Argentine GP 1977

JANUARY 9, 1977

Argentine GP, 1977

The exciting 1976 season has ended with high drama at Mount Fuji with James Hunt winning the World Championship. In the weeks that followed before the new season began in January, there was a lot of action. McLaren was the only major team not to change drivers. Ferrari had signed up Carlos Reutemann and his job at Brabham went to John Watson, who was out of work after Roger Penske's decision to close down his team. The assets were sold to wheel-making magnate Gunther Schmid of the ATS company, who planned to run Hans Stuck. This left a seat open at Shadow alongside Tom Pryce and the team hired Renzo Zorzi. Reutemann's arrival at Ferrari meant that Clay Regazzoni was out of work for 1977 and he decided to join Ensign, which had showed well at the end of the 1976 season while Reutemann's original replacement at Brabham Larry Perkins joined the Stanley BRM team which had landed backing from Rotary watches.

With Jody Scheckter having gone to the new Walter Wolf Racing (to drive a new car designed by Harvey Postlethwaite) Tyrrell needed a new driver and signed up Ronnie Peterson from March and with Vittorio Brambilla joining Surtees (where he was joined by Hans Binder), March decided to hire two new drivers Ian Scheckter (Rothmans International) and Alex Ribeiro (Hollywood). The field in Argentina was completed by Fittipaldi running Emerson Fittipaldi and Ingo Hoffmann and Jacques Laffite's Ligier.

In qualifying the World Champion James Hunt used an old M23 to take pole position from Watson's Brabham-Alfa Romeo. Patrick Depailler was third for Tyrrell with Niki Lauda fourth on the grid in his Ferrari. Then came Jochen Mass (McLaren), Carlos Pace in the second Brabham-Alfa Romeo and Carlos Reutemann in the second Ferrari. The top 10 was completed by Mario Andretti in the new Lotus 78, Tom Pryce in the Shadow and Gunnar Nilsson in the second Lotus. Scheckter was 11th in the Wolf. NIlsson ended up as a nonstarter after Andretti's car was seriously damaged when a fire extinguisher exploded during the morning warm-up on race day.

At the start Watson took the lead with Hunt tucking in behind him. Lauda was third ahead of Andretti, Mass, Reutemann, Pryce and J Scheckter. Nothing changed at the front until lap 11 when Hunt took the lead and behind him Andretti overtook Lauda for third place. On the next lap Lauda dropped behind Mass as well and on lap 16 the Ferrari was also behind Pace's Brabham. On lap 21 Mass overtook Andretti to take third place but eight laps later the German spun off. Three laps later Hunt suffered a suspension failure and crashed out of the lead, leaving Watson ahead of his team mate Pace. Watson was struggling with suspension trouble and soon let Pace ahead. Behind then Andretti was third but he was caught and passed by Scheckter in the new Wolf. When Watson retired on lap 42 Scheckter moved to second place. In the closing laps Pace was slowed with exhaustion because of heat in his cockpit and on lap 48 Scheckter took the lead. Andretti also overtook Pace but went out immediately with a wheel bearing failure and so Pace finished second with Reutemann third, Fittipaldi fourth and Andretti being classified fifth and Regazzoni sixth.

The Wolf team could not have asked for a better start.

20 Jody Scheckter Wolf-Cosworth  53 1h40m11.190s  11 
Carlos Pace Brabham-Alfa Romeo  53 1h40m54.430s  
12 Carlos Reutemann Ferrari  53 1h40m57.210s  
28 Emerson Fittipaldi Copersucar-Cosworth  53 1h41m06.670s  16 
5r Mario Andretti Lotus-Cosworth  51 Rear Wheel Bearing 
22 Clay Regazzoni Ensign-Cosworth  51  12 
7r 19 Vittorio Brambilla Surtees-Cosworth  48 Fuel Injection 13 
10 Ian Scheckter March-Cosworth  45 Battery Terminal 17 
nc 16 Tom Pryce Shadow-Cosworth  45  
John Watson Brabham-Alfa Romeo  41 Suspension/handling 
Alex-Dias Ribeiro March-Cosworth  39 Gear Lever 20 
nc 26 Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra  37  15 
Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Cosworth  32 Engine Overheating 
James Hunt McLaren-Cosworth  31 Suspension 
Jochen Mass McLaren-Cosworth  28 Engine/spin 
Ronnie Peterson Tyrrell-Cosworth  28 Spin 14 
29 Ingo Hoffman Copersucar-Cosworth  22 Engine 19 
11 Niki Lauda Ferrari  20 Fuel Metering Unit 
18 Hans Binder Surtees-Cosworth  18 Nose Section 18 
17 Renzo Zorzi Shadow-Cosworth  Gearbox 21 
ns Gunnar Nilsson Lotus-Cosworth   Car Raced By Andretti 10