Belgian GP 1978
MAY 21, 1978
Belgian GP, 1978
Two weeks after Patrick Depailler's victory for Tyrrell at Monaco the F1 circus was in action again in Zolder. The field was much as usual although Patrick Tambay was missing from the McLaren team as a result of a burn he had received when a fire extinguisher went off in his car during the F2 race at Pau. His place was taken by Marlboro favorite Bruno Giacomelli, who had been due to race for the team as a third driver. Jean-Pierre Jarier had fallen out with ATS and his place was taken by Italian Alberto Colombo. With 30 drivers there had to be a pre-qualifying session and this resulted in Arturo Merzario (Merzario) and Hector Rebaque (Lotus) missing out. In official qualifying Rupert Keegan (Surtees), Derek Daly (Hesketh), Keke Rosberg (Theodore) and Colombo missed out.
Pole position went to Mario Andretti at the wheel of the new Lotus 79 and this was nearly 0.8secs faster than Carlos Reutemann's Ferrari. Niki Lauda was third fastest in his Brabham-Alfa with Gilles Villeneuve fourth in his Ferrari. Then came Jody Scheckter in the new Wolf WR5 and James Hunt (McLaren). The top 10 was completed by Ronnie Peterson (in an old Lotus 78), Riccardo Patrese (Arrows), John Watson (Brabham) and Jean-Pierre Jabouille in the turbocharged Renault.
The race proved to be a dominant display by Andretti, who led from flag to flag. Behind him there was chaos at the start as Reutemann missed a gear. Villeneuve was not affected by as everyone tried to squeeze past the Ferrari Scheckter knocked into Lauda on one side of the track and Patrese clipped Hunt on the other. Further back Jacky Ickx (Ensign) hit Emerson Fittipaldi (Fittipaldi) and Didier Pironi (Tyrrell) collided with Rene Arnoux (Martini) as everyone tried to avoid Lauda and Hunt.
At the front Andretti led Villeneuve with Scheckter still going in third. Then came Peterson, Patrese and Watson. Then came Jabouille and Reutemann, although the Renault driver dropped back with brake trouble. Watson too was unable to keep up and dropped behind Reutemann while Scheckter pitted to have the nose of his car fixed and so left Peterson in third place.
The order at the front stayed the same until the 40th lap when Villeneuve had a tire blow and had to pit, leaving the Lotuses to run 1-2. That remained the case until lap 56 when Peterson pitted for new tires which dropped him behind Reutemann and Jacques Laffite (Ligier) The Swede was able to catch and pass both men before the flag. Laffite was challenging Reutemann for third when the two collided and the Ligier went off. He was classified fifth behind Villeneuve, while sixth place went to Didier Pironi (Tyrrell), the Frenchman scoring for the fourth time in his first five races.