#365 1982 Canadian Grand Prix

2021-04-17 00:00

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#1982, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Monica Bessi,

#365 1982 Canadian Grand Prix

It's been a month since Villeneuve's passing. The Canadian sporting community is preparing to remember its Formula 1 champion with a memorable Grand Prix


It's been a month since Villeneuve's passing. The Canadian sporting community is preparing to remember its Formula 1 champion with a memorable Grand Prix on the track named after the Ferrari driver. The fans have even asked to change the name of Notre Dame Island (where the circuit is located) dedicating it to Gilles. For this reason they are collecting adhesions with a petition addressed to the mayor of Montreal and already about 30,000 people have declared themselves willing to sign it. Everywhere the publicity for the race is pressing, in the newspapers, on the radio, on television, it's all the rage. The atmosphere in the small town, about eighty kilometres east of the metropolis, where Villeneuve lived, is quite different. Here in Berthiérville, people still seem to be distraught, few people pass through the streets, only the children who come from the elementary school cackle. And the garage that once belonged to Gilles, with a few posters, the writing on the windows of the cars. A little further on, at the side of a large curve, a white wooden house with a small swimming pool. It is the home of the driver’s parents. On the door a half-hidden female figure. Her hair pulled back, her face still marked by tears, by pain, a lost expression. It is Johanna, Villeneuve's wife. She is tempted to go back into the house, to disappear, then steps forward with a sad smile:


"I'd like to talk a little. Let's have a coffee. I have never wanted to meet anyone, here I made everyone say that I had left for Monte Carlo. But being alone all the time, isolated, is hard. On Friday I'm leaving with Jody and Pamela Scheckter for a vacation at the house they bought in South Carolina. We'll play tennis, I'll try to distract myself from thinking. I certainly won't see the race".


Inside the home, typically American, there is a large room, with billiards, and then the trophies, helmets, photographs of the champion.


"It is also difficult to stay in this house, but the memory is everywhere, especially in the mind, and can not be erased".


Does Johanna hold a grudge against anyone for what happened?


"No. Jochen Mass is not to blame. He was also the victim of a misunderstanding. Gilles probably thought and acted faster than the others, so they didn't understand each other. I am sorry that Lauda's words have been interpreted as accusations. Niki did not want to blame the German driver. He wanted to explain how he would have behaved differently. And not everyone can think in the same way. The only thing that really hurt me was the conclusion of the Fisa investigation, which explained the whole accident as Gilles' mistake. It is easy to put the responsibility on those who cannot defend themselves. Jean-Marie Balestre has lost another opportunity to keep quiet".


Johanna is now strained essentially to stay close and educate her children, ten-year-old Jacques and eight-year-old Melanie. 


"The little girl is at her maternal grandparents', a few miles away. Jacques is playing with his classmates. He has a small motorcycle and rides up and down along the banks of the river. He's a lively little boy, he scares me a little. He wants to be a skier and to go this summer with some team that trains on the glaciers, to learn. I don't want him to do downhill, better slalom, so he doesn't have to wait at home all the time with terror on him. I will try to get him to play tennis, a less dangerous sport". 


Johanna Villeneuve after the vacations will return to live in Monte Carlo and in winter will stay in Praloup, in Haute Savoie.


"First, however, I still want to go to Maranello, to Ferrari, with the children, to greet the commendatore and the mechanics. They were Gilles' life and I can't forget that. I have received, especially from Italy, many moving letters and poems. Slowly I want to answer them all: it's like finding a piece of the past that has been very happy, in spite of everything".


Johanna takes her leave as Gilles' mom and dad arrive.


"My children have chosen a very risky profession. I wouldn't have wanted that. But I had to accept their decision. One always thinks that misfortunes happen to others. And now I find myself hoping that Gilles will somehow protect his brother Jacques, who wants to go down the same road, to get to Formula 1. But in the world of motor racing now the name Villeneuve seems to have become a passport to meeting him. And that also makes me very sad".

Thursday, June 10, 1982, with the traditional parade through the streets of the city, the Canadian Grand Prix, the eighth round of the Formula 1 World Championship, gets underway. Cars and drivers parade between two wings of the crowd: moments of emotion are not missing, thinking about Gilles Villeneuve. The memory of the deceased champion is always alive, even if the Canadian fans hope that on Sunday the race, favoured by the good weather (in the past days there was a Californian climate with thirty degrees in the shade), will be spectacular and hard fought. In the circuit everything is ready. Before the beginning of the event, the Fisa safety delegate, the English Derek Ongaro, inspected the track and asked for only four small changes in the protections. The drivers' reconnaissance is still awaited, but it is believed that there should be no difficulties. The organisers have taken precautions in case of accidents by preparing a team of fifty-two doctors of all specialties, who will be stationed along the route with four vehicles for rapid intervention. The teams are preparing for the tests, which will begin at 10:00 am. Brabham makes it known that Nelson Piquet will still be on track with the single-seater powered by the Bmw turbo engine. Only in case of big problems, such as those found in Detroit, the World Champion will use the more reliable Cosworth. The track is not very fast but neither can it be compared to a real city track. The asphalt surface is quite smooth and mechanical failures should be fewer than in the USA. The greatest intentions of revenge are expressed by Renault: the French team, after starting in pole position in Monte Carlo and Detroit, has collected nothing.


"Every race we discover new small failures. In the American test we had a malfunction of the injection motor. In terms of performance, however, we are not afraid of comparisons. We will certainly be in the front row. I always want to fight for the world title and I haven't lost all hope". 


Declares Alain Prost. The same intentions, although in a different measure, are also expressed by Alfa Romeo and Ferrari. The Milanese company feels ready, on a theoretical level, to make a statement. Bruno Giacomelli has anger in his body for what happened in the last American race: 


"Everyone blamed me for the incident with Watson, but the Northern Irishman himself almost apologised to me because he hadn't seen me. If you try to overtake an opponent, they’ll tell you that you are careless, if you don't, they’ll say that you are stopped. I will try to demonstrate that what I had shown in the past as a driver was not the result of chance".


Didier Pironi is also optimistic, but he is the object of an unpleasant denigrating campaign for his quarrel with Villeneuve at Imola. The Frenchman, however, is solid enough to withstand possible whistles from some Canadian fans, and above all he can count on a Ferrari that is still growing and will be able to guarantee him an excellent placing. While waiting for the engines to start roaring on the circuit named after Gilles Villeneuve, many discussions are taking place in the Formula 1 environment regarding the drivers' market. Even though the fight for the world title has not yet begun, if the possibilities are open for many champions, the teams are already trying to form their teams for next year. Ferrari confirms Didier Pironi, and then they will see. There is always talk about the arrival of Niki Lauda, but it is not excluded that another driver could be added, and for this reason some rumours indicate the French René Arnoux as a candidate to drive one of the Maranello cars. It is the transalpine team, the stable of the yellow and black turbos, the one that is on everyone's lips: the most disputed driver is in fact the very young Alain Prost, who, despite some mishaps in the last races, is considered as one of the best ever, both as seriousness, as professionalism and as performance in test and race. Prost is contended by many teams: Williams would write a blank check to have him and he is not the only one. But Renault responds dryly:


"Alain Prost, we will not let him free even if we are offered incredible sums of money".


There is talk of millions of dollars to have a valid driver, and there are those who say that Prost could be worth up to two million dollars next year. Also Michele Alboreto is contended from many teams, but Ken Tyrrell is not disposed to leave him free not even in 1983, except clamorous surprises. The young Milanese is valued a lot and it is the same English constructor to explain the reason why a driver can cost a lot:


"To train a good driver it takes a lot of money. I made a quick calculation, about one million dollars to develop the car with a good driver who is also a test driver, and two million dollars of general investment for the team. In short, truly a mind-boggling ball of dollars".


As far as Alfa Romeo is concerned, Andrea De Cesaris is sure to stay, while Bruno Giacomelli is given as a possible departing driver. The Brescia-born driver - according to some - has disappointed in the current season and is no longer up to the situation. But Giacomelli has already said that he will defend himself with his teeth, and in any case he will try to move to an English team. However, a bidder has not yet popped up as Bruno has not collected many sympathies in recent times. His misadventures on the track, numerous breakages and accidents have not helped to build around the Italian driver a brilliant image. After the negative outcome of the East US Grand Prix, in which his teammate John Watson obtained the second success of the year with the McLaren, someone has launched the hypothesis that Niki is again in crisis, that something has cracked once again in his soul. Lauda, however, decidedly denies the possibility:


"In Montreal I will race with more anger, with more determination, with a greater desire to win than before. In Detroit I was a fool, I let myself get carried away with the car like a rookie. When Watson passed me, I tried to catch up immediately and I made a serious misjudgment in passing Rosberg. Otherwise, in all likelihood, I could have battled with John".


Niki holds Watson in high esteem, as a colleague and as a friend.


"He's a guy who can go very fast, who on a good day can be unbeatable. But I don't think he can become World Champion. At least as far as he's shown so far. You can't get to the title by having great races in one year, then hide in the pack for the rest of the season. Only if John changes his mentality, he can reach the top, but I think it's too late to take on a different personality".


To those who ask him if the presence of the Northern Irishman will bother him, the Salzburg champion replies:


"No, no bother. McLaren has the possibility to prepare two cars at the same level. It will depend on us to find the results. For me it is an extra stimulus, which is good".


On the subject of the world title Niki has his own clear opinion, the favourite this year for him is Didier Pironi:


"I think Ferrari can offer the Frenchman a car that can get points in every race. And this is very important. The car prepared in Maranello is currently the most reliable among those equipped with a turbo engine. And when the fastest circuits arrive, it will be a pain for everyone. Pironi has also learned not to waste anything. They accused him of blocking Prost's pursuit in the Detroit race. But he just tried not to risk it. With a frightening acceleration in the small straights and the possibility to reach in a short time forty or fifty kilometres more than his rivals, he arrived in the curves very fast and he was forced to brake more decisively. Hence the impression that he was blocking the cars that were following him. It should also be noted that, with a car that is certainly not easy to drive, he hardly makes any mistakes".


Lauda continues to have genuine admiration for Ferrari's work.


"If the 126 C2 managed to get the fourth fastest time in practice in Detroit with tyres, the Goodyear, that on that occasion were less fast than the Michelin, on a narrow and sharp circuit, this means that it has become truly competitive. Before, my favourite was Renault with Alain Prost, but the cars of the French team still showed a lack of reliability which is a serious handicap. In any case it's too early to make predictions that make sense: I'm aiming for the title myself and I haven't given up fighting to win it a third time".


During the afternoon of Friday, June 11, 1982, in the course of a moving ceremony, the Notre Dame Island circuit is officially named after Giles Villeneuve. It is the mayor of Montreal himself, Jean Drapeau, who presents the official resolution of the municipality that renames the track in memory of the deceased driver. Almost all the drivers take part in the ceremony, as well as a large crowd that applauds for a long time the decision of the Canadian politicians. It is in this atmosphere that on Sunday, June 13, 1982, in memory of Villeneuve, the drivers battle to the limit of their possibilities for the eighth round of the Formula 1 World Championship. First, however, the first qualifying round of the Canadian Grand Prix is held: in this phase, Andrea De Cesaris obtains the best lap time in 1'30"28. Behind the Italian there are Rosberg, Pironi, Patrese and Arnoux, but the day is disturbed by the rain. There are some accidents, one of which eliminates Winklehock from the tests during the non timed tests. The German touches Arnoux's car, goes out of the track and ruins the car body. In the afternoon there is also a quarrel between the two Brazilians Serra and Boesel. The Fittipaldi driver arrives at the box angry, and literally kicks his compatriot, since Boesel had made him a sign on the track to pass, then he had closed him, forcing him to a dangerous recovery manoeuvre to avoid going off the track. In the morning, the official tests, which start at 10:00 a.m., are affected by the rain, but we can still have some indications for what will happen during the test. Therefore, on Saturday, June 12, 1982 we will try to change the positions, also because if the weather remains good, everyone will be able to go below the times obtained on Friday. Highly anticipated at the test is the Renault turbo, which on a track with an average speed of over 180 km/h will have no difficulty in lining up the rival cars. The pole position is contested both by Alfa Romeo, which was the fastest car with Andrea De Cesaris, and by Ferrari, third in the final ranking. And it is Didier Pironi himself to promise an attack in the race:


"If the weather conditions will allow it, that is if it will not rain, I will not make a race like the one in Detroit, defensively. I hope that the tyres will be fine and that I can make the most of the Ferrari's power. It would be the greatest joy of my life to get a win on this circuit. I don't even have to say it: I would dedicate it to my departed partner. We had a fight, it's true, but that's not why I considered a friendship that had lasted so long closed. I'm sure Gilles would have wanted to see me, him, as the winner, or at any rate, to see a Ferrari in first place. The pitfalls are many, the opponents many, but I'm optimistic considering how the last races ended".


Pironi's statements are quite challenging. However, there are many drivers who believe that the Ferrari driver is one of the favourites for the Canadian Grand Prix. The series of placings obtained so far, the excellent performance of the car that is growing day by day and is more and more competitive, are a demonstration of quality that has never failed so far. Ferrari also has some little technical secrets, with some innovations that have been made in recent times. One of these, for a special type of cooling of the air that is expelled from the turbo, is a real secret of the 126 C2. Many are now copying the system, which evidently makes use of a pump that nebulizes the liquid, i.e. water, in the air and allows the air to be cooled and to obtain much lower temperatures for the engine. In this way the turbocharged engine prepared in Maranello does not break almost anymore and offers a very high level of performance. The major rivals for the Ferrari driver should be Prost and Arnoux, Patrese with the Brabham, Lauda and Watson with the McLarens and, obviously, the Alfa Romeos of De Cesaris and Giacomelli. The driver from Brescia tries to fine tune his car that on Friday did not provide very good performances, relegating him far behind in the line-up.


"I want to have a good race too, because I'm tired of hearing only accusations against me. If I'm not given a tuned car, what can I do? It's just a matter of finding a balanced solution in the preparation of the car and then I'll show that I'm always a top man".


There are many contenders for victory, and we mustn't forget that the points at stake will also be decisive for the world ranking. This year, as in the past, the classification will be based on eleven results, that is half of the races scheduled in the World Championship plus three. When this limit will be reached, the discards will start, and then the best placings will be good. However, no one has yet reached an acceptable quota (it is Pironi who has the highest number of placings in percentage, with four results among the first six in seven races run), while Watson is still the leader of the world ranking. The Northern Irishman has also started to raise some hopes, but on Friday his performance was clearly inferior to his teammate Niki Lauda. Among the drivers who aspire to win races and the world championship there is also Andrea De Cesaris, who with Alfa Romeo amazes and succeeds in erasing the idea that people had of him in the Formula 1 environment:


"When I had the certainty of going to Alfa Romeo I had the best day of my life. I knew it wouldn't be easy to emerge, but at least I could start again. Now I think I've earned everyone's trust. One day or another I will say to the McLaren people: thank you for sending me away".


De Cesaris believes that Alfa Romeo is truly competitive.


"We were very close to taking our first win, and only some trouble stopped us. But we were unlucky when we deserved a success; I wouldn't rule out getting to the top soon in a race we might not expect. The day is near".


Someone has made a comparison between De Cesaris and Villeneuve, but is Andrea okay with this comparison?


"I'm flattered, because Gilles was considered by everyone a great driver. What happened was what happened. I hope to have one more chance than him, that of being able to aim for the world title".


The Alfa Romeo driver, a happy boy who dreams with open eyes, with an open character, a bit naive and for this reason more appreciable, can become a protagonist of Formula 1 both on a competitive and human level. And it seems that many people have now realised this. De Cesaris has important offers to change team, but the Italian driver closes with a no comment. After all, if Alfa Romeo owes him something, he too knows what gratitude is. On Saturday, June 12, 1982 Ferrari honours the memory of Gilles Villeneuve in the best possible way, on the track that bears the name of the driver who passed away. Didier Pironi, at the wheel of the 126 C2, obtains a splendid pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix. The Frenchman fights with superb commitment to obtain this place of privilege, fighting to the limit of his and the car's possibilities. The brilliant result, obviously, is a good omen for the race that in any case is very hard fought: it is very hot and there is a remarkable balance of values. The result will depend on the choice of aerodynamic solutions and tyres. Pironi, however, is happy. The Frenchman underlines the conquest of his pole position, the first since he has been at Ferrari, with a sentence in memory of his lost partner:


"It's the best gift I could give to Ferrari, to the fans and to me to honour Gilles, and I must say I really put it all in".


To those who ask Pironi if the turbocharged engine has been decisive in the enterprise (four supercharged single-seaters are in the first four places with Arnoux and Prost following, and with Piquet's Brabham-Bmw in fourth position), the Frenchman answers: 


"The Ferrari is now a fantastic car. The engine certainly counts a lot, but it must be said that without an excellent chassis and good tyres I would not have been able to get this placement".


Pironi does not get too excited about the race that is open to any result. In fact, behind the Ferrari driver there are the two Renaults, then Piquet and Giacomelli with the Alfa Romeo, Watson and Rosberg with the Williams and Patrese with the Brabham-Cosworth. De Cesaris is only ninth, since during the morning he damages his car in an accident due to a tyre blowout. For the first time all the eight Italian drivers qualify for a Grand Prix: De Angelis precedes Lauda, Cheever is twelfth, Alboreto is fifteenth, Baldi seventeenth and Paletti twenty-third. Excellent performance also for Osella, that this time has no difficulty in qualifying with both cars. Toleman is also absent from this appointment, while the driver of Theodore Racing, Jan Lammers, injured during the tests of the Detroit race, is unable to take part in the Canadian race; the team initially thought of replacing him with Jacques Villeneuve Sr., Gilles' brother, finally opting for the more experienced Geoff Lees, already entered by Theodore for the 1981 British Grand Prix, a race in which he did not take part. Lees contested three Grands Prix between 1979 and 1980 with Tyrrell, Shadow and Ensign.


"A cursed Grand Prix".


This is how the Canadian newspapers will define the tragic race of Sunday. A race already overshadowed by the death of Gilles Villeneuve and saddened by the death of the young Italian driver Riccardo Paletti. The start is one of the most critical moments in a car race and especially in Formula 1. Mechanisms have been studied several times to avoid the risk of accidents as much as possible, but all attempts have been in vain until now. The rolling start is considered too dangerous, as the speed is even higher; therefore, for about two years now the line-up has been done in a herringbone pattern with alternating rows and an average distance between cars of about ten metres. The official starter, in this case the Englishman Derek Ongaro, a Federation professional. Ongaro, once the grid is completed, upon signal from the marshals stationed along the entire line of cars, must turn on a red light to signal the green light, which is generally given after four or maximum seven seconds. On Sunday, June 13, 1982, the wait seems longer than usual, but the timekeepers calculate 5.2 seconds between the two signals. So everything is regular, if it is not that a marshal creates confusion by holding an arm up as if to warn that not all the cars are stopped. When Prost realises that Pironi's Ferrari is stationary, being the first one behind the Italian car, he jumps on the left, passing unharmed.


"I engaged first gear, the car moved slightly, I had to brake. As the green light went off, after moments that seemed like an eternity, the engine suddenly stopped. I raised my arms, but it was too late".


As well as Prost, all the competitors up to the Brazilian Boesel, who is in the eleventh row, manage to avoid Pironi's car. His March lightly hits with the right rear wheel the stationary car of Pironi, then Paletti, who is following Boesel, arrives and is not able to avoid the impact. There was the possibility to pass both on the left and on the right on the grass, but evidently the young Milanese driver did not notice the obstacle.


"First I felt a small bump that displaced me a little, then a tremendous blow that gave me whiplash in the neck. I slid away, into a spin. More bumps. Then a terrible silence. I jumped out of the car and ran towards Paletti's car. The boy was lifeless, his helmet resting unnaturally on the steering wheel column. We immediately realised there was little we could do. Gasoline was pouring on the ground".


The impact was of terrible violence, occurring at a speed of between 160 and 170 km/h. This means a kinetic energy of about 100.000 kilograms, considering a total weight of eight hundred kilos between car, driver and fuel. A chilling gallows, which may have produced an instantaneous gravity of over 50 g, so much so that the Osella's engine moves forward, while the car imprisons Paletti in a tangle of sheet metal. The rev counter will be found stuck on the 10.200 rpm mark, and the gearbox in third gear. First aid arrives after nine seconds. While the rescuers are trying to help the Italian driver, the fuel catches fire. In these moments Susan Watkins sees her husband, Sid, in the flames, while Balestre - dressed in a black coat - is waving next to her inside the control tower. Later, when the driver of the medical car, Mario Valle arrives at the control tower, he brings this message to Susan:


"Sid told me to let you know he's okay, just burned ankles and feet".


At her side, Bernie Ecclestone holds her hand tightly. Shortly after the flames started, the fire extinguishers came into operation, but the action of the marshals became chaotic: although they had several extinguishers at their disposal, some of them turned them in the wrong direction, so that among the first to arrive, in addition to Pironi, engineer Carletti of Ferrari snatched an extinguisher from the hand of a marshal and threw himself in front of the car to put out the fire. The accident happens at 4:17 p.m. local time: despite the very quick rescue, it will take twenty-eight minutes to extract the driver from the car, and to untangle the twisted sheets of metal they will even use a chainsaw. After more than twenty minutes, Paletti will be finally extracted from the wreckage of the Osella and will undergo an attempt of resuscitation. The helicopter, descending in the middle of the main straight, will arrive at the Royal Victoria Hospital in the centre of the city at 4:55 p.m. On the aircraft the sanitary men, who are accompanied by Gianfranco Palazzoli, Osella's sport director, practice heart massage and artificial respiration, but the internal bleeding is lethal. After an authorization of Palazzoli himself, Dr. Nicholas Cristou, head of the team of surgeons, tries an operation in extremis, but the strong fibre of the young man does not resist, and at 5:45 p.m. Paletti ceases to live. The Milanese driver, son of Arietto Paletti, a real estate entrepreneur, suffers irreparable injuries: his chest is crushed by the steering column, his aorta is punctured, his diaphragm is ruptured and his lower limbs are fractured. The drama unfolded in front of the eyes of the driver's mother, Gina, who had accompanied him for the first time in Formula 1 on this American trip. Mrs. Paletti was then taken to the hospital where doctors tried to calm her down. At the news of the disappearance, shortly after, she burst into tears:


"I want to see him, let me see him again".


Her father, Arietto Paletti, was notified by phone in Milan, before leaving immediately on a private jet made available by the industrialist Silvio Berlusconi, arriving also distraught in Montreal on Monday morning. At his arrival at the airport there are only Palazzoli, Osella's sport director, and Cesare Gariboldi, technician and friend since ever; only they come to meet him and at the first words of anguished questions of his father they answer:


"Riccardo has disappeared".


It is only at this moment that Arietto Paletti discovers the truth, not having been informed of the real conditions of his son. The official autopsy version will indicate as decisive for the death the inhalation of the extinguishing substances, despite the fact that the driver had suffered serious chest injuries, and the fracture of the left leg and right ankle. Niki Lauda, shortly afterwards, while acknowledging the speed of the interventions, criticised the operation:


"Chemical powder fire extinguishers were used, toxic to the driver while they should have used foam".


After one hour from the accident the track is cleared from the wreckage, and there is a new start without the Osella, which withdraws the second driver Jarier, while Boesel and Pironi will start with the T-car. It is well after 6:15 p.m. before everything is ready for another start and enthusiasm is visibly lagging in all quarters but twenty-three cars line up. The Osella team quietly pack up and leave and the Theodore team have to withdraw as their car is too bent to repair and they have no spare. John McDonald’s March team prepare their spare car for Boesel, ATS give Salazar the car Winkelhock has been driving and Ferrari prepare 059, their old-type 126C2, for Pironi but even while warming it up the engine has a persistent misfire. The second start goes off without incident and Pironi leads for the first lap but as he starts lap 2, into the very fast right-hand sweep after the pits, Arnoux has his Renault alongside and sweeps by into the lead, with Prost in third place, then Piquet in the Brabham-BMW, at last going as its potential has suggested, and Watson is leading the rest. Once out in front Arnoux disappears and from the outset Prost feels his engine to be off-song and can not stop Piquet going by on lap 2, while Pironi’s brief charge at the front is all over as the Ferrari pops and bangs its way along. Piquet is past him on lap 3 and Prost follows him through, but already the turbocharged cars have completely outstripped the Cosworth engined specials. The order is Renault, BMW, Renault, Ferrari, but Piquet is in great form and at last able to show the true potential of the Brabham-BMW so that as Arnoux starts lap 9 through the 150 m.p.h. ess-bend he has the blue and white Brabham alongside. Wheel-to-wheel over the brow and into the second part of the ess the BMW-powered car goes into the lead. It is a memorable moment to observe and Piquet powers on into a commanding lead with Arnoux hanging on, but only just, and Prost being left behind. Pironi’s moment of glory is over, for the spare Ferrari is awful, and surprisingly Watson’s moment at the head-of-the-rest has also dissipated, for Chrever in his old Talbot-Matra. Andrea de Cesaris in an Alfa Romeo 182 and Patrese in a Cosworth-powered Brabham BT49D have all got past the McLaren, and then passed the Ferrari.


Already we have lost four cars, for Mansell has run his Lotus 91 up over the back of Giacomelli’s Alfa Romeo and puts both cars out, Guerrero’s Ensign has gone, as has Laffite’s Talbot-Matra, while Henton (Tyrrell) and Salazar (ATS) have both been into the pits. While the spectators and everyone in the pit lane and around the circuit nearly froze to death the turbocharged BMW engine is enjoying every minute of the low temperature and Piquet is driving splendidly. Patrese in the Cosworth-powered Brabham is going equally well, passing de Cesaris on lap 15 and Cheever on lap 17 to put himself in fourth place and best-of-the-rest. The Ferrari is running so badly that even John Watson passes it, but you could hardly blame the Scuderia for they have never intended to use this old-type car, only the start-line accident making it necessary. Eventually the dejected Pironi goes into the pits to see if any improvement can be made. A cloud of smoke down the straight after the fast ess-bend indicates the demise of the last ATS car and Lauda has already withdrawn with stated clutch failure, after being passed by Mauro Baldi in an Arrows, the little curly-headed Italian boy going quite well and outstripping his Swiss team-mate Marc Surer. At this point Baldi is the next in line to be lapped by the flying Piquet, the overall order behind the Brabham-BMW being Arnoux, Prost, Patrese, de Cesaris, Cheever, Watson, Daly, de Angelis, Rosberg, Mass and Baldi. Already lapped are Surer, Alboreto, Boesel and Henton. The two Williams cars are a shadow of their former selves, Daly doing his best to keep Watson in sight but Rosberg having a terrible time with a car that is darting about from side to side over some of the bumps due to aerodynamic instability; another driver would have had an accident. In contrast Watson’s McLaren MP4 looks superbly steady and controllable and up at the front of the race Piquet and Patrese are demonstrating that Gordon Murray’s cars are very good, no matter what engine provides the power. While Arnoux is still matching the pace of the BMW with his Renault, his teammate is losing ground due to the engine being off-song, and Patrese passes Prost on lap 28. Suddenly and inexplicably Piquet comes round at the end of lap 29 with an enormous lead and Patrese is the next along. Arnoux has spun on one of the corners on the return leg of the circuit and, as at Monaco, he has stalled the engine and can not restart, so the order now is Brabham-BMW, Brabham-Cosworth, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Talbot-Matra, McLaren-Cosworth, Williams-Cosworth.


As Prost goes down the fast straight to start lap 31 there is an enormous cloud of smoke and that is the end of the Renault, the off-song engine has cried enough. It is all over, the Brabham team is unchallenged in first and second places, their gamble at hedging their bets between turbocharged 1 ½-litre and normally aspirated 3-litre is paying off. By 35 laps, which is half distance, there are fifteen cars left running, though not all of them very fast and the two Brabham drivers can now settle down to team orders and drive on into the gathering gloom. Although it looks as though it might be dark before the race is finished the organisers make it clear that the race would go the full distance of 70 laps, which is 308.7 kilometres, though most people would have settled to pack up there and then, the whole gloomy and tragic day has gone on long enough. Nothing dramatic happens, apart from Piquet losing concentration at one point and flying over a kerb, but all is well. On lap 42 Alboreto coasts his Tyrrell into the pit lane to retire and on lap 53 Rosberg free-wheels down the pit lane with a broken gearbox. On lap 67 Eddie Cheever goes by the pits with his Matra engine spluttering as it runs out of petrol and he coasts to a stop, while two laps later, with only one to go, de Cesaris pulls off on the grass, his V12 Alfa Romeo also out of petrol. Hardly has he climbed out of the car than Daly’s Williams coasts to a stop, also out of petrol. Three of the non-turbocharged cars have run dry, while the BMW is still going strong, and there are a lot of people who want to restrict the fuel tank capacity to even less than it is now. Without doing anything spectacular Watson finds himself in third place, the McLaren being the only car on the same lap as the Brabham team. After two or three pit stops the Ferrari team have finally got Pironi’s car working properly and he responds with a fastest lap on lap 66, but even so he is three laps behind the winner and in a lowly ninth place. With a sigh of relief the whole miserable affair of the Canadian Grand Prix is over a few minutes after 8:00 p.m. and darkness is falling rapidly. The race is won by Nelson Piquet who, only seven days after the non-qualification of Detroit, gets the first victory for a Bmw engine. The German company is the sixteenth to win, as an engine manufacturer, in a race valid for the Formula 1 World Championship. The reigning World Champion, who climbed onto the podium next to Seville Villeneuve, who presented him with a trophy dedicated to the memory of his son Gilles, spoke heartfelt words:


"How can one be happy on such a day? We know that death is part of the game. But every time we lose a part of ourselves".


For Piquet, the Canadian Grand Prix represents one of the greatest satisfactions of his career, since after failing to qualify in Detroit, the South American drove the four-cylinder turbocharged BMW engine to victory for the first time just five months after its debut in the Formula 1 World Championship.


"I knew I could make a good race. However, I wasn't thinking about victory. Instead, everything was easier than expected".


Brabham's triumph was completed by Riccardo Patrese, second with the car powered by the Cosworth engine, while John Watson was given a third place that sent him into a runaway position in the world ranking due to the incredible stop, in the last laps, of Cheever's Talbot and De Cesaris' Alfa Romeo, which ran out of petrol. The Italian will be classified in sixth place, preceded by Elio De Angelis, fourth, and Marc Surer, fifth. On Monday, June 14, 1982, the Italian consulate will start the procedures for the repatriation of Riccardo Paletti's body. The funeral will take place in Milan in the following days. The local authorities close the episode considering it a racing accident, while Fisa will open a technical investigation. There are no subjective responsibilities in this new tragic chapter of Formula 1, but the fault is of the whole environment, of the system. Riccardo Paletti was young, he had a very limited experience, maybe we should have acted before: he had already had many, too many accidents. He had found the money of a sponsor that had helped him a lot in the past and that believed in him so much to make him arrive to the top, a team ready to welcome his desire to emerge, to become a champion of the steering wheel, to vent perhaps in a risky sport the desire to show that he was able to make his own way, as it happened for many other young people. It was perhaps a revenge towards certain complexes of youth, perhaps a way to demonstrate that he too could make his own way as his father had done, once a humble waiter and then a rich real estate entrepreneur. The fact is that his life was cut short by one of those fatalities that can always happen in the race. What could have been the happiest day of his life, his first real race, his first real start in Formula 1, was unfortunately the last. In the minds of viewers will remain for a long time the sequence of images of the drama that took place on the Canadian track, and especially the helplessness of the rescuers who took almost half an hour to extract the body of the Osella racer from the wreckage of the car, while the flames attacked the cockpit. But it is not so much in the fact of having had the chance to arrive in the world of Grand Prix as in the absolute lack of control by the sporting authorities: in these cases, it has been said many times that drivers should move up in category only after having accumulated and acquired a certain experience, after having won races, after having obtained scores of a certain importance. Instead, for anyone who wants to get to Formula 1, it is enough to have a certain amount of money, to be relatively young, and to have the will to race. For the rest there are no obstacles, and so one finds oneself, the next day, commenting on a dramatic and tragic event.


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