#340 1980 Italian Grand Prix

2022-08-22 01:00

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#SecondPart, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Francesca Risi,

#340 1980 Italian Grand Prix

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 t


In Belgium it was time for Didier Pironi and Ligier to leave Jones behind; in Monaco it was a Williams (but that of Reutemann) to impose itself while Jones was forced to abandon due to the collapse of the differential and Piquet, regular, won a good third place. After the disconcerting episode of the Spanish Grand Prix cancelled by the sporting authorities (and won platonically by Jones) the best period of the Australian and his Williams began anyway. Two consecutive victories, in France and England, obtained with extreme ease, with a lap record and very high averages, a third place in Germany (in a race saddened by the fatal accident that occurred to Patrick Depailler in free practice with Alfa Romeo). A second in Austria behind Jabouille gave Jones a chance to break away from the rest of the world. But when it seemed that the game was done, when another success was enough to close the conversation, here is the unexpected. The Australian, cold and calculating, got nervous. And in Holland he made a fatal mistake. He immediately took the lead, took two seconds lead in one lap, but made a resounding mistake in a corner coming too long. All it took was a moment, the right miniskirt of the Williams touched the kerb on the right side of the track and the incredulous Alan was forced to stop at the pits for the necessary repair. It started off like a fury with two laps of distance, it gave a show in an attempt to recover, but it was useless. Nelson Piquet, his great rival, was ready to jump to the lead and win his second overall win of the season. Now only two points divide the two great opponents. He calls himself a true Australian, and explains that real Australians usually get what they want. At 34, Alan Jones is very close to what he has always wanted: to win the Formula 1 World Championship. But he also wants next year’s championship, because if racing is good, it’s more profitable to win first. Careful administrator of his substances, he bought a house in Switzerland, in Fichy, near Lausanne. All of his colleagues live in Monte-Carlo, where they have a social life and do not pay taxes. He was a true Australian, he preferred the tranquillity of a country, where his presence made 285 inhabitants proud. 


"With what other drivers spend on a mini apartment in Monte-Carlo I bought a villa with a lot of land around, where I can relax better". 


When he is not on the track, he spends time with his wife and son. He swims, he rides. When he returns to Australia he also goes hunting for kangaroos, animals he defines as mischievous and unpredictable, fun to chase. In Fichy’s villa he built a large garage, where he kept some sports cars as relics: many Ferraris, including a Daytona spider, a turbo Porsche, other grand tourers. He looks at them, he drives them sometimes. He prefers Ferraris, fantastic cars. In the living room he hung a contract signed by Enzo Ferrari; he had to become a driver of the Maranello team, then, for reasons never clarified, nothing was done. He’s won eight races so far, he’s been at the top for two seasons, he’s probably the World Champion, and yet he hasn’t managed to get the sympathy of the fans yet. This year he received the orange prize in Monte-Carlo that a jury of 150 journalists awarded him for his courtesy in the last season. Many of those 150 journalists now probably regret their decision. Jones found that success is also uncomfortable, which involves stressful commitments. He suddenly became grumpy and grumpy: having to choose between the title of coach sympathy and that of World Champion, he rightly preferred to focus on the second and give less time to interviews and press conferences. Perhaps he learned from Lauda, who likewise defended himself from the assaults of popularity. But with regard to the characters who have won the World Championship in recent years, Jones seems perhaps too normal: he is an ordinary person, who loves tranquility and profession is a Formula 1 driver. Perhaps this is why many people hope that the world championship will be won by Piquet, a young Brazilian who dresses as a gypsy and spends his free time in the Brabham workshop watching the mechanics who assemble or modify the car, who lives in small hotels that are always different and whose life, after all, already has more stories to tell. Imola will be the referee of the challenge, and perhaps also of the assignment of the world title. For its 51st edition, the Italian Grand Prix moves to the Imola circuit, after having had almost continuously its natural headquarters in Monza (it will return in 1981, alternating with the Romagna plant). The previous exceptions were Brescia, Livorno, Milan and Turin. The choice, the characteristics of the circuit on which runs since 1921 the most important race of the Italian automotive scene, are very important from the technical point of view, edition by edition offer the measure of the progress achieved by those wonderful mechanical means that are the Formula 1 machines. 


When the layout of the track does not change, it is the comparison between the times and the averages, from one year to another, to measure this progress. But such a comparison has not always been possible, because, over the years, even the Monza track has undergone sensitive variations, almost always dictated by the need, to adapt it to the increasing powers of the machines. Just to give an example, in 1934 (racing cars of the time were built according to the formula of free displacement and the maximum weight of 750 kilos: cars with engines of six and more liters, and powers even greater than 600 horses) The Monzese track was literally littered with chicanes (variants bordered by straw bales), so much so that the average speed of the winner - Beans on the Mercedes, then replaced by Caracciola, as was admitted - was just over 105 km/ h: a real nonsense. But, chicane aside, the circuit of Monza had remained unchanged from its inauguration, in September 1922, until 1933: along exactly 10 kilometers, it included a ring type Indianapolis moderately elevated curves, calculated for speeds below 200 km/h, connected to the so-called road, dissimilar, but not too much, from what is today the definitive Monzese track. The dangerousness of the ring (in 1933 three drivers were victims of deadly disasters on the same day, and even in different races: Borzacchini, Campari and Polish Count Czaikowski advised the organizers to abolish the ring itself and make the road look like a street circuit. However, in 1937 the seat of the Italian Grand Prix, whose first edition (1921) was held on the road in Brescia, was moved from Monza to Livorno, on the Montenero circuit, mostly for political reasons (the Ciano family was from Livorno)to return the following year to Brianza. Then the long war period, during which the Monza circuit was practically destroyed. In 1947 the Italian Grand Prix was held on the Parco di Milano circuit, and the following year in Turin, along the Valentino avenues.  


Finally, in 1949 the circuit of Monza, completely rebuilt, returned to be the official seat of the Grand Prix, continuously until 1979, theater of almost always exciting comparisons, Walkway of single-seater famous in the succession of the various formulas in force after World War II: engines of 1500 cc with compressor (which was not the turbo of today) compared to the 4500 cc aspirated in the years of the great battles between Alfa Romeo. Ferrari, Maserati; then Formula 2 (2-liter engines), followed by the new Formula 1 with 2500 cc displacement limit; still a liter and a half without compressor in the early 60’s and finally, since 1966, the current regulation that has led to the exceptional technical results that we know. The Imola circuit was born exactly thirty years ago. The first pick for the start of the work was given by Giulio Onesti, then president of CONI, in March 1950. The first race, a motorcycle race, was held on the Emilian track on April 25, 1953. Since then a lot of water has passed under the bridge of Santerno, the river that runs along the plant. Little by little but with constancy, with the typical tenacity and passion of the people of Romagna, the track has grown, has begun to host increasingly important tests. From motorcycle Grands Prix to 200 miles until the 1979 Formula 1 Grand Prix (not valid for the 1979 World Championship). Torn the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, lagged behind in the update of its circuit, the Imola plant, named after Dino Ferrari, the late son of the famous manufacturer, in a very short time has been completely modernized. Now it boasts some of the most modern services and facilities: at a cost of about 2.500.000.000 lire, sixteen boxes have been built to accommodate thirty-two machines, stands, a large office building and press services. Even the track, exactly 5000 meters long, has undergone substantial changes for safety the asphalt tape is wide from a minimum of 9 meters to a maximum of 12, with nine curves on the right and 12 on the left. It turns counterclockwise. One of the Formula 1 drivers who knows the circuit best is certainly the Canadian Gilles Villeneuve, who raced there last year and in this season has made several tests with Ferrari. His advice was, among other things, to modify the route to improve safety.


"It is only a seemingly easy circuit to run, because it seems free of major technical difficulties. The underestimation happens especially if you turn with a normal car. However, as soon as you get on a Formula 1 car, things change. At high speed straight stretches seem to disappear, you are constantly cornering and it is difficult to maintain a correct trajectory. In addition, the body is subjected to a very intense and violent effort. From the start you immediately go into the high marches. At the first corner, that of Tamburello, we arrive already in fifth gear at about 250 km/h and in the next straight, with the turbo I reached over 290 km/h. Then there is the rapid braking of the Tosa that you pass in the second at 90 km/ h, you go back to the fourth, climb the third to pass the Piratella, another 250 km/ h for the descent of the Mineral Waters. A violent braking for the first chicane where you have to put the first, another acceleration until the fifth and again the first deceleration for the high variant where the third is needed. All gas for a short stretch before the Rivazza, passage of the curve in second, and then last difficulty at the low variant, climbing to the second, before getting back to the pit straight at full speed".


The Italian Grand Prix at the Dino Ferrari Circuit is also an act of love, that of a father to a son who died too soon. If Enzo Ferrari had not wanted to celebrate the memory of his Dino in the circuit that bore his name, hardly the most important Italian race would have been moved from Monza to Imola. A celebration at Ferrari, that is formed by facts and not by words: the Grand Prix par excellence. Cars, men, roaring engines, pilots, crowd, flags, life. That life, that kind of life that Dino loved, that he was naturally predisposed to. 


"My son was born in racing and racing. He was pervaded by an exclusive passion for this sport...". 


What can a proud and proud father feel about his son if he fails? For Ferrari the death of the beloved Dino was a tragedy, a great and terrible pain, a suffering that the passage of time has not softened. Dino should have been the heir and the continuator of a technical and industrial enterprise, but above all of that passion and love for racing and the car that they represented and that represent the only creed of Ferrari Dino (short for Alfredo, brother of Ferrari) was born on 19 January 1932, died on 30 June 1956, at 24 years old, suffering from progressive muscular dystrophy, a disease without remedy. Enzo Ferrari had fought a long battle trying to restore his health. 


"I had convinced myself that he was like my car, one of my engines, and so I had a table of calories, of all the foods he had to eat. Until one evening, in that diary where I wrote down all these data, I wrote: the game is lost. I closed my diary and said: I have lost my son and I have found nothing but tears". 


Some photos of a distant time bring us back Dino Ferrari: smiling child at the wheel of a small car built by the mechanics of the Scuderia; little boy on a bike with his father; young man with a serious expression intent on examining an engine in the factory and, with his mother Laura, in the pits of Imola (1954). Pictures of a family album too soon finished. An open face, bright and intelligent eyes, a serene gaze: what paths, what goals, what goals could Dino Ferrari take, pursue and reach? Graduated as an industrial expert in Modena and an engineer in Switzerland, enrolled in Economics and Commerce in Bologna, the young Ferrari collaborated in the factory. Full of intuition, attentive, enthusiastic. With his father and the great designer Jano, Dino, forced to bed by the worsening illness, was the architect of an engine destined to become famous in the history of Ferrari, the 6-cylinder 156, which was to be born in November 1956, five months after his death. Dino Ferrari left the memory of a generous young man, rich in a great spiritual charge. In its name are born racing and touring cars and engines and an initiative to combat muscular dystrophy. Now the Italian Grand Prix at Imola for Enzo Ferrari is another affectionate way of recalling his son and making him relive in the memory of those who loved him and love him at Scuderia Ferrari. Testing on Friday morning is delayed as Emilian fog have grounded the medical emergency helicopter before it could set off for the circuit. 


Some of the Alfa Romeo team have arrived by a private helicopter from their hotel near Bologna and it have an accident on the landing pad behind the paddock and put some of the mechanics in hospital. Meanwhile Brambilla and Engineer Chiti has arrived by road and have an accident with a lorry and put the lorry-driver into hospital. The more important teams have already done some practice on the circuit, while Ferrari and Alfa Romeo have used the circuit for testing. Interest is high on Friday morning as the turbo-charged 1½-litre V6 Ferrari is expected, but in fact it did not arrive until late in the afternoon, long after Friday’s activity is finished. Surprise of the day is the performance by the Renaults for though they has done Michelin tyre tests on the circuit it is felt that the chicanes with their sharp corners (one actually is a first gear affair) would not suit the French cars. It is becoming increasingly clear that everything suits the Renaults these days, there being few serious handicaps to the turbo-charged 1½-litres. During the morning there are the inevitable alarums and excursions, some tiresome, some frustrating and some disastrous. Fittipaldi set off in F8/2 and only got half way round his first lap when the throttle slides on his Cosworth DV jammed shut and prevented him even getting back to the pits slowly. 


Pironi is driving his Ligier in real anger, doing heroic things under breaking downhill and traversing some of the bumpier corners in terrific power-slides, yet his lap times are way off the general pace. Nigel Mansell is warming-up in the Lotus 81/B and move over to let a faster car through only to get on the loose stuff at the edge of the track and slide off into the barriers. Damage is minimal, but he has to abandon the car and some while later Manfred Winkelhock, replacing Jochen Mass in the Arrows team, did the same thing and collide with the abandoned Lotus, resulting in two unrepairable cars and both drivers missing the timed afternoon practice. The Osella team started using their new car, but not for long, as the Cosworth engine blew up and Brambilla’s Alfa Romeo shook its rear aerofoil off. Alan Jones has engine trouble on his Williams, took over the spare and that have engine trouble as well no that there is a plenty of work for everyone to do. The message from the morning test-session is that the Renaults are going to be the pace-setters, with Giacomelli and his V12 Alfa Romeo on terrific form and improving all the time, so that the best Cosworth powered car look like being in fourth place. The Williams team are vying for this dubious honour, with Nelson Piquet in his Brabham right behind them. The Ligiers were right off the pace and as is becoming more and more obvious the Goodyear tyre technology seems to be suited to, or even produced for, the Williams and Brabham teams rather than for the French cars. Sure enough the Renaults set the pace in the timed hour, looking smooth and neat and not at all exciting, compare to some other cars that are driven spectacularly in their efforts to keep up. Italian national pride is overcoming local enthusiasm and Giacomelli and the Alfa Romeo are cheered everywhere, especially when Giacomelli got between the Renaults on the lap time lists. Jabouille has set the fastest lap in 1'34"339 on his third lap, and then more or less sat back, though he did do ten more laps during the afternoon, where as Arnoux did a total of 21 laps, making his best in 1'34"759 on his 17th lap. Giacomelli tried desperately to keep with Arnoux, but just could not get into the 1'34"0, though he come close with 1'35"082 which gave him third place ahead of all the Cosworth powered cars and both Ferraris. The Cosworth battle end with Jones ahead of Piquet, with Reutemann very close behind, all in the 1'35"0, while Villeneuve led the rest in his Ferrari T5 though he is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new turbo-charged Ferrari. 


Neither Mansell nor Winkelhock went out in the timed hour and the two Ensigns are at the bottom of the list, the usual system operating where by only 24 of the 28 entries could qualify for the starting grid. Although the Imola circuit has a respectable average speed, of over 117 m.p.h., there are lots of sharp corners which should have been anathema to the turbo-charged Renaults, but they seems to cope remarkably well, and they are having no problems with their Michelin tyres, just as Alfa Romeo are quite happy with their Goodyear tyres, and it did not pass without notice that the first three places are taken by manufacturers cars and the first home-built special is fourth. Brakes are giving everyone a worrying time, not because they are being unduly hard anywhere, like at Zandvoort at the end of the long straight, but they are being used all the time with very little distance between applications to allow them to cool down. The technicians from Ferodo and AP-Lockheed are in continual demand, especially by Renault for the little 1½-litre engine doesn’t help on retardation like a 3-litre Cosworth on the over-run. After most people has gone home on Friday afternoon one of the old Ferrari transporters arrive with the turbo-charged 126C inside. Once on track, Laffite could only manage 20th on the grid. It took an hour of timed practice to confirm the reasons of interest of the race, indicated on the eve. Basically, it’s three variations on the theme to get to the winner. Renault immediately put on the shoes of the hare; record on the lap of Jabouille, dropped to 1'34"33, at the average of 190.801 km/h, second time of René Arnoux. In the role of dangerous outsider, Bruno Giacomelli imposed himself with an Alfa Romeo day by day more and more competitive; the Brescia got the third overall result. And finally there was the confirmation of the very heated duel between Alan Jones and Nelson Piquet (fourth and fifth) for the world title. To establish the new record and to put his two cars in front of everyone, Renault simply opened the compression valve of the turbo engines. On the third lap Jabouille had already been the fastest and on the fourth he stopped satisfied, while all the others were fighting on the track to earn some money. The Parisian blond returned to try later, but with a lot of calm and without tiring the car too much. Arnoux did the same, but in opposite order: first he put the car in place, then he got the time. Immediately behind the French turbos, the Alfa Romeo entered. 


The 179 is now a comforting reality, of which many will have to take into account, but this does not mean that there is not much merit in the driver. Giacomelli once again showed that he was not afraid of confrontation in terms of leadership and courage. He was seen more than once at the Tosa, the first corner after the right of the pits. detach at least fifty-sixty meters ahead of the others and this also means having a great temperament. The young Italian kept behind him the wild Jones and Piquet. The two great rivals are 0.24 seconds apart and avoid looking each other in the eye. Who knows which of the two is more afraid of losing. It will be a comparison not only of cars and drivers but also of nerves. As for the cars, once again we had the impression that, beyond the technical and aerodynamic qualities, Williams and Brabham are very fast for the low weight, even if they do not have super powerful engines. Brabham was once again weighed to a maximum of 575 kilos, while Williams recorded 585 kilos. These are considerable advantages, considering that Alfa Romeo has reported 618.5 kg and Renault 620 kg. On the track, as had been announced, the Ferrari Turbo has not dropped, which will be tested only on Saturday morning. Gilles Villeneuve, however, scored seventh, while Jody Scheckter was 12th. An acceptable result, but it disappointed both the two drivers and the technicians of Maranello. Says engineer Mauro Forghieri:


"We were hoping to do a little better, but Gilles had to use the spare car because he went back to the pits with a damaged side. The cause? Probably, some obstacle found on the track, maybe a rock. We hope to improve in the last round of practice". 


Behind Villeneuve were Didier Pironi and Riccardo Patrese. By now the Frenchman’s move to Ferrari is taken for granted. Didier, of course, cannot make statements about this before Enzo Ferrari’s press conference scheduled for Monday. In any case, just look at Guy Ligier’s face to think that the divorce has already happened. 


"I am especially sorry because I was the last to know". 


The transfer of Pironi will kick off a dance of pilots. To replace him at Ligier will almost certainly come Jean-Pierre Jarier, currently at Tyrrell. Meanwhile, the passage of Patrese to Alfa Romeo is always at stake. The Italian, perhaps to prove that he deserved the job, gave his all, getting with a car that is not balanced at all the ninth time. His teammate, the German rookie Manfred Winckelhock, in an attempt to imitate him, went off the track in free practice, hitting the Lotus of Mansell, parked on one side of the track. Winckelhock is the same driver who stood out at the Nurburgring in Formula 2 with an incredible flight, taken live from television. He could not even participate in the qualifying. Alfa Romeo launches its challenge to Ferrari. The third place obtained by Bruno Giacomelli in the first qualifying round of the Italian Grand Prix is not only a great performance at an absolute level, but also and above all a sign of the intentions of the Milanese company to finally arrive at the result of prestige. This happens however on a circuit that is close to the heart of the house of Maranello, and on which he expects from the Maranello cars at least as a sign of recovery. The performance of the Brescian driver was truly exceptional and now everyone, even not only Scheckter e. Villeneuve, to fear the possible exploits of the 179. The battle between Piquet and Jones is of interest to everyone, for the world title, but the cheering of the vast majority of the audience is aimed at the two Italian brands. Immediately after the tests, people ask what Ferrari did, but immediately after, having had the answer (seventh time for the Canadian, twelfth for the South Africans) wants to know how Giacomelli went. To the answer: it is third, it leaves a cry of wonder. Finally Alfa Romeo has reached the top. Only the Renault cars are in front, but there is the problem of race, of chance, of turbo engines that do not always keep their distance. Then getting there first cannot be just an illusion. If Giacomelli can confirm what he has already done in practice, he could reach the first. 


"I don’t want to throw water on the fire. Above all, I do not want, if I have to make any more small mistakes, to be criticized as has happened in the past. I am a fairly experienced driver, but I have not yet raced a hundred Grands Prix as someone has already done. Especially among my rivals. I promise I will be very careful, that I will try not to make mistakes, but let me have a quiet race. Without too many responsibilities. If I have the opportunity to get among the first, I will do everything to deserve a significant result". 


Ferrari men don’t talk much. On Saturday Villeneuve will take to the track the new turbo car, as has almost always happened in practice at Fiorano and also at Imola. The Canadian is convinced that the car can do something good, even in the last two weeks there have been major power problems that had not been found during the first tests. He admits Gilles:


"The car is aerodynamically and mechanically very good, but we don’t know how far it can keep the distance and how much it can withstand the difficulties of the circuit that is, all in all, not very suitable for supercharged cars, although the Renault have recorded the best times. I hope I can race with this car to have some more chances. But also with the T5 I will fight hard because at this track last year, in the race that was not valid for the world championship, Niki Lauda took away a victory that was already mine". 


Alfa Romeo must unfortunately also record a terrible accident, in which emerge five injured, two of them in serious condition, for the fall of a helicopter carrying technicians and mechanics of Alfa Romeo from the hotel in Massalombarda, in which the team is housed at the Dino Ferrari circuit in Imola. The incident takes place on Friday, September 12, 1980, at about 8:00 a.m., when the Dauphin 2a 360 c, for reasons still under investigation, goes crazy while unloading the six passengers on the ground of the sports field, located inside the circuit, near the Mineral Water Park. Five travellers are already on the ground, a sixth, the engineer Maurizio Colombo, 29, from Milan, is preparing to get off, when the helicopter starts to turn on itself. After having mowed the group on the ground, it rears for about ten meters and then falls back to the ground a short distance from that of Gilles Villeneuve. The fire service, already on the track for the first round of official tests, extinguish the flames that rise from the fuel finished on the ground. The two most seriously injured, respectively transported to the Rizzoli and Maggiorie hospitals in Bologna, are the second driver Giacomo Longo, 38, from Grado (Gorizia) and the mechanic Giuseppe Carraro, 36, from Milan. They are both in resuscitation: the first for multiple dorsal and costal fractures, resulting in paralysis of the lower limbs; the second, for thoracic trauma. The other wounded, hospitalized in Imola, are: the helicopter pilot Gino Chiaulon. 51 years old, of Udine and the mechanics Franco Nava, of 37 years, of Senago (Milan) and the engineer Maurizio Colombo. Shortly after another accident occurred along the Selice state road, near Imola: the car driven by Vittorio Brambilla, who travels with engineer Carlo Chiti and driver Bruno Giacomelli, crashes into a Renault and drives it off the road. The race of the three ends against a support pole of the power grid, without consequences for travelers. Beyond these drawbacks, the challenge between Alfa Romeo and Ferrari is open, and it seems to be back in the old days. 


The cheering is skyrocketing and the audience is waiting for nothing. It will be a race in the race, beyond the final result. Piquet against Jones, Giacomelli against Villeneuve. The Grand Prix is lit up with great rivalries not only at the top. There is also Patrese who must prove to be a valid driver to get to some other team. Arrows is no longer good for him, he lost two seasons, running almost unnecessarily. He wants a great team, but his only chance is Alfa Romeo. The Milanese company will decide next week: Andretti or Patrese? This is another dilemma that proposes Formula 1. Before the Saturday morning test session began the turbo-charged Ferrari is naturally the centre of attention and though it is the second one built it is still in the nature of a travelling test-bed; at least that is what it looked like, even though everything is newly designed, including the gearbox/final drive unit and all the suspension. When the engine is started, we realized we are entering a new era in Ferrari history with an entirely new noise issuing from the short exhaust pipes. Needless to say it is Villeneuve who is driving the car and during the morning we have a taste of 1981 when the two Renaults went by closely followed by the turbo Ferrari. At the beginning of the pit straight there is a sharp right-hand corner, so acceleration counts from here on. Longines have their speed-meter set up for the Ferrari team at the head of the pit wall and the T4 Ferrari flat-12 of Scheckter is recording 210 k.p.h. as it went through the speed trap, the Renaults recorded 21 k.p.h., the Alfa Romeo of Giacomelli is also on 214 k.p.h., while most of the Cosworth cars around 210 k.p.h. Villeneuve’s first lap showed 222 k.p.h., then 223 k.p.h., then 219 k.p.h. so clearly the turbo-charged 1½-litre V6 has power. It’s throttle response is not as good as the Renaults, but even so Villeneuve got down to 1'36"628 compared to his best T5 lap of 1'36"350, which is not a bad start for the first public appearance of the new Ferrari turbo-car. 


In other parts of the pit lane there is much activity, Jones have a tiresome misfire on the spare Williams car, Jarier has a big moment out on the circuit when a tyre failed on his Tyrrell, there is a strong smell of Ferodo from some cars, Giacomelli is still fast with the Alfa Romeo but the Renault are concentrating on tyre and brake pad wear as well as fuel consumption because the weather is getting very warm and 60 laps round the Imola circuit is going to call for careful calculations. Nigel Mansell is allowed to run Andretti’s spare Lotus car, 81/2 and Winkelhock is in the spare Arrows preparing for the final hour of qualifying which is going to see the slowest four left out of the race. Gilles Villeneuve tested the turbocharged Ferrari 126C on the opening day of practice before reverting to his regular car. By 1:00 p.m. the sky clouded over and the air is heavy and sultry, which is just as well for a clear sky would have produced unbearable heat. Alan Jones set off in the spare Williams, all three spare Lotuses are out on the track, Villeneuve is still in the turbo-Ferrari and Scheckter is in his own T5, number 046. The South African charged off and promptly have a monumental crash on the fast bend at the end of the pit straight. The car is reduce to scrap but the driver stepped out unscathed, admitting he has gone too fast, too soon, before the tyres got up to working temperature. Practice is stopped while the mess is cleared up and Scheckter prepared to set off in the spare T5, number 043. The Renaults are instantly out in front, even though Jabouille only managed six timed laps for he has been forced to take avoiding action when an Ensign got in his way and bent the steering slightly on the Renault, so the car is put back in the garage for a check-over. As he is the fastest qualifier of the afternoon at this point and his yesterday time is even faster, there is a little need for him to go out in the spare car, which is set-up in the cockpit for little Arnoux anyway. Those immediately behind the Renaults are certainly trying hard and both Jones and Piquet have lurid spins as they drive right to the ragged edge and over. Reutemann, Giacomelli and Piquet has got into the 1'34"0, which meant they are in with the Renaults, but then Arnoux take the wind out of their sails by turning a lap at 1'33"988, the first and only driver to get below 1'34"0. Alan Jones changed over to his own car, from the spare, but try as he might he just could not join the elite in the 1'34"0 group. 


Villeneuve did fifteen laps in the turbo Ferrari, with a best lap in 1'35"751 and then switched to his flat-12-cylindered T5, but could not match the time, so everyone at Ferrari was pretty happy with their new car. The turbo-compressed engine system is very sophisticated and allows very high powers, but still with some problems. Renault has been using it for three years, Ferrari has shown it, Alfa is testing it; even Ecclestone, after having opposed it, has secured one. The current Formula 1 allows to use both the engines of 3000 cc of free suction, both those 1500 cc with compressor and, after many years of disinterest, several manufacturers have focused their attention on turbo supercharged engine. In theory the turbo can give a very high power; it is said that the Renault engine has at least 60-80 horsepower more than the other Formula 1 engines, all free-intake. But not everything is a happy note; the setup is very laborious, the frequent breakages and the remarkable complication. Consider that, for a start, turbo-compressors are two in tandem to have a more prompt response to the accelerator; then it takes a heat exchanger (basically a radiator) to cool the compressed air. Finally, the great power is not always good, because sometimes it breaks the other parts of the powertrain, gearbox, clutch or axles. As for the solutions adopted for the turbo engine, there are currently two choices, which can become three: one solution is the 6-cylinder V as Renault and as Ferrari; a second solution is the Alfa with 8-cylinder V; but you can also use a 4 cylinder as did Lancia and Bmw; this last engine is just what will use the Brabham of Ecclestone next year. The fight is exciting because very balanced: against the turbo engines are the three types aspirated, namely the 12-cylinder Ferrari, the 12-cylinder Alfa Romeo and the timeless 8-cylinder Cosworth, which has over ten years of life and an incredible series of victories in his medallist. Certainly Cosworth takes advantage of being the most popular engine, a dozen teams use it and was built in several hundred units. But this could only happen because it is an excellent engine, compact and good overall performance. It delivers about 480 horsepower, and this power is sufficient, if the car is good 12-cylinder engines are theoretically higher, because they can produce more power, and in fact both Ferrari and Alfa denounce powers of about 520 horsepower. But they are more bulky, and consume more than eight cylinders, so the car with 12 cylinders must start with a greater load of gasoline. 


And it doesn’t necessarily mean that the extra horses serve everyone. Much depends on the transmission and suspension that allow you to drain all the power, as they say in jargon. Whatever happens at the Italian Grand Prix, this year’s championship will be won by a car with an 8-cylinder Cosworth engine without compressor. Many have already predicted the victory of a turbo car for 1981, but you know how these things go: even the V 8 was given for doomed many times in front of the superiority of 12 cylinders, While it resists bravely. Finally, some technical curiosity: the aspirated racing engines develop a power of 160-175 horsepower per litre of displacement, against the 40-60 horsepower of the series engines; as for the power weight ratio it is 2.7-2.8 horsepower per kilo, while in standard engines does not get to a horse per kilo. A 12-cylinder engine exceeds 12.000 RPM, which means 200 rpm per second: this means that in the short space of a second each valve opens and closes a hundred times, each piston goes up and down 200 times and the electronic ignition produces 1.200 sparks. A true technical marvel. However, what engineers, drivers and manufacturers dream about practically even at night, are the tires, these huge shoes of modern Formula 1 cars that in recent years have assumed an increasing importance until they become one of the components, if not the main, for success in racing. For decades, tyres have been an almost secondary element for a racing car. Decisive, for the purposes of victory, were the courage and the ability to drive the driver or the greater power of the engine, then, with the advent of slicks (Tyres without tread allowing for a greater surface area in contact with the asphalt and thus greater grip), covers have become increasingly important. Today Formula 1 cars are designed according to the type of rubber they will use. They didn’t give me the good ones, or the tyres overheated and I had to slow down: these are the most frequent justifications with which drivers try to explain a bad time in practice or the exit from the scene in a race. In fact, almost all the tests and most of the time available for the tests are used to choose the covers that best fit the track so as to make the most of the characteristics of the car. In Formula 1, to contend for a record that offers undoubted advertising advantages, the American giant Goodyear and the French industry Michelin have been facing for some seasons. A battle of compounds that also compares the conventional tire against the radial. 


In 1979 the French brand was established, which with Ferrari won the world title. A success that made hope for a long domination and instead this year, almost inexplicably, the Michelin radial and the 312 T5 did not get married and the winning combination has turned into a resounding fiasco. Whose fault is it? Very difficult to establish. Maranello’s technicians, even if veiled, make it clear that these Michelin do not allow the car to express itself. On the other hand, those of Michelin argue that with the same type of tires Renault asserts itself. In Michelin crisis, now they laugh at Goodyear, but even the American brand is not unrelated to internal contrasts. In fact, the tires that allow Williams to dominate, penalize Ligier and other brands. A battle where none of the contenders is ever sure to have grounded the opponent. In this highly technical comparison, Pirelli will almost certainly become the third wheel in the next season. The Milanese company has proven to be ready for the big leap. The European title of Formula 2 and the recent victory obtained with the Lancia Beta Turbo in the world championship prototypes, are the best confirmation of the remarkable progress of the Milanese radials. On the night of Saturday, September 13, 1980 - few will know, only those who arrived at the paddock very early Sunday morning - live moments of tension. There are rumors of an attack on Ferrari. But what really happened? Well, some mechanics of Fittipaldi make explode as a joke a bin of gasoline: great burst and high blaze. All Fittipaldi wear yellow shirts, like Ferrari mechanics. Hence the misunderstanding that still causes in some hotels in Imola, such as the Hotel Laura, an exit from the hotels intimated by the police at 5:00 a.m. and its accurate surprise searches. Sunday morning is warming up nicely, a haze over the sun preventing it from burning, but the air temperature is very warm which did not make the tyre and brake people too happy. Some teams, like Williams, are fitting extra large air scoops to the brakes, others like McLaren and Renault are fixing additional air feeds in the form of flexible tubing strapped on to existing ducts. Villeneuve is going to race his flat-12 engined 3-litre, Scheckter is using the muletta and 045 has been brought from Maranello as a reserve. The turbo Ferrari have done its job, of showing where Ferrari is going next year, and has kept faith with the fans. The warm-up, half-hour from ten minutes past midday passed off without major incident and everything outset for the 3:00 p.m. start. 


ATS are running their newest car, Osella are running their new one, Piquet is in the latest BT49 Brabham, and Prost in the M30 McLaren. As the cars set off from the pit lane to do an initial lap round to the assembly grid Giacomelli got a terrific reception, as did Villeneuve. The heat in the Autodromo, bounded by concrete walls, is becoming a bit over-powering as we waited for the last five minutes. Rosberg, de Angelis, Cheever, Fittipaldi, Pironi and Reutemann have all sneaked in a second warm-up lap by passing through the pit lane instead of joining the assembly grid. With Alan Jones in a lowly sixth position and Reutemann in third position with a clear run in front of him between the Renaults, it is all down to the Argentinian this time, as far as the Williams team are concerned, but the odds are that Giacomelli would try and jump the lot of them. In orderly fashion all 24 cars followed Arnoux round on the parade lap and you could not help but be impressed at the sight of the two Renaults at the head of the field for the third consecutive race. As the whole field waited for the green light to shine Reutemann over-heated his clutch linings and as he surged away between the Renaults and changed into second gear his clutch slipped madly and everyone dodged round him. Piquet and Giacomelli took advantage of the blockage and are up behind the Renaults and Villeneuve is right with them. The idea that Renaults are slow off the mark is another story that is a thing of the past. Arnoux led Jabouille on the opening lap with Piquet right behind them followed by Giacomelli (wild cheers from the Alfa fans), then Villeneuve, Rebaque, Jones, Pironi, Jarier, Watson, Andretti, Patrese and the rest. The last three cars to come down the hill on the back of the circuit, into the double left-hand bend taking them back towards the pit area, were Brambilla, Rosberg and Reutemann, all going quite gently, the Williams driver nursing his clutch until it gripped properly again and for some inexplicable reason they literally fell over each other, but all managed to keep going. On lap two there is no significant change and Reutemann is hopelessly last, having thrown it all out the window for Frank Williams. Third time round and it was Jabouille leading, but the tenacious Piquet has got between the Renaults and is trying to take the lead. Next time round you could hardly see the Brabham, it is so tucked up under the back of the Renault, and as they accelerated towards the two-ess-bends before the pits it nipped out of the slip-stream and into the lead. 


While the Piquet followers are grinning contentedly the Ferrari fans are screaming hysterically because Villeneuve overtake Giacomelli and the Alfa fans are shouting in dismay. An Alfa Romeo rides the kerb exiting the Variante Alta. After five laps the order is Piquet (Brabham), Jabouille (Renault), Arnoux (Renault), Villeneuve (Ferrari), Giacomelli (Alfa Romeo), Rebaque (Brabham) doing very well, and Jones (Williams). Pironi is leading the mid-field runners, but is already a fair way back, and Reutemann is trailing along at the back now unable to make fourth gear stay in. As the leaders are heading for the tight left-hand hairpin at Tosa, Villeneuve is on full song into the preceding right-hand curve when his left-rear tyre burst. The Ferrari bounced from side to side of the track and the whole rear end of the car is torn off. Giacomelli, who followed him narrowly missed the wreckage but ran over the debris and punctured a tyre, which put him off into the scenery as well. It was a bad day for Italy, Brambilla has taken to the rough stuff on the previous lap and destroyed a rear tyre, which flailed round and demolished the rear suspension and the aerofoil, and Scheckter in the remaining truly Italian car is down in thirteenth position. The animation amongst the Ferrari and Alfa fans is destroyed in one move and all they could do is watch the confident Nelson Piquet draw away from the opposition. Jones has scratched past Rebaque and though he is now fourth with the retirement of Villeneuve and Giacomelli, he has lost touch with Piquet and did not look like regaining it. Villeneuve it’s been very lucky to step out of the wreckage unscathed and Giacomelli a bit shaken by it all. Laffite is running in an unhappy position between Scheckter and Keegan and on lap 8 he spun at the foot of the hill, missed by those immediately behind but as he gathered himself together he elbowed poor old auntie Reutemann off onto the dust in a most unruly fashion. Arnoux is in trouble with a rear shock-absorber playing up and had to succumb to pressure from Jones and Cheever now running last after a quick pit stop to cure an oil leak on the new Osella. Reutemann has now decided how to drive the circuit without using fourth gear, and began to get a move on, passing Daly and Surer and then Prost and de Angelis, but the race have a third run before he did that. By 15 laps it is really all over for Piquet is out on his own, Jabouille has an unchallenged second, Jones an unchallenged third and Arnoux is being harassed by Rebaque. 


Then came Jarier leading Watson and Andretti, Pironi on his own, Patrese equally alone, Scheckter followed by Keegan and Fittipaldi with Rosberg about to join them. At the end of lap 18 Keegan, Fittipaldi and Rosberg are in a tight bunch, too close for any of them to be strictly on the correct line and the result is that Fittipaldi crossed the bad bumps on the last left-hander before the straight up to the pit area, slightly off-line and a bit askew. Instantly the yellow car bounced out of control and spun off to the outside of the corner and hit the guard rails travelling backwards, which put it out of the race. Marshals wheeled it out of harm’s way while Fittipaldi wondered just what had happened. In trying to pass Arnoux’s Renault Rebaque got off course and damaged the suspension of his Brabham and then Watson got all crossed-up on his own as a rear wheel bearing broke up on his McLaren; he limped back to the pits to retire. Slowly but surely Jones is gaining on Jabouille’s Renault, but he is not making any serious inroads into Piquet’s lead and at exactly half distance the Williams moved into second place. A long way back, in fourth place, Arnoux is fending off attacks from Jarier and Andretti, the three of them running in excitingly close company. Reutemann seemed to be stuck behind Rosberg for an awfully long time and Piquet is lapping the tail-enders as if they are not there. On lap 34 Derek Daly had a moment of inattention and ran ever so slightly wide on the last left-hander, where the racing-line had thrown up a carpet of marbles. Instantly the Tyrrell under-steered straight on, spun on the grass verge and hit the barriers with a sickening thud almost exactly where the Fittipaldi have crashed. The Tyrrell is not driveable or wheel-able so a huge mobile crane reached over the wire mesh fence and lifted the wreckage off the circuit. Daly is unhurt. Although Jarier and Andretti passed and repassed neither of them could get by Arnoux and on lap 41 the Lotus coasted to a stop with a dead engine, leaving Jarier still trying desperately to get by the Renault. Patrese has dropped out and Reutemann has got past Rosberg at long last and then got past Pironi, so with Andretti’s retirement he found himself sixth. He now has another problem to add to his sorry tale of woe for a piece broke off an exhaust manifold pipe and lost him quite a lot of power, but to balance this he had discovered that fourth gear was all right after all! Piquet is now not far behind the number two Williams with the likelihood of lapping it, but Reutemann at last got wound up and closed on the Arnoux/Jarier dice.


This in itself is not going too well for Arnoux’s defective shock-absorber had come adrift and Jarier’s brakes are fading; not from wear but due to a fluid leak in the system to the rear ones. For a glorious moment on lap 47 the Tyrrell driver got ahead, but then the brake pedal feel got worse and he dropped back again and Reutemann gone by both the Tyrrell and the Renault. Jones is also in brake trouble as one of the calipers is too close to the disc and the fluid is boiling which produced a spongy feel to the pedal. He has made up some ground on the flying Piquet, but the dark-eyed Brazilian had it all well weighed up. The Brabham BT49 was running perfectly and Piquet bad it in the bag all the time, driving fast and neatly, with coolness and confidence, winning the way he have it in Long Beach and at Zandvoort, Jabouille lost a certain third place when his gearbox broke with six laps to go and this let Reutemann inherit third place. Jarier struggled valiantly with his lack of brakes, but has to give it best with only five laps to go, after a praiseworthy battle. Poor Arnoux could only creep to the finish with his disabled Renault, dropping to tenth place. Italian fans are disappointed at the failure of the home cars. And the eighth place of Jody Scheckter’s Ferrari and the twelfth of Cheever’s Osella are not enough to console them, after the hopes born with the magnificent third time recorded in practice by Giacomelli’s Alfa Romeo. To which were added moments of excitement when, in the early stages of the race, Villeneuve had taken - unfortunately the dream lasted a few minutes - in fourth position, behind Jabouille, Arnoux and Piquet, after passing Giacomelli, raise a shout of joy in the crowd. Also taking advantage of a bad start of Reutemann and his Williams (while Brambilla chose a very personal lane on the lawn at the left side of the track, trying to slip in front of those who preceded him) Giacomelli and Villeneuve followed the two yellow Renault Turbo and the Brabham of the Brazilian. In the Alfa’s box he was anxious but the first disappointment came immediately when Brambilla was forced to retire: an exit probably due to the progressive deflation of a tire punctured during the passage on the grass at the start. Then Villeneuve, after passing the other Alfa of Giacomelli, ran into a spectacular accident. Gilles crashes after five laps, before arriving at the Tosa. One of his worst accidents. A blow at 290 km/h because of the right rear tire. It flies off the track, thrown against the concrete wall. It destroys all the left side of its Ferrari, the right front wheel comes off and falls on the helmet. 


You really risk the drama. Gilles is stunned, for a moment he even loses his sight. He remains motionless and people hold their breath. Then, after about thirty seconds, he raises his arms, to be noticed by his colleagues on the track, frees himself from the belts and jumps out of his Ferrari. From the Tosa a cry of joy rises. 


"We may not have won the World Championship but we won the security title. Villeneuve hit Imola at 270 km/h and didn’t get any scratches".

Enzo Ferrari will say. 


"The previous lap I had been overtaken by Villeneuve in full straight, just before where the trouble of the Canadian driver began".


Bruno Giacomelli tells us that he punctured a tire right on the wreckage of Ferrari. 


"I saw something coming off the right rear wheel at 270 km/h. Ferrari was ahead of me about 50 meters. He skidded on the right without hitting anything, but making a spin, going then to the left, where instead he hit the wall violently. At that moment I never saw the car again because it was wrapped in a smoke of gum and oil. There was no fire. So I passed and Villeneuve crossed the track behind me passing in front of Rebaque".


Gilles tells the episode: 


"I knew what had happened before the car even began to skid, because I heard the sound of the tire on the ground. I also knew I was very close to the wall and I thought: this time I really hurt myself. When I crashed, everything went dark for about 30 seconds. I could feel the cars passing by and I thought with terror that someone could come over me. So I raised my arms to show myself". 


The blow is really violent, so much so that Gilles is transported to the hospital for a thorough check on Monday morning. Doctors prevent him from using the helicopter for a few days. His ophthalmologist will then advise him to wear glasses more often. But on the whole, he’s fine. It’s worth noting at this point how much safer machines have become today. A collision like this, only a few years ago, could have had much more serious consequences for the driver, perhaps the car would have even ignited. Giacomelli was also unlucky, following the Ferrari driver at about fifty metres. With a tire, he picked up a piece of scrap and made an irremediably puncture, too far from the pits to try to return and remedy the problem. Alfa Romeo had no choice but to stow the illusions in a suitcase and go home. After all, you know. Piquet in the lead until the end, Jabouille retired due to a broken gearbox in his Renault Turbo and his teammate Arnoux relegated to a tenth place for suspension problems reported a few laps from the start. Patrese out of the race also for failure of the engine. Thirteen drivers on arrival, twelve stops along the track or in the pits, including Andretti, Jarier, Watson, Rebaque. Behind Piquet the two Williams of Alan Jones (the world title is now a discussion between the Brazilian and the Australian, respectively at 54 and 53 points) and Carlos Reutemann, then the excellent fourth place obtained by Elio De Angelis on Lotus. Eddie Cheever’s Osella finally finished a race finishing twelfth in the 51st. Italian Grand Prix. Things could have gone much better and the result would have been better if, with only two laps to go, the Turin manufacturer’s car had not been forced to stop in the pits. A banal failure caused precious minutes to be lost: loosening of a fixing to the pipe that brings the oil to the brakes, spilling of the liquid on the red-hot disc, fire at the right front wheel promptly turned off. On the new car, presented at Monza last Wednesday, the hopes of Enzo Osella and his collaborators are founded. Says Giorgio Stirano, technical manager:


"The car went well, considering that it is an evolution and not a new novelty. On the old car we had already touched the ceiling of the improvements, this gives us the opportunity to work on a lot to make it even more competitive. Unfortunately there is uncertainty about the future regulation: for 1981 miniskirts yes or no? So we are proceeding a little blindly, designing two versions, one with, one without miniskirts yes to be found, at least on paper, prepared. The current car should however last until the third or fourth Grand Prix of 1981". 


How much has the work done in the wind tunnel affected? 


"I don’t know. But it was important because the machine was born by eye and we didn’t know how to focus certain phenomena. So we really had the opportunity to get to know her thoroughly based on scientific parameters that have helped us a lot". 


Usually the teams launch new models at the beginning of the season, you have come out four races from the end. 


"More work, more new notions. Although negative they allow us to remedy and avoid other mistakes. The comparison with the old car proved us right. This evolution has arisen in little more than a month, thanks also to the impetus of the manufacturers of detached parts. Now we hope it will grow in performance with equal speed".


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