In a somewhat special and space-themed atmosphere (on Tuesday, June 7, 1983, NASA's Enterprise shuttle flew low over the city on the back of the Jumbo jet that was transporting it back to Houston, while on Wednesday, June 8, 1983, pilots paraded through the city streets in open cars, welcomed joyfully like astronauts returning from a mission), the Canadian Grand Prix, the eighth race of the Formula 1 World Championship, kicks off on Friday at the Notre Dame Island circuit with the first qualifying session. The spectacle of the atmosphere lies in the fact that local fans continue to support the race in the name of their idol Gilles Villeneuve, to whom the track has been dedicated. Remembrances for the departed driver are almost everywhere, even on the finish line. The organizers, not wanting to miss out, sign a contract for another five years of Grand Prix races. Moreover, they have managed to enlist Jacques Villeneuve, the younger brother of the champion, who will compete with a March. A strange fate: the same car that was involved in the tragic incident in Zolder with Ferrari. However, Jacques Villeneuve, who won in Can-Am at Mosport, seems to possess enough composure not to be psychologically affected despite the negative experience with the Arrows two years ago. The small Canadian tested the car on the Mosport track with brilliant results, even though he was involved in an unusual incident. His car, launched at over 200 km/h, hit two groundhogs crossing the track. Villeneuve was skillful in not losing control of the car, which was slightly damaged. The Canadian also overcame a trap set by the March technicians, who had adjusted the suspensions unusually. Jacques, after just one lap, noticed it, returned to the pits, and requested a change in the setup. However, the presence of this driver is just a colorful note for a race that, at the top, could be already, if not decisive, at least very important for the World Championship standings.
It will undoubtedly be a closely contested race in which almost all teams will practice pit stops. The favorites are divided between Renault and Brabham, given the characteristics of the mixed-fast circuit. Last year, Piquet won for the first time with a BMW turbo engine. And Brabham has brought a modified car to Montreal with front suspension changes after tests at Silverstone that seem to have made it even more competitive. Both the Brazilian and Riccardo Patrese do not hide hopes of victory. In the role of outsiders is Ferrari. After demonstrating a clear superiority in Detroit, which resulted in a negative outcome due to issues with Tambay and Arnoux, the Scuderia is eager for a quick revenge. The two drivers have absorbed the psychological blow (Tambay went to relax in Newport on the east coast of the United States, where Azzurra is preparing for the first races of the American Cup) and are determined to at least secure some points. On Friday, June 10, 1983, Ferrari continues its attacks. In the first qualifying session of the Canadian Grand Prix, the Maranello team leaves rivals astonished: Arnoux sets the fastest time, followed by Tambay. The first of the pursuers, Prost with Renault, suffers a gap of almost a second, an eternity on a medium-fast circuit like this. Arnoux's time is 1'28"584, Tambay is very close, just 0.008s behind. The performances recorded by Ferrari are very close to what Didier Pironi needed last year to secure pole position (1'27"509) with a ground-effect and miniskirt-equipped car. This means that the technological gap is almost closed, and the measures taken to increase safety, in a sense, have proven ineffective. If the cars are slightly slower in corners, they certainly travel at higher speeds on the straight (about 210 km/h on this track, with half a kilometer of runway available). René Arnoux is obviously very satisfied and, with Olympic calmness, declares that he did not push to the maximum, perhaps while dining in front of the astonished Renault and Brabham drivers:
"We can do even better, but for now, we're satisfied. The car is perfect, and I like the circuit because it's a joy to drive".
Then, the Maranello team driver takes the opportunity to criticize Balestre, president of the FISA, arguing that the flat bottom has not solved the problem of decreasing lap speeds.
"At the end of the season, we will be strong, as we were in 1982".
With Arnoux, Tambay, Prost, Cheever, Piquet, and Patrese in order (two Ferraris, two Renaults, and two Brabhams, the favored teams in the title race), the dominance of turbo engines is confirmed in terms of qualification. In seventh place is Rosberg (Williams), the first driver with a naturally aspirated engine. And the Italians? Patrese has a big scare with a spin on the straight, which led him to crash at almost 200 km/h against a guardrail (crumbled front wing, left front suspension, and almost detached wheel). However, he precedes De Cesaris, who sets the ninth time with the Alfa Romeo, while Giacomelli (Tolman turbo) finally rises to acceptable levels (eleventh), ahead of his teammate Warwick. After De Angelis in fifteenth place (the Lotus-Renault continues to perform inconsistently), Albereto is in sixteenth place. The winner of Detroit is far behind, but he has a car, the Tyrrell, that doesn't give him the slightest chance to be competitive here. At the moment, Cecotto and Jacques Villeneuve are not qualified, while the two Osella cars of Ghinzani and Fabi are inside the grid. Alfa Romeo is facing several problems: Baldi's car has gearbox issues in the morning, De Cesaris breaks the engine, creating a smokescreen in the pit area. A broken engine also for Prost's Renault. The provisional classification of the tests still reproduces the duel between the three major teams in Formula 1. Some whisper that Ferrari has something new in the engine, but the teams are mainly preparing for future battles. While it is no longer certain that the Maranello team can present the new 126 C3 at Silverstone, due to issues related to the contractual dispute with metalworkers, Brabham is studying solutions to progress. It seems that technician Gordon Murray has surprises in store. He seems to have designed a mechanism similar to the fan that helped Lauda win in Sweden in 1978 (the car was disqualified), to achieve total ground effect again. But these are the events that will be talked about in a month. The reality today is that if the Canadian Grand Prix respects the timed battle on Saturday and the balance established among the top contenders, it will certainly be one of the most exciting and uncertain races of the season. Ferrari is still in pole position with René Arnoux, but Patrick Tambay slips to fourth place, overtaken at the last moment by Prost and Piquet.
Occupying the front row with two cars would perhaps have allowed the Maranello team to implement a team strategy, but with the refueling and tire changes, it will be better to attack without resorting to further complications. Arnoux manages to keep the best time by only 0.11s compared to Prost's Renault. The French driver of Ferrari, however, sets his performance with race tires, giving much confidence for the Grand Prix. The last qualifying session is a true duel, head-to-head, between the cars vying for the World Championship victory, with Prost, Piquet, and Tambay engaged in a frantic carousel. Unfortunately, Tambay was the one who suffered the most, defeated not only by his opponents but also by an issue in the engine of his car, just after the start of the trials. Perhaps a piston failure, perhaps a turbine failure, but Tambay is forced to abandon his car for the spare one and, with adjustments still to be made, uses up the set of tires he has without being able to improve the time he set on Friday. Prost and Piquet take advantage, unleashed; first the Brazilian and then the Frenchman place themselves behind Arnoux, relegating the other Ferrari driver to fourth place. Patrese and Cheever also come in, but both the Paduan and the Italian-American cannot go beyond the positions they had already set on Friday, only changing places between them. There are eight cars with turbo engines in the first four rows, then Rosberg, with the usual Williams, follows. This is the dominant theme of the eighth race of the World Championship, with several Italians in backup positions: from De Cesaris, who managed to improve with Alfa Romeo up to eighth place, to Giacomelli in tenth, up to De Angelis in eleventh. Alboreto, in difficulty with a Tyrrell that is navigating troubled waters, remains behind. Jacques Villeneuve, the younger brother of Gilles Villeneuve, is out of the starting grid by a few tenths, classified with the twenty-seventh time. Jacques Villeneuve had managed to improve in the morning during the free practice, and if he had the same time in the afternoon, he would have been able to participate in the race. Instead, he did not repeat and once again, Formula 1 proved to be a disappointment for him. Ghinzani with the Osella with an Alfa Romeo engine is also outside the lineup, while Cecotto manages to enter with a desperate attempt in the last minutes. Last time for Mauro Baldi, in trouble on a twisty track with his turbo. As for Ferrari, despite Tambay slipping back, there is some optimism:
"My racing car is worth more than the fourth time achieved in qualifying".
This statement is also a commitment. If he wants to aim for the world title, the French driver must not fail the goal and, above all, must stay ahead of his great rivals Prost and Piquet. On Sunday, June 12, 1983, the Canadian Grand Prix, which takes place in front of 54,000 spectators, starts thirty minutes late due to a power failure in the entire metropolitan area. Arnoux maintains the lead at the start, followed by Patrese, Prost, Piquet, and Tambay. Early in the race, Jarier, Surer, and De Angelis retire. Meanwhile, Piquet moves up to third place, and Rosberg, after overtaking Giacomelli, climbs to eighth place, engaging in a long duel with Andrea De Cesaris, much to the delight of the audience. Arnoux manages to gain about half a second per lap on his pursuers, setting a very high race pace. Around lap 10, Prost begins to experience a loss of engine power, allowing Tambay and Cheever to pass. Simultaneously, Rosberg almost stalls the engine, losing ten seconds to De Cesaris, but he recovers in a few laps, taking advantage of a power drop of 1000 RPM in the Roman driver's engine, and overtakes him on lap 16. Two laps later, Jacques Laffite also passes the Roman driver. Meanwhile, during lap 15, Piquet is forced to retire due to an ignition system problem. Around lap 20, Tambay begins to experience fuel supply issues, possibly due to a violent impact on a curb, and is overtaken by Cheever. However, the problem resolves itself a few laps later. Around lap 35, drivers start making pit stops, with Prost and De Cesaris being the first to refuel, followed by Arnoux, who relinquishes the lead to Patrese, who stops for a pit stop two laps later. After the stops, the Ferrari driver regains the lead, followed by the Brabham driver, in a duel with Cheever. Meanwhile, De Cesaris, Giacomelli, and Warwick retire from the race. Patrese, struggling with the gearbox, is overtaken by Tambay and Prost before being forced to retire on lap 56. Meanwhile, Rosberg manages to climb to fourth place, while the battle for the last available position unfolds between Watson and Boutsen, with the Belgian coming off worse, damaging his car.
The positions remain unchanged. After many disappointments, René Arnoux secures his first victory with Ferrari at the Canadian Grand Prix. The French driver dominated the race from start to finish with determination, reflecting the frustration of the previous week in Detroit, where he had to retire due to a simple ignition wire break while leading. The first place in Montreal brings Arnoux to fifth place in the World Championship with 17 points, giving him a chance in the title fight. Arnoux finishes ahead of Cheever, who also had a splendid race, and Tambay with the second Ferrari. It was a bit of a revenge for turbo engines, which had all surrendered to the Tyrrell of Alboreto in Detroit, a car not among the season's protagonists. Piquet, on the other hand, is a disappointed protagonist, stuck at lap 15 due to throttle failure while in third place. As for the Italian drivers, only Alboreto salvages an eighth-place finish, while Baldi brings the Alfa Romeo to eleventh place. For the Milanese team, it is a forgettable race. However, it is a dramatic ending for Giacomelli, who had to be taken to the emergency room due to an incident with Keke Rosberg. The Brescia driver had finished his race early due to an engine failure and was on the edge of the track, waiting to return to the pits. The World Champion stopped his Williams, after completing the race, and restarted with Giacomelli beside the cockpit. Rosberg accelerated violently, took the chicane too aggressively, and threw his passenger first onto the asphalt and then against the guardrail. The result of this absurd maneuver: a big scare for poor Bruno, a bruised hip, and scratches and bruises on a leg. It's clear that it wasn't intentional, but Rosberg should calm his temper, as a tragedy could have occurred. During the weight checks on the single-seaters, Danny Sullivan's Tyrrell is disqualified for being four kilograms under the regulation weight of 540 kilograms. On the other hand, Thierry Boutsen's Arrows is readmitted only after the rear wing is reassembled, damaged during a contact with Watson. Arnoux's statements after the Canadian Grand Prix are naturally brilliant. For the Frenchman, who worked as a mechanic for Conrero in preparing rally cars and lived in Turin for a couple of years, this triumph is not just a personal affirmation but also a real comeback:
"It was an easy and difficult race at the same time because I never had real problems except for controlling the tire situation, which was deteriorating. I saw dangerous blisters on the tires in the rearview mirrors, and that worried me a lot. I signaled to the pit that, upon returning for the quick refueling, I would like harder compounds. The operation went perfectly, and from that moment, there was really no problem. The car was perfect, the engine sang like a Stradivarius violin. If races were always like this, I would sign up immediately. I am very happy because for a while, I was under pressure, not because of what they told me at Ferrari, but because of public opinion. They thought I was a bluff, that my move to the Maranello team was a disappointment. Instead, I was able to show that when the car works well and everything goes perfectly, I can be a winner".
He was supposed to leave for Paris immediately. Still, he stayed to enjoy a day of glory, exhausted but happy. Interviews after the race, in French, English, and Italian until late afternoon. Then dinner, the party with Ferrari mechanics, participants and protagonists of this victory. Hugs with technicians Tornami and Carletti, the mobile face of a ferret, the piercing gaze, a bit ironic, René Arnoux lives the first success with the red car from Maranello, the fifth of his Formula 1 career.
"It was easy and terrible at the same time, easy because the car was perfect, superior to the others. Terrible because I feared that something would happen to me, that the curse that had plagued me since the beginning of the season would strike again, maybe at the last moment. The toughest moments? In the first part of the race, when I saw in the rearview mirrors that the rear tires were deteriorating, forming horrible blisters. I was afraid they would burst. Then the uncertainty of refueling, plans changed because Tambay was in trouble".
Arnoux recounts his entire life-from his birth in Pont Charra on July 4, 1948, to a working-class family, his diploma as a mechanic, work in a garage in Grenoble, youthful passion for engines, two years as an emigrant in Virgilio Cornerò's workshop in Turin to prepare rally cars, his first kart races in 1971, and then the climb: Formula Renault, disappointing Formula 5000 in England, Formula 2 in Tico Martini's team, debut in the Belgian Grand Prix in 1978 with the car of the French constructor. Finally, the brief experience with Surtees, four years at Renault, exciting but also tough and challenging. René Arnoux: there was already talk of disappointment—a car wrecker, a rebel, a driver who wears out tires too much, who almost always makes mistakes in starts.
"It's true, I was going through a difficult period. Not for me, because I had confidence. There was no pressure even from Ferrari; it was outside that people murmured, and I felt the tension. Before leaving for Detroit, in Maranello, I saw the engineer. He told me: be calm, you'll see that things will work out. In the United States, I understood that I could win, and I redeemed myself. A double satisfaction, finishing first at the circuit named after Giles Villeneuve".
What is in the future of the winner of the Canadian Grand Prix?
"I'm in the fight for the World Championship victory. Anything is possible. So far, we've had a competitive car on slow tracks, similar to Fiorano. Now I will train a lot for starts, which are not easy with the turbo. The new car should be excellent on fast tracks. I think I'll have a car that will allow me to climb further in the standings".
While Arnoux celebrates, Patrick Tambay, third in the race behind a reluctant Eddie Cheever, goes to bed early after dinner with the Azzurra crew. Has a new rivalry emerged between the two Ferrari drivers?
"No, I shook hands with René, hugged him, we doused each other with champagne: of course, I would have preferred to win. We race for that. But I can't cry over a third place. I don't have the right to demand special treatment just because I'm ahead in the World Championship standings. When the time comes, at the end of the season, if a favorable situation arises for us, we'll play for the title. Otherwise, a possible team game will come into play. We are professionals, and we know very well what our duty is to Ferrari".
After the Canadian Grand Prix, the Formula 1 World Championship will have over a month of hiatus. The first race is scheduled at Silverstone on Saturday, July 16. However, this does not mean that Formula 1 teams will go on vacation. The period of inactivity in racing coincides with a hectic preparation for the second half of the season, crucial in the title fight.
For this reason, almost all teams have scheduled a series of tests at the same Silverstone circuit next week, then at Hockenheim and Zeltweg. However, the major commitments will be in the workshops, where designers will fine-tune completely new cars or try to remedy current deficiencies with some modifications. The general focus is, of course, on Ferrari for the release of the new 126 C3, which was supposed to debut in May and is still in development due to unforeseen circumstances. Regarding this new Ferrari, no precise deadlines have been set by the Maranello team, but it is unlikely that the single-seater will be operational in England, although it is not new to certain surprises. Much has been said about this new Ferrari. Those who have seen it, at least in the initial construction phase, claim that it is a very interesting car with innovative solutions for both the chassis and aerodynamics. Even aesthetically, it should be very different from the current one. The goals of Ferrari with this model are weight reduction to reach the limit of 540 kilograms, even greater rigidity, and the exploitation of current flat bottom rules to achieve maximum downforce and better grip. If these issues are resolved, it should become the car to beat, given the already good potential of the 126 C2B. However, Ferrari will not be the only one preparing novelties. A move is expected from Brabham, which is studying an unprecedented system for ground effect and a brand-new Lotus prepared by the French technician Durcarouge to adapt the car to the Renault turbo engine. There is a possibility that McLaren will arrive with the Tag-Porsche turbo engine for Lauda and Watson, although it is said that the engine is still far from being reliable. In short, it will be a resumption of the championship with a fairly new face, waiting for an uncertain and exciting end to the season. The Honda could also enter the World Championship, but for now, only in a semi-official capacity.