An infamous race... Pironi defies team orders to win the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix

Today marks thirty years since Gilles Villeneuve’s last-ever Grand Prix start in a race, the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix.

It was an event that would go down in infamy, not least of which for the politics that dogged the event, but also for the feud sparked between Villeneuve and Ferrari team-mate Didier Pironi that the enigmatic Canadian would take to his grave just two weeks later.

In the three weeks that had passed since the season’s third round at Long Beach, the FIA had ruled that Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg – who finished first and second at the Brazilian Grand Prix – would have their results scrapped after their respective Brabham and Williams teams were found to have fitted illegal water tanks to allow them to run under the weight limit.

In a time when the sport’s running was split between the FIA-supported FISA teams and the Bernie Ecclestone-support FOCA teams (of which Brabham and Williams were a part), there was an understandable outcry from the FOCA group, which elected to boycott the next race at Imola.

Pironi and Villeneuve diced for the lead all race longThe end result was was that the three FISA teams – Ferrari, Renault and Alfa Romeo – showed up for the San Marino Grand Prix, while Tyrrell, Osella (it being their home race), ATS and Toleman broke the FOCA ranks to race.

With such a thin 14-car field, this presented a great opportunity for the smaller teams to get a decent result if their cars could hold together for the 60-lap race.

But first, there was the matter of qualifying, and it was to the tifosi’s great disappointment that the Renaults of Arnoux and Prost locked out the front row for Sunday’s race. The Ferraris of Villeneuve and Pironi would start from the second row.

But while the Renaults were quick, they were also fragile. Predictably, both Prost and Arnoux retired with mechanical gremlins, leaving the Ferraris to stage a battle for the lead in front of their adoring fans.

With third-placed Michele Alboreto running well behind, Ferrari wanted to ensure a 1-2 on home soil, ordering their drivers to slow down and bring the cars home.

Villeneuve, in the lead, interpreted this as an order to maintain position. But Pironi thought otherwise and started to reel the Canadian in.

In the closing laps, the pair ran nose-to-tail, with Villeneuve leading himself to believe that Pironi would play the role of dutiful number-two in the end and that the Frenchman was simply trying to put on a show for the fans. Pironi passed Villeneuve for the lead, and Villeneuve retook him.

Villeneuves fumes while race-winner Pironi sprays the bubblyOn the final lap, Villeneuve left a car’s width gap going into Tosa, and that was all the invitation that Pironi needed to slip through for the lead and the win.

While the Frenchman claimed the win, Villeneuve was furious at the apparent betrayal and sulked on the podium, vowing never to speak to Pironi again.

Two weeks later at the Belgian Grand Prix, Villeneuve would be killed attempting an impossible last-gasp flying lap trying to beat Pironi’s provisional pole time in qualifying. He collided with Jochen Mass’ March and was thrown from the car, killing him instantly.


1982 San Marino Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (60 laps):

  Driver Team Laps Result Grid
1. Didier Pironi FRA Scuderia Ferrari 126C2 V6 Turbo 60 1:36:38.887 4
2. Gilles Villeneuve CAN Scuderia Ferrari 126C2 V6 Turbo 60 + 0.366 3
3. Michele Alboreto ITA Tyrrell Ford 011 V8 60 + 1:07.684 5
4. Jean-Pierre Jarier FRA Osella Ford FA1C V8 59 1 lap behind 9
5. Eliseo Salazar CHI ATS Ford D5 V8 57 3 laps behind 14
DQ. Manfred Winkelhock DEU ATS Ford D5 V8 54 Underweight 12
NC. Teo Fabi ITA Toleman Hart TG181C 4cyl Turbo 52 8 laps behind 10
DNF. Rene Arnoux FRA Equipe Renault RE30B V6 Turbo 44 Engine 1
DNF. Bruno Giacomelli ITA Alfa Romeo 182 V12 24 Engine 6
DNF. Riccardo Paletti ITA Osella Ford FA1C V8 7 Suspension 13
DNF. Alain Prost FRA Equipe Renault RE30B V6 Turbo 6 Engine 2
DNF. Andrea de Cesaris ITA Alfa Romeo 182 V12 4 Fuel Pump 7
DNF. Brian Henton GBR Tyrrell Ford 011 V8 0 Clutch 11
DNS. Derek Warwick GBR Toleman Hart TG181C 4cyl Turbo   Electrical 8
Didier Pironi FRA Scuderia Ferrari 126C2 V6 Turbo 44 1:35.036  

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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