While Friday 5th and Saturday 6th of September 1980 in Imola are held the general tests of the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix scheduled next week with the tests carried out by some of the most important teams, Monza and Vallelunga are preparing to host two interesting events, respectively a Formula 2 race not valid for the European Championship but with the presence of all the major protagonists of the season and the penultimate round of the Sportscar World Championship. It starts at the renewed Imola plant. The circuit that already last year received the official baptism with the race won by Niki Lauda with Brabham Alfa, undergoes the final testing of all the plants. A large crowd is already expected for testing by Ferrari, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Brabham and Osella. Obviously the highlight of the day will be given by the presence of the Ferrari 126 turbo that for the first time will come out of Fiorano. The new Maranello car will perform all the necessary tests to know if it can be attempted the debut in the Grand Prix. of Italy. It is predictable that the technicians of the Maranello team want to test the strength and reliability of the machine in addition to its speed. And the test will be confirmed by the possibility of a direct comparison with some of the cars currently at the top of Formula 1, such as Renault, Alfa and Brabham (the track record, set by Jaboullle is 1'36"42). As for the Osella, the Turin manufacturer will still not be able to entrust to Cheever the new machine that is not yet ready and will be tested only on Tuesday in Monza in anticipation of using it next week.
Enzo Ferrari will probably also attend the morning test. The city of Imola is celebrating. Banners, flags, lots of engine noise and at least 5.000 people in the stands of the Dino Ferrari circuit for a simple day of free practice. Who knows what will happen in the days of the Grand Prix next week. You could not miss it: following a predetermined script, at 10:25 a.m. Enzo Ferrari arrives to watch the tests of his new turbo car. And on the track, together with the latest addition from Maranello, the Renault of Jabouille, the Alfa Romeo of Giacomelli and Brambilla, the Osella of Cheever and the Brabham of Piquet. The 126 C is limited to make about forty laps (best time 1'39"34) to test many new solutions, including a new very narrow chassis, which later can withstand very wide lateral wings. No particular acute, indeed an uncertain path, as is convenient for those who take their first steps. Jabouille with Renault runs in 1'35"37, unofficial record of the circuit (the previous one belonged to the same French driver 1'35"42), but also fast turns Giacomelli on Alfa Romeo, in 1'36"29, driving the reserve car on which race tires are mounted and not long. Enzo Ferrari, dark suit, the usual smoked glasses, follows the tests discreetly, giving almost the impression of disinterest in what the mechanics do. In the shadow of the newly painted boxes (the whole circuit is receiving the final touches) the 82-year-old Modena manufacturer does not want to make statements. To those who ask him what will be Villeneuve’s companion in 1981, Enzo Ferrari answers verbatim:
"Pilots choose with the heart or with the brain. My decision will be officially announced on Monday, September 15, the day after the dispute of the Italian Grand Prix".
This coincidence could confirm the latest market rumors that, after the failure of the negotiations first for Pironi and then for Prost, the Maranello team would be oriented towards René Arnoux, second driver of the French brand. We think of the French driver because the latter is at Imola and for a long time stops at Ferrari’s pits. Neither does he say anything demanding, but he confirms that he has not yet renewed the contract with his team.
"It is true that I have received some offers, even from Italian stables. The problem is that I live in Martigny Court, in the middle of France, and coming to Maranello every time would be very tiring. I will say something specific next week".
The misadventure of the lost wheel at the pit exit at Zeltweg and the unpredictable spin of Bruno Giacomelli as he struggled for second place at Zandvoort, deprived Alfa Romeo of two possible big results in the Formula 1 World Championship.
Nevertheless, However, the Milanese company has now demonstrated in less than a year since its return to the world of Grand Prix to have achieved a remarkable degree of competitiveness with its 179, alongside the top together with Williams, Brabham, Ligier and Renault. The power of the 60-degree 12-cylinder V engine is certainly the best quality of the machine that little by little is also refining in aerodynamics and mechanics. The various Laffite, Jones, Piquet and Arnoux say, speaking of the Alfa:
"In terms of acceleration the Italian car is not afraid of rivals. And even in pure speed is among the fastest. We are convinced that in a short time on many circuits it will be difficult to beat it".
To eliminate defects and inconveniences of the first model, the Autodelta, responsible for the sport of the Biscione brand, is developing a new car, the 180. The latter should have already been present at Imola for the Italian Grand Prix in ten days but due to some delays in work it will probably postpone the debut at the end of the month in Montreal. Compared to the 179, the 180 will have a narrower and slightly shorter frame built in one piece. This solution will save weight and allow wider side wings to be used to maximise the ground effect. At the same time on this monocoque can be inserted a bodywork with or without miniskirts (depending on the regulation that will be in force in 1981) and above all will be prepared to use both the 12-cylinder engine and the brand new 8-cylinder turbo engine. Says engineer Carlo Chili, head of Autodelta:
"We also believe in the turbo, and for this we are prepared. We will present the supercharged engine at Imola. We are not yet able to mount it on the car and then we will show it on a stand. But the engine is already a reality".
Working on several fronts, Alfa Romeo is therefore preparing for an incandescent season finale with the aim then to break through in 1981 and compete for the world title. To comply with this program, the Milanese company is looking for a pilot to accompany Bruno Giacomelli. Contacts with Mario Andretti are - as has already been said - at an advanced stage and within a few days you could have the official announcement for the engagement of the Italian-American.
"It is true that we are negotiating with Andretti, but there is still nothing definitive. If we can arrange the deal we will all be happy. We already have a young driver: Bruno Giacomelli. We need an experienced man who is both fast, a good test driver and a true professional. Mario has all these characteristics. He is a big character known all over the world and this would be positive for the Alfa; he still wants to race and win and has practice on all the machines. He could also give us some useful advice. We hope that he will soon become part of our family".
Saturday, September 6, 1980 continue the tests at the Imola circuit. The Ferrari 126 C will be fitted with a new engine because the one that turned Friday was not perfectly in place. Scheckter, as he did on Friday, will continue to test the T5 and try the numerous tires that Michelin has brought to Imola. Unfortunately the tests of the car equipped with turbo engine Ferrari soon close. Ten laps in all, with two cars, completed by Gilles Villeneuve and then at home, as there are several engine problems, overheating, and the technicians of Maranello prefer to suspend the tests, before some serious break occurs. Despite everything, however, according to engineer Forghieri, the two days of training are positive. The Canadian driver drove 1'38"93 with the first car (8 laps) and 1'40"41 with the second (2 laps). But in the fastest part of the circuit it was timed at over 293 km/h, a more than respectable speed. Admits engineer Forghieri, before returning to Maranello:
"We know very well that we are always in the first steps. Despite this we are happy. Let us not forget that we are forced to rush the stages, that we cannot afford, as Renault did, to wait two years or more for results. In this respect, therefore, the machine has not disappointed us. We had precise indications on which to work, and consequently the days of Imola were not useless".
And he adds:
"We’ll be back on the same track next week, and we’ll see. I hope I can start 1981 with a certain degree of competitiveness, but it is one thing to put miniskirts in order, another to develop an engine. Of course, if one wanted to do so much, many obstacles would be easily overcome. But at Ferrari things are done seriously, trying and experimenting to get the best. Our main problem is to simplify the engine, which must be less sophisticated. And races can have a fundamental weight in this respect".
A rather sibilline statement that does not let you know if you will see the turbo at the Italian Grand Prix. In front of an incredible audience (over 15.000 people) came to see the last car born in Maranello at work, but also to admire Gilles Villeneuve, the little Canadian, abandoned the new car, got on the old car and gave show. While Scheckter with the old T5 had turned Friday in 1'38"18 (Saturday, however, the South African turns in 1'37"85) the ineffable Gilles gave spectacle bringing the limit of Ferrari to 1'36"89, tontano by Renault but always on acceptable measures. Gilles Villeneuve says:
"I really like the track, I think next Sunday there will be a really interesting Italian Grand Prix. There is only one dangerous spot in the first chicane in the Mineral Waters area. It will be up to the intelligence of the pilots not to create accidents at that point. Only one car can pass at a time and you will not have to try to pass in the narrow passage. That’s all".
Who is the most favorite for the Italian race and therefore for the World Championship?
"Definitely Alan Jones. He’s gone the fastest of all for the whole season, and I don’t see who’s going to worry him if he doesn’t have a problem. He will certainly be the Australian heir to Scheckter".
Last year, however, Brabham won on this track with Niki Lauda. Consequently, Nelson Piquet will certainly have his say.
"In 1979 Lauda won because we missed the choice of tyres. I took too hard tyres. Without that mistake Ferrari would have won easily. In any case I don’t believe much in Piquet’s possibilities".
And what will Ferrari do?
"Everything possible, as always. Much will depend once again on the tires. If Michelin will give us a valid help, we will try not to disfigure. Of course it will be difficult with so many strong people".
Hardly time for these few words and Villeneuve goes to Monte-Carlo with his helicopter that now parks like a car, everywhere.
"Two hours and I’m home. I want to rest a few days before returning to Imola with the desire to do a great race, with or without the turbo engine".
The impression created by the new turbo Ferrari at its first official outing on the track where the Italian Grand Prix will be held was not terrible. The car is aggressive, it has a nice line (maybe better than the T5) but for the moment it doesn’t seem very competitive yet. This is not a criticism, but the result of Friday’s rehearsals.
The car, driven by Gilles Villeneuve, got a pretty high time, about 4 seconds more than Renault that recorded the new circuit record with 1'35"37 at the average of over 188 km/h. Of course, we didn’t expect a record, but maybe Ferrari fans were hoping for something more. For the moment, however, the six-cylinder is a laboratory machine and the times cannot come with extreme ease. Villeneuve did his best, made about forty laps but the pits were quite frequent. Engineer Forghieri, technical manager of Ferrari, says:
"A first positive result was that we had not experienced any engine failure. We had a rather old engine, tired. We changed it last night and today, for the second round of rehearsals, we hope to get something better. But you can not, demand, the car is all new, all to discover. An authentic traveling laboratory".
Actually it was thought that Ferrari had built the new car following the indications already provided by Renault that has been testing the turbo for about three years. But seeing the two machines up close (the comparison was direct) you can see how the two companies have chosen completely different solutions. Now Ferrari has a very narrow chassis, narrower than that of the French car, and a 120 hp engine. that has rather short measures. The whole mechanical and electronic setting is also different. For this reason, Ferrari, while treasure the experience of others, makes its way and is a difficult road that will not be unlocked too easily in a short time. Will we see the Ferrari turbo racing debut in the Italian Grand Prix? The answer is not simple. Given the results, the 126 C can hardly be used in competition: in all probability the car will be brought to Imola, tested in the tests not timed but left aside for the race. In the race will certainly go the old T5 that is making some small progress compared to the past. But the wait is all for the new Michelin tires. Sunday, September 7, 1980 were brought some dozens on the track imolese; Monday, September 8, 1980 if you try others. Jody Scheckter says:
"As I said, I want to do at least one good race before the end of the season. First, I want to leave the competitive activity. I hope to do it in Imola, in front of the Italian fans who last year at Monza gave me a real triumph for the world title. I want to make them happy and above all I want to close in beauty. I hope that this time the tires do not make us despair".
The thought of the South African pilot is shared, of course, by Villeneuve. The Canadian is thrilled by the impatience to finally be able to get in the top positions. He is not alone. Next to him, in these days of testing, there is also the Brazilian Nelson Piquet. The latter points to the world title, as Alan Jones' number one rival. In recent days has carried out a series of very meticulous tests, in the future will try to get the relevant time. The South American is preparing with much conviction and meticulousness. Jones did not come to Imola: it could be a wrong move. Wednesday, September 10, 1980 you decide if the Ferrari turbo will race Sunday in Imola. The decision will be taken after that in the afternoon the car will be subjected to another series of tests on the Fiorano track. As usual, Gilles Villeneuve will be responsible for the final inspection. The car, after two days of testing in Imola last week, has been subjected to a series of works that would concern above all the systems of feeding and cooling of the oil that had been revealed defective In any case for Villeneuve have been prepared also two TS like for Lady Scheckter. The impression is that the turbo can be brought on the Imola track to perform at least one of the two rounds of non-parameter tests even if it seems unlikely that it can be used in the race. The first act in view of the Italian Grand Prix, now in its fifty-first edition, was meanwhile accomplished by the Turin manufacturer Enzo Osella. On Tuesday, Eddie Cheever, back from the triumph with the Lancia at Vallelunga, tries in Monza the new car built in Volpiano. The American driver covered about twenty laps recording as best time 1'38"02 (the track record belongs to the Renault of Jabouille with 1'34"58. The main problems encountered on the new Osella concern the miniskirt system and should therefore be overcome quite easily. The car will be officially presented on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m., at the St George Premier restaurant inside the Monzese circuit. On the front of the other teams that will be engaged in Imola there is the confirmation of the forfeit of Jochen Mass with Arrows. The German driver has not yet fully recovered from the Zeltweg accident. He should be replaced by the young compatriot Manfred Winkelhock, famous for his Formula 2 flights.
The only difficulty for the German driver concerns the FISA clearance to compete in Formula 1. As for the second Ensign entered had made the name of the American Kevin Cogan. But the British team manager said that Geoff Lees will still be racing with his car. No news about the Alfa Romeo that will race with Bruno Giacomelli and Vittorio Brambilla. At Balocco the young Andrea De Cesaris tried but for the moment he will hardly be used in the race. Meanwhile, Autodelta is working frantically to develop the 180 that will be ready for at least one of the two American races at the end of the season. The days before the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix are full of events. One day passes, and while Ferrari makes it known that it will bring its new turbo car to the Emilian circuit, Alfa Romeo has announced that the Milan-based company has been testing its supercharged 8-cylinder that will probably equip the cars built by Autodelta in 1981. Always in view of the future, the rumor spread that Alfa, trying several roads to find a driver to accompany Giacomelli, after consulting Mario Andretti would have contact with Riccardo Patrese. At Maranello, therefore, it was decided to try the map of 126 C. On the track of Fiorano, Scheckter and Villeneuve have tried for a long time the old T5, while Thursday 11 September 1980 will be subjected to further tests the new car turbo. In any case, the modern single-seater will participate in at least some of the official tests of the Italian Grand Prix. It’s premature and risky to say she’s racing now, but fans can still see her on the track. If the Ferrari gets agitated, however, it cannot be said that the Alfa stands still. The Milanese company has made known the characteristics of its supercharged engine that has been tested at the bench for a few days. It is an 8 cylinders of 1500 cc (the acronym is 158), equipped with two turbochargers KKK, which has the following characteristics: bore and stroke 74 x 43.5 mm, eight V cylinders of 90 hp, displacement 1496.7 cc, power 550 hp, maximum speed 11.600 RPM. As for Alfa Romeo, it seems that after having had a conversation with Mario Andretti, as said the engineer Chiti also met with Riccardo Patrese. The Italian, who had in the past had some chance to get to Ferrari, disappointed by the current season with Arrows, would therefore be studying the possibility of changing teams. At Arrows, meanwhile, preparations began to be made for next season by firing the famous designer Tony Southgate who will be replaced by Gustav Brunner, from ATS. In order not to be less than the other two Italian companies, the Turin-based Osella in the meantime has made some small step forward by presenting at Monza the new car that will already run in Imola. Says Enzo Osella:
"It’s lighter, has a narrower frame, encapsulates all the experiences made during the season, and should allow Cheever to qualify more easily and further into the starting line-up. For next year, however, we will prepare something really new as this machine is just an evolution of the previous one. In all likelihood our sponsors, which Denim and MS, will allow us to set up two cars, which is why we are also looking for another driver. It will be a young man. Our trust in Cheever remains".
Jones and Piquet, Piquet and Jones. That’s all we talk about on the eve of the first day of the Italian Grand Prix. The fight between the top two of the world ranking divided by only two points after eleven races is highly anticipated. The race on Sunday will not be able to mathematically award the title, but it is certain that the victory of one of the two rivals would put a serious mortgage on the legacy of Jody Scheckter. The Brazilian and the Australian can not afford mistakes and even leave room for the pursuers and in particular René Arnoux, who is in third place in the ranking. While waiting to get in the car, Alan and Nelson have tried in different ways to rest, to also prepare psychologically the battle that will not only be driving but also and especially nerves, the Williams driver has spent days of absolute rest in his home in Switzerland, in a village of just over two hundred inhabitants located near Lausanne. Jones, who reaches Bologna by plane on Wednesday 10 September 1980, says he has made a thorough examination of conscience after what happened in the Netherlands.
"It was my fault Piquet got nine points. And what I’m most sorry about is that in this way, by acting like a rookie, I not only put my personal satisfactions on the line, but all the work of the team. Williams, for the seriousness with which she faced the season, for the sacrifices and the efforts made, deserves more than all to be at the top. I promise right now that I will not make any more similar mistakes. I am focused to the maximum and I want to make up for Imola than I lost at Zandvoort".
Unlike Jones, Nelson Piquet will arrive at the circuit at the last moment. His friends advised him to stay out of the fray as long as possible, not to read newspapers, not to turn on radio and television. Sante Ghedini, the public relations man of Parmalat says that he follows the Brazilian as he did before with Niki Lauda:
"For Nelson, Sunday must be a race like any other. He must not feel obliged to win, to beat his great rival. If you get nervous, if you feel too responsible Ze things will become much more difficult".
For this reason Piquet, after last week’s tests on the Imola track, was sent to a secret location, almost certainly on the Adriatic Riviera. Before leaving, however, Nelson said that he feels very well, that the fight exalts him to do better and better.
"Don’t think I’m afraid. I know I’m going through a period of great form and I also know that my Brabham can get to the finish line in Imola first. But I won’t do anything crazy, I’ll be careful how my opponent behaves".
However, if the prediction is all aimed at the two main players, bettors (and fans) do not forget the possibilities of Renault and Alfa Romeo. It seems that the track can benefit the turbo engines of the French team and also the power of the twelve cylinders in Milan. Large posters praise Giacomelli who, once abandoned by the misfortune that haunts him, could be a dangerous outsider.
"An Alfa win is in the air. Of course, it would be a big setback for Ferrari. After dominating for a long time, for once they can practically run at home, the cars of Maranello risk to make a bad impression".
Tickets to the Italian Grand Prix sell like hot cakes. Nine grandstands out of fourteen are already sold out while the sale of the most popular coupons continues very well, the circular ones that allow you to run throughout the circuit. The organizers, happy but also worried, expect a full house for Sunday, with the presence of over 100.000 people. The huge interest in the Formula 1 race, indeed, is even worrying the managers of the circuit. It seems that the usual unknown are able to prepare, as already happened in Monza and Monte-Carlo, fake tickets. For this reason, a strict control will be carried out at all entrances. Patrols of the Guardia di Finanza will be present both outside the circuit and at the internal passages for a careful verification. An impressive surveillance service will be put in place also inside the circuit, in particular in the areas reserved for campers (some tents have already been placed and there is a progressive influx of fans equipped with campers, caravans and all kinds of equipment). Carabinieri and guards of Finance will circulate continuously between the facilities, to avoid any event not allowed and to check once more the authenticity of the entry coupons that - as is known - have daily validity and will have to be renewed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In the meantime, many initiatives have been organised alongside motor racing. On Friday, for example, there will be a debate on the health problems of sport with the participation of teachers and experts in the field. The circuit of Romagna will live, for the first time, the great event that until now has been the exclusive prerogative of the most famous tracks in the world. He is about to enter the history of the great circus, bearing the significant name of Dino Ferrari, the late son of Enzo Ferrari. The managers of the circuit - which for so many years was only occasionally accessible because of a street of usual passage for the inhabitants of Imola - knew in a few months to put on the good dress, that of the party. The only problem is to be immediately close to the town, just over a thousand meters from the exit of the motorway. And given the enthusiasm that is expected for this Grand Prix this will be a great handicap. At the same time, arriving at the Monza circuit through the forest already immersed in the mist of these late summer mornings, impresses with silence: the absence of any noise strikes more than the roar of Formula 1, died a year ago and destined to return only in September 1981. Already you can hear the birds, everything is polished as if there were a few hours left to the 51 Italian Grand Prix.
Instead, there will never be. It’s true: it will be held in Imola, on a circuit that bears the name of the son of Enzo Ferrari. Dino, but in the capital of Brianza is another thing
"Since 1936 I saw them all. My father was a janitor, he could not give me the money and I then passed through the hole in the network. Then I arrived at the Tribune of Honour".
The speaker is Pier Franco Bertazzini, currently councillor for Sport of the City of Monza, in the past also mayor of the city.
"We must not emphasize, certainly it is not a tragedy, but Monza loses something and we, the political class, must make the examination of conscience to see if everything has been done to avoid it. As for me, the Grand Prix, I will see: as a fan of Alfa Romeo and Brambilla I will go to Imola".
On the opposite side there is Vittorio Pigazzini, an adviser of the political party Italia Nostra, one of those who would like to see the circuit disappear forever.
"Sunday? A day like any other. I hope to take a nice walk in the silence of the park".
A replacement for the Grand Prix will be there. Who wants will be able to see also to the autodromo of Monza the cars of the circus of Ecclestone, but only on a giant screen placed under the tribunes. Meagre consolation, since the news will take place in the framework of a twinning Lombardy-Emilia Romagna. At Sias (the dealership of the circuit) they do not even want to pretend serenity.
"We are absolutely forbidden to talk about Imola".
The director, the engineer Bacciagaluppi, is unapproachable but seems to understand that his thinking is not much different from that of Gigi Del Signore, actual president of the Union Sports Clubs, of which the engineer is honorary president. Of the Lord, at the circuit there never was but he also feels impoverished.
"I agree with a principle of alternation, but the coup against us offends me. Not to mention the effort made on the plant to improve it and make it, as it is now, one of the best in the world. Although respectful of traditions, I would like to recall what Monza gave to motoring: it can be wiped out with a sponge".
There is fair play for Imola, but every now and then real feelings emerge, as Bertazzini categorically says:
"The only sensible reason is to give a satisfaction to the old man of Maranello. There are no others".
Mayor Emanuele Cirillo says:
"Being deprived of the Grand Prix must be a spur to regain it and definitely examine a problem, the location of the circuit in the park remembering that the management company is willing to make it an open facility that in addition to the host track tennis courts, pools and even an indoor arena".
In Monza there is even an association Friends of the Circuit. Says Roberto Conti:
"Yes, in Imola they did good things, but this is the track of Ascari, Fangio, Moss, Clark, Nuvolari. Monza’s name is only on par with Nurburgring and Indianapolis. Going to Imola? No, for heaven’s sake, if it was a motorcycle race, maybe, but Formula 1 is something else".
A member of the association (5000) has tears in his eyes:
"It was not a good thing to take away the Grand Prix. Ours is the most beautiful track in the world. They wanted to kick us out in Serie B, like those of Milan, but we have no blame".
"I think if the circuit went away the monzesi would soon forget. I know: there are my fellow citizens who are moved maybe in Finland when they find the Monza brand cigarettes, but to me it is neither hot nor cold. I prefer that 20,000 cars do not come to asphyxiate and uproot the saplings just planted".
Where the drama touches is in the Ferrari Clubs, half injured in the pride of the bell tower and half satisfied because the Grand Prix will be all Ferrari, even in the name of the track. But nobody’s going to Imola.
"We went to Zandovoort by bus".
Says Mauro Ambrosi, cashier of the Ferrari Club Monza 5, gathered in the room of the restaurant Da Antonio. He says he will not see the Grand Prix because at Imola there will be too much crowd for the road network and it will take hours to come away. Nobody believes him.
"After the Grand Prix, they took everything away. We were known in the world for this is now a big setback".
Ecologists respond, relentless:
"If anything we are sorry for the inhabitants of Imola that this year the Grand Prix, with annexes and related, if they will have to endure it".
All the support of Emilia-Romagna, that very hot cheer for racing engines, is addressed to the Dino Ferrari Circuit. Friday, September 12, 1980 Formula 1 cars will open the Italian Grand Prix in the first qualifying round; in this regard, thousands of fans invade the circuit, placed in the center of the city and transformed, with recent work, in an authentic jewel dedicated to motoring. Sunday will certainly be sold out, at least 100.000 people. It does not matter if a small but combative group of Imola has set up a committee against the plant, according to them source of noise pollution and confusion, covering the streets with protest posters. The main reason for the twelfth round of the World Championship is certainly the title duel. Jones must defend himself against Piquet’s attacks with René Arnoux as a dangerous outsider. But there are many who expect a great race from Bruno Giacomelli’s Alfa, or some sign of awakening from Ferrari, maybe just a small high point of the new turbo car during practice. Behind the scenes, in the apparent calm that precedes the beginning of the tests, another fight takes place, that for the reingagges and the passages of the pilots. What will be the formation of the teams for next year? On Thursday evening, Renault officially announced that it had reconfirmed Jean Pierre Jabouille and René Arnoux.
The press release of the French company therefore makes fall all the rumors that in recent days gave Arnoux as a candidate to replace Jody Schecktcr in Maranello. Renault’s initiative provokes a new wave of rumors. Didier Pironi is back in the spotlight. According to some, the driver of Friuli origin had already signed a contract with Ferrari for two years. Alain Prost, one of the men who could have reached Maranello but who was stopped by McLaren sponsors, says he knows nothing new but then, frowning in his face, he lets slip that Pironi has already signed. We must take this news with the benefit of inventory, because since the announcement of the abandonment of Scheckter at least four drivers have already been attached to the Maranello team. This time it is said that they are more founded. Very fast driver, excellent fighter but too impetuous, Pironi does not seem the most suitable man for Ferrari. First, because it could turn into a dangerous competitor for Villeneuve (the relations between the two were never very good); second, because it is certainly not the turbo and radial tyre tester that would be needed in Maranello. But, perhaps, there were no other free drivers on the market sufficiently valid and with the characteristics required by Enzo Ferrari. It will be up to the manufacturer of Modena to say the last word Monday, September 15, 1980, when, after the race, officially reveal the name of the chosen driver. Meanwhile, the quotations of Mario Andretti go down to Alfa Romeo and those of Riccardo Patrese go up. While the Italian-American admitted that there are difficulties for his transition to the Milan team (although the program would not mind, thinking eventually of an Alfa participation in the Indy 500), the Paduan does not deny having had contact with the engineer Carlo Chiti. Patrese would have a chance to leave Arrows for the Italian company. However the World Championship ends, there is no hiding that 1980 was the year of Williams and its first driver, the Australian Alan Jones. If the 34-year-old Melbourne driver wins the title, he will do it with full merit, if he loses it he can only recite a mea culpa. For better or for worse it was Alan Jones who characterized almost all the races. And the same can be said for Williams. The English constructor’s wing cars have dictated the law and in practice dominated on the technical level, so much so that many rival cars have copied aerodynamic and mechanical solutions from the machines #27 and #28. In terms of concept, only the Renault turbo has said something different, opening the way for the future, immediately followed by Ferrari.
But it must be said that even Brabham (back to the Cosworth engine) and Ligier, albeit with ups and downs, have had exciting moments. On the other hand, the Ferrari season was completely negative, almost confirming the rule established in recent years, according to which the team that won the world title could not repeat the feat the following year. Ferrari had given some illusions in the first two trips to South America. The debutants T5 had obtained both in Buenos Aires and in Interlagos good performances in practice but a series of breaks had blocked both Villeneuve and Scheckter. In Argentina, however, there were signs of what would have been the dominant motive of 1980, that is, the fight between Jones and Piquet. The Australian had imposed himself clearly, despite a sudden stop in the pits to clean a radiator, in front of the Brazilian, while the third place had gone to the good Keke Rosberg with the Fittipaldi In Brazil but the story had immediately changed. The high-altitude circuit had favored Renault and René Arnoux had not missed the opportunity, ahead of the Roman Elio De Angelis, great revelation of the race. With the Lotus 81, although delayed by tyre problems, the young Italian had given show and especially left behind Jones, arrived in the high area of Arnoux points, always thanks to the altitude that enhances the power of the supercharged engines, had repeated the success in Kyalami, ahead of the Ligier Luffite and Pironi. Jones had had to withdraw due to the failure of the transmission and already there was talk of the Renault domain, of the possibilities of the French company to start winning the world title. But they had reckoned without the innkeeper. Returning to the sea-level circuits and particularly Long Beach, where brakes and agility count more than power, the Renaults had begun to fail, and Piquet had taken advantage of the situation with a very clever race. On the American circuit another Italian, Riccardo Patrese, won his best finish of the season. It seemed that his Arrows was going to return to competitive levels but, unfortunately for the Italian, it was only a single occasion. Third was the old timeless Emerson Fittipaldi, but helped more by the bad luck and the withdrawals of opponents (including Jones, blocked by a collision with Giacomelli, whose Alfa Romeo began to shine). Arrived in Europe, Formula 1 saw a succession of surprise winners.