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1978 FIA Formula 1 Season (ICC)

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1978 FIA Formula 1 Season (ICC)
Photo Credit: LAT Photographic Archive.
Champion Constructor: Lotus Ford (GB,7,3)
Putative Constructor: Lotus Ford (GB)
Champion Driver: Mario Andretti (US,1,1)
Putative Driver: Mario Andretti (US)
Putative Constructor Entry Specification: Model 79, 2.99-liter, eight-cylinder vee DFV, magnesium alloy engine, DOHC, fuel injection, five-speed, ventilated disc brakes, aluminum monocoque, aerofoil floor pan, upper rocker arm-lower wishbone independent suspension, 485 horsepower (Colin Chapman, Martin Ogilvie, Geoff Aldridge).

Formula 1 Constructors' Association supremo Bernie Ecclestone arranges in 1978 to negotiate on behalf of the British constructors with FISA regarding the distribution of television revenue rights paid to the teams (Scuderia Ferrari directly negotiates its own separate revenue rights with FISA). FOCA and FISA steadily grow more estranged as the constructors oppose FISA head Jean-Marie Balestre and his revenue distribution approach, who in turn counters the antagonism by implementing stricter aerodynamic regulations upon the British-made entries. The revolutionary ground-effects aerofoil floor design implemented by Lotus with its Model 29 utterly dominates the 1978 racing season and dramatically influences the design direction of F1 constructors for the future. Lotus driver Mario Andretti with his six victories comfortably wins his maiden drivers' title, the first American to attain the feat since Phil Hill in 1961 and the last to date. F1 makes its inaugural visit to Jacarepagua, Rio de Janeiro in January. Future F1 champion Keke Rosberg makes his debut at Kyalami in March. Brabham introduces a large cooling fan on its BT46B entry at Anderstorp in June that raises objections from the paddock, which considers the same as a movable aerodynamic device. FISA allows the Brabham 'fan' to stand after Sweden, only to banish the device prior to the succeeding contest at Paul Ricard. Future F1 champion Nelson Piquet makes his debut at Hockenheim in July. Constructor Shadow prevails over derivative make Arrows in its design infringement suit regarding the Arrows entry in August. F1 makes its first visit to the Ile de Notre Dame at Montréal in October, where national favorite Gilles Villeneuve in fitting fashion snares his maiden series victory. Departures: B. Ronnie Peterson, 34, b. Örebro, Sweden 1944, d. GP Italy, Milan, September. Gunnar Nilsson, 29, b. Helsingborg, Sweden 1948, d. cancer, Hammersmith, England, October. New Racing Makes: British Arrows. Italian Dallara. Racing Evolution: Aerofoil floor pan/moveable skirts for aerodynamic ground effects (Lotus).

HeM applies the Putative Model to all racing seasons for two primary purposes: First, to effectively normalize all racing seasons for empirical comparison across the decades, and second, to step clear of series organizers which score season championships primarily out of commercial interest or to attract manufacturer participation. The Putative Model simply scores all seasons in the same fashion as a standard track and field meeting, with the only purpose of tracking what takes place at the finishing stripe If the Putative Champion differs from the nominal Series Champion, please note the (SC) notation below.

Lotus Ford150     Andretti Mr92
Brabham Alfa Romeo87     Peterson R69
Scuderia Ferrari84     Reutemann66
Tyrrell Ford50     Lauda59
Wolf Ford30     Depailler43
Ligier Matra21     Watson J30
     Scheckter30

Noteworthy 1978 Races

1978 Grand Prix of South Africa Kyalami, South Africa1978 1978 Grand Prix of South Africa At Kyalami for the South African Grand Prix (320 kilometers) in March, the race comes to a British Lotus 78 Ford under Ronnie Peterson (SE) in 1:42:15.8 (average 116.70 mph), under a second (.47) ahead of a Tyrrell driven by Patrick Depailler. Peterson and Depailler tangle wheel-to-wheel on the final circuit, and Peterson ultimately moves out front only a hundred yards from the finish after Depailler suffers a fuel feed problem. Peterson wins his first F1 contest in two seasons. Photo Credit: LAT Photographic Archive.
1978 XXXVI Grand Prix de Monaco Monte Carlo1978 1978 XXXVI Grand Prix de Monaco At Monaco for the Grand Prix (248.5 kilometers) in May, a British Tyrrell 008 Ford under Patrick Depailler (FR) takes race honors in 1:55:14.7 (average 80.37 mph), under twenty-three seconds ahead of a Brabham entry. Depailler moves out front on Lap 38 of 75 after race leader John Watson in his Lotus scoots off the line and up an escape path after missing a corner. Reutemann motors away for his maiden F1 victory as Tyrrell triumphs at Monte Carlo for the first time since the 1972 season. Photo Credit: LAT Photographic Archive.
1978 Grand Prix of Italy Monza, Italy1978 1978 Grand Prix of Italy At Monza for the Italian Grand Prix (232 kilometers) in September, a British Brabham BT46B Ford under Niki Lauda (AT) takes the flag in 1:07:04.5 (average 128.95 mph), under two seconds ahead of a companion Brabham driven by John Watson. A shattering crash takes place on Lap 1 and race officials require four hours to restart the grid. Mario Andretti in his Lotus moves out front after passing race leader Gilles Villeneuve in his Ferrari with only five laps remaining, yet race officials assess both drivers time penalties for jumping the restart, thus gifting the nominal victory to second-running Lauda. The race claims the life of Lotus driver Ronnie Peterson, who collides with James Hunt in his McLaren at the start and crashes hard into a barrier. The Grand Prix Drivers Association formally blames Ricardo Patrese for the incident and bans him from running the remaining season slate, a decision that leaves bitter recriminations between Patrese and the drivers' fraternity. A truly shaken Andretti captures the F1 world championship, the first American since Phil Hill in 1961 to attain the feat, and the last to date. Andretti also still stands as the last American to win an F1 contest. Photo Credit: Sutton Images.