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#348 1981 Monaco Grand Prix

2021-10-18 17:36

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#1981,

#348 1981 Monaco Grand Prix

Domenica 31 Maggio 1981, bellissime fanciulle lanciano prodotti - specialmente sigarette, cosmetici e bibite - verso il pubblico, accompagnate dalle blue-bell a

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It was supposed to be one of the usual, maybe boring, gatherings that scattered many people’s evenings. However, on May 20th, 1981, the debate organized by Panathlon and Modena Automobile Club turned out to be stingingly modern and similar to the current deep crisis that Formula One is going through, which culminated in the tragic events of last Sunday’s Belgium Grand Prix. The presence of some front-row personalities (Enzo Ferrari, the most careful and warlike he had ever been, lawyer Filippo Carpi de Resmini, Aci’s president, and doctor Fabrizio Serena, in charge of the Italian Sport Committee) allowed focusing a situation that had been deteriorating for some people’s irresponsibility and choices that have been prevailing over the past years. Enzo Ferrari gave a corroborated answer to a precise question ("What do you think about what happened in Zolder?") that started a true accusation towards Jean-Marie Balestre, the FIA manager, and Bernie Ecclestone, FOCA's (Formula One Constructors Association) and Brabham's owner:

 

"Honestly, I do not intend to make a speech, or I would be telling you things I haven't seen myself. I do, indeed, want to read to all of you a piece of the report made to me by Ferrari's vice-sports director, Calzavara, after coming back from Belgium. I think it is enough to understand what happened and deduce the results".

 

Immediately, Ferrari's 83-year old Enzo reads the document with his voice steady, firstly remembering the rules that regulate starts in Formula One:

 

"Ferrari's drivers and mechanics have given credit to the solidarity act for the mournful incident happened to Osella's mechanic and they intend to express their disapproval for the disdain of the simple safety rules and the serious lack of organization and regulations that appeared in Zolder. Despite the presence of many people on track and the potentially dangerous situation that could have originated from that, Mr Ecclestone personally intervened, claiming international television rights and causing the green light to be switched on. Only drivers who already were in their cockpits were allowed to take part in the formation lap, which created chaos in the settlement of the final grid. Ecclestone and Chapman then forced the official Fisa starter, Mr Ongaro, to start the race, without worrying about the race director's communication to the drivers of the start being preceded by the five-minute board and the formation lap. When Ecclestone noticed that Piquet was missing, since the Brazilian had secretly completed two laps, he insisted on delaying the start of about 40 seconds. In the meantime, some drivers - Patrese, Cheever, Jones and others - were reporting overheating problems or their engines switching off or the presence of intruders on track".

 

Then he adds:

 

"On Saturday afternoon, after the obvious will of the organisers and the authorities not to follow the rules, Balestre, after being asked what he thought of the situation, answered: I don't earn enough money to worry about these things; and after the race: I won't see you in Monaco because I'm leaving Formula One, I will take an interest in something else".

 

These events, which have had Balestre and Ecclestone as protagonists, can be easily evaluated. Fisa's president announced an investigation about what happened in Zolder, but he forgot to say that Balestre, his coworkers and himself should be the ones to blame. The Italian Sports authorities will do their best to bring motorsport to honesty and regularity in the next meetings in Paris. Bernie Ecclestone was said to be a 'famous speculator' by Carpi de Resmini, whereas Serena clearly said to have faced a blackmailing behaviour, after having got proof of Imola's events, when Foca's president threatened to leave the circuit if not left alone with the irregularities of suspensions and miniskirts. Enzo Ferrari, undoubtedly supported by some teams, such as Alfa Romeo, Renault and Osella, once again campaigns for motorsport to go back to being a place of healthy competitions, both professionally and technically. Moreover, before saying goodbye he says:

 

“If I had been in Zolder, I would have joined the drivers and mechanics in protesting before the start. Formula One's world is filled with billions. We all know that money is useful to corrupt, to satisfy the pleasure and to ignore the laws, especially the sport ones".

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These events, which have had Balestre and Ecclestone as protagonists, can be easily evaluated. Fisa's president announced an investigation about what happened in Zolder, but he forgot to say that Balestre, his coworkers and himself should be the ones to blame. The Italian Sports authorities will do their best to bring motorsport to honesty and regularity in the next meetings in Paris. Bernie Ecclestone was said to be a 'famous speculator' by Carpi de Resmini, whereas Serena clearly said to have faced a blackmailing behaviour, after having got proof of Imola's events, when Foca's president threatened to leave the circuit if not left alone with the irregularities of suspensions and miniskirts. Enzo Ferrari, undoubtedly supported by some teams, such as Alfa Romeo, Renault and Osella, once again campaigns for motorsport to go back to being a place of healthy competitions, both professionally and technically. Moreover, before saying goodbye he says:

 

"If I had been in Zolder, I would have joined the drivers and mechanics in protesting before the start. Formula One's world is filled with billions. We all know that money is useful to corrupt, to satisfy the pleasure and to ignore the laws, especially the sport ones".

 

It is said that Formula One has lost its charm and credibility, that it is a cruel sport and affected by money and business. It is said that the Monaco circuit is too dangerous, that making racing cars run at 300 km/h there is ridiculous, especially when the place is a block of concrete and guard-railed alley. However, here we are, ready to see the show and to be accidental protagonists just as the 100.000 people that will attend the race on Saturday, 31th May 1981.

 

Formula One runs its risks without stopping. We hope in the drivers' common sense, in a perfect and millimetric organization, prepared in detail, used to moving fast in these tricky situations. We hope, because another trouble or calamity would be barely bearable. Rumour has it that the drivers will try to protest, but, in the end, they will all be on track to try and win; the first act is on Thursday, May 28th, 1981, from 8 to 9 am.

Nine cars will get on that tarmac ring for pre-qualifications, because only twenty-four drivers will be able to take part in the official practice, and twenty drivers will start the race. Today's introduction is restricted to the teams that didn't earn any points last year. Four places for two Osellas, two Tolemans, two ATSs, one March, one Ensign and one Theodore. They'll be battling before the first qualification session, fixed from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.

 

There aren't huge changes. Lotus will go for two 87 models and an old 81. Elio De Angelis claims that the new car isn't better than the previous one, and he will decide in these last few hours. Previsions say the usual drivers: Reutemann and Jones with Williams, Piquet with Brabham, perhaps Laffite with that growing Talbot Ligier and Riccardo Patrese too. Ferrari is in the usual outsider role. Maranello's vehicles have undergone other changes. The hydraulic dampers were perfected, the inner aerodynamics were improved to get a more efficient adherence, the brakes that had created problems for Pironi in Zolder were examined.

 

Special care was given to turbo engines, searching for greater use of the power at full revolutions. Therefore, there are all the requisites to reach good results. Alfa reviewed their cars too, and we hope Andretti and Giacomelli won't show themselves up as they did in the last races. Somebody keeps respecting traditions. And traditions have it that Ferrari reveals the names of the drivers that will be part of the Scuderia in the following season at the Monaco Grand Prix. Hence, on Thursday 28th March 1981, sports director Marco Piccinini releases the usual statement for the tech and sport situation. With great surprise, in the last paragraph there's this sentence:

 

"Gilles Villeneuve - whose collaboration with Ferrari won't come to an end at the end of the year, but it will continue in 1982-'83 - has picked up his first points of the season in Zolder. The huge amount of work done is bearing its fruits; the engine has now a more consistent functioning and better reliability, and some interesting progress is being made in the chassis and aerodynamics".

 

In fact, Villeneuve chose Ferrari - the appeal is actually reciprocal - only for a reason:


"Because I’m sure that next year I’ll be able to win the championship with this car. And this is what I care most about. Moreover, I must admit that I don’t know where I could have found a better team, in terms of environment and possibilities".

 

It’s not clear how much money Ferrari spent on the two-year contract, but making conjectures is useless. For sure, the Italian team is not used to overpaying their drivers, given that many people would be willing to pay their own salary if they could drive at Maranello. In any case, Villeneuve will have the chance to earn lots with sponsors. And it’s not sure that this possibility won’t be given to him, since the Canadian would love to race outside Formula 1 too.


"I’m happy. I think I’ve made a good deal on all matters. I get along well with Pironi and I’ve acquired a certain calm. After all, I don’t think any British team would have wanted me after Zolder’s demonstration".

 

Afterwards, while talking about the next Grand Prix - taking place at Monaco - Gilles says:


"The Monaco Grand Prix is going to be a difficult race, but I’ll do my best to please my fellow citizens".

 

Until now the Canadian has taken four wins and six pole positions. Ferrari’s lineup for next year will therefore consist of Pironi Didier, who has been confirmed too, and Gilles Villeneuve. This proves wrong the previous news that talked about a transfer of the Canadian to Alfa Romeo.

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Carlos Reutemann is determined. The Championship leader knows that the Monegasque Circuit might be a turning point for him. His gap from Piquet and Alan Jones is already significant. Another win, another 9 points could really give him the achievement of car racing’s maximum honour.

 

"Now I’m gambling everything, it’s a great chance for me. If I manage to win here, this could mean that the World Championship is mine. I’m going to battle as I’ve never done before, I’m going to get to the limits of both the car and me. I perfectly know that many people will try to stop me in any possible way. However, here everything is at stake, as I said, and I’m not getting myself out of the game. I was often accused of not being as brave as many other drivers. I’ll prove everyone wrong. I believe to have reached the highest maturity and to have confirmed that I don’t have any rivals. Only an inferiority condition towards Alan Jones, in 1980, didn’t give me the chance to fight for the ultimate win. But now I’m not being ruled by anyone. In Brazil, my thoughts had already been made clear. Nothing has changed".

 

Carlos Reutemann knows he’ll have to deal with other fierce rivals such as Alan Jones, who’s ready for his revenge and doesn’t want to help his teammate. Piquet - kicked out by Williams’ Australian driver in Belgium - will do the same. Perhaps, Piquet has got the best car right now and he doesn’t want anyone to overtake him. It’ll be a hard race for everyone on Monaco’s streets, ever since today’s and Saturday’s practices. The weather is not ideal: rain is expected and there may be irregular conditions. But they’ll be the same for everyone:

 

"I know I won’t only have to deal with Piquet and Jones, but with the Ferraris too. I’m one of the few people who are not surprised by the signs of progress of Maranello’s cars. I’ve worked with them for a long time and I very well know the potential they have. The cars are very strong and we were right in worrying about the turbo engine. We can only counterstrike with a balanced car and exceptional aerodynamics. But how long will it last? If Ferrari’s supercharged engines will keep progressing, we’ll be done. So we’ll fight, fight enthusiastically for the pole for Sunday. If nothing happens during the race, I won’t let anyone pass me".

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Thursday, May 28th 1981. The Mistral starts blowing, sweeping the past days’ clouds away, but other clouds start covering Monaco and its Grand Prix. These clouds are related to a worrying crisis, in comparison to the last years. Pre-sale - until now - was bad. It’s 30/35% less than the past, and on Wednesday just a few bleachers - the sold-out ones - were crossed out by the organizers’ red pencil. Emo, a Tuscan moved to Monte-Carlo, owner of a restaurant close to the Palais Princeir, one of the few that offers a cheap (but high-quality) cuisine, says:

 

"There’s still a great number of available renting studios. They’re the same ones that last year, a month earlier, had gone like hot cakes".

 

Si pensava che il maltempo avesse consigliato agli abitanti di Monte-Carlo di rimanere

It was believed that it was the bad weather that had suggested staying home to the Monegasque inhabitants. Still, now, with the sun shining, not many people are circulating around the city. Beautiful women are missing too, until now at least, even though the frame of the Grand Prix suits them very well. It’ll be a stealthy Monaco Grand Prix, however, only if a great number of Italian commuters coming to support the Italian teams and drivers won’t arrive on Sunday as they usually do.

 

Somebody blames Mitterrand’s recent election for the high society forfait, and this has moved the spotlight to another matter. But these are only suppositions. As a matter of fact, given that this year’s prices are too high (some stands are 500 Francs for a ticket, which is more than 100’000 Liras), the public prefers watching the race on television while sitting comfortably on the sofa and with a more complete sight of the events, instead of the view at the side of the track, where the cars are only coloured flashes, and with the sad prospect of traffic congestion later in the day. But this is becoming more and more common at every Grand Prix. Perhaps the television - for which Ecclestone would sacrifice anything if it meant selling its rights - is taking part in the desertion on track. The Monaco Grand Prix is going to be broadcast in 36 countries, including four in East Europe: Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and the USSR, of course. 850 million people are estimated to be watching the broadcast on Sunday.

 

Nevertheless, the qualification practice regularly takes place without any protests, as expected. Nine cars take part in the tests, and both the Osellas qualify. Tambay sets the fastest time in the Theodore in 1’30"492, with an average speed of 131.7 km/h. Ensign’s Surer is second in 1’31"249; then there are the two cars from Turin: Ghinsani in 1’32"189 and Gabbaini in 1’32"704. The latter goes wide twice and he then crashes the car to avoid Henton. A few hours later, in front of a smaller crowd than usual, Nelson Piquet pulls ahead of everyone of over 1 second, a huge difference in the curvy city track: taking the pole position away from him will be a hard challenge. His time (1’25"710, with an average speed of 139.111 km/h) amazes everyone.

 

It also creates suspects and drama, as usual. It is believed that the Brabham, fixed by genius-designer Gordon Murray and arranged by Bernie Ecclestone, sent an incredibly light car on track. A smaller fuel tank is thought to have been put in the car, a tank so small that it only contained fuel for a few laps. Another hypothesis is a Ford engine prepared by Duckworth that is claimed to get to 540 horsepower (instead of the usual 480), which would obviously be available for some time only. This possibility may be supported by this fact: both Piquet and his teammate Rebaque have broken their propellers after setting their fastest laps. The person that had expressed his intention to win the race and create a gap in the World Championship Standings, Carlos Reutemann, is the one that publicly attacks the Brasilian driver with harsh words:

 

"It’s not fair that the cars do not undergo serious controls. I’m sure that Nelson’s Brabham is irregular for many reasons, maybe it’s too light, maybe it has a non-compliant engine".

 

But Nelson doesn’t seem to care much about those accusations:

 

"At Zolder, during the race, I was literally pushed off track by Alan Jones. I don’t want to do any other favours. If I’m going to win this Championship, I don’t have to answer to anyone. So I don’t really care about whether my car gets summoned or not. I am a driver, I just need to race for the best lap time. I succeeded, now it’s the others’ turn to beat me".

 

Between the great rivals, Reutemann and Piquet, Gilles Villeneuve managed to put himself in the second position. The Canadian doesn’t hide his wishes for the race despite knowing the issues he’ll have to face.

 

"My problem isn’t trying to be faster than Piquet or the others. My problem is starting well from the front row. In Monte-Carlo starting position is vital. If you manage to take the lead, - and you don’t have any problems with the car - nobody can overtake you. Having said this, I’ll do my best to keep my front row in the second qualification practice tomorrow. And the Ferrari, which has grown so much in so little time, is going to help me keep this situation. The engine works very well and the car is improving in every area, from aerodynamics to the chassis".

 

When Bernie Ecclestone is asked a take on the matter of his team’s cars’ weight, the British manager says:

 

"Of course, as you can see we can solve these problems. At this point, the weight is the only reason for controversy. The minimum weight rule must be deleted! By doing so, we won’t have trouble anymore. Everyone will benefit from this".

 

Firstly, it’s worth saying that the control systems used by the Monegasque stewards are way more advanced than the ones used at the other tracks. The distance of the miniskirts from the earth, for example, isn’t verified with the usual wooden cube. There’s a laser ray placed on the control platform the car goes on. The ray has 1/200.000 second-reactions. Therefore, tomorrow, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m., the drivers will engage in a fierce battle for the 20 places available. Six drivers will be eliminated. Some hope is still left for Osella, despite getting the highest lap times and Ghinzani’s engine failure, which didn’t give him the chance to explore the track from the driver’s privileged viewpoint. The Alfa Romeo, instead, is making some progress, and Andretti hopes he will make some positions up.

 

The Italian-American, the surprising winner of Indianapolis after starting from the last row, is sure he can go even further. But he’ll have to fight, too. Only on Saturday, if the weather allows it, we’ll know what the starting positions are going to look like. However, this is going to be a very unpredictable race. Reutemann, De Angelis and Pironi are missing from the top spots. The Argentinian and the Italian, however, were deprived respectively of the fourth and seventh lap time. Their cars have indeed turned out to be irregular (lower than the allowed six centimetres) in the before-and-after pits controls. Ferrari’s Frenchman, instead, only completed five laps before crashing the racecar against a guardrail in the morning. Afterwards, he crashes the test mule due to a brake malfunctioning.

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When running on this circuit, everything is special. Practice and race schedule is different from the one followed at every track in the world. In Rio as in Kyalami, in Imola just as in Montreal qualifications are on Friday and Saturday. During Monaco’s week, instead, Thursday is the first day, on Friday there’s rest and on Saturday everything resumes. Therefore, after a twenty-four-hour-break mostly dedicated to Formula 3 tests aimed to set the grid for the afternoon’s mini-Grand Prix, which will see Italian Mauro Bardi next to Frenchman Verte in the front row, the battle for the twenty-car-grid starts again. The fight is on at the front and the back, as people are battling for pole position as well as ones who clash for being able to race, even for the last place. Villeneuve is one of the calmest drivers, very relaxed after renewing his contract with Ferrari:

 

"We only know that Piquet set the fastest time in the first part of practice. Then, when he stopped and changed the car, he wasn’t as fast as before. Usually, he’s one or two seconds faster than his teammate, Rebaque. At that time he was four seconds faster than the Mexican. This result stands as it is, but it’s not my job to say whether Brabham was underweight or they used a special engine".

 

However, regardless of what can happen in the last qualification session, who’s his favourite?

 

"In my opinion, anything could happen. It’s true, whoever starts first is considerably advantaged in Monaco. Despite this, if I’ll find myself equipped with a car as fast as the one in front of me, during the race, I won’t be waiting as in front of a red light. There’s always some difference between practice and the race, we’ll have to understand how the car works with its tank filled, which tyres we’ll choose. There are many factors to take into consideration".

 

Monte-Carlo could become a very important step for the world championship. Does Gilles think that Reutemann can aim to the title?

 

"Carlos has accrued an excellent score so far. However, there have been cases that changed advantageous situations before. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that in 1973, Fittipaldi had collected 32 points more than Stewart after some races, but the latter won the title".

 

Does this mean that Villeneuve can still aim so high?

 

"Everything is possible if you have a competitive car. I’d be satisfied to win a few races: it’d be a good start. And Ferrari are ready for a win even here in Monaco".

 

Is it true that the GPDA drivers intend to report the Belgian organizers for the events at the start?

 

"Reporting isn’t the right word. We’re preempting the problem so that all the issues aren’t addressed to the drivers. We’re asking that a serious enquiry is made. This is what we want now. I want to remind everyone one thing: we voted Jody Scheckter as our president and we’re doing well. Our category is getting stronger. We are not only employers, as some sporting directors and team owners claim. From now on, our voice is going to be heard. We are an instrumental part of Formula One, and not puppets that make a show on someone else’s orders. We want to take part in discussions and decisions and we’re going to choose the appropriate ways to do so. We hope the fans will understand us. It’s time to stop risking lives at 300 km/h only for some people’s foolishness and greed. Formula One must become a serious sport, made of professional people who have clear rules that everyone must abide by".

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Set the drama aside for the moment, Formula One’s special board has met in the last few days to discuss the problems that have lately upset the ambience. Among the topics are safety, the race calendar, the drivers’ situation. These are the ideas that are to be disclosed to Fisa soon:

 

  • Addition of the Las Vegas Grand Prix to the calendar. It’ll probably be set on October 17th after the Canadian one. The American organizers will build a track in the enormous car park next to the world-famous Caesar’s Palace Hotel. The track will be 3500 meter-long. The cost is thought to be 7 billion liras;
  • The drivers will be represented by the reigning World Champion in the Formula One Commission. This year it's Alan Jones. Furthermore, the Super Licence was requested for the Italian Giorgio Francia, who'll race for Osella;
  • Presentation of a series of requests for the mechanic's needs. There's a special effort of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Renault to obtain better working conditions in the pits, especially after Zolder;
  • On the tech side, it was asked to regulate and specify better the material for the side hinges.

 

In the last few days, many people have expressed their concern about the decline of interest in Formula One and for the economic trouble which is taking shape in the highest level of motorsport. Many teams cannot find any sponsors and they're worried they might go bankrupt. Among these, there's the one owned by Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, who might be abandoned by technicians and mechanics. Moreover, Marlboro (sponsoring two teams, Alfa Romeo and McLaren, supporting thirteen drivers, funding three races) informed that they'll drop out of the activity if the controversy between Fisa, Foca, the organisers and the drivers won't stop.

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The 39th Monaco Grand Prix, the sixth race of the Formula One World Championship, offers its viewers another reason to keep a watchful eye on the track or TVs of all and sundry. The peak of the race will be the start, an incredibly exciting start with a prepared group of drivers in the front rows. In the very first row Nelson Piquet and Gilles Villeneuve, in the second one Nigel Mansell and Carlos Reutemann, in the third one Riccardo Patrese and Elio De Angelis, then Alan Jones and Jacques Laffite. In the moment that could be crucial for the whole race, there’s the comparison between the experienced drivers and the younger ones, with more competitive cars.

 

An electrifying preview of what might happen takes place during the last, heart-pounding, qualifying session, a show in the show, race in the race. Only Piquet can keep calm, thanks to his 1'25"71 obtained on Thursday, watching his colleagues on track. But the Brazilian takes a gamble, as Villeneuve, during the last laps, gets second place pushing his car only to a 0.07 gap from his rival. The Canadian's Ferrari must have provoked some emotions in Piquet.

 

"Having Villeneuve next to me isn't nice, but I think I've acted in the best possible way. In Monte-Carlo, starting ahead of everyone is important, but it's as important as having a perfectly-balanced car to avoid unpleasant surprises when every single detail gets important. This is why I decided to try the full-gas and regulate my Brabham for the race while my friends were fighting tooth and nail for higher positions".

 

Actually, at first Piquet's behaviour leaves us lowkey perplexed, as well as the final result. Nelson only gets the 20th lap time and his teammate, Hector Rebaque, doesn't even manage to qualify. This fact only adds more space to the suspects that emerged on Thursday, when many technicians and drivers suggested that Brabham had used a special engine. In the final sixty minutes of practice, different drivers take turns at the first place, in a frolic that thrills the fans. Firstly, Reutemann, who has to make up for the first session's performance, then Patrese and Villeneuve. Among the first ones, Colin Chapman's excellent pupil, the debuting (in this circuit) Mansell on the new Lotus 87. The proof is against the fact that when he puts his mind to it, the constructor is always able to emerge.

 

Whereas the best ones managed to get themselves into the spotlight, some others didn't. The driver suffering the most was certainly Didier Pironi, who qualified only 20 minutes before the end of practice. His Ferrari threw a tantum and the Frenchman had to get on three different cars before setting the 17th time. During the morning Pironi had broken an engine, then he had trouble with the test mule's supplies and, eventually, he had to use Villeneuve's second car (not balanced for his driving style) to take part in the Grand Prix. The Alfa Romeos and the Renaults found themselves in trouble too, with Arnoux, who ended up against the guardrail twice. The copious Italian drivers, instead, did well, with Stohr ahead of Cheever and the young De Cesaris driving the new McLaren MP4.

 

Michele Alboreto is in the race too, despite being in the last place. It's a bad weekend, instead, for Gabbiani and Ghinzani's Osellas, out of the twenty qualified drivers as well as Rosberg, Jabouille, Rebaque and Serra. Enzo Osella honestly admits that he's got to review his vehicles to add the hydro-pneumatic shock absorbers that aren't being used yet. After many polemics, after tragedies and serious responsibilities, the protagonists of the race can get stronger, get their voices to be heard in the discussions about safety if they'll behave conscientiously. Everyone knows which dangers there are at this circuit, despite the thorough organisation. Well, this is a good chance to make everyone see that brain and heart can be used when there's a prestigious victory, glory and much money at stake too.

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Can Ferrari win their first Grand Prix with a turbo vehicle? Will the fast started after the last victory at Watkins Glen in October 1979 end? These are the questions that the Tifosi ask themselves, ready to bring their checkered flags out. Gilles Villeneuve says something about this question:

 

"In practice, I got to the limits of both the car and I. In the race, I'll try to do better. If I can stay next to the Brazilian, I'll try to surprise him at the start. He's sure that the turbo engine is a handicap compared to his Brabham's naturally aspirated engine when the starting signal is going to be off. But we have an exceptional engine that reacts very quickly and it allows us to start (unless an accident happens) before the others and better than them. If I manage to lead at Saint Devote, it’s a done deal. Piquet won’t be able to catch me and I’ll hardly let him pass unless my car drops in performance. However, it’ll surely be a fierce battle that other drivers will join in".

 

The biggest doubts are related to Ferrari’s V6 turbo engines, whose hold’s details engineer Mauro Forghieri underlines:

 

"The V6 engine and the turbo are two separate philosophies, but at the same time, they’re also joined like Siamese twins. The biggest problem was getting the most out of the pairing of the turbines to the propeller. Clearly, we’re on the right path, even though we’ll surely have to face other problems".

 

The engineer doesn’t say so, but it looks like the optimum was reached thanks to the use of a special control unit that regulates the fuel’s supply and distribution. In the past, this unit was small and perhaps not suitable for the requirements of the tube. The supply was scarce and it caused the pistons to get pierced. Now this central, an electronic one, has undergone reviews, it was enlarged and built on elastic supports that avoid vibrations. Thanks to special sensors, loads of data can be recorded, such as atmospheric pressure, the number of laps, fuel usage. To sum up, the turbo and the engine are fully taken advantage of. This hypothesis was corroborated by the quali.

 

Pironi, whose car obviously hadn’t a calibrated central unit, didn’t manage to get Villeneuve’s same performances. The Frenchman also broke an engine (one of the failures recorded in the first races repeated), then he wasn’t able to run as he wanted. There’s hope that the Modenese technicians will manage to put a better-recorded car at his disposal. The use of the central unit, however, is still one of those discoveries that give a remarkable value to experimentations during races. We should see it soon, after the appropriate tests, on standard cars.

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Sunday, May 31st, 1981. Beautiful ladies throw items - especially cigarettes, cosmetics and drinks - to the public, supported by the blue-bells arrived from Pairs’ Moulin Rouge: willowy and fast, they get photographed hugging adequately sponsored racing cars. Less in view, but very active, other young girls arrived by the blue train from Paris and for their Monegasque three-day stay.

 

The whole thing is in an ambience marked by the usual star parade. Sean Connery is there with his arms tattooed outside of a yellow shirt’s mid sleeves, as well as one of Tyron Power’s daughters, whose name got lost in distant reports. And then King Gustavo of Sweden in beach clothing, surrounded by six bodyguards, and Jack Nicholson. In the underpasses, between young couples showing each other their love, completely unaware of the crowd, there’s Peynet. However, the arrival of Philippe Junot, husband recently divorced from Princess Caroline, tenderly hugging a blonde Slav, is said to be controversial.

 

While the morning goes on regularly, and Monte-Carlo fills with VIPs and fans, around 2:15 p.m. waiters are almost done serving lunch to Residence Loews’ latecomers who can linger at the table since they have a spot on the terrace to watch the Grand Prix. Between stewed cuttlefish and custard, suddenly, an explosion raises a smokescreen that reaches the sea.

 

"I found myself covered in pieces of plaster, breathing was hard".

 

says an industrialist of Bergamo with his grey suit covered by dust.

 

"A few minutes later, firefighters arrived and drained water in the floor between the kitchens and the terrace. But I had already gone away. Someone screamed: it’s an attack, emphasizing the fear that had made who was still in their room run away hurriedly".

 

In the following instants, the circuit is blocked, but most of the people shut in the grandstands don’t notice a thing. From Grimaldi Palace, the Prince’s residence, a member of the Nation Council manages to reach Ranieri III and Grace on the phone, informing them of what’s happening. Meanwhile, around twenty policemen burst into the kitchens questioning the staff, which is made of Turks, Yugoslavs and Italians who compose, as everyone knows, the lowest layer of the happy Monegasque society.

 

The fact that terrorism hasn’t reached Monte-Carlo and that the explosion happened in the kitchens by accident, probably a short circuit, is rapidly ascertained. However, Monaco has probably never lived similar moments of fear and distress, harshly beaten in its prestige. In the meantime, among the personnel, three injured and two taken by a beginning of asphyxiation already are at the hospital, where journalists - searching for news - are firmly rejected.

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The Loews hangs to the wall that drops in the sea, in the higher area, precisely over the tunnel, next to a tower and a roundabout. And in the tunnel, scarcely lit, that the racers should face after the furious hill from the old station, water from the firefighters’ hoses drains, leaving large stains. There’s another hazard: debris may fall from the gallery’s vaults on the track. The first dreads rapidly become panic and they only go away when - after many wishes of postponements - it is decided to start. The incident only shows again the inappropriacy of this circuit, between houses whose structures are more than thirty years old. Everyone asks themselves how a Grand Prix with so many ambience issues for the windings of the layout can pass under the kitchens of a big residence in one of its hottest points and also be extremely vulnerable in other areas too.

 

Time passes and the race is to start at 3:30 p.m.; after the incident at Hotel Loews, the start gets postponed minute after minute, waiting for the firefighters to declare the road feasible. Time passes and, meanwhile, the mechanics in the pits start the engines to heat them up. At 3:25 p.m., PA announces that the green light will be at 3:35 p.m. Clearly, the attempts to dry the water are useless, because a few minutes before the drivers’ exit on track, another delay is announced. This annoys the crowd and the drivers, who get their helmets off showing their bothered faces. You need to imagine the heat of the minutes that precede the start, essential on Monaco’s circuit more than anywhere else because who takes the lead considerably enhances their chance of victory.

 

Other delays undoubtedly provoke small nervous traumas, such as those that occur for false starts in athletic competitions. Around 4:10 p.m., while the crowd on the grandstands starts hissing and pushing for the start, the race director gathers the drivers to communicate a decision that doesn’t seem permanent: two formation laps for everyone to realise with their own eyes the conditions of the track in that tract, two flags (a yellow one at the entry of the tunnel to remember the danger at every lap, a green one at the exit to give the green light), absolute prohibition to overtake while being in the tunnel. At the end of the Grand Prix, Gilles Villeneuve says:

 

"There weren’t more or fewer problems than a normal circuit where it rains in a certain tract. Perhaps, we were the most hindered as well as everybody who had a turbo engine, since we needed all the width of the road to make the most of the power".

 

However, Elio De Angelis had a different vision:

 

"I wouldn’t have started because there was too much water, which, by the way, kept draining from the Loews for the whole race and was extremely dangerous in the dark".

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Despite the controversial opinions, the Grand Prix regularly starts. Piquet gets a good start and he’s followed by the drivers that were behind him on the grid: Villeneuve, Mansell, Reutemann. Jones and Patrese. In the first turn, Santa Devota’s chicane, two drivers are out: Prost - with the Renault - touches on the left De Cesaris’ McLaren which goes left and blocks Mario Andretti’s Alfa Romeo. While the Frenchman, despite the accident, can keep going, the young Roman and the Italo-American are forced to retire, due to their cars being damaged.

 

After ten laps it’s Stohr’s turn to stop at his pit because of some electrical problems. The Italian driver manages to take off again, but his race soon turns into an ordeal, before the final retirement during the fourteenth lap. In the meantime, Carlos Reutemann, aware of his responsibilities and drawn on a competitive Williams, immediately tries to make up positions, but while trying to overtake Mansell, he rear-ends him on a rear tire. Carlos’ car’s spoiler bends and the unlucky driver is forced to the pits to change it, while Mansell completes another lap before stopping with a broken suspension. Reutemann restarts with stubbornness and he climbs up to seventh thanks to thrilling overtakes.

 

Evidently, the Argentinian wants too much from his Williams and breaks the first and second gears of his gearbox. When - during the thirty-third lap - he goes back to the pits, the Williams driver gets off the car without saying a word. The Argentinian throws his helmet and gloves in the bag and heads to the boat moored to the dock, accompanied by his wife Mimicha and his two daughters. Mimicha kisses and comforts him, but Carlos can’t calm down. In fact, he keeps saying only one word:

 

"Gear...gear".

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During the 20th lap, Jones overtakes Villeneuve on the straight, on the inside, and begins his chase after Piquet who easily brought himself at the lead with a great advantage. The Aussie, gaining seconds each lap, gets on the shoulders of the Brazilian and sets his sights on him, challenging him more than once. After a premature retirement for Patrese during the 29th lap, caused by the failure of the gearbox, an exciting fight between Pironi and Cheever, who spins and lags behind, Arnoux’s retirement for an incident and De Angelis’ for an engine failure (during the 32nd lap), Prost’s stop for the same reason, and the incident between Alboreto and Giacomelli, who gets out of the race after putting himself across at Santa Devota, during the 51st lap Piquet gains an advantage because Jones’ Williams oddly slackens.

 

But the Brabham’d driver’s lead doesn’t last long: during the 53rd lap, while trying to lap Eddie Cheever and Patrick Tambay, the Brazilian driver manages to overtake the first, but not the second one. This happens because Piquet brakes on the outer part of the track and the Brabham hits the guardrail. Therefore, the Brazilian has to retire his car. During the same lap, Watson retires too, due to an engine malfunction. Three laps later, during the 56th, Marc Surer overtakes Patrick Tambay.

 

At this point, Jones leads with a 31.35 seconds gap from Villeneuve, who regained the second position. However, the Aussie starts pointing out to his mechanics, in the pits, that something isn’t working, while the Canadian is closing the gap. The Williams stops in the pits with fuel draught issues during the 75th lap. Unfortunately, not knowing the causes of the problem, the team believes it’s related to a lack of fuel and fills the tank.

 

In the meantime, Villeneuve gets closer, bringing himself only 3.3 seconds behind the leader; then, during the 72nd lap, the Canadian overtakes his rival while accelerating, exactly in front of Ferrari’s garage. From that point on winning is almost too easy for the Canadian, who crosses the line first. Behind him, Jones settles for the second place, followed by the stubborn Laffite on the Talbot, Pironi who climbed up to fourth, the brave Cheever and Surer who, despite having stopped in the pits right after the start, was pretty consistent.

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Gilles Villeneuve touches many people when he triumphantly crosses the line of the Monaco Grand Prix with his Ferrari. There’re tears of joy, obviously, from the Tifosi, hastened in great number to the grandstands and Monaco’s streets to watch the race. But these tears join the ones poured by Ferrari’s men, moved by a win that was far from expected. Forghieri tries to bring the calm in his box, on the cry of: We’ve won other races, boys. But the answer speaks volumes: not this important. Ferrari’s last victory was on October 7th, 1979: almost a two-year fast. For this reason, and the surprise too, the Tifosi go wild around the streets of Monaco, singing their happiness all night long. A deserved success, related to the reliability of the car and the skills of the driver. Nobody expected the turbo engine to win this soon, after a difficult start.

 

Even so, Ferrari’s competitiveness has been continuously increasing ever since the beginning of the season, with more and more interesting results. Long Beach, March 15, 1981, Villeneuve had to retire after a good qualification and Pironi had placed in tenth, 14 laps behind Jones, the winner. Later, in Rio, two more retirements: one of the Canadian, for the turbine’s failure, and the other, Pironi’s, for a crash with Prost. In Argentina, the Ferrari’s hadn’t managed to get into the rankings: Piron had retired in the very first laps for an engine breakage, while Villeneuve had broken an axle shaft again.

 

The right path had started in Imola, where Pironi had scored the first point of the season with fifth place, and Villeneuve was seventh. In that circumstance, Ferrari started showing signs of improvement, engines weren’t failing anymore. In Belgium, another good result, almost unhoped-for: a fourth place for Villeneuve and an eighth for Pironi. Now, the success, the first win of the season, the first win of the turbo engine. It wasn’t absolute supremacy, they needed many rival’s retirements, from Reutemann to Piquet to Patrese to the problems that spoiled Alan Jones’ party. But this is racing: whoever crosses the line first wins.

 

The next race, the Spanish Grand Prix, will take place on Sunday, June 21st, 1981, on a pretty fast circuit, not exactly suitable for turbo engines. It’s going to be a transient challenge, in which Ferrari will want to confirm their progress while waiting to get to way faster tracks, such as France’s Digione, and Britain’s Silverstone. For now, there’s great satisfaction in Maranello’s team. Above all, the rediscovered reliability of the engines gives hope for the future, not to mention the drivers: Villeneuve in the focus and Pironi immediately after him, they’re two authentic champions that never save themselves.

 

"I’m not only happy, but deeply satisfied. There couldn’t have been a better way to celebrate the contract I renewed ten days ago with Enzo Ferrari. If it brought good luck, I’d sign one every week. I think that Maranello’s engineer is happy with the trust he’s had in me. I perfectly know that many assets were spent on me, and I hope that I’ve partly paid who believed in me back".

 

If Piquet, Reutemann and Patrese hadn’t stopped, and Jones hadn’t had problems, what could have Gilles done?


"I would have been fourth or fifth. But what matters in racing is the position you cross the line in. People don’t remember the second one or who retires. Otherwise, I’d be a World Champion of missed wins".

 

Was it a difficult success?

 

"The hardest race I’ve ever taken part in. With these new hydro-pneumatic shock absorbers, which basically only have one running centimetre, Formula One cars have become as stiff as karts. Driving for seventy-six laps on a wavy track like this one is exhausting. As I stepped off the car, I drank three bottles of water to rehydrate. I was knackered, with my arms aching and the right leg with fatigue cramps due to the brake pedal that hardened after only fifteen laps".

 

When did you think you could get the win?

 

"Only five laps to the end, when I reached Jones and overtook him. Before that, I believed I could only get a good placement. But it’s been a while since I’ve started saying that Ferrari was ready to win".

 

Gilles, how do you explain such fast progress of the turbo engine of the Ferrari?

 

"We had to work a lot on the chassis because the engine is finalized by now. We had broken fifteen propellers from the beginning of the season to Imola, summing up races and practice. Then, suddenly, by fixing Magneti Marelli’s central unit, everything started working properly. Our technicians fine-tuned another amazing engine in Maranello. With this competitive and reliable six-cylinder, we were enabled to focus on the other parts of the car".

 

Now, Gilles, you’re fourth in the World Championship. It’s nine races to go. Do you think you have any chance to fight for the title?

 

"We’re in the fight too. We won in the most disadvantageous circuit for the turbo. Therefore, theoretically speaking, we’re in the reckoning. But for now, I still live day to day. I’m pleased with winning some races. We’ll see later. I’ve still got three years in Ferrari and the Scuderia isn’t used to such long abstinence".

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Clearly, most of the merit goes to Ferrari too. After taking a hard path, the turbo engine, the Italian team overcame - in incredible times - the technological gap that separated them from the most competitive teams. And it’s important to highlight that the win of a compact turbo engine on a street circuit such as Monaco has got a unique meaning and makes the fans hope for more in the next races, when racing will take place in faster and more fitting circuits for powerful engines. This time, engineer Marco Forghieri studied and solved the problem better than others. It was believed that the turbo engine, due to its smaller alacrity, wasn’t suitable for circuits such as Monaco, but clearly, this isn’t the case.

 

The Ferrari engine, a V6 of 1496 cube centimetres, supplies 540 horsepower, but, thanks to a complicated system of sewers for fuelling and unloading, it produces much horsepower at a low capacity. The secret, or part of it, is that every supercharger receives exhaust fumes from a cylinder row but it supplies the opposite one so that the pipes are as shortest as possible; then, there’s the accelerator’s double valve, a valve at the entrance of the air in the supercharger system and one at the entrance of the cylinders; eventually, there’s a special valve that unloads the compressed air at the entrance of the turbines when the driver speeds up.

 

The result is that the two turbos are kept at a high RPM during decelerations, therefore they’re ready to accelerate. Of course, the engine is only a piece of the whole puzzle. Other important factors are the new transverse gearbox, completely redesigned, and the chassis’ fine-tuning according to the latest needs, so with fixed side closures and the suspension’s lowering. The chassis generally recalls Ferrari’s building system, with the aluminium-covered tubular structure; the pitch is 2719 centimetres as of the original, with gauges of 1761 centimetres - the front one - and 1626 centimetres - the back one; the weight is a bit more than the 685 kg minimum.

 

The tires are radial Michelin, which are supplied to all the cars from this year. Despite the complication related to the supercharger’s presence, Ferrari 126 K is very clean from an aerodynamic point of view, because all the radiators are in the side cargo beds. Another important reason for this success is the low fuel usage that allows them to start the race without excess load. Ferrari has got an electronic regulator for the mechanic pump of injection, developed by Maranello’s technicians, that makes up a considerable step forward in the technology for injection systems and reduces usage.

 

The race has been nervous, both for what happened before the start and the importance of the odds at stake. With Reutemann who had to strengthen his position as Championship leader, with Jones and Piquet forced to attack, all the requirements for a vibrant and tense race were there. And so was it: plot twists followed one another, after an initial calm that foretold the following storm. The moment Gilles Villeneuve overtook Jones, with the power of a bullet, a hundred people jumped up for joy in Maranello, managing somehow not to swamp the television. Then the chaos, the screams, the happiness. Many people keep their eyes closed and ask their neighbour:

 

"How is it? What’s happening? How much is left? My God, I hope it ends, I hope it ends".

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When Villeneuve’s Ferrari crosses the line, a hundred people at Maranello Society start drinking champagne (Ferrari, of course) and run to take their flags. A car parade blocks the village, everyone runs to sing and play in front of Ferrari’s factory. The Society has around 140 members, there’s a bar with many pictures of red cars, people stop there to discuss. Ferrari is talked about first, Villeneuve second. Giorgio Sociali, vice president of the society, says:

 

"Until now, we put the car before the driver. We didn’t care about the winner, we cared about Ferrari winning. But ever since this Sunday, something changed. Now, we love Villeneuve, a boy that gives everything, he knows how to take risks. It’s an important change. We liked Regazzoni too, Lauda a bit less, but Gilles is the best".

 

The members of the Club meet at lunchtime. And it’s time for discussions, calculations, previsions. Then, they place a map of Monaco’s circuit on the table and, joined by the mechanics of the race section, conclude that Villeneuve had probably changed gears around 7000 times:

 

"Did you see the face he had at the end? He was knackered: Monaco is really exhausting. And we won on that circuit, not suitable. If we add the fact that we hadn’t been winning for two years...it was a success. A success".

 

Giorgio Sociali, the vice president, is Maranello’s hairdresser. In the past, he had to cut Enzo Ferrari’s hair and beard. He thinks of that as an honour, he tells it to his friends. Nullo Fontanesi has something to tell too. He worked at Ferrari and around thirty years before he appeared on newspapers in a picture, next to Ascari and Villoresi:

 

"Here, we all love the old one. He did so much for the village, the schools, the sports facilities: everyone owes him something, and it’s not only the pride of knowing that Maranello is a world-renowned place. Ferrari was the first factory here: maybe it’s the emotion, but I want to say that Ferrari gave food and work to all of us".

 

Therefore, this is why Ferrari fans love Ferrari more than their drivers. The passion - only partly for the sport - orbits around the Club: mechanics, ex-workers, normal supporters, even rivals. Mario Manfredini says:

 

"My cousin, Giovanni, is Alfa’s chief mechanic. He was at Ferrari, then he changed, Obviously, we made fun of him, but he didn’t forget where he comes from and, in the end, we drank together".

 

It’s simple and sincere conversations; if there’s rhetoric in it, it’s wiped out by the spirit. The same one that Enzo Ferrari uses to describe the win. It’s only a few sentences. However, they represent a promise:

 

"Thank you. Thanks to every member of the Ferrari family and to all our sports friends. It’s been an unexpected win, even though during practice we had proved the potential of our new turbo 126 engine to face the unsuitable street circuit; we lost San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, which we should have won: this is the law of sports. The choice of the turbo is a tech reality that really challenges us and our future".

 

This is how Ferrari comments on the first success of the turbo engine, on the prestigious and terrible Monaco circuit. As said, it’s been a two-year wait: October 7th, 1979. Out of the factory, workers smile, talk, they’re satisfied. A yellow flag with the red horse waves on a balcony. Alan Jones, instead, is calmer. He is very philosophical about taking second place - and the missed victory at the end:

 

"Six points is better than nothing. All in all, I’m happy. I had hoped Piquet would stay longer in the race. The fight with the Brazilian was nice, very exciting. Still, it was a good race. You often ask me if I think Ferrari are worth the title. No. The Italian car made some progress, but they’re not ready for the Championship. Perhaps they’ll win other races, they might become the arbiter of the Championship, a very uncomfortable position for all of us".

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Constructor Frank Williams agrees with the Brazilian. For him, Ferrari is a true surprise:

 

"Honestly, at the beginning of the season, I would’ve bet on Piquet (with Brabham) and, potentially, the Renaults, who had shown great progress last season, as our main rivals. Instead, the team of Modena rises again. In F1’s world, you’re never relaxed. Anyway, we’re always ready to battle and still have our drivers at the top. There are still nine races to go and anything could happen. We won’t lose focus or hunger, for sure".

 

In the meantime, one of the candidates for winning the title, Nelson Piquet, explains the dynamics of the race incident, saying:

 

"I had an eight-second advantage on Jones. I was relaxed and the only problem was lapping. I couldn’t wait for two or three laps to overtake every driver I found in front of me. Therefore, at the Tobacconist’s Turn, after leaving Jones, who had got very close to me, behind, I saw Tambay preceding me and I thought he’d go on the side. The stewards had waved blue flags to tell him he had to be lapped. And so he deceived me.The Frenchman moved to the inside, I had to brake violently and there was nothing to do, the car crashed against the guardrail. Ferrari will be another problem for everyone, we’ll have to deal with Maranello’s cars".

 

Riccardo Patrese is among the let-downs; Arrow’s gearbox betrayed the Italian, who was fighting for the first positions:

 

"Since we saw how things went, I could have won too. But nothing ever goes my way. Piquet and Reutemann retired, Jones was behind and Villeneuve won. I could have been there. But, clearly, that day hasn’t arrived yet".

 

The following day, Monday, June 1st, 1981, with a Ferrari-like red shirt, light-blue trousers, a man is almost going unnoticed between tourists and workers that dismantle nets and fences, the last vestige of the circuit that had hosted over 70.000 people on Sunday. Gilles Villeneuve gets to the Café de Paris, in Monaco’s main square. From his house, he comes here on foot: a two-kilometre walk, following the coast. Villeneuve sits down, orders a drink and while trying to speak in a weird French-Canadian-Modenese language, which should be Italian, he whispers to the journalist that’s interviewing him:

 

"I’m here, ready to confess everything".


In the meantime, he shows his hands. Both palms are marked, as if he had rowed for many hours, instead of driving.

 

From a physical point of view, it was my hardest win. For the first time, I felt ill before the end of a race. The cars don’t have suspensions, they jump as if they were grasshoppers. In this turn, after the Casinò, I had to hold my car by my arms’ strength".

 

A sacrifice that brought an important win.

 

"I was also lucky. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have won Monaco Grand Prix. In other races, however, my rivals had been supported by fate. Jones, for example, got first place with a broken gearbox or a blown tyre. This is why I don’t owe anything to anyone".

 

When did you know you’d make it?

 

"Five laps to the end. I had seen a very nervous Piquet before the start. I knew he could make some mistakes. Then Reutemann. Carlos had got into the first six places in the last fifteen races. Sooner or later, he’d have to stop this trend. When I found myself in second place, behind Jones, I thought it’d be nice if he’d had problems. And he really had them".

 

Now, does he feel in the fight for the Championship?

 

"I had made rough calculations. I thought I’d have to start scoring good points from the French Grand Prix, in July. Now, I’ve got nine more points than my plan. Anyway, for now, I just aim to win races. The favorite ones are still Reutemann and Jones, they have very competitive cars".

 

What do the Williams have more than the Ferrari?

 

"An exceptional grip. Frequently, track adherence is more important than engine power. Moreover, the British cars have more experience with miniskirts and variable suspensions. We still have to work a lot. Once we make the turbo engines reliable, we’ll have to intervene in aerodynamics and chassis. Progressive changes are established and they should gradually bring us to the next level. Next year, we’ll have winning Ferraris".

 

Gilles won right after extending his contract with Ferrari. Is it a consequence of the affirmed trust?

 

"No. I always do my best. I signed the contract in March, before going to Zolder. I have to say that I’ve had some doubts during these two years, weird thoughts ran through my head".

 

So, what’s the thing that pushed him to stick with Ferrari?

 

"I never wanted to separate from Ferrari. I feel good, both from technical and human points of view".

 

What do you feel for Enzo Ferrari?

 

“Respect and gratitude. I think potbelly likes me. Yesterday evening I phoned him. We exchanged congratulations. Enzo Ferrari is an extraordinary man, with a huge experience and an incomparable human burden. People who don’t deeply know him are not able to know how much trust he can give you. I’ve never had anything to say to him".

 

Not even when Gilles broke one car after the other?

 

"No. I understood who Enzo Ferrari is after the toughest crashes, in Japan and Long Beach. He didn’t tell me a thing. He let me go my way. Probably, any other team would have thrown me out".

 

Does he think he’s the fastest driver in the world?

 

"I don’t know if I’m the number one. I should try other races, other classes, such as Indianapolis or Can-Am races. Hence, I should gain more experience. Mario Andretti is the one who demonstrated he was an authentic champion, wherever he went. I still think I’m very fast".

 

What’s Gilles’ dream: winning the world title?

 

"I’d like to win at least three Championships, like Jackie Stewart, to feel satisfied. I intend to race for a long time".

 

What’s Gilles’ best quality?

 

"I never give up until the chequered flag is waved. My rivals should keep that in mind, especially in the next races".

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Simultaneously, in his swimming-pooled villa in Cap Ferrat, Carlos Reutemann is extremely angry: the South-American didn’t put up with Monaco’s result. His Williams’ gearbox failed and Carlos was left out of the points.

 

"I raced like a lion, I could have at least arrived within the first six places. Instead, I’ve got nothing. I risked a lot and I didn’t obtain a single thing".

 

To the ones asking him if Villeneuve’s and Ferrari’s successes could hinder his race to the title, Carlos answers:

 

"Of course. I knew that, sooner or later, they’d come to light. But I didn’t expect it to be this soon. However, I don’t think they’ll be fighting for Jones’ crown".

 

Lole’s opinion is restated by Frank Williams, who still seems upset by Sunday’s events:

 

"I had told everyone that the turbo engine would be a problem for us. And I was right. Now, it’ll be hard to batten down the hatches, but I think we still have some small advantages".

 

The Modenese team’s exploit was welcomed differently in Formula One. As usual, Renault’s men's class shone. When Villeneuve crossed the line, the French company’s sporting director, Jean Sage, hugged engineer Mauro Forghieri, responsible for Ferrari’s tech. And the transalpine mechanics exulted as if the win was theirs. Toleman’s directors - whose team hadn’t qualified on Thursday - watched the race from the pits, too. The new British team uses four-cylinder turbo engines made by Brian Hart.

 

"Ferrari’s win consoles us. The Italian team has enormous technical potential and the results couldn’t be awaited for long. Now, we’ll try to follow their example. It won’t be easy, but we have good expectations after what we saw at Monaco".

 

says Alex Hawkridge, Toleman’s manager. The same things are said by Pirelli, who supply their radial tyres to the British team.

 

"If we had doubts before, now we’re more relaxed. The turbo is motorsport’s future and we’re sure we’re going to make good progress soon".

 

Going back to the previous day, on Sunday evening, princess Antoinette, the prince’s sister, tells Ranieri III the good news: the race took place as planned. The princedom files its 39th Grand Prix and collects the proceeds: with remarkable impertinence, official reports talk about a perfect organization, but the kitchens’ explosion wasn’t the only bad episode. The Monegasques had to bitterly acknowledge the first royal absence. Ranieri III and Grace are officially in Boston for their child, Albert, whose degree ceremony was solace after restless Caroline’s sentimental vicissitudes.

 

However, the truth is that His Royal Highness wanted to avoid meeting one of his old business partners, Texan oil tycoon David Thieme, a big personality in Formula One, who got out of prison not long ago. Therefore, Villeneuve was awarded by the Prime Minister. Big disappointment for public attendance: twenty percent less than last year. The usual weekend crowd flood was scarce. In the background, news spread from Paris that Francois Mitterrand aims to turn part of the princedom into a pension for old militaries and high-profile administration officials, like in Mentone. A reclamation company sends squads of young men from Nice in order to collect empty cans to sell to a factory.

 

At the dawn of Monday, June 1st, 1981, the pickers meet groups of Tifosi that still sing the praises of Gilles Villeneuve and the Scuderia. Obviously, the cans are filled with beer, after quenching the 100.000 fans’ thirst provoked by staying on the grandstands, under the scorching sun, for eight hours, besides the queue caused by the furnace’s explosion, with the resulting delay of the start. But, still, the crisis is threatening that happy island too. It’s worthless to search for proof or denial, in Monaco nothing changes, at least on the outward appearance. The prices don’t change either. The hotels made bookings only for a week (average expense, 1.200.000 liras for sleeping), over 1.300.000 liras for a yacht landing place in Angels’ Bay, a meal cost 50.000 liras. You should hope that they gave a discount to Loews’ clients.

 

Anthony Quartey

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