The Formula One Scene
THE Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, the International government-recognised body that looks after all forms of motoring sport from Autocross to Grand Prix racing through its member clubs, has issued the calendar of events for the 1981 season to count for the FIA Driver’s Championship, won this year by Alm Jones, and the Manufacturers Championship, won this year by Frank Williams Grand Prix Engineering. These two awards are known as the FIA World Championships and the first was instigated in 1950 and the second in 1958. It was agreed last spring that there would be a four-month winter break, for the months r)f October, November, December and January. The last Grand Prix in 1980 was at Watkins Glen on October 5th, and the first one for 1981 is scheduled for January 25th, which I suppose we can accept as a token four months. This rule came about because some people within the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) were trying to organise races in November and December, “to fill in the Grand Prix year world-wide”. There was not too much support for this idea from the working members of FOCA as they felt they needed a break between seasons to regroup and re-organise, especially those who had suffered a shambolic season. The 1980 season had some ups and downs and was very disjointed in places, but through it all the drivers and the teams came out on top and there was some good racing and a lot of good driving. Alan Jones (Williams FWO7B) came out on top as a very worthy World Champion, winning more races than anyone else, always being in the thick of the racing, driving hard all the time, being a real pace-setter and above all winning races that he didn’t have to win. A real
down-to-earth, hard-charging, no-nonsense World Champion with a degree of track-craft and cunning that is going to rival that other famous Australian, Sir Jack Brabham.
The season was not all happiness and light for sadly we lost three drivers from the scene. Gianclaudio (Clay) Regazzoni had a terrible accident at Long Beach, from which he escaped alive but it is doubtful whether he will ever walk again, an badly were his legs damaged. His spirit is fantastic and his enthusiasm for motor racing undiminished, and if he is to be confined to a wheel-chair for the rest of his life he is determined to stay in the racing game in some administrative or organisational capacity. I doubt whether Regazzoni has any idea of how many fans hr has in Great Britain, it is certainly a great number and I know they all wish him well md mourn at the loss to Grand Prix racing. Without the “help” of the PR world and the “media” Regaz.zoni projected an incredible aura into the spectators, most of whom never got closer to him than the width of the racing circuit. At the time of his accident it was thought that the titanium brake-pedal had broken, but subsequently Ensign had independent engineering tests carried out on an identical pedal and proclaimed the pedal blameless. Having had a “near-miss” when a similar thing happened on a Maserati sports/racing car at 130 m.p.h. I know that there is nothing you can do but accept the facts. In mid-season another terrible crash occurred at Hockenheanring during practice testing when it would appear that something broke on a VI2 Alfa Romeo Tipo 179. Sadly it claimed the life of the wiry little Patrick Depailler. The Frenchrnm also had his following among enthusiast race-goers for the simple reason that he was a hard-trier who
drove with everything he had got, and you could see it. If you have six drivers in a race the law of averages says that one will drive a bit hopelessly; if you have twenty-four in a race it means there will be four hopeless ones and this makes the real trier stand out. Depailler was a real trier and we can ill-afford to lose pmple like him.
At the end of the season the reigning World Champion, Jody Scheckter, stepped out of his Ferrari and retired gracefully from the scene. I say gracefully because he announced in mid-season that he was going to give up after the Watkins Glen race. Unlike previous World Champions James Hoot and Niki Lauda who walked out on their teams before the season was ended, Schechter made it clear that he was going to honour his contract with the Scuderia Ferrari and drive through to the very end. This he did and finished in last place in his last race, but nonetheless the Ferrari team appreciated it and Enzo Ferrari has gone on record as saying that Jody Scheckter was the most honest racing driver he had known.
Along the way the Shadow team disappeared with barely a sound.
For some teams the 1981 season is settled and the promise is good. Frank Williams has said that nothing is being changed in his team, same drivers, same engineers, same personnel, same sponsors, same everything. They are intending to carry on where they left off, which was first and second in the Canadian GP and first and second in the United States (East) GP. With Scheckter giving up racing Enzo Ferrari was quick to replace him and signed up Didier Pironi, much to the dismay of the Ligier team. There has never been any doubt that Gilles Villeneuve was staying with the team, so Ferrari has a very strong driver linc-up for 1981. Italian racing enthusiasts are consoling themselves in that Pironi “sounds” like an Italian. and though he was born in Paris his parents are of Italian origin. This past season has seen the Ferrari team floundering about with their 312T5 and one knowledgeable English engineer in a very successful team said “Them are three major mistakes you can make when designing a ground-effects racing car, and Ferrari have made all three”. At Imola they showed which way they are going, with the introduction of the turbo-charged 11/2-litre V6 Tipo I26C, and it showed great promise, being quicker than the 3-litre T5. Needless array, Villeneuve drove both cars so it was a sound comparative result. With the natural talent of the little French-Canadian and the cool application of Pironi. the Ferrari team look strong for 1901. The Renault-ELF team promised much in 1980 but achieved little, though what they did achieve was well done. Anyone who saw the South African GP will remember the total domination by the French turbo-charged cars. At the time many people said it was the turbo-charger advantage at the altitude, but they were so dominant in practice at Zandvoort at sea-level! No one has dared to take their eyes off the Renault team all season because the potential is there and iris like a great sword hanging over the head of the established unsupercharged 3-litre engines. You feel it mist come crashing down one day and destroy the establishment, but iris taking a long time. All seemed set for Renault to continue into 1981 with the same team, but without warning Jean-Pierre Jabouille left the team to join a rival French concern. Jabouille has been with Renault since the first turbo-charger revolved and has done all the development driving, as well as racing for the team since their first entry in Formula One in 1977. At the time of writing a replacement for
Jabouille has not been announced, but it looks as if it will be Alain Prost. Team leader will be the enthusiastic Roof Arno..
While Ferrari were running their turbocharged 11/2-litre V6 at Imola Alfa Romeo had on display their new engine. a very neat and compact 11/2-litre turbo-charged V8, which is due to appear at races about mid-way through 1481. Meanwhile their V12 Tipo 179 has been going from strength to strength, with little Bruno Giacomelli “driving like a good ‘un”. At Watkins Glen he was on pole position and in the race no-one was catching him until the electrics failed. While not officially confirmed at the time of writing it would look as if Mario Andretti into lead the Alfa Romeo team in 1981, and that can’t be bad. Already Alfa Romeo have announced a new version of the Tipo 179, ready for the early pan of 1981. It is only improved in details, but shows that Carlo Chiti and Autodelta, who are the racing arm of the state-owned Alfa Romeo concern, are well ahead with their plans.
The French Ligicr team, supported by Gitanes cigarettes and the ELF company fluctuated between flashes of brilliance and periods of despair during 1980, but nonetheless always had tube reckoned with. I felt they were doing things they didn’t really understand and achieving good results in spite of themselves. There was no solid, relentless progression along a known path. By mid-season their future was looking interesting for Guy Ligier had made a deal with the Talbot company for them to take over his team for 1981. The Talbot company arose like a phoenix from the ashes of Humber, Hillman, Singer, Rooter brothers, Simca and Chrysler, and probably some other firms that I have forgotten. This amalgam of automotive derelicts went through the death’ throes of Simcas called Sunbeams, Hillmans called Chryslers, and so on until there emerged the resurrected name Talbot, though what a Talbot really is is hard to define. Talbot decided to join in Formula One racing and after a brief flurry with a mythical tie-up with BMW, they planned to take over the Ligicr team with the support of Engins Matra. Now Matra are a pretty serious concern and were in Grand Prix racing a few years ago, leaving quite a good impression. Some of their engineers have been “on loan” to the Ligier team, so the combination of Ligier, Matra and Talbot looks pre, good. A slight set-back came with the departure of Didier Pironi, but a replacement to join Jacques Laffite came as an equal surprise in the lanky form of Jean-Pierre Jabouille from Renault. Jabouille and Laffite are brothers-in-law, so there should be family harmony in the team. As Matra are working on a turbo-charged eng.e the acquisition of Jabouille makes a lot of sense. I can’t help wondering whether there was not some industrial connivance behind the scenes with. the French motor industry over the move by Jabouille from Renault to Talbot. To get the new Talbot team under s.ty it teems that Matra are resurrecting their classic VI2 engine. After all, Alfa Romeo have been doing quite well with a V12. On the turbo-charged engine front BMW announced their entry into Formula One (at long last and long overdue) with their 11/2-litre 4-cylinder engine in an exclusive deal with the Brabham team. Already an experimental car Milt around a BT49 has been out on test powered by the turbo-charged BMW engine. The brilliant Nelson Piquet is staying as number one driver for Brabham and he deserves a strong number two 03, support him, but it looks as though he will have t011 make do with a “rent-a-drive” hopeful, fur morel
is going to acquire the second Brabham rather than talent.
Like most teams Lotus have had their doldrtuns, but theirs have gone on too long. Andretti and Colin Chapman were no longer on the same wave-length and their young recruit Elio de Angelis was still learning. Now de Angelis into be number one and a new Lotus has been out on secret tests, so clearly things are moving up in Norfolk, and not before time, for Team Lotus are natural front-line runners and when they are at the back it’s not because they are hopeless or fmished, but because something is desperately wrong somewhere.
The McLaren team have been gradually sinking and going from bad to worse. Before the season ended they gathered themselves up and joined forces with a small racing group called Project Four, who have been involved in Formula Two and BMW Proc. MI racing. This new set-up has been named McLaren International and Marlboro cigarettes are the money behind it. The designer with Project Four is John Barnard and he took control of the McLaren M30, so designer Gordon Coppuck was pushed out into the cold. In 1981 the cars that come from McLaren International are to be called Marlboros, which will surely make poor Bruce McLaren turn in his grave. We shall continue to call them McLarens, just as 2 Lotus was never a John Player Special. On the brink of rejoining Grand Prix racing is March Engineering, and Gordon Coppuck has joined Robin Herd on the design team. Since deserting the Grand Prix field March have been very active in Formula Two and have lost none of their expertise, so their return is viewed with inter., and it looks as if Derck Daly will be their driver. Also from Formula Two the successful Toleman team are planning to make the big step up into Grand Prix racing, with their car designed by Rosy Byrne, who hao done all the work on the
successful Formula Two cars. They have the support of the Pirelli tyre company, who has been supplying tyres for their all-conquering 1980 season of F2, an the entry of these two factions into Grand Prix is most interesting.
By the time these words are published (December 1st) there will be a bare two months to the first race of 1981, which is due to be run in Buenoes Aires on January 25th. From January 1st a new Formula One rule comes into force which bans any part of the car, other than the tyres, from touching the ground. This in effect bans sliding side-skirts that control or assist the under-car air-flow, the aim being to reduce the down-forces being generated and subsequently the cornering powers being achieved, and in consequence the actual cornering speeds.
On the face of things the 1981 season is all net to go, with everyone of any importance well ahead with their plans. Renault and Ferrari have already been testing cars without side skirts and there are fifteen races lined up for the FIA Grand Prix season. But now a diversion has arisen. From an unknown source a soft covered booklet arrived stating that THE WORLD FEDERATION OF MOTOR SPORT has been formed and it is to run THE WORLD PROFESSIONAL DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP. There was no covering letter with this booklet, it contains no address for this new association, there is no secretary named, nor any officials of any sort and would appear to be a GREAT HOAX. There is a list of eighteen races they are proposing to run and the following are said to be giving their support:Arrows, ATS, Brabham, Ensign, Fittipaldi, Ligier, Lotus, McLaren, RAM Racing, Tyrrell and Williams. It will be appreciated that they are all users of the Cosworth DFV engine and all have been running on Goodyear tyres. With the exception of Williams and Brabham it is a pretty good collection of “no-hopers” and “tail-end-Charli.”.
Their rules and iegulations are pretty much a re-write of the existing Formula One rules from the FIA yellow book. The interesting thing is that they are proposing to hold races on the same circuits on the same day as some of those in the FIA Calendar for 1981. Others are to be on circuits to which the FIA has not given Formula One sanction, and others are on circuits that do not exist at present.
As the Formula One Construction Association are frequently mentioned in this document it is reasonable to assume that FOCA are behind it and that Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley are there somewhere. In the journalistic profession it is a rule that a “letter to the Editor” that is unsigned goes straight into the waste-paper basket. This document from THE WORLD FEDERATION OF MOTOR SPORT is being put under my desk until I know who is behind it. If it is not a GREAT HOAX than it would appear to be an unrecognised “PIRATE” organisation of which the governments in those countries who have delegated responsibility to their national motoring organisations (the Royal Automobile Club in Great Britain, for example) cannot possibly approve. If we are to take this association of Cosworth engine users seriously it means they are not encompasing Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault, Talbot, ()sena, Toleman, March and the drivers Villeneuve, Pironi, Andretti, Giacomelli, Arnoux, Prose, Jabouille, Laffite and Daly.
A few years ago Stuart Turner of the Ford Motor Company said “The trouble with people in Formula One is not that they are liars, but they just don’t know how to tell the troth”.
A colleague said “You can’t have a real Grand Prix without Ferrari”.
Who would you rather watch, Villeneuve, Arnoux, Pironi, Andretti, and Jabouille or Jones, Reutemann, Piquet, de Angelis and Watson. We shall miss Alan Junes and Nelson Piquet.
The 1981 season looks like this: