Jody Scheckter's start-to-finish victory at the Monaco Grand Prix moved him six points clear in the drivers' championship, but it was a tight finish as he was only a car length ahead of Clay Regazzoni's Williams as he crossed the line.
Scheckter's pole position was crucial as it allowed him to move clear from a tightly-packed group of cars squabbling for second and unable to pass the slow Brabham of Niki Lauda. On the third lap Gilles Villeneuve forced his way through but by then his Ferrari team-mate was well ahead.
Patrick Depailler pushed too hard and span his Ligier, and Lauda's moving roadblock was finally removed on the 22nd lap when Didier Pironi's Tyrrell rode up the back of the Brabham, sending Pironi into the crash barrier. Both drivers were unhurt but had to retire. It was Pironi's third accident of the day after previously hitting both Ligiers.
Alan Jones (Williams) then led the pursuit of the Ferraris and cut into their lead before he clipped a barrier and broke his steering. He was replaced by Jochen Mass who drove brilliantly in an outdated Arrows, holding off a determined challenge from Clay Regazzoni before having to pit.
Regazzoni then moved second when Villeneuve retired with transmission failure, and ate into Scheckter's lead as the Ferrari slowed to conserve tyres, and even though he was right on his tail at the end, Scheckter said he was not worried as he knew an overtake was unlikely on the street circuit.
At the finish only four cars were still running. Depailler was awarded fifth even though he had run out of petrol on the penultimate lap after a brutal tussle with John Watson who held on to fourth. "Towards the end I found I couldn't stop my head rolling about," Watson admitted. "My neck was feeling the strain of the constant braking, acceleration and cornering. On the straight I was having to lean back against the head restraint and rest for a few seconds."
Although it was not known at the time, it was also James Hunt's last grand prix, and he retired his below-par Wolf on the fifth lap with a broken driveshaft joint.
He admitted that his lack of success was an issue, and so was his increasing concern over the danger in the sport. "I think about it all the time … any time, any place."