French GP 1978
JULY 2, 1978
French GP, 1978
With the international sporting federation having decided that the Brabham fan car was not legal, the Brabham team had to convert its BT46s back to original specification in time for the French GP. There were 29 cars present, the only changes to the field being the disappearance of Jacky Ickx, who had been replaced by Derek Daly at Ensign, and the reappearance of the Martini team with driver Rene Arnoux and a third McLaren for Bruno Giacomelli, who had been busy with F2 commitments in the previous few races.
Qualifying proved to be interesting as John Watson took pole position by a few hundredths of a second in his Brabham-Alfa Romeo, beating the JPS Lotus of Mario Andretti. Niki Lauda was third fastest in his Brabham and then came James Hunt (McLaren). The third row featured Ronnie Peterson (Lotus) and Patrick Tambay (McLaren) while Jody Scheckter (Wolf) shared the fourth row with Carlos Reutemann's Ferrari. The top 10 was completed by Gilles Villeneuve in the second Ferrari and Jacques Laffite in the Ligier.
At the start Watson was able to hold off Andretti. Tambay was third with Lauda, Peterson and Hunt behind him. Before the end of the first lap, however, Andretti had gone into the lead and began to pull away. In the laps which followed Lauda moved ahead of Tambay and then passed Watson but on the tenth lap he suffered an engine failure and disappeared. As Watson and Tambay had both been overtaken by Peterson by that that time it was the Swede who emerged in second place, giving Lotus another 1-2. Watson stayed third for a while Tambay disappeared to the pits with a puncture and then the Ulsterman came under pressure from Hunt and on lap 16 was pushed back to fourth place. Jones was fifth and Scheckter sixth. The order then remained unchanged for the rest of the afternoon, giving Lotus its third 1-2 in four races.
Andretti's World Championship lead was nine points.