With only a few days to go before the start of practice for the Las Vegas Grand Prix in the United States, the Scuderia di Maranello still doesn't know how many cars and which drivers will be able to take part in the last race of the Formula One World Championship. On Thursday, the 16th of September 1982, Patrick Tambay was supposed to test the cars on the Fiorano track, and Mario Andretti to give an answer about his possibility. The French driver renounces the tests of the cars, as he still complains of a soreness in his arm that had blocked it, due to cervical-brachial inflammation. But Maranello let it be known that:
"It was only a precautionary measure and Tarnbay will certainly be present in Las Vegas".
A statement confirmed by Patrick, who replies from Cannes:
"It was the effort I put in at Monza that made me cautious, but I'm convinced I'm ready for the race".
And this is what everyone hopes for after the disconcerting experience of the Swiss Grand Prix. As for Andretti's chances of getting out of his Formula Indy commitments, the Italian-American driver has yet to give a definitive answer.
"I am waiting for the decision of the owner of my team. The sponsors have declared themselves in favour, and the situation has evolved positively. We will know the definitive answer shortly".
The fact remains that in these hours Ferrari does not know exactly how it will be able to defend its chances at the Nevada street circuit, and above all with how many cars it will try to maintain first place in the constructors' championship. The doubts melt away on Sunday the 19th of September: Andretti will take part in the Las Vegas Grand Prix on Saturday the 25th of September 1982, the last round of the Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship. Ferrari announced the news in a press release in which the Italian team expressed its appreciation to Pat Patrick, president of the Patrick Racing Team, whose sporting sensitivity would allow Andretti to accept Ferrari's invitation. The Maranello' team will field two cars driven by Patrick Tambay and Mario Andretti on the winding and spectacular Las Vegas street circuit, where the title will be awarded. The gambling capital of the world is in crisis. The huge halls of the casino are deserted, with many roulettes covered by tarpaulins. The competition from Atlantic City, the new fashionable centre on the north-east coast, has taken away many customers and is also being felt by the Grand Prix, which is in danger of being cancelled next year. A spokesman for Caesars Palace, the race organiser, says:
"We have to recover $3.5 million in expenses from ticket sales, plus we still have debts from last year. The other hotels have not helped us and we may be forced to abandon Formula 1, even though we have a contract until 1984".
Who, instead, without knowing the reason will find himself with a substantial economic sum is Jo Ramirez, team principal of Theodore. The Mexican received a brown paper package from Teddy Yip just before the start of practice:
"Here, Jo, you'd better keep this package with you at all times, because the team can always need it".
Ramirez places the packet between his suit and his belt, and it is only at the end of qualifying that he discovers there is $30.000 in cash inside. In this almost melancholic atmosphere and with the presence of a rather sparse audience, given that tickets for the best seats cost 250 dollars, the last round of the 1982 World Championship got underway. The eve was lived on two main reasons: obviously the fight for the title and the news of the possible abandonment of Alfa Romeo. There is a lot of talk about the latter and it has to be said that the whole circus hopes that the decision to leave racing will be set aside. As for the World Championship, for the moment there is only a verbal battle, and the contenders show a lot of fair play and congratulate each other, although no one, including Niki Lauda, hides ambitions of success. Keke Rosberg is keeping himself under wraps to concentrate as much as possible by staying in California, hosted by friends, and arriving at the last minute on Wednesday evening.
"If it wasn't a title race, if I didn't just need to be in the top six, I would be racing to win. Instead I am forced to be an accountant, despite myself and against my nature. It's clear that with a nine-point lead I'm the big favourite. But we all know what motor racing is all about: nothing is enough to get you stuck on the track and that would be a big problem. Therefore, in qualifying, rather than looking for a good place I will try to set up the car for the race".
Rosberg's Williams is fitted with a two-way radio that was tested at Monza. The driver can talk directly to the pits while driving via an intercom in his helmet, and receive very useful information during the race. An extra secret weapon that could prove decisive for the tactics to be adopted. His rivals, however, have no alternative: they both have to try to win to have a chance, and this is a big complication for John Watson. The Irishman has prepared very well for this commitment: he has been helped by Willy Dungle, Lauda's therapist.
"The Las Vegas track is terrible for the effort you have to put in with all these corners that look slow but are so fast. I'm convinced of my chances. But I know it will be difficult, I will do everything I can".
Watson will have substantial help from Michelin who will certainly provide him with the best tyres, but Lauda will not be forgotten either.
"Of course, my team would rather have John win than Rosberg. But I'll play my chances. If Watson is first and I am second, I will attack him. If I am behind, then I will try not to let Rosberg advance. That's the only thing I can promise".
But on Thursday 23 September 1982, during the first free practice session for the Grand Prix of Las Vegas, the fastest driver on the track was Michele Alboreto, with his Tyrrell: the Milanese driver set a time that was quite close to the pole position of the past season, but we have to consider that it was much warmer and that the cars would probably improve their performance in the next practices. None of the drivers in contention for the world championship is particularly noticeable. The best is Niki Lauda with the sixth time, while Watson only obtains the twelfth result, and Rosberg is far behind: twentieth. Friday 24 September saw the start of practice for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, under a blazing sun (35 degrees in the shade). The first day of official practice sees at the lead a car with a turbo engine, the Renault driven by René Arnoux, that precedes, of almost one second, Michele Alboreto and Eddie Cheever. The great heat that hangs over the area penalises the supercharged cars, and the clouds of heat caused by the sultriness produce fuel problems. Keke Rosberg set the fifth time, preceding Lauda, sixth and Watson, tenth. On the second day the times drop considerably, causing some changes to the grid. Alain Prost overtakes his teammate Arnoux, gaining the seventh pole position in his career. For Renault it's the tenth of the season.
Arnoux defends the first row, while the second is held by Alboreto and Cheever; Rosberg finishes sixth, Watson ninth and Lauda thirteenth.
Patrick Tambay passes from the 22nd to the 8th place, in the fourth row next to Mario Andretti. During the session Jean-Pierre Jarier loses a wheel when he is running at 200 km/h: the driver is unharmed but the car is destroyed. At the end of the second practice session, in which Mario Andretti, with a car clearly better than the previous day's one, modified in the fuel circuit and with a new radiator, scored a time of 1'17"92 which allowed him to start from the seventh place on the grid, on Saturday morning it was announced that Ferrari would take part in the Las Vegas Grand Prix with only one car, as Patrick Tambay was forced to drop out at the last moment. After taking part in the morning's half-hour free practice, completing only five laps, Patrick Tambay, with a sore right arm, had a long massage, but at the end of the treatment he discovered he was forced to abandon the race because the pain in his right arm, and the lack of feeling, meant he could not drive the car in the race.
"I would be a danger to myself and others. That's why, for safety reasons, I preferred to give up. Unfortunately, my situation worsened: I was supposed to be resting, but instead of continuing the activity, the illness that had affected me returned".
It seems that the unfortunate rider's ailment has spread: from the inflammation of the cervical vertebrae a new disease has developed, affecting the tendon of the same arm. At this point Tambay's position is clear, also for the future. It is not known whether a possible one-month rest will allow him to fully recover his fitness, and furthermore it is feared that even when he resumes his activity, in some time, the illness could arise again. Marco Piccinini, Ferrari's sporting director, meanwhile declares:
"We intend to field two drivers in perfect health in 1983".
A sentence that suggests the intention to eventually look for a replacement for Tambay. There is talk of an interest in Mario Andretti who, given the results of his inclusion in Mannello's team, could be engaged for next year. The hour of truth in the Formula 1 World Championship has come: the last race, which starts on Saturday 25 September 1982, will assign the title at the end of a dramatic and polemic season. If the race will be won by Niki Lauda and if Keke Rosberg will not take any points, it will be necessary to wait until next Tuesday when the Fia sports tribunal will pronounce on the appeal presented by the Austrian driver against the disqualification that took away four points at Zolder, in Belgium, when his McLaren was found two kilos under the minimum allowed weight. Apart from these considerations, coming to the concrete facts, there are three drivers in contention: the great favourite Rosberg and his rivals Watson and Lauda, team mates. Three champions of different values, as different as they are in terms of character, driving style and personality.
Analysing the actual situation that has arisen, we can say that the race should allow the Finnish driver of the Williams to hit the target, while the possibilities of his direct adversaries are much more limited. In his fourteen races, Keke Rosberg has finished in the points zone in nine of them, which gives a measure of his chances. There is only one factor that could work in Watson and Lauda's favour, and that is experience. The two have more strength to combat that emotionalism that could determine the outcome: in essence, Rosberg can only throw away the title on his own if he gets carried away and makes a mistake. His innate grit and the way he always drives the car to the limit risk becoming a handicap. However, it must be emphasised that this race takes place in a torrid climate, even if there is a possibility of rain, and has a good chance of being a crazy, unpredictable and therefore difficult race even for Lauda and Watson.
The Italian Michele Alborclo and the American Eddie Cheever are among the pretenders to victory, both of whom have performed well. The track and the weather conditions didn't seem to offer many possibilities to the turbo engines, which suffered from the high temperature. Only Renault seemed to have overcome certain problems that, on the contrary, seemed insurmountable for Brabham. Ferrari has managed to solve its problems, and the Maranello company can count on Mario Andretti's tenacity. Certainly, even on the eve of the last Grand Prix, Formula 1 denounced its deep crisis. While there is the risk that the world title, as said, could be assigned forfeit because of Niki Lauda's appeal against the disqualification in Belgium, and that the fans don't understand anything anymore because of the too many polemics that have troubled this sport since the beginning of the season, the environment is shaken by the possible withdrawal of Alfa Romeo from competitions.
The news is not new, it had already been circulating for some time, but the Arese management had taken care to deny it. Not even the communiqué issued on Wednesday the 22nd of September in Milan, then bounced back to Las Vegas, clarified the situation and reassured the team: will the presence in Formula 1 be with the team or only with the engines? Technicians, mechanics and drivers are living days of extreme tension that are reflected on the other teams. The possibility that Bruno Giacomelli and Andrea De Cesaris could be left behind would cause a small earthquake also in the plans of the other teams as the driver market for next year, not yet closed, would open up to new solutions. The people involved seem disconcerted and hope that the measures that will be taken within the first ten days of October, also at a political level, will exclude the possibility of the dissolution of the team. Says Bruno Giacomelli:
"I knew there was something in the air, I hope that we don't throw away a capital of experience accumulated in three years of work, I would gladly stay at Alfa Romeo".
De Cesaris tries to throw the matter into jest, stating:
"We hope to continue, I wouldn't want to have to race in the rallies".
But it is clear that the young Roman is also worried.
"I spoke yesterday with the president of the company. Ettore Massacesi, and no decision has been taken yet. In this period, the budget plans for the following year are generally established. It is true that there are several hypotheses. It is obvious that either we go ahead or we will revise the engines to sell them to some other team. The fact that we haven't yet told the drivers what we're going to do is proof that we haven't yet taken a definitive position".
Says Felici, director of Autodelta, but French engineer Gerard Ducarouge, designer of the Milanese cars, is alarmed:
"It would be an incomprehensible choice. I have heard talk of the possibility of building a Group C car. That would mean starting from scratch and perhaps spending more money. Alfa Romeo must remain in Formula 1. However, you can't go along with rumours. I think it would be good to clarify everything officially as soon as possible".
Contacts have also been confirmed with a number of teams to supply the turbocharged engine that has just been finished. The team concerned is Williams, which has apparently already signed a contract with French driver Jacques Laffite. This move would close the way to an eventual transfer of De Cesaris to the English team. The Roman driver could be transferred back to McLaren if Watson is not reconfirmed, while Giacomelli would have little chance of settling down. It is clear that Alfa Romeo's negative results in recent years have contributed to the current situation, but retirement would be a further mistake that would accumulate to the many committed in three seasons by the Milanese team. Now there is a turbo engine and a car that is probably competitive for 1983. Therefore, in a climate of extreme uncertainty, the Grand Prix of Las Vegas begins. At the start Alain Prost keeps the lead preceding René Arnoux, Michele Alboreto, Riccardo Patrese, Eddie Cheever, Mario Andretti and Keke Rosberg.
At the first bend Michele Alboreto and Eddie Cheever came into contact and a suspension arm bent on the Tyrrell, causing a degradation in the convergence of the front wheels of the Milanese driver's car. During the race Michele had to face many difficulties, until he touched a wall with the opposite part of the tyre that had come into contact with Cheever's car at the start, bringing the car's set-up almost back to normal. Already in the second lap Arnoux passes Prost and finds himself leading the race. Rosberg's main rival for the title, John Watson, who remained at the back of the field, managed to pass several drivers, so much so that on lap 11 he was already right behind Rosberg, in eighth position. Prost is back on top of the race on lap 15 while, at the same time, Watson passes Rosberg. The Northern Irishman continued his comeback passing also Andretti and Cheever. Then he climbs another position at the eighteenth lap, after Patrese's retirement, due to the engine failure. Three laps later also Arnoux abandons the race, because of an engine failure.
The classification, led by Prost, sees so second Michele Alboreto, followed by John Watson, Eddie Cheever, Mario Andretti, Keke Rosberg and Nelson Piquet. On lap 26, Piquet retired because of a malfunctioning spark plug, while Andretti spun due to a technical problem that caused him to stop in an escape route. Thus Rosberg was fifth, while Derek Daly entered the points zone; the Irish driver of the Williams car started a long duel with Niki Lauda for the sixth position. In the last laps Prost complains about strong vibrations in the car and is passed by Michele Alboreto, at the 52nd passage. The French driver is then forced to give up two more positions, being overtaken by Watson and Cheever. At the end of the race, Watson tries an impossible recovery of the head of the race, but strong vibrations to the front wheels of his McLaren prevent him to improve again. Thus, Michele Alboreto wins the first Formula 1 Grand Prix of his career, becoming the eleventh different driver of the season, and the third Italian.
For Tyrrell it is a return to success after four years, four months and eighteen days, for a total of seventy-one Grands Prix of abstinence. Watson finished second, but the title went to Keke Rosberg, who finished fifth, while Scuderia Ferrari won the constructors' trophy for the seventh time. At the end of the race, while from the Tyrrell pits they were greeting Michele's passage under the chequered flag, his brother, Ermanno Alboreto, was celebrating with an exuberant Heidi, a Californian journalist he had met in the previous days. After a few moments, Ermanno discovers that the girl, out of sympathy for him, had bet a hundred dollars on Michele's victory, winning a few thousand. The funny thing is that even Ken Tyrrell had bet on Alboreto, since the bookmakers gave him twenty to one before the start of the weekend, and had encouraged several mechanics to do the same. On the podium, during the prize-giving ceremony, the three are joined by singer Diana Ross, who asks Michele Alboreto for an autograph.
The party then continued at the Caesar Palace: here, Michele and the Tyrrell team were welcomed by a large buffet on the edge of a large swimming pool and by the female company. Not surprisingly, during the evening, Nora, Ken Tyrrell's wife, will admonish her husband by saying:
"Ken, remember that you can work up an appetite as long as you like, but when it's time to eat, you have to come home. Remember that".
A little later, as the party goes on, the pool is overflowing with American banknotes: obviously those present don't think anything of letting them float in the water, so they dive in to collect them, then spend them in the casinò. The last Grand Prix of the season fulfilled its promises, being a lively and exciting race, dominated by Michele Alboreto's wonderful race and lived also on the exceptional comeback of generous John Watson and on the incredible duel between Lauda and De Cesaris who overtook each other several times sending the public into raptures. The only controversy of the day was caused by a collision between Alboreto and Cheever at the first bend, after the start.
"He closed on me and pushed me to the outside, damaging the front end of my Ligier, otherwise I could have fought for the win. I'll be waiting for him next year".
Eddie Cheever exclaims, but Michele Alboreto replies:
"I don't even want to argue, I'll let others judge what happened".
John Watson and Niki Lauda were not able to oppose Keke Rosberg: the Finnish driver is the twentieth driver to win the Formula One World Title in thirty-three editions of the championship so far disputed. The chances of the Irishman and the Austrian were very few, and the champion of the Williams played his cards right, without risking, settling for a fifth place that sheltered him from any surprise. Rosberg ended the Las Vegas Grand Prix with both arms out of the cockpit, while British and Arab flags were waving from the pit lane and a picturesque and noisy victory dance by a small group of Finnish fans began in the stands.
"It wasn't difficult, I knew from the start of the season that it would be a battle between Prost and myself. In the final the situation changed, and I didn't have as much trouble. When Lauda retired, I knew I had won the battle. I didn't even worry when Watson passed in front of my car".
Keke admits with a cigarette between his lips, under the disapproving gaze of Frank Williams. After that, the Finn left immediately for San Francisco with his partner Yvonne, beaming with joy after attending a big birthday party organised for the evening by Mansour Ojieh, the young billionaire of Arab origin who sponsors the World Champion's team with Tag.
"I'm going to get drunk like in the old days, but the holidays won't last long. Williams is inflexible, we have to prepare the new car immediately".
What is behind this success? The credit for the victory goes to the driver, but also and above all to the team. However, Keke Rosberg has matured little by little, and admits that without this team behind him he would not have won the title.
"I made a lot of mistakes, particularly in the middle of the season, but the team always helped me, they were very supportive. I would also like to point out that it is true that I am the first Finnish driver to win the world championship, but that another Scandinavian driver before me was a real champion and would have deserved the rainbow helmet. I dedicate this success to myself, Keke Rosberg, but I want to remember a great master, who only by bad luck did not have this satisfaction: I am talking about Peterson. It's incredible that Ronnie didn't get what I got, being less good than him".
These heartfelt words make it clear what Rosberg is made of, a driver who at thirty-three years of age has realised the dream that many champions have never achieved, a character who inspires sympathy. For 1983 the Finn has asked Williams for a competitive car and he has only one condition: he does not want Andrea De Cesaris in the team. In recent days there has been talk of a possible move of the driver to the English team, but Keke does not want to have him as a partner:
"It's not fear, but I don't like De Cesaris so I prefer to keep him away".
In spite of Tambay's early retirement and Andretti's abandonment during the race due to the breakage of a metal arm that regulated the convergence of the right rear wheel, Ferrari won the Constructors' Cup. Frank Williams was the first to congratulate the Maranello team on this success.
"For us, the Constructors' Cup is more important than the Drivers' Championship".
Mauro Forghieri, who is already working on new programmes, is absent; the balance is taken by Sports Director Marco Piccinini.
"The Cup is a recognition that goes to our team in a dramatic, tragic year, which involves above all our drivers. Villeneuve, Pironi still suffering, the substantial contribution, with 25 points, of Tambay, and also the final collaboration of Andretti. It is a title we welcome with satisfaction, but not with joy. It gives us confidence for next year. From tomorrow we start working again for 1983. Our cars were overall more reliable and competitive on certain circuits. From a technical point of view, it's worth emphasising the collaboration of our suppliers, from Agip, not only for the petrol-water emulsifier but also for oils and fuels, to Goodyear, who won the world constructors' championship with us in the tyre sector".
A few hours after the race, Piccinini left for Paris, where preliminary talks will begin to draw up the regulations for the coming seasons:
"At this point not much can be done for next season, there will be no radical changes, but a serious discussion can be set up for '84 and '85. The fact that many teams can have a turbo engine should make some teams change their minds, so a positive agreement could be reached".
As for the Ferrari drivers, Patrick Tambay will stay two days in Los Angeles to undergo further examinations by a well-known specialist. After that the Frenchman will go home, to treat himself and relax.
"I have full confidence that I can overcome this difficult moment and be ready in about a month's time without any more problems".
In this regard, should Tambay not be recovered, Mario Andretti made it known that he did not, out of fairness, put any pressure on the Maranello management to be used next year.
"If they then call me, I am ready. No other Formula 1 team is interested in me, although I have had an offer. At my age you can only race on cars that are already developed and efficient".
After having elected its champions, Keke Rosberg for the drivers and Ferrari among the constructors, Formula 1 goes on holiday. At the end of Sunday's race many teams improvised a second-hand market, selling for several thousand dollars the uniforms and parts of the cars that will not be used next year. But the rest will be very short: in about ten days' time, testing of the cars will resume, while in Paris discussions have already begun on possible changes to the regulations. Just Ferrari, within a couple of weeks, should make the debut at Fiorano of the new driver René Arnoux. The Frenchman is bound by a contract with Renault until the 31st December, but between the two teams there is a friendship that will allow to anticipate the times. For Arnoux, therefore, there are no problems. The unknown factor is Patrick Tambay who, on Tuesday the 28th of September 1982, in Los Angeles, undergoes the visit of some specialists to have further indications about the disease that stopped him in Dijon and that didn't allow him to compete in the last championship race. The question on everyone's mind at the moment is: is Tambay's illness irreversible, i.e. will it explode every time the driver is put under strain, or can it be permanently eradicated? Examinations carried out in Lausanne by neurology specialists had indicated the certainty of a complete recovery.
"I am sure I will be in perfect physical condition within a month. The doctors told me before the Italian Grand Prix that I should take complete rest for three or four weeks. The inflammation of the radial nerve in my right arm didn't go away because I kept working, kept trying to drive the car. That was perhaps the only mistake".
What if after rest and treatment the problem doesn't go away?
"I have the absolute conviction that I will recover. When I had the chance to stay still I noticed progress. I'm willing, once I've recovered, to undergo all the checks that will be requested of me, including by Ferrari. I'm not a child: if, unfortunately, I'm not one hundred per cent fit, I'll be the first to ask to stop, to be replaced by a colleague. I will do things according to my conscience, with respect for my team. But I'm so confident that I'm already thinking of moving to Florence to be near the Fiorano track".
Patrick Tambay is not only an excellent driver but also a serious professional and a guy with a heart. It is to be hoped that his confidence in his recovery will be reciprocated by the positive results of treatment and rest. So we can already talk about the future, about 1983 with Ferrari and with Arnoux. There have been disagreements between the two French drivers in the past: will this be another problem?
"Yes, it's true, we were young drivers together in the same team. A team that didn't have the means to prepare two cars at the same level. Arnoux was favoured against me, also because I had made mistakes while I was leading the championship. I no longer had a competitive car. He finished second, I third. But it was a sporting and technical rivalry".
In the meantime, hundreds of Japanese photographers, equipped with cameras and lenses as only a Japanese photographer can be, in Tokyo are consuming metres of film to immortalise Michele Alboreto every time he speaks, drives or blows his nose. For three days, starting from Sunday 3rd October 1982, they ask for autographs, dedications, interviews, or to pose next to a Lancia Rally, a car that is becoming in Japan the forbidden dream of thousands of young people. Under Mount Fuji Italy is very popular, and so is Michele Alboreto. The Italian has won this year and in all his career only one Formula 1 race, but it was enough: Ken Tyrrell, who knows about drivers, says that no Italian has ever been as good as the Milanese at the wheel of a single-seater, and Ferrari has promised him a car for 1984, even if...
"The last time we spoke was a couple of years ago. Since then I have been in contact with his representatives who were looking for a driver to join Pironi after Villeneuve's death. I was, and am, bound by a contract with Tyrrell until the end of 1983, and there was no way of terminating it".
Alboreto was also requested by Renault and other top teams, with whom he could try to become World Champion. His hope is to end up at Maranello, but the offers are many and pressing.
"I won't sign anything or make any commitments until the middle of next year, when I'll consider the offers that come my way. For now I will wait and continue to race with Tyrrell".
The marriage with Ferrari is incredibly becoming a difficult one, in which nobody seems to want to make the first move. A letter or a phone call would be enough to avoid so many misunderstandings and controversies: but who should write it, who should make it? In the meantime Alboreto is enjoying a popularity that has crossed many borders since Las Vegas and that is unprecedented for a driver who has won so little.
"If I had to make a list of all the people I am grateful to for getting where I am, it would take me many hours. There are so many friends I owe something to".
He started running as a child, sitting inside the pots and pans of his house, holding the lid in his hands like a steering wheel. They were a child's games that became dreams and then reality in 1977, when, after selling the first motorbike given to him by his father, Alboreto bought a Formula Monza. If you're really good, it's impossible to go unnoticed, and despite the difficulties he quickly overcame the obligatory stages of many drivers: from Formula 3 to Formula 2, to 500-horsepower single-seaters. In Formula 1, however, the start was difficult, sometimes humiliating.
"I consoled myself by asking myself at the end of the race who, in my conditions, would have done better than me. Successes don't only depend on the driver, but also on the car he drives. Sometimes you can be better at finishing a race than someone with a better car who wins it".
And you have to be lucky: for example, on Sunday, at the Fuji circuit, Alboreto didn't have any. The failure of a tyre on his Lancia turbo caused him to crash into a guardrail while he was leading the Six Hours. He was going so fast and so well that Cesare Fiorio, Lancia's sporting director, had signalled to him from the pits to slow down. Before the race he was leading the World Endurance Drivers' Championship, now he is third, with just one race, at Brands Hatch, to recover.
"I was really disappointed because the car was going really well and because it will be much harder to win the title now. Becoming Endurance World Champion doesn't have a big impact on a Formula 1 driver's career, but it's still a world title, one more to count at the end".
Alboreto is not sure whether he will be able to race next year with Lancia, which will be entered in the new Group C at the World Marques.
"I have to see first what the commitments will be, between tests and races, with Tyrrell".
Formula 1, and it could not be otherwise, remains his primary commitment. 1983 will be a year of important choices, on which his future will depend, and Ken Tyrrell, great discoverer of talents, has no doubts that this future will lead in only one direction: the title of World Champion. On Tuesday, October 5, 1982, René Arnoux, accompanied by his mother Alice and father Giorgio, the new Ferrari driver, arrives at Maranello. A Jeans pole, a red jumper recently bought in Las Vegas, a cowboy-style leather jacket with long fringes give an even more jaunty air to the transalpine who is now full-time with the Modena team. The rain, which doesn't let up for a moment throughout the day, prevents the Frenchman from getting into a Ferrari single-seater for the first time, but it can't stop René's beaming smile, which expresses better than any words the happiness of finally being in the team of his dreams.
"It's great to get here. It's undoubtedly the place where every Formula One driver hopes to land one day. At the Ferrari headquarters I had been for the first time with Gilles Villeneuve, a great friend, and in this team I want to continue on the path traced by him. I had a perfect understanding with Gilles, we were similar in many things: in driving style, temperament, character and also in our way of life. Only about hamburgers, which I don't like, we disagreed".
How did you feel when you met Ferrari?
"I had only exchanged a few words with him in 1980 and so I didn't know him (in fact the two had met just before the Italian Grand Prix, as the French driver would admit years later). When I entered his office I was very excited, but the commander immediately found a way to put me at ease. He's a very good person on a human level, a great man and his cars fully reflect his value".
What is the biggest difference you have found between Renault and Ferrari?
"Renault is a big company that participates in racing for advertising purposes. At Renault, the commercial side comes first, then the sporting side. At Maranello it's different, you feel the influence of the races".
Do you know the Fiorano track?
"Little. I saw it last year with Didier, and I only did three laps with production cars. However, I consider this track very difficult and undoubtedly effective for the set-up of the cars. If a single-seater is fast at Fiorano, it will also be perfect at Monte-Carlo".
Do you think you have been sacrificed this year at Renault?
"I did my races, some problems arose with Prost, but I am convinced that I honoured my job. The environment broke down and all the support was for Alain. All that was missing was for his shoes to be polished. I've certainly made mistakes, but if you look at the balance sheet, I'm in credit because the mechanical failures have far outweighed my mistakes. It was a difficult season in which I gave a lot, I saw many red lights at the start in front of everyone, but in the end I saw very few chequered flags".
How do you judge Pironi and Tambay, your teammates?
"I heard from Didier on the phone and he's better. I went to see him before Las Vegas, and he's in good shape. He has a will of steel, and his morale is high. He confirmed that he intends to return to racing. I hope Tambay also recovers soon from his shoulder problem, he's a good driver and easy to work with. The important thing is to get along and work for the good of the team".
What is your goal with Ferrari?
"To win the title straight away. The car is a winner, and it proved that last season. Now we're going to use an updated version that is a natural development of the previous one, so it should be even more competitive. I want to continue on the path traced by Gilles, who looked like me. Being here is a dream, after the troubles with Renault and Prost. Ferrari is a great man, and I aim to give him a world title".
After two days of discussions and proposals, the calendar for the next championship was drawn up on October 12th 1982. Although there was a threat from the organisers, who, allied to Balestre, made it known that they would not hold races unless security measures were taken, seventeen races were scheduled. The big news is the New York Grand Prix on 25 September: no Moscow, therefore, but an extension to the USA, which will have four races, Long Beach, Detroit, New York and Las Vegas, not counting Montreal, which is also North American. This interest of the United States in Formula 1 is to be welcomed; it's just a pity that it is run on city circuits. The idea of the Grand Prix in the midst of people, inside cities, is suggestive and spectacular, but this kind of racing is also very risky.
The last piece of news, finally, concerns one of the many controversies of the season that has just ended. The Court of Appeal of Paris, a real civil court and not a sports court, rejected Williams' request to cancel the Brazilian Grand Prix: if a contrary sentence had been passed, Williams would have demanded compensation for economic damages from the teams that lodged a complaint, namely Ferrari, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Osella and Toleman. One day passed and on Wednesday 13th October 1982 Formula One lived other days of chaos: in Paris, in a curious dance of alliances, the front of the parties, during the assembly of the International Federation of motor sports, was again divided in two. This time, however, it was the sporting authorities and drivers on one side and the manufacturers on the other. It all started with a manoeuvre by the Fisa president, Jean-Marie Balestre, with the support of Niki Lauda, representing the drivers.
The contested French manager decided to put a new, revolutionary regulation to the vote in the Executive Committee, whose fundamental points were the flat bottom of the cars, the elimination of miniskirts, a minimum weight of 540 kilos, a ban on single-seaters with more than four wheels and four-wheel drive, the position of the drivers' feet no less than fifty centimetres from the start of the car, the reduced size of the rear wings, a maximum fuel tank of 250 litres and authorised refuelling during the race. The vote is in Balestre's favour, with fourteen in favour, six against (the group that includes Italian Serena), and one abstainer. In essence a real revolution. If the new rules were to be accepted, the cars for 1983 would have to be completely rebuilt. The response from the teams was not long in coming: for the first time united in a long time, the members of Foca and the constructors made it known that they would not accept such an imposition.
"There is too little time to rebuild the cars, and the operation would cost too much money".
All together, the team leaders appealed to the famous Pact of Concord, which stipulated that it was impossible to change any rules without the unanimous agreement of the 35 signatories until 31 December 1984. Balestre replies by stating that he could wait until 17 April, the day of the first European Grand Prix at Le Castellet, to implement the new rules, but once again he is faced with a refusal. Marco Piccinini, Ferrari's sporting director, explains:
"Fisa is but one of the signatories to the agreement. So we are calm, because we intend to respect a document that all parties have signed".
But the Fisa president, with the backing of the drivers, retorts harshly:
"These are safety measures designed to completely eliminate ground effect and reduce cornering speed. The manufacturers must make an effort to solve this serious problem. We are prepared to extend the implementation period a little, but if they refuse, they will have to appear before the Lausanne court. We will not give in".
"If this is meant to be a threat, it falls on deaf ears. If anything, it is Balestre who should be afraid of a lawsuit. The judges could only enforce the Concordia Agreement".
The new regulations approved by the Executive Committee are rejected en bloc by the constructors, even if there are those who issue statements contrasting with those made by the representatives of Foca and the teams of the group that includes Ferrari, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Osella and Toleman. Basically, the teams' managers reject the revolutionary changes requested for the 1983 championship with two arguments: the failure to respect the Pact of Concord, which provides for changes of any kind, from technical to financial, only in the event of unanimity, and the impossibility of building completely new cars, ready to race on the 12th of February. Fisa's proposals are not the best that could be expected: the lowering of the weight limit to 540 kilos, for example, is negative. But if it has been preached for years that the only possible solution is to abolish miniskirts and therefore ground effect, why is it now being rejected? The reasons given by the manufacturers, namely lack of time and too high a cost, do not seem insurmountable, given that Ken Tyrrell himself states:
"It only takes three weeks to convert the cars to flat bottoms".
The most positive judgement, however, comes from the drivers, who are willing to support Fisa's action. Among them, Niki Lauda states:
"It's a great victory for those who risk themselves, the only possible solution".
And Patrick Tarnbay, Ferrari driver, declares:
"With these cars without springs, which are very dangerous, we could not continue. The only nonsense is the weight reduction".
What will the manufacturers do now? Ferrari, at the end of a meeting, makes it known that there will be no assembly at Maranello, and that it will make its point of view known at the appropriate time; an attitude that leaves the doors open to any solution. On Sunday the 17th of October 1982, Keke Rosberg pays a courtesy visit to the Paris clinic where Didier Pironi is being treated after his serious accident at Hockenheim. Jean-Marie Balestre, president of the FIA, also attends the visit. He has with him the text of the new regulations approved by Fisa. The two drivers agree that the measures can improve safety in Formula 1 racing. Pironi also believes that the constructors, contrary to their claims, can equip the new cars for the next world championship. As Lauda had already said a few days earlier, the constructors, if they wanted to, could set themselves up in time.
The following day, Monday the 18th of October 1982, the constructors' association, with a sudden change of mind, accepted the new provisions in principle. Provided they are ratified by the Fisa executive committee, to avoid the possibility of legal action for breach of the concordat pact. According to what is said in London, in order to avoid a resurgence of the controversies that have been plaguing Formula 1 for some time, the British constructors and assemblers are willing to accept the new rules if they guarantee stability, at least for two years, to Formula One competitions. This is due to the fact that all the most important British cars will probably be powered by the turbo engine, and will therefore be able to compete on equal terms with Ferrari and Renault.
The only reservation is the date of introduction of the new regulation, because if the English teams are confident of being able to prepare their single-seaters for the next championship, some teams fear that they will lack the necessary time for fine-tuning. However, Brabham has already given orders to designer Gordon Murray to build an entirely new car, Williams believes that within three weeks he will have ready the project for a 1983 model, and also the other English racing teams are convinced that they will be ready for the first Grand Prix of next season. Ron Dennis affirms that the new regulations will be a stimulus, and therefore accepts the new situation with enthusiasm, while Lotus is less enthusiastic, as it believes that it will not be able to build a new single-seater before six months.
On Saturday the 23rd of October 1982 all the Formula 1 constructors meet in Modena, at the headquarters of the old Scuderia Ferrari in Viale Trento e Trieste, number 33. Ferrari, Chapman, Williams, Tyrrell, Mosley, Mayer, Noon, Hauckdridge, Osella, Ligier, Sage and Larousse for Renault, Corbari of Alfa Romeo, and Bernie Ecclestone. The honours will be given by Enzo Ferrari, Marco Piccinini and Piero Lardi. The appointment is for 11:00 a.m., but the meeting goes on until 4:40 p.m., at the end of which a communiqué is issued.
"Meeting today in Modena, the representatives of all the Formula 1 constructors have, with only one abstention, agreed on the following points: the new regulations issued by Fisa are acceptable on condition that a series of proposals are accepted, which will be presented to the Formula 1 Commission on 3 November. If these proposals are not accepted by Fisa, the signatories of the Concorde agreement will demand that the agreement be respected through the arbitration procedures laid down. From the communiqué we can guess little, but the demands of the constructors, those not clarified in the communiqué, seem to be to postpone the start of the 1983 World Championship, and to make the Concorde agreement continue until 1985".
Who is the abstainer in the vote? It should be Ken Tyrrell, who in the declarations of the past few days has shown himself to be perfectly in agreement with what has been issued by Fisa; Ferrari himself, when he receives the journalists, will not be more explicit.
"I have tried to bring the parties together, all in the common interest of racing. I want them to be able to continue".
The manufacturers' messengers on 3 November will be Piccinini, Ecclestone, Chapman, Corbari and Larousse. It will be up to them to decide the future of Grand Prix racing. During the period in which the development of the regulations was decided, Ferrari was testing at the Misano Adriatico circuit. Wednesday 3 November 1982 Formula 1 seemed to be heading towards definitive peace. The meeting of the Executive Committee in programme in the Fisa headquarters, in Place de la Concorde, should sanction the end of the controversy between the constructors and the sporting authorities and in a certain sense re-establish the role of the parties by putting the power back in the hands of the federal managers. The only problem on the eve of the event is the possible absence of some of the Committee members, as the French capital's airport is closed due to fog. Nevertheless, the majority needed to define the programmes will probably be reached. Admits Marco Piccinini, Ferrari's sporting director:
"The points that will be discussed will concern the shifting of the calendar and some minor details about the new technical regulations which have already been widely discussed. It is our intention to bring Formula 1 towards a stability that allows everyone to work calmly and without controversy".
Flat bottom for the cars, therefore, abolition of the miniskirts and of the ground effect: the Committee will discuss only some measures as far as the aerodynamic details are concerned and it will wander the rules set up by the technical expert of Fisa, the Turinese engineer Gabriele Cadringher, who presented a documented dossier of one hundred and sixty pages on the studies carried out in order to reduce the speed in bends and to make the cars safer. These studies show that in 1983 the cars will run at an average speed of five or six seconds faster on the fastest circuits, such as Le Castellet in France. Particular attention will be paid to the structure of the cars, which will be thirty centimetres longer at the front to ensure greater safety for the drivers. The constructors, in order to accept the proposals, asked for the postponement of the beginning of the world championship for about a month, in order to have the time to prepare the new single-seaters and the extension of the Concordia agreement until 1985: in practice it will start on the 13th March with the Grand Prix of Brazil.
At the end of the meeting, the agreement in Formula 1 became definitive: Fisa and the constructors reached a full agreement on the new regulations aimed at guaranteeing greater safety of the cars in the next season. With the consent of the organisers, the South African Grand Prix, the traditional opening race of the season, will become the closing race on the 29th of October 1982. According to the agreement, the controversial side skirts will henceforth be banned and Grand Prix cars will have to have completely flat bottoms, without the so-called ground effect. In return for the manufacturers' agreement to eliminate the mini-skirts, Fisa undertakes to keep the regulations stable, especially as far as engines are concerned, until the end of 1985. At a press conference, the Fisa president, Jean Marie Balestre, declared that total agreement had been reached between all the parties on all the major issues for the next four years, and it seems that agreement had also been reached on the financial and organisational regulations until the end of 1987.
With the presentation of the draft calendar for the 1983 World Championship, still subject to possible changes, Fisa closes an important chapter for Formula 1. In practice the long and difficult war between the sporting authorities and the constructors ended by re-establishing some values that had been lost along the way. It is not necessarily the case that the new regulations are an absolute weapon to guarantee safety, but it is at least certain that from now on the problem will be constantly present and, if necessary, the necessary measures will be taken to further improve the cars. And it was important for the Federation to take the power back into its hands, but it will have to be handled with extreme prudence and decision. At the same time, the constructors obtained guarantees of a certain stability in the rules. Positive also the balance of the drivers, who will drive less dangerous cars and will always be able to make their voice heard with the two seats having the right to vote in the Formula 1 commission.
Saturday 27 November 1982 Enzo Ferrari, Johanna Villeneuve, Lieutenant-Colonel De Vincenti, who had raced with Villeneuve in 1981 in the air-car challenge, the mayor of Modena Mario Del Monte, and all the technical and sporting staff of Ferrari take part in the unveiling of a bust dedicated to Gilles Villeneuve at the Santa Caterina nursery school in the afternoon. Representing the Formula 1 drivers is Bruno Giacomelli. At the moment of the unveiling of the bronze bust, the constructor can't hold back his emotion and walks away. The very touching ceremony also saw the naming of the classroom-gym after the Canadian driver. The meeting between Ferrari and Johanna Villeneuve was particularly moving.
Motor racing is in mourning for the sudden death of Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman, who died in his villa at Ketterinham Hall in the county of Norfolk in the early hours of Thursday the 16th of December 1982 at the age of 54, following a heart attack, according to a spokesman for Lotus, the company he founded. Chapman had started his car-building business twenty-seven years earlier, with twenty-five pounds he had borrowed from his future wife. The financial situation at Lotus had become very difficult recently following the bankruptcy of the American manufacturer De Lorean, with whom Colin Chapman had a close business relationship; apparently a contract for £12.000.000. At the beginning of December, Lotus had declared a loss of £109.000 for 1981 and £739.000 in 1980, but with great difficulty Chapman had managed to find a loan from London banks.
However, American Express, the main financial backer of Lotus, of which Chapman was chairman, had in recent months refused to renew the economic contract for the touring car factory, which expires on 31 December. At the next annual shareholders' meeting, scheduled for the end of the year, Colin Chapman risked being deposed. The Lotus press release attributed the death to a heart attack, but there are those in England who are now suggesting that the real cause may be different, after the British police issued a statement in the course of the evening specifying that an autopsy may be necessary. The Lotus Company's shares, which had already fallen sharply recently, suffered further losses as a result. For Colin Chapman, difficult days were ahead, as on 30 December 1982, at the annual board meeting, Chapman would have to face the attack of the major shareholders, not very satisfied with his work.
In particular, writes the Daily Telegraph, Chapman would have to explain why a large sum of money, reportedly nine million pounds, had been paid to Lotus by John De Lorean, the American car manufacturer currently awaiting trial in the US for cocaine trafficking. The London press also reports that shareholders were planning to downsize Chapman's role at Lotus. He would have had control of the design office, but would no longer have been able to deal with and manage the financial sector of the car manufacturer. However, allegations of suicide will be dispelled by the results of the autopsy, which will rule out suicide. Meantime, in order to marginalize the haemorrhage of share losses, Fred Bushell, previously vice-president of the group and, before that, director of finance and secretary, was appointed as new Lotus president, while he was replaced by Peter Warr in the role of technical-sport director of Lotus.
His black cap had flown in the air for the last time on the sultry afternoon of 15th August at Zeltweg in Austria, when Elio De Angelis in the number 11 Lotus beat Keke Rosberg at the wheel of the Williams in a sprint over the finishing line: it was the traditional gesture with which Colin Chapman celebrated his victories. On those occasions the English constructor lost the typical compassion of his people and ran happily towards his drivers as a father goes to meet his children after overcoming a difficult moment. The eyes shone in that always pale face, which the thin, well-groomed moustache and the prematurely silver hair made look like that of the actor David Niven. Chapman was one of the legends of Formula One. A brilliant designer, a sensitive constructor, a talent scout, with charisma and a strong-willed temperament, he had managed to establish himself through results, coming from nothing. His prestige was second only to that of Enzo Ferrari, but he had even more to offer than the manufacturer from Modena.
If Ferrari is - as he defines himself - an agitator of men and ideas, the Englishman was also one of the greatest living technicians in motorsport: he personally designed and developed innovations. Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman could therefore be said to have been the inventor of modern Formula One. In 1962, his Lotus 25 revolutionised all previous concepts: for the first time, the British manufacturer combined a rear-engined car with a studded sheet metal monocoque with built-in fuel tanks and internally sprung front suspension. The driver was no longer seated, but semi-recumbent; a car tailor-made for the great Jim Clark, a combination that was soon a winner, with impressive superiority.
On the human side, however, Chapman was a tough, cocky man. The relationship between Chapman and his drivers was often one of love-hate: the drivers appreciated him as a designer, but did not always approve of his behaviour. Lately, his popularity had been waning, and perhaps his interest in cars had also waned. But De Angelis' victory in Austria had relaunched him, and at the very end of the season he had signed a contract with Renault to use the French company's turbocharged engines, and had decided to leave Goodyear for Pirelli tyres. He seemed to have a new enthusiasm. Now, however, everyone is asking: what will happen to his creation, Lotus? And moving from one myth to another, how did 1982 go for Ferrari? On the 27th of December 1982, Enzo Ferrari drew up a concise and effective balance sheet, with painful sentences for the tragedies suffered by the Scuderia in Formula 1, but also a lot of love for sport and for the car, synonymous with freedom.
"December is a month of balance sheets and final accounts, of satisfaction and regret. Usually the annual conclusions should reflect the forecasts of the work plan and the programme of interventions formulated at the start of the sporting season and instead, never as in this 1982, have I found myself having to deal with sudden, unthinkable, repeated situations that are cruelly human and sportingly dramatic. It takes a lot of strength not to divorce oneself from one's ideal and to find, even in adversity, the constructive synthesis of the work done".
Ferrari has won the World Constructors' title in Formula 1, demonstrating that it has fully explored the formula launched seventeen years ago: first with the successful technical research into naturally aspirated engines, and now with the first concrete supremacy of turbocharged engines.
"It is nice to see that our sport, whose primary aim remains the technical evolution of the car in general, is attracting worldwide interest amidst so much hostility. There are still those who are against the car and consider it a monstrous product of modern civilisation, but I, who see it as an easy target for economic punishment, note that even its most ardent detractors cannot do without it, because the car is a conquest of freedom for mankind. Loving the car means nurturing that paternal feeling that germinates and takes pride in transforming the shapeless crude into living, harmoniously speaking mechanics. A machine that, like a child, needs attentive, assiduous care, to interpret its weaknesses or defects and lovingly correct them, to sense its talents and nurture them, exalt them until, like a son who has been promoted with honours, a winning machine is created. These are the sentiments that still sustain my work today and that I would like to see remembered tomorrow by those who work with me".
And Arnoux, future Ferrari driver, adds:
"It seems like a dream to drive for Maranello. I am a Ferrari driver. When I wake up in the morning I wonder if it's true, if it's not just a dream. When I was a kid, I was a mechanic at Conrero and I thought inside myself that I would make it to Formula One. But, honestly, I didn't even dare to hope that one day I would arrive at Maranello. Some people will think I'm being rhetorical, but try asking other drivers. With very few exceptions, who wouldn't do anything to be in my position? Even during the long period I spent at Renault - and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the French company for the opportunities it gave me - I was convinced I could touch the sky with one hand. A team with great resources, unlimited or almost unlimited possibilities, cutting-edge technology, and elegance. It's not easy to get more than that, but at Ferrari, during these months of tests and first contacts, I understood what it means to live a myth. The Modena team's fame has nothing to do with usurpation. It sounds like words, but it's true: for a driver there is nothing like it. Let's put aside the immense popularity that Ferrari offers its drivers, the support of millions of fans. What counts is the team, its spirit, its tenacity, the method by which results are sought. You can win or lose, be lucky or unlucky. However, it can never be said that the maximum has not been done to seek success. I was struck by the speed and precision with which the work was carried out, the modifications to the cars. You just have time to have an intuition, an idea, and the part is immediately out of the oven. In all this there is the skill and preparation of the technicians and mechanics, but there is also a touch of Italian imagination".
Perhaps Ferrari cannot be imitated in this respect.
"Often, in the past, I have been accused of not being a good test driver, of not being able to explain to the engineers what's wrong with a car. A problem that has never existed since I've been testing at Fiorano. They put you in front of a series of analyses, of data: you immediately understand where you're going wrong, if there's a chance to remedy a problem. On a technical level it's the best. As for the human side, it's more or less the same: I'm a guy who likes to joke around, but when it comes to work I don't think I'm second to many".
Some people fear a rivalry with Patrick Tambay.
"Of course, there will be competition, because that's how it should be, but always with respect for the Scuderia. Tambay is a skilled driver. For me it will be an incentive to be able to go faster than him. I think that's also what a gentleman called Enzo Ferrari wants from me. As for Didier Pironi, I hope he'll be back with us soon".
What does the immediate future hold for Ferrari in Formula 1? The answer is, as usual, difficult. Firstly, because in motor racing it is always problematic to make predictions; secondly, because the change in regulations for the 1983 World Championship will force all the teams to build completely new cars. What will be their level of competitiveness? No one is better placed to give an answer than engineer Mauro Forghieri, Scuderia Ferrari's technical manager, in an interview given on Monday 27 December 1982. In the recent tests carried out at Le Castellet, in which most of the most competitive teams took part, Ferrari obtained the best time with Patrick Tambay. What significance does this winter supremacy have?
"Absolutely none; laboratory cars, tyres that won't be the ones we'll use in the race, environmental conditions that won't be repeated during the championship. It's just testing and we don't know what our rivals were trying and where they wanted to go".
Can you anticipate, however, what the 1983 cars will be like, without the miniskirts and with the flat bottom?
"Again, we are in a field where it is difficult to be certain. We've started all over again, we're going to school. I can say that if what was underneath and inside the car, i.e. the inner wings, was important before, now it will be necessary to fine-tune the external aerodynamics, i.e. the upper part of the car. To make a comparison that everyone can understand, it's as if, when judging a beautiful girl, the vote used to be influenced by her legs and now by her upper silhouette. Joking aside, we have to go back to the wind tunnel to recalculate everything. And certainly few teams will be ready for the first race in Brazil on the 13th of March with a definitive car. Maybe the right solutions will come in the middle of the season, even for us. To build a single-seater from scratch takes a year on average. A few months are not enough".
The cancellation of the ground effect, however, will force engineers to take steps backwards.
"Let's not get confused. This is not a real return to the past. The flat bottom in the current terms never existed. The only thing that will remain the same will be the huge tyres, the radiators, the drivers and their helmets. For the rest, we'll be exploring areas that we don't yet know in depth. We will have to work without wasting a day in order not to fall behind. The ailerons will be very important, and as usual they will have to offer the best compromise between drag and the possibility of crushing the car to the ground in order to unload horsepower".
Do you think that Ferrari with Arnoux and Tambay will have a winning team in terms of drivers?
"It's not my job to answer. I believe, however, that Ferrari has two fast and good guys, attached to the team, ready to fight. Yes, I think we won't have any problems".
If you had to make a ranking of the drivers you've had at your disposal in your long career, who would you put at the top?
"Personal factors often come into play in judgements, such as liking, sympathy and even circumstances. Since, even in sport, what counts in the end are the results, I have to admit that the most positive driver was Niki Lauda. Only those who are successful are also right. If we want to talk about impressions, about intangible facts, I would say that Chris Amon was the most sensitive driver in terms of technical ability that I happened to meet. But it's not just my impression".
Are you convinced that the flat-bottomed cars will be safer than their predecessors?
"Safety is a big issue that I don't want to touch. I can say that we have always taken it into the utmost consideration. You can make mistakes, but no one would dream of putting drivers in greater danger. I am convinced that the abolition of ground effect will bring advantages if the accident is the same. But we all know what it means to race at three hundred kilometres per hour. Risk is a fixed component".
One more question: what will the new Ferrari be like?
"Radically different from last year's. But for the rest, the details, neither I nor all the engineers and technicians who work with me are able to anticipate the times. We have ideas in our heads and we will try to develop them. But only the track will tell if Ferrari will be competitive and able to fight for the world title, as we all hope".
Many drivers, technicians and rivals in general have identified the Fiorano track as one of the main reasons for Ferrari's success. The judgement seems a little forced, because there are many components that make the Maranello marque a winning team in racing, but the possibility of running an autonomous testing facility, both for the single-seaters and for any other car, is an enviable asset. Fiorano allows Ferrari's engineers to have in their hands, at any time, very important comparative data for possible modifications to the cars. Not only does the circuit offer the opportunity to carry out practical tests, but thanks to a bank of information processed by a sophisticated Olivetti computer system, very useful comparisons can be made immediately from one model to another, from one day to the next. The track is a real gem, both in terms of its functionality and the detection centres with which it is equipped. The 3.000-metre track, with fourteen bends and a straight of about one kilometre, reproduces in synthesis all the types of track a car can encounter.
The highest average speed is around 160 km/h and the top speed around 280 km/h. Naturally, there are considerable safety measures in place: the facility has a television service. The electronic timing system installed by Longines has forty-five stations with photocells that not only monitor all the cars' passages, but also provide any kind of detection, and the data is transmitted to the control centre and printed out instantly. When a driver enters Fiorano he is sure to be subjected to a test: not a simple control, but an authentic university examination of motor sport. Tuesday the 28th of December 1982 Didier Pironi returns to Maranello to meet Enzo Ferrari. It is a happy occasion to note the improved physical condition of the driver who hopes to be able to resume his activity by 1983. After the moving conversation with the constructor and other managers, Pironi makes a short visit, with a Lancia Delta driven by Marco Piccinini, inside the new Ferrari racing department.