Twelfth World Championship appointment for Formula 1: with the German Grand Prix scheduled for Sunday 8 of August 1982 we enter the decisive phase of the championship that lives on the fight for the title, but not only on this particular interest. It is a battle of drivers, but also of machines with tensions that have reached guarded levels. Technicians and mechanics have been working non-stop since January and it's easy to understand the stress reached, the fear of making mistakes. Each race is like a rebus and the teams try to improve the performance of the single-seaters with continuous modifications. On Thursday, August 5, 1982, under a sultry heat, the teams worked until nightfall for the final tuning. Everyone hopes to have found the right solutions for the race. In the stands and around the circuit there are a lot of people, a sign that a large crowd will come for the Grand Prix. On the other hand, many drivers prefer not to be seen at the circuit, saving a few hours of rest to find maximum concentration in the tests, which begin on Friday. The eyes are almost all focused on Renault, considered the big favorite after the success of Le Castellet. The French team lives a delicate moment and only with another victory it will be able to keep hopes for a possible final triumph. Alain Prost and Arnoux, after the quarrel at the end of the race at Paul Ricard, ignore each other. René Arnoux promises to the managers that this time he will respect the orders, that if a circumstance like the one experienced two Sundays ago will occur, he will let pass the teammate who has more chances than him to try to climb the title:
"I don't trust it. There are no tactics to adopt, I can only try to win on my own. It's the last chance I have left".
Prost answers laconically, still black in the face. In 1981 Renault on this track conquered the first and the second place in the starting grid. But then Piquet won with the Brabham, which then had the Cosworth aspirated engine. The track has been modified to make it less fast. There are two narrower chicanes, but the experts say that the turbocharged cars will also dominate, at least in terms of performance in practice. A lot of importance is given to the weather forecast: if the weather is sunny, and therefore very hot, the aspirated engines will have a better chance, otherwise, rain could favor the cars equipped with Michelin tires and in any case it would be a problem for the turbos. Regarding tires, vital elements for results not only in Formula 1, there is a real tussle between the various manufacturers. Even Goodyear, like Pirelli, which was the first to realize that narrower tires could improve the performance of the cars, is bringing four centimeters narrower tires to Hockenheim. Ferrari is planning a series of tests to study the tires and will be very busy during qualifying. There is confidence in the Italian team but there are also difficulties: the fourteen points of advantage in the standings are for Pironi a big advantage but the Frenchman can absolutely not afford a blow to empty. For this reason, it is not excluded that the Maranello House will once again look for a compromise that will give it more reliability at the expense of competitiveness. These are issues that will come into focus during the two days of testing. The Modenese team continues the construction of a more rigid chassis with new front suspensions that should debut at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. There are no other big news. The young Englishman Thommy Byrne, who is leading the British Formula 3 championship, will make his debut with Theodore. He will replace the Dutchman Jan Lammers, who has run out of money.
The drivers' market is entering its hottest phase: it is confirmed that Arnoux will almost certainly leave Renault at the end of the year. It continues to murmur that he will pass to the Ferrari, but at Maranello deny. Favored by a Ferrari back to the top, Friday, August 6, 1982 the French dominates the first round of qualification of the Grand Prix of Germany. A clear superiority, the one shown by the car from Maranello, in a series of tests that highlights, as expected, the dominance of turbo engines. Six in a row again, with Prost, Arnoux, Piquet, Tambay and Patrese behind the provisional leader. Between the supercharged and the naturally aspirated engines ( despite the addition of two new chicanes on the very fast German track that slowed down the average lap times) a real abyss is opened. Between Pironi, who set the best time of 1'47"847 at 228.677 km/h, the aggressive Alboreto, the best of the car powered by naturally aspirated engines (seventh in 1'52"625) there were exactly four seconds and 678 thousandths. The last qualifier, Serra with the Fittipaldi, is about ten seconds behind. Before things get under way for the 1982 Grand Prix the rains come to Germany and fill the air with gloom, and even though it is dry on Friday morning when practice begins no-one really believes it is going to stay dry. Surprisingly, after the British and French Grand Prix races on consecutive weekends, everyone seems to be in pretty good order, though there are some driver changes and some new cars, but nothing of any great importance. Nigel Mansell is back to take up his position as number two in the Lotus team, Jan Lammers has been moved out of the Theodore Team and Tommy Byrne has been brought out of the Formula 3 school to replace him, though the reason is a bit obscure, and even more so is the appearance of Rupert Keegan in the March pit, waiting to take over from Jochen Mass.
Herman the German is still suffering a bit from his lucky escape at the French Grand Prix and he soon finds that he is not fit enough to drive the leading March 821, so Keegan takes over. On the car front Williams has finished another FW08, number 6, which is given to Daly, and Renault has finished number 10 in their RE30B series, which is given to Prost, while his regular car becomes the team spare. Other than that everyone has their usual material, Ferrari with their experimental car with longitudinal gearbox as their T-car, Lotus with their wishbone and pull-rod front suspension car as the T-car for de Angelis, Mansell having a normal Type 91 with rocker arm front suspension as his T-car, Brabham having their lightweight sprint car with carbon-fibre brakes as their T-car and so on, nothing very unusual or exciting to see in the paddock. Prost starts the morning session with carbon-fibre brakes discs and pads on his car but very soon decides he doesn’t like the different feel to the pedal and has the car converted back to normal ventilated steel discs. As Arnoux’s fuel injection system is playing up on RE38B, there is plenty of activity around the Renault team but it is all inside the pit-lane garages. In the Brabham garages the spare car is having a brand new BMW power unit installed, these engines arriving in boxes as complete units taken straight from the test-bed where they have had two and a half hours of running-in and power testing. After only forty minutes of activity out on the circuit, everything comes to a stop as the new-boy Byrne has let the Theodore TY02/2 bounce off a kerb and into the fences, damaging the left-front corner, so the car has to be retrieved by a break-down truck. He is unhurt and continues practice in TY02/1 when activity resumes fifteen minutes later. Prost is out again with his Renault converted back to normal brakes, but Arnoux’s injections problems are taking a long time to put right so he is out in the spare car.
Pironi is trying the experimental Ferrari once more but showing no particular desire to use it as his number one car, preferring the old transverse gearbox layout. Fabi is having all the Toleman troubles, this time an oil leak somewhere at the front of the engine causing a minor conflagration, but enough to stop his practice. The timed hour for qualifying has to start a bit late, due to the morning delay, but all get under way all right except Fabi whose Toleman is being cleaned up and a new Hart 415R engine is being installed. Soon after the start of things Lauda is being held up by Keegan through the twisty bit in the stadium and when the McLaren driver gets by the March he then goes into the right-hander at the end of the pits straight too fast and slids out onto the grass and through a catch fence. The damage is not too bad and Lauda returns to the pits and goes out in the spare McLaren, but after a while he realises he has hurt his right wrist in the mild shunt and is beginning to suffer. Prost is in the spare Renault as he is not happy with his own car, but Arnoux is back in his own car, though not setting the pace this time. This is being done by Pironi in his normal Ferrari and nobody is really getting very close to him. Prost is the only challenger and he is nearly a whole second slower, and even Piquet in the under-weight Brabham-BMW can not match the speed of the Ferrari. The also-rans of the mid-field group, which includes Rosberg (Williams), Lauda (McLaren), Alboreto (Tyrrell) all with Cosworth power, and de Cesaris (Alfa Romeo) are in the order of four and a half seconds slower than the leading Ferrari. The real also-rans who normally make up the back of the grid are as much as ten seconds slower than the pole-position Ferrari. However, it is not a light-hearted cruise round using all that lovely turbo-charged power, as some people seem to think, for at the front the battle with Renault and BMW is very serious.
In the Williams pit there is some embarrassment when Daly appears with only three wheels on his brand new car (FW08/6). A front one has not been fixed properly and comes off, the stiffness of the chassis and suspension allowing the Irishman to drive back without doing any damage. He carries on practising using the spare car while his own is looked over. Salazar stops his ATS with more oil outside the engine than in, and he carries on in the team’s spare car. Added to the usual lack of urgency during qualifying these days is the despair of the Cosworth-powered lobby at their inability to see which way Pironi has gone, and the fact that the fastest unblown car is nearly three seconds slower than the slowest big time turbo-car. Warwick has his Hart-powered Toleman up among the moaners which adds to their misery. Listening to some of them you would think the turbo-charged engine has only appeared this year, instead of in 1977. Some people have not been paying attention. Alboreto is fastest of the unblown-brigade, which while not being anything to get excited about, cheers up the Tyrrell lads no end. Ferrari and Pironi, therefore, are on the attack, but it is premature to say that Renault and Brabham are already beaten. In the second round of tests certainly the rivals of the French-Italian pair will be unleashed to snatch the pole position to the Ferrari driver. In the first round of tests, attended by Rupert Keegan in place of Jochen Mass, injured in the French Grand Prix, Prost and Arnoux have problems with their cars, small things, but they could not express themselves at their best. As well as Piquet and Patrese, to whom the BMW turbo caused difficulties at low rpm, probably due to the imperfect functioning of the electronic control unit that controls the engine power supply. Pironi declared at the end of the tests:
"It's not enough to be first today, but you have to be first at the end of the race. And in motor racing, as we all know, you can't take anything for granted. The car is going very well, I'm in good shape and ready to give battle. Then we'll see. In any case, it's always better to be cautious than to take risks. I have learned this at my expense in the past".
The French driver is evidently referring to Brabham's attempt to take advantage of the flying fuel supply prepared at Brands Hatch and Le Castellet, which failed due to technical problems before it was implemented. Pironi's exploit, however, has the merit to warn the opponents, who are very tense. In fact, the state of belligerence between Prost and Arnoux continues for the episode occurred in France.The little René seems particularly nervous and, at the end of the tests, expresses words of fire also against Tambay, accusing the Ferrarista to have hindered him irregularly while he was trying to obtain his fastest lap. It is clear that Tambay tries to play the game of his teammate, to help Pironi, but Arnoux is under pressure because in these days he is subjected to heavy allusions even in his own team. For example, Renault mechanics apply a Ferrari emblem on his car, first on the bodywork and then on the steering wheel. It is an open accusation with a possible double meaning: or they think that he has already signed a contract with Maranello for the next season or they accuse him to have given a big help to Pironi by snatching the victory to Prost. For the rest, the competitive prospects are those of the last races, with two races in one: the turbocharged drivers are competing for the victory, all the others are chasing. Behind Alboreto there are for the moment Lauda, De Cesaris, Rosberg, Watson, Giacomelli and Cheever; the Alfa Romeos are doing well enough but they are not able to emerge completely. Niki Lauda will not be present, as he will not be able to drive on Sunday due to an accident that causes him to sprain the ligaments of his right wrist.
To say that Lauda is angry is an understatement, because he wants to play the final part of the season in a brilliant way, and to run in front of his fans, after two years of inactivity. Instead he will have to stay at home, watching television with a bandaged wrist waiting to heal. It's a pity because the Grand Prix of Germany is very interesting, at least at the top, where there are all the cars with the turbo engine. But then, on Saturday 7 August 1982, everything changes again in an incredibly sudden way. Rain, rain and yet mere rain; the great concrete stadium is dripping and everything is grey. A few hardy souls are circulating in the morning on heavily-treaded rain tyres and some are actually going remarkably quickly, enveloped in a giant ball of spray. Didier Pironi is involved in a serious accident on the Hockenheim track. In an autumn day, grey and oppressive, with the asphalt beaten by showers of water, on these occasions the tests are carried out equally as technicians and drivers must prepare the cars and test the tires in case the same situation is repeated in the race. Pironi, who had been the fastest on Friday and had a glimpse of the possibility of a decisive victory for the world title, goes on track determined, ready for battle, and in three laps sets the best time during the free practice session. Once on the straight that leads to the most spectacular and tortuous area of the track, after having passed a dangerous chicane, the Frenchman finds himself in front of another car. In reality, the Ferrari is preceded by two single-seaters, lined up one behind the other: Prost's Renault, which is proceeding relatively slowly at about 220 km/h, because it has just entered the track, and Derek Daly's Williams, a little faster:
"All I saw was a cloud of water and I didn't realize who was in front of me. I moved to the right to pass him, That's all I know".
Evidently Pironi, arriving at more than 260 km/h, sees a car moving to the side and thinks that it is going wide to let him pass. With the visibility reduced to zero, in the fog of drops, Pironi goes straight on, finding on his trajectory the Renault of Prost. It's exactly 10:25 am: the impact is tremendous. Prost explains, crying desperately:
"I felt a violent impact, I saw a car pass over my head, as if it was going to take off. They were terrible moments. A bullet, a real bullet that flew several meters high, then fell on the asphalt and began to turn over. I couldn't brake, but I didn't even have the courage, when I managed to stop, three hundred meters ahead, to go and see what had happened. I realized it was Pironi's Ferrari, I saw that Didier was moving his head. I prayed for him".
Next to the wreckage Piquet and Cheever stop. The Brazilian shows a great cold blood: he approaches Pironi, takes off his helmet, hears his screams of pain and does nothing, because he fears to cause damages. Cheever, as petrified stands half a meter away:
"I couldn't move, I was watching Pironi looking at his legs, a terrible, terrible scene".
Nelson, however, will recount:
"When I pulled over, Pironi asked me to pull him out of the car. I got closer. He was screaming in pain and fear. I realized he was afraid the car would catch fire and I told him to be calm that there was no gasoline around. I took off his helmet and lifted his arm, but I saw a lot of blood and a bone sticking out of his leg. I stopped, afraid of hurting him. In the meantime, the doctors arrived".
The rescues are very fast. Two men from the circuit approach the Ferrari where the driver is still tied to the seat with his legs mangled, out in the open. The front part of the car, with the bent wheels, practically no longer exists. On the Hockenheim track there are minutes of drama and fear: Didier Pironi remains imprisoned in the cockpit of his car, by now destroyed, with his legs locked. Conscious, the Frenchman has even the strength to speak. When a few minutes later Marco Piccinini, Ferrari's sporting director, approaches him, he whispers:
"Warn my mother, but be careful, because she has a bad heart".
The minutes pass very slowly, the work of the rescuers is feverish, and it is not known exactly in what condition the driver was, who complains faintly. In the meantime several rescue vehicles and a helicopter arrive at the scene of the accident. It will take twenty-five minutes to take Pironi away. The doctors prepare him for transport with plasma transfusions and physiological drips. Then they load him onto the aircraft and transfer him to the hospital of the University of Heidelberg, the best equipped in the area for this kind of case. The driver's condition is serious, but a little less than feared. Didier Pironi is hospitalized in the surgical department, and the prognosis remains reserved for forty-eight hours. The French driver of Friulian origin undergoes a surgery of five hours and forty-five minutes, in which he risks the amputation of his right foot.
"Maybe now it's too early to say, it will be necessary to wait two, three, even four days".
Dr. Betzler, chief surgeon at Heidelberg University Hospital, will say. It's almost 8:00 p.m., when a team of specialists has finished the operation on Didier Pironi's legs, although when he arrived at the clinic with a helicopter directly from the Hockenheim circuit, the Ferrari driver seems to be in desperate conditions. The operation, which began at 12:45 a.m., on the second floor of the university clinic, on the other side of the Nericar River, will continue for several hours. At 6:30 p.m., the chief surgeon calls first Didier's uncle, then his mother Imelda and his wife Catherine, who had arrived by private plane from St-Tropez. There is an air of dramatic waiting in the corridors of the clinic, and the duration of the operation on the one hand denounces the seriousness of the rider's condition, on the other - as the Csai doctor, Dr. Bartoletti, points out in the meantime - suggests that there were good prospects of saving the Frenchman's limbs. At 6:45 p.m. Pironi's mother and wife come out of the operating room pale in the face, and barely Catherine whispers:
"Didier is resting. I feared the worst. I'm a little relieved".
In the meantime, the German surgeons gathered in the head surgeon's office to draw up a bulletin, in German and French. Dr. Betzler will explain that Pironi has suffered a head injury, a fracture of the left arm and fractures of both legs. Particularly serious is the fracture of the right foot, reduced to a stump. The injuries seemed irreparable, but Dr. Betzler's surgeons worked out a miracle.
"We were able to avoid amputation".
At 2:00 p.m., the first reports leaked from the operating room said amputation of the right foot seemed inevitable. Around 4 p.m., a nurse, who came out undone from fatigue, told a colleague:
"We hope to save his foot".
Then after 5:00 p.m. a physician explained:
"Even if the foot is saved, Pironi will hardly be able to walk and certainly will not be able to resume racing".
Didier Pironi should be saved if no complications arise. The risk of a blood clot, for example, or a circulatory collapse cannot be excluded. For the moment, in spite of the long anesthesia, the conditions of the thirty year old driver are satisfactory, the circulation is good, and a doctor confesses that the right foot, the most injured limb is warm, and that the oscillometry is in order. The comforting news put a smile on the faces of Pironi's colleagues, the Italians Alboreto, De Angelis and the American Cheever. Alboreto confesses:
"Now I can sleep peacefully".
But Pironi's colleagues and friends, although relieved by the good news that the foot amputation has been avoided, continue to tremble. There is also regret for the bad luck of the Maranello driver, launched towards the conquest of the title and now immobilized in a hospital bed. For him and for Ferrari the magnificent adventure in the world championship is over. Pironi is hit twice: as a man and as a driver. The Italian House however, will continue the activity with only Tambay. Immediately there are the usual speeches of the aftermath, when everything has already happened. Elio De Angelis confesses:
"When a day like this happens, I would absolutely not want to go on the track. With the rain you can't see anything at all. Just a wall of water. If I had been in Pironi's shoes I would certainly not have pushed as hard as I could, but I would have gone calmly. The World Championship is a very important thing for us drivers, but I think that life is worth something more".
Niki Lauda who, with his right arm imprisoned by a rigid bandage, won't be able to race because of the accident on Friday, instead says:
"I don't think Pironi made any mistakes, and I'm convinced there was no problem with the wet track. The real trouble is in the machines, in the regulations of this Formula 1. We ask for changes, for new rules, but nobody listens to us, we never change. After an accident everyone is surprised, everyone makes an act of contrition, but in the end the results are always the same. Once again we have the demonstration of how dangerous it is to race with these cars that are almost airplanes".
The controversy is also taken up by Nelson Piquet, who has never been tender on these occasions:
"I have always maintained that certain types of cars are dangerous. Ferrari is perhaps more so than the others. I don't want to make an accusation against the Maranello team, which has always built very good, very strong single-seaters and has often looked at safety. If it has gone in a direction that I don't think is right, it's because it was forced to. Certain materials - these carbon fibers, these light alloys - are not safe. These are materials that have no absorption. They are hard and light, but when subjected to high stresses they crack and crumble. You absolutely have to review all the standards that allow the construction of certain machines. Personally, I would never get on a single-seater built in this way".
The controversy triggered by Nelson Piquet after Didier Pironi's accident creates many discussions in the Formula 1 environment. The Brazilian argues that the new materials used by Ferrari to build its single-seaters and the technique used make the risk for drivers higher in case of collisions. Carbon fiber, honeycomb, that is the special aluminum honeycomb, and the realization of the monocoque in a double shell hot-glued with special materials, according to the Brazilian driver, do not have the same absorption power in violent collisions as the metals used in the construction of traditional cars. Piquet supports his thesis by bringing as an example the tragic death of Gilles Villeneuve and the serious injury of Pironi. However, this opinion is not supported by the technicians. Barnard of McLaren, and Ducarouge of Alfa Romeo claim that the new materials used for the chassis they designed underwent meticulous controls, providing comforting data both in terms of impact resistance and durability. A drier response comes from Mauro Forghieri, Ferrari's chief engineer:
"I don't understand what elements and what technical experience Piquet has to express such an opinion. Villeneuve and Pironi's accidents happened at very high speeds, with dynamics that would have brought consequences for any car. If we have decided to proceed in this direction, it is because the tests carried out have given positive results, we are certainly not people who throw themselves into the deep end. We have demonstrated this many times with our prudence. The safety of the drivers is more important to us than possible victories. There is absolutely no counter-evidence to affirm that a car with a traditional chassis is sturdier than a fiber one".
Patrick Tambay, left alone to defend the Ferrari colors, also intervened in the discussion:
"I examined Didier's car well on Saturday, with the bump he took it held up very well. I don't have any fear for my safety in this sense. I have to remember that last year, driving the Ligier, I had a spectacular accident in Las Vegas. I hit a guardrail straight on at high speed. My nose was completely destroyed and my legs were exposed. It was only by luck that I didn't suffer any damage. In car crashes a lot depends on the dynamics of the collision. I have seen drivers get hurt after seemingly harmless blows and others remain unharmed in frightening caramboles. In my opinion, one should above all think about what one says when making accusations. There are cars that take part in races without the fire extinguishing system on board to be lighter, we have seen suspensions come off as if they were made of paper, brakes give way sensationally. In short, I don't think Ferrari can be accused of negligence. On the contrary, I am increasingly convinced that no one works as seriously as in Maranello".
Although the Formula 1 circus was in shock after Pironi's accident, the second qualifying session was almost regularly held. However, apart from Didier and Lauda, other drivers preferred not to take to the track, also because they were shaken by the tragedy of their friend Pironi. This is the case of Cheever and Alboreto, who prefer to go to the hospital to find out more. Alboreto, that Tyrrell wants to force to try at all costs, has a violent squabble with his team manager and at the end leaves the circuit saying that he prefers to pay homage to a wounded friend instead of running on cars that by now are too dangerous. Fabi and Keegan don't go down on the track either, and they are not among the qualified for the race, because the pouring rain, that practically never stopped, doesn't allow to improve the performances made on Friday. Patrese didn't try either, but this was already part of the Paduan's plans since the first morning. In fact, due to the rain, his team only had to carry out a tire test and the task was entrusted to Nelson Piquet. The rain continues on into the afternoon and the scene is very grey. There is no hope of anyone improving on times set on Friday, so only those who feel forced to, bother to go out in the second timed session. Lauda has decided to nurse his injured left wrist and give the race a miss, so that he would be sure of being fit for his own Grand Prix in a week’s time and Tambay realises the whole of the fortunes of Ferrari rests on his shoulders from now on. Both racing Brabhams are having new BMW engines installed, so Piquet does some laps in the spare car, but Patrese does not go out at all, and neither Toleman driver goes out as Warwick is not going to improve and whatever time Fabi records will not be good enough to get him on the grid. Prost’s car is being repaired after the unfortunate accident in the morning, so he goes out in the spare car and under a blanket of gloom the afternoon fizzles out. There is a certain amount of indecision about the starting grid, for while McLaren International’s Ron Dennis has officially withdrawn Lauda from the race, Ferrari has not officially withdrawn Pironi, so the pole-position is still there for number 28.
With Lauda’s withdrawal everyone who is behind him moves up one and Marc Surer, who is first non-qualifier, takes the last position. Has Pironi’s entry been withdrawn the whole grid would have moved up one, letting Tommy Byrne onto the back of the grid with the Theodore, but more important, it would have meant Tambay in the lone Ferrari moving from the left of the grid to the right, which is not so advantageous, so Pironi’s entry is left in, pole-position remains empty, and Byrne can not join in at the back. An accident at the new safety chicane in a supporting race allies a long delay so that the Grand Prix warm-up thirty minutes is late starting. Ferrari has put the spare car (059) back to standard with a transverse gearbox and the old suspension, in case Tambay needs it, as he has not driven the car in E form. Prost has settled to race the Renault T-car (No.6.) as the team are not 100% certain about No.10 which has caused the accident to Pironi, and in the Brabham team Piquet is all set to give the pit-stop routine a go, though Patrese is all for going through non-stop. Surer has his engine blow up and Watson spins off when he gets into a muddle at one of the chicanes. Damage is superficial but as a lot of sand and dirt has got into the throttle slides he does not try to restart the engine. Piquet leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind as to who is fastest under race conditions, his Brabham-BMW on half a tank of fuel and soft tyres being much faster than Tambay’s Ferrari and the two Renaults. Sunday, August 8, 1982, in spite of everything the race is run on the Hockenheim circuit, waiting that this, from 1984, will be replaced with the renewed Nurburgring circuit; or at least this is what was announced on July 30, 1982. The start is due to take place at 3:00 p.m., but with the morning delay it should have been postponed until 3:30 p.m. to allow the regulation two and a half hours between the warm-up and the race, for anyone who is in trouble.
As Arrows, ATS and McLaren are all agreed that they can changetheir engines in two hours, the great God Television is appeased and the schedule reverted to the 3:00 p.m. start. As compensation the three teams concerned are given a 15 minute lateness allowance for getting to the starting grid. They all leave the pit lane under rather grey and leaden skies, overcast but warm and the promise of staying dry. Winkelhock in his ATS is the last to leave, by which time Rosberg has been round the lap in FW08/5 and reports a high-speed misfire, so he nips over the pit wall and goes off in the T-car which is waiting in readiness, while his race-car is removed from the grid. Watson arrives on the grid to report that none of his electrical instruments are registering so rather than try and find the fault in the few minutes available all the electrical circuits are isolated except the ignition circuit and Wattie is faced with starting the race without anything to look at, even the electric tachometer having to be isolated. The 25 starters are ready to go and without Pironi it is Prost who has to take responsibility for the parade-lap. As they drive off relatively quietly Baldi’s Arrows refuses to start, even after a push, so it is wheeled off the track and the little Italian lad runs across to the pits to be strapped in the spare car and await permission to join in, which, according to regulations, will be after the field has completed a lap. It is a poignant reminder of the disaster of the previous day when the 24 cars return to the grid led by the two Renaults and take up their places leaving pole-position on the grid empty. It is a good start, and Arnoux shoots off into the lead followed by Prost, while Piquet hangs fire for a brief moment as he gets too much wheelspin, but soon gathers himself up and passes Prost. At the end of the opening lap it is Arnoux, Piquet, Prost, Tambay, de Cesaris, Patrese, Alboreto, Cheever (after a meteoric start from the back), Rosberg, Watson and Warwick. Next time round Piquet is away on his sprint to start pulling outs second and a bit each lap, so as to build up sufficient lead to allow for a stop for another half tank of petrol and a new set of pre-heated tyres.
Arnoux, Prost and Tambay seem to be following discreetly but even so there is already a sizeable gap before Patrese appears followed by the rest, with the exception of Cheever, whose splendid start is to no avail - a sideskirt has been ruined and he is in the pits for attention. Right at the back, Baldi has joined in with the spare Arrows A4 but it is running terribly badly and he is getting nowhere. Before long Winklehock is into the pits to retire his ATS gearbox trouble, de Angelis is in for attention to his skirts, and Jarier has spun the Osella off the track and out of the race. Piquet is pulling away impressively and if the BMW engine keeps going it looks as if we will see the much publicised pit-stop routine take place for none of the other turbo cars can match the pace of the sprint Brabham. On lap 4 Tambay has taken his Ferrari past the Renault of Alain Prost, and Patrese, getting into his stride, is joining the front-running group of turbocharged cars, so it is BMW, Renault, Ferrari, Renault, and BMW, with Tambay upholding Ferrari honours in the middle. The rest are being led by de Cesaris in his 182 Alfa Romeo, which would have been impressive a few years ago, but is now obsolete. Behind him comes Rosberg, Watson and Alboreto, with Warwick in the Toleman leading Daly (Williams) and Laffite (Talbot). In spite of having no tachometer, Watson is going well having overtaken Rosberg, and on lap 9 he passes the Alfa Romeo of de Cesaris, but in doing so he has a slight collision with it, using his left front wheel to nudge the Italian car out of the way. It does not upset the McLaren, but de Cesaris comes slowly round to the pits where it is found that an oil cooler has been damaged so his Alfa Romeo is out of the race. Two laps later and Prost is into the pits, his Renault engine off-song; a broken injection pipe is discovered, and the leader is to go by five times before the Renault rejoins the race. To add to the Renault gloom, Tambay has just taken his Ferrari past Arnoux, so now the scene is Piquet some sixteen seconds ahead and still going as hard as he can, Tambay content to hold second place and hope that the BMW engine in the car ahead would blow up, Arnoux in third place and Patrese fourth though a fair way back.
Then come Watson, Rosberg, Alboreto, Laffite, Daly, Warwick and Giacomelli; among the remainder Mansell and Henton are having a little scrap, but the rest is just driving round. After 13 laps Patrese drives slowly into the pit lane with a cloud of smoke coming from under the engine cover as his BMW engine expires, and it is a pity that Tambay can not have seen it as it would have given him great encouragement in his lonely battle for Maranello. This let Watson up into a distant fourth place, and, as Piquet begins to lap the tail-enders on this relatively long circuit with its lap time approaching 2 minutes, it means that the rabbits are almost in another race. The leader gets by Boesel’s March, then Serra’s Fittipaldi F9, then Guerrero’s Ensign, which the woolly-haired lad from Colombia is driving without a clutch, as it has gone solid, and next is Salazar in the remaining ATS. Piquet is still pressing on urgently, even though Tambay in second place is not showing any signs of being troublesome, and the Brabham catches the ATS on the approach to the safety chicane at the Ost-Kurve. Piquet dives through on the inside on the right-hand curve before the braking area, which forces Salazar out to the left onto virgin tarmac, and as they brake side by side the ATS does not stop at the same rate as the Brabham which is on a more grippy surface and better placed for the left-right-left of the chicane. As Piquet’s car turns in to the corner, the ATS strikes it and both cars slide off, the Brabham spinning through the pile of old tyres protecting the corner. Caught by surprise, Piquet let the engine stop as he spins. Clearly, he has not anticipated the consequences of forcing the ATS off its line on the approach to the chicane, so it is not surprising that he reacts in a rather tempestuous manner when he climbs out of the Brabham, whose only serious damage is to the rear aerofoil. The mild-mannered Salazar, whose ATS is badly bent at the front, views the explosive little Brazilian with disdain and refuses to be involved in any sort of unseemly behaviour by the reigning World Champion. To give all the responsibility of the incident to the Chilean is perhaps too much, but it is certain that Piquet's elimination is a real hoax and his reaction is proportionate to his burning anger. He would later say:
"I don't usually have that kind of reaction. But I was very angry with Salazar. He prevented me from taking pole position at the Dutch Grand Prix and he hindered me several times before. I lost my temper because he didn't need to hinder me because he wasn't fighting for first place".
A very contented Patrick Tambay sails by into the lead while the Brabham team pack up all their refuelling apparatus yet again and switch off the gas-heater that is warming the new set of tyres. Once again it is all over for them, but it is not BMW’s fault this time. It is all over and only 19 of the 45 laps has gone, for Tambay knows that he has the measure of Arnoux in the remaining Renault, and Ferrari engines do not often go wrong, especially if they are looked after, and the elegant Frenchman does not intend to do anything stupid or indulge in any heroics. A smooth gentle drive home is all that is called for and Tambay provides exactly that. He and his compatriot tour round, carefully lapping all the other runners until they are the only two on the same lap. Behind them Watson is driving along in an equally secure third place, followed by Rosberg, whose spare Williams has never felt quite as good as the car he has intended to race, so that the effervescent Jacques Laffite is giving him trouble; while the JS19 Talbot-Matra V12 is not exactly going -s whole lot better than before, it is not as bad stir has been and Laffite is doing his best, which is always pretty good. After working away valiantly he finally scrabbles past Rosberg but almost immediately comes upon Mansell’s Lotus 91, which has been in the pits twice, once for a new side-skirt and once for tyres. Liffite catches the Lotus as they pass the pits and goes into the long right-hand corner that leads out of the stadium too fast and on the wrong side of the road. The Talbot slithers across the bows of the Lotus, takes to the grass verge, missing the catch fences, and has a long moment while Laffite fights valiantly and finally comes safely back on to the track, but with rumpled side-skirt edges. While all this goes on both Rosberg and Alboreto, whom Laffite has fought bitterly to get by, Mansell merely smiles, it has nothing to do with hirn.
From the back of the field Boesel has disappeared, stranded out on the circuit with a flat tyre, de Angelis has given up, feeling very unwell with stomach ache and Daly has switched his engine off hurriedly when it makes a nasty noise. Tambay laps Giacomelli, who is still plodding round in the remaining Alfa Romeo, then the luckless Laffite, after that Alboreto who is driving neatly and tidily as always in the Tyrrell, and then Rosberg comes within the sights of the turbo-charged Ferrari. With no warning at all Watson’s secure third place goes out the window in a flurry of dust as his McLaren slides off the track with its right front wheel at a funny angle. Either the lower wishbone has broken or the two bolts attaching the ball-joint of the hub carrier to the apex of the wishbone has sheared. Whatever it is there is nothing Watson can do about it; third place is gone and his race is over. Inspection afterwards does not ascertain which part has broken first, but it is almost certainly a long term effect from the accident Watson has had in the morning which has failed to reveal itself during the hurried rebuild. This leaves Rosberg in third place, but as Tambay laps him with five laps to go to the end of the race it is not exactly a valiant third place, and anyway the Williams engine is misfiring so that Alboreto’s fourth place is not too impressive either. Giacomelli trails home fifth and Marc Surer is six., having started from last place on the grid and only getting into the race because of Lauda’s withdraw, for which the Arrows team must be eternally grateful. Surer’s drive is a nice example of “keep going and do your best” while others fall about the place and is well-deserved, for he has caught and passed Serra, Guerrero and Henton in the early stages of the race and they also subsequently run through non-stop.
Laffite has eventually stopped at the pits to see if anything can be done about the ragged edges under his Talbot JS19, only to find the team have no more side-skirt material available, so he gives up. Warwick has been forced to stop when a front tyre begins to lose air and with a new set of tyres the Toleman runs through faultlessly to the end of the race, the Hart engine never missing a beat. As Warwick is leading Giacomelli when his Pirelli loses air it is reasonable to assume that he could have finished fifth, but equally Piquet could have won if Salazar has not collided with him, and Salazar would not have collided with the Brabbam if Piquet has not forced hint off line, and so it goes on. In the end Tambay, with his Ferrari perfectly balanced, manages very well the advantage he had taken over Arnoux and crosses the finish line with his arm raised, for the first time in his career in Formula 1, among the joy of the Italian fans and the Ferrari mechanics. Second behind him is René Arnoux, who with this result relaunches himself in the ranking, then Rosberg, good at taking advantage of the numerous retirements of the adversaries, before Alboreto, Giacomelli and Surer. In a moment of extreme tension, in one of its most dramatic seasons, Ferrari gives proof of great character, of an amalgam, a cohesion that is difficult to find in other teams. As soon as Patrick Tambay crosses the finish line, everyone runs to congratulate the men of the Modenese team, from Bernie Ecclestone to Jean Sage, sports director of Renault, who is the first to arrive. Tambay barely manages to reach the podium, among many friends, many fans. He listens attentively to the Marsigliese and then to the Mameli's anthem played for the Ferrari; in the meantime someone puts an Italian flag in his hand and the French driver waves it happily.
"It's my first victory in Formula 1, you can imagine what it means after fifty-two Grands Prix, in a difficult year like this one. At the beginning of the season I was supposed to race with Arrows but I was disgusted by the environment in South Africa during the famous drivers' strike. I was bitterly back racing in America, and it was only Ferrari's offer that convinced me to get back into the business. Now it would be easy to say that I dedicate the victory to poor Gilles Villeneuve or to Didier Pironi who is suffering. I remember them both, I always have them in mind, but I want to offer this success to Enzo Ferrari who had faith in me, who made me reborn as a driver. This achievement is rooted in an exceptional team that always does its job with incredible lucidity. Before the start I was nervous. In fact, in the morning I had gone at 7:30 a.m. to do some running to unload myself. Then everything was easy: excellent choice of tires,also the attack on Arnoux's Renault was perfect. Only in the last minutes I had a little bit of fear: the fear of losing everything for some triviality. I think I only made one small mistake in the whole race. I made a mistake in a gear and risked going off the track, losing a few seconds. I had a cold sweat but I reacted with precision. Then everything went well".
For Mauro Forghieri, Ferrari's technical manager, Tambay's driving was exemplary:
"I don't know how many other drivers would have known how to do better in such a tense atmosphere. This victory will be very useful also for Pironi, who was defended by his teammate and is still firmly at the top of the world championship. It will count for his morale, it will help him to overcome with more strength the hard days ahead. In preparing Tambay's car, we took a little more risk than we would have if his teammate had been on the track. Circumstances forced us to take the chance and everything went smoothly. That should always be the case. Now we go straight to Zeltweg where we will race next Sunday. We will overhaul the cars at the Austrian track and hope that this result can be repeated, although I already know that it will be very difficult. For the world championship I can't say anything. We are defending ourselves, but not everything depends on us. We will do the next races with only one driver and this will undoubtedly be an advantage for our opponents".
The eighty-third victory since racing in Formula 1, in the modern era of the world championship (year 1950), was perhaps the most beautiful and exciting for Ferrari. A success that was hoped for but difficult to achieve. Patrick Tambay wins with an enormous superiority. Having eliminated Prost's Renault and above all Piquet's Brabham, who started with a half-empty petrol tank and therefore with a very light car, the Frenchman was able to drive with extreme safety and led the race from lap 19. Tambay was very good, above all in knowing how to manage his car. His most beautiful feat during the race was the overtaking of Arnoux. It is well known that the driver from Grenoble is not a guy who leaves the road free. Tambay waited for the right moment and then he overtook him, leaving him speechless. Then the Ferrari driver went progressively ahead until he reached a margin of about twenty seconds. In the final Arnoux recovered a little bit but his rival had slowed down to avoid risks. Fifty-two times previously the thirty-three year old Parisian had attempted this feat, but he had never managed to win, despite having changed several teams. Patrick's rebirth is due above all to the trust placed in him by Ferrari. When he was at McLaren, two years earlier, the Frenchman had been considered a finished driver. A great promise at the end of the seventies, Tambay had disappointed a little, but the fault was not his.
"I had never had much luck, because I had always found myself in teams where I was considered a second driver. They entrusted me with cars that were practically undriveable and I was often forced to make a bad impression without any responsibility. Ferrari's great merit is that they always give their drivers competitive cars that are the same for both. When I signed the contract with Maranello I had the delivery to give a hand to Didier Pironi. And this was above all my goal. The third place obtained at Brands Hatch and the fourth at Le Castellet had been the proof of my loyalty to my teammate, always arriving behind him. Yesterday I had a clear path. I don't just race for myself here. The victory was a little help for Didier Pironi as well. Things went all right, and our rivals only picked up a meager score: Arnoux six points and Rosberg four. The most important challengers were left out of the fight, from Piquet to Prost, up to Patrese and Lauda. Now I intend to continue in this way, but it will not be easy. After this victory, everyone will expect something special from me. I assure the maximum commitment, the absolute concentration. But it won't be easy to win again. The Zeltweg track will be very difficult for us at Ferrari. They are all curves in support that should ensure a certain superiority especially to Renault that last year dominated in an absolute way. The Ferrari, however, has made great progress and I hope to be able to interfere in the fight that will certainly be between Prost and Arnoux".
Having finished loading the material, the Ferrari mechanics returned to the hotel. But given the small number of people, Tambay asks them to dine together and not to celebrate the victory, as he does not believe this is appropriate. At the end of the dinner, Patrick raises his glass to dedicate the victory to those who had contributed to this success, but are now either missing or seriously injured. The mechanics remain silent, dismayed by the memory of the two riders who were victims of the circumstances, and the Frenchman is unable to add anything else. In the meantime, the controversy still rages at Renault, after the discussions for Arnoux's victory in the French Grand Prix. The French driver, strong with his second place, wants to clarify his situation, and takes the opportunity to make his case against Prost.
"Now that I am running for the title, I hope that at Renault they have realized that I am faster and that I break less cars than Prost. Even if the chances of getting into the World Championship are minimal, I want to play them all because I've been racing as a professional for many years with this objective only. In any case, it is useless to continue to behave in this way: Alain would do better to make peace with me and look for a profitable tactic for both of us. I am happy with the second place and also for the victory of my friend Tambay. There was nothing to do against the Ferraris, so I preferred to aim for a good placing. I missed Pironi's presence, especially at the time of the line-up. I hope he will soon recover completely".
To those who ask him if he will go to Ferrari, the 34-year-old from Grenoble, Conrero's former mechanic, replies:
"No, I'm not going to Maranello".
Didier Pironi smiles when he learns that his teammate Patrick Tambay has won the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. From his bed in the recovery room on the second floor of the university clinic in Heidelberg, where he has been hospitalized since Saturday with a reserved prognosis, the Ferrari driver would have wanted to follow the race on television, but the German doctors have strictly forbidden it. Not only because of his conditions, which are still serious, but also out of respect for another injured man in desperate conditions, who shares the room with him. Very lucid, Pironi asks at least information about the race. In the morning, after being interested in the times set by the most fearsome opponents in the last day of tests, during which his lap record had not been improved, because of the rain, the Frenchman had asked the Ferrari's sporting director, Marco Piccinini, one of the few people allowed in the recovery room besides his relatives, not to give up making Tambay run, and indeed to tell Patrick to do everything possible to win and take points away from his direct pursuers in the world ranking, Watson, Prost and Rosberg. After the terrifying accident on Saturday, after the long operation of almost six hours, on Sunday morning Pironi wakes up in good condition, and tries to move the toes of both feet, succeeding. Then he talks in three languages, in Italian with the Ferrari sports director, in French with his mother, his aunt and his wife Catherine, and in English with the German doctors. To these, who tell him to stay calm, to rest, to avoid any emotion, Pironi replies that he cannot not care about the race. That Pironi's conditions are satisfactory is confirmed by the angiology performed in the morning to check the circulatory functions. Afterwards, no official statements will be made, but the doctors of the Heidelberg clinic will allow Didier's wife and uncle to leave for Paris. Next to the French driver, who they could only see for a moment in the late afternoon, while he was deeply asleep, only his mother and aunt remained, and of course the Ferrari men. One of them, the deputy sports director Dario Calzavara, after a brief visit to the driver in the morning, is taken ill, and after a medical examination, he is put on a stretcher for a long time. In the lobby of the surgical clinic in Heidelberg. To the questions that everyone asks (will Pironi be able to walk again, will he be able to race again?), Professor Hissen answers that the future is uncertain, it is in God's hands. For the layman, another doctor, Dr. Ruf, summarizes the situation this way:
"For the bones and muscles there are no serious problems, if the circulatory and nervous systems hold, Mr. Pironi will come out of the danger phase".
None of the specialists of the university clinic confirms the optimistic statements made by the doctor of the German Automobile Federation, Wolfgang Grufi, who expresses with certainty that within two or three days it will be possible to make a precise diagnosis and that probably Didier will be able to leave the clinic in a week to be transported to France and begin his convalescence at home. In spite of the obvious conflict of competence and the jealousies between different medical staff, it is common opinion that Pironi was lucky to end up in Heildeberg. The clinic is judged the best in Germany. Although forced to give up the contribution of the unfortunate Pironi, Ferrari came out of the German Grand Prix stronger. The French driver, who obviously will not be able to defend himself in the next races, was only able to chew up a few points from Arnoux and Rosberg in the world ranking, while the Maranello team jumped to the top even in the constructors' ranking, where with 61 points it precedes McLaren at 54, Renault at 44, Williams at 38 and Brabham at 36. It is a great satisfaction both on a sporting and moral level if we consider that the Italian company did not participate in the race in Belgium and lined up only one car in Monte Carlo, Detroit, Montreal and Hockenheim. If there had not been the two serious accidents to its drivers during the season, Ferrari could probably already be toasting a double title at this time. In any case, Tambay's success comforts the men of the team who are now ready to fight in the remaining races to reach all possible goals, especially the desperate one of keeping the first place in the Drivers' World Championship from Pironi. A very difficult task but theoretically not impossible.
"Now everything becomes even more arduous. At Hockenheim I could also count on the surprise factor. I only hope that nobody expects miracles from me. I think we'll live for the day, trying to achieve the best possible results. And I must honestly say that next Sunday in Zeltweg will be a real test of fire for me. That track is very dangerous and I don't like it at all. Moreover we don't know if the car will show the same competitiveness as in Germany. I would be happy with a good placing. Someone asked me if I think about the title: no, I don't even touch the idea".
Patrick Tambay explains, serenely analyzing the situation. In 1981 in Austria, after a clear dominion of Renault, Laffite with Ligier ended up winning. The Zeltweg circuit could therefore be an opportunity for cars with aspirated engines, and revive the ambitions of Watson and Rosberg. However, it will be necessary to reckon with Renault and Brabham that came out of the last race, the first one with a good second place of Arnoux and the second one after a real debacle. The further step forward of Arnoux re-proposes the family fight in the French team. At Hockenheim the combative René, met with Giacomelli in the clinic where he had gone to hear the latest news about Pironi, reaffirms his intentions. On Monday all teams will leave for Zeltweg. The overhauls of the cars will be done on site. Ferrari, on the other hand, sends a team of mechanics to Maranello, a sign that they are working hard to prepare a very modified model of the 126 C2 that should debut at Monza, or perhaps even earlier. After Tambay's victory many people wonder why Ferrari, deprived of Pironi, does not try to hinder the opponents by hiring another driver for the last tests of the season. The answer to this question is given by engineer Forghieri:
"You tell me who we could take. An inexperienced young man? Too many risks. An old driver? I don't think there are any available".