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The 1978 Argentine Grand Prix, otherwise known as the XVI Gran Premio de la Republica Argentina, was the opening round of the 1978 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Autódromo Municipal Ciudad de Buenos Aires on the 15 January, 1978.[1] The race would be remembered for a dominant performance by Mario Andretti, who was only denied a maiden Grand Chelem by Gilles Villeneuve.

It had been a less turbulent winter amid F1's political scene, meaning most interest had been placed on the driver market.[1] The biggest change had seen defending Champion quit Ferrari to join Brabham-Alfa Romeo, while Ronnie Peterson had rejoined Lotus and their new "ground effect project.[1] On the team front there were several changes, although the most significant change came after Max Mosley sold March to the German based ATS squad.[1]

Andretti had got things underway early on in Buenos Aires, dictating the pace throughout qualifying before claiming pole position ahead of Carlos Reutemann.[1] Ronnie Peterson, John Watson and Lauda were next, while James Hunt edged out young Villeneuve for sixth.[1]

Andretti duly went blasting off at the start of the race to claim the lead, while Reutemann fended off Watson for second.[1] Lauda and Peterson followed as the latter made a poor start, while Villeneuve chased them down behind Hunt.[1]

The early stages saw Andretti solidify his lead, while Villeneuve claimed fastest lap on the third tour, before falling back down the order.[1] Reutemann, meanwhile, would have to put up a strong rear-guard from Watson, Lauda and Peterson, although the Ulsterman managed to elbow his way through on lap seven.[1]

Like his young teammate Villeneuve, Reutemann would slowly slip down the field in his Ferrari, while ex-teammate Lauda moved into the top three.[1] The order would then remain fairly stable until the final quarter of the race, for Watson suddenly dropped out of contention with an overheating Alfa F12.[1] Peterson, meanwhile, would slip back behind Patrick Depailler, whom had made an excellent early charge, and Hunt.[1]

With that the race was run, with Andretti cruising for more than half the race to claim victory for Team Lotus.[1] Lauda opened his title defence in second ahead of Depailler, just keeping the Frenchman at bay on the final lap, while Hunt opened his 1978 account in fourth.[1] Peterson came home fifth ahead of Patrick Tambay, while Reutemann and Villeneuve ended the afternoon in seventh and eighth respectively.

BackgroundEdit

The 1978 tour would begin in Argentina and the full length Autódromo Municipal Ciudad de Buenos Aires, albeit without the political fighting of previous seasons.[2] Indeed, it was so quiet on the political front between the FIA and the Formula One Constructors Association that the latter were left to develop their ideas over the winter without distraction.[2] Yet, the winter was a little over three months old when the cars were shipped to Argentina, meaning most of the teams would be fielding interim equipment for the season opener.[2]

The big news ahead of the new season was that defending 1977 World Champion Niki Lauda had moved to Brabham-Alfa Romeo, joining John Watson at the team.[2] The Austrian racer had joined along with ex-Ferrari engineer Ermanno Cuoghi, which had caused an internal storm in the Scuderia during the 1977 United States Grand Prix.[3] Lauda's move had been funded by the Parmalat group, which took over as title sponsors, prompting Martini to take their sponsorship away for the new season.[2]

In terms of the car, Brabham had run out of time to develop the new BT46 ahead of the new season, meaning Gordon Murray and his engineers had been instructed to update their compliment of BT45s.[4] Bernie Ecclestone's squad therefore arrived with three C-Spec BT45s, featuring full width radiators mounted in the front bodywork, with small aerofoils mounted behind.[4] The rear end had been smoothed out with the oil coolers mounted closer to the engine, while a new coat of Alfa Romeo red had been applied to replace the old Martini livery.[4]

Over at Lauda's former team Ferrari the political mess had been largely smoothed out during the winter, with new driver pairing Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve posting promising times in the pre-race test.[4] They continued to use their complement of 312T2s for the opening round, having decided that the new evolved 312T3 needed more refinement before it was race worthy.[4] Indeed, the most significant change for the Scuderia came in the form of their new Michelin tyres, having abandoned Goodyear to gain an advantage over the rest of the field.[2]

The decision to move to Michelin by Ferrari would spark a tyre war with the American rubber company, which had been spooked by the French firm's appearance during the 1977 season with Renault.[2] As such, Goodyear would bring a range of softer tyres for their "premium" customers to counter Michelin, with the latter only needing to supply the scarlet Ferraris.[2] This was a massive change in policy for Goodyear, for it had generally focused on equality since gaining a de facto monopoly in F1 back in 1974.[2]

Further aiding Goodyear's moves against the French was the fact that Tyrrell had finally abandoned their Project 34 concept, and instead arrived in Argentina with a set of new, and conventional 008s.[2] Indeed, the P34's need for four tiny front tyres had proved fatal to the six-wheeled design, and so, having fallen far behind their rivals in development, Ken Tyrrell instead getting his engineers to design a four wheeled evolution of the venerable 007. Two of these cars were produced for their all French driving duo, with Patrick Depailler joined at the team by Tyrrell's latest Formula Two star Didier Pironi.[4]

Peterson Argentine Grand Prix 1978

Ronnie Peterson would get his hands on a battle hardened Lotus 78 for the first time in Buenos Aires.

Young Pironi had joined the Tyrrell F1 squad in place of Ronnie Peterson, whom had signed back up with Lotus for the second time in spite of his fallout with Colin Chapman just two years earlier.[2] He joined pre-season favourite Mario Andretti at the team, which were rumoured to have perfected the concept of "ground effect" with their Lotus 79 test bed.[4] Yet, the race in Buenos Aires would arrive too soon for the Norfolk squad, and so Peterson and Andretti would race with a trio of battle hardened 78s at the season opener.[4] The original 78 had been sold to Mexican racer Héctor Rebaque, whom formed his own team with ex-Lotus mechanic Ian Dawson to race in Argentina.[4]

Another pre-season favourite for either Championship would be the McLaren team, which was fielding a new pairing of 1976 World Champion James Hunt alongside 1977's rookie of the year Patrick Tambay.[2] For Hunt, McLaren had constructed a new M26 to start the season with, his old car becoming the spare, while Tambay inherited Jochen Mass' old M26 from the previous season.[4] The three M26s featured only minor bodywork changes on the rear aerofoil, while an unmodified brace of M23s arrived for Brett Lunger to drive, prepared by BS Fabrications.[4]

Having been ousted from McLaren in favour of younger talent, Mass had found a spot in the new West German based ATS Racing Team, joined by Jean-Pierre Jarier.[4] The team were entering as constructors for the first time in 1978, having bought up the physical assets of March from Max Mosley to do so.[4] They also hired March's chief designer Robin Herd to spruce up their old pair of Penske PC4s, dubbed ATS HS1s, before commissioning the veteran engineer to develop an entirely new design to debut later in the season.[4]

Elsewhere, Tambay's old team, financed by Teddy Yip, had become a constructor by commissioning Ron Tauranac to design a car for them.[4] This creation was christened the Theodore TR1, although its oversized bodywork did not inspire confidence.[4] Furthermore, Yip had gambled on another F2 prodigy in the form of Eddie Cheever, although at the age of twenty, and with very little experience, it seemed as if it was a combination destined for failure.[4]

Theodore Racing had run a semi-works Ensign for Tambay back in 1977, which had been returned to the British squad at the end of the season.[4] Indeed, having rather upset the form book in 1977, Morris Nunn's team had lacked the funds to develop over the winter, and had lost star driver Clay Regazzoni.[4] Yet, they still had enough equipment to field two cars, and duly hired American rookie Danny Ongais and Italian racer Lamberto Leoni.[4]

Regazzoni himself, meanwhile, had obtained a drive at Shadow, joining Brabham refugee Hans-Joachim Stuck in a trio of DN8s from 1977.[4] The Shadow squad had been developing the DN9 during the winter, but the loss of Alan Jones and Riccardo Patrese, and all of their senior staff, had severely hampered their development schedule.[4] As such, Don Nichols' squad had had to make minor revisions to their DN8s instead, adding an additional water radiator and a new mounting point for the oil cooler.[4]

The ex-Shadow pairing of Jones and Patrese had found drives elsewhere, although Patrese would not feature at the opening round with the new Arrows team.[4] The ambitious new team based in Milton Keynes, formed by the ex-Shadow staff members Franco Ambrosio, Alan Rees, Jackie Oliver, Dave Wass and Tony Southgate, aimed to impress in their debut season, and had duly hired Patrese to partner Lotus refugee Gunnar Nilsson.[4] Unfortunately for them, things had begun to unravel at the start of the season, with Nilsson forced to cut short his racing career having been diagnosed with cancer, while the prototype TA1 was still in development.[4]

Jones, meanwhile, had secured a seat at Williams Grand Prix Engineering, which, like Theodore, had made the move to become an F1 constructor in 1978.[4] Indeed, Frank Williams' second attempt at becoming a major F1 player had seen him hire promising young designer Patrick Head to develop a car, which then spent the entire winter in the wind tunnel.[4] What resulted was a neat little package around the standard Ford Cosworth DFV engine, dubbed the FW06.[4]

Likewise Arturo Merzario had made the move into becoming a constructor, arranging a very "garagista" like team to build the new A1.[4] Indeed, having effectively re-engineered his March 761 in 1977, Merzario had managed to get enough capital to build his own car, which took inspiration, but nothing more, from the old March.[4] Indeed, while it appeared a little scruffy around the edges, the A1 had performed admirably in test week, with Merzario looking to hire a driver with sponsorship money to further refine the design.[4]

Elsewhere, Ligier-Matra returned for 1978, although they continued to field the same pair of JS7s for Jacques Laffite for the time being.[4] Fittipaldi, meanwhile, had decided to imitate the Lotus 78, in part, with their updated F5As, having hired ex-Ferrari engineer Caliri, the man responsible for Loris Kessel's failed Apollon Fly project.[4] Regardless, Emerson Fittipaldi would be satisfied with his updated ride, which sported Lotus 78 sidepod mounted radiators, updated suspension and a nose mounted oil cooler.[4]

Another returning effort in 1978 would be the Canadian registered Wolf team, which had decided to stick with their single driver policy for the start of the new season.[4] They had also retained the services of Jody Scheckter, who received a new Wolf design for the new season.[4] The new "WR4" was the latest evolution of the original WR1, although most of the changes were to the suspension and brake systems.[4]

Completing the field would be Surtees and Hesketh, which were both forced to field 1977 equipment due to a lack of funding.[4] Surtees were, perhaps, in the better position, having poached Rupert Keegan from the Hesketh squad to partner Vittorio Brambilla, although the team only had the Italian's funding to sustain them.[4] Hesketh, meanwhile, had hired Divina Galica during the winter, whom brought backing from Olympus Cameras with her after her Olympic exploits.[4]

Entry listEdit

The full entry list for the 1978 Argentine Grand Prix is outlined below:

No. Driver Entrant Constructor Chassis Engine Model Tyre
1 Austria Niki Lauda United Kingdom Parmalat Racing Team Brabham BT45C Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 F12 G
2 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Parmalat Racing Team Brabham BT45C Alfa Romeo 115-12 3.0 F12 G
3 France Didier Pironi United Kingdom Elf Team Tyrrell Tyrrell 008 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Elf Team Tyrrell Tyrrell 008 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom John Player Team Lotus Lotus 78 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
6 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom John Player Team Lotus Lotus 78 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
7 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M26 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
8 France Patrick Tambay United Kingdom Marlboro Team McLaren McLaren M26 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
9 Germany Jochen Mass West Germany ATS Racing Team ATS HS1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
10 France Jean-Pierre Jarier West Germany ATS Racing Team ATS HS1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
11 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 M
12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Scuderia Ferrari SpA SEFAC Ferrari 312T2 Ferrari 015 3.0 F12 M
14 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi Automotive Fittipaldi F5A Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
16 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN8 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
17 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN8 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
18 United Kingdom Rupert Keegan United Kingdom Team Surtees Surtees TS19 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom Beta Team Surtees Surtees TS19 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
20 South Africa Jody Scheckter Canada Walter Wolf Racing Wolf WR1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
22 United States Danny Ongais United Kingdom Team Tissot Ensign Ensign N177 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
23 Italy Lamberto Leoni United Kingdom Team Tissot Ensign Ensign N177 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
24 United Kingdom Divina Galica United Kingdom Olympus Cameras Hesketh Racing Hesketh 308E Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
25 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Mexico Team Rebaque Lotus 78 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier Gitanes Ligier JS7 Matra MS76 3.0 V12 G
27 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Williams Grand Prix Engineering Williams FW06 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
30 United States Brett Lunger United Kingdom Liggett Group/BS Fabrications McLaren M26 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
32 United States Eddie Cheever Hong Kong Theodore Racing Hong Kong Theodore TR1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
37 Italy Arturo Merzario Italy Team Merzario Merzario A1 Ford Cosworth DFV 3.0 V8 G
Source:[5]

Practice OverviewEdit

QualifyingEdit

Practice/qualifying for the Argentine Grand Prix of 1978 would be held across Friday and Saturday ahead of the race, following the established pattern dictated by F.O.C.A.[2] As such, there would be two "timed" periods across Friday, followed by an "untimed" session on Saturday morning, designed to allow teams to try some race setup work.[2] The final session on Saturday would then serve as the final "qualifying" session, with the top teams aiming to best the circuit record of 1:48.68, set by James Hunt back in 1977.[2]

Friday QualifyingEdit

Indeed, it was expected that Hunt's old mark would be beaten fairly quickly on Friday, given that Carlos Reutemann had gone a full second quicker during test-week.[2] Yet, with cool temperatures and gusty winds the conditions were less than ideal, while two stoppages broke up the running as cars, and later rain, piled up on circuit.[2] The latter issue ultimately cause the session to end prematurely, although Mario Andretti, Didier Pironi, Patrick Depailler and Divina Galica were the only drivers not to set a representative time.[2]

In terms of fast times it was the aforementioned Reutemann who was causing a stir, the Argentine racer setting an ominous time of 1:47.82 to top the times.[2] His ex-teammate Niki Lauda was second in his new Brabham-Alfa Romeo, almost a second off, while Ronnie Peterson showed that the Lotus 78 still had some pace with a 1:48.87.[2] Gilles Villeneuve put the second Michelin shod Ferrari into fourth with a 1:48.97, with the rest of the field bar John Watson, Hunt and Vittorio Brambilla in the 1:50.00s or slower.[2]

Brambilla himself could have gone faster than his 1:49.91, although an incident just seconds after crossing the line left him in the spare Surtees for the rest of the weekend.[2] While flicking the car through the sweep before the final hairpin, the Italian suffered a gearbox failure, which threw the car into the barriers nose first.[2] The result was a badly bent front end on the newest TS19, with John Surtees less than impressed with his "star driver".[2]

Into the afternoon session and Reutemann was unable to match his morning pace, falling more than a second shy with a 1:48.99.[2] That allowed Andretti, who had suffered from a seemingly incurable misfire in the morning until the rain came, to shoot to the top of the timesheets.[2] Yet, the American's table topping 1:48.02 was not enough to remove Reutemann from provisional pole overnight, meaning the Argentine was half way to pole at his home race.[2]

Another rising star in the second session would be Watson, who eclipsed the effort of teammate Lauda to claim third overnight, a 1:48.42 his best effort.[2] Lauda himself, meanwhile, would encounter his first issue with an Alfa Romeo F12, an ignition failure leaving him stranded on the circuit.[2] He would get back out in the spare car having walked back to the pits, just in time for Peterson to come to a stop out on circuit by the abandoned Brabham when he broke the customised Lotus gearbox.[2]

Elsewhere, Hunt's progress was hampered on the soft Goodyears, for the Brit found his McLaren too prone to understeer.[2] Teammate Patrick Tambay, meanwhile, would have a better time of things, in spite of using the spare M26 after his "race" car destroyed its engine.[2] Behind them were the first of the new-boys in the form of ATS, with Jean-Pierre Jarier a surprise ninth ahead of Brambilla, who smashed his second Surtees of the day into an entirely different set of Armco.[2]

Galcia Argentine Grand Prix 1978

Divina Galica tried, in vain, to qualify her Hesketh 308E.

At the back of the field, meanwhile, the two Tyrrells were being hampered by a variety of issues, ranging from a series of different fuel issues, to a misfire for young Pironi.[2] Those issues combined to mean that the two 008s barely made it out of the pits for more than a lap, leaving them just outside the "elimination" zone.[2] In truth there was very little danger of them slipping into that zone, for Héctor Rebaque lacked experience, Eddie Cheever lacked a healthy engine, and Divina Galica was recovering from a heavy crash during test-week, leaving her a distant last.[2]

Saturday QualifyingEdit

Into the final hour of running on Saturday afternoon and it was Andretti who would break the hearts of thousands of Argentine fans, for the American racer finally found his true pace.[2] Indeed, a 1:47.75, one of only two clean efforts for the #5 Lotus, would be enough to oust Reutemann from the top of the overall leader board, with the #11 Ferrari ultimately unable to respond.[2] Andretti's pace was duly backed up by teammate Peterson, who battled against a badly blistering rear tyre to set the second fastest time of the afternoon, albeit slower than Reutemann's Friday best.[2]

Indeed, other than the two Loti, and Hunt, no other drivers would break the 1:49.00 barrier, meaning Watson, who suffered an engine failure, and Lauda would retain fourth and fifth despite failing to improve.[2] Elsewhere, Depailler made a staggering leap from 23rd on Friday evening to 10th, ousting Jarier from the top ten whom had his best Saturday run ruined by a puncture while taking the loop at the back of the circuit.[2] Alan Jones also survived despite Williams having to replace his entire fuel system, while Arturo Merzario failed to run at all after an engine failure.[2]

That left Galica, Rebaque and Cheever out of contention for the race, despite others ahead of them suffering from catastrophic issues.[2] Indeed, Merzario's engine failure was the first in a list that featured Emerson Fittipaldi, Hans-Joachim Stuck and Jacques Laffite, meaning they all completed the final session in their spare cars.[2] Brambilla, meanwhile, would not get the chance to crash his repaired Surtees after picking up an oil leak, leaving him in the pits with a ruined engine, while Brett Lunger made the cut despite suffering a suspension failure early on.[2]

Qualifying ResultsEdit

The full qualifying results for the 1978 Argentine Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Time Gap
Q1 Q2 Q3
1 5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 2:29.70 1:48.02 1:47.75
2 11 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Italy Ferrari 1:47.84T 1:48.99T 1:49.95 +0.09s
3 6 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:48.87 1:48.93 1:48.39 +0.64s
4 2 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:49.08 1:48.42 1:50.43T +0.67s
5 1 Austria Niki Lauda United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:48.70 1:49.78T 1:50.03 +0.95s
6 7 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:49.19 1:49.29 1:48.72 +0.97s
7 12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Ferrari 1:48.97 1:49.51 1:49.92 +1.22s
8 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra 1:50.16 1:50.35 1:49.13T +1.38s
9 8 France Patrick Tambay United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:51.71 1:49.47T 1:49.75 +1.72s
10 4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 1:59.95 1:52.78 1:49.69 +1.94s
11 10 France Jean-Pierre Jarier West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth 1:50.74 1:49.77 1:49.82 +2.02s
12 19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1:49.91 1:52.71T 1:52.06T +2.16s
13 9 West Germany Jochen Mass West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth 1:50.06 1:50.86 1:50.23 +2.31s
14 27 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Williams-Ford Cosworth 1:50.11 1:59.60 1:51.67 +2.36s
15 20 South Africa Jody Scheckter Canada Wolf-Ford Cosworth 1:50.48 1:50.38 1:50.35T +2.60s
16 17 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:50.45 1:51.23 1:51.14 +2.70s
17 14 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 1:50.82 1:51.00 1:51.33T +3.07s
18 16 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 1:51.86 1:51.16 1:52.30T +3.41s
19 18 United Kingdom Rupert Keegan United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 1:52.99 1:51.42 1:51.81 +3.67s
20 37 Italy Arturo Merzario Italy Merzario-Ford Cosworth 1:51.68 1:53.26 +3.93s
21 22 United States Danny Ongais United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 1:52.75 1:51.71 1:52.00 +3.96s
22 23 Italy Lamberto Leoni United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 1:51.94 1:53.22 1:52.48 +4.19s
23 3 France Didier Pironi United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 2:14.20 1:52.59 1:51.99 +4.24s
24 30 United States Brett Lunger United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 1:52.98 1:52.27 1:52.52T +4.52s
DNQ 25 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Mexico Lotus-Ford Cosworth 1:52.88 1:53.24 1:52.52 +4.77s
DNQ 32 United States Eddie Cheever Hong Kong Theodore-Ford Cosworth 1:53.25 1:55.02 1:54.14 +5.50s
DNQ 24 United Kingdom Divina Galica United Kingdom Hesketh-Ford Cosworth 2:00.85 1:56.69 1:57.62 +8.94s
Source:[2][6]
  • Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
  • T Indicates a test/spare car.

GridEdit

Pos Pos
Driver Driver
______________
Row 1 ______________ 1
2 Mario Andretti
Carlos Reutemann ______________
Row 2 ______________ 3
4 Ronnie Peterson
John Watson ______________
Row 3 ______________ 5
6 Niki Lauda
James Hunt ______________
Row 4 ______________ 7
8 Gilles Villeneuve
Jacques Laffite ______________
Row 5 ______________ 9
10 Patrick Tambay
Patrick Depailler ______________
Row 6 ______________ 11
12 Jean-Pierre Jarier
Vittorio Brambilla ______________
Row 7 ______________ 13
14 Jochen Mass
Alan Jones ______________
Row 8 ______________ 15
16 Jody Scheckter
Clay Regazzoni ______________
Row 9 ______________ 17
18 Emerson Fittipaldi
Hans-Joachim Stuck ______________
Row 10 ______________ 19
20 Rupert Keegan
Arturo Merzario ______________
Row 11 ______________ 21
22 Danny Ongais
Lamberto Leoni ______________
Row 12 ______________ 23
24 Didier Pironi
Brett Lunger ______________

RaceEdit

News that home hero Carlos Reutemann would start on the front row would spread rapidly overnight on Saturday, meaning race morning dawned with a huge crowd pouring into the Autódromo Municipal Ciudad de Buenos Aires.[2] Indeed, their chanting for "Lole" would drown out almost all other noise until the cars appeared for their warm-up, which passed without issue.[2] After that the field assembled on the grid for the start, with the only worry being the 32°C (90°F) track temperatures, which would help to melt the softest Michelin and Goodyear tyres.[2]

ReportEdit

Unfortunately for the home fans Reutemann's shot at claiming victory would all but evaporate as soon as the green lights appeared, for pole sitter Mario Andretti streaked away to claim the lead.[2] Indeed, that left Reutemann to fend off the attentions of Ronnie Peterson's Lotus for second into the first corner, with the Argentine just managing to keep the Swede at bay.[2] However, that assault on Reutemann would allow Andretti to establish an unassailable lead out front, with Reutemann leading the rest of the field through the first corners without issue.[2]

Indeed, after an undramatic opening tour, of which the only incident of note was the fact that Danny Ongais had been left behind on the grid but eventually got going, it was still Andretti leading comfortably from Reutemann.[2] Behind the Argentine came Peterson and then Niki Lauda, whom had jumped past teammate John Watson off the line to claim fourth.[2] The Ulsterman himself was fifth ahead of Jacques Laffite, with James Hunt, Patrick Depailler and Patrick Tambay completing the top ten.[2]

Andretti continued to simply drive away from Reutemann during the early stages, leaving the Argentine to fight for second with those behind him.[2] Championing the anti-Reutemann cause would be Watson, who sent his Brabham-Alfa Romeo scything past teammate Lauda and Peterson on lap three.[2] He followed that up with a sustained assault on the #11 Ferrari, and was duly rewarded with a simple dive inside the scarlet car into the Chicana de Ascari on lap six.[2]

That left the Ulsterman seven seconds shy of Andretti at the start of the seventh tour, although it soon became clear that even he was not going to catch the Italian-American racer.[2] The excitement baton was therefore handed to Depailler, who sharply climbed through the order with moves on Hunt and Laffite, and was beginning to loom larger in Lauda's mirrors.[2] Behind Hunt there was another gap back to Jody Scheckter, Gilles Villeneuve and Tambay, who all had their elbows out while fighting amongst themselves.[2]

Merzario Argentine Grand Prix 1978

The debut of Arturo Merzario's first F1 car would last just ten laps.

At this point the first of the retirements were being confirmed, starting with the expiration of Rupert Keegan's Ford Cosworth engine on lap five.[2] Next to go out was the new Merzario piloted by its eponymous owner, breaking a differential, while Clay Regazzoni had to stop his Shadow in the pits having burned through his set of Goodyears.[2] Indeed, it seemed as if tyre trouble was slowly becoming a trend across the field, with even the Michelins of Reutemann's Ferrari beginning to fade.[2]

Back with the Depailler charge and the Frenchman had got past Peterson using the new Tyrrell's ultra effective brakes, moments after the Swede had been carved up by Lauda for third.[2] Lauda then went on to attack and pass former teammate Reutemann into turn one, dumping the Argentine back into fourth, before Depailler launched his own sustained assault on the Ferrari.[2] It would take a couple of laps before Reutemann's resistance was broken, with the Argentine's tyres really struggling with the climbing track temperatures.[2]

Five laps later and Reutemann lost out again, this time losing two places to Hunt and Peterson as the pair dived past into the looping turn three.[2] The Argentine racer then had a period of respite, for Laffite's Ligier-Matra was close behind, but not close enough to risk a dive.[2] Indeed, it seemed as if the race had stalled by that point, with Andretti cruising clear of Watson, Lauda keeping far enough away from Depailler, and Hunt and Peterson running close but without truly scrapping.[2]

Yet, on lap 27 it was all but over for the Argentine fans, for Reutemann was about to come in for a fresh set of Michelins.[2] Indeed, his hand would ultimately be forced upon him, for Laffite had misjudged his dive into the looping turn three and bounced over the right rear of the Ferrari.[2] Both escaped unharmed with Laffite ahead, but Reutemann was resigned to the fact that his tyres were too faded to continue without making a change.[2]

After that the race would settle again, and with a quarter of the distance still to cover it seemed as if everything was settled.[2] Andretti's lead continued to grow over Watson, who had a small advantage over Lauda and Depailler which remained unaffected by back markers.[2] At the back of the field, meanwhile, there had been some more retirements, with Lamberto Leoni, Alan Jones and Ongais all out with engine related issues.[2]

Yet, on lap 40 things would change at the head of the field, for Watson was, as ever, struck by bad fortune when everything was going his way.[2] Indeed, coming out of the looping turn three, the Ulsterman suddenly eased off the throttle, allowing Lauda and Depailler to flash past.[2] The issue on the #2 Brabham was a sudden increase of his engine temperature, caused by a worsening leak in the cooling system.[2] After trying to ease off an cool his car Watson was ultimately resigned to the fact that his F12 engine had cried enough, and duly brought the car into the pits to retire on lap 41.[2]

There was to be one last, although ultimately ineffectual twist at the end of the race, with the chequered flag thrown half a lap early by the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio as the timekeepers confused Peterson's Lotus with Andretti's.[2] This caused some consternation for Clay Regazzoni whom, running on his own outside the top ten, had decided to stop short of the finishing line having decided his Shadow was out of fuel.[2] He rejoined hoping to be classified only to be told it was Peterson whom had crossed the line, although no-one else would get caught out as the drivers instead looked to their pit-boards.[2]

Andretti Argentine Grand Prix 1978

Mario Andretti completed a very lonely Sunday drive with victory for Lotus.

With that the race was run, with Andretti duly cruising home to claim a dominant, and ominous, victory from Lauda, whom had tried in vain during the closing stages to pass the Brabham.[2] Fourth went to Hunt, whom had closed onto the back of Lauda and Depailler during the Frenchman's assault on the Austrian, while Peterson swept home in fifth after seeing Laffite's Matra blow up in his mirrors.[2] Indeed, Laffite's late failure saw him lose a secure sixth place just two laps from the flag, meaning Tambay picked up the final point on his debut for McLaren.[2]

ResultsEdit

The full race results for the 1978 Argentine Grand Prix are outlined below:

Pos. No. Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 5 United States Mario Andretti United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 52 1:37:04.47 1 9
2 1 Austria Niki Lauda United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 52 +13.21 5 6
3 4 France Patrick Depailler United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 52 +13.64s 10 4
4 7 United Kingdom James Hunt United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 52 +16.05s 6 3
5 6 Sweden Ronnie Peterson United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 52 +1:14.85 3 2
6 8 France Patrick Tambay United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 52 +1:19.90 9 1
7 11 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Italy Ferrari 52 +1:22.60 2
8 12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Italy Ferrari 52 +1:38.88 7
9 14 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Brazil Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth 52 +1:40.60 17
10 20 South Africa Jody Scheckter Canada Wolf-Ford Cosworth 52 +1:43.50 15
11 9 West Germany Jochen Mass West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth 52 +1:49.07 13
12 10 France Jean-Pierre Jarier West Germany ATS-Ford Cosworth 51 +1 Lap 11
13 30 United States Brett Lunger United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 51 +1 Lap 24
14 3 France Didier Pironi United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 51 +1 Lap 23
15 17 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 51 +1 Lap 16
16* 26 France Jacques Laffite France Ligier-Matra 50 Engine 8
17 16 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck United Kingdom Shadow-Ford Cosworth 50 +2 Laps 18
18 19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 50 +2 Laps 12
Ret 2 United Kingdom John Watson United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 41 Engine 4
Ret 27 Australia Alan Jones United Kingdom Williams-Ford Cosworth 36 Fuel System 14
Ret 22 United States Danny Ongais United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 35 Distributor 21
Ret 23 Italy Lamberto Leoni United Kingdom Ensign-Ford Cosworth 28 Engine 22
Ret 37 Italy Arturo Merzario Italy Merzario-Ford Cosworth 9 Differential 20
Ret 18 United Kingdom Rupert Keegan United Kingdom Surtees-Ford Cosworth 4 Overheating 19
DNQ 25 Mexico Héctor Rebaque United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth
DNQ 32 United States Eddie Cheever Hong Kong Theodore-Ford Cosworth
DNQ 24 United Kingdom Divina Galica United Kingdom Hesketh-Ford Cosworth
Source: [7]
  • * Laffite was still classified despite retiring as he had completed 90% of the race distance.[2]

MilestonesEdit

StandingsEdit

Victory at the season opening race ensured that Mario Andretti led the title hunt in 1978, three points clear of defending Champion Niki Lauda. Patrick Depailler was an early third ahead of James Hunt, while Ronnie Peterson underlined the inherent pace of the Lotus 78 with fifth. Patrick Tambay completed the early scorers list.

In the International Cup for Constructors it was, unsurprisingly, Lotus-Ford Cosworth who led the way, holding a three point lead over Brabham-Alfa Romeo. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth were next ahead of McLaren-Ford Cosworth, while Ferrari were a de facto fifth after failing to score at the opening round.

Drivers' World Championship
Pos. Driver Pts. +/-
1 United States Mario Andretti 9
2 Austria Niki Lauda 6
3 France Patrick Depailler 4
4 United Kingdom James Hunt 3
5 Sweden Ronnie Peterson 2
6 France Patrick Tambay 1
International Cup for Constructors
Pos. Team Pts. +/-
1 United Kingdom Lotus-Ford Cosworth 9
2 United Kingdom Brabham-Alfa Romeo 6
3 United Kingdom Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth 4
4 United Kingdom McLaren-Ford Cosworth 3

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 'Argentine GP, 1978', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2015), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr298.html, (Accessed 06/06/2018)
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 2.43 2.44 2.45 2.46 2.47 2.48 2.49 2.50 2.51 2.52 2.53 2.54 2.55 2.56 2.57 2.58 2.59 2.60 2.61 2.62 2.63 2.64 2.65 2.66 2.67 2.68 2.69 2.70 2.71 2.72 2.73 2.74 2.75 2.76 2.77 2.78 2.79 2.80 2.81 2.82 2.83 2.84 2.85 2.86 A.H., 'The Argentine Grand Prix: Andretti and Lotus all the way', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/02/1977), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/february-1978/67/argentine-grand-prix, (Accessed 07/06/2018)
  3. 15. USA East 1977', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1977/etats-unis-est.aspx#, (Accessed 30/05/2018)
  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 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 4.25 4.26 4.27 4.28 4.29 4.30 4.31 4.32 4.33 4.34 4.35 4.36 4.37 4.38 4.39 4.40 A.H., 'Notes on the Cars in Argentina' motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/02/1977), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/february-1978/83/notes-cars-argentina, (Accessed 07/06/2018)
  5. 'Argentina 1978: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/argentine/engages.aspx, (Accessed 06/06/2018)
  6. 'Argentina 1978: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/argentine/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 08/06/2018)
  7. "1978 Argentine Grand Prix". formula1.com. https://www.formula1.com/en/results.html/1978/races/391/argentina.html. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 '1978 Argentine GP', chicanef1.com, (Chicane F1, 2018), http://www.chicanef1.com/racetit.pl?year=1978&gp=Argentine%20GP&r=1, (Accessed 06/06/2018)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 '1. Argentina 1978', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1978/argentine.aspx, (Accessed 06/06/2018)
Argentina Argentine Grand Prix
Circuits Buenos Aires (1953 - 1958, 1960, 1971 - 1975, 1977 - 1981, 1995 - 1998)
Buenos Aires
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V T E 1978 Formula One Season
Teams Arrows • ATS • Brabham • Ensign • Ferrari • Fittipaldi • Hesketh • Ligier • Lotus • Martini • McLaren • Merzario • Renault • Shadow • Theodore • Tyrrell • Williams • Wolf
Engines Alfa Romeo • Ferrari • Ford Cosworth • Matra • Renault
Drivers Andretti • Arnoux • Binder • Bleekemolen • Brambilla • Cheever • Colombo • Daly • Depailler • Ertl • Fittipaldi • Gabbiani • Galica • Giacomelli • Gimax • Hunt • Ickx • Jabouille • Jarier • Jones • Keegan • Laffite • Lauda • Lees • Leoni • Lunger • Mass • Merzario • Ongais • Patrese • Peterson • Piquet • Pironi • Rahal • Rebaque • Regazzoni • Reutemann • Rosberg • Scheckter • Stommelen • Stuck • Tambay • Trimmer • Villeneuve • Watson
Cars Arrows A1 • Arrows FA1 • ATS D1 • ATS HS1 • Brabham BT45 • Brabham BT46 • Ensign N177 • Ferrari 312T • Fittipaldi F5A • Hesketh 308 • Ligier JS7 • Ligier JS9 • Lotus 78 • Lotus 79 • Martini MK23 • McLaren M23 • McLaren M26 • Merzario A1 • Renault RS01 • Shadow DN8 • Shadow DN9 • Theodore TR1 • Tyrrell 008 • Williams FW06 • Wolf WR1 • Wolf WR3 • Wolf WR4 • Wolf WR5 • Wolf WR6
Tyres Goodyear • Michelin
Races Argentina • Brazil • South Africa • United States West • Monaco • Belgium • Spain • Sweden • France • Britain • Germany • Austria • Netherlands • Italy • United States • Canada
See also 1977 Formula One Season • 1979 Formula One Season • Category
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