Japanese GP 1976
OCTOBER 24, 1976
Japanese GP, 1976
The World Championship showdown was scheduled to take place at Mount Fuji with Niki Lauda just three points ahead of James Hunt after an incident-packed and controversial season. The field was much the same as usual although Noritake Takahara had rented the second Surtees (replacing Brett Lunger) and Hans Binder was back in the second Wolf Williams after Masami Kuwashima's money failed to materialize. Maki resurrected its old F1 car for Tony Trimmer while Heroes Racing entered an old Tyrrell for Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Kojima Engineering entered a locally-built chassis for Masahiro Hasemi (on Dunlop tires).
In qualifying Mario Andretti took pole position in the Lotus 77 with Hunt alongside him on the front row and Lauda third. Then came John Watson's Penske, Jody Scheckter (Tyrrell), Carlos Pace (Brabham-Alfa), Clay Regazzoni (Ferrari) and Vittorio Brambilla (March). The top 10 was completed by Ronnie Peterson (March and Hasemi in the Kojima. The Maki failed to qualify.
On race day the weather was dreadful with streams running across the track and fog. There were intense debates as to whether the race should be started but the organizers decided to go ahead and the drivers all agreed (although some were not happy). At the start Hunt went into the lead with Watson behind him and Andretti leading the rest of the field. Lauda was in the midfield but in the course of the second lap (during which Watson went down an escape road) Lauda pulled into the pits and withdrew. In the laps that followed Pace and Fittipaldi also pulled out, joining Perkins who had decided against racing at the end of the first lap.
Out on the race track Hunt continued to lead while the situation behind him was rather more confused as second place passed between Andretti and Brambilla. On lap 22 Brambilla even challenged for the lead but then spun. Jochen Mass made it a McLaren 1-2 but on the 36th lap he crashed and so Depailler moved to second place with Andretti third.
It looked as though Hunt was on course for the title but the track was drying and Hunt was fading. On lap 62 he fell behind Depailler and Andretti. Hunt knew he had only to finish fourth to win the title. Two laps later Depailler's left rear started to deflate and he had to pit. Andretti took the lead. Then Hunt had a similar problem. Distraught, he headed for the pits. He dropped to fifth and set off after Depailler, Alan Jones (Surtees) and Regazzoni. Depailler overtook both men on lap 70 and on the next lap Hunt did the same, although he finished thinking that he had lost the World title.
Ferrari had won the Constructors' Championship - but it was little consolation.
|1||5||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Cosworth 77||73||1h43m58.860s||1|
|2||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Cosworth P34||72||13|
|3||11||James Hunt||McLaren-Cosworth M23||72||2|
|4||19||Alan Jones||Surtees-Cosworth TS19||72||20|
|5||2||Clay Regazzoni||Ferrari 312T2||72||7|
|6||6||Gunnar Nilsson||Lotus-Cosworth 77||72||16|
|7||26||Jacques Laffite||Ligier-Matra JS5||72||11|
|8||24||Harald Ertl||Hesketh-Cosworth 308D||72||22|
|9||18||Noritake Takahara||Surtees-Cosworth TS19||70||24|
|10||17||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Shadow-Cosworth DN5B||69||15|
|11||51||Masahiro Hasemi||Kojima-Cosworth KE007||66||10|
|r||3||Jody Scheckter||Tyrrell-Cosworth P34||58||Overheating||5|
|r||21||Hans Binder||Wolf Williams-Cosworth FW05||49||Mechanical||25|
|r||16||Tom Pryce||Shadow-Cosworth DN8||46||Engine||14|
|r||9||Vittorio Brambilla||March-Cosworth 761||38||Engine||8|
|r||34||Hans-Joachim Stuck||March-Cosworth 761||37||Electrics||18|
|r||12||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Cosworth M23||35||Accident||12|
|r||28||John Watson||Penske-Cosworth PC4||33||Engine||4|
|r||52||Kazuyoshi Hoshino||Tyrrell-Cosworth 007||27||Tires||21|
|r||20||Arturo Merzario||Wolf Williams-Cosworth FW05||23||Gearbox||19|
|r||30||Emerson Fittipaldi||Copersucar-Cosworth FD04||9||Withdrew||23|
|r||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Alfa Romeo BT45||7||Withdrew||6|
|r||1||Niki Lauda||Ferrari 312T2||2||Withdrew||3|
|r||7||Larry Perkins||Brabham-Alfa Romeo BT45||1||Withdrew||17|
|r||10||Ronnie Peterson||March-Cosworth 761||0||Engine||9|
|ns||21||Masami Kuwashima||Wolf Williams-Cosworth FW05||Sponsors Withdrew||26|
|nq||54||Tony Trimmer||Maki-Cosworth F102A||27|