#366 1982 Netherlands Grand Prix

2021-04-16 00:00

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#1982, Fulvio Conti, Transated by Damiana Iovaro,

#366 1982 Netherlands Grand Prix

The technical-political crisis of Formula 1 continues. When it seemed that we were close to an agreement that would restore peace and balance


The technical-political crisis of Formula 1 continues. When it seems that we are close to an agreement that will restore peace and balance in the world of Grand Prix, on Sunday June 13, 1982, the differences between the various parties (manufacturers, FOCA teams and sporting authorities) resurfaced in all their gravity. And it is hard to see how in the near future we can reach a unanimity of intent, despite the fact that this time the former legalitarians, namely Alfa Romeo, Renault, Ferrari and Osella with the support of Toleman and Ats, have shown a willingness to get to the definition of the problems, making in their proposals many concessions, the other party has stiffened on other positions. FISA, with its ineffable president Jean-Marie Balestre, provides to further compute the situation by launching plans that it is little to define absurd. But we come to the proposals of Ferrari, Renault and partners. After lengthy meetings, on Sunday June 13, 1982 a communiqué is issued that in summary establishes the following: request for respect of the Concordia agreement until the end of 1984, that is, confirmation of the unanimity rule for all decisions that are made; granting of some measures to ensure the balance of the World Championship; response to the changes urged by the FOCA with a study of the problems for safety. These are the points of the proposed agreement: for 1982 from July 1 minimum weight of the cars at 565 kg with a new control procedure during practice and after the race; abandonment of all current legal procedures. From January 1, 1983: minimum weight at 535 kg; total or partial prohibition of mini-skirts with introduction of flat bottoms on cars; tank with a maximum of 225 liters of fuel, races not exceeding 320 km or two hours; cars with a maximum of 4 wheels, of which 2 are driven. The signatories of this document make it known that Ecclestone, previously in agreement with the project, has changed his mind to support a new set of proposals developed by FISA, discriminatory for many manufacturers and therefore immediately accepted by FOCA.


These are projects that include, for example, the reduction of the maximum width of the bodies, so that teams with turbo engines can no longer mount heat exchangers and therefore would be forced to abandon superchargers. Moreover, Balestre seasons his nebulous intentions with threats to Ferrari, accusing it of having some responsibility in the disappearance of Villeneuve because of the seatbelt attachments; but the same photos that Balestre arbitrarily shows around, show that the impact was so violent as to have torn the strips of fabric that hold the driver's legs. The FISA president - who also has to suffer a violent attack from the French magazine Le Canard, which publishes a dossier full of documented data on his alleged collaboration with the German SS during the last war - proposes to build the cars in such a way that they have a maximum projection of 3.5 square meters. Currently this measure varies between 4.2 and 4.5. With this reduction it will be impossible to mount the heat exchangers on the side wings. Even crazy, so much so as not to find any support from tire manufacturers, is the regulation of tire allocation requested by the sporting authorities. They ask for qualifying on Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with, turns divided into series of eight cars each. Each car will have at its disposal six sets of tires with the possibility of using four sets over the three days of a Grand Prix. And Balestre does not stop there. On Sunday, June 13, 1982 he declares that if an agreement is not reached, he will organize another World Championship with the help of some Automobile Clubs loyal to him. This is how we arrive at Saturday June 26th 1982, the day in which Balestre leaves the office of delegated president of FIA, maintaining that of FISA, that is the sporting emanation of the same Federation. This is evidently a maneuver, once again clumsy, by Balestre to protest for the censure suffered by the FIA on two occasions, when the Paris Appeals Tribunal defeated him on the issue of the weight of the cars and, more recently, when it blocked his plan for Formula 1. In any case, these resignations weaken the position of the controversial French manager, whose chair now seems to be teetering in a frightening way.


A demonstration of how Balestre is looking for any foothold to create confusion can be found in the evening, when FISA from Paris issues a communiqué according to which some important changes regarding the regulations of the World Championship have been decided. In reality, only a unilateral proposal is presented by the sporting Federation, which makes its own the requests of the constructors for safety and the reduction of cornering speed (lower weight of the cars, sculpted tires, reduction of aerodynamic surfaces and tank capacity). FISA, in order to obtain more power, also asks for the removal of the unanimity clause in Formula 1 decisions established by the Concord Pact, obviously to increase its own powers. In this regard, however, the major manufacturers, i.e. Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault, Osella, Toleman and ATS, respond negatively. What will happen now? More meetings will be held, starting with the Dutch Grand Prix. The battle is between FOCA and the other teams. As in all negotiations, unfortunately, it will not be possible to obtain the maximum, but they will try to reach a difficult agreement: the British will like to penalize in some way the turbo engines (reduction of fuel consumption and wing surfaces), to obtain a lower weight up to a minimum of 535 kilograms, against the current 585. In exchange, the other side asks for the abolition of the miniskirts. If there will be goodwill maybe someone will give up something, and we will have the usual compromise that is certainly not the best resolution ever. What is certain is that there are too many interests at stake for there to be a total surrender by some of the contenders in this competition. In the meantime, on Thursday, June 17, 1982, Ferrari's tests on the Paul Ricard circuit end early, after Didier Pironi, at 19:00, is the protagonist of a spectacular accident at the end of the straight that precedes the chicane after the pit straight. The French driver goes off the track at about 300 km/h with his new car, but luckily he gets away with some bruises:


"I don't know what happened, I only know that the car went off the track, suddenly. Maybe something didn't work properly in the front end".


The Ferrari has however obtained excellent times during the day, considering the heat: 1'37"54 for Pironi, and 1'37"56 for Tambay with the laboratory car. Patrick Tambay, the thirty-three year old Parisian driver, with the smile of a good boy and the modesty of an apprentice, presents himself to the Ferrari fans with the difficult task of replacing Gilles Villeneuve. The trip to Le Castellet is the first one with the Maranello team, after about fifteen days of school on the Fiorano track. European vice-champion of Formula 2 in the year in which Laffite won, ex-gypsy and a bit of a play-boy (one remembers his ardent love with Ornella Muti), now married with a three-month-old daughter, Tambay turned over a new leaf and started afresh. In Formula 1, in spite of his seniority, he has not been able to have much luck or brilliant results. Villeneuve likes him, with whom he has a deep friendship, but neither at McLaren nor at Ligier he has broken through. He has made his mark a few times with the shabby Theodore then, hired by Arrows, has left the circus this year at Kyalami after the drivers' strike.


"The environment sucks, I prefer to go to America for the Can-Am races".


After Villeneuve's demise in Zolder, a phone call from Ferrari reaches Patrick in Honolulu, where he has retired in anticipation of a season in America with the Can-Am cars. The French driver replies:


"I am honored, but let me think about it".


Before saying yes, Patrick talks to Villeneuve's wife, and asks her consent to his choice. What made him now change his mind?


"I'm still a professional driver, you can't remain insensitive to Ferrari's appeal, I made a mistake five years ago: I could have gone to Maranello but I let myself be convinced by the sponsor for McLaren, a clamorous mistake. At that time the English team was technically backward and I got demoralized quickly, when you are not convinced, you cannot get positive results".


Now Tambay has a term contract until the end of the year. Then we'll see: a lot depends on the eight races that await him.


"It's true, I live for the day, but Ferrari alone is enough to give any driver the charge. Two weeks spent at Fiorano and I rediscovered motorsport as well. I knew that the Italian team was at the top, but reality is better than imagination, than all that has been heard. The talents of the technicians, the skills of the mechanics, the humanity, the most advanced technology. Moreover, I arrived at a time when the cars are clearly advancing. They are easier to drive than I thought. I only regret the reason I got this job: the passing of Villeneuve. Gilles deserved to see his desire to become world champion fulfilled. I will try to give my contribution to the team. With Pironi there are no problems. He can aim at the world championship, I will try to win at least one race".


Does winning a steering wheel desired by most drivers excite you?


"It's hard to explain, I felt younger. It's as if I were at my first races, but with some experience behind me that will definitely be useful. In all honesty, I have to admit that I used to race in the Can-Am series so I didn't quit. But those are races that don't have much value: three good cars and the rest doesn't count. I know very well that some people think I'm finished, that I was just lucky to switch to Ferrari because there wasn't another free driver. But I will do everything to prove the opposite".


The Frenchman has already changed his residence: before he lived in Hawaii, he has recently moved to California. Now he has gone to stay with his parents in Cannes. The only license that Tambay takes is that one to maintain on the suit the name of a sponsor a little bit frivolous: the Moulin Rouge, famous nightclub of Paris.


"The owners have always helped me. They are Italian, the Clerico family originally from Canavese. They expected everything but that I would end up at Ferrari. They are crazy with happiness. It's the first positive result".


On the same day - Thursday, June 16, 1982 - the Ferrari model 315/T5 driven in the 1980 Formal 1 World Championship by Gilles Villeneuve is placed in the sports section (gallery on the second floor) of the Automobile Museum in Turin, having been donated by the Modena-based company. In the meantime Bernie Ecclestone, as head of FOCA, goes to Moscow to lay the foundations of an agreement that will allow the staging of a Formula 1 car race in the Soviet territory. In principle, Ecclestone and the leaders of the Soviet Federation of Motor Sports even choose a circuit for the Grand Prix: the streets around Moscow University, on the scenic Lenin Hills. The Grand Prix, which Ecclestone hopes to organize for July or August 1983, is at the project stage. Ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix, on Tuesday 29 June 1982 Pironi challenges his rivals for the title. Formula 1 resumes its journey with difficulty at Zandvoort, a race that was not on the calendar at the beginning of the season, cancelled because the organizers has not paid the fee of about half a million dollars due for each race at the FOCA. We are at the ninth round and the circus is coming out of one of the most tormented and saddest periods in its history, due to the controversies that have troubled it and the tragic accidents to Gilles Villeneuve and Riccardo Paletti. The only thing that can be asked for (while discussions will continue at the table to prepare a regulation that has more respect for safety) is a spectacular race that will serve to reconcile with motorsport, and to raise the morale of many fans who are now desperate.


The dominant motive is always that of the fight for the world title still very open, even if the old and quiet John Watson leads the dance with ten points of advantage on Pironi, the closest of the pursuers. The Zandvoort track, a circuit among the sand dunes, is one of the most challenging with its ups and downs and very fast corners. It should be the beginning of a real domination of the turbo engines that so far have won only four races, three of which on the field - Renault in Kyalami with Prost, Ferrari in Imola with Pironi and Brabham-BMW in Montréal with Piquet - and one in Brazil with Prost himself, after Piquet's disqualification for the underweight car. To say, however, that the task will be easy for the Renaults will be a mistake. The competition is fierce, starting from Ferrari that presents itself with two cars entrusted to Didier Pironi and Patrick Tambay, and ending with Brabham-BMW that, after the success in Montreal, has suddenly risen to the top and in the ratings. Patrick Tambay's debut should not present a big problem for the Maranello team. The thirty-three year old Frenchman is obviously racing for himself, as he has something to prove, but also and above all for the team, as Pironi is in contention for the World Championship. Didier has not been very lucky in his career, but right now he is one of the major candidates for the rainbow helmet and is in the absolute need to reduce the gap to Watson.


"I've never been more focused, even though I have a cracked rib from the Le Castellet crash, and I'm definitely aiming for the win. I know it will be difficult, but basically I'm gambling in the next races the chance to realize the dream of my whole life and that of any Formula 1 driver: the world title".


Against the cars powered by turbo engines, a whole series of dangerous outsiders. The first one is obviously John Watson who, racing as Jody Scheckter did in 1979, aims at least at a placing, but he will have to face his teammate Niki Lauda who has the poisoned tooth, and the Alfa Romeos of Giacomelli and De Cesaris, and Elio De Angelis, who on June 21, 1982 with the Lotus scores the best time, with 1'17"5, new unofficial track record, during a test session on the Zandvoort circuit. Remaining in the Lotus theme, the British team replaces the injured Nigel Mansell with the reserve driver, the Brazilian Roberto Moreno, at his debut in the top formula, and at the same time employed in the English Formula 3. Williams seems momentarily out of reach and on June 25, 1982 tests a BMW-engined car in a test session on the Brands Hatch track, with Keke Rosberg, but decides to continue to field a Cosworth-engined car in the championship. At Theodore Racing Jan Lammers returns as a regular driver, taking the place of Geoff Lees. The Tolemans are back after two races, while Osella, to replace Riccardo Paletti, who dies during the previous Canadian Grand Prix, enters Piercarlo Ghinzani, already used on a couple of occasions in 1981; however, the Italian driver will not take part in the event. Ligier entrusts Jacques Laffite with the new JS19 model; however, the Frenchman will opt to use the JS17 model during the race. Due to the high number of entrants, pre- qualifications are again held at Zandvoort: the only driver who will not be able to pre-qualify will be Emilio De Villota, with his March. In the first day of practice, which takes place Thursday, July 1, 1982 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., the fastest is René Arnoux, in 1'14"233, ahead of his teammate Alain Prost. The only other driver to go under the wall of 1'15"0 is Nelson Piquet.


Behind the World Champion the two Ferraris finish, more detached, with Niki Lauda in between. On Friday, July 2, 1982, the great heat will not allow almost any driver to improve on the times set the previous day, and Arnoux will confirm his pole position, while Piquet goes off the track during a test session of the carbon brake pads. Among others, the rookie Roberto Moreno and Eddie Cheever will not qualify. Saturday 3 July 1982, at 12:30 a.m., the Dutch Grand Prix, the ninth round of the World Championship, gets underway. Alain Prost takes the lead ahead of his teammate René Arnoux; the two Ferraris of Didier Pironi and Patrick Tambay follow, while Nelson Piquet, author of a bad start, is also passed by Niki Lauda. Pironi quickly takes the lead, passing Arnoux on the second lap, and Prost on the fifth. Always during the second passage Piquet recovers on Lauda and Tambay passing them on the arrival straight, getting the fourth place. At the third lap also Lauda tries to overtake Tambay, but without success. In the following laps Keke Rosberg comes back from the back of the queue, passing in few laps Giacomelli, Lauda and Tambay, while Pironi, after one third of the race, precedes Prost of fourteen seconds and Piquet of seventeen. At the fifteenth passage Piquet has the better of Arnoux, getting the third place: the race of the Frenchman is interrupted shortly after, at the twenty-first lap, when he goes straight at the first curve, and leaves the track at almost 260 km/h, after that his Renault has lost, for the detachment of a suspension, the left front wheel. The single-seater ends up on the barrier made by partially destroyed tires, but Arnoux suffers only a strong contusion to the left leg.


Also the race of the other Renault driver, Alain Prost, does not last long: the French driver retires for an engine failure at the 33rd lap, after that in the previous laps he is passed by Piquet and Rosberg. The race always sees Didier Pironi in the lead, ahead of Piquet, Rosberg, Tambay, Lauda, Giacomelli and Daly. A light rain will appear on the track, but it will be of short duration and intensity, so that no driver will be forced to mount wet tires. Daly enters the points zone on lap 36, while Tambay loses several positions due to a fuel problem: first to Lauda, then to Daly himself, finally to Michele Alboreto, who enters the points zone on lap 45. The ranking remains frozen until the sixty-ninth lap, when Alboreto takes the fifth place from Daly: the Italian driver, however, will be passed again by the Williams driver. The two cars touch each other, Alboreto spins and is passed by Mauro Baldi. Didier Pironi wins for the second time in the season, ahead of Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg, Niki Lauda, Derek Daly, and Mauro Baldi, at his first points finish in the world championship, while the fastest lap is achieved for the first time by Derek Warwick, as well as the first for Toleman among constructors and for Hart among engine manufacturers. With this result, Didier Pironi is only one point behind Watson, and with his Ferrari he continues his climb to the Formula 1 World Championship. It was since 1977 that the Maranello Company did not taste success on this northern track among the sand dunes. Then it was with Lauda and then the Austrian became World Champion. In this regard Watson is sad, Lauda a little less so:


"I had to fight like an idiot, but no more could be achieved. Our tires had no grip on the asphalt. And then, when you see the turbocharged cars darting in front of you, you realize that you are inferior and this is morally a big damage".


But beyond the result there is an important injection of confidence for Ferrari, an affirmation that rewards the cutting edge of Italian car technology for having been able to overcome a doubly difficult moment, due to the choice of the turbo engine and the very serious loss of Gilles Villeneuve. It is with the work of the technicians and mechanics in Maranello, with an ever-increasing commitment that the team is recovering brilliantly. But as Didier Pironi says:


"It was not an easy success as it may have appeared to those who saw the race on television, because from mid-race the tires deteriorated slightly. And then winning is always problematic. Just think if I had run out of gas on the last lap. Now I'm in a really good position for the title. I'm not saying this for me, but for the team; Ferrari is the ideal team for these occasions, they have experience and skills. In any case it is still early to make predictions, too many points are still up for grabs".


The Frenchman gives the idea of appearing calm, relaxed, despite the fact that in the accident at Le Castellet he has cracked a rib, and his chest was sore. But Didier clenched his teeth, and he does not even want the doctor to give him an injection of novocaine before the start.


"When you win you forget everything, even the suffering".


Pironi is helped by the competitiveness of his Ferrari. The car, still with the solution that mounts the transverse gearbox, has undergone an effective slimming treatment, so much so that it is the lightest at the technical checks after the race: 584 kilos, four above the minimum allowed, despite the suspension, which has previously given some discomfort, has been strengthened. This is also the smoothest race of the year. No controversy (the constructors meet, but as usual they do not agree on the new safety regulations), only one accident, the one that happened to René Arnoux, luckily without consequences for the driver. The piles of old tires piled up in front of the Tarzan curve protections, wanted by Jody Scheckter two years before, cushion the tremendous impact of the Renault. Even Didier Pironi's victory is, all things considered, straightforward, with no apparent problems. But the insiders know that a first place in Formula 1 is an exceptional result, never predictable, and always subject to a thousand unpredictable events. It takes little to lose, because a superiority in fact can be transformed into a defeat. This is why on Saturday, at the end of the race, once the tension has been relieved, Ferrari seems to have almost won the world title. The car has taken off with a mixture of tires: type A, harder on the left, type B, softer on the right, as the circuit does not allow, with the majority of curves on the right, a homogeneous solution. The tires deteriorated equally, and it is clear that the opponents have more or less other problems.


"All victories have the same coefficient of difficulty. Imola like Zandvoort, although the San Marino Grand Prix lacked the FOCA teams. Why? I'll explain it right away: when we lose, the others are always right. Let's not forget that the car is relatively new and is subject to continuous improvements or modifications. I think there are enough examples to show how difficult it is to get to the top and stay there. We don't have time to breathe, we can't even do all the testing we need to do. In short, this statement is very important".


Mauro Forghieri, technical director and soul of Ferrari, applauds his drivers and clings to his collaborators Tomaini and Carletti. Tomaini nervously smokes a cigarette, his eyes shine, perhaps he is thinking of Gilles Villeneuve, of what the Canadian will have been able to do with such a good car.


"Today we are smiling for a good victory. We hope it will continue like this, but we know it won't be easy: in Formula 1, it doesn't take much to go like crayfish. We guessed everything, even the tires. I believe that the others had difficulty with the tires. Pironi was very good and we are also happy for Tambay who was at his first race with our car. It's too early, however, to talk about a world title. Only we can know how many difficulties we have to face from race to race to stay at the top".


The presence on the track of a second Ferrari, the 057, previously used by Gilles Villeneuve in Brazil, now driven by Patrick Tambay, shows how a team can not do without, if it aims at the world title, to compete with two cars.


"I acted as a bit of a buffer at the beginning of the race, and I think that gave Pironi the opportunity to drive with more peace of mind. I hope in the future to always be useful to my partner and also to be able to win some points. All those taken away from the opponents are an advantage for us. I could have even finished in the top six if I hadn't had power problems. Every now and then the car would lose power and I was forced to slow down. Either way, I don't know if I could have done it physically to sustain such a high pace. I'm like a beginner. I am consoled by the fact that I can only improve from race to race".


A test without any particular difficulty for Pironi, also because the Frenchman has driven his Ferrari using his brain, as is appropriate for those who aim at the title. Overtaking safely, brakes and accelerator used with discretion in order not to spoil the car.


"It's hard to say whether in the next Brands Hatch race in two weeks' time we will be able to repeat the success. The British track doesn't seem very favorable to our car. At this point, however, the placings will also count. Considering the latest results, it seems to me that my real opponent could be Nelson Piquet. The Brazilian had a negative start to the season but he is growing and is the driver who, between Montréal and Zandvoort, has collected the most consistent loot, 15 points. If he goes on in this way I will have to fight with him above all".


Pironi has changed since his arrival in Maranello in 1981: he has gained a lot of experience, he has become more thoughtful and able to evaluate risks and possibilities.


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