1977 Dutch Grand Prix
- Sunday, August 28, 1977
- Grote Prijs van Nederland
- F1 World Championship
The Motor Racing scene in Holland is simple and straight-forward compared with some countries, there is but one circuit, the Grand Prix always takes place there and it doesn’t change too much, so everyone turns up at the seaside resort of Zandvoort in a fairly happy frame of mind. Taking a lead from the British GP the Dutch organisers seeded out the “rabbits” from the entry and gave them a private test session on the Tuesday before the event, to sort out four to go forward into the official Grand Prix practice. There were nine entries listed for “rabbits day” and they included Brett Unger and Merzario, which seemed odd as they normally qualify well up among the “big boys” and Merzario was particularly incensed and refused to take part on the Tuesday. Brandishing the rule book of the FIA and with legal advice he got the special session made null and void after it had happened, so that the four who had qualified on the Tuesday had been wasting their time. These were Lunger (McLaren M23/14), Binder (Penske PC4/01), Henton (Boro 001 nee Ensign MN04) and Pilette (BRM P207/02). Three drivers were due to be left out, these being Ashley (Hesketh 308E/3), Villota (McLaren M23/6) and local lad Michael Bleekemolen (March 761/8) but with the cancelling of the result Ashley and the Dutchman appeared on Friday while Villota went off to another event. The Swiss driver Loris Kessel should have taken part with an old Williams car, but spent his time chasing John MacDonald of the RAM Racing team for some legal and financial matters left over from last season, and eventually successfully got MacDonald apprehended by the Dutch police.
On Friday the serious business began and it did not take long for Team Lotus to show that the Zandvoort circuit really suited the Lotus 78 and Mario Andretti. All the variables were finely tuned and in beautiful synchronisation and in a demonstration of smooth, flowing driving Andretti was in a class of his own. During the morning practice session he set a new standard with 1 min. 18.85 sec., the only driver to get into the 1 min. 18 sec. bracket, and the only one to even look like getting there. Hunt was driving hard, as always, but was nearly a second slower, with 1 min. 19.70 sec. and Reutemann had his Ferrari going well at 1 min. 19.74 sec., everyone else was over min. 20 sec. In the afternoon it was Andretti all the way again, slightly slower at 1 min. 19.07 sec., but still in a class of his own and there was a bit of a flutter about the place when Gunnar Nilsson ended up second fastest, at 1 min. 19.98 sec., no-one else getting below 1 min. 20 sec., though Hunt was next fastest with 1 min. 20.13 sec. At the end of the day the order was Andretti, Hunt, Reutemann and Nilsson with all the rest of the usual front-runners like Lauda, Laffite, Scheckter, Watson and Peterson wondering what they could do about the two Lotus cars. Others who were running strongly were Jones (Shadow DN8/4A), Regazzoni (Ensign MN06), Tambay (Ensign MN08), Stuck (Brabham BT45/3B) and Depailler (Tyrrell P34/7).
There were not too many problems with the cars. Lauda changed to a spare car, starting out with 031 and after a few laps switching to 030 and, staying with it for the following day. For the first time the McLaren team were able to be without an M23 car, or any obsolete spares, having completed a third M26, which Mass was driving, with the rebuilt original car as the team spare, Hunt driving his usual M26/2. Watson was happy with his usual car, Brabham BT45/5B but tried spare car, 1B briefly and though there were photographs available of the interesting new Brabham-Alfa Romeo BT46, with its triangular-section monocoque and surface water and oil radiators, there was no sign of the new car, it being at the Alfa Romeo test-track in Italy. March had built a new car for Ian Scheckter, called a 771, but not radically different from an up-rated 761 and brother Scheckter was fairly happy with the Wolf WR2, not using the spare car WR1. Laffite was driving the latest Ligier, JS7/03, in long-wheelbase form with the cast alloy spacer between engine and gearbox, and with wide-track front suspension members, while the spare car JS7/02 was in standard short and narrow form, but the new car was going so well that the spare was not used. The Shadow team had uprated DN8/5A to the same specification as the Austrian winning car, with front-mounted oil radiator and slim fairings around the side water-radiators. The disagreement with their Italian sponsor had been settled so Patrese was back in the car, but he could not match the pace of Also Jones.
Permanent road course
Niki Lauda (Brabham BT46-Alfa Romeo), 1m19.57, 118.809 mph, F1, 1978
First Race1948 Zandvoort Grand Prix