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 Ferraristi.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
Politics aside, the favors of the forecast go to Renault, since Saturday, April 24, 1982, at the end of the last round of tests, it occupies the first row in the line-up: René Arnoux signs the pole position in 1'29 "76, at an average of 202.129 km / h, track record snatched from Villeneuve who held it last year with 1'34 "52, while Prost is in second position. In third and fourth place Villeneuve and Pironi, with the Ferraris, struggling with tire and set-up problems.
First of the drivers with cars equipped with aspirated engines was the good and regular Alboreto, with his Tyrrell, ahead of the Alfa Romeo couple, with Giacomelli who preceded De Cesaris, who had difficulties in setting up. 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 100,000 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.
At the start the first four drivers maintain their positions, with René Arnoux preceding Alain Prost and the two Ferraris. The two Italian cars, however, already during the first lap, at Piratella, pass Prost. The race of this last one ends after only seven laps, for an electric problem. Michele Alboreto climbs to the fourth place. At the tenth lap Paletti's race ends definitively, while Andrea De Cesaris, delayed for a pit stop at the sixth lap, returns to the track but retires one lap later. Arnoux's advantage over the two Ferraris is reduced with Villeneuve trying, without success, to pass the French driver. In the meantime Manfred Winkelhock enters in the points zone, after having passed Teo Fabi: the Milanese driver, after a while, will be forced to the pits for many minutes.
At the 22nd passage Pironi passes Villeneuve, to be passed at the 26th lap; a lap before Bruno Giacomelli, fifth, had retired with an engine out of order. At the twenty-seventh lap Villeneuve manages to pass Arnoux at the Rivazza corner; four laps later, however, at Tamburello the Renault driver takes back the lead of the race. Pironi takes advantage of it and passes again his teammate for the second place. The Canadian, however, already at Piratella, recovers the place of honor. The following lap Eliseo Salazar enters the points zone, passing Winkelhock. In the following laps the fight between the first three drivers goes on: at the 35th lap Pironi passes Villeneuve again, with the Canadian who comes back second at the 41st lap, while Salazar stops at the pits, making Winkelhock come back among the first six; the German will be then forced to the pits for an electric problem.
At the forty-fifth lap René Arnoux is forced to abandon the race because of an engine problem. Now the classification sees, with a wide margin, the two Ferraris in the lead, followed by Michele Alboreto, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Eliseo Salazar and Manfred Winkelhock. One lap later, taking advantage of the fact that Gilles Villeneuve is correctly following the logical order of the pits to slow down, since, after the Renault cars, no competitor is able to threaten the two Ferraris, Didier Pironi takes the lead of the race and starts to push, putting the reliability of the cars at risk.
The chronology shows that, once the Renault cars are out, when Gilles is in the lead he runs at least one second slower than usual, while when Didier is in the lead the times go down. The fight between the two drivers goes on, so that at the forty-ninth lap the Canadian driver, with a Tosa action, comes back to the lead. From the pits of the Italian team the Slow sign is displayed again, which actually forces the drivers to preserve their cars. Gilles is the only one who follows the instructions, so much so that at the 52nd lap Pironi overtakes Villeneuve again who, in turn, tries to threaten the French driver until the arrival.
One lap before the end of the race, Gilles Villeneuve takes the lead again at Tosa, but on the last lap Pironi, arrived at Tamburello, goes outside Villeneuve to pass him in the following curve. An accomplice of this double episode is a small valve, the Wastgate, that regulates the turbo pressure. The delicate mechanism of the Ferrari works inconstantly, and in the end it favors Pironi. The defeat, although with extenuating circumstances, irritates Vilieneuve. Didier Pironi wins for the first time with Ferrari, the second time in his career in the Formula 1 world championship.
Third comes Michele Alboreto, at his first championship podium, fourth Jean-Pierre Jarier, who conquers the first points in Formula 1 for Osella. Manfred Winkelhock, arrived sixth, will be disqualified after the marshals find the car under the allowed weight, while Teo Fabi will not be classified because he has covered less than 90% of the distance of the winner. The point for the sixth classified will therefore not be awarded.
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. 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".
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.
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" 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 Montecarlo 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".