Someone may wonder why Nelson Piquet, during the Brazilian Grand Prix, after having chosen the wrong tires before the start and opting for dry slicks for his Brabham, drove the whole race under pouring rain without ever making a pit stop to change his tires. The Brazilian man did miracles of equilibrium fighting for the tenth position, risking a lot, when with a pit-stop he could have fixed his situation and maybe, considering that his car was very competitive, try a comeback and gain many positions. For this absurd and inconceivable behavior there is a logic answer: Piquet, to make a pit-stop, would have lost more time than any other driver, compromising his result. The explanation is given by the special pneumatic shock absorbers with variable excursion hardness springs that Brabham uses, breaching the violations that require the cars to be 6 centimeters above the ground with the flanks, which until last year were called miniskirts. It appears that the system is based on the functioning of an air pressure valve that, under a certain load, determined by speed, lowers the car so that it touches the ground and creates that ground effect that they had with the notorious miniskirts until the end of 1980. The only side effect of this device is that, for the car to regain its regular position, the driver needs to slow down and wait almost a minute for the pressure on the springs to release for the opening of aforementioned valve. Elio De Angelis tells us that he found himself following with his Lotus Piquet’s Brabham multiple times:
"Even in practice, during qualifying, I realized that Piquet had an inexplicably low lap before going back into the box".
This means that the expedient created by the English team’s creator, Gordon Murray, is working (it was seen by the times recorded during practice, by the pole position in front of the Williams’) and, despite being illegal, for the time being this hasn’t been discovered by the technical and sports commissioners that check the cars only when turned off. However, many pictures taken during the Brazilian Grand Prix showed in different parts of the circuit that the Brabham was pressed to the ground more than when it had the movable miniskirts. All of this is just to say that the Brabham, just like Lotus 88, is an illegal car. And starting from Thursday Aprile the 9th of 1981, during the free practices in Buenos Aires for the Argentinian Grand Prix, this will be a new case to discuss and without a doubt a new opportunity for another brutal debate. Many constructors (including Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault, and Williams) have brought up to Bernie Eccleston, owner of Brabham, that if his cars will come on track with these pneumatic shock absorbers, there will be a complaint. If the sports authorities won’t take action firmly, Formula 1 will find itself in the middle of chaos once again, since all the teams are ready to adapt identical or similar systems to lower the cars. So, there will be a dangerous comeback of the miniskirts. Not by chance last week at the Jacapareguà racetrack, before the material for Brabham was sent to Argentina, the same unknown people made the discussed variable shock absorbers disappear. Considering that we do not think it was the stewards who accomplished the sly feat, or even better the feat of industrial espionage, to prove the illegality of the English car, we believe it was someone who planned on copying this trick or at least study it. One thing sure is that the situation in Formula 1 is again critical, close to the limit. Either Brabham is disqualified just like Lotus 88 or every team will race with illegal cars. It ignites a sports restlessness in Buenos Aires for two events programmed on Sunday: the Argentinian Grand Prix and Premio Pellegrini, the most important horse race of the season. For both events a huge crowd is expected. In the sky box, firstly for the Hp’s of the cars and then for the four-legged purebreds, there will be the President of the Republic, General Viola. Regarding the Championship, except for the fans, there is a weird climate of détente, similar to the calm before the storm. On Tuesday the 7th of April of 1981, at his arrival in the Argentinian capital, Jean-Marie Balestre, president of the FISA, during a press conference releases his declarations of peace:
"After the deal in Paris, everything is good between the constructors and the sports authorities. We are a good example for the others. The remaining problems will be resolved with full satisfaction from both sides. In regard to Lotus 88 case, a final decision will be taken in the FIA court of appeal in Paris on the 23rd of April. On Brabham’s pneumatic shock absorbers with variable height, we have found no irregularity. We are still preparing an electronic control system to verify that the minimum height of 6 centimeters from the ground has been respected".
Balestre’s declaration must not be misleading. If the French executive wants to keep Bernie Ecclestone happy, let him. This doesn’t mean that every constructor is pleased and that starting from Thursday, with the two hours long free practices, the fighting and the complaints won’t start again, just like it happened in Long Beach and in Brazil. Perhaps he was trying to save his face, but it will be very difficult that the protagonists of this world in crisis will manage to solve the problems inside the circus. Those responsible for the teams are beginning to gather with the aim of discussing the matter of the variable springs. We will see who will win, if those who plan on keeping them or those who want them banned. Obviously, there will be a merciless battle. Williams, favorite for the win in the Argentinian Grand Prix, is trying to make Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann friends again. At their arrival in Buenos Aires, Jones, Reutemann and Frank Williams himself are speaking of an idyllic understanding within the team. The World Champion, furious after the defeat in Brazil, says:
"Carlos isn’t a problem for me. Surely, I don’t need a contract to beat him. Even if he didn’t respect the agreements, in the end I will show who the best one is".
Reutemann shows that he is convinced that the episode on the Jacarepaguà’s track is water under the bridge.
"Aland and I will start with the same possibilities of winning, as long as the cars prove themselves to be as competitive as in the past races".
However, the smartest is Frank Williams, the English manager says that he has spoken with the south American driver and that he has accepted his version of the events, according to which he didn’t see the signs from the box with the order of letting Jones pass.
"Alan and Carlos are two employees of my team, so they have to accept my decisions. They will have two identical cars and I hope they can fight once again for the first and second place. And, if I am being honest, I’d be happy if Reutemann won. He’s never been able to win in Argentina and this could be the best way to celebrate his 39 years on Sunday".
For once Williams has been diplomatic. And who wouldn’t be, considering the risk of upsetting thousands of south American fans? The programmatic declarations from the Italian teams are conciliatory. At Alfa Romeo Andretti says that on the fast circuit of the municipal racetrack his car will be very competitive and that we need to pay attention to the very powerful Renault. For Ferrari the engineer Forghieri has made optimistic predictions, stating that he’s confident that at least one of the cars with Maranello turbocharged engine will be in the first positions. Osella hopes to at least qualify for the race. At their arrival in Argentina, almost every team has found an unpleasant surprise that could compromise the race’s result. Not all the material sent from Brazil has arrived. At Ligier Talbot a car is missing, and many teams haven’t received their mechanical equipment yet. On Wednesday the 8th of April of 1981 the Ferrari men have to borrow some tools from Renault. It seems that the inconveniences have been caused by the strict Brazilian Customs, which stopped at the frontier all the material that doesn’t seem legit. Now every sports director is actively working to clear this situation and make sure that in the following days the mechanics have all the tools they need to assemble and fix the cars. However, the confusion causes many complaints and it's possible that in the next hours there will be an official protest for this significant inconvenience. The technical checks, that will start tonight at 18 (local time), may be even postponed to Friday. This will cause further problems considering that there’s a lot of waiting for the measures the stewards will have to take in regard to Lotus 88, which Colin Chapman persists in presenting for the races and also for Brabham, considered illegal by many experts due to his pneumatic shock absorbers with variable height. Nelson Piquet claims that:
"My car is perfectly legal. I plan on taking a good revenge after what happened in Brazil. I’m positive that this time if I am not hit by bad luck again, the Williams won’t be able to beat me".
The Brazilian driver looks sure of himself and of the possibilities of his car. But in reality, Piquet in the past days has been scolded for his decision made in Brazil, when he decided to start with the dry tires. Bernie Ecclestone hasn’t forgiven him and now he wants to be repaid for the missed win. Piquet will have to face Jones and Reutemann’s Williams, the Argentinian driver is the favorite for the race, Alfa Romeo’s which are set to be competitive and especially Renault which, arrived on a fast circuit, will be able to rise for the power of their engine. Same thing goes for Ferrari that, after unlucky practices in Long Beach and Jacarepaguá, now they have the opportunity to show their speed. The engineer Forghieri, technical manager for the Maranello team, says that this time they will try the new comprex engine which had not been installed in Brazil. It’s about a type of boost with one smaller and lighter comprex than the others in the past and that should give good results. When the tracks are faster, they allow average speeds close to 200 km/h, the turbo engines’ hissing becomes threatening. Concerning Ferrari and Renault’s performances, the only two teams that at the moment have supercharged engines, they should create a gap with the others and achieve the best starting positions for the Argentinian Grand Prix on Sunday. They should, because it’s possible to see new surprises from Brabham (which uses the much-discussed pneumatic shock absorbers with adjustable stroke) and an always dangerous Williams, competitive on every track. Nevertheless, Alain Prost, the twenty-six-year-old driver who took Jabouille’s place by Arnoux’s side for the French cars, says:
"Finally, we can enjoy some satisfaction. Till now we had issues with the development of the cars, but now we are ready for a good result, also because we’re favorite for the current meteorological conditions that allow us to race with acceptable temperatures. If there isn’t going to be any expected trouble, I can say without any fear to be proven wrong that we will be among the protagonists of the race".
Alain Prost’s beliefs are shared with a smart René Arnoux, who avoids making compromising statements.
"We shouldn’t have problems with the engines that in this situation are reliable. The track with his long straights will enable us to use our maximum speed. But I don’t feel like making a prediction, to not jinx it".
Three years after debut in Formula 1 with its yellow turbocharged cars, Renault is looking for its fifth success, after having proven itself in four races since 1979. The big French house heads for an important goal, the success for the iridescent title and this might be the first brick to build a castle they have been dreaming of for a long time. The speech about victory doesn’t concern, at least on paper, Ferrari, that even disposing of turbo-charged engines, still struggles with the usual inconveniences due to the lack of experience in this industry. Every kilometer covered by Villeneuve and Pironi is good to find out something new, small imperfections or even important fails that can be overcome only by constant research and difficult changes. The Canadian and the French men, in trial for the time being, still can’t drive with continuity on track because of the necessary and frequent pit-stops they are forced to make. This doesn’t mean that Ferrari, in the two official qualifying rounds, won’t achieve a good result. Maybe place itself in the first positions for the race. Didier Pironi who understood perfectly the situation doesn’t hide the difficulties, but neither does he paw just like his fiery racing temper would like:
"Arriving in Maranello with the idea of taking the new path of turbo’s I perfectly knew I would have had to be patient. I only wish for the waiting to be rewarded in the future by a newfound competitivity for Ferrari".
The technological paths followed by the various teams to find better performances are many. While some teams count on aerodynamic research and others wait for the Coswoort to develop its eight cylinders (it seems that they are experimenting with a new engine with a desmodromic distribution) McLaren has specialized in the aeronautical construction technologies. The new MP4 (McLaren Project Four) realized by a carbon fiber chassis, now driven by John Watson, appears to be giving good results.
Its qualities are an excellent resistance to torsions and lightness. We still don’t know what its absorbing capabilities are in case of impact at high speed. But the risks the drivers have to take in this climate of extreme uncertainty and relevant economic interests aren’t taken into much account. All the big polemic between FISA and FOCA that for several months plagued Formula 1 was based on, at least officially speaking, on the miniskirts’ problem. The sports authorities had to ban them for safety reasons to reduce the cars’ speed. Nevertheless, despite everything, this goal hasn’t been achieved. Thursday the 9th of April of 1981, on a two-hour shift of free practices the record of the municipal racetrack in the Argentinian capital is immediately and significantly broken. It belonged to Alan Jones with Williams who reached his pole position with 1'44"17. The French Alain Prost in the last practice laps does 1'43"895, with a speed of 2000.496 km/h. and on Friday many drivers with the right tires and the cars on point will be able to do even better. It’s difficult for someone to be ahead of Reanult which for the moment has placed Aroux in second position, preceding in order Jones, Watson’s new McLaren and then Piquet, Reutemann and Patrese. The day is characterized by a big amount of work done by each team which had to adapt after having received in the last hour all the materials they had sent a lot of days prior from Brazil. This also explains how some of the teams haven’t looked at the times. Ferrari has to face many difficulties, with Villeneuve who has to change car immediately because of the turbines damaging the engine and with Pironi that can’t do more than three slow laps with the new comprex. Even at Alfa they’re working on the springs and on aerodynamics with a new body arrived from Italy. The practices that will count will be those on Friday morning. Chapman will present his Lotus 88 once again and it will be disqualified (moreover, on Thursday De Angelis is terrifyingly the author of a spin with a car he can’t manage to keep on the road.) while a complaint is expected against Brabham with the irregular springs. It will probably be Frank Williams the one to submit it. To find new tricks the technical commissioners will put two metallic platforms at the entrance and exit of the pit lane and every car arriving and leaving will be checked. So, there’s never peace in Formula 1.
The circus has escalated to the point where there’s no guarantee of reliability. The economic interests have taken over and no one can control what is going on. After the deal signed in Paris between the constructors and the sports authorities, we hoped that with the races every discussion and controversy would be over. But it isn’t. and on Friday the 10th of April of 1981 we reach the bottom. The first turn of qualifying for the Argentinian Grand Prix isn’t a competitive show but a farce. Colin Chapman performs in a dramatic show, spreading a statement in which he threats to retire from racing if his Lotus 88 (also not accepted in Buenos Aires’ practices) isn’t approved by the FISA appeal which will gather in Paris in mid-April. And, to support this hypothesis, with an incredible nerve, the English constructor is going back to London, leaving the team in the hands of its sports director, Peter Collins. In reality, Chapman must have flown to England to develop the new Lotus 87, given that at the moment he isn’t even trying to push the old 81 model. Obviously, with this car the English constructor is trying to leverage the public opinion and scare the sports authorities that will have to be the judges of Lotus 88, exploiting the prestige his team has earned thanks to many past victories. Perhaps, he fails to realize he's making a fool of himself. Lotus 88 is simply a car that doesn’t meet the current regulations and Chapman would do better to drop this project. The Lotus case isn’t the only one enlivening the day. Other two shocking episodes jeopardize the future of Formula 1. Nelson Piquet does the best lap time in a Brabham that, using the known springs with pneumatic shock absorbers, should be as illegal as Lotus 88. The Brazilian’s car goes around the track touching the ground as if it had the miniskirts. Then, when it arrives in the box for the checks, Brabham rises from the ground up to almost ten centimeters like a jack. All the drivers report this, but for the time being no one, except for Frank Williams who had preannounced a complaint, has the courage to openly fight Bernie Ecclestone. It’s a disgrace that everyone in Formula 1 will have to pay for this. Piquet gets on the plywood platform where they take the measurements. The Brazilian performs the operation at a walking pace to give time to the pneumatic springs to raise the car in front of everyone. At the check the Brabham seems completely regular. Instead, Riccardo Patrese and Elio De Angelis fall into the commissioners’ penalties: Arrows and Lotus are lower than the limit of 6 centimeters allows to. The check happens twice: the first one after a few practice laps and the second one at the end.
The first check is negative for Patrese and De Angelis, but the second one is positive. The stewards decide to delete the lap times of the two drivers done between the two checks and let them keep the initial ones. Consequence: they delete the lap times of 1'45"008 and 1'45"252 and leave them their slowest performances (1'45"716 and 1'45"901). But in extremes Ecclestone, strong in his prestige, interferes and obtains a general amnesty, simplified by the fact that the stewards had to admit that the platform wasn’t perfectly level. Williams submits a complaint against Brabham, an incredible story. Even one of the two Ferrari’s, Pironi’s, is found too low on one side, but the French man doesn’t get a penalty, because he has done only one lap and he’s come back in the box to have his car adjusted. Behind Piquet in the free practices, we can find Prost with Turbo Renault, Reutemann with Williams, Arnoux with the other Renault and Villeneuve. But for Ferrari the prospects aren’t good. Despite having valid speed performances, the cars aren’t reliable now. Villeneuve and Pironi break four engines, and this speak for itself. Alfa Romeo is in troubles too, despite having the same cars seen in the USA and in Brazil, in Argentina they have regressed in terms of performance. Saturday the 11th of April of 1981, FISA imposes a fine with no precedence on Colin Chapman, owner of Lotus. Regarding the statements contained in the press release issued on Friday on paper in the name of Essex (Lotus sponsor) signed by the same English constructor, FISA decides to inflict a fine of 100.000 dollars on the team. All this independently from the decisions that will be taken on Thursday the 16th of April in Paris, when it will be announced the new executive committee of the Federation, to which has been delegated the task of judging the event, waiting for the FIA appeal court to examine the Lotus 88 case. In the statement Chapman complained about the disqualification, even in Argentina, of his car considered illegal for having used a double chassis. After having reminisced on the history of his prestigious business the constructor wrote textually:
"All these years we have witnessed changes made during Grand Prix’s and unfortunately we have seen what used to be a competition between sportsmen regress become a fight for power and political maneuvers between manipulators and businessmen that try to take more than they give to the sport. My friend and sponsor David Thieme and I are seriously trying to understand if Formula 1 is always as it claims to be: the peak of sport and technology. Unluckily, it seems that things aren’t the same and if the right measures aren’t taken, Formula 1 will become a sewer full of plagiarism, of loopholes, of interests and of petty interpretations of the regulations imposed by groups of pressure manipulated by people to whom the word sports means nothing".
It's appropriate to say: look who is speaking. Chapman may be an automotive genius, but he is also the man who imposed the adoption of the same miniskirts that were prohibited by the technical rules, the man who tried to find instantly a loophole in the new regulation to gain advantages, who sustains the legality of a car which is only legit according to him, the guy who built it. Let’s not talk about business: if Chapman is rich, certainly it’s not because he lived begging for money. Not to mention the sponsor who, according to the rumors, has spent around 500.000 dollars only to introduce in a pharaonic way Lotus 88 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Moreover, with his accusations Chapman not only attempts to undermine the technical commissioners and the sports directors (who often make mistakes), but also the teams that opposed with a complaint against the presence of his car on track. Reading the statement, it seems that the manipulators are Renault, Williams, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Brabham, McLaren, Talbot and Osella. These are serious accusations that the FIA could not ignore. Still this new crushing controversy, added to Brabham’s irregularity with the pneumatic shock absorbers, is creating a tensed atmosphere in Formula 1. It is possible that soon we will find ourselves talking again about courts, divisions, and internal fights. And this would be the end of this sport. The entire story overshadows the second day of qualifying practice, which doesn’t change the starting grid for the race much. After a night of raining the track has dried out, but the competitors come on track not very convinced to be able to improve Friday’s times. Nelson Piquet, who doesn’t drive much, keeps the pole ahead of Alain’s Renault. Among the best only Alan Jones takes a decisive step forward positioning himself in third position and preceding his teammate and rival Carlos Reutemann. The Australian man, booed by the big crowd present at the racetrack, shows that he plans on fighting. Even Gilles Villeneuve with Ferrari improves slightly his time, but he is still seventh, overtaken by René Arnoux and Héctor Rebaque.
The modest Mexican driver finding himself in sixth place is a big deal: the Brabham’s race with miniskirts and are part of another category of cars. An eventual win of theirs will be falsified with a technical trick from the pneumatic shock absorbers. It is difficult that before the start the technical commissioners will catch Piquet and Rebaque with their cars lowered and disqualify them. Apart from this, Patrese, De Angelis and Cheever can have a good race, especially Cheever who is driving like a lion with a not very competitive Tyrrell. The Alfa Romeo’s are far away and the Osella’s do not qualify once again. On Sunday, April 12, 1980, the first pointer to troubles for Alan Jones comes during the half-hour warm up session on race morning when the World Champion complains that his Williams’ Cosworth engine feels really flat. The mechanics pore over it, stripping the fuel injection system as they frantically sought to get to the root of the problem. There is no question of changing the engine in the time available, but they do the best they can and Jones goes to the line with his fingers well and truly crossed. When the race starts, it was simply no contest. Piquet eases the Brabham BT49C into the lead from Jones mid-way round the opening tour and completes the first lap five lengths clear of Jones, Reutemann, Patrese, Arnoux, Prost, Rebaque, Pironi, Rosberg and Watson. There is a bit of a kerfuffle at the start as Cheever’s Tyrrell burns out its clutch on the line, the American driver getting away very slowly and holding up those behind him on the right hand side of the grid. Villeneuve also has an appalling first lap, getting very sideways on the long flat-out right hander at the far end of the circuit, and coming through right at the tail of the field. On the second lap, with Piquet extending his lead with contemptuous ease and Reutemann shooting past Jones into second place, both Pironi and Mansell trail into the pits to retire with expensive and spectacular engine failures. By lap seven Piquet’s advantage is an amazing 12 seconds and the order behind him settles down with Reutemann ahead of Prost and Rebaque, driving well, in front of Jones, Arnoux, Patrese and Watson. Tambay’s Theodore is throwing out a lot of oil smoke. Andretti’s Alfa sounds dreadful and Serra is regularly missing gear changes as he comes past the pits. On lap 13 Lammers decides that his ATS’s handling is so awful that he stops to have the rear wing changed and two laps later Surer’s overworked Ensign retires with engine failure.
Running so close to the back of the field that it is embarrassing, Laffite’s Talbot-Matra crawls into the pits and gives up the contest at the end of lap 19. Meanwhile Piquet is more than 20 sec. in the lead and the Argentine crowd, who vociferously shout their support for Reutemann becomes strangely silent as Rebaque not only caches their hero but slips past him on lap 15 and begins to pull away. There is an air of unreality about the proceedings now, for Rebaque may be a handy enough driver, but there is no way the Mexican is of the calibre of Reutemann, Prost, Jones or Arnoux and here he is in second place with these others string out behind him. Jones, in fifth place, is handling Arnoux quite confidently and Watson is within sight of them both, then there is a gap to Patrese, Andretti’s rough-sounding Alfa Romeo and Tambay’s oil-throwing Theodore which is closely embroiled in a tussle with de Angelis. From this point onwards the race degenerates into a tedious procession, its air of unreality partially mitigates when Rebaque’s fine efforts comes to an end mid-way round lap 33. The rotor arm within the Brabham’s distributor brakes and the second Brabham BT49C coasts to a silent standstill out on the circuit. That left Reutemann in second place from Prost, Jones and Arnoux and the race runs out processionally in that order with Piquet winning as he pleases to the accompaniment of a lot of humphing and mumphing about the Brabham’s suspension system. In the closing stages of the race de Angelis forces his Lotus 81 past Patrese’s Arrows to take sixth place, the latter driver plagues with wheel vibration and a sticking throttle which is something to avoid on the fast sweeps of a track like Buenos Aires. Patrese thus finishes seventh ahead of Andretti, for Tambay’s Theodore retired when its oil runs out and, Watson has stopped the new McLaren with a strange vibration at the rear. Villeneuve spends a frustrating afternoon sitting behind local hero Zunino’s Tyrrell until his Ferrari spins off with a broken driveshaft. Zunino, incidentally, is penalised a full lap for taking a short cut after a spin, so although one might consider the 1981 Argentine Grand Prix a somewhat processional event, at least the officials are fair and dispassionate in applying penalties for those who offended. Nelson Piquet crossed the finish line first in Argentina, but the moral winner of the third race of the Championship is Carlos Reutemann, second with Williams. The Brabham with which the Brazilian has imposed himself is an illegal car that still uses the miniskirts banned by the regulations using a technical subterfuge.
The lack of norms and the inadequacy of the sports authorities make it impossible to disqualify Brabham since it is hard to prove that in speed it touches the track to have the ground effect. However, everyone has seen how it lays its sidepods on the ground thanks to the springs with pneumatic shock absorbers designed by Gordon Murray. Nelson Piquet is a nice guy. He doesn’t have any fault if he has had to race with an illegal car. And he says this openly to anyone asking if he fears a disqualification.
"I’m just a driver and I drive the cars that my team gives me. I don’t know anything about regulations and tricks. As far as it concerns the race it was easy finishing first. Jones did an amazing start, but I did not worry much. I didn’t want to risk an accident in the first turn. I knew that I would overtake him in the following straight. Then I just had to control the race, trying not to commit any error, because otherwise they would say I’m a fool. When you have such advantages though, it is hard to make mistakes".
Without undermining Piquet’s talent, he’s with no doubt one of the best drivers of Formula 1, the Brazilian with a regular car would not have been able to keep up with a wild Reutemann. Spurred on by an exceptional public, like a football stadium, the south American deserved the warm applause that welcomed him, with a raised arm during his triumphal finish line. The second place at least makes him the leader in the standings for the Championship. Because if Carlos had to endure Brabham supremacy, too fast and unreachable for his good Williams, he beat his big rival and teammate Alan Jones. And this counts for a victory already. His overtake on the Australian (faster at the start) has been the only exciting episode of the whole race in the first positions. Reutemann overtook Jones in the third lap, before the chicane on the straight on the other side of the box’s, with anger, authority, and timing. The racetrack exploded with a roar.
"I am sorry I couldn’t win in front of my crowd who has been wonderful, but it had nothing to do with Brabham. In fact, did you see what an amazing driver Rebaque is? He almost took my second place. Jokes aside, if they don’t take any action in Imola we will all have a system to lower the cars to the ground and it will be a step backward towards a new chaos. About the Championship I am leading. Ask Williams what will happen in the next races, to make things easier I asked Jones which side he would have gone for, so that we wouldn’t crash. Then when I had the chance, I overtook both my teammate and the French".
For Jones this has been a race to forget.
"My engine didn’t function well, and it has been a torture. I can’t wait to leave and forget about this".
As for the rest, it has been a monotonous race, with some skirmishes in the back of the group and nothing else. Piquet ran away immediately unbothered, and he gained in the first passages two seconds per lap on the first group. Behind the Brazilian the positions froze, except for Hector Rebaque, moved from sixth place to a second after lap 15. Yet this is another proof of Brabham’s illegality, because never, on equal machinery, the 25-year-old Mexican would dream of preceding Reutemann, Jones, Prost and so on and so forth. Unluckily Rebaque had to retire for electric reasons in lap 32. If he placed second, the result would have been even more offensive for the sport than it has already happened with Piquet success. With the Brazilian always leading, Reutemann fought till the end to keep his second place and he managed to do so quite well, also because the Turbo Renault’s, despite gaining a great third place with Alain Prost and fifth with Arnoux (Alan Jones was fourth) they proved themselves to be less competitive than expected on a fast track like the Argentinian one. They never managed to get into the heart of the race and fight for at least a second position. In a dark day for the Italian colors our drivers managed to stand up tall. The best of all was Elio De Angelis who in the last laps with a miraculous recovery took away from Riccardo Patrese his position. The Paduan’s Arrows swerved after every braking on a curve. The rookie Sigfried Stohr places ninth, tenth Bruno Giacomelli and eleventh the young Andrea De Cesaris.
The Italian teams had a bad weekend: out of action Osella that didn’t qualify, Ferrari for the third consecutive time didn’t even have one car on the finish line. The turbo engine for Pironi gave out instantly. Villeneuve gave up while he was tenth and lapped. Alfa Romeo obtained the eighth place with Andretti and the tenth with Giacomelli. Seeing the cars from Milan fight with Zunino’s Tyrell or with Tambay’s Theodore is depressing. Whilst the engineer Forghieri has barely the time to see Pironi come back in the box Pironi with his Ferrari, because he is once again leaving for Italy before the race has even ended (they have to work in forced stages at Maranello), the engineer Carlo Citti from Alfa Romeo stays to comment on the race.
"After all, it was better than predicted. During free practices several problems came up, concerning the aerodynamic core barrel and the engine too. We went in the wrong direction compared to Long Beach. On the other hand, the thrusters don’t perform as well as they should, despite an impressive resistance. We fear this may be about some difficulties to the electrical systems. It might be the ignition that can’t keep up with the pace of twelve cylinders. After all, Talbot has the same issue using the Matra engine with the same systems. It may be necessary a new adjustment. Considering that we have a car that follows all the rules, we could not ask for more. In addition to our troubles, we also have to pay for the disadvantages of this situation".
Destroyed by fatigue, sweaty and exhausted like few other times. Mario Andretti stated that he has tried his best.
"I gave it all, with my utmost commitment. Unfortunately, starting from mid race I also had to deal with the rupture of drainpipes that has decreased the performance of the engine. Piquet overtook me as if I were still. Honestly, it’s not fair to race with cars coming from two different categories. We hope this matter will be fixed: either everyone has the ground effect, or no one does. Right now, it’s not even fun to drive. I’m sorry for Carlos Reutemann, he could have fought for the win. About Alfa Romeo, now we should work on getting back".
Didier Pironi doesn’t even have the time to focus on the race.
"And to say I had a good start; the car ran perfectly. The engine suddenly broke, with no reason. I saw smoke coming out and I knew that it was over".
Weirdly, Gilles Villeneuve is quite satisfied. The Canadian driver who walks to the box, after having once again broken an axle of his Ferrari, says:
"I had to start with a reserve car, because during free practices I had gone out of track with the car for the race. To not risk we chose the second one and to be fair it went well, better than I thought. Maybe the fans don’t understand that, but we are making progresses. They have to be patient because Renault has waited a long time before having a few satisfactions. In a couple months we will be competitive, mark my words".
At the end of the race no team submits a complaint against Brabham to get it disqualified. The appeal presented by Frank Williams a couple of days before getting overruled has discouraged anyone from taking an action. However, Renault hands in to the sports authorities a document in which they complain about Brabham.
"We didn’t ask for a disqualification for this race, but we want this matter to be discussed in the meeting in Paris between the constructors and FISA on the 15th of April. Bernie Ecclestone’s cars are legal only when they are checked by the technical commissioners, but they become illegal as soon as they are on track".