It is not just the Saturday night fever of John Travolta’s followers that has exploded like an epidemic in North America. Now there is also the frenzy of Formula 1. After the great success of the Watkins Glen race that had never seen so many spectators and so much enthusiasm as this year, it is the Canadian metropolis to go crazy for the champions of the wheel. A weekend full of events is being prepared and the last race of the World Championship will be just the highlight of a series of events and parties that will involve practically the entire city. While the mayor Drapeau passes his troubles, convened in court before the Malouf commission (for an investigation on the delay of the works for the facilities of the Olympic Games of 1976 not yet finished). Several companies have jumped into Formula 1 with huge capital, believing that it will be the advertising vehicle of the future. The numerous radio and television stations are vying for the rights to broadcast the race and the exclusivity of the declarations of the champions with blows of thousands of dollars. The Labatt brewery has done even more: after having supported for a couple of seasons the Formula Atlantic championship has jumped into the Grand Prix with a frightening shock force. He spent about $2.000.000 to build the Island of Nótre-Dame circuit, the same one where the 1967 World’s Fair was held, and invested a total of about $6.000.000 in the promotion and the grant of the circuit for the next five years. This movement, of course, has also increased the interest of competing companies that prepare something similar in turn. In a very short time, about two years, since he started racing in a car, Giles Villeneuve has become the most famous Canadian sportsman, without having yet won a race. It is said that the Ferrari driver has already surpassed, in terms of popularity, Guy Lafleur, the best known ice hockey player, national sport. But the exact temperature of this Formula 1 fever can be best given by the World Champion Mario Andretti. The Italian-American, who does not lack the aptitudes to sell his image well, as a true professional, on this point it is very clear:
"The Formula 1 world title made me impressively. I can tell by the number of letters I receive, the requests for advertising more than tripled. Not three wins at Indianapolis had given me so much popularity in the United States and around the world. That’s why I signed a three-year contract with Chapman. From next season I will dedicate almost all my time to Formula 1 abandoning the classic American races. I am convinced that my countrymen from now on will come to see our races that are more interesting, more spectacular".
Mario Andretti is in the mood for confidence. He speaks at length while next to him is Dee Ann, the mother of his three children, Michael, Geoffrey and Barbra. She is a small, plump lady who bears no resemblance to the girls who usually accompany the pilots. But the union between Mario and Dee Ann is one that doesn’t fall apart because he is an admired champion, idolized, Mario Andretti, born poor and emigrated to find work, is now a billionaire, but he is also a smart man. Certainly richer than Niki Lauda, but he doesn’t travel by personal plane, or he moves by helicopter to make a few hundred meters. He’s president of a financial company that is listed on the stock exchange in New York (a company that - it is said - is among the most serious and prepared) and participates with his name in dozens of initiatives.
"I’m preparing a decent future for when I quit racing. This will happen when I don’t have any more fun, when driving a car will become just a struggle. For the moment I go on without problems. I feel young, able to stand in front of any opponent. Of course, to do this you have to have a competitive car like a Lotus or a Ferrari. And I have it and I feel safe".
The speech moves to the World Championship, the joy of winning the title, the pain of Peterson’s death. Andretti makes a serene analysis of the events of the season:
"I think I deserved success because I worked very hard. I’m sorry that some American journalists wrote that I won because Ronnie left me the open road, without a fight. That is absolutely not true. I earned the right to aim for the title in the first races of the season, when I accumulated many points and Peterson remained behind. I must also point out that in the races where he gave the impression of being able to overcome me if he wanted, it was only because I didn’t pull so as not to take unnecessary risks. That said I want to remember my partner as a man, as a kind boy, as a true friend and great driver. Without him Formula 1 will have something less, an irreplaceable protagonist".
Andretti is equally precise about the future.
"Colin Chapman is preparing a new car. I am sure it will be very valuable but it is always an unknown. We will also see what others will do. The only sure thing is that I would like to repeat this year’s feat and fight with all my strength to reconfirm the world title".
Friday, October 6, 1978, finally, with the performance of the first official tests, the circuit of the island of Notre-Dame, theater Sunday, October 8, 1978 of the Canadian Grand Prix, the last round of the World Drivers' Championship, will reveal its secrets. Thursday, October 5, 1978, on the eve of the race weekend, there are discussions about this new track. Many drivers would like to try the track to gain time and fine-tune the cars for today’s workouts. But Bernie Ecclestone, in agreement with the organizers, forbids testing with single-seaters. All drivers are forced to settle for traveling on the track with touring cars, like Carlos Reutemann who drives for over an hour a Fiat 131 trying to study the best trajectory. When the drivers stop, the judgments are mixed. Gilles Villeneuve (to whom someone even wanted to dedicate the circuit giving him the name of the young Canadian, but he wisely refused the offer) obviously says that he likes the route very much. But many drivers are more critical. Regazzoni shoot to zero, saying:
"This is not a track for Formula 1 but a big track for go-karts. But, meanwhile, it is useless to protest, they make us run where there is interest and we always agree. The entrance and exit from the pits are very dangerous".
In fact, the track created on the island of Notre-Dame, although with great means and impeccably in terms of organization, is a kind of asphalt circuit with a minimum width of ten meters and a length of 4.5 kilometers. The choice of this location, an island in the middle of the San Lorenzo River, in the heart of the city, took place for several reasons, after considering eight areas, including Mont Royal, the residential hill of Montreal and the grounds of the Olympic complex. The latter project planned to pass the cars in the middle of the stadium, but it was discarded because it should have opened an exit in the huge concrete basin with huge costs. The island of Notre-Dame, which is connected to the mainland by three bridges and the subway, has been chosen for prestige reasons. The track originally had to be a kind of oval, but that would have created serious problems for high speed, and so were drawn seven variants that are basically chicanes. The total curves are 18 and the longest straight (which is actually a very fast bend) is about 700 meters. All the track is surrounded by guardrails and in the most dangerous points have been put some restraint nets. The public (over 100.000 people are expected on Sunday) will be able to stop in different areas and in many artificial stands. Different types of rescue have been organized also by helicopters and practiced different ways of escape, but the pilots believe that they are not enough. According to the majority of experts, because cars are forced to continuous braking and accelerations, Ferrari and Renault, with Michelin radial tyres, will be favored. Riccardo Patrese will also be on track after the disqualification day inflicted by the drivers' safety committee. The Padua driver doesn’t appear particularly excited.
"Nothing has changed, I am always the same. I must admit that the lesson served me. I realized they were right to accuse me of some wrongdoing. After my exclusion from Watkins Glen we still got together and explained better. I accepted the accusations regarding my dangerous driving. I admitted that in Sweden I had obstructed Peterson in every way. It was a custom of Formula 2 and I was convinced that I could adopt the same tactic in Grand Prix. They told me not to do that, and I said I’d accept the rules. The only one with whom. The only one with whom I still had something to say was Hunt, he insists on blaming me for the Monza accident. But, in front of the photographs that I brought, the others said that there is no sure evidence to bear precise faults, I am always convinced that I didn’t cause the serious accident. We left on good terms and the drivers committee congratulated me for my skill and wishes for the future. One thing is certain: if I had been in a great team, Brabham or Ferrari, no one would have dreamed of disqualifying me".
There are one or two others to demonstrate commendable form in the wet, notably Rosberg in his ATS D1, the Finn managing a 2'02"014, while Surtees drivers Gabbiani and Arnoux are well in the swim of things in the middle of the practice lists. It is all good, spray-raising fun although a little irrelevant to the serious business of the weekend, and the whole episode is proving highly frustrating to the Renault organisation with Jabouille struggling away at the back, apparently with little chance. After the team’s fourth place finish at Watkins Glen, Montreal provide a big let-down because the tight, twisting circuit in the pouring rain pose just about the most singularly unsuitable conditions for the 1.5-litre V6 turbocharged engine to operate in. Even when the circuit dry out on Saturday, Jabouille is destined to be the last qualifier on the grid. Of course, in such dismal conditions, there is a surplus of off-course casualties as everybody splash about in the spray, trying to avoid each other as well as keeping off the high kerbs and muddy run-off areas. Those who fall foul of the diabolical conditions including Piquet who run BT46/5 gently off the road on Friday afternoon, bending the right front corner as a result, plus Bleekemolen’s ATS (which bends the front of its monocoque) and Laffite in the Ligier. The French driver’s excursion is a little more complicate and result in the session briefly coming to a halt. The Ligier driver spins JS9/02 into the guard-rail and then attempt to drive back to the pits, not knowing that the impact have dislodged a gearbox oil plug. Within a few hundred yards the gearbox stops and the blue car stops in the middle of the track. Regazzoni crash his Shadow DN9 which is particularly frustrating as the mechanics have rebuilt his machine round the monocoque of DN9/4A-4 since Watkins Glen, his previous machine having kink its monocoque over a kerb at the American track. So now the team have two bent monocoques out of which to reassemble a car for the Swiss and close examination confirm that it would be easiest to reassemble the DN9 with its Montreal damaged tub. That’s what they do, but Regazzoni couldn’t qualify the machine. Tambay found himself climbing back into the unloved M26/7 after an oil line fracture on M26/3, Rosberg has gearbox problems on the ATS and Rahal crash his Wolf WR5 too badly to repair for Saturday.
As a result, the Wolf team have to reclaim the original WR1 chassis, which is on display in the foyer of a Montreal hotel, and work through the night preparing the car for Rahal to practice on Saturday. Award for the most unfortunate spinner go to Lotus privateer Rebaque who rotates on his own and once with some assistance from Daly. The confirmation of Ferrari and the exclusion (for now) of Niki Lauda are the result of the first day of practice of the Canadian Grand Prix, held on a day averted by rain on the new circuit of the island of Notre Dame in Montreal. While Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve had absolutely no problems and got the best times in both training sessions, the debut on the Canadian track was disastrous for the Brabham-Alpha that, apart the poor estate of road due to problems of rubbers, seem to have had troubles also with the relationships to the change. Very good performances by Riccardo Patrese and the young Beppe Gabbiani, the 21-year-old from Piacenza who practically replaced Brambilla at the helm of Surtees for the last two races of the season. Both in the morning and early afternoon, when the Formula 1 cars took to the track for qualifying, the track looked almost flooded. In the initial 90 minutes Carlos Reutemann, in great shape, and Gilles Villeneuve immediately made it clear they had no rivals. Michelin’s radial rain tyres and perfect T3 setup put the two Ferrari drivers in the best conditions. Lauda and the French Depailler and Laffite appeared in difficulty. While Patrese, evidently for the psychological backlash of the disqualification of Watkins Glen, has struggled to find the right driving measure. At the end of the first tests Reutemann recorded the time of 2'02"578 in his fastest lap, ahead of about a second and a half Villeneuve and then all the rain specialists, from Stuck to Pironi, from Rosberg to Stommelen. Andretti and Scheckter were more detached, but still among the first, while the young Gabbiani was very fast (despite an exit), the Brazilian Piquet in the first race with Brabham, and also Merzario, classified in P15. Lauda only got the P24. The decisive results were however achieved in the second round of tests, when the track conditions improved slightly for a clear. Reutemann’s time dropped to 1'57"940, always followed as a shadow by Villeneuve, second with a time of 1'58"605.
Andretti was able to recover the third place with a time of 1'59"071, while in fourth place the surprising Stuck remained. Patrese, previously rather awkward enough to score only the penultimate time, taken by the fear of having even the smallest accident, then acquired confidence and got back to an excellent tenth place, clearly surpassing teammate Stommelen. Nothing for the Brabham-Alphas. Lauda was slightly faster (from 2'12"574 to 2'09"325), but stayed with the penultimate time, only ahead of the Dutch Bleeckemolen. The team-mates of the Austrian, Piquet and Watson, who had been saved in the morning, were sucked into the queue, so much so that at the moment, before the tests scheduled for Saturday, October 7, 1978, they would not be among the qualifiers. If the weather situation does not improve (but the forecasts are optimistic), and if the technicians of Brabham will not find solutions to the problems of their machines, for the first time in his career the former World Champion would risk exclusion from a Formula 1 race. It is easy to predict, however, that at the end of the second test session the situation will change. Andretti, in the dry, will try to attack the Ferrari. Even for Regazzoni the tests were unlucky. The Swiss, just in the last laps, went off the track with his Shadow, ending up against a guardrail. Car demolished, Clay unharmed. A journalist asks Niki Lauda: How is the track, Niki?
Lauda smiles smugly at the joke. Then he realizes that he has gone a little too far and resumes:
"I cannot judge, because we did not run in normal conditions. Only on Saturday if it does not rain, I can answer".
On the second day of practice the Austrian will try to qualify for the Canadian Grand Prix. It is the first time, since racing in Formula 1, that the Austrian driver finds himself in the last round of official practice with the challenging task of entering the top twenty-two. If he does not succeed, he will be excluded from the race. But the fault is certainly not his. As said, neither the former World Champion, nor his teammates Watson and Piquet managed to bring the Brabham-Alfa to acceptable levels. Out of 28 competitors, the Irishman took P23, the young Brazilian P26 and Lauda P27, the penultimate position. A disgrace that Niki had never done and that only remembers the episode of two years ago when in Japan he refused to run in the pouring rain and with this gesture lost the chance to win the world title then won by Hunt. Since then many things have changed. Probably the memory of the Nurburgring incident is a distant shadow. But Lauda doesn’t want to run in the rain, he has a hard time being on the track. This year in Zeltweg, Austria, in his house, he went off the road on wet asphalt. Now he can’t even qualify. What happens to him? Probably nothing. His mentality refuses to respond to the needs of the moment, to drive as if nothing were in a situation other than normal. Beppe Gabbiani, the debutant from Piacenza who got an excellent thirteenth time, says:
"I found Lauda in front of me two or three times during rehearsal. It seemed like he was pulling hard, but then, off, he stepped aside to let me through. I can’t tell if he was afraid. Of course his behavior was very strange".
For the Austrian, therefore, Saturday is a very important day. If it rains again in the last 60 minutes of qualifying, Niki will risk not qualifying. The weather forecast is optimistic, it is thought that the sun will return and with the heat even the dry track. However, the question remains of Friday, when the Brabham driver recorded one of the most disappointing results of his career. Quite the opposite of what the Ferraris of Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve did, dominating the tests with highly competitive cars. The Michelin rain tyres, the T3 perfectly in place, the Argentine and the Canadian have taken giant steps on the new circuit. Suffice it to say that Andretti is detached by more than a second and that, from the sixth, Jarier, the detachments are truly incredible. Also good test of Patrese and - as said - Gulls, which preceded an honest Merzario. Now, with the dispute of the last timed training, we will know if this line-up with the two Ferraris in the lead, will be the valid one. One thing is certain: on Sunday the Italian cars will be in the role of favorites on a very edgy track, suitable for radial tires, and cars that make a lot in acceleration and road holding. Even for the best Andretti and the best Lotus the task will be extremely difficult.
Although the track dry out for the final hour of practice on Saturday afternoon, there is a biting cold wind and the threat of snow from the north. Villeneuve sets the pace in that final hour, recording 1'38"230 in his Ferrari and it look for a long time as think it would be quick enough to take pole position. But Jody Scheckter get himself well wound up in his Wolf to record 1'38"026 and then Jarier eclipse both of them with a stupendous 1'38"015 which leaves people wondering just what sort of magic machine Chapman have evolved in the Lotus 79. Villeneuve retain third place on the grid, feeling that he lost out slightly because his Ferrari is fitted with softer brake pads for the rain, but he still qualified for the second row just in front of Watson, the fastest of the Brabham-Alfa Romeo runners who record 1'38"417. Alan Jones ran out of fuel near the end of the session, making him very annoyed, and he did a 1'38"861. Then come several people with minor niggles, notably Fittipaldi on 1'38"930, frustrated with a water leak, and Lauda on 1'39"020, complaining that his Brabham wouldn’t turn into slow corners as he would like. Completing the fourth row is a very happy Hans Stuck but Andretti is back on the fifth row on 1'39"236, the World Champion’s two days of practice frustrated by a minor balance problem in 79/4 (to which he’d switched on Saturday), the difficulty subsequently trace to incorrect camber adjustments although practice is over before this is found out. Then come Laffite and a deflate Reutemann, unable to understand why his Ferrari feel so abominable. Patrese is another to ran out of petrol, but he still manage to beat Depailler and the cautious Piquet who is playing himself in with caution and commendable respect. Daly qualified ahead of Arnoux and both McLaren drivers are in trouble. Hunt have to take the spare M26/7 after M26/5 stops out on the circuit with throttle control disorders and Tambay runs over the back of Rebaque in one of the hairpins, bending a front rocker arm on his M26/3. Rahal qualified the old Wolf while Rosberg and Jabouille share the back row of the grid, both disappointed. Non-qualifiers include Regazzoni, Gabbiani, Stommelen, Rebaque, Merzario and Bleekmolen, an interesting mixture.
Everything was decided in the last minutes of rehearsals. And on the track dried by the cold wind that came from the North with some rays of sunshine, Lotus proved once again not to fear comparisons, even if the margins of detachment on a circuit like that of the Île of Notre-Dame have thinned. It was Jean Pierre Jarier who got the best time, and on Sunday the Frenchman, fished out by Colin Chapman for the last two championship races, thanks to the experience he could boast, replacing poor Peterson, will start on pole position in the Canadian Grand Prix, with good chances of victory because on this circuit overtakings are difficult. Jarier’s job won’t be easy anyway. Beyond any mechanical surprises, the 32-year-old Parisian, who has 67 Grands Prix to his name and no victory (his best finish was a third place in Monte-Carlo in 1974, with Shadow), will have to face dangerous opponents. At his side will have Jody Scheckter, behind Villeneuve and Watson, all drivers who have to prove something ahead of next season. The South African because he will be at Ferrari, the Irish for his transition to McLaren, the Canadian, of course, because he runs at home and is under the crosshairs of his fans who are many but very demanding. The starting grid took shape after it had rained again in the morning and the wet track had given problems to the Brabham men, who were beginning to be worried about qualifying. Then, however, came the wind and the asphalt immediately dried, forcing the mechanics to make a tour de force to change gears, trim and various calibrations. All three Brabham-Alfa cars were among the first twenty-two times, excluding Regazzoni, Gabbiani and Merzario, who had qualified with some ease on Friday. Of the best drivers, Andretti (P9), also preceded by Jones, Fittipaldi and Lauda (who restored the balance of values with his seventh position) and Reutemann, in P11. The Italian-American driver could not put his Lotus in place as he had almost always done during the championship. But maybe Mario missed them, because the World Championship has already won, motivation and conviction, confirming also a certain dislike for the track:
"The more I see it, the less I like it".
Reutemann, however, after the good performance of the previous day, had technical problems.
"The car was not as good as I would have liked, and I couldn’t find the right combination, the balance between the aerodynamic set-ups and the tyres. We hope this morning in free practice to be able to fix it better to make a good race".
Without any trouble Gilles Villeneuve, who for almost half an hour kept everyone in check, being overtaken only by Jarier and Scheckter in the last laps. The gaps, however, are small. In the Maranello team, to tell the truth, there were fears of worse, starting with both cars behind in the grid. The impossibility of having real tyres for a long time on dry asphalt predicted a disconcerting result after dominating in the rain. Instead Villeneuve has worked hard, proving to be able on the winding circuit and will be in good position to eventually place the surprise paw. For the rest there is to consider the confirmation of Stuck, who went really strong even on the perfectly dry track with a Shadow that seems to be finally competitive (the identical car of Regazzoni who did not qualify had been badly damaged on Friday and suffered from hasty preparation), and the good performance of Riccardo Patrese, who finished in the sixth row alongside Reutemann, ahead of Depailler and Piquet. Merzario and Beppe Gabbiani were eliminated. The car of the driver of Como, in normal conditions, is not up to the situation, while the young driver of Piacenza, who had had the opportunity to stand out with a certain recklessness in the wet, He still had to pay for inexperience driving a car that was not among the best. Overall, however, a good race should come out, especially because there are many drivers who want to take the last chance for a victory. Thankfully, race morning dawned dry and blustery which is a good omen for the thousands of French-Canadian enthusiasts who poured into the circuit to cheer their hero Villeneuve. A welcome cache of respectability is bestowed on the event by the presence of Canada’s progressive and popular Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, and it is the nation’s Premier who wave the 22 cars away on their parade lap before the official starting signal is given. Jarier make the best start, leading Scheckter into the fast right-hander beyond the pits with Jones and Villeneuve side-by-side in their wake. As they brake for the left-hander into the first chicane, Stuck come barging through, spins his Shadow in the middle of the pack and forcing Fittipaldi off the circuit and into the catchfencing. Laffite also get involved but quickly resume the chase, leaving Stuck to trail dejectedly back to the pits where he retires with damage suspension and steering. Fittipaldi, absolutely furious with the German driver’s behaviour, end his race there and then amidst the catch-fencing. At the end of the first lap the order is Jarier, Jones, Scheckter, Villeneuve, Watson, Andretti, Depailler, Lauda, Reutemann and the rest.
There is no catching Jarier for the Frenchman have opened a two second gap over Jones by the end of lap one, rushes away into the distance in brilliantly smooth and controlled style. With three laps completed he has almost seven seconds over the Williams driver and he progressively open out his advantage until he is 13 seconds in front after as many laps. Jones initially hold a strong second place, the strong Australian driver feeling well able to cope with both Scheckter and Villeneuve who are close behind. Unfortunately he realises that a rear tyre is losing pressure after only five laps and, after an increasingly difficult battle, he is forced to give best to both Wolf and Ferrari. By lap 19 he is fade to fourth place. Meanwhile, further down the field there is trouble with Andretti attempting to slip up the inside of Watson at the hairpin as the field complete lap five. There isn’t sufficient room for an audacious manoeuvre of that nature and the Lotus make firm contact with the Brabham, both cars spins to a halt facing each other on opposite sides of the circuit. Despite trying to dissuade the marshals, both cars are push-started to get them out of their predicament (they don’t want to fire up on their starters, anyway). Watson come straight into the pits, resume the race and retire three laps later with damage rear suspension, while Andretti continues almost a lap down on the leader. On lap ten Rahal makes the first of three pit stops to investigate intermittent misfiring on his Wolf WR1, a problem that eventually led to his retirement after 16 laps. It seems likely that one of the flap valves in the fuel system is somehow sticking, possibly the legacy of WR1’s long layoff from active service. A lap later Laffite come in to change both rear wheels, suspecting one of them to have worked loose in the first-lap incident. A lap later Depailler come past the pits pointing at his front tyres, indicating to his mechanics that the softer compound Goodyears chosen to run are not lasting up to the pressure of the race. On lap 17 the blue Tyrrell come rolling into the pit lane, both front wheels are changed, and the Monaco winner is back in the fray down in 13th position, set for a fine climb back through the field. Lauda goes from the lap charts shortly after team-mate Watson, his Brabham out of brakes, so the sense of disappointment in Ecclestone’s camp is magnified when Piquet suddenly drops back from seventh to 11th as he begin to experience difficulty in selecting gears. He keep going as well as he could, watching his mirrors to make sure he don’t badly baulk faster cars, something he generally manage to avoid doing although he do chop off Scheckter quite badly on one occasion.
With 20 laps of the race completed Jarier is holding sway at the head of the field, not looking in the least flustered as he steers his Lotus between the chicane kerbs with considerable precision, Scheckter is second, then Villeneuve, Jones, Reutemann, Daly, Patrese, Rosberg, Pironi and Tambay. On lap 27 Reutemann take fourth place from the still-slowing Jones while Rosberg bring the ATS into the pits with a bad misfire that take three pit stops to cure, eventually being trace to a problem with the fuel metering unit which have to be changed. Jones could stay out with that deflating tyre no longer than 33 laps, so then he came in for fresh rubber all round. Thus equipped, Jones returns to the race to establish the first official F1 record for the Ile Notre-Dame circuit, lapping in 1'39"072 despite the fact that he have to hold the car in third gear and haven’t got an operational fifth gear at all. As he remarked afterwards, that is a reflection of just how well the Williams is handling on the Montreal track. Scheckter is chasing as hard as he could in second place, but he isn’t making any impression on Jarier’s advantage and it seems as though Colin Chapman’s stand in is on the way to scoring the team’s ninth victory of the season out of 16 races. But, sadly for the Frenchman, things are not going to work out like that. Half-way round lap 46 Jarier feel his car sliding about a bit more than usual and when he presse the brake pedal he realise that they are not as effective as they have been. There is an oil leak onto the rear brakes and, two laps later, the loss of lubricant begin to show up on the oil-pressure gauge. Then, at the end of lap 49, it is all over and Jarier quietly bring his Lotus into the pits to save blowing its engine apart, stepping out of the cockpit to be consoled by Colin Chapman after a very worthy effort indeed. Thus, with 21 laps to go, Gilles Villeneuve is leading his home Grand Prix and the crowds goes wild with excitement and delight. It would have been so easy for the young French-Canadian driver to get over-excited in such a situation and perhaps threw the whole thing away by clipping a wheel against one of the many guard-rails that line the circuit. But, as he proved at Long Beach and Monza, Villeneuve is a very cool customer indeed and doesn’t easily become flustered. He keeps himself carefully in check for the remainder of the race and come home to take the chequered flag, a delighted and satisfied winner of his home Grand Prix.
Reutemann is catching Scheckter towards the finish, but the Wolf driver hungs on to finish a strong second while Patrese who takes every step to keep out of trouble, boost his rather shaken confidence by coming home fourth in his Arrows A1. Depailler is really wound up after his pit stop for tyres and came rocketing back to fifth, just in front of Derek Daly’s Ensign, the Irish driver driving well just as he has done at Watkins Glen. Eighth is Tambay, nursing fading brakes, in front of Jones and Andretti, while Piquet and Jabouille are running along with Rosberg, although the quick ATS driver is too far back to be classified. James Hunt spin off with under 20 laps to go while the impressive Arnoux stop with engine failure after an early pit visit to change a bent steering arm. A real triumph for Ferrari: Gilles Villeneuve won the Canadian Grand Prix, Jody Scheckter, the driver who will race with the Maranello team next year, finished second, while Carlos Reutemann finished the race in third place. And for the Italian colors a lot of satisfaction from Riccardo Patrese, fourth, great. More could not be asked at the last race of the Formula 1 World Championship. For Villeneuve, at his first race in a Grand Prix, the triumph was exceptional. Crowd in delirium, fans who wanted to hoist him on their shoulders and make him go around the Montreal circuit. A deserved victory for the young Canadian, who led a wise race, for the first time also prudent, with a tactic that proved to be better in the end than those adopted by the other drivers. The circuit was completely invaded by the crazy public and Villeneuve had to escape to avoid being overwhelmed by the crowd. For Scheckter came the confirmation of his skills on the winding tracks, where you have to engage to the maximum in driving, and for Reutemann the victory in the personal duel with Lauda: with the points won in this last race, the Argentine bypasses Lauda in the standings, and he stands behind Andretti and poor Peterson. More than positive, after the disqualification of Watkins Glen, the test of Patrese, author of a prudent and determined race. Their overtakings were perfect: the Italian proved to have overcome the psychological problems that the disqualification imposed by the security committee could have created. For Ferrari, finally, another victory in this final of the season, after the good performances of the previous races and the success in the United States.
A demonstration of temperament, by the Maranello team, and the continuous progress of the car. Saturday 30 September 1978 Jacques Villeneuve (the younger brother of Gilles) won the most important race of his career. On the Notre-Dame Island circuit he won the Ford formula race, ahead of the compatriot Vern Muzzin by about ten seconds and, with considerable gaps, all the other forty drivers who had taken the start. Now, however, Gilles Villeneuve has won the Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix. Sport seems to be in the blood of these guys, a family tradition. Dad, who owns a garage in Berthier, a small agricultural town about 70 kilometres from Montreal, was a good tennis player. Now follows, with his wife, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, the activity of the children. It’s strange to say, but from all the Villeneuves you never hear a word of fear, as if running in a car was no more dangerous than taking a walk. They just watch their drivers with pride, admiration and come to see the races as if it were a movie. Johanna Villeneuve, Gilles' wife, is quite calm in the pits, never shows any signs of apprehension, even when they tell her that her husband has gone off the track.
"It’s normal, you don’t have to live in terror. Ours is a job like any other, we are ordinary people. If you were to think about death, accidents, family when you’re in the car, it would be better not to even start, I love speed, I like to drive, I feel the urge of struggle. To be a good driver you need to be a bit 'bad, hard, but it is important to be correct, I consider my fellow Formula 1 honest guys. The best are the most experienced, like Lauda, who in rehearsals make their rounds and put aside to let you pass if they see that you go faster. In the race it’s something else, but it’s understandable. Young people like me are inclined to overdo things, to try to stand out at all costs. But there is no malice in their behavior, only the desire to arrive".
"Actually now I realize that I have arrived in the world of Grand Prix without having a precise idea of what I would have found. I made many mistakes, I paid for the imperfect knowledge of people, of machines. But if I want to make an initial assessment, I must say that I am satisfied with myself. Without presumption, I realize that I am really competitive, at the level of the best drivers. I think that next year I can have a great season, different from the one that ended and that was an apprenticeship".
You think you’re gonna have a problem living with Jody Scheckter?
"Someone wrote that South African was my idol before I started running. Not true, my favorite driver, the one I admired most, following the races on television, was Ronnie Peterson. I don’t want to argue that I don’t like Jody. He wants to win races and possibly even the world title. It’s my same goal. We’ll try not to get in each other’s way. I think we’ll be helped a lot by Ferrari".
What do you expect from your team?
"Meanwhile, I hope the 312 T4 is better than the T3. In the sense that I hope the new machine will solve the problems we had in 1978 with the present one. In other words, that it better suits Michelin tyres and overcomes those driving drawbacks, that sensibility of direction, that we have recorded this year. Maranello technicians will try to achieve these results. As for Ferrari, as a team - I don’t want to flatter, because it’s not in my character - I’m always convinced that it’s the best team in Formula 1. I was told that there were problems of understanding, tension, pressure, I didn’t have to face these difficulties. I have only seen people who work seriously, with a great organization and with a great desire to win. And I am happy to be with them also in the next year".
The little aviator this time landed well. Gilles Villeneuve took to the home track with a resounding victory, which repays him a whole season full of bad luck and dissatisfaction. The Ferrari driver won a race that, frankly, despite all the good will, should not have been his. If Jarier had not gone too far in pushing the accelerator of his Lotus, the first place most likely Gilles’s Ferrari would never have reached it. But the transalpine, betrayed perhaps by the heat, the emotion of being in the lead, has not been able to spare the car. The same cannot be said for Villeneuve who for the first time in his short career (he made his debut just a year ago at the same Canadian Grand Prix in Mosport) managed wisely his forces and those of Ferrari. When he was in the lead, starting from lap 49, the Canadian did not force, accepting the suggestions that were reported by the pits.
"I immediately realized that I had the victory at hand. The car was fine, I didn’t have big problems with tyres but I heard some suspicious noise. That’s why I didn’t take any more risks and Scheckter was able to reduce the gap. I was still in a position to answer if the South African tried to reach me".
When little Gilles got on the podium and watered everyone, not with the usual bottle of champagne but with a huge Magnum of beer, the spectators cheered for almost a quarter of an hour, as could happen to a theatrical premiere, almost as if they wanted to ask for an encore of victory. The signs of an enthusiastic typhus as naive had already occurred during the race. Gilles had started in fourth position: every advance was greeted by a roar, so much so that it seemed to be in a football stadium at the time of the goal. Jarier’s retirement, on lap 49, caused a real frenzy, with Quebec flags in the wind and people shouting their happiness. Not even the stewards of the way withstood the joy and embraced each other, forgetting their duty. And this was but the beginning. Now Villeneuve, certainly the most popular character in the Canadian world, will have to undergo endless celebrations. It seems that in a few days he will be given the keys of the city of Montreal as an honorary citizen. Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who had given the symbolic starting signal of the race, has words of praise for Gilles.
"I was under a lot of pressure the whole race, but our champion had a great car, a Ferrari, and he proved to be a great driver. It could not have been better".
The greatest Canadian ice hockey player of the moment, a true sports idol, Guy Lafleur, who, like everyone else, followed the race, says:
"I was going to sell my old Ferrari to get another car. But now I can not, it is too beautiful, it is the car for which Villeneuve runs".
An incredible enthusiasm, therefore, for a victory that was really great. The little Gilles led the race as a mature driver, drawing on the experience gained in previous Grands Prix he had taken part in and during which everything had already happened to him. However, it is necessary to clarify some facts that, in the direct reporting phase, without the possibility of control, could not be clarified well. Villeneuve slowed down in the last laps giving the impression of being in trouble because of either the brakes or the worn tires. The pilot clarifies the fact:
"I owe the victory to the car. It was perfect in every way and I never had any problems. In the end I slowed down a lot because I didn’t want to risk it. I must also admit that if Jarier had not retired, I would never have been able to reach him. His Lotus was going faster".
And here’s the thing. In fact, the French driver in the first half of the race had gained about half a second per lap, until he gained a maximum advantage of over 30 seconds. This is a sign that Lotus still has something more than the other cars, even on the slower circuits. The mechanical failures are part of the racing game, but if instead of the wild Jarier there was Andretti, more mature and calm, what would have happened? Anyway, now the 25-year-old Canadian hero is getting ready for a big celebration. The city of Montreal, as mentioned, has literally gone crazy for him. At the end of the race, the police had to do all they could to prevent Gilles from being attacked by some overzealous fan. Then Villeneuve had to submit for hours to the interviews of local radio and television. This is the first price he had to pay for this victory. Villeneuve immediately after the end of the race But Gilles was extremely happy:
"It was the best day of my life, I would be willing to start all over again".
The same satisfaction, even if a little more veiled, could be noticed in Scheckter, quite happy with the second place (the South African when he found himself Villeneuve behind did not make a fuss and let him pass with great courtesy) and in Carlos Reutemann. Very happy also Riccardo Patrese, fourth, after a not too brilliant start that had put him in fourteenth position. The Italian made a chase and succeeded very well by making some manual overtakings. For him this was the best response to the pilots of the safety committee who had sentenced him to the disqualification of Watkins Glen. Where are his accusers? Lauda went off the track on lap six, ruining a suspension of his Brabham, due to a brake failure. Andretti finished tenth after an anonymous race, almost in last place, for an accident with Watson who had been eliminated on lap 6 due to a suspension break. Hunt was always in the back, overtaken by the young, left with nine laps to go. Only Fittipaldi remained. But the Brazilian had no chance to perform on the Notre-Dame circuit. Hit by Stuck, Emerson didn’t even make half a lap of the track. His brother Wilson who was watching the race on television, when he saw the accident he whitened his face. Fortunately, however, Fittipaldi only got off with the breakup of the car and a great anger for not being able to participate in the race. Patrese, therefore, had a double satisfaction: to get to the fourth place, close to the first, and to see only Scheckter among his accusers ahead of him on the finish line. It seems absurd but Jean Pierre Jarier, who had set the fastest time in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix on Saturday and who started on pole position with Lotus, is unemployed. The French driver has no contract for next year.
"I am 100% free. Although I have had many contacts with different teams, I would like to settle with any team. I believe that starting from the first race of next year will be many teams and have competitive cars".
Now the World Championship is over but Formula 1 does not go to rest. It is only the drivers to make a few days of vacation. For others, technicians and mechanics, the real work begins now. There are only three months to prepare the new machines that will debut in Argentina in mid-January. Villeneuve himself will be in Italy the week after the Grand Prix to go to Ferrari (where he will certainly receive compliments from Enzo Ferrari) to make the plans for next season. Ken Tyrrell, great manager who in his glorious curriculum has launched in the world of Formula 1 drivers such as Depailler, Ickx and Stewart, has planned the composition of an all-Italian team, including the European Formula 2 champion Bruno Giacomelli and the other talented Formula 3 driver Elio De Angelis. To complete the Italian team would intervene an Italian sponsor that could be the Martini and Rossi. The decision, which seems to have had a decisive turn during the United States Grand Prix, is explained by the difficult situation in which the famous English manufacturer found itself after a few seasons at the top of motor technology. Elf, in fact, will not renew the contract, while the First National City Bank has hinted to reduce financial intervention. At this point, Tyrrell had no choice but to contact Martini International. As you know, the famous company from Piedmont has not been interested in Formula 1 since Parmalat took away the sponsorship of Brabham-Alfa. Today it would be strongly tempted to hang up the automotive world, probably letting himself be convinced by Tyrrell. An Italian sponsor, with Italian drivers to save an English car manufacturer. The names are those of Giacomelli and De Angelis, however, before such an operation goes to port it is necessary that Pironi is able to release himself to join Renault. Wednesday, October 11, 1978 Bruno Giacomelli flies to London, near Ripley, where the Tyrrell Raclng Organisation has its headquarters, for an interview with the manager of Tyrrell, although officially the purpose of the trip to England is for other reasons. Ken Tyrrell, as is well known, highly esteems the Italian driver, of whom he has often had words of absolute praise. The manager of Tyrrell believes Elio De Angelis and Giacomelli a talented drivers. In well-informed circles it is also said that behind the decision (and esteem) of Ken Tyrrell are the advice of a former great driver named Jackie Stewart. After the half-hour interview with the team leader Ken Tyrrell, a few hours later the Brescia driver, from the March headquarters (his Formula 2 team) said:
"Mr. Tyrrell first congratulated me on my victories this year and added that, being convinced of my possibilities in Formula 1, he wanted to meet me to establish direct contact, since it hopes to be able to resolve within the next few weeks the negotiations that it currently has with some important sponsors. But he told me very frankly that he could not promise me anything until the financial part is defined, making me understand that he would be very happy to have me on the team. He asked me not to engage with other teams before a new meeting with him, in about fifteen days".
With Giacomelli, Tyrrell has certainly also talked about the possible engagement of De Angells. However, the driver neither confirms nor denies:
"Tyrrell reiterated that he will be free to decide the choice of his drivers only when he has solved the financial aspect of the team. He then mentioned his new car, very different from the current one, which will be ready for next season".
Giacomelli would still be very happy to race in Formula 1 with Tyrrell:
"I am very grateful to have spoken to Ken face-to-face. He is a very outspoken, savvy and experienced person. With him you can work with great confidence".
For the moment the Italian driver has not decided anything about Formula 2.
"I want to know something about my position in Formula 1. However I will continue the collaboration with BMW for Procar. With Tyrrell I will be in contact again, as I said, in two weeks and I hope very much to bring the thing with him. I know Marlboro would help me financially. As for Martini & Rossi, which was mentioned in Italy as my eventual sponsor in Formula 1, I honestly don’t know anything".
From all this it is presumable that Tyrrell can no longer count on the support of Elf as the main sponsor. Among those with whom Tyrrell is dealing there is first of all one of the three major American television channels, Abc, for which Jackie Stewart works. A few days later, Monday, October 16, 1978, Alfa Romeo S.p.A. and Motor Raclng Development Limited (Brabham) completed negotiations for the renewal of the three-year agreement that would expire at the end of 1978. Under this agreement, Alfa Romeo continues its technical cooperation with Brabham by supplying its 12-cylinder engines. The Parmalat Racing team will take advantage of the performance of the drivers Niki Lauda who will be the first driver, and Nelson Piquet. It will be sponsored by the Italian company Parmalat, and technically supported by Agip and Goodyear. Alfa Romeo confirms that it will continue to develop its Formula 1 car as announced on Saturday 26 August 1978. Meanwhile, in Italy, the deputy prosecutor of the Republic Armando Spataro, who investigates the disaster that occurred on Sunday, September 10, 1978 in Monza, during the course of the Italian Grand Prix of motoring, interviewed as a witness the rider Jody Scheckter. In recent days the magistrate had heard Arturo Merzario, while the traffic police had collected the version of the German Hans Stuck. Friday, October 20, 1978 Spataro will interview the young Giacomelli and, as soon as possible, the former World Champion James Hunt. Through these investigative acts, the Milanese magistrate intends to reconstruct with precision the phases of the accident of which the Swedish Ronnie Peterson was a victim. From France the new president of the CIS, Jean Marie Balestre, elected the previous week, harshly criticizes the procedure followed for the start of the Italian Grand Prix. Balestre says through a press conference that Italian officials rejected the pleas of international officials for the race director Gianni Restelli to be replaced after the first bad start to the race.
"Then, despite having someone at his side (Restelli) he also missed the second way".
Says Balestre, before announcing a full investigation by the CSI both on the accident and on the exclusion of the Italian driver Riccardo Patrese from the US Grand Prix after the accusations of a group of drivers, including Lauda and Hunt, of responsibility in the Monza accident. The following day, Tuesday, October 17, 1978, the first of all Formula 1 teams, McLaren-Marlboro presents at the Silverstone circuit its new car for next season, with which they hopes to regain the world title they won two years earlier with James Hunt. This is the M28 that is christened on a cold and windy day by John Watson, the new McLaren driver together with the Frenchman Tambay, who the day before had made the first test on track, approaching after just twenty minutes with still cold tyres at the best times scored this year on the same track from the previous model M26. The new single-seater, as the head of McLaren, the American Teddy Mayer, openly admits, is strongly inspired by the construction technique of the Lotus 79. It is therefore a machine with a strong research of the so-called ground-effect but less profiled and fluid in appearance. Special attention has been paid to the suspension, especially the rear suspension that allows a free flow of air under the car. The engine is the traditional 8-cylinder Cosworth prepared by Nicholson with 480 horsepower at 10.600 rpm. According to Gordon Coppuck, the new McLaren is expected to deliver greater speed, strength and stability than the previous M26. John Watson declares:
"I am very confident in the possibilities of the new car and being able to count on the support of an extremely close-knit and efficient team, I think I will be able to capture those successes that I have bitterly missed this season".
Gunnar Nilsson, 29, a Formula One driver, will unfortunately not be able to race again. On Friday, October 20, 1978, the Swedish driver lost his battle against cancer at Charing Cross Hospital in London. In 1977 he won the Belgian Grand Prix with Lotus and was considered one of the most promising drivers of international motor racing. It is not his sporting exploits that we want to talk about, but his latest race, against time: he tried to raise as much money as possible for the fight against cancer. To be lucid and conscious in this commitment he refused morphine and other drugs, enduring excruciating pain and without breaks. By the end of the 1977 season, he had checked for groin pain. Diagnosis: cancer. After surgery, in a few weeks, his weight had dropped from 83 kilos to 50 kilos. Last July, at the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, the old team-mates saw him in the pits. He was bald, spooky, pale, and almost unrecognizable. He said he wanted to stay close to the cars, talk to friends again, joke with the mechanics, feel the engines running at full speed, the smell of gasoline burning. It had been his world, he wanted to live one more day. Cancer had spread to the brain. Nilsson was still seen with his beautiful girlfriend in mid-September at Ronnie Peterson’s funeral. He told reporters about his next return to racing, his plans for the future. The journalists pretended to believe him, and the pilot was grateful for this. In fact, even he didn’t believe what he was saying, he wasn’t one to delude himself or try to deceive himself. A few days later, he was hospitalized in London with extreme pain. The doctors did not hide the fact that there were no more hopes. He asked: how many more days?
"Ten, maybe two weeks...".
At this point, Nilsson asked the doctors to stop giving him morphine or sedatives so that he could be perfectly himself and write letters to Andretti, Stewart, Tyrrell and other friends of the racing scene, and Swedish champions like Stenmark and Borg.
"Dear friend, as you know, I’ve been fighting a battle against cancer for nine months. I’m very sorry to tell you that I’m about to lose it, in spite of the magnificent, devoted and sympathetic assistance I received from the staff of the new Charing Cross hospital. I think we should say that the only reason is that I showed up for treatment too late. However the hospital can save and has already saved many lives. But it needs financial help".
The pain is atrocious and the doctors insist to calm him, at least a few hours, but Nilsson refuses because he still has too many letters to write, too many phone calls to make, and to everyone he asks for money:
"It’s my last race, the opponent is cancer. I’m not fighting for me, but for many others. Help us too".
He keeps writing and calling while he still has some strength. Then the coma comes. One of the doctors says:
"The totally altruistic way in which Gunnar Nilsson spent the remaining energy imposed respect and admiration on all the people in the hospital".
Former World Champion Jackie Stewart and other drivers, who have been at Nilsson’s bedside in the last days of agony, say that:
"He died happy, knowing that the initiative to help cancer patients had already been a great success".
At noon, nine hours after the death of the pilot, the sum raised is already 25.000 pounds and other offers continue to arrive. Gunnar Nilsson won his last race, the hardest, the bravest. A few days later, Tom Wheatcrott, a billionaire owner of the Donington Park circuit, announces that he will try to organize a Formula 1 race whose proceeds will be donated to the anti-cancer campaign wanted by the late Swedish driver Gunnar Nilsson. The race should be equipped with 300.000 dollars of prize money, the richest for a race outside the world of drivers. The date will be agreed with the Manufacturers Association. On Wednesday, October 25, 1978, the funeral of Swedish pilot Gunnar Nilsson takes place in Helsingborg. Meanwhile, Tuesday, October 24, 1978 the Ferrari test on the private track of Fiorano his cars for the 1979 season. Gilles Villeneuve and Jody Scheckter take turns at the wheel of the single-seaters testing new solutions, in particular of aerodynamic type. On the track, for example, a 312 T3 with miniskirts goes down: if the CSI will return to its decisions and allow its use, the Maranello team will be ready to use them. During the tests, just with a 312 T3 with miniskirts, Villeneuve beats the record of the track of Fiorano, turning in 1'08"87 to the average of 108.87 km/h. The previous record was set by Carlos Reutemann in 1'09"34. The tests continue also during the day of Wednesday, October 25, 1978 with a tyre test: Gilles Villeneuve disputes practically an entire Grand Prix, covering a hundred laps. At the same time, the newly elected president of the CIS, the Frenchman Jean-Marie Balestre (in place of the Belgian Pierre Ugeux), Tuesday 24 October 1978 sends a telex to all teams with which communicates that the CIS has decided to establish new rules for the organization of the tests of the 1979 World Championship.
Some of the new rules specify the procedures: twenty-six drivers admitted to practice, twenty-four to the race, and both drivers and teams must apply for registration by Thursday, November 16, 1978. But, above all, drivers and teams will have to commit to all races without exception from 21 January 1979 (Argentine Grand Prix) to 7 October 1979 (United States Grand Prix), except perhaps for greater causes. The absence from the start of a race will automatically lead to the definitive exclusion from the World Championship. Crossbows intends to discuss the new rules on Saturday 18 November 1978. Obviously not all teams and not all manufacturers are happy with this decision. Among these is Alfa Romeo, which is considering making its debut with its own car at the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday 13 May 1979. Carlo Chiti will be informed of this meeting with Balestre Monday, October 30, 1978, through a telex sent by the president of the CSAI, Fabrizio Serena. Carlo Chiti’s reaction is dismayed. If the new rule is approved, the debut of Alfa, which can not be anticipated because the old car still needs a long tuning and the new has just been set, must be postponed for a whole year to the 1980 season, with all that could be achieved at a sporting, but above all corporate level. Chiti plans to ask Ecclestone for help. As head of the Builders' Association, he is perhaps the only one who can do something. So he hurries to dictate a text to be sent by telex to the English manager.
"Today we are aware of the decisions of the CSI about the new rules for the participation of the tests of the 1979 Formula 1 World Championship. These rules seem dictated solely for the purpose of preventing us from participating in the Championship to which - contractually - we are free to participate after April 30, 1979. Since we cannot accept such a decision, we would ask you, as FOCA, to make a vigorous appeal to the CIS to amend it so that we can participate directly in a number of competitions during 1979. Otherwise, we will have to review our entire Formula 1 program".
However, Chiti thinks and understands that Balestre sent the telex to all the teams, so also to Ecclestone, Tuesday, October 24, 1978. For six days the owner of Brabham was aware of the new rule without worrying about communicating it to Alfa Romeo, which, as a simple engine supplier, was not among the recipients of the telex. If Serena hadn’t thought of it, Chiti and Alfa Romeo would still be unaware of the new rules. Chiti then change his mind. He rejected the request for help from Ecclestone and decided to go directly to the new president of the CIS. So, in the middle of the afternoon of Monday, October 30, 1978, a telex leaves for the FIA headquarters in Place de la Concorde, Paris:
"We want to express our dissatisfaction with the decisions taken, that, if confirmed, will not allow Alfa Romeo to participate in competitions in 1979. In the hope that some point of your decisions can be changed, I inform you that, in agreement with the CSAI, we will forward an official protest".
Carlo Chiti signs on behalf of Autodelta and Alfa Romeo. With an important gesture of solidarity, on Wednesday, 1 November 1978, Ferrari joins Alfa Romeo in strongly rejecting the new rule. On the evening of 1 November 1978 Carlo Chiti, together with Roberto Nosetto representing Ferrari, met in Milan the president of CSAI Fabrizio Serena and the Italian delegate within the CSI Antonio Rogano. The latter explains that the edict of Mr Balestreis in reality is only a proposal that the new president of the CIS made in a personal capacity. Proposal to be submitted for the approval of the CIS executive on Saturday, November 18, 1978 in Paris. But Chiti and Nosetto still ask Serena to forward to Balestre an official protest from the CSAI, with which to oppose the obligation to participate in all the Grand Prix valid for the 1919 World Championship. The protest is forwarded on Friday, November 3, 1978. Meanwhile, Thursday, October 26, 1978 the circuit of Monza is excluded from the calendar of the World Championship. This was announced in London by Bernie Ecclestone, president of the Association of Formula 1 manufacturers, confirming that for the next three years the Italian Grand Prix will be held at the Dino Ferrari circuit in Imola. The decision follows the repeated complaints about the excessive danger of the Monza track, especially after the appalling accident in which the Swedish driver Ronnie Peterson lost his life the previous month. Ecclestone himself returned late in the afternoon from Bologna, where he had made arrangements with representatives of A. C. Bologna for the appropriate improvements to the Imola plant. The Dino Ferrari, which is already becoming a permanent closed circuit, will be modernized and expanded especially for the pits, so as to be at the height of a world Formula 1 competition. About the announcement on the agreement between FOCA and A. C. Bologna, Ferrari issues a statement:
"No comment. We are members of the FOCA and will comply with the decisions of the Association, taking into account that Bernie Ecclestone, in economic negotiations and in financial matters acts with the full mandate at the time given to him by the members".
Gilles Villeneuve and Jody Scheckter continue on the Fiorano track. The Canadian made 53 laps with the 312 T3 with the new solutions, trying different types of tires and getting the best time in 1'09"53. The South African, on the traditional car, runs in 1'09"28 making a total of 85 laps. Scheckter will continue testing on Friday 27 October 1978, while Villeneuve leaves Modena during the evening. During the following week maybe the tests will continue on the French circuit Paul Ricard. Meanwhile, the joint announcement of the Automobile Club of Bologna and the President of the Federation of Manufacturers, Bernie Ecclestone, arouses surprise in the Automobile Club of Italy that reacts with a statement in which they practically denies the work of its branch of Bologna. Its president, Senator Camillo Ripamonti, said:
"As for the news circulated in the evening, the Automobile Club of Italy says that the choice of the circuit on which to run the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix for 1979 is up to us and not to Mr Ecclestone. However, the Monza circuit is approved for the Formula 1 Grand Prix".
And so does the CIS from Paris:
"We are surprised by the announcement made by Mr. Ecclestone. The inquiry into the Monza accident is not yet complete and it is premature to take any decision. In any case, it will not be FOCA or A. C. Bologna to choose another system. Every initiative will have to be taken by the CIS, on proposals of the Automobile Club of Italy. The CSI would like to point out that it has not issued any official statement on the organisation of the 1979 Italian Grand Prix. The CDI has not been the subject of any particular request and has no reason to take any action with regard to the events in question. Since this is a strictly national matter, any intervention by the international sports body would have the character of foreign interference not in accordance with the regulation of the sports code".
In Monza the news raises dismay and amazement. At the Automobile Club of Milan, which every year organizes the Grand Prix, after the surprise they are quite realistic. Says Dr. Paolo Montagna, head of the press office:
"It is clear that the maneuver was made to close the Monza circuit after the tragic Peterson accident. Over and above the regulatory quibbles, I believe that the Italian Grand Prix will only be able to stay in Monza if those necessary safety-related renovations are allowed. We are now in front of two roads. Either you give permission to do those works or we can say goodbye to the old circuit".
That’s a very clear explanation. Excluding the hypothesis that two Grands Prix can be held in Italy (one maybe entitled to San Marino, as someone had suggested), if the necessary works for safety are not carried out in Monza the circuit will certainly be rejected. It will be enough a visit of the Commission of Safety of the pilots to take this road and both the ACI that the CSI will have to orient itself towards another runway. And the only possible solution is that of Imola. Ecclestone therefore, while taking the break from everyone, has already moved in the right direction. The only way to reverse the situation is to modify the structures of the Lombardy track, making them more modern and efficient. Otherwise, for Monza it will really be the end. In the meantime, however, Bernie Ecclestone lets us know that:
"It is a long time, indeed a very long time, that we had asked more and more insistently for a series of absolutely essential changes to the installations of the Lombard circuit but, despite our pressures, we had to find every time in Monza the usual rubbish. For example, we had long received promises and assurances for changes to the pits, where mechanics can not do their delicate work because often disturbed and even tormented by groups of rowdies. Apart from this, various installations in Monza are not up to the task of a Grand Prix, from cabinets to other accessories that should now be an essential requirement of the world circuits. As for the deficiencies of the track, we all know what, unfortunately, happened in Monza last September. For this, we were forced to give an ultimatum with expiration 1 October, by which date the changes to the circuit and its equipment should have been not only sanctioned by the organizers of Monza but also endorsed by local authorities, and of course approved by our association. I was patient until the end of the month. Since nothing concrete happened, however, I had to run for cover to give Imola enough time to take over the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. I am sorry for the engineer Baccigaluppi, who was rather embarrassed by the promises made, but it is not his fault that they were not kept".
What were the reasons for choosing the Dino Ferrari?
"It was the only alternative. First of all, the local Automobile Club has the financial means necessary to run a world race, are people of great initiative and animated by a strong passion for our sport. Imola has an adjacent airport and has the necessary hotel facilities. The track is modern and interesting and I am convinced that, once prepared for a Formula 1 race, it will have great success. The Mugello track is not wide enough and then lacks adjacent hotels to accommodate the public".
No longer, then, any doubt about the designation of Imola? Has the authorisation for the next Italian Grand Prix been validated by the national and international sporting authorities? Without blinking, Ecclestone replies:
"You can’t back down anymore. Either Imola, or nothing. I am convinced that the organizers at Imola will do a good job".
But the CIS, apparently, was quite surprised about your initiative...
"I can only say that I am rather surprised that CSI was surprised".
The agreement - surprise between Bernie Ecclestone and the managers of Aci Bologna to compete in the coming years the Italian Grand Prix of Formula 1 on the Imola circuit, had, for the future of the Monza circuit, the loose effect of a bomb with high potential. In a moment the fragile agreements, the political intrigues, that until now had allowed the Lombard plant to resist those who would have evicted, have cracked, and now Monza is clearly a step away from the definitive closure. The reactions to the coup d'état scored by Ecclestone do not wait. The leaders of A. C. Milano, which has always organized the world test, set off to counterattack in this war between the racetracks to grab the Grand Prix. Precise Ripamonti:
"The issue of renewal of the concession contract remains open to continue, under suitable conditions, the activity on the Lombardy track. The agreement between the Municipalities of Milan and Monza, owners of the park, and Sias, the company that manages the circuit, expires at the end of the year. For our part, we requested the renewal while waiting for other possible solutions, including the construction of a new plant of which we have submitted a rough project, can become operational. The continuity of the Italian Grand Prix in Monza is therefore in the hands of the municipal administrations of the two cities, which is responsible for deciding on it".
The issue is therefore once again in the hands of Italian politicians who have been working around the problem for years without ever taking a final decision. Attempts to talk to those directly concerned who were all absent or engaged were useless. Only Orazio Picciotto Crisafulli - Councillor for Sport of the Lombardy Region - agrees to talk about the future of Monza:
"I’m not very knowledgeable because I got the news by reading the newspapers. The choice of venue for the race is the exclusive competence of the Automobile Club of Italy, while the changes to be made to the track, to increase safety, I am in favour of the felling of plants provided that they are placed in another area of the park".
Finally, the director of the circuit of Monza, engineer Bacciagaluppi. released this statement:
"The Italian Grand Prix has belonged to Monza since its inception. I don’t see how bodies not competent to decide can decide to move the venue to another circuit. The Italian Grand Prix must remain in Monza. The international calendar for 1979 has already been published and launched by the CIS on the recommendation of the CSAI. It cannot be changed. The Italian Grand Prix is in Monza, woe to those who touch it".
The new president of the International Sports Commission, Jean-Marie Balestre, recalls that the Automobile Club of Italy has the exclusive authority to decide where to hold the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix. According to international standards, stresses Balestre, the world championships conductors and brands are owned by the FIA, which delegates the organization of the Grand Prix to each national sports authority that has the exclusive power to propose a circuit to the CIS. This is the only recognized procedure. It is for each country to decide on the circuit, and the CIS cannot intervene. The president of the Automobile Club of Italy, the lawyer Carpi De Resmini does not want to enter into the controversy that arose after the statements of Bernie Ecclestone on the opportunity to move the headquarters of the Italian Grand Prix of Formula 1 from Monza to Imola, while Dr Balsamo, Head of the ACI Press Office, expresses the opinion of the body, stating:
"The dispute can also have a valid reason for propaganda and indicates that there is a lot of interest around Grand Prix. However, we cannot forget that Mr. Ecclestone is a simple private, a sponsor of competitions, but I do not know that he has had official duties. The decision belongs only to the CIS, based in Paris (and this is not correct, n.d.r.). But there is more: Monza has fifty years of experience. There have been accidents and misfortunes, but the experience counts. Imola instead does not yet have the necessary homologation to host Grand Prix".
But there is also an economic reason. The same Dr Balsamo says:
"It is proven that fifty percent of Monza’s spectators come from abroad; from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Are we sure that all these guests would go equally to Imola? Monza is close, Imola a little less. We do not want to participate in the debate, nor do we take a position on Monza or Imola. But if Mr. Ecclestone talks about security, we want to remind him of some of the phrases of an interview he gave a few days ago to our magazine. Speaking of the recent event in Monza he says verbatim: The accidents were caused by the drivers, by mistake of the same drivers. Clear?"
To these clarifications are added those of the president of the A. C. Bologna, doctor Giancarlo lovi:
"First of all we did not ask to have the Italian Grand Prix, but only a race valid for the Formula 1 World Championship. We know very well that the Italian Grand Prix is awarded by ACI and we also know that traditionally Monza has major titles, unless of course the technical conditions of the track. Will there be two? I don’t know. The fact remains that the Imola race will be the one valid for the Drivers' title. Obviously, before making this decision, Ecclestone had seen our system and had done so meticulously, completing several laps. He did it in July and then before the Monzese race that left many aftermath. As for the homologation of the circuit, I would point out that not even Monte-Carlo and Long Beach can be homologated as road circuits. This is therefore not a fundamental fact. The Dino Ferrari can be homologated at the time of the race. On the other hand, within eight to ten days the track will become permanent, and this is a big title compared to many other plants. The width of the road, the escape spaces, the fact that there are no sudden chicanes, especially at the start, make Imola a much safer route than many others, both precarious and permanent".
Dr. lovi, however, does not believe he should specify the terms of the agreement with the FOCA.
"There are no special conditions, it is however a normal contract of this body. I repeat that the choice of Ecclestone was made after viewing the Dino Ferrari. It is not therefore we who want to exclude Monza, but it is the same Monza that can exclude itself. Just think about what will happen at the end of the investigation of the judiciary, that is, if that circuit will be recognized as dangerous, as the manufacturers already consider it".
The controversy over the coup d'état with which Bernie Ecclestone took off the Italian Grand Prix at Monza is spreading unchecked. Between the managers of the Imola and Monza racetracks, a real war broke out, which also involved the managers of the Automobile Club of Italy. These now, in addition to having to oppose the decision of the Association of builders, are forced to act as peacemakers. Also because the accounts between ACI and Ecclestone could in the long run be harmful for both parties. The ACI has from its sporting authority, and, if it does not want to lose prestige, it must confirm the decision taken at the time, namely to maintain the Italian Grand Prix in Monza. Ecclestone, however, contrasts the strength that comes from administering the entire fleet of Formula 1 cars. Deftly appealing to safety, Ecclestone has hinted that if you do not agree to race the Grand Prix in Imola, The evidence could be defected by the builders he represents. The maintenance or not of the title race in Monza also triggers a struggle for succession, in which the Mugello circuit was inserted, which, after making weak nominations, because it considered by tradition immovable the Italian Grand Prix from its natural seat, which was that of the Monza track, now believes he has a chance to compete in Imola the important event. Safety, accessibility, selectivity, spectacularity, services and accommodation are the main characteristics to which a track must respond. Safety is the weak point of the Monza circuit, which in some parts does not offer the necessary measures to ensure the protection of drivers in the event of an off-track. The chicane after the start and the curves of Lesmo have been under accusation for years. Unfortunately, environmental bans have so far not allowed to make the changes required by pilots. Vittorio Brambilla, who knows all the secrets of this track, said several times:
"It’s a shame to see such a track die, because it would take a few jobs to fully adapt to the needs of the current Formula 1 cars".
Imola and Mugello, in terms of safety, are clearly superior. While the Tuscan circuit offers sufficient guarantees, for Imola there are still some crucial points, corresponding to the high variant, which is too narrow, and the curve of the mineral waters. Moreover, even considering that in every sporting event the concentration of people and cars creates inevitable obstacles to traffic, it must be recognized that for Monza and Imola there are no major problems. Access to the Mugello is precarious, because only two streets, full of curves and very narrow, have to endure the entire traffic towards the track. It is a pity that a track built a few years ago has been badly connected to major roads. However, in terms of selectivity, Mugello and Imola are almost equal, because the development of the tracks is very challenging and puts the driver to the test, while Monza, distorted with chicane, is no longer the temple of pure speed, and in the long straights the middle today prevails over man. Bruno Giacomelli, European Formula 2 Champion, recently declared:
"Mugello is a path that gives you no breath and that makes you very tired. It is a continuous succession of challenging curves, which however awaken in the driver the pleasure of driving".
The palm of the best circuit, in terms of spectacularity, is undoubtedly up to Mugello. On the Tuscan track, the enthusiast can observe most of the track. Fair visibility for Imola, while sacrificed is the spectator in Monza, as it can see only a part of the track. The Monza track, although outdated, is undoubtedly the most complete in terms of services. Imola is also good, which, among other things, should he win the Grand Prix, would build completely new pits. The Mugello services are inadequate. The accommodation is excellent for both Monza and Imola, which can count in the short radius of a few dozen kilometers on a large hotel accommodation. It is difficult to find accommodation in Mugello, as there are only a few hotels near the circuit: the mass of the public should gravitate towards Florence, however, incurring transport difficulties. Finally, a final opinion by Riccardo Patrese.
"I am not at all surprised at the decision to leave Monza. It was now quite obvious. Monza and Imola are two very different circuits, but first of all I would like to observe that, in general, the race tracks are not chosen for the riders, but instead the latter must adapt. I do not intend to enter into another controversy with Monza. However, I can say that I was recently at Imola for the Giro d'Italia and I think the Dino Ferrari is suitable for a Grand Prix. I think it can offer the necessary safety guarantees. It is a track less fast than Monza, but it could be more interesting".
Mind they try to solve the issue inherent in the Italian Grand Prix, the engines (except those of Ferrari, that Friday, November 3, 1978, with Villeneuve and Scheckter, continue the tests at Le Castellet, lowering the circuit record: Villeneuve - 120 laps - and Scheckter - 81 laps - score best times 1'06"67 and 1'06"69) are silent, the circuits deserted: Formula 1 prepares for the new World Championship in the workshops of the teams on the table of designers, in the test tracks. But the echoes and controversies of the 1978 season, which ended with the victory of Mario Andretti and Lotus, are not over. There are those who regret lost opportunities, those who hope for a revenge. Past and future come together in a game that serves to feed, even if they are only words, to make many protagonists of these spectacular and often so cruel Grand Prix feel alive and engaged. Carlos Reutemann, for example, 36 years old, wife, two girls, home in Cap-Ferrat and large farm in Argentina, a passionate love for the land, the countryside and for his work, that of the pilot. Two years with Ferrari (and five successes, the third place this year in the championship), now with Lotus, alongside Andretti. What does Reutemann think about his time with Scuderia Ferrari, what are his prospects?
"It has been a difficult two years. In 1977 we had to deal with many technical problems, last season there was the drama of tires. The marriage between Ferrari and Michelin and the adoption of radial tyres forced the whole team to overwork with often disappointing results. Of course, because the French company had no experience in Formula 1, but the bill was paid by Gilles Villeneuve and me. The total inexperience of Michelin with Grand Prix tyres, however, is only one of the fundamental reasons for our defeat in the world championship. The other, beyond the lost opportunities, the contingent errors of mine or the technicians, that balance with those of Andretti and the men of Lotus, is represented by the clear advantage of the car against my Ferrari. Colin Chapman provided Andretti with a truly original, newly developed car, a super car. The 312 T3 was the best of the conventional cars, and in fact we got positive results, but it could not compete with Lotus. Now I am sure that Ferrari will copy it, but it will always be late. And it would not be the first time".
It’s a bit of a bad joke, and on the other hand it should be added that it was often the rivals who copied the technical solutions designed in Maranello. But Reutemann does not stop, he wants to express ideas and thoughts that, as a Ferrari driver, he had to keep silent.
"Ferrari has a huge budget, let’s say Lotus, Tyrrell and McLaren combined. His racing department is the size of Lotus, Cosworth and Hewland, and he has great mechanics. Behind it is Fiat, there are research centers, wind tunnels. It should win everything. It is incredible that in Maranello they did not study a wing profile car, like the Lotus. Incredible".
The Argentine, however, predicts for 1979 a Lotus-Ferrari duel:
"If the new car in Maranello is more competitive than the one I had".
Also confirmed his esteem for Villeneuve.
"Gilles will give Scheckter a headache".
Even Reutemann, it is clear, will try to do the same with his successor. But not with resentment.
"We are all professionals".
A break, then a non-judgment on Enzo Ferrari.
"In two years, I’ve met him ten times. Andretti, on the other hand, has seen Chapman almost every day. The problem today, that’s all. You can’t just decide by hearsay".
After reading the interview, the next day Enzo Ferrari answers with a short message.
"I read only today what Reutemann said and what others have taken. I, after twenty years of Alfa Romeo, remember only and always the beautiful days spent together. Instead, it is now normal for some drivers, who from Ferrari have received the chance to win and earn as much, as they never managed in the past, to speak ill of the former House. I wonder if the hospitality offered to them tends only to solicit an answer that is not there today".
On the subject of preparing for the next World Championship, Riccardo Patrese and Giacomo Agostini are currently the only two Italian drivers confident that they can compete in next season in Formula 1. The Padua rider will continue to race with the Arrows despite the fact that at first there were rumors based on which the Royal Automobile Club would not renew to the English team the competitor license for having copied at the time the plans of the Shadow. Dean Delomont, director of the Rac Sports Commission, has categorically denied this rumor stating that the Arrows with which Patrese played the second part of last World Championship, was absolutely in order and therefore there is no reason not to grant the license also for the next year. Jackie Oliver, general manager of Arrows, moreover, on Monday 13 November 1978 confirms to have concluded with the Warsteiner the renewal of the sponsorship contract that is 750.000 pounds. Although he is still looking for an Italian sponsor for Patrese, to cover the considerable transport costs of the team, having not been admitted to the Association of Formula 1 Constructors for not participating in all last season’s races, and also for the hostility from one of the members of the FOCA, the Arrows not only will participate in the World Championship 1979, but will have already ready for the end of the month two new cars, substantially different from the one with which Patrese placed fourth in the last race of last season. The new 1979 model is of the ground-effect type, just like the Lotus, and has provided excellent results during tests in the wind tunnel.
At the beginning of December, Patrese and the second Mass driver will start testing the new single-seater that will then debut in the race in South America. Arrows hopes to sell the two 1978 cars, if the financial negotiations are completed, to the former World Champion of two wheels, Barry Sheene who intends to debut in Formula 1 participating in the Aurora series, as will certainly Giacomo Agostini who will race with two Williams 06, the one used by Jones in the United States Grand Prix and the other that in Canada recorded the fastest lap. The presentation of the Aurora series was made without the presence of Agostini, who at the last moment had to give up the trip to London. Present instead his new Formula 1 car with which the former world champion will participate in the fifteen races of the Aurora series, mainly in Great Britain with stages in Zolder, Zandvoort and Nogaro. The prizes will total over £200.000. The points will be awarded as in the World Championship, with two more for the first place at the start and one for the fastest lap in the race. As for Giacomelli, still waiting for news from Tyrrell who, according to the latest rumors, has already taken Jarier and sold Pironi to Renault. After the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, also the Brazilian Grand Prix, the second round of the Formula 1 World Championship, could be cancelled if by Friday 17 November 1978 it will not be established who will finance it. To say it again is Bernie Ecclestone, owner of Brabham and president of the Association of Formula 1 Manufacturers, referring to the race that should take place on Sunday, February 4, 1979 in Interlagos (São Paulo). According to Ecclestone, who is at the beginning of the week in Brazil, the deadline for a decision on the matter expires Monday, November 13, 1978:
"But there can be an extension of three days. After Friday, however, there will no longer be a chance for the teams to prepare for rehearsals. There are many commitments of the stables for a trip to Brazil, since only for important spare parts will have to be transported 50 tons, and all this must be sent immediately".
Bernie Ecclestone will meet at the weekend with his representative in Brazil, Gustavo Bahia, and with the president of the Brazilian Confederation of Motor Racing (CBA), Charles Nacca, to study together the proposals to finance the race.
"They are various, but so far none of them have been accepted".
As for the television broadcast abroad of the race, various proposals were made, but none with a concrete financing plan. Despite the costs of organizing the race (50.000.000 of cruzeiros), the president of the Brazilian Confederation of motoring believes in the realization of the Brazilian Grand Prix, and there will be no objections if the place of sanpaolo was held in Rio de Janeiro. Bernie Ecclestone is playing straight. After winning the German Grand Prix and signing the contract to host the Italian Grand Prix at Imola, Excluding Monza, the president of the Formula 1 Constructors' Association continues his action aimed at taking over the situation. In addition to the aforementioned Grands Prix, news comes from South Africa according to which Ecclestone himself is about to sign a contract that will allow him to seize for five years the Grand Prix course in Kyalami. Backed by other manufacturers, to whom he distributes millions of dollars at the end of each season, the British manager continues the escalation towards absolute power in Formula 1, overcoming the obstacle of the CIS whose leaders are too busy in their internal struggles to realize that they count for nothing. Beyond all consideration, however, the master of Brabham must be given an exceptional skill and flair that goes beyond just business sense. Ecclestone shows considerable foresight and certainly knows how to work in his field, accompanying the defense of his own interests to that of the other constructors with promotional campaigns that promise an increasingly interesting future for the circus of Grand Prix. In the past there was talk of organizing competitions in some Arab emirates, in Iran, in the Far East. Now it seems that Bernie Ecclestone is trying to make a Grand Prix in an Eastern European country, probably in the USSR. This is not new news, but the announcement should now be imminent. Why would the president of the FOCA be interested in such an opening, unthinkable until some time? The reason is simple. This is certainly not the mirage of easy gains, but the attempt to make Formula 1 even more popular in the world, to get more political benefits. Looking at the statistics presented by Publimotoring, a Swiss agency specialized in this field, there are in fact some data that immediately jump to the eye. Among the motor races that have achieved a greater influx of public all over the world, in the 1978 season, there are in the lead some events held in Eastern Europe. The Czechoslovak motorcycle Grand Prix in Brno was attended by 150.000 spectators, and at the USSR Grand Prix, held in Leningrad, more than 100.000 people attended the motocross race, the absolute record of the year for this specialty.
Some of the drivers who participated in rallies in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia came back visibly amazed by the interest that car races arouse in the East. An exceptional, competent, enthusiastic audience, follows the races as it does not happen in the most celebrated tests that take place in the Western world. This explains Ecclestone’s interest in a Grand Prix to be held in the USSR. The English manager has realized that opening this road will be able to increase considerably the inflow of the audience everywhere. In 1978, in sixteen races, Formula 1 had 1.405.000 paying spectators, an increase of 4.03% over the previous year. Progress was also recorded in Formula 2 (+5.13%), while in all other car races there was a significant drop in attendance. While Bernie Ecclestone is busy with the Grand Prix disputes, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Bologna, Italy, receives a complaint, signed by a group of citizens of Imola against the transformation of the current Dino Ferrari circuit into a permanent closed circuit. As we recall, it is some time ago the news that on this track will take place, in 1979, a Formula 1 Grand Prix, The prosecutor, in particular, was urged to investigate several points related to the final closure of the circuit, including: non-use, for more or less short periods, of the facilities of the outdoor school and the public mineral water park; arbitrary closure of roads pre-existing the opening of the circuit and used for normal traffic: pollution (also phonetic) caused by engines during tests and competitions, with negative effects on patients in the nearby psychiatric hospital and on the inhabitants of the area: restriction of the freedom of movement of those who live within the circuit: crop damage caused by spectators. The official closing of the circuit is scheduled for Saturday, November 25, 1978, with a ceremony at which will present, among others, the mayor of Imola Bruno Solaroli. The municipal administration has already built a new one. road that will serve to the free transit of the inhabitants inside the circuit; is then previewed the widening of the bridge on the river Santerno, that it will constitute so a third and fast connection between the autodrome and the ordinary practicability. Finally, it should be noted that, according to rumors gathered at Imola, November 25 could be the date of the start of the tests of Formula 1 cars by Ferrari, which in the meantime, with Jody Scheckter, Wednesday, November 15, 1978 resumes on the track of Fiorano his tests piloting an experimental car with mobile side strips (miniskirts).
The driver makes about twenty laps, before a prolonged stop due to mechanical problems. Friday, November 17, 1978 there is the need for a meeting lasting over four hours for the CSAI to reaffirm its positions on the dispute of the Italian Grand Prix in the runoff between Monza and Imola. Beyond the abundant words and the somewhat smoky concepts, the only precise statement that the Italian Grand Prix will be held in Monza. It seems not too effective because it subordinates everything to the work of the international commission. In essence, the Italian sports body does not want to enter into the merits, but simply asks the application by the CIS of decisions already taken and the adaptation to the usual regulations regarding the homologation of circuits. What if CSI complies with Ecclestone’s provisions? The ACI seems not to have foreseen the eventuality, or rather to have left the position blurred against the A. C. Bologna, and have indicated the need for a census of the different plants, makes it clear that the forecast is there and in front of the higher desires you are ready to change. Here is the text of the long communiqué of the CSAI:
"Following the news that appeared on the major media and with reference to the awarding of the Italian Grand Prix, World Formula 1 Championship test, the CSAI Executive Committee at its meeting in Rome on 17 November carefully examined the problem and reached the following conclusions: the Monza circuit designated by the Automobil Club d'Italia as the venue for the Italian Grand Prix is already included in the calendar prepared by the International Sports Commission for 1979; following the usual analysis of the international technical situation held last October was reconfirmed the usability to the Formula 1 circuit of Monaco: as part of the examination of the problems of Formula races on Italian circuits, The Executive Committee has also prepared a deepening of knowledge of the characteristics of the racetracks that most represent a potential for the development of Formula 1 races. This in order to launch in a short time an adequate policy of designation of the tests that will be assigned in the future to Italy from the international sporting commission; the agreements between the A. C. Bologna (Imola) and Mr Ecclestone as a representative of the FOCA are completely unknown in their content to the CSAI and the Automobil Club of Italy who have learned of its existence only through what appeared in the press; with regard to the work of the Automobil Club Bologna in clear contrast to Article 1, last part, of the national sports regulations, the Executive Committee formally invited, before taking any disciplinary decision, the same A. C. Bologna to supply all the explanations on the possible assumed engagements. Having said that, the Executive Committee confirms that the Italian Grand Prix will be held in Monza. For the implementation of the above has given mandate to its president Dr Fabrizio Serena to take action at the CIS so that it is protected in the ways and forms possible the smooth conduct of all the tests of the world championship conductors, as reflected in the international calendar 1979 approved by the CIS on 10 October 1978".
Saturday, November 18, 1978 the proposal of Balestre, on the obligations of registration to the World Championship, is approved. Thanks in all probability to the specific weight of Ferrari, more than that of CSAI, however, a compromise is reached whereby Alfa Romeo, or any other team, will be able to participate in how many championship races during 1979, but without earning points for the ranking. Chiti says he is satisfied with the compromise.
"We don’t care about getting good points for the World Championship because if we run, we will only do it experimentally".
Conditional entry is a must, as while publicly and officially declaring that Alfa Romeo will return to Formula 1 with its own single-seater entirely built in the Autodelta workshops in Settimo Milanese, who in the meantime is testing on the Balocco circuit with the test driver Giorgio Francia who has for the moment replaced the convalescent Vittorio Brambilla, there are those in Arese who are against direct participation. In fact, President Ettore Massacesi continues to receive negative notes from his advisers:
"An Alfa car can only take part in World Championship races if you have the reasonable confidence that it can finish well".
And to place itself well the senior Alfa Romeo executive who writes to its president means within the first three places. Otherwise, there was no such security - continues the memorandum - I would drop the project because failures would not lead to affect the image that we have created and, on a practical level, to show that Alfa Romeo is no longer what it once was, with a negative impact on sales. The memorandum concludes with the suggestion to continue with the supply of engines to Brabham, with the possibility to ascribe the credit if the car wins, and to blame others for the failure. Once again, as Cortesi before and as he has done several times in the four months since he has been president, Massacesi decides to ignore the struggles between the various corporate currents. The new V12 engine at 60 μp is ready at the end of November. The idea of a more compact and lighter engine than the previous and impressive boxer was born at the same time as the ban on the fan designed by Murray in the spring and that at the beginning of summer allowed Lauda to win the Swedish Grand Prix. Abandoned the solution with which Brabham and Alfa Romeo thought they could fight on equal terms with the Lotus 79, in agreement with Murray, Chiti immediately started to design an engine that was less cumbersome so as to leave the sides free to the flow of air, condition necessary to achieve the soil effect. And the only viable way, wanting to maintain the twelve-cylinder fractionation, was to build a V-engine of 60 hp. While in Milan they are working on the creation of the new Alfa Romeo engine, Wednesday, November 22, 1978 the lawyer Filippo Carpi de Resmini, president of ACI, present in Turin for a conference called Man, car, environment, comes out of a long silence and intervenes, with the prestige and authority of his position, in the thorny story that involves Ecclestone, the Automobile Clubs of Milan, Bologna, Florence and the national sports executives (CSAI) and international (CSI) on the seat of the most important race: Monza, in fact, or Imola - which has been directly agreed with Ecclestone - or Mugello?
"We have no intention of being colonized by Mr Bernie Ecclestone. In 1979 the Italian Grand Prix will be held in Monza, and only in Monza. I have so far preferred not to intervene officially. I do so now both because CSAI, through its president, Serena has already expressed an opinion, and because too many people have said and written inaccurate or, at least, not balanced things about the problem of the circuit that will host the Italian Grand Prix in the future. Ecclestone is a skillful and unscrupulous businessman who tries to squeeze as much money from the Formula 1 Circus as possible. One of his designs is to eliminate the race organizers, rent the various facilities and put his men at the box office. He would like to sell a show, worrying little about what a Grand Prix means from a promotional and social point of view. He has already done so this year in Hockenheim, Germany, he repeated the blow with Kyalami, for the South African Grand Prix 1979, is negotiating with the Brazilian leaders. Ecclestone also wanted a circuit in Italy and, since it was impossible for him to rent the Autodromo di Monza, he bypassed the obstacle, focusing on that of Imola, which depends on A. C. Bologna, whose managers, for a number of reasons, have lent themselves to his game. I spoke with my friends in Bologna. They understood very well the maneuvers of Ecclestone and know that the contract between them and him to race in 1979 in Imola a race valid for the Formula 1 World Championship does not exist, as they could not sell something they were not owners of: The Italian Grand Prix is ACI, and that’s it. The Bologna leaders, however, managed to draw everyone’s attention to their circuit and to highlight the problem of the rotation of the circuits destined to host the Grand Prix. CSAI is examining this issue for the 1980s. For Bologna and Imola it is a first success".
But in the coming year the Italian Grand Prix will remain in Monza, like or not at Ecclestone. Carpi de Resmini has no uncertainties about this.
"We are sure that, if he does not come, there will be other manufacturers, in the first place Ferrari. In Monza the concession has been renewed for three years and safety improvements can be made, which Ecclestone himself has never contested, so much so that he recently declared that only the drivers are responsible for the drama of Peterson".
Good or bad, it’s all about Ecclestone. But how is it possible that a businessman has managed to acquire such power in the world of Grand Prix, linked from the beginning to the car industry?
"There has been a power vacuum in the international sports authorities, but I am surprised that the big Formula 1 companies, from Ferrari-Fiat to Renault to Alfa Romeo, are bowing to such a situation and that, after all, agree to be represented by those who look after their own interests and not those of motoring. Porsche, for example, has given up Grand Prix because they are governed by mafia methods. Some statements by Luca Montezemolo against Ecclestone give us hope for the future, but for now...".
Carpi de Resmini does not hesitate to attack the same CIS.
"The old president was a foolish servant of Ecclestone, the new is just as succumbing. Many words, many promises before the election, but now the music is the same and, moreover, the presidency of Mr. Balestre is folkloristic".
Harsh words, but Carpi de Resmini prefers to be clear. And it is no mystery that the Italian positions within the CIS have often been opposed and many initiatives rejected. The following day, Bernie Ecclestone replied to the statement by the president of the ACI lawyer Filippo Carpi de Resmini, against him.
"The lawyer de Resmini, as lovable as he may be, is so far from the reality of today’s motor sport that he doesn’t realize anything. People like him live in another world. The Automobile Club of Bologna has a contract with us. Before signing it, its managers obviously saw the clauses in it, and were therefore fully aware of their responsibilities. The Automobile Club of Bologna is part of the Automobile Club of Italy, which, consequently, must assume the obligations of the case. I don’t see why Carpi de Resmini has to pick on me. I propose that we meet for an hour in front of the cameras to discuss these matters in public".
But when the president of the ACI declares that the Italian Grand Prix belongs to the Automobile Club of Italy no one in the world can reasonably accuse him of being outside of reality.
"If Carpi de Resmini manages to convince the Automobile Club of Bologna to terminate the contract already signed and to obtain from the organizers of the Monza circuit what they have been promising in vain for five years, there are no more problems. In fact, if we do not go to Monza it is only because those organizers could not make the changes that had assured us to make, for example, the arrangement of pits and other necessary equipment to the paddock. Our association was ready to renew the contract with Monza provided that by 1 October, the plans for improvements had been formulated and approved by all interested parties. We waited in vain, and as a result we were forced to look for another solution. We could not rely on the Automobile Club of Italy in view of its inability to make improvements to the Monza circuit".
The president of the ACI also said he was amazed that the big Houses engaged in Formula 1, such as Ferrari, agree to be represented by those who look after their interests pennies instead of those of motoring.
"I should remind the lawyer de Resmini that I am not in the FOCA for my personal interests, but that I represent, instead, those of all manufacturers indistinctly; and if the commendator Ferrari does not approve of what is being done, he can hold me accountable and blame me for what I did. As for Porsche, if it does not want to participate in Formula 1, it is because it has no chance of winning it: Porsche only cares to change the regulations to get an advantage on its own. In this way he made more money from motor sport than any other brand".
Finally, the President of the ACI said in his interview that the current President of the CIS is just as powerful as Ugeux was to him.
"Jean Marie Balestre is a person who would probably prefer to live still in the Fifties, when motor racing did not have the problems they have today. Back then there were only a dozen cars in the race, journalists in the wake of the races were less than a dozen, spectators only a few thousand. Today 850.000.000 people follow the Formula 1 races, thanks to television over eight hundred journalists are in the wake of the Grand Prix. But, unlike others, Balestre realizes the sporting reality of our days and knows how to face openly the problems of 1979".
About the problems of motoring also speaks the director of external relations of Fiat and president of Sisport, lawyer Luca Montezemolo, in a conference on Sport and Industry held during the evening of Tuesday, November 28, 1978 at the Panathlon Club of Turin, in which precise spirit and aims of the growing and concrete interest of the Fiat Group for sport and indicates in Cassino and Termini Imerese the centres in which Sisport and Fiat are looking for the construction of new sports facilities and infrastructures, that will be added to what has already been achieved in Turin and Piedmont
"In our country the school and the university, which in other nations are the main vehicles of youth sport, are lacking in sports, which in addition to being a competitive fact, is also and above all a correct, valid, healthy use of leisure, and therefore a social phenomenon of primary importance. Industry can and must assume in this perspective the role that in a democratic and civilized country should not be underestimated, and of which the political parties themselves have understood the importance".
Fiat has been proposed for some time as a leading example for other companies that, even in smaller sizes, can expand, deepen and carry on the discussion, provided the ideas are clear. Capital is not enough, we need also and above all will, programmes, initiatives, coordination. Remaining on the theme of Fiat, but moving nationwide, during a meeting in England with Emerson Fittipaldi, journalists wonder if the latter will return in 1979 among the stars of Formula 1. The Brazilian driver, present in England according to the contract signed with Fiat to advertise for two years in their country the model 147, the South American version of the 127 (Fittipaldi must make a film and photo shoot together with Walter Rotiri, the champion of the Rally. The German will perform at the wheel of the Copersucar of the Brazilian and the latter driving the 131 Abarth), answers:
"I count on having fun, because I can get new experiences from every car. For me driving is still a pleasure".
Emerson is now a racing veteran: eight years at the highest level, two world titles and fourteen Grand Prix victories. A man who has always been balanced in his judgments. The first question comes naturally: what has changed in the Formula 1 circus in these years?
"A lot, for three or four seasons the popularity of the World Championship has soared. Thanks to television and also - it must be said - by Bernie Ecclestone. There is more professionalism and it has become very difficult to win".
But you believe more in the president of the FOCA than in the CIS?
"We drivers want safety above all. And the CIS has been completely inactive in this regard so far. Who were the sports executives in Watkins Glen when we had to intervene for Patrese? None: we had to expose ourselves, drivers, let us criticize, to give an example. And I can’t forget what happened in 1975 in Spain, I thought the circuit was dangerous and I didn’t want to participate in the race. They told me I was crazy, that I was scared, and they threatened to suspend my license because I refused to compete. To agree with me when what happened happened. I recognize that sometimes Ecclestone also acts for personal interests. But he is undoubtedly a good man, a true professional. I prefer power to be in his hands, rather than those of the incompetent like the CIS leaders. President Balestre recently launched his edict. He would like to change everything, to decide without taking into account the manufacturers, their needs, the prohibitive costs they face to change the machines. Reckless behavior, not to mention worse".
What will you do if there is a disagreement with the CIS over the use of miniskirts and other regulations?
"It’s simple. We can do a championship on our own. We don’t need them. If anything, it’s the other way around. That is why our opinion is more valuable. I don’t know what decision will be made with regard to the Italian Grand Prix, I personally have nothing against Monza, but I will run where there will be greater safety".
Let’s talk about the next championship. In your opinion Lotus will still dominate the field? It is said that Chapman is preparing another revolutionary car, with the rear wing incorporated in the body of the car...
"Lotus, with Andretti and Reutemann, will still have great chances to win, even if every time you prepare a new car you face many risks. And then it is not said that only Chapman has new ideas. Perhaps his will not be the only car with great news. As for me, I can not yet say, of course, what will be the new Copersucar, but I can assure you that we did not lag behind...".
Which drivers will have the greatest chances of success?
"Apart from Andretti. I believe a lot in Reutemann. And then I don’t want to forget Scheckter with Ferrari. He will have a competitive car, a strong team and Michelin tires... Jody is not a great test driver. Lauda in this sense is much stronger, but the South African is one who knows how to drive. Honestly I would like to be in his place I always dreamed of driving one of the cars of Maranello. In my career I’ve only ridden Lotus, McLaren and Copersucar, and I’d like to try something different. But I’m tied to my team and I’m convinced that next year will be better than last year. I’m only 32 years old and if Andretti became the 38-year-old World Champion, I don’t see why I should be denied good chances. I’m still a kid".
Thursday, November 30, 1978, accompanied by Sante Ghedini, Niki Lauda arrives in Settimo Milanese to personally attend the first tests at the bench of the new Alfa Romeo engine. Lauda is pleased with the compactness of the new V12, which should fit perfectly with the first wing-car designed by Murray, that is the BT48. After attending the rehearsals, Lauda has a long private interview with Chiti. Once the issue has been resolved with the CSI, after the construction of the new engine that will equip first the Brabham and, subsequently, also the new ground-effect Alfa that Chiti has just set, there is only one knot to solve: the name of the pilot of the Alfa Romeo car. Sunday, December 10, 1978 Bruno Giacomelli declares that in 1979 he will race with an Italian Formula 1. Since there are no free places in Ferrari and that Arturo Merzario will line up a single car at the wheel of which there will be the pilot from Como, the press concludes that the driver from Brescia must be in the finishing straight, or that maybe he has already signed, with the Alfa Romeo, but Carlo Chiti denies. The next day, stimulated by Giacomelli’s statement, Vittorio Brambilla makes himself heard and announces that he is ready to return to a Formula 1.
"I hope very much for Alfa. Every week I am at Autodelta. I feel like staying in the environment. Engineer Chiti wants me to continue the work I’ve done so far with them".
Chiti has in fact kept in touch with Brambilla, often and personally checking his health first and then his recovery. But Chiti does not even escape the fact that even when the physical and psychic recovery was total - "There is only a kind of vision, a departure; but it is like the memory of a dream made so long ago" - Brambilla has turned forty-one years. As a test driver you can most likely still have your say. The mechanics of Autodelta have always loved him because they consider him almost one of them, more a mechanic than a driver, since in the past it happened more than once that he started working directly with them on the car in a break of practice. But as a driver, the Monza accident could have pushed him straight to the end of his career. So Chiti looked around and, discarded France, which has not enough experience, there are two names on his agenda: those of Riccardo Patrese and Bruno Giacomelli. The choice will fall on the latter, and just before Christmas will find the agreement with Carlo Chiti. In the meantime, Saturday, December 2, 1978 we return to the story of the Italian Grand Prix, after the Dino Ferrari circuit officially becomes a permanent facility, blocked to normal traffic.
An ordinance of the mayor of the PCI Solaroli establishes, after having solved all the problems of cohabitation with citizens residing in the perimeter of the circuit, the definitive closure of the road ring of five kilometers. This historic date comes almost thirty years after the original idea of a group of sportsmen who first thought to build a car track in the hilly area of Santerno. The inauguration takes place in front of the grandstand of the race management with the mayor Solaroli, the president of the Automobile Club of Bologna, Jovi, the president of the CSAI, Serena, and the inspector for circuit safety, Rogano. The official program also proposed tests of Ferrari, but neither the cars, nor the drivers of Maranello took to the track and the fans had to be content to applaud Agostini, Munari, Regazzoni, Stohr, Fabi and Cecotto and see some series cars turn, plus the March-Bmw of the European Formula 2 champion, Giacomelli. A visit by Enzo Ferrari was also announced: not even the manufacturer was seen, not wanting perhaps to go too far in favor of Imola. The engineer Nosetto - one of the managers of Ferrari - explains the reasons for the absence.
"A team of mechanics with Scheckter and a car is in South America for practice ahead of the start of the season. Villeneuve asked for a few days off and, moreover, we didn’t even have a car ready for practice on the track. As for the commander, it must be said that, despite the winter climate, he is going through a good period of health, but obviously he did not feel like undergoing such a fatigue".
The final closure of the Emilian circuit brings a new point in favor of Dino Ferrari, since it now officially has all the features to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix. But the game is already won? A definitive answer is not yet possible. Everything will depend on the decisions of ACI, CSAI and CSI. If Monza will soon be able to make the improvements required to obtain the usability, the game will still be open. Otherwise Imola will almost certainly be the seat of the 1979 Italian Grand Prix. The executives of A. C. of Bologna are, at this point, in the waiting phase, even if they declare themselves ready to respect the contract signed with Ecclestone. The president, Giancarlo Jovi, a man who certainly is not very into sports, but who shows intelligence and savoir-faire, on this point is categorical:
"We have signed a contract, which also involves the payment of a penalty in the event of default by one of the parties. So we will have a Grand Prix, be it in Italy, San Marino or Switzerland".
The top executive of A. C. bolognese, in his address to those present, stated that he should not have spoken, on this occasion, of the controversy between Imola and Monza.
"But we were at least shocked by the behaviour of the president of ACI, Carpi de Resmini, whom we had only met on Friday. On that occasion Carpi had proposed the possibility of alternating between the two tracks, once at one, once at the other. Contrary to what the president of the ACI asserted, however, he then made statements that contradict what he had told us, statements from which he appears adamant in his decision to hold the next Grand Prix in Monza, in 1979".
Within a month, the contract will be launched for the works that will lead to the complete reconstruction of the box area and other services, for a total cost of about 300.000.000 lire. Later, when there will be more guarantees, that is when an official decision will be made about the location of the Grand Prix, we will think about the construction of other facilities, including some grandstands. While in Italy opens the new plant, Tuesday, December 5, 1978 Niki Lauda is the protagonist of a serious accident in the Autodrome of Interlagos, where Sunday, February 4, 1979 is scheduled the Brazilian Grand Prix of Formula 1. The Brabham-Affa the Austrian driver goes off the track, suffering very serious damage. Lauda reports a mild state of shock and bruising in her right hand, with a suspected fracture. The incident took place at 11:40 a.m. during the private practice that many teams play in Interlagos, especially to test the tires ahead of the 1979 World Championship. Lauda reports that he suddenly lacked the brakes of the car and that it was impossible to keep the Brabham on track. Former World Champion’s car crashed into a guardrail. Fortunately, the cockpit resists the impact, allowing Lauda to exit the car independently. Back at the box, Lauda is taken to the hospital for a check-up. The Austrian will return to Europe the next day. In Brazil there is also talk of the Formula 1 drivers market, which just over a month after the Argentine Grand Prix is now practically over.
After the sensation transfers of Scheckter to Ferrari, Reutemann to Lotus and Hunt to Wolf, the other teams also worked hard to win the leading drivers available. The only prestigious team that has not yet defined the formation is Tyrrell, which after confirming Pironi (refusing to give it to Renault in exchange for a fairly substantial figure) is still in negotiations for the second driver. The former Boscatolo, who at the end of the season lost the Elf that for years financed him, is always looking for a sponsor of large availability, and for this reason has not solved the question of who will drive his second car. Tyrrell’s decision, which is evaluating the funding offers received from Martini & Rossi and, it seems, from the powerful American television network Abc, is also linked to Bruno Giacomelli, the last of the drivers who has not yet managed to land. The Brescia driver has been waiting for a response for over a month and, after being given for sure his passage to the English team, it seems now that his chances have been reduced considerably. Reached by phone in his home in Roncadelle, Giacomelli confirms that he has no confidence to participate in the next Formula 1 World Championship.
"I always wait for an answer from Tyrrell, but from the way he spoke to me, I think I have little chance".
But how come a young driver who has clearly demonstrated that he is one of the best young drivers in motorsport does not find a place in Formula 1 even after winning the European Formula 2 Championship? Contrary to almost all the other sports in which you advance by ability and bravura, In the Circus of Grand Prix you only access if you have large sums to be paid to the various teams to get a place in a team. To avoid creating dangerous precedents, the exception was not made even in front of a natural talent like Giacomelli. Indeed, to counter Parmalat and the Alta Romeo leaders, who wanted him at Brabham, Ecclestone played on the controversial overtaking of Brands Hatch between Lauda and Giacomelli to discredit the Italian, arriving then on the eve of the German Grand Prix to bet with his German friend that Bruno would not find a place in Formula 1, Fortunately for Giacomelli not everyone thinks like Ecclestone and just these days is the indiscretion of his passage to Alfa Romeo to drive in the next season the new Milanese single-seater. Asked about it, the Brescia pilot is entrenched behind a diplomat no comment, but according to well-informed sources the negotiations between Giacomelli and the Alfa executives are already well advanced so that the final agreement should be imminent. A few days later, Saturday, December 16, 1978, the Fédération internationale du sport automobile (FISA, this will be officially called the new body that oversees motor racing, on the site of the obsolete International Sports Commission, the CSI) announces the list of teams and drivers allowed to compete in the 1979 Formula 1 World Championship. Lotus: #1 Andretti (Usa), #2 Reutemann (Argentina); Tyrrell: #3 Pironi (France), #4 Jarier (France); Brabham: #5 Laudaren (Austria), #6 Piquet (Brazil); McLaren: #7 Watson (Great Britain), #8 Tambay (France); ATS: #9 Stuck (Germany); Ferrari: #11 Scheckter (South Africa), #12 Villeneuve (Canada); Copersucar: #14 Fittipaldi (Brazil); Renault: #15 Jabouille (France), #16 Arnoux (France); Shadow#17 Lammers (Holland), #18 Ongais (Usa); Wolf #20 Hunt (Great Britain); Ensign: #22 Daly (Ireland): Merzario: #24 Merzario (Italy); Ligier: #25 Depailler (France), #26 Laffite (France); Williams: #27 Jones (Australia), #28 Regazzoni (Switzerland); Arrows: #29 Patrese (Italy), #30 Mass (Germany), Rebaque Lotus: #31 Rebaque (Mexico); Kaushen: #33 Nevé (Belgium). Twenty drivers will be available as reserves. Among them the Italians Brambilla, Giacomelli, Ghinzani, De Angelis, Zunino, Brancatelli and Colombo. The new regulation obliges pilots to participate in all sixteen races of the calendar. The World Championship will be divided into two phases and the best four results obtained by the drivers in each phase will be taken into consideration. Meanwhile, in Italy, at the end of the meeting between the President of the Council on. Andreotti and the drivers champions of Italy, happened Saturday morning (16 December 1978), in the red hall of Palazzo Chigi, the lawyer Carpi De Resmini, president of the Automobil Club, releases some important clarifications on the debated issue of safety, concerning the Monza circuit.
"I come from Paris where the CIS met. I can already assure you that next year’s Italian Grand Prix will be held regularly at the Monza track".
What has been decided on the issue of security?
"No one said anything about it. It seems to me that we, in Italy, have overstated the situation, more than what happened abroad. However, it is part of our plans to study the appropriate measures to make the path safer".
But something the CSI asked for?
"Of course, the recommendation only concerns the remaking of the boxes that must be much larger than the current ones. There has been talk of an expenditure of 700.000.000 lire. It has to be verified. It is certain that we will comply with the demands of the CIS. I mean, they don’t want people messing around with cars".
Carpi De Resmini, after stressing the satisfaction of the automotive world for the exclusion of an increase in the price of petrol, announced by Andreotti, welcomes the interest shown by the President of the Council himself. The following day, Sunday, December 17, 1978, Ferrari makes known the characteristics of its new Formula 1 car, the 312 T4, destined to participate in the next World Championship with Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve. This is a compendium of in-depth studies of internal aerodynamics, carried out at the Pininfarina wind tunnel, according to recent research techniques, on a Medito model and on previous Ferrari cars. The machine is an integral internal flow solution, as it suggests the lack of outlets and vents. In parallel, measures have been adopted to increase the downforce of the combined aerodynamic effects between the body and the ground. The mobile and rigid side bulkheads (the so-called miniskirts), now allowed by CSI, have allowed to obtain, through the harmonization of the two internal-external flows, high negative vertical loads with efficiencies higher than the unit. All structural mechanics were seen, indeed conditioned, to this general aerodynamic concept of car. Suspensions and chassis have extreme compactness, while the internal composite structures, body-radiators, have maintained, despite the size, the deformability of cell at levels equal to the already tested constructions. The suspensions will be provided with every type of correction and adjustment by the pilot, in particular: pitch, roll, power response. The tests on track, scheduled in the coming days, will allow more adherent choices among the various possible solutions. The car will be equipped with a twelve-cylinder engine in an improved version for torque and power, according to a program of changes that are still evolving.
Technical characteristics four-stroke rear engine, twelve cylinders at 180 degrees with 48 valves, bore and stroke 80 x 49.6, displacement 2991.80, compression ratio 11.5 a.i., power 515 hp at 12.300 rpm/min, Lucas indirect injection power, Champion candles diameter 10 mm, Marelli ignition. Mechanical or electro-hydraulic gearbox control: five gears plus reverse: gearbox and transverse differential in one block. Brakes, to disk on the 4 wheels. Suspensions, to independent heart. Dimensions, front and post track, 1.700 mm and 1.600 mm: length 4.460 mm: width 2.120 mm, height 1010 mm, wheelbase 2.700 mm. Weight (with water and oil) 590 kg. Speedline modular wheels, Michelin tires. Speaking of presentations, it is thanks to the vital Italian financial and technical contribution that two events of considerable importance for the next season of the Formula 1 World Championship take place on Wednesday, December 20, 1978, in London. Both the Lotus World Champion, as well as the Brabham-Alfa, announce their novelties for the start of next season, both made with Italian support. After an interval of twelve months, Martini Racing returns to the Formula 1 races to sponsor during the next two-year Lotus World Champion. The new team, which will officially carry the name of Martini racing team Lotus will be, for convenience, called Martini-Lotus. For the occasion, Mario Andretti’s car is exhibited in the new look that, except for the white-red-blue stripes of Martini Racing, is now entirely painted in dark green, the traditional racing green that once characterized the British racing cars. At the presentation the patron of Lotus, Colin Chapman, who after eleven years with the John Player Special, will have for the first time an Italian sponsor.
"Several times in the past, I have been jealous of Bernie Ecclestone for the generous help he had received at Brabham from Martini, but now I am really happy because, in addition to having for next season two drivers of the strength of Mario Andretti and Carlos Reutemann, my team will be sponsored by a sponsor of great international prestige. We hope to do even more than last year".
Martini’s financial support will be around 2.000.000.000 lire for the period 1979-1980. The sponsorship contract includes an option for another two years. Reutemann will have to give up his personal contract with Cinzano. The all-green Lotus differs from the 79 model, with which Andretti won the world title, for a series of technical changes and therefore will carry the initials 79/B. Chapman reveals that by March 1979 a new revolutionary car will be completed, model 80, and adds:
"All the other teams that have copied my current car with ground effect I hope will be outdated by comparison".
However, the 80 will only be used when it proves to be faster than the 79/B which, according to Chapman, should still be significantly higher than the car that won the world title. The presentation of the Martini-Lotus was followed in the afternoon by the presentation of the brand new Brabham-Alfa Romeo in absolute preview, thanks to the initiative of Parmalat, which takes the break from Bernie Ecclestone just returned from a trip to Brazil. The stealthy vernissage takes place only in the presence of Niki Lauda and a few journalists from the Italian and Austrian press. On a frosty and snowy afternoon the journalists have to wait for about two hours outside the Brabham workshop, before the new car was completed. Alfa Romeo’s 60-degree 12-cylinder V engine had arrived in London only two days earlier. The car, which is beautiful and has above all the merit of being absolutely at the forefront without having copied the current Lotus, while exploiting the so-called ground effect, should have supported in the afternoon a first test at the Silverstone circuit, but due to bad weather conditions the test was postponed. Niki Lauda had therefore only to take a look at the new Parmalat-Brabham-Alfa BT48. If the weather conditions improve, Lauda will drive the car to Silverstone or Brands Hatch already Thursday, December 21, 1978: it will be ready to go on track in Argentina at the opening of the 1979 World Championship. Lauda declares:
"Although I haven’t been able to test it on the track yet, this car already meets my expectations. I can say that it is superior to Lotus, because it will be able to better exploit the ground effect. It is also the first Formula 1 without the conventional aileron, and also has very different suspension design and much more advanced than those designed by Lotus. It is also more solidly constructed, and has a more aerodynamic profile. With this car I have the chance to return to Formula 1 World Champion, because it is superior to Lotus. And, in my opinion, in 1979 we will not face any car as competitive as that of Mario Andretti".
The British single-seater is very interesting, and constitutes a more advanced stage in the evolution of wing-profile machines, because it exploits the entire length of the chassis behind the front wheels to create an aerodynamic depression. This type of torpedo flanked by two long and low caissons, with a shark snout, has no rear wing. The monocoque is made of carbon fiber and aluminum. The oil and water tanks, one on each side, are placed horizontally next to the only fuel container, located behind the passenger compartment, which is more advanced than in the past. The BT48 will be driven by Lauda in the first tests. The debut is expected in Argentina, the first Grand Prix of the 1979 championship. While, from Brazil, the patron of Brabham and president of FOCA, Bernie Ecclestone, continues to propose that the Brazilian Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, February 4, 1979, be held in Rio de Janeiro instead of São Paulo, as the circuit of Jacarepagua offers possibilities for higher receipts. The following day, Thursday, December 21, 1978, the Argentine Automobile Club) announces the list of drivers and cars entered in the Formula 1 Grand Prix, scheduled for Sunday, January 21, 1979 in Buenos Aires, with which the World Championship will begin. There are 27 cars registered, and three of them will be excluded from the competition, as only 24 cars will be admitted. It is also announced that free practice will take place on Thursday, January 18, 1979, while those qualifying will be scheduled as usual on Friday and Saturday preceding the race. It is likely that the Brabham-Alfa will take to the circuit a few days before to do some tests. As soon as he returned from Brazil, after solving the organizational problems for the second race of the World Championship, Saturday, December 23, 1978 Bernie Ecclestone is informed that it is expected for the beginning of the year, in Monza, to draw up the final plan for the construction of the national circuit that will host the Italian Grand Prix again, as officially confirmed by the president of ACI, the lawyer Carpi de Resmini. But Ecclestone replies:
"I have no intention of going to Monza to discuss those changes to the circuit that we had asked for and waited in vain for five years. Our association is committed to racing instead in Imola, and there is therefore more to discuss".
But now that an extension of three years has been granted to the permanence of the track in the park of Monza, and being therefore the company that manages the circuit willing to carry out the work that the Association of Formula 1 Manufacturers requires as an indispensable condition to deploy its machines, Don’t you think you can withdraw from your previous decision in favour of Imola and return to Monza?
"Certainly not. Monza has promised for five years the changes we had legitimately demanded, but never doing anything. The final date set by us to receive the necessary guarantees from the management of the circuit has also not been respected. As a result we were forced to, look for an alternative in Italy. With the A. C. of Bologna we did not encounter any difficulties to reach an agreement for Imola. On the other hand, in many other countries, as well as in England, there is a rotation of racetracks to host a World Championship race. I don’t see why Monza should have exclusivity in Italy".
It has been stated that the contract signed by Ecclestone with A. C. of Bologna is subject to the fact that the Italian Grand Prix is awarded to Imola, and would therefore no longer have force since the race was officially awarded to the Monza circuit.
"In the contract signed by me on behalf of our Association, a conditional clause is not included".
For what date is the Imola race scheduled?
"It should be in September, the traditional date of the Italian Grand Prix. I would like to add that I am rather fed up with all these controversies in which I have been involved for the ongoing war between Italian racetracks. If things go on like this there will be no race in Italy regarding the FOCA. The easiest thing we can do now is not to run in Italy anymore. We are not at all forced to go to Italy to race. Of course? There is nothing else to add".
Even in the event that two Formula 1 races are scheduled in Italy for the next season, but only that of Monza valid for the Italian Grand Prix, it will be very unlikely, being so, convince the FOCA to line up its cars again at the national circuit, and very difficult to find in the calendar of Formula 1 another date still available for a non-title race, The other two have already been bought up by Britain. On March 18, 1979, the traditional Race of Champions will be held for which the organizers of Brands Hatch and the FOCA have guaranteed a minimum of 100.000 pounds to the Niisson Fund for the fight against cancer, and on 3 June 1979 the new Donington circuit will host for the first time a Formula 1 test, which will be organized under the auspices of the Royal Automobil Club and will bear the name of Gunnar Nilsson Memorial Trophy Race, with 150.000 pounds of prizes up for grabs, the richest Formula 1 race outside the World Championship. The entire proceeds, hopefully £250.000, will be donated to the Nilsson Fund. Prince Bertil of Sweden assured his presence at the race in which they have already joined the Lotus with Mario Andretti, Wolf with James Hunt, Williams with Jones or Regazzoni, and Arrows probably with Patrese. Through a telex, Ferrari has recently sent Donington its official registration.