1977 Argentine Grand Prix
- Sunday, January 9, 1977
- Gran Premio de la Republica Argentina
- F1 World Championship
Although Argentina is mere, thousands of miles away from the recognised European “home” of Formula One Grand Prix circuit racing, it has organised qualifying rounds in the World Championship intermittently ever since 1953, although there was a gap of 12 years between Bruce McLaren’s victory in a Cooper-Climax in 1960 and Jackie Stewart’s win with a Tyrrell-Cosworth five years ago. Similarly it has a reputation for producing noteworthy drivers, particularly five times World Champion Juan-Manuel Fangio, twice British Grand Prix winner Froilan Gonzales and — more recently — current hero Carlos Reutemann who won several Grands Prix for Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham team and is now Lauda’s team-mate in the Ferrari Formula One line-up. The Argentine Grand Prix has always taken place in the Autodromo Municipal de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, but this spaciously laid out autodromo (built by President Peron in the late 1940s) has a great number of circuit combinations and it is only since 1974 that the 5.968-kilometre “Circuit number 15” has been used for the race. From 1953 to 1960 the 3.912-kilometre “Circuit number 2” was employed and in 1972 and 73 the 3.345-kilometre “Circuit number 9” was utilised for the Argentine Grand Prix. So you can see that a whole complex of tracks run in all directions round the “infield area”, so much so that one feels a trifle inhibited even strolling across part of the complex that isn’t in use just in case some “rabbit” has got confused and wandered up the wrong turning — and that has happened before now.
Last year’s Argentine Grand Prix never took place owing to a mixture of legal wrangling between the organisers and constructors, galloping inflation of the Argentine peso and the fact that President Isabel Peron’s regime was crumbling precariously with the result that the military authorities did not want the added complication of a major sporting gathering as they were worried that some demented soul would start throwing bombs about the place. This year the last-mentioned aspect of the race hadn’t changed even though the Automovil Club Argentina concluded the agreement with the Formula One Constructors for this year’s race to take place. Throughout the winter there was plenty of protracted squabbling between the Constructors, the CSI and an organisation called “World Championship Racing” which was supposed to be representing the bargaining interests of several organisers including the Argentinians. The details have been “hashed and dished” so frequently in so many places that we do not propose to go into them again except to observe that there was so much confusion that it was difficult to see who was doing what, and with which, and to so to speak. Fortunately somebody fired up some racing engines on the Thursday prior to the Argentine Grand Prix and when you’ve got two Ferrari flat-12s, two Alfa Romeo flat-12s, a Matra V12 and sixteen Cosworth V8s all screaming and burbling away it does tend to drown the bickering!
Official practice for the race took place on the Friday and Saturday following Thursday’s unofficial, untimed “warm-up” session. In terms of local popularity here was no doubt that Reutemann topped the polls but there were those who seemed to think that his installation in a Ferrari 312T2 would result in some magical transformation and he would completely dominate both practice and the race. Unfortunately things started badly for the Argentinian driver for he spun his new Ferrari 312T2/029 through several layers of catch fencing at the fast fourth gear “right/left” esses immediately following the pits during the untimed session on Thursday. The Ferrari only suffered minor bodywork damage and was repaired in time for the serious business on Friday, but it quickly became obvious that either Ferrari had gone backwards or simply become rather complacent over the winter and that their rivals had caught up with them.