Argentine GP 1979
JANUARY 21, 1979
Argentine GP, 1979
The domination of the Lotus 79 meant that all the teams had to build new "ground-effect" cars for the 1979 season. Team Lotus, aiming to stay one step ahead, was designing the new Lotus 80. JPS withdrew from F1 and Olympus moved to Wolf and Lotus landed a new sponsorship package with Martini, Tissot and Essex Petroleum. Mario Andretti was retained and Carlos Reutemann had been signed to drive even before Ronnie Peterson's death at Monza.
Peterson had signed a deal to join McLaren, to replace James Hunt. The Englishman has received a huge offer to drive for Wolf Racing with Harvey Postlethwaite designing a new WR7. After Peterson was killed McLaren turned to John Watson, who was out of work having been dropped by Brabham. The McLaren team produced a new McLaren M28 for Watson and Patrick Tambay to drive.
Jody Scheckter had joined Gilles Villeneuve at Ferrari and the team produced the ungainly 312T4, which was handicapped aerodynamically by the flat-12 engine, which made ground-effect difficult. The engine was however very powerful.
Ligier expanded to two cars with Patrick Depailler being hired from Tyrrell to partner Jacques Laffite. The team gave up with the old Matra engine and ran Cosworths instead and Gerard Ducarouge designed the JS11. Williams also expanded to two cars and signed Clay Regazzoni to partner Alan Jones while Patrick head finished off the new FW07 design. Also expanding was Renault Sport which hired Rene Arnoux to partner Jean-Pierre Jabouille. The pair started the year with the old RS1 while the new RS10 was finished.
Tyrrell was struggling for money as Elf had decided to put its money behind Renault and First National City Travelers Checks had decided not to continue. The team had hired Jean-Pierre Jarier to partner Didier Pironi and Maurice Philippe designed a new 008 chassis.
Arrows hired Jochen Mass to partner Riccardo Patrese and continued with the A1 chassis, although the bullet-nosed A2 was under development. ATS hired Hans Stuck to drive its new D3 chassis while Ensign had Derek Daly, Fittipaldi continued with his own car while Shadow was left without any drivers and so hired youngsters Elio de Angelis and Jan Lammers to drive. Surtees and Theodore disappeared while Hector Rebaque bought a 1978 Lotus and pushed ahead with his own car. Arturo Merzario was also struggling on with his own design, while Kauhsen and Alfa Romeo were both preparing their own teams.
Everyone was expecting continued Lotus domination as the 26 entries began practice in Buenos Aires and so there was some surprise when the two Ligiers emerged as the pacesetters, the French team having figured out the most effective form of ground-effect. Laffite took pole position with Depailler second. Reutemann was third in a Lotus 79 with Jarier fourth ahead of Scheckter, Watson, Andretti, Pironi, Tambay and Villeneuve.
At the start the Ligiers took off into the lead but behind them there was trouble when Watson and Scheckter collided. The resulting accident involved Pironi, Tambay, Piquet and Merzario. The race was stopped. Piquet had suffered foot injuries and Scheckter had sprained his wrist so both were missing while Tambay was left out as Watson took the McLaren spare. Pironi and Merzario also failed to make the restart because of the damage done.
At the restart Depailler took the lead with Jarier and Watson also getting ahead of Laffite. The Frenchman duly began to pick up places and on lap 11 he was in the lead with Watson third and Reutemann ahead of Andretti in fourth, Jarier having faded back into the midfield. Reutemann then caught and passed Watson and began to chase Depailler, who had a misfire, and by lap 44 he was up to second. Depailler dropped to fourth two laps later when Watson surged ahead. Andretti finished fifth with Emerson Fittipaldi sixth.