The brutal elegance of classic Formula One

The Montreal circuit is so wet for this lap, it looks as if 34-year-old Patrick Depailler is driving his 1978 Tyrrel on some giant mirror. The countersteering required for driving in this weather is immense.

Six months and nine races earlier in the season, Depailler won the famed Monaco Grand Prix, and he finished fifth in this race at the Circuit Île Notre-Dame, now known as the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.


Ultimately, he finished fifth in the standings against much stronger cars. The dominant Lotus 78 and then 79 gave Mario Andretti the championship and Ronnie Peterson second place, while Carlos Reutemann of Argentina finished third with Ferrari, and Nikki Lauda finished fourth with Alfa Romeo.

As you can see in this onboard lap, the Tyrrel 008 gave Depailler a lot to work with; it had a venerable Cosworth DFV V8 engine, an engine nearing the very end of its competitive career, but still able to put down 485 horsepower to those massive rear tires. The whole car weighed only 1,275 pounds.

What's so amazing about this video is how clear it is to the viewer the kind of work and adjustments that go into driving a Formula One car. Everything is slowed down so you can see it better. There is no question that driving a Formula One car today is a more difficult task, faster will always be harder, but there's a kind of accessibility in these old videos that's missing today.

Depailler would die two years after this race testing an Alfa Romeo at Hockenheim.

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