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Part 3 - 1976 - An Impressive First Year

Written by Jay Walker. Posted in P34 History

Unfortunately the technical problems encountered during testing and development prevented the car from being ready for the start of the 1976 F1 season, so Tyrrell entered two 007 cars for the first three races but by the time of the fourth race at Jarama, Spain, one P34 was ready to contest.

pod34-2smallDriven by Patrick Depailler, the lone P34 was fast and qualified third, while his team mate, Jody Scheckter in a 007 could only manage to qualify in 14th position. In that first outing the P34 showed its potential as Patrick kept the car in third place until lap 26, when the brakes failed, this had happened before during in long term testing at Silverstone, it was proving very difficult to keep all four disks cool without compromising the low front profile of the P34, this, like the tyre compound problem would haunt the P34 for all its short F1 history.

Meanwhile, Tyrrell committed all resources to the P34's and for the rest of the 1976 season both drivers contested all the races in P34's, the highlight of which was the Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp where the P34's scored a one-two victory led by Scheckter.

P34-KT6smallUnfortunately this was to be the cars only F1 win and after this moment of glory, it gradually slipped further down the field for the rest of the 1976 season with the notable exception of the final race at Fuji, Japan where Depailler finished 2nd in torrential rain, this was the famous race in which Niki Lauda retired from the race after lap two, refusing to race in such appalling conditions and by doing so allowed James Hunt to clinch the 1976 Drivers Championship title.

The main problem for the car was the front tyres, whilst Goodyear developed the rear and the standard sized front F1 tyres throughout the 1976 season, development of the bespoke P34 10" tyres was sadly lacking. Access to the tyre testing machines was limited to one plant in Belgium and only then on certain nights in the week, by the end of the season the P34's front tyres were almost six months behind in development compared to the rears.

P34-ms5smallThe other main problem for the P34 was keeping the front brakes cool, many different solutions were attempted throughout the season but none fully resolved the problem and all added weight to an already over weight car.

Despite all the problems, The P34's inaugural year was one of the most successful in F1 history for any car or team, and says a lot for the thinking that went into the concept.

Tyrrell P34 Race results for 1976

Event

Scheckter

Depailler

Jarama Was not in P34 Qualifies 3rd but retires with fading brakes on lap 26.
Zolder Qualifies 7th, finishes 7th Qualifies 4th but retires with engine failure
Monaco Qualifies 5th, finishes 2nd Qualifies 4th, finishes 3rd
Anderstorp Qualifies 1st, finishes 1st Qualifies 4th, finishes 2nd
Paul Ricard Qualifies 5th, finishes 6th Qualifies 3rd, finishes 2nd
Brands Hatch Qualifies 8th, finishes 2nd Qualifies 5th, but retires with engine failure
Nurburgring Qualifies 8th, finishes 2nd, takes fastest lap Qualifies 3rd, but crashes on lap 1
Osterreichring Qualifies 10th, but crashes on lap 14 with suspension failure Qualifies 13th but retires on lap 24 with suspension failure
Zandvoort Qualifies 8th, finishes 5th Qualifies 14th, finishes 7th
Monza Qualifies 2nd, finishes 5th Qualifies 4th, finishes 6th
Mosport  Qualifies 7th, finishes 4th Qualifies 4th, finishes 2nd and gets fastest lap
Watkins Glen Qualifies 2nd, finishes 2nd DNF
Fuji Qualifies 5th, but retires with overheating engine Qualifies 13th, finishes 2nd in torrential rain

Overall Jody Scheckter came 3rd in the Drivers Championship and Depailler came fourth, the P34 scored 71 points for Tyrrell giving them 3rd place in the Constructors Championship, an impressive first year for such a radical car by any account.ings did not go smoothly for Tyrrell, the electronics regularly failed and the computer technology of the late 1970's was not reliable enough for it to make much difference to Project 34, especially as Goodyear were still not investing anywhere near enough recourses at developing the 10" F1 tyre technology.