In the 1980 season, Ferrari presented itself as reigning World Champion, and produced the 312 T5 in order to defend the title, which however, unlike its victorious older sister, proved to be anything but a winning weapon.
In fact, the 312 T5 will go down in Ferrari history for being the least competitive racing car ever built at Maranello, as it will win just eight world championship points, never going beyond fifth place in race situations. Designed by Mauro Forghieri and piloted by Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve, the 312 T5 basically represents a simple but completely wrong evolution of the winning 312 T4.
The emergence of turbo engines pushes Ferrari to concentrate, already during the 1980 season, on the development of the car that would have competed in the 1981 championship. The 312 T5, as mentioned, therefore constitutes a simple and modest development of the T4, with the twelve flat cylinders engine that brings only minor changes compared to the previous version, including a significant reduction in overall dimensions.
But this will not be the only cause of the disastrous season: the real Achilles heel of the T5 is the lack of ground effect compared to the competition: with the lateral dimensions of the powerful twelve-cylinder engine, it is certainly not possible to create a real wing car.
In addition, Ferrari still uses an obsolete tubular frame with a light alloy structure and aluminium panels, not very different from that of the T4 but not up to the level of the best cars produced by the English teams. Furthermore, absurdly, the 312 T5 is put in difficulty by the aerodynamic improvements implemented compared to the previous car, obtained thanks to the studies carried out in the Pininfarina wind tunnel, with which there is constant collaboration.
Moreover, Michelin will supply tires optimized for turbocharged cars, which will perform much less on naturally aspirated cars.
To these technical details will be added the human factor: Jody Scheckter, reigning World Champion and now satisfied with the title won, will often appear unmotivated, even failing to qualify for the Canadian Grand Prix.
All this will prevent the Prancing Horse team from any ambition for victory.
A total of six specs of the 312 T5 will be built:
- 312 T5/042, used in the first three Grands Prix by Villenueve;
- 312 T5/043, used in three races by Schekter and two by Villeneuve at the end of the season;
- 312 T5/044, used in two races each by Scheckter and Villeneuve;
- 312 T5/045, used in six races from Villeneuve (in Canada in the first start);
- 312 T5/046, used in eight races by Schekter;
- 312 T5/048, used in four races by Villeneuve.
The season, apart from a few flashes of competitiveness obtained almost with only Gilles Villeneuve, is therefore a real disaster: the first without a win since 1973.
During the tests of the Italian Grand Prix, the Maranello team unveils the car equipped with a turbocharged engine, and with Gilles Villeneuve it makes the first laps with the new Ferrari 126 CK, which however will not be taken to the race as it is not considered reliable enough.
The season was tormented by retirements, ten out of fourteen races disputed, most of which were accused in the first part of the season.
The second part of the season the car proves to be decidedly more reliable, but the 312 T5 does not go beyond fifth place as the best result of the season, a position reached on three occasions, in the US West Grand Prix with Jody Scheckter and in the Monaco Grand Prix and in Canada with Villeneuve, while the two sixth places won in Belgium and Germany, both achieved by the Canadian driver, complete the points.
The car gave way without leaving its mark too much in 1980, with zero victories, many retirements, and only ten world championship points achieved in total with both drivers during the season.