1977 United States Grand Prix
|Race 15 of 17 in the 1977 Formula One season|
|Date||October 2, 1977|
|Official name||XX Toyota 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)|
|Weather||Rain with temperatures reaching up to 63 °F (17 °C); winds gusting up to 12.8 miles per hour (20.6 km/h)|
|Time||1:51.85 on lap 56|
The 1977 United States Grand Prix was a Formula One race held on October 2, 1977 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 April 3, 1977 in Long Beach, California.
By holding off a charging Mario Andretti, James Hunt won at Watkins Glen for the second consecutive year, but the World Championship crown returned to Austrian Niki Lauda, whose fourth place clinched his second title in three years. Racing in cold and rain, Hunt took his second win of the year for McLaren, while Lauda's title was the culmination of a courageous comeback from the life-threatening injuries he sustained at the Nürburgring in 1976.
For the first time, the American race was being held before the Canadian Grand Prix, which would follow a week later. Lauda, with three wins and 69 points, needed only to score a point in any of the final three races to clinch the title, while Jody Scheckter, with two wins and 42 points, needed to win them all to have a chance. (A win was nine points from 1961 until 1991, when it was increased to 10.)
From the start of practice on Friday, Hunt's McLaren was dominant, setting a track record of 1:40.863. Brabham teammates Hans-Joachim Stuck and John Watson were a quarter of a second back, followed by Andretti, Ronnie Peterson and the Ferraris of Carlos Reutemann and Lauda. On Saturday morning, as predicted, the rain came just before the end of untimed practice, and so the afternoon session served only as practice for a possible wet race on Sunday, as Friday's times determined the grid.
Sunday began cold but dry, with a crowd over 100,000. Before the warmup, however, it began to drizzle, and by the five minute signal, it had picked up enough that only John Watson was willing to gamble on starting with slicks. At the flag, everyone got away from the grid and through the first turn without incident, but the spray was so heavy that nothing was visible after the first five cars. Stuck quickly jumped ahead of Hunt, and after one lap, they were followed by Andretti, Reutemann, Peterson, Lauda, Scheckter, Jacques Laffite and Gunnar Nilsson.
Immediately, Scheckter began to take advantage of the others' uncertainty in the conditions and, by lap five had moved from ninth to fourth. Stuck was also going well in the wet, and, despite losing his clutch cable in the first few laps, pulled away from Hunt. Lauda was finally able to get by teammate Reutemann, who had been holding him up, for fifth spot when the Argentine spun. On lap 15, with Hunt four seconds behind, Stuck, struggling to make gear changes without a clutch, popped out of gear entering a corner and went straight on. His monocoque was damaged and his race done.
Hunt now led Andretti by 10.5 seconds, with Scheckter 14 seconds further back in third. This situation continued as the drivers sought the wet sections of a drying track to cool their tires. With 10 laps remaining and the lead at 22 seconds, Hunt backed off as the pits gave him the signal, "EZE". Lauda was coasting in fourth, content to remain there and clinch the Championship. Scheckter had slowed in third to preserve his tires, and it looked like the finish would be extremely dull.
Suddenly, with just two laps to go, Andretti, who had been closing while Hunt cruised home, was only 6.7 seconds behind. As they began the last lap, the margin had closed to 1.5 seconds, and the home crowd was going wild as the track announcers called out the position at every corner. On the last go round, however, Hunt actually increased his lead slightly to win by just over two seconds. The McLaren pit had not informed him how close the Lotus was until his last time past, when Teddy Mayer gave him a frantic wave to pick up the pace!
So, the outgoing Champion won the race, and Lauda's second title was a popular one, especially after the comeback and the controversy of Mount Fuji in 1976. For Ferrari, it was their third consecutive Constructor's Championship.
|2||5||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford||59||+ 2.026 secs||4||6|
|3||20||Jody Scheckter||Wolf-Ford||59||+ 1:18.879||9||4|
|4||11||Niki Lauda||Ferrari||59||+ 1:40.615||7||3|
|5||22||Clay Regazzoni||Ensign-Ford||59||+ 1:48.138||19||2|
|6||12||Carlos Reutemann||Ferrari||58||+ 1 Lap||6||1|
|7||26||Jacques Laffite||Ligier-Matra||58||+ 1 Lap||10|
|8||24||Rupert Keegan||Hesketh-Ford||58||+ 1 Lap||20|
|9||16||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Shadow-Ford||58||+ 1 Lap||16|
|10||30||Brett Lunger||McLaren-Ford||57||+ 2 Laps||17|
|11||18||Hans Binder||Surtees-Ford||57||+ 2 Laps||25|
|12||7||John Watson||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||57||+ 2 Laps||3|
|13||28||Emerson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford||57||+ 2 Laps||18|
|14||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford||56||+ 3 Laps||8|
|15||9||Alex Ribeiro||March-Ford||56||+ 3 Laps||23|
|16||3||Ronnie Peterson||Tyrrell-Ford||56||+ 3 Laps||5|
|17||25||Ian Ashley||Hesketh-Ford||55||+ 4 Laps||22|
|18||27||Patrick Nève||March-Ford||55||+ 4 Laps||24|
|19||19||Vittorio Brambilla||Surtees-Ford||54||+ 5 Laps||11|
|Ret||8||Hans Joachim Stuck||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||14||Accident||2|
|Ret||2||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford||8||Fuel Pump||15|
- Lauda won the Driver's Championship with two races left.
Standings after the race
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings. Only the best 8 results from the first 9 races and the best 7 results from the remaining 8 races were retained. Numbers without parentheses are retained points; numbers in parentheses are total points scored.
- "Weather information for the 1977 United States Grand Prix". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved 2013-11-17.
- 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, 1978). "18th United States Grand Prix: Wet But Not Wild". Road & Track, 82-86.
1977 Italian Grand Prix
|FIA Formula One World Championship
1977 Canadian Grand Prix
1976 United States Grand Prix
|United States Grand Prix||Next race:
1978 United States Grand Prix