Even though they are thinking of transferring the Canadian Grand Prix to an impromptu street circuit around the Canadian National Exhibition Centre in the cetre of Toronto, this year’s race is held on Sunday, October 9, 1977, in the rural outskirts of Mosport Park, near Toronto, about 7 miles from the city centre. It’s the 16th round of the Formula 1 World Constructors' Championship and the cars came straight from the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, so many teams are facing a challenging week to rebuild the machines damaged by the American race. It seems then that the bad weather wants to follow the Circus of Formula 1 in its North American movements. It rains, in fact, also in Canada. Ferrari, which had booked the track, together with Renault, to be able to test Wednesday, October 5, 1977 with the three cars entrusted to Lauda, Reutemann and the new Villeneuve purchase, has seen its programs go up in smoke. The first tests had to start in the morning, but the big trucks that transported cars and materials from Watkins Glen to Mosport arrived with considerable delay, forcing the mechanics to work at a forced pace to try to prepare the cars as soon as possible. Then it starts to rain, and the Ferrari technicians decide to wait for a change in the weather conditions, which is not the case, while Renault still makes some laps in the wet. Niki Lauda arrives on time at the circuit: after stopping in the Ferrari box, he goes to Brabham, where he stays with Murray and Manfredoni, the head of Alfa Romeo in this trip. Villeneuve is also present, responding to the numerous journalists present, and Carlos Reutemann. Riccardo Patrese joins the Shadow team, running on Sunday, after refusing to race in the United States Grand Prix to participate in the European Formula 2 Championship held last Sunday in Portugal.
We try Reutemann, who makes a few laps only achieving a time of 1'16"1 which is the best time compared to 1'17"2 of Fittipaldl (Copersucar) and 1'20"0 of Jaboullle (Renault). As for Lauda, given the unfavourable situation he had already left the circuit in the morning declaring that there was too little time left and it was therefore useless to stop in the hope of being able to get on track. Only Friday, October 7, 1977 will it be known if Lauda intends to participate in the Canadian Grand Prix after checking whether the Ferrari that will be entrusted to him will be competitive. Two other mechanics were sent from Maranello to Mosport. The absence of Cuoghi, the controversy of the last days and the presence of a third car in the race have recommended this move to the technicians of Modena. Gambarelli and Scaramelll - these are the names of the two newcomers - reached the rest of the team on Monday. All cars are now housed in a shed behind the pits. In the morning, a lightbulb, just lighted, still glowing, falls into a basin of gasoline, causing a fire in the stand of Ligier-Matra; a bit 'of confusion, but within a few seconds the managers of the French team demand the flames. Even before closing the 1977 World Championship, Formula 1 teams are already preparing for the Argentine Grand Prix on Sunday, January 15, 1978, the opening race of the new season. Only Ferrari, Brabham and Wolf have officially announced their drivers for next year, other teams have not yet revealed the name of the second driver, even though they have already contracted, still others are chasing the remaining drivers available. According to the latest news, although not yet official, Andretti will have as his teammate Peterson, who had left Lotus only a year ago for Tyrrell.
The Italo-American would have preferred to still have Nilsson at his side, but the latter aspires to become team leader and still would cost too much to Lotus that not to lose Andretti remained with little money. Peterson will instead bring to Colin Chapman’s team a rich sponsor, and, as a driver, is certainly still among the fastest in the world. His compatriot Nilsson, with whom he had traded places at Lotus, will now probably end up at Shadow, whose sports director Jackie Oliver is negotiating a large contract with the American Twa instead of the Italian sponsor Ambrosio. In that case, Patrese risks being unemployed because Alan Jones, third in Monza, would remain at Shadow. Otherwise the Australian will probably be assigned to the leadership of the debutant Ralt who is currently under construction in the workshops of Ron Tauranac. After letting Villeneuve escape, Elf-Tyrrell will fall back on the French Pironi in support of Depailler. Hunt will have alongside McLaren the French Tambay, already of Ensign. If the latter will be able to secure as sponsor the Marlboro, then next year Giacomelli alongside the timeless Clay Regazzoni, in great shape in the race last Sunday at Watkins Glen. Surtees is also on the hunt for a sponsor without whom they will not be able to complete their plans for next season. Nuanced support of Parmalat, replaced by Brabahm in the role so far occupied by Martini, John Surtees is looking for the renewal of the contract with the Beta for Vittorio Brambilla and in addition must find another sponsor for the second car. Finally, the German ATS signed the contract with Mass, but Stuck declined the offer for the other driver. There will also be many innovations in the field of machinery. In addition to revolutionizing the Brabham BT46, should make their appearance the Ferrari T3, a new four-wheeled Tyrrell, the Shadow DN9 very similar to the current Lotus, and Frank Williams' New Car. Lotus is preparing a new version of the JPS78, probably with ultra-light transmission without clutch.
Not very tall, light eyes, brown hair, born on January 18, 1952 in Chambly, Quebec, a wife and two children: this is the identity card of Gilles Villeneuve, the young driver hired by Ferrari for 1978 in place of Niki Lauda. Villeneuve spent his first day with his new team in Mosport. Sunday he will debut in the Canadian Grand Prix. Gilles' language is French-Canadian, but he also speaks English. Soon he will learn, as all his predecessors, the Modenese dialect. Villeneuve enters Ferrari in a difficult moment, replacing a driver twice World Champion: is this difficult?
"There have been controversies before, but they do not concern me; I will try to work as much as possible, to do my best. The Ferrari Commendator had confidence in me considering me mature for Formula 1 and I will do everything to prove that he was right".
In what terms as your contract been defined?
"My collaboration with the team of Modena begins on the 1st of November 1977. It will continue for the 1978 season".
What arrangements have you made for these two rounds of Formula 1 World Championship?
"For the Canada Grand Prix and the Japan Grand Prix I will race with a separate contract, as I did a few months ago with McLaren in England".
His knowledge of European tracks is limited, having competed a few times in the Old Continent: how will he overcome this disadvantage?
"I already agree with Ferrari for a long series of tests in Fiorano and on the various circuits where the Formula 1 races will take place. I know I have no experience; there will be a lot to work on, of course".
The great work that awaits you in Maranello will prevent you from taking part in other races?
"I talked about this with the commendator Ferrari; of course I would like to race sometimes in Canada, but we will discuss this later".
Tell us a little about your career, your hobbies, your family.
"I started racing in 1973 with a Formula Ford. I won the Quebec championship and switched to Formula Atlantic, very similar to Formula 2. With these cars I won the Canadian title in 1976 and continued until a few months ago. I also competed with snowmobiles, a very common specialty in Canada. This year I started some tests of the Can-Am championship at the wheel of a Wolf, the rest you know".
You have brothers, sisters...?
"Yes, a younger brother, Jacques, also runs in a car and promises well. He just won the promotional championship organized by Honda here in Canada".
How did your father receive the news of the move to Ferrari?
"He was happy; once he was very worried because I wanted to run in the car, but now he has given up".
What are his hobbies?
"I have always been a mechanical enthusiast; I also like to play ice hockey and I am a fan of American football: I don’t really have the right build to practice it and I am content to be a spectator".
What is your great aspiration?
"Racing in Formula 1".
For Gilles Villeneuve, the most beautiful and most important period of his career will begin here in a few hours. They are waiting with confidence at Ferrari. The Canadian Grand Prix will be held without Niki Lauda, the new World Champion has decided to leave Ferrari and Mosport and return to Austria. The Austrian driver is not present at the circuit, where on Friday, divided into two sessions, the first day of testing takes place in view of this penultimate episode of the Formula 1 World Championship. The news of Lauda’s no is contained in a statement by Ferrari, prepared by the engineer Roberto Nosetto, and placed in the press room. Here is the text:
"This morning at 7:00 Niki Lauda called us to inform us that, after thinking through the night, he had decided not to take part in the race. The motivation was that he, as World Champion, did not feel in such conditions that he could win. He made no reservations about the technical preparation of the cars. Lauda is aware that two new engines and two mechanics had arrived promptly from Italy to assist him as always done in the past. Moreover, in the event that Lauda’s car in practice did not satisfy, Villeneuve would not have left to allow the World Champion to honor his recent title even in front of the athletes of Canada. Ferrari has only taken note of this unjustified renunciation, and participates in the Caanda Grand Prix with Reutemann and Villeneuve".
Asking Roberto Nosetto for further explanations, it emerges that:
"I made it clear to Niki that if any problems occurred, Villeneuve would have stayed on foot; however, he preferred not to show up at the circuit, these are his words, psychologically in place to run. Among other things, there is an article in the international sports code, 69, which provides for the immediate suspension for that conductor who gives up a race without valid reasons. I think the matter does not end here, Lauda will have to pay a high fine to the organizers. However, his car is on track, ready, and will remain there until the end of the official practice".
It’s impossible to track down the new World Champion. Lauda went to New York in the morning by private plane and from the North American metropolis left in the evening for Zurich-Salzburg. On Sunday he will be in his villa in Hof. Lauda certainly meditated on this move for a few days. There are many who believe this: we also know that he consulted for a long time with Bernie Ecclestone, his new manager and president of the Formula 1 Manufacturers Association, and with Max Mosley, lawyer and head of March, a trusted man of Ecclestone in the Association. For a Lauda that goes, a Villeneuve that arrives. Great was the anticipation for Gilles' debut in Ferrari. The Canadian will behave well, also considering the fact that the Maranello cars do not fit very well to the characteristics of the Mosport circuit, but will make a mistake in the mixed section, downhill, after the pits.
"The car got a reject, turned around and ran into a guardrall. Too bad".
The 312T2 will suffer serious damage to the chassis.
"The car is not perfectly stable in the mixed section; however, I think I will improve my performance tomorrow".
In the race will bring the number 21. The Constructors' Association refused the request of the Canadian, who wanted to keep on this occasion the number customarily used in national races, 69. In the first session an accident also involves Jan Ashley. The English driver flies off the track at over 250 km/h in the long straight of the box. His Hesketh crashes into the guardrail and flips over a few times. It will take over twenty minutes to extract the young man’s body from the car’s twisted metal sheets. Ashley has broken ankles and wrists, but her condition is not severe. With a helicopter he is transported to the Sunny Brooker Medicai Center in Toronto. The divorce between Niki Lauda and Ferrari is now complete. It is hoped, however, that the refusal of the Austrian to honour in Canada and Japan the commitment with the Maranello team does not trigger another chain of controversy, reactions and mutual accusations among the partners of this marriage precipitated in a heated dispute. The story is bitter and unpleasant and is now becoming frankly boring. How much good they accomplished together Lauda and Ferrari in recent years is overwhelmed, forgotten: the same conquest of the recent World Championship passed in second plane, almost as if the driver’s commitment on the one hand and the technical and human effort of the Maranello team on the other were irrelevant. The no comes not unexpected, because, after the Watkins Glen race, the Austrian had said not to exclude this possibility. However, this decision leaves, to say the least, puzzled. The Ferrari press release is clear and contains two important elements: Niki had been assured of all technical help; and in fact the Maranello team was willing not to let Gilles Villeneuve race, which, too, represents the future. It seems, in such a framework, that Lauda had all the possible guarantees. At the base of the no there is a psychological question?
If so, it is respectable on the human plane, but but not on the professional one and justifies the adjective used by Ferrari to define the renunciation: unjustified. For Lauda, legal-sporting and contractual problems could arise. But at this point, it is to be hoped that Ferrari will not take legal action against its former driver. Even if this were formally impeccable, the gesture would provoke other reactions. Maranello fans and, in general, motoring enthusiasts now have enough to assess the situation globally. Of course, Lauda had the chance to close his relationship with Scuderia Ferrari to the best of his ability: now World Champion, free from tactics and obligations, Niki could have reconfirmed in Mosport all his qualities, with even greater merit since it is a track from him little loved. So the refusal leads to recall another great no, that of Japan, but it had other motivations, and another mysterious renunciation, the one in Spain. The World Champion leaves Ferrari in an unpleasant way, bringing back doubts and questions that were believed to be over. There’s some emergency changes at March, whom had to ship over a development version of the 771 monocoque for Ian Scheckter to use after his race car was destroyed at the Glen. His car therefore is a hybrid of parts of 771s, while Alex Ribeiro will race his familiar 761B. The third March in the field is the one owned by Williams Grand Prix Engineering and is, as always, entrusted to Patrick Nève. Shadow are less drastic in their solutions, having brought along enough spares to rebuild Alan Jones' car around one of Riccardo Patrese's old monocoques. The Italian himself is rejoining the team for the Canadian race, leaving Jean-Pierre Jarier to hope that a late bid to ship his Penske across Canada will come through. Another team that will bring a rebuild on track are Brabham-Alfa Romeo, although they ultimately have to put Hans-Joachim Stuck in the spare car and hope that neither he, nor teammate John Watson, will need it during the weekend. We’re now into the stable section of the field and Lotus will race as they did in the US, with Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson, who are expected to battle eachother throughout the weekend, after the latter had a new right front corner added to his 78.
Likewise, the two McLarens came through unscathed at the Glen, meaning James Hunt and Jochen Mass will race as usual, barring an engine change for the German. Tyrrell too have only minor maintenance to carry out for Ronnie Peterson and Patrick Depailler, as did Ligier-Matra for Jacques Laffite. Renault also will make the trip to the north with Jean-Pierre Jabouille at the wheel, although given that they only had two engines left for the RS01 they need to have a trouble free run until race day to have any chance of starting. Surtees, meanwhile, has bent the front of Vittorio Brambilla's nose back into shape ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix, while Hans Binder's car is unmarked apart for some minor excursions during the race at the Glen. Ensign also had to make some minor repairs to Clay Regazzoni's crash damaged car, while Patrick Tambay's car is in a better state then rest of the grid, given he failed to qualify for the wet race in New York State. Over at the Hesketh team it has been an unusually quiet week's work, meaning there are no issues for either Rupert Keegan or Ian Ashley. Emerson Fittipaldi and the Fittipaldi team also enjoyed a quiet build-up for the race weekend, as did Brett Lunger with his two privately owned McLaren M23s. Joining them will be Danny Ongais in his rebuilt Penske, which arrives at the circuit sporting a hastily repaired front end after his visit to the barriers in his home race. Completing the entry list, there’s the Canadian Wolf team, which has high hopes for the weekend despite a recent loss of pace. Indeed, since they lost the title at the Glen, the team’s only driver Jody Scheckter arrives determined to prove that he could have won the title, with Wolf providing two battle hardened cars for him to try. Indeed, other than Lunger and Laffite, the Wolf squad are the only team to bring a complete spare car for the weekend, although it surprised everyone that Walter Wolf had not hired a second driver for their home race.
However, on Thursday the teams are busy repairing their chargers, the drivers are on the war-zone completing a track inspection. Indeed, the famously bumpy Mosport circuit seems to have gotten worse during the winter, while the barriers had to undergo a hammering after the drivers all agreed that they were poorly installed, and the spectator fencing less than secure. However, when the GPDA is effectively disbanded, there’s no official protest, while the CSI deems the track safe after their own inspection. Furthermore, there seems to be little point in updating the circuit to Grand Prix standards due to the fact that a new venue has already been proposed for 1978. Indeed, a street circuit is set to be established on the man made Île de Notre-Dame in Montreal for 1978, weaving past the remaining sights of the 1967 International Expo. Another potential venue is a street circuit close to the Canadian National Exhibition Centre in Toronto, around 70 miles from Mosport Park. Now, for the Championship standins: as mentioned above, his fourth place in the New York State had proved enough for Lauda to earn his second Championship crown, and Scheckter failed to win the race. Furthermore, as Andretti had claimed second on that day, it meant that it was the Italian-American, not the South African, that led the chase to be runner-up, with the former seeming to have an advantage in terms of equipment. They are joined in the fight for second by Reutemann and Hunt, although Hunt needs two wins just to overhaul Andretti, if Andretti completely fails to score. Elsewhere, Ferrari had arrived in the United States as the International Cup for Constructors Champions, so the fight for second place was on at the Glen. In this case, it was Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth that had the advantage, the Norfolk squad all but sealing their position in second with 62 points. McLaren-Ford Cosworth, meanwhile, had moved up to second, fifteen points away, overtaking Wolf-Ford Cosworth ahead of the latter's home race.
Practice is staged across two days in Canada, although with heavy rain scheduled for Saturday it’s in doubt as to whether anyone would run during the latter. Regardless, the sessions wil be split into their normal pattern of three timed periods and a single untimed run, with Friday hosting two of these. In terms of a target time, the aces are aiming for a 1'12"389, which had been enough for James Hunt to claim pole back in 1976. Mario Andretti dominates the cool morning session on Friday, with the American dancing his Lotus around the circuit from the moment the first period started. When sessions end, the #5 Lotus had recorded a 1'11"58, almost a full second faster than the following best effort, set by James Hunt. Indeed, even Hunt is in a league of his own, for the closest driver to him at the end of the morning is John Watson, whose Brabham-Alfa Romeo recorded a 1'13"5. Yet, while the pace from the top two, and Andretti in particular, is nothing short of stunning, the story of the first session is not about super fast times. Instead, the session has effectively been the death of Mosport Park as host of the Canadian Grand Prix as a huge accident for Ian Ashley highlights the failures of the circuit's safety. Coming onto the start/finish straight, Ashley's Hesketh is just cresting the hill when he hits a bump with enough momentum to pitch the nose of the car up into the air. That’s enough for the Brit to get properly airborne, with more and more air getting under the car, causing it to somersault three times before crashing back onto terra firma into a television tower. The tower, effectively a scaffold structure, gets completely wiped out on impact, while Ashley remains trapped in his cockpit with a broken ankle and a pair of broken wrists. Fortunately the tower was unoccupied at the time, meaning the marshals, when they arrived, only had to focus on Ashley. Forty minutes later the Brit is finally out from his ruined Hesketh, which was lacking an engine and wheels, and is duly whisked away to the hospital via ambulance.
This raises other arguments as the circuit lacked a helicopter to carry injured drivers to the hospital, with murmurs of a strike growing louder until the organizers provided a chopper for the rest of the weekend. We’re into the second Friday session and, again, the safety credentials of Mosport Park are found to be lacking: Jochen Mass wipes out an entire section of barriers at the first corner. The German, that had just set a personal best of 1'13"116, was on a slow down lap when he spun, before smacking into the Armcos at a relatively slow speed. He fortunately gets out uninjured, but the shocking this is that, rather than replacing the damaged barriers, the marshals go on the accident site and simply bend the barrier back to something vaguely upright, prompting more disconsolation from the drivers. As that wreckage gets, partially cleared up, the session goes on with Hunt inching closer to Andretti's morning mark, ending his mid-session run with a 1'11"942. Andretti, however, is not in the mood to be challenged, and as Hunt pulls into the pits with a broken exhaust, the Lotus flashes across the line to claim a 1'11"385 and pole position. Indeed, by the end of the session, no one except Hunt, whose running was curtailed by his damaged exhaust, was within a second of the #5 Lotus, meaning Andretti held provisional pole overnight. Elsewhere, Patrick Depailler goes for a series of spins for Tyrrell, but is still in a relatively strong fifth position behind Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson, who are the only other drivers to record sub-1'13"0 times. Others, such as the Ferrari debutante Gilles Villeneuve, struggle to get their cars setup at all, with the young Canadian racer ultimately ending the day among the catch fencing at the hairpin. Others with issues include Emerson Fittipaldi, Hans Binder and Jean-Pierre Jabouille: they saw their afternoons ruined by engine failures, with the latter set to drop out overnight after his spare Renault engine is found to have a fault early on.
There will be almost no running during either of Saturday's sessions, with heavy rain ensuring that Mosport Park is soaked in time for the final timed period. That meant that Jabouille, who just had his new engine fitted, tops the times, although his lack of running on Friday ultimately did the damage as he failed to qualify. Only a handful of other drivers take to the track on the afternoon, although none is able to match Jabouille's 1'47"613. What happened eight days ago in the United States is repeated in Canada. The rain, after a day of rest, has resumed to fall, preventing the drivers to improve the times obtained Friday in the first day of practice. The initial deployment is then drawn up taking into account only the first day: those who were late in the development of the machines is in serious difficulty. The atmosphere in Mosport is special. The tests are interrupted continuously, every time a car goes off the road a suspension is necessary, since the telephone cables of service, amateur fixed to the guardrails, are broken. What will happen if the problem occurs during the race, which is quite likely? The track is unsafe and the rain increases the risks. Saturday, October 8, 1977, at the end of the tests, the pilots - after consulting each other in a meeting - require the organizers a greater number of commissioners (about 200)More professionalism of the latter in signalling with flags and the constant presence of helicopters-ambulance. Some drivers even propose the cancellation of this sixteenth round of the Formula 1 World Championship, but, as always, the huge financial interests that revolve around a Grand Prix prevail over reason. Some drivers, however, say that if it rains on Sunday as it did on Saturday, they will make a lap or two and then stop. Ferrari, widow of Niki Lauda, is in trouble. Carlo Reutemann, who doesn’t even want to be on track on Saturday in the morning’s not timed training session, will start in the sixth row and Gilles Villeneuve in the ninth, alongside Lan Scheckter, less famous (and skilled] brother of Jody Scheckter. According to engineer Nosetto, Scuderia Ferrari’s sports director:
"The chassis of our 312 T2 does not fit the characteristics of this circuit. The drivers have to wait more than many others before giving power to the exit of the curves, because the car is slow to return to the Ideal position".
On the home circuit we expected a little more from Villeneuve. But there are some extenuating factors to consider for this not very bright debut. The young Canadian drives a single-seater certainly not among the most competitive in Mosport and is only at his second race in Formula 1. In the accident that occurred on Friday he seriously damaged the front axle and the chassis - which at first examination seemed compromised - It was so intact that the mechanics of the Maranello team restored the car in a few hours. In the only hour of timed practice the rain was beating. Only Villeneuve, Brambilla, Binder, Jaboullle (who failed to qualify with Renault Turbo), Keegan and Fittipaldi took to the track for a few laps. The fastest - let’s say - is Jaboullle. For Villeneuve a small setback. The Canadian returns to the box with the brake of the right rear wheel locked; as a result of this develops a fire principle and the firefighters use fire extinguishers too zealously, spraying the car with dust, so much so that Ferrari suspends the tests to clean up the engine. The Canadian pilot declares:
"The bad weather and poor adaptability of the car to this circuit prevented me from trying Effectively. I would have needed to turn more. One thing is certain: the Ferrari is not a wet car".
The fast curves of the Canadian circuit, the water and the wind at times very violent contribute to causing many spins and several exits of the track. Fortunately, no one has any consequences. Good news about Ashley: the 30-year-old English driver improves.
Raceday dawns in the midst of a downpour, with the circuit soaked during an otherwise trouble free pre-race warm-up session. Fortunately, the rain stops quickly, and by the time the field assembles on the grid for the start, with twenty-five of the twenty-six qualifiers lining up, the circuit is all but dry. Indeed, with Ian Ashley injured and Jean-Pierre Jabouille out of engines there’s a reduced field for the start, which will be staged in marginally damp conditions. Pole sitter Mario Andretti makes an excellent getaway from the grid to claim an early lead, leaving James Hunt to fend off the attentions of Gunnar Nilsson into turn one. The Swede himself gets away unbothered off the line, since compatriot Ronnie Peterson completely messes up his start from third so he tumbles down the order. Jochen Mass and Riccardo Patrese are ahead before the field passes the start line, with Peterson slipping behind Patrick Depailler into the first corner. A few seconds later and Mass goes past Nilsson for third, charging past the #6 Lotus on the brakes into turn two. Behind, Jody Scheckter and Alan Jones rub against one another as they get caught behind the now up-to-speed Peterson, causing both of them to suddenly skid across the circuit. Clay Regazzoni tries to take advantage but ultimately has to take avoiding action, with the Ensign getting onto the wet grass for a slide into the barriers. Regazzoni is left with a shattered front end in the catch fencing, and, despite a brief effort to escape, is left to climb out of his cockpit having covered a few hundred metres. Out front, meanwhile, Andretti comes charging across the start/finish line to complete the opening tour a few car lengths clear of Hunt, with Mass still in third ahead of Nilsson. Indeed, the German is already beginning to lose ground to the lead duo, and now has a long queue of cars behind him heading through the first corner. The race will soon settle down after that, except for an accident for John Watson after the Ulsterman bravely tries to take on Peterson around the outside of one corner, only to glance off the side of the Swede. Much like Regazzoni's accident, Watson is unable to stop the moment his Brabham-Alfa Romeo hit the grass, meaning he slids right into the barriers and has to retire. Out front, in the meantime, Andretti and Hunt seem to be streaking clear of third placed Mass, who’s under attack from Nilsson at almost every corner.
Indeed, over the following laps there’s very little track action, with Hunt and Andretti disappearing up the road, while Mass, Depailler and Nilsson form the next group. Next up was Scheckter, who elbows his way past Patrese and Peterson, while Carlos Reutemann moves past Alan Jones. The latter group is over twenty seconds behind Mass and co. by lap ten, with Mass' trio a further twelve seconds behind the leaders. Reutemann makes more progress over the next laps, taking Peterson and Patrese, before sprinting off with Scheckter to catch Nilsson and Depailler. Those two are steadily dropped by Mass, while Peterson, who gets back ahead of Patrese, sends himself spinning on lap fourteen. He rejoins down in fourteenth, although he soon makes up a place as Nilsson disappears into the catch fencing when his throttle jams up on lap eighteen. Indeed, Nilsson's accident signalsl the start of a wave of retirements, with Reutemann coming into the pits a couple of laps later with a fuel issue. Hans-Joachim Stuck is next: his Alfa Romeo engine expires, while Jacques Laffite also stops early with a transmission failure. Then, Ian Scheckter, his March detonates its Ford Cosworth engine, while Emerson Fittipaldi decids to end his race early at the back of the field after suddenly losing power. Moments later and a spectacular accident eliminates Hans Binder and Rupert Keegan, a collision caused by the sudden appearance of Brett Lunger and the aforementioned Keegan in the Austrian's mirrors. Indeed, when he saw the approaching Lunger in the mirrors, Binder moved his Surtees aside, only to cut across into the path of Keegan, whose Hesketh was lurking behind the McLaren. The Austrian and the Brit tangle wheels, with Keegan's car catapulting into the air before landing in time to smash into the barriers. Fortunately, Keegan is able to escape uninjured from this accident, while Binder has to stop a few yards on with smashed suspension. After that, the race settles down once again, with Andretti and Hunt just over a second apart despite carving their way through backmarkers. Those backmarkers soon become the mid-field and then the top ten, and, as lap 60 and three quarter distance loomed, the pair come within sight of third placed Mass. Yet, irony of fate, it would be the third placed, and totally outpaced, McLaren that ultimately decides the fate of the race.
Indeed, Andretti, trying to deal with Hunt's teammate before the German can affect their duel for the lead, decides to throw his Lotus up the inside of the McLaren into the hairpin, only to get out of shape on the dust. Mass therefore stays ahead, while Hunt manages to scramble around the outside of the Lotus to snatch the lead, and is now right behind teammate Mass. It almost seems as if the move had been planned as Hunt charges across the line with the lead, although the truth is revealed just seconds later. Indeed, as the McLarens plus Andretti come through turn three, Mass, sensing his job was done, moves to the outside of the corner, opening the door for Hunt to pass through the medium speed sweep. Unfortunately for him Hunt, rather impatiently, decides to go for the same piece of tarmac, causing the two to inevitably collide. Hunt is now forced onto the grass and duly spears into the barriers, destroying the front of his McLaren, while Mass rejoins in fourth. Out front, meanwhile, Andretti is now cruising to one of the most dominant victories in recent memory, a lap clear of the now second placed Scheckter. Indeed, the American is so confident of seeing the checkered flag that he gets his Cosworth engine to barely tick over, and is careful of staying well away from the potentially puncture causing kerbs. Yet, with four laps to go, Andretti's nursing efforts are found to be in vain, for his Cosworth engine dramatically expires on the run out of the hairpin. A despondent Andretti limps the car back to the pits, with oil trailing out from underneath the car all the way from turn seven to pit entry. Unaware of this, Andretti climbs out of his cockpit and walks away, leaving Scheckter to pick-up a not entirely deserved lead. However, as Andretti comes to a stop, the result of his cruise to the pits reveal on track: Patrese hits the American's slick at turn nine and goes spinning into Keegan's wrecked Hesketh. The Italian, sensing the danger around him, quickly jumps out of the cockpit, just in time to see Vittorio Brambilla wipe out both cars with his Surtees on lap 78. Gilles Villeneuve is next on the scene and spins without hitting anything, only for his driveshaft to fail as he pulls away. Fortunately the sight of the three trashed cars at the side of the road is enough to tell the remaining drivers to reduce their speed at turn nine, meaning the final couple of laps are fairly quiet.
Jody Scheckter, with the Wolf won a surprise victory in a Canadian Grand Prix full of emotions, while Mario Andretti, protagonist of the tests and the race with his Lotus, was mocked, in the last laps by the failure of the engine. The rupture of the eight-cylinder Cosworth resulting in the spilling of oil on the track resulted in a series of runways, in which were involved II new purchase of Ferrari, Gilles Villeneuve and Italian drivers Riccardo Patrese with Shadow and Vittorio Brambilla with Surtees. For Ferrari, widow of Lauda, it was a difficult day, because Carlos Reutemann also retired due to power problems. For Andretti it was yet another bitter end, for Scheckter a success, The third in the season, achieved with the usual test of tenacity and courage. The last rival of Lauda has risen so in the ranking in second place bypassing the Italian American. It rained on Saturday and also during the night, so much to worry greatly the drivers and organizers who had planned a postponement or even the cancellation of the race, but the water stopped falling a few hours before departure. Already during the morning’s not-timed practice session many cars were able to fit dry tyres. The best time, for the record, was obtained by Ronnie Peterson who with the Tyrrell 6-wheeled enthused spectators performing in a truly spectacular guide. The public came in large numbers. On the hills surrounding the circuit there are many caravans and camping tents. Canadian enthusiasts came to Mosport despite the bad weather. The debut at the wheel of a Ferrari from Villeneuve, home driver, at the second experience of Formula 1, was then a particular attraction. The fans incited him continuously with banners and writings. Among the spectators many Italians, immigrants in Canada and the neighboring United States, which were noticed waving showy flags with the emblem of Ferrari. Andretti’s retirement during the sixty-sixth lap obviously left Scheckter free. The luckiest South African had no more problems and went on to win. Lotus' engine crashed into the S where Binder and Keegan collided, splashing lubricant all over the track. The S has turned into a trap in which Villeneuve, Patrese and Brambilla fell, also for the lack of adequate signals from the stewards of the route. Villeneuve covered himself off the track without damaging his Ferrari but trying to get back on the asphalt he accelerated with too much force, breaking a semi-axle. Patrese broke his Shadow’s nose while Brambilla crashed into Keegan’s Hesketh wreckage. The Monzese driver, at the end of the race, is desperate:
"I had the third place in my hand. I was in the wake of Depailler, both Patrick and I ended up on the oil stain left by Andretti’s car. He, thanks to the four front wheels, managed to stay on track, for me it was bad".
Gilles Villeneuve, for his part, declared:
"I was the first to arrive in the corner after Andretti’s engine broke. Nobody reported the trap to me. Too bad. The car was fine and I was running a regular race. Sure, I still need to work hard to get used to the Ferrari".
Curious fact: James Hunt was fined $2.000 by the organizers of the Canadian Grand Prix for punching a race official. Hunt will have to pay 750 dollars for his dangerous way to walk back to the pits after the accident with his teammate, the German Jochen Mass, which forced the World Champion to retire while he was in charge of the race. Hunt hit the race officer after an altercation. The driver, once abandoned his damaged car, stood at the edge of the track and made threatening gestures to Mass, who continued his race. The official tried to drive away the fiery Englishman and received a punch on the face. The Swede Ronnie Peterson, who was left stranded in an accident, was also fined. The Swede will have to pay $500 to walk back to the box in order to constitute danger and have ignored the exhortation of the race officials not to walk along the track. The day after the Canadian Grand Prix, an attempt was made to outline a first record of Scuderia Ferrari’s trip to North America. As you know, the Maranello team has experienced these last weeks in a particularly difficult climate, full of twists and turns. The atmosphere within the team has not been very relaxed for the many events that in close succession have moved in one way or another the course of Watkins Glen and Mosport: from the aftermath of the divorce with Niki Lauda to the arrival of Gilles Villeneuve, From the Cuoghi case to Lauda’s behavior, blur it! In Mosport, Carlos Reutemann became the first driver with Villeneuve in support. In Mosport. Unfortunately, the delay of the trucks carrying the materials from Watkins Glen and the bad weather prevented the team to carry out private tests on Wednesday, and to break in the cars and Villeneuve himself.
Villeneuve’s debut was not exciting, but Ferrari, as in Belgium and Sweden, found itself in trouble at the Mosport track. Reutemann started in the sixth row and Villeneuve in the ninth; in Belgium the cars of Maranello started in the fourth (Reutemann) and in the sixth row (Lauda), while in the Scandinavian race the Argentine lined up in the sixth grid and the Salzburg driver in the eighth. Even for these references is not the case to alarm. It is no mystery that when it is very cold the tyres struggle to get into temperature for the particular aerodynamics of the 312 T2. Rather, the young Canadian driver was left off the road for a test session. We come to the actual competition. Reutemann was doing really well. Transited twelfth on the first lap, he immediately passed Stuck (lap 2) and gaining ground he found himself in fifth position on lap 18, after passing the two Shadow of Jones and Patrese and the Tyrrell of Depailler. Betrayed by a power failure (the valve that regulates the gas pressure has broken), he had to stop on lap 29 when he seemed to be on the way to a good position. The start of Villeneuve was happy. Passing seventeenth on the first lap, he almost immediately passed the Ensign of Tambay (lap 9), the March of Jan Scheckter (lap 15) and the Brabham Alfa Romeo of Stuck (lap 17). Favored by numerous retirements, Gilles climbed up to the eighth position (lap 62) before running into a spin that made him back down to tenth position. Then, the oil lost by Andretti’s Lotus’s exploding engine made him slip into the sand at the edges of the asphalt strip. In an attempt to restart, an abrupt acceleration caused a semiaxle to break.
"Everything seemed to go well, I had no big problems, a real shame that oil... I still need a lot of training with the car, but for now I am satisfied, of course I would have preferred to finish".
The first to argue that the balance of the North American trip has not closed in profit are the same managers of Ferrari. The engineer Roberto Nosetto admits:
"We haven’t had much luck. We could, in hindsight, even win with Reutemann, given the numerous retirements, and Villeneuve had no difficulty in maintaining the lead over Tambay, who finished fifth".
After this first test, what is the opinion on Villeneuve?
"It is still too early to express an opinion; I refer to what Emerson Fittipaldi said; the two-time World Champion said that if Villeneuve does it will be a difficult driver to beat. His opinion is more important than mine. It’s up to us to form a champion".
Now, at Ferrari, we look to the future, to 1978. At Maranello they know that the difficulties will be many, as many and fierce will be the opponents, and we already think of the Japanese Grand Prix as preparation for next season.
"The mechanics will leave for Italy in a few days, while I will stay to take care of the boarding of the cars for Japan and follow the cargo. Once in Tokyo, I will organize everything for the Japanese Grand Prix and see if it will be possible to have a day of preliminary training. Other teams of mechanics will join me a week before the race, while Reutemann and Villeneuve will arrive later, a few days before the start of the tests".