Carlos Reutemann took victory for Ferrari at Interlagos, putting his failure to win his home grand prix a fortnight earlier behind him. On another hot day, the surface started breaking up towards the end and only seven of the 22 starters were still running by the finish.
Carlos Pace gave the home supporters an early boost when he took the lead from the third row. There was a suspicion he jumped the flag but he was allowed to continue with Reutemann, James Hunt - who was on pole - and Mario Andretti in close pursuit. Andretti at one point looked unlikely to start after his Lotus caught fire in practice.
An error from Pace when he went too wide at a corner allowed Hunt, who by then had overtaken Reutemann, to take the lead, but his McLaren was increasingly suffering from handling issues and he was retaken by Reutemann when he pitted.
On the 12th lap Jochen Mass, lying third, slid into a barrier and was hit by Clay Regazzoni's Ensign and Ronnie Peterson's Tyrrell. The last few laps were also eventful as Vittorio Brambilla crashed his March and then Patrick Depailler's Tyrrell, Jacques Laffite (Ligier) and the Brabhams of John Watson and Pace all retired.
Hunt took second with Niki Lauda third, but the loudest cheers were for Emerson Fittipaldi who brought home his Copersucar in fourth.
The post-race interviews all centred on the track. "It was terrible in parts," said Reutemann. "The surface is so bad I think it will have to be relaid before they can race here again." Mass agreed, saying: "The circuit is pretty bad. It looks as if the asphalt hasn't been cured properly."