French GP 1977

French GP, 1977

In the three years since the World Championship had last visited Dijon the track had been extended down the hillside with a 500 meter loop to a hairpin and back again. This made setup a lot more complicated. With 22 cars being allowed to start there were still seven entries who would fail to qualify. There was some disappointment as the expected Renault Sport turbo car did not appear as had been planned but there were some interesting additions to the field, notably at Surtees where Larry Perkins was replaced halfway through practice by rising French star Patrick Tambay. The rest of the field was not new.

Mario Andretti once again showed that the Lotus 78 was a good car by taking pole position by half a second with James Hunt second in his developing McLaren M26. Gunnar Nilsson was third in the second Lotus with John Watson fourth in the Brabham-Alfa Romeo. Then came Jacques Laffite's Ligier, Carlos Reutemann's Ferrari, Jochen Mass in the McLaren M23 and Jody Scheckter in the Wolf (the South African still the championship leader). His title rival Niki Lauda was ninth with Alan Jones 10th in the Shadow.

At the start Hunt took the lead but Andretti did not get away well and both Watson and Laffite got ahead of the Lotus. Watson looked threatening and on the fifth lap he took the lead. The order then remained unchanged until lap 17 when Andretti finally passed Hunt with Watson by then five seconds ahead. The gap remained static but gradually Andretti began to edge closer and in the closing stages Andretti was right on Watson's tail. It looked as though Watson had been able to contain the Lotus but on the last lap the Alfa Romeo engine missed a beat (its fuel was running out) and in a flash Andretti was ahead. Watson managed to keep the Brabham going to the flag but victory had gone to Andretti. Third place went to Hunt with Nilsson fourth, Lauda fifth and Reutemann sixth.

Mario Andretti Lotus-Cosworth  80 1h39m40.130s  
John Watson Brabham-Alfa Romeo  80 1h39m41.680s  
James Hunt McLaren-Cosworth  80 1h40m14.000s  
Gunnar Nilsson Lotus-Cosworth  80 1h40m51.210s  
11 Niki Lauda Ferrari  80 1h40m54.580s  
12 Carlos Reutemann Ferrari  79  
22 Clay Regazzoni Ensign-Cosworth  79  16 
26 Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra  78  
Jochen Mass McLaren-Cosworth  78  
10 24 Rupert Keegan Hesketh-Cosworth  78  14 
11 28 Emerson Fittipaldi Copersucar-Cosworth  77  22 
12 Ronnie Peterson Tyrrell-Cosworth  77  17 
13 19 Vittorio Brambilla Surtees-Cosworth  77  11 
nc 10 Ian Scheckter March-Cosworth  69  20 
20 Jody Scheckter Wolf-Cosworth  66 Accident 
Hans-Joachim Stuck Brabham-Alfa Romeo  64 Accident 13 
17 Alan Jones Shadow-Cosworth  60 Drive Shaft 10 
37 Arturo Merzario March-Cosworth  27 Gearbox 18 
Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Cosworth  21 Accident 12 
16 Riccardo Patrese Shadow-Cosworth  Clutch/engine 15 
31 David Purley Lec-Cosworth  Brakes/accident 21 
34 Jean-Pierre Jarier Penske-Cosworth  Gearbox/accident 19 
nq Alex-Dias Ribeiro March-Cosworth    23 
nq 27 Patrick Neve March-Cosworth    24 
nq 30 Brett Lunger March-Cosworth    25 
nq 25 Harald Ertl Hesketh-Cosworth    26 
nq 18 Larry Perkins Surtees-Cosworth    27 
nq 39 Hector Rebaque Hesketh-Cosworth    28 
nq 18 Patrick Tambay Surtees-Cosworth    29 
nq 35 Conny Andersson Stanley BRM-BRM    30