Patrick Depailler scored his first grand prix win in style by winning the blue-ribbon race at Monaco after finishing second almost a dozen times in his previous 68 attempts. The result also took him to the top of the drivers' championship after joint leaders Mario Andretti and Carlos Reutemann failed to finish in the points.
Rain seriously affected practice, completely washing out Friday, and a chaotic start ended pole sitter Reutemann's hopes at the first corner. Both he and James Hunt limped to the pits, and while both resumed, Reutemann finished well down the field while Hunt's McLaren eventually expired in a cloud of smoke.
Hunt maintained his unenviable record of never having finished in Monte Carlo, and he was also subjected to endless media questioning after McLaren revealed it had signed a third driver - Bruno Giacomelli - for 1979. Hunt was privately deeply unhappy with the move and speculation was rife he would move to a new team at the end of the season, fuelled by his absence from the team announcement. His weekend ended in a post-race punch-up when local police took objection to a party.
John Watson, Niki Lauda and Depailler broke clear of the field, ahead of a chasing pack led by Jody Scheckter. Watson seemed in control despite being harried by Depailler but the pressure told and at the halfway point he misjudged the chicane and was forced to take to the escape road.
Lauda kept on Depailler's tail until he had to pit to replace a flat tyre, and from then on Depailler drove a solid and safe race. Lauda charged back through the field to regain second but was unable to make any impression on the leader.