• Spanish Grand Prix

Hunt wins ... two months later

ESPNF1 Staff
May 2, 1976
Second placed Niki Lauda leads James Hunt © Sutton Images

The European season began at Jarama and although James Hunt won the Spanish Grand Prix, his first win for McLaren, he was then disqualified a few minutes later as stewards decided his car was too wide. The subsequent arguments dragged on for two months before the authorities finally ruled the original result could stand.

All the cars were different since new rules banned tall air boxes, and the race saw the debut of Tyrell's revolutionary six-wheeler. The two leading drivers - Hunt and Niki Lauda - had also had distracting build-ups. Hunt had agreed to separate from his glamorous wife, Suzy - the quickie divorce was granted in June - while Lauda had broken two ribs when he rolled a tractor at his home.

The start of the race was delayed while King Juan Carlos arrived in his helicopter, and when it did get underway it was Lauda who made the better start, leading into the first bend and holding on for the next 31 laps. But eventually Hunt's harrying and Lauda's discomfort proved too much and the McLaren passed. Two laps later Jochen Mass, Hunt's team-mate, also overtook Lauda and for a while it appeared a McLaren 1-2 was on the cards but ten laps from the end Mass' engine blew.

There was understandable attention given to the six-wheel Tyrrell, and for a third of the race Patrick Depailler impressed in third place until his brakes started to wear. On the 25th lap he gently slid off the track and into retirement. He said afterwards he was delighted with the car's performance. The second new Tyrrell was not ready for Jody Scheckter so he drove the more conventional 1975 model.

Hunt was involved in a fracas as he walked from the car to the presentation, punching a fan who accidently knocked a carton of juice out of his hands. And minutes later the stewards told McLaren its cars' tyres were 1.8mm too wide. A fierce row ensued, not least because the cars had been checked twice before the race, but it later emerged it had been the team's fault as they had failed to allow for the slightly wider new Goodyear tyres. Teddy Meyer, the team boss, accused the FIA of colluding with Ferrari, while Hunt added it was interesting no other team had lodged a protest.

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