#334 1980 Monaco Grand Prix

2022-08-23 00:00

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#1980, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Margherita Urpi,

#334 1980 Monaco Grand Prix

The doctors from the renowned Paraplegikerzentrum (a hospital specialized in the treatment of paraplegia) in Basel are rather pessimistic about Clay R


The doctors from the renowned Paraplegikerzentrum (a hospital specialized in the treatment of paraplegia) in Basel are rather pessimistic about Clay Regazzoni's chances of recovery. Not only will the Swiss Formula 1 driver's hospitalization be very long (at least six or seven months), but there are also concerns that, following the spinal injuries sustained in the March 30th accident at the United States Grand Prix, his legs may remain permanently paralyzed. In an interview with the widely circulated newspaper Blick, Professor Zaech, the head of the Basel Clinic, says:


"Although five weeks have already passed since the accident, it is too early to establish a definitive prognosis regarding Regazzoni's chances of recovery. Unfortunately, truth be told, it is not excluded that he may have to use a wheelchair permanently".


Regazzoni's condition has also been the subject of a statement.


"On April 22nd, Regazzoni underwent surgery for the multiple fractures of his right leg, and the fractured tibia was fixed with a plate. An open wound is continuously under care. Unfortunately, further complications cannot be ruled out".


Regarding partial paralysis, he says:


"The ongoing treatment foresees that the driver will be able to use a wheelchair by mid-June. The spine has stabilized satisfactorily. The state of leg paralysis remains unchanged, but there is a slight improvement in sensitivity. However, this cannot predict the evolution of paralysis".


Professor Zaech also added that a true miracle is needed for Regazzoni to regain the use of his legs. Nevertheless, the former Swiss driver continues to have a lot of confidence in himself and in the abilities of the medical team. Regazzoni hopes to one day get back behind the wheel of a car. Returning to the World Championship, it must be said that once a year the Principality opens its doors to a different kind of gambling than that practiced in its luxurious Casino: the fascinating roulette that is the Formula 1 Grand Prix replaces the green tables filled with chips, slot machines, and dice. The event equally attracts tens of thousands of people, the opposite of its usual scene. From yachts and billionaires, playboys and glamorous women winking from Rolls Royces, it shifts to rugged racing fans, sleeping bags, and flexible inhabitants of the back seats of rickety cars. But the atmosphere remains festive, the most worldly possible, rich in color and humanity. The sterile streets of Monaco, on the contrary, finally come to life with youthful energy, noises that, for once, are not too bothersome. There is barely enough time to get used to this atypical climate, to the differences found from the usual circuits, before plunging into the world of racing. On Thursday, May 15, 1980, the first two practice sessions are already scheduled, in the morning the unofficial non-timed ones, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., an hour of crucial qualification for all the insights it can provide. There is always hope that something new will happen, that a Ferrari suddenly returns to the top. But it cannot be denied that the forecast this time is clearly against the Italian cars, especially those of Scheckter and Villeneuve. It is possible that the T5s will do something more than they have done so far since the start of the championship. But believing that the situation can be overturned is almost absurd. Ligier and Williams (with some chances also for Piquet's Brabham) share the favoritism of the eve, and even in terms of betting, the impromptu bookmakers do not pay much for those betting on Didier Pironi, the winner of the last race in Belgium, or on Alan Jones, the Australian always lurking with his Williams. The only real unknown is represented by Renault, which on paper would not have many chances. However, the French car has made such progress lately that it would not be very surprising to see it in the top positions on the starting grid on Sunday. 


Someone has even calculated biorhythms, those still quite mysterious rules for us that control human activity, based on which one can predict more or less the results of a particular day. It seems that the Grand Prix day will be particularly favorable to Scheckter, Villeneuve, and Reutemann, and, a bit less obviously, to Jones, the Italian Elio De Angelis, and Pironi. We will see if this new system for predicting the future has hit the target. In any case, all the teams have prepared the cars in the best way to face the many curves of the city circuit and the thousands of gear changes that the drivers will have to face. Super-powered brakes, air intakes for cooling are part of the cocktail that technicians had to prepare for Monte Carlo. At Ferrari, once again, there has been strong work. The cars prepared after the tests in Fiorano and Le Castellet should be a synthesis of the collected data. According to some unofficially unconfirmed rumors, there should be a return to the past in the setup of the cars of the South African driver and the Canadian driver. In essence, they would have relied on the qualities of the old T4 to try to overturn the unfavorable prediction. Will this expedient be enough to make the cars from Maranello competitive? It's a difficult question to answer. Only on Thursday, when at least the first hour and a half of unofficial non-timed practice is completed, will there be comprehensive indications. For the moment, all eyes are on the blond Didier Pironi. The victory in Belgium by the young Frenchman of Friulian origin has enormously raised the driver's odds for Ligier. And there are already those who say that another success could bring the eclectic Parisian to fight with a good chance for the world title. Two different atmospheres contrast in the Principality. On one side, tourists ready for an exciting motorsport weekend, happy, full of confidence that the race will be beautiful and fun. On the other side, Formula 1 men, rather worried, fatigued, tired from long hours of work. In the various teams, only dark faces, worried faces, are seen: the race is awaited with great impatience, even nervousness. Everyone needs to do something, to win, to at least find some points, a partial affirmation. Sponsors press for results, teams must absolutely improve their positions. At Ferrari, the situation is not much different. Engineer Forghieri appears very tired, engaged on many fronts. The drivers don't talk much but wait to see what will happen in the tests. Only at Ligier is the situation different. Relaxed faces, serene eyes everywhere, and even smiles. Why? Pironi's victory in Belgium has brought tranquility back to the French team. Guy Ligier, the team's patron, is available, cheerful. He reflects on the team and his drivers.


"Winning the Zolder Grand Prix, Pironi not only achieved a great feat but did much more: he restored confidence in our team and serenity in a delicate period. After the start of the season, our results did not correspond to our expectations or ambitions. A certain bewilderment had arisen between the potential of our cars and the talent of our drivers and the great work of all the technicians and mechanics of the team. We absolutely lacked a victory on the track. Of course, Laffite and Pironi had achieved good performances almost everywhere, especially at Kyalami. They had actively participated in the race, behaved skillfully, but even getting on the podium did not achieve the maximum. We had only a small satisfaction before: of all the French drivers involved in Formula 1 - and there are many - it was Pironi who had shown the most consistency after Argentina. Because, except in Buenos Aires, he had scored points everywhere. But it was disappointing to always live in a waiting position. Our hearts constantly beat with hope, and we waited minute by minute to finally fulfill all the promises of recent times".


Ligier does not want to philosophize, but the races of recent times have led him to make reflections not only optimistic like those above but also bitter and rather worrying.


"It must be admitted that races are more subject to a certain fatality; I am not superstitious, but I am beginning to be seriously convinced that often one wins or loses by chance. In my opinion, races are subject to invisible laws, impossible to discover, which cause many totally unforeseen and disconcerting problems. For an old connoisseur of motorsport like myself, it is not a surprise or a reason to complain about human things. I have known for a long time how difficult, if not impossible, it is to master mechanics. Everything has become so hard, so difficult to understand since the cars are used not at 100% but at 150% of their capabilities. For this reason, anything can happen without predictions being made".


Speaking of Pironi, Ligier smiles openly. He likes the driver, is convinced that he made a valuable acquisition with the signing of the 28-year-old Parisian.


"I had contacted him at the end of the last season. He is a guy I knew well and had been following for a long time. An intelligent driver who was finishing his apprenticeship in Formula 1. His entry into our team was without trauma. He immediately understood that we wanted to help him, and he could help Ligier. I had noticed that he had the technical and psychological potential of a Grand Prix winner. It would be enough to provide him with the necessary material, namely a competitive car. His victory at Zolder was impeccable both for how he achieved it and for his behavior. Now Pironi belongs to the great legend of F1, and I think he will not stop at this. The behavior of a driver in the hours following a great success is very important. Didier's was exemplary. He was a happy man. But he remained modest, even humble. He did not make big speeches, he just thanked the technicians and mechanics very sincerely for the work".


Ligier does not talk about the race. But it is clear that he has a lot riding on Pironi. For another victory for his team and especially for that final goal that is the main one in his life. On dry or wet asphalt, varying with meteorological conditions, the performance of the car remains unchanged. In any case, on the Monaco circuit, Thursday, May 15, 1980, Didier Pironi with Ligier is consistently the fastest. The French driver is clearly the best on the first day of practice for the Monaco Grand Prix. In the morning's free practice sessions, held under a dark and threatening sky, the French driver sets the fastest time, a result that unofficially surpasses the circuit record set the previous year by Jody Scheckter when the South African secured pole position. In the first qualifying session, rain does not stop the fearless twenty-eight-year-old Parisian of Friulian origin. Pironi is once again the quickest. The French driver precedes Villeneuve, Jones, Reutemann, Scheckter, Piquet, Daly, Laffite, Watson, and Depailler. Apart from Pironi's dominance, facilitated evidently by a highly competitive Ligier, the two different situations observed on Thursday allow for interesting considerations. The first is that the driver stands out compared to the car, especially on difficult and slow circuits like Monaco. Another is that while Alfa Romeo performs well and Ferrari is not too competitive in dry conditions, the situation reverses on wet tracks, especially when it's not pouring rain but only a few drops fall, enough to create a dangerous wet surface advising against the use of slick tires in favor of grooved ones. When speed is reduced and certain aerodynamic qualities diminish, Ferraris promptly return to the forefront. This does not mean that the Maranello team should only hope for rain to have a good race, but a situation similar to that of Thursday would be helpful. 


Also, in normal conditions, problems with the Michelin tires, which are too stiff, seem to increase. The Renault drivers also notice this inconvenience since they cannot travel as fast as usual on the narrow track, fail to warm up the tires, and find themselves far from the top positions both in dry and wet conditions. Jabouille is even outside the top twenty and, for the moment, excluded from the provisional starting lineup after the first qualifying session. The day's events, moreover, reserve not a few surprises. In the morning, De Angelis with the Lotus completes only seven laps in an hour and a half of availability. Shortly after the start of the practice, a suspension failure of his car occurs suddenly, apparently due to a material defect. The Italian driver returns to the pits to take the reserve car but finds himself stranded because Andretti also has the same need due to the engine failure of the other Lotus. In the timing standings, almost everyone, even without qualifying tires, improves compared to last year or approaches their best performances. Only Ferrari (and this is also indicative) remains far behind (about two seconds more) the results of 1979, with Villeneuve in sixth position and Scheckter in eleventh. The situation then improves for the World Champion and the Canadian driver in the official practice sessions in the rain. The Alfa Romeo drivers are struggling since Depailler and Giacomelli slip to tenth and fourteenth positions. Gilles Villeneuve - Canadian journalists say - is rapidly losing the popularity gained in North America after two years of racing with Ferrari. The negative results of the recent races had lowered the fever of support for the lively Quebec driver to collapse levels. And in Canada, as in the United States, this means being abandoned by sponsors and, consequently, saying goodbye to contracts that make millions of dollars.


"That's also why I absolutely have to do something good, stand out. A comeback in the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix would be, as they say in Modena, like putting good Parmesan on a plate of tortellini. Second place on the starting grid would suit me just fine, even though I know very well that overtaking Pironi will be very difficult. Anyway, I hope to be at least in a position to put up a fight. Then we'll see".


A Villeneuve-Pironi duel could be a very spectacular reason for the race. Two competitors who have more or less the same characteristics: courage, composure, a good dose of recklessness. If it were to rain, with wet asphalt, the show would certainly not be lacking.


"Unfortunately, I have to hope that the weather stays bad because right now our car, even if it has performed a bit better than in previous races, doesn't seem up to par with Pironi's Ligier. However, I don't particularly fear Pironi, just as I'm not afraid of any other driver under equal conditions".


The Canadian shows, at least in words, that he has not lost confidence and aggressiveness.


"I don't see why I should be different from last year, from the times of duels with Arnoux. I always have a great desire to win. Indeed, that's the only reason I race. I'm not interested in placements, although I have to admit that over the course of a championship, points behind the winners also count. I continue to have confidence in the Ferrari that, I am convinced, will return to the top sooner or later. We just need to solve some problems with the T5 or maybe with the car that will come in the future. Now, however, I have to think about doing what is possible with what we have at hand".


Ferrari has prepared two modified cars for Villeneuve and Scheckter, with the most significant innovation being a reduction in the wheelbase by about 10 centimeters.


"The car doesn't seem much different to drive compared to the one from the previous races. However, it must be said that we haven't had the opportunity to do many tests. In the free practice sessions and in the last qualifying session, I will try all possible solutions. I hope to find the best one to finally have an attacking race".


Today's trials are not important only for Ferrari. Almost all teams have problems to solve. The same Ligier, which travels ahead of all rivals with Pironi, cannot balance Laffite's car. However, the fight for the qualification of the twenty starters will be particularly interesting. Seven drivers will be excluded, and no one intends to give up without fighting to the last breath. There is a Jabouille who risks the position of the first driver at Renault (in reality, the French team executives have already decided that from now on, if two Renaults were to be in the lead, Jabouille would have to give way to Arnoux who is in the running for the world title); there are De Angelis and Patrese who certainly do not want to go home early; there is Cheever who is convinced that he can bring Osella into the top twenty. In short, there will be some exciting moments. Speaking of Osella, it has only been five months since Enzo Osella officially entered the world of Formula 1, and not even a year since he started building his single-seater. The results so far have not been exciting, considering the participation of the Turin car from the perspective of the fans. But those who know Enzo Osella well know that, being a good Piedmontese with his feet on the ground, he had carefully assessed the risks he would face, aware of his own possibilities. Since the eve of the debut in Argentina, Osella had emphasized how premature it would be for his car to engage in the early part of the season: a thousand problems to solve for a car that practically in Buenos Aires would have put its wheels on the ground for the first time, while the debut was planned for mid-season, at the South African Grand Prix. Contrary to expectations, due to pressure from FOCA, Osella had to anticipate the arduous journey, throwing his car into the fray without being able to acquire the necessary experience that only extensive testing and many kilometers can ensure.


Enzo Osella had - and still has - a project with very advanced technology, which, however, remained in the drawer. In its place is the current single-seater, of a classic type. It can be said that, wisely, Osella had reviewed all his forecasts putting them in the most pessimistic light possible so as not to have nasty surprises and disappoint with promises not kept. Therefore, the lack of competitiveness that the Osella Formula 1 has shown so far in this first cycle of races should not deceive.


"The car is there, and we have realized, from the little time we have spent on the track in various qualifying sessions or races, its potential. Even the sponsors are favorably impressed, aware that if we can just complete a race, things will take a favorable turn. We lack the kilometers, those we should have covered before hitting the track. From a long mileage, all the flaws come out, which, examined one by one, calmly, are eliminated, bringing the car to high levels of competitiveness and reliability".


Someone said that instead of Eddie Cheever, a young and perhaps too impulsive driver, a calmer pilot would have been needed.


"Maybe, but I consider Cheever a top-notch driver. I chose him myself because after two years of racing for me in Formula 2, we understand each other perfectly. With four words, when he enters the pits, everything is immediately clear between us. Probably it wouldn't be the same with a new driver. Of course, he will have to curb his exuberance a bit, normal for a 23-year-old but to be avoided for a professional, as I consider him. At Zolder, he went out due to his own mistake, as he himself acknowledged, perhaps in an attempt to keep up with Scheckter. So he damaged the car, and we lost more useful kilometers. It was important to keep it on the track, also because we didn't have the spare car, and it was decided to work on this single specimen by mutual agreement. Now the reserve car is also ready. It won't be a reason to exaggerate, but I think Eddie has already understood that".


Sunday, May 18, 1980, over 100.000 spectators crowded the streets of the Principality, and 700 million fans sat in front of their TVs worldwide will likely witness one of the most spectacular Formula 1 races. At least, these are the premises for the Monaco Grand Prix, which, from 3:30 p.m., will unleash twenty cars and twenty drivers on the narrow city circuit. A hare, the Frenchman Didier Pironi with Ligier, and a pack of pursuers ready to give no respite to the rival aiming for a double goal: winning the most prestigious race, doubling the success achieved at Zolder, and taking the lead in the World Championship. This is the situation after the last round of qualifying sessions, during which the French driver confirms, with the fastest lap time, the pole position for the race. But behind the twenty-eight-year-old Parisian, no one is asleep, and the gaps, which were abysmal on Thursday, reduce considerably, suggesting a heated battle. The forecast is very uncertain, also because the challenging track will test drivers and cars, with the possibility of unexpected breakdowns and retirements. Finally, without rain, on dry asphalt, even though the sky is always threatening, and a few drops fall right after the tests, the qualifications determine a fairly predictable starting lineup. However, many competitors, pulling like desperate, have given rise to incredible performances. Pironi is again the fastest with a fantastic time of 1'24"813, which unbelievably improves Jody Scheckter's time of 1'26"45 with which he had obtained the first position at the start last year. Behind Pironi, threateningly and very close, are the Williams of Reutemann and Jones, Nelson Piquet's Brabham, Laffite's Ligier, and Gilles Villeneuve's Ferrari. Not far away but excellently placed are the two Alfa Romeos of Depailler and Bruno Giacomelli. There are also some surprising negative performances, such as Jody Scheckter's, who only marks the seventeenth time, just ahead of Jabouille with Renault, the two former World Champions, Fittipaldi and Andretti, and the current leader of the world standings, René Amour, who with the last time even risks not qualifying. The difference between Villeneuve and Scheckter is especially surprising. One should not believe that there is a difference of over a second between the two drivers of the Maranello team recorded on the Monaco circuit, as the cars are practically the same, both with a reduced wheelbase and with the same suspension and aerodynamic solutions. The South African, very disappointed and with a dark face, says verbatim after the tests:


"I never managed to drive my car. One corner oversteers and another understeers. The brakes once locked, another time they made me run long. In short, I understood nothing".


Gilles, on the other hand, is quite satisfied:


"Only small problems, but I think I can have a good race. I will try to defend my position and take advantage if someone ahead makes mistakes or is forced to retire".


Good news, however, for Patrese and De Angelis. The Paduan, despite still complaining about understeer issues, secures the eleventh starting position and the Roman is in the sixth row. Unfortunately, Eddie Cheever is excluded with the Osella. The young driver tries to perform a miracle but manages to mark only the twenty-second time. On Sunday, May 18, 1980, the Monaco Grand Prix does not start until 3.30 p.m. on Sunday so there is a lot of time to gaze anxiously at the sky and wonder if the rain is going to return, for the weather is anything but sunny. Though cloudy and overcast the rain holds off and all twenty cars that have qualified assemble on the grid after the parade lap. As they shoot off towards the St. Devote comer Arnoux’s Renault is still spluttering on the back of the grid and Villeneuve has not made his usual electrifying getaway. As the mid-field runners crowd into the corner Daly seems to have total brain-fade and runs up the back of Giacomelli’s Alfa Romeo, which launches the Tyrrell into the air and it bounces off Jarier’s Tyrrell as it lands. While Pironi leads Jones, Reutemann, Laffite. Depailler and Piquet through Casino Square the shambles at the foot of the hill are being sorted out. Villeneuve has taken to the escape road, flicked the Ferrari round on the throttle and powered off up the hill. while Patrese has stopped, reversed out of the melee and promptly rammed the ATS. Daly (Tyrrell), Jarier (Tyrrell), Giacomelli (Alfa Romeo) and Prost (McLaren) are all out of the race and Lammers is soon in the pits having his front end repaired, while Pironi is in the lead with Jones hard on his heels. Reutemann in third place is acting as a nice buffer to keep Laffite. Although Pironi is leading from Jones the Ligier is not running away from the Williams, as it had done in Zolder two weeks before, Jones is really pressuring the Frenchman, with the nose of his car right under the Ligier’s gearbox, and it is a question of how long Pironi can withstand this sort of pressure. For a time they would pull away from the four cars following and then they would drop back and the first six would be nose-to-tail. 


The order is Pironi, Jones, Reutemann, Laffite, Depailler and Piquet, a hard bunch of chargers who are giving nothing away. The Ferraris are in trouble with their Michelin tyres and first Scheckter stops for a new set and then Villeneuve does the same, and while Scheckter eventually gives up the unequal struggle, considering the handling to be impossible, Villeneuve thrashes on and refuses to give in. Before a third of the distance the leaders are beginning to lap such tail-enders as are left, and on lap 25 the differential breaks up in Jones’ transmission and the Williams is out of the race. This doesn’t mean that Pironi has it all his own way for Reutemann in the number two Williams begins to close up, with Laffite and Depailler hanging on tenaciously. Piquet is lonely fifth and a long way back come de Angelis, Mass, Andretti, Fittipaldi, Patrese, Arnoux and Villeneuve, while Jabouille is some laps behind after a pit stop to change tyres and Lammers is even further back after repairs. At half distance any pressure that Reutemann might have brought to bear on the Ligier has disappeared and Pironi looks set for his second Grand Prix victory. A lap down Villeneuve is battling away after his pit stop and Lammers has tucked in behind him with the ATS, doing a very spirited job of keeping up even though he is some laps behind. Pironi is in trouble as his gearbox is lumping out of third gear so he tries to use it as little as possible, and when he does have to use it he holds it in with one hand and does his steering with the other. The other Ligier is using up its brakes, or rather its driver is, and Depailler is pressing hard in fourth place. By lap 45 rain spots are falling near the Casino and though they develop into light rain and dampen the track surface they do not justify anyone stopping to change over to wet-weather tyres, but the surface becomes very slippery all-round the course as the light rain spreads. 


Depailler’s fighting drive comes to an end when his Alfa Romeo engine blows up, which is a great relief to Laffite, and then on lap 55 as Pironi crosses Casino Square, being forced to use both hands on the steering wheel due to the slippery surface, his gearbox jumps out of gear and he slides out and hits the guard-rail, deflating the left front tyre and breaking the steering arm on that side. His race is over and Reutemann inherits the lead for Frank Williams, with no threats behind him, as Laffite is slowing and Piquet is too far back to cause trouble. With a bit of luck, a lot of experience, and a good dose of skill, Carlos Reutemann managed to bring his Williams, sporting the number 27, to the roulette wheel of the Monaco Grand Prix. He achieved this by winning an elimination race in which Didier Pironi and Alan Jones were the protagonists but failed to reach the finish line. While leading the race, the Frenchman crashed into the guardrail at the notorious Casino corner, and the Australian retired due to a transmission failure. Reutemann also had the good fortune to avoid the spectacular initial pile-up that once again characterized the Monaco race, immediately eliminating four dangerous competitors like Daly, Jarier, Prost, and Giacomelli. This victory revitalizes the South American driver in the increasingly intense and complicated battle for the world championship, involving at least six drivers: from the new leader, Brazilian Nelson Piquet (who secured four valuable points with an excellent third place), to Arnoux, Jones, Pironi, Reutemann himself, and Laffite. The latter, by finishing in second place, regains ground in both the overall standings and his team, where he was threatened by Pironi's explosion. The melancholic gaucho, Carlos Reutemann, regains his smile by returning to the winner's podium. His wife Mimicha, back by his side, and his two daughters Marianna and Cora, aged six and ten, join in the celebration. It is the first time the two girls have witnessed their father's race, and he did not disappoint them.


"When I crossed the finish line, I thought of them. Who knows, maybe having them here brought me luck".


Was this a hard-fought victory?


"We all know the Monte Carlo circuit, so difficult for overtaking. Frankly, I wouldn't have had a chance to succeed if Alan Jones and then Pironi hadn't retired. When I saw the latter stopped at the Casino, I just focused on maintaining my lead, even though it became difficult to drive in the last laps due to a few raindrops that made the asphalt slippery in some places, while in other sections, it wasn't raining. Such inconsistent track conditions cause very dangerous grip problems".


What does this statement mean for Reutemann?


"It's an extremely important victory because it remains written in the history of the Monaco Grand Prix, perhaps the most prestigious race. A victory that, for my racing history, holds particular value. Moreover, this is the tenth Grand Prix that I win, and all in all, it's good to have reached a round number".


So, at the age of thirty-eight, one month, and four days, the old Reutemann adds another gem to his trophy collection, demonstrating that the Monte-Carlo circuit sometimes rewards the less young and impetuous drivers.


"I can say that today's day compensates for the missed race in 1978 when I had the pole position. The start, back then, wasn't the best due to excessive initial skidding, and Niki Lauda bumped into me at the first turn, deflating one of my tires. My race ended immediately at St. Devote, while the final result could have been positive, without compromising the entire championship as it happened".


Were there previous team orders?


"There is a pre-agreement where it is clear that if Williams is a contender for the world title, it would be Jones who should win it. However, I must emphasize that my car has always received excellent support, so I am satisfied with how things are going in the team. Today, Alan started well, better than me, and surely, if he hadn't had to retire, he would be in my place now. When he had to give up, I closed in on Pironi, I believe I even got within two seconds of him, and I was still gaining ground when the Frenchman spun and hit the guardrail. So, I can say that I was partly helped by luck, but also that I had an honest race, not too strategic in how I attacked Pironi when the time came".


Thus, Carlos Reutemann, Argentine, with distant Italian origins (his maternal grandfather was from Casti Mazzo Bormida), has inscribed his name in the history of the Monaco Grand Prix, one of the highest goals - in terms of renown, publicity, and prestige - that a Formula 1 driver can aspire to. It is not the first time that the Monaco circuit has become a trap at the start. Some may recall the first edition of the World Championship in 1950 when nine cars were eliminated in an accident at the first lap at the Tobacco corner. Subsequently, in 1962, there was another incredible collision, again at the St. Devote corner, involving five cars, three of which were out of the race. Finally, just two years ago, the same dangerously chicane was the scene of a collision between Lauda and Reutemann, the former with Brabham and the latter with Ferrari. On that occasion, the South American was forced to retire and practically lost the world title. Now, in front of many eyewitnesses, including almost all journalists, the scene has been repeated, sending shivers down the spine. While the very first ones passed safely, the central group got entangled in a series of collisions that had even dramatic moments. Derek Daly is blamed for the accident, and he honestly admits to misjudging the entry into the corner.


"I misjudged the braking and arrived too long. I could do nothing but collide with the one in front of me".


The unfortunate one was Bruno Giacomelli, who saw the Tyrrell of Daly literally fly over his head. The car soared at least three meters high, and in the descent, it was again lifted by the other oncoming cars. In the tangle, Prost and then Jarier, with the other Tyrrell, were involved. Jarier was even hit by Daly at the moment of the second landing. The semi-destroyed cars remained stranded across the track, making it very difficult for everyone to pass unscathed. Patrese tried to reverse, but Lammers, with the ATS, ended up on his left rear wheel. The Italian driver continued with his slightly damaged Arrows, while the young Dutchman had to stop at the pits to repair a suspension. FISA President Jean-Marie Balestre witnessed the incident and immediately lashed out at the drivers and Bernie Ecclestone.


"It's a miracle that there were no injuries or anything more serious. The drivers have shown irresponsibility because, once again, they started as if the entire race were decided in the first lap. And Ecclestone supports them, not even making them come to the meetings we hold to recommend, as much as possible, caution".


Even the great champion of the past, Juan Manuel Fangio, criticizes the drivers' actions.


"They have shown that they don't know how to use their heads. It's useless to try to change the starting regulations and increase safety systems if people behave like this".


Once again, the drivers are under fire for their recklessness. The Monaco Grand Prix was marked, apart from the start, by many other incidents. In the most serious one (in which the Monegasque organizers confirmed their readiness, clearing the track of the wreckage of four cars in three laps), the opinions and justifications of the protagonists are collected. Daly candidly admits to being responsible. Prost claims not to have noticed anything:


"Until, after a violent impact, I saw Daly's car pass over my helmet. It's incredible to make such a gross mistake".


For Jarier, the hit came from Giacomelli:


"His Alfa Romeo gave me a violent blow, probably pushed by Daly's car. Then Daly fell on me. There was nothing to do to get out of the way. It went well".


And finally, Giacomelli, who, after insulting Daly, declares with a certain wit:


"I could see all the details of the underside of the Tyrrell. It seemed like I was looking at one of those drawings that look like X-rays of cars. I'm sorry because I was convinced I could have a great race".


It was not just the initial incident that ignited tempers. Riccardo Patrese also receives a lot of criticism; he collided with Arnoux before the Mirabeau turn. The Italian driver had overtaken the Frenchman at St. Devote, then the Renault driver closed in. The two collided, and Arnoux, with three broken tires from hitting a wall, had to retire, while Patrese returned to the pit to replace the right rear tire. Arnoux expresses harsh words towards Riccardo:


"He is irresponsible, a madman who has no sense of measure. For a few laps, he slowed me down, then, when he widened in the descent of Mirabeau, I tried to pass him on the inside. He closed me off and hit me twice. It's useless to talk about safety when there are people like him. At the next drivers' commission meeting, I will criticize him severely".


Patrese replies equally harshly:


"It was an incident similar to that between Pironi and Lauda. I was in front, following my trajectory. The asphalt was wet, and I had to try to anticipate the curve by widening. Arnoux hit me from behind, and my broken rear tire speaks for itself. It is the clearest evidence of my innocence".


Despite the quick removal of the crashed cars, the organizers also receive criticism. Jacques Laffite protests. The Frenchman, although satisfied with the second place, would have wanted the race to be suspended five laps from the end because, with the rain starting to fall, the track had become dangerous. Laffite completed the last laps making gestures from the cockpit towards the race director.


"They could have been other accidents, and even in the one that eliminated four cars, it would have been better to restart, as someone could have punctured due to debris scattered on the road".


Regret, instead, from Didier Pironi.


"I had trouble with the gearbox from the beginning, and at one point, the third gear didn't engage. While approaching the Casino turn, I drove with one hand and held the gear lever with the other. Unfortunately, the car slipped, and I ended up against the guardrail, bending a suspension".


But the Monaco Grand Prix also recorded a major tire battle, won by Goodyear. Like in one of the electronic games played on TV, the new timing and data processing system developed by Longines and Olivetti displayed on the monitor the race's progress in numbers, with a crushing superiority of Ligier's Pironi and Laffite and Williams' Jones and Reutemann.


The truth is simple: Goodyear had decided to provide special tires to two teams to win the World Championship, and the chosen ones were the ones fighting for the top positions. The reason for choosing these two is clear: they had shown in previous races to be the lightest and fastest. As for lightness and speed, the Brabham is no joke either, but giving special tires to Ecclestone would have caused endless controversy, as it could have been said that he was favored as the FOCA's boss. Then, during the race, Jones broke the gearbox, and Pironi had an accident, but this doesn't change things because the two surviving cars were simply unbeatable for the rest of the competitors, who had their own problems. Ferrari's problem is to warm up the radial tires enough to achieve sufficient grip: and the situation, already difficult on dry ground, becomes really challenging when, as happened in the last laps here in Monte Carlo, a few raindrops fall, making adhesion extremely uncertain. That the battle was lost for Ferrari was evident at the time of Scheckter's second stop to change tires: after a brief consultation with the driver, engineer Forghieri decided to withdraw him because the car was not in a condition to finish the race if it had to stop every few laps for tires. Certainly, Scheckter had also touched a curb, but precisely because the road-holding conditions were precarious. What happened with the tires is soon said: after being beaten by Michelin last year, Goodyear embarked on an emergency program, concentrating all efforts in one direction and putting pressure on the technicians in Akron's laboratories. The result is a type of racing tire, i.e., long-lasting (so to speak: about two hours) with better performance than last year's tires. The problem also arose due to the side skirts and the aerodynamic loads they entail: but this was and is known to all technicians, as it is known that Michelin's radial tires are more difficult to set up than Goodyear's diagonal ply ones. Ferrari's balance in the sixth world race was quite negative, even though Villeneuve secured fifth place. The two drivers repeat, at the end of the race, that they practically couldn't race regularly due to the tires and the poor grip of their cars.


"After a few laps, I had to stop to change tires. But it was useless: after another ten laps, I was back to square one. I had to perform balancing miracles to make it to the end".


Jody Scheckter, dark-faced, almost doesn't utter a word, leaving the circuit even before the race ends. The talk at Ferrari is about tires, but many observers note that the South African also had problems with braking. In any case, tires are the topic of the day for the Maranello team. The sports director, Marco Piccinini, strongly attacks the new agreement between Goodyear and Michelin, according to which only two types of tires can be used in qualifying for each qualifying round.


"We have reached the point where on Saturday, we have to report before the tests which types of tires we intend to use. If then the track or weather conditions change, we are forced to always use the same tires. And this is a serious handicap for us as well as a very dangerous system for the drivers".


Ferrari also does not appreciate the accusations made on Saturday by Goodyear. According to the opinion of the technicians of the American company, Villeneuve would have used tires that were not regularly punched and checked.


"This accusation saddens us because it is completely unfounded. We didn't want to give weight to interested insinuations, but since the press and other teams have given credence to the rumors, we are forced to officially deny it. In 51 years of sporting activity, Ferrari has never given rise to suspicions of any kind. We reserve the right, together with Michelin, to reflect on the situation and possibly to initiate some initiative to change the current agreement, which does not seem valid to us".


To support their thesis, Piccinini shows an official document issued by the sports commissioners of Monte Carlo. From the report, it emerges that after hearing the president of the technical committee and obtaining information from the timing, nothing confirms the doubts expressed by Goodyear. Furthermore, no complaint (apart from an unofficial complaint from the American company) has been filed by any competitor on this matter.


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