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#343 1981 United States Grand Prix West

2021-10-23 01:00

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#1981, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Alessia Bossi,

#343 1981 United States Grand Prix West

There is much work to do on Friday, during the test-session in the morning and the timed session in the afternoon, because the Long Beach circuit can’

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Wednesday January 7, 1981 Jody Scheckter saves his driving license and gets away with just over two million fines, after being charged in Nice, France, with assault. The former world champion and Ferrari driver, who has lived in Monte-Carlo for five years, is found guilty and sentenced to two months' imprisonment and a fine of 10.000 francs. The South African does not even appeal, as his lawyer, the lawyer Pierre Joselet, assures him that the sentence of the court of Nice will certainly enter the amnesty that the French government will grant for the next presidential elections.

 

"They were quite severe, because I wasn't entirely wrong, as I had been provoked. Perhaps my reaction was too violent, but my nerves were on edge".

 

In reality, Jody saves himself with the payment of the damages and the fine as the counterparty, evidently satisfied in all his requests, renounces to join the civil action. Otherwise, the ex-pilot would have risked a heavier sentence and almost certainly the withdrawal of his licence. The fact had occurred on Thursday 10 January 1980 on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. Scheckter was driving his Ferrari 400 along the seafront when he was seen slowing down by the car of forty-year-old Jean-Pierre Rusgalla. After trying in vain to pass, the South African had violently rear-ended the car of the other motorist, then got out and attacked him, breaking his glasses and injuring his nose, among other things. Mr. Rusgalla was treated in hospital and had to take fifteen days off work. Jody Scheckter, on the other hand, was stopped by the police and had to spend a night in jail waiting for an interpreter to arrive the next day and a hearing to be scheduled.

 

"That night in prison was one of the worst of my life. They didn't even give me food. I admit that I was too violent with that gentleman: however nothing would have happened if he hadn't provoked me. However, I hope never to be the protagonist of an episode like this again. It was too bitter an experience. I want to forget her as soon as possible to devote myself to my life as a public relations man and as president of the Formula 1 Drivers' Association".

 

Just Formula 1 continues to have no peace and the image of a fascinating sport, conquered over many years of racing and shows, is rapidly deteriorating. There is only talk of the war between the sports authorities (FISA) and the manufacturers' association (FOCA). The latest news concerns Ecclestone and his English partners: they will be hosting the South African Grand Prix on Saturday 7 February 1981. The drivers have already been summoned, the cars are on the starting foot. Is it still a bluff? Is it an attempt to demonstrate that you can race even without the legal teams (Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault, Talbot and Osella)? Difficult to answer. The race will probably be disputed, even if it will not be valid for any championship. After all, tests are often held that are not valid for the World Championship, such as the Race of Champions at Silverstone or the 1979 race at Imola. Despite this disheartening news, however, it seems that talks continue at all levels to get FISA and FOCA to an agreement before it is too late. In this regard, the most interesting indiscretion is the one that anticipates a meeting between Enzo Ferrari (with all the representatives of the FISA teams) and Ecclestone (with Williams, Chapman and Tyrrell) which would be scheduled in Maranello on Monday 19 January 1981. While waiting for this important rendezvous takes place and with the hope that it will have a positive outcome, the opinion of two Italian pilots is heard on the delicate issue. One is Bruno Giacomelli, legalist with Alfa Romeo, the other Riccardo Patrese, about to sign with March (and will probably try from Thursday 15 January 1981 at Le Castellet). Giacomelli claims:

 

"You can't run split into two groups, because we risk falling into ridicule. The English if they compete with each other, they will disappear in the space of a season. Nor can we do without Lotus, Brabham and company. In short, the agreement is essential".

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The same thesis, more or less, is advanced by the Paduan driver.

 

"Racing one side or the other has no meaning. Unfortunately we pilots have no say in the matter, because, with a few exceptions, we would all be determined to settle the dispute. I hope that Enzo Ferrari will be able to convince Ecclestone (or vice versa) and that a serious championship and not a joke can be launched within a short time".

 

These are dark times for Formula 1, but there are those who look to the future with optimism, without worrying too much about the war between the sports authorities (FISA) and the British manufacturers (FOCA). If this were not the case, the entry into the world of Grand Prix racing of a new major automotive industry that joins Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Renault would not be justified. Since Friday 16 January 1981, Talbot, the French manufacturer which in the recent past has changed its name several times and which is now fully owned by the Peugeot Group, has had its own team to take to the track. In reality, Talbot didn't build its own single-seater from scratch, but took over Ligier en bloc, one of the most competitive teams in recent seasons. The marriage between the large French company and the small sports car craftsman Guy Ligier was not an easy one. But Talbot, which had previously been on the verge of racing with BMW's new turbocharged engines, could no longer hold back. Ligier, always looking for substantial capital, could not, for his part, leave an attractive offer. However, the yes cost him the name, which now no longer appears on the cars, and the return to an agreement with Matra for the supply of engines, renewing a relationship that Ligier had broken at the end of 1978 because it was unsatisfactory. The new Talbot Gitanes team thus had to give up the Cosworths and take back the old 12-cylinder engines manufactured by Matra, a modern aerospace company specializing in the manufacture of missiles, which makes racing engines solely for the passion of its engineers. It seems that Guy Ligier (who continues to manage the team on an organizational and technical level) has received a budget of 40.000.000 francs for this operation. With this sum he will be able to pay off his two jewels, the elderly and expert brothers-in-law of Formula 1, Jacques Laffite and Jean Pierre Jabouille. The latter is still on crutches after the serious accident in Montreal, but expects to be able to get on the cars for the first tests in about a fortnight. Jabouille is the most celebrated and most interviewed.

 

"I don't give a damn about the Renault I left. Among other things, I'm happy that the turbo engine is not yet ready to win a world title. Instead, Jacques and I can aim for the championship, because we have a strong team, very good cars, a lot of experience and the will to win".

 

It's strange to hear these words from a rider who until a few months ago spoke of the turbo as the only way to go faster than the others. In any case, Matra is also studying a supercharged 6-cylinder V engine which will probably be ready in September and which will be able to run starting next year. Jabouille. after belittling the turbo, he said he was impressed by the Comprex used by Ferrari, which he also tests on the track while the French driver is being interviewed. The tests of the Maranello team are at the beginning and we will have to wait to make a judgement. During practice, Pironi goes off the road and ruins a turbocharged car. Villeneuve has been urgently recalled to Canada due to problems affecting the Canadian Grand Prix. It seems that there are some difficulties and that the president of FISA, Balestre, is also there. After all, the whole World Championship is still on the high seas. FOCA wants to do - Saturday 7 February 1981 - its South African Grand Prix. But speaking of the situation in Formula 1, the most important news concerns the meeting scheduled for Monday 19 January 1981 in Mannello. There is a lot of optimism in the environment. In order to bring peace to Formula 1 and find a lasting agreement on a technical and organizational level for the next World Championship - it was said in recent months - it is necessary for those interested to lock themselves in a room to discuss and not leave it until they have solved all problems. Well, that's exactly what the exponents of the major stables of the two opposing parties do, i.e. the teams adhering to FOCA headed by Bernie Ecclestone, and those loyal to FISA including all the major manufacturers. Gathered in a hall of the old Scuderia Ferrari in Corso Trento e Trieste 31, in Modena, fourteen Formula 1 personalities discuss for hours and hours until late in the evening. The situation is so complicated and complex that at the moment it is not yet possible to know what the final result of this very important meeting is, basically the last chance to avoid a total split, disastrous for everyone. A certain optimism reigns in the environment, even if for the moment it is difficult to make predictions and it is possible that the discussions will continue on Tuesday 20 January 1981, before an official statement is issued.

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Certainly, from the Ferrari headquarters, communications via telex and telephone are constantly sent because, before taking any initiative, the sporting authorities in Paris and the majority of the organizers of the races must be consulted, as a definitive calendar of the competitions will also have to be established. The participants in the meeting arrive in Modena in dribs and drabs. Expected by Enzo Ferrari and Marco Piccinini, the legalists present themselves first: Larrousse and Sage for Renault; Chiti and Corbari for Alfa Romeo, Enzo Osella and Palazzoli for Osella, and finally Alex Hawkridge, one of the administrators of Toleman, the new English team that will make its debut this year in the world of Grand Prix racing. Around noon, arriving from Bologna where they had landed the previous evening with Ecclestone's private jet, transported by a Ferrari coach, the president of FOCA himself, Bernie Ecclestone, his legal secretary, the lawyer Max Mosley, the builders Frank Williams and Colin Chapman. Smiling faces, a few exchanges and then the long retreat. Some waiters come and go bringing sandwiches and drinks. And from this moment on, no one is seen anymore. The group begins to debate many issues. The abolition of miniskirts or the permanence of turbo engines is no longer brought up, but the stability of regulations, the distribution of tasks, the division of technical, political and economic power are discussed. In short, everything must then be officially (even if only formally) approved by FISA. To the problems that have already emerged during the season and which led to the breakup, others have certainly been added. Not least that of the qualifications for the races. In fact, new teams have arisen and at each race difficulties will arise due to the number of cars to put on the track, which will be at least thirty. Another issue to be resolved is that of the composition of the commission for Formula 1, which is currently formed, after the rift that occurred between the two parties, only by representatives of the legal teams. Someone maintains that the mediation attempted several times by Enzo Ferrari will this time have a determining weight.

 

But since the Modenese manufacturer is one of the parties involved, its action is rather limited. However, the fact remains that, once an agreement has been reached, FISA will no longer be able to intervene negatively, as it will then risk being held solely responsible for a possible and definitive break. In these decisive hours, however, Formula 1 is experiencing delicate moments. Only a compact and clarifying action will be able to recreate, at least in part, an image deteriorated by the events, quarrels and controversies of recent months. If someone still tries to cheat, proposing regulations to his exclusive advantage or indicating technical and organizational solutions that he will subsequently try to overcome with clever manoeuvres, then it will certainly be the end of everything. Certainly one cannot believe that the only problem concerning the now famous miniskirts is at the root of the fracture. Many will have to give in to what they foolishly think are their prerogatives and rights. And it is not excluded, as has already been said, that the last one to pay, even if partially, is not Jean-Marie Balestre, president of FISA, who believes he can manage everything from Paris. Once the full teams agree, he too will have to bow his head and accept the decisions made. Every doubt disappears during the evening of Monday 19 January 1981: the peace is signed. It is not a simple armistice, but a truce that should last for a long time and restore serenity in an environment that has been shaken by too many controversies in recent months. This is the result of the summit of the majority of manufacturers belonging to the opposing groups, those of FOCA and those of FISA. It is a very long day, in which the representatives of the various teams do not leave the meeting room for almost twelve hours. But in the end, Enzo Ferrari's secretary, Franco Gozzi, head of the Scuderia Ferrari press office, showed up and read the following press release:

 

"The manufacturers registered in the FIA world championship and the representatives of FOCA met today in Modena and reached an agreement in principle on the future of Formula 1. A restricted commission will agree on the text, definitive for a global solution, standardizing for four years, to be proposed to FISA".

 

This press release is signed by Enzo Ferrari and Bernie Ecclestone. Immediately after reading the text, the builders begin to leave the old headquarters of the Scuderia Ferrari, present in Modena: Williams, Chapman. Osella, Chiti, Larrousse for Renault, the representative of Toleman, all appear smiling and satisfied, even if rather tired from the long discussions and negotiations. Shortly after, Enzo Ferrari also arrives, who will be 83 in exactly one month. Ferrari appears in the best shape of all and undergoes an interview.

 

"I had been working on this result since 18 September. On the basis of the proposal we have launched, a restricted commission will meet from today to decide all the details. I hope that no difficulties will arise and that FISA will be able to look favorably on this document of ours. All the topics have been addressed and I can give you some clarifications. I don't know yet on what date the next World Championship will start, I can only tell you that the race in South Africa, scheduled for February 7, has been postponed. On the other hand, there will be a San Marino Grand Prix at Imola on May 3, valid for the World Championship, the proceeds of which, with rules to be established, will go to the earthquake victims. On the contrary, I hope that, from now on, two Grands Prix can be held in Italy, permanently at Imola and Monza, to avoid dualisms".

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The Modenese manufacturer is asked why the representatives of the sporting authorities were not present.

 

"They weren't invited. It was a builders' meeting. However, it will be up to FISA to judge and decide".

 

Still bombarded by questions, Enzo Ferrari continues to answer without hesitation, fresh and lucid as always:

 

"I don't know when a final decision will be made and I don't know anything about the meeting that will be held in Monte-Carlo on January 30th. I never go there".

 

He is then asked if it was a very tiring day for him. The Modenese manufacturer replies that he has had many others like this one.

 

"I wanted to affirm the continuity of Imola, of the magnificent system that the city has. All the details will be discussed in the coming days. I am convinced that I have done a good job because I have spent a lot of time establishing principles that must be respected. The main result has been achieved and it is that of the unity of the teams and the championship".

 

Last question: how did the British, who up until now had opposed an agreement, behave?

 

"We wanted to run and run all together. This was important. I asked Chapman and Ecclestone to give me a present for my 83rd birthday. I must admit that they have overcome, understanding, many difficulties to meet me. I did my best and they were very helpful".

 

From today, therefore, Formula 1 is once again a sport, and no longer just an opportunity to make controversies. The restricted commission (it is not yet known who it will be composed of) will decide all the details. Of course, the side skirts will be abolished and the supercharged engines will be maintained. As for the World Championship, it could begin on Sunday March 15, 1981 in Long Beach, California. But who won the Formula 1 war? Did the rebellious British builders prevail or was FISA right in the end? Is the great loser Bernie Ecclestone, or was it Jean-Marie Balestre who had to give up? These are the questions that arise after the already historic peace treaty signed on Monday night in Modena in the old headquarters of the Ferrari team. On the one hand the legal constructors (Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault, Talbot, Osella and Toleman), on the other the FOCA teams (Brabham, Williams, Lotus and company), committed to resolving the conflict that had risked destroying the world of Formula 1. The answer, however, is only one: common sense won, neither thanks to Ecclestone, nor to that of Balestre. To say that it was sport and motor racing that established itself would be wrong. It was certainly not the competitive spirit of the teams or a pure sporting passion that advised this general agreement. As good businessmen, the protagonists of the Formula 1 war realized that they were harming themselves above all and that a return to normality was the only possible way out. FOCA and FISA were unable to organize an acceptable World Championship by themselves. That's all, even if the closure of the controversy was seasoned with rhetoric and the forced satisfaction shown on all sides. Because if it had been possible to organize a series of competitions of a certain validity, everyone would have continued on their own path, such was the bitterness (not to mention hatred) existing between the two parties. The excuse of miniskirts, of interpreting regulations, was just a screen to hide a very heated struggle for control of economic and political power. So much so that on Monday in Modena there was uninterrupted discussion for twelve hours, with an agreement already established, simply to decide the distribution of the money, i.e. the rich prize money for each race and to fine-tune the problem of qualifying, always linked in any case to the factor money.

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According to some rumors, the solution to each problem was found by placing all the teams on an equal footing for prizes (for example, if the Osella arrives first in a race, it gets the same amount as a Brabham or a Lotus, while previously there were different tables). Confirmed instead the rule on engagements, established on the basis of the scores obtained the previous year. Basically, the technical question has not even been touched upon. It will be the restricted commission of the builders gathered in these days to formulate the proposals that will be presented to the FISA in Paris. However, the solutions should not deviate much from those established by the regulation for 1981, i.e. abolition of side skirts, reduction of tire dimensions and maintenance of supercharged engines. A special commission of designers will be at work in London from Tuesday to analyze only the subject of miniskirts, as the minimum height of 60 millimeters from the ground required for the side walls still lends itself to misunderstandings. In fact, in a static position, the cars can comply with the regulations, but in motion at high speed, crushed by the air pressure, the measurements can be reduced considerably. Commenting on what was written on Monday and in relation to the declarations of the indefatigable Enzo Ferrari, who spoke of guarantees for four years of stability in Formula 1, a remark must be made: the Modena-based manufacturer, whose proposals presented on 18 September 1980 were accepted by the parties involved (in short, distribution of tasks with economic power at FOCA and sports technician at FISA), he managed once again with great skill to weave the strings. The most important result, general agreement aside, is the acceptance by FOCA of the dispute of two races a year permanently in Italy. Monza and Imola will each have one Grand Prix, the one on the Emilian track will be dedicated to San Marino. And the decision to donate part of the proceeds to the earthquake victims of the South for the race on May 3rd is a generous offer that makes up, at least partially, the protagonists of Formula 1 for having offered a truly squalid show in recent months. However, on Tuesday January 20, 1981 Jean-Marie Balestre, president of FISA, is not in Paris.

 

He is traveling abroad. We will therefore have to wait before having some of his statements (with relative stance) on the latest events in Formula 1. The French manager will only be able to ratify the decisions already taken, as the regulation is clear: faced with the unanimity of the manufacturers, the acceptance is practically automatic. On the carpet of Formula 1, however, a serious problem remains to be solved and that concerns the tyres. The official withdrawal of Goodyear from competitions has opened a big void. Just on Tuesday, one of Michelin's managers, engineer Dupasquier, admitted that for the moment the French company has the go-ahead to supply four teams (Renault, Talbot, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo). In the future it could reach up to seven or eight teams, if it has permission, because technically it can't do more. Toleman, who will make her debut in European races, will have the Pirellis. So what will the other teams do? It seems that the only possible solution is a return, albeit unofficial, of Goodyear. The loophole presents itself with the advent of a company (managed by Ecclestone) which will distribute the tires of the American company still in circulation (almost 4.000 tyres) and will build new ones. However, the situation is not very clear and will perhaps lend itself to possible new controversies. For these reasons, after finding the general agreement for the settlement of the well-known FISA-FOCA dispute, two conferences were held in London, on Thursday 22 January 1981, near Heathrow airport, in which Piccinini participated for Italy and Forghieri from Ferrari, Marcili from Alfa Romeo and Stirano from Osella. In the first meeting the normal technical questions relating to Formula 1 are discussed, and in the meantime it has been learned that following the withdrawal of Goodyear, the Irts (International Race Tire Service) which belongs to Bernie Ecclestone and is directed by the Frenchman Francois Mosnier, will to the supply of tires by taking over technicians from Goodyear and machinery from the Avon company. This supply will initially be made to two or three teams, and then to the others later in the season, possibly using the existing stocks of Goodyear tires in the meantime. The second meeting begins to examine the package of proposals to be submitted to FISA, on the basis of what was agreed in principle in the Modena meeting.

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As regards the calendar for next season, FOCA, which has signed a contract for the South African Grand Prix, hopes to convince the organizers to move the date from the start of the season to 10 October 1981, guaranteeing in return the participation of all the Formula 1 teams and not just the English ones. A couple of weeks later, on Monday 2 February 1981, the South African Grand Prix received the approval of the FISA. The race, announced the president of FISA, Jean Marie Balestre, will take place under the aegis of the sports authorities and is included in the official calendar. This is the first sign of real détente in the battle waged between FISA and FOCA. Obviously, the race will not be valid for the World Championship (Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Renault, Talbot and Osella do not participate) and will be disputed under the open formula, that is with old cars, still with miniskirts. Meanwhile, in the FISA headquarters, the package of proposals presented by the manufacturers is being examined, a document which in all probability will be approved on Sunday 8 February 1981. Afterwards, the definitive calendar of competitions will finally be issued. Wednesday February 4th 1981, after the long controversies, the spites and the taking of positions which for months brought Formula 1 to court, the cars finally returned to the track. It is not the return that everyone hoped for, that is with all the teams, but rather a partial return, only of teams linked to FOCA. The agreement reached a few weeks ago between Ecclestone and Enzo Ferrari, and not yet ratified by Balestre, was not enough to cancel the race which, although devoid of major interests, has precise meanings. The first is to show Balestre that FOCA can have a good number of cars, the second to be able to organize an alternative championship. The South African Grand Prix does not want to be a threat but only a warning: if the FISA president does not approve what was agreed in Modena in the meeting with Ferrari, any possibility of closing the dispute will vanish at least until Jean-Marie Balestre is president of the motor sports authority. On the other hand, the controversies continue at a distance. When in Kyalami the news circulated in Paris according to which Balestre will ratify the agreement between Ecclestone and Ferrari only if FOCA withdraws all the lawsuits filed in the English courts against FISA, the response is immediate. Max Mosley, Counsel for the Builders Association, said:

 

"It's another useless move by Balestre to continue the war. At the Modena meeting with Ferrari this subject was also discussed and it was implied that legal actions by FOCA were automatically withdrawn as soon as the agreement was approved. Balestre clings to every quibble to delay peace, because in that case we would go back to talking about racing and drivers and he would leave the scene. However, we have already instructed our lawyers to give FISA, both verbally and in writing, all the guarantees they require".

 

Even the managers of FOCA realize that peace must return as soon as possible because Formula 1 divided into two would lose all the popularity it had created in just a few races and this South African Grand Prix is an example of this. In fact, with the official tests starting on Thursday February 5th 1981, a race gets underway that certainly cannot be defined as a Grand Prix, at least in the usual sense of the definition. There isn't the festive atmosphere that marks the start of a new season, on the contrary, in some cases the air of demobilization reigns that is usually felt in the last few races, when everything is already settled. It's the same riders who will compete in the race who don't believe in this Grand Prix.

 

"It's a rush that I don't feel".

 

Or:

 

"Without the great teams there is no taste in winning".

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These are the most recurring statements. In fact a race like this, without Ferrari, Alfa, Renault, Ligier and their drivers, is devoid of technical contents up to the point of seeming a one-make event if we consider that all the cars use the same Ford Cosworth engine and the remains of the Goodyear tires produced in the last season even if the American company sends some engineers for assistance. Even the cars are the same as last season and have miniskirts. The only novelty is represented by the March, which returns to Formula 1 with two cars driven by Derek Daly and the Chilean Eliseo Salazar. Among the most important drivers present, the World Champion Alan Jones stands out, who will compete together with Reutemann in the Williams, and Nelson Piquet, who will have Ricardo Zunino as teammate to replace the Mexican Ector Rebaque, who was struck by viral hepatitis. The group of the most numerous riders is the Italian one which boasts five appearances. Elio De Angelis, the first Lotus driver, will have the English Nigel Mansell as his teammate, while the young Andrea De Cesaris will join Watson on the McLaren. The Arrows team is entirely Italian and, thanks to the sponsorship of Ceramiche Ragno and Beta Utensili, is made up of Riccardo Patrese and rookie Sigfried Stohr. The situation has not yet been defined in Tyrrell, where, alongside Eddy Cheever, Destre Wilson will compete, the girl of South African origin, wife of the track director of the Brands Hatch circuit, who has demonstrated her qualities in Formula Aurora. For a third Tyrrell is predicated a certain Mike Domingo, a local pilot whose fame has never crossed national borders. In short, despite everything we race, and it's already a good result. Perhaps to respect the contract with the organizers of Kyalami or more likely to demonstrate to the whole world (and especially to Monsieur Balestre) that they can go it alone, the teams loyal to FOCA contest the first Formula 1 Grand Prix of the season. It can result in a very boring race or even an acceptable race. A duel between Italian drivers would give Ecclestone's supporters the cue to say that the South African Grand Prix demonstrated that it is possible to compete even without the legal teams adhering to FISA, i.e. without Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Renault, Talbot, Osella and Toleman. But that's not the point. In any case, the race is little more than a circus show, remedied with old numbers, appealing only to the inexhaustible passion of the fans. There is absolutely no technical content and - all in all - even the competitive one is missing, given that the test it does not apply to the World Championship. The real start of the season will take place, hoping that common sense will prevail both on the part of FOCA and on the part of FISA and that the Modena agreement will be ratified as soon as possible, on March 15th in Long Beach, with the US West Grand Prix. Only with the presence of all the stables, the situation will be different, in all respects.

 

New chassis, unpublished machines, engines of all types (eight and twelve cylinders naturally aspirated, turbo) and even a greater number of drivers (as one can think today of a race without protagonists such as Villeneuve and Pironi, Andretti and Giacomelli, Laffite and Jabouille, Prost and Arnoux?) will guarantee entertainment and competition. Even if he doesn't want to admit it, the fresh World Champion Alan Jones must have dreamed of the race with which to inaugurate his title in a very different way. Instead, the Australian champion will start for the first time with the number one painted on his Williams in this South African Grand Prix which up to now has not kept, not even in part, what a Formula 1 race usually promises. Apart from a dramatic accident involving his team mate Reutemann, the race does not present particular reasons of interest. To complete the work there is a light and annoying rain that ruins the last hour of practice, the one that usually contains one of the most exciting phases of a Grand Prix, when all the riders unleash every resource to gain a good position on the starting grid. departure. Barring a massive and unexpected turnout for the race, the South African Grand Prix amply demonstrates that Formula 1 can have no future if it continues to remain divided. A race that is not valid for the world championship and without prestigious manufacturers such as Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault and Talbot-Ligier cannot stand and the public is the first not to respond. Friday 6 February 1981 Bernie Ecclestone does not show up in the Kyalami pits, perhaps so as not to personally witness the collapse of his ambitions to build a Formula 1 circus outside the sporting legality. Max Mosley, FOCA's lawyer, and Frank Williams are perfectly aware of this failure, and on several occasions they have the opportunity to admit that a race, let alone a championship, cannot hold up with Formula 1 split in two. Jean-Marie Balestre, the president of FISA, must also take into account this reality, which the managers of FOCA bitterly experience in South Africa, who in these days should approve what was established in Modena and who, clinging perhaps beyond measure to every regulatory quibble or judicial, continues to postpone the definitive peace. Balestre must bear in mind the fact that even the FISA races, albeit with more prestigious cars but always limited in numbers, would not be able to collect the successes to which Formula 1 is by now accustomed and in the long run only motor sport would pay. Trials don't provide thrills, but that doesn't mean we're necessarily going to see a dull race. Piquet, Reutemann and Jones, who set the three best times at the end of qualifying, are not types willing to give away a victory even if it doesn't count for the world championship. As outsiders, Keke Rosberg will start with the Fittipaldi and Elio De Angelis who with the Lotus sets the fifth fastest time overall.

 

"It's a pity that the car isn't perfect and that we have to pay the opponents the handicap of 30 extra kilos due to the reinforcements we had to bring to the car to stiffen it. Without this disadvantage, which penalizes us by about half a second per lap, I could have definitely aimed for victory".

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Close to the first is also Riccardo Patrese, who has serious ambitions for the race to enter the fight for the first places. Of the other Italians in the race, ninth time for Andrea De Cesaris who despite some fuel problems is faster than his captain John Watson. Sigfried Stohr also did well, after being stranded due to engine failure, with the T-Car he was in eleventh place.

 

"It's my first Grand Prix and therefore I have no ambitions other than to finish the race. Formula 1 requires experience and I'm on the first day of school".

 

Cheever, on the other hand, falls, it is appropriate to say, into the nets because he crashed at full speed in a curve that had become wet from the rain. The American gets away with two spins, while a big scare is recovered by Carlos Reutemann who in the course of the morning, in the same corner, suffers a spectacular accident that could have had far more serious consequences. The Argentinian driver, having reached the Sunset curve, ends up in the nets at over 180 km/h and, after passing the first barrier, gets stuck in the second. A mesh of the net ends up lifting his helmet until it almost strangles it. Reutemann remains entangled in this awkward position for several minutes, until the marshals manage to free him. The Williams driver reports, in addition to worrying signs of strangulation, only a big fright. One last note on this South African Grand Prix: after ten years of Formula 1 one of the biggest characters in the racing world will be missing. It is Emerson Fittipaldi, who announces his retirement and is in Kyalami as director of the team that bears his name. Meanwhile, in Europe, for the first time in many years, sitting in front of the television to watch a Formula 1 race there will also be many drivers, protagonists of the most spectacular automotive specialty, forced to stay at home due to disputes between the sporting authorities and the builders. And among these special spectators of the South African Grand Prix from Kyalami there is also Bruno Giacomelli, Alfa Romeo driver, one of the candidates to fight for the world title. Bresciano is a quiet type, who knows how to wait his turn. But on this occasion Giacomelli feels defrauded, robbed of the possibility of winning a race. On the other hand, Alberto Cova's rising star has by now supplied too many high-performance tests for him not to be identified with that of the most probable protagonist of the World Championship. Bruno Giacomelli confesses:

 

"I really have to admit that we are unlucky. Last year, when we had the competitive car ready to ensure success, the season was over. Now that we could certainly have our say, we are forced to desert the race. I can't guarantee that we would have won, but we certainly could have been among the first. Then my hands itch from the desire to hold the steering wheel of my Alfa".

 

Is Bruno convinced this year that he can fight, together with Andretti, for the victory of the World Championship?

 

"That can never be said. But we will certainly be among the best, even if the recent tests in Argentina worried me a lot".

 

Do you think supercharged cars will have an easy time in the next World Championship which will officially start on March 15th in Long Beach?

 

"It is also difficult to answer this question. Turbo cars are very fast and get better as time goes by. However, there is always the problem of reliability and slower and more tortuous circuits. In any case, both Renault and Ferrari will have many advantages. A lot will depend on the tyres, as usual. I expect a good fight".

 

Will Ferrari be able to enter the top again?

 

"I have already said that the team from Maranello will be among those to beat. Among other things, he has two riders who are among the fastest: people like Villeneuve and Pironi don't give up badly. As for the car, I know that he has made a lot of progress. I was told just in recent days that the Maranello team is developing new things, such as an aluminum rear fairing which should give excellent results with the Comprex. It was tested at Le Castellet and the Ferrari technicians will certainly find the best solutions in the forty days until the start of the championship".

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Ultimately, therefore, Alfa Romeo finds itself with a new handicap to overcome...

 

"For the moment. But soon we too will have the turbo, and then we'll see. We will fight on equal terms".

 

Returning to the South African events, Carlos Reutmann's first statement after establishing himself in the South African Grand Prix, the race that opens the season but which is not valid for the World Championship, is this:

 

"I fought, risked and won for nothing. I worked hard, at every corner I risked going off the track and all of this for nothing, because a victory in this race without points is a useless result. I'm a professional and in the race I gave everything because when the race starts, you forget about politics. But I would have liked to see the characters who talk a lot, those who decide our fate at the table, in our place, inside the cars with the rain beating on their helmets...".

 

A Grand Prix which leaves a profound disappointment in the winner, and which certainly could not have satisfied the other drivers nor, much less, the organizers who, despite being able to count on the turnout of 30.000 spectators (higher than all expectations), closed the budget as at least 50.000 people were needed to balance the score. The lack of global validity of the race and consequently the absence of prestigious teams such as Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault and Talbot-Ligier weigh decisively on all of this. The monotony of the race was saved, at least in part, by the rain which, falling intermittently before the start, gave the drivers serious doubts about the type of tires to start with. Reutemann was right at the roulette wheel of choice who, adopting dry tires, struggled in the first part of the race but found himself with victory served on a silver platter when his direct rivals were forced to enter the pits to replace the tyres. This is the case of Nelson Piquet who with his Brabham had made a gap behind him in just a few laps and seemed to be heading for easy success.

 

"I was unlucky, because if the rain continued for 15 laps, nobody would have been able to catch me".

 

Elio De Angelis also climbs onto the podium. In the first part of the race, the Roman rider, while pushing to the limit, took care not to fall into the innumerable pitfalls that each corner presented to the riders who started on slick tyres. Then, when the track dried, he was the author of a valuable comeback that could, perhaps, finish in place of honour.

 

"Throughout the race I had to deal with the rear tires which had deteriorated to the point of forcing me to constantly use the anti-roll bar adjustment to try and improve the set-up. Voice-overs were the other problem with this run. I have Zunino and Desire Wilson to thank if I didn't catch up with Piquet. They hindered me for a long time and I missed a good opportunity".

 

Who can speak of bad luck is Sigfried Stohr, making his Formula 1 debut. The Rimini rider, who was one of the best in the wet with slicks, lost eleventh position because he was rear-ended by Lees and had to give up definitively due to engine failure. Lees, having gone off the track with his Theodore, is admitted to the clinic where a concussion is found. Honest race for Eddie Cheever who, after the morning's scare and with a car set up with little luck, had the sole objective of completing the race. Seventh place rewards his will and courage, if we consider that the American probably raced with a cracked heel. Will Formula 1 be united again in Long Beach, for the race which in over a month should inaugurate the World Championship? Absurdly, this is the question that the managers of the FOCA teams ask themselves after a South African Grand Prix which clearly demonstrated how the most important automotive discipline must be compact in order to offer the show which has thrilled millions of spectators in recent years . Unfortunately, the longed-for peace which, after the Modena agreement seemed only delayed by the bureaucratic formalities of ratification by Balestre and FISA, continues to be delayed to the point that new discontents are spreading within the English builders and there is talk of a split again definitive. In this regard, Max Mosley, FOCA's lawyer, states:

 

"The agreements stipulated with Ferrari in the last meeting in Modena involve a great sacrifice for us, and the tests recently carried out by Renault in Argentina have demonstrated this. Prost, with the car without side skirts, on a sea level circuit where the turbo engine does not have the advantage of altitude, set a new track record bettering the times set last year by cars with movable side walls. This means that today Renault and the other manufacturers that have powerful engines have a big advantage over the FOCA teams. If Balestre does not decide to sign, it is possible that the whole thing will be re-discussed. Because we are not willing to face a confrontation that immediately sees us as losers, without having guarantees of stability for the future. We want to be able to count on a technical commission that carefully and in due time evaluates the rules that will have to regulate Formula 1".

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The record obtained by Prost threw the FOCA technicians and pilots into turmoil, who felt they were beaten from the start without even being able to count on miniskirts to counter the supremacy of super-powerful engines. Of this opinion is also Frank Williams, the team manager who last year won the World Championship with his cars:

 

"Without miniskirts and with tires that aren't up to Michelin, we have no chance of fighting with Renault, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo which have engines with over 530 horsepower. If we don't find other solutions, we will be forced to appear as extras".

 

Carlos Reutemann also takes a stand on the current crisis in Formula 1, and not even the night manages to make him lose his sadness for having fought to win a useless race.

 

"We risked our lives for nothing, because it was a worthless race. In recent months, many things in Formula 1 have expired. Even the safety systems in Kyalami weren't as efficient as last year and racing like this was an added problem. It's useless to talk about safety, about miniskirts, when we see that Prost has obtained the record in Argentina with a top speed of over 302 km/h. The new regulation is also wrong".

 

It is hoped that the end of this dispute will come as soon as possible because, for now, only sport pays off. The decisions of Balestra and FISA, meanwhile, are expected on Monday, February 9, 1981. Failure to approve the agreement would lead to complete chaos.

 

"Going back to Formula 1? I'd be a fool".

 

Niki Landa returns to racing. The news spread on Friday 13 February 1981 and immediately aroused a certain sensation. Too bad it's not true.

 

"I just don't think about it".

 

Says the former World Champion from his Vienna office of Air Lauda, his airline (35 employees, four aircraft, including a gigantic DC10, a turnover of about 100.000.000 shillings) .

 

"I simply said that I can't predict my future. In the next two or three years I might even go to the moon. But that doesn't mean I'll be an astronaut. No, today I have no intention of going back behind the wheel of a Formula 1. I have other interests, other thoughts. I'd be a fool to run during this time. Formula 1 has been reduced to a mess. FISA and FOCA threw everything away, they looked after their interests and not those of the sport. A war that serves no one and that has bored people. Bad business, really".

 

Lauda follows the events of Formula 1 with interest. Many years of work and painful successes cannot be forgotten. He saw the recent South African Grand Prix on television, he informs himself, he reads.

 

"But I have no particular nostalgia. At best, I feel a tinge of regret when my current job gets heavy. I started from scratch, I have many responsibilities, I fly from one country to another at the controls of my planes. It's difficult, more difficult than when I was driving a Ferrari...".

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His technical judgments on Formula 1 are precise.

 

"The future lies in the turbo. It is a solution that offers great advantages, even if it is not easy to develop. I think that in the next World Championship, Renault is destined to achieve many successes. The French House is the one that has the most tested engine. The task for Ferrari, BMW and Alfa Romeo is less easy, as they still have a long way to go. It's a job more for engineers than for drivers. It is, however, a fascinating undertaking. I admit that I would like to collaborate on a turbo program. Be careful: I would like to, and that's it".

 

Lauda dwells on Ferrari. His relations with the Maranello team and Enzo Ferrari went from idyll to storm and then to a kind of reconciliation.

 

"I would be happy if Ferrari returned to the top. The technical possibilities are there: I know very well with what means and with what enthusiasm Ferrari works. The rather long interval between the end of the 1980 world championship and the beginning of the next one should have allowed the technicians to fine-tune the turbo. The unknowns of a new engine remain. I hope, and I'm sincere, that everything goes well".

 

Niki returns to the initial topic, that of the alleged return to competitions.

 

"I don't even know if I'd be able to get back behind the wheel of a Formula 1. Not so much for my body: I'm fit and in two-three months of training I could do it again. The problem is another, it's a problem of mind, of concentration, of psychology. Would I still have the strength to think only of the car, only of the race?"

 

Lauda has a slight hesitation.

 

"I have a wife, two children, people who believed in me and work with me. My head is for them".

 

He doesn't say anything else, but these few words seem clear. Lauda has moved on, the helmet is hanging on a nail and it will stay there. There is no going back. Meanwhile, another Villeneuve lands in Italy. It is Jacques, younger brother of the much more famous Gilles, the top driver of Ferrari. Jacques Villeneuve, 25 years old, with the physique of a jockey but the gaze of a tough guy, after having started racing snowmobiles like Gilles, with which he won the world title in 1979, switched to four wheels and last year awarded the Canadian-American Formula Atlantic title. Now, to attempt the climb to Formula 1, he has come to Italy to participate in the European Formula 3 championship.

 

"It is necessary to race in Europe if you want to get to Formula 1. It is in the races held in the old continent that the managers follow the young drivers to then choose who to entrust the single-seaters of the top category to. I will have a March with an Alfa Romeo engine from the Pavanello Euroracing team".

 

Gilles runs with Ferrari, Jacques starts with an Alfa Romeo engine. Is this the first step towards the Milanese Formula 1?

 

"It's too early to say, but I confess that one day I'd like to make my debut in Formula 1 with Alfa. For now I have to settle for an engine that already impressed me with its power in this first test. I hope this contact will help me in the future".

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What does your brother think of this choice?

 

"I spoke to him on the phone and he was happy with my decision. Furthermore, we will be able to be together more, since in all probability I will go to live with him, in Monte-Carlo".

 

Jacques Villeneuve, who completed about sixty laps on the junior track of Monza achieving the remarkable time of 50"9, impressed with the decision and control of the car demonstrated. Gilles' little brother, who tested first with Alberto Colombo's helmet and then with that of his teammate Mauro Baldi because he forgot his in Canada, he incurs four spectacular spins that immediately bring to mind the reckless driving of the Ferrari driver Jacques also receives compliments from Mauro Baldi who follows his evolution from the garage.

 

"He's a decisive and fast guy. I hope to find a perfect agreement with him and to be able to work in harmony to affirm the team".

 

Tuesday 17 February 1981, Formula 1 finally seems to have got into the right gear. In the press conference in the Place de la Concorde, the president of FISA, Jean Marie Balestre, announces that one of the main points of friction between the sporting authorities and the manufacturers has been resolved: FOCA has withdrawn the injunction presented in recent months to the Alta court in London to prevent FISA from making changes to the contracts already signed with the organizers of the world competitions. Jean-Marie Balestre declares:

 

"There are no obstacles to resuming concrete negotiations and solving the last outstanding problems. For our part, we hope that peace will have a long life. However, for this to happen, it will now be necessary to carefully study every word of the document presented by the builders after the Modena agreement. Therefore, starting today, and for three days, we will hold a joint meeting to find a solution that is satisfactory for all. I take this opportunity to let it be known that from now on it will be necessary to stop saying that FISA only defends the big builders. It is false, as our main concern is to give all teams the same chance to compete as equals".

 

As for the calendar, Balestre declares that there are no substantial changes with respect to the one announced in Monte-Carlo on Friday 30 January 1981. The World Championship will regularly start on Sunday 15 March 1981 in Long Beach with the Grand Prix of the USA West. The manager also confirms that the San Marino Grand Prix, scheduled at Imola on May 3, 1981, is exceptionally registered for this year. Builders and authorities, therefore, gathered around a table for three days. The most serious problem to solve remains that of the tyres. Goodyear's withdrawal has caused a lot of confusion. Michelin seems to have said it was willing to initially supply all the teams with a single type of tyre. But some teams (it seems also Ferrari) would not have accepted this solution. Balestre would then have agreed to make an exception to the current regulations, allowing the free use of the wider tires in use last year for which there would be a certain availability. But even this proposal would not find all the consenting teams. This will therefore be one of the crucial points of the discussions. Hopefully the solution will be found at the meeting. On the positive side, however, the fact remains that Formula 1 is ready to get back on track, even if it doesn't yet know which tires it will race with on tracks around the world. And so, on Thursday 19 February 1981, during the evening, the news arrived from Paris that the definitive peace had been signed, that the team managers had left the French capital fully satisfied. And in Milan, the engineer Carlo Chili confirms that the final agreement has been reached. In reality, there is still a small obstacle to overcome. In Paris, the sporting director of Ferrari, Marco Piccinini, and that of Renault, Jean Sage, remain to discuss with the president of FISA. Jean-Marie Balestre. The composition of the Formula 1 Commission is still in doubt: the sporting authorities want the manufacturers to have only one representative on this committee, the interested parties reply that they want two. It is an apparently negligible issue but the very fact that it is the subject of a fierce dispute means that both parties attach great importance to the composition of this commission. In fact, the men called to be part of it will decide on the regulations and calendars in the near future. Consequently, having it under control will mean having command in the world of Formula 1.

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In any case, the document presented by the manufacturers after the meeting in Modena seems to have been approved with minor amendments. Unfortunately (but by now the protagonists of this affair have all gotten used to this stressful tug of war that has really tired the fans in particular) the formal drafting of the final document will take a few more days. We will probably have to wait until Monday 23 February 1981 to toast the end of this painful dispute which has become an authentic farce. However, it must be recognized that a clarification will end up doing good for Formula 1. Since it is not only a sport but also a 100.000.000 dollar deal (as FOCA defined Formula 1 itself) which involves of private manufacturers and large car manufacturers, it will be appropriate to follow the discussions and uncertainties of ten months with a period of stability and security. Too bad that the battle between FISA and FOCA was followed by other events, such as the abandonment of racing by Goodyear, which will certainly affect at least the start of the next championship. Many teams, among other things, have not yet prepared the cars that will face the first race in Long Beach in a few days and this will end up causing a rather irregular start. Twenty-four hours after the signing of the agreement between manufacturers and sports authorities for Formula 1, a new team officially enters the world of Grand Prix. In fact, the English team Toleman is presented in a Milanese hotel. The reason why the christening takes place in Italy is simple: the cars of the Withey team in Oxfordshire are - to put it simply - shod and dressed by Italian industries. The tires will in fact be Pirelli, the sponsor Candy, a well-known brand of household appliances. Although she is the latest arrival, Toleman certainly has the possibility to immediately stand out, despite being at her total debut. The drivers, the English Brian Henton and Derek Warwick, are new to Formula 1, the car made with ultra-modern construction techniques is new, the engine is also new, the only four-cylinder turbo in this category, made by Brian Hart. except Ted Toleman, 43, president of the stable and of a group of thriving companies, billionaire, hoffshore champion. and his very efficient right-hand man Alex Hawkridge have clear ideas. The program they have prepared for the next three years reveals unbridled ambition and boundless faith in their abilities.

 

"Gain experience during this season and maybe win a few races (perhaps already in South America, i.e. in the second or third round), take many victories in 1982 and win the world title in 1983".

 

Declares Hawkridge, giving the impression of not joking. And to underline their intention, they put a large inscription like this in the saloon where the new car, called TG 181, is being presented: Candy-Toleman World Champion 198… A little presumption doesn't hurt. However, the fact remains that Toleman has done things right, starting with the agreement with Pirelli with which she won the European Formula 2 last year. Thus, Italian industry returns to Formula 1 after having abandoned it in 1957 when it equipped the fabulous Maserati. And Pirelli's return to Formula 1 is almost revolutionary. The Milanese company has in fact created radial tires with unusual characteristics for Toleman. In fact, unlike conventional tyres, these Super performance tires are asymmetrical, i.e. they have a square outer shoulder and a round inner one. Basically, the technicians headed by engineer Mezzanotte, on the basis of the experiences obtained in Formula 2 and in the Sportscar World Championship won with Lancia, have theoretically overcome what is considered the handicap of the radials, i.e. too strong support on the inside shoulder which requires the use of compounds that are too hard (Ferrari knows something about it...). For the moment, however, the Tolemans have not yet undergone definitive tests because their construction has just finished. On Monday 9 March 1981 the cars will probably be tested in Monza, or in some other circuit, after which it will be decided whether to make their debut in South America at the end of March. Formula 1 starts practically from scratch. On Sunday 15 March 1981, in Long Beach, in the usual street circuit, a World Championship will begin under the banner of uncertainty. Leaving aside the controversies that have troubled the world of Grand Prix over the last ten months and which have discredited a sport that is among the most popular, it must be said that all the uncertainties with which the new season is presented promise a splendid series of races without prediction. The abolition of the infamous miniskirts (which in the last two years had made many races as boring as a two-hour monologue), the adoption, at least in the first tests, of a single tyre, that of Michelin, the profound technical evolution with the The massive advent of supercharged engines, the arrival of new teams that don't hide ambitions, guarantee a fight that, if there are no surprises, will accompany all fourteen races of the championship. It is difficult, when presenting the World Championship, to say today what will be the dominant motifs of 1981.

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Williams will try to defend the supremacy conquered last year with Alan Jones and will certainly always be at the top. But it will have to defend itself from the attacks that will be brought on it from all sides. From Brabham which threatened it thoroughly last year, from Renault which with an extra year of experience in terms of turbos, perhaps starts with a significant advantage. But the main questions concern Ferrari which in 1980 with the controversial T5 lost the supremacy it had demonstrated in previous seasons. The Maranello technicians are grappling with a completely new car, still undecided about the choice between the KKK supercharged bi-turbo engine and the brand new Comprex. There are reliability and performance issues that may be addressed with some more data after the initial Long Beach test. The same is more or less true for Alfa Romeo which, enriched by Mario Andretti's experience, nonetheless finds itself starting over with a different car from the one that had given great satisfaction and much hope towards the end of last year. Furthermore, on a technical level, it will be necessary to verify how valid some avant-garde solutions adopted by some teams are, such as McLaren, which has relied on materials of aeronautical origin (for example, the carbon fiber used to build the body) or the Lotus which has studied particular aerodynamic solutions that will certainly cause discussion. An additional reason of interest for the Italian fans will be the presence of a large number of Italian riders. From the already established De Angelis, Patrese and Giacomelli, to the young De Cesaris who landed at McLaren, to Gabbiani who ended up at Osella, to Stohr chosen by Arrows, to get to the American Eddie Cheever that Ken Tyrrell wanted in his stable. There is enough to await the start of the races with great anticipation and a lot of curiosity. Again during the presentation of the 1981 World Championship, it must be said that the golden helmet of the Formula 1 World Champion did not change Alan Jones. The thirty-four-year-old Australian driver, winner of the title last year with Williams, has maintained exactly the same attitudes of the past: he hasn't become a star, he's a character out of place in an environment where everyone tries to get noticed, above all he still doesn't care public relations Talking to him is always difficult In his splendid home in Los Angeles, however. Jones releases a few brief statements, while avoiding going into the general situation of Formula 1. To a precise question, based on an observation, namely on the fact that lately no driver has managed to repeat his success one year after another, the Australian driver answers:

 

"These are things I know very well but they don't concern me. I am different from everyone and my team is different. I know very well that the glory of winning a race lasts only one day and that the triumph of the world title is over immediately after conquering it. I think I'm a good fighter and above all I have a team behind me that wants to get there. We cannot compare with others. If we look at the last two world title winners, Andretti and Scheckter, we can see that they belonged to two highly decorated teams. Lotus won 71 Grands Prix, while Ferrari took everything there was to take. We at Williams, on the other hand, only won eleven races. There is still a long way to go, then".

 

What will happen this season?

 

"We looked to the future. When I won the title, in October in Montreal, our design engineer Patrick Head was in England preparing the new car. When we assert ourselves in a competition, in our motorhome, together with the technicians and Frank Williams , we never talk about what happened or the past. But we prepare immediately for the next engagement. This happened for the 1980 World Championship. We put a stone on it and thought about the future".

 

So is he still favorite for 1981?

 

"I did not say this. It will be very difficult. We start at a disadvantage compared to the teams that have declared themselves loyal to FISA. While the FOCA teams honored their contracts with South Africa and Reutemann obtained a beautiful but useless victory, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault and Talbot continued their tests with the cars prepared for the new regulations. We definitely miss these three months of work. But this doesn't make me despair because I really believe in Williams and Head. Our designer has certainly not lost his imagination and inventiveness. He's a great technician and I'm convinced he'll set up a car for me that can win again".

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But Ferrari and Lotus were also competitive and then they weren't able to repeat themselves...

 

"It's the fault of the technicians, not the riders. It was they, the Ferrari and Lotus technicians, who made mistakes, or who rested on their laurels. I hope this doesn't happen with Williams".

 

From Friday 13 March 1981 the Formula 1 engines will roar again. With the first day of practice for the US West Grand Prix, on the by now classic street circuit of what is the most important commercial port on the American west coast, you enter the climate of the 1981 World Championship. The agreement signed in extremis in Paris between the sporting authorities and the manufacturers kicked off the championship, but controversies and suspicions did not disappear. Indeed, right now the fun begins. Unfortunately, the environment is polluted, economic interests continue to prevail over sport: it is difficult for the season to pass peacefully. In this regard, the Argentine pilot Carlos Reutemann says:

 

"Formula 1 has become a den of bandits. We shouldn't even get on the cars to start in the qualifying rounds. And it is not excluded that someone decides not to compete".

 

The situation is still serious. At least three problems are still present and it is not clear how they can be tackled and solved: the cars built by playing on the lack of clarity of the regulations; drivers who could not drive in Formula 1; the tires that will not be the same for all teams. Outlawed cars. To counter the arrival of turbocharged engines, the British manufacturers in the new regulations just signed have asked for a four-year stability. Some points of the technical standards, however, have been written in a way that lends itself to different interpretations. Thus Lotus has created a single-seater, the 88, with a double chassis (one rigidly attached to the bodywork and then superimposed by very hard springs on another normal chassis) which should allow the ground effect to be used perfectly, even without the side skirts , now abolished. The technical managers of all the other teams dispute the regularity of this invention by Colin Chapman and ask for this car to be excluded from the race. The same could be said for Brabham which has prepared a single-seater with hydraulic pressure devices to lower the car while racing. However, the managers of the two teams (Chapman and Ecclestone) bring two more traditional-type cars to Long Beach. However, FISA does not have specialists good enough and trained to enforce the law during scrutineering. Another car under attack is the new McLaren, whose chassis is made of carbon fibre. Some argue that, in the event of an accident, it would be dangerous due to its fragility. Different tyres. Michelin will supply the tires to all the teams until Pirelli and Avon arrive. But the majority of the teams accuse the French company of wanting to favor its factory teams (Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault and Talbot). Italian and French cars would be given tires of the most modern type, the TRX, while the others would be given 1980 model tires. This distribution system could give rise to violent protests. Billionaire pilots. The bad habit of hiring drivers who are not officially authorized to race in Formula 1 is spreading more and more. All you need to do is pay hundreds of millions to enter the Grands Prix. Ensign has signed a contract with the unknown Colombian Londono (who will not compete in Long Beach, however) only because he is a billionaire. Many other drivers would not yet have had the necessary score for the Formula 1 super license and among these are Serra, Mansell, the American Kevin Cogan (who will drive the second Tyrrell alongside Cheever), Angel Guerra, the Italian Sigfried Stohr, the South American Salazar. The president of FISA, Jean-Marie Balestre, has announced action against this abuse. He's certainly right, but he too should have thought about it first. Now there is the risk of causing a new earthquake with unpredictable consequences. In short, we are on the eve of the races but everything is still confused, everything can blow up, giving rise to an irregular World Championship.

 

"There are two types of constructors in Formula 1: those who, having become aware of a regulation, design a car on the basis of the required technical standards and others who, instead, study all possible systems to try to obtain advantages by circumventing the regulations themselves. It is also human that there are those who try to be clever. Unfortunately, however, all the troubles derive from the fact that there is no such a strong sporting authority capable of enforcing not only the rules but also the intentions expressed in the laws. So we are once again at a crossroads. If the attempts to cheat the technical agreements made in all these months of decisions are allowed to pass unscathed, we will end up in chaos again".

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Mauro Forghieri, Ferrari designer for eighteen years, has clear ideas about what is happening right now, on the eve of the first day of practice for the US West Grand Prix.

 

"If the scrutineers want, they can block the outlawed cars not only during checks but also during practice or before the race. It will be enough to send a sturdy tow truck and remove the machines that are not in order".

 

The reference to what has happened in recent days, to the suspicions concerning Lotus and Brabham, is more than evident. Without arriving at the absurd proposal expressed by Chiti (Alfa Romeo) and Ligier (Talbot) in a meeting between representatives of the major car manufacturers (the two asked to return to cars with miniskirts to frustrate the scam attempts of those who want to obtain equally the ground effect), it would be sufficient to apply the regulations to the letter to put the situation back in order. However, the story will be resolved, for better or for worse, in the next few hours with a meeting of all the manufacturers and subsequent official technical checks. In any case, it's also time to talk about the season that's about to start and the conversation with Forghieri naturally moves on to Ferrari. The Maranello team has abandoned the glorious 12-cylinder boxer engines to venture into the field of supercharging with the Turbo and the Comprex.

 

"We've done a lot of testing, but we feel the need for a deeper test in the race. We have prepared two solutions, that of the Turbo, which has also been created with some small new modifications, and that of the Comprex, which is instead totally new in racing at this level. We know that a company like Renault has been working for years and now still has problems to overcome and that's why we are under no illusions. We too will face some unknown factors".

 

So this will be another year of transition for Ferrari…

 

"It all depends on how things develop. Never before have there been so many innovations as in 1981. Perhaps - even if it may make you laugh - the least important fact is the abolition of miniskirts. Changing and reducing the size of tires, for example, is relevant. And the fact that there is no more Goodyear must be taken into account. Let's not forget that last year, right here in Long Beach, the American company made Piquet win by giving him those tires that were clearly better than those of the others. Of course the Michelin. providing a mono-tyre to all the teams, it will put every rider on the same level, on equal terms".

 

A prediction for the world title?

 

"I would say Renault. Last year the French company proved to be close to the top. And with a few more months of experience, it can only go on".

 

And Ferrari?

 

"We have two riders who are excellent professionals and respect each other. Villeneuve and Pironi are also not very sensitive to external pressures because each of them knows exactly where they want to go. Our president hired them to respect certain rules, then we'll see in the running. To anyone who thinks that they might even get in each other's way, I say: two good riders are better than two bad ones and they're even better than one good and one bad".

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To conclude, can Ferrari also think about winning the world title again this year or should it give up from the start?

 

"We always think about winning. We only run to win. Also last year we started to conquer the title. Just that. occasionally, you make a car that goes half a second faster a lap than it did last year and find that someone has managed to make one that goes two seconds faster. Then you have to throw yourself into the future, review all your accounts".

 

The confusion in Formula 1 continues. The controversies and discussions follow one another and talk is now made through the lawyers, the representatives of the teams, the men of the sporting authority, other teams, who present an appeal against the car of the English team, considered illegal and outside the regulations for 1981. There are 11 (out of 15) teams officially protesting against Lotus. Until now, a few hours after the first qualifying round, it is still unknown what will happen, whether the car will be disqualified or admitted to the race. According to the latest rumors, the stewards are determined not to disqualify her, also because they are not up to making a decision and above all so as not to disavow their work. In any case, this further Formula 1 controversy causes, for the first time in history, a break between the English teams, always united in their actions. Chapman was harshly attacked by the men from Brabham and outvoted, but resisted in his intentions of presenting the car with two chassis. In a meeting held on the morning of Thursday 12 March 1981, attended only by the heads of the British teams, Bernie Ecclestone tries to convince the owner of Lotus to give up presenting the car, but he fails. Subsequently a plenary meeting with all the manufacturers and a vote for and against Lotus takes place. In the majority the teams pronounce themselves negatively; only Tyrrell, Fittipaldi and Ensign refrain from filing a claim against Chapman. The English manufacturer shows arrogant, and even makes fun of the other participants in the assembly, presenting himself with an English dictionary with which he explains the meaning of the words of the technical regulation. The other participants, however, respond harshly, and Gordon Murray, designer of Brabham, leaves. Mauro Forghieri, Ferrari's technical manager, on the other hand, prefers to attack the presumptuous Colin harshly, and tells him that no one believes his justifications. However, the environment is very shaken, and it is not yet known what will happen on the track this morning when, at 10:00 a.m., the first non-timed qualifying sessions of the United States West Grand Prix will have to start. However, there is a lot of anticipation for when the cars will take to the track, to see if all this controversy will be justified: it seems in fact that the contrasts with the revolutionary Lotus may also be unjustified, as the car has not yet given major demonstrations of competitiveness . However, this is a matter of principle, and for this reason the other teams are opposed to putting it on the track. On a sporting level, everyone points to the supremacy of Brabham, which, among other things, also has a strange device that could be considered outlawed. It is a series of gas springs which should - operated by the driver - lower the car during practice.

 

Some are betting on Alfa Romeo, which with Mario Andretti and Bruno Giacomelli could become one of the favourites. On the other hand, the participation of Ferrari is unknown, which for the first time takes to the circuit to compete with the turbo engines of Renault and with the other already tested Cosworth and Matra of Ligier. If the Lotus affair doesn't bring negative news, the first data will be available by Friday tonight. From Saturday, then, there will be a battle for the starting grid, which will kick off the World Championship on Sunday. On the asphalt strip of Ocean Boulevard, between houses in a vaguely colonial style and very modern buildings, among palm trees and oleanders, applauded by a very large audience, 29 cars sprint away for the first round of non-timed practice of the Grand Prix of the USA West. The classic roar of naturally aspirated engines, of the 12-cylinder Alfa Romeo and Matra, of the 8-cylinder Cosworth, the crackling hiss of the Renault turbos and the squeak of the Ferrari Comprex (the noise of which sounds more like the lament of a mouse than the rumble of a car racing to the delight of ecologists) opens hostilities. A breath of sport after so many controversies, after the suffocating discussions which unfortunately are not over yet. In the middle of the lot of competitors, the new and revolutionary Lotus 88 does not start, the subject of an endless series of meetings in the last two days. The car did not start, however, only because the English team's mechanics were unable to get it right in time. The car on Thursday had been deliberated regularly after the technical checks carried out by the American commissioners who found no violation of the regulation in the double chassis designed by Colin Chapman. The fact aroused the protest of the other teams and, as mentioned, eleven of them (all, excluding Fittipaldi, Tyrrell and Ensign) signed a complaint asking for the exclusion from the 88 races because it was irregular. Now the practice is being examined by the sports commission which will have to make a decision within a short time. However, there are several possible solutions: the car could be admitted to the sub-judice trials, expelled, or definitively approved. However, the latter hypothesis would give rise to further protests from the other teams who are ready for joint action to prevent the use of the single-seater. There were violent disagreements between the manufacturers. Colin Chapman, the owner of Lotus, had to face the ire of his own compatriots and then had a clash with the designer of Ferrari, the engineer Mauro Forghieri. At the FOCA meeting, Bernie Ecclestone tried in vain to get Chapman to pick up the car. The Lotus manager was adamant.

 

"You're all pissed at me because I had an idea that you didn't have. It's not the first time, it had already happened with miniskirts".

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However, the owner of the British team forgets to remember that the same miniskirts were outlawed by the regulations and had only been accepted due to the lack of strength of the sporting authorities. At this point a rift arose between the English constructors (it is the first time this has happened in the history of Formula 1) and in the following meeting, in the presence of the heads of all the teams. Chapman introduced himself as a university lecturer in front of the students. Showing an English dictionary, Chapman began to recite explaining, word by word, the meaning of the technical standards of international regulations. At one point, Brabham designer Gordon Murray got up and stormed off. When Chapman began to tell us that nothing on Earth is static compared to the Sun, Forghieri blurted out:

 

"You think you take us all for idiots but you're wrong. The car is irregular and we will make a complaint".

 

Soon after, eleven teams signed the official protest which is now being examined by stewards who unfortunately are not up to the task. Fittipaldi, harshly rebuked again by Forghieri himself who accused him of being afraid of Chapman, did not sign the complaint, citing as a reason the fact that he doesn't have turbo engines and must defend himself; Tyrrell because he owes Chapman and Ensign because, counting for nothing, he desires no enemies. Engineer Carlo Chiti, head of the Alfa Romeo team, says he will not let anything pass as has happened in previous years and that any irregularities will be reported.

 

"I will make one complaint a day, until the cheating stops".

 
There is much work to do on Friday, during the test-session in the morning and the timed session in the afternoon, because the Long Beach circuit can’t be used beforehand for testing as it comprises the normal streets of the City, like Monaco, so the tempo on the first day is one of settling in and sorting things out. In spite of all the political and legal wrangling during the winter, now that the first proper Grand Prix is on, everyone get stuck in and all seem well with the world, except for one small blot on the landscape. This involve the new twin-chassis Lotus 88 in which the aerodynamic functions have been isolated from the dynamic functions, which have been accepted and passed by the scrutineers, but is then protested by Colin Chapman’s friends and rivals. By lunch-time on Friday the Long Beach organisers have given Chapman the impression that the protest have been thrown out and the car is acceptable, so de Angelis started to practice with it, but then the fuel pump drive fail so he has to transfer to his Lotus 81 while repairs are effected. It is out again before the end of the afternoon but do not get any serious timed laps in. This short run showed up one or two teething-troubles and on Friday night there is some intensive machine-shop work being done in Long Beach to make bits and pieces. When the day is over the organisers announce that the protest have now been upheld and the Lotus 88 is illegal, but it could continue running until higher authority have made a decision. As regards everyone else there are some clear messages to be read. World Champion Alan Jones is justifying his title and is setting the pace, with a best time of 1'20"911 in a bracket all on his own. The Williams team in general are right on top of the situation with Reutemann up there in fourth place. Ferrari are back in the game with a vengeance with their totally new cars, Villeneuve being third fastest and Pironi fifth. Jarier is giving inspiration to the Talbot team, with their temporary Matra V12 power plant and get himself into second position overall, and Patrese is hurling the Arrows round to good effect. The Alfa Romeos are up there, as are the Lotus 81 cars, but the McLarens are looking a bit hopeless and the Renaults seems to be marking time. The Scuderia Ferrari have started off with all their efforts centred on the Brown Boveri Comprex supercharging system, both drivers using this layout, but Villeneuve has the drive-belt to the supercharger break and while he is out in the T-car, fitted with twin KKK turbo-chargers he not only go a lot faster, but is faster than Pironi with the other Comprex.
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The first round of practices not valid for qualifying reproposes, in an hour and a half, the duel that had been the dominant theme of 1980, ie a battle between Jones and Piquet. The World Champion sets the best time in 1'21"26 and the Brazilian the second time in 1'22"045. Behind the two pacesetters the two old model Lotuses with Mansell in third position and De Angelis in fourth. The Ferraris they mark the eighth time with Pironi and the tenth with Villeneuve.As far as Alfa is concerned, Andretti is twelfth and Giacomelli sixteenth.Some minor accidents also occur which lead to the interruption of practice: on the second lap Giacomelli, while leaving the pits , is closed by Patrese and ends up against a wall ruining the spoiler of his Alfa. Shortly after Giacomelli himself still has a problem due to a fire and is forced to stop along the way. During the evening of Friday 13 March 1981, the long-awaited news arrives that the controversial Lotus 88 is excluded from the United States Grand Prix The decision, expected but still without many precedents, is taken by the technical commission and officially communicated by the race organizer, Chris Pook, together with the president of the stewards. The reason why the car is considered irregular is quite nebulous, but it still reflects the request of the complaint presented by eleven teams that had considered the car completely outside the regulations. Basically, the stewards accepted the protest and declared the car outlawed due to the fact that a part of the chassis was attached to the suspension with four springs. The second chassis of the car is in practice put on a par with the bodywork, and as the latter is prohibited from being attached to sprung parts, this decision is made which is final even if the owner of the Lotus. Colin Chapman, will have the opportunity to appeal to the FIA tribunal in Paris. The exclusion of the Lotus 88 puts an end to the violent controversy that inflamed the first two days of the USA West Grand Prix. In any case, the car, which only completed three laps during the first qualifying round, did not show particularly competitive qualities. Driven by the Roman Elio De Angelis, it completes three laps of the course, the first at a very slow pace in 8'59"0 (the best time in practice is obtained by Jones in 1'20"91), at an average speed of 21.701 km/h; the next one is done in 6'09"0, at an average of 31.672 km/h, and the third, after a long stop in the pits, in 1'31"3. at an average of 128,057 km/h. Subsequently, due to a broken cable, the car was stopped and De Angelis got on the old 81 with which he gained further satisfaction. Saturday, once the controversies have subsided, the race will therefore get into full swing.

 

The first day of testing highlights Alan Jones, intent on repeating last season, when he won almost all the races. With his Williams the Australian made a few laps at extraordinary speed, proving to be a great striker as always, taking incredible risks that sent thousands of spectators into raptures. The closest to good Alan is Jean Pierre Jarier. a driver who hadn't climbed into a Formula 1 single-seater for six months. The transalpine replaces Jabouille who is still injured driving the Talbot and proves to be, as always, a man with steady nerves and a very fast drive. Behind the two leaders finally a Ferrari, which seems to be back, at least for the moment, with its supercharged engines, at the top. Third place for Villeneuve and fifth for Pironi, with Reutemann in the middle. At the end of the first day of testing, the two men from the Maranello team appear very satisfied, as do the technicians who really weren't hoping for such a brilliant debut. On Saturday they will try, in the decisive second day of qualifying, to at least maintain the position if not to improve it. Riccardo Patrese is also in an excellent position, finishing sixth, while De Angelis takes eighth place. A slightly less good result than expected for Alfa Romeo, Andretti seventh and Giacomelli tenth. But starting from Saturday morning the two riders of the Milanese team will try to climb a few places. Quite satisfactory, also the debut of Osella from Turin, who has Gabiani practically already qualified and Guerra first of the excluded, but still in contention to be able to enter the role of starters who will start the great race on Sunday at 2:00 pm. Are a few kilometers of practice, just over a few hours of timed tests, enough to provide sufficient reasons to understand what could happen in Formula 1 this year? It is certainly too early to make an in-depth speech. The indications are scarce, many cars are still in the development and development phase and some drivers perhaps have not yet assimilated the characteristics of the cars available. However, talking to the protagonists of the race that will officially open the world championship today, we can get an idea of what could happen in the future, of the reasons that will guide a long and difficult season. The theme is of course the world title. Alan Jones says that for many years no champion has managed to win two consecutive times, but that he hopes a lot in a very valid team like Williams, claiming that they still have intact energy and will to fight. It is the same thing that its rivals think too. The only difference depends on the fact that many are convinced that the situation could change, that Williams is no longer uncatchable as in many 1980 races. Didier Pironi affirms:

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"We at Ferrari are in a recovery phase. Personally, I think that Alan Jones will not be able to repeat last year's results for many factors. In a short time the supercharged cars will come out of arrogance and for the others there will be little to do. At the end of these days of testing, I can confirm that I am extremely happy with my move to the Maranello team. The great professionalism, competence and motivation, the technical and material possibilities, the human potential are enormous. I've been around many teams, seen everything, but I haven't yet seen something close to perfection, what all riders would like to have. With this I don't want to argue that Ferrari is always able to beat everyone and that sometimes it can't make mistakes. However, it must be recognized that the results obtained in Maranello are exceptional. Let's take an example: Renault has been working on a car powered by a supercharged engine for a long time. At Ferrari this path has been taken for a relatively short time. Well, I am convinced that in terms of engines, both with the Turbo KKK and with the Comprex, Ferrari is already clearly superior to the great French manufacturer. As a car, Renault is probably still superior at the moment, more perfect, but we are making great strides".

 

Pironi talks willingly: he says he gets on very well with Villeneuve (“But sometimes the Canadian will have to resign himself to seeing the back of my car”) and that he has established an excellent relationship with engineer Forghieri.

 

"If sometimes the compressed engines are slow to respond, the same cannot be said of our technician. Just explain to him what the problems are and he knows exactly where to put his hands right away. And this too has never happened to me with other designers".

 

The Ferraris are therefore back to fighting in the top positions. But are Maranello's cars ready for a win?

 

"Maybe not immediately, but in two months it will also be possible to win. We still have problems with the reliability of some engine parts and grip. But there are two explanations. One is an engine problem: our engine is probably a bit too heavy and makes it difficult to balance the car. The second is due to a situation of the moment. We have to use all the same Michelin tires for the first three races. But when the French manufacturer can take better care of us and assist only the factory teams, there will be tires that are much more suitable for our Ferraris".

 

If the will to win is very much alive in Pironi, it cannot be said that it is lacking in Alfa Romeo. Results aside, Mario Andretti, in his first competitive experience with Autodelta cars in Formula 1, is convinced that he will be able to do battle in the very first places.

 

"We are already ready, and starting today we will give a hard time to those who intend to get on the podium. Unfortunately many teams try to cheat on weight or other tricks, while we are very regular. All you need to do is adopt a few softer springs to lower the cars during the race and you'll see that there won't be many problems".

 

Some difficulties, however, for Giacomelli who feels his car is not yet perfectly balanced. But the Brescian is also counting on starting the season in a brilliant way.

 

"We wouldn't be surprised if Alfa fought for the world title. In fact, that's why I'm here".

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For the Saturday morning test-session the weather is still fine, with blue skies and sunshine and the Lotus 88 is out again, but before long it is black-flagged off the course and ruled out, with no reason being given! Behind the scenes a lot of people are getting very hot under the collar while others are becoming very embarrassed. Ferrari are in awful trouble, learning the forced-induction route all over again the hard way, while Renault are looking on with a degree of sympathy having been through it all. Villeneuve’s car (051) is been fitted with the KKK system in place of the BBC Comprex while Pironi has taken the T-car (050) with KKK system and his own car (049) with Comprex is now relegated to the T-car position. All is going well to begin with and while not the fastest cars on lap time they are recording the highest terminal speeds on the bottom straight (171 m.p.h. against the average 162 m.p.h. of the others). You can’t extract 550 b.h.p. from 1500 c.c, without a few teething-troubles and Villeneuve’s run come to a stop when a sparking plug check reveal a piston disintegrating in number one cylinder on the right-hand bank. The car is wheeled away for an engine change and Villeneuve transfers to the Comprex car, but this refuse to run properly and a fault is found in one of the injection pipes. By the time this is rectified the morning session is nearly over. Meanwhile Pironi has been reported losing oil round the circuit, and sure enough he come into the pits with oil running out of the gearbox due to a loose plug, so while one Ferrari is hoisted up in the air to be repaired, another is away in the garage area having an engine change and the third would not run properly. Not a Ferrari morning. It is not a McLaren morning either for the new spaceage MP4 is being abandoned as needing more testing and Watson transfers to his T-car, an M29F. In the final hour, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., the final decisions have to be made and the fortunate twenty-four for the grid is to be decided. Now the pace get really frenzied and a good lap time on Friday begin to look pathetic and hopeless.
 
Alan Jones still set the pace and is the first driver to break into the 1'19"0, Mansell’s progress is halted for a bit when he ran out of fuel, Villeneuve is back in his KKK car with a new engine, and the scene is looking good, with Talbots pounding after Renaults; Alfa Romeos pounding after Ferraris; Lotus, Williams and Brabhams battling away, the World Champion setting the pace, the World Champion team still the one to beat and the glorious confusion of V6, V8 and V12 engines. Jones just kisses the concrete wall with his left rear wheel on the exit of the last corner and bent a suspension member, parking the car at the end of the pit lane and running back to get into the spare Williams car. The spring sunshine in California can be deceptively hot and as regular readers will recall from my 1980 Long Beach report, I succumb to the heat and become slightly delirious about Jan Lammers being on pole-position and the helmsman’s face showing white at the wheelhouse. As the sun get hotter this year I look through the window of the wheelhouse and see that the helmsman’s face is really white! As I go under I hear someone say that Patrese is on pole-position with a Beta-Ragno. That is bad enough, but worse followed, for beneath the orange and chequered-white colour scheme of the car is one of last year’s Arrows A3 cars. As the men in white carried me away I begin to wonder whether Walt Disney and Hollywood are behind the whole Formula One business. After spending Saturday evening at the midget-car meeting at Ascot Speedway, where they race eight abreast in full-lock power-slides with inter-locked wheels, on loose shale, sanity returns and Sunday morning dawn cool and clear. By mid-morning the sun is warming up nicely and at 11:10 a.m., in between all manner of other activities such as kart racing, sidecar racing and foot racing, the Formula 1 field have a 30 minute warm-up period. The Ferrari team have abandoned all activity with the Brown Boveri Comprex system (for the time being) and all three cars are fitted with the KKK system. Renault are not too happy for the car of Prost has a misfire which could not be traced, so they transfer him to the spare car (RE22B).
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Villeneuve has the choice of 049 or 051, and chose the former, while Pironi is driving 050, which have started the meeting as the T-Car. The Brabham team have abandoned the Weismann transmission on Rebaque’s car as a small breakage have occured at the end of practice so they decide to play-safe with a Hewland. Ready for the 2:00 p.m. start all the cars left the pit lane and do a full lap, to form up on the dummy-grid on the top straight. When all is ready Patrese (he really is on pole-position, and the helmsman is deathly white) led them all down to the bottom straight. They pause, the red light is on, then the green and they are away in the mad rush down to the Queen’s Hairpin. Villeneuve is first into the braking area, and the last to use the brakes and is actually leading for about 100 yards even though he is slightly out of control as he go round on a very wide line. Patrese, Reutemann and Jones go through on the inside and are about to be followed by Piquet, Cheever, Pironi and Andretti when the little French-Canadian rocket back on course and shot into fourth place as the field headed off through the twisty bits. The 1980 Formula 1 season ended with an Italian, Bruno Giacomelli, in pole position in the last race. 1981 began with the same result, with Riccardo Patrese conquering the front row and the fastest time for the West United States Grand Prix. The Paduan, 27 years old, for the first time in his career manages to start in this favorable situation. His time (1'19"399) on the difficult street circuit was exceptional. Patrese narrowly overtook the men of Williams, Jones and Reutemann, and today he will try to repel their attacks and finally conquer a victory that is missing from his carnet. Let's not forget that last year Riccardo conquered the position of honor behind Piquet on this very same track. the Grand Prix of the United States West would see him among the main protagonists.In the days leading up to qualifying he had repeated several times that he was confident that the car was going well, that his chances of getting into the front rows of the starting grid were considerable But he didn't dare to hope for pole position. After Friday's qualifying session (which ended with the fifth fastest time) he said:
 

"Tomorrow I'll try to go to the front row".

 

Then on Saturday, the exploit, a result that made Frank Williams and Alan Jones' eyes widen, now sure they had put everyone in check. Loaded with cups, surrounded by beautiful girls, among which the stars of the Penthouse men's magazine stood out, sponsoring his car for this race, with the $ 15.000 check won for best performance in his pocket and a camera around his neck and related lenses delivered to him by Canon always for the fastest time, the Paduan was literally attacked by journalists from all over the world. They pressed him against the wall of a Convention Center room to snatch the secret of this surprising placement from him.

 

"I was honestly just trying to start from the front row. I wasn't expecting pole position because I thought Jones had put too much space behind him and was unassailable. Then, however, I realized I could aim high and with the set of tires I had available I took the maximum risk, and it was the winning move".

 

What meaning does this statement that relaunches you among the greats of Formula 1 have for you?

 

"A great moral significance, because many had forgotten about me. With over fifty Grands Prix behind me, honestly, I didn't think I would have had so much difficulty getting married. I had had some proposals, but they all came from second-tier teams. So I gave an answer to those who didn't believe in my possibilities. Those who made me ridiculous offers will now realize that they have missed a good opportunity".

 

Don't you think this result could be occasional?
 

"No, and I'll explain why: the car had already proved its worth in the South African race, and in testing at Paul Ricard it went faster than the Alfa Romeo that had tested with us. At Arrows there is a fresh air, there is now more serenity than last year, a kind of renewal. Designer Dave Warr who replaced Tony Southgate is a down to earth engineer. It does not attempt adventures and has created a simple but balanced car. I get on very well with him and after all I had already appreciated him at Shadow in 1977 together with Alan Jones".

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The next races, therefore, should see you again among the protagonists.
 

"I hope so, even if I am convinced that many teams will make big progress as the days go by. In any case, I think I will be able to compete in good races both in Brazil and in Argentina".

 

What do you think of Ferrari?

 

"It went discreetly and I expected it. It must be said that with supercharged engines, the experience of winning the world championship with the Lancia Turbo has taught me that it is enough to increase engine power for a few revs. In the race, however, it's another thing. Instead, I believed that the Alfa was more competitive".

 

Do you think you can win?

 

"No, I don't make predictions. I'm in pole position for the first time, my big problem is not letting Jones pass me at the start. Maybe he's faster on the straights. It will still be a good battle".

 

Left on foot last year by Brabham, replaced by the Mexican billionaire Hector Rebaque who paid Ecclestone more than him, Zunino is married for the next races. He will drive a Tyrrell next to Eddie Cheever. However, he will have to pay Tyrrell a substantial fee in dollars. Siegfried Stohr from Rimini, rookie in Formula 1 with Arrows, failed to qualify, but set a record in practice with eleven spins. The last one was fatal to him, because after always being left with the car unscathed, he crashed violently, ruining it. When the Osella mechanics managed to repair it, the engine then broke down. Stohr, however, takes it philosophically:

 

"It means that when I write my memoirs I will have something more to tell".

 

The story of the Lotus 88 is not over yet. Colin Chapman's car, after being qualified during the technical checks and being used for three practice laps by Elio De Angelis (during which it demonstrated that it still had several problems to solve), as known, was declared illegal on Friday evening by the college of stewards, who denied their technical colleagues. However, the Chief Commissioner, John Bornholdt. he was unable to explain exactly the reasons which led to the exclusion of the car, vaguely declaring that it did not comply with the regulations and that the times obtained in practice could not be taken into consideration. Subsequently, however, Chapman presents an appeal against this decision and the stewards accept the appeal itself but refer the case to FISA, which will have to discuss it in Paris. The 88, however, will not be able to take part in the race. After seeing it running in practice, the marshals intervened again during practice on Saturday, displaying the black flag and causing the car to stop in the garage. They must have finally realized that, at speed, the bodywork, as it lowers, transforms into a sort of gigantic miniskirt. At the basis of the story remains the absolute inability of the international sports authorities to control the situation. Jean-Marie Balestre remained in Paris and his representatives there are not able to administer power. It is a serious fact, which in the future could tip the balance in favor of those who have the possibility of administering Formula 1 in a more professional manner. Chapman, in one of his official press releases, expresses his surprise at the criticisms of his car. And he even goes so far as to say, speaking of Ferrari, that in Maranello everything that is innovative and nonconformist cannot be understood, because an old mentality dominates. And this is certainly not a respectful reference. There has been a lot of talk these days about the agreement signed in Paris between manufacturers and sporting authorities. The definitive text of the document that led to peace has not been officially disclosed, but we know in brief what the new regulations will be and what the political, technical and economic situation of Formula 1 will be. The division of labor between FISA and FOCA should be clear, leaving the right to make the laws to Jean-Marie Balestre and his men, to Ecclestone and the teams he represents, through his organization (even the legalist ones such as Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault and Talbot), that of lead the World Championship economically and organizationally.

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So let's see how the situation has settled, hoping that in these days no negative events will happen that could alter it again. As the agreement is conceived, Formula 1 unfortunately loses something of its charm of pure sport, acquiring in professionalism. In other words, we have passed from an activity that still had something amateurish to a circus-type show, a bandwagon that moves from track to track, maneuvered mainly by money. Bearing in mind that even the highest expression of motor sport must adapt to the times and therefore try to economize on fuel and energy, all the regulations have been studied and will eventually be changed through the special commission for Formula 1 which is an integral part of FISA with the representatives of all categories involved, i.e. sporting authorities, constructor organizers and drivers. Nothing should be modified without the prior and unanimous authorization of the owners and stables. Space has been left for technical research, on supercharged engines and aerodynamics, aiming however at a reduction in speed for safety reasons. Let's recap what are the main novelties of the 1981 regulations: reduction of the dimensions of the tires and abolition of the miniskirts with the minimum height of the side bulkheads of the cars at 6 cm from the ground; adoption of measures for the safety of pilots in two stages. This year, improvement of the front guards and subsequently the obligation to create deformable structures especially for the front part of the machines in the event of frontal impacts; change in scoring for the World Championship. While last year the season was divided into two parts, allowing the possibility of accumulating the results of five races for each of the two sections of the championship, in 1981, with fifteen races scheduled, it will be possible to use scores achieved in ten races, regardless of the period . This will allow a driver, who for example will start with initially negative results, to be able to count on throughout the championship. And, conversely, whoever is unlucky in the final part of the season, if they have already accumulated a valid score in the first races, will not lose all chances of winning. The scores remain unchanged with 9 points for the first, 6 for the second, 4 for the third, 3 for the fourth, 2 for the fifth, 1 for the sixth. All Formula 1 affairs will be administered by FOCA, as has been the case for some time. But now the assignment is official and at the end of the season the constructors' organization will have to make known its accounts and take them to FISA. The teams will receive engagements for each race and the prizes will be divided according to established tables and according to the results achieved.

 

In Long Beach, for example, the American organizers paid about 1.000.000 dollars, while they spent another 250.000 dollars for the construction of the street circuit. If we consider that the amount paid to FOCA was entirely covered by 21 sponsors (among these the largest are Toyota, Canon, Essex, the men's magazine Penthouse, Michelob beer) it can be thought that the other proceeds, with the petty advertising, television and the sale of tickets, will allow a considerable profit. The only ones to complain are the riders who, in the conditions of extreme uncertainty of recent times, except for a few cases, have seen their revenues decrease because the teams have offered minor engagements and the personal sponsors have abandoned the field. However, it is always hundreds of millions of earnings that will allow them to get rich with a dangerous but still very profitable sport. Speaking of technology and cars, Ferrari, as always, makes the news: after perhaps the most negative year in its entire history, the Maranello team arrives at the 1981 Formula 1 season with two totally new cars: the turbo and compress versions of the 126 single-seater. Having abandoned the 3000 cc naturally aspirated engine, Enzo Ferrari bets everything on the 1500 cc supercharged engine; not only that, but it goes in search of a technical advantage, using a little-known device such as the Comprex, a device, built by Brown Boveri, designed for Diesel engines and never before applied to a petrol engine, much less by race. What is the difference between classic, turbo and Comprex superchargers? The first is a pump, driven by the engine, which sends a well-known and constant quantity of air at each revolution; it has only one very serious defect: if the overpressure required is high (as in the case of racing engines), the power required to operate the compressor is enormous and is subtracted from the engine. For this reason it was abandoned at the end of 1951 in Formula 1. The case of a touring car which must be supercharged within more modest limits is different, of course. In the last few years, however, the turbocharger has prevailed for the supercharging of racing and touring engines, thanks to its favorable characteristics of low weight (10-15 kilos), ease of installation (because it does not require a mechanical control from the engine) and very high power output. The turbo, as it is now called in jargon, is made up of a centrifugal compressor (an aluminum fan) and a turbine that can reach speeds of 140.000 rpm; the turbine receives the thrust from the exhaust gases and imparts its motion to the compressor which sends the air into the engine at increasingly higher pressure, in relation to the rotation speed.

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The turbo has the characteristic of pumping little or nothing at low speed and rapidly increasing the pressure which, in fact, is proportional to the square of the speed. At double speed, the pressure is four times greater, but this problem was solved by the engineers with an exhaust gas diverter valve, calibrated so as not to exceed the desired pressure. The turbo's major flaw is a certain slow response, which can be important in the race. And here we are at Comprex, which is a compressor similar to the volumetric one, therefore without delays in response, but which works by exploiting the energy of the exhaust gases, like the turbo. It is essentially very simple, but requires considerable work to fine-tune the various critical elements that regulate its performance. In fact, it consists of a cylinder, empty, but with many divisions that create axial ducts; this cylinder is turned by the engine, but without too much effort, because the work is only of movement and not of pumping. The exhaust gases enter through a hole in one end of the housing that contains the rotating cylinder. At the opposite end is a hole which communicates with the engine intake duct, and thus the incoming exhaust gas pushes air into the engine. Since the cylinder rotates, however, the exhaust gas cannot enter in turn, because in the meantime the channel has moved away from the outlet hole and is closed. However, by continuing the movement, another hole is opened, this time for discharge towards the atmosphere, from where the gas comes out; and it does so with such speed as to create a certain void behind it, a void which is filled by fresh air, entering through a fourth hole, which in the meantime has come to be found in correspondence with the duct in the drum. This sequence becomes continuous at high speed and repeats for all the small channels that make up the drum. It is interesting to note that in a few months Ferrari has obtained with Comprex an efficiency equal to that obtained after years of work with the turbo, and therefore the new solution appears promising. But it will once again be the competition that will give the definitive confirmation, as has already happened for many other technical innovations of the automobile. Remaining on the subject of Ferrari, historical appeals are not infrequent in motor sport. Men change for generational reasons, brands often leave the scene, definitively or temporarily, but it sometimes happens that two or more of them find themselves on the tracks after years or even decades, resuming dormant rivalries, technical and competitive comparisons which other eras had filled the sports chronicles. And so the memories of characters and cars that have said a lot for the history of the sports car and otherwise resurface. One of the most passionate themes of the Formula 1 racing season that is about to begin is the comparison between Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, a comparison that brings back memories of the races of the early 1950s.

 

Ferrari, apart from the brief experience of 1939-40 with the 815 sports car, had recently entered racing directly, but Enzo Ferrari already had a great deal of experience, not only as an Alfa driver in the period immediately following the Great War, but also as an organizer and technician since he had founded, in 1929, the famous Scuderia Ferrari with Alfa Romeo cars (and drivers such as Nuvolari, Varzi, Borzacchini, Trossi, Brivio, Moll, etc.), and later as coordinator of the Alfa Corse section which the Milanese company had founded the company ad laterem. It is useless to recall the traditions of the Casa del Portello in the technical-sports field. Limiting ourselves to the post-war period, it will suffice to mention that extraordinary single-seater (born in 1938 for the Vetturette formula) which was the 158 (later 159) or Alfetta. An eight-cylinder in-line of one and a half liters supercharged by a single-stage and then a two-stage volumetric compressor, capable of delivering, in the latest version, something like 380 horsepower. With the 159, Alfa Romeo had resumed competing in Grand Prix immediately after the war, finding itself ready to face the new formula launched in 1947 (1500 cc engines with compressor or 4500 cc with natural aspiration). It had champions such as Achille Varzi, Jean Pierre Wimille, Nino Farina, Carlo Felice Trossi, and as opponents above all the Maserati, then the Talbot, the Delahaye, the English ERA But the Alfetta was unbeatable. Thus established in 1950 the World Championship, he immediately won the first title with Farina, and the next one with Juan Manuel Fangio, the great Argentine talent that the Milanese company had secured. But in the meantime Ferrari entered the scene, building its first Formula 1 single-seater in 1948: the type 125 with a 12-cylinder V engine with compressor and 230 HP of power, designed by Gioachino Colombo. With the pilots Alberto Ascari and Gigi Villoresi, the new car did not lack its first victories, but never in the Grand Prix where the Alfettes were present. Once the World Championship period began with the aforementioned formula, Ferrari decided to abandon the supercharged engine and with the engineer Aurelio Lampredi prepared the 375 F1 type with a 12-cylinder engine but 4500 cc naturally aspirated, with a power of 350 hp. For Alfa, the painful moments began: although still victorious (1951) in the first titled trials of the season, the Milanese cars found themselves constantly on the heels of their adversaries. Finally, the first Ferrari victory, in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, with the Argentinian driver Froilan Gonzalez. Enzo Ferrari will write, recalling that historic day:

 

"When Gonzalez defeated the Alfa team I cried with joy, but I mixed tears of happiness with tears of pain, because that day I thought: I killed my mother".

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And the following year Ascari won his first world title with Ferrari, and Alfa Romeo abandoned racing. Since last year the mother and her son (83 years old) are facing each other again, perhaps the old rivalries are now extinguished, and we no longer cry for a victory or a defeat. But it is quite curious that, compared to thirty years ago, the positions have reversed on a technical level: Ferrari with the small supercharged engine, Alfa Romeo - for now - with the opposite solution. However, there is also another big difference: back then, there was literally a vacuum behind one and the other car, today the competition is a completely different story. It should have started in January with the Argentine Grand Prix and, instead, thanks to the FISA-FOCA war, it only started on Sunday 15 March 1981, in the street circuit of Long Beach. The 1981 Formula 1 World Championship had a troubled prologue, but it should be one of the most interesting and hard-fought in history. First of all, because the abolition of miniskirts makes the fleet of cars less homogeneous over the course of the season, with different performances according to the tracks; then, because the man element (talent, experience, heart) returns to have a certain weight; finally, because the competition is, on a technical level, very varied: there are eight types of engine, between supercharged and non-supercharged, and three brands of tyres. It is a championship that promises uncertainty and suspense. Which team complied with the 1981 regulation more promptly and with greater skill? Will it be the year of the turbo with Renault in the foreground, thanks to the experience accumulated over three years, or will the new ways attempted by Ferrari lead Mannello's team to a brilliant revenge after the bad figures of last season? Technical and sporting questions which, for a change, risk taking a back seat in the face of the new wave of controversies that have invested Formula 1. The Circus had just emerged from an exhausting, demeaning war between sporting managers and the association of builders and we are already falling back into the old vices. This time, if possible, the story is even more serious, because we are dealing with deliberate, dishonest attempts to circumvent, if not the letter, then the spirit of the regulation. Have miniskirts been abolished? Well, some manufacturers have thought, let's study some gimmicks to get around the obstacle, or rather the law. And while the majority of the teams tried to adapt to the new rules, here are the clever ones in action, with lots of greetings to the sport. How will this new World Championship end up? No one feels comfortable making sure predictions, but let's hear the opinion of Enzo Osella (manufacturer), Carlos Reutemann (Williams driver) and Gordon Murray (Brabham designer). Osella:
 

"The new technical rules have forced all manufacturers to create completely new machines. Research, for the majority of us, is aimed above all at aerodynamics as traditional naturally aspirated engines are now at their maximum power. You have to try to get the greatest possible ground effect without the skirts. Reversion then occurs to large front and rear ailerons. Someone has bet a lot, like Ferrari now and Renault before, on the development of supercharged engines. This is also a valid solution but I am personally convinced that research in this field is just beginning and it will still take some time before obtaining certain results. Osella is currently studying and developing a diversified version of the classic Cosworth engine with a larger bore and shorter stroke. In this way we believe that we will be able to have a few more horses".

 

Carlos Reutemann:

 

"For us riders, as I've already said, this year is almost a drama. We take part in races knowing that we cannot fight on equal terms with our opponents. You get into your car with the impression that another drives a lighter one, that a third has better tyres, that yet another has a more powerful engine. Without considering the various tricks that many manufacturers seem to have implemented to obtain advantages. As far as I'm concerned, I would like all the drivers to have the same chances, that the cars were more or less equal, that they respect the regulations".

 

Gordon Murray:
 

"It's easy to get around the regulations, as the scrutineers themselves are not up to the task. They confided in me that Chapman studied the solutions applied on his new Lotus with two chassis for 22 months. I reply that certain outlawed gadgets could also be made in 22 minutes. And I can prove it. However, if we want to talk seriously about 1981, I am convinced that with the new regulations, the problem to be solved will be that of finding the same aerodynamic balance on our cars that we had achieved with the sideskirts. Whoever manages to achieve this result first will start with great advantages".

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Tires have always been important in racing. But the exasperation and technical sophistication achieved by tires in recent years has meant that, especially in Formula 1, even the small advantages in terms of compounds and construction have become decisive. After arriving in 1980 at enormous measures (to make the most of the drive traction of the engine, the discharge of power on the asphalt and also the aerodynamic effects with the adherence to the ground), the new regulations required, in order to reduce the cornering speed for known safety reasons, a reduction of the tyres. In this way, according to the intentions of the technicians, there would be less grip when cornering and consequently a decrease in speed. On the straights, however, the reverse effect occurs. That is, by using tires that can be narrower, higher top speeds are achieved. We have gone from a maximum diameter in height of the complete rear wheels from 26 inches to 23 and to a width from 21 to 18. Being smaller, the tires therefore turn more quickly, which is why they cannot be used, during the race, too tender, who instead will still have some advantages in the tests that last two or three laps. However, it must be considered that, again on the basis of the 1981 regulations, no car can have more than eight tires available for each qualifying session. Goodyear's exit caused considerable unease. As is well known, Michelin will supply the tires to all the teams in the first three races of the season. The Goodyear-fitting teams (all but Ferrari and Renault) had to adapt their cars to radial tyres. Subsequently, Pirelli will enter the competition, which will equip Toleman, and Avon, which will supply the majority of the English teams. Michelin will be officially with Ferrari, Renault, Talbot and Alfa Romeo, while a relationship with Osella is under discussion. However, it seems that the French company has asked Pirelli to intervene, as it is technically unable to satisfy too many teams. Therefore, it is not excluded that the Turin team will receive Italian tyres. The speech of Avon (a small English company which in the past had already equipped some racing cars and which is also known for supplying Rolls Royce) is open. In partnership with Bernie Ecclestone's organisation. which was already a Goodyear distributor for Europe, is building a racing department using the machinery and some technicians that previously belonged to the great American company. The situation is therefore rather complicated, also because Michelin, with the study of TRX-type front tires (lower in shoulder height), has managed to mount the tires on larger rims while respecting the measurements required by the regulations.
 
However, these tires will only be tested by the teams officially supplied by the French company. Left behind at the hairpin are the Renault of Prost and the McLaren of de Cesaris, the Renault having spin in the middle of the pack. The remaining 22 cars are pounding away with Patrese leading them and driving confidently and neatly. It takes only three laps for Patrese, Reutemann and Jones to break away from the rest of the runners and the Arrows driver have every reason to feel uneasy with the two rugged Williams drivers in his mirrors, but he seems to have everything under control. On lap four Villeneuve run wide on the long left-hander before the first hairpin and Pironi and Piquet nipped by, but do not leave him behind and with them is Cheever in the Tyrrell 010, carrying Cogan’s Michelob Beer sponsorship, and doing a very good job of work. When the leaders lapped Rebaque, who has been in the pits, Jones get a bit baulked and lost contact with Reutemann, while the Argentinian profits from the interruption and get right on to the tail of the Arrows, but still Patrese is unruffled. De Angelis hit the wall on the exit of the last corner and ends his race opposite his own pit and not much later Mansell also struck a concrete wall and ends his race. Not a Lotus day. In fourth place overall is Pironi with the turbo-charged V6 Ferrari, with the proverbial steaming mob comprising Piquet (Brabham), Villeneuve (Ferrari), Cheever (Tyrrell), Andretti (Alfa Romeo) and Laffite (Talbot) hard on his heels. One can’t help having a feeling of sympathy for Patrese because it could not have been pleasant having Reutemann that close behind, there being something relentless and ruthless about the Argentinian’s driving. On lap 25 the Arrows engine begin to hiccough due to the fuel system playing up and Reutemann goes by on the bottom straight, and on the next lap Jones goes by and the Arrows is heading for the pits. With the race just one third run it is all over, the Frank Williams team are a majestic 1-2 and if their past record was anything to go by it is a mere formality for them to complete the 80 laps of the race. On lap 32 Jones goes by into the lead and it would be nice to think that it is just Reutemann responding to team orders, but in fact it is due to Reutemann running a bit wide on the left-hander in the middle of the twisty bit of the circuit and Jones (ever the opportunist!) nipping up the inside.
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Now it really is all over, car number 1 is first and car number 2 is second and even Hollywood couldn't improve on that, and after a couple more visits to the Arrows pits poor Patrese has to give up (and the helmsman’s face recover its complexion). Back in the pack Villeneuve’s heroics ends with broken transmission and Piquet get the better of Pironi and is firmly in third place, but completely out of touch with the two Williams and is having an uncomfortable ride with a heavy gearchange which is bringing up a nasty blister on his right hand. Just after the half-distance Laffite misjudges his braking at the end of the top straight and spurs Cheever’s Tyrrell up the backside. The Tyrrell isn’t damaged but the Talbot has its front aerofoil bent up and the mountings broken. As Laffite drive back to the pits hoping to have repairs effected, Giacomelli and Lammers caught him up and fell over each other trying to get by, so that all three turn into the pit lane at the end of the lap, the Talbot and ATS damages beyond immediate repair and Giacomelli looking for a doctor as the impact has hurt his hand. The impact to the back of Cheever’s Tyrrell upset the gear-change mechanism and the young American from Rome begin missing gear-changes so that Andretti’s Alfa Romeo quickly caught the Tyrrell and goes by. Now the order is Jones, Reutemann, Piquet, Pironi, Andretti, Cheever, Tambay and Jarier, with Surer and Serra bringing up the rear and Arnoux and Rebaque a long way behind after pit stops. Both Cheever and Tambay deserves small medals for driving a nice race, the Frenchman doing an excellent job with a brand new car that is only finished the previous Monday. The final result is still not settled, though there is little doubt about the first three places, but on lap 55 Pironi’s Ferrari faultered when the fuel pick-up system go on the blink and Andretti and Cheever goes by.
 
The next time it faulteres Tambay is right behind and the Theodore punts the Ferrari fair and square but no damage results. On lap 60 Tambay get by the Ferrari into sixth place, but the turbo-charged V6 is suffering from the weak fuel mixture and on lap 67 Pironi heads up the pit road with the engine sounding a bit sick and a lot of flames in the left-hand exhaust megaphone. In the last ten laps Alan Jones eases right off, responding to a cryptic pit signal which read REVS-FUEL, making sure that he didn’t run out of petrol in the closing laps. All is well with the world and the Williams finishes 1-2 yet again, having finished last season with similar results in Canada and Watkins Glen. The courageous Piquet is a good third, Andretti a very satisfying fourth, the Alfa Romeo having run perfectly throughout the race, Cheever fifth and Tambay sixth, which bring huge smiles to the faces of Teddy Yip and Sid Taylor for the new Theodore has run perfectly on its first outing. In the realm of the automobile (California is said to have at least 16 million cars on the road for a population of 22 million) Formula 1 has gained attention. Americans have flocked to Long Beach in masses, by any means, from tents to their fabulous campers, from motorcycles to pick-up trucks, those trendy trucks among the very young. The organizers have lined their pockets with dollars: 182,000 spectators in three days of practice and racing translate into several million dollars in cash. In front of this record, impressive and enthusiastic crowd, Formula 1 put on a show with all those ingredients that people ask for in 300 km/h racing cars. The first round of the 1981 World Championship went, once again, to Alan Jones and Williams, a success made complete by the second place of Carlos Reutemann ahead of the usual, tireless Nelson Piquet, the young Brazilian who already came close to the title last year with Brabham. This result might suggest a repeat race of those of 1980. But it's not true: only bad luck stopped a very brilliant Riccardo Patrese, who started in pole position without awe towards his more popular rivals. This time the Paduan can really curse bad luck: he was stopped, when he was leading the race with authority (and also calm), by a trivial breakdown of his Arrows.

 

"We disassembled the car and found in the petrol pump some threads of the wool that is used to eliminate leaks in the pipes. A small inconvenience that deprived me of the possibility of fighting for the victory. These are opportunities that cannot be missed. I've been waiting for three years, since the famous race in South Africa in 1978, and now who knows how long I'll have to wait. Incredible bad luck, because certain opportunities shouldn't be missed. Had I crashed into a wall, or had the engine cranked, I wouldn't be here to complain. And not even if I had fought for the twentieth position. But I felt victory in my hand and this burns me a lot".

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However Patrese demonstrated with pole position that he can become one of the protagonists of the championship...

 

"Cold consolation. I just hope I don't have to wait another three years to have any chance of success again. It was from South Africa in 1978 that I was waiting for the moment to be able to fight among the first".

 

How did you see the Williams?

 

"Unfortunately from the rear when I had to pit. No, joking aside, I hadn't had any problems containing Reutemann and I never saw Jones until my Arrows started faltering. I got off to a very good start, avoided being passed by Jones and then moved into the lead, controlling the situation. When Carlos got close, it was enough for me to increase my pace a little to detach him. I repeat, I had no difficulties until the moment I realized on the straight towards the twelfth lap that something wasn't working perfectly. Then the problem became more and more evident and in the end on the straight Reutemann passed me while my car slowed down dramatically. I was hoping it was the electrical system, that the pit stop was enough to restart, but it was useless. I haven't even had the satisfaction of attempting a desperate comeback".

 

What will Riccardo do now?

 

"I'm going back to Padua for a few days. Then we go to Brazil for the Rio de Janeiro Grand Prix. I promise right now that if the car indulges me I will try to win again. I haven't tasted the joy of success for too long".

 

Patrese had got off to a great start. He had held off the attack from Jones and Reutemann, while on the far left Villeneuve finished incredibly in the lead. But the Canadian went wide at the first corner and found himself in trouble.

 

"His was a very dangerous action, and to say that he is one of the six pilots of the safety commission".

 

Comment Richard. In truth, the Ferrari driver did not anticipate the start, but taking advantage of the incredible acceleration of the 126 CK's turbo engine. he tried everything for everything. Gilles, braking at the limit of every possibility, braked 50 meters after the others, but then had to go wide and lost some positions (from P1 to P7). Subsequently, Villeneuve's Ferrari, perhaps paying for the strain and stresses at the start, was forced to retire on lap 18, while it was in sixth position. Meanwhile, the carousel continued with Patrese in the lead, Reutemann behind him and Jones waiting to take advantage of the situation. Behind, Pironi fought until fuel problems due to the petrol vapor-lock progressively distanced him from the leaders. After the arrest of Patrese, twice in the pits (first to change the electric unit and then definitively stopped), Reutemann took the lead. The South American, however, played into his teammate's hands: he missed a corner and let Jones slip through him, losing an almost certain success. Piquet firmly held on to third place, while a very regular Andretti finished fourth in his Alfa. Eddie Cheever also finished in the points, very good with a Tyrrell that is certainly not up to the rivals, and the returning Tambay, whose Theodore is a car built on the remains of the Shadow by the billionaire Teddy Ylp who hired the designer Tony Southgate . The hiss of the Ferrari turbo enchanted the Americans and surprised the opposing teams. Even if in the end the Maranello team managed only Didier Pironi's tenth place, the debut of the 126 CK was positive. For example, the tested supercharged Renaults, protagonists in Formula 1 for three years, appeared in Long Beach slow and awkward compared to the red cars of the French driver and Gilles Villeneuve. A comment from Nelson Piquet, who remained behind the fast Pironi until lap 17, shows that Ferrari is already scary:

 

"I had to do everything to keep up with Didier's car. It was only when his performance dropped that I was able to pass".

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Villeneuve's incredible start (who said turbo response is slow at the start?), the positions held for part of the race, the times obtained in practice on a circuit not suitable for supercharged engines speak for themselves. There are premises for a season at the top. There's a problem: the drive belt can't stand the extremely violent jerks caused by gear changes, but if you work hard, this problem will also be solved. At the end of the race, even if forced to stop prematurely, Villeneuve and Pironi appear satisfied. Even the engineer Mauro Forghieri does not hide his joy:

 

"To be newborns we already know how to speak, we hope to be able to raise a loud voice as soon as possible".

 

Positive transfer also for Alfa Romeo, which with the fourth place of the expert Mario Andretti collected the best placement since returning to Formula 1. The result, however, does not fully satisfy, because the Milanese company, given the placements of last season's final stage, had higher ambitions, but the cars appeared less competitive than expected. Indeed, on some stretches of the winding circuit, especially in the tight corners, they showed grip problems, putting the drivers in difficulty. Andretti and Giacomelli sometimes found themselves riding on two wheels, probably due to shock absorbers not suited to the needs of the track and above all due to the abolition of miniskirts. Bruno Giacomelli was also the victim of an accident which, fortunately, did not have serious consequences. The Brescian suffered a severe contusion with a laceration on his left wrist which will not affect his participation in the next races. It happened in the corner before the arrival in the pits, on lap 41. Giacomelli was in eighth position. Laffite, who had rear-ended Cheever's Tyrrell with his Talbot and was proceeding slowly with the front wing folded, widened his trajectory to return to the stands. The maneuver forced Lammers, following the Frenchman, to widen in turn towards the pits and Giacomelli found the whole lane blocked and hit the Dutchman's ATS. The two both flew into the air with damaged single-seaters. The blow was so strong that the Alfa driver bent the steering wheel. Immediately aided, he was accompanied to the infirmary, where he was given a tight bandage. Then, he was transported by helicopter to the hospital for radiological tests which ruled out any fractures. There wasn't too much glory, all things considered, for the seven Italians engaged in Long Beach. Patrese, Cheever and Giacomelli aside, De Angelis ended the race against a wall in the pit straight, bending a wheel of his Lotus; De Cesaris, with McLaren, did only 500 meters due to a collision with Prost's Renault; Gabbiani, with the Osella, while traveling at the rear of the group, broke a suspension. Finally, Stohr hadn't even managed to qualify. Clay Regazzoni followed the US West Grand Prix on television with a group of friends in his apartment at the Watergate Hotel, where he is undergoing a series of re-education treatments after the delicate operation on his spine suffered on Friday 20 February 1981. A competent and interested, the hapless Swiss driver says that the Long Beach circuit once again seemed extremely dangerous to him.

 

"I was a little disappointed, because my former colleagues, questioned by the lawyer Camusi, the lawyer in charge of looking after my interests towards the organizers of the 1980 Grand Prix, answered evasively, without taking responsibility. This is a fact that makes me very sad. Perhaps, only those who are hit in person can understand".

 

As is known, Regazzoni has asked for around 10.000.000 dollars in damages as compensation for the accident he suffered on the Californian circuit last year. Commenting on the race, Clay harshly condemns the start made by Gilles Villeneuve.

 

"It was crazy, not even a beginner should do that. A mistake that could cost everyone dearly. Perhaps Ferrari would do better to train the Canadian driver on the Fiorano track and teach him that certain things are not done. As for the cars from Maranello, I must admit that the technicians have done an exceptional job. Pironi's car had incredible acceleration. I really liked Patrese: it was really unfortunate. Well done Andretti too. I think we will see an excellent championship".


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