Finally, without long interruptions, Formula 1 moves to Austria for what could be the decisive race of the season. The duel between Jones and his pursuers is now tightening, and each race in the World Championship becomes crucial in the pursuit of the title. The Australian driver has a significant advantage, but he must avoid setbacks as his pursuers are all ready to take advantage of the situation. From Laffite to Piquet, from Pironi to his teammate Reutemann, everyone is ready to seek a last-minute connection at the top of the championship standings. Many teams arrive in Austria with various innovations (perhaps Lotus will present three cars and three drivers, including the addition of young Englishman Nigel Mansell, a Formula 3 hopeful). There will be new Fittipaldi cars, which performed well in Germany despite not finishing the race due to teething problems. Several teams will bring slightly modified cars, even though the time between races has been very short. Ferrari is not expected to introduce major changes, nor is Alfa Romeo, which achieved an excellent fifth place at Hockenheim and will only race with Giacomelli. Regarding the Milanese team, there are many speculations about who might replace Depailler for the rest of the season. Giacomelli says:
"I have no preferences, and I haven't even thought about who could replace Depailler. Anyone is fine with me."
Among the various names proposed, that of the young De Cesaris stands out, the winner of the last race of the European Formula 2 Championship in Misano. However, it is not excluded that Alfa may conclude the season without hiring another driver. The battle for the next year is intensifying, with proposals coming from all sides. Prost's arrival is ruled out as he reportedly rejected a significant offer from Autodelta, but several champions could potentially drive for the Milanese team. In the last few hours, a sensational rumor even speaks of Mario Andretti, the former World Champion currently with Lotus. Andretti's relationship with Colin Chapman seems strained, and a divorce from the English team appears imminent.
"I have no intention of hanging up my helmet yet, and I would like to end my career in Formula 1 in the best way with a competitive car”.
Says Andretti. When asked if he would like to return to racing in Italy, Andretti replies:
"My heart is always with my native country, and therefore, I would not mind racing for an Italian team."
Is this the right time? For now, Andretti does not confirm any contact with Alfa Romeo, but the rumor is growing louder. An experienced driver, a good tester, could join Giacomelli to advance the development of the cars and simultaneously pursue the results that often did not materialize. The Formula 1 driver market is expected to conclude in the next few days, by the end of the month at the latest. Dramatic transfers are not excluded. Just four days after the conclusion of the German Grand Prix, Formula 1 returns to the track with the first official practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix, the tenth race of the World Championship. In Zeltweg, the theme of the race remains unchanged. Alan Jones will try to secure the points needed to win the championship, and his main rivals (Piquet, Arnoux, Laffite, Pironi, and his teammate Carlos Reutemann) will make his task difficult. Only one unpleasant surprise for Enzo Osella: on Thursday, August 14, 1980, two judicial officers await him at the circuit, who provisionally seize Eddy Cheever's cars. Reason: a recent decision by an Austrian court orders the Turin constructor to pay 54.000.000 lire as compensation to former driver Hans Rinder. The events date back to 1976 when the Austrian was racing for Osella in Formula 2. Mid-season, due to the car's poor competitiveness, the driver and the constructor mutually agreed to suspend activities. A few months later, turning the situation in his favor, Rinder sued Osella for breach of contract. The Italian team relied on an Austrian lawyer, and the process continued without Osella hearing about it. The recent judgment in favor of Rinder (against which Osella can appeal later) prompted the court to take action. Osella must make the payment via bank transfer by tonight.
As for Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, the Maranello team faces the usual tire and grip issues, while the Milanese team relies on a single driver, Bruno Giacomelli. From Germany, more news about Depailler's tragedy arrives. FISA delegate Derek Ongaro repeats that the investigation into the accident's dynamics always considers a possible failure on the Alfa Romeo. As if bad news were not enough, barring miracles, Clay Regazzoni will remain paralyzed forever. This is the opinion of Dr. Guido Zaech, head of the Basel Paraglerlgerzentrum clinic, where the former Ferrari and Williams driver has been hospitalized for over four months. In an interview, the doctor explains:
"Apart from a slight sensitivity recorded in the upper part of the legs, Regazzoni cannot move his lower limbs in any way. Unfortunately, there is no reason to be optimistic. Regazzoni is fully aware of his condition."
The Swiss driver can leave the clinic at the beginning of next October, using a wheelchair for his future movements. He has been paralyzed for 137 days due to spinal cord injuries sustained in a serious accident at Long Beach in the United States Grand Prix. In Austria, with the scorching sun and infernal heat, the cars are expected to run less quickly. However, René Arnoux, with the powerful Renault Turbo, achieves a fantastic pole position on Saturday, August 16, 1980, setting a record with the highest average speed ever recorded in Formula 1. The Frenchman leaves all rivals far behind, clocking at 1'30"27, at an average speed of 236.985 km/h. And this is on a circuit that practically has no straight stretch - just curves and undulations. Apparently, these wing-car machines always stick to the ground and allow driving at the maximum. The renewed competitiveness of Renault, which also has Jabouille in second place, leaves no alternative for the race. If the engines hold up, no one can disturb the French team's cars. Not even Jones, who sets the third time (but is more than 2.5 seconds behind), pushing hard, so much so that halfway through the practice, he goes straight into the first variant after the pits due to the faulty brakes of his Williams. An exit that earns him a chorus of boos and applause from the numerous Italian fans present. Gilles Villeneuve, fourteenth with Ferrari and grappling with the usual grip problems, comments:
"The Renaults go so fast that they pass me as if I were standing still, anywhere on the circuit."
This comment explains the chronic crisis situation of the Maranello team. Jody Scheckter, twenty-second, is becoming increasingly uninvolved. Fortunately, young Italians reward the fans with notable performances. Giacomelli is the best with his Alfa Romeo, in eighth place, promising an attacking race. De Angelis follows closely, and a nice duel of the tricolor brand is easy to predict, while Patrese, driving an undecided Arrows, is further back, keeping company with Cheever in the Osella. The Italo-American manages to qualify only in the last minutes, breaking an engine in the free practice. The debutant Englishman Nigel Mansell qualifies with the twenty-fourth time, entrusted with a third Lotus by Chapman. Only twenty-five drivers took part in the trials; Jochen Mass did not go on the track, having had a spectacular accident on Friday: slipping on an oil stain, his Arrows overturned in a field, and the German miraculously escaped with only a severe back contusion. The only non-qualifier, therefore, is the Dutchman Jan Lammers, with the Ensign that once belonged to Regazzoni. And to think that the small driver from Zandvoort - according to some rumors - had even been proposed to replace Scheckter at Ferrari for 1981. Regarding the driver market, here are the latest rumors: Alfa's interest in Andretti is confirmed (but no one has spoken to the driver yet), and the name of the young Roman Andrea De Cesaris, pushed by Marlboro, has also come up. As for Ferrari, there has been talk of at least three French drivers recently: Prost (the most likely), Arnoux, and Pironi. But there are also whispers of an orientation for American Ricky Mears and a consideration for an Italian. De Angelis (never contacted), or Giacomelli (which would be a spite for Alfa), or a very young one (Mauro Baldi, Formula 3 champion). It took two days of waiting to have ten minutes of Alan Jones' precious time. Always busy, engaged with his team's technicians, with sponsors, with manager Frank Williams, with autograph hunters, and with a thousand other excuses, the Australian driver is certainly not what one would call a man of public relations.
His relations with the press (including the Australian one) are not exactly idyllic. To be honest, Jones doesn't even have the physical appearance, that is, the physique du rôle, of a Formula 1 champion. He doesn't have the charm of French drivers, always elegant and groomed, nor the freshness of the Italians, nor the sympathy and availability of South Americans. He's a unique type, more rare than common. Looking at him, dark hair already showing some gray strands, a wide face without smiles, not too tall but sturdy, he could be mistaken for the cinematic image of an ox breeder or a country parson. Yet, this tough and somewhat gruff man has a good chance of becoming World Champion, the heir to Lauda, Andretti, and Scheckter. Perhaps it's right that it should be so. You just have to be a character, and you can become a character even with antipathy and rude manners or absolute silence. Thirty-three years old, married, with a young daughter, Jones does not like to talk about his family. He only accepts discussions about himself and responds only when he wants to. The debut deals specifically with relationships with people, especially journalists, that he does not like to have around.
"Eighty percent of people always ask me the same things. And often, they are stupid questions. If you go fast, they praise you; if it goes badly, they bring you down. And I don't accept reproaches: to those who point out that everything is part of the game, I reply that we are in a democracy, and everyone is free to make their choices."
So what do you like about Formula 1?
"Driving, professionalism, relationships with technicians. I hate politics, events unrelated to racing. In any case, I think I have enough friends in the environment, even if I can't socialize with other drivers. However, there are people who appreciate me outside of racing."
Is that why you're not aligned with the drivers' association on safety issues?
"I've already talked about that too much. If I believe in a car, I drive it; if it's dangerous, I step out. The same goes for circuits. I don't need a committee to tell me what to do."
What are your best qualities and your flaws as a man and as a driver?
"I believe that a positive aspect of me is that I face every difficulty after a thorough logical analysis, with calmness and tranquility."
You have already signed a contract with Williams for 1981. But have you had other offers? And would you like to go to Ferrari?
"I stayed with Williams because I believe in him and his technicians. However, I must say that I received two other proposals. As for Ferrari, I must say it is the most prestigious team in Formula 1. In 1977, with the Maranello team, I had a dialogue, and a contract was proposed, which was supposed to be approved later with a phone call. It never came. Nevertheless, it was a great satisfaction for me to go to Maranello and meet Enzo Ferrari. I regret not racing for him. I framed that contract and keep it hanging in my London home."
Do you think you made any mistakes this year that compromised your chances?
"One for sure. At Long Beach when I tried to overtake Giacomelli, who was lapped. We collided, and I lost a possible second place. I should have stayed away from him."
If you were to win the world title, would you retire immediately, as Scheckter did?
"If I win, I will certainly continue. For me, the World Championship will be a reward. But above all, I enjoy racing. I will stop when it's no longer the same. And then I'll go back to Australia immediately. I will become a businessman. I think I have the knack for certain things. I invest all my earnings in properties. I have houses and land in Melbourne, California, England, and Switzerland."
Do you spend money easily?
"I gave about 25.000.000 lire to the young New Zealand driver Mike Thackwell to help him get ahead because I believe in him. He reminds me of when I was young. But sooner or later, he'll have to pay me back. I like collecting cars, keeping them well, shiny, and immaculate. I'm trying to buy a Maserati 250 F with which my father raced in 1956-1957, winning the Australian Grand Prix. It's in the possession of an English collector. He knows that I want it, and so the price is very high."
One last question: which driver would you recommend to Ferrari to replace Jody Scheckter?
"A very slow one, so the races for me will be easier."
On Sunday morning is heavy and sticky with a great chance of more rain, and this, added to a lack of an Austrian driver in the race, probably is the main reason for the crowd being comparatively small; 55.000 instead of the usual 100.000 plus. The warm-up half-hour is pretty uneventful, but most drivers settle on which car they intend to race. There is then a two-hour break for final preparation and at 2:30 p.m. the pit lane begins to stir in readiness for the 54-lap race scheduled to start at 3:00 p.m. One by one the cars leave the pit lane and are driven round to the assembly grid in front of the pits, and all 24 cars are ready. The weather is cool and grey and the sun is fighting a winning battle with the gloom. Arnoux leads them all round on the parade lap and they line up on the grid in alternate positions. Arnoux has had new turbo chargers fitted to his Renault engine during the lunch break, Jones is in the latest Williams, Piquet is in the Brabham number 7 which has started out as the spare, the Lotus drivers have all reverted to their original cars, Watson has switched to the spare McLaren and Giacomelli is driving the Alfa Romeo with the smaller and lower engine. The red light glows, cars begin to creep forward, the green light glows and the field roars off past the pits and up the hill to the chicane. Alan Jones has his Williams between the Renaults and he sits it out with Arnoux wheel-to-wheel and takes the lead. He knows full well that both Renaults can power past him on the straight, but Jones is a racer and he is out to make the frogs work.
For two glorious laps he leads, but then Arnoux powers past and then Jabouille does the same. Renaults are a comfortable 1-2, but Jones is not giving up and the three of them leave the rest of the field behind. When the rest are sorted out it is seen that Giacomelli is leading Reutemann and Piquet, followed by Pironi and de Angelis, but Laffite has made a poor start and is engulfed in mid-field. Cheever has come to rest at the end of the pits after the start and has got going again long after everyone else is well away on the opening lap. At five laps the two Renaults and Jones are well away on their own, and the Renault plan has been to sacrifice Jabouille for the benefit of Arnoux, has Jones been troublesome. Jabouille’s car has been set-up on soft tyres to enable him to play the hare, while Arnoux is on harder tyres to settle in and consolidate the Renault position. It is soon clear that these tactics are unnecessary for though Jones is hanging on he could not challenge the Renaults so they set the pace. The rest are pounding along in their wake and everyone is still going. The first casualty is Andretti who drops out from an inconspicuous 17th place and then Scheckter dives into the pits from an equally obscure 15th place to change his tyres, though quite why he has bothered is not clear. At 10 laps the two Renaults are pulling away and trying as he might.
Jones can no longer stay with them, but he is so far ahead of the rest of the field that he is in a different race. Giacomelli is doing a courageous drive with the Alfa Romeo, holding on to fourth place, but he is overstressing his tyres too early in the race. As they have deteriorated he is forced to let Piquet by and then Reutemann. In seventh place comes de Angelis ahead of the two Ligiers and Villeneuve, but down the field trouble is beginning; Daly has had a front brake disc shear off the hub as he has braked for a left-hander and the other front brake which worked has pulled him off the road and away into the fields. Cheever has had his left-rear tyre fail and limped back to the pits, but though the Osella sets off again it's not for long as a hub-bearing is breaking up. Pironi is never in the picture from the start as his Ligier is handling in a peculiar manner and though he tries a different set of tyres it makes no difference and he is forced to give up with something not right in the rear suspension. It has looked as though the Renaults are going to cruise away to a convincing 1-2 sweep, but on lap 21 Jabouille goes by into the lead and Arnoux slows right down with a front tyre deflating. Jones goes by before the ailing Renault gets to the pits and when Arnoux rejoins the race with four new tyres he is down in tenth place, but proceeds to go like a bat out of hell. The engine in Jarier’s Tyrrell goes sick as he passes the pits and we don’t see him again, and then Giacomelli brings the lone Alfa Romeo in for a tyre charge from his brave sixth place. In his excitement he shoots out of the pits before one of the rear wheel nuts is tightened and hasn’t gone many yards before the wheel falls off! (Remember Alan Jones and the Williams team in Watkins Glen last year?) While Arnoux is making up time Jabouille is firmly in the lead and Jones has eased off slightly, secure in second place. Reutemann has passed Piquet so now the Williams team are second and third and Laffite has worked his way past de Angelis to take sixth place. While Jabouille is cruising along in the lead at an average speed of nearly 140 km/h Arnoux is setting up new lap records but his Michelins are not up to the strain and after passing the two McLarens and moving up to eighth place he is forced to stop again for a change of rear tyres. He is soon back in the race going as fast as ever, but now a lap behind his team-leader who is conscious of his own tyres being doubtful of lasting the race.
In consequence Jabouille is altering his driving technique and conserving his tyres, especially the front left one which does the majority of the work round the Osterreichring. His plan is to nurse things along and still keep a comfortable distance ahead of Jones, but saving something in reserve in case the Williams driver puts the pressure on in the closing stages of the race. As Jabouille is playing it remarkably cool out in front Arnoux is flashing past the tail enders, but to no avail for he is driving harder than the Michelins can stand and on lap 38 he is in again for another set of tyres, but still he doesn't give up. In the closing stages of the race, as Jabouille had anticipated, Jones begins to pile on the pressure, but the wily Frenchman has the situation well in hand and lets Jones close the gap dramatically without getting flustered. After such a long time in the doldrums with retirement after retirement Jabouille is not going to throw this one away and he carefully and skilfully matches the pace of the Williams, always with something in reserve, providing his left-front tyre holds out. His pit staff are keeping him fully informed and you can see him searching in his mirror for a sight of the Williams as he goes down the pits straight. Driving with beautiful precision and judgement he matches Jones’ pace to a nicety and they both record their fastest laps on the last lap of the race and a jubilant Jabouille crosses the line three-quarters of a second ahead of the Williams. Reutemann cruises home a third, followed by Laffite, Piquet, de Angelis and Prost all on the same lap as the leader. This time everyone was expecting little René Arnoux, but Jean Pierre Jabouille arrived. Changing the order of the drivers, however, the result remains the same: it's always the Renault turbo. The French car clinches, dominating it, the Austrian Formula 1 Grand Prix. A supremacy that allowed it to fend off, in an exciting finale (the only competitively valid moment of the race), a great comeback by Alan Jones, who still secured an excellent second place, reinforcing his position as the leader of the World Championship. The biggest loser of the race is the little René Arnoux. Defeated by the deterioration of a front tire on his car when he was firmly in command and seemed headed for a victory that would have brought him close to the Australian rival in the overall standings. The twist of fate occurred on lap 21 when Arnoux had to stop at the pits to change the front tires, and a real ordeal began, forcing him to stop two more times, always for the same problem.
Despite this, the unlucky driver from Grenoble managed to finish in ninth place. And this gives an exact measure of the competitiveness of the overpowering Renault turbo engine that, without the Michelin radial tire grip issues, could certainly have achieved a valuable one-two finish. Excluding Arnoux's problems and some minor collateral incidents, the race had no story. When Jabouille took the lead, he always maintained a margin of advantage, and only in the last laps was he approached by Jones. In this moment, Jabouille performed his masterpiece and deserved the victory (the second of his career), managing the lead he had gained in the middle of the race. Driving with extreme skill and all his considerable experience on a car that had lost its initial grip, the blond Jean Pierre contained Alan Jones' vigorous last-minute overtaking attempt, with less than a second gap at the finish line indicating a victory achieved almost in a sprint. Behind the first two drivers, the ever-regular Reutemann reached the finish line, but he was never in contention for victory (still, two Williams in the top three positions), followed by other title contenders, with Laffite delivering a remarkable performance, Piquet slowed down by a car that didn't allow him to do more, and finally, in the points zone, De Angelis. As for the rest, there is little to say: the Ferrari (Villeneuve eighth, Scheckter thirteenth), although slightly more competitive, paid the price for starting in the back of the grid and the usual pit stops to change tires. The fiery Canadian (who made Jabouille and Jones sweat to lap him) gave his all, as always; the South African raced practically alone, giving the impression of being a tourist who had stumbled upon a gang of unleashed devils. An excellent result would have been within reach for Alfa Romeo and the extremely unlucky Bruno Giacomelli. But here, an unforeseeable problem deprived the Brescia driver and the Milanese team of a big satisfaction. On Giacomelli's exit, on lap 27, when he was fighting on equal terms with pursuers Reutemann and Piquet (he was in fourth place), there are conflicting explanations.
"I suddenly felt a strong vibration, and I had to stop. They changed my rear tires, but when I accelerated to return to the track, I got stuck with the right wheel almost detached."
What exactly happened? The vibration felt by Giacomelli could have been an early warning of a failure. A damaged suspension or a malfunctioning half-shaft. The fact is that the wheel that had just been fitted immediately came off. It was thought that the rim had not been screwed on perfectly by the mechanics. After checks by the Alfa officials on the car, an official version of the incident was provided: the loss of the wheel would have been caused by a sudden detachment of the half-shaft and subsequently by the suspension breaking due to the car's abrupt start. In practice, jumping off the jack on which it had been hoisted, the Alfa would have undergone a pull so strong and sudden that it caused the breakage. That said, let's briefly talk about the other protagonists, for better or for worse. Another convincing performance by the number one candidate to replace Jody Scheckter at Ferrari: Alain Prost, seventh ahead of Gilles Villeneuve, showed at twenty-five years old the qualities of a driver with seasoned experience, with a McLaren that certainly is not a jewel. For Patrese, going through a very delicate moment psychologically, there was nothing to be done. An Arrows always incomprehensible in terms of performance and an engine that didn't rev relegated the Italian driver to an anonymous fourteenth place. However, Riccarda can console herself because her friend and rival Eddy Cheever, with the Osella, hasn't had the chance to participate in a regular race yet. Slowed down since the reconnaissance lap by gearbox problems, the Italo-American driver had to retire when he was already significantly behind, with the gearbox not engaging gears even when pushed. Fortunately, the Austrian Grand Prix had no significant accidents. The only spectacular off-track excursion was that of Irishman Derek Daly with the Tyrrell. Going long in a turn, the red-haired driver took to the grass, leaving deep furrows on the lawn. So, the smile returned to Jean-Pierre Jabouille's face, the friendly and talented French driver almost always among the protagonists of Formula 1 races but who had not scored a single point for the World Championship for almost a year and a half, exactly since the victory in the French Grand Prix last season. A serene, composed smile that brought light back to the elongated face of the Frenchman who, in many expressions, resembles the American comedian Danny Kaye.
"I knew that sooner or later, the misfortune that has often plagued me would end, and that victory was still within my reach. It is a significant success not only for me but also for the whole team that has always worked with the utmost commitment. Renault is a fantastic team with which I will continue to compete even in '81 because I am convinced that I can aim decisively for the world title."
What did you think when you saw Alan Jones' Williams getting closer?
"I was calm because I had a certain margin of advantage, and the race was now over. I had deteriorated front tires and had to avoid taking too many risks. That's why Jones got so close. I had set myself to maintain a steady pace. However, I had to interrupt it to overtake Villeneuve, who was the most difficult opponent to pass."
Jabouille, 37, from Paris, one of the veterans of racing who took a few years to rise to the top, is married to the sister of Jacques Laffite's wife. He is considered one of the most cultured drivers in Formula 1, a lover of music and painting, a gentleman among less refined people. He enjoys fishing for trout with his brother-in-law and, to stay in physical shape, he trains on a bicycle and practices cross-country running.
"I started with softer tires on my car than those used on my teammate Arnoux's car. Consequently, when I saw him stopping at the pits, I was worried about not pushing too hard, not tiring the tires. That's why Jones got so close to me. I had decided to maintain a constant pace. However, I had to interrupt it to overtake Villeneuve, who was the most difficult opponent to pass."
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In this regard, the Canadian Ferrari driver explains his behavior:
"If I had known that Jabouille was in the lead, I would have pulled aside to let him pass. But I thought that the Renault had the same tire problems as mine, and I thought Jean-Pierre had stopped at the pits and was just trying to gain my position. I'm happy for him that the situation was different."
Jabouille's happiness was contrasted by Arnoux's bitterness, who only marginally participated in Renault's joy.
"For us, the championship is practically over."
Just off the podium, Alan Jones, evidently satisfied with his placement and sipping his usual orange juice (while Jabouille toasts with champagne), sportsmanship congratulates the head of the French team and then asks about Piquet's position, considering him his main title rival.
"For me, I needed two more laps. I started at the beginning to try to contain the Renaults, but there was nothing to be done. They immediately passed me as if I were standing still. In Austria, I increased my lead in the standings, but I haven't won the championship yet. I think we'll have to wait for the American races at the end of the season to settle the matter."
The fifth place did not completely fulfill the wishes of the Brazilian Nelson Piquet:
"I was definitely hoping to do better, but the troubles started before the start. I had to start with the reserve car because the race car had a breakdown in the fuel distributor. Then, during the race, I had more fuel supply problems and gearbox issues. I couldn't engage the fourth gear. The championship is not over yet."
Finally, a positive result for Elio De Angelis after a crisis following a promising season debut.
"I really hope my black period is over. After a good start, I was with the leaders, but I had to slow down because the tires were overheating, and I couldn't stay on the track. Maybe we made a mistake in choosing wide tires. I hope to finish the championship on the rise, with even better results."
For some time now, there hasn't been much talk in the Ferrari pits after the races. What to say, after all, when a situation persists for months, in the same way, when the results continue to be disappointing, when the problems become chronic? It's nauseating to interrogate the drivers who respond laconically, with a bitter smile on their lips, with a phrase repeated to obsession:
"We can't do anything; the car lacks grip."
And they're not lies because the Ferrari 312 T5, regularly, in every race, has to stop at least once to change tires. Is it the fault of the car or the tires? It's difficult to answer, even if by now, Michelin technicians admit that they need to work hard to catch up with Goodyear. The same problems afflict the Renault races. However, the French team sometimes manages to overcome them thanks to the overpowering turbo engine and the great balance of its cars. The Re 20 is undoubtedly well-conceived and well-built. At the end of the Austrian Grand Prix, before leaving Zeltweg to go to Monte Carlo at the controls of his helicopter, Gilles Villeneuve talks about the present and the future. After a few words with Jody Scheckter ("I'm an old driver, an old retiree, but before closing with Formula 1, I would like to race at least one race like in the old days"), Villeneuve explains his thoughts on Ferrari's current situation.
"At this point, I seem to have a bit confused ideas. Renault benefits from turbo engines that, with their power, allow an impressive aerodynamic load. If we used the same wings, we would literally be standing still. Our car, however, is not competitive anyway because the tires do not justify a gap of about four seconds per lap."
Could fighting in the back, being forced to strenuous recoveries, also become a psychological obstacle? After such a negative season, don't you lose enthusiasm and aggressiveness?
"For the moment, I'm not discouraged. I believe in Ferrari, in the possibility of recovering. I'm sure that next year, and maybe even before the end of the season, we'll be back with the best."
However, the situation is confusing. It's almost the end of August, and it's still unclear whether the regulations will change in 1981, whether the miniskirts will disappear from Formula 1...
"On this point, I have clear ideas. If we want to save our races, we must change. It is necessary to create cars that allow drivers to drive, to fight on equal terms with others. English constructors don't want to give up the miniskirts: they're stupid. The various Tyrrells and Chapmans don't realize they're going against their interests. If flat-bottom cars were built, it would be better for everyone, for the show."
What do you plan to do then?
"If the miniskirt thesis were to win, I would even be willing to retire. I would go and race in America, in Can-Am races. I hope everything works out for the best. The technicians who build the current cars get everything wrong and make us risk a lot. They do their calculations on paper, but they don't know that when the cars bounce on the track at certain speeds in corners, they subject the materials to incredible stresses. All the recent accidents, in my opinion, have been caused by these problems."
What advice would you give to the constructors?
"I've already said it: either make normal cars or allow an increase in engine power. It may seem contradictory, but it's true: naturally aspirated engines have more or less the same horsepower they had ten years ago when traveling at significantly lower speeds. Now, with aerodynamic adjustments, you push to the maximum, even in the narrowest corners. That's why we have no more safety margin; we can't control the throttle. With wing-cars, we would need at least 800 horsepower. Then the bravest and most skilled drivers would come to the fore again."
Is a turbo engine in the near future for Ferrari and Villeneuve?
"This is a positive fact. In early September, we should have a new type of 126, which should be significantly superior to the turbo we have tested in recent months. It should be a winning weapon."
These are hectic days for Formula 1. Not so much for the fight for the world title but for the end-of-season market. Never before has the transfer of drivers (and also technicians, mechanics, team managers, and sports directors) taken on a farcical and absurd tone, very close and similar to that of the football transfer market. In the Zeltweg paddock, there is a dance of movements of interested characters, secret agent actions. Discreet places are sought for negotiations, from toilets to the thickets surrounding the circuit—all good places for exchanging information, attempting to position oneself, or placing a piece with some team. Even unsuspected individuals like cooks or timekeepers are used as messengers. Obviously, this situation creates complete chaos with a whirlwind of voices, denials, or confirmations that end up being grotesque. Just seeing a Ferrari mechanic talking to a pilot's girlfriend is enough to immediately spread the news worldwide that the same pilot is about to be hired in Maranello. However, behind the smoke screens, something is moving. The most powerful sponsors manipulate everything, and thus, there is a risk of losing the sense of the real evaluation of a driver, all to the advantage of skilled businessmen like some team owners who enrich themselves behind those willing to spend millions of dollars in Formula 1. The younger and less established drivers are the preferred victims. If the young guys stand out, they are resold at exorbitant prices; if they show little talent, they have to pay a lot of money to change teams, hoping to start over, to try their luck again. The most sensational case in recent times involves the Argentine Riccardo Zunino and the Mexican Hector Rebaque, both hired by Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham. The former signed a contract at the beginning of the season, paying 1.500.000 dollars to race. In the sixth race (after paying 900.000 dollars), left without funds, he was sidelined to make way for the billionaire Rebaque, who seems to pay 150.000 dollars per race to have the second Brabham. Now Zunino wanders around the pits hoping that his rival runs out of money to take back his place (clearly, for a fee). Another episode on everyone's lips concerns the young Elio De Angelis. After being tied to Tyrrell in recent years, De Angelis would have paid the Englishman a large sum at the beginning of 1979 to be free to go to Shadow. Now, having switched to Lotus, the Roman would like to leave Colin Chapman, not being satisfied with his situation. He has several offers (for example, from Alfa Romeo), but even he will have to pay a penalty to leave.