Belgian GP 1977

Belgian GP, 1977

There was another bumper entry for the Belgian GP with a total of 32 cars fighting for the 26 grid positions. Team Surtees had dropped Hans Binder and hired Larry Perkins instead, while the other new entries were Bernard de Dryver in Brian Henton's March and Mexico's Hector Rebaque in a Marlboro-sponsored third Hesketh. James Hunt was back in an M26 and BS Fabrications had acquired a McLaren M23 for Brett Lunger while Fittipaldi had the new FD5 on hand for the first time. having failed to qualify a car at Monaco, March had the new 771 ready for Ian Scheckter to drive.

Qualifying took place in overcast and wet conditions and resulted in a dominant pole position for Mario Andretti in the Lotus 78, the American 1.5 secs faster than John Watson's Brabham-Alfa Romeo. The second Lotus driver Gunnar Nilsson was third with Jody Scheckter fourth in his Wolf (which had won at Monaco a fortnight earlier). Behind them came Patrick Depailler (Tyrrell), Jochen Mass (McLaren), Carlos Reutemann (Ferrari) and Ronnie Peterson (Tyrrell) while the top 10 was completed by James Hunt in his difficult M26 and Jacques Laffite in the Ligier-Matra. Niki Lauda was 11th in his Ferrari.

It was raining on Sunday afternoon as the start of the race approached but it was not certain it would continue and while most of the field was on wet tires, Hunt chose slicks. Watson made the best start and took the lead from Andretti. The field got through the first corner without any major adventures although both Ian Scheckter and Harald Ertl spun but at the chicane behind the paddock Andretti made a mistake and ran into the the back of Watson. Both spun off. Nilsson had to swerve to avoid the incident and this allowed Scheckter to take the lead. Nilsson was second with Mass third and Reutemann fourth. Behind them came Depailler, Laffite, Peterson and Lauda. Hunt's tire gamble was a disaster and he was dropping away quickly.

On the ninth lap Reutemann overtook Mass for third but a few laps later he spun into retirement and Mass moved back to third. By then the track was drying and there was a series of pit stops. Lauda stopped early and when the stops were over he was ahead with Mass second and Alan Jones third in his Shadow. Nilsson had lost a lot of ground because of sticking wheelnut and was eighth behind Brambilla, Scheckter, Laffite and Peterson.

He overtook Peterson, Laffite and Brambilla, while Scheckter pitted when the rains came again. Mass spun out on lap 40 and so Nilsson was back in second place behind Lauda. he began to close as the track dried again (sending Scheckter back to the pits) and on the 50th lap Nilsson took the lead and drove away to win his first Grand Prix victory. Lauda was second with Peterson third after a battle with Brambilla. Jones finished fifth and Stuck sixth.

Gunnar Nilsson Lotus-Cosworth  70 1h55m05.710s  
11 Niki Lauda Ferrari  70 1h55m19.900s  11 
Ronnie Peterson Tyrrell-Cosworth  70 1h55m25.660s  
19 Vittorio Brambilla Surtees-Cosworth  70 1h55m30.690s  12 
17 Alan Jones Shadow-Cosworth  70 1h56m21.180s  17 
Hans-Joachim Stuck Brabham-Alfa Romeo  69  18 
James Hunt McLaren-Cosworth  69  
Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Cosworth  69  
25 Harald Ertl Hesketh-Cosworth  69  25 
10 27 Patrick Neve March-Cosworth  68  24 
11 34 Jean-Pierre Jarier Penske-Cosworth  68  26 
12 18 Larry Perkins Surtees-Cosworth  67  23 
13 31 David Purley Lec-Cosworth  67  20 
14 37 Arturo Merzario March-Cosworth  65  14 
15 33 Boy (Johan Gerard) Hayje March-Cosworth  63  27 
20 Jody Scheckter Wolf-Cosworth  62 Engine 
Jochen Mass McLaren-Cosworth  39 Accident 
26 Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra  32 Engine 10 
22 Clay Regazzoni Ensign-Cosworth  29 Engine 13 
24 Rupert Keegan Hesketh-Cosworth  14 Accident 19 
12 Carlos Reutemann Ferrari  14 Accident 
16 Riccardo Patrese Shadow-Cosworth  12 Accident 15 
10 Ian Scheckter March-Cosworth  Accident 21 
28 Emerson Fittipaldi Copersucar-Cosworth  Water In Electrics 16 
Mario Andretti Lotus-Cosworth  Accident 
John Watson Brabham-Alfa Romeo  Accident 
ns 30 Brett Lunger March-Cosworth   Car Not Ready 22 
nq 36 Emilio de Villota McLaren-Cosworth    28 
nq 35 Conny Andersson Stanley BRM-BRM    29 
nq Alex-Dias Ribeiro March-Cosworth    30 
nq 38 Bernard de Dryver March-Cosworth    31 
nq 39 Hector Rebaque Hesketh-Cosworth    32