25 April 1982
In the aftermath of the Long Beach race, FISA had – unsurprisingly – upheld the disqualifications of Piquet and Rosberg from the Brazilian Grand Prix and closed the rules loophole that the “Water-cooled brakes” had exploited. FOCA, in turn, threatened to boycott all future Grands Prix if the decision was not revoked (arguing that their cars could not be adapted in time). To the surprise of FOCA, FISA stood firm – even if it meant holding a Grand Prix with just three teams present: Ferrari, Renault and Alfa Romeo. While some other teams might also be persuaded to compete, any race with fewer than 13 entrants could not have championship status.
And so the weeks leading up to the race were taken up with speculation and gossip as to who would or wouldn’t race, as FISA sought to split off teams from the FOCA boycott. Toleman – unable to join FOCA as a new team and at any rate one of the Turbo club – were the first to agree to race, perhaps also keen to qualify for a change. ATS and Osella, small non-turbo teams, were next, having always resented the British domination of FOCA. That was 12 cars. Just one more entrant was needed, and of all people to cave in, it was Ken Tyrrell. After running the first three races of the season with no sponsorship, he had finally found some – from Italian firms Candy (finally giving up on Toleman) and Imola Ceramica, who had taken note of Michele Alboreto’s performances so far. Of course, this meant the team had to compete to keep them happy, and FISA had its championship field. The Ligier team, who *had* been expected to race as a French, manufacturer-owned team working on their own turbo engine, decided to use the excuse to spend a couple more weeks working on their troublesome car.
So the seven competing teams arrived on their fourth continent in as many races to contest the second San Marino Grand Prix. Slim Borgudd had been dropped by Tyrrell, and Brian Henton came in to the second car after being bounced out of his Arrows seat by a returning Surer. As it turned out, FOCA could hardly have picked a worse race to boycott. With the prospect of a lot less competition for their beloved Ferraris, fans turned out in their droves to support the red cars, and with the Osellas, Alfa Romeos and Michele Alboreto also there, there was plenty to interest the 40,000 Tifosi who streamed into the circuit.
The only fly in the ointment was the presence of the Renault team who set out to spoil Italy’s party. Arnoux took pole position, alongside team-mate Prost. Behind them were the Ferraris; Villeneuve and Pironi, then a triplet of Italian drivers; Alboreto, Giacomelli and de Cesaris. Derek Warwick was a pretty respectable 8th in the Toleman ahead of Jarier’s Osella and his own team-mate Teo Fabi tenth. Henton, Winkelhock, Paletti and Salazar finished up the grid, giving Paletti and Fabi their first Grand Prix starts.
Talk before the race was over whether Ferrari and Renault would make a proper race of it or collude in a demonstration run lest they all take each other out or break their engines going for it and allow a FOCA team to embarrass them by taking the race win. The 14 were down to 13 after the formation lap as Derek Warwick’s Toleman pulled off with an electrical problem before the lights had even gone green, but when they did, Arnoux got a great start but Prost was a little sluggish away and had two Ferraris climbing all over the back of him, before they both piled past into Tosa on the first lap. Brian Henton soon joined his fellow Briton in retirement as his clutch was giving him problems all the way round the first lap.
Arnoux began to pull out a lead on the two Ferraris, while Prost now had Alboreto worrying at him, followed by the two Alfas – but not for long, as Teo Fabi in the Toleman managed to get past de Cesaris for sixth. No sooner had he done so than the Alfa toured in with electrical problems. Four laps gone and three cars out – would anyone finish? It didn’t look like it as Alain Prost retired with an engine misfire on lap 7, and Riccardo Paletti’s debut ended early with suspension problems a lap later.
By this time, Villeneuve and Pironi had closed up on Arnoux again and the three were running nose-to-tail while, further back, Teo Fabi’s excellent run ended as he pitted with boost problems – his car was repaired and sent back out but some distance behind. Nonetheless, Winkelhock, Salazar and Jarier took up the chase and a lively scrap over the last points-paying place ensued.
Up front, Villeneuve ran wide at the Variante Bassa and Pironi got through, but was no more successful in his attempts to pass Arnoux and was soon re-passed by Villeneuve. On lap 25, the Canadian finally pulled a great move to get past Arnoux on the way up to Piratella to roars from the crowd and started to pull away, but Arnoux soon responded, reeling Villeneuve back in and going past at Tamburello on lap 29. Pironi tried to follow through but couldn’t make it stick, so it was back to Arnoux-Villeneuve-Pironi for four laps before Pironi managed to get past his team-mate. Back up the road, Giacomelli’s race was done with an engine failure and WInkelhock had had to pit for some repairs, and then on lap 40, Villeneuve was back in the lead after a typically gung-ho move at Tosa. If the Ferrari and Renault teams were just putting on a show for the fans, they were doing a pretty good job of it!
At the end of that lap, even more drama ensued as Arnoux’s engine grenaded itself on the pit straight and, with Alboreto 40 seconds back in third, the two Ferraris were free and clear to take a 1-2 victory – but in which order? Villeneuve ran wide at Bassa again and Pironi shouldered through, then the two nearly touched twice the following lap before Villeneuve got back in front. The Ferrari pit hung out a board reading “SLOW”, eight laps from the end, worried about fuel consumption, not to mention the ever-present prospect of both cars ending up in a gravel trap. Nonetheless, Pironi blasted past his team-mate once more at Tamburello, taking the lead for the first time. On lap 59 of 60, Villeneuve moved back inside at Tosa to minimal resistance, then on the final lap, Pironi lunged past one more time at the same place and hung on to take the win. Overjoyed, he took off his helmet while still driving to wave to the crowd as he toured back to the parc ferme.
Once there, it was clear that something was wrong. The usually affable Gilles Villeneuve was sullen, uncommunicative and wouldn’t make eye contact with either Pironi or Alboreto (celebrating his first podium, exactly one year after his first race). It transpired that both Ferrari drivers had misinterpreted the SLOW order differently: Villeneuve assumed the order was to hold positions and finish, while Pironi thought it was more “be careful” but that they were still free to race. So when Pironi took the lead, Villeneuve thought he was just putting on a show especially when he didn’t resist the re-pass. So when Pironi went past on the last lap, at the last possible passing place, Villeneuve felt betrayed by his team-mate and vowed never to speak to him again. Despite the 1-2, things were not well in the Ferrari camp – especially as the team themselves sat on the fence about what they had meant.
With just six finishers, Jarier picked up a welcome 3 points for Osella and Salazar got two for ATS, but the sixth finisher, Winkelhock, had his ATS disqualified for being underweight. He had lost a lot of oil at a long pitstop but since closure of the “water-cooled brakes” loophole, they couldn’t be topped up and he lost the point.
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