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#361 1982 San Marino Grand Prix

2021-04-21 00:00

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#1982,

#361 1982 San Marino Grand Prix

On Wednesday 14 April 1982 Gilles Villeneuve starts, on the Dino Ferrari circuit in Imola, the tests in view of the San Marino Grand Prix, scheduled on Sunday

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On Wednesday 14 April 1982 Gilles Villeneuve starts, on the Dino Ferrari circuit in Imola, the tests in view of the San Marino Grand Prix, scheduled on Sunday 25 April. These are aptitude tests waiting to force the times as far as speed is concerned. The Canadian, also because of the bad weather, completes only a few laps, the fastest of which is 1'45"88. The car used by Ferrari is the 126 C2/058, the one of Long Beach, but without the double wing, as well as the one with which it will run in Imola and Zolder:

 

"Let's see what our appeal will bring. What bothered me was that they let me start and then disqualified me. If they had immediately considered the wing as irregular, we would have replaced it and nothing would have happened".

 

Friday, April 16, 1982 Ferrari keeps both drivers at the wheel of their respective cars for the whole day. Despite the troubles complained to the tires, caused by the side straps that produce a wear in the inner part of the rear tires, Villeneuve and Pironi lower the unofficial record of the track, established on April 7 by Prost with the Renault. The French driver had a lap time of 1'32"3: in the afternoon Villeneuve scores 1'32"11 and Pironi 1'32"22. Two exceptional times, which let understand what are the intentions of the two Ferrari' drivers. The Canadian driver also goes off the track at Rivazza with slight damage to the suspension and the car bogged down. Once repaired, the same car allows Villeneuve to get the record time. Didier Pironi, freshly married, also did well. The Frenchman confirmed that he was married. Tuesday 20 April 1982 is accepted the complaint of Ferrari and Renault, made to the Fia, for the cars under weight in the Grand Prix of Brazil, so from the next race the cars will have to be always at 580 kg. The topping up of all liquids at the end of the race will be forbidden.

 

Apart from the ruling regarding the Brazilian Grand Prix, the most important element that can be deduced from the communiqué issued by the international judges meeting in Paris, is the interpretation of the regulations regarding the weight of the cars that must not be less than the established limit of 580 kilos at any time. The ruling therefore clarifies once and for all that from now on, until at least the current regulations are in force, that is, until 1985, single-seaters will not be able to go below the minimum allowed, either during practice or during races. Ferrari does not make official comments on what has happened, even if its founder is justifiably satisfied with the battle won against all those who wanted to circumvent the technical code:

 

"The sentence comments itself, we do not add anything else".

 

A caution that has very precise reasons. The Maranello company, which in the complaint filed in Rio De Janeiro was flanked by Renault, which received the greatest practical benefits for Prost's advancement to first place in the standings, still has two procedures underway: one concerns the appeal filed in Long Beach for Villeneuve's disqualification due to the double wing mounted on the 126 C2, while the other is the complaint against Lauda's McLaren and Rosberg's Williams for the American race.

 

Considering the decisions taken on Monday in Paris, it would be easy for the Modenese team to obtain a similar sentence for the race held in the USA, and if Villeneuve was reinstated in third place he would also win. But to hurt the adversaries could be maybe inappropriate, reason why every decision will be postponed to May, when the Fia tribunal will meet again. Obviously, the moment is very delicate. The British did not expect it: the representatives of Brabham and Williams had found themselves in front of the FIA tribunal, convinced to see reject the complaint made by Ferrari and Renault against the cars of Piquet and Rosberg, considered under the minimum weight allowed of 580 kilos. Instead, the international judges Ghy (Switzerland), Lattreuter (Germany), Weissenbringer (Austria), Robert de Wingehe (Belgium) and Macedo Ecnha (Portugal) decided to accept the appeal and removed the two drivers ranked first and second from the ranking. The ruling states in summary:

 

"The claim of the competitors to consider certain topping up of liquids as normal is not justified. Even taking into account all the consumption of oil and water during the race, the cars, in the spirit of the regulations, must never drop below 580 kilos. From now on the cars must be weighed at the finish of the race without the addition of any liquid or solid element".

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The most disconcerting and at the same time amusing fact of the whole affair is that it was the same technicians of Brabham (Gordon Murray) and Williams (the same English manufacturer) who gave the judges the opportunity to have in hand the elements for the disqualification. In the memorandum presented to the court, the two teams admitted to having added from a minimum of twenty to a maximum of fifty liters of water in the brake cooling tanks, a minimum of three kilos of oil in the gearbox and five kilos in the radiators. After a quick calculation, the Fia tribunal was certain that the cars took part in the Rio de Janeiro race clearly underweight. The sentence is not appealable and must be considered final. The disqualification that struck World Champion Nelson Piquet's Brabham as well as Finnish Keke Rosberg's Williams for the question of irregular weight put all the English Foca teams in turmoil. Symptomatically, the Daily Mail comments:

 

"After the Covenant of Concord discord has already returned, motor sport has plunged back into chaos".

 

In the London responsible circles of Formula 1, there is no hiding of disappointment and irritation for the disqualification decreed by the Fia, which takes the Association of British manufacturers on the back foot, convinced as it was of being regulated after having resorted to the expedient of the water tanks to reach the minimum weight. It is learned, therefore, that during the morning of April 21 an emergency meeting of the Foca will be called in the premises of a hotel located near the London airport. Since the ruling of the International Federation does not admit an appeal, the Foca would put pressure on the entire front of the British manufacturers to give a compact demonstration of strength by boycotting Imola.

 

Williams, who would have intended to debut at Imola with the new FW08 model, after having announced that it would have issued a statement in the evening, is hiding behind silence while waiting for the Foca meeting, a meeting that promises to be stormy. It seems in fact that McLaren has already let it be known that it does not want to renounce to the upcoming San Marino Grand Prix, while the other teams would have ordered the team managers to bring back the vans on their way to Imola or already present on the Italian circuit, Niki Lauda's team would be willing not to desert the race. If this news is confirmed, the Foca front could break, with consequences that for the moment cannot be assessed. Echoes of the events of Formula 1 also resonate in the press conference of engineer Vittorio Ghidella, managing director of Fiat Auto:

 

"Formula 1 is really a circus and the clowns are not always the best. Ferrari has presented a car with technical solutions second to none, from the turbo to the materials used. Among the competitors we estimate Renault. The others play with usual and unusual formulas. We stigmatize the tricks, we are in solidarity with Ferrari. If order returns to Formula 1, Ferrari will resume winning".

 

The engineer Giovanni Sguazzini, president and managing director of the House of Maranello, immediately afterwards communicates to the journalists the happy outcome of the claim presented by Ferrari in Brazil for the underweight cars, and in response receives a cordial applause. The response was not long in coming: Wednesday 21 April, as it was to be expected, the teams of Foca, the Manufacturers' Association chaired by Bernie Ecclestone, decided to boycott the San Marino Grand Prix. At the end of a long and evidently stormy meeting, in a hotel near the London airport, only indiscretions leaked out, as only on Thursday morning an official statement will be issued.

 

The reprisal for the decisions taken in Paris by the Fia Tribunal with the disqualification of Piquet's Brabham and Rosberg's Williams is, however, already underway, as the vans with the Lotus and March cars that are inside the Dino Ferrari racetrack leave in a hurry, while those of McLaren and Toleman remain, at least until the evening. From Paris the Talbot-Ligier makes it known that it will have to desert the last race for technical reasons. The excuse would be that of not being able to prepare in time the cars of the required regulatory weight, that is a minimum of 580 kilograms. However, the situation is very confused and within the Foca itself there must be deep disagreements, also due to the pressure exerted by some Italian sponsors (Candy for Tyrrell and Ragno for Arrows) who obviously do not want to miss the appointment.

 

Despite the discussions, within the Foca those who do not obey the majority are totally marginalized, with serious risks for the future. Bernie Ecclestone's right hand man, lawyer Max Mosley, declares that everything will be explained in the document that will be issued on Thursday, and that will reserve a big surprise. This is obviously the decision not to participate in the race. The same Ecclestone, after all, lets slip that the measure taken by the Foca will be precisely that of not participating in the race in Imola. A very serious measure, which could have disastrous consequences for Formula 1. Faced with the intransigent attitude of Foca, that with the non-participation in the race scheduled for Sunday clearly admits to have irregular cars, the sporting authorities, that is Fisa, can only act with extreme hardness, creating an irremediable split.

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As for the fourth round of the World Championship, the organizers of the San Marino Grand Prix let it be known that the race should be run in any case even with a limited number of cars. It's sure the participation of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault, Osella and Toleman, plus possibly McLaren, Arrows, and Tyrrell, which has a contract expiring with the Italian sponsor Candy, and that can not afford to miss not to lose the economic support. Basically, we have come to repeat the situation that was created in 1981, before the start of the championship, when the possibility of a division of the World Championship arose and the Foca organized a parallel race in South Africa. On the contrary, it is not excluded that Ecclestone will take advantage of the chance to relaunch his program of an alternative World Championship to that of the International Federation.

 

The bad news, however, had no end for the Foca, since on Wednesday, April 21, 1982, the French Automobile Federation asked that four other cars that had finished first in the Brazilian Grand Prix be disqualified. If the request was accepted, the Ferrari driver, Didier Pironi, would go from sixth to second place in the final order of arrival of the race, behind the winner by default, Alain Prost. The Fia Secretary General, Freville, states that the executive will decide on April 30 whether to convene a new meeting of the jury to consider the French request.Furthermore, it is announced that an Appeals Tribunal will meet soon to discuss Ferrari's appeal against the disqualification for the double wing mounted on Gilles Villeneuve's car, third at Long Beach.

 

Thursday, April 22, 1982 FOCA proposes to the organizers of the San Marino Grand Prix to move the race to July 3, 1982, given the impossibility of preparing the cars in time for the race, in order to meet the new directives regarding the minimum weight of the cars, but this proposal is rejected. In the meantime, in a document that bears the signature of the heads of the major companies involved in the competitive activity, Alfa Romeo, BMW, Ferrari, Hart, Toleman, Osella, Porsche and Renault, with the support of Honda that sends a telegram of adhesion, we read:

 

"In the unfortunate event that politics and maneuvering replace the traditional values of motorsport, the signatories of this document, after attempting to appeal in every way, will be obliged to reconsider their participation".

 

The communique, obviously also signed by Enzo Ferrari, who was present at the meeting, was an authentic ultimatum to Jean-Marie Balestre, president of Fisa. The intention of the French manager to present in Casablanca a program to modify the technical regulations since 1983, violating the Concord Agreement, is thus harshly stigmatized:

 

"The program of the Fisa president voluntarily does not mention the term Formula 1 World Championship, replacing it with a Fia World Championship of single-seaters. It is an illusory ruse that fools no one. The objective is to sterilize the technical future of research, fundamental in Formula 1, penalizing in an irreparable way the chances of supercharged engines".

 

In the confusion created, Balestre accuses Renault and Ferrari of having hatched a plot against him. The French executive argues that the group of automakers that signed Thursday's document is composed of barely a single major brand, and three medium-sized manufacturers that do not represent the global auto industry.

 

"The masks have fallen, the general public now knows who the instigators of a campaign conducted to destroy and eliminate the Fisa president are".

 

Balestre also lets it be known that he will present his program in Casablanca, and that in the course of the Fia meeting he will make known a secret dossier on all the misdeeds of the automakers who accuse him. In the meantime, as mentioned, on Friday April 23, 1982, the Italian organizers announced that the San Marino Grand Prix would be held regularly and would be valid as the fourth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The organizers, at this point, also for a matter of pride and because certain mechanisms once set in motion is more expensive to stop them than to send them on, decide to race those who remained, although few teams: Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Renault, Osella and Toleman two cars each, plus two Tyrrell and two Ats that give some hope by participating in the tests.

 

The Foca teams, however, keep their word, staying in their garages in England or France, as in the case of Talbot-Ligier. Not even Arrows and McLaren, stopped at the other side of the customs in Chamonix, manage to get through to Bernie Ecclestone. The president of the Manufacturers Association is clear: whoever goes to Imola is out, out of the organization. Not even the pressure from the sponsors, Ragno in the case of Arrows and Marlboro in that of McLaren, had any effect. The constructors are afraid of being isolated, of losing the practical and economic advantages that the Foca has been offering for some time. For Ken Tyrrell, Jackie Oliver, Guenter Schmide, Ron Dennis, responsible respectively for Tyrrel, Arrows, Ats and McLaren, these are terrible hours, almost a drama. Either being abandoned by the sponsors, or sent adrift by the Seal.

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They would have liked to race, but they are not allowed to. In any case, the teams of Alboreto-Henton and Winckelhock-Salazar reserve the right to decide at the last moment. To their difficulties is added another problem: the organizers have already made it known officially that, if they leave, they will ask for the seizure of the material - trucks and cars - for damages. It has been demonstrated, however, once again the impotence of the sponsors who, with seizure-contracts, despite paying millions of dollars, are unable to defend their rights to compete. The race, as said, will however have world-wide validity, as the Concordia Pact establishes that you can also run with only one car: at most, the organizers can give up if there is not a minimum of thirteen single-seaters, but the decision is to proceed. Friday, April 23, 1982, at the end of the first qualifying session Alain Prost marks the best time and precedes Villeneuve, Pironi, Arnoux, De Cesaris, Warwick, Alboreto, Jarier, Giacomelli, Henton, Wlnckelhock, Paletti, Salazar and Fabi. Of course, there is not even the thrill of elimination. Everyone has more or less problems: Renault breaks two engines and both drivers do their time with the forklift. Villeneuve punctures twice, Pironi breaks two suspensions and goes off the track. The Alfa Romeo is affected by the changes necessary to return to 580 kilos, as Giacomelli confesses:

 

"We had to add forty kilograms and we don't know where to put them. We start all over again. The race, however, can have any result".

 

And the asphalt of the track crumbles in some points, becoming a trap where it is easy to make mistakes. In the meantime, a barrage of whistles starts from the grandstand towards Niki Lauda, who enters the pits shrugging his shoulders. He doesn't like this welcome, but he understands the fans; the protest is not directed to him, but to what he represents, that is McLaren, that has boycotted, like the other teams of the Foca, the San Marino Grand Prix. It's 11:00 in the morning; later the Austrian will leave to go home, after waiting until the last for a decision with the hope of running, but there was nothing to be done.

 

"Many mistakes have been made on all sides. Now it is useless to go looking for responsibilities, the situation has deteriorated too much. A big mess".

 

These are the reasons that led the majority of teams to desert this race, in Lauda's opinion:

 

"In my opinion there are four points to take into consideration. First of all, the British abused the regulations with the adoption of the water-bucket tanks. They wanted to defend themselves against the turbo, but they went too far. Such a technical solution could not be accepted. Second, the Fia's decision to take points away from the drivers in the Brazilian Grand Prix is unfair. They risked and suffered on their own skin. Third point, the British were wrong not to come to Imola. Formula 1, we ourselves, exist in that we race. Staying at home doesn't solve anything, on the contrary it aggravates the already difficult moment. And lastly, I fear that next week's Fia meeting in Casablanca will serve no purpose, if not to create further confusion. If more mistakes are made it will be the end of Formula 1. I am not optimistic".

 

Obviously Niki Lauda, fearing a disqualification that would take away his victory in Long Beach, defends the drivers' position:

 

"Honestly in these conditions we cannot intervene. I am paid to race and I really did everything to be there, so much so that I came to Imola. But, it is clear, there was no will on the part of McLaren to break the Foca front. A decision that, after all, is justifiable because my team would have found itself isolated".

 

And yet, despite everything, the passion for racing and the love for engines are stronger than all the controversies that plague Formula 1. A huge crowd, about 60.000 people, of which 45.000 paid, Saturday, April 24, 1982 fills the Dino Ferrari circuit for the last day of practice of the San Marino Grand Prix. People everywhere, kilometer-long queues at the highway toll booths, hours of waiting, all in spite of the absence of the Foca teams, the presence of only fourteen cars on the track, and the absence of many champions of the wheel; this means that Tyrrell and Ats will also be present on the track. This participation that breaks the Foca front has a double face, and hides provocative intentions by the teams chaired by Bernie Ecclestone. With only fourteen drivers, everyone is assured of a spot on the grid and there is no need to pre-qualify during Friday morning. Even though the Italian sky is blue and clear, a cool wind blows which is well suited to turbo engines. And in fact not much time passes before the existing lap record time is improved by both Renault and Ferrari drivers. The Alfa Romeo team is not competitive, but defends itself by saying that their 1982 carbon fiber cars are forced to carry lead ballast to bring them up to the FIA-mandated minimum limit of 580 kilograms, upsetting their balance. In other words, like some of the FOCA teams, they had circumvented the rules and are now paying the penalty.

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In the timed hour that takes place in the afternoon of Friday, April 23, 1982, the Renault team faces big problems with the engines because Prost returns to the pits with smoke coming out of the right side. The French driver restarts with the spare car while Arnoux walks back to the pits and reports to his mechanics that he was forced to abandon his car on the circuit amidst smoke and a small fire due to lost oil. As a result, both drivers would have to share the reserve car in order to record a qualifying time, but Prost would decide to continue with the T-car for the following practice. After setting the fastest lap of the day, Prost hands over the RE358 to Arnoux who sets the fourth fastest time. The Renault team is in the middle of the pit lane and does not seem too confident, while at the top the Ferrari team is quite happy, but not competitive enough, even if Villeneuve is the second fastest. Their happiness is lacking when, during practice, a tire bursts on Pironi's car and his Ferrari bounces along the guardrails, ending up destroyed but leaving the French driver unharmed who returns to the pits to continue practice with the spare car. Although the time is better than the existing standards of 1980 and 1981, Pironi is only fourth in the standings. On the other side of the pits the Toleman team, supervised by Ted Tolman in person, tries desperately to change the engine of Fabi's car, due to an explosion in the morning, but as time is running out the Italian driver does a few laps with Warwick's car to record a time.

 

Warwick, unlike his teammate, is competitive and records a time of 1'34"062, which puts him ahead of all the Cosworth-engined cars, including the ATS team that only runs a handful of laps because they are trying with the tires left over from the Long Beach race, due to the withdrawal imposed by Bernie Ecclestone of his IRTS tire facility. Saturday, April 24, 1982 the day is cooler and the conditions could not have been better for the turbo engines. In the Ferrari garages they finish assembling a car for Pironi using a renewed monocoque, parts of the crashed 056 and new parts that were destined for the next 126 C2, which would have been the 059. Since it is not complete, Pironi spends the morning test session aboard the T-car (057), while Villeneuve keeps the 058. During some fast laps the brakes heat up so much that the fiberglass air intakes of the front discs catch fire and the Canadian returns to the pits with flames and smoke grazing the front wheels. The situation is not as desperate as it seems, but the brake pad temperatures recorded after the car comes to a stop prompt Ferodo engineer Alan Campbell to keep an eye on the situation. The far side of the Imola circuit is very hard on the brakes, because after stopping from top speed for the Tosa hairpin, they are used very hard at the Aqua-Minerale chicane, again at the chicane at the highest point of the circuit and in the Rivazza turns. With little time to cool down, the heat buildup at the foot of the hill becomes alarming. Looking at the smoking fiberglass ducts on Villeneuve's car, Campbell jokingly says:

 

"That little fellow has a very strong right foot".

 

In the meantime, the ATS team experiments with Pirelli radial tires on the rear wheels and uses Avon tires on the front, as no Pirelli tires suitable for the front wheels are available, but both drivers reject the idea of using this solution in the race. During the afternoon there is the last hour to decide the positions of the starting grid, Prost still uses the Renault T-car, of which he prefers the management, and Pironi tries with the spare Ferrari, since his new car is still being refined. The French driver manages to enter it ten minutes before the end of the tests, but there is no more time to improve his position on the grid. Villeneuve, Prost and Arnoux battled for the pole position, all turning less than 1'31"0 until Arnoux made a really perfect lap and recorded 1'29"765. On the other side of the pits the Toleman team and Brian Hart are quite happy because Warwick was faster than the day before and Fabi is not far from the times set by the German driver. The quiet and polite Michele Alboreto once again is the author of a good performance, beating both official Alfa Romeos with his Tyrrell 011. Brian Henton, in the second Tyrrell 011 is instead eleventh.

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Ken Tyrrell, after having called a press conference to say that he is competing out of a moral duty and a commitment to the Italian sponsor, and having claimed that he basically agrees with the Foca's claims but that he feels free to act and think as he wants, puts into action what seems to be a concerted program of disturbance with his colleagues who have stayed at home. Tyrrell, after the trials, files a complaint against the turbocharged engines. The protest is justified by an article in the English text of the technical regulations, which prohibits the use of turbine engines in Formula 1. This is obviously a specious complaint, as turbos are not turbines at all, and in fact the stewards reject the complaint, claiming that the small turbines used in turbos are allowed because it is a regular boosting system for a conventional four-stroke engine. Of course, an appeal will be filed, therefore the San Marino sports tribunal will be competent and, in the next phase, the FIA will judge in Paris. A way to try to sub judice the race and to possibly cancel the points taken by the first six classified. The English manufacturer does not deny itself even at the level of correctness, because its mechanics are caught topping up the water tanks ten minutes before the end of the tests, a sign that the car in that moment did not respect the regulatory weight limits.

 

A way to take advantage of the situation as a disqualification would have decreased the number of participants. It could and should have been an exciting world championship: many competitive cars, the fight between turbocharged and aspirated engines, four different brands of tires, the return of Niki Lauda, the young emerging drivers. There was, in short, the pepper for a season full of sport and technique, humanity and suspense. Instead there was nothing but talk and discussion, the races were changed at the table, and on those that were considered regular there was the suspicion of irregularity. Yet, insiders aside, the public present at Imola is not interested in these issues, and indeed among the noises of the multicolored crowd there is a little music. It's a small band, they play samba, they are Brazilian; two yellow-green flags, a few drums, and some whistles are enough to make the rhythm and dance. They are workers and technicians who have been in Italy for a month for a training course at Italsider. There's no Nelson Piquet, no Raul Boesel, but they don't care:

 

"Today we are cheering for Ferrari. Yes, for Ferrari, long live Ferrari. The Foca teams are not participating in the race? They don't know what they're losing. We're going to have fun anyway".

 

And people flock to the track to have fun. The spectacle of the race may be more or less compelling, but the important thing is to see it. It could be a country festival: the stalls are full of simple but tasty food. From the porchetta to the sausages, to the hundred thousand piadine - the focaccia of the poor made of flour, salt and water, which goes with everything - cooked and sold during the day. The dominant color, however, is red. Ferrari and Alfa Romeo banners are waving everywhere. The fans are divided into two categories: the super-specialized ones, who on a curve count the number of revolutions of an engine, evaluate trajectories, check gear changes and braking, and those who don't seem to care about the race, who walk around the streets with a can of beer in their hand or, even better, a bottle of Sangiovese or Lambrusco. There is even a young couple, wrapped in a blanket because it is also cold, sleeping in a meadow, despite the deafening noise. It's far from everything, from the cars, from the drivers, from the characters like Gina Lollobrigida or the former world champion James Hunt that hang around the box.

 

The Grand Prix is also this, a popular festival. On Sunday, April 25, 1982, in front of an audience of 70.000 people, the Grand Prix of the Republic of San Marino is held. Derek Warwick does not take part in the race, since during the formation lap there is a battery failure, while Riccardo Paletti, at his debut, is forced to start from the pits, with two laps delay, always for a technical problem. Before the race, Roberto Nosetto asked the drivers - given the lack of attendance - to put on a show in the first part of the race, before really racing after the second half. After several hours of discussion, everyone agreed. Nosetto will have another conversation with only Villeneuve and Pironi, who reassure him that a great show will develop. Afterwards, Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi will make an agreement: towards the end of the race the two of them would wait for each other, and then they would start as if they were at the start, and eventually - if the Ferraris are leading the race - the best one would win.

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On Sunday, April 25, 1982, much to the relief of the organizers and the displeasure of the strikers, a huge crowd shows up to see the battle between Renault and Ferrari. The half-hour warm-up in the morning goes on without any problems and the hills in the middle of the circuit are covered by numerous banners aimed at Ferrari, mixed with banners praising Renault. Before the race there is a slight agitation in the Renault box because Arnoux's engine seems not well adjusted, so the decision is taken to change it and the French mechanics do a remarkable job in just one hour, but of course there is no chance to do a test lap to check if it works properly. The start is set one minute past 3:00 in the afternoon to fit in with the television schedules, because even though FOCA representatives tried to convince the world that the race would be cancelled, almost no one in the television landscape listened to them. It was not hot at Imola, the sky was cloudy and hazy, and the cool wind was still blowing. The fourteen starters leave the pit lane, run a lap and position themselves on the grid, but when they restart to run the parade lap behind Arnoux's Renault, Paletti's Osella remains stationary. In the excitement of being at his first Formula 1 race, the Italian driver has not been able to manage well the engine ignition and therefore has to be pushed out of the main straight, while the other thirteen cars are already in the middle of the circuit.

 

When they face the last curves to form under the red light there are only twelve cars, because Warwick's Toleman-Hart is stopped due to an electrical problem. The engine had had the same problem during the morning. So, while the twelve cars take off, Warwick is forced to abandon his car and walk back to the pits, becoming a spectator. In the meantime Paletti is at the back of the circuit, about to start the race half a lap late. Arnoux takes the lead, followed by Villeneuve and Pironi, with Prost fourth, Alboreto fifth, then the two Alfa Romeos of de Cesaris and Giacomelli, with Teo Fabi preceding the Osella of Javier, the two ATS with used Avon tires, and the distant Osella of Paletti. During the first lap also the Tyrrell 011 of Henton stops, as the transmission stops working while the British racer leaves the starting line. It soon becomes clear that Prost is in trouble, as his engine does not run well at all and Arnoux and the two Ferraris quickly move away. At the end of the third lap the Alfa Romeo of de Cesaris enters the pits, its engine does not run well due to low fuel pressure caused by a faulty pump or a faulty electrical system. After the mechanics tinker with the installation, the Long Beach hero runs another lap without any improvement, and after another attempt the car is taken out of the pits at the end of the fourth lap.

 

In the meantime all eyes are on the leading trio, because Arnoux is unable to break away from the two Maranello cars and while they run close together, in order Villeneuve and Pironi, they look very threatening. Almost unnoticed, during the sixth lap Prost enters the pit lane with his Renault engine sounding bad, and after the engineers rummage a bit the car is withdrawn. The engine still works, but it sounds bad and doesn't put out enough power. Meanwhile also Paletti's debut race ends during the seventh lap, when the suspension of his Osella breaks. In the following laps the distance between the first three cars does not change and the crowd is waiting, waiting for Villeneuve to attack Arnoux and take the lead of the race. During the ninth lap the Canadian driver gets very close, and again he repeats himself during the thirteenth lap, but the Renault remains always out of reach, and Arnoux seems to keep the distance intact, even if his engine puffs black smoke during acceleration. On lap eighteen Villeneuve gets so close that he locks a front wheel in an attempt not to hit the Renault at the rear as they brake to tackle the chicane ahead of the pits. This momentarily takes Villeneuve off balance, favoring Pironi who forces the pace and moves into second place on lap twenty-second.

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But Villeneuve passes his teammate on lap twenty-six and approaches Arnoux's Renault on the next lap, taking the lead. The crowd explodes with joy and everyone applauds and salutes as Villeneuve takes the lead, ahead of Arnoux and Pironi, but the Renault driver doesn't give up so easily and with thirty laps to go the Ferrari, Renault, Ferrari trio is still very close. While all this is happening, the drivers at the back are having fun and entertaining the spectators, because Fabi resists the assaults of Jarier's Osella and Winkelhock's ATS for sixteen laps, while Salazar follows at a short distance. This, until Fabi notices that the fuel pressure begins to drop, consequently giving up the position to the ATS driver, before heading to the pits in order not to risk further problems. The mechanics will take a long time to find the cause of the loss of thrust, but in the end a broken fitting on the thrust control unit is found; once the problem is solved, the engine is running as good as new and Fabi restarts, but with too many laps behind the group. During the twenty-fourth lap the Alfa Romeo of Giacomelli stops along the circuit with an engine failure. The Italian driver had not been able to keep up with Alboreto, who in turn cannot hope to keep up with the Ferrari and Renault.

 

During the thirty-first lap the cheering and waving ceases abruptly as Arnoux takes back the lead of the race, and during the thirty-fifth lap Pironi passes again to the second place. The three leading cars remain close to each other, and during the forty-first lap Villeneuve goes back to second place again and the crowd cheers him because they feel that the Canadian driver is the only man who can beat the French car. Pironi goes back a little bit as if to watch the eventual challenge between Villeneuve and Arnoux from a safe distance, and during the forty-fourth lap the Canadian is once again very close to the Renault. Then, however, as the Renault accelerates past the pits with the usual puff of rich black mixture smoke coming out of the exhaust manifolds, a blue smoke mark begins to be seen amidst the black and as Villeneuve comes out of the slipstream to take the lead, the Renault engine explodes in a cloud of smoke. The crowd goes crazy, the Ferrari has defeated the Renault and Villeneuve begins to slow down, allowing Pironi to reach him to finish the remaining fifteen laps triumphantly. At this point both drivers receive the SLOW signal from the pits and Villeneuve lowers the pace from 1'35"0 to 1'37"0, but Pironi scores a lap in 1'35"0 and takes the lead.

 

Villeneuve soon responds with an equally fast lap and at this point it becomes obvious that the team orders have been ignored and that Pironi wants to win. The French driver leads the race from the forty-sixth to the forty-eighth lap, before being overtaken again by Villeneuve. But four laps later the Frenchman is again in the lead, remaining there for six laps. During the fifty-eighth lap Villeneuve returns to the lead, but again at the beginning of the last lap he loses the lead of the race and the spectators begin to think that it is a false alarm and that the two drivers are simply playing to give show to the public. However, at the Tosa hairpin bend Pironi creates his own space and takes the lead with a manoeuvre that would have been heroic if his opponent had been a driver from another team. It was so, Pironi remains in the lead for the rest of the lap and wins the race, preceding Villeneuve, Alboreto, Jarier, Salazar and Winkelhock. In the post-race technical checks the seven cars that have finished the race are weighed. The result sees the Ferrari of Pironi weighing 592.5 kg, the Ferrari of Villeneuve 587.5 kg, the Tyrrell of Alboreto 589.5 kg, the Osella of Jarier 584 kg, the ATS of Salazar 582 kg, the ATS of Winkelhock 578 kg and the Toleman of Fabi 600 kg. Having found Winkelhock's ATS underweight, the German driver is disqualified from sixth place. Teo Fabi cannot officially claim sixth place as he is eight laps behind at the finish line to be classified, even though his car seemed competitive.

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Gilles Villeneuve, after the lap of honor, felt cheated and did not hide his anger at all: after getting out of the car, he ripped his helmet off his head, threw his gloves on the ground and went to the Ferrari motorhome, to violently criticize the sport director Marco Piccinini, who did not find anything unusual or scandalous in the victory of Didier Pironi.

 

"I had to bring water to Villeneuve and Pironi at the end of the race to make them drink. I ran into Gilles first and he glared at me. He turned towards Pironi and said only one thing: that shit man...".

 

Says Paolo Scaramelli, Gilles' chief mechanic. Then, the Canadian shouts at Piero Lardi Ferrari's address:

 

"And now look for another driver".

 

Before driving away like a fury, he refuses to get on the Campagnola that should have taken him to the podium, where he will unwillingly get on just to not wrong the San Marino authorities and collect the plate intended for the second place. The Canadian driver will be found in the Giacobazzi's stand, where he will return after the podium ceremony giving the trophy to Antonio Giacobazzi, saying that what was due to him was stolen. At the award ceremony, then, he does not give the hand to Pironi and responds with a gesture to a fan who praises the French driver. After the race the Canadian will have a turbulent conversation with Didier, during which he will accuse him of having stolen the victory and of being a false friend, swearing that he would never speak to him again. The cat played the fox this time. The peaceful Didier Pironi managed to mock Gilles Vilieneuve, beating him on his favorite ground, that of the tussle. A real challenge that turns two great friends into two real enemies:

 

"I thought I had a friend, an honest teammate. Instead he is an Imbecile. The only advantage I had from the lesson is that now I know him well. I could have given him a two lap gap, but I had driven carefully because I knew that Ferrari wanted to get both cars to the finish line. It all started when Arnoux was forced to retire. Obviously I slowed down and Pironi immediately took advantage of it to pass me by surprise. So I got back underneath and after two laps I was back in front of him. He must have understood, I said to myself. But I was wrong. At the box they displayed the slow sign, which means go slow. We had an unbridgeable advantage. But he attacked me again".

 

What happened in the final?

 

"It's simple. He was pushing, pulling to the maximum. I was afraid of running out of gas, I was trying to control the situation. At every lap I saw the Ferrari sign indicating not to force. Didier passes me again. I got incredibly nervous. So I forced myself, and risking ending up off the road I went ahead of him. First he had braked too early and I almost hit him. Then he didn't hit me by a millimeter. The engine wasn't performing at its best and in the end I saw him darting to the inside. I couldn't believe my eyes. A bandit behavior".

 

But Pironi defends himself saying:

 

"At Ferrari I signed an equal contract. Nobody says that I have to arrive second, at least at this point of the championship. Are we doing exhibitions of etiquette or car racing? I realized that Gilles had problems and I tried to win. I dedicate this success to the team who worked hard, and also to myself. Slow you have to understand it as attention to brakes, tires, gasoline, change a few laps under the limit. And certainly not as if you happen to win, don't do it".

 

Now, though, relationships on the team have deteriorated:

 

"I don't think so. In two days we will meet in Fiorano and I am sure that Gilles, once he has cooled down his anger, will not talk about this race anymore. It is normal to be disappointed when you finish second behind your teammate. Villeneuve's accusations are not justified, I did nothing wrong".

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At the end of the event, Gilles Villeneuve leaves by helicopter without Didier Pironi. The two Ferrari drivers had arrived together. The French driver, noticing Villeneuve's absence, asked Angelo Giacobazzi if he knew anything about it. Giacobazzi will explain him that Gilles left without him, because he thought that the French driver had taken away his victory. However, the verbal and competitive quarrel between the two drivers did not seem to worry Ferrari. Piero Lardi Ferrari, son of the commendatore, a little pale after watching the duel on television, declared:

 

"The battle enhanced the spectacle. The strong words that flew around after the race are normal: everyone wants to win".

 

For Marco Piccinini, sporting director, the episode is part of the ordinary administration:

 

"When Arnoux retired, we displayed the slow sign. This means that the drivers must not take excessive risks because the opponents are far away. We have not indicated, because it was not the case, the positions to take. So I think it is natural that Didier tried to take the first place. However, I think that many of the overtakes made during the race were caused by a malfunction of the turbo which seemed to be running in alternating current. If there will be a clash between the two drivers, we will try to overcome it. As for the overall outcome of the race, I think the San Marino Grand Prix made a lot of people realize that you can race without the Foca cars. If the teams that were absent in the Imola event come in the next races with regular Formula 1 cars, we will try to face them and beat them".

 

In short, three cars were enough to make the San Marino Grand Prix unforgettable. It was supposed to be a poor race, lacking in suspense due to the absence of many champions and many teams following the fierce boycott of the Foca, and instead the public witnessed a wonderful race, full of tense moments, full of unexpected events, including, first and foremost, the exciting duel between the two Ferrari drivers. Formula 1, and we must be very pleased, has won a battle. Sport, with its moments of human daring and technical uncertainty, has proved superior to the pettiness of a political and economic war. The show offered by the San Marino Grand Prix is superb, almost like a movie and not a real competition. Those who followed the race from the grandstands of the Dino Ferrari as well as from the television screens certainly enjoyed themselves, much to the annoyance of Bernie Ecclestone and Jean-Marie Balestre. The Circus must say thank you to Ferrari, Renault, and to the hated turbo engines, as well as to those competitors who have taken to the track with honor.

 

And to wonder now if the Grand Prix would have been the same with the various Brabham, Lotus, McLaren and Williams on the track, seems rather futile, except for one detail: the Renault turbos failed, and Ferrari had its problems even in such a triumphant Sunday. One wonders, rather, if the duel between Villeneuve and Pironi was regular. Did the Canadian and the French driver, representatives of the same team, do well or badly to fight each other with so much fury? A challenge that could have ended disastrously, with an accident or a mechanical failure. Why didn't Ferrari stabilize the situation at some point? The first discussions started right between Villeneuve and Pironi, but should the French driver have bowed to his teammate, with the world championship just beginning and, therefore, without either of them being launched more than the other towards the title? Many people, in this April 25, 1982 think not, even if they will change their mind in the future. The success of Ferrari, however, was completed for the Italian colors by the confirmation of Michele Alboreto's skills that once again, even if he didn't have a competitive car, showed grit and regularity.

 

The third place of the Milanese driver, even if in a race with a reduced number of competitors, brings him up in the world classification, behind Prost and Lauda, who remained in the first two positions. Another reason for satisfaction is the excellent placement of Jean-Pierre Jarier's Osella in fourth place. These are the first world points, three to be exact, for the Turinese manufacturer. Disappointing instead the test of the Alfa Romeo, blocked by two breakdowns. The race ultimately reconciled Formula 1 with sport. At last we competed on equal terms and for the first time in two years there were careful and precise technical checks, so much so that Winckelhock's Ats was disqualified after the race: the German driver, who finished sixth with six laps to spare, because he had stopped at the end of the race due to an engine problem, presented himself at the checks with a car weighing 578 kilos instead of the 580 allowed. Only two kilos less, but the law must be respected.

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Now the problem is to know what the Foca teams will do to see what regularity the World Championship will have. If they come to an agreement, if they get back on track, everything will be smoothed out, but the chances of a quick resolution to the confrontation are slim. From Wednesday April 28, in Casablanca there will be the congress of the International Automobile Federation, in which President Balestre will present his program for a new Formula 1. The car manufacturers have already made it known that they will not accept it. Another fight, another controversy: what will happen? It's hard to make predictions. The only possibility is that they all get around a table and start discussing again until all the problems are solved.

 

What is clear is that Ferrari is relaunched in the World Championship: a victory in the first part of the season, after only four tests, means confidence and hope, if it were not that the diatribe between Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi continued in the following days. They say that the night brings advice, but certainly this is not Gilles' case. Whoever thought that the Canadian, the day after the defeat suffered by his teammate Didier Pironi, would calm down and soften the heavy declarations made against the French driver at the end of the San Marino Grand Prix, was wrong. With a cold mind, after having returned to Monte Carlo, the Ferrari driver increases the dose against what he now considers an opponent like all the others, indeed an enemy that he will never want to have behind his back.

 

"Pironi stole the victory from me. An authentic theft that burns me the most because it was supported by Marco Piccinini, Ferrari's sporting director. If exposing the sign with the writing slow doesn't mean abandoning every ambition and keeping the positions, explain what it means then. As I see it, such a warning makes it clear that no risks should be taken. And I obeyed as I have always done in other occasions, maybe reluctantly, for the good of the team".

 

In which occasions Gilles did you find yourself in the conditions to respect a team game?

 

"Several times. For all of them I will remember two races in 1979. In South Africa Scheckter was first and I was chasing in second place. I was making up two seconds a lap on Jody. But when I got behind him I stopped my attack. Only when Scheckter stopped at the pits did I take the lead and win the race. A similar situation occurred at Monza: it was my last chance to fight for the world championship, while Jody with nine points would have mathematically conquered the title. I could have fought and maybe beat him, but I respected my friend and Ferrari".

 

Why did Gilles feel that first place was a legitimate claim for him?

 

"It's simple. When Arnoux broke the engine I took the lead with two seconds to spare. Before that we were running at a hellish pace, on the basis of less than 1'36"0 per lap. I knew there could be problems with the fuel, perhaps insufficient to finish the race. So instead of attacking I started to save the car. Pironi, on the other hand, got in my way, forced the pace and overtook me. Then I gave him a demonstration and made another overtake. Honestly, I thought he wanted to put on a show, to entertain the public. And I played along. We went on until the end with Didier taking incredible risks. On the penultimate lap I moved into first place, sure that I wouldn't have to take any more pressure from him. Instead he fooled me. I didn't even look in the rear view mirrors, I was so sure of victory".

 

Why so sure?

 

"Because I trusted Pironi's common sense. Because I believed that the team, after four and a half years with Ferrari, would have protected me. My good faith was surprised; if I had wanted to close the pass to Didier do you think I wouldn't have been able to? Nobody remembers Spain and Monte-Carlo when I kept behind many cars faster than mine? Pironi is clearly less fast than me: he can beat me only with deception".

 

Is Gilles' relationship with Ferrari in danger now?

 

"I have to think about it. On Sunday I told Piero Lardi Ferrari: look for another driver. I was furious. I will continue to work as always for Maranello, to try to win races. With Pironi, instead, I'm done. I will never forget, in all my life, the discourtesy, the impropriety he did to me. Word of Gilles Villeneuve".

 

Anthony Quartey

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