Gunnar Nilsson (1948-1978) was a Swedish race driver who entered 32 Formula One Grand Prix. He won the 1977 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder while driving for Team Lotus.
In his Formula One career, Nilsson only drove for Colin Chapman and his Team Lotus. He got his chance when Jacky Ickx and Ronnie Peterson abandoned ship when the Lotus 76 proved a disastrous replacement for the legendary Lotus 72.
His debut season (1976) saw a podium finish at only his third Grand Prix in Spain. He also scored another impressive third place in Austria, and points finishes in Germany and Japan.
For 1977, Lotus retained Nilsson alongside Andretti, and the pair worked on developing the new ground-effect Lotus 78. The Swede really got going at Jarama (Spain) with a fifth place. Two weeks later he took a magnificent win at the rain-soaked Zolder (Belgium).
Come Autumn, there was a sudden downturn in his performances, retiring from all the last seven rounds of the Grand Prix season. Nilsson’s relationship with Chapman deteriorated to some extent, and with Peterson having signed to return to Team Lotus, he was on his way out at Lotus.
After losing his Lotus seat, he signed for Arrows for 1978, but was later diagnosed with testicular cancer which meant he could not race anymore. As soon as the cancer was determined terminal, he created the Gunnar Nilsson Cancer Foundation. He sadly died in October 1978.