2016 Canadian Grand Prix History Part 2 of 5

A look back at Canadian GP History by Carlo Carluccio in association with MISSED APEX PODCAST. Listen in the player below after you've enjoyed the article.

1978 Villeneuve.jpg

As became apparent yesterday, my dislike of young Villeneuve was so intense that I lost track of everything. I had been talking about his father being a Ferrari legend and somebody that Ferrari fans worldwide loved dearly.

I was merely 13 when he was killed during qualifying for the 1982 Belgian GP and I remember watching the TV that evening and hearing the tragic news. The problem at 13 is that everything seems surreal. If it’s on TV it doesn’t affect anybody, does it? It’s just make believe. Right? I just thought that Italy would be recompensed with that year’s football World Cup… weird I know.

I went to the British GP that year and remember reading about his death in the programme notes ahead of the Grand Prix – then watching Didier Pironi and Patrick Tambay finishing 2nd and 3rd in the actual race.

Villeneuve joined Ferrari in 1977 and remained with the team through to his untimely death. His first drive for the Scuderia was in that year’s Canadian GP but it was the return to his home country the following year where he secured his first ever victory around the Circuit Ile Notre-Dame - after Jean-Pierre Jarier’s Lotus 79 developed engine troubles having led from the start and seemingly on route to his first victory.

In 1979, Villeneuve followed Alan Jones across the line having driven an incredible race. In a car that was half a second a lap slower than Jones’ Williams he kept the lead till lap 50. Once Jones was through he pulled a small gap then relaxed only to find the irrepressible Villeneuve breathing down his neck. The pair remained flat-out till they crossed the line with just a second between them.

Ferrari’s 1980 season was the equivalent of Mclaren’s 2013 season… or maybe 2014. Then again 2015 was horrific too. Anyway, the Maranello concern suffered badly in the first season of the 80’s having won both titles the year before. The era of naturally aspirated propulsion was drawing to a close and Ferrari were about to join Renault with their own turbo-charged engine.

By the time of the 1981 Canadian race – the penultimate event of the season – Villeneuve had taken unlikely victories earlier in the season in Spain and Monaco. The Canadian race was run in wet conditions but we have to remember this was in the days before health and safety destroyed everything fun about life.

There was no sign of safety cars or yellow flags, no mediocre drivers complaining that the track was a little slippery or that they were late for their personal massages and best of all they started with the light gantry seeing them off.

Incidents from the off saw drivers retire throughout the event whilst Jacques Laffite steered his glorious Ligier through the puddles to take the victory. John Watson followed close behind with the local hero making the podium.

Villeneuve drove an exhilarating race with a damaged nose cone rising up to obstruct his line of vision. Jackie Stewart’s commentary remained incredulous as Villeneuve navigated seeming death to remain on the black strip between the white lines.

For the fans he confirmed that F1 drivers were heroes who had other-worldly skills - beyond us mere mortals. Sadly something that has been diluted with the children winning Grand Prixs today. 

Join us here at www.spannersready.com/articles tomorrow for Canadian GP History.