Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
On 23rd October 1977, the circuit under the slopes of the Mount Fuji volcano hosted the second ever Japanese Grand Prix. The race in the Land of the Rising Sun did not seem to get off to the most auspicious start for Scuderia Ferrari. The previous year, there was the huge disappointment at Lauda’s retirement under the downpour, which cost the Austrian the world title, but the following year also featured a Prancing Horse driver in a dramatic moment.
Niki Lauda, the world champion, had stayed at home with an alleged stomach upset and was set to move to Brabham. Alongside the Argentinian Reutemann for the second race in a row was the Canadian Gilles Villeneuve. The Constructors’ title was also mathematically already in Ferrari’s hands, who did not exactly take the final round of the season by the scruff of the neck. In qualifying, Reutemann was seventh and Villeneuve twentieth. The Canadian tried to stage a great climb up the order, but on lap 6 collided with Ronnie Petersen’s Tyrrell and flew off the track. Villeneuve’s car ended up in an area where, in theory, no one should have been standing: a track marshal who was trying to move spectators away and a photographer both lost their lives, while around ten other people were injured with varying degrees of severity.
The accident caused a lot of discussion, especially in Japan, to the extent that Formula 1 never returned there for a decade. The third edition of the race eventually took place in 1987, at Suzuka where the anti-Ferrari jinx was finally removed, as Gerhard Berger took the win for the Maranello team.