#376 1983 French Grand Prix

2022-09-03 00:00

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#1983, Fulvio Conti, Maria Ginevra Ferretti,

#376 1983 French Grand Prix

John Watson's achievement, the great winner of the United States Grand Prix West, is destined to go down in Formula 1 history. The Northern Irish driv


John Watson's achievement, the great winner of the United States Grand Prix West, is destined to go down in Formula 1 history. The Northern Irish driver from McLaren demonstrated once again, alongside Niki Lauda, temperament, courage, and skill. Watson's success, however, takes on even greater significance when one considers the intelligence with which the McLaren driver approached the race, especially when compared to the current World Champion, Keke Rosberg. The incident in which the Finn caused the elimination of Patrick Tambay and his Ferrari, while the Frenchman was in the lead, sparked controversy and discussions. The majority of critics argue that Rosberg behaved absurdly; some even suggest shared responsibility of the French driver for what happened. However, this argument is untenable for several easily demonstrable reasons. Aside from the fact that Rosberg drove recklessly from the start, giving the impression of being driven by excessive competitiveness, there is no doubt that the collision on lap 25 occurred exclusively due to the actions of the Williams driver. Not satisfied with risking a dangerous pileup by dramatically changing trajectory at the start, colliding with Arnoux's Ferrari front wheel (and repeating a risky maneuver when he spun out with a mistimed braking on the opposite straight), Rosberg also performed an irregular maneuver when he hit Tambay head-on. According to the FISA track driving code, in chapter four (overtaking), paragraph C, it states:


"Maneuvers that may hinder other drivers in the turn, such as changing trajectory, intentional contact with vehicles inside or outside, are strictly prohibited".


But even more than the regulations, unwritten rules common in motor racing prevail, where the one in front has the right to choose their direction. In simple terms, a collision, even a lateral one like Rosberg's, can only be condemned. Some argue that Tambay could have widened the turn more and let the opponent pass. However, the Ferrari was not significantly slower to warrant such a maneuver. The incident caused by the overly fiery Keke (and others involving Jarier) highlights a deficiency in Formula 1, namely the almost total lack of authority of the race stewards. If, in such cases (as in many incidents in the past), track officials had intervened with penalties or even disqualifications, perhaps many drivers would not feel authorized to perform any madness. The FISA has adopted a strict approach to technical inspections this year; it is time to do the same regarding the behavior of drivers in the race. Having said that, the World Championship continues. On Wednesday, March 30, 1983, Didier Pironi, arriving in the evening in Bologna, piloting his personal plane ("It's easier than driving a car, given my conditions"), withdrew, during the presentation of the San Marino Grand Prix to be held in Imola on Sunday, May 1, the Gilles Villeneuve Award, instituted by the Sports Department of the Republic. He then makes a quick visit to Enzo Ferrari in Maranello. The Frenchman also makes rather surprising statements about the incident between Rosberg and Tambay in Long Beach, as seen on TV.


"The Finn made only one mistake. That at the start when he collided with Arnoux. After that, he ran his race, a bit impetuous as is his temperament. When he saw the gap left by Tambay, he went for it: at most, there is shared responsibility between the two. The GPDA will not take action because nothing serious happened".


It would be interesting to know what Didier Pironi would have said if he had been in Patrick Tambay's place. René Arnoux, however, is less conciliatory, reiterating accusations against Keke Rosberg for the collision in the first lap.


"If he hadn't damaged my wheel, perhaps I could have fought for victory. In any case, a third place is not to be thrown away. With this Ferrari, we can aim for the World Championship victory".


Regarding Patrick Tambay, on Thursday, March 31, 1983, he tests two Ferraris that will be involved in free practice at Imola from Friday, along with Renault and Williams. For the first time, there is indirect confirmation that Ferrari accepts the idea of refueling during the race and will implement it soon. On the 126 C2B, there is a quick-fill refueling port behind the driver on the right side. It is rumored that Ferrari can pump over 120 liters of fuel in just 7 seconds, a significantly shorter time than its competitors. Ferrari may have tested Goodyear radial tires yesterday. The car also seems to be 35-40 kilograms lighter than those that have raced.


"I cannot pass judgment on the incident between Tambay and Rosberg. At that moment, I was not in front of the television; I had gone to the bathroom. It happens... They are men and know what they are doing".


This is Enzo Ferrari's succinct comment, present on Friday, April 1, 1983, at the Imola test day for Renault, Ferrari, and Williams. After the diplomatic statement, the Modena constructor smiles slyly. He certainly has an opinion and will have expressed it, or someone in charge, personally. The audience present, quite numerous, is less calm and targets the World Champion with boos, jeers, and less edifying epithets. Rosberg asks for an English translation, then greets the audience, indifferent to the protest, to the point that he accepts a lift from Arnoux on the Ferrari when his Williams remains stationary due to an engine failure at the Rivazza turn, in front of the fans. The two antagonists do not throw down the gauntlet or embrace but stick to their positions. Keke Rosberg says:


"If I am not very likable, the cross should not be thrown at me. Many drivers have been protagonists, in past years, of similar episodes. And many others will, but they are not at the center of so much controversy. These things can happen when you are fighting for the top position...".


While Patrick Tambay clearly expresses disappointment.


"His was an unmistakable collision trajectory. I, for many laps, took the same trajectory, the same braking. He was behind me by half a car when he decided to change everything, trajectory and braking, so he should have known very well what could happen. Long Beach is over; let's look to the future, hoping to stay away from Rosberg".


On Sunday, April 1, 1983, as in Long Beach and the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, turbocharged cars must concede victory to those with naturally aspirated engines in the second race of the World Championship, just like in Brazil. This time, the victory goes to the Williams of World Champion Keke Rosberg, who had already dominated the practice sessions in London. The Finn, starting from pole position alongside René Arnoux's Ferrari, maintains the lead, finishing only a few hundredths of a second ahead of young American Danny Sullivan's Tyrrell, a true revelation of the Race of Champions. In his wake, the former World Champion Alan Jones finishes third, followed by Englishman Brian Henton on Theodore, showing significant progress. René Arnoux's race is unfortunate as he records the best time at 1'17"826, at an average speed of 235.59 km/h, but is forced to retire on lap 17 of the scheduled 40 due to strong vibrations in his Ferrari's transmission. Earlier, Arnoux had stopped twice at the pit to change tires. The debut of the Spirit-Honda is disappointing as it also retires in the sixth lap due to a malfunction. With this victory, Keke Rosberg takes revenge (although not valid for the World Championship standings) after the disappointments of the first two races of the season in Brazil and Long Beach. In Rio, the Williams driver had his second-place points taken away due to disqualification decided by the stewards after his car was restarted by a push from the pits. In Long Beach, after a aggressive race conduct that cost the elimination of the two Ferraris, Rosberg was also sent off by Jarier. The Formula 1 World Championship resumes on Sunday, April 17, 1983, at the Le Castellet circuit. 


It is quite likely that many turbocharged cars will resort to refueling during the race, already experimented with by Brabham and Williams. A special area is being set up in the circuit box for this dangerous operation, which carries many uncertainties; it is, in fact, the first time that refueling involves many cars. Meanwhile, the organizers of the Monaco Grand Prix announce that refueling during the race on their circuit will not be possible due to the narrowness of the pits. On this subject, Formula 1 is playing with fire. At least eight teams are ready to implement refueling already tested in Brazil by Brabham and Williams. A dangerous tactic (remember Rosberg's car that almost caught fire) that proved successful for Nelson Piquet. For this reason, other teams have had to take precautions, including Ferrari, Renault, McLaren, Tyrrell, Ligier, and Alfa Romeo. The systems adopted for quickly refueling the gasoline in the tanks during a pit stop, which should not last more than twenty seconds (including tire change), are varied in their solutions, but they all share a conceptual similarity. The liquid must be poured in the shortest time possible, minimizing risks. Ferrari has prepared an enormous stand with three tanks, resembling a missile to be launched from Cape Canaveral, connected by very large diameter tubes. The fuel pressure is maintained by nitrogen gas, which is supposed to expel all the air from the car's vent, avoiding combustion issues. Renault, on the other hand, has developed separate boilers, one for each car. Truth be told, on Thursday, April 14, 1983, in a Formula 1 Commission meeting, both Ferrari and Renault, along with Alfa Romeo, attempted to eliminate mid-race refueling, but were blocked by English teams who evidently didn't want to lose the advantage of starting with lighter cars and counteracting the turbo power. The abolition of this system is scheduled for 1984, but for now, all teams aiming to win a race are forced to comply. A somewhat absurd situation, with a waste of investments, time, and research that could have been saved. The danger of the system is evident. So much so that the organizers of the French Grand Prix gather all the teams planning to stop during the race in one wing of the pits. On Thursday, the circuit is invaded by fire extinguishers - there are at least thirty of them, of enormous size, placed at crucial points, while each team takes its precautions. Nonetheless, a code of conduct and safety measures are officially established from the next race in Imola. 


Didier Pironi also participates in the meeting, returning to a circuit for the first time since last August. With crutches and still with his foot in a cast, the Frenchman is not optimistic about the chances of returning to the driver's seat, at least for this year. As the president of the GPDA, Pironi states that he and his colleagues are rather concerned about the refueling issue, especially regarding circuits with narrow pits. On Friday, April 15, 1983, after the disqualification suffered in Brazil for not complying with the sports commissioners' order to present the car for weighing during practice, Andrea De Cesaris and his Alfa Romeo are removed from the rankings. It is a less severe measure than the one in Brazil because the Italian driver will have the opportunity to redeem himself on Saturday in the second qualifying session, but it deprives the team and the driver of the satisfaction of setting the fastest time on the opening day of the French Grand Prix. All this happens at the end of the practice when technical checks begin. At the weigh-in, Alfa Romeo #22 is 554 kilograms, perfectly in order. However, the commissioners subsequently conduct other checks. When it comes time to check the on-board fire extinguishers, both are found to be empty. These cylinders are installed in the car, one in the driver's cockpit and one in the engine compartment, serving, of course, for safety in case of fire. The regulations are clear; the rules must be followed, and the car is removed from the ranking. Alfa Romeo and De Cesaris, caught off guard, try to defend themselves. The driver claims to have activated the system, having seen smoke coming from the rear of the car, and the team suggests the possibility that the extinguishers may have emptied during transportation. However, the commissioners are inflexible. It's not the 7-8 kilograms of fluorine gas in the cylinders saved in weight that justify the measure but safety reasons, an argument that cannot be debated. That the inconvenience was caused by negligence, no one denies. Between the end of the qualifying session and the presentation of the car for checks, Alfa Romeo had at least twenty minutes to recharge the extinguishers, and this was not done. Good faith is demonstrated, but at the same time, this is a warning to act more carefully. Certain situations cannot be allowed, especially on the day when the fastest time is set. Now it is clear that De Cesaris will probably have the chance to repeat and maybe start in pole position. The Roman driver set a time of 1'30"099, despite not having the qualifying Michelin tires used by Renault, Brabham, and McLaren. 


But if the weather changes, if rain comes, there is a risk of careless elimination. Apart from the concluding episode of the day, the timed tests do not bring any particular news. The turbo engines dominate (eight turbocharged cars at the top, including De Cesaris) with Lauda leading among non-turbocharged cars. The Ferraris mark the sixth and eighth times, with Arnoux and Tambay. The Maranello team, like Williams, faces significant tire problems. The Goodyears have proven to be too soft for the abrasive French circuit, to the extent that Rosberg, with tires specifically built for setting the time, cannot complete more than half a lap. Other issues plague Tambay's practices, as he breaks the reserve car's engine in the morning and then a turbine on the race car. Problems likely caused by faulty tuning of some components, perhaps ignition. De Cesaris's provisional elimination elevates all the drivers by one position. In first and second positions, therefore, are the two Renaults of Prost and Cheever, followed by the Lotus (with the Renault turbo engine) of Elio De Angelis. Piquet follows, then Arnoux and the ATS with the BMW turbocharged engine of Winckelhock. Niki Lauda, the leader of non-turbocharged cars, is almost three seconds behind. An abyss that will be difficult to bridge. Formula 1 presents its first European show of the season with the French Grand Prix. Returning to a classic track, the Paul Ricard circuit, considered one of the safest and most modern facilities in the world. This image of a model circuit will be put to the test by the refueling system during the race, which many teams have already announced. As in 1982, Renault at Le Castellet is the car to beat. If on Saturday, April 16, 1983, the qualifications are generally dominated by turbocharged cars (placed in the top eleven positions), the French team has its two cars ahead of everyone. And it's not enough; Alain Prost, on the fifth lap (completing six laps in total), sets a time that leaves rivals and even his teammate, Eddie Cheever, astonished. The Frenchman clocks 1'36"672, being 2.308 seconds faster than the Italo-American driver and 4.383 seconds quicker than Niki Lauda's McLaren, the best among non-turbocharged cars, classified in twelfth position. Alain Prost says at the end of the qualifications:


"I am confident for the race. It is perhaps the first opportunity I have to win this year. I have many revenges to take, but the one that interests me most is the world title that I narrowly lost last year. Unfortunately, there is the uncertainty of refueling, a danger that cannot be avoided at the moment".


Some say that to achieve his feat, Alain Prost had something special at his disposal, perhaps tires that no one else could use. Anyway, Prost has almost bridged the technological gap with the cars equipped with skirts since last year Arnoux started from pole position after setting a time of 1’34"408. The chase after Renault (not forgetting Cheever, who starts in the front for the first time) will be the dominant theme of the Grand Prix. In this pursuit, Ferrari will also be engaged, facing one of the less happy moments of recent times at Le Castellet. Even though René Arnoux will start from the second row (from the fourth position, while Patrick Tambay is only eleventh), Mannello's team faces many troubles these days. Engineer Mauro Forghleri states:


"We broke three engines and three turbines. We can't understand the reasons for these serious problems. We'll see. For the race, we rely on our drivers, but we are not calm even for the tires. We will start with the harder ones, and we don't even know if they will be enough to finish the race".


In any case, Ferrari will almost certainly be among the teams practicing mid-race refueling. The men from Maranello have trained for this operation, apparently with brilliant results. Brabham, which relies on a superb Patrese despite his Brabham not working perfectly, tries the operation, and the risks of this system are evident. When the fuel nozzle is attached to the tank, a jet of fuel rises, which fortunately, with the engine off and without the driver, does not cause fires. What will happen if the car arrives at the pits with the wing on fire, as happened to Piquet due to an exhaust pipe reddened by the turbo's heat? In addition to Patrese (third), among the top ten, three other Italians will start: De Angelis fifth with the Lotus-Renault, De Cesaris and Baldi, respectively seventh and eighth with the Alfa Romeos. De Cesaris failed to repeat the record time of Friday, canceled by the sports commissioners for the empty extinguishers. 


Some maliciously claim that with full cylinders, the Alfa is slower. In reality, De Cesaris, in his fastest lap, encounters traffic on the track and even has problems with the gearbox. It is desirable, however, that the Milanese team has drawn useful lessons from this unfortunate incident. The regulation Sunday morning warm-up half-hour is not without its excitement as various teams practice rapid wheel changes, managing 15 seconds from stop to start with all four wheels. Ferrari is still in trouble with their KKK turbochargers, this time on Arnoux’s car, and Tambay has elected to race the T-car. In the Brabham team BT52/2 has some trouble with its monocoque, and rather than make a hurried repair, Gordon Murray installs Patrese in the T-car, and Piquet is doing some last-minute fuel consumption checks. Both McLarens are planning to race with their DFY engines, as Mansell is with the Lotus 92, and the pit layout has reverted to the double entry and exit with the Ligier team being moved beyond the central exit hump as their long cars would ground. The RAM-March team has packed up as neither of the drivers qualifies, but Osella is looking happier with one of their cars destined for the starting grid. All 26 cars are ready to go, and most of the spectators seem to be wandering about freely on the inside of the circuit, while in excellent Indianapolis style, the whole pit area has been closed to everyone except team members engaged in a specific job, and at one end of the pit lane, that job is refuelling and wheel changing about halfway through the 54 lap race. From the word go, Alain Prost in the pole position Renault RE40 drives away as he has wished, building up a commanding lead while his new teammate Cheever hangs on to second place as best as he can but is harassed by the BMW-powered Brabhams of Piquet and Patrese, with the two Ferraris of Tambay and Arnoux following. Driving as hard as he knows how, Rosberg is not only hanging on to the second Ferrari but is actually challenging it, after having passed the Lotus-Renault of de Angelis. Apart from the lone Williams with Cosworth power, it is turbocharged cars all the way, for Winkelhock in the ATS-BMW and de Cesaris in the first of the turbocharged Alfa Romeos are leading the rest of the field. On the opening lap, there has been trouble at the back of the field for Watson has crumpled the nose of his McLaren on the back of Baldi’s turbocharged V8 Alfa Romeo, and both cars have gone into the pits, the McLaren for a new nose-cone and the Alfa Romeo for a new pair of rear tyres. 


On lap 4 Watson’s new Cosworth DFY, which has been installed the previous afternoon, blows up, and then Mansell is forced to give up as his foot injury is giving him too much pain. The two Renaults dominate the scene until lap 18 when Piquet forces his Brabham by Cheever into second place, but a long way behind the flying Prost. In fourth place is Patrese in the second Brabham; then comes Tambay a fair way back followed at an even greater distance by Rosberg and Arnoux and Laffite in the second Williams, de Cesaris, Winkelhock, de Angelis, Lauda, Alboreto, and the rest. Warwick has collected a puncture in his left-rear Pirelli, and after a stop to change tyres, he only goes a couple more laps before his Hart engine breaks. Next to go is Patrese, whose BMW engine begins overheating due to a serious loss of water, and by lap 20, it is all over, with Prost out on his own, Piquet second followed by Cheever, then Tambay a long way behind followed by Rosberg, Arnoux, and Laffite, but the interest lies in the fact that all seven of them are due to make a pit stop for new tyres and a half tank of petrol. Between lap 25 and lap 34, in other words, either side of half distance, all seven make pit stops, and when it is all over, the race order is exactly the same, which suggests that the whole pit-stop routine is really rather a waste of time as it gives no one an advantage. Each of the seven has chanced the possibility of their team making a nonsense, but such is the professionalism of the leading teams in Formula One that nobody makes any serious mistakes so the outcome of the race is completely unchanged by the pit stop routine. Arnoux is the first to come in, and apart from nearly running over the Renault mechanics who are waiting for Cheever, the Ferrari is refuelled, and new wheels and tyres fitted in 15.71s. Cheever’s stops for similar treatment by the Renault team takes 17.59s and then Rosberg speeds into the pits for tyres and fuel, but the left front wheel baulks slightly on being fitted, and the Williams is stationary for 26.15s. Then Prost appears in the pit lane, and while he is there Piquet goes by into the lead, but it is to be a short-lived lead as he is due to stop. The Renault is stationary for 24.18s due to Prost stalling the engine and letting his foot off the brake pedal before the right rear wheel is tightened, all of which waste precious seconds. Then Tambay is in and away with new tyres and half a tank of petrol in 15.66s, the Ferrari team once again proving that the days of comic opera at a pit stop by the Maranello team are long gone. 


Piquet relinquishes the lead of the race back to Prost when the Brabham stops for 16.07s for new tyres and petrol, and the last one to come in is Laffite. Before he arrives the Goodyear people had inspected the tyres of Rosberg’s car and decide that Laffite can go right through to the finish on his original tyres, so he is merely refuelled in a very swift 13.78s. He rejoins the race just ahead of Rosberg, but the reigning World Champion doesn’t intend to run as the second Williams and soon slices his way ahead. After all that excitement in the pits that only a handful of spectators actually witness, the outcome of the race is unchanged suggesting that it really is a waste of time and effort, but it has been interesting. With the order being Prost, Piquet, Cheever, Tambay, Rosberg, Laffite, and Arnoux, it is just a matter of everyone keeping station for the second half of the race. Of the seven drivers that stop, Arnoux has lost the most ground and is actually down to eleventh place before he gets back into his stride and pulls back up to seventh place ahead of Alboreto’s Tyrrell, which is running through non-stop. The only happenings are those that cause retirements, such as the contact between Winkelhock’s ATS and Baldi’s Alfa Romeo, which puts the Italian car onto the loose gravel on the left of the pits straight from which it spans right across the track and into the guard-rail on the right of the track, wrecking its right-rear corner. Lauda drops out with something seized at the rear of his McLaren, and Winkelhock goes out with broken suspension. Giacomelli retires the second Toleman with transmission failure, and de Cesaris loses a lot of time at the pits with a deranged gear lever linkage. Sullivan’s Tyrrell blows up its engine in a pretty spectacular manner, and Guerrero’s Theodore and Boesel’s Ligier go out with engine trouble.The Renault had to win, and Renault won. Alain Prost finished first, with Eddie Cheever in third. Between the two French team drivers, the great Nelson Piquet secured third place, earning six points and taking the lead in the Formula 1 world championship standings. Ferrari finished the race as it started, in fourth place, with the consistent Tambay. Arnoux, plagued by misfortune since the beginning of the season, finished in seventh place. Overall, it was a rather uneventful race, enlivened only by the flying fuel refueling, which did not significantly alter the finishing order. 


Everything went well, thanks to exceptional safety measures and skilled mechanics. However, the risk remains, and this issue will undoubtedly be discussed when racing on less spacious circuits. The characteristics of this fast track with a 1800-meter straight made the spectacle less thrilling than expected. The fact that turbo engines and pit stops reduced the chances of success to six or seven cars highlights the competitive nature of the race. Without the usual, generous Rosberg providing competition (this time in a fair manner) with De Angelis, or if Laffite had not dueled with Arnoux, the race would have been quite dull. Certainly, when a car leads from start to finish, one cannot expect an exciting race. Renault was waiting to perform on its favorite circuit to show signs of resurgence. It must be acknowledged that the new Re 40, lighter, more agile, and evidently more advanced than the previous model, demonstrated a worrying superiority over its competitors. Prost set the fastest lap with 1'42"695, but more importantly, he made pass after pass without ever being approached. The small driver from Clermont-Ferrand took the lead and held it until lap 29 when he stopped at the pit for fuel and tire change. Piquet took the lead, but his leadership lasted only until lap 32 when he, too, had to pit for fuel and tires. Unfortunately, Riccardo Patrese exited the top positions too early. The Italian driver, hindered by a water leak that damaged his Bmw turbo engine, confirmed his unfortunate streak. For Ferrari, the tests in recent days had indicated a downward trend. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Maranello cars could not compete for victory. Indeed, Tambay's fourth place is, all in all, an acceptable result. The team officials from Maranello recognize this. There are issues with the car and tires (considering that the first three races of the season were all won by Michelin), Arnoux had a rather clumsy start, then gave the impression of being able to recover something, and finally had to surrender to a car that did not cooperate. With Rosberg and Laffite as powerless pursuers, with Alboreto forced to play a secondary role in a B-class car, with Lauda and Watson hindered by a wheel bearing failure and an early incident, the race did not offer great excitement. Perhaps the French Grand Prix could have provided a small highlight for Alfa Romeo. Still, Baldi was forced off the track twice, and it's a miracle that the driver did not suffer any injuries. De Cesarls had trouble with the gear lever's register. Nigel Mansell retired on the sixth lap. His Lotus was perfect, but the English driver could not control it. Mansell probably suffered a minor foot fracture just before the race. 


Mechanics were moving the Lotus #13 slowly with special and heavy metal wheels used to adjust the suspension. They accidentally passed over the pilot's limb, causing him to scream in pain. Later, a doctor administered a novocaine injection to Mansell. However, evidently, it was not enough to relieve the pain. Alain Prost had been waiting for this opportunity for a year, ever since he felt betrayed - in his opinion - by his teammate, who had now moved to Ferrari. It is with particular satisfaction that the small driver greets reporters, especially the Italians.


"I dedicate this victory to the team and René Arnoux...".


Revenge is complete.


"It was one of my most beautiful victories. Not difficult technically, but rich in satisfaction. I was driving a new car that debuted two weeks ago. I couldn't make the slightest mistake. I was so focused that now I have a terrible stomachache. The car was perfect. Not a flaw. The only problem was with refueling. I was worried about not making a mistake, and I made two oversights. When stopping at the pit, I didn't want to brake suddenly because I feared the brake pads might lock. So the mechanics couldn't screw the wheels on properly. Then I let the engine turn off. Fortunately, everything went in the right direction".


Obviously, Alain is talking about the future.


"Last year, I led almost 2000 kilometers and missed the world title. I hope this is the first step toward the 1983 title".


Alain Prost has Eddie Cheever by his side, finishing third. The Italo-American driver took valuable points from Prost's rivals.


"I would have preferred a one-two. But Piquet was too far away, and I had a car with an exceptional engine but not very balanced. The rear tires overheated excessively, forcing me to be careful when exiting the turns".


However, on the podium, the longest smiles are distributed by Nelson Piquet, who enjoys second place more than a victory.


"Of course, I didn't expect to earn six points. This trip was a disaster for us. Nevertheless, I finished behind Prost. The Frenchman was untouchable, just like I was for Cheever. When they signaled that Renault was gaining a few seconds, I increased the pace".


A top placement was the maximum goal for Ferrari. After the troubles of recent days (three engines out of order, three shattered turbines) and the ominous signs from the morning's free practice just before the race (another turbine failed on Arnoux's car), there was no hope for very brilliant results. Therefore, Tambay's fourth place and René's seventh are the summary of what the French Grand Prix could offer. A race without praise and without infamy for the Maranello team. Says, spreading his arms, engineer Mauro Forghieri.


"We couldn't do more. Renault globally proved stronger than us. It's their circuit, their moment".


But what caused all these problems?


"Our mistakes. You can't always get everything right. We didn't expect, for example, to break so many turbines. So the ones we used were not seasoned. Subjecting them to the maximum effort obviously caused us trouble".


Will the new car be ready for Imola?


"Our president has officially announced that the car under construction will be on the track in May. When will we race on the Imola track? May 1st? Well, you do the math".


As if to say that any hypothesis is possible. Ferrari works hard, but miracles are not always possible. Forghieri makes no mention of the tires. And it's clear that the issue is delicate. But if Goodyear doesn't roll up its sleeves and produce more competitive tires, seeing a better Ferrari in a short time will be difficult. Patrick Tambay doesn't hide it:


"The Renault was too strong in the race. Only when our new model arrives can we try to close the gap. The race? I did my best to hold onto the fourth position. The team did a perfect job when I stopped at the pit".


Arnoux looks fresh and rested. But he doesn't smile.


"There was a turbine that wasn't working properly. And then, we started with rather low turbo pressure to avoid the risk of breakages. In short, there wasn't much to do. Also, I initially chose hard tires and slid like on soap. Of course, I would have liked to fight with Prost. It will be for another time".


Among the upset after the race is also Mauro Baldi. Bumped by Watson and thrown off by Winkelhock.


"Think that we could have finished among the top six; the car was perfect".


The first real test of flying refueling in Formula 1, both technically and organizationally, ended positively. Sporting authorities had taken exceptional safety measures, with fire extinguishers placed at every point in the pits, firefighters and ambulances ready to intervene, the area completely cleared of everyone, including journalists. Perhaps this was the occasion when the fewest people were seen around the mechanics at work. Despite this, many risks were taken, and the Renault mechanics faced the greatest risk, seeing Arnoux's Ferrari emerge like a rocket from the underpass that comes directly from the track, unexpectedly. The team did not expect the Ferrari to enter so soon, and there were mechanics in the corridor, as well as a cylinder blocking the passage. The French driver was very clever in avoiding the obstacles. In total, seven cars underwent refueling, and the operations were overall faster for Ferrari. Only Williams with Laffite took less time, but only one tire, the left front, was replaced on the Frenchman's car.


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