Austrian GP 1976

AUGUST 15, 1976

Austrian GP, 1976

With Niki Lauda in a critical condition in hospital and Ferrari having announced that it was withdrawing from the World Championship because of the reinstatement of James Hunt in the results of the Spanish GP, the Austrian GP was nearly canceled but it went ahead although the crowds were small. With Chris Amon having retired from F1, the Ensign team hired local driver Hans Binder while RAM reappeared with Loris Kessel in one car and Lella Lombardi in the other. Two other locals Karl Oppitzhauser (who had bought a March 761) and Otto Stuppacher (who had acquired an old Tyrrell) had entered but were refused the necessary clearances because of lack of experience.

This meant that all 26 cars would be able to start. At the front of the grid was James Hunt (McLaren) with John Watson's Penske alongside. Then came Ronnie Peterson's March and Gunnar Nilsson (Lotus) with Jacques Laffite (Ligier) and Tom Pryce (Shadow) side by side on the third row. The top 10 was completed by Vittorio Brambilla (March), Carlos Pace (Brabham-Alfa Romeo), Mario Andretti (Lotus) and Jody Scheckter (Tyrrell).

The troubled weather in qualifying continued on Sunday morning with some light rain but it was dry for the start and Watson and Hunt went off side by side, the Ulsterman getting ahead as he had the inside line at the first corner. At the same time Peterson sneaked ahead of Hunt while Nilsson was fourth, Laffite fifth and Pryce sixth. Peterson was soon in the lead while Scheckter was on the move and moved rapidly up to take second place on lap seven. Three laps later he took the lead from Peterson but as Watson and Nilsson were right them the order changed again when Scheckter was held up by a backmarker and so Peterson went ahead again with Scheckter dropping to third behind Watson. The Penske driver than closed up on Peterson and on the 12th lap went into the lead. Three laps later Scheckter suffered a suspension failure and crashed heavily. Peterson and Nilsson were left to duel from second and on the 19th lap Nilsson went ahead, while Peterson dropped back into the clutches of Laffite and Hunt. After a good battle Laffite got ahead and chased after Nilsson. He caught the Swede and on lap 45 moved into second. On the next lap Peterson fell behind Andretti and the order was settled with Watson winning his first Grand Prix victory and the first for the Penske team.

The win meant that Watson had to shave off his beard, having promised Roger Penske he would do it if the team won a race.

28 John Watson Penske-Cosworth PC4 54 1h30m07.860s  
26 Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra JS5 54 1h30m18.650s  
Gunnar Nilsson Lotus-Cosworth 77 54 1h30m19.840s  
11 James Hunt McLaren-Cosworth M23 54 1h30m20.300s  
Mario Andretti Lotus-Cosworth 77 54 1h30m29.350s  
10 Ronnie Peterson March-Cosworth 761 54 1h30m42.200s  
12 Jochen Mass McLaren-Cosworth M23 54 1h31m07.310s  12 
24 Harald Ertl Hesketh-Cosworth 308D 53  20 
38 Henri Pescarolo Surtees-Cosworth TS19 52  22 
10r 18 Brett Lunger Surtees-Cosworth TS19 51 Brakes/ Accident 16 
11 39 Alessandro Pesenti-Rossi Tyrrell-Cosworth 007 51  23 
12 33 Lella Lombardi Brabham-Cosworth BT44B 50  24 
22 Hans Binder Ensign-Cosworth N176 47 Throttle Linkage 19 
nc 32 Loris Kessel Brabham-Cosworth BT44B 44  25 
Vittorio Brambilla March-Cosworth 761 43 Accident 
30 Emerson Fittipaldi Copersucar-Cosworth FD04 43 Accident 17 
17 Jean-Pierre Jarier Shadow-Cosworth DN5B 40 Fuel Pump 18 
Carlos Pace Brabham-Alfa Romeo BT45 40 Brakes/ Accident 
19 Alan Jones Surtees-Cosworth TS19 40 Engine/ Accident 15 
34 Hans-Joachim Stuck March-Cosworth 761 26 Fuel Pressure 11 
Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Cosworth P34 24 Suspension 13 
20 Arturo Merzario Wolf Williams-Cosworth FW05 17 Accident 21 
16 Tom Pryce Shadow-Cosworth DN5B 14 Brakes 
Jody Scheckter Tyrrell-Cosworth P34 14 Suspension/ Accident 10 
Carlos Reutemann Brabham-Alfa Romeo BT45 Clutch 14