The Almirante Brown track is one of the biggest problems for drivers. In the night between Saturday and Sunday the organisers work under the light of the photocells to lay a layer of cement in the three most ruined sectors (the tortuous areas). There is no guarantee that the race can have a smooth running. On Saturday, in the last timed practices, the cars came out almost all from the corners in derapage on four wheels, on some occasions as in rallies. It seemed to see a kermesse on the ice. And the situation has been worsened by the frequent cars that went off track, which brought on the track dirt, sand and grass. At the end of qualifying - carried out with a delay of one hour because in the morning they had to suspend the free practice session for the two incidents of Piquet and Rosberg that had ended up in the safety nets ruining the safety structures - the drivers asked for a meeting to examine every possible decision. The president of the Constructors' Association, Bernie Ecclestone, and Carlos Reutemann got on a car together for a tour of the track. Some have even talked about a possible cancellation of the race, but it is more likely, at most, that the distance to be covered will be shortened with a reduction in the laps. It may also be that the Grand Prix is not considered valid for the World Championship. The sporting side of the Argentine Grand Prix takes second place, slowly after qualifying. The drivers do not speak, as usual, of lap times and cars but of track safety, the problems they had in these days not to get off the track and to keep their cars in the right trajectories.
"It will not be possible to make a regular race. After about twenty laps the circuit will no longer be practicable, we risk not only to ruin the cars but to hurt ourselves. As it happened in Brazil a few years ago".
Confesses Jacques Laffite, before going to Jody Scheckter, president of the GPDA, to encourage him to hold a meeting with the FOCA and the sports authorities and raise awareness of the very serious problem. Even the South African, now perfectly taken in the shoes of the Formula 1 trade unionist, confirmed the difficult situation.
"I also went off the track and almost hit a marshall. It’s ridiculous to race in these conditions. And also very dangerous".
And Clay Regazzoni adds:
"If you race in a situation like this, hardly any car will get to the end of the race".
These protests are accompanied by a few isolated voices of drivers who believe it is possible to run the Argentine Grand Prix. Among these are Alan Jones, who will start on pole, Carlos Reutemann and Mario Andretti: the Italian-American only advises colleagues to increase attention, especially in overtaking. With these prospects and these uncertainties, the race in Buenos Aires is expected. The competitive climate is very uncertain even if - as has been said - Alan Jones and his Williams will start in front of everyone. The car of the English constructor, however, does not have the margin of advantage that it had obtained only a few months ago in the last races of 1979. Jacques Laffite and Didier Pironi are close to him with the two Ligiers and the Brazilian Nelson Piquet with the Brabham. The fight for victory should be enclosed between these names but, precisely because there are many unknowns, including the fact that this is the first race of the season and many cars are new or renewed, surprises can not be excluded. De Angelis was in a very good position at the start, he climbed to fifth place ahead of teammate Andretti, and Patrese, convinced he could do well with his Arrows. Ferrari will be in the fourth and sixth row with Gilles Villeneuve and Jody Scheckter. Despite the intense amount of work done, the Italian team has not been able to achieve more. Tyre grip problems limited the performance of the 312 T5. The fact is confirmed by the result of the very fast Renault, which are also behind with Jabouille ninth and Arnoux even nineteenth. The same is true, even if on a different level, for Alfa Romeo. Bruno Giacomelli could have been among the best, but he went off the track again in the first laps of qualifying. The car slipped away in a corner and, after a couple of spins, he ended up in the nets. There was serious damage to the front of the car.
Giacomelli could not turn anymore and lost any chance to improve his performance. And what about Depailler (penultimate time)? There is little to say: the Frenchman for the moment can not be judged for his physically impaired condition and for the lack of adaptation to the exasperated driving. Bad news for Enzo Osella. The Turin constructor has committed all the resources available to develop the car (heavy and with major overheating problems). Cheever managed to improve by almost 5 seconds on the lap in the final qualifying, but the engine broke and the chance to enter the grid is gone. He will try again in Brazil. No matter what the organisers have done to the new sections of the track, and they have repeated their efforts to treat the troublesome surface on Saturday night, the moment the warm-up session begins on Sunday it is obvious that race conditions will be almost impossible. The tyres tire up the tarmac and scatter it to the outside of the corners so that there is an area of marbles just off the correct racing line, to catch anyone who makes a slight error. Once on the marbles you might just have well been on sheet ice for all the control you had. During the warm-up Andretti’s Lotus has its metering unit on the Cosworth DFV go awry and his mechanics change the complete engine in 1 hr. 20 min., something they could never have done on the Lotus 80. David Kennedy takes part in the warm-up, as first reserve, but it is to no avail as all 24 qualifiers are ready to take to the grid. The first seven cars are on Goodyear tyres, in spite of doing all their practice on race tyres, which more than justifies the Akron giant’s decision. The start is due at 1:00 p.m. and as is traditional Reutemann is greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm by the vociferous spectators, in spite of his lowly position on the grid. As Alan Jones leads the field away on the parade lap, Arrioux is in the pits with his Renault engine popping and banging, indicating vapour bubbles in the injection system, no doubt aggravated by the intense heat. From his advantageous position at the head of the one-by-one grid, Alan Jones is away into the lead with a copybook start when the lights blink green. The whole field get through the fast right/left kink after the start without drama, and stream away towards the far end of the circuit, with Piquet lining his Brabham up for second place and Pironi’s Ligier falling away behind Andretti’s Lotus. Into the infield loops and back down into the hairpin before the pits it is Jones all the way, that familiar white and green number 27, now with Leyland added to its Saudi Arabian markings, passing in front of the grandstands with a commanding lead.
In second place is Piquet in the blue and white Brabham, leading Laffite (Ligier), Andretti (Lotus), Reutemann (Williams), Pironi (Ligier), Scheckter (Ferrari), Prost (McLaren), Villeneuve (Ferrari), after running wide onto the grass during the opening lap, Rosberg (Fittipaldi), Mass (Arrows), Regazzoni (Ensign), de Angelis Lotus), after being punted by Patrese, Zunino (Brabham), Watson (McLaren), Giacomelli (Alfa Romeo), Depaifter (Alfa Romeo), Fittipaldi (Fittipaldi), Patrese (Arrows), after recovering from hitting de Angelis, and Surer (ATS), who has headed for the pits. Jarier lumps in to retire with frontal damage after stuffing his Tyrrell into the rear end of Watson’s McLaren, cracking that car’s gearbox oil cooler, which leads to the inevitable retirement of the M29B after a further five laps as all the oil runs out, unbeknown to the driver. On the second lap Pironi’s run comes to an abrupt end when his Ligier’s Cosworth engine expires, while a lap later Arnoux’s Renault loses the right front wheel under braking for the pits hairpin. While the wheel bounds away into the distance the three-wheeled Renault pirouettes at high speed and stops without hitting anything. Almost before the dust settles the other Renault is crawling into the pits to retire with gearbox failure. It is a bad day for the French cars, whether they are blue or yellow. Already the track is becoming desperately slippery. Laffite nips past Piquet, to take second place, on lap 6, but the young Brazilian forces his way in front again almost immediately, and the Frenchman has another go on lap 9. Reutemann is hanging on in fourth place and gets past Piquet on the return straight, only to find himself badly placed for the right-hander that follows, with the very determined Brabham driver sitting it out with him wheel-to-wheel into the braking area. The result is that Piquet scrabbles round the corner and Reutemann goes up the escape road and spins on the grass, filling his radiator intake with earth and grass. Another lap has the temperature gauges rising rapidly so the Argentinian shot into the pits to have the debris cleared away, but the engine has already overheated and mid-way round lap 13 the engine fails and a dejected Reutemann climbs out when the car stops. While this is happening, Alan Jones has got off line and onto the marbles on the infield section and though he spins he keeps the engine running and carries on without losing the lead, but during his spin he had scooped up a plastic bag in the radiator intake.
His engine was running with a higher pressure release valve on the water system than his teammate, and though the temperature soares to 120 °C before he makes a pit stop to have the bag snatched away by a mechanic, no damage is done. Jones has tried to reach over the cockpit side to release the plastic which he could see, but as he has said afterwards: That was daft; all I did was nearly have my arm blown off... When he rockets back into the race he is in fourth place, behind Villeneuve who has come up through the field after his first lap off and is in third place. Laffite is out in front of Piquet, but the gaps are still small and Jones can see his adversaries and feels convinced he can catch them. The broken up surface is so bad that lap times are down some eleven or twelve seconds on what they should be, and it is significant that most drivers have made their fastest laps within the first five or six. The cars are slipping and sliding precariously on the marbles of torn up tarmac and it calls for a very sensitive right foot on the throttle pedal and very few of the runners get away without a spin or a sideways slide at some time or another. While this quartet argues over the lead, Scheckter’s Ferrari T5 is hanging on gamely in fifth place, clearly losing a fair amount of oil from a rear end leak. Then comes Riccardo Patrese who’s pulled up extremely well after his early tangle with de Angelis, but on lap 14 his engine begins to sound extremely rough, with a broken exhaust pipe. He nonetheless keeps the pressure on the Ferrari until lap 28 when he retires out on the circuit with engine failure. Earlier on Jochen Mass has had a huge spin out on the back of the circuit which has covered his Arrows with dust and dirt, but he has plugged on gamely until lap 21 when he has been forced to retire with gearbox trouble. Both Lotus 81s have retired. Andretti has been running strongly with the leading bunch at the start, holding fourth place at the end of the opening lap. But he has gradually dropped back down the field as his engine has lost its edge and he has made a pit stop on lap five to see if anything could have been done. He has resumed at a more gentle pace right down near the back of the field, but the problem has been with the metering unit and with 20 laps completed he has pulled in to retire for good. By lap 23 the tussle at the front is getting pretty frenzied. Laffite manages to get a bit of daylight between his Ligier and Piquet’s pursuing Brabham thanks to some judicious squeezing through gaps when lapping backmarkers.
Villeneuve now has Piquet right in his sights and clearly doesn’t seem inclined towards messing around behind the Brabham for long and Jones is carefully examining the situation to see if there is a chance of jumping them both. Rosberg, running remarkably smoothly, is now up to sixth behind Scheckter, then comes the consistent Daly, Giacomelli’s slipping and sliding Alfa and young Prost. McLaren’s number two has the mother-and-father of spins early in the race, bounding across the grass and tearing his M29B’s skirts off in the process. That doesn’t daunt him in the least and the young Frenchman reckons that the car handled better than he would have expected after such an excursion. Jones finds a way ahead of Villeneuve for third place and then displaces Piquet next time round, the Brabham by now showing the first signs of overheating. On lap 30 Jones makes it past Laffite and into the lead, the Ligier unfortunately responding by blowing up its engine on the next lap which takes the pressure off Jones a little bit. That is just as well, because the Williams’s temperatures are still looking pretty precarious and, with that appalling track surface to negotiate, Jones can be forgiven for not wanting the added complication of a hard-charging Ligier right on his gearbox. But Jones is equally aware of the fact that Villeneuve is behind him. The Canuck really starts to pile on the pressure once there is only the Williams between him and the lead, and for a while it seems that we might have a repetition of some of last year’s great scraps. Jones seems fairly well in control of the situation although he is cutting things as closely as he can, and Villeneuve is having to run as near flat-out as he dares. Then, coming through the esses just before the last hairpin, Villeneuve’s T5 hurries straight on into the barriers on the outside of the circuit, failing to negotiate the right-hand section of the swerve. As the dust settles one can almost see the whole French-Canadian driver orientating himself and thinking: what was all that about? He quickly composed himself, leapt from the wrecked Ferrari and ran across the circuit towards the pits where he expresses the opinion that something broke at the front. A television replay all over the world shows an apparent steering failure on the Ferrari as it swoopes into the corner, the scarlet flat-12 shooting off the road with the front wheels pointing in opposite directions. From this point onwards, once he’s turned in a couple of quick laps to demoralise Piquet’s challenge, the race belongs to Jones.
That is as long as his engine holds together. But with Piquet Brabham similarly bothered by overheating Jones is able to lengthen his lap times to over two minutes as he runs to a morale-boosting victory in the first Grand Prix of the season. For Piquet, second place is a tremendous justification of his fast-mushrooming talent, while Rosberg only just scrapes home third ahead of Daly. The Finn’s Fittipaldi is stuttering as it runs low on fuel and he dives for the pits with six laps to go to take on a few extra gallons. His mechanics slam the dump can onto the fuel filler counted to ten and then pull it off again, showering fuel over the pit lane as Rosberg hurtles straight back into the fray. Their timing is just about right, for Rosberg holds off Daly by just under five seconds to the flag. Fifth is Giacomelli after a steady run, the sole Italian 12 to finish after Scheckter’s Ferrari, in an easy third place, expired in a very terminal-looking cloud of oil smoke at the end of lap 45. Prost strives manfully to finish sixth while Zunino maintains a very circumspect pace to be the final classified finisher in seventh place. Regazzoni’s Ensign makes three pit stops with a repeat of the throttle-sticking problem, an extra return spring being applied on each occasion; he is still running at the end, as is Fittipaldi, but they are both too far behind to be classified officially. Alan Jones wins the Argentine Grand Prix, the first race of the Formula 1 World Championship. A success which is coherent with the superiority demonstrated once again by the Arab sheikhs’ car and the ability of the 33-year-old Australian driver. But was this a car race or some kind of figure skating test? The protagonists all performed, indistinctly, winners and losers, an incredible and dangerous pirouette dance, which ended up exciting drivers and audience. Not even Alan Jones managed to avoid a spin, but he won anyway despite the fact that he also had to stop in the pits. While he was leading to remove a piece of plastic, which had stuck to a radiator and made water and oil boil, Jones in his attack race preceded the Brazilian Nelson Piquet with the new Brabham, and the Finn Keke Rosberg, author of a regular race at the wheel of the Fittipaldi-Skol. In fourth place there is Derek Daly with Tyrrell, and in fifth place Bruno Giacomelli, who won the first points for Alfa Romeo. Sixth and last, finally, in the scoring area there is the Frenchman Alain Prost with McLaren.
Jones’s success immediately highlights what will be the dominant pair of the 1980 World Championship. The Australian and Williams will certainly be the pair to beat in the next races. Only one question needs an answer yet: would the driver of the car #27 have won if the race had been less selective in terms of incident and issues? Probably the answer is positive, but it will take a confirmation in the next race, in Brazil. If the success of Alan Jones is logical, the same cannot be said of the other placings. From Piquet (although the Brazilian deserved second place because he fought bravely) forward, all found themselves in the classification in unexpected positions, the result of the incredible series of retirements that occurred during the race. The most unlucky was certainly Ferrari, which was about to take a second and a fourth place with Villeneuve and Scheckter. In a few laps the team was deprived of any satisfaction. The 312 T5s performed much better than expected or hoped after the qualifying results. Villeneuve started badly, running twelfth on the first lap but was able to recover, overtake after overtake, until he settled in second place. Then, on lap 36 he finished off the track at the end of the mixed track, just before the pit straight with a broken suspension. The Canadian was one of the protagonists of the race. His duels with Piquet thrilled the 100,000 spectators at the Municipal Autodrome. He took incredible risks, went straight into a curve, went twice in the grass to the Ascari variant, and spun. When Villeneuve had to retire, he said he heard the steering wheel behaving abnormally. An examination of the car determined that the left front suspension was severed by a big blow, most likely after the last exit of the road. With less impetuosity, Villeneuve could perhaps have brought home some points. But would you like a calculating Villeneuve that does not attack? Scheckter, however, behaved as befits a World Champion, reasoning with his head. Maybe the South African was the only driver who never went off the track and led a wonderful race, raced with great heart because Jody started with a serious handicap. In the morning’s free practice, in fact, Ferrari had the first signs of the bad luck that would have accompanied it. Villeneuve broke an engine that the mechanics replaced. On Jody Scheckter’s car, however, there was a leak of lubricant from a distributor gasket. The issue was detected by the technicians and repaired, but evidently it was not only the gasket to lose the oil. Immediately after the start, the car #1 began to leave behind a cloud of blue smoke, until it stopped on lap 45. The lubricant had worn out and Scheckter was still in third.
"I had a tremendous fear of not finishing the race and losing a victory I had conquered. When I saw the temperature of the water and oil rise abnormally, I thought the engine was going to fail. Instead, I stopped at the pits. The team removed the plastic roof that had glued to a radiator and I was back in the race. Since then I have not had any major problems. Although the track was really dangerous and I had to drive with the utmost attention".
Alan Jones is getting on the podium. Once again Williams led him to success, the fourth starting from last season. The Australian driver smiles happily. The success cost him a hard effort, an hour and a half of driving under the scorching sun, several dangers ran, but in the end the result arrived. Frank Williams, the English constructor, seems strangely nervous. Perhaps he has suffered particularly during the course of the race.
"At one point we had timing problems. We couldn’t tell if Jones was gaining or losing. Fortunately it went well, but what a struggle".
If in the winning team the enthusiasm is controlled, in that of the beaten there is no drama. In fact, Ferrari is quite satisfied with how things went. Engineer Forghieri, technical manager of the team, says that all in all the cars behaved better than thought.
"And we could have made some good placements as well. It went badly, but we’re not completely disappointed. We’ll see what happens in Brazil. Now we’ll all go home and work".
Not even the drivers seem too concerned about the failure. Villeneuve limits himself to saying that he has missed a great opportunity:
"I felt the steering wheel rather light and I spun in the grass. Too bad, because Jones was slowing down and I was hoping I could attack him for first place. However, I would have been fine with second place, but it was not meant to be".
Scheckter is even more laconic and quiet:
"I ran with the sword of Damocles on my head. I knew I could have stopped at any time. Actually I also thought I could go to the end of the race, but I was forced to retire. It is a bad start for the 1980 World Championship, but nothing is compromised".
Engineer Forghieri concludes, talking about the performance of the T5:
"We still have a lot of work to do on the car. But we should improve from race to race. I am convinced that something more could be achieved already in Brazil. In addition, the gap with Williams is no longer as marked as in some races last season".
And the drivers also give a serene judgement on the quality of the cars. Scheckter says:
"I could not get an exact impression, because, due to the failure that then caused my retirement, I had oil pressure problems in the slow left turns. There are several set-up and aerodynamics solutions still to be tried, but for sure in some circuits we can be competitive".
Villeneuve says more or less the same things, adding that if he did not go off the track, he could have kept the pace of Jones’ Williams to the end, forcing the Australian to take more risks. Between the Canadian and Forghieri there was a discussion about the incident.
Gilles claims to have gone off the track for the failure of a suspension. Forghieri, after examining the T5, thinks the suspension broke in the crash. The truth may lie in the middle: probably, the wheel arms were already damaged by the numerous blows received previously and made it difficult to drive the car. A controversy, however, immediately extinguished, as everyone is convinced that Villeneuve has once again given proof of his aggression and his skill. Scuderia Ferrari sports director, Marco Piccinini, says:
"With two drivers like Gilles and Jody we have no problems. The first race ended in favour of Williams but we do not feel beaten for the title".
In the Alfa Romeo team there is great satisfaction. This time, Engineer Chiti, head of the team, is particularly happy:
"The result was within our reach, after the chances that Brambilla and Giacomelli had had to finish fourth in Canada and Monza. In free practice the car was already quite fast. The driver who finished in fifth place did a good job. On this occasion Giacomelli was also able to demonstrate a certain maturity".
The Brescian was not exalted for the placement, but he nevertheless confessed to be very satisfied.
"It was a very difficult race, and I had to be careful not to make any decisive mistakes. This time I think I ran very judiciously and I hope everyone will take it into account".
Patrick Depailler also had a positive result. The Frenchman is happy to have made a good race, a tough test for him who returned to racing after many months of absence and after the serious incident that had disabled him during the 1979 championship.
"I proved to be already in a good physical condition. I didn’t push too hard because I noticed an oil leak from the engine. The same loss that eventually forced me to retire. I wanted to finish the race. I did not succeed, but I am convinced that in the next race I will do even better. This is already a positive result".
Conflicting explanations among the Italians drivers involved in the incident of the first lap. De Angelis accuses Patrese of having behaved improperly in the attempt to overtake Villeneuve. But the Paduan defends himself firmly:
"I saw a group of two or three cars in front of me making a mess on track, zigzagging, and the only way not to hit them was to continue straight on the way out. I tucked myself in that way and came back after the curve, staying out of trouble. I guess I couldn’t behave better than that. I avoided a sure incident that would have involved the others".
However, the position of the young Roman driver, who could not give a demonstration of his skill, is different.
"Patrese tried an impossible overtake, and I went off the track to avoid hitting everyone. I was really hoping to make a good race. It means I’ll try again in Brazil".
What is Williams hiding? Why did the mechanics of the English team, after the victory of Alan Jones in the Argentine Grand Prix, take the car to a garage before sending it to the technical checks?
What secret is behind this car that Frank Williams keeps jealously hidden and defends with the bodyguards of a private agency? These are questions that arise spontaneously the day after a race that saw the clear supremacy of the Australian driver and the single-seater that brings the colours of Saudi Airlines and British Leyland. Frank Williams dodged a bullet in the afternoon at the end of an elimination race in which only four ran full throttle and seven in all were classified out of the twenty-four that started. Instead of having the car #27 taken immediately to parc fermé for technical checks, he had it pushed into a closed garage where a part of the body was removed. Only when a stewart showed up to ask for the winning Williams to be sent to the checks within two minutes, the order was executed. An impropriety that in other times would have cost a disqualification and that instead has only aroused curiosity while the sports authorities - as usual - turn a blind eye. Some say that Williams has advanced aerodynamic features that the team doesn’t want to make known. But the most common opinion is that the English constructor’s car is under weight. The regulation of Formula 1 speaks of a minimum of 575 kilograms, while it seems that Jones' car reaches just 555 kilos. In fact in the checks the ascertained weight has been 575 kilos comprising the remaining fuel in the tanks. For this reason some teams will ask for the next race, scheduled in Interlagos in Brazil, surprise checks even during qualifying. Frank Williams wins and heads for the Formula 1 world title with his driver Alan Jones. His cars seem to be more competitive than the rivals’. It could be a happy moment for the English constructor (who, among other things, has found since the beginning of the year other sponsors, adding as sponsor to the Arab oil sheiks British Leyland), but it is not so: Williams looks very tense and the mechanics are very nervous. On Sunday, at the end of the Argentine Grand Prix, the British manager mistreated a Swiss journalist who had been his friend for years, causing a controversy that will drag on over time. These facts, however, forced Williams to some sort of press conference. Frank Williams is asked why the team has hired bodyguards to prevent anyone from entering the garage and from talking to the men of the team.
"It’s simple: we want to work quietly. And then we are jealous of our projects. Industrial espionage is not fantasy, it really exists. I can’t stand those teams that copy: Tyrrell and ATS, for example. They don’t spend a penny on research. They just come to us, watch and do the same things. It’s not right".
How are relationships with other teams?
"They were great before. Now that we win we are hated by everyone".
What does he think of Ecclestone?
"He’s a very skilled man. And I’m glad he’s wasting time doing politics and neglecting Brabham".
What is Williams' goal?
"Win the World Championship: if we do not succeed, we aim to finish first in some race".
How much will Williams spend this season?
"We have a budget ranging from 5.000.000 to 6.000.000 dollars. But I think that it will not be enough".
Who does he consider the most dangerous rival?
"Ferrari. And in particular Villeneuve. He wants to fight more than Scheckter. I think that this year Enzo Ferrari will bet on the Canadian. And we must always pay attention to what that man from Maranello wants".
Does Frank Williams want to fight like Gilles Villeneuve?
"Sure. I hope to do in racing what Ferrari did. And to still lead the team when I will be 80 years old or more".
What role does Frank play in Williams: technical, organisational, administrative?
"I am the boss, the manager. I coordinate all activities".
Will having Jones and Reutemann on the team be a problem?
"No, because I spoke clearly to the drivers. Jones is the number one, Reutemann the number two".
How did Frank Williams manage to bring Leyland alongside the oil princes?
"With hard work. Leyland, like Ford and Coca-Cola, was blacklisted by the Arabs until six months ago. I managed to get it accepted as a partner. It will be an advantage for the British industry: they will be able to sell trucks in Saudi Arabia. Even the princes are happy: they have shown the king to be intelligent and to have made a good deal with me conquering a certain independence for their actions in a system that is still feudal".
Has he ever driven a Formula 1’s Williams?
"I did four laps at Paul Ricard, but it’s difficult. It takes years of training".
What does he want for the future?
"Keep it up. Stay in the racing world, earn a lot of money. And give an image of the technical efficiency of British work. As Ferrari did for Italy".
Controversy aside, Williams won the first round of the 1980 World Championship race. Ferrari, on the other hand, has not collected a single point as it did last year.
"It means that even in this season we will have to fight desperately to achieve the ultimate goal".
Answers Marco Piccinini, the sporting director of Scuderia Ferrari. This does not mean that Scheckter, Villenueve and the Ferrari T5s have completely been below expectations. The cars in the back if they had not run into incidents (Gilles) and failures (Jody) would have won unexpected positions after what we have seen in qualifying. The cars, despite not being at the level of Williams, have proved to be always among the best and the drivers have behaved very well, collecting unanimous approval also from all rivals.
If the day was not entirely positive for Ferrari, however, the results came from Alfa Romeo that conquered with the fifth place of Giacomelli, who finished behind Jones, Piquet, Rosberg and Daly, its first two points in the standings. The 179 has done its job finishing the race, confirming features of good top speed and bottom qualities.
"On a track that was like an ice sheet, I’ve done everything to make a small contribution to the much work done so far. From now on, we can only improve by trying to aim even higher".
Giacomelli was particularly pleased to have obtained this position because he gave the best answer to those who often attacked him saying that he is not up to the task entrusted to him. Those who did not have the opportunity to stand out were the other young Italian drivers: De Angelis retired immediately with a loose suspension and Patrese had to retire with a broken engine when he was fighting in the midfield and was gaining ground. The Argentina chapter ended quite positively also for the Turin constructor Enzo Osella. Unfortunately, Eddie Cheever did not manage to qualify, but the car made some comforting progress. In the coming days, the Osella team will work in São Paulo to present itself in more competitive conditions at the Brazilian Grand Prix. The major problems have already been partially identified (excessive weight, set-up and aerodynamic problems) and probably the chances of participating in the race scheduled on Sunday, January 27, 1980 will be much higher. When someone said last Saturday that it would probably not be possible to race the Argentine Grand Prix because of the crumbling asphalt, they did not know that blocking an organisational machine like this is practically impossible. With over 100.000 tickets sold, with television stations all over the world connected live, who would have had the courage to take such a decision?
No one of course. And everything has been done according to the rules that want commercial interests to always impose on those sports. The meeting during which it was decided that the race would take place had already been held on Saturday afternoon. In the presence of organisers, team managers, drivers, sports authorities, an attempt was made to examine the situation and to take any measures that could go from the cancellation of the race to a reduction of it. However, the sports director of a team that participated in the assembly, and who wants to keep anonymity for obvious reasons, says he has never heard anything more fun. An authentic farce. They were crazy proposals, like that of competing in the Grand Prix on an outer track of the same circuit. Almost as if the regulation did not require races on the same circuit where at least two days of practice took place. Moreover, the track in question was not even approved. Jacques Laffite and Jean Pierre Jabouille proposed to anticipate the race, the first in the morning, the second even at the first light of dawn. This is to avoid running in the hottest time of the day, when the asphalt crumbles more easily. It is a naive proposal, because with the direct connection of television the time cannot be moved, even if somehow the public in Buenos Aires could be worned. To fix things, however, there is Juan Manuel Fangio, five-time World Champion, race director.
"You can go to sleep, while we work all night to fix the track with tar-cement. With a serene mind, after free practice, we will decide what to do".
After so many words it was clear at that point that the race would be disputed anyway. And so it was. The drivers gathered on Sunday morning to examine the situation but it was just a formality. Everything had already been decided. Before the start, the possibility of interrupting the Grand Prix was mentioned if the asphalt deteriorated too much. But nobody could explain on the basis of what criteria the decision to stop the race would be made. Perhaps you had to count the drivers that went off track until the elimination of all of them. Which in fact almost happened, as the classified were only seven, of which only four running full throttle.