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#340 1980 Italian Grand Prix

2022-08-17 01:00

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#1980, Fulvio Conti,

#340 1980 Italian Grand Prix

Testing on Friday morning is delayed as Emilian fog have grounded the medical emergency helicopter before it could set off for the circuit. Some of th

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Testing on Friday morning is delayed as Emilian fog have grounded the medical emergency helicopter before it could set off for the circuit. Some of the Alfa Romeo team have arrived by a private helicopter from their hotel near Bologna and it have an accident on the landing pad behind the paddock and put some of the mechanics in hospital. Meanwhile Brambilla and Engineer Chiti has arrived by road and have an accident with a lorry and put the lorry-driver into hospital. The more important teams have already done some practice on the circuit, while Ferrari and Alfa Romeo have used the circuit for testing. Interest is high on Friday morning as the turbo-charged 1½-litre V6 Ferrari is expected, but in fact it did not arrive until late in the afternoon, long after Friday’s activity is finished. Surprise of the day is the performance by the Renaults for though they has done Michelin tyre tests on the circuit it is felt that the chicanes with their sharp corners (one actually is a first gear affair) would not suit the French cars. It is becoming increasingly clear that everything suits the Renaults these days, there being few serious handicaps to the turbo-charged 1½-litres. During the morning there are the inevitable alarums and excursions, some tiresome, some frustrating and some disastrous. Fittipaldi set off in F8/2 and only got half way round his first lap when the throttle slides on his Cosworth DV jammed shut and prevented him even getting back to the pits slowly. Pironi is driving his Ligier in real anger, doing heroic things under breaking downhill and traversing some of the bumpier corners in terrific power-slides, yet his lap times are way off the general pace. Nigel Mansell is warming-up in the Lotus 81/B and move over to let a faster car through only to get on the loose stuff at the edge of the track and slide off into the barriers. Damage is minimal, but he has to abandon the car and some while later Manfred Winkelhock, replacing Jochen Mass in the Arrows team, did the same thing and collide with the abandoned Lotus, resulting in two unrepairable cars and both drivers missing the timed afternoon practice. The Osella team started using their new car, but not for long, as the Cosworth engine blew up and Brambilla’s Alfa Romeo shook its rear aerofoil off. Alan Jones has engine trouble on his Williams, took over the spare and that have engine trouble as well no that there is a plenty of work for everyone to do.

 

The message from the morning test-session is that the Renaults are going to be the pace-setters, with Giacomelli and his V12 Alfa Romeo on terrific form and improving all the time, so that the best Cosworth powered car look like being in fourth place. The Williams team are vying for this dubious honour, with Nelson Piquet in his Brabham right behind them. The Ligiers were right off the pace and as is becoming more and more obvious the Goodyear tyre technology seems to be suited to, or even produced for, the Williams and Brabham teams rather than for the French cars. Sure enough the Renaults set the pace in the timed hour, looking smooth and neat and not at all exciting, compare to some other cars that are driven spectacularly in their efforts to keep up. Italian national pride is overcoming local enthusiasm and Giacomelli and the Alfa Romeo are cheered everywhere, especially when Giacomelli got between the Renaults on the lap time lists. Jabouille has set the fastest lap in 1'34"339 on his third lap, and then more or less sat back, though he did do ten more laps during the afternoon, where as Arnoux did a total of 21 laps, making his best in 1'34"759 on his 17th lap. Giacomelli tried desperately to keep with Arnoux, but just could not get into the 1'34"0, though he come close with 1'35"082 which gave him third place ahead of all the Cosworth powered cars and both Ferraris. The Cosworth battle end with Jones ahead of Piquet, with Reutemann very close behind, all in the 1'35"0, while Villeneuve led the rest in his Ferrari T5 though he is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new turbo-charged Ferrari. Neither Mansell nor Winkelhock went out in the timed hour and the two Ensigns are at the bottom of the list, the usual system operating where by only 24 of the 28 entries could qualify for the starting grid. Although the Imola circuit has a respectable average speed, of over 117 m.p.h., there are lots of sharp corners which should have been anathema to the turbo-charged Renaults, but they seems to cope remarkably well, and they are having no problems with their Michelin tyres, just as Alfa Romeo are quite happy with their Goodyear tyres, and it did not pass without notice that the first three places are taken by manufacturers cars and the first home-built special is fourth. Brakes are giving everyone a worrying time, not because they are being unduly hard anywhere, like at Zandvoort at the end of the long straight, but they are being used all the time with very little distance between applications to allow them to cool down.

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The technicians from Ferodo and AP-Lockheed are in continual demand, especially by Renault for the little 1½-litre engine doesn’t help on retardation like a 3-litre Cosworth on the over-run. After most people has gone home on Friday afternoon one of the old Ferrari transporters arrive with the turbo-charged 126C inside. Once on track, Laffite could only manage 20th on the grid. Before the Saturday morning test session began the turbo-charged Ferrari is naturally the centre of attention and though it is the second one built it is still in the nature of a travelling test-bed; at least that is what it looked like, even though everything is newly designed, including the gearbox/final drive unit and all the suspension. When the engine is started, we realized we are entering a new era in Ferrari history with an entirely new noise issuing from the short exhaust pipes. Needless to say it is Villeneuve who is driving the car and during the morning we have a taste of 1981 when the two Renaults went by closely followed by the turbo Ferrari. At the beginning of the pit straight there is a sharp right-hand corner, so acceleration counts from here on. Longines have their speed-meter set up for the Ferrari team at the head of the pit wall and the T4 Ferrari flat-12 of Scheckter is recording 210 k.p.h. as it went through the speed trap, the Renaults recorded 21 k.p.h., the Alfa Romeo of Giacomelli is also on 214 k.p.h., while most of the Cosworth cars around 210 k.p.h. Villeneuve’s first lap showed 222 k.p.h., then 223 k.p.h., then 219 k.p.h. so clearly the turbo-charged 1½-litre V6 has power. It’s throttle response is not as good as the Renaults, but even so Villeneuve got down to 1'36"628 compared to his best T5 lap of 1'36"350, which is not a bad start for the first public appearance of the new Ferrari turbo-car. In other parts of the pit lane there is much activity, Jones have a tiresome misfire on the spare Williams car, Jarier has a big moment out on the circuit when a tyre failed on his Tyrrell, there is a strong smell of Ferodo from some cars, Giacomelli is still fast with the Alfa Romeo but the Renault are concentrating on tyre and brake pad wear as well as fuel consumption because the weather is getting very warm and 60 laps round the Imola circuit is going to call for careful calculations. Nigel Mansell is allowed to run Andretti’s spare Lotus car, 81/2 and Winkelhock is in the spare Arrows preparing for the final hour of qualifying which is going to see the slowest four left out of the race. Gilles Villeneuve tested the turbocharged Ferrari 126C on the opening day of practice before reverting to his regular car.

 

By 1:00 p.m. the sky clouded over and the air is heavy and sultry, which is just as well for a clear sky would have produced unbearable heat. Alan Jones set off in the spare Williams, all three spare Lotuses are out on the track, Villeneuve is still in the turbo-Ferrari and Scheckter is in his own T5, number 046. The South African charged off and promptly have a monumental crash on the fast bend at the end of the pit straight. The car is reduce to scrap but the driver stepped out unscathed, admitting he has gone too fast, too soon, before the tyres got up to working temperature. Practice is stopped while the mess is cleared up and Scheckter prepared to set off in the spare T5, number 043. The Renaults are instantly out in front, even though Jabouille only managed six timed laps for he has been forced to take avoiding action when an Ensign got in his way and bent the steering slightly on the Renault, so the car is put back in the garage for a check-over. As he is the fastest qualifier of the afternoon at this point and his yesterday time is even faster, there is a little need for him to go out in the spare car, which is set-up in the cockpit for little Arnoux anyway. Those immediately behind the Renaults are certainly trying hard and both Jones and Piquet have lurid spins as they drive right to the ragged edge and over. Reutemann, Giacomelli and Piquet has got into the 1'34"0, which meant they are in with the Renaults, but then Arnoux take the wind out of their sails by turning a lap at 1'33"988, the first and only driver to get below 1'34"0. Alan Jones changed over to his own car, from the spare, but try as he might he just could not join the elite in the 1'34"0 group. Villeneuve did fifteen laps in the turbo Ferrari, with a best lap in 1'35"751 and then switched to his flat-12-cylindered T5, but could not match the time, so everyone at Ferrari was pretty happy with their new car. Just behind Villeneuve is the young Hector Rebaque, who has a good A-for-effort with a time that gave him ninth place on the grid. For the rest most are where we have become used to seeing them, except for the two Ligier drivers, with Pironi in thirteenth place and Laffite in a lowly twenty-two place, the whole confidence of the team having evaporated and been replaced by panic, so that they got in a worse muddle than ever. Cheever is well pleased with qualifying the new Osella in sixteenth place and dear old Brambilla is comfortably in. Not unexpectedly the two Ensign drivers, Lammers and Lees, are out, as are Winkelhock and Mansell. Formula One is not an easy game to break into if you don’t have the inspired talent of a Villeneuve or a Piquet.

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Sunday morning is warming up nicely, a haze over the sun preventing it from burning, but the air temperature is very warm which did not make the tyre and brake people too happy. Some teams, like Williams, are fitting extra large air scoops to the brakes, others like McLaren and Renault are fixing additional air feeds in the form of flexible tubing strapped on to existing ducts. Villeneuve is going to race his flat-12 engined 3-litre, Scheckter is using the muletta and 045 has been brought from Maranello as a reserve. The turbo Ferrari have done its job, of showing where Ferrari is going next year, and has kept faith with the fans. The warm-up, half-hour from ten minutes past midday passed off without major incident and everything outset for the 3:00 p.m. start. ATS are running their newest car, Osella are running their new one, Piquet is in the latest BT49 Brabham, and Prost in the M30 McLaren. As the cars set off from the pit lane to do an initial lap round to the assembly grid Giacomelli got a terrific reception, as did Villeneuve. The heat in the Autodromo, bounded by concrete walls, is becoming a bit over-powering as we waited for the last five minutes. Rosberg, de Angelis, Cheever, Fittipaldi, Pironi and Reutemann have all sneaked in a second warm-up lap by passing through the pit lane instead of joining the assembly grid. With Alan Jones in a lowly sixth position and Reutemann in third position with a clear run in front of him between the Renaults, it is all down to the Argentinian this time, as far as the Williams team are concerned, but the odds are that Giacomelli would try and jump the lot of them. In orderly fashion all 24 cars followed Arnoux round on the parade lap and you could not help but be impressed at the sight of the two Renaults at the head of the field for the third consecutive race. As the whole field waited for the green light to shine Reutemann over-heated his clutch linings and as he surged away between the Renaults and changed into second gear his clutch slipped madly and everyone dodged round him. Piquet and Giacomelli took advantage of the blockage and are up behind the Renaults and Villeneuve is right with them. The idea that Renaults are slow off the mark is another story that is a thing of the past.

 

Arnoux led Jabouille on the opening lap with Piquet right behind them followed by Giacomelli (wild cheers from the Alfa fans), then Villeneuve, Rebaque, Jones, Pironi, Jarier, Watson, Andretti, Patrese and the rest. The last three cars to come down the hill on the back of the circuit, into the double left-hand bend taking them back towards the pit area, were Brambilla, Rosberg and Reutemann, all going quite gently, the Williams driver nursing his clutch until it gripped properly again and for some inexplicable reason they literally fell over each other, but all managed to keep going. On lap two there is no significant change and Reutemann is hopelessly last, having thrown it all out the window for Frank Williams. Third time round and it was Jabouille leading, but the tenacious Piquet has got between the Renaults and is trying to take the lead. Next time round you could hardly see the Brabham, it is so tucked up under the back of the Renault, and as they accelerated towards the two-ess-bends before the pits it nipped out of the slip-stream and into the lead. While the Piquet followers are grinning contentedly the Ferrari fans are screaming hysterically because Villeneuve overtake Giacomelli and the Alfa fans are shouting in dismay. An Alfa Romeo rides the kerb exiting the Variante Alta. After five laps the order is Piquet (Brabham), Jabouille (Renault), Arnoux (Renault), Villeneuve (Ferrari), Giacomelli (Alfa Romeo), Rebaque (Brabham) doing very well, and Jones (Williams). Pironi is leading the mid-field runners, but is already a fair way back, and Reutemann is trailing along at the back now unable to make fourth gear stay in. As the leaders are heading for the tight left-hand hairpin at Tosa, Villeneuve is on full song into the preceding right-hand curve when his left-rear tyre burst. The Ferrari bounced from side to side of the track and the whole rear end of the car is torn off. Giacomelli, who followed him narrowly missed the wreckage but ran over the debris and punctured a tyre, which put him off into the scenery as well. It was a bad day for Italy, Brambilla has taken to the rough stuff on the previous lap and destroyed a rear tyre, which flailed round and demolished the rear suspension and the aerofoil, and Scheckter in the remaining truly Italian car is down in thirteenth position. The animation amongst the Ferrari and Alfa fans is destroyed in one move and all they could do is watch the confident Nelson Piquet draw away from the opposition.

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Jones has scratched past Rebaque and though he is now fourth with the retirement of Villeneuve and Giacomelli, he has lost touch with Piquet and did not look like regaining it. Villeneuve it’s been very lucky to step out of the wreckage unscathed and Giacomelli a bit shaken by it all. Laffite is running in an unhappy position between Scheckter and Keegan and on lap 8 he spun at the foot of the hill, missed by those immediately behind but as he gathered himself together he elbowed poor old “auntie” Reutemann off onto the dust in a most unruly fashion. Arnoux is in trouble with a rear shock-absorber playing up and had to succumb to pressure from Jones and Cheever now running last after a quick pit stop to cure an oil leak on the new Osella. Reutemann has now decided how to drive the circuit without using fourth gear, and began to get a move on, passing Daly and Surer and then Prost and de Angelis, but the race have a third run before he did that. By 15 laps it is really all over for Piquet is out on his own, Jabouille has an unchallenged second, Jones an unchallenged third and Arnoux is being harassed by Rebaque. Then came Jarier leading Watson and Andretti, Pironi on his own, Patrese equally alone, Scheckter followed by Keegan and Fittipaldi with Rosberg about to join them. At the end of lap 18 Keegan, Fittipaldi and Rosberg are in a tight bunch, too close for any of them to be strictly on the correct line and the result is that Fittipaldi crossed the bad bumps on the last left-hander before the straight up to the pit area, slightly off-line and a bit askew. Instantly the yellow car bounced out of control and spun off to the outside of the corner and hit the guard rails travelling backwards, which put it out of the race. Marshals wheeled it out of harm’s way while Fittipaldi wondered just what had happened. In trying to pass Arnoux’s Renault Rebaque got off course and damaged the suspension of his Brabham and then Watson got all crossed-up on his own as a rear wheel bearing broke up on his McLaren; he limped back to the pits to retire. Slowly but surely Jones is gaining on Jabouille’s Renault, but he is not making any serious inroads into Piquet’s lead and at exactly half distance the Williams moved into second place. A long way back, in fourth place, Arnoux is fending off attacks from Jarier and Andretti, the three of them running in excitingly close company.

 

Reutemann seemed to be stuck behind Rosberg for an awfully long time and Piquet is lapping the tail-enders as if they are not there. On lap 34 Derek Daly had a moment of inattention and ran ever so slightly wide on the last left-hander, where the racing-line had thrown up a carpet of marbles. Instantly the Tyrrell under-steered straight on, spun on the grass verge and hit the barriers with a sickening thud almost exactly where the Fittipaldi have crashed. The Tyrrell is not driveable or wheel-able so a huge mobile crane reached over the wire mesh fence and lifted the wreckage off the circuit. Daly is unhurt. Although Jarier and Andretti passed and repassed neither of them could get by Arnoux and on lap 41 the Lotus coasted to a stop with a dead engine, leaving Jarier still trying desperately to get by the Renault. Patrese has dropped out and Reutemann has got past Rosberg at long last and then got past Pironi, so with Andretti’s retirement he found himself sixth. He now has another problem to add to his sorry tale of woe for a piece broke off an exhaust manifold pipe and lost him quite a lot of power, but to balance this he had discovered that fourth gear was all right after all! Piquet is now not far behind the number two Williams with the likelihood of lapping it, but Reutemann at last got wound up and closed on the Arnoux/Jarier dice. This in itself is not going too well for Arnoux’s defective shock-absorber had come adrift and Jarier’s brakes are fading; not from wear but due to a fluid leak in the system to the rear ones. For a glorious moment on lap 47 the Tyrrell driver got ahead, but then the brake pedal feel got worse and he dropped back again and Reutemann gone by both the Tyrrell and the Renault. Jones is also in brake trouble as one of the calipers is too close to the disc and the fluid is boiling which produced a spongy feel to the pedal. He has made up some ground on the flying Piquet, but the dark-eyed Brazilian had it all well weighed up. The Brabham BT49 was running perfectly and Piquet bad it in the bag all the time, driving fast and neatly, with coolness and confidence, winning the way he have it in Long Beach and at Zandvoort, Jabouille lost a certain third place when his gearbox broke with six laps to go and this let Reutemann inherit third place. Jarier struggled valiantly with his lack of brakes, but has to give it best with only five laps to go, after a praiseworthy battle. Poor Arnoux could only creep to the finish with his disabled Renault, dropping to tenth place.

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