1976 United States Grand Prix
|Race 15 of 16 in the 1976 Formula One season|
|Date||October 10, 1976|
|Official name||XIX United States Grand Prix|
|Location||Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race Course
Watkins Glen, New York
|Course||Permanent road course
5.435 km (3.377 mi)
|Distance||59 laps, 320.67 km (199.24 mi)|
|Time||1:42.851 on lap 53|
The 1976 United States Grand Prix was a Formula One race held on October 10, 1976 at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race Course in Watkins Glen, New York. This event was also referred to as the United States Grand Prix East in order to distinguish it from the United States Grand Prix West held on March 28, 1976 in Long Beach, California.
Austrian Niki Lauda arrived in the United States for the next to last race of 1976 clinging to an eight point lead over Britain's James Hunt in the Driver's Championship. Lauda had led comfortably with five wins in the season's first nine races, before his horrifying and life-threatening crash at the Nürburgring in August. Hunt then won three of the next five races, including Germany where Lauda was injured. Lauda recovered remarkably to race in Italy and Canada (won by Hunt), but the title race had become very interesting indeed.
There was just a week between the Canadian and American races, and Friday's first qualifying session saw only a handful of drivers venture out onto a thoroughly wet race track. When Austrian Otto Stuppacher, hoping for any quirky chance to make it into the field, went out first, there were still streams of water running across in places. McLaren manager Teddy Mayer summed up the session by saying, "The drivers finished in reverse ratio to the proportion of their IQs."
The rain stopped before the afternoon session began, and after 15 minutes on the still wet track, drivers began changing to slicks. Times dropped quickly on the drying track as driver after driver jumped to the top of the charts, only to fall back down again as the others went faster, too.
Hunt and Patrick Depailler, who was driving one of the six-wheeled Tyrrells, were dueling for top spot, with Depailler following Hunt's McLaren on the track, when the air bottle for the McLaren's compressor starter fell off and hit the Tyrrell's two left front wheels and the monocoque. Both wheels were broken, and even after stopping to replace them, Depailler's steering was out of line, and he could manage only seventh quickest. Later, as Hunt stood in the pits next to a four-foot, 150-pound air bottle, Rob Walker asked, "Was that the one you threw at Depailler?" James answered, "No, we are keeping that one for Niki on Sunday!"
Hunt finished Friday on pole, ahead of Jody Scheckter's Tyrrell, the Marches of Ronnie Peterson and Vittorio Brambilla, and Lauda's Ferrari. Saturday's rain was worse than Friday morning's had been, so the times from Friday afternoon made up the grid.
Overnight, snow fell on the circuit, but the sun eventually came out on Sunday and warmed things up quite a bit as 100,000 fans, the largest paying crowd ever at The Glen, came out to see the Championship battle. Stuppacher was the only one who failed to qualify, while the others would begin the race for the first time without the flag waving efforts of lavendar-suited starter Tex Hopkins, a Watkins Glen icon. A signal light took the place of Hopkins, and at the light, Scheckter jumped ahead of Hunt and led into the first turn. They were followed by Brambilla, Peterson, Lauda, Depailler, John Watson's Penske, the Lotus of Mario Andretti and Jacques Laffite's Ligier.
Scheckter and Hunt began to draw away immediately, with the Tyrrell 2.5 seconds ahead after five laps. After being held up by Brambilla for four laps, Lauda moved into third, 5.8 seconds behind Hunt. Meanwhile, a battle was being waged for fourth among Brambilla, Peterson, Laffite, Carlos Pace, Watson, Clay Regazzoni, Andretti and Jochen Mass. Hans-Joachim Stuck, who had seen his fine sixth-place qualifying effort wasted by a slipping clutch on the grid, was working his way forward and had now reached the end of this group.
Further down, on lap 15, the Ensign of Jacky Ickx went wide in Turn 6, a left-hander entering the 'Anvil' section of the course (known among spectators as 'The Boot'). The car suddenly snapped right and hit the Armco barrier head on. The nose went under the bottom rail, and the car split in two with the rear section spinning back onto the track in flames. Ickx stepped out of the wreckage of the cockpit and hobbled to the grass, where he collapsed with injuries to both his legs and ankles. He was incredibly lucky to be alive; Emerson Fittipaldi, who had been following him, said it was one of the worst accidents he had ever seen, and that he could hear the explosion of the car hitting the barrier above his engine and through his helmet and earplugs. Watson slowed briefly for the wreck, and was passed by Regazzoni and Mass before he got back up to full speed, putting him back to ninth place.
At the front, Scheckter's Tyrrell was losing grip as his fuel load lightened, and Hunt was getting quicker in the chasing McLaren. The gap closed to 1.3 seconds on lap 29, then half a second on lap 30. Finally, on lap 37, Hunt moved inside at the end of the back straight and took the lead. He pulled away by over two seconds in the next two laps, but on lap 41, he missed a gear in the chicane while trying to get around some backmarkers, and Scheckter was through again. The South African maintained his lead until lap 46, when Hunt again passed him at the end of the straight and took the lead for good to claim his sixth win of the season. Just six laps from the finish, on lap 53, Hunt set the fastest lap of the race, as Scheckter made sure of keeping his second place.
Lauda, struggling with oversteer on hard tires in the cold, barely beat Hunt's McLaren teammate Mass to the line to keep his third place. The Austrian's courage was evident to the well-wishers, photographers and VIPs around him when he stepped from his car and removed his helmet to reveal a balaclava soaked in blood. He claimed four valuable Championship points, however, and still led by three points with one race to go.
|2||3||Jody Scheckter||Tyrrell-Ford||1:43.870||+ 0.248|
|3||10||Ronnie Peterson||March-Ford||1:43.941||+ 0.319|
|4||9||Vittorio Brambilla||March-Ford||1:44.250||+ 0.628|
|5||1||Niki Lauda||Ferrari||1:44.257||+ 0.635|
|6||34||Hans Joachim Stuck||March-Ford||1:44.265||+ 0.643|
|7||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford||1:44.516||+ 0.894|
|8||28||John Watson||Penske-Ford||1:44.719||+ 1.097|
|9||16||Tom Pryce||Shadow-Ford||1:45.102||+ 1.480|
|10||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:45.274||+ 1.652|
|11||5||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford||1:45.311||+ 1.689|
|12||26||Jacques Laffite||Ligier-Matra||1:45.324||+ 1.702|
|13||7||Larry Perkins||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:45.363||+ 1.741|
|14||2||Clay Regazzoni||Ferrari||1:45.534||+ 1.912|
|15||30||Emerson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford||1:45.646||+ 2.024|
|16||17||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Shadow-Ford||1:45.979||+ 2.357|
|17||12||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford||1:46.067||+ 2.445|
|18||19||Alan Jones||Surtees-Ford||1:46.402||+ 2.780|
|19||22||Jacky Ickx||Ensign-Ford||1:46.605||+ 2.983|
|20||6||Gunnar Nilsson||Lotus-Ford||1:46.776||+ 3.154|
|21||24||Harald Ertl||Hesketh-Ford||1:49.418||+ 5.796|
|22||25||Alex Ribeiro||Hesketh-Ford||1:49.669||+ 6.047|
|23||21||Warwick Brown||Wolf-Williams-Ford||1:51.124||+ 7.502|
|24||18||Brett Lunger||Surtees-Ford||1:51.373||+ 7.751|
|25||20||Arturo Merzario||Wolf-Williams-Ford||2:00.932||+ 17.310|
|26||38||Henri Pescarolo||Surtees-Ford||2:05.211||+ 21.589|
|27||39||Otto Stuppacher||Tyrrell-Ford||2:11.070||+ 27.448|
|2||3||Jody Scheckter||Tyrrell-Ford||59||+ 8.030 sec||2||6|
|3||1||Niki Lauda||Ferrari||59||+ 1:02.324||5||4|
|4||12||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford||59||+ 1:02.458||17||3|
|5||34||Hans Joachim Stuck||March-Ford||59||+ 1:07.978||6||2|
|6||28||John Watson||Penske-Ford||59||+ 1:08.190||8||1|
|7||2||Clay Regazzoni||Ferrari||58||+ 1 Lap||14|
|8||19||Alan Jones||Surtees-Ford||58||+ 1 Lap||18|
|9||30||Emerson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford||57||+ 2 Laps||15|
|10||17||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Shadow-Ford||57||+ 2 Laps||16|
|11||18||Brett Lunger||Surtees-Ford||57||+ 2 Laps||24|
|12||25||Alex Ribeiro||Hesketh-Ford||57||+ 2 Laps||22|
|13||24||Harald Ertl||Hesketh-Ford||54||+ 5 Laps||21|
|14||21||Warwick Brown||Wolf-Williams-Ford||54||+ 5 Laps||23|
|Ret||8||Carlos Pace||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||31||Collision||10|
|Ret||7||Larry Perkins||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||30||Suspension||13|
|Ret||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford||7||Fuel Pipe||7|
- Lauda's third place clinched the Constructor's Championship for Ferrari with one race left.
- Last race: Henri Pescarolo
Standings after the race 
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings. Only the best 7 results from the first 8 races and the best 7 results from the last 8 races counted towards the Championship. Numbers without parentheses are Championship points; numbers in parentheses are total points scored.
- Doug Nye (1978). The United States Grand Prix and Grand Prize Races, 1908-1977. B. T. Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-1263-1
- Rob Walker (January, 1977). "18th United States Grand Prix: An Evening At The Glen". Road & Track, 81-84.
1976 Canadian Grand Prix
|FIA Formula One World Championship
1976 Japanese Grand Prix
1975 United States Grand Prix
|United States Grand Prix||Next race:
1977 United States Grand Prix