Niki Lauda drives Brabham’s infamous fan car to a singular victory at the 1978 Swedish GP. While Gordon Murray’s clever design, reminiscent of the 1970 Chaparral Can-Am car, was dominant on-track, it also created massive controversy in the paddock.
In an exercise in loophole exploitation that probably made Colin Chapman green with envy, Murray repositioned the radiators at the rear of the car and cooled them with a big fan instead of with rammed air as was normal with side-mounted radiators.
Of course, they contrived to see to it that the fan just happened to also suck air out from under the car increasing its downforce. Rival teams argued that the fans were, therefore, illegal as they were moving aerodynamic devices and also claimed the BT46s were hurling stones at cars running behind them. In the end Bernie Ecclestone would decide to cut the fans from his cars after the Swedish GP. It is widely believed Bernie got something in return to compensate for the development costs, as the rules loophole would be closed. It would the beginning of give-and-take-diplomacy tactics in F1.
Mario Andretti was on pole position in his Lotus by seven-tenths of a second while the two Brabhams were second and third, John Watson ahead of Niki Lauda. Then came Ronnie Peterson in the second Lotus. Fifth on the grid went to Riccardo Patrese in the Arrows, although the team was involved in a court case with Shadow over copyright infringement and work was just beginning on the design of a new Arrows A1 chassis to replace the FA/1. Jody Scheckter was fifth on the grid in his Wolf, ahead of the two Ferraris of Gilles Villeneuve and Carlos Reutemann while the top 10 was completed by Alan Jones in the Williams FW06 and Jean-Pierre Jabouille’s Renault.
The Brabhams were protested before the race began but the protest was rejected and the grid formed up as normal. Andretti took the lead with Lauda getting ahead of Watson, who was under pressure from a fast-starting Patrese. At the end of the second lap Patrese moved to third place and a lap later Watson had dropped behind Peterson as well. The Swede then battled Patrese and on lap 10 he took third place only to slow soon afterwards with a puncture. The order then remained unchanged until lap 20 when Watson disappeared from fourth position with a throttle breakage.
At the front Andretti and Lauda battled for supremacy while Patrese was a lonely third. Then came Reutemann, although the Ferrari driver was soon overtaken by Jones. Reutemann then faded back to fall behind the recovering Peterson and Villeneuve.
On lap 38 Andretti made a mistake and Lauda took the lead. Andretti could do nothing about the fan car and settled for second position but on lap 47 his engine failed. This put Patrese up to second and Peterson to third, the Swede having by then passed Jones. The Australian’s race ended soon afterwards with a seized wheelbearing and so Laffite moved to fourth place. With a few laps to go the Ligier began to run out of fuel and dropped out of the points, leaving fourth place to Patrick Tambay (McLaren), fifth to Clay Regazzoni (Shadow) and sixth for Emerson Fittipaldi (Fittipaldi).
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