Thirty-two years ago today a turbocharged engine won a Grand Prix for the first time, with the Renault team also registering its first-ever Formula 1 race victory at the classic French Grand Prix at Dijon in 1979.
In the first of what will become a regular series of articles on Richard’s F1, we’ll delve into the YouTube archives for the very best Formula 1 videos.
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Sadly for race-winner and pole-sitter Jean-Pierre Jabouille, the race is actually less well known for his feats behind the wheel of his Renault and more for the thrilling battle to second place between Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari and Jabouille’s team-mate Rene Arnoux.
Villeneuve had actually taken the lead of the race at the start after a great getaway from the second row, while Jabouille tucked into second place, followed by Villeneuve’s team-mate Jody Scheckter. Arnoux, meanwhile, had made a terrible start and fallen to ninth place. The early phase of the race saw Arnoux stage a rapid recovery after his bad getaway, and by lap 15 he was back up into third place.
By mid-race, Villeneuve’s Ferrari was now struggling on its tyres and Jabouille moved ahead into the lead on lap 47. The Jabouille-Villeneuve-Arnoux running order remained until the closing laps when Arnoux caught the French-Canadian and lunged ahead for second place at Turn 1.
On the following lap – the penultimate of the race – Villeneuve snatched back the place with a seriously late braking move at the same corner to retake second place.
On the final lap, Arnoux had another go into Turn 1. Together, Villeneuve and Arnoux had a thrilling duel as they ducked and dived, repeatedly passing each other and even banging wheels in the process. At the final corner, Arnoux drifted fractionally wide, and it was all the invitation Villeneuve needed to take the place on the sprint to the finish line, crossing ahead of Arnoux by just 0.2 seconds.
Let’s relive the closing laps of the race, with the ever-brilliant Murray Walker in the commentary box:
And let us not forget that the day marked the beginning of the turbo engine’s competitiveness. Within 12 months, much of the field would start running this new engine configuration.
Stay tuned for our next ‘F1 Rewind’ moment, coming to the website soon!