#352 1981 German Grand Prix

2021-10-14 01:00

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#1981, Fulvio Conti,

#352 1981 German Grand Prix

Many of the teams have to repair the ravages of the British Grand Prix in the short space between the Silverstone race and the time to set off in the


The Formula 1 is in crisis, Formula 1 is no longer of interest, and Formula 1, with all its controversies, has tired the audience. These are phrases that have been heard more and more often in recent times. Perhaps there is some truth in all of this, but certainly, no one would believe such statements if on Thursday, July 30, 1981, they had witnessed the arrival of the teams that would be involved in the German Grand Prix, the tenth race of the World Championship. Thousands of fans gather just to see the cars being unloaded from the trucks. The circuit is already surrounded by an immense tent city: people fighting to get close to a Ferrari for a photograph. The only driver present in the morning, Bruno Giacomelli, is literally besieged by autograph hunters. But that's not all. It was said that recent conflicts and disputes would have kept potential new acquisitions away, teams that would like to enter the Grand Prix circus. This hypothesis also seems to be denied. There is talk of Porsche intending to return, BMW making its debut in Monza with a turbocharged engine entrusted to Brabham. And, a sensational piece of news from the last few hours comes from the United States, suggesting that even Ford, one of the world's major automotive industries, is reportedly about to join this already numerous family within a couple of years. An important figure, who wishes to remain anonymous, confided that during a recent trip to the United States, he was approached by the head of the sports programs of the American company, who did not hide interest in joining Formula 1. The participation of Renault, Talbot, Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari, indirectly representing Fiat (not to mention the highly probable interventions of the Japanese in the near future), causes quite a bit of trouble for the overseas manufacturers. They feel invaded from all sides and struggle to respond with sporting images worthy of the situation. Isolated with their own formulas and races, the United States and Ford in particular, known for its massive involvement in the World Sportscar Championship in the recent past, reportedly intend to join the fray. The conditions for this intervention are already in place. Racing started at Long Beach at the beginning of the season and will end in Las Vegas. Next year, a race is scheduled in Detroit, the capital of American automaking. Those who were in the metropolis of Michigan to lay the foundations for this race realized that serious efforts were being made there with substantial resources. Jean-Marie Balestre, president of the FISA, says:


"A city circuit of four kilometers that will have nothing to envy in terms of spectacle to Monte Carlo".


Heading the organizing committee is the president of the powerful General Motors; among the advisors is also Henry Ford II, who, among other things, has received representatives of the Federation. Therefore, in discussions, this possibility of the brand's inclusion could have emerged. Some are already mentioning one of the likely drivers of the new team: Eddie Cheever, the young driver born in Phoenix, Arizona, and residing in Rome. The current driver for Tyrrell could be paired with a famous name, such as Ricky Mears. One can imagine the excitement of these days, an excitement that makes the already uncertain battle for the world title even more captivating. At Hockenheim and in the upcoming races, everyone will try to stand out to attract the attention of the potential new teams. The German track will certainly be the stage, starting from today, of an all-out battle. All teams are making every effort to exploit the slightest advantage. Williams, to support its Reutemann, has brought back the airboxes on the bodywork, those special air intakes that were used some time ago to increase pressure on the intake trumpets. Ferrari has stiffened the chassis, experimenting with new systems to make progress. The Maranello cars have undergone tests with electronic machines that calculate exactly the pressure experienced up to 280 kilometers and the relative weight. The fast German circuit, in conclusion, is particularly suitable for Brabham, Renault turbos, McLarens, and the Talbot-Ligier that won with Laffite last year. Once again, therefore, we start in a climate of great uncertainty. On Friday, July 31, 1981, the turbo engines make a strong statement. Two Renaults in the top two positions, Ferraris in fourth and sixth positions sum up the first qualifying session for the German Grand Prix. The fast track highlights the power of cars with turbocharged engines. Only Jones' Williams (third), Piquet's Brabham (fifth), and Watson's McLaren (seventh) seem to be able to keep pace with acceptable results. The others are currently cut off, unless there are significant improvements in the last qualifying session. But what glitters may not be all gold. The clinical performances of the trials, as has happened many times before, may not be confirmed in the race. 


Closing the turbo valves to obtain higher pressures and therefore an increase in the number of horsepower available is a double-edged sword that risks backfiring on those who dare too much. The characteristics of the circuit, with its long straights and barely hinted curves, should not be underestimated by the team managers. In any case, Renault, with the momentum gained since Dijon, appears very determined. René Arnoux says:


"We have also recorded improvements in the chassis and aerodynamics. With a stable reading at all points on the track, we might not ask too much of the engine. This will be our secret move. We won't recklessly move forward as we have done so far, but we will try to control our opponents. We are tired of being world champions in qualifying while others win the races".


The situation is more complicated at Ferrari. There is satisfaction in the Maranello team for the times achieved. However, there is no hiding a certain apprehension because similar problems, at least seemingly, occurred in the morning, similar to those highlighted in the first part of the season. In the free practice, the engine mounted on Villeneuve's updated car (with reinforcements to the chassis and suspension mounts) gives way, then the one on Pironi's car. Mauro Forghieri says:


"We don't know exactly what it is, we'll see".


It is noted, however, that the failures seem to affect, in both cases, the fifth piston. Also because, during the inspection of the spark plugs, it was seen that those placed in the cylinders under scrutiny were very dirty. These failures could have been caused by a defect in the supply of pistons manufactured by the German company Mahle, whose technicians are present at the tests. To overcome the problems, the new car is held back, while the mechanics of the Maranello team perform one of their usual feats, changing the engine and the entire turbo assembly on Pironi's car in just over an hour and a half, a true speed record. So much so that the Frenchman manages to take part in the next qualifying session almost from the beginning, marking the fourth time. Ferrari still seems to be lacking in terms of grip and stability. An unofficial but reliable timing reveals that the best times in the slowest part of the track, the famous Motodrom, are set by Laffite and Jones in 20.82s, while Villeneuve and Pironi have partials about a second slower. This means that, for now, the Frenchman and the Canadian are still forced to compensate for the lack of stability of the cars with their skill. The number one candidate for victory in the World Championship is also in difficulty. Carlos Reutemann, darker and more frowning than usual, does not go beyond the tenth time, over 2 seconds behind Arnoux.


"It's very tough; there's nothing right in the car. We've lost the superiority we had. I broke the differential on my car and had to use Jones' reserve car".


And Elio De Angelis, who followed him for a few laps, adds:


"Reutemann seems more cautious than ever, constantly looking in the rearview mirrors as if he expects a surprise".


In reality, Carlos does not like the Hockenheim track at all, where two years ago he had two frightening accidents. The tension for the overall leadership and the fear of making mistakes may have conditioned him. The fact remains that on Saturday, August 1, 1981, Carlos Reutemann performs at his best and conquers the third place on the starting grid.


"I'm going on the attack because you can't always sit back and wait for others to make mistakes, to be eliminated by faults".


A committed statement, considering that the South American bets on the third position, with Prost and Arnoux's turbos ahead and behind a pack of ruthless pursuers consisting of Jones himself, Pironi, Piquet, Laffite, Villeneuve, and Watson, lined up in that order. But Carlos is not happy because in his team, the Australian World Champion is continually favored. In fact, during the tests, Frank Williams provides Jones with three sets of tires (only two are allowed for each test session) with the aim of trying to send the Australian driver ahead of Reutemann. The latter protests, and everything ends because Jones fails in his attempt, also because he is not in good health due to bronchitis. Although Reutemann works wonders and the conditions of his Williams have improved significantly, he fails to secure the pole position. The first place is won by Alain Prost, who celebrates the anniversary of his wedding, which took place exactly on this date last year. Little Prost has a key turned on the turbo pressure valve of the Renault and sets a time that no one can get close to.


"It bothered me to have Arnoux in front, not because he is my teammate, but because I don't like being second. I really hope to win".


The forecast, given how the French turbo cars are performing, would be justified if not for all the uncertainties of the race, from environmental conditions to the characteristics of the circuit that force the drivers to keep the accelerator pressed for long periods, with obvious risks for the engines, especially the turbocharged ones, which are more delicate. In this situation, the role of Ferrari (Pironi is fifth on the grid, Villeneuve eighth) is very uncertain. The Maranello team, having solved the problems from Dijon in terms of aerodynamics, is grappling with two difficult obstacles to overcome: the excessive wear of the side skirts that touch the ground (a common problem for almost all teams) and the not very reliable engines. During the second day of training, both drivers of the Maranello team fail to improve their performances, and in fact, they fall back compared to Friday. In the morning, during free practice, the turbines of all three available cars malfunction, and in the qualifications, Villeneuve is hindered by the malfunctioning of the fuel injection on the reinforced car and an engine failure on the other. In short, given that even Alfa Romeo is distant, Patrese and De Angelis are in thirteenth and fourteenth positions at the start, for Italian colors, we must hope for De Cesaris, tenth with a McLaren that is always quite competitive. On Sunday, August 2, 1981, in the morning, Reutemann’s Williams FW07C/14 has its clutch operation fail, so he finishes practice making clutchless gearchanges. During the interval, it is found that there is a fluid leak within the oil tank casting through which the operating line runs. As it is a major job to change the oil tank casting, which is situated between the engine and gearbox, the Argentinian has to use the T-car during the timed session. The Renaults are easily fastest, though Alan Jones is in a fighting mood and is right behind them, nobody else being in the same league, well over seven seconds separating the front of the field from the back, with a lap time that is long by today’s standards at an average of 1'50"0, while the average speed is high at more than 226 kph (140 mph). 


When it is all over, three cars are towed in: Watson’s McLaren MP4/3 with a broken engine, Andretti’s Alfa Romeo, and Arnoux’s Renault, both having run out of petrol. Saturday dawns very wet, but by the time testing is due, the rain has stopped and the track is drying out. A very big crowd has turned out to watch, and the stadium looks less bare. All morning there is rain in the air, and skies are grey so that nobody really knows where they are going, undecided as to what tyres and what suspension settings to use, and altogether it is a very muddly morning. Villeneuve tries the experimental Ferrari, which overnight has turned into a half-B by having a normal rear end fitted to it, but it is little better. Mansell runs out of petrol at the end, the long lap and continuous full-throttle work catching a lot of people out on their consumption figures. By 1:00 p.m., it is totally dry and quite warm, and it could be an interesting hour of qualifying, but if rubbing-strips are not being replaced, tyres are being conserved, or drivers are suffering frustration over the ground-clearance check. The Renaults are still fastest, but this time it is Reutemann who is close behind them and all the fast runners are up there behind them with no surprises as the starting grid takes shape. Not at the front at any rate, but down the back, the Fittipaldi team is in despair, with neither Rosberg nor Serra qualifying, and Toleman is little better off as neither of their drivers qualifies. On Friday, Henton qualifies a certain 24th and looks certain to get in on Saturday but his Hart engine makes a nasty noise and he is forced to give up before the hour is over. Jarier is well-placed in mid-field with one of the Osellas, but Gabbiani is left behind, and the team has a mixed air about it. 


Just to keep the record straight de Cesaris crashes his McLaren MP4/1, and Villeneuve has a turbocharger go up in smoke. Successively there is half-an-hour warm-up from 12:10 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. during which time Villeneuve spins his Ferrari and wipes off the rear aerofoil, Watson’s McLaren shows signs of heavy oil consumption, and Reutemann’s Williams begins misfiring as it had done at Dijon. Jarier’s Osella breaks its engine, and it is noticed that Piquet’s Brabham has abandoned the carbon-fibre brake discs but is sticking to 13-inch diameter front Goodyear tyres, whereas the Williams and Lotus teams are using 15-inch. Before the 3:00 p.m. start, the engine is changed in Reutemann’s car, but by the time the change is completed, he has opted to take the T-car (number 15) as there is no guarantee that the misfire is not caused by a chassis installation problem. The Osella has a new engine installed, and Ferrari straightens out Villeneuve’s car, while Watson opts to race McLaren number two. Although the standard Hockenheimring grid puts pole-position on the right-hand side, the Renault team requests that Prost starts on the left side of the road. During the parade lap of the 24 cars, a few spots of rain fall, but insufficient to cause any sort of flap, though nobody is convinced it is going to stay dry. It is a good clean start, and Reutemann is meteoric, getting between the Renaults as they all sweep into the first corner. Out in the country at the far end, Piquet’s left front nose fin slices into Arnoux’s right-rear tyre, and before the end of the opening lap, the tyre is in shreds and poor Arnoux is limping back to the pits at the end of the field. It is Prost and Reutemann, already clear of Pironi, Jones, Laffite, Piguet, Villeneuve, Andretti, Tambay, de Cesaris, and Watson, with Stohr and Borgudd bringing up the rear. After they have all gone from the stadium, Arnoux limps into the pits for a new rear tyre, but damage has been done to the right-hand side pod edge, and though he rejoins the race, he is totally outclassed. Pironi’s race ends on lap two when his turbo-charged Ferrari engine expires, just when we thought the engines were reliable, and this left Jones in third place. On lap three Piquet overtakes Laffite, while de Cesaris overtakes Andretti, and on lap four Salazar is into the pits with smoke pouring from a front brake on the Ensign. On lap five de Cesaris tangles with Tambay and comes off second best, ending up off the road with a stalled engine and bent steering tie-rod on the right. 


On this lap Jones passes his teammate to take second place and attacks the leading Renault, while Reutemann is being attacked by Piquet. Laffite is not really keeping up, but is a long way ahead of the rest of the field which are lined up behind Villeneuve’s Ferrari, its antics through the stadium corners not encouraging them to get too close. Jones is tight behind the leading Renault for four laps, and looking for a way by, while Piquet finds his way past Reutemann on lap nine. Tambay, Rebaque, Patrese, Cheever, and Andretti have all got past the wayward Ferrari, but now de Angelis, Daly, and Mansell are in an unruly bunch trying to get by. Completing lap 10 into the stadium, Jones is scratching to get by the Renault and gets inside it on the left-handed Sachskurve but Prost sits it out with the World Champion, wheel-to-wheel all around the corner with very little air showing between their tyres. This puts the Renault at an advantage for the following right-hand curve, and Jones is forced to drop back, chastened but unabashed. Nobody thought Alain Prost would be that brave; it is a moment to savor. This slight moment allows Piquet to get right up with them and for a few laps, this trio is nose-to-tail. It is obvious that Prost is not going to relinquish the lead very easily, so Jones has to look for a way of out-foxing the little Frenchman, conscious of the blue and white Brabham on his tail. The scuffling behind Villeneuve ends when Daly and Mansell tangle, the Irishman bringing the March into the pits with a flat right-front tyre, and as subsequently reveals itself, damage to the rear end. Mansell hits the Ferrari up the back and is into the pits at the end of lap 12 with a damaged front aerofoil mounting and Villeneuve comes in at the same time for a new set of Michelins. While running in tight formation behind the Renault and the Williams, Piquet suddenly finds them swerving one to each side of a piece of metal lying in the road, broken off another car, and he has no option but to run over it. It slices into the left-hand side pod and rubber edge, which makes the handling lop-sided, for already he is minus most of the front nose fin on that side. This allows Reutemann to regain third place and sit behind Jones while the Brazilian Brabham driver re-adjusts his technique to the changed feel of his car. These four are the only ones in the race, to all intents and purposes, and they are not going all that fast, lapping around 1'52"0 against the 1'48"0 of practice. There are still some spots of rain in the air, and you feel that at any moment a steady drizzle will set in, but it never does.


The second Renault driven by Arnoux is nearly 4 sec a lap slower than the leading French car, and by lap 19 Prost is about to lap his teammate, a situation to which Alan Jones is wide awake. As they all come into the stadium to complete lap 21, the moment came, Prost is forced to go round the outside of Arnoux whereupon Jones pulls his Williams in tight and shoots past both of them on the inside. It is one of those maneuvers of which World Champions are made, and something you do not see at every race, so it is a joy to see it at this one. It is very obvious that Prost has been holding up Jones, for the Williams just pulls away and disappears, pulling out a 6 sec lead in four laps. Piquet has re-arranged his driving technique to deal with his lop-sided car and soon hauls in Reutemann and retrieves third place just as the engine in the spare Williams blows up in a big way. Patrese has also disappeared with a blown-up engine in his Arrows, after having an almighty spin inside the stadium on the next-to-last right-hand corner. On this same corner on lap 30 Piquet has a breathless moment when the Brabham runs wide and skates along the verge for a long way before he can get it back on the road, but it does not lose him his third place, for Laffite, in fourth place, is a long way behind. Spots of rain are falling on and off, but insufficient to wet the road, but are no doubt worrying the drivers as they fall on their visors. As he completes lap 33, Alan Jones makes despairing signs to his pit staff as he goes by, and again on lap 35, and on the next lap, it is clear what his trouble is. The engine in the Williams is cutting out intermittently, giving a great hiccup as he opens the throttle, either due to air bubbles in the injection system or short-circuits in the electrical system. 


As the power suddenly cuts off, Jonesey boy’s head jerks forward, then all 500 HP come in with a bang, and his head jerks backward, all of which must be straining his neck muscles to the limit, apart from the mental anguish of seeing victory slipping away. Meanwhile, behind him Prost is no happier, for his rev-limiter is playing up and he cannot get the permitted rpm, so that the lop-sided Brabham of Piquet is pressing the Renault and gets by on lap 37, with only eight laps to go. Talk about the walking wounded, and it makes you wonder what is wrong with everyone else. Of all the back runners Hector Rebaque has been putting on a spirited show from a very lowly starting-grid position and has worked his way up to fifth place, ahead of Cheever who is giving the new Tyrrell a good steady run. There is nothing that Jones can do as Piquet closes on him and on lap 39 both the Brabham and the Renault go by the ailing Williams. On lap 42 Jones hiccoughs his way into the pits, where the ignition unit is changed, but to no avail, and he hiccoughs his way out again having lost third place to Laffite, which is inevitable, and given away places to Rebaque, Cheever, Watson, de Angelis, Jarier, and Andretti. A very lucky Nelson Piquet reels off the remaining three laps to finish comfortably ahead of Prost’s Renault, knowing he is lucky to have survived three accidents and still finish first. Nelson Piquet, after losing many points, found himself at least rewarded with a victory. The twenty-nine-year-old South American, accompanied by the beautiful Silvia, the brunette companion who never leaves him, climbs to the top step of the podium, waving a grand smile. He's heated but not too tired. The Brazilian driver blows kisses and hugs everyone, then grabs a Brazilian flag, not even realizing it bears the image of his compatriot Chico Serra, and starts waving it as if he had conquered the summit of Everest.


"Many times this season, I was in the lead. For one reason or another, on every occasion, I was forced to retire when victory was in sight. Here, exactly the opposite happened: honestly, I didn't expect to come in first because I had gone through a mourning period. At the beginning, I made contact with Arnoux, and my Brabham lost part of the front wing. This made the car less fast. Then, because of Prost blocking my view, I ended up on a piece of metal that had bounced onto the track. The left sidepod went over it and was violently detached. From that moment, my Brabham became undrivable. In short, I was in desperate conditions, but others had more trouble than me".


Now the world championship title seems within reach, but Piquet, perhaps out of superstition, never wants to anticipate the future, initially denies.


"Not much has changed; the competition is always tough, and Reutemann is the favorite".


But when someone points out that his gap from the Argentine is only eight points, Nelson admits to being in the race.


"Well, yes, you're right. I can still make it. But it won't be easy because it takes a lot of luck, and I hope I haven't used it all up in Germany".


The joy of the Brabham driver contrasts with the bitter disappointment of Reutemann. The Argentine, particularly upset, treats everyone poorly, responding to questions with phrases better left unspoken. Then he vents with sadness:


"It all seems obvious to me; no one wants an Argentine World Champion. At this point, I don't feel the title anymore, neither inside nor outside. You can see the situation for yourselves".


The reference to the behavior of the Williams team is evident. The English team continues to focus on Alan Jones. Carlos is considered only a possible helper for the Australian. This choice is at least self-destructive and certainly can only do harm. For the second time this season, the Frank Williams team has not scored a single point, as had already happened in France. Reutemann, despite all his flaws and doubts, deserves something more. The race shows that he is not only a fast driver but also a courageous one when needed. In any case, it is not right for a man who takes such risks to suffer such treatment from his team. An old folk tale speaks of someone who, to prevent his money from being stolen, hid it in other people's pockets. The case is repeated with Frank Williams, who, to make Alan Jones win the World Championship, risks making Carlos Reutemann lose it. The facts are known: in Germany, the Argentine could and should have secured valuable points for the title, but he was literally sabotaged by his own team. Frank Williams had recently said:


"We are the best-organized team, and we are ahead of everyone in technology".


It may be true, but it doesn't justify undermining one of your drivers who, on a human and professional level, deserves maximum support.


"As long as he is not mathematically beaten, we will bet on Jones".


However, Reutemann is leading the World Championship. And if a broken engine in Sunday's practice, not being able to change it in two and a half hours, is scandalous. Forcing poor Carlos to race with a spare car is self-destructive. In addition to this, two incidents characterize the minutes following the end of the race, both involving Italians. The first sees Mario Andretti and Riccardo Patrese collide heavily. The Paduan, having dangerously closed the road to the Italian-American's Alfa Romeo at the start, recommended by his team officials, goes to ask for an explanation. A lively argument ensues, implying that certain resentments come to the surface over time. It's no coincidence that there's talk these days of Patrese at Alfa Romeo and the likely departure of Andretti, perhaps a forced exit. It is a fact that when Riccardo asks for explanations, Mario replies sharply:


"I remember very well when in 1977, in Sweden, you didn't let Peterson pass, committing some dishonest acts. For this reason, you will never have an easy time with me. And besides, I had to defend my position; I wasn't lapped".


Patrese remains bewildered to find himself facing an elephant-like memory. Then he leaves, slamming the door. Immediately after, Andretti, returning to the incident, admits:


"Patrese was right, but I was so out of my mind that I preferred to counterattack to close the matter. When we're all calmer, I'll go and explain myself".


The other episode involves Ferrari and Magneti Marelli. The leaders of the Maranello team attribute Pironi's retirement to an electrical failure. Those of the supplying company, rightly concerned, check and say that the engine starts regularly but produces a lot of smoke from the right exhausts. A sign that a turbine is not working properly. The strange thing is that immediately after, a press release in French by Didier Pironi appears in the press room, reiterating that he had electrical problems both in the morning practice and in the race, and his retirement was caused by a failure in the electrical system. A tense situation, perhaps justifiable due to the nervousness of the moment. However, it would be better for two partners, after successes achieved together, not to accuse each other. Not everything went wrong for the Italian colors. If Alfa Romeo, once again, did not collect much, Eddy Cheever secured a fifth place.


"My car is new and has not undergone many tests yet. We have tires that are not very competitive, and I couldn't attack. But by driving consistently, I managed to finish among the top. Hopefully, we can advance further".


And even Enzo Osella is smiling again. The eighth place in Hockenheim brings confidence to the small team from Voipiano, just when the pressures from sponsors were starting to worry, and withdrawal from Formula 1 was feared. Behind this progress, it must be acknowledged, a name: that of the French driver Jean-Pierre Jarier. A sometimes inconsistent but very fast driver, with experiences ranging from Tyrrell to Lotus, he has given an accurate assessment of the possibilities of the cars from the Turin constructor. Without taking anything away from Cheever's effort last year, Gabbiani and Guerra this season, perhaps also helped by Michelin being sensitive to the home drivers, the friendly Jean-Pierre took away those two seconds that Osella lacked to qualify.


"Now we aim to improve even more. We are preparing a completely new car, lighter and more competitive. I hope to put it on track in Zandvoort or, definitely, in Monza. Our goal is to score the first world points. We are not far away, and I am convinced that Jarier's example will also be useful to Beppe Gabbiani. The guy has been unlucky, but he will have a chance to redeem himself, I promise".


Ferrari fans will surely be disappointed with what happened at Hockenheim. The race was splendid, Nelson Piquet's victory revived the World Championship at the expense of Carlos Reutemann, but the cars from Maranello played a marginal role. Seeing Gilles Villeneuve fighting behind Slim Borgudd with ATS was not gratifying. And Didier Pironi's sudden exclusion left everyone disappointed. After the victories in Monte Carlo and Jarama, something more was expected. Instead, it seems like we've returned to the beginning of the season when stops for the 126 CK were the order of the day. Why this reversal? Why has Ferrari fallen back into a dark period? The answer, once again, is not simple. Formula 1 is an extremely sophisticated sport. Too many factors contribute to achieving a result, and if something is not right in the mosaic, you find yourself, as in Germany, having to start all over again. Mauro Forghieri explains:


"Let's not forget that our turbo engine is still in its early stages. The example of Renault, which has over four years of experience, demonstrates how difficult this road is. The 1/2 ratio compared to the naturally aspirated engine is a real obstacle. We're running on the edge, and every minor issue becomes significant. With a 1500cc engine, we reach power levels significantly higher than 500 HP. The big problem is the coupling with the supercharging system. We tried to solve it with an electronic fuel injection system that operates on various parameters, from atmospheric pressure to weather conditions. A slight variation is enough to radically change the results".


It was this electronic control unit that caused the most trouble for Ferrari, such as Pironi's retirement. But the Maranello team is dealing with a continuous evolution that concerns the chassis and aerodynamics. Each track, all with different characteristics, presents new obstacles not always easy to overcome. So what does the future hold for Ferrari? At Maranello, engineer Harvey Postlethwite is working on bodywork and monocoques, but positive results are unlikely to come quickly. 


Anything can happen in the upcoming races; we must expect a season of ups and downs. The drivers, Villeneuve and Pironi, are impatient; they want to win but are aware of the difficulties they face and commit themselves fully. Unfortunately, however, the World Championship has slipped away. The situation is even worse for direct competitors, given that about two years after its return to Formula 1, Alfa Romeo has not yet managed to win a Grand Prix. If at the end of the last season, the Milanese team seemed to have reached the top, arousing enthusiasm and hopes, now the cars entrusted to Mario Andretti and Bruno Giacomelli are collecting negative results beyond the most pessimistic predictions. How is this possible? The changes in the regulations, the abolition of the side skirts, and the adoption of variable-height suspensions forced Autodelta to radically change the cars, like all the other teams. However, these changes alone are not enough to justify such a humiliating situation. The enormous technical potential of Alfa Romeo and the financial support of a generous sponsor should guarantee at least some progress. Some also accuse Alfa of choosing the wrong drivers.


"Mario Andretti is too old, and Bruno Giacomelli is not up to the situation".


But these are mistaken evaluations: the Italian-American has certainly not lost his grit and skill, while the Brescian seems to have been sidelined as if he were a ghost. The cars are developed based on the indications provided by Andretti. Mario has great experience. Perhaps Engineer Cinti forgot that last year, after the tragic death of Patrick Depailler, it was Bruno Giacomelli who developed the cars, leading to pole position at Watkins Glen. In addition, Alfa Romeo gives the impression of operating in too many directions, confusingly. There is the 179 to advance, the new car with a carbon fiber chassis to prepare, and already a revolutionary turbocharged engine knocking at the door. Wouldn't it be better if Engineer Cinti organized his ideas? The tension of the races, the repeated tests, risk collapsing the team, where too many grievances emerge.


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