#338 1980 Austrian Grand Prix

2022-08-19 00:00

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#1980, Fulvio Conti, Nicole Masi,

#338 1980 Austrian Grand Prix

Following one week after the German GP most teams arrive at Osterreichring with the same cars they have used at Hockenheimring, but Ferrari has gone h

Following one week after the German GP most teams arrive at Osterreichring with the same cars they have used at Hockenheimring, but Ferrari has gone home to Maranello and returned with two different cars, 044 (Scheckter) and 043 (Villeneuve) but retaining the same spare car (045). Tyrrell has had a shuffle and put Jarier in their new one (010/5) which had been built in the paddock at Hockenheimring, Daly back into his usual car (010/2) and the original car (010/1) was back to being the T-car. Brabham, McLaren and ATS were unchanged, but Lotus added to their work-programme by entering Nigel Mansell, the F3 driver, in the 81/B that was built-up in Germany, in addition to Andretti and de Angelis. The Renault team has spent the brief intervening time investigating their valve-spring breakages, and Emerson Fittipaldi has swapped cars with his Finnish team-mate. In the entry list there is a second Alfa Romeo listed for Brambilla, but neither driver nor car materialise; the Ligier team has come direct from Germany, feeling more confident as they had done some worthwhile testing on the Osterreichring and the Williams team had given Reutemann the spare car, which just failed to start in Germany and the one he was disenchanted with has became the spare for Alan Jones. Otherwise all is fairly orderly when testing on Friday morning under clear blue skies on the fast and spectacular Osterreichring, except that Laffite is still messing about film making with a camera on the spare Ligier. The hour and a half from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. is supposed to be testing-time, preparatory to the one hour of qualifying time in the afternoon, but by midday the paddock looks like a battlefield and you would have thought the most cut-throat Grand Prix has just finished.
It all starts just after 10:30 a.m. when Andretti’s Lotus runs out of fuel and comes to rest in the chicane at the top of the hill after the pits. The idea of the organisers is to stop practice briefly while the Lotus 81/1 is retrieved, but they hold out a black flag and a red flag, and nobody knows what it means, so they all go pounding on. Then the race director holds out the red flag, and still some of the drivers go flashing past. Eventually practice is stopped and the miscreants Patrese, Cheever, Rebaque, Pironi, Fittipaldi and Arnoux are all fined 5.000 Austrian Schillings for failing to stop on the red flag. We get going again only for Daly’s engine in his Tyrrell to go bang in a big way, and already Jabouille’s Renault engine has gone sick and he has gone out in the T-car. Then Piquet goes off in the Bosch curve and really crumples BT49/8 so practice stops once more while the wreckage is cleared up, no-one being hurt. In addition de Angelis has been off the track in Lotus 81/3 and ripped all the skirts, and hardly has practice begun again, for the third time, than Prost goes off on a patch of oil and disappears in the mud and grass. While he is doing this Mass is forced to dodge and also goes off into the mud and grass and the Arrows turn upside down. The burly German is unscathed, but has tweaked his neck. Testing is now finished! But the paddock is a hive of activity as cars are repaired or dismantled. Such is the fortitude and devotion to duty of the racing mechanic that by 2:00 p.m. everyone is more or less ready to start again, except that Mass is away having a check-over and an X-ray. The sun is beating down and the heat is beginning to become oppressive and for the teams working out on the concrete pit road it is no fun at all. Drivers and timekeepers are being sheltered by umbrellas and tyres, engines, gearboxes and brakes are running very hot.
Almost at once a pattern takes shape, with the two Renaults of Arnoux and Jabouille so much faster than everyone else that the competition among the Cosworth-powered brigade is to see who can be third overall, and as usual it is a battle between the Ligier drivers, Pironi and Laffite, the Williams drivers Jones and Reutemann and Nelson Piquet in the leading Brabham. It is not long before practice is stopped. Villeneuve’s Ferrari engine has blown up and Andretti has gone off the road and has to be retrieved by the breakdown gang, the only damage being to the sliding skirts which are replaced when the car is brought back to the pits. Arnoux laps in 1'30"39 (average 146.9 mph) and can almost repeat it to order, while Jabouille is nearly a second slower on his best lap, but it has included passing four cars in the process. Alan Jones is the fastest of the Cosworth brigade, with 1'33"08, nearly two and a half seconds slower than Arnoux and at an average speed of over 146 mph that represents a very long distance on one lap. Alain Prost is best of the rest and for a moment it looks as though the McLarens are improving until you realize he is over four seconds slower than Arnoux. Down at the back of the list are Lammers (Ensign), Cheever (Osella), Mansell (Lotus), Keegan (Williams), Andretti (Lotus) and Scheckter (Ferrari), some for want of experience, some for an uncompetitive car, and some for want of trying! Late into Friday night the paddock is as busy as ever as the Brabham mechanics build up another car around monocoque number 3, using the engine/gearbox unit off number 7, which in turn is rebuilt with a new engine/gearbox unit. The Arrows mechanics did a total rebuild on the car that Mass crashed and all along the line the ravages of the day were being put right.
On Saturday morning testing and preparation begin again with everything more or less in order, Villeneuve and Daly being back in their own cars, Piquet using number 7, with the newly built number 3 Brabham as spare, Rebaque is still using the Weismann gearbox Brabham, and Jones is in Williams number 5, which Reutemann had discarded as useless! On the previous day Jones had made his best time with the car and was very happy with it. Mansell is far from happy with the Lotus 81/B, which has a longer wheelbase than the other three Team Lotus cars and incorporates all the development improvements tried out on the previous Lotus 81 cars. As it is the Midlander’s first attempt at Formula One, and the daunting Osterreichring, it is difficult to say whether the car or the driver is the limitation. The courageous and tough Jochen Mass does a couple of laps in the spare Arrows car, but desìcides that the pains in his neck and back are too much, and officially withdraws from the event. If Jochen Mass could not stand the pains they must have been bad. Cosworth engines are still failing under the strain of the high speed and both Pironi and Cheever suffer failures, their mechanics immediately getting stuck in to complete engine changes before the afternoon session began. At 1:00 p.m. the heat is beginning to get oppressive again, but not as bad as the day before, and once again it is Arnoux who set the pace, going even faster than before with a lap at over 147 mph. Jabouille's engine has gone wrong and he has to take the spare Renault and is not so fast, but his Friday time still stands him in good stead for second place on the grid. Those hard-chargers Jones, Pironi, Laffite, Reutemann and Piquet are all desperately trying to get a lap in at under 1'33"00, not that it will make them competitive with the Renaults, but it would boost their morale.
Reutemann is closest with 1'33"07 and Jones is not far away still driving the T-car. Both Ligier drivers are right there with the Williams drivers, as is Piquet, but Laffite was unhappy with his rear suspension. In Team Lotus Andretti has been mediocre, but de Angelis has changed over to the T-car, number 81/2 and found it handles much better than his own car 81/3. He promptly gets in among the upper-echelon along with Giacomelli who is quietly and effectively getting on with things in the Alfa Romeo V12, these two new young men being at the back of the hard-charger group and well ahead of the mid-field greyness. At this point Mansell looks as if he is going to be the odd man out, for with Mass withdrawing it leaves 25 drivers for 24 places on the grid. In desperation Team Lotus put the British driver into Lotus 81/3, which de Angelis has abandoned, and he promptly scrapes onto the end with a time of 1'35"71 relegating Lammers with the Ensign to odd-man-out. In the closing minutes of practice Jones has brake failure on Williams FW07B/5 and goes straight on at the chicane at the top of the hill and thumps the tyre barrier, bending the front end. He returns to the pits, a bit wound-up, gets into his first-line car, number 9, and promptly records 1'32"95, the only non-Renault driver to break 1'33"0. While everyone has been playing chase the Renaults the Michelin people have quietly announced that they have supplied the French team with some special new construction tyres which were not intended for the race. They have emphasised that they are not short-life qualifying tyres and that they will be used for races, but not just yet. There has been no mention of the Ferrari marn having been supplied with them! Before the end of the day the oppressive heat disappears and heavy clouds take over and donner und blitz. thunders around the mountains as the rain pours down.

Sunday morning is heavy and sticky with a great chance of more rain, and this, added to a lack of an Austrian driver in the race, probably is the main reason for the crowd being comparatively small; 55.000 instead of the usual 100.000 plus. The warm-up half-hour is pretty uneventful, but most drivers settle on which car they intend to race. There is then a two-hour break for final preparation and at 2:30 p.m. the pit lane begins to stir in readiness for the 54-lap race scheduled to start at 3:00 p.m. One by one the cars leave the pit lane and are driven round to the assembly grid in front of the pits, and all 24 cars are ready. The weather is cool and grey and the sun is fighting a winning battle with the gloom. Arnoux leads them all round on the parade lap and they line up on the grid in alternate positions. Arnoux has had new turbo chargers fitted to his Renault engine during the lunch break, Jones is in the latest Williams, Piquet is in the Brabham number 7 which has started out as the spare, the Lotus drivers have all reverted to their original cars, Watson has switched to the spare McLaren and Giacomelli is driving the Alfa Romeo with the smaller and lower engine. The red light glows, cars begin to creep forward, the green light glows and the field roars off past the pits and up the hill to the chicane. Alan Jones has his Williams between the Renaults and he sits it out with Arnoux wheel-to-wheel and takes the lead. He knows full well that both Renaults can power past him on the straight, but Jones is a racer and he is out to make the frogs work. For two glorious laps he leads,  but then Arnoux powers past and then Jabouille does the same. Renaults are a comfortable 1-2, but Jones is not giving up and the three of them leave the rest of the field behind. When the rest are sorted out it is seen that Giacomelli is leading Reutemann and Piquet, followed by Pironi and de Angelis, but Laffite has made a poor start and is engulfed in mid-field. Cheever has come to rest at the end of the pits after the start and has got going again long after everyone else is well away on the opening lap.


At five laps the two Renaults and Jones are well away on their own, and the Renault plan has been to sacrifice Jabouille for the benefit of Arnoux, has Jones been troublesome. Jabouille’s car has been set-up on soft tyres to enable him to play the hare, while Arnoux is on harder tyres to settle in and consolidate the Renault position. It is soon clear that these tactics are unnecessary for though Jones is hanging on he could not challenge the Renaults so they set the pace. The rest are pounding along in their wake and everyone is still going. The first casualty is Andretti who drops out from an inconspicuous 17th place and then Scheckter dives into the pits from an equally obscure 15th place to change his tyres, though quite why he has bothered is not clear. At 10 laps the two Renaults are pulling away and trying as he might. Jones can no longer stay with them, but he is so far ahead of the rest of the field that he is in a different race. Giacomelli is doing a courageous drive with the Alfa Romeo, holding on to fourth place, but he is overstressing his tyres too early in the race. As they have deteriorated he is forced to let Piquet by and then Reutemann. In seventh place comes de Angelis ahead of the two Ligiers and Villeneuve, but down the field trouble is beginning; Daly has had a front brake disc shear off the hub as he has braked for a left-hander and the other front brake which worked has pulled him off the road and away into the fields. Cheever has had his left-rear tyre fail and limped back to the pits, but though the Osella sets off again it's not for long as a hub-bearing is breaking up. Pironi is never in the picture from the start as his Ligier is handling in a peculiar manner and though he tries a different set of tyres it makes no difference and he is forced to give up with something not right in the rear suspension. It has looked as though the Renaults are going to cruise away to a convincing 1-2 sweep, but on lap 21 Jabouille goes by into the lead and Arnoux slows right down with a front tyre deflating.


Jones goes by before the ailing Renault gets to the pits and when Arnoux rejoins the race with four new tyres he is down in tenth place, but proceeds to go like a bat out of hell. The engine in Jarier’s Tyrrell goes sick as he passes the pits and we don’t see him again, and then Giacomelli brings the lone Alfa Romeo in for a tyre charge from his brave sixth place. In his excitement he shoots out of the pits before one of the rear wheel nuts is tightened and hasn’t gone many yards before the wheel falls off! (Remember Alan Jones and the Williams team in Watkins Glen last year?) While Arnoux is making up time Jabouille is firmly in the lead and Jones has eased off slightly, secure in second place. Reutemann has passed Piquet so now the Williams team are second and third and Laffite has worked his way past de Angelis to take sixth place. While Jabouille is cruising along in the lead at an average speed of nearly 140 mph Arnoux is setting up new lap records but his Michelins are not up to the strain and after passing the two McLarens and moving up to eighth place he is forced to stop again for a change of rear tyres. He is soon back in the race going as fast as ever, but now a lap behind his team-leader who is conscious of his own tyres being doubtful of lasting the race. In consequence Jabouille is altering his driving technique and conserving his tyres, especially the front left one which does the majority of the work round the Osterreichring. His plan is to nurse things along and still keep a comfortable distance ahead of Jones, but saving something in reserve in case the Williams driver puts the pressure on in the closing stages of the race. As Jabouille is playing it remarkably cool out in front Arnoux is flashing past the tail enders, but to no avail for he is driving harder than the Michelins can stand and on lap 38 he is in again for another set of tyres, but still he doesn't give up.


In the closing stages of the race, as Jabouille had anticipated, Jones begins to pile on the pressure, but the wily Frenchman has the situation well in hand and lets Jones close the gap dramatically without getting flustered. After such a long time in the doldrums with retirement after retirement Jabouille is not going to throw this one away and he carefully and skilfully matches the pace of the Williams, always with something in reserve, providing his left-front tyre holds out. His pit staff are keeping him fully informed and you can see him searching in his mirror for a sight of the Williams as he goes down the pits straight. Driving with beautiful precision and judgement he matches Jones’ pace to a nicety and they both record their fastest laps on the last lap of the race and a jubilant Jabouille crosses the line three-quarters of a second ahead of the Williams. Reutemann cruises home a comfortable third, followed by Laffite, Piquet, de Angelis and Prost all on the same lap as the leader. The courageous Arnoux finishes ninth and sets yet another lap record on his 50th lap and the finishers list is very good, only Watson and Mansell joining the retirements list in the closing stages, both with Cosworth engine failure. Rebaque finishes in tenth place with the Weismann gearbox Brabham after a non-stop run and would have been higher up had he not had an almighty spin in the early part of the race; the new gearbox has performed perfectly. Patrese is lucky to finish as the engine in his Arrows is sounding very rough and Scheekter actually has passed him on his last lap. Delighted as they are with Jabouille’s long overdue victory and with Arnoux’s new lap record, the Renault team’s real satisfaction lays in the way the V6 turbocharged engines have performed. After a bad bout of engine troubles the powerful little 1.5-litres has performed faultlessly.



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