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
Race details
Date September 10, 1978
Location Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Monza
Course Permanent racing facility
Course length 5.800 km (3.6 miles)
Distance 40 laps, 232.000 km (144 miles)
Scheduled distance 52 laps, 301.600 km (187.2 miles)
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
Lap leaders

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.

As of 2023, this marks the last race win for an Alfa Romeo-powered car.

Qualifying Edit

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

Pre-qualifying classification Edit

Pos. Driver Constructor Time
1 Héctor Rebaque Lotus-Ford 1:39.88
2 Nelson Piquet McLaren-Ford 1:40.11
3 Brett Lunger McLaren-Ford 1:40.24
4 Harald Ertl Ensign-Ford 1:40.27
5 Keke Rosberg Wolf-Ford 1:40.75
6 Rolf Stommelen Arrows-Ford 1:40.93
7 Alberto Colombo Merzario-Ford 1:42.55

Qualifying classification Edit

Pos. Driver Constructor Time No
1 Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford 1:37.520 1
2 Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 1:37.866 2
3 Jean-Pierre Jabouille Renault 1:37.930 3
4 Niki Lauda Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:38.215 4
5 Ronnie Peterson Lotus-Ford 1:38.256 5
6 Alan Jones Williams-Ford 1:38.271 6
7 John Watson Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:38.610 7
8 Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra 1:38.917 8
9 Jody Scheckter Wolf-Ford 1:38.937 9
10 James Hunt McLaren-Ford 1:38.938 10
11 Carlos Reutemann Ferrari 1:38.959 11
12 Riccardo Patrese Arrows-Ford 1:39.179 12
13 Emerson Fittipaldi Fittipaldi-Ford 1:39.421 13
14 Didier Pironi Tyrrell-Ford 1:39.531 14
15 Clay Regazzoni Shadow-Ford 1:39.621 15
16 Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Ford 1:39.630 16
17 Hans-Joachim Stuck Shadow-Ford 1:39.701 17
18 Derek Daly Ensign-Ford 1:40.075 18
19 Patrick Tambay McLaren-Ford 1:40.163 19
20 Bruno Giacomelli McLaren-Ford 1:40.199 20
21 Brett Lunger McLaren-Ford 1:40.302 21
22 Arturo Merzario Merzario-Ford 1:40.702 22
23 Vittorio Brambilla Surtees-Ford 1:40.805 23
24 Nelson Piquet McLaren-Ford 1:40.846 24
25 Héctor Rebaque Lotus-Ford 1:41.063 DNQ
26 Harald Ertl ATS-Ford 1:41.185 DNQ
27 Michael Bleekemolen ATS-Ford 1:41.408 DNQ
28 Gimax Surtees-Ford 1:41.677 DNQ

Race Edit

First start and Ronnie Peterson accident Edit

Ronnie Peterson's fatal accident at the start of the race

The race started at 3:30pm Central European Time (UTC+1). On the warm up lap, Patrick Tambay went into the pits to have his gear-change mechanism looked at. The starter Gianni Restelli was overenthusiastic turning on the green lights before all the cars had lined up,[1] which resulted in several cars in the middle of the field getting 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 in nearby Milan.[2]

Delayed restart Edit

The accident scene after the flames have been extinguished

Drivers were allowed to use spare cars for the race restart. Non-starters included Peterson and Brambilla who were taken to hospital, Stuck who was not allowed to restart due to him suffering from slight concussion due to him being struck on the head by a flying wheel, Pironi (as the Tyrrell team had one spare car and that was set up for Depailler) and Lunger who had no spare car available.

The race was due to be ready for a restart at 5:15pm. While driving from the pit lane to the grid, 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. Some of the drivers had seen the accident, got out of their cars and rushed across to race control to get the second start delayed as the Armco barriers were leaning over perilously where Scheckter struck it. 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 the barrier was repaired, causing more delay. The barrier was later repaired and ready for the restart.

Second start and race recap Edit

Because of the amount of time clearing up the track after the shunt in the first start and the barrier being repaired plus Scheckter's crash prior to the second start. At 5:50pm, it was announced that the race would take place and the distance would be shortened from 52 laps to 40 laps to avoid sunset. The race was restarted at 6:15pm, Villeneuve overtook Andretti at the restart and at the end of the lap, both drivers were side by side but Villeneuve held on to the lead and they pulled away from Jabouille who was running third with Lauda behind him. After four laps, Regazzoni in the spare Shadow went to the pits as he was having his brakes looked at. Jabouille had engine problems after six laps and Lauda took on the pursuit, but race control gave Villeneuve and Andretti a one-minute penalty as they were judged to have jumped the start. Andretti took Villeneuve 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. The race was also notable for the first finish for Nelson Piquet with a creditable ninth after dodging the Peterson wreckage in the first start.

Death of Ronnie Peterson Edit

At the hospital, Peterson's X-rays showed he had a total of twenty seven fractures in both legs, according to the newly appointed F1 doctor Sid Watkins in his 1996 autobiography Life at the Limit. After discussion with him, Peterson was sent to intensive care so that the surgeons could operate to stabilize the bones.[3] There was some level of dispute between the doctors regarding whether all fractures should be immediately fixed or not.[4] During the night, Peterson's condition worsened, and he was diagnosed with fat embolism.[5] By morning he was in full kidney failure due to the embolism, and was declared dead at 9:55 am on 11 September 1978.[6][5][7]

Post-race reactions Edit

As a result of the start line crash, a medical car would follow the cars on the opening lap of every Grand Prix. ABC Sports broadcaster Jim McKay who was covering the race said during the broadcast which was shown on the Saturday after the race "Later Peterson would die, but not until the next morning. Victory so long anticipated and so much earned, now tasted like ashes in Mario's mouth." A week later at the Michigan 150, Andretti was asked about Peterson and he said "His sincerity I learned to really appreciate that more than anything else and the man is competitive as he was with his skills and I found that this is something that many people in this business like because it's a very selfish business that's basis but he could share with me the basic of the car whatever he found, he changed something even if it was the better."

Classification Edit

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 Tyre Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 1   Niki Lauda Brabham-Alfa Romeo G 40 1:07:04.54 4 9
2 2   John Watson Brabham-Alfa Romeo G 40 +1.48 secs 7 6
3 11   Carlos Reutemann Ferrari M 40 +20.47 secs 11 4
4 26   Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra G 40 +37.53 secs 8 3
5 8   Patrick Tambay McLaren-Ford G 40 +40.39 secs 19 2
6 5   Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford G 40 +46.33 secs 1 1
7 12   Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari M 40 +48.48 secs 2
8 14   Emerson Fittipaldi Fittipaldi-Ford G 40 +55.24 secs 13
9 29   Nelson Piquet McLaren-Ford G 40 +1:06.83 24
10 22   Derek Daly Ensign-Ford G 40 +1:09.11 18
11 4   Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Ford G 40 +1:16.57 16
12 20   Jody Scheckter Wolf-Ford G 39 +1 Lap 9
13 27   Alan Jones Williams-Ford G 39 +1 Lap 6
14 33   Bruno Giacomelli McLaren-Ford G 39 +1 Lap 20
NC 17   Clay Regazzoni Shadow-Ford G 33 +7 Laps 15
Ret 35   Riccardo Patrese Arrows-Ford G 28 Engine 12
Ret 7   James Hunt McLaren-Ford G 19 Distributor 10
Ret 37   Arturo Merzario Merzario-Ford G 14 Engine 22
Ret 15   Jean-Pierre Jabouille Renault M 6 Engine 3
Ret 6   Ronnie Peterson Lotus-Ford G 0 Collision† 5
Ret 3   Didier Pironi Tyrrell-Ford G 0 Collision 14
Ret 16   Hans-Joachim Stuck Shadow-Ford G 0 Collision 17
Ret 30   Brett Lunger McLaren-Ford G 0 Collision 21
Ret 19   Vittorio Brambilla Surtees-Ford G 0 Collision 23
DNQ 25   Héctor Rebaque Lotus-Ford G
DNQ 10   Harald Ertl ATS-Ford G
DNQ 9   Michael Bleekemolen ATS-Ford G
DNQ 18   Gimax Surtees-Ford G
DNPQ 23   Harald Ertl Ensign-Ford G
DNPQ 32   Keke Rosberg Wolf-Ford G
DNPQ 36   Rolf Stommelen Arrows-Ford G
DNPQ 38   Alberto Colombo Merzario-Ford G

† Peterson suffered severe leg trauma in a multi-car accident but was otherwise conscious. However, while in the hospital the night following the race he was diagnosed with a fat embolism, of which he died the following morning as a result.

Championship standings after the race Edit

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

References Edit

  1. ^ "The Accident". www.ronniepeterson.se. Archived from the original on 29 August 2013.
  2. ^ "1978 Italian GP Report". Motorsport Magazine. October 1978. p. 10.
  3. ^ Ewan Tytler. "The Death of Ronnie Peterson: What Really Happened at Monza in 1978". Atlas F1.
  4. ^ "The operation". www.ronniepeterson.se. Archived from the original on 25 September 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  5. ^ a b "The Death notice". www.ronniepeterson.se. Archived from the original on 23 September 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Ronnie Peterson dies from crash". The Morning Record and Journal. 12 September 1978. p. 10.
  7. ^ "Ronnie Peterson". Motorsport Memorial. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  8. ^ "1978 Italian Grand Prix". formula1.com. Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  9. ^ "1978 Italian Grand Prix - Race Results & History - GP Archive". GPArchive.com. 10 October 1978. Retrieved 3 November 2021.
  10. ^ a b "Italy 1978 - Championship". STATS F1. Retrieved 18 March 2019.

External links Edit

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1978 Dutch Grand Prix
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1978 United States Grand Prix
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1977 Italian Grand Prix
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1979 Italian Grand Prix