The 1977 Japanese Grand Prix was held on 23 October 1977 at Fuji. It was the 17th and final race of the 1977 Formula One World Championship. At the time, this was the last Japanese Grand Prix due to traveling and financial issues, and safety concerns with the Fuji circuit, it was also the last Japanese Grand Prix to be held at Fuji Speedway until 2007. The race would return in 1987, held at the better spectated and safer Suzuka Circuit.
Mario Andretti and James Hunt continued their late-season battle, with the American pipping Hunt to the pole, with John Watson heading the second row. Hunt took the lead at the start, and Jody Scheckter and Jochen Mass jumped up to second and third, whereas Andretti had a terrible start and was at the tail of the top ten. On the second lap, Andretti was involved in a collision while trying to gain places, putting him out with Binder and Takahara. With Andretti out, Hunt had no challengers left and he built a large gap, with teammate Mass second and Watson passing Scheckter for third. However, both Mass and Watson had to retire within one lap of each other with engine and gearbox failures, and with Scheckter dropping back, Scuderia Ferrari driver Carlos Reutemann was second until he was passed by Jacques Laffite. Hunt went on and capped off the season with a comfortable win, whereas Laffite ran of fuel on the last lap, handing over second to Reutemann and allowing Patrick Depailler to complete the podium.
After the race concluded, both Hunt and Reutemann left the circuit immediately to catch a flight home, leaving Depailler and his engineer on the podium. Rules changed shortly thereafter making the podium celebration mandatory.
Fuji’s place in F1 folklore seemed assured, but tragedy was to ensure it was short-lived. During this race, Gilles Villeneuve collided with Ronnie Peterson’s Tyrrell and his Ferrari speared into a crowd of marshals and photographers who were stood in a restricted area, killing two of them. They had both been standing in a prohibited area of the track when the accident occurred. F1 didn’t return the following year.