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#288 1977 Swedish Grand Prix

2022-07-19 01:00

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#288 1977 Swedish Grand Prix

The 1977 edition of Formula One heads to the Scandinavian Raceway near Anderstorp, Sweden for the eighth round of the season, an event which receives

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The 1977 edition of Formula One heads to the Scandinavian Raceway near Anderstorp, Sweden for the eighth round of the season, an event which receives a mixed reception both inside and outside of the paddock. While the attendance is set to sore given Gunnar Nilsson's recent form, the teams themselves are less impress with the flat, undramatic layout. Regardless, there will be a healthy entry list submit for the race, with privateers and constructors set to fight it out on the Anderstorp airfield. Arguably the biggest news ahead of the Swedish Grand Prix will involve Nilsson's team, Team Lotus, although it isn’t wholly to the Swede's benefit. Indeed, it’s reveal that long-standing partners Ford Cosworth has build an ultimate version of their DFV engine for the Lotus squad, although only one example is build in time for fight in Anderstorp. That engine is hand to team leader Mario Andretti, while Nilsson is given one of the new, but less spectacular, super Cosworths. Other super Cosworths are to be find at McLaren and Tyrrell, although they, like Lotus, only have one version of the engine. For McLaren it’s a simple decision to hand that engine over to defending World Champion James Hunt, who races the M26 once again, while Jochen Mass is left with his aging M23 once again. Tyrrell, meanwhile, will ultimately give their super Cosworth to Patrick Depailler, while Ronnie Peterson continues to use the newest of the P34s instead. A fourth variant of the Cosworth DFV is also to be find in Sweden, this example sitting in between the Super and the Ultimate editions. This is hand to Canadian effort Wolf and Jody Scheckter, largely due to South Africa's lead in the Championship. They also promise the next ultimate Cosworth unit once it is proven at Lotus. Likewise, as Cosworth fear the rise of Matra and Alfa Romeo, tyre suppliers Goodyear arrives in Sweden with a variety of compounds produces in the factory in Wolverhampton, UK. The softest sets are given to their biggest customers Lotus, McLaren, Ferrari and Tyrrell, amid rumors that some are courting imminent arrivals Michelin.

 

The French tyre manufacturer has already guaranteed at least one high-profile customer ahead of their impending arrival in the form of Renault, and are looking to break Goodyear's monopoly in the series. On the subject of Ferrari, they arrive with no major changes to their cars, despite both Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann having to rely on luck as much as outright speed, to claim strong results as the season approach half-distance. Indeed, they look likely to be overhaul by the unchanged Brabham-Alfa Romeos of John Watson and Hans-Joachim Stuck, which are given a different version of the Goodyear compounds to everyone else. The 12 cylinder section of the grid will be complete by Ligier-Matra, back with their single effort for Jacques Laffite, and the miserable B.R.M. effort for local racer Conny Andersson. Elsewhere, March are back in numbers once again, led by disillusion factory duo Alex Ribeiro and Ian Scheckter. They are join by a two prong March effort from RAM Racing, who fields Boy Hayje alongside Finnish racer Mikko Kozarowitzky in their ex-factory cars from 1976. Arturo Merzario has the newest 761B being rebuilt, so it’s doubtful as to whether he can make the race, while Williams Grand Prix Engineering has their modified chassis prepare for Patrick Nève once again. There are some changes at Shadow, where team boss Jackie Oliver is call up from their reserve roster to partner Alan Jones, for recent acquisition Riccardo Patrese has other commitments. This is a contrast to the Surtees effort, which retain their line-up of Larry Perkins and Vittorio Brambilla, while Hesketh are likewise running their new standard duo of Harald Ertl and Rupert Keegan. Their third factory support car is also in attendance, this time loan out to Mexican rookie Héctor Rebaque. Completing the factory entries will be Ensign and Fittipaldi, which are both, unsurprisingly, fielding their usual drivers Clay Regazzoni and Emerson Fittipaldi respectively. That leaves David Purley in the LEC, Brett Lunger and Emilio de Villota in their ex-factory McLarens, and Jean-Pierre Jarier in the German run Penske to complete the field. An older Penske is also enter for the race by Danish racer Jac Nellemann, although neither he, nor his car, will appear during practice.

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Into the Championship and Nilsson's victory in Belgium has propelled the young Swede into the top five in the Championship, although he remains some way behind lead protagonist Jody Scheckter. Indeed, the South African racer has Nilsson to thank for holding his lead in Zolder, for Lauda has closed the gap to just a single point with his second place. Reutemann and Andretti, a point apart but eight behind Lauda, while defending Champion Hunt has slip to sixth. As ever it’s Ferrari who continues to lead the way in the International Cup for Constructors ahead of the trip to Scandinavia, leaving Zolder with a healthy thirteen point lead. The revived Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth team are now the Italian firm's closest challengers, a point ahead of new-boys Wolf-Ford Cosworth, while McLaren-Ford Cosworth has continue to slip away in fourth. Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth, meanwhile, are up to fifth after Peterson's podium, while Surtees-Ford Cosworth has become the eleventh different constructor to score in 1977 with Brambilla's first point of the season. It proved to be a warm couple of days in Anderstorp during practice/qualifying, with the now standard pattern of three timed, and a lone untimed session allowing teams to get a lot of running in before the race. Friday will host two of the timed periods, while Saturday morning will see qualifying conclude in the afternoon after the single untimed session. Throughout, the 32 strong entry list will be fighting to claim one of the 24 grid slots on offer, with the elite hoping to beat the circuit record of 1'25"659, set by Jody Scheckter in 1976. The opening session of the weekend will be dominate by a huge accident for Emerson Fittipaldi, who escapes without injury after completely destroying the new Fittipaldi. The Brazilian is charging along the back straight when the car suddenly snaps sideways, spitting Fittipaldi straight into the barriers. The car is leaves in a sorry state with shatter monocoque, although the double World Champion will complete the day's running in the spare car. Elsewhere, Mario Andretti set the pace in the Lotus, the American topping the time sheets as the only man in the 1'25"0.

 

James Hunt, in a somewhat happier mood than of late, is his closest challenger, ultimately ending the morning with a 1'26"052, with Scheckter a couple of tenths back in third. Gunnar Nilsson is best of the Swedes in fourth, eight tenths behind teammate Andretti, while the Ferraris fails to break into the 1'26"0. Into the Friday afternoon session and it’s John Watson who comes to the fore, the Brit recording a 1'25"545 in his Brabham-Alfa Romeo to hold provisional pole overnight. Andretti fails to improve, meaning Scheckter is able to move ahead of him on the overnight timesheet, becoming only the third driver to break into the 1'25"0 as he does so. Hunt will again fall shy of the mark as will Patrick Depailler, while both Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann find themselves out of the fight once again. Friday night and the untimed session allows teams to prepare their cars for the final timed runout on Saturday afternoon, with conditions ideal for a fight for pole. Goodyear releases its softest compounds ahead of the session, issuing them to Lotus, Ferrari, McLaren, Brabham, Tyrrell and Ligier-Matra, despite the latter's complaints that the tyres are burning up after only a handful of laps. The fight to qualify is also up in the air at the back of the field, a 1'30"0 seeming the likely cut off to make it into the top 24. The pole fight will ultimately go on into the final moments of the day, with Andretti slithering his Lotus around to claim a 1'25"404, ousting Watson from top spot as the Brit fails to improve. Hunt is next, having top the session's time sheets for most of the afternoon, while Scheckter just falls shy of the defending World Champion's mark. Hans-Joachim Stuck underline the natural pace of the Brabham-Alfas by qualifying in fifth ahead of Patrick Depailler, while Nilsson edge Laffite to complete the top eight. Elsewhere, the Hesketh duo Harald Ertl and Rupert Keegan leave it late to makes the cut, the pair scything across the line in the dying moments to grab 23rd and 24th on the grid respectively. Their efforts relegate the factory March of Alex Ribeiro, as well as Emilio de Villota's Spanish run McLaren. They are join by Larry Perkins, Boy Hayje, Héctor Rebaque, Conny Andersson and Mikko Kozarowitzky on the sidelines, while neither Arturo Merzario nor Jac Nellemann materialise during practice.

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Raceday proves to be another warm, dry, affair, meaning the only concerns for the drivers are with overheating tyres, particularly as Goodyear has bring a softer compound for the race. Warm-up pass without issue, although there is a surprise in store when Jacques Laffite topped the timesheet, the Frenchman lapping significantly faster than pole sitter Mario Andretti. Regardless, it will be Andretti who leads the field slowly around from the dummy grid to the proper grid for the start, with 24 engines roaring in anticipation of the starter's lights. Ultimately, it’s John Watson who makes the best escape from the grid as the lights change, the Brit blasting ahead of Andretti to sweep into the lead before the first corner. Jody Scheckter follows him through, sprinting away from James Hunt before slithering around Andretti around the outside of turn one, with the Brit getting catch behind the American. That battle allows Hans-Joachim Stuck to briefly get ahead of the #1 McLaren, although Hunt quickly got back ahead into turn two. It will takes Andretti less than half a lap to exact his revenge on Scheckter, the American dancing his Lotus past the Wolf as they blast past the pits. The American quickly manages to latch onto the back of Watson down the back straight, and is tuck under the rear-wing of the Brabham-Alfa Romeo across the line. Scheckter follows them through ahead of Hunt and Stuck, with Patrick Depailler and home hero Gunnar Nilsson leading the rest at the end of the opening tour. It’s a case of déjà vu on the second tour for Andretti, as the American send his Lotus scything past Watson at Gislaved to snatch the lead, a repeat of his move on Scheckter. This is quickly translate into a small lead over the Brit, denying Watson the chance to respond at the end of the back straight, with both a small way ahead of Scheckter. It isn’t all smiles for Lotus, however, as Nilsson seems to be struggling with an issue in his car, and so is powerless to deny a move from Jochen Mass at the end of the very same straight. The following laps will see Andretti disappear at the front of the field, leaving Watson to lead a five car scrap for second. The American racer's teammate Nilsson will not be among them, with the Swede tumbling down the order with a handling issue.

 

He ultimately brings the #6 Lotus in at the end of lap six with a loose wheel and broken nose, the latter wind the result of getting rear-ended by Jacques Laffite, who hit the Swede with enough force to launch the Lotus into the air, albeit briefly. Ronnie Peterson is another early pit caller, although his ignition issue on lap seven ultimately proves terminal to his pursuit of a home win. On track, meanwhile, the Swede's teammate Depailler will be busy in the Watson train, taking fifth away from Stuck as Mass drew onto his tail. The #2 McLaren duly follows the Tyrrell through, leaving Stuck's seemingly trouble Brabham to tumble into the sights of Carlos Reutemann. Indeed, by this stage the Watson train is beginning to break up, with the Ulsterman, and Scheckter, pulling clear of Hunt, Depailler and Mass. Andretti continues to dominate out front, just under five seconds clear with ten laps gone, while Stuck's race seems to be coming to an end as he tumbles down the order. He soon falls to both Reutemann and Laffite, with Niki Lauda the next man to line up a move on the ailing German. However, Lauda never got the chance to pounce on the struggling Stuck, for the Austrian pitches himself into a spin at Gislaved, all on his own. Jean-Pierre Jarier, Jackie Oliver and Clay Regazzoni all slip past before Lauda recover, with the Austrian lacking the confidence in his car to chase them down. Teammate Reutemann, meanwhile, is having a more successful time further up the order, although the #12 Ferrari is coming under fire from a now charging Laffite in the Ligier-Matra. Indeed, Laffite becomes the center of attention as the race wear on, the Frenchman weaving his way past Reutemann before launching a series of attacks on Mass ahead. His efforts will, however, be overshadow by a rather clumsy incident up the road, as Scheckter tries an ambitious, and late, dive on Watson in Gislave on lap thirty. The Ulsterman, unaware that the Wolf is trying to pounce down the inside of the left hander, pulling right across the path of Scheckter. Watson is sending into a spin, stopping in the middle of the track as the Hunt peloton hundred into view. They flood either side of the stranded Brabham, although Watson is able to recover and loop back into the pits for checks just after they go past.

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Scheckter, meanwhile, is left with ruin front right suspension, meaning the Wolf is out on the spot. Watson will rejoin from his stop down in seventh, just ahead of teammate Stuck, although the German's ruins front tyres are about to see him swallow up by Regazzoni. Up ahead, meanwhile, Laffite is the Watson/Scheckter accident as a means to make it onto the podium, and duly redouble his efforts to take Mass. The #2 McLaren is able to resist for a time, however, with Hunt likewise fending off Depailler for second just ahead. Ultimately, there will be no stopping Laffite in his pursuit of a podium finish, with the Ligier scything past Mass' McLaren into Gislaved on lap 38. This is follow by an identical move on Depailler a lap later, before the Ligier settles its sights on the gearbox of Hunt. The Brit is fame for his defensive and offensive driving, but with half of the race gone his tyres are well past their best. Indeed, it takes Laffite just two laps to smuggle his Ligier into second, the Frenchman once again deploying his favore dive into Gislaved to get the job done. Hunt is powerless to prevent the Ligier escaping, and duly gather himself together to prepare to resist Depailler once again. Indeed, the Frenchman is soon back in the McLaren's mirrors, although Depailler has his own troubles lurking in the form of Mass and Reutemann. It’s a ferocious fight for third that emerge over the following laps, with Mass and Reutemann elbowing their way past Depailler after the Frenchman fails with a move on Hunt. After a couple of laps, Hunt decides to wave his teammate through at the end of the straight, only to have Reutemann scythe past as well on the brakes into the penultimate corner. Frustrate, Hunt tries his best to get back at the Ferrari but simply lack the grip, meaning he, once again, has to prepare to resist the impending attentions of Depailler. His efforts fails however, and Hunt is once again dump down two positions in the space of a single corner, as the Frenchman elbows his way through with enough force to allow Watson to slip past the McLaren on the exit of Gislaved. Hunt's race ultimately came to its effective end on lap 52, with the Brit stopping for fresh tyres having seen Regazzoni in the Ensign appear in his mirrors.

 

It’s small consolation that his dishearten rival Lauda is out, the Austrian deciding on his third and final stop that his handling issues are incurable. Vittorio Brambilla is soon to join the Austrian on the sidelines with his recurring fuel issue, while Ian Scheckter is force to stop his factory March after a suspension joint fails. On track, meanwhile, Laffite is chipping away into Andretti's lead, although the American is cruising around in the Lotus and seems to have enough pace to fend him off. Yet, with fifteen laps to go all isn’t well in the #5 car, for the fuel light in the American's cockpit has come on a lot earlier than expected. Noticing this, Andretti begins to coast around more than he has before, allowing Laffite to take more and more time out of the American's fifteen second lead. With five laps to go Laffite is just five seconds away from the Lotus, with Andretti staring at his fuel gauge as much as he is looking at the circuit. As their fight brew, the second Lotus of Nilsson is pulls out of the race with a broken wheel, while Stuck is carving his way back up the order on his fresh tyres. Hunt and Brett Lunger will be powerless to resist the charging Brabham while, just ahead, Regazzoni and the veteran Oliver engage in a ferocious duel at the lower end of the top ten. Back with Andretti and the American is in serious trouble with three laps to go, a cough from his Cosworth at the end of the back straight signaling that the Lotus is running on fumes. That, ultimately, proves to be the case, for Andretti comes barrelling into the pits on the 70th lap for a quick top up, before charging back onto the circuit having receive 5 liters of fuel. Yet, no matter how quickly the Lotus crew has work, Andretti is to rejoin down in sixth, as Laffite is suddenly told that he is leading. With that the race is run, with Laffite sweeping home to claim a maiden victory, although the Frenchman is reluctant to believe he has done so with the little Ligier. Mass is next ahead of Reutemann, while Depailler manages to fend off Watson for fourth, with the Brabham still carrying its wounds from the Scheckter incident. Next across the line is Andretti, who is later told that a slight knock on a switch has cause his engine to run in rich for most of the race. A point seems scant reward for a dominant display, although neither he, nor Lotus, are upset that the victory has gone to Laffite's Ligier.

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Alessandro Gambirasio


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