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1978 Italian Grand Prix

The 1978 Italian Grand Prix was the 14th motor race of the 1978 Formula One season. It was held on 10 September 1978 at Monza. It was marred by the death of Ronnie Peterson following an accident at the start of the race.

1978 Italian Grand Prix
Race 14 of 16 in the 1978 Formula One season
Monza 1976.jpg
Race details
Date September 10, 1978
Location Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza
Course Permanent racing facility
Course length 5.800 km (3.6 mi)
Distance 40 laps, 232.000 km (144 mi)
Scheduled distance 52 laps, 301.600 km (187.2 mi)
Weather Sunny
Pole position
Driver Lotus-Ford
Time 1:37.520
Fastest lap
Driver United States Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford
Time 1:38.23 on lap 33
First Brabham-Alfa Romeo
Second Brabham-Alfa Romeo
Third Ferrari

With three races remaining, Mario Andretti (Lotus-Ford) led the World Drivers' Championship by 12 points from his team-mate Ronnie Peterson. Niki Lauda (Brabham-Alfa Romeo), in third place, was 28 points behind Andretti, and, with only 9 points for a win, could not overtake him.

The fatal accident to Ronnie Peterson at the start of the race


Andretti took pole position alongside Gilles Villeneuve (Ferrari), with Jean-Pierre Jabouille (Renault) in third place, Lauda in fourth and Peterson in fifth.

First start and Ronnie Peterson accidentEdit

The race starter was overenthusiastic, turning on the red lights before all the cars had lined up, and several cars in the middle of the field got a jump on those at the front. The result was a funneling effect of the cars approaching the chicane, and the cars were tightly bunched together with little room for maneuver. James Hunt was overtaken on the right hand side by Riccardo Patrese and Hunt instinctively veered left and hit the rear right wheel of Peterson's Lotus 78, with Vittorio Brambilla, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Patrick Depailler, Didier Pironi, Derek Daly, Clay Regazzoni and Brett Lunger all involved in the ensuing melee. Peterson's Lotus went into the barriers hard on the right hand side and caught fire. He was trapped, but Hunt, Regazzoni and Depailler managed to free him from the wreck before he received more than minor burns. He was dragged free and laid in the middle of the track fully conscious, but with severe leg injuries. It took 20 minutes before medical help was dispatched to the scene. Brambilla—who had been hit on the head by a flying wheel and rendered unconscious—and Peterson were taken to the Niguarda hospital nearby Milan.

The accident's place after the flames have been extinguished

Second start, race recap and death of Ronnie PetersonEdit

The race was restarted nearly three hours later, during which time on the formation lap for the second race, Jody Scheckter's Wolf lost a wheel and crashed at the second Lesmo curve, bending the Armco barrier that was situated right next to the track. Andretti, Hunt, Lauda, Carlos Reutemann and Emerson Fittipaldi all went to the spot where Scheckter crashed and upon inspection of the state of the barrier, they refused to start until it was repaired; upon which it was, causing more delay. Because of the amount of time between the first and second races; the distance was shortened to 40 laps. At the second start at nearly 6:00 P.M., Villeneuve overtook Andretti at the restart, but both drivers were judged to have gone early and given a one-minute penalty. Andretti re-took the lead with only five laps remaining. With Jabouille having retired, Lauda finished third ahead of John Watson (Brabham), Carlos Reutemann (Ferrari), Jacques Laffite (Ligier-Matra) and Patrick Tambay (McLaren-Ford). Since all of those finished less than a minute behind, Andretti and Villeneuve were dropped to sixth and seventh place. Andretti had won the championship, but with Peterson in hospital, celebrations were muted.

At the hospital, Peterson's X-rays showed he had seven fractures in one leg and three in the other. After discussion with him, Peterson was sent to intensive care so that the surgeons could operate to stabilize the bones.[1] There was some level of dispute between the doctors regarding whether all fractures should be immediately fixed or not.[2] During the night, Peterson's condition worsened, and he was diagnosed with fat embolism.[3] By morning he was in full renal failure due to the embolism, and was declared dead at 9:55am on 11 September 1978.[4][3][5]


Gimax (Carlo Franchi) tried to qualify without success. He was the last driver to enter a F1 World Championship race under a pseudonym
A view of Jody Scheckter in the Wolf pits
Pos No Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 1   Niki Lauda Brabham-Alfa Romeo 40 1:07:04.54
207.532 kilometres per hour (128.954 mph)
4 9
2 2   John Watson Brabham-Alfa Romeo 40 +1.48 secs 7 6
3 11   Carlos Reutemann Ferrari 40 +20.47 secs 11 4
4 26   Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra 40 +37.53 secs 8 3
5 8   Patrick Tambay McLaren-Ford 40 +40.39 secs 19 2
6 5   Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford 40 +46.33 secs 1 1
7 12   Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 40 +48.48 secs 2
8 14   Emerson Fittipaldi Fittipaldi-Ford 40 +55.24 secs 13
9 29   Nelson Piquet McLaren-Ford 40 +1:06.83 24
10 22   Derek Daly Ensign-Ford 40 +1:09.11 18
11 4   Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Ford 40 +1:16.57 16
12 20   Jody Scheckter Wolf-Ford 39 +1 Lap 9
13 27   Alan Jones Williams-Ford 39 +1 Lap 6
14 33   Bruno Giacomelli McLaren-Ford 39 +1 Lap 20
NC 17   Clay Regazzoni Shadow-Ford 33 +7 Laps 15
Ret 35   Riccardo Patrese Arrows-Ford 28 Engine 12
Ret 7   James Hunt McLaren-Ford 19 Distributor 10
Ret 37   Arturo Merzario Merzario-Ford 14 Engine 22
Ret 15   Jean-Pierre Jabouille Renault 6 Engine 3
Ret 6   Ronnie Peterson Lotus-Ford 0 Fatal Collision† 5
Ret 3   Didier Pironi Tyrrell-Ford 0 Collision 14
Ret 16   Hans-Joachim Stuck Shadow-Ford 0 Collision 17
Ret 30   Brett Lunger McLaren-Ford 0 Collision 21
Ret 19   Vittorio Brambilla Surtees-Ford 0 Collision 23
DNQ 25   Héctor Rebaque Lotus-Ford
DNQ 10   Harald Ertl ATS-Ford
DNQ 9   Michael Bleekemolen ATS-Ford
DNQ 18   Gimax Surtees-Ford
DNPQ 23   Harald Ertl Ensign-Ford
DNPQ 32   Keke Rosberg Wolf-Ford
DNPQ 36   Rolf Stommelen Arrows-Ford
DNPQ 38   Alberto Colombo Merzario-Ford

† Peterson suffered severe leg trauma in a multi-car accident and while in hospital the night following the race he was diagnosed with a fat embolism. He died the following morning as a result of the fat embolism.


Championship standings after the raceEdit

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.


  1. ^ "The Death of Ronnie Peterson: What Really Happened at Monza in 1978". atlasf1.
  2. ^ "The operation". Archived from the original on 25 September 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b "The Death notice". Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  4. ^ "Ronnie Peterson dies from crash". The Morning Record and Journal. 12 September 1978. p. 10.
  5. ^, The Motorsport Memorial Team. "Motorsport Memorial -". Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  6. ^ "1978 Italian Grand Prix". Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Italy 1978 - Championship • STATS F1". Retrieved 18 March 2019.

External linksEdit