1979 Dutch Grand Prix

Zandvoort, August 26th

Arrival at Zandvoort was greeted with thunder and lightning, rain and floods, and it was difficult to tell the difference between the North Sea and the sky, or the beaches or the circuit. Fortunately the awful weather eased on Friday morning when testing was due to start, though there was still a lot of water about. Since last year the driver’s Safety Committee, which seems to consist of Lauda, Scheckter, Laffite (when he’s not busy doing other things) and Andretti (when the others remember to tell him), decided that the back part of the Zandvoort circuit was becoming too dangerous because of the higher cornering speeds being achieved now and they demanded (yes, demanded, not asked) that a “chicane” should be put in to slow things down a bit. Unfortunately the whole affair got muddled earlier in the season, for Lauda and Scheckter threatened a boycott if the work was not done and Andretti said “no way, boycotts are out”. At one of the meetings Laffite was busy practising his BMW M1 for the Pro-Car races! The result was that a “chicane” was built of the wrong shape and in the wrong place, and nobody took responsibility. Instead of a second-gear “chicane” the Dutch built a slight wiggle into a top-gear right-hand bend, which merely caused drivers to lift off, drop down a gear, and take the wiggle flat-out. The difference to the lap time was unnoticeable and the safety factor was negligible. Sometimes it is better to leave things alone.

With the damp conditions on Friday morning there was not too much enthusiasm for dashing around the circuit, some teams not even bothering to send their drivers out at all. Jean-Pierre Jarier was back in the Tyrrell team, Lotus arrived with three Type 79 cars after a lot of private testing with a revised Lotus 80, which didn’t inspire much confidence; the Brabham team had an air of unreality about it with Lauda just waiting to leave, and a Cosworth-powered BT49 having been out on test, bidding farewell to the Alfa Romeo engines, and Shadow had built new front suspensions on their cars, with a wider track. Ferrari, Renault and Williams had their eyes on the more important things, like beating each other and winning the Dutch GP and the Ligier team were far from settled, though lckx was still replacing the injured Depailler. Hector Rebaque’s private team had a brand new car in the paddock, but not yet for running. This was in effect a new and improved Lotus 79, which they had built themselves with the assistance of the Penske racing shop in Poole, and formed an interim step before branching out on an entirely new car. This interim car used a lot of Lotus 79 running gear components, but had an improved monocoque and different air-flow characteristics underneath designed by Geoff Ferris of the Penske Organisation.

Race Results


Circuit - Zandvoort




Zandvoort, Noord-Holland


Permanent road course


2.626 (Miles)


Gilles Villeneuve (Ferrari 312T4), 1m19.438, 119.006 mph, F1, 1979