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