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#318 1979 Spanish Grand Prix

2021-12-11 23:00

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#1979, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Greta Allison Martorana,

#318 1979 Spanish Grand Prix

Agreement made, with the help of Enzo Ferrari, between A. C. of Bologna and Milan for the Italian Grand Prix of F. 1. The leaders of the two bodies me

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Agreement made, with the help of Enzo Ferrari, between A. C. of Bologna and Milan for the Italian Grand Prix of F. 1. The leaders of the two bodies meet Friday, April 13, 1979 in Fiorano and have agreed that the contract FOCA-Automobile Club Bologna is hired by both entities at the economic conditions that, with subsequent agreements, will be defined. The Formula 1 races in Italy will be two annually, one of which will be valid for the World Championship. This year the Fiftieth Grand Prix will take place in Monza while Imola will host the Grand Prix that can be titled research, or promotion, or with any other name to be defined. In 1980 the Italian Grand Prix will pass to Imola. The agreement will last three years for both the Automobile Club organizers. Ferrari will ensure that the association agrees to cooperate at both events. A cordial understanding, which was communicated to the highest sports authorities. But what will the other Automobil Clubs do, in the first place that of Florence with the Mugello. Easter with engines seems to be the fashion slogan in England, where car appointments are numerous. The most anticipated events are undoubtedly the Race of Champions Formula 1, scheduled at the Brands Hatch circuit and the third round of the European Formula 2 Championship. The Race of Champions, after the postponement suffered last month due to adverse weather conditions, also on this occasion may not be carried out because, for the strike of British customs, the cars from Long Beach were cleared only in extremis. At this race, the participation of Formula 1 champions is limited to seven cars, which will therefore help to complete the deployment of the Aurora series cars. In the tests, the fastest is Andretti, who after trying with the new model Lotus 80. for several technical problems prefer to opt for the more reliable Lotus 79 and eventually the tick on Lauda (Brabham BT 48) and Gilles Villeneuve, who gets the third time. The Canadian is racing a modified Ferrari T3. And it is Villeneuve not to think twice, a single week after the triumph of Long Beach, and to double the Californian victory, also imposing himself in the Race of Champions, held Sunday, April 15, 1979, also winning the third consecutive success, if you consider the one in Kyalami, South Africa.

 

To attend this race, whose proceeds are donated to the Nilsson Fund for the fight against cancer, the audience of great opportunities, which certainly is not bored. Lauda, Andretti and Villeneuve keep the interest of the test alive and, alternating in the lead, give life to a good fight. In the end, the Ferrari driver deservedly won, once again showing off his determination and perfect mastery of the chassis. The merit in this new statement of Ferrari is also of Michelin that has proven to be competitive even on the English circuit. The final result is determined not only by the superiority of Villeneuve and T3, but also by the umpteenth error of Goodyear that made a mistake in supplying the tyres to its drivers with the consequence that almost all were forced to stop to replace them. The first to lose any chance of victory for this reason was Niki Lauda who with a very fast start had managed in a few laps to accumulate a certain advantage. The Austrian, in the action, however, overheats the tires and on the eighth pass is forced to pit. Villeneuve leads then, followed by Andretti who leads on lap 10. For the World Champion to keep the lead is not easy because behind Villeneuve pushes to pass. The overtaking takes place at the seventeenth lap, at the end of a braking at the last meter that makes the very large audience quiver. From this moment on the Canadian race turns into a walk. The place of honor goes to the Brazilian Nelson Piquet who in the final, after replacing a tire, manages to overtake Andretti forced to slow down due to the tires, the gearbox and the brakes. Mario Andretti, Formula 1 World Champion, has not won a Grand Prix since August 27, 1978, when he won at Zandvoort. The first four races of the season were for the Italian-American a real disappointment. He didn’t even get the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch. He had to settle for third place, preceded by the insatiable Gilles Villeneuve and the increasingly competitive young Brazilian Nelson Piquet who took the satisfaction to anticipate, in addition to Jochen Mass. also and especially teammate Niki Lauda, another ace in crisis. It is therefore time to talk to Andretti to have an explanation of this unexpected drop in results. The first question is suggested by former World Champion Jackie Stewart, who claims that it is very difficult to win the world title for two consecutive years. Stewart claims that, generally, after achieving the world title a driver and his team relax, live on their laurels, are distracted by the festivities. But Mario Andretti answers:

 

"I don’t think that’s the point. I can assure you that Lotus and I are not satisfied with last year’s result. The team has the same desire to win. As for me, then, I continued to race in Formula 1. practically abandoning the American races, only to try to win the World Championship". 

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What then depends on this situation of less competitive Lotus? 

 

"I am convinced that Colin Chapman committed recklessness. Instead of developing and improving the Lotus 79 that was the forefather of wing-cars, that is, ground-effect cars, he wanted to create a revolutionary car, completely new. This has led to lengthy studies, a slow construction and major problems of development. Unfortunately, I think it will be a long time yet before the 80 can compete at its best, which should be substantial, according to wind tunnel data and studies. It must be said that between theory and practice there is always a huge difference and a car must get on track before it can be evaluated thoroughly. Perhaps, in this sense Chapman has a sin of presumption".

 

So is it true that the car counts more than the driver and that you can’t win anything just for the skill of the driver? 

 

"The problem doesn’t really lie in these terms. I’m sure the pilot factor always counts for about fifty percent. Not for a single race, of course. I’m talking about who wants to get to the world title. Sure, if you don’t have a competitive car, you can stay at home. But if the car is just good, the driver still counts. But the balance has to be made at the end of the year. That’s why I still believe I can win the title". 

 

Haven’t Villeneuve and Laffite already put up good mortgages for a two-man fight over the World Championship?

 

"Ferrari and Ligier have great cars. The Italian team is no surprise. It is the best team in Formula 1, the most serious, the most prepared and equipped. Ligier, on the other hand, has managed to build a very balanced, light car that will have many chances on many circuits. Villeneuve and Laffite are also good. But I don’t think they already have the title in hand and the battle is limited to the two of them. The Canadian will not have an easy time with Scheckter. among other things...". 

 

What are the forecasts for the next races? 

 

"I think there will be a very tight fight, in which I hope to join, as soon as the Lotus 80 is in place. Assuming that we can eliminate the defects found so far that are rather serious, both in mechanics and aerodynamics. In any case, I will fight to the maximum and you will see that starting from Spain not even Reutemann, who has beaten me so far, will be able to stand in front of me". 

 

On Friday, April 20, 1979, the FISA Executive Committee will meet in London, replacing the CIS. The difference between the two acronyms lies in the fact that while the former was a sporting emanation of the FIA, the new organization can act independently, with more autonomy. Jean Marie Balestre, a 50-year-old Frenchman and former head of French motor sport, has been the President of FISA since last year. The program of this executive is presented by the same Crossbows, who takes the opportunity to explain the situation in general, to clarify what are the intentions of the FISA for the future and to violently attack Bernie Ecclestone, owner of Brabham and president of FOCA, the association of builders. declares Balestre:

 

"At the meeting in London we will prepare the new regulations for Formula 1. We will try to transform the current working group into a series of committees that will have to work together: an extended to sports managers and manufacturers, one of the organizers an international sponsor and one of the drivers. In addition, we have on the agenda a meeting for Formula 2, during which it is not excluded that there will also be a World Championship for this category".

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This executive committee is basically preparing to wage war on Ecclestone. 

 

"FISA doesn’t go to war with anyone. I never personally attacked the men of the Constructors' Association, I never spoke ill of Enzo Ferrari, as someone claimed, and officially I never said that the FOCA has corrupted some organizers to have the races in hand, as it was written. An open war between us and the owners of the car would be detrimental to everyone, especially motoring. However, we do not intend to continue in the current situation". 

 

However, Balestre followed this declaration of non-belligerence with a series of very heavy accusations. 

 

"Ecclestone often makes rash statements. He is a young man, lacking in experience. I admit that in the past sporting power has been weak, uncertain, but I assure you that it will gradually take back the reins of power, as it should, because we represent 90 FIA member countries and 35 million registered drivers. The FOCA has practically asked to have in hand the Formula 1 and the organization of the Grand Prix. He would like to form a committee with three members of the Constructors' Association, three of the organisers, of which one is European, one is extra-European and one - according to a strange request that seems to me also racist - Anglo-Saxon. In addition, he would like to add two representatives of the sponsors chosen by the same FOCA. If we accepted such a proposal, it would be like delivering Formula 1 to Ecclestone, who would always have the majority with his men stuffed everywhere". 

 

What will you do then? 

 

"If Ecclestone continues to try to impose himself, even with his threats to break away from the Federation, I will attack. I will destroy him. I will present a dossier that I have already prepared, in which they are explained with documents and tests, the reasons for all the evils of Formula 1. It is time to end with these builders who are always crying misery, and possess all or almost castles in Scotland, which earn millions of dollars. Not to mention the pilots, who got attached to the FOCA wagon just for money. Ask Fittipaldi if he is willing to give up the $200.000 a month he currently earns". 

 

What action will you take? 

 

"We will organize our own World Championship. And the major industries, the real ones, that make cars, will be forced to come to our side, otherwise we will prevent them from competing not only in Formula 1 but in all other races at all levels, including promotional formulas and those reserved for tourism categories. As for the drivers to those who will agree to race for Ecclestone, almost all European countries, except for England that has not yet spoken, will withdraw their license for life. So we are ready. But we are also ready for the interview, if the FOCA will prove reasonable and available for an agreement that ensures the respect of all, especially of those who still believe in motoring". 

 

Meanwhile, Friday, April 20, 1979 ends on the track of Jarama tire tests carried out by Ferrari In collaboration with Michelin. Gilles Villeneuve, after trying for a long time in the morning several aerodynamic solutions, some types of ailerons and even a new type of helmet, marks in the afternoon the unofficial record of the track. The Canadian is timed electronically in 1'14"81 against 1'14"86 recorded Thursday by Scheckter. The record of Jarama, in practice, was Laffite with Ligier, in 1'14"92.

 

"In Formula 1, every race makes its own history. So I can’t afford to make predictions. The only thing I can say is that we have worked hard to present on the track of Jarama two competitive cars, in the hope of not having in the race those drawbacks that last year made us race a disastrous test, culminated with the road exit of Reutemann and the tenth place of Villeneuve. The conditions for Sunday, however, should be better, because the experience accumulated with Michelin begins to bear fruit and the T4 has so far proved a very balanced car". 

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Says Mauro Forghieri, technical director of Maranello team. Ferrari is certainly the most awaited car for the Spanish Grand Prix that on Sunday will kick off, fifth round of the World Championship, the series of eight European races, before the conclusion in North America in October, with Canada and the United States East. After the two victories of Ligier and the double response of the Maranello team to Kyalami and Long Beach, the situation of parity between the two rivals will have to change. It must be said that, while Ferrari is very cautious, as always in the style of the Italian team, while the French team is unbalanced in making rosy predictions. Says Jacques Laffite, guest of Magneti Marelli at the Fiera di Milano, Italy:

 

"I am the best driver in the world right now, and I am convinced that in Spain I will be able to return to victory". 

 

Behind this rather demanding statement, there are certainly solid foundations. Ligier has been working a lot lately and seems to have solved the problems that had troubled the Laffite and Depailler races in South Africa and California. The gearbox problems should have been solved, and especially on French cars should have been fitted, with satisfactory results, the new carbon brakes that would allow a better use of the car in cornering braking. Even at Ferrari, of course, they didn’t stay still. Of small innovations the T4 of Villeneuve and Scheckter will present several, and it is easy to predict a good duel in the sun between Italian and French machines. However, the struggle cannot be restricted to these protagonists alone. Andretti, who has won the last two editions of the Spanish Grand Prix, hopes to be able to respect the rules of the well-known proverb of the two without the three, but doubts are several. The Italian-American has long tried the new Lotus 80 on the track of Le Castellet: the results have not been announced, but it is known for sure, that Colin Chapman brought to the Jarama two old 79 and an 80, with the hope of already being able to run the new model. Another novelty in the tests that will begin Friday, April 27, 1979 at 10:00 a.m. with the first round of free practice, will be represented by Renault RS10 turbo. An unknown also this that will make even more exciting the wait for the race. In the meantime, one wonders if the Italian Grand Prix is destined to remain at the center of the controversy, and not only those. Friday, April 26, 1979 takes place a curious episode. Ferrari issued a clarification by Enzo Ferrari on the issue of Monza-Imola, and the lack of endorsement by the CSAI Executive on the solution of the alternation of the race in the two racetracks, but no official communication was transmitted from Rome. The leaders of ACI and CSAI spend long hours in the offices of Rome to examine the problem of the Italian Grand Prix. Evidently, Ferrari was informed of the CSAI’s rejection of the project and immediately made his intentions known. A readiness that burns at the sprint the managers of our sport of the steering wheel. Ferrari’s note is very clear:

 

"The engineer Enzo Ferrari today became aware of the lack of endorsement by the CSAI executive to the agreement signed on 24 March by the heads of A. C. Milano, A. C. Bologna and FOCA, that guaranteed two Formula 1 races per year in Italy for a period of six years. Noting how difficult it is to understand among Italians, Ferrari has resigned the mandate given to him by the FOCA in order to agree on the proper conduct of the future Formula 1 Grand Prix in Italy, leaving to the competence of Mr Ecclestone, President of FOCA, full contractual powers, any further action". 

 

All this means, in practice, that the question of the venue of the Italian Grand Prix (also coveted by Mugello) has returned to be precarious. For some years now, Formula 1 fans have been hoping to witness an all-Italian Grand Prix duel, a Ferrari-Alfa Romeo challenge full of technical and sporting meanings, and full of memories. But time passes and this dream is not realized: while the Maranello team continues to take to the track and to win, the Milanese team is struggling between uncertainties and hesitations. The return from Alfa Romeo in Formula 1 after 28 years should take place in a few weeks, Sunday 13 May 1979 in Zolder, at the Belgian Grand Prix. The return, it is clear, with a car entirely built at home: the union, so stormy and lacking in results, with the Brabham does not text. But, as often happens on this subject, within the Milanese society opinions are not agreed. There is a war of words between the leaders of Alfa Romeo. A war that leaves, at least, perplexed. In summary: the president. Ettore Massacesi said that Alfa Romeo, driven by Bruno Giacomelli, would debut at Zolder: Carlo Chiti, head of Autodelta and designer of the machine, reiterates with all his enthusiasm this statement: Giulio Coppi, general secretary of the Milanese company, says that the debut would have happened only when it was possible to align a car able to compete at the highest levels. An elegant way to suggest the idea of a postponement, as the current version was born old, and the new one, in line with modern aerodynamic principles, is not yet ready. It will be only for Monza, for the Italian Grand Prix.

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Differences that, perhaps, will be resolved with an Italian compromise. Next week Alfa will send Zolder his car to participate in a series of free practice where there will be other teams, such as Ligiere Lotus. If Giacomelli gets good times, Chiti will have a go, otherwise the operation will be postponed, in fact, to Monza. Clash in this story the need of the technicians to send anyway on track the Alfa Romeo to break in the team and accumulate a wealth of valuable experience, to be transferred to the car being built, and the fear of affecting the image of Alfa Romeo with modest and disappointing performance. But this time, when you decide to run, has no more reason to exist. Nobody can expect miracles from Alfa Romeo, and it would certainly be appreciable to observe that even a large company can operate with modesty and in stages, and seriously prepare the climb to the top of Formula 1. With the force of expectations and postponements we arrived at the absurdity of an old car before having debuted. If then the Alfa wants to tie the debut to the security of winning, then the duel with Ferrari will continue to remain a hope. While waiting for certain issues to be clarified, it is Gilles Villeneuve who is in the crosshairs of all, including his teammate Jody Scheckter. This is the dominant reason for the Spanish Grand Prix, the fifth round of the Formula 1 World Championship, scheduled on the Jarama track, the challenging circuit where last year Lotus won its first brace, seasonal. Why all against Villeneuve? The answer is simple: if the Canadian were to hit his third consecutive victory (that of Brands Hatch in the Race of Champions does not count for the effects of the World Championship), he would automatically become the number one favorite in the succession to Mario Andretti. The regulation of the current championship does not allow distractions of any kind.

 

Each driver can collect only eight results out of sixteen races on the calendar or, even better, the points taken in four races out of the eight of each of the two groups in which the tournament is divided. If Villeneuve were to win again, only Laffite would have the chance to reach or possibly overtake him before the Swedish Grand Prix, which on 16 June 1979 will end the half of the season. Unless, of course, it turns out, just in the three remaining tests to be disputed, an absolute ruler able to always win. At the moment, however, we do not see who this driver can be, also because everyone, some more, some less, have problems with the machines. The race of the Jarama, indeed, is called precisely to solve several questions that relate to the planned attack on Villeneuve. In Spain should debut at least three new cars (Lotus 80, Williams FW07 and Renault turbo RS10). It is mandatory the conditional because the cars have been brought to the circuit, but the managers of the interested teams and the drivers will have to wait for the first tests this morning to decide the possible debut. Almost everything about the Lotus 80 is already known. In recent days Andretti has been testing on the track of Le Castellet, in France. The training sessions, very long and accurate, highlighted the defects found in the previous exits of the car. With the front skirts on the nose and without the rear wing, the new car of Colin Chapman is not balanced and holds the road badly. Andretti got his best lap time (1'08"2) by putting the spoiler, removing the miniskirts and raising the aileron. Declares on the eve of the Mario Andretti Grand Prix:

 

"I would like to use the Lotus 80 already on Sunday at the Jarama, but it will be difficult. We will decide only at the last moment". 

 

The same problem applies to Renault, which has already made several tests with the test driver Jassaud, and to Williams (a car very similar to Ligier), which seems to be the most advanced of the debutants. And speaking of Ligier, dominant in the first two races of the season, we must remember the great optimism from Laffite and Depailler. This means that the technicians of the French team have solved the problems of the gearbox (which broke) and the brakes (which were worn too quickly). The progress of Ligier would be demonstrated by the small disadvantage that separates her from Ferrari (a tenth of a second only) in free practice carried out in recent weeks at Jarama. It must be said, however, that these times can have a relative meaning, as it is sufficient a small change in the weather conditions or those of the track to change the values. Only this morning we will see if the duel for the starting positions will be limited to Ferrari and Ligier or if there will be other novelties, such as Hunt’s Wolf and Lauda’s Brabham, that seem to have made further progress in the development. Once again the tyres will be decisive. In 1978 Michelin did not center the choice of tyres and for Ferrari were pains. But this year it seems that the French company has found very good mixes and constructions for the new 312 T4. If the advantage shown in the last two races is confirmed, the pain this time will be for Goodyear. It was said that everyone will run against Villeneuve, including Scheckter. But for the South African it is not a personal matter, a family quarrel. Jody simply realized that only with a victory will he be able to put his first Ferrari position back in play. Otherwise he will have to resign himself, in the future, to adapt to be the wingman of the Canadian driver. Thursday 26 April 1979 black clouds gather on the Spanish Grand Prix. In two ways: first, because the weather threatens rain; second, because the battle is very heated. According to Clay Regazzoni, Frank Williams' new construction is a very solid, fast car, similar to Ligier. 

 

"A car that will allow me to fight for the first position. I think we can get, if not in this race, at least in the next, to get on the podium. We have already given a demonstration with my colleague Jones in Long Beach, but we intend, starting from Sunday, to fight with the best for a victory at least in a Grand Prix". 

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Regazzoni also explained with a joke that if he gets on the podium he will not be able to drink champagne as he wants the practice for the top three classified. 

 

"I have a very clear clause in the contract signed with Saudia Airlines (the airline of Saudi Arabia, which sponsors Williams), according to which I can never be photographed drinking wine or liquor. Too bad, I’ll just have to keep my arms up, while the others will drink the French wine". 

 

A joke, obviously, that of Regazzoni, but things really are so. The contract in this sense is very strict. So will we see a Williams in the top positions? It’s too early to say. We will have to wait for the tests to confirm the competitiveness of this new car, as well as for Renault and Lotus 80. In the meantime, in view of the bad weather conditions, the fight for tyres continues. All the teams are convinced that Michelin has taken a clear step forward against Goodyear. Whatever the weather, be it rain or sun, cold or hot, the French house should be favoured. It seems that Goodyear really has a hard time keeping up with its rival. It seems that the Anglo-American company has asked that Michelin, from the next championship, is forced to equip a greater number of cars in Formula 1. This is because the effort supported by Goodyear at this time is really exceptional, having to shoulder the burden of supplies for twenty of the twenty-four cars that start each race. Last year, on this same track, the Jarama, Michelin had great difficulties, but now the situation could be reversed. If Ferrari has managed to maintain the supremacy demonstrated in Kyalami and Long Beach, it will mean that Michelin is still ahead of the opposing house. In any case the battle will flare up until Saturday for the fight towards qualifications. Andretti has assured that he will do everything to break the hegemony of Ligier and Ferrari in this season’s victories. Will we have a new winning machine besides the French and the Italian? It’s up to Lotus, Renault, Williams and also the other teams, including Tyrrell, which has always been in the top positions so far, to answer this question. Regazzoni, on the right, is convinced to make a good impression on the Jarama track. The noise should have started at 10:00 a.m., but it did not start in fact until midday. The official reason given for the delay was that doctors and ambulances had not arrived, but there were other unofficial reasons mentioned and later the FISA called for an official enquiry into the delay (it is discussed in Reflections). While this delay irritated most teams, Lotus and Renault were very happy as neither of them had got their new car ready at 10:00 a.m., but they had by midday. When it all got underway Andretti was in the Lotus 80, Reutemann in the Lotus 79 that he has been driving all season so far, Pironi and Jarier in their usual Tyrell 009 cars, Lauda and Piquet in their usual V12 Alfa Romeo powered Brabhams, but John Watson is in an entirely revamped McLaren M28, built around the monocoque of the first M28.

 

Tambay is in his usual M28 and Stuck is in the newer of the two ATS cars, Scheckter is in Ferrari 038, Villeneuve in 037, and Fittipaldi is in his F6 Bellamy-designed car. Jabouille have the brand new RS01 car. Lammers and de Angelis are in the pair off Shadows, Hunt is in the latest Wolf, Daly have an old Ensign and Merzario is in his latest car. Depailler and Laffite are in their usual Ligier cars, while Jones and Regazzoni are in brand new Williams FW07 cars, the Australian have the first car built, which is test in California and the Swiss having the second car, which have yet to turn a wheel. Patrese and Mass have the same Arrows as in Long Beach and Rebaque have his Lotus 79. In the paddock, desperately trying to join in is Willy Kauhsen’s entry for Giancarlo Brancatelli, the WK/004 is been work on and WK/005 was being cleaned up after a small fire had broken out when it was tow-started. Before the hour was up there were various troubles; the new Renault broke its turbo-charger linkage and have to be tow in and Hunt’s Wolf WR8 seem down on power, so he changed to WR7. The Brabhams are running without nose-fins, and the Williams team is preparing to follow it, while in direct contrast Andretti is running the Lotus 80 with nose-fins and no skirts under the nose cowling. The good cars are clocking over 260 k.p.h. Past the pits and the not so good ones are only just over 250 k.p.h. Due to the two-hour delay in the morning everything run two hours late for the rest of the day and the timed practice session is from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., but it make little difference to the icy blast, the cold wind being more than the noon-day sun could compete against. Some drivers like Piquet and Mass are  on with it from the word go, while others are still fiddling about or conserving their limited supply of special Goodyear tyres. Scheckter is braking incredibly late at the end of the main straight and Villeneuve going hard, overtaking cars without hesitation going into corners, even nipping by World Champion Andretti without so much as an excuse me. Hunt is still in WR7 and Jabouille is back on the track with the turbo-charger repair on the RS10 Renault.

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Piquet’s V12 Alfa Romeo engine blew up and practice was stopped while the stricken Brabham was removed and the mess cleared up. Then everyone are off again and this time the Kauhsen team managed to get their car going and Brancatelli headed out into the hurly-burly of professional driving. The Williams team are experimenting running minus the nose-fins and then tried without the engine cover as well. Fittipaldi stuck valiantly to his new car, even though it still do not handle to his liking, but as the session wore on he went slower and slower. Watson was not much better with the revamped McLaren M28 and the way the centre-mounted rear aerofoil wobbled about caused some concern among those watching out on the circuit. The two Ferrari drivers on their Michelin tyres are really setting a fast pace, and Villeneuve was embarrassing his South African team leader. Times are so far below those recorded last year that one was almost tempted to doubt the official time-keepers, but individual time-keepers in the teams agree, so we were resigned to accepting a remarkable advance in just twelve months. From a fastest practice time last year, of 1'16"39 by Andretti with a Lotus 79, it is already down to 1'14"87 by Villeneuve with the T4 Ferrari. While he is in a class of his own at under 1'15"0, Scheckter, Laffite, Depailler, Reutemann, Andretti, Arnoux and Pironi are all under last year’s fastest time. There is a tidy appearance about the final order after this first practice that was to continue throughout the meeting. Two Ferraris, then two Ligiers followed by the Lotus pair. While some drivers like Scheckter, Jarier, Patrese, and Rebaque did 40 laps.

 

Poor Merzario only managed five and Brancatelli seven, as minor troubles kept bringing them back to the pits before they could complete a full flying lap. Apart from these two Daly was the first non-qualifier on this first day, only 24 of the 27 cars being allowed in the race. Ferrari to beat also in the Spanish Grand Prix. This, at least, is the impression given by the first day of tests carried out at the Jarama on a day beaten by a cold wind that caused annoyance to the drivers. Villeneuve and Scheckter. With the red 312 T4, they lined up all rivals, from Ligier Laffite and Depailler to Lotus Reutemann and Andretti. Despite the very strong cross wind, Gilles Villeneuve, bringing himself very close to the time obtained last week in free practice (with 1'14"87, the Canadian stayed above by only 0.06 seconds), improved the unofficial track record, established the past year by Andretti with Lotus, during the qualifying, with 1'16"39. Scheckter was not far away, clocked in 1'15"10. Behind the Ferrari are the Ligier, with Laffile at 1'15"27 and Depailler at 1'15"40, and the Lotus with Reutemann at 1'15"67 and Andretti detached by 0.02 seconds, with the new 80. It is true that In this type of competitions even the hundredth of a second has its importance, however this exposition of figures concerns the time trials that are certainly indicative for the purposes of the race, even if they could deceive the showdown. The Ferrari men themselves are cautious with their predictions and optimism. Mauro Forghieri, technical manager of the Italian team, says that there is still some apprehension about the choice of tyres. 

 

"The circuit of Jarama is very short. 3400 meters just. In racing, a layer of rubber capable of causing tyre degradation or other problems can accumulate quite quickly on the track. Today, in the remaining tests, we will look for the best solution". 

 

Villeneuve is obviously satisfied with the situation but does not hide, even he, some concerns.

 

"I like the circuit, but the progress made by the cars really brought us to the limits of our possibilities. The exit of the curve that leads into the pit straight is very dangerous and you will have to be very careful". 

 

Scheckter explains that today he will try to solve another problem, besides that of tyres. 

 

"We realized that we could not use the fifth gear to the maximum, because the ratio is too long. We will try to change the gears from the second to the fifth to get a better balance in the different parts of the track. Anyway, the cars are fine and I think we can have a good race". 

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On the fact that Villeneuve once again went stronger than him. the South African gave no explanation. The Canadian thought about it anyway, saying: 

 

"Maybe Jody couldn’t even make a lap with the open track, like I did. I think, however, we can still improve". 

 

Mario Andretti: 

 

"I didn’t think the Lotus 80 could improve so quickly. We changed all the springs of the dampers, held the double wing back and the spoiler anterior, obtaining flattering results. Little by little we will get to be competitive again". 

 

Niki Lauda, on the other hand, is in trouble. The Austrian doesn’t understand how to adjust the machine to improve. 

 

"The Brabham BT 48 now travels quite well, but I am not able to increase performance. For me it is a mystery". 

 

According to rumors. Lauda would be rather unhappy with his team but not to the point of having decided to leave the business before the end of the season, as some claim. 

 

"I will run at least until the end of next year".

 

It’s his official statement. The FOCA, in order to make the sports authorities feel its weight, has delayed the beginning of the tests by about two hours, demanding (rightly) to check with the utmost care all the rescue apparatus and the presence of doctors at the designated points. Until the deployment was perfect, including that of the helicopter of the emergency, no one took to the track. In the meantime, the umpteenth episode is recorded in the long and now cloying story of the Italian Grand Prix. For some months now there have been controversies, statements, communiqués on the headquarters of the main national race. CSI, CSAI, FOCA, Automobile Club d'Italia, A. C. of Milan (for Monza), of Bologna (for Imola), of Florence (for Mugello), and of Ferrari came into play. We have spoken of the war of the racetracks, of interventions of Enzo Ferrari pro-Imola, of maneuvers of Bernie Ecclestone, of excesses of power of the presidents of the CSI, Crossbows, and of the CSAI, Serena. A jumble of personal interests, village rivalries, noble motivations. Finally, with the mediation of Ferrari, an agreement was reached between Monza and Imola and the FOCA: a Grand Prix of Italy would be held in alternate years in the two racetracks, which would also host, always biennial, a Formula 1 race not valid for the title. The agreement should have been valid for the next six years. Now the situation is back to being unclear. The A. C. of Florence, of course, did not like the exclusion from the lap of the Italian Grand Prix and protested to the CSAI and ACI, which is responsible for assigning the race. And the CSAI intervened. In a communiqué issued on Friday it was stated, among other things, that the CSAI Executive Committee:

 

"After careful assessment of the situation, considers that it can authorize the initial phase of the Milan-Bologna agreement on the award of the Grand Formula 1 Prizes for the years 1979 and 1980, with the subsequent rotation of the entry, from 1981, of the Mugello circuit. This decision is naturally subject to the authorizations that will be issued gradually, after the usual necessary technical-sports checks related to the facilities and the annual activity programs of the individual racetracks. As regards the management aspects of the Grand Prix, the national sports authority, as the owner of the Italian Grand Prix, reserves the right to conclude commercial contracts with interested parties. In the exercise of its responsibilities, the CSAI, while understanding the needs and preferences of each dismissed person, cannot give up its well-defined role, and this decision wanted to take into account the technical and sporting merits of all the protagonists of the story". 

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No, therefore, to the pact Monza-Imola: we must redo everything from the beginning, including the Mugello. Ferrari has withdrawn its mediation, what will the FOCA do now? Ecclestone will accept? A doubt arises: but will this Grand Prix, in the end, be held or will the Italian fans this year have to be content to watch only the Formula 1 aces on television? On Saturday morning conditions were unchanged, except that the test hour got under way promptly at 10:00 a.m. The Renault team are still in trouble as Arnoux went off the track with a broken rear wishbone and the turbo-charger seized on the new car, but in spite of all the problems both cars are well up on the grid. The Shadow team are also having troubles, but are not so well placed; Lammers’ car have its final drive unit apart in the pit lane, and de Angelis felt much happier in the spare car, though he just wasn’t fast enough to make his presence felt. Hunt is trying both Wolf cars, set up differently as regards suspension and handling, and found he preferred WR7. Fittipaldi abandoned his new car once more and return to his old faithful F5A/1, and so to the afternoon timed session, with some drivers having special tyres and some not, some drivers having enough special tyres and some not, most drivers on Goodyear tyres and four on Michelin. There is a certain amount of bickering about unfair because the Ferrari drivers have an almost unlimited supply of special tyres and the favoured Goodyear runners only had two or three sets; it is just this sort of reason that encourage Enzo Ferrari into collaborating with Michelin to get the tyres he wanted, instead of standing in the Goodyear queue with Lotus, Brabham, McLaren, Tyrrell and the rest. The pace warmed up considerably in the afternoon and it was the Ligier team that were setting the standards; whether Gerard Ducourouge and his engineers have some secret tweak or not we’ll never know, for if they have you can rest assured they are not going to tell anyone. Some say they have some special tricks with aerodynamics, others say it is some tricks with tyres. There is no doubt the cars handle well and are nice to drive, for both Laffite and Depailler are very happy with them. On the advice of Scheckter the Ferrari team have alter their ratios in the gearbox, but Villeneuve isn’t convinced they had done the right thing. Chapman and Andretti are quietly getting on with the fine tuning of the Lotus 80, and making good progress, but Reutemann is delay while a split water radiator on his Lotus 79 is changed.

 

Lauda had used up all his special tyres and packed it in quite early, while Piquet was very close behind his team-leader’s best lap time, back in his original car with a fresh engine installed. Both Ligier drivers are under the magic 1'15"0 mark, as was Villeneuve, when suddenly an excited buzz came from the Ligier pit. Laffite has one 1'14"50 and is firmly established on pole position on the grid, with Depailler alongside him, but the little French-Canadian is right behind them, these three being in a class of their own. Scheckter has been trying the spare Ferrari, 039, and felt happier with it though he was not as fast as he had been with 038. For quite a while he was in fourth place alongside Villeneuve on the second row of the grid, but towards the end of the hour-and-a-half Chapman and Andretti began to get the Lotus 80 somewhere near right and the World Champion did a 1'15"07 which ousted Scheckter down into the third row of the start alongside Lauda, with Piquet and Reutemann behind them. The Tyrrells and the Renaults came next and then the two Williams cars showing good promise for a new design, but the new McLaren are little better than the old one. Rebaque and Lammers are on the last row of the grid and Daly (Ensign), Merzario and Brancatelli fail to qualify. Sunday see more clouds in the sky and the icy wind dropped a bit, though it is by no means warm and a very large crowd poured out to the Autodrome, in spite of the high admission charges being asked. A thirty-minute warm-up period take place at midday, and Villeneuve is the first away. Fittipaldi is planning to race his old car, Hunt is in WR7, Scheckter in the spare Ferrari and de Angelis in the spare Shadow. New chapter in the tire war between Goodyear and Michelin. For the last qualifying tests Goodyear brought on track tyres of exceptional performance time, covers that lasted at most two laps, but that allowed the rivals of Ferrari to subtract not only to Villeneuve the pole position and Scheckter the second place, but to revolutionize almost the starting line-up. Laffite and Depailler with their Ligiers. they entered firmly in the front row: Jacques with an exceptional 1'14"5 and Patrick with an equally excellent 1'14"79. Villeneuve tried to do wonders to recover, but only managed to improve by 0.03 seconds from his previous limit, saving the third time and the second row. Next to the Canadian was Andretti, with a Lotus 80 that has made giant progress.

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Lauda allo has improved (but evidently, it is Brabham-Alfa that has made some progress because the young team-mate of the Austrian Piquet, has made a leap forward). Niki managed to get into the third row, alongside a rather bewildered Scheckter. The rise in atmospheric temperature certainly contributed to Goodyear’s exploit. After the cold wind on Friday, the weather softened and the heat disadvantaged Michelin radial covers. All twenty-four cars and drivers are fit and ready for the start of the 75-lap race, which was due to start at 4:00 p.m., once the King of Spain have arrived by Royal helicopter and the drivers had been officially presented to him by J. Stewart Esq. From the green light, apart from the initial rush off the grid, the two Ligiers have it all their own way, they simply disappeared into the distance with Depailler leading Laffite. There are not team-orders so they sort-of raced against each other and Laffite pushed as hard as was reasonable on a team-mate, but not as hard as he would have do on a rival team member. On lap 3 Depailler go round in 1'18"39 and these are their fastest laps in the race. Meanwhile all sorts of things were going on behind them; Reutemann (who had made a superb start) led Villeneuve, Scheckter, Andretti, Lauda, Pironi and Piquet, but on lap 4 the young Ferrari driver try to get the better of Reutemann under braking for the hairpin at the end of the straight, got in a muddle and spun, baulking Jarier and Pironi very badly as he did so. The Tyrrell go on but the Renault had a spectacular flame-out in the megaphone exhaust and by the time Jabouille got the engine back on the boil everyone had gone. This mistake drop Villeneuve down to eighth place behind Piquet, and on the next lap he spun again at the same place and fell to thirteenth position behind the two Williams cars. Down the field an unhappy Watson is struggling along in sixteenth place, only just managing to stay ahead of Tambay, and Hunt is at the back having got boxed in on the first lap. A bare half-a-dozen laps see the scene settle down into four pairs and the miscellaneous rest. First there were the two blue and white Ligiers of Depailler and Laffite in full command, then came Reutemann and Scheckter, Andretti and Lauda, and then Piquet and Jarier.

 

The older Renault of Arnoux is leading the rest who are Pironi, Regazzoni, Villeneuve, Patrese, Mass, Watson, Tambay, Stuck, Lammers, Fittipaldi, Rebaque and Hunt. A long way back came de Angelis, having been off at the main hairpin, and Jabouille, while Jones was in the pits having a deflated tyre changed on his new Williams. Just as everything seemed settled two of the front runners disappear. At the end of the straight Piquet shut off and braked as usual, and when he came to open up the throttle pedal is jammed! Part of the fuel-injection unit had broken and jammed the mechanism. This was as he was starting lap 16, and almost at the same time, half-way round the circuit, Laffite had missed a gear-change and blown up his Cosworth engine, leaving Depailler to breathe a sigh of relief and continue on his own well out of reach of any opposition. Scheckter felt he might have do something about the Ligiers had he been able to get by Reutemann, but he was having his work cut out to do anything about the Lotus 79. Although to the casual spectator it looked as if everyone had given up trying and was merely cruising round, it was far from so, for apart from Depailler, who is cruising, the rest are driving harder and harder every lap, though not actually getting anywhere. The new Renault retire with turbo-charger trouble, Watson coasted to rest out on the circuit with a dead engine, which was merciful relief, and Hunt retired with overheated brakes. The only changes had been in mid-field where Arnoux have drop back and Regazzoni had eventually got by Pironi, but then the engine went sick in the Williams and that was the end of the race for the Swiss driver. Although he was at the back of the field Alan Jones was showing the worth of the new Williams FW07 by pressing on hard, and lapping faster than anyone else. For a long time Hector Rebaque is hanging on to the tail of Fittipaldi’s car, and no doubt learning quite a lot, and even when the leaders began to lap them he still stayed with the Brazilian. While lapping Tambay, Andretti have collide with the McLaren and broken the right-front nose-fin off the Lotus 80, but some clever juggling with the adjustable roll bars corrected the instability, though while finding the settings Lauda overtook the Lotus. This had happened on lap 43 and Jones had run over the broken fin and collected another puncture, which gave him another pit stop. He was soon back in the race driving harder than ever and on lap 47 he made the fastest lap in the race, up to then, in 1'18"0, in spite of a troublesome gear-change. 

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The linkage have play up before the start, and he was having to be a bit brutal with his gear-changes. Eventually the new Hewland gearbox cried enough and after 55 laps gave up. Encouraged by passing the Lotus 80 Lauda now worked away at Scheckter’s Ferrari, and eventually got by on lap 60, which put him into third place, behind the confident, cruising Depailler, and Reutemann’s Lotus 79. The glory only lasted for three laps, for the Alfa Romeo V12 engine was losing water and when the temperature soared sky-high that was the end of a gallant run. Rebaque’s dice with Fittipaldi ended when the chocolate-brown Lotus 79 burst its engine, spewing oil all over the back and in the final ten laps Andretti got the Lotus 80 well wound up and caught and passed Scheckter’s Ferrari on lap 67, to drop neatly in behind Reutemann’s Lotus 79. There was no disputing Patrick Depailler’s victory, he led from start to finish, without straining himself and the Ligier JS11 was faultless. The solid and consistent Reutemann did a good job in finishing second and Team Lotus are not too unhappy with the first race of the Lotus 80. Scheckter is not very satisfied with his fourth place tending to talk about worn-out Michelins, but he made his fastest lap on lap 73, bad Michelins or not! Jarier is fifth and Pironi was sixth, which pleased Ken Tyrrell, and in seventh place, and catching up fast, was Villeneuve. On lap 58 he had gone into the pits and in a lightning stop the Ferrari mechanics had changed all the wheels and tyres, fitting a set of short-life softer tyres, and Villeneuve had set off with the sole object of creating a new lap record. This he do on lap 72 in 1'16"44, which is the middle one in a run of five laps in the 1'16"0. Up to that point Jones had held the lap record with his 1'18"0 done on normal racing tyres. The last car not to be lapped was Arrows of Jochen Mass, the German having driven a good hard race, and beating his young Italian team-mate.
 
Arnoux, Patrese, Fittipaldi, Lammers, Tambay and Stuck all finished one or more laps down, the last three having lost time with pit stops for various problems. Jacques Laffite failed to win his third race of the season, but the blow went well to Patrick Depailler, who with this success and previous placements came on a par with Gilles Villeneuve leading the provisional ranking of the World Championship. The Spanish Grand Prix seemed monotonous for the domination of the French car, but in reality it did not miss the emotions, the twists and turns, the electrifying moments. There was also a great return of Lotus, second with Reutemann and third with Andretti, while Ferrari had to settle for the fourth place of Scheckter and the seventh of Villeneuve. Again the tyres seem to have been decisive in the outcome. Ferrari, in fact, with Michelin, on this occasion has never been in the race for victory. Initially, Scheckter and Villeneuve tried to get into the top positions and then just defended the places they won. The South African, in particular, driving in inner conditions against rivals, led a very careful and scrupulous race, not sparing himself and trying to make the most of overtaking and his experience so as not to be overcome by too many opponents. Is the 1979 World Championship reduced to a duel between the company and the Italian one? It would seem, but it is appropriate to use the conditional, as the Spanish Grand Prix has shown signs of recovery in some teams so far remained decidedly in the shadows: Lotus, for example, and the same Brabham-Alfa. Colin Chapman’s team was comforted by the result (a second and a third place are not to be thrown away), the Anglo-Italian only by the performance of his drivers, in particular Niki Lauda, who when supported by the car remains the champion of all time. One fact remains, Laffite’s retirement and Villeneuve’s seventh place make the Formula 1 World Championship very open. There is still nothing defined, many drivers can still fit into the title challenge. And the duel within the French and Italian team between the respective drivers is waiting for other races to clarify who will be the star and who the wingman. Patrick Depailler had been nervous all week; perhaps he felt victory in the air. Needless to say his joy, his smiling eyes 

 

"My only opponent was Laffite, until he was in the race. After that I had no problems. Only a few overtakings, but my advantage was such that I could manage very well. The car was outstanding, as in the first two races of the season, and I think we will still see Ligier in the top positions in the next tests of the championship".

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About the World Championship, the Frenchman was very explicit in explaining the relationship with his teammate Laffite:

 

"There are no privilege clauses or conditions in our contracts. We’ll see, moving forward. We had already explained this at the beginning. Of course, the fight will be hard for everyone".

 

Colin Chapman is very happy with the Lotus test at the end of the race:

 

"I didn’t expect a result of this kind, because we lost a lot of time with the new model 80, neglecting the old car a little. Instead, Reutemann was magnificent and the Lotus 80, with Andretti, made huge progress. You will see that in the next races we will have a chance to win". 

 

Ferrari drivers explain their difficulties. For Villeneuve, as we said, there was an initial problem with the gearbox, which lasted throughout the race:

 

"From the second lap I was without the first gear. On a circuit like this with very tight corners, it was impossible to do more. In addition, the tyres progressively degraded, and I had to stop and change them. I sincerely hoped for a better result, but I’m not too disappointed either. I also have to say that I had problems with the rear brakes. They even blocked the wheels and on some occasions, in the braking, I had the terror of ending up on someone, as happened with Reutemann in the second lap On another occasion, on lap four, I ended up off the track for the same reason". 

 

Jody Scheckter doesn’t make too many comments:

 

"T4 behaved pretty well, but I wasn’t overly fast or competitive. Then, after two thirds of the race, I also had problems with the tyres and I was forced to let myself pass by Andretti". 

 

Always these tire stories. Unfortunately, the sophisticated tires of Formula 1 remain the protagonists of every race, or at least are a good reason to exonerate any result. This is the final statement of Mauro Forghieri, head coach of the Italian team: 

 

"We chose the best covers we had to be sure to finish the race Unfortunately, it was not enough. The others went faster".

 

With a pair of drivers, Depailler and Laffite, the small French team made three. An important success that has brought the voitures bleu to the top of Formula 1, in every sense. In the drivers' standings, where at 20 points Depailler reached Villeneuve, in the constructors' standings, where the transalpine team, albeit slightly (38 to 36) preceded that of Maranello. Three wins out of five races are a good average, especially considering that the Jarama, at the end of the extra-European circuit, was considered a kind of proof of the truth. Once again they decided on the tires. While the cars of Goodyear were traveling in all ease (and the triumph of the Anglo-American house could have reached even greater dimensions if there were not the retirements of Laffite and Lauda when they were in the first positions) the Ferraris have not been too slow, but they have always had difficulties, unable to express the power and the endurance that had led them to excel in South Africa and Long Beach. Unfortunately, that of tires is a law to which motoring must submit, with no possibility of remedy.

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The covers have become so sophisticated, so decisive, that the slightest variation of the weather conditions, the track bottom, the adjustments of the machines is enough for all the values to be subverted. The fact remains, and it is already a nice consolation, that the World Championship is becoming more and more heated and interesting, as the monopoly of the victories of Ligier and Ferrari has not taken away from other cars and their drivers the opportunity to fit validly in the fight for the title. Carlos Reutemann who is leading a great season, without ever winning, is very close to the first in the general classification, paired with Laffite, in third place with 18 points, just two lengths from the leaders Villeneuve and Depailler. Carlos Reutemann says at the end of the race:

 

"I am convinced that this year those who want to win the World Championship will have to struggle a lot, because in every race, starting from the next, in Zolder on May 13, new suitors will present themselves. I don’t think Ligier and Ferrari will continue to race their successes alone. Lotus is coming back great. Did you see what Andretti did with the new 80? Probably in Belgium, Colin Chapman will present a completely new version of the new model and it will be trouble for everyone. The Williams of Jones and Regazzoni were also very strong, only stopped by problems due to the youth of the cars that were at the debut. And let us not forget the Brabham-alphas either. Lauda just missed a great spot and Piquet was stopped by a banal failure in the accelerator when he was struggling with us in the first places. So the game is still open. And Ligier’s three-of-a-kind is not too scary, even if - it has to be said - Depailler and Laffite already have something in hand, while all the others, including Ferrari, have to recover".

 

In conclusion, Wednesday, April 25, 1979, during a meeting held in Paris, the FIA had examined the request for autonomy submitted by the FOCA, and through a statement issued in Madrid reiterates its position, affirming that it is impossible to satisfy the request of the FOCA, introduced Tuesday 13 March 1979 after a meeting held in Modena. The boureau of the FIA has given mandate to the FISA to examine, with the FOCA, the problem within the commission of the Formula 1, that is being organized in the same FISA. The FIA has also asked (and this is a sign of the deep contrasts that exist between the sporting authority and the constructors) to the Automobile Club of Great Britain to carry out an investigation in order to know the legal identity of the FOCA (is it a club, an association, a commercial enterprise?) The same is not known or ascertained. For its part, the FISA has taken boredom of some statements made by official representatives of the FOCA to the Spanish sports newspaper Marca, according to which the Formula 1 World Championship is a logical trade exchange between the organizers and there FOCA. The FISA considers that this statement cannot be taken seriously, since, if not and if it were repeated, the constructors members of the FOCA, being of the industries or commercial enterprises, would be prosecuted legally, since the penal code punishes anyone individually or collectively trying to influence a market in the search for personal gain. In other words, the existing laws in most European countries against monopolies and antitrust in the United States would be invoked. Finally, the FISA has asked for the inclusion on the agenda of the next meeting of European Sports Ministers (scheduled in a month in Portugal) of an important topic: the absolute recognition of national sports authorities - also because of the global energy crisis - for the control of motor racing. This law already exists in Italy, France and Spain, where races can only be authorized by the national Automobile club or its sporting emanations.


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