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1978 Italian Grand Prix

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1978 Italian Grand Prix
Race 14 of 16 in the 1978 Formula One season
Monza 1976.jpg
Race details
Date September 10, 1978
Location Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Monza
Course Permanent racing facility
Course length 5.800 km (3.6 mi)
Distance 40 laps, 232.000 km (144 mi)
Scheduled distance 52 laps, 301.600 km (187.2 mi)
Weather Sunny
Pole position
Driver Lotus-Ford
Time 1:37.520
Fastest lap
Driver United States Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford
Time 1:38.23 on lap 33
First Brabham-Alfa Romeo
Second Brabham-Alfa Romeo
Third Ferrari
Lap leaders

The 1978 Italian Grand Prix was the 14th motor race of the 1978 Formula One season. It was held on 10 September 1978 at Monza. It was marred by the death of Ronnie Peterson following an accident at the start of the race.

With three races remaining, Mario Andretti (Lotus-Ford) led the World Drivers' Championship by 12 points from his team-mate Ronnie Peterson. Niki Lauda (Brabham-Alfa Romeo), in third place, was 28 points behind Andretti, and, with only 9 points for a win, could not overtake him.

As of 2020, this marks the last race win for an Alfa Romeo-powered car.


Andretti took pole position alongside Gilles Villeneuve (Ferrari), with Jean-Pierre Jabouille (Renault) in third place, Lauda in fourth and Peterson in fifth.

Qualifying classification

Pos. Driver Constructor Time No
1 Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford 1:37.520 1
2 Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 1:37.866 2
3 Jean-Pierre Jabouille Renault 1:37.930 3
4 Niki Lauda Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:38.215 4
5 Ronnie Peterson Lotus-Ford 1:38.256 5
6 Alan Jones Williams-Ford 1:38.271 6
7 John Watson Brabham-Alfa Romeo 1:38.610 7
8 Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra 1:38.917 8
9 Jody Scheckter Wolf-Ford 1:38.937 9
10 James Hunt McLaren-Ford 1:38.938 10
11 Carlos Reutemann Ferrari 1:38.959 11
12 Riccardo Patrese Arrows-Ford 1:39.179 12
13 Emerson Fittipaldi Fittipaldi-Ford 1:39.421 13
14 Didier Pironi Tyrrell-Ford 1:39.531 14
15 Clay Regazzoni Shadow-Ford 1:39.621 15
16 Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Ford 1:39.630 16
17 Hans-Joachim Stuck Shadow-Ford 1:39.701 17
18 Derek Daly Ensign-Ford 1:40.075 18
19 Patrick Tambay McLaren-Ford 1:40.163 19
20 Bruno Giacomelli McLaren-Ford 1:40.199 20
21 Brett Lunger McLaren-Ford 1:40.302 21
22 Arturo Merzario Merzario-Ford 1:40.702 22
23 Vittorio Brambilla Surtees-Ford 1:40.805 23
24 Nelson Piquet McLaren-Ford 1:40.846 24
DNQ Héctor Rebaque Lotus-Ford 1:41.063
DNQ Harald Ertl3 ATS-Ford 1:41.185
DNQ Michael Bleekemolen ATS-Ford 1:41.408
DNQ Carlo Franchi Surtees-Ford 1:41.677
DNPQ Harald Ertl3 Ensign-Ford 1:40.274
DNPQ Keke Rosberg Wolf-Ford 1:40.754
DNPQ Rolf Stommelen Arrows-Ford 1:40.934
DNPQ Alberto Colombo Merzario-Ford 1:42.554


First start and Ronnie Peterson accident

Ronnie Peterson's fatal accident at the start of the race
Ronnie Peterson's fatal accident at the start of the race

The race started at 3:30 pm, and the starter Gianni Restelli was overenthusiastic turning on the green lights before all the cars had lined up,[1] that resulted in several cars in the middle of the field getting a jump on those at the front. The result was a funneling effect of the cars approaching the chicane, and the cars were tightly bunched together with little room for maneuver. James Hunt was overtaken on the right-hand side by Riccardo Patrese, and Hunt instinctively veered left and hit the rear right wheel of Peterson's Lotus 78, with Vittorio Brambilla, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Patrick Depailler, Didier Pironi, Derek Daly, Clay Regazzoni and Brett Lunger all involved in the ensuing melee. Peterson's Lotus went into the barriers hard on the right-hand side and caught fire. He was trapped, but Hunt, Regazzoni and Depailler managed to free him from the wreck before he received more than minor burns. He was dragged free and laid in the middle of the track fully conscious, but with severe leg injuries. It took 20 minutes before medical help was dispatched to the scene. Brambilla, who had been hit on the head by a flying wheel and rendered unconscious, and Peterson were taken to the Niguarda hospital in nearby Milan.[2]

Delayed restart

The accident scene after the flames have been extinguished
The accident scene after the flames have been extinguished

Drivers were allowed to use spare cars, non starters included Peterson and Brambilla who were taken to hospital, Stuck was not allowed to restart due to him suffering from slight concussion, Pironi was a non starter as the Tyrrell team had one spare car and that was set up for Depailler and Lunger was a non starter as he had no spare car available.

The race was due to be ready for a restart at 5:15pm. While driving from the pit lane to the grid, Jody Scheckter's Wolf lost a wheel and crashed at the second Lesmo curve, bending the Armco barrier that was situated right next to the track. Andretti, Hunt, Lauda, Carlos Reutemann and Emerson Fittipaldi all went to the spot where Scheckter crashed and upon inspection of the state of the barrier, they refused to start until the barrier was repaired, causing more delay. The barrier was later repaired and ready to race.

Second start and race recap

Because of the amount of time clearing up the track after the shunt in the first start and the barrier being repaired plus Scheckter's crash prior to the second start. At 5:50pm, it was announced that the race would take place and the distance would be shortened from 52 laps to 40 laps to avoid sunset. The race was restarted at 6:15pm, Villeneuve overtook Andretti at the restart and at the end of the lap, both drivers were side by side but Villeneuve held on to the lead and they pulled away from Jabouille who was running third with Lauda behind him. After four laps, Regazzoni in the spare Shadow went to the pits as he was having his brakes looked at. Jabouille had engine problems after six laps and Lauda took on the pursuit, but race control gave Villeneuve and Andretti a one-minute penalty as they were judged to have jumped the start. Andretti took Villeneuve with only five laps remaining. With Jabouille having retired, Lauda finished third ahead of John Watson (Brabham), Carlos Reutemann (Ferrari), Jacques Laffite (Ligier-Matra) and Patrick Tambay (McLaren-Ford). Since all of those finished less than a minute behind, Andretti and Villeneuve were dropped to sixth and seventh place. Andretti had won the championship, but with Peterson in hospital, celebrations were muted. The race was also notable for the first finish for Nelson Piquet with a creditable ninth after dodging the Peterson wreckage in the first start.

Death of Ronnie Peterson

At the hospital, Peterson's X-rays showed he had seven fractures in one leg and three in the other. After discussion with him, Peterson was sent to intensive care so that the surgeons could operate to stabilize the bones.[3] There was some level of dispute between the doctors regarding whether all fractures should be immediately fixed or not.[4] During the night, Peterson's condition worsened, and he was diagnosed with fat embolism.[5] By morning he was in full kidney failure due to the embolism, and was declared dead at 9:55 am on 11 September 1978.[6][5][7]


Gimax (Carlo Franchi) tried to qualify without success. He was the last driver to enter a F1 World Championship race under a pseudonym
Gimax (Carlo Franchi) tried to qualify without success. He was the last driver to enter a F1 World Championship race under a pseudonym
A view of Jody Scheckter in the Wolf pits
A view of Jody Scheckter in the Wolf pits
Pos No Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 1 Austria Niki Lauda Brabham-Alfa Romeo 40 1:07:04.54 4 9
2 2 United Kingdom John Watson Brabham-Alfa Romeo 40 +1.48 secs 7 6
3 11 Argentina Carlos Reutemann Ferrari 40 +20.47 secs 11 4
4 26 France Jacques Laffite Ligier-Matra 40 +37.53 secs 8 3
5 8 France Patrick Tambay McLaren-Ford 40 +40.39 secs 19 2
6 5 United States Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford 40 +46.33 secs 1 1
7 12 Canada Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 40 +48.48 secs 2
8 14 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Fittipaldi-Ford 40 +55.24 secs 13
9 29 Brazil Nelson Piquet McLaren-Ford 40 +1:06.83 24
10 22 Republic of Ireland Derek Daly Ensign-Ford 40 +1:09.11 18
11 4 France Patrick Depailler Tyrrell-Ford 40 +1:16.57 16
12 20 South Africa Jody Scheckter Wolf-Ford 39 +1 Lap 9
13 27 Australia Alan Jones Williams-Ford 39 +1 Lap 6
14 33 Italy Bruno Giacomelli McLaren-Ford 39 +1 Lap 20
NC 17 Switzerland Clay Regazzoni Shadow-Ford 33 +7 Laps 15
Ret 35 Italy Riccardo Patrese Arrows-Ford 28 Engine 12
Ret 7 United Kingdom James Hunt McLaren-Ford 19 Distributor 10
Ret 37 Italy Arturo Merzario Merzario-Ford 14 Engine 22
Ret 15 France Jean-Pierre Jabouille Renault 6 Engine 3
Ret 6 Sweden Ronnie Peterson Lotus-Ford 0 Collision† 5
Ret 3 France Didier Pironi Tyrrell-Ford 0 Collision 14
Ret 16 West Germany Hans-Joachim Stuck Shadow-Ford 0 Collision 17
Ret 30 United States Brett Lunger McLaren-Ford 0 Collision 21
Ret 19 Italy Vittorio Brambilla Surtees-Ford 0 Collision 23
DNQ 25 Mexico Héctor Rebaque Lotus-Ford
DNQ 10 Austria Harald Ertl ATS-Ford
DNQ 9 Netherlands Michael Bleekemolen ATS-Ford
DNQ 18 Italy Gimax Surtees-Ford
DNPQ 23 Austria Harald Ertl Ensign-Ford
DNPQ 32 Finland Keke Rosberg Wolf-Ford
DNPQ 36 West Germany Rolf Stommelen Arrows-Ford
DNPQ 38 Italy Alberto Colombo Merzario-Ford

† Peterson suffered severe leg trauma in a multi-car accident but was otherwise conscious. However, while in the hospital the night following the race he was diagnosed with a fat embolism, of which he died the following morning as a result.


Championship standings after the race

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.


  1. ^ "The Accident". Archived from the original on 29 August 2013.
  2. ^ "1978 Italian GP Repoer". Motorsport Magazine. October 1978. p. 10.
  3. ^ Ewan Tytler. "The Death of Ronnie Peterson: What Really Happened at Monza in 1978". Atlas F1.
  4. ^ "The operation". Archived from the original on 25 September 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  5. ^ a b "The Death notice". Archived from the original on 23 September 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Ronnie Peterson dies from crash". The Morning Record and Journal. 12 September 1978. p. 10.
  7. ^ "Ronnie Peterson". Motorsport Memorial. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  8. ^ "1978 Italian Grand Prix". Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Italy 1978 - Championship". STATS F1. Retrieved 18 March 2019.

External links

Previous race:
1978 Dutch Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
1978 season
Next race:
1978 United States Grand Prix
Previous race:
1977 Italian Grand Prix
Italian Grand Prix Next race:
1979 Italian Grand Prix
This page was last edited on 7 April 2021, at 01:50
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