In anticipation of the Austrian Grand Prix, on Wednesday, 1 August 1979, Austrian television confirms that it will not broadcast the Formula 1 Grand Prix, scheduled to take place at the Zeltweg circuit, live on Sunday, 12 August 1979. The news had already been communicated unofficially, but now the Orf is making it official. At the basis of this decision would be the disagreement between the organisers, FOCA President Bernie Ecclestone and the TV organisation itself. Ecclestone would like to personally manage the contracts with the television stations interested in broadcasting, as he has already done on other occasions, and the Orf would consider the economic conditions demanded too heavy. At first it is even said that due to the lack of live coverage the race will not take place. Instead, the Zeltweg management claims that in the absence of television they hope to have an even bigger audience, and that the race will be held regularly. In the meantime, on Thursday 6 August 1979, on the private track of Balocco, near Novara, the new Alfa Romeo Formula 1 car took to the track for the first time. It is a ground effect car, using the 12-cylinder 60° V engine that currently powers the Brabhams of Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet. At its debut on the small circuit, the single-seater is driven by Bruno Giacomelli, who is scheduled to race it in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Sunday, 9 September 1979, together with Vittorio Brambilla, who has an identical car at his disposal. In releasing the photo of the car, Alfa Romeo gives no indication either of the times obtained in the first tests or of the technical characteristics. It is, however, a car with a very advanced driving position.
The front end, with its rather short, wingless nose and fairing suspension bear a certain resemblance to Patrese's new Arrows. The flanks and rear seem instead to follow the indications given first by Ligier and then by Williams. Very high wing-like flanks, with a kind of double terminal fin. The car will now be subjected to continuous testing, which will most likely lead to a first indicative test with the Goodyear tyre tests planned at Monza immediately after the Austrian Grand Prix, to be held on Sunday at Zeltweg. At the same time, the Renault team denies having made an agreement with Niki Lauda to entrust him with a turbocharged single-seater in 1980: the Billancourt company intends to remain faithful to its policy of having an all-French team. Television or not, one wonders whether it will be a country circuit that will decide the 1979 Formula 1 World Championship: the answer is that it might well be. A victory by Scheckter or Laffite, or a resounding misstep by one of these two drivers can be decisive, although everyone in the Grand Prix circus thinks that it will be the American races that will end the fight. This rather challenging track, set among sad hills (there is always some fog, when it is not raining, in the area) will in any case mark an important stage in the championship. If there are no external factors, such as a wet track, or accidents, given the times obtained in practice, it will once again be Williams and Renault turbocharged to contend for success. But the drivers of the two teams in the best form at the moment cannot aspire to the title. The fact of not having taken points at the start of the season is too serious a handicap to overcome, barring any sensational surprises. Jones and Regazzoni, who only a month ago would have been content with a few partial successes, harshly criticised the formula of the World Championship.
"We could win seven races in a row, but all it would take is for our rivals in Ligier or Ferrari to win placings and we will be cut out of the fight. That's not fair. However, we will make up for it next year, when we will definitely aim for the title".
To tell the truth, Clay Regazzoni, despite his recent results, has not yet renewed his contract with Williams. The English manufacturer is betting above all on the Australian Alan Jones, whom it probably considers a more valid driver than the Ticino driver. In any case, if the cars of the Arab oilers do not have the chance to inherit the title that belonged to Lotus last year, they will be the arbiters of the situation. Declares Alan Jones, to whom the Hockenheim victory seems to have given not only confidence but also a bit of presumption:
"If everything goes as planned, we will decide the battle between Laffite, Scheckter and their eventual rivals. It will be enough to take points off someone or give them to another to weigh decisively in the balance".
No one speaks explicitly but it is clear that the games are now played. Williams, which mounts Goodyear tyres, will try to ingratiate itself with the Anglo-American manufacturer (with the hope of being reciprocated next year) by helping Laffite's Ligier, which mounts the same tyres. Renault, on the other hand, since it rides on Michelin, will try to give Ferrari a hand. Provided that industrial interests do not come into play and the French marque does not prefer the success of a small racing team rather than that of the Italian company linked to Fiat, a competitor on a commercial level. At Ferrari, however, everything possible is being done to avoid the need for outside help. Never before in Maranello has there been such hard work and commitment. Engineer Forghieri and his staff have been trying to get the best set-up, aerodynamic and mechanical, to make the most of the radial tyres. Michelin, moreover, has assured that on the Austrian track they will test an even more advanced type of tyres that could give some small advantage. The Italian team is hoping that the weather will not be too favourable, and that perhaps the rain announced by the weather forecasters in recent days will also arrive. Indeed, no one forgets that last year, when a sudden rainstorm broke out, the two Ferraris driven by Reutemann and Villeneuve jumped sensationally into the lead only to be caught up when the track dried out. The countdown to the Formula One World Championship is fast approaching. It will be raced at Niki Lauda's home, a hundred kilometres from his native Salzburg, but it cannot be said that the former World Champion is expected to be the protagonist. Lauda, as has happened in the last few races, will perhaps be the centre of attention for the drivers' market, which has now reached the decisive phase, or for some controversy with Bernie Ecclestone, which is also the order of the day, so much so that it no longer even makes the news. Little does it matter if the Austrian and the English manager have almost reached the breaking point and if the owner of Delta Brabham is looking for another driver to whom he can entrust the car that in all probability will no longer be powered by the Alfa Romeo engine (this divorce also seems inevitable), but by the eight-cylinder Cosworth developed by Hesketh, waiting for the possible turbo-propeller that the English technicians are studying.
The interest will be centred on two topics, namely the verification of Williams' superiority and the fight for the title, limited to Scheckter and Lafitte with the possible inclusion of Gilles Villeneuve. Being a track on which under normal conditions the average speed of 220 km/h can be exceeded, it is easy to predict that the battle in the coming days for qualifying will repeat those seen at Silverstone and Hockenheim. Williams and turbocharged Renaults are ready to vie for pole position with possible entries from Ligier, which seems to be making progress, and with Ferrari (more committed to thinking about the race than setting lap records) in a defensive position. Hardly any major technical innovations will be seen. No one has had time to make any substantial changes to the cars for the time being. Word comes from Maranello that Jody and his team-mate Gilles Villeneuve will go to the track with the usual cars, with those small evolutions dictated by the latest experiences. Like, for example, how the miniskirts should now raise and lower more effectively. And then many other small details that will be tested on the spot, with the hope of having found, perhaps, a solution. If it is true, as claimed by the Ligier technicians, that it only takes a wrong adjustment of a millimetre to send a car out of the picture, it is not excluded that even in the Italian team the reasons for the lower performance obtained in the mid-season races have been found in the last few days. In any case it must be said that for the Canadian driver that of Zeltweg could be the last chance to aim at the title or at least to still hope. If Gilles had to lose other lengths from the drivers preceding him (Scheckter and Laffite) he could say goodbye to any illusion, also because at this point Ferrari had to know and decide on which driver to bet definitively. Thursday 9 August 1979 the sky is clear, but the air is cold. The downpours that have fallen a little everywhere in the Alps have cooled the atmosphere. Perhaps an advantage for the drivers and cars that will start the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday. If the air is fresh, the same cannot be said of the atmosphere in the pits. In each team there is a heated atmosphere for different reasons. There are drivers waiting for confirmation of contract renewal, others waiting to change teams. And the hopes and worries about winning Sunday's race and fighting for the world title.
On the eve of the first official time trials the predictions are all for Williams and Renault. The very fast track, in spite of the ups and downs and corners, the constitution of the track, the supremacy shown by the car of the English manufacturer and the French one powered by the turbo engine do not leave much hope to all the others. There is perhaps Tyrrell, which has always run good races at Zeltweg and that for this race has left Englishman Lees at home to take on Irishman Derek Daly, a driver who knows how to fight and who has a long experience in Formula One. The latter has left Ensign, a not too competitive car, to have a chance in the Tyrrell car, in the company of Didier Pironi. So there is a lot of anticipation for the race and, above all, some predictions are being made. While all the favours for Sunday's race are directed towards the Williams of Jones and Regazzoni and the Renaults of Jabouille and Arnoux, few are unbalanced on the fight for the world championship. In any case, several drivers give Ferrari a better chance of ultimate success. Says Clay Regazzoni himself:
"Ferrari can only lose this title alone. It will be enough for Scheckter or Villeneuve to place, if not win, for the final triumph. I still believe in the Maranello cars, especially for the last two races that will take place on circuits favourable to T4, in Montreal and Watkins Glen. However, we will have to be very careful of Jacques Laffite".
The eyes of Scheckter and Villeneuve are turned on the French driver. The South African confirms that his race will be based on that of his rival.
"I will keep a close eye on it, and try not to let it get away from me. I would already be satisfied if I could sacrifice just a point or two. as I did in the last race in Germany, with the hope of being able to make up for it in the following races, starting with Zandvoort".
Scheckter does not want to make any predictions for the world title fight, while Villeneuve claims that he is cut out of the rainbow competition. However, the Canadian is thinking of a possible victory, that's for sure. It is enough to see how much interest he devotes to the preparation of the car. Villeneuve and Scheckter check every little detail together with engineer Mauro Forghieri and as early as Friday, in official practice, the Maranello team will try everything to get its drivers into the top positions and above all to put the cars in condition for a good race. Forghieri affirms:
"Our cars have not undergone any major modifications. However, we have worked hard to achieve the best aerodynamic result on a track that is still among the fastest. We hope we have worked in the right direction, and that the results prove us right. Working hard is the only way to try and counteract the superiority shown by Williams, Renault and Ligier, while we wait for something new to go on track".
The question towards Ferrari is recurring. When will the team in Maranello be able to bring the result of all the experiments being carried out at Fiorano to the track? It is difficult to say. Forghieri does not answer on this issue and the news is top secret. There is talk of the turbo engine and new aerodynamic solutions, but for the moment nothing is known. Perhaps for the Monza race, to be held on Sunday 9 September 1979, something important will come out. But there is still a month to go before the Italian Grand Prix and for the moment Ferrari had to be content to make passive resistance to Renault and Williams, while also paying attention to Ligier, which is becoming more and more dangerous. Not surprisingly, Jacques Laffite seems to be more confident of winning, after the French driver regained morale following his third place at Hockenheim.
"Now my black period is over, I am convinced that I can win the world title. This is not a joke, but a certainty. The car is working very well again, and I have an advantage over everyone: Goodyear will give me the best tyres. The reason for this choice of the American company is simple: I am the only one who can take it to the title and counteract the Michelin that equips the Ferraris. They would be stupid if they didn't help me to the fullest".
With a car that is once again perfect, in the same conditions that had brought Laffite success in the South American races, the Parisian driver can truly be one of the great protagonists of the Austrian Grand Prix. Without forgetting the Williams of Jones and Regazzoni and the Renault of Jabouille, which on a very fast circuit like the Austrian one can certainly have their say. But victory in a single race does not count for much anymore. What is important is to win points that are valid for the World Championship. Jody Scheckter is also of this opinion.
"Is Laffite confident he can beat me? Lucky him who has that confidence. I am not sure of anything. The only thing I can say is that I will do my race by adjusting myself to the Ligier driver. I will try not to let him overtake me, possibly overtake him, or at any rate not to let him beat me too conspicuously. I would be content to lose narrowly, as I did in the last race. I say this because I am convinced that in the last two American races, I will have an advantage over the Ligier, thanks also to the Michelin tyres, which adapt very well to slow and twisty circuits. In any case Laffite would do well not to sell the bear's skin prematurely. Ferrari is not a team that lets itself down so easily. Our technicians have tuned the cars well and we will certainly be able to fight all the way to the end of Sunday's race".
As far as the Austrian Grand Prix is concerned, there is still no definite news about the live television coverage. However, it seems that Ecclestone has lost his battle with the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation. The FOCA representative had said that in the event of no official broadcast he would hire a private Swiss film crew to ensure the live coverage. The move is the right one, but Austrian television gave no concession to carry out the TV bridge. As a result, viewers around the world will almost certainly not see the Austrian Grand Prix as usual. The race is still two days away and it is not excluded that an agreement will be found in extremis. It will probably only be known for sure on Thursday evening whether - for example - Italian television will be able to broadcast the Grand Prix live on Sunday. Rai, in fact, officially announces that negotiations are still in progress with Orf, the Austrian television organisation, for the service. The Austrian organisers, as mentioned, expect to break all attendance records and are relying heavily on the Italian public, which has always been present in Zeltweg in massive numbers; in this regard, parking and camping facilities have been prepared for tens of thousands of spectators. Not surprisingly at this time in the season there is only one brand new car in the paddock, and that is an ATS built from scratch along ground-effect principles, as distinct from being a 1978 car modified to ground-effects as best as could be managed. Most of the cars are unaltered, either because they are working well, like the Williams, Ferrari, Tyrrell and so on, or because the design teams, have run out of ideas. Lotus arrives with two cars that are best described as Lotus 79/80, or 79 plus or 80 minus. In other words a cobbled-up compromise that do not indicate any particular direction to the design principles. They have taken Lotus 79/2 and 79/4 and rebuilt the rear half completely.
The Lotus-designed gearbox and final drive unit from the Lotus 80 is used, giving a 2½ in longer wheelbase, but the brakes are moved outboard on to the hubs, which means using Lotus 80 rear wheels, while the suspension members are all new and something of a compromise, not being tucked away out of the air-stream as on the 80, but hopefully better than the 79 as regards geometry and wheel movement. The spare car is Lotus 79/5 with normal rear end and Hewland gearbox. There are no changes in the cars being used by Ligier, Tyrrell, Brabham, McLaren, Renault and Arrows, though the Alfa Romeo engines in the Brabhams had re-inforced exhaust manifold pipes to overcome the spate of broken pipes they have had recently. They are still of titanium, but have strengthening gussets here and there and the standard of workmanship on the welding is a joy to behold. The major change in the Tyrrell team is that Derek Daly is to drive the second car, as Jean-Pierre Jarier is still not fully recovered from his liver complaint. Rather than give Geoff Lees another one-off drive, as in Germany where he has done well and established his ability by Formula One standards, Ken Tyrrell decides to give Daly a similar opportunity to prove his ability in a one-off drive with a known good car. The Ferrari drivers are using the same cars as in Germany, but the spare car is 038, which Villeneuve has used in the British Grand Prix. Fittipaldi is using a new skirt system on his F6A car, hoping to overcome the problems of the skirts jamming up, and like most other teams they are trying out smaller front and rear aerofoils in the search for maximum speed rather than maximum downforce.
The Shadow team have returned to three cars, with the usual ones for the two young drivers and a mutual spare car, as they find the maintenance of four cars a bit too much and it prevent any development work back at the factory while the main part of the team is away. The Wolf team have two distinct cars, WR9 and WR8, the first in the form in which it is originally built and the second in a much-modified form. The rear brakes have been moved outboard, like the WR9, and the suspension members altered accordingly, and the rear aerofoil is supported centrally by two alloy blades (like a Williams!) in place of the normal Wolf arrangement of it being supported by large end plates. In consequences of this the bodywork at the rear is different. The Williams team is giving Regazzoni’s usual car (FW07/002) a rest and he has 001, while Jones has the latest car (004) and the spare is 003. These cars are to such an homogeneous design and obviously work so well, that it would be difficult to imagine any alternations to the basic layout. The entry is completed by the single-car teams of Merzario, Ensign and Rebaque. The works Alfa Romeo team do not enter as they are hard at work on preparing two new cars to make their debut at the Italian GP. Early on Friday morning, while the mechanics are preparing the cars for the 10:00 a.m. testing session, the rain is pouring down and the tops of the mountain are completely obscured by cloud. Although the rain have eased off by the time the track is officially open it is still very wet, but nearly everyone go out on heavily treaded rain tyres for there are no guarantee that the next three days are not going to be wet. Passing cars are more like power-boats than racing cars and there is quite a few heart-stopping moments for many of the drivers. Poor Nelson Piquet skated off the track and bent a track rod on his Brabham, so while it is replaced he goes out in the spare car, and Jabouille tries the spare Renault as well as his own. Derek Daly is having a baptism of water rather than of fire on his first try out in a Tyrrell 009 and the Wolf team is running WR9 as it is too wet to learn anything about their modified car. Although the morning test session is only for one hour, it is long enough for most people and a relief when there is signs of the weather improving well before midday. By the time the afternoon timed practice period begin at 12:30 a.m. the track is pretty dry and the clouds are breaking up fast, with occasional flashes of sunlight. Lauda’s Brabham is being tried with nose-fins, Rosberg is still in WR9, Stuck has the new ATS going quite nicely, Piquet is back in his own car and running without nosefins, and Laffite is alternating between his own Ligier and the spare one. Everything seem to be going along nicely, and as the track is now dry there is some hard trying in case the rain returned. The only problems is the Renaults and the Williams, as these two teams are well away and even some quite good runners are four seconds off the pace! Jones (Williams) and Jabouille (Renault) are the pacesetters and is well down in the 1'34"0 and showing signs of going faster, while a lot of drivers are still struggling to approach 1'40"0. The new ATS skated to a halt when a rear tyre burst and damage the right rear corner, so Stuck has to continue with the spare car. Lauda decides that front aerodynamic fins are not necessary on the Brabham, even though he is more than two seconds behind the Williams and the Renault.
Although the Cosworth poweres Williams and the turbo-charged Renault are turning in the same lap times, Jones 1'34"3 and Jabouille 1'34"4, their speeds past the pits on the Williams’ team beam-timer is markedly different. The Williams is varying around 260-265 k.p.h. Goodyear is supplying Alan Jones with an unlimited supply of soft qualifying tyres, which destroy themselves in three laps, while the Michelins on the Renault do not look anything like as worn. On the soft Goodyears Jones would leave the pits and do a fast warm-up lap, then one flying lap and a third slowing down lap and into the pits, by which time the front tyres are scrap, having come up in enormous bubbles on the outside edges. With twenty minutes of the hour and half left, practice is stopped as the Merzario and the Ensign are off the track and in dangerous positions. The Ensign has a broken a drive-shaft joint, and is towed back making a nasty clanking noise. Regazzoni’s engine has lost it edge in his Williams so when practice resumes he goes out in the spare car (003). Elio de Angelis is using the spare Shadow as his own has collapsed with a split hub carrier on the right rear corner. Jones and Jabouille are soon at it again, vying for fastest time, but in spite of the tyre-destroying speeds Jones is still holding the advantage. Even though he is not in the Williams and Renault class, Laffite in the spare Ligier is also destroying front qualifying tyres. Tambay has an excursion off the track and destroyes the nose of his McLaren. It has been a pretty hectic practice session for everyone is conscious that Austrian weather is not the most stable, so an instant good time for the grid is important in case the Saturday afternoon timed session is wet. There has been no room for surprises in Formula 1 for some time now. As in the script of a classic comedy, the characters move under the orders of a monotonous direction that only amuses the main protagonists. In fact, Alan Jones and the Williams are amused, always ready to take the applause and still in the limelight with the fastest lap; Jean-Pierre Jabouille with the Renault Turbo, chasing just a few hundredths of a second; Laffite with the Ligier also feels satisfaction, regaining an important part in the race and in the World Championship. And while the other teams suffer and rejoice in the ups and downs that have characterised the last few races, Ferrari, again to remain in the theatrical theme, suffers a sharp decline.
This is the response of the first day of practice of the Austrian Grand Prix, the eleventh and fifth last race of the World Championship. In practical terms Jones and his Williams still gives everyone a run for their money on a circuit with very fast corners, which allows very high averages. After a heavy rain in the morning has somewhat muddied the cards (best time for Jabouille in 1'53"19, ahead of Villeneuve with a time of 1'54"13 and Jones with a time of 1'54"35 on a very wet track) the harsh reality (for Ferrari above all) comes out in the early afternoon, when a bit of wind and a pale sun dried the asphalt. The battle erupted immediately. On one side Williams lines up its very agile car equipped, among other things, with special weather tyres (Goodyear, to counter Michelin's action, had 200 tyres made in Akron, in the United States, entrusting them to all the best teams). On the other, Renault fielded its wing-car poared by the powerful turbo engine. It is a lightning-fast challenge, which made the track record held by the late Peterson, who had started on pole last year with a time of 1'37"71, fall miserably. In short order Jones drops to 1'34"30, bringing the lap average to 226.860 km/h. To achieve this time, the Australian driver used the special American soft tyres, which became unusable after three laps. But they still proved to be very effective weapons. Jabouille responds well, with a lot of skill and courage, taking incredible risks at every turn. Only 0.15 seconds is his gap. Next on the list are Arnoux with the other Renault, with a time of 1'35"49, Laffite (1'35"92), Lauda (1'36"72) and Regazzoni (1'36"86). The Swiss could have done much better if he had not first been sent to the track with a tired engine, and then with the reserve car. To get to the Ferrari we have to go back to eleventh and twelfth place: Villeneuve and Scheckter are also preceded by Pironi, Piquet, Andretti and Watson (in addition to the drivers already mentioned). The Canadian set a time of 1'37"28. The South African a time of 1'37"50. There are therefore 2.98 seconds between Jones and Villeneuve and 3.20 seconds between the Williams driver and Scheckter, while the gap to Laffite is 1.36 seconds and 1.58 seconds respectively. It must be acknowledged that the Maranello team is one of the few that did not run private tests at Zeltweg. It is therefore to be expected (as is the case at Hockenheim) that by fine tuning the cars, there will be some improvement on Saturday.
But it is indisputable that Ferrari's problems on circuits of over 200 km/h exist and are not easily solved with the T4, the car currently in use. The secret of this inferiority lies in the design of the car. Not being a full ground effect single-seater, that is, not being a pure and true wing-car due to the characteristics of the 12-cylinder boxer engine that does not allow certain aerodynamic solutions, the Ferrari T4 is less fast in wide-open corners, where the other cars run at full throttle. To overcome this drawback, the Maranello engineers had to adopt aerodynamic and set-up compromises that made it difficult for the drivers on certain sections of the circuit. Villeneuve, who has been in the pits several times to adjust the anti-roll bar, says:
"The car is difficult to drive. I can't always exploit the full power of the engine, while the others drive at full revs".
For Scheckter the inconveniences are a little different, but the substance is the same:
"The car has abnormal behaviour in several places on the track. I can't even figure out which tyres are the best".
The story of the previous three races is therefore repeated. Ferrari will try to defend itself by adjusting the car in the best possible way, to have a waiting race. The moment is not the most favourable because Laffite, the main competitor for the world title, is rising in the ranks. The Frenchman declares:
"Right now, Scheckter has a 60 per cent chance of winning the title, against my 40 per cent. But on Sunday night the situation may have changed in my favour".
The only real hope for overturning an unfavourable forecast for Ferrari now lies in the weather situation. Should the forecasts of bad and rainy weather for Sunday be confirmed, the situation could be reversed as it partially happened last year. Meanwhile, it becomes official that there will be no live television coverage of the Austrian Grand Prix. This is also confirmed by Bernie Ecclestone, the FOCA president, who, in a polemical press conference, accused the Austrian television organisation (Orf) of having done everything to prevent the transmission. Ecclestone had arranged for a private Swiss film crew, Polivideo, equipped with nine cameras, to come to the circuit to make a live shot, but the Orf denied the international lines, explaining that they are already busy. In fact, the stiffening of Austrian television is because Ecclestone had asked for a lot of money to allow the live shot. For reasons of principle, the Orf also gave up on a free arrangement later proposed by the Brabham boss. Polivideo will still do the filming, which it will sell privately to those who want to broadcast the race on a delayed basis. Among the likely buyers would be Italian television. However, if this are to happen, Rai would risk breaking off relations with Eurovision, which is in solidarity with the Orf. Certainly, this affair will have a sequel and future major complications are not excluded. Many sponsors have already made it known that if all direct broadcasts are not secured in the next World Championship, they will reduce their funding to the teams. It is a situation created by Ecclestone that backfires on the British manager himself, who is accused of being too expensive and of always wanting to get a return, even from television and radio broadcasts. As if that are not enough, whoever buys the recordings made by the private cameras sent to the Zeltweg circuit by Ecclestone will have to face the rigours of Eurovision. The continental broadcasting body has in fact banned the transmission of these images, as they are not normally regulated. The battle is furious and will also involve the next Grands Prix, including those of Holland and Italy, while there seems to be no problem for the American ones. Ecclestone is trying to make money from these broadcasts, while the state television stations are making coalitions to get the image rights as they do for other sporting events, or at least trying to pay as little as possible. Max Mosley, the lawyer for Ecclestone and FOCA, says:
"Ours is a show that the public likes very much. We want to sell it as we see fit. We don't want state television to get involved in our business. They don't try to behave like they do with small football clubs, which they can convince with a few million. Our show is worth a lot, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that much has to be paid".
To prove that words are followed by deeds, Ecclestone carried out a veritable abuse of power. He had an ampex camera sent by French television confiscated. He first asked if the transalpine television station wished to buy all the broadcasts recorded by its cameras and when the answer is negative, he had the camera confiscated. Basically, either do as he wants or do nothing. It cannot be ruled out that before long the various television stations concerned will turn to the judiciary to protect their rights. A battle, this one, as has been said, that is raging furiously and certainly has not ended in this way. The first result, however, is that on Sunday none of the millions of motor racing fans in Europe, who normally follow the Grand Prix every fortnight, will be able to watch the Austrian race live. The battles between Laffite and Scheckter for the world title will have to be followed in the following day's newspapers. The fears for three days of rain is unfounded and Saturday is nice and dry, though barely warm. The hour of untimed practice in the morning is the last chance to try out ideas or make sure the spare cars is in good trim, so there is a lot of activity. Rosberg tries the modified Wolf but decides he prefers the normal one (WR9), even though the special one is faster: it is just that he feels happier in the standard car, and driver happiness is all-important. Alan Jones is testing the spare Williams (003), but Ferrari and Ligier are not using their spare cars. Jabouille gets in a muddle while passing Daly and is put off onto the grass, the left-hand turbo unit picking up some bits in spite of good filters. This mean a change of turbo unit so Jabouille goes out in the spare Renault (RS10) after having the nose-fins off his own car fitted to it. He is using nose-fins with very large end plates, while Arnoux has the more normal arrangement with small end plates. While all this have been happening Arnoux is really getting into the groove and turning unofficial laps the equal of his team-mate. It is rather pointless to say that Alan Jones is trying hard when he goes off the road at the chicane, because he always tries hard. He can’t see any point in being in a racing car unless you drive hard. However, he goes off the track in a big way and crumple the spare Williams rather extensively and though his own car is out in front of the pit and ready for him by the time he walkes back, practice is nearly over so he does not go out again.
During the morning Andretti tries the spare Lotus 79, which is unmodified, and decides he preferres it to the modified version, but both Lotus drivers is so far off the pace that you feels they could not be trying desperately hard. They are little quicker than Stuck in the new ATS, and one would have thought they could have taken a Lotus without an engine round quicker than that. There is a distinctly cool air in the Lotus pit, for an irresponsible Swiss journalist has interviewed Andretti and used his quotes completely out of context so that it lookes as though he is saying that Reutemann is the cause of the unrest in the Lotus camp and that he’d have to go. The swarthy Argentinian is not amused, nor convinced by the explanations, and is disenchanted with Team Lotus anyway and is obviously looking for somewhere else to go next year. All this sort of aggravation is not conducive to getting your cars on the front row of the grid. In the afternoon conditions are ideal and while some drivers are ready to give everything they have got, others are moping around looking glum and beate before they have begun. Drivers like the hard-nut Jones, the impassive Jabouille, the eager Arnoux, the enthusiastic Laffite, the cool Villeneuve, the quiet Piquet, the swarthy Regazzoni, and red-in-the-face Rosberg are all nicely wound up to give of their best. Lauda is about to try harder than he has done all season, not for the benefit of the Brabham team, but because he is in front of a very large home-crowd. Tambay is eager to do well, as he could see his job disappearing in 1980 and the Irishman Daly is very happy to be in a car which would prove whether he is competent or not. Laffite is in the spare Ligier to start with, Rosberg is in the Wolf WR8, Jones is in 004, Jabouille in RS11 and everything is going fine. Arnoux is well in with Jones and Jabouille and the Brabham-Alfas are showing an improvement. Regazzoni is still not far away, but he could not match Jones, and the scene is developing into a battle of Jones against the two Renaults. Suddenly it all stops, apart from Gaillard going round on his own in the Ensign, for Fittipaldi’s engine has blown sky-high and spread oil and bits all over the track. There are a twenty-five minute pause while the mess is cleared up and the old F5A/1 is brought out for EF to use. The Wolf WR8 is put to one side and WR9 brings out for Rosberg, and Rebaque’s Lotus 79 is being fitted with some spare skirts off Reutemann’s car, as its own have been damaged.
As everyone dashes off again to continue the high-speed round of aiming for the front of the grid, trying to get on it anyway, or merely to change position from an embarrassing one to a more reasonable one, Watson is having the steering column mounting altered on his McLaren M29. Jones is going so hard now that bubbles is appearing on this rear tyres as well as his front ones, and the supply of tyres from the Goodyear depot is amazing. The speed of tyre-fitting must have created a new record at the back of the paddock, for the supply of wheels is not unlimited. Andretti gets back into his modified Lotus 79 after an oil leak have been cured, but still prefers the spare car, and Reutemann and Lauda are standing around waiting for something, though it is difficult to decide what. It is Arnoux that is giving Jones trouble and try as he might the Australian could not improve much on 1'34"3, but little Rene Arnoux is going quicker and quicker, and improves on Jones’ best time and goes on even faster. Jabouille could not keep up and feel that the engine in his car is getting tired so transferres to the spare car, yet again, but is no quicker. It is Arnoux all the way, but Jones never gave up trying and he keeps his place on the front row of the grid, with Jabouille in third place. Lauda has pulled his finger out for once and beat his young Brazilian team-mate, and Villeneuve beat Scheckter, but just before the end of practice he goes off the track in a big way and slid across the run-off area like a grass-cutter, arriving back at the pits with the underside of the car full of grass and earth. Daly has put in a time very close to Pironi with the Tyrrell, which is satisfactory but not momentous, and Merzario and Rebaque have been left a long way behind and are the two to non-qualify. It is something of a relief that practice is over and the rain have kept off, and as the race is due to start at 1:30 p.m. on the Sunday, instead of later in the afternoon as previously, there is every hope for a good dry race. It only took another tight qualifying session and the perfect adaptation of the Renault and Ferrari to the excellent Michelin tyres to change the situation: thus, Alan Jones and his Williams will not start on pole position in the Austrian Grand Prix, the race that for the first time this year will not be broadcast live on television due to Bernie Ecclestone.
The driver and the car of the moment will be held in an iron grip by Renault. Jones will have at his side the surprising René Arnoux, author of an exploit that brought him the best time of 1'34"07 (average 227.415 km/h) and the first pole position of his life in Formula 1. And behind him will be Jabouille, in the other French turbocharged car. Indeed, if the race is to confirm what is seen in practice, the Australian will have to watch out for several rivals, starting with Niki Lauda, who re-emerges on the second row with the fourth fastest time (and the best placing of the season), and ending with Villeneuve, who has made considerable progress and moved up to third. The misgivings raised by the Ferraris on Friday proved to be quite unjustified. The constant fine-tuning of the cars, numerous changes of set-up and aerodynamics, the great work of drivers and technicians eventually brought positive results, to the point of making the T4s competitive or at least without an excessive disadvantage against the best cars. Scheckter did not manage to advance as far as his team-mate (he set the ninth fastest time), but he did get in behind Laffite (eighth), who in trying to improve his Ligier ended up making the situation worse and is unable to be faster than the first tests. Basically, there is a leading trio of Arnoux, Jones and Jabouille within 42 hundredths of each other, and then a whole series of drivers who have reduced their margins compared to Friday's session. Villeneuve has gone from the 3-second gap he took on the first day of timed practice to 1.63 seconds, while Scheckter is 2.03 seconds behind Arnoux, but only 0.018 seconds behind Laffite. There is every reason to expect a heated battle at all levels. The key to the race, however, should once again lie in the tyres. The times achieved by the four Michelin-equipped cars are all recorded on tyres that could be used in the race, while Goodyear, as always, provided its teams with soft weather tyres that fade after three laps. If Ferrari and Renault guess the choice of tyre types, there could be a real domination of the cars using radials. The weather is clement: in the morning the sky is overcast and the temperature cool, then it threatened to rain, but by the time qualifying started, a pale sun came out and everything is fine. There are pessimistic forecasts for Sunday, with the likelihood of thunderstorms during the hours of the race. Even in this case Michelin is ready, indeed the French company's technicians declare that with a wet track the two Ferrari drivers could be on the podium.
These are statements that reveal optimism. Of course, it will not be easy for anyone to win at Zeltweg, because at this moment the World Championship is being decided. No one is willing to hand out favours, and therefore one should not expect team games between Michelin cars or even between teammates. The only one, perhaps, able to sacrifice himself is Gilles Villeneuve, who has said in recent days that he feels cut out of the title fight. At the end of the tests, despite having recovered a few positions, Scheckter did not appear very satisfied. Engineer Mauro Forghieri explained the South African's delay compared to the Canadian with the fact that Jody's car probably had a slightly tired engine. Scheckter, however, after a long discussion with the engineer, said verbatim:
"I will not race Laffite but I will race for myself, trying to get the best possible result. From Villeneuve I expect, if the possibility arises, help. It would be the first time since we have raced together".
Two accidents of some significance. In the morning practice session Jones went off the track with the reserve car due to a sudden skid: unhurt the Australian, badly damaged the car. The fact did not prevent him in the afternoon with the race car to improve by 0.02 seconds. Bad off track at the end of practice also for Gilles Villeneuve, while he is forcing the pace to the maximum. The Canadian went too wide in a corner and the car slid sideways into a grassy area, skipping over a sinking. The T4 appeared to be quite damaged while the little Canadian got away with a twitch in his neck, which he treated with a few massages. Niki Lauda - on his home track - acted as a guinea pig for the organisers. The Austrian champion, to check the efficiency of the emergency vehicles, simulated an accident at the end of the morning's free practice. Immediately the very fast marshals' cars (Porsche and BMW MI) and an ambulance came out onto the circuit. Within a few tens of seconds Lauda is in the infirmary. Everything would have been perfect if someone had thought to warn those present of the experiment. Instead, the test is kept secret and many spectators, as well as people in the pit box, feared that something serious had really happened to the driver. Small, blond, his eyes cheerful and alert, René Arnoux welcomed his first pole position with a big smile.
"It's not that difficult to go faster than everyone when the car runs like a dream. However, the best time in practice does not mean that I have the victory in my pocket. The race is open, and anything can happen. For me, however, it is already a great satisfaction to have shown that I am not inferior to my rivals".
Thirty-one years old (but he doesn't look it), a native of Grenoble, married to a nice girl called Nelly, Arnoux is a self-made driver. His career had two decisive stages in Italy. His first contact with the world of motors came in 1957, when he went with his family on holiday to Rimini. On the Adriatic Riviera, the 11-year-old Frenchman discovered karts and fell in love with racing. Back home, he forced his father to find a karting club to satisfy his passion. Then, passionate about engines, René chose a school from which he graduated as a mechanic. After finishing his military service, he moved to Italy, to Turin, to Virgilio Conrero's workshop to enter the racing world directly. Treated like a son, the young Frenchman learned the trade by following rallies and races on the track. The decisive turning point came in 1972, when he showed up at Monte-Carlo, at the Grand Prix, to greet Beltoise on Conrero's behalf. In the driver's presence, he asked what he had to do to become champion driver. Beltoise told him to go to a driving school. So Arnoux did, and in a short time he made a name for himself, eventually becoming European Formula 2 Champion in 1977. After an unlucky debut in Formula 1 last year with Martini, René found a place at Renault, behaving with great humility, tenacity and determination. And the results little by little are not lacking, until the splendid duel with Villeneuve at Dijon and the best time in qualifying. Some said that Arnoux would be fired at the end of the year by the French company to make way for Lauda. But the news of the Austrian's move to Renault is flatly denied. It is very likely, indeed, that the recent positive results are worth the renewal of the contract for the little ex-mechanic naturalised in Turin. On the other hand, Patrick Depailler, who is still immobilised in a clinic due to his hang-gliding accident, is at great risk. Ligier has made it known that the place in the team is still his, but on condition that he recovers completely and soon. Since it seems that Depailler has problems with his left heel, so the recovery would be long and difficult, the name of Didier Pironi is insistently being mentioned as a probable replacement, while Ickx will not be reconfirmed.
Pironi is also interested in Lotus, which will see Reutemann go. Colin Chapman will also bet on Andretti for 1980 (who denies any rumours of his retirement), flanking the Italian-American with a young driver who could be the Frenchman. In the pinwheel of the drivers' market (to the tune of millions of dollars) there are several big names. Of Lauda, who at 99% would have already signed for McLaren, we have already said. The place left vacant at Brabham by the Austrian (Piquet will remain with Ecclestone) could go to the Argentinean Zunino or Riccardo Patrese. The Paduan also has a chance with Williams, the most coveted car of the moment. The English manufacturer is uncertain whether to confirm Regazzoni, as it would like a faster driver to put alongside Alan Jones. While McLaren (which could adopt a Bmw turbo engine next season) will have Lauda and Watson, Tambay is in the process of moving to Wolf, which instead of abandoning, as some have claimed, would run two cars in 1980. One should be entrusted to American Ricky Mears, winner of the last Indy 500, the other will be driven either by Tambay or Rosberg. In short, the movement is considerable and everything should be decided before the Italian Grand Prix. At the same time, there are those who wonder how long the international sports managers, sponsors, the constructors themselves and, in general, the entire Formula 1 environment will put up with Bernie Ecclestone? The head of FOCA has in recent years had the merit of developing the world of Grand Prix in a modern and rational way, contributing to the spread and fortunes of a sector that at the end of the 1960s seemed to be on a downward parabola, but now he is definitely overdoing it. His ambition is to turn a sporting and technical fact into a pure show, into a money machine, in which nobody should be able to intervene: either you pay a toll, or you stay out. The fruit of this Ecclestone policy has now resulted in the failure to televise the Austrian Grand Prix. Ecclestone, in addition to running Brabham-Alfa and FOCA, is turning himself into a racing manager. He bought the rights to the German Grand Prix, earning around $1.000.000, and did the same with the Austrian one, attempting to impose his rates on Viennese television, which for its part already had a contract - on behalf of Eurovision - with the real organisers of the race.
The Orf, the Austrian state television body, did not bow to Ecclestone's blackmail, and subsequently denied the British manager the right to use the necessary bridges to forward the Grand Prix footage abroad, which Ecclestone had tried to remedy. The Orf and Eurovision did very well. Of course, it is a pity that he cannot attend the race, but it is about time that someone, at least in the relevant industry, stood up to this gentleman and showed him that not everyone accepts his exorbitant demands. This is an example that could induce others to fight certain FOCA and Ecclestone initiatives (first and foremost the FIA) with more commitment and courage and that should make both Ecclestone and those more or less directly linked to him meditate. The sponsors are threatening to withdraw or reduce their funding if such mishaps occur again, and the day the various companies linked to Formula 1 not by real technical ties but by commercial motives turn to other sports, the programme will collapse. Ecclestone, in essence, is dragging his feet. Don't the other FOCA members realise this, first and foremost Ferrari, whose polemical peaks have recently subsided under the pressure of the economic benefits caused by the Englishman's management? Ecclestone's dream is to have a group of racing teams at his command, a certain number of drivers, his own television, and perhaps a host of journalists to administer. On Sunday morning from 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. there is a final test session and final decisions is taken. Andretti is to race the standard Lotus 79/5, Rosberg is to race WR9, de Angelis is going to have to race his Shadow DN9/3B-2 with the inboard-brake rear end as there is insufficient spare parts to repair his car to the new specification, but otherwise everyone is in order. The spare Williams have been stripped down to its bare components, ready for a rebuild when it gets back to the factory. During the half-hour the engine in Tambay’s McLaren is not pulling as well as it might so an engine-change is started smartly. The engine in Ickx’s Ligier is running rough and misfiring, but rather than change it the mechanics are changing the electrics and anything else that might help to make it run more sweetly, but they is not having too much success. Shortly after 1:00 p.m. all twenty-four cars leave the pit road and go round the circuit to line up on the dummy-grid in front of the pits, Reutemann taking advantage of the rules to nip into the pits and then make another lap. After a long wait the engines are eventually re-started and Arnoux led them all off on the pace-lap.
They stop at the grid, before the pits, and lined up in pairs and when all twelve pairs are in order the red light came on. Revs rose, clutches begin to grip and when the light go green we have a start that is memorable and will go down in history. Jones is convinced he could beat the Renaults away, but feared they might get well into their torque range before the steep hill up to the chicane and power past, so he makes a super start. As the field start to move two things happens. A red rocket from the third row go past Jabouille and Arnoux and is alongside Jones as they roared up the hill; it is Villeneuve who made the start to end all starts, and he led Jones into the chicane. Meanwhile Jabouille makes a hesitant start as his clutch does not operate properly, but back in mid-field Andretti barely move, his clutch not gripping, and he completely confuses Reutemann, Fittipaldi, Ickx and Lammers who are behind him. While Villeneuve sit it out with Jones, much to the Australian’s surprise, for he expectes a yellow and black car to challenge him, not a red one, Andretti tries to get out of the way as he creeps into retirement at the end of the pit wall. Lauda has followed Jones off very well and is in third place, ahead of Arnoux and Regazzoni as they finishes the first lap. Villeneuve is giving it all he has got, knowing that he could not hope to stave off the Renaults and Alan Jones, but making up distance on all the rest. Jones is right with him, knowing that he has to get by and away as soon as possible, before the Renaults get themselves sorted out. As the field stream round the last corner at the end of lap 2 there is a cloud of smoke from the Arrows of Mass and Herman the German pulls off to retire with a broken engine. Villeneuve hung on to his lead for three laps, but as he enters the pits straight he gets a bit crossed-up and this gives Jones his chance to draw level and take the lead as they go into the fourth lap. Arnoux has got past Lauda on lap 2, but the hold-up has let the two leading cars get quite a way ahead. Jabouille soon gets into the swing of things changing gear without using the clutch, and picked off Laffite, Lauda and Regazzoni in quick succession to move into fourth place. Once past the Ferrari Jones presses on hard, for a while he is not worried about the Italian car, even when driven by Villeneuve, he is worried about the two French cars. Arnoux and Jabouille are gaining steadily on the Ferrari, but Villeneuve is not giving in, and it takes Arnoux until lap 11 to get into second place, and the following lap for Jabouille to get into third place.
Meanwhile Jones has pulled out a huge lead and is settling down to some very fast running, lapping around the 1'37"0 mark, a time that many would have liked to achieve in practice let alone in the race. The intriguing situation at the front have rather overshadowed what is going on behind, though a lot of it is best overshadowed. With the leading Williams in front of the two Renaults, and the Ferrari of Villeneuve fourth, there is then quite a gap before Scheckter arrives with Regazzoni and Laffite in hot pursuit. Lauda has been elbowed back into eighth place, but ahead of Piquet, the two Brabham-Alfas running quite close to one another, with Pironi’s Tyrrell not far behind. Then came Daly, Rosberg and Tambay settling down to a nice three-cornered fight, with Stuck and Patrese behind them. Watson is a lonely sixteenth, followed by Reutemann who is going so badly that de Angelis is keeping up with him. Fittipaldi, Ickx and Gaillard are trying to make up for the time lost at the start, but the Copersucar-backed car from Brazil was feeling very sluggish as unknown to Emerson Fittipaldi the master cylinder for the rear brakes have jammed and the rear brakes are binding, which is to lead to his eventual retirement, though he actually stops at the pits because he thought the engine is tightening up. On lap 13 Arnoux waves his team-leader by into second place, and while Jean-Pierre does his best to gain ground on the flying Williams of Alan Jones, Arnoux craftily makes sure that Villeneuve does not gain anything. However, this situation last no time at all for Jabouille’s gearbox protestes at being used without the clutch and the Renault free-wheeled into the pits at the end of lap 17 to retire with broken gears. Arnoux could now stop watching his mirrors and concentrate on the scene ahead, but Jones is too far ahead to be seen, so everything is settled. It is Williams first, Renault second and Ferrari third, and nobody else in the picture, though Scheckter is still fourth, ahead of Laffite and Regazzoni, the Frenchman having get past the Swiss. The other Ligier, driven by Ickx went by the pits at the start of lap 27 making a horrid noise from its engine and we never see it again. While Frank Williams is happily watching his car lead the race, Colin Chapman is at the other end of the pits watching his only runner with a dejected air. Unable to get away from the Shadow of de Angelis, Reutemann comes into the pits just before he is lapped by Alan Jones. In a pit stop that is so leisurely it is laughable he has a different set of tyres fitted and cruised away to try again. After two laps he is back to ask to have the original tyres put back on as the car felt no better, but is told to retire and have a cup of tea, rather than waste everyone’s time.
Gaillard brings the Ensign in from the last place as the rear brakes have packed up, and after a long stop to affect a repair he rejoines the race. Having dealt with Regazzoni and taken over fifth place, Laffite decides he could do something about Scheckter in fourth place, but as he is gaining round his rev-limiter go on the blink and begin to cut in earlier than it should so fourth, fifth and sixth positions are stabilised, as are first, second and third. The rest is being led by Lauda, but all have been lapped by the flying Williams, and Piquet has retired after a brief changing of places with Lauda, when his Alfa Romeo engine blow up. John Watson has caught up with Tambay and Daly, Rosberg having retired with electrical trouble, so that the Frenchman is now the meat in an Irish sandwich, but then the Ulsterman get by his team-mate and begin to race against Daly. From the tail end of the field Stuck has retired the ATS when the engine broke, and Patrese has retired his Arrows because it felt wobbly due to a suspension breakage and with ten laps still to run Lauda driftes into the pit lane with no oil pressure in his Alfa Romeo engine. The leading Williams was running beautifully, oil pressure and oil temperature, water temperature and fuel pressure all as they should be, and Jones is reeling the laps off consistently below 1'37"0. As Arnoux goes by to start lap 49 the Renault engine splutter and pop and bang as the injection system become short of petrol, due to a malfunction somewhere in the fuel system. Arnoux splutter his way round and is able to free-wheel into the pits where some more petrol is rapidly put in and the engine fire up again. He roar away out of the pits but Villeneuve, Scheckter, Laffite and Regazzoni have gone by and Jones is about to go by again. As Jones cruises round on the last five laps, with Villeneuve a very content second, still driving his Ferrari as hard as it would go, Laffite is beginning to close on Scheckter, for the South African’s car is running out of brakes. Jones lappes Arnoux, so that there are only five cars on the same lap, and at the back Watson is trying desperately to get by Daly, but failing. As Scheckter starts his last lap the blue and white Ligier is catching him fast, and as they go up the hill to the chicane Laffite pulls out and goes by the Ferrari into third place.
Alan Jones waves triumphantly as he crosses the line and Frank Williams and his team are almost overcome at seeing one of their cars win the third Grand Prix in a row. As the north and south of Ireland do their last lap Ulster tries so hard to conquer Eire, and they cross the line almost side by side, with the advantage to the south. Totally content with the way the Williams has performed Alan Jones is full of praise for everyone who has worked so hard for him, from Patrick Head the designer to the lad who clean his visor during practice. It is a truly happy team and the only comments Jones has to make are that he misses a gear-change once, his own fault, and has a slight vibration near the end when a balance weight come off a wheel, otherwise everything is perfect, which is more than can be said of all the others. Another success for Williams with Alan Jones, a new false step of Renault that does not keep the promises of the eve, the umpteenth resurrection of Ferrari, which for some time now has been making its fans tremble during practice for its non-exalting performance and then, punctually, redeems itself in the race. This is the summary of the Austrian Grand Prix, which Bernie Ecclestone's exaggerated demands have banned from millions of television viewers. Villeneuve hit the jackpot. He did not manage to overtake Alan Jones, whose Williams proved to be impregnable on the very fast curves of Zeltweg, but he obtained a splendid second place, preceding Jacques Laffite (Ligier) and Jody Scheckter, i.e. the other two pretenders to the inheritance of Mario Andretti, reigning World Champion, this year's negative protagonist of the tournament due to the deficiencies of Lotus. The situation at the top of the World Championship thus underwent a minor shake-up. Scheckter. retains the lead with 38 points, Laffite and Villeneuve follow him on 32. The South African lost three points to his teammate and one to the Frenchman. It is worth noting that at the end of the first round of the championship (which ended in Monaco after seven races) Scheckter had a 6-point lead over the Ligier driver and 10 over Villeneuve, who therefore in four rounds (France, Great Britain, Germany and Austria) made a fine recovery, while the basic situation between Jody and Laffite did not change. Having disappeared from the scene Patrick Depailler and Carlos Reutemann, who remained stationary at 20 (the Frenchman due to the consequences of the notorious hang-gliding accident, the Argentinean due to the Lotus's lack of competitiveness), Jones and Clay Regazzoni have risen in the standings: the Australian now has 25 points and the Swiss 24.
"We in any case are happy. We could have had something more, the race had gone very well. But we can also be content. Villeneuve did a great race, one of the best I have ever seen from the Canadian, and Scheckter is practically perfect".
Jody Scheckter, who is so nervous that he dropped the bottle of mineral water he had just been offered on the car's bonnet when he arrived in the pits, explained the loss of third place by a drop in the performance of his T4.
"The tyres, all in all, had gone quite well, even if they had had a little deterioration, which is normal. However, I is struggling with the brakes and I couldn't do anything to counter the Frenchman's action. I realised he is going to attack me, I thought he couldn't make it, but when I saw him whizzing past me I couldn't react in any way. It's a pity, because it would have been very nice to gain two points instead of losing one. I hope, however, that in the next races I can make up for this snub".
For Gilles Villeneuve, however, this is a triumphant day, almost like a victory.
"I made a very good start, because I saw an opening on the right. I found myself in first position and tried to hold on as long as I could. Unfortunately, with Jones there is nothing to be done. And even with the Renaults, in the corners, I had to give up. I got a well-deserved second place and now I feel in the running for the world title. In the past days I thought I is cut out of the fight but now, looking at the score and the situation, I realise that the title is also within my grasp".
Do you think you will have an advantage in the next races?
"At Zandvoort and Monza we may have some problems, but I am especially looking forward to the two races in America, at my home track in Montreal and at Watkins Glen. There the fight for the title will be decided".
For Ferrari there is no respite, always on the crest of a wave but also always threatened by several rivals. Now the Maranello team will resume work on fine-tuning the cars. But from Tuesday 14 August 1979 it will be back to the Fiorano track and engineer Forghieri says that all the latest solutions studied for the cars will be tested.
"Of course, we don't have much time, because there is the head of August and the following Tuesday we already have to leave for Holland. The teams equipped with Goodyear tyres will test this week at Monza. We have postponed the tests until the end of the month. In the meantime, we will try to work as hard as possible to present ourselves at the end of the season in top form".
"I had studied in every detail how to overtake Scheckter, who in my opinion must also have had some braking problems. However, I had to wait until the last lap, because my car had a little trouble, and the limiter came on at 10.900 rpm. On the straights, Jody is faster and therefore I could not overtake him. So I had to play smart, because if I had passed him earlier, he would have passed me immediately. It is only when we crossed the finish line for the last lap that I stuck to his Ferrari and the chicane and went for it".
Did you touch each other in overtaking?
"No, everything is regular. In fact, I have to say that I had a bit of luck and Jody is very fair and didn't try to get in my way. On the regularity of the overtaking I think Jody also agrees, as during the lap of honour he waved at me to congratulate me".
After this result, what are your chances of winning the title?
"It is still too early to say. I have taken another step forward, but Jody is still the opponent to beat. I have the advantage of having only two useful results against the Ferrari driver's three, which means that in the next races, while Jody will be forced to discard points, I will still be able to completely forfeit any points I manage to score".
And Villeneuve doesn't worry you?
"Actually Gilles is not to be underestimated. In the second half of the championship he collected two second places and is after Jones the most profitable driver. In addition, in racing he is always a difficult opponent to control".
On the podium, it has now become a habit, no champagne for the winner, so as not to break the rules of the Arab sponsors. Jones unnecessarily pops an orangeade before pouring on the photographers. Then, when asked for his opinion on the championship, he replies:
"It is a stupid regulation that is in force this year to win the World Championship. In the end the title will go to someone who, perhaps, did not even dominate the season".
Jones' outburst is more than understandable. The brilliant winner of the Austrian Grand Prix, in fact, not even by winning all the remaining rounds of the World Championship will be able to put himself in the fight for the championship crown, because in the first part of the season he has not accumulated any points.
"The only satisfaction I have left is to win all the remaining races. The car responded magnificently and I always controlled the race with ease. It is only at the start that I is surprised to see myself overtaken by Villeneuve's Ferrari, while I is expecting an attack from Jabouille".
"I could certainly have done better, but after a few laps the engine lost power and I had to give up all hope. I will try to make up for it at Zandvoort".
"I ran out of petrol; already on the climb before the Rindt bend the fuel is not coming in properly. I had to return to the pits to refuel quickly. At the start I got off to a bad start, but that didn't worry me because the race is still long. In fact, after only four laps I is already behind the leaders".
It is impossible to counter. Jones?
"In this race there is nothing to do against Jones and his Williams. At the start I had the car too much understeer, and in the corners I is clearly losing ground".
Little luck also for Jean-Pierre Jabouille, the other Renault driver, who is one of the favourites on the eve of the race.
"I made a mistake at the start; I didn't find the right gap and got trapped in the group. However, right from the first lap I had problems, and as time went by the trouble became more and more serious, so much so that I is forced to abandon. It's a pity, because I think I would have been able to keep Jones' pace and fight for the victory".
Acting on their own initiative, the organisers of the Austrian Grand Prix asked for the engine of Alan Jones' winning Williams to be checked. In order to avoid a waste of time, the eight-cylinder Cosworth is plumbed by the technicians and sent to the British team's workshop in England. The head of the international technical committee, the Swiss driver Schild, will travel to England where he will plumb the engine and accept the planned technical checks. Schild will check all the mechanical parts and the displacement of the Cosworth used by Williams. The Brabham-Alphas put on a separate show. Lauda and Piquet are engaged for a long time in a duel that amused and at the same time baffled the Austrian public. In the end the battle ended in a deadlock: both British cars with Italian engines stopped in the pits before the end of the race. For both cars the fault is the same: the Alfa engineers said it is the oil tank rupture, so in the end the engines seized due to lack of lubricant. As long as they are on the track, however, Niki and Nelson engaged in a heart-stopping duel. Out of the car, the Austrian did not even appear too nervous.
"There is no oil pressure, and nothing more could be done. The duel with Piquet? A very normal thing. I also had fun".
While Bernie Ecclestone continues to be a manager (after the Austrian Grand Prix he left by helicopter, personally carrying the reels of filmed footage of the race to be sold to the television stations that would like to broadcast it), his team is going through difficult times. The relations between Brabham, led by designer Gordon Murray, the Italian sponsor, i.e. Parmalat, Alfa Romeo, supplier of the engines, and the drivers are increasingly deteriorating. The main blame for this situation stems, of course, from the lack of results. Since the start of the 1979 World Championship, only once did Brabham finish in the top six, exactly with Lauda, sixth at Kyalami. For the rest, disappointing performances followed with the new BT48 car powered by the Alfa 12-cylinder V60 engine. Often the two drivers, who started off quite well, had to retire due to engine failure. It also happened at Zeltweg, with Piquet stopped on lap 32 and the Austrian on lap 45 after a long family duel for seventh place. While Niki and Nelson now just smile and say that the engine broke down, or that there is a lack of oil pressure, the Brabham and Alfa engineers pass the buck. The former claim that the Italian engines are too delicate, that they break easily as soon as they are stressed to the max. A somewhat simplistic explanation, as the reasons for these failures can be various, not least that the drivers, forced to pull more than necessary to get the most out of a car that is not competitive, have their share of the blame. Alfa Romeo, which has prestige to defend, does not accept the accusations. From Milan, engineer Carlo Chiti, head of Autodelta, the sports department that makes the engines, fires back at Brabham.
"We asked the Brabham engineers several times to bring modifications to the oil tank and the breather, organs that are an integral part of the chassis. Only the breather has been changed, and insufficiently. The high speeds, the accelerations cause the loss of lubricant. And without oil you don't get very far. If Brabham does not immediately make the changes, we have requested we will be forced to stop supplying the engines from the Dutch Grand Prix on 26 August".
We are therefore at a declared breakdown (not only of the engines). Ecclestone and Lauda, on the other hand, have never liked Alfa racing their own car. The only unfortunate fact is that two such serious and committed partners have now descended to the level of a farce that harms them both. Alfa Romeo, however, will have a material opportunity to prove that Brabham is to blame when Giacomelli and Brambilla take to the track at Monza, as Formula 1 knows no breaks. Almost all the teams return, in fact, to their respective headquarters to work in preparation for the next races. Some teams, on the other hand, will reach the Monza circuit for a series of Goodyear tests to prepare for the Italian Grand Prix on 9 September 1979. Wednesday 15, Thursday 16 and Friday 17 August 1979 should see the Ligier with Laffite and Ickx, the Lotus with Andretti and Reutemann and the Brabham with Lauda and Piquet take to the track.