Thursday, May 13, 1982 Ferrari interrupted the silence in which it had locked itself after the dramatic accident at Zolder. This is the statement released by the Maranello team:
"Ferrari remembers its great and generous champion Gilles Villeneuve, tragically lost in Belgium. Adhering promptly to a request by Enzo Ferrari, the mayor of Fiorano has decided in the City Council to name the access road to the Fiorano track after the Canadian driver. The team's program will resume next Tuesday, with the preparation for the Monaco Grand Prix, in which Ferrari will participate with driver Didier Pironi".
Now the most difficult period for the Modenese company begins, that of the reconstruction of the team. An arduous task because it is not easy to replace a Villeneuve, from all points of view. The decision to compete in Monte-Carlo with only one car indicates that Maranello has taken time to think, since the drivers' market does not offer much at the moment. It is unlikely that in such a situation they would want to entrust a difficult car like the 126 C2 to a young driver with little experience, while all the other possible candidates already have a contract for the season. Among the free agents are Reutemann, Jones and Tambay. However, Carlos Reutemann rejects Ferrari's offer to replace Gilles Villeneuve. The Argentinean communicates his decision, revealing that it is an economically attractive offer, but reaffirming that his decision to leave motor racing is irreversible. Reutemann, who was a Ferrari driver for two years and who retired this year from Formula 1 by leaving Williams after the Brazilian Grand Prix, points out that the very tragic accident of Villeneuve has strengthened his decision:
"The dangers are increasing and nobody cares about the drivers. I thank Ferrari for having remembered me, but I have no intention of returning to the tracks".
Domenico Cutuli, an oriundo Calabrian representative and manager of Reutemann, confirmed the driver's statements:
"For Carlos, Formula 1 is now a closed book, he is devoting himself completely to his agricultural estates in Santa Fé and has no intention of returning to motor racing".
This is the first no that Ferrari receives from a driver asked to replace poor Villeneuve, but actually Tambay also left after the South African Grand Prix, to race in the Can-Am series, and it seems that he has no intention of returning to Europe. According to English sources, also Alan Jones would not be available to drive the Ferrari, but at the moment the question should be still open. Ferrari will race on May 23 at Monte Carlo only with Pironi; if the eventual negotiations with Jones do not lead to positive results, for the double North American trip to Detroit and Montreal an acceptable solution could be another ex-Ferrarista, the Italian-American Mario Andretti. In the last few days some names have been mentioned such as the Argentinean Oscar Larrauri, Eddie Cheever and Michele Alboreto; all interesting proposals, but for the 1983 season.
Anyway, now a fallback solution should be found, that could be eventually reconfirmed in case of positive outcome. In the meantime, we learn from Montreal that the circuit of Île Notre-Dame, where the Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix is held every year, has been renamed after Gilles Villeneuve. The decision is made by the Montreal City Council on May 14, 1982. On Monday, May 17, 1982, the journalists' approach with Didider Pironi is sad, although the Frenchman spends the afternoon at the Confectionery Food Exhibition, invited by one of its sponsors, the bon-bon liquorice manufacturer. The Ferrari driver has not yet recovered from the shock of Gilles Villeneuve's tragic death:
"I always have the face of my teammate in front of me. Above all, I am sorry to have left him like that, after the quarrel in Imola. I am sure that within a short time we would have found the agreement we had before, because we had deep ties that went beyond our public relationship. When we esteem each other, feelings are involved, it is more difficult to settle a disagreement, but I think Gilles would have ended up understanding, to get a reason for that second place".
Given how things went, is Didier now sorry for not letting Villeneuve win the San Marino Grand Prix?
"No, not that. When you're racing cars at certain levels you can't make room for feelings. Just as I didn't feel like racing in Zolder, with my mind on what had happened to Gilles".
Now Didier will be on his own in Monte-Carlo:
"I think Sunday's race will be the most difficult of my career. We will concretely miss him for the first time. I know that people will ask me to win. But I'm not promising anything, I'll do my best. My real goal is to get to the world title, for me, for Ferrari and also a little bit for Villeneuve. But don't ask me to try to replace Gilles in people's hearts. I don't have the same personality".
After Monte-Carlo, it is not excluded that Ferrari will choose a second driver:
"I honestly haven't thought about it yet. In any case, Enzo Ferrari will decide. As far as I'm concerned, and I say this calmly, I would like to go back to the situation I was in before, having the best driver in the world next to me. It's my rule, a rule dictated also by selfish principles. Next to a true champion you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. You have the opportunity to truly measure yourself to the limits of what is possible. And if you can measure up, that's already a great result".
Now we're talking about safety again, what is the Pilots' Association doing?
"We have asked for the immediate abolition of qualifying tires, but we have not yet received an answer. This, however, is the easiest thing to do, you just have to agree. The most important problem is to eliminate the ground effect in order to bring the machines back to being machines".
Half a blank page in the official program of the Monaco Grand Prix is not enough to witness the void left in Formula 1 by Gilles Villeneuve. And not even the heartfelt greeting signed by Clay Regazzoni on the same booklet - where the man from Ticino, from his hospital bed in Washington, recalls the common love with the Canadian for racing and for Ferrari - soothes the tormenting memory left by the deceased driver. A memory that is not only sentimental and human, but also competitive and spectacular. Villeneuve was able to make up with his courage, his driving skills and his recklessness, even for any possible shortcomings of the car, something that Didier Pironi could not do. In 1981 the Canadian obtained in test the second time behind Piquet in 1'25"78, while his teammate turned in 1'28"26, seventeenth among the twenty qualified drivers; also for this reason, during a meeting of Gpda, the drivers decide to propose to Fisa not to assign in the future the number 27 in memory of the Canadian driver.
Thursday, May 20, 1982, in the first practice session, Pironi gets a time of 1'27"36, a result that gives him the thirteenth position, almost three seconds from the fastest, René Arnoux in 1'24"54. It is true that Ferrari, struck by the tragedy, did not have the time to prepare the car as it would have wished, but it is also indisputable that Didier cannot put anything of his own in these cases. The Ferrari turns out to be the fastest of all the single-seaters in the pit straight (244.600 km/h) but it appears understeering in corners, despite the fact that Maranello uses a special engine (the turbo gives a very quick response and the maximum torque is very low), suitable for the narrow Monegasque circuit. For Friday's qualifying, the gearbox ratios will be changed and they will also try to fix the road holding. Of course, the technicians at Maranello already feel the need for a comparison. Two cars and two drivers allow them to have more information.
For the moment, the Modenese company has not yet confirmed direct contacts, also because the market does not offer much. It seems, however, that there is interest in Niki Lauda, who was seen in Modena, and who has a fixed-term contract with McLaren and could perhaps free himself from the English team for a sensational return to Ferrari. The Austrian, obviously, is silent. Meanwhile, Renault takes the great satisfaction of getting the best time. Even the French company prepares a special turbo, with a new electronic injection system, and thanks to that Arnoux breaks the circuit record (which was Piquet's, 1'25"71) with an excellent 1'24"54, at an average speed of 141.031 km/h. But the French driver is happy and at the same time worried:
"I don't expect an easy race because Williams, Brabham, Alfa Romeo and McLaren will give battle. But I hope to have at least the possibility to fight until the end. From the role of possible protagonist I wouldn't even exclude Ferrari, which is always an adversary to be taken into consideration. So far I'm the one who has led more laps than anyone since the start of the season, and I haven't had any positive results yet. Of course, by positive result I mean a win, because placings don't count. I would love to win here in Monte Carlo for many reasons, all of which are understandable. Renault is a car with a turbo engine and on a track like this it usually finds many difficulties. We race almost at home and a success would be of great prestige. I hope that everything goes well, because we have worked a lot and we have prepared a fantastic engine just to run on this occasion".
Behind the Renault drivers qualify De Cesaris, by now used to the top of the grid, and Riccardo Patrese. Patrese drives the Brabham BT49D with Cosworth engine, while Piquet drives the Brabham BT50 with BMW turbo engine. The two Italians are separated only by a thousandth of a second: 1'24"928 for the Roman, 1'24"929 for the Paduan. After the tests, the two give life to a show out of the program, taken live from the television, audio included. Patrese shouts to his colleague:
"You have hindered me twice, preventing me from overtaking you. Remember that on track what goes around comes around. I will pay you back as soon as possible. You saw me coming at the swimming pool bend, you slowed down on purpose".
And De Cesaris replies back:
"First I didn't see you, then I decelerated. It's not my fault if the circuit is narrow. Don't make excuses if you are slower".
A really unpleasant episode. Subsequently, the Paduan admitted:
"I hope to clinch a victory to show what I'm worth, but every time I'm on the verge of beating my opponents something always happens to me. I really hope I don't have any problems and that I can run a full race without having to stop first. I am happy to have a naturally aspirated engine because our turbo Bmw, driven by Piquet, was not very competitive in Monte Carlo. It may well be that Nelson can have a good race, but I'm more confident this way".
Although the Alfa Romeo can be considered one of the favorite cars for the race, thanks to its twelve-cylinder engine. The 182 of De Cesaris and Giacomelli will try to start in pole position, but in the Milanese team they think above all about the race. After so many disappointments, the chances of getting on the podium increase from time to time. The Ferrari for the moment seems to be excluded: Didier tries everything to make a better time, but there is no way: the car is very fast on the short straights, but in the curves it doesn't hold like the others.Now Ferrari's technicians will do their utmost to fine-tune suspensions and aerodynamics. Ferrari's technical manager, engineer Mauro Forghieri, tries to explain several times:
"Unfortunately, the development of the cars in Formula 1 is continuous and you can't be sure of anything from race to race. Obviously having two cars and two drivers available for tests and races is an advantage, at least for a team like ours that has the possibility to follow the evolution. However, don't ask me how we are going to solve this situation, it's not my job".
Even if Pironi's 126 C2 at the moment, on the Monte-Carlo track, does not seem particularly competitive, the French driver is convinced he can aim at the world title:
"Some tracks will not be particularly favorable to us. Here, and maybe also in Detroit, we will try to defend ourselves for a placement. But on faster circuits we will try to repeat the dominance shown at Imola. And I hope that in that moment the opponents will all be present. Because then it will be even better to beat them".
There are, of course, other controversies. Before the official qualifying, due to the high number of entrants, and the fact that only twenty cars could face the race, and twenty-six the tests, pre-qualifications are necessary to which the three March drivers (Jochen Mass, Raul Boesel, and Emilio de Villota, who, during the session, will have an accident in which he will destroy his March, without suffering any physical consequences), the two Osella drivers (Riccardo Paletti and Jean-Pierre Jarier), the two Toleman drivers (Derek Warwich and Teo Fabi) and Chico Serra of Fittipaldi.
In the morning, during the pre-qualifying practice, passed by Jarier, Warwick and Mass, the German manages to enter among the best thanks to a trick of the March, turning for forty-five minutes with a regular car and then gets the time with another, presumably lighter, but the stewards do not notice the subterfuge and reject the complaint of Toleman. Moreover, Ligier brings to the debut the JS19 model, but the ailerons of the French car are not regulation, therefore the French team is forced to modify the width, while March abandons the use of Pirelli tires to use Avon, as already tested in the previous weeks, and Theodore Racing, instead, replaces Avon with Goodyear. It's a different matter for Tyrrell, that until this moment didn't believe to be able to carry on its activity, so much so that in Monte Carlo Ferrari tries to contact Alboreto to engage him. Bitter, Ken Tyrrell confesses:
"If they had told me that we would have survived so long, I would not have believed it. We knew we were living hand-to-mouth and had to be very careful. We had an extremely tight budget, which I personally controlled on a weekly basis, and we never exceeded it. I would go through every bill and every invoice, whether it was ten or ten thousand pounds, and cut everything to the bone. We reduced the staff from forty-three to thirty-three and stopped testing. We were doing as little as necessary. We were using the engines as long as possible. Instead of rebuilding them every 800 kilometers, we took one up to 1450 kilometers. It's risky, but we've never broken an engine due to excessive mileage, despite having suffered two major damages in Belgium on engines costing £30.000 each. This brings other complications. We desperately need to do well at Monte-Carlo, but we are short on engines.
Two came back from the dyno right after the truck left for Monaco. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, just flying them to the south of France would be enough. But these are not normal times. So we had them travel by road. This way, however, we took up the time of one person who would have been needed in the workshop. We would have had to load the engines into our van but, to be honest, I doubt it would have made it to Monte-Carlo. We should have replaced it a while ago, but for obvious reasons we couldn't. Fortunately, I get a Ford Motor Company car every year, and it's been that way since we entered Formula 1. It's a family Granada, so we put the back seat down and hit the road. If nothing else, we saved the cost of a rental car. It's totally normal for us right now. It often happens that I take the Granada to pick up engines. I avoid someone else having to work on the weekends. It doesn't make sense to sit in that damn garden and not move".
And he concludes:
"But reduced expenses prevent us from doing wind tunnel testing. It's been very painful for our technicians, who get frustrated because they can't do everything they'd like to do. Also, I've always made it a point to call the mechanics back from Grand Prix the same night of the race so they have a day or two off before the cars return. Currently, instead of using the plane, they travel by car. We've saved between four hundred and five hundred pounds that way, but it means they don't arrive until six o'clock on Monday morning, without sleeping through the night. It's not good after spending three days id hard work on the track. It's tough on everyone. The motorhome was one of the first things to go. We hold meetings in the truck and instead of eating hot meals, the mechanics eat lunch with sandwiches. It's not pleasant, not pleasant at all. But we can do without it, although it's hard if you have a sponsor coming to visit and you need a place to talk privately. We've been forced to make these cuts. Candy and our other sponsor, Imola Ceramica, are leaving after Munich. That means we're going back to zero. It's hard a team needs a million pounds to run two cars for a season hoping to rack up points".
Saturday, May 22, 1982, could be a triumphant day for the Italians if René Arnoux, just in the last five minutes, did not manage to steal the pole position from Riccardo Patrese, pushing Bruno Giacomelli to third place. The French driver forces the opponents to surrender. The Frenchman laps in 1'23"28, at an average speed of 143.168 km/h, an incredible speed for this circuit. Obviously this is the new track record, which cancels the 1'25"71 obtained in 1981 by Nelson Piquet with Brabham. It's true that in 1981, under the Michelin mono-tire regime, there were no qualifying tires, but it's also true that two and a half seconds less are the demonstration of how much the cars have progressed in terms of cornering speed. René Arnoux is convinced that he can win.
He is encouraged by the power of his car, and above all by the elasticity of the new turbo prepared for this race by Renault. But the Frenchman will immediately have to watch out for Patrese's attacks, who does not hide, in turn, the hope of a first success in Formula 1 after so many years of antechamber. He counts on his Brabham BT49D with Cosworth engine, which has always been competitive in this season, as well as the Williams of Rosberg and Daly, although here relegated to the back rows. In the first places there were Giacomelli in the vein of revenge, but for Alfa Romeo it is better to speak of an outsider role, the other Renault driver, and a surprising Didier Pironi. The fifth time of the Ferrari (1'24"58) must be considered excellent for several reasons: first, because it means that understeer problems that emerged on Thursday have disappeared, second because the driver was able, in such a difficult moment, to show a great combativeness.
It was said that in the past Didier had lost the comparison with Gilles Villeneuve on the performance level, but now Pironi has a wonderful opportunity to show that certain criticisms were not justified. Ferrari, compared to the cars powered by Cosworth engines, has also another favorable card for the usual issue of weight, since in the tests many teams sent on track cars lighter than the 580 kg minimum allowed, then putting themselves in order with water topping up before the checks; and Frank Williams quarreled with a commissioner. It is therefore presumable that in the race, with simpler and more effective controls, these same single-seaters would perform less well than they did in qualifying.
In addition to Patrese and Giacomelli, who start in the first and second row, the attention is focused on De Cesaris, who marks the seventh time, and Alboreto, ninth, given that in qualifying the Roman is slowed by the breakage of the distribution shaft on his Alfa race car, while the Milanese, who had obtained the second result in free practice, is unable to repeat the exploit for a track exit with failure of a suspension. Lauda remains behind, struggling with an almost undriveable McLaren. It will not be in the race the Osella that did not succeed in qualifying with Jarier; the car equipped with a new chassis remains stationary along the circuit for a banal break, the accelerator wire, and with the mule there is nothing to do. René Arnoux expresses his conviction of being able to conquer his third victory in Formula 1:
"I have a fantastic car and engine. Only bad luck could beat me, as it has already happened in other occasions. I will only have to be careful at the start, the crucial moment of the race. But I warn my rivals: the turbo I have at my disposal is not what it used to be. Now the response and the acceleration are immediate, so fast that sometimes I am surprised myself".
But Arnoux's declarations don't seem to disturb the adversaries, since Riccardo Patrese announces battler intentions:
"Of course, it would have been a great satisfaction to start in front of everybody in Monte Carlo. But it is not the three meters of distance from Arnoux that scares me. I will attack to go in the lead. Then the others will have to chase. The important thing is to be out of the fray at the start and I am there. The car is going well and I hope not to have tire problems. It won't be easy to win: Alfa Romeo is getting more and more competitive and sooner or later it will be able to get to the top. Then there are the Williams that are hammers. In short, it will be a great tussle. I don't believe much in turbocharged engines, unless Arnoux is able to take the lead and act as a stopper, as happened last year with poor Vllleneuve".
Didier Pironi does not share the low consideration for the supercharged engines:
"It was crucial not to start too far behind. And it was even more important to fine-tune the car. I think I succeeded in the best possible way. My Ferrari is now very competitive. If I had found less traffic on the track I would have certainly gone below 1'24". In the race we will run at most around 1'25" so I'm quite optimistic".
For Bruno Giacomelli, however, the race is still an unknown:
"I have been so hounded by bad luck that I don't want to make any predictions. My Alfa Romeo is fast and holds up well. But we are still at the research level for the car, we have to discover its limits and weaknesses".
A bit of concern marks Michele Alboreto's gaze:
"I would have preferred to be a little further up the grid. It will be, as usual, an elimination race and overtaking will be decisive especially in the final part, when the mechanical parts and the tires of the cars will be severely tested".
Among Niki Lauda's many qualities, both as a man and as a driver, there is also his sense of balance. It is not the ability to stay on the edge, but the ability to use his brain on many occasions. It is difficult to hear the Austrian champion making rash judgments, accusing or defending someone without knowledge of the facts or at least without having analyzed the facts in depth. Of course his opinions may not be shared in some cases, but you can always be sure of an opinion as objective as possible, pronounced from the top of an experience that at this moment has no equals in Formula 1 as far as drivers are concerned. The McLaren champion knows that winning in Monte Carlo is difficult, especially for the characteristics of the circuit, despite having already triumphed twice with Ferrari:
"It seems to me that there is the famous rule of no two without three. Anyway, I will fight to the maximum but it will certainly not be an easy task. Everyone runs to win, particularly at Monte Carlo. And then my successes belong to the past: the track has changed, the drivers have changed, the cars are different. I'm not at all sure I can do it".
Lauda doesn't make any pretexts, but behind his uncertainty there is a terrible will and a meticulous preparation. While many other drivers in the past few days were busy in the most disparate ways, those who went fishing, those who tried out a new boat, those who advertised for candy, Niki remained at his home in Hof, near Salzburg, to prepare physically and psychologically. Every morning he does eight kilometers of running, then gymnastics, mental training, bicycles, special nutrition:
"I returned to Formula 1 after a two-year absence. I enjoyed it enough running an airline, but motor racing is something else, a much more exciting commitment. You have to make sacrifices and I certainly didn't come back to be a beginner. And not even just to take part in a few races".
A total commitment, then. Niki Lauda says no more, he makes no plans or proclamations for the future. His ideas are clear and leave the door open to every possible solution, and if we talk about turbo engines, he defends them:
"It is a technical choice developed in full compliance with the regulations. It's unfair to try to find handicaps for a car just because it has become too competitive. We have to think about it beforehand. I hope to have a car with a supercharged engine by the end of the year".
Formula 1, even though it brought with it a burden of problems and controversies, on Sunday 23 May 1982 found in the small principality a magical moment, the success that made it one of the most popular sports. It is confirmed by the sold out, between tickets and beds, that the Grand Prix of Monaco offers to the fans. At least one hundred thousand spectators for the race, a turnover of millions of dollars: it is a result that cannot be disputed. And, good or bad, there is also the competitive reason, a tight fight, the uncertainty of an always unpredictable race.
At the start René Arnoux keeps the lead followed by Bruno Giacomelli, Riccardo Patrese and Alain Prost. At the second lap Prost, on the arrival straight, overcomes Patrese and takes the third place; Giacomelli, two laps after, is forced to the pits, because of the breakup of the axle shaft: the two Renault are so to command the race. They follow Patrese, Didier Pironi, Andrea De Cesaris, Michele Alboreto and Keke Rosberg. At the fifteenth passage Arnoux loses control of his Renault at the Piscine, ending up in a spin: the engine turns off and the French driver is forced to retire. Alain Prost passes to lead. At lap 22 Keke Rosberg passes Alboreto. The leading group finds itself, at the 33rd lap, to lap Elio De Angelis: Prost and Patrese overtake him without problems, while Pironi tries to pass him at the Rascasse; in the maneuver the French driver's car hits the Lotus wheel and damages the nose. The damage however is not important, so that the Frenchman continues his race.
In the first positions the standings don't see changes until the 66th lap, when Rosberg, fifth, retires for a problem to the suspensions, after having engaged with De Cesaris a long pursuit lasted several laps. Rosberg tries to pass the Italian at the Portier curve, but the maneuver does not succeed. Four laps later Alboreto also retires. So Derek Daly passes in fifth position and Elio De Angelis in sixth. The ranking sees Alain Prost in the lead with his fast Renault turbo, and Patrese, Pironi, De Cesaris, Daly and De Angelis, all separated from each other by a few seconds. However, a race that seems to offer nothing in terms of entertainment because of the dominance of the turbocharged Renault, turns three laps from the end in a sort of elimination dance with continuous twists and turns: thanks to some drops of rain, exactly in four minutes everything happens, in a breathless alternation with a series of possible winners that suddenly stop.
The first to disappear is Daly, who had engaged in a furious duel with Alboreto, had overtaken him as the Italian was in trouble and then was stopped by the breakage of a suspension, and tried to recover. In the meantime Prost drives as a master, following precise trajectories, but in some point of the circuit rain drops fall and the asphalt is very slippery. The Renault goes out from the low chicane preceded by the Arrows of Surer, much slower: Alain tries to pass on the left, towards the sea, but maybe he realizes that the space is reduced to a minimum; he goes back in the slipstream and probably takes his foot off the gas. This is enough to deviate the car suddenly to the right. In a moment the Renault hits the guard-rail, bounces in the middle, pirouettes, and ends up on the other side: it is a dramatic scene, the car is destroyed, but the driver is safe. The pursuers pass with difficulty among the wreckage. Patrese is in the lead and he is driving very fast, Pironi is at about three seconds. It is the last lap.
The driver from Padova passes in front of the box, goes up towards the Casino, goes down, and at the Mirabeau hairpin makes a mistake for too much confidence: he touches the brakes on the slippery road and the car goes in spin, without damaging the car, but with the engine off, in the middle of the circuit. Pironi arrives, the Ferrari takes the lead and the fans of the Cavallino go crazy. Pironi proceeds slowly, it is thought that the Frenchman is driving with prudence, because he has a considerable advantage over De Cesaris and he can manage it. But it is not prudence, it is the car that is not going. In fact it stops on the left, just inside the tunnel at about one kilometer from the finish line. Some willing marshals push the car to the right, trying to get it moving again. But there is nothing to do: it is an electrical problem. In this moment De Cesaris is theoretically in the lead. But the young Roman will never overtake Pironi stopped in the tunnel. He too, with the fuel tank of his Alfa Romeo empty, approaches the edge of the track at the beginning of the Massenet curve.
At this point, we wonder if Mansell will win or Derek Daly, who was one lap behind, but the Williams driver had touched the barriers and stopped at the Rascasse, before starting the last lap. Instead, here is a white and blue single-seater: it is Riccardo Patrese. Since his car had stopped in the middle of the track, the marshals turned it around and pushed it down the hill. The engine starts running again and the unsuspecting driver goes towards his first success in Formula 1. Shortly before the official finishing order was made official James Hunt, who was commentating on the race for the BBC, exclaims:
"Well we are in this ridiculous situation where we are all sitting on the finish line waiting for a winner to arrive and we don't seem to have one".
In the final chaos it is not immediately clear who had won, so much so that at Lotus they also push De Angelis to go on the podium and Patrese himself, only once he has finished the lap of honor and stopped the car in front of the podium, is informed of the victory. An incredible race with a finale that not even a science fiction writer could have imagined. An Italian driver, Riccardo Patrese, wins for the first time in the long history of the Monaco Grand Prix. In Formula 1 it had not happened since 1975, when in the rain of Zeltweg the funambulist Vittorio Brambilla triumphed, that an Italian driver managed to get on the highest step of the podium.
And it is curious how Michel Ferry, race director, three laps from the end, when Alain Prost was still in the lead and the first drops of rain were falling, decided to suspend the race, preparing to show the red flag, since both Prost and Pironi had indicated in gestures that the water was making the track dangerous. But while the marshals are waiting for orders, ready to intervene, the news arrives that Prost has left the track and that Riccardo Patrese has taken the lead, so the red flag is shown and the race continues. Didier Pironi is classified second with the Ferrari and Andrea De Cesaris third with the Alfa Romeo because the two, although retired, had completed seventy-five laps out of seventy-six in less time than the lapped Mansell and De Angelis, who occupy the fourth and fifth position; Daly is classified sixth, despite the withdrawal at two laps to the end. Patrese will dedicate his success, among the others, also to Gilles Villeneuve.
It is a really lucky week for Riccardo Patrese. In seven days the Paduan driver has been able to win two world competitions: last Sunday in Silverstone with the Lancia in the World Championship for Manufacturers (together with Alboreto) and in Monte Carlo with the Brabham. A truly singular feat that confirms the excellent moment of the 28-year-old Italian, leader of a school that is making a lot of progress in motor racing, with Corrado Fabi, leader of the European Formula 2 classification, and Emanuele Pirro, second in Formula 3. This is what Patrese himself says, overflowing with happiness for the victory conquered, even if in a daring way:
"It's true, I recognize that I was helped by a good star. But I can also say without fear of contradiction that I deserved this success for the commitment I have always put in and for the disappointments I have been able to fight in many other races. My victory is even more beautiful because at the second place there is a Ferrari and at the third an Alfa Romeo with the young De Cesaris. With De Angelis fifth, we are three Italians in the first five places. A classification that comments itself. Now they will tell me that if Prost had not had an accident we would not be here talking about my success. But I can answer that I know the bitterness of a statement escaped when I already saw the look".
To who asks him if this can represent an isolated episode, the Venetian answers with extreme confidence:
"No, of course. My Brabham is competitive on all circuits and I will be able to repeat this result. I had said on the eve of Montecarlo that the World Championship was only just beginning. I don't think I was wrong. In the next race, on the Detroit street circuit, I will have the same chances I had in the Principality. I haven't got my head up my ass: I've always thought about the world title since the beginning of my career. If a driver doesn't have a goal, he better stay at home".
Patrese's triumph did not fail to arouse controversy. Someone would have also wanted to make a complaint because Riccardo's Brabham was pushed by hand by the marshals when it remained stationary in the middle of the track one lap from the end of the race. In fact, it is forbidden to carry out such maneuvers: according to the regulations, in case of a breakdown or an exit from the track, the driver must restart with his own means, otherwise he is disqualified. It was the race director himself, Michel Ferry, who explained why the Brabham was moved and no disciplinary measures were taken.
"For a reason of force majeure, the safety officers are authorized to intervene. Patrese's car constituted a danger, stationary on the track, and it was taken out of the way. The fact that the driver then, taking advantage of the descent, was able to start the engine and arrive at the finish line, this is considered normal. The victory is valid to all intents and purposes".
The second place for Ferrari is not a negative result, even if, as engineer Mauro Forghieri recounts:
"We just had time to scream from joy when we saw on the pit monitor that Pironi was stopping. For us it was an incredible day, started and ended badly, if we can say so, with a second place".
In fact, Ferrari already runs a big risk before the start. During the reconnaissance lap on the 126 C2, the button that disconnects the starter motor does not work. When the starter motor was blocked, it deteriorated and the car could no longer start. This has never happened before. It should be noted that the Maranello team is the only one in Formula 1 to mount this system, since the other cars all start with an air compressor. Ferrari, on the other hand, in order to give the possibility to its drivers to restart on the track, mounts the engine that will cause many troubles during the race. The Maranello mechanics, when the signal to start the engines is given, are forced to push the car. In this regard, the regulation provides that the stewards intervene according to the case: if the maneuver is considered irregular, it can range from disqualification to a one-minute penalty. Evidently in this case, since they did not intervene (they had to report any measures immediately), it was considered a force majeure. But at Ferrari they live moments of worry, and Pironi is asked if he prefers to start with the reserve car at the end of the line-up. The Frenchman, however, prefers to try everything:
"That's why it went well for me. The same cannot be said for the end of the race. I was in the lead for a lap and a half, but I was left stranded at the very end. When I thought I was the strongest, the cold shower came. It was still tough. I ran half the race without the nose of the car. I had a lot of understeer and in all likelihood I was losing half a second per lap. The event happened at Rascasse, when we had to lap De Angells. Prost and Patrese passed, I got into it and found the road closed. It was an unavoidable pileup. The World Championship? It's too early to talk about it".
The unbelievable conclusion of the Monaco Grand Prix proposes again an old question of the Formula 1 races: how is it possible that often, in the last laps, some cars stop for lack of petrol? Regarding Sunday's race, we must point out that Pironi's Ferrari did not have a fuel problem, but it was an electrical fault that stopped the French driver, probably a contact, a sheath ruined by heat or detached by vibrations. The technical commissioners, in fact, take at the end of the race twelve liters of gasoline from the tank of the Ferrari for the analysis of the liquid now practiced after each test of Formula 1. The lack of fuel blocks, instead, Andrea De Cesaris, when with his Alfa Romeo he has the possibility to win the race. How come? Was it a mistake?
"Nothing like that, we had started with twenty-five liters more for safety. The rhythm impressed on the race and in all probability the unbalanced operation of the engine caused an abnormal consumption".
Gerard Ducarouge explains.
"The turbocharged cars drink a little more than the others. We have a fuel tank of up to 220 liters. Consumption varies from forty to sixty liters per hundred kilometers, or 1.6 to 2.5 kilometers per liter, depending on the characteristics of the track. Cars with an aspirated engine have a slightly less capable tank - two hundred liters - and consume ten percent less. Obviously, there is a difference between a twelve-cylinder and an eight-cylinder. The former drinks more".
Says Mauro Forghieri, Ferrari's technical director.
Since consumption is always calculated on the basis of tests on each track, it can be concluded that a lack of petrol can be caused by two factors: an abnormal absorption due to a fault, or the attempt to make the car as light as possible during the race by putting a limited amount of fuel into the tank - at one's own risk. However, a third place for Alfa Romeo is an excellent result. And also for Andrea De Cesaris, who will be twenty-three years old in a week, it is the first concrete result, after having often proved to be one of the fastest drivers in practice and in race. In the clan of the Milanese team there is satisfaction, although it does not hide, given how things went, that we could also get something more. President Ettore Massacesi confesses:
"I am satisfied both for the team that has worked a lot and for the boy who is growing from trial to trial".
De Cesaris appears rather exhausted by the effort and also by the final disappointment:
"I saw Patrese get traversed, Pironi was stopped in the tunnel, I was first for a few hundred meters then I ran out of gas. I pulled like a desperate man because the engine wasn't performing at its best, reaching just 11,000 rpm instead of 12,500. The race was tough, a real battle for me".
The young Roman was the protagonist of one of the most beautiful duels of the race. From the beginning to the end he fought with a fierce Keke Rosberg who was chasing him; the Finnish driver tried several times to overtake him, when the Alfa Romeo's engine, thirty laps from the end, started to yield less. De Cesaris, however, defended himself very well:
"In a few passages Rosberg got into my slipstream. And from that moment on he tormented me. Luckily, at a certain point I saw him slow down without understanding what had happened. I was afraid that he would accuse me of hitting him. Instead, he probably broke a tie rod of the front suspension, hitting the kerbs of the track".
In the midst of so many happy faces, there are also the dark faces of the Renault men, Prost and Arnoux who made their fans dream until almost the end, and those of Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet. Alain Prost, immediately after the bad accident in which he was thrown from one side of the track to the other, runs to the hospital to have an X-ray of his left knee, hit during the carom. Luckily for him, the examination excludes any injury. The Frenchman can't explain what happened except with the slipperiness of the track:
"The car did it all by itself. Suddenly it became uncontrollable and I had to watch, after taking a big scare, as a spectator to the triumph of the others. And to say that without giving up the fight, I had tried to save the car for the final".
René Arnoux's disappointment is even greater. It seems that the driver from Grenoble has the same bad luck as Bruno Giacomelli: nothing goes right:
"I started like a rocket, I had left them all behind, I was controlling the race, when a miniskirt betrayed me. Maybe it wore out abnormally, the fact is that I started to have a lot of understeer that made me slow down a lot in the curves. When I arrived at the pool, as I lifted my foot to slow down, the car suddenly oversteered and started like a top".
Niki Lauda, who was one of the most expected after his success in the Long Beach street circuit and for his experience, with two victories in Monte Carlo, was forced to retire:
"Already in practice the car was undriveable. So much so that I was forced to start from the back of the grid. I had no hope. And in fact I found myself fighting in the back. I was losing a second a lap and I couldn't stay on the road. Then the oil pressure failed and I had to go back to the pits. A lot of effort for nothing".
Even more dejected was World Champion Nelson Piquet. The experience with the Brabham-Bmw turbo has so far proved to be negative:
"A race to forget; the engine never ran well. Already at the start I made a mistake: I thought I had engaged the first gear, instead the gear had not entered. In any case I want to continue with the turbo to not throw away these months of work. There is little I can do about the world title: at this point I have no more hope".
Of the same idea to maintain the supply of the Bmw turbo engines is also Ecclestone, who orders the German House to sign a supply contract until 1983, otherwise it will be forced to mount the classic Cosworth starting from the Grand Prix that will be run in Detroit. During the evening, Riccardo dances the samba with Grace of Monaco, wearing an elegant black tuxedo. The princess confesses to him that she had predicted his victory, after questioning the tarots. He reveals that he had put in the suitcase the evening dress because he was convinced to conquer this much awaited success. So, as guest of honor at the Sporting Club's Grand Gala, Riccardo Patrese spends the evening of his triumph in Formula 1's most prestigious Grand Prix:
"Cars, skiing and swimming are my loves in sports. Maybe yesterday I closed a black period and I think that a little bit of luck brought me the presence in Monte Carlo of Novella Calligaris, my teammate at the time when, as a kid, I used to go to the swimming pools. Only those who loved me and who were really close to me can know how much I suffered to achieve this success. I was helped by good luck but I also struggled. It was a very tough race. The Brabham was slightly understeering and I was always attacking to try to catch up to the Renaults. Moreover I had to defend myself from Pironi's attacks, but he didn't bother me much. I have only one regret, that of not having a Ferrari to race. I dreamed and hoped for three years, but we couldn't find an agreement. It would have been nice to win with an Italian car. I also had contacts with Alfa Romeo, but then I preferred Brabham, which was more competitive. I feel comfortable with this team. Ecclestone is a hard man but he is also skilled and kind. And Piquet is an excellent companion".
Does this statement also launch Riccardo Partese in the fight for the world title?
"Too early to say. There are many drivers in contention. The championship has just begun. Now there are the two American races. I hope I haven't finished my cycle, on the contrary I'm convinced that I can still fight at the top. The decisive moment will be when I return to Europe. On fast circuits it will be difficult to fight with turbo engines. However, we have the Bmw which is perhaps the most powerful of all. We just need time to work on it and make it more elastic. My favorite is Prost with his Renault. On Thursday I leave for the Nurburgring, where on Sunday I will race with Lancia in the 1000 km race for the World Championship of Manufacturers. It's a good championship too and we are taking other big satisfactions. For the rest nothing has changed, I'm always the same with the same desire to win. I train a lot, I don't have time to read, I collect toy trains and I'm a believer. My protector is Saint Anthony of Padua. The only thing that has changed is that, at the age of twenty-eight, after almost ten years of motor racing and five of Formula 1, I will no longer be asked at highway toll booths: Patrese, when are you going to win a race?"