The series of surprising declarations of the Fisa president, Frenchman Jean-Marie Balestre, continues. The highest executive of the International Federation of Motorsport, on his return from Kyalami, Monday, January 25, 1982, declares that the measure of suspension of super-licenses to Formula 1 drivers is not a revenge, but simply the only way to defend the autonomy of federal power. Balestre mainly blames Didier Pironi, the Ferrari driver spokesman for the twenty-nine rebel drivers, for betraying his comrades by misrepresenting the situation:
"When Gérard Larrousse, in charge of Renault, took the initiative to call for a halt to the conflict, we all decided to freeze the situation in order to let the race take place. Our interlocutor, Didier Pironi, agreed. At this point it is worth noting that I did not promise anything to the pilots. I don't know what Pironi could have told Lauda over the phone to convince him to return to the track with the others. It was simply a truce".
The Fisa president goes on to say that it is perfectly normal for drivers to be suspended for violating regulations:
"We have to use the iron fist. We have no intention of destroying Formula 1. On Thursday, the executive committee will try to find a solution. Sanctions will be taken. If the drivers refuse to submit to the decisions, the situation will become untenable".
These words are enough to understand what confusion reigns at the top of Fisa. To claim, moreover, that Pironi has misrepresented everything after the countless discussions is illogical, and it seems a clumsy attempt to unload responsibility on the other side. Fortunately, there are witnesses, the representatives of the major car manufacturers, who have intervened as mediators and who can therefore refute certain statements. And, not by chance, a lively irritation leaks out from Maranello, to the point that Ferrari seems to be determined to take a stand against Balestre and Ecclestone. According to Enzo Ferrari, the drivers would be right, especially in refusing to be tied hand and foot to a team. Balestre's position now becomes more delicate.
On Wednesday, January 27, 1982, worrying rumors bounced back from Paris, where the following day the Fisa executive committee met to discuss the events that preceded the South African Formula 1 Grand Prix. According to rumors coming from reliable sources, Jean-Marie Balestre, president of the International Automobile Sports Federation (FISA), intends to apply a hard line against the twenty-nine drivers who rebelled, and in particular, it has already been decided to punish in an exemplary manner the five drivers who, according to the investigations conducted by Max Mosley, Bernie Ecclestone's right-hand man (also in a political sense), are the historic leaders of the rebellion. They are Niki Lauda, Gilles Villeneuve, Didier Pironi, Nelson Piquet and Bruno Giacomelli. Heavy disqualifications would be ready, through the confirmation of the suspension of the driving license, and heavy fines. If this information turns out to be true, Ferrari will be the only team deprived of both drivers, while McLaren, Brabham and Alfa Romeo would have one disqualified driver each. For the moment, the drivers have not received any official communication on the matter. Gilles Villeneuve, asked by phone from Monte Carlo, declares:
"I don't know anything. I am bitter because of what is happening, but I must admit that I do not feel sorry for what I did. I believe I have acted in the interest of drivers and motoring. We could no longer bear certain abuses. We lit a fuse that threatened to explode us all. But sooner or later it had to happen. Better now, with the hope that we can do some cleaning in the environment. I am not too worried about what Fisa will decide. In any case, we have already asked a group of excellent lawyers to defend us. It's not certain that Balestre will succeed. The Fisa executive committee will have to be very careful in making its decisions, and evaluate impartially what happened. It is true that the pilots have attempted a forceful action, but it is also true that they have been repeatedly teased and provoked".
When the Formula 1 Commission met to decide on the text of the form to be presented to the drivers to issue the super-license, Didier Pironi - who is a member of the Commission as a representative of the drivers, but without voting rights - was kept in the dark. The most serious fact, however, lies in the behavior of Balestre, who denied having reached a solution with the drivers on Friday morning so that they could resume racing. The Fisa president attributed all the responsibilities to Pironi, saying that the Ferrari driver misrepresented the situation by presenting to his teammates what was only a truce as an agreement. Now, the fate of the 1982 World Championship depends on the decisions of the twenty-one members of this assembly, which represents the major car manufacturing countries of the world. If the ventilated measures against the rebel drivers are confirmed, anything can happen. Even the cancellation of the entire seasonal calendar. It is to be hoped that common sense will eventually prevail, but the situation is truly intricate, and it is difficult to envisage a positive solution to the dispute, one that would save face for the various parties involved.
Thursday January 28, 1982, in the luxurious headquarters of Fisa, in Place de la Concorde, discord reigned supreme, indeed it was open war for Formula 1. The executive committee of the International Federation proposed a slight backtrack to what had been decided in Kyalami, and the drivers were simply fined and threatened for having rebelled in South Africa. But now it was the drivers who responded with a hard face: while waiting for the response of the federal meeting, in fact, in the small hotel of Tremouille, ten minutes away by car, Didier Pironi, the drivers' representative, proposed a brief and decisive press conference in which he read a communiqué in which, after confirming the solidarity of all the members of the Gpda, it was stated verbatim that the drivers refused all the sanctions decided by the executive committee, and did not accept even a reprimand.
The initiative, therefore, changes hands and Fisa is faced with a very delicate situation, after Balestre's personal success in the executive committee. Of the twenty-one members of the assembly, twenty nations are represented (inexplicably absent is the representative of Argentina, organizer of the next round of the championship), the president has in his hands five proxies plus his vote: against the proposal to punish the pilots there are Serena (Italy), Porter (England), Von Heinstein (Germany), Boeri (Montecarlo) and Piccinini, representing the great constructors. The result is therefore fifteen to five, but Balestre has the consensus of the nations that, motoristically speaking, count for less. So these sanctions are implemented:
- Fine of $10.000 and suspension for five races with probation for two years for the drivers who had already protested at Zolder, namely Patrese, Pironi, Villeneuve, Prost, Giacomelli and Laffite;
- A fine of $5.000 and two races suspended with probation for the other twenty-three defendants, i.e. all the drivers currently involved in Formula 1 minus Jochen Mass and Teo Fabi, who had appeared on the track regularly.
The drivers will be able to appeal to the International Automobile Federation tribunal regarding the suspension sentence, while they will have to pay the fine within forty-eight hours after receiving official notice, probably Monday, February 1, 1982. If they do not pay the required amount, they will automatically have their license suspended. Here is the stumbling block to find a solution, because Pironi has already said that not even a penny will be paid, while Balestre has extended a hand, avoiding immediate disqualification, but has had a very hard answer. Now what can happen?
"I'm tired, I hope that in the next few days we will reflect more calmly, and that with a little more time we will be able to save the salvageable. I think that the Formula 1 world championship cannot be held without the drivers who were protagonists of the first race".
Balestre also affirms that the controversial application form for the super-license has been studied and created by himself with the full consent of the entire Formula 1 commission. In this sense Balestre wanted to deny those who claim that the document is the result of pressure from the Foca, or rather from Ecclestone. The ineffable Jean-Marie made it known that Ecclestone is an indispensable character of Formula 1 for his ability and competence. In the meantime, however, the defeat in the executive vote embittered the car manufacturers, who did not want the drivers to be punished for what happened in South Africa, as they believe the protest was justified. When the Formula 1 Commission met to decide on the text of the form to be presented to the drivers to issue the super-license, Didier Pironi - who is a member of the Commission as a representative of the drivers, but without voting rights - was kept in the dark.
The most serious fact, however, lies in the behavior of Balestre, who denied having reached a solution with the drivers on Friday morning so that they could resume racing. The Fisa president attributed all the responsibilities to Pironi, saying that the Ferrari driver misrepresented the situation by presenting to his teammates what was only a truce as an agreement. Now, the fate of the 1982 World Championship depends on the decisions of the twenty-one members of this assembly, which represents the major car manufacturing countries of the world. If the ventilated measures against the rebel drivers are confirmed, anything can happen. Even the cancellation of the entire seasonal calendar. It is to be hoped that common sense will prevail, but the situation is truly intricate, and it is difficult to hypothesize a positive solution to the dispute, which would save the faces of the various parties involved.
"Sanctions were issued against the law, against sport, and above all against the true interest of the World Championship. We respect the vote that resulted from the majority. We are comforted, however, to see that there are positions similar to ours of important nations, significant in terms of industry and sports".
Declares Marco Piccinini, speaking for Ferrari and for his colleagues, adding:
"If we are without drivers, we will not race".
This means, therefore, that the game is still wide open: the tug-of-war between the drivers and the federation continues, and if an agreement is not reached, the next Argentine Grand Prix will be cancelled. But in this regard, Balestre makes it known that he already has a reserve test ready: the Spanish Grand Prix. The pilots' revolt continues. The racers, as expected, absolutely do not accept the sanctions adopted by the Fisa executive committee: the members of the Gpda do not want to hear about any kind of punishment. For all speaks Didier Pironi, head of the pilots' association:
"The drivers reject any sanction from the executive committee. We have tried to establish a reasonable dialogue for real problems that concern us, we do not intend to accept such an insult, and we insist on being treated with respect and on an equal footing".
But where do they go from here?
"If the executive committee decides to definitively call for the application of these disciplinary rules as a means of pressure to neutralize our solidarity initiative, we absolutely could not submit to this intimidation and we will all react together, that is, we will not race in the next races".
But now Fisa has extended a hand, it absolutely could not leave the pilots unpunished without losing face....
"We understand that there has been within the executive committee a hard fight, and we understand what the difficulties are. But at this point we absolutely cannot give in. That would be like accepting anything from now on. Since we're in the game, let's dance and discuss".
Some stables, however, will be pushing to race, while others are already looking for replacements...
"We don't care about that. We don't think it's possible to have a World Championship without us. We are willing to negotiate, we want to talk, we want discussions. We are tired of words, of promises. It's true that at a certain point the super-license was just a pretext but, as I said, we couldn't do otherwise. I believe that with a little goodwill we can meet again, talk and resolve the issue once and for all. President Balestre said something right in his press conference when he admitted that he will try to set up a discussion committee with representatives of all parties to try to solve all the extra-sports problems outside the tracks. We completely agree, it's just a matter of taking the first step. For the moment, though, we'll see. The races without us don't happen".
Friday, January 29, 1982 Bernie Ecclestone must not have left for London very satisfied, even though his alliance with Balestre, the Fisa-Foca axis, defeated the front of the big car manufacturers in the vote of the executive committee of the International Federation on the measures to be taken against the drivers. If it is true that in the middle of the day on Thursday the owner of Brabham had proposed a hard line, with a fine of 25.000 dollars for all rebel drivers, and indefinite suspension of the license, the sentence issued in Place de la Concorde leaves room for different considerations. Fisa could not completely lose face by absolving the twenty-nine rioters. It had to strike, but it did so with a relatively light hand, reducing the fines and issuing a conditional sentence. Faced with the contrary opinion - especially in the interest of the Formula 1 World Championship - of the representatives of Italy, Germany, England, Monte Carlo and the major constructors, Balestre was forced to temper his desire for revenge and Ecclestone certainly had to reflect on what had happened the day before at a secret meeting of the Foca. According to well-founded rumors from British sources, for the first time Ecclestone was harshly challenged by his partners, and in particular by Frank Williams, who wanted to make it clear once and for all that he is not willing to make sacrifices to facilitate certain power games.
"I have no intention of wasting precious time and money. And I have no desire to change my drivers. I will only race in Argentina with Reutemann and Rosberg".
And of the same opinion seem to be the other team managers, from Tyrrell to Chapman. Ecclestone is certainly not the type to cash in without trying to react, and he has already made it known that he has had contacts with some drivers to replace Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese. The Brazilian and the Paduan risk to be fired if they don't pay the fine imposed by Fisa, but it is not excluded that they are only threats to reach the goal. It is unthinkable that Ecclestone, who also has duties towards his sponsors and BMW that provides him engines, really wants to entrust his cars to drivers without experience. In any case, in the coming days the drivers will be subjected to considerable pressure, which certainly did not come as a surprise. The fact, if anything, that the sentence pronounced on Thursday in Paris was, all things considered, milder than what could be expected, feeds the desire of Gpda to resist any pressure. Didier Pironi, anticipating the decisions of Place de la Concorde, at first refused any charge and then clearly stated that the fines proposed in two brackets will not be paid. A position confirmed by Niki Lauda, who from Vienna declared:
"I will not pay a single penny. We are determined to go all the way. The sanctions adopted are ridiculous, meaningless and out of touch with reality. We feel we are on the side of reason".
The Brescian has specified:
"It was all expected, almost taken for granted. The withdrawal of our licenses was illegal. We make it a matter of principle. If we accepted these impositions, we would be admitting faults that we do not have".
In order to show that the pilots had no intention of giving in, GPDA called a meeting of its members on February 7, 1982 in Paris. This was a very harsh response if one considers that the organizers of the Argentine Grand Prix, scheduled for March 7, had set February 5 as the deadline for a negative or positive response. Anticipating the timing, the Automobile Club of Argentina took Fisa and the Formula 1 drivers on the back foot, and with a laconic message from Buenos Aires, the ACA announced that it had suspended the Grand Prix, the second round of the World Championship, scheduled for March 7, reserving the right to propose a new date for the race. This is obviously a political move, to try to positively unblock the issue. Faced with a cancellation of the race, the two parties involved, racers and sporting authorities, should be encouraged to try to quickly resolve the problems that have troubled the beginning of the racing season. It would be hard to explain otherwise the attitude of the South American organization that, among other things, in the meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation, had voted in favor of the measures against the 29 drivers.
A confirmation of the fact that the suspension of the race would be an extreme attempt to overcome the crisis comes from Paris, where Jean-Marie Balestre, president of Fisa, makes it known that he will try to ensure that the Argentine Grand Prix will take place on the scheduled date of March 7. Otherwise, the situation of uncertainty would also put in doubt the next Brazilian Grand Prix, scheduled for March 21st. Balestre, however, also let it be known that none of the twenty-nine drivers fined for the Kyalami strike have yet officially paid their fines. It has been specified that a sum of money has been paid, but it has not been specified if it was any team that did so. The French manager confesses that for the moment there is no sign of compromise between Fisa and the drivers, given that the six transalpine drivers who had been invited to present themselves on Wednesday, February 3, 1982 at the headquarters of the Federation did not show up. In London, meanwhile, Bernie Ecclestone, president of the Manufacturers' Association and owner of Brabham, reiterates that he is siding with Fisa, and adds:
"My drivers Piquet and Patrese will have to pay the fines imposed on them. I will not insist that they do their duty. It's a matter for them. But our contracts require that they have a license. Otherwise, they will not be able to race".
In the meantime, however, the big manufacturerss, who came out defeated in the vote on Thursday, are preparing a strategy, though, as Ferrari's press office chief Franco Gozzi admitted:
"Only next week, after Marco Piccinini's return, it will be possible to clarify the situation that emerged after having examined, together with the other manufacturers, the official text of the Fisa resolution".
Saturday, February 6, 1982, the fight between the International Motor Sports Federation and the Formula 1 drivers continues without any exclusion of blows. After the announcement of the suspension of the Argentine the Argentine Grand Prix, FISA issues another surprise communiqué: anticipating the meeting of the rebels, scheduled for Sunday, February 7, 1982 in Paris, the sporting authorities state that Piquet, Patrese, Lauda, Watson, Reutemann, Rosberg, Mansell, De Angelis to Warwick, Winkelbock and Guerriero, have paid the fine imposed by the executive committee. But in reality, the dollars - 60,000 in total, of which 10,000 for Patrese and 5,000 for each of the other ten - paid to Fisa did not come from the pockets of the drivers, but from their respective teams, that is Brabham, McLaren, Williams, Lotus, Toleman and Ensign. Only the German Winkelhock would have paid personally, breaking the drivers' front:
"Evidently everything is being done to put us in trouble. But we are determined to get justice. Our aim is not to refute Fisa, but to reach a solution to our problems, both for the profession and for safety".
Comments Didier Pironi from Paris.
The Ferrari driver, with calm words and sense of responsibility, explains several times where he intends to land the Gpda:
"We are meeting at 10:00 a.m. at number 44 Champs Elisées, at the headquarters of our lawyers. There will be a debate, at the end of which we will make our decisions known. I do not think, however, that we will give up. It may well be that the solution of the payment made by the teams is a good lifeline for everyone. What we are interested in is that the World Championship continues regularly. We have the intention of setting up a powerful and compact association of professional drivers, with voting rights within Fisa. The program in principle is to change the methods of assignment of the famous super-license to race in Formula 1. But, beyond the form and the rules to obtain the permit, we want to do something more. We want to create a norm, rules so that we will no longer find ourselves in situations that we have had to suffer in the past. Basically, we wish to take away the ability of teams to hire who they want, that is, to take drivers, perhaps unknown or incapable, just because they bring billions or sponsors full of money. Rankings must be established, scores to be accumulated especially in the minor formulas. The transition must be progressive, not cerebral. A useful way, among other things, to enhance Formula 2 and Formula 3. We know very well that we are a privileged category, that we earn a lot of money when we get to the top. At the same time, however, we don't want motor racing to create too many illusions. Ours is also a risky sport: only the participation of true professionals can help to reduce the dangers. I don't think this is an absurd request".
Having said that, on Sunday, February 7, at the end of the meeting, legal expert Paulssen sent a letter to Fisa requesting the cancellation of all disciplinary measures: in practice, if the Federation does not recognize the errors committed and the abuses practiced in recent times, especially with regard to the events of Kyalami, and does not cancel the measures inflicted on the twenty-nine South African rebels, the new Professional Racing Driver's Association, founded in Paris, will give a mandate to its lawyers to file a lawsuit against the power of motorsports. For this reason the drivers' union chaired by Didier Pironi, with deputy Niki Lauda, and councillors Giacomelli, Laffite and Alboreto, relies on one of the most famous law firms in the world. In charge of the action is, as mentioned, lawyer Paulssen, a young and brilliant specialist in international law and legal-sports problems, who has already dealt with professional associations of footballers and tennis players:
"We have sent a very detailed and precise letter to Fisa, in which we clarify our position and specify all the reasons, in accordance with the regulations, why we reject any disciplinary measure taken against us".
Explains Bruno Giacomelli on his return to Italy. According to Niki Lauda, engaged in Le Castellet for some McLaren tests - together with Renault and Brabham - the lawyer Paulssen knows the Fisa sport code, the well-known yellow booklet, better than anyone else, after having studied it thoroughly with the competence of an expert.
"According to the code, the only action that Fisa could legally take because of what happened at Kyalami was the deletion from the race standings of the drivers who had not taken part in the first practice session. The measure, indeed, had to be taken by the local authorities. This was not done. Everything else is an abuse of power without any regulatory basis".
Niki Lauda declares.
"In any case the superlicense has not been materially withdrawn from us. We are therefore able to run quietly in Argentina. At the limit we could even pay the fines two hours before the start of the Buenos Aires race. I am speaking in absurdity, because we have no intention of paying that money as a matter of principle. If others want to do it, as some teams have already done, that's their business. We are on the side of reason, and we intend to stay there".
Concludes with Bruno Giacomelli saying.
The drivers will not pay the fines, but they leave the freedom to the teams to pay the money. This is the decision of the drivers after they all met again, as for a Sunday Grand Prix on the Champs-Élysées, but instead of rivalry they agree in the unusual role of trade unionists. Didier Pironi does the honors of the house, in a law firm in the center, receiving the other drivers who, at random, gather in the French capital. Next to Pironi are Piquet, Lauda, Laffite, De Cesaris, Giacomelli, Jarier, Arnoux and a few others. The main absentees are delegated: Alan Prost calls, Villeneuve and Cheever give a mandate to represent them. Only Patrese and Rosberg's adhesion is missing. The final vote that comes out represents the highest range of the new association of professional drivers, institutionalized by this extraordinary meeting in Paris with the birth of the Professional Racing Driver Association. So what is the replica of the new Prda Balestre president of Fisa?
The drivers' association, backed by a team of legal experts also in sports jurisprudence, first of all shows off a parade by finding a compromise formula on the crucial problem of the payment of fines. The final communiqué of Prda is limited, in fact, to take note of the communiqué issued by Fisa last Friday, according to which the drivers are perfectly in order to continue to compete in the championship, but it specifies that as for the payment apparently made by several teams to Fisa as a fine for this or that driver, no driver has paid them directly. The document then reiterates that this gesture seems inappropriate to the Drivers' Association, as such as to encourage abuse of the disciplinary procedure. But the drivers' group puts on a good face before the cracks that have appeared on the anti-Fisa front, and frankly admits that the teams have the right to interpret their obligations under Articles 123 and 156 of the sporting code.
The points in the long document of the Association of Formula 1 drivers can be summarized as follows:
- Prda denounces the irregularity of the procedure on the basis of which Fisa claimed to establish the new conditions of the super-license;
- The members of the Drivers Association appeal against the alleged provisional international suspension pronounced by the President of Fisa on January 21-23 in South Africa, it being understood that the appeal is automatically suspensive of the sanction;
- Drivers denounce then the irregularity of the procedure followed for the final decision of the Executive Committee of Fisa, announced on January 28, and reiterate in this regard that the suspension provided by Article 157 - concerning the late payment of fines - is not mandatory but optional, and depends on the national sporting authorities.
To these, therefore, the Prda points out that the non-payment is not due to ill-will, of the drivers, but to the deep conviction by all the drivers that irregularities have been committed by Fisa. A separate chapter deserves, finally, the problem of the Grand Prix of Argentina, officially suspended. The Association of Drivers expresses the hope that the competition will be held regularly, that no driver will miss this race and that no initiative will be taken to prevent the participation of drivers. In conclusion, if it is possible to draw the summaries from the extraordinary conference of the Formula 1 drivers, it can be put on record that beyond the firmness of the intentions, the drivers have left the door open, through the actions of the single stables, to the search for a way out in the conflict that has arisen with Fisa. But if Balestre will persist in his attitude of absolute closure, in front of him there will be a Drivers' Association this time institutionalized and fierce with a directive staff that sees in the figures of Pironi and Lauda respectively the president and the vice-president, supported by Giacomelli, and Laffite and Albereto as members of the direction. It is really difficult, at this point, to predict what will happen in the World Championship.
In the meantime, while Pironi reads in Paris the long document in which it is said that the drivers will not pay a penny to Fisa, Jean-Pierre Jarler telephones the sporting director of Osella and orders him to send the check, so that in this way the race would be regularly held in Argentina. Saturday 13 February, Bernie Ecclestone meets in Maranello with Enzo Ferrari, just to discuss the problems of Formula 1 together with the representatives of Renault and Alfa Romeo, Sage and Corbari, and then, in an interview to the French Equipe Magazine, expresses his pessimism about the future of Formula 1.
"By 1984 Formula 1 races will no longer be held; this is because the teams will be convinced that it will be impossible to win a race without an engine whizzing at 320 km/h on a straight. At that point it will be necessary to invest, and few will be able to do it, because to mount a turbo engine costs a fortune and it takes a planning of three or four years. But the sponsors will not feel like waiting, television will no longer be there and Formula 1 will die before 1984 if it continues in this way".
Regarding his relationship with sports power and the drivers' dispute, Ecclestone adds:
"I made an agreement with Balestre to fight everything that harms Formula 1, and I intend to respect it. The drivers created the conflict in South Africa because they wanted to show the strength of their newly formed association. They wanted to show that they were strong and united: this explains what happened in Kyalami".
Once the storm has passed, calm has not returned to Formula 1 in any way. The affair of the rebellious drivers has been scaled down with a ruse, and the fines imposed by Fisa have been paid by the teams, while waiting for the decisions of the Federation's appeal tribunal. The drivers have not given up their claims, but there is a fracture, at least apparent, on the front of the Prda, formed in Paris, after Nelson Piquet signed a letter in which he expressly asked Ecclestone to pay the money required for the fine. Obviously, this is a commitment that the World Champion had to sign in the face of the threat of dismissal. Otherwise, there would be no explanation for the need to produce a document: it was enough to hand over the 5,000 dollars requested by Fisa to close the deal. At the same time, the teams that do not have supercharged engines are trying to eliminate the power gap that exists between the different types of engines. Therefore, the proposal to increase the displacement of naturally aspirated engines by changing the current 1/2 ratio, i.e. 1500 cm³ to 3000 cm³, comes back to the fore.
Since Cosworth already has an engine of 3300 cm³ ready, it is not excluded that we tend to arrive at these proportions. On the other hand, the teams, who currently feel inferior, would agree not to reduce the weight of the cars, to remove the various devices that tend to circumvent the regulation, such as water tanks to cool the brakes, to keep the capacity of the fuel tanks at 225 liters, necessary for the turbo that consumes more than the other engines. In the meantime, the German driver Jochen Mass is fired from the March, since the latter has not found a sponsor able to finance the team. In his place the Spanish driver Emilio De Villota is hired. This decision confirms the rumors that the Spanish Grand Prix would be put on the calendar on June 27, even though Ecclestone would have the intention of having a seventeenth race at the end of the season in Australia. On the eve of his eighty-fourth birthday, Enzo Ferrari did not show any signs of letting up due to his age, and on the contrary he became more and more combative and unwilling to compromise.
As said, on Wednesday 17 February 1982, the Modenese constructor is the protagonist of a meeting, held in the premises of the Fiorano private track, in which representatives of Renault, Alfa Romeo, Osella and Toleman also participate, at the end of which a communiqué is issued that leaves no room for doubt. The problems that plague Formula 1 had to be dealt with, and it must be said that the five manufacturers present (Talbot-Ligier was missing from the legalists) made their position perfectly clear towards Fisa. The document, in essence, is an ultimatum to the international sporting authorities and directly to President Jean-Marie Balestre, to whom Enzo Ferrari also sends a personal letter:
"To President Balestre, your General Secretary communicates to me by telex the sending of a registered letter, not yet received, dated February 10, and concludes that in default of the payment of 20,000 dollars within forty-eight hours the Ferrari company will have its competitor's license suspended, without, however, that this has been decided by the Fisa executive that has limited itself to the position of the drivers. The Ferrari company will behave, as it has always done since 1929, according to what the sporting regulations prescribe. Personally, as a man of sport, I find that this is the occasion to tell you first of all that I am amazed, embittered by the incomprehensible attitude that you have taken towards the legalists, who at the time constituted themselves precisely on your perorant invitation to restore the authority of Fisa chaired by you, in serious contrast to Foca that had already deliberated a parallel championship. I remind you that three times you came to Fiorano to obtain my collaboration, and with it that of the legalists, preceded by the recommendations of the lawyer Carpi De Resmini, president of ACI and vice president of Fia, and Dr. Serena, president of Csai and now vice president of Fisa. I gave you without reserve all my support, also facing the hostility of the Italian press that criticized my attitude. Piccinini, then, offered you all the help you asked for, without limitations. You yourself had the sincerity to recognize our work and you acknowledged, in your speech to the FIA committee on March 13, 1981, the work done to defend the rules and decisions of Fisa and FIA. At this point, I wonder what induced you to tell the French press, in order to avoid answering to my documented considerations on the facts of Kyalami, that you do not know the Italian language, forgetting that when you came to interview me, since 1953, like Giovanni Reno, you spoke a good Italian, the same that you used to bring me to your cause. And I also wonder what the legalists would have done to you to deserve that you define them with epithets that the newspaper L'Equipe has deemed unpublishable, but which are within our knowledge. The Fisa telex contains, in closing, the final invitation to comply with the international sports code and the Concorde Convention. It is an invitation that makes me smile, because for sixty-three years I have been living in respect of international sports law, and the Concorde Convention - remember it President - is a heritage born in Modena on January 19, 1981 that I defend and will defend in its genuine technical, legal, moral and sports integrity. However, I keep at the disposal of those who may be interested a note regarding those occasions in which, unfortunately, those who had the duty of enforcing them also disregarded the prescriptions of the international sports code and the Concorde Convention. Finally, I have read a recent interview of yours in which you affirm that Ferrari is conducting a scandalous campaign of intoxication. I believe that this statement is detrimental to the honorability of the Ferrari name, and I strongly urge you to deny it".
"Enzo Ferrari Modena, February 15, 1982".
A letter and a communiqué that need no comment. Either Fisa and Balestre will respect the regulations and the word given during his management of Formula 1, or it will come to a break. Here is the text of the document released by the Ferrari press office:
"The examination of the abnormal situation in which Formula 1 has fallen and the definition of the joint actions to be taken to ensure its future found the participants unanimous, among other things, on the following conclusions:
1) Sports Authority: impartial arbiter of objective situations and impartial guarantor for the application of technical and sports regulations.
2) Sports justice: strictly based on a single right, while respecting the indispensable guarantees due to all licensees.
3) Technical regulations: absolute stability, without exceptions, until December 31, 1984, as prescribed by the Concorde Convention, with a prompt search for a technical definition valid as of January 1, 1985.
4) Financial management: full application of the administrative provisions of the Concorde Convention.
In the course of the meeting, those present took note of a telex and a letter that remained unanswered, sent respectively by Enzo Ferrari and Max Mangenot to the President of Fisa, who expressed their agreement with the positions contained therein. Finally, the manufacturers wish to confirm their solidarity with their drivers. As you can see, in the first two paragraphs, Fisa is expressly asked to respect the Concordia pact and not to act outside the regulations, as it did during the Kyalami events. In the third paragraph, it is stated that there is no willingness to accept any change to the technical rules. So no to changing the ratio between turbocharged and naturally aspirated engines, and no to falsely reducing the weight of the cars. The fourth paragraph, which deals with financial management, is obviously a response to anyone who has tried to change the current situation. It may be that someone has asked, in order to make up for the increased expenses for having supercharged engines, to see their competencies increased as far as engagements and prizes are concerned. Ferrari, according to the sporting regulations, will have to pay the fines imposed on its drivers, as will the other teams. But this does not mean that the constructors accept the principle established by the Fisa executive committee with the measures taken in Paris".
Nevertheless, on Thursday, February 18, 1982, the coup attempt against Jean-Marie Balestre, president of Fisa, fails. The president of ACI, the lawyer Carpi de Resmini, who at the meeting of the Fisa Bureau presents a speech against the French manager, asking for his resignation, is put in minority by Balestre's friends. Carpi de Resmini argues that the image of Fisa has been compromised by the actions of the head of the Federation, and after pointing out the infractions committed after the facts of Kyalami by the sporting authorities, the president of the Italian Automobile Club adds:
"It seems to me that the time has come, with much humility and precise will, to refound, in the ancient spirit of the FIA, the world of sport and this before a tide of pettiness and squalor sweeps over us".
Carpi de Resmini not only accuses Balestre, but also denounces the intention, with evidence in hand, of some individuals to destroy the FIA with the hope of organizing an autonomous World Championship: the reference to Bernie Ecclestone is clear, given that Ligier, which did not participate in the Maranello meeting, seems to have taken the side of the Foca. Balestre not only turns off the coup against him, but responds to the document issued in Maranello by Ferrari, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Toleman and Osella, with a statement through which he rejects the accusations:
"Following the press release issued by the manufacturers, Fisa responds: The sporting authorities do not intend to fuel controversy, taking into account the ongoing procedures.
A) Appeals Tribunal of South Africa scheduled for tomorrow;
B) Disciplinary Commission of the French Federation scheduled for February 25;
C) Appeals Tribunal of the International Automobile Federation scheduled for March 5.
The problem of the clarification of the Formula 1 regulations concerns water tanks and the weight of the cars and is on the agenda of the technical meeting of all Formula 1 engineers scheduled from today in Paris. On the other hand, if some competitors consider that irregularities occurred during the Kyalami Grand Prix, Fisa is surprised that no one filed a complaint at the end of the race to assert their rights, as provided for by the sporting code".
And, moreover, responds to Enzo Ferrari rejecting all accusations and indeed fueling the controversy:
"Neither you nor I are above the law. I have never spoken Italian in my life and I am sorry for that. You must have confused me with another person".
Balestre's attitude towards Marco Piccinini, Ferrari's sporting director, is also very harsh, since in four paragraphs he accuses him of having collaborated in the drafting of the contested super-license, of having publicly declared that, after Kyalami, Fisa had taken illegal decisions, of having conspired, receiving in his hotel room the members of the Fisa Executive Committee before the meeting of January 28, and finally he claims that Piccinini himself is in continuous contact with the drivers' lawyer, whose association is chaired by Didier Pironi, Ferrari driver. The French manager also accused Ferrari of having drawn up an agreement with the other constructors in Modena that included ultimatums, threats and unacceptable conditions for the sporting power, reason why it took thirty days of meetings in Paris to correct the imperfections of that document, which then resulted in the Concordia agreement. Enzo Ferrari's rejoinder, made public on Friday February 19, 1982, was very brief:
"I have no more statements to make. Time will tell the rest. What is at stake is the future of Formula 1, and this is the only thing I care about and that is of interest to the sportsmen".
But if on the one hand Balestre can smile, on Saturday, February 20, 1982, for the President of the Federation, for Bernie Ecclestone and more generally for Fisa and Foca comes the first crushing defeat in the war with the drivers and the big constructors, which broke out in Kyalami on the occasion of the South African Grand Prix. As you will recall, at the end of the race, the racers were punished with the suspension of their licenses for striking in practice: the measure was taken by the race stewards, but Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Renault appealed on behalf of the drivers, and the appeal court of the Automobile Club of South Africa, presided over by a member of the country's supreme court, ruled in favor of the three teams:
"The court finds that the appeals are upheld. The stewards had no power to impose suspensions. The appeal deposits are returned. Decision number 4 - the one regarding the blocking of licenses - by the South African sporting commissioners is cancelled and has no effect".
This is a very important decision because it confirms the illegal management of sports power by Fisa, and because it is taken by the same country that organized the Grand Prix. Moreover, it gives strength to the arguments of the drivers and Ferrari, together with Aci and Csai, who are fighting to restore dignity to Formula 1. On March 5th in Paris the Fisa tribunal will meet to examine the fines and suspensions inflicted by Balestre to the drivers, but with this precedent, probably the position of the racers will be lightened. Waiting for the meeting, after three months and a half of gestation, built in forced stages taking into account all the other commitments, between the race of Kyalami and the numerous tests made, Saturday, February 27, 1982 is presented the new Alfa Romeo 182, the car of the second generation of the Milanese House for Formula 1. A single-seater that should relaunch Alfa at a high level.
Nothing revolutionary, but finally a car that uses the most modern techniques. Chassis in carbon fiber designed in Autodelta and made in England, because in Italy it seems there are no workshops specialized in the processing of certain materials, new aerodynamics with internal wings of a new type, different suspensions, bodywork designed in a wind tunnel with a very low penetration coefficient, weight at the limits of the code, so much so that perhaps water tanks will be used to remain within the 585 kg regulations. The gearbox is also new. Considering the power of the current twelve-cylinder aspirated engine of Alfa Romeo, the 182 is placed on paper at the level of the best cars in Formula 1 with traditional engines, such as Talbot, McLaren and Williams. The reduction in weight is essential: only the chassis compared to the previous one has gone from fifty to thirty kilograms.
In particular, the car is finished in an excellent way, and every part has been meticulously cared for in order to exploit one hundred percent of the ground effect and make all the testing and set-up operations easier. An injection of confidence for the whole team that has embarked on a new course with the addition of the French technician Gérard Ducarouge, the direction of Mario Felici and the addition and enhancement of young engineers such as Maurizio Colombo and Giuseppe Bizzarrini. Bruno Giacomelli and Andrea De Cesaris were happy with the arrival of the 182. The two drivers, with a more competitive single-seater, should make their talents known in a more consistent way. Explains engineer Carlo Chiti, president of Autodelta:
"Obviously we have to wait for the response of the track before knowing if we have hit the target. However, it must be said that the work done represents a step forward, and the results should not be missing in a short time. The car is predisposed to adopt, with some modifications, the eight-cylinder turbocharged engine that is always in the process of development, and that we hope to be able to use within the season".
Friday 4 March 1982, on the circuit of Paul Ricard, with the new 182 Bruno Giacomelli manages to score a time of 1'01"91, marking a new record for naturally aspirated engines. A very fast time, if we consider that the unofficial record of the circuit is of 1'01"19 with the Renault turbo of Prost. After the exploit the Milanese car has engine problems, perhaps due to a break, but only after about seven hundred kilometers. The Ferrari 126 C2 turbo is not able, however, to complete the tests because in the morning Pironi, probably because of the blockage of the accelerator, ends up ruinously off the track before the Signes curve, at about 300 km/h, and the car is seriously damaged. Fortunately the driver remains unharmed, protected by the strong structures. The best result of the Frenchman, before the accident, is 1'04"20. On March 6, 1982, the Appeals Tribunal of the International Automobile Federation agrees with the drivers in the war with Jean-Marie Balestre's Fisa for the Formula 1 super-license, but, believing that in South Africa they should have discussed and not challenged the sporting power, maintains, albeit in a reduced form, the sanctions. A ruling that has the flavor of compromise and appears incredibly convoluted in its motivations. In fact, the drivers had protested with a strike precisely because it had not been possible to negotiate with Jean-Marie Balestre and Bernie Ecclestone.
The tribunal, meeting in Paris in the premises of the Automobile Club of France, after about fifteen hours of discussions, made public the verdict on the appeal presented by the twenty-nine drivers affected by the measures of the Fisa executive committee. The six judges reduce the penalties to a $5.000 fine and the suspension of one race with a six-month probation starting on January 28, the date of the sanctions. The appeal of twenty-seven of the twenty-nine drivers is therefore accepted, as the Argentine and Brazilian federations did not send to FIA that of Reutemann and Serra. For the latter, the sanctions taken by the Fisa executive committee remain valid. On January 28, 1982, Fisa had imposed $10.000 and a five-race suspension for two years to Patrese, Pironi, Villeneuve, Prost, Giacomelli and Laffite, while the other drivers were fined $5.000 and given a two-race suspension. Despite this, the court's decision did not satisfy the drivers. Didier Pironi, spokesman and president of the Association, expresses his surprise at the ruling, which is considered legally questionable:
"Now I am going to prepare a full report for the pilots on the events and the action of the Prda, which I intend to assemble in Rio de Janeiro".
On Thursday, March 18, 1982 the drivers' meeting takes place, following which the presence of the racers at the Brazilian Grand Prix will be confirmed, and during the weekend of the Grand Prix an agreement will be reached between the International Motor Sports Federation and the Drivers' Association, with the latter obtaining their own representation in the process of issuing super-licenses, through the creation of a Commission within Fisa. President Jean-Marie Balestre also announces his will to bring to the attention of the International Automobile Federation, on which Fisa itself depends, some changes on the technical regulations of the single-seaters, in order to make them safer: these proposals would be discussed in Caracas in April, and in case of their approval Balestre would resign from his office. However, Elio De Angelis was not present at the meeting.
"I don't want to be interested in this association anymore, because I consider that crazy things are being done. I agree to support our cause, to ask for things that are right, but I do not agree with the way they are operating at the moment. There are people in the drivers' association - and just to avoid naming names, I'll say Pironi, the president - who are exaggerating, who believe they have a real union in their hands. I don't want to politicize Formula 1. There is already enough of these stories around. We can do everything much more diplomatically, ask for what we want and get it the easy way. With the bad ones, setting ourselves against the manufacturers and the sporting authorities, we won't be able to get anything".
Elio is a driver who has his own ideas, and is not afraid to express them clearly. He defends Chapman, he considers him a genius, but at the right time he can also quarrel with the Lotus owner, and also about his adventure companions, the drivers, he is never very tender. An authentic split within the new association of professional drivers of Formula 1. And Elio De Angelis is not the only one to disassociate himself from Pironi and his companions: also Patrese has no intention to stay long with the others. Unfortunately, however, other black clouds are gathering in the sky of Formula 1.
The problem of the respect of the regulations, and in particular the one concerning the minimum weight of the cars of 585 kilos, should jump out between the Brazilian and the West American Grand Prix. The majority of the teams have in fact prepared cars that are lighter than allowed, by about forty or fifty kilograms, using water tanks, officially mounted to cool the brakes, which are emptied on the track. The only team that does not seem to accept this new expedient seems to be Ferrari, which is isolated in its rigorous attitude, since Enzo Ferrari clearly says that he does not intend to put himself on the same level as those who resort to these subterfuges. The Maranello team therefore has no choice but to lodge a complaint at the end of the race. Ferrari's sporting director, Marco Piccinini, states:
"If we find a foothold to intervene, we will make a complaint. This is not a protest directed at anyone in particular, but only an attempt to clarify a rule so that the principle is established by the sporting authorities in an unequivocal manner".
Ferrari's clarification also concerns some rumors reported in these days, on the basis of which, with regard to the weight, some divergences have emerged among the manufacturers who are not members of the Foca. Someone has said that Alfa Romeo has betrayed Ferrari, because the new 182, like ninety percent of the cars being tested at Jacarepaguá, is underweight, but the spokesman for the Milanese manufacturer, Dr. Felici, denies any friction:
"We are for the respect of the regulations. Unfortunately, the current one lends itself to various interpretations. We have prepared a lighter car to avoid being surprised should the water tanks for cooling the brakes be officially accepted, as happened last year for the tire shifters. However, we are ready to comply. Which, by the way, given the power of our engine, would give us some advantages if everyone is forced to respect the 585 kilograms".
Controversy, however, also plagues Foca. The manufacturers, who meet on Thursday 18 March 1982, disagree on many proposals for the future, not better specified. The hot temperature will certainly not favor the turbocharged engines in terms of resistance, even if Renault and Ferrari will be able to have their say in terms of speed performance. In addition there are many novelties, determined by the long period of time since the opening test of the season. There is a new Alfa Romeo that looks very promising, a Lotus new for De Angelis and Mansell, a Toleman-Hart that seems to have made progress, a McLaren that looks more and more competitive with a Lauda already charged by the result of Kyalami, and now even more physically ready.
Not to mention the minor teams, which can always provide some pleasant news, even if the favors of the prediction are divided between Renault and Brabham. The French company, after the initial success, is already launched in the battle for the title and has worked hard not to lose strokes. The cars of Prost and Arnoux could mount a new electronic control unit, which regulates the operation of the turbo that, according to the technicians, could be a winning weapon. But Brabham, although back to the old and inexhaustible Cosworth engine, does not give up before the start. For Piquet, the engineer Murray has prepared a truly exceptional single-seater, super light and super reliable. Good cards to play has therefore also the teammate of Piquet, the Italian Riccardo Patrese.
Piquet is the fastest in the free practice on the afternoon of Saturday, March 13, 1982 at Jacarepaguá, in 1'29"26, against 1'30"49 of Prost, 1'31"07 of Arnoux, 1'31"15 of Lauda, and 1'31"82 of Villeneuve. As for Ferrari, it is a real unknown, since the tests carried out by the Modenese team in recent times have brought to the fore many small problems. Yet, it can be said that in the Maranello team, beyond any consideration for the controversy of the underweight cars, there is a certain confidence for a positive result.
"In the last tests carried out at Fiorano, Le Castellet and also here in Brazil, we didn't get any amazing results in terms of times. But neither were we looking for easy publicity that might have suited others. We worked seriously to improve the car and solve the problems it had after its debut in South Africa. I believe that many things have gone right, especially with regard to the engine, which has completed several laps on this same track without presenting any problems".
Mauro Forghieri explains, so is Ferrari ready for a victory?
"Let's take it easy. For Ferrari there is still an unknown factor regarding the tires. Unfortunately, due to the power of the turbo, which gives remarkable accelerations, we have recorded a very dangerous wear of the rear tires. We are faced with a dilemma: to use very hard tires that guarantee the completion of the race but with lower performance or risk having to stop for a tire change during the race. In these two days of qualifying, besides a good place in the starting grid, we will also try to find the best solution for this problem".
Villeneuve and Pironi are aware of their theoretical chances, but they are treading lightly in making predictions.
"In addition to a tough test for the car, the Brazilian Grand Prix represents the toughest test of the year for the drivers. Because of the heat, the characteristics of the circuit, which is full of jumps and the extraordinary speed of the cars in the corners, we are subjected to constant torment. Those who are not in perfect physical or psychological health will risk giving in or even losing their heads and making a mistake. It will be necessary to be very careful for oneself and for the others".
Didier Pironi, busy in his capacity as president of the drivers, continues to talk about safety, but at the moment he is also interested in reviving his season with a brilliant result:
"I've had a lot of bad luck so far, and I expect a reward. I'm very charged up and hope to get off on the right foot. Ferrari is doing everything to put me in a position to fight for a success, and I don't want to let them down".
There is one name, however, that pops up as a surprise: it's that of Alfa Romeo. Niki Lauda, who is a man of some experience and above all of keen eyes, has already made his prediction:
"Either Renault, or Alfa Romeo".
But why does Lauda also think of the Italian company as a possible winner of the next race? It's simple, the Austrian has seen the car in tests, and has noticed that it is a very competitive car. Confirms Bruno Giacomelli, more euphoric than usual:
"Of course, the car is already ready to make a very good race. During the free practice I never forced myself to the maximum, and I only thought about the tuning of the new 182. I should be really competitive this time and be in the top positions".
The reasons that push the driver from Brescia to hazard such a prediction are many: the 182, built by Autodelta, seems really a car conceived to win. Elaborated in perfect way, refined in every detail, it should exploit to the maximum the powerful twelve-cylinder engine also realized by Autodelta.
"I'm unbalanced in the prediction for a simple reason: they say that the aspirated engine, with the same car, will have advantages over the turbo on the track of Rio for the great heat. And our engine, the most powerful of all the traditional ones, should certainly allow us to fight for victory".
There is a lot of optimism in the Alfa Romeo team for this debut that promises so well. Also De Cesaris would like to be part of the game, and try everything, but the young Roman, who has been unwell in recent days, victim of a sore throat, for the moment is kept aside. Roberto Guerrero will participate in the qualifying session with Ensign, after the race held in South Africa, where his non-use was due to a legal dispute between the team and the Formula 2 team Maurer. With thirty-one drivers registered for the race, and thirty being the maximum number of cars that can participate in qualifying, it will be necessary to provide a pre-qualifying session, to be held on Friday, March 19, 1982. The two Toleman, the two Osella and the March of Raul Boesel will participate to this session, and among these the slowest car will be excluded from the official qualifying. To be excluded from the qualifying will be Riccardo Paletti, on board of the Osella. There is no weight, no altitude, no latitude, no type of circuit: turbo engines are stronger than aspirated ones. This is the result of the first day of practice of the Brazilian Grand Prix, on Friday 19th March 1982: four turbocharged engines in the first six places.
The best time, an almost unbelievable result, is obtained by Alain Prost with the Renault in 1'28"80, at the average speed of 203,941 km/h. Despite the fact that the first day of practice starts with a two hours delay, because the safety devices on the track have not yet been verified by the Fisa commissioners, following a request from the drivers, Prost engages in a great duel with the strongest of the drivers who represent the cars with aspirated engines, that is Rosberg. The Finnish driver obtains the second time in front of the other Renault man, René Arnoux. In fourth place Piquet, then the two Ferraris of Villeneuve and Pironi, separated by a few tenths, with some problems for the Canadian, abnormal wear of a miniskirt, and the French, the injection. On Saturday there will still be a qualifying round and some positions may change, but in essence the reasons for the race are these. If Renault will confirm in the race the supremacy it is showing in the tests, this will be the year of its world championship, given what happened in Kyalami. The balance of Ferrari, in any case, is far from negative: Villeneuve and Pironi, who were disturbed in their fastest laps by the traffic on the track, could still improve, but it is difficult that they reach the level of Prost's Renault. Villeneuve confesses, overwhelmed by fatigue and heat immediately after the end of practice:
"I can reach up to 1'28". However, the car is going quite well and the race could be something else. If there are no problems, being in the first or third row will be the same".
The day is characterized by some off-track, but fortunately no major accidents. Only a little bit of fear for Giacomelli, since the Alfa Romeo of the Italian, halfway through the qualifying session, passes in front of the pits leaving a long trail of flames. The driver from Brescia immediately pulled over to the edge of the track, where a fireman with a fire extinguisher was present.
"I saw the fire in the mirrors, and I went to the side. The fire was out in a few seconds. It was a trivial failure, just a broken fuel line. We hope we can do better and have more peace of mind".
In the provisional grid there is no big surprise: Lauda is among the firsts, Reutemann has gearbox problems, Patrese is about 0.8 seconds behind Piquet, but also the driver from Padova had his Brabham not perfectly tuned. In the English team there is an interesting duel between the World Champion and Patrese, who certainly don't spare themselves, just as Rosberg with Williams gives a good demonstration of strength against Reutemann. In a certain sense it will be possible that the episode that characterized the race on this same circuit last year will be repeated, when the Argentinean, in spite of his team's orders, overtook Jones in the final part of the race and went on to win; now the team captain should be Reutemann, but Rosberg shows that he has no respect for ranks.
Saturday morning, 20 March 1982, during the usual meeting of the team-managers convened by the race director, Ecclestone tries to give instructions proposing that the first three classified cars, instead of being made available to the technical commissioners for the checks in the parc fermé, should stop under the podium. The proposal stimulated the reaction of the Scuderia Ferrari's sporting director, Marco Piccinini, who, with an ironic tone, addressed Ecclestone congratulating him on his appointment as race director. The British manager, annoyed, leaves the breafing without replying.
A few hours later, Gilles Villeneuve keeps his word: I can go down to 1'29"0, he had said at the end of the first qualifying session. The Canadian driver, with a better balanced car compared to the previous day, guesses the right lap time and sets the best time of the day, 1'29"17, entering the first row next to the Renault driven by Alain Prost, who keeps the pole position conquered the day before in 1'28"80. It was from May 31, 1981, in Monte Carlo, that a Ferrari was not at the top. Behind Prost and Villeneuve, Rosberg, Arnoux, Lauda, Reutemann, Piquet and Pironi qualify, while the group of Italian drivers is led by Patrese, ninth, with De Cesaris tenth, De Angelis eleventh, Alboreto thirteenth and Giacomelli sixteenth.
Also Baldi is in the game, being nineteenth, while his companion Henton remains out of the line-up, as well as Fabi, Guerrero, Warwick and Paletti. On Sunday 21 March 1982 the Brazilian Grand Prix, held on the Jacarepaguá circuit, is disputed in a very hot weather, a condition that makes it difficult for the drivers to reach the finishing line. At the start Gilles Villeneuve takes the lead, ahead of René Arnoux and Keke Rosberg; the poleman Alain Prost goes down to the fourth place.
During the first lap, Rosberg passes Arnoux and tries to overtake Villeneuve, but he goes out of the track and is passed by the two Renault. At the third passage Pironi loses control of the car, which is lost in a spin: the French driver will be forced to return to the pits to change a tire. Rosberg will lose other positions in the following laps, giving up to the two Brabham of Riccardo Patrese and Nelson Piquet. The Brabham comeback continues at the sixth lap, when both pass Prost, author of a driving error. At the ninth lap Piquet passes his teammate Patrese, finding himself in third place, behind Villeneuve and Arnoux. At the eleventh passage Keke Rosberg succeeds in taking back the fifth position from Prost, while in the meantime Piquet tries, without success, to pass Arnoux. This leads to the creation of a little train of cars behind the French driver, composed not only by Piquet, but also by Patrese, Rosberg, Prost, Reutemann and the two McLarens. At the seventeenth lap Piquet passes Arnoux, who shortly after is passed also by Rosberg, who in turn had already passed Patrese. The two Renault are in crisis: Arnoux loses a position in favor of Patrese, and more behind, Prost is passed by Niki Lauda.
One lap and Lauda is passed by Prost, who also passes Arnoux, and in the meantime John Watson comes back and passes both Lauda and Arnoux. Now the race sees Villeneuve in the lead, followed by Nelson Piquet, Keke Rosberg, Riccardo Patrese, Alain Prost, John Watson, René Arnoux and Niki Lauda. At the 22nd lap Arnoux, Lauda, Elio De Angelis and Reutemann collide; during the race, the Argentinian driver makes many mistakes, it is not known if it is his fault or the fault of others. First, the Williams driver collides with Arnoux, and then he crashes into Niki Lauda, who is forced to retire during the next lap. Five laps later, Rosberg passes Piquet at Molykote, taking second place, but after only two laps the Brazilian takes back the position. At the thirtieth lap Piquet attacks the leader of the race Villeneuve in the curve that bears the name of Carlos Pace, almost a hairpin bend that is after the pit straight: the Canadian makes a mistake in his defensive maneuver and ends up on the grass outside the track, retiring. After the ups and downs of this part of the race the classification is led by Nelson Piquet, ahead of Keke Rosberg and Riccardo Patrese; Nigel Mansell enters the points zone, sixth, followed by Manfred Winkelhock and Didier Pironi.
At the thirty-third lap Patrese is forced to retire for physical problems, due to the great heat of the day: the Italian is victim of a spin and loses two places, but he just manages to return to the box before passing out. At the forty-sixth lap Michele Alboreto passes Winkelhock and enters in the points zone. The classification will not change until the end, and Nelson Piquet crosses the finish line first, followed by Rosberg, Prost, Watson, Mansell and Alboreto, who wins his first points. The great illusion of Ferrari lasted exactly twenty-nine laps: for almost half of the race Gilles Villeneuve led the Brazilian Grand Prix, keeping his pursuers behind him. Then, when the fight became very close, in the attempt to defend the first position, he ended up off the track. So success went to Nelson Piquet, World Champion with Brabham, author of an exceptional race and also protagonist of the episode that involved the little Canadian. This was the crucial moment of a race made infernal by the torrid climate, full of suspense and changes of scene. Piquet himself will have two or three faintings on the podium, and will be hospitalized in the infirmary for more than an hour.
Piquet started his comeback until he forced Villeneuve to make a fatal mistake; then the race got even hotter for a duel between the Brazilian and Rosberg, who finished second, ahead of a very cautious Prost, happy with the third position because his Renault had engine and front tire problems. After the elimination of Reutemann, Lauda, Patrese and Arnoux, Watson, Mansell and Alboreto came forward from the rearmost positions and finished in the order behind the first three classified. The turbo engine, this time, was clearly defeated but it is clear that Prost, always at the top of the world championship, remains the favorite for the title race. The bogeyman of the turbocharged engines is no longer such after the Brazilian Grand Prix, since out of the six cars with supercharged engines entered in the race, two did not even qualify, the Toleman, and only one completed the race, the Renault of Prost, who finished third behind the winner Piquet and Rosberg. All it took was a slightly more tortuous circuit, at sea level, to reduce the power of the turbo engines, which no longer had the dominance that seemed to characterize the entire season after the Kyalami race. Basically, the lightening of the English cars has once again balanced the values on the field.
The situation of the tires was also very important and, in the case of turbo engines, due to the higher acceleration, they are subject to heavy wear and create many difficulties. At this point it is difficult to say that Renault can still easily point to the world title, as it seemed on the eve of the championship. Now will come a city race, the one in Long Beach, and once again the turbo engines should not be able to win. As far as Ferrari is concerned, there have been positive indications in terms of top speed obtained and performance in general, but there are also problems to be solved with regard to slow corners and road holding. Basically, there is an opposite phenomenon to the one seen in 1981, when the Maranello cars were competitive on slow circuits, but were regularly beaten on fast ones. Alfa Romeo also had a negative weekend and disappointed all expectations. After setting record times in practice at Paul Ricard, the Milanese company was highly expected on the Jacarepaguá circuit. Instead, De Cesaris and Giacomelli were hardly in the running for a brilliant placing. The young Roman was eighth at the start, with a good start, but was immediately put out of action by a breakage of the lower part of the bodywork, while the Brescia driver had no chance from the start due to road holding problems, and was later eliminated due to a clutch failure.
The technicians of the Italian team, and in particular the French Ducarouge, will have to work very hard to fine-tune the cars, because we cannot go on only with promises. As far as the fight for the world title is concerned, while the Frenchman Prost has scraped together four precious points and is clearly in the lead, and Piquet is following close behind, many of the possible protagonists of the season's battle have been excluded from the race: Lauda, Reutemann, Arnoux have been victims of accidents and have not made any progress in the world ranking. Nelson Piquet's victory and Keke Rosberg's second place are, however, contested by Ferrari and Renault, who file a complaint about the procedure regarding the weight of the two cars in first place. The practice of scrutineering turns into an almost dramatic situation, because while the technical and sporting commissioners try to enforce the regulations and prevent the mechanics of Williams and Brabham from filling the water in the tanks for cooling the brakes, the president of Foca, Bernie Ecclestone, approaches with a threatening attitude and, resorting also to physical intimidation, allows the mechanics to fill the special tanks contained in the cars. This procedure, according to Ferrari and Renault, is extremely irregular.
According to the regulations, the weight is that of the single-seater in its running condition with the normal amount of lubricant and coolant, so someone has thought it best to replace the ballast with water contained in bins. Officially, the water loaded on board is used to cool the brake discs and, being a coolant, can be topped up at the end of the race, but in reality the water is already discharged from the cars during the reconnaissance lap that precedes the start: the driver, pulling a rope attached to a cap, activates the emptying of the tank from the cockpit and runs the race under the minimum weight required by law. The water trick in Brazil is already quite widespread: only Ferrari, Fittipaldi, Ligier, March and Toleman do not mount the bins, while the Renault team has a small one, but only on the mule car inside the driver's seat. The others mount one or two and fill as needed, up to 80 kg of water to reach the minimum weight of 580 kg. Ferrari and Renault present a complaint against Piquet's Brabham and Rosberg's Williams, but the appeal, as could be assumed given the dominant role of Ecclestone in the organization of Grand Prix, is rejected. With another complaint, presented eight minutes beyond the maximum time limit by Tyrrell, Ferrari is accused of having refueled Didier Pironi's car with an inappropriate container during a pit stop for a tire change.
This last complaint, however, is immediately accepted and Pironi suffers a penalty of one minute in the final classification. In the meantime the Lotus owner Colin Chapman declares to the press that if they impose the obligation to fill the water tanks for the brakes, they should stop the race after the reconnaissance lap to mount the wet tires, with the track flooded with water. On Monday afternoon, Marco Piccinini and Jean Sage, respectively the sporting directors of Ferrari and Renault, will go to the offices of the Brazilian Confederation of Motorsport to file an appeal. Not content with that, in the following hours Bernie Ecclestone, after arguing about economic issues with Carlos Cavalcanti, announced that the Brazilian Grand Prix would not be held in the following season; on the other hand, on March 26 Fisa would communicate to the Spanish Federation its support for the celebration of the Spanish Grand Prix on June 27, provided that it formalized the payment of what was required for the registration of the race in the calendar. Later in the evening, the jury of the Brazilian Motor Grand Prix will reject the official protests presented by the Renault and Ferrari teams. Renault team manager Jean Sage will say:
"The jury rejected our appeal without explaining the reason, and we are determined to file another complaint to the Brazilian Confederation of Motor Racing, and if necessary also to the appeal tribunal of the International Automobile Federation in Paris".
This is the epilogue of an interesting Grand Prix, in which Ferrari dominated for a long time. Despite the overall negative result, the Modenese company can be satisfied with the performance highlighted in the Jacarepaguá circuit. Villeneuve, although he did not hide his responsibilities in the off-track incident, explains the reasons for his mistake, also justified by the difference in weight of the two cars.
"After the first twenty-five laps my car started to drop slightly. However, the four seconds per lap that I was losing to Brabham and Williams were not justified. My engine is more powerful and in acceleration I was clearly faster. This means that English cars base all their strength on lightness and, of course, on reliability. In any case, I had no intention of being overtaken and I tried to repeat what I had done last year in Spain, but unfortunately it went badly. I can't say that Piquet acted erratically. I was driving on the limit, and I found myself out of line. To resist, maybe I was careless, and I paid for it".
The Brazilian day ended, instead, in a completely negative way for Alfa Romeo, since after some initial spurts of De Cesaris, who had inserted himself in eighth position, the two 182s could not defend themselves. Nelson Piquet flew to the United States. As soon as he collected the prize of over 100 million Italian liras, put up for grabs by the Federal Savings Bank for the winner of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the Brazilian driver moved with his wife Silvia to Long Beach. The official reason for this hasty departure is a publicity commitment, but in reality the World Champion only wanted to escape the pressures of friends, relatives and fans who have assailed him in recent days with the most absurd requests, not excluding economic aid. Before leaving, once again, Piquet clarified his attitude towards his compatriots:
"For me a victory here or in another place is the same. The only real satisfaction I've had is that I've made up for the mistake I made last year, when I made the wrong choice of tires. For the rest, I spent very tense days in Brazil. I had four hundred journalists around me at all times and a lot of pain in the ass, who don't understand that a driver has to stay calm during the week of the race. I'm sorry because now they'll think I've gotten carried away, but it's really impossible to please everyone".
What was the most difficult moment of the race?
"The whole race was not easy for me. At the beginning I had to overcome six competitors named Villeneuve, Arnoux, Prost, Rosberg, Patrese and Pironi, then I fought against fatigue."
Do you think you would have been able to pass the Ferrari equally if Villeneuve hadn't made a mistake?
"Maybe I would have overtaken him in the final, because he had a lot of understeer and couldn't control the car well. But I couldn't wait so long, because Rosberg was threatening me from behind and he was very dangerous. I realized that Villeneuve was no longer able to contain my attacks. He was dropping the pace from lap to lap. So I tried to overtake him or, at least, to make him understand that I was able to pass, two or three times. Before the pits I had already overtaken him, but on the braking he had regained the lead. When I saw a gap, I took it. The Ferrari went wide, Gilles lost control of the car and went off the track".
Piquet talks about tiredness, but don't you think that the fainting he had during the prize giving is due to a lack of specific physical preparation?
"I am convinced that the reasons for my malaise stem from many causes. The track was full of jumps and with the cars practically without suspension you could take a terrible beating. When cornering, due to the centrifugal force caused by the high speed, I was forced to tense my neck muscles like the strings of a violin. I could feel my head being ripped off my torso. Add to that the great heat and lack of air, and you can see why I felt sick. As long as I was in the car, and lying in an almost horizontal position, I felt fatigued, but by the end I could also, if need be, have picked up the pace. When I got off, first I missed a leg, I couldn't feel it anymore, and then I saw black".
Will you do anything now to try to avoid new discomfort?
"I hired a trainer, José Ignacio Salles. He is a master of the sport, and he has set me up with a program of joint mechanics to make the muscles in my neck stronger. In addition, I will start running and swimming. This year I don't have any other automotive commitments besides Formula 1, and I'll have more time to devote to myself".
Does the fact that you won in a car against which a complaint was filed because it was underweight detract from the value of your success?
"I don't care about that at all. It's a problem of regulations, a political one, which I don't feel the least bit affected by. In any case, I think that making lightweight cars is the only way to compete on equal terms with the turbo engine. With a power difference of one hundred horsepower, if you don't have thirty or forty kilos less, there's nothing you can do”.
How is the relationship with Patrese?
"Brabham is a serious team. We have two identical cars and half a mule each. He even started faster than me. However, I think I have a little more experience than Riccardo, especially in setting up the Brabham and doing the setup. Then I am also a bit lighter and this has a certain importance, even if minimal. However Patrese is good and there are no problems".
Now he is already behind Prost in the world ranking: is the Brazilian convinced that he will be able to fight for the title again this year?
"I hope so, but I cannot make predictions. At Long Beach my car could go very well or very badly. You have to live for the day. In Imola, in April, we will have the BMW turbo again and this is another unknown factor to face. The only thing I'm sure of is that you have to take advantage of every opportunity quickly. The world of Formula 1 is so sophisticated now, so fickle, that from one moment to the next you risk seeing the situation turned upside down. Not to mention that there are many other drivers pushing to get there".