Sunday morning is heavy and sticky with a great chance of more rain, and this, added to a lack of an Austrian driver in the race, probably is the main reason for the crowd being comparatively small; 55.000 instead of the usual 100.000 plus. The warm-up half-hour is pretty uneventful, but most drivers settle on which car they intend to race. There is then a two-hour break for final preparation and at 2:30 p.m. the pit lane begins to stir in readiness for the 54-lap race scheduled to start at 3:00 p.m. One by one the cars leave the pit lane and are driven round to the assembly grid in front of the pits, and all 24 cars are ready. The weather is cool and grey and the sun is fighting a winning battle with the gloom. Arnoux leads them all round on the parade lap and they line up on the grid in alternate positions. Arnoux has had new turbo chargers fitted to his Renault engine during the lunch break, Jones is in the latest Williams, Piquet is in the Brabham number 7 which has started out as the spare, the Lotus drivers have all reverted to their original cars, Watson has switched to the spare McLaren and Giacomelli is driving the Alfa Romeo with the smaller and lower engine. The red light glows, cars begin to creep forward, the green light glows and the field roars off past the pits and up the hill to the chicane. Alan Jones has his Williams between the Renaults and he sits it out with Arnoux wheel-to-wheel and takes the lead. He knows full well that both Renaults can power past him on the straight, but Jones is a racer and he is out to make the frogs work. For two glorious laps he leads, but then Arnoux powers past and then Jabouille does the same. Renaults are a comfortable 1-2, but Jones is not giving up and the three of them leave the rest of the field behind. When the rest are sorted out it is seen that Giacomelli is leading Reutemann and Piquet, followed by Pironi and de Angelis, but Laffite has made a poor start and is engulfed in mid-field. Cheever has come to rest at the end of the pits after the start and has got going again long after everyone else is well away on the opening lap.
At five laps the two Renaults and Jones are well away on their own, and the Renault plan has been to sacrifice Jabouille for the benefit of Arnoux, has Jones been troublesome. Jabouille’s car has been set-up on soft tyres to enable him to play the hare, while Arnoux is on harder tyres to settle in and consolidate the Renault position. It is soon clear that these tactics are unnecessary for though Jones is hanging on he could not challenge the Renaults so they set the pace. The rest are pounding along in their wake and everyone is still going. The first casualty is Andretti who drops out from an inconspicuous 17th place and then Scheckter dives into the pits from an equally obscure 15th place to change his tyres, though quite why he has bothered is not clear. At 10 laps the two Renaults are pulling away and trying as he might. Jones can no longer stay with them, but he is so far ahead of the rest of the field that he is in a different race. Giacomelli is doing a courageous drive with the Alfa Romeo, holding on to fourth place, but he is overstressing his tyres too early in the race. As they have deteriorated he is forced to let Piquet by and then Reutemann. In seventh place comes de Angelis ahead of the two Ligiers and Villeneuve, but down the field trouble is beginning; Daly has had a front brake disc shear off the hub as he has braked for a left-hander and the other front brake which worked has pulled him off the road and away into the fields. Cheever has had his left-rear tyre fail and limped back to the pits, but though the Osella sets off again it's not for long as a hub-bearing is breaking up. Pironi is never in the picture from the start as his Ligier is handling in a peculiar manner and though he tries a different set of tyres it makes no difference and he is forced to give up with something not right in the rear suspension. It has looked as though the Renaults are going to cruise away to a convincing 1-2 sweep, but on lap 21 Jabouille goes by into the lead and Arnoux slows right down with a front tyre deflating.
Jones goes by before the ailing Renault gets to the pits and when Arnoux rejoins the race with four new tyres he is down in tenth place, but proceeds to go like a bat out of hell. The engine in Jarier’s Tyrrell goes sick as he passes the pits and we don’t see him again, and then Giacomelli brings the lone Alfa Romeo in for a tyre charge from his brave sixth place. In his excitement he shoots out of the pits before one of the rear wheel nuts is tightened and hasn’t gone many yards before the wheel falls off! (Remember Alan Jones and the Williams team in Watkins Glen last year?) While Arnoux is making up time Jabouille is firmly in the lead and Jones has eased off slightly, secure in second place. Reutemann has passed Piquet so now the Williams team are second and third and Laffite has worked his way past de Angelis to take sixth place. While Jabouille is cruising along in the lead at an average speed of nearly 140 mph Arnoux is setting up new lap records but his Michelins are not up to the strain and after passing the two McLarens and moving up to eighth place he is forced to stop again for a change of rear tyres. He is soon back in the race going as fast as ever, but now a lap behind his team-leader who is conscious of his own tyres being doubtful of lasting the race. In consequence Jabouille is altering his driving technique and conserving his tyres, especially the front left one which does the majority of the work round the Osterreichring. His plan is to nurse things along and still keep a comfortable distance ahead of Jones, but saving something in reserve in case the Williams driver puts the pressure on in the closing stages of the race. As Jabouille is playing it remarkably cool out in front Arnoux is flashing past the tail enders, but to no avail for he is driving harder than the Michelins can stand and on lap 38 he is in again for another set of tyres, but still he doesn't give up.
In the closing stages of the race, as Jabouille had anticipated, Jones begins to pile on the pressure, but the wily Frenchman has the situation well in hand and lets Jones close the gap dramatically without getting flustered. After such a long time in the doldrums with retirement after retirement Jabouille is not going to throw this one away and he carefully and skilfully matches the pace of the Williams, always with something in reserve, providing his left-front tyre holds out. His pit staff are keeping him fully informed and you can see him searching in his mirror for a sight of the Williams as he goes down the pits straight. Driving with beautiful precision and judgement he matches Jones’ pace to a nicety and they both record their fastest laps on the last lap of the race and a jubilant Jabouille crosses the line three-quarters of a second ahead of the Williams. Reutemann cruises home a comfortable third, followed by Laffite, Piquet, de Angelis and Prost all on the same lap as the leader. The courageous Arnoux finishes ninth and sets yet another lap record on his 50th lap and the finishers list is very good, only Watson and Mansell joining the retirements list in the closing stages, both with Cosworth engine failure. Rebaque finishes in tenth place with the Weismann gearbox Brabham after a non-stop run and would have been higher up had he not had an almighty spin in the early part of the race; the new gearbox has performed perfectly. Patrese is lucky to finish as the engine in his Arrows is sounding very rough and Scheekter actually has passed him on his last lap. Delighted as they are with Jabouille’s long overdue victory and with Arnoux’s new lap record, the Renault team’s real satisfaction lays in the way the V6 turbocharged engines have performed. After a bad bout of engine troubles the powerful little 1.5-litres has performed faultlessly.