Forty years ago Alan Jones clinched the world championship by driving his only title rival Nelson Piquet off the road at the first corner of the Canadian Grand Prix. Piquet had set pole in his Brabham so was partially ahead on the grid but Jones had got a better start from the outside front row and as they approached the right-handed kink that was turn one, he simply turned in as if Piquet wasn’t there, effectively daring Piquet to not concede. By the time Piquet realised that Jones really was just going to turn across him it was too late to avoid the accident. It triggered further accidents behind and the race was red-flagged. Piquet took the restart in the spare car, which had a super-powerful engine in it but one which was probably not going to last the race. Indeed Jones believed it was a special high-compression version of the DFV which would have needed illegal additives to keep it from detonating – and that this was how Piquet had set pole.
A few years ago I asked Charlie Whiting, who was then Piquet’s chief mechanic, if that was true. He smiled his mischievous smile and said, “I don’t think there was anything illegal about it. But that engine was very on the edge, let’s say. We knew it wasn’t going to do a race distance. So when we had to take the restart in the spare, we knew we weren’t going to finish.”
In the restarted race Jones led away and Piquet was down in third behind Didier Pironi’s Ligier. The Brabham then passed both the Ligier and the Williams, “as if we were parked,” as Jones put it. Shortly thereafter it blew its engine in a big cloud of smoke and Jones won the race and Williams’ first world championship.