Four years before Gilles’ accident, I had an incident with Bruno Giacomelli at Zolder, coming over the crest. He went to the right at the bottom, and I wanted to overtake him on the right. I didn’t hit him because I braked so hard I went into the barrier.
In ’82 I was cruising back to the pits, going over that hump. I saw Gilles in the mirror. The normal line was on the left. I stayed right, to let him pass on the left, and have the line. But he decided to pass me on the right because he wasn’t sure if I had seen him. I should have perhaps taken that into consideration, but you can’t know.
Next day I retired where the accident had happened, so I got stuck there for the race. I had a sense of guilt but it was not that I blamed myself entirely for the accident. There were not too many accusations.
Pironi was an enigma. He was tremendously fast, and would have been the first French F1 champion that year. I regretted the way he ended up; it was tragic but he was asking for his accident. He was driving blind into spray, just nailing it. He should have known better. Gilles took his risks, and sometimes he overdid it, and so did Pironi.
Gilles was nice, a generous man, very loveable. He didn’t get to be an old fart, so we just keep the memories. I didn’t speak to him after Pironi snatched victory from him at Imola, but I knew he felt cheated and betrayed. I think his behaviour at Zolder was one of revenge and bitterness and rivalry.
After I joined the team, Pironi never mentioned the dispute. Never once a word on it. It was kind of a strange relationship we had, because we’d been friends, but he knew that I was very close to Gilles. I’m sure in the back of his mind, he knew a little bit what I thought about that.