Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the thirteenth and final Grand Prix victory for our great friend, Alan Jones, who took the spoils at the inaugural Caesars Palace Grand Prix, the final round of the 1981 season that saw Nelson Piquet come from behind to claim his first of three World Drivers’ Championship crowns…
With Watkins Glen no longer hosting the traditional end-of-year race in the United States, in stepped ‘Sin City’, Las Vegas, with event organisers designing a makeshift circuit in the vast parking lots within the boundaries of the Caesars Palace casino. Hardly the stuff of motorsport romance, it was little surprise that it was almost universally hated among the F1 paddock.
The title showdown was between three main challengers: Williams’ Carlos Reutemann led the charge on 49 points, with Brabham’s Nelson Piquet on 48 and Jacques Laffite on 43.
Reutemann put the odds firmly in his favour by planting his Williams on pole, while Jones ensured a team lockout by qualifying second-fastest.
Knowing the fragility of his Argentine team-mate, Jones publicly declared that he wanted to end his F1 career on a high (having confirmed his retirement from the sport) with a win, while also declaring that he would not assist Reutemann’s title campaign, citing the bad blood borne from Reutemann refusing to cede to team orders to let Jones win at the earlier Brazilian Grand Prix.
Piquet qualified fourth-fastest, while Laffite struggled to only be twelfth-fastest.
At the start of the 75-lap race, Jones took the lead while a circumspect Reutemann, simply needing to finish ahead of Piquet, dropped to fifth by the first corner.
Gilles Villeneuve had managed to squeeze his ill-handling Ferrari into second, and effectively acting as a roadblock to those behind him, he allowed Jones to scamper off into a lead that would never be threatened.
Alain Prost quickly got by Villeneuve, but his Renault was little match for the hard-charging Jones, who went on to claim his last Grand Prix win.
An uninspired Reutemann gave the ultimate demonstration of ‘choking’ within sight of the World Championship, allowing Piquet to snatch the crown by one point, courtesy of the Brazilian finishing fifth. Carlos finished out of the points in eighth, a lap down.
Check out the closing laps of the race in the video below – you can also read our exclusive interview with Alan Jones (who talks openly about his rivalry with Reutemann) by clicking here.
[Images via F1 Rejects and Picasa]