1 Austria Niki Lauda Italy Ferrari 1:49.87 1:48.17 1:49.43 +0.28s
3 4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:49.73 1:48.59 1:49.72 +0.70s
4 2 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni Italy Ferrari 1:50.20 1:48.69 1:49.44 +0.80s
5 8 Brazil Carlos Pace United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:48.75 1:49.54 1:49.89 +0.86s
6 10 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 2:15.17 1:49.29 1:49.07 +1.18s
7 5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:49.83 1:49.19 1:50.78T +1.30s
8 28 United Kingdom John Watson United States Penske-Ford Cosworth 1:49.87 1:49.82 1:49.22 +1.33s
9 3 South Africa Jody Scheckter United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:51.28 1:49.70 1:49.63 +1.74s
10 7 Argentina Carlos Reutemann United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:49.94 1:49.79T 1:50.67 +1.90s
11 9 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 1:50.62 1:50.57 1:49.79 +1.90s
12 6 Sweden Gunnar Nilsson United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:51.00 2:00.30 1:49.83 +1.94s
13 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra 1:50.06 1:50.33 1:50.67 +2.17s
14 12 West Germany Jochen Mass United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:50.91 1:50.42 1:50.10 +2.21s
15 17 France Jean-Pierre Jarier United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:50.12 1:51.49 1:51.27 +2.23s
16 16 United Kingdom Tom Pryce United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:51.35 1:51.36 1:50.27 +2.38s
17 34 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 1:50.31 1:55.85 +2.42s
18 19 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1:51.66 1:51.11 1:51.13 +3.22s
19 20 Belgium Jacky Ickx Canada Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth 1:54.37 1:51.41 +3.52s
20 35 Italy Arturo Merzario United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 1:53.28 1:52.58 1:51.79 +3.90s
21 30 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 1:52.43 1:52.11 1:52.84 +4.22s
22 21 France Michel Leclère Canada Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth 1:52.29 1:52.87 1:52.43 +4.40s
23 18 United States Brett Lunger United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1:52.41 1:52.74 1:52.72 +4.52s
24 38 France Henri Pescarolo United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1:52.60 1:53.14 1:54.55 +4.71s
25 25 United Kingdom Guy Edwards United Kingdom Hesketh-Ford Cosworth 1:52.82 1:52.63 1:52.97 +4.74s
26 22 Belgium Patrick Nève United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 1:52.82 1:52.91 +4.93s
DNQ 33 United Kingdom Damien Magee United Kingdom Brabham-Ford Cosworth 1:53.49 1:53.88 1:53.54 +5.60s
DNQ 31 Brazil Ingo Hoffmann Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 2:01.06 1:56.02 1:53.78 +5.89s
DNQ* 24 Austria Harald Ertl United Kingdom Hesketh-Ford Cosworth 1:54.98 1:54.08 1:53.79 +5.90s
DNQ 32 Switzerland Loris Kessel United Kingdom Brabham-Ford Cosworth 1:56.46 1:55.30 1:55.52 +7.41s
Source:[2][4]
  • TIndicates a driver used their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
  • Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
  • * Ertl was listed as first reserve.

GridEdit

Pos Pos
Driver Driver
______________
Row 1 ______________ 1
2 James Hunt
Niki Lauda ______________
Row 2 ______________ 3
4 Patrick Depailler
Clay Regazzoni ______________
Row 3 ______________ 5
6 Carlos Pace
Ronnie Peterson ______________
Row 4 ______________ 7
8 Mario Andretti
John Watson ______________
Row 5 ______________ 9
10 Jody Scheckter
Carlos Reutemann ______________
Row 6 ______________ 11
12 Vittorio Brambilla
Gunnar Nilsson ______________
Row 7 ______________ 13
14 Jacques Laffite
Jochen Mass ______________
Row 8 ______________ 15
16 Jean-Pierre Jarier
Tom Pryce ______________
Row 9 ______________ 17
18 Hans-Joachim Stuck
Alan Jones ______________
Row 10 ______________ 19
20 Jacky Ickx
Arturo Merzario ______________
Row 11 ______________ 21
22 Emerson Fittipaldi
Michel Leclère ______________
Row 12 ______________ 23
24 Brett Lunger
Henri Pescarolo ______________
Row 13 ______________ 25
26 Guy Edwards
Patrick Nève ______________
Row 14 ______________ 27
28 Harald Ertl*
______________
  • *Ertl was listed as first reserve and was allowed to join the back of the grid.

RaceEdit

A busy Saturday night would see Ferrari complete a complete drivetrain change on Niki Lauda's car, with most of the field also getting some overnight attention.[2] This was required, for race morning proved to be the hottest part of the weekend, causing several issues for Ferrari and Brabham-Alfa Romeo during the morning warm-up.[2] For Ferrari there were concerns over an oil leak on Lauda's car, although the Austrian's car proved healthy enough to start, while Brabham were forced to change the entire rear-end of Carlos Pace's car after an engine failure.[2]

ReportEdit

With the pre-race paraphernalia withdrawn, the field of twenty-six qualifiers, plus Harald Ertl in the Hesketh, lined up on the grid for the start, dictated by a set of lights.[2] Ultimately it was Lauda, in spite of his oil concerns, who made the better start from the inside of the grid, blasting past James Hunt to take the lead into turn one.[2] The rest of the field thundered into the first corner behind them, including the little Hesketh of Ertl, which should have disappeared into the pits.[2]

The opening tour of Paul Ricard in 1976 was not a dramatic affair, meaning Lauda came around with a small lead over Hunt, who was himself clear of third placed Clay Regazzoni.[2] Regazzoni himself was leading a train of drivers, including Ronnie Peterson, Patrick Depailler, John Watson, Jody Scheckter, Jacques Laffite, Pace and Carlos Reutemann.[2] The rest of the field came through equally spaced, with the officials opting not to stop Ertl as he came around at the back of the pack.[2]

90,000 people had paid for a ticket to watch the French Grand Prix in 1976, and in the early stages many would have been disappointed to see Lauda pull clear of Hunt at a steady rate.[2] Indeed, the Austrian was pulling a second a lap clear in the early stages of the race, having also set the fastest lap of the Grand Prix on the fourth tour.[2] However, Hunt was not concerned with the sight of the disappearing Ferrari, for he believed that his tyres would last longer than the Austrian's in the searing heat.[2]

As the fight for the lead became a strategic battle, there were to be issues in the middle and back of the pack.[2] First out was the interloping Ertl as his Hesketh broke its differential, while Jochen Mass was forced to pit early with nose damage.[2] The German's issue had been caused at the start after the #12 McLaren smacked into the back of Reutemann's Brabham, with the German reluctant to pit until he had dropped to the back of the field.[2]

Elsewhere, Gunnar Nilsson's miserable weekend came to an end after seven laps, the Swede's gearbox expiring having done so twice during practice.[2] However, as the black-gold Lotus rolled into the pits there was uproar among the Ferrari fans, for Hunt and Regazzoni came thundering past to complete lap nine, the Brit duly taking the lead.[2] This was due to the fact that the imperious F12 engine in the back of Lauda's car had expired spectacularly on the Mistral straight, sending the Austrian into a spectacular series of spins.[2] Fortunately Lauda would climb out of the car without any physical injury, and would duly return to the pits to report his exit to the Ferrari pit crew.[2]

With Lauda gone there was now a real fight for the lead, for Regazzoni remained glued to Hunt's gearbox, despite the Brit's best efforts to shake the Swiss racer.[2] Peterson was promoted to third a long way off, but he was unable to go after the two leaders due to his pursuers.[2] Indeed, Peterson's March was still being attacked by Depailler, Scheckter, Watson, Pace and Laffite, with another gap back to the next scrap at the back of the top ten.[2]

It was the fight for third that saw the most action over the following laps, as Depailler finally squeezed the six-wheeled Tyrrell past the March.[2] With the Frenchman quickly disappearing up the road Peterson was left to fight with Scheckter and co for fourth as Depailler fruitlessly chased the leaders.[2] Scheckter would manage to elbow his way past Peterson on lap sixteen, but was unable to disappear, while Vittorio Brambilla was slowly closing in having moved into ninth.[2]

With the twenty lap mark fast approaching it seemed inevitable that Hunt would lose the lead, for the McLaren was getting more and more ragged with Regazzoni loomed ever closer.[2] However as the twentieth lap was completed, Hunt came around on his own, as Regazzoni was left pirouetting in the final corner after his engine failed in identical fashion to Lauda's.[2] It was a huge moment, not only in the race but in the Championship, for it proved that the all conquering 312T2 was susceptible to reliability troubles.[2]

Hunt was duly left with a commanding lead, allowing him to ease off the pace, for Depailler, safe in second, had also entered a cruise.[2] That left the restored fight for third as the main source of entertainment, for Peterson was still able to get the nose of March alongside Scheckter several times, with Watson and Pace also in contention.[2] As they fought there were a series of retirements from the lower orders, with Henri Pescarolo and Emerson Fittipaldi quietly disappearing, while Hans-Joachim Stuck was cooking through his set of Goodyears.[2]

By half distance Hunt and Depailler were set for victory in spite of the heat, neither having to push to keep ahead of the fight for third.[2] Indeed, Scheckter's Tyrrell was beginning to strain itself in the heat, meaning Peterson was getting more and more chances to elbow his way past the South African, with Watson still a threat.[2] Pace had begun to fall away, having the nurse the Alfa Romeo F12 in his car, meaning he was being caught, slowly, by a disappointed Laffite in the Ligier-Matra.[2]

Elsewhere, Brambilla was to retire when he noticed a warning light on the orange March, an orange light announcing that the Italian was to destroy is engine as it dumped all of its oil.[2] His demise would promote a low-key Andretti into eighth, while Stuck was falling away having developed blisters across one of his colours.[2] In spite of this the German had no trouble keeping Carlos Reutemann at bay, while Tom Pryce and Arturo Merzario scrapped to complete the top ten.[2]

The second half of the race saw the fight for third intensify, for Watson began to attack Peterson, while Pace got back among them with the Brabham-Alfa.[2] The main cause for Pace's sudden increase in pace was due to a costly spin for Laffite, who lost the rear of his car in the final sector and damaged the rear aerofoil.[2] The Frenchman rejoined a lap behind and lacked confidence in the rear-end of his car, moments before Pace briefly got ahead of Watson's Penske, only for the Ulsterman to elbow his way back past.[2]

As Watson moved back past Pace, Peterson finally got revenge on Scheckter, running the Tyrrell wide to reclaim third, before disappearing off as the South African battled his fading tyres.[2] Indeed, Scheckter was soon found to be battling two issues, his Ford Cosworth engine also suffering in the heat, meaning both Watson and Pace could take him well before the flag.[2] Andretti would also take the Tyrrell before the end of the race, as Alan Jones disappeared from the action when his suspension fell apart.[2]

With that the race looked to be over, although a dramatic late twist saw Peterson's engine cut out just three laps from the end, causing him to coast to a halt on the Mistral.[2] An attempt at restarting got him a few yards before the Swede ultimately conceded defeat, a fuel injection issue the terminal cause.[2] He climbed out his cockpit to hand Watson and Pace a shot at third.[2]

Hunt, meanwhile, completed his leisurely cruise to claim his first win of the season, although his tally could double later in the month when the FIA met to debate his disqualification in Spain.[2] Depailler was a satisfied second in front of his home fans, while Watson was a jubilant third, the first podium triumph for himself and Penske.[2] Pace was just over a second behind in fourth, with Andretti and a limping Scheckter completing the top six.[2]

Post-raceEdit

After the race there was to be a revision to the result, although one that would be repealed later in the season.[2] During post race scrutineering, in which the top eight finishers had their cars looked over by some FIA technical officials, it was found that Watson's Penske had an illegal rear wing.[2] The end-plates of the rear aerofoil were found to be ten millimetres taller then permitted and so the Ulsterman was disqualified, although this was only after several hours of debate.[2]

Unfortunately for those officials, an FIA tribunal held just 24 hours later opted to reinstate Hunt and Laffite to the results of the 1976 Spanish Grand Prix, after both had been disqualified in post-race scrutineering.[2] With that ruling, the Penske team immediately submitted an appeal, and duly secured a tribunal hearing in September.[2] This meeting would ultimately reinstate Watson to the podium, meaning Penske had their podium, and the FIA's technical rule makers were seen to be toothless.

ResultsEdit

The full results for the 1976 French Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 11 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 54 1:40:58.60 1 9
2 4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 54 +12.70s 3 6
3* 28 United Kingdom John Watson United States Penske-Ford Cosworth 54 +23.55s 8 4
4 8 Brazil Carlos Pace United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 54 +24.82s 5 3
5 5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 54 +43.92s 7 2
6 3 South Africa Jody Scheckter United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 54 +55.07s 9 1
7 34 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 54 +1:21.55 17
8 16 United Kingdom Tom Pryce United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 54 +1:30.67 16
9 35 Italy Arturo Merzario United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 54 +1:53.57 20
10 20 Belgium Jacky Ickx Canada Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth 53 +1 Lap 19
11 7 Argentina Carlos Reutemann United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 53 +1 Lap 10
12 17 France Jean-Pierre Jarier United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 53 +1 Lap 15
13 21 France Michel Leclère Canada Wolf-Williams-Ford Cosworth 53 +1 Lap 22
14 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra 53 +1 Lap 13
15 12 West Germany Jochen Mass United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 53 +1 Lap 14
16 18 United States Brett Lunger United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 53 +1 Lap 23
17 25 United Kingdom Guy Edwards United Kingdom Hesketh-Ford Cosworth 53 +1 Lap 25
18 22 Belgium Patrick Nève United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 53 +1 Lap 26
19 10 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 51 Fuel injection 6
Ret 19 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 44 Suspension 18
Ret 9 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 28 Oil pressure 11
Ret 30 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 21 Oil pressure 21
Ret 38 France Henri Pescarolo United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 19 Suspension 24
Ret 2 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni Italy Ferrari 17 Accident 4
Ret 1 Austria Niki Lauda Italy Ferrari 8 Camshaft 2
Ret 6 Sweden Gunnar Nilsson United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 8 Transmission 12
Ret 24 Austria Harald Ertl United Kingdom Hesketh-Ford Cosworth 4 Transmission 27
DNQ 33 United Kingdom Damien Magee United Kingdom Brabham-Ford Cosworth
DNQ 31 Brazil Ingo Hoffmann Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth
DNQ 32 Switzerland Loris Kessel United Kingdom Brabham-Ford Cosworth
Source:[5]
  • * Watson was initially disqualified, but was reinstated after an FIA tribunal on the 24 September, 1976.
  • Peterson was classified despite retiring as he had complete 90% of the race distance.

MilestonesEdit

StandingsEdit

Despite failing to score for the first time in 1976, Niki Lauda continued to lead the Championship hunt, who would have had to drop a score after the French Grand Prix if he had finished in the points regardless. James Hunt now moved into second, level on points with Patrick Depailler once his victory in Spain was reinstated, but ahead by virtue of his two wins. Jody Scheckter dropped to fourth ahead of Clay Regazzoni, while John Watson leapt into the top ten after his maiden podium finish.

Ferrari failed to score for the first time since 1975, but still held their commanding lead in the International Cup for Manufacturers. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth did chip into their lead, reducing the Italian firm's advantage to eighteen points, although McLaren-Ford Cosworth closed to within six of the Tyrrell team. Ligier-Matra continued on in fourth, while four teams were level on six points, with Penske-Ford Cosworth heading that pack.

Drivers' World Championship*
Pos. Driver Pts +/-
1 Austria Niki Lauda 52
2 United Kingdom James Hunt 26 ▲2
3 France Patrick Depailler 26
4 South Africa Jody Scheckter 24 ▼2
5 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni 16
6 France Jacques Laffite 10
7 West Germany Jochen Mass 10
8 United Kingdom John Watson 6 ▲6
9 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck 6 ▼1
10 United Kingdom Tom Pryce 4 ▼1
11 Sweden Gunnar Nilsson 4 ▼1
12 Brazil Carlos Pace 4 ▲4
13 Argentina Carlos Reutemann 3 ▼2
14 United States Mario Andretti 3 ▲3
15 New Zealand Chris Amon 2 ▼3
16 Australia Alan Jones 2 ▼3
17 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi 2 ▼2
International Cup for Manufacturers*
Pos. Team Pts +/-
1 Italy Ferrari 55
2 United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 37
3 United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 32
4 France Ligier-Matra 10
5 United States Penske-Ford Cosworth 6 ▲6
6 United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 6 ▲1
7 United Kingdom March-Ford Cosworth 6 ▼2
8 United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 6
9 United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 4 ▼3
10 United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 2 ▼1
11 United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 2 ▼1
12 Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 2
13 United States Parnelli-Ford Cosworth 1

ReferencesEdit

Images and Videos:

References:

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: FRENCH GP, 1976', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr272.html, (Accessed 13/02/2018)
  2. 2.000 2.001 2.002 2.003 2.004 2.005 2.006 2.007 2.008 2.009 2.010 2.011 2.012 2.013 2.014 2.015 2.016 2.017 2.018 2.019 2.020 2.021 2.022 2.023 2.024 2.025 2.026 2.027 2.028 2.029 2.030 2.031 2.032 2.033 2.034 2.035 2.036 2.037 2.038 2.039 2.040 2.041 2.042 2.043 2.044 2.045 2.046 2.047 2.048 2.049 2.050 2.051 2.052 2.053 2.054 2.055 2.056 2.057 2.058 2.059 2.060 2.061 2.062 2.063 2.064 2.065 2.066 2.067 2.068 2.069 2.070 2.071 2.072 2.073 2.074 2.075 2.076 2.077 2.078 2.079 2.080 2.081 2.082 2.083 2.084 2.085 2.086 2.087 2.088 2.089 2.090 2.091 2.092 2.093 2.094 2.095 2.096 2.097 2.098 2.099 2.100 2.101 2.102 2.103 2.104 2.105 2.106 2.107 2.108 2.109 D.S.J., 'The 62nd French Grand Prix: McLaren Racing Recover', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/08/1976), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/august-1976/53/62nd-french-grand-prix, (Accessed 15/02/2018)
  3. 'France 1976: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1976/france/engages.aspx, (Accessed 13/02/2018)
  4. 'France 1976: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1976/france/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 13/02/2018)
  5. 'France 1976: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1976/france/classement.aspx, (Accessed 13/02/2018)
V T E 1976 Formula One Season
Constructors Boro • Brabham • BRM • Ensign • Ferrari • Fittipaldi • Hesketh • Kojima • Lotus • Maki • March • McLaren • Parnelli • Penske • Shadow • Surtees • Tyrrell • Wolf-Williams
Engines Alfa Romeo • BRM • Ferrari • Ford Cosworth
Drivers Lauda • 2 Regazzoni • 35 Reutemann • 3 J. Scheckter • 4 Depailler • 5 Peterson • 5 Evans • 5/6 Andretti • 6 Nilsson • 7 Reutemann • 7/77 Stommelen • 7 Perkins • 8 Pace • 9 Brambilla • 10 Lombardi • 10 Peterson • 34 Stuck • 35 Merzario • 11 Hunt • 12 Mass • 13 Galica • 14 Ashley • 15 I. Scheckter • 16 Pryce • 17 Jarier • 18 Lunger • 18 Andersson • 18 Takahara • 19 Jones • 20 Ickx • 20 Merzario • 21 Zorzi • 21 Leclère • 21 Amon • 21 Brown • 21 Binder • 21 Kuwashima • 22 Amon • 22 Nève • 22 Binder • 22 Ickx • 24 Ertl • 25 Edwards • 25 Stommelen • 25 Ribeiro • 25 Zapico • 26 Laffite • 27 Andretti • 28 Watson • 30 Fittipaldi • 31 Hoffmann • 32 Kessel • 32 Evans • 33 De Villota • 33 Nève • 33 Nellemann • 33 Magee • 33 Lombardi • 37/40 Perkins • 37/39/40 Pesenti-Rossi • 38 Pescarolo • 39 Hayje • 39 Stuppacher • 40 Wilds • 51 Hasemi • 52 Hoshino • 54 Trimmer
Cars Boro N175 • Brabham BT44B • Brabham BT45 • BRM P201B • Ensign N174 • Ensign N176 • Ferrari 312T • Ferrari 312T2 • Fittipaldi FD03 • Fittipaldi FD04 • Hesketh 308D • Kojima KE007 • Ligier JS5 • Lotus 77 • Maki F102A • March 761 • McLaren M23 • McLaren M26 • Parnelli VPJ4B • Penske PC3 • Penske PC4 • Shadow DN3 • Shadow DN5B • Shadow DN8 • Surtees TS16 • Surtees TS19 • Tyrrell 007 • Tyrrell P34 • Williams FW04 • Williams FW05
Tyres Goodyear • Dunlop • Bridgestone
Races Brazil • South Africa • U.S. West • Spain • Belgium • Monaco • Sweden • France • Britain • Germany • Austria • Netherlands • Italy • Canada • United States • Japan
See also 1975 Formula One Season • 1977 Formula One Season • Category
V T E France French Grand Prix
Circuits Reims (1950–1951, 1953–1954, 1956, 1958–1961, 1963, 1966)
Rouen-Les-Essarts (1952, 1957, 1962, 1964, 1968)
Charade Circuit (1965, 1969–1970, 1972)
Bugatti Circuit (1967)
Circuit Paul Ricard (1971, 1973, 1975–1976, 1978, 1980, 1982–1983, 1985–1990, 2018)
Dijon-Prenois (1974, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1984)
Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours (1991–2008)
PR Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 12.15.31 AM
F1 Races 195019511952195319541955195619571958195919601961196219631964196519661967196819691970197119721973197419751976197719781979198019811982198319841985198619871988198919901991199219931994199519961997199819992000200120022003200420052006200720082009-20172018
European Championship Races 1931193219381939
Non-Championship Races 190619071908191219131914192119221923192419251926192719281929193019331934193519361937194719481949
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