40 years on: Pironi and Villeneuve go to war at Imola

The 1982 San Marino Grand Prix was the beginning of a tragically short-lived feud between Ferrari teammates Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi.

					40 years on: Pironi and Villeneuve go to war at Imola


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© Alessio Mazzocco (CC)

The 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix marks a bittersweet anniversary for Scuderia Ferrari, at a race the place they are going to be hoping to utilise the inherent tempo of the F1-75 to attain their second 1-2 end of the season.

This weekend’s race will happen on 24 April, simply in the future shy of the fortieth anniversary of a historic 1-2 claimed by Ferrari at Imola in what was then the San Marino Grand Prix.

Didier Pironi led residence teammate Gilles Villeneuve to safe the victory, however it was a extremely contentious and dramatic race that led to tragic penalties only a few brief weeks later.

Villeneuve feels betrayed by Pironi

Having began behind the turbocharged Renaults, the Ferraris discovered
themselves main the race with ease within the closing levels.

This was after turbo failures resulted within the retirements of Alain Prost and Rene Arnoux, and after an already frantic scrap between the 2 Ferraris and the surviving Arnoux – a battle by which Villeneuve had prevailed.

That, then, was that, based on Villeneuve. After years of being
Jody Scheckter’s understudy, Villeneuve felt he had earned group
management. Ferrari appeared blissful sufficient with the consequence too, as they held out indicators saying ‘Sluggish Down’ to their main automobiles – there being no menace coming from

Now solely snug with solely a handful of laps
to go, Villeneuve relaxed and eased off his full outright tempo, solely to make a small error at Piratella. However, moderately than settle in behind Villeneuve, Pironi took the lead forward of his teammate.

Figuring this was only a present, an informal drama for the
delighted Tifosi within the stands, Villeneuve did not suspect any foul play. He set about catching and passing his teammate once more, succeeding in doing so into Piratella on Lap 49 of 60.

The 2 traded locations quite a lot of occasions over the remaining laps, with
Villeneuve not beneath the impression that Pironi’s actions have been in any
method duplicitous.

On the penultimate lap, Villeneuve took over the lead
once more after Pironi left a spot at Tosa – Villeneuve then considering
that was the race, and apparently orchestrated present, over.

Nonetheless, on the ultimate lap, Pironi bought a run on Villeneuve by way of Tamburello and handed
him into Tosa. This time, he held on to take the win as he crossed the road simply inches in entrance of Villeneuve.

The French-Canadian was livid
and felt completely betrayed by a person he counted as a good friend.

					40 years on: Pironi and Villeneuve go to war at Imola

© Marpol

An enraged Villeneuve crashes at Zolder

Heading to the subsequent race at Zolder in Belgium, Villeneuve
travelled alone to the circuit. This was uncommon for him, as he normally
introduced his spouse, Joan, and his youngsters, Jacques and Melanie to the

Nonetheless, Melanie was celebrating her first Communion on race day, and
so Villeneuve discovered himself alone. At a very weak time too, as he felt remoted at Ferrari additionally.

Regardless of being there quite a lot of years longer than Pironi, the French driver had
clicked with the Ferrari supervisor Marco Piccinini, and had even been
greatest man at his wedding ceremony. This was an occasion Villeneuve had not even acquired an invite for.

Along with Ferrari’s refusal to censure Pironi for his conduct at
Imola, Villeneuve vowed to beat Pironi at each alternative.

Talking to Nigel Roebuck (now a columnist for Motor Sport Journal), Villeneuve stated: “That is struggle. Completely, that is struggle.”

It was a struggle that he instantly took to, lapping 1.2 seconds
sooner than Pironi in apply for the Belgian spherical. Qualifying day
got here, and Villeneuve set a string of very quick laps, utilizing up each
single little little bit of grip his automobile needed to supply.

Realizing he could not go any sooner, Ferrari instructed him to pit, together with his greatest lap time of 1:16.6. Sadly for Villeneuve, Pironi had set a

It stays unclear whether or not Villeneuve was making an attempt
one other quick lap, or was simply doing a quick inlap on his subsequent tour round
the Zolder circuit.

What is evident is that Villeneuve was doing a pace of round 150mph
approaching the Terlamenbocht kink when he got here throughout the March automobile
pushed by Jochen Mass. Villeneuve struck the again of the March and was catapulted out of the automobile, whereas the automobile cartwheeled finish over finish down
the observe.

The late Professor Sid Watkins oversaw Villeneuve’s switch to hospital and his placement
on life help. Villeneuve’s spouse Joan flew in that night and gave her
permission for his life help to be switched off, because of the extent of his accidents. Villeneuve
died at 21:10 on 8 Could, 1982.

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Imola the catalyst for the unfolding tragedy

Villeneuve clearly thought Pironi was the villain on that fateful day at Imola. However, if we have a look at the story from a subjective viewpoint, did Pironi actually do something he wasn’t presupposed to do?

He claimed afterward to not perceive {that a} group order had been issued, and did not really feel he had finished something mistaken. Whether or not there was duplicity in his actions or his phrases is not identified, and it’s a little unimportant as as to whether he did or did not intend to betray Villeneuve.

“Once I joined Ferrari the entire group was so dedicated to Gilles,” Pironi stated on his arrival at Ferrari.

“I imply he was not simply the highest driver – he was far more than that. He had a small household there.

“He made me match proper in and I felt at residence instantly in a single day, and Gilles made no distinctions both. I used to be anticipating to be put in my place; I used to be not primary, I used to be quantity two. He handled me like an equal all the way in which.”

Pironi went on to spearhead the Ferrari group’s efforts after Villeneuve’s dying, and took the lead of the 1982 championship. Nonetheless, by the tip of the yr, he was critically injured in a crash at Hockenheim, by which his legs have been badly broken.

Placing an finish to his driving profession, Pironi recovered and made a transfer to powerboat racing. He was killed in a powerboating crash in 1987.

It could be a tad melodramatic to assert that each males’s careers and lives modified irrevocably on that fateful day at Imola, though it does seem like the case.

Villeneuve felt aggrieved sufficient by his teammate’s actions to change into consumed with ‘destroying’ him, that the tenth of a second that separated them in Belgian qualifying maybe brought on him to take a threat too far.

Sadly, Villeneuve remained true to the vow he made at Imola: “I’ll by no means communicate to Pironi once more so long as I stay.”

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					40 years on: Pironi and Villeneuve go to war at Imola

					40 years on: Pironi and Villeneuve go to war at Imola


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