"If that happens and if we, together with Renault, Alfa Romeo, and whoever else comes forward to honor a commitment to Formula 1, are unable to do so, it is not certain that plans cannot be changed. There are many open roads, from the World Championship of Brands, which will have an interesting new regulation next year, to one race per season, like the Indy 500, in which we have never competed".
Although the rupture between the Formula 1 Constructors' Association and the sports authorities seems complete, according to the statements of the two parties involved, negotiations are underway to resolve the dispute. On Monday, June 9, 1980, a meeting is scheduled in Lausanne, where Marlboro (the most important sponsor of Formula 1) has its European headquarters, between Ecclestone, Balestre, and a committee of the financiers of the major teams. The mediator will be the former World Champion, Jackie Stewart. After the expected judgments of the FIA executive committee, which confirmed the illegality of the Spanish Grand Prix, the trust and power of the sports authorities and expelled both from the executive committee and from the Formula 1 Commission, the Constructors' Association continues the sensational dispute on Tuesday, June 3, 1980, in a hotel about fifty kilometers from Athens, between the FISA led by President Balestre and Bernie Ecclestone's FOCA. Harsh words are exchanged, especially because the English manager does not appreciate being forcibly removed from the room where the meetings are held. While the FISA executive makes other important decisions, including forgiving drivers and competitors who participated in the Spanish Grand Prix, Ecclestone shows that he wants to continue on the path of a tough and direct confrontation; his statements still carry the flavor of a challenge. Interviewed on the spot, the president of FOCA says:
"They can't do anything to us. We are the masters. We have the money, we have contracts in hand with the major tracks in the world, and we will still organize the races planned, even if the national federations, the FIA, and the FISA are against it. The tracks on which we have already agreed for races this year, and in some of them even for the coming years, are fourteen, including Imola, worldwide, except for the Dutch one in Zandvoort, with which we do not have a contract".
And he continues:
"It's pointless to discuss topics that don't concern me; the FIA and the FISA are bodies that must only look after and safeguard races and the regular conduct of various Grand Prix in different formulas. As constructors, I believe that other colleagues will follow us; we have already decided to organize races even if FIA and FISA do not want it".
Ecclestone, evidently agitated, does not respond to the words expressed by Enzo Ferrari and what was stated by engineer Mauro Forghieri in Madrid, but he lets slip a fairly eloquent phrase:
"I do what I want. If I said that Ferrari did not participate in the Spanish Grand Prix out of fear, maybe I said it in a moment of anger and nothing more. I don't see why I should do a self-examination, as Forghieri said. I am calm and aware of what I am doing".
Meanwhile, these are the measures and decisions taken by FISA: approval of the FIA's choices; understanding for the drivers and competitors forced into illegal conditions in Spain; confirmation that the world championship continues in France on Sunday, June 29, 1980, where the first part of seven races will conclude and deploration of FOCA's obstructionism against sporting regulations and the distortion of the truth in front of the public and competitors; reduction of the notice period for new car registrations, guaranteeing special conditions, and approval of the technical regulations for Formula 1 decided in Rio de Janeiro. President Balestre, unlike Ecclestone, while maintaining a determined attitude, adopts a diplomatic tactic:
"We will try to resolve the problems before the Grand Prix of France; we do not blame one person alone. In any case, we have a dossier ready with the twenty-four violations committed by FOCA".
The battle for dominance in Formula 1 continues, without exclusions. However, the attitudes of the contenders have changed. While the constructors continue to proclaim their independence and the possibility of launching an outlawed World Championship, the sports authorities are following a more diplomatic, more refined path, without neglecting the necessary firmness. Ecclestone threatens to race even at Imola, at Ferrari's home, now his declared rival. But in these proclamations, despite contracts with many circuits, he forgets - as Balestre points out - that not all Automobile Clubs will behave like the Spanish one. There are laws, not only sporting, that FOCA cannot ignore. And the risk of having a potential illegal race blocked by the judiciary is considerable. However, the two opposing parties are ready, at least seemingly, to fight decisively to prevail. It seems that Ecclestone (who had been preparing for his war for some time) has frozen part of FOCA's proceeds in a special account, in order to afford any economic intervention, including the hiring of an army of lawyers. However, others are not sitting idly by. According to some rumors, Enzo Ferrari would have a genuine explosive secret dossier documented on the actions, apparently not always entirely regular, of the English manager. While waiting for developments, it must be acknowledged that Balestre and FISA are acting with great caution and precaution.
The fact that they have announced understanding for the drivers and competitors who participated in the Spanish Grand Prix leaves many doors open. No one will be severely punished (so no disqualifications, but at most some fines), and they can return to the fold. At the same time, Balestre and the Federation have changed the regulations regarding entries for Formula 1 races. By reducing the notice period, if necessary, new entrants can be accepted at the last moment, and races can be organized even with the defection of some teams. Moreover, guaranteeing special conditions means that new arrivals can also participate in the points distribution, something that was impossible until now unless they started at the beginning of the championship. The general impression at this point is that Ecclestone, sooner or later, will be forced to moderate his stance. Balestre, among other things, declares in Athens that FISA has nothing against leaving the commercial part of the Grand Prix organization to FOCA, as was done in the past. However, the pressures from sponsors and decisions of the television entities interested in broadcasting the races will define the situation. For this reason, it is very likely that the meeting scheduled for next Monday in Lausanne will already provide precise indications on the future of Formula 1. Days go by, and Friday, June 6, 1980, the dispute between FISA and FOCA is still pending. The issue seems close to conclusion when Max Mosley - Bernie Ecclestone's right-hand man - announces the text of an alleged agreement between the two bodies reached in Switzerland. In a document released in Lausanne, it is specified:
"FOCA recognizes FIA as the sovereign body governing motorsport and accepts that the organization and control of races be delegated to FISA. Consequently, FOCA agrees to abandon the legal initiatives it threatened to start or had already started against FISA or its representatives. It also undertakes to pay fines imposed on drivers after the Belgian and Monaco Grands Prix, and for its part, FISA undertakes to simultaneously cancel all suspensions".
Jean-Marie Balestre, president of FISA, intervenes from Paris, clarifying that a meeting took place in Lausanne between three representatives of FISA and the top representatives of FOCA, but the Federation's envoys have no decision-making power.
"The three envoys will have to report on their mission to the competent bodies of the Federation. I find it inadmissible that FOCA has made public an anonymous press release that risks seriously compromising the results of the Lausanne meeting since it was agreed between the two parties that, to ensure its success, no publicity should be given to the event before FOCA's proposals are examined by the Executive Committee of the Federation".
While FISA and FOCA continue their controversies over the division of power in Formula 1, on Monday, June 9, 1980, Ferrari unveils the new turbocharged car. It was in Ferrari's announced plans that a car with a supercharged engine would debut by the end of June. The dates have been respected, and now the 126 C (the code stands for a 6-cylinder 120° engine), a completely new single-seater that should allow Scheckter and Villeneuve to recover lost ground in recent times, has been officially presented. The 126 C will immediately begin testing at Fiorano, weather permitting, but it is still unknown when it will be able to hit the track for a race. Enzo Ferrari states:
"We know exactly what it takes to design a car, but we cannot say when it will be able to race. It is a completely new car of which we only know that the engine runs well on the bench. It has satisfied us so far. For the rest, we will see".
The new single-seater has a rather aggressive appearance. It could be defined as a compendium of all the latest theories of Formula 1: the sidepods are quite high, and the side walls are thick, there is a rear wing similar to that of Ligier. The front and rear wings are still quite large. However, it is not excluded that aerodynamic tests will suggest other bodywork solutions. Engineer Mauro Forghieri explains:
"We have to try everything, and we cannot say anything yet. The car will be tested by Scheckter and Villeneuve, and then we will see".
The declared power of 540 HP raises some doubts, but this value is purely indicative. It will be essential to see especially the torque utilization of the new engine.
"Our major problem will be to contain temperatures. It is indeed the most serious problem of this type of forced induction. If we can solve the issue of the heat that reaches 1000 °C in the turbo, we will have taken a significant step forward. Ferrari has not prepared a single forced induction solution. In a week, weather permitting, a test will also be carried out with another type of compression using the comprex. At this point, it would be interesting to say when the turbocharged Ferrari can hit the track and try to achieve good results, but this is a question that cannot be answered at the moment".
Venerdì 18th June 1980, a meeting took place in Maranello between a representation of FOCA (Williams, Chapman, and Ligier) and the three dissident manufacturers, Alfa Romeo, Renault, and Ferrari. The purpose of the meeting, evidently, was an attempt to reach an agreement for Formula 1 after the recent serious events at the Spanish Grand Prix that had split the Constructors' Association in two. The talks did not lead to positive outcomes because, in the end, the manufacturers issued a four-point statement indicating a strong stance in favor of the sporting authorities (FISA). In essence, Alfa Romeo, Renault, and Ferrari confirmed their acceptance of the upcoming technical regulations adopted for safety (particularly the abolition of side skirts), disclaiming any moral or legal responsibility if anyone attempted to change the situation. Furthermore, while acknowledging FOCA's role as a commercial association, the three manufacturers stated that the representation of constructors in the FISA Formula 1 commission could also occur through other bodies. Dark clouds, therefore, loom over the World Championship due to this new rift, and it is not excluded that FOCA members loyal to Ecclestone may attempt to boycott the upcoming French Grand Prix (June 28) to exert pressure on FISA President Jean-Marie Balestre. This year, however, Ecclestone strengthened his position as his deputy, the American Binford (who wanted to undermine Balestre in the Executive), was ousted by the U.S. Federation and replaced recently by Bilie France, a man loyal to the central authority in Paris. The power struggle between FISA and FOCA for dominance in Formula 1, endangering the French Grand Prix scheduled for Sunday, June 29, 1980, seems to be reaching a decisive turning point. Sponsors intervene to calm the dispute between Balestre and Ecclestone. In a meeting held on Saturday, June 19, 1980, in Geneva, they send an ultimatum to FOCA-affiliated constructors to immediately return to legality, threatening to terminate contracts otherwise. At Zolder, after François Chevalier, the director of the Paul Ricard circuit, invited Formula 2 cars to the French Grand Prix, maneuvers continue on Tuesday, June 22, 1980, to encourage Formula 2 drivers to participate in the race.
On the opposing front, Ecclestone's side registers veiled threats against teams accepting to race in France. However, before 7:00 p.m., the deadline for submitting entries to Mr. Maurice Bellien, director of the Zolder circuit and president of the Grand Prix organizers committee within FISA, eight teams submit their entries. Difficulties arise for these teams, particularly concerning tires, as Goodyear, controlled by Ecclestone in Formula 2, spreads rumors of insufficient tires for a potential trip to France. Barry Bland, the secretary of the Formula 2 Association and a trusted associate of Bernie Ecclestone, even tries to dissuade Formula 2 teams from participating in the French Grand Prix. The young English manager also spreads a rumor, albeit incorrect, that Pirelli is not inclined to provide tires to competitors intending to participate in the Formula 1 Grand Prix. The Milanese company had, in fact, stated that they could not offer a large quantity of tires because their production was limited at the moment but that they would try to provide some assistance. In any case, logic and, as mentioned, sponsor pressure seem to have had an impact on FOCA, and all Formula 1 teams should be present at Le Castellet. These are decisive hours for the future of Formula 1. After a temporary easing of the situation on Sunday, June 22, 1980, at Zolder, with the news that teams in conflict with the sporting authorities would participate in the French Grand Prix and then discuss all the issues in the following days, doubts reemerge the next day. It also appears that the three dissident FOCA manufacturers (Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Renault) are willing to soften their positions and reconsider technical measures (especially the abolition of the famous side skirts) adopted in Rio and Athens. For this reason, on Tuesday, June 24, 1980, a meeting of all concerned teams will take place near the London airport, aiming to arrive at a definitive solution for the French Grand Prix. The race will take place, even with ten Formula 1 cars (three Renault, three Alfa, three Ferrari, and one Osella) and eight Formula 2 cars, if necessary. Meanwhile, communication arrives suggesting that Ecclestone (after strong pressure from sponsors threatening to withdraw financial support from dissident teams) should seek peace with FISA. Llgler, in a joint statement with Talbot, announces having reached an economic and technical agreement with the French manufacturer to build a car in 1981, which will adopt a Matra engine.
Fortunately, on Wednesday, June 25, 1980, it is decided that, for the time being, the French Grand Prix will take place officially, as always before the Spanish Grand Prix. The diabolical president of FOCA, Bernie Ecclestone, wins the first round of the battle against Jean-Marie Balestre, bringing Ferrari, Renault, and Alfa Romeo to his side. They agree, among other things, to keep the famous side skirts on their cars for at least four years. Having overcome this obstacle that should restore normalcy, the seventh race of the World Championship takes place on Sunday (with indicative tests already on Friday), the last valid for the first round, in which five useful results can be accumulated. The fight for the world title, from which Ferrari seems excluded, reopens with many candidates. Piquet, Arnoux, Jones, Pironi, Reutemann, and Laffite seem to be the men capable of competing for the prestigious trophy, and the French race could be decisive. Renault (Arnoux and Jabouille) are the favorites according to predictions, given the characteristics of the very fast circuit. However, attention must be paid to Ligier (Pironi and Laffite) and Williams (Jones and Reutemann). Nelson Piquet, the leader of the World Championship with 22 points in his Brabham, also has good chances. The Alfa Romeo cars, with the always dangerous and combative Patrick Depailler and Bruno Giacomelli, play the role of dangerous outsiders. The role of the Ferraris, which have confirmed difficulties in recent races and tests at Brands Hatch and Paul Ricard, remains to be established. Perhaps the effort dedicated to the new turbocharged car in Maranello has further diminished the competitiveness of Scheckter and Villeneuve's T5 on paper, unfortunately starting only with the aim of achieving a positive result but without hopes of a real revival, barring sensational surprises. On the other hand, the car of Turin manufacturer Enzo Osella, driven by the talented Eddie Cheever, aims for a prestigious placement. At Jarama, the Italo-American driver showed that progress is constant, and gratifications should not be long in coming. Uncertainties exist regarding the possibilities of the other two Italian drivers in the race: Riccardo Patrese and Elio De Angelis must only hope for an improvement in the competitiveness of Arrows and Lotus to try to confirm the brilliant results obtained at the beginning of the season. In any case, one can expect an open battle in a race that could finally reconcile Formula 1 with its fans after many controversies.
Renault aims to win at home. Among the teams vying for victory in the World Championship (Brabham, Ligier, and Williams), the French team is the most optimistic for the French Grand Prix. Turbocharged cars are expected to have significant advantages on the fast Paul Ricard circuit, making the game favorable for Renault. Unlike his teammate Jabouille, who has yet to score a point, Arnoux will try to dethrone Brazilian Piquet from the top of the World Championship. The French driver says:
"This is the right opportunity to put a big claim on the title. The first part of the championship is ending, and I can still accumulate a full score since I have only achieved three results so far. It's a situation identical to all my rivals, but unlike others, I can boast two victories in Brazil and South Africa. A third win would protect me from any attacks".
Do you think your turbocharged car is significantly superior to the others?
"Not significantly superior because Ligier and Williams, in particular, are very strong. But the long straight of the Le Castellet circuit and the overall layout should not pose problems for our car. We've worked hard during this time, and we shouldn't have many issues. We'll see in the qualifying sessions".
Apart from the fight for victory, do you think Ferrari is now out of the battle for the world title?
"The results speak clearly against the Maranello team. Scheckter has only two points, and Villeneuve has three: I don't see how they can recover from this situation. Only a miracle could save them. However, I think Ferrari will try to win the title or secure some partial successes by aiming for at least one victory. I believe they will focus everything on the Italian Grand Prix when they might field their new turbocharged car".
René Arnoux hasn't changed at all despite becoming a famous driver. He fondly remembers the time spent in Turin with Conrero when he prepared rally cars and was a simple mechanic. He hasn't let fame get to his head.
"There is no arrogance in making these statements. I say these things because I am convinced that the world title could be mine and, in any case, Renault's".
The Paul Ricard circuit, hosting the French Grand Prix of Formula 1 since June 27, 1980, with the first qualifying session, brings together the World Championship Circus with an atmosphere similar to that in Italy the day after elections. Many smiles and more or less explicit declarations, all with the same meaning:
"This time, I won".
Racing returns to legality, and for this reason, Jean-Marie Balestre, president of FISA and also of the French motorsport commission, is fully satisfied. The constructors are once again united in a single body, that of FOCA, and Bernie Ecclestone, the driving force and manager of the powerful association, can once again demand more money from organizers with the full consent of the sporting authorities. Even Ferrari seems content. Despite having to forgo (based on the agreement last Tuesday in London among all FOCA members) the implementation of the regulations decided in Rio de Janeiro regarding the abolition of skirts, the Maranello team takes solace in the good news from the turbocharged car front.
The car seems to be performing well and progressing rapidly. Balestre and Ecclestone meet on Thursday afternoon, in the presence of the director of the French circuit, Chevallier, to exchange opinions while waiting for FOCA's requests to be officially presented to FISA. By the way, it is not certain that this famous meeting will take place on Monday at Le Castellet, as previously announced. On the contrary, it is likely to be postponed to the middle or end of the week and held in Paris. In any case, while Balestre prefers to remain silent, his English rival doesn't miss the opportunity to clarify the situation.
"Formula 1 is particularly dear to me. Therefore, I am glad that we have returned to normality. However, I do not rule out that the fuse may reignite in the future, even in the short term. For now, let's focus on the French Grand Prix, but we constructors are still united, and FISA cannot ignore our demands".
When asked if he still considers the points distributed in the illegal Jarama race to be valid, Ecclestone, unloading responsibility onto his partner in the Spanish dispute, the Royal Automobile Club, replies:
"I am no longer interested. Now it's something that the central sports authorities and their Iberian emanation, that is, the Automobile Club, have to handle. I cannot intervene".
A diplomatic statement from the Brabham boss, waiting for further developments. The cheerful atmosphere infects everyone. Gerard Ducarouge, sports director of Ligier, jumps around like a child:
"How nice, now we can think about racing without so many words. We have all aligned ourselves, conducted self-criticism, and now we are united again".
The statement from the head of the French team is not entirely disinterested. Never as at this moment has Guy Ligier's team been interested in legal matters. The agreement signed in recent days with Talbot should put an end to all those economic difficulties, real or feigned, that have troubled the French team in recent years. But that's not all: Ligier, along with Renault, is also the top favorite, not to mention Williams, for Sunday's race. Its current top driver, Didier Pironi, is one of the closest to winning the heated title, although the current standings see Brazilian Nelson Piquet leading with a one-point advantage over Arnoux, three over Jones, and five over Pironi. The fast and challenging Le Castellet circuit should bring Renault Turbos back into the spotlight, but since last year's race was held in Dijon and Arnoux and Jabouille's cars haven't had a chance to shine in recent races, a check is needed. It arrives punctually on June 27, 1980, with Jacques Laffite setting the fastest time with Ligier, followed by Arnoux with Renault and Pironi with the other Ligier. And that's not all: Jabouille (sixth), Prost (eighth), Depailler (tenth), and Jarier (thirteenth) follow. No other nation can boast such a brilliant result. Italian drivers are certainly not on par: the best is Bruno Giacomelli with Alfa Romeo, well-placed but only in ninth position. De Angelis, Patrese, and Cheever are much further behind. A race under the French tricolor is looming, while only the Williams of Reutemann and Jones could seriously challenge the French team. It will undoubtedly be a tight race as the margins of separation are minimal, and the high-speed circuit (Renault records speeds above 320 km/h at the end of the Mistral straight) will make the competition spectacular. Unfortunately, Ferrari, struggling and rather in difficulty in the middle of the pack, will not be in the melee. Perhaps, once again, thanks to their reliability and, above all, the skill of drivers Villeneuve and Scheckter, the Maranello cars might secure a point for sixth place. But the hopes are not high. Above all, a year to the day later, the duel between Villeneuve and Arnoux will be missing. Who remembers the battle in Dijon? Wheel against wheel, for a few laps, the Frenchman and the Canadian truly sparked. Now Arnoux is ahead, detached, with a much faster car. Villeneuve is watching him and seems rather bitter. During the day, the two drivers meet and joke with each other, but for Gilles, it is certainly not a good day.
Alfa Romeo's drivers are much better off, all things considered, not far from the front. Everything is talked about at Ferrari these days, but not the difficult moment of the T5s. After all, it is difficult to repeat the same things over and over again. And certainly, some things cannot be said. For example, they don't talk about tires, even though the problem would be extremely relevant. Even with the drivers, discussions are not very deep. Scheckter and Villeneuve get out of their cars, look each other in the eye, and then, with a disheartened air, try to give their explanation for Ferrari's poor competitiveness. Jody Scheckter says ironically:
"I have the nineteenth time; I thought I was even further behind. Our weak point is grip. In these conditions, however, the negative result cannot be solely attributed to the car. The driver can also become demoralized and perform less than he could".
And adds Gilles Villeneuve:
"The car doesn't stay on the road, especially in slow corners. The difference with Renault is in the maximum straight-line speed and the exit from the corners. Also, Arnoux and Jabouille's single-seaters, having a slight delay in delivering power to the ground, consume less tires. We are really struggling even though I have given my all, as always".
Indeed, on Saturday, June 28, 1980, the veteran Jacques Laffite definitively secures the pole position, and Ligier confirms its magical moment by placing Didier Pironi in the second row, in third place. In between is the turbocharged Renault of René Arnoux. French drivers and cars could not have honored the start of the French Grand Prix any better. However, the race is unlikely to offer the spectacle of a family fight between the two Ligiers and Renault. The true outsiders, behind Laffite and Pironi, will be the Williams of Jones and Reutemann, narrowly separated in the qualifications and always dangerously competitive opponents for victory. The reason Renault seems unable to confirm the dominance shown on other occasions (especially on fast tracks like Le Castellet) or at least compete on par with rivals is due to the extreme fragility highlighted in these two days of testing by its turbocharged engines. Four broken engines are the disheartening balance. On Saturday, once again, both Arnoux and Jabouille have to hastily get out of their yellow single-seaters due to a fire. The causes that ignite the fire on the Renaults are easily explained but not as quickly solvable. To achieve performance close to that of Ligier, the French team's technicians have been forced to close the turbocharger valve to the maximum to have the maximum pressure, and therefore, the maximum power. However, this choice causes the heat inside the turbine to reach incredible limits, over 1000 °C. Obviously, with such temperatures, no engine can hold up for long.
Breakages occur with oil leaks. And the lubricant ignites upon contact with incandescent surfaces. Now Renault faces a problem: either decrease compression and therefore power, partially giving up competitiveness, or risk everything with all the consequences. In any case, Arnoux and Jabouille do not anticipate a peaceful day. The problems of the French team, in a way, also involve Ferrari, which will face the French Grand Prix with one of the worst line-ups recorded in recent years: seventeenth Villeneuve, nineteenth Scheckter. The two drivers, and especially the Canadian, try everything to achieve something more, but to no avail. The T5s, as they are now, cannot be relied upon for brilliant placements; it's no secret. The Maranello cars always show a serious lack of grip and are not easy to drive. To overcome this problem, the aerodynamic load must be increased at the expense of performance on the straight and in fast corners. At this point, however (and here there is a connection with Renault), the suspicion that Michelin tires may have some responsibility for the negative results becomes more acute. If the Renaults, which are the fastest cars on the Mistral straight, reaching 322 km/h, while the fastest opponent, Piquet with the Brabham, reaches a maximum of 305 km/h, are overtaken in lap time by Ligier (despite about 80 HP more power), it means that something is not right even in the tires. After all manner of sideshows and exhibitions on Sunday, June 29, 1980, with the wind getting up again the half-hour warm-up before the French Grand Prix takes place just after mid-day.
The Elf people have checked and analysed the petrol that Renault have been using and found nothing wrong, and anyway it has been the same as Ligier and several other teams are using, so Renault re-set the boost a little lower on the two new engines installed in the RE23 and RE24, for Jabouille and Arnoux, respectively. In the Arrows team Patrese is using the long tail on his car. while Mass is using the short tail. Lotus and Williams are using the new 15 inches diameter front tyres from Goodyear, though Brabham and Ligier are on the 13 inches Goodyears. Piquet is about to try both on his car and the spare, with different suspension settings redo a direct comparison and Laffite is destined to use the spare Ligier, for his own car had sprung a petrol leak within the monocoque overnight and it was not instantly repairable. The spare Ligier has been re-set to as near the race-car as possible but there is insufficient time for fine adjustments. Depailler was happy to use the experimental car with the lower engine, and Villeneuve is just going to drive as hard as he can and enjoy himself regardless of the outcome. The wind is becoming really tiresome as the starting time of 3:00 p.m. drew near, but thankfully the sun is shining, though the air is dusty. All 24 qualifiers set off from the pits to drive round to the grid and when all are assembled they are given the off for the parade lap, which Laffite leads at a pretty fast pace. Back on the grid they are held for a long time before the green light came on and released them. Laffite has made a scorching start from pole position leaving everyone standing. Jabouille’s Renault have broken its gearbox as the car start to move and Daly and de Angelis have cook their clutches in the long delay and have trouble getting going. Laffite is waiting for no-one, not even his team-mate, and pulls out an enormous lead on the opening lap, but from the word go Piquet (Brabham) and Villeneuve (Ferrari) have been scrabbling past other cars in the burly-burly of the opening lap. Pironi is in second place for a lap, but then Arnoux is by, in spite of being down on power, and then Jones; Piquet scratches past Reutemann to take fifth place, while Prost passes the Williams number two on the next lap making the order after three laps Laffite out on his own, Arnoux, Jones, Pironi, Piquet, Prost, Reutemann and Villeneuve. The Lotus of de Angelis is in the pits for attention to the clutch and then Prost drops from the running to change to a different set of tyres.
Although Arnoux is trying as hard as he can he is holding up the bunch behind him, which benefits Laffite who is way into the distance, but not at all happy for his car has had too much under-steer on some of the fast bends and obviously the front tyres are going to suffer. On lap five there is a reshuffle as Pironi passes Jones and Jones passes Arnoux, so that the order becomes Laffite, Pironi, Jones, Arnoux, Piquet, Reutemann and the remarkable Villeneuve hanging on to this leading group. His World Champion team-leader is not enjoying himself and is way down the back behind Cheever in the Osella, with only Daly behind him. On lap eight Jones takes second place from Pironi and the two of them keep within sight of Laffite but too far back to worry him, at least as long as his tyres last. Arnoux is having a terrible time with the Renault as the boost pressure is falling and the delay on pick-up is getting really bad. Lesser drivers would have given up the unequal struggle, but not the wiry little Frenchman. He continues to put all he can into his driving and he holds Piquet at bay until lap 11 and then has Reutemann looming up in his mirrors, with the red Ferrari still hanging on. Depailler is leading the rest in his Alfa Romeo, with Surer keeping the ATS well up behind the Italian car, but the rest are already trailing a long way behind. Scheckter stops to change tyres after 10 laps, but little good it does him, and now he really is last, and Andretti is also into the pits complaining that he couldn’t select fourth gear, but all this stuff down at the back is of little importance for up at the front the hard-chargers are all still at it, and they don’t come any harder than Laffite, Jones, Pironi, Piquet, Arnoux, Reutemann and Villeneuve. Anyone who thinks Formula One is a kid’s game should try mixing it with that little lot sometime. What had been a 15 seconds advantage for Laffite is now dwindling rapidly as his front tyres are wearing and the Ligier begins to drop back into the clutches of the Jones/Pironi duo. The Australian is smiling to himself for he knows now that it is only a matter of time before he takes the lead. His Williams is handling perfectly, the 15 seconds front tyres are retaining their characteristics constant, as Goodyear technicians have said they should, and any advantage that Pironi has had down the straight and on the fast corner at the end, Jones could have done more than wipe out by his superior handling at the far end of the circuit, and in particular through the long right-hander and the fast left-hander leading onto the straight, which means that he could lead Pironi comfortably into the twists and turns at the end of the lap. Having got all that worked out the crafty Aussie could concentrate on hauling in the unfortunate Laffite.
It isn’t all that easy for Laffite doesn’t give up, but the gap is closing fraction by fraction until the Williams is with the Ligier on lap 32, still with the second Ligier close behind in third place. Piquet is a lonely fourth and Arnoux is still in front of Reutemann in fifth place but Villeneuve has been forced to stop at the pits for change of tyres. Totally undaunted he takes off back into the race at such a speed that he virtually becomes airborne over the ramp leading from the pit road onto the circuit. This stop has dropped him almost to the back of the field, behind Watson, Patrese, Mass and Fitipaldi. but he is soon catching them. Meanwhile Scheckter has been lapped by the cadets. There is a big gap where the midfield-runners been for both Alfa Romeos had retired, Depailler with a seized shock-absorber and Giacomelli with a peculiar feel to the handling and steering as if something had broken somewhere: Surer had gone out with gearbox failure. As the leaders start lap 35 it is all over, Jones is just waiting for his opportunity, which comes at the slow corners at the far end of the circuit. Laffite has made no effort to block the Williams, there is no point. and Jones is by and away, though Pironi drops in behind his team-mate for he knows there is nothing he can do about the Australian. The leading Williams is running perfectly and it pulls away from the two Ligiers while the French team groans in despair; the Saudi Arabian-backed British team has driven the frogs. into the ground, but it has been hard work. A long way back comes the lonely Piquet, still driving hard, for behind him Arnoux is keeping in front ol Reutemann by sheet gutsy driving, overcoming his lack of power and poor throttle response by sheer-hard graft. So hard, in fact, that he have bitten through his lip with concentration and determination. The rest have been lapped by the leader and Watson is leading them, though Villeneuve had caught and passed Fittipaldi, Mass and Patrese since his pit stop, and is now closing on the McLaren. With 11 laps left to run Pironi is forced to go by his team-leader for Laffite is slowing visibly as his front tyres have deteriorated, but he can afford to ease right off as Piquet is too far behind to catch him. Alan Jones and Williams spoil the home team's party.
The Australian driver and the English car manage to relegate the two Ligiers of Pironi and Laffite to second and third place, disappointing the tens of thousands of spectators at Paul Ricard who hoped to see the triumph of the voitures bleues (blue cars). The victory in the French Grand Prix also allows the resilient Jones to take the lead in the standings at the end of the first period of the World Championship, after seven races, as the Spanish Grand Prix was not considered valid. Jones' success, at the end of a race that, truth be told, did not offer great excitement (except for some thrilling high-speed overtakes), has a technical secret this time—a careful choice made by Jones and the Williams team. On car #27, 15-inch tires were mounted, which are larger in diameter than the 13-inch tires usually used by Goodyear. In order to use these larger tires and rims, Frank Williams evidently made significant adjustments to the setup, including probably the relocation of suspension attachments and their geometry since the car remained higher from the ground. This move proved to be successful. All of Jones' opponents, in fact, experienced a deterioration of the front tires over the course of the race, leading to a loss of grip due to the heat generated and asphalt abrasion. With overall wider tires, as on Jones' car, this problem did not occur, and the clever Alan seized the opportunity to overtake Laffite, who led the first part of the race, and go on to win quite easily. At the end of the victory lap, Alan Jones parades in front of the stands, waving a huge British flag on his Williams. Probably, the driver (who is Australian but lives in London and races for a British team) by waving the Union Jack wanted to make a gesture of revenge against Jean-Marie Balestre, the French president of FISA, who had deprived him of the points earned with the victory in the Spanish Grand Prix, considered illegal. Despite not having any problems, Alan Jones, as usual, refrains from champagne on the podium (which Pironi, in any case, sprays in one eye) to please his Arab sponsors, saying that the race was not easy.
"The overtake on Laffite didn't worry me, but to tell the truth, I didn't expect the Ligier to be so fast in the first laps".
The big losers of the day, Laffite and Pironi, did not seem very pleased with the placings behind Jones. Jacques says:
"I couldn't do much to defend myself because my car wasn't right. I had to start with the reserve car, as at the last moment, we realized there was a fuel leak on the race car. The second car wasn't set up well, and after about twenty laps, it became oversteering, difficult to handle".
Pironi, who was faster than his teammate in the end, says:
"I knew our weak point was in the front tires. That's why I tried to save them at the beginning with a not too risky race. That's why I let Jones overtake me. But then I scored valuable points, although I couldn't attack the Australian as he had taken an insurmountable lead".
This situation prompted a small criticism from Guy Ligier for his driver.
"If Pironi had contained Jones better, perhaps things would have gone differently, and Laffite would have had an easier time".
For the rest, the Le Castellet race did not bring many surprises, confirming more or less what could be understood in the practice sessions. The first six drivers to finish are the same, in a mixed order, as those at the top of the world championship standings. This, at least, means that the competition is very balanced and far from being resolved, even though Jones has taken a good step forward. The most exciting moment of the race, in terms of competition, was once again provided by Gilles Villeneuve, who, given the not-so-great competitiveness of his Ferrari, showed once again that he is among the drivers with the greatest courage and quickest reflexes. The Canadian, starting 16th on the grid, was the only one to take advantage of a moment of uncertainty caused by Jabouille, whose Renault was almost blocked at the start due to a transmission failure. While some drivers slowed down, Villeneuve passed like a fury, gaining eight positions in one go. However, the multiple overtaking did not allow Gilles to have many satisfactions. The small North American finished eighth after having to stop at the pits once to change tires.
"Incredibly, in the first laps, the car went better than it did in practice. Unfortunately, I had to stop to change tires, and I lost the chance to fight for some points".
And Scheckter finished in twelfth place, two laps behind, never being able to be in contention. The South African also had to make two unexpected stops, always to change tires. In total, five different types of tires were mounted on the two Ferraris, without appreciable results. The partial disappointment of Ligier is nothing compared to that felt by Alfa Romeo, which hoped to achieve a positive result in France. Instead, the two cars were forced to retire before the halfway point of the race. Both 179s experienced unexpected problems that the technicians of the Milanese team explained as failures in the shock absorbers and suspensions. Giacomelli, who had to return to the pits at the fifth lap to replace the front tires, says:
"The car wasn't staying on the road".
Of the Italian drivers, only Patrese managed to finish. A tenacious performance on his part, with an almost uncontrollable car.
"With the Arrows in these conditions, one can expect more. Hopefully, better times will come".
For De Angelis, the race lasted only a few minutes due to a burned clutch. Certainly, for Colin Chapman, the times when he won everything are long gone. Racing with an engine rented from Ensign, Osella could not hope for a significant result. And so it was: Cheever skillfully tried to manage the few available horses but eventually had to give up with the engine out of order. To avoid further disastrous controversies, Formula 1 tries to solve problems without bringing them outside its own group. This is the purpose of the meeting held on Monday, July 1, 1980, in a room at the Paul Ricard circuit, between representatives of the sporting and technical authorities and those of the constructors.
The meeting lasts two and a half hours. In the end, smiling faces all around and optimistic statements. FISA and its technical commission agree to examine the package of requests presented by FOCA, and most likely, within a few days (unless there are sensational surprises), the regulations of the World Championship for drivers will be adjusted to the needs of the constructors with the approval of the sports authorities. The document signed in London by the heads of fourteen teams is made public. In practice, FOCA in its presentation acknowledges that FISA is the sole legislating authority in the field of motor racing. However, it requests a series of measures recommended for safety and due to the economic and industrial difficulties it would face if its suggestions were not taken into account. The current Formula 1 regulations (including the decisions in Rio de Janeiro and Athens) must remain in force until January 1, 1985, and it is understood that nothing should be changed until that date. However, there are the following clarifications: the side skirts will remain in use; six-wheeled cars and those with four-wheel drive remain within regulations; if the constructors unanimously deem it appropriate, a system to limit fuel consumption may be introduced, but this new regulation cannot come into effect before the third January 1 after publication by FISA; the weight of the cars from January 1, 1981, must be a minimum of 585 kilograms; the introduction of new regulations or modifications cannot be applied before January 1, 1985, unless it is unanimously accepted by the constructors; FISA must announce the new regulations for 1985 before October 30, 1982; to decrease the speed of the single-seaters in corners, the constructors propose to change the characteristics of the tires, provided that FISA and the tire-producing companies agree; the constructors request assurance of being represented on the FISA Formula 1 commission with five seats for FOCA and one each for Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, and Renault. The meeting is attended by Balestre, Hainstein, Leon, and Champion for FISA, Benzing, Crombac, Frére, and Schild for the technical commission, Chlti and Corbari for Alfa, Piccinini for Ferrari, Larrousse for Renault, Palazzoli for Osella, and, representing FOCA, Ecclestone, Chapman, and Ducarouge. At the end, President Balestre says:
"It was a very constructive and positive meeting. The constructors and the sports authority believe that an agreement on all the requests presented is possible. FISA undertakes to discuss everything with accelerated procedures, so the executive committee will meet in an extraordinary session in the next few days. In conclusion, I believe that the conditions have been put together for the Formula 1 World Championship to continue and proceed regularly".
The only hitch that could still arise before a general pacification would be a refusal by the technical commission to accept the FOCA's package of requests. If even one of the requested measures were to be denied, the unanimity expressly required by FOCA would be undermined, and everything would have to be reconsidered with imaginable consequences. However, it is a general impression that the technicians will have to accept the decisions of FISA and FOCA. Therefore, the Formula 1 World Championship is back in full swing. The side skirts and turbo engines remain. We will see in the coming races who played their cards better. For the moment, the favorites of the forecast are Alan Jones and his Williams, especially after the nice victory in the French Grand Prix. The others will have to try to resist starting from the next British Grand Prix on Sunday, July 13, 1980, at Brands Hatch. In the meantime, Ferrari will have the opportunity to continue refining the turbocharged 126 C with the hope of being able to deploy it in Imola on September 14, 1980.