• Argentine Grand Prix

Andretti beats Lauda at Buenos Aires

ESPNF1 Staff
January 15, 1978
Mario Andretti on his way to the first win of his championship season © Sutton Images

Mario Andretti got his season off to a flying start with victory in the Argentine Grand Prix despite using the previous year's Lotus 78.

The grid had a very unfamiliar look with 14 of the 25 works drivers representing new teams, and every two-car team, with the exception of Ferrari, had at least one new driver. Twenty-eight cars in all started the weekend with four failing to qualify.

Andretti took pole with Carlos Reutemann alongside him on the first row. James Hunt was on the third row alongside reigning champion Niki Lauda in his first drive for Brabham after his acrimonious split from Ferrari. Ronnie Peterson, back at Lotus after an ill-advised season with Tyrrell, was on the second row with John Watson.

Andretti led away and built an advantage after the first lap of a second-and-a-half with Watson moving his Brabham up to second on the third lap and setting off after Andretti. He could do little about the Lotus, though, but he was safe ahead of Reutemann's Ferrari who fended off Lauda for 14 laps. He eventually succumbed, and once he was passed, Reutemann slipped down the order, as did Peterson who was troubled by understeer.

Andretti was untroubled on his way to the flag although Watson's day ended when his engine broke on lap 42. That allowed Lauda into second with the Tyrrell of Patrick Depailler on his tail at the end. The two battled nose-to-tail but Depailler couldn't find a gap. Hunt finished fourth.

It had been a processional race in the main but was enlivened a little towards the end when five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio mounted the gantry to wave the chequered flag at the winner - and promptly got his cars confused and waved the flag at Ronnie Peterson a lap early.

"The car was stroking it, man," said Andretti. "The car was beautiful and never missed a beat. I never worried."

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