With ten laps to go there now started a memorable battle for second place, so fierce and competitive that the race leader was overlooked.
By lap 72, Arnoux was right behind Villeneuve. On the next lap they lapped some slower cars and the Ferrari got through while the Renault didn’t.
Lap 75 and they were together again; Villeneuve was not giving in, but on the start of lap 78 the Renault took the lead. But it wasn’t over, for Villeneuve is not one to give up. He was back in the lead on the 79th lap — but Arnoux was proving to be just as tenacious.
They started the last lap side by side. Neither man was going to give way and they threw caution to the winds, rubbing their tyres against each other as they dived into the twisty back leg. Villeneuve got inside at the far hairpin. Arnoux was in front again as they climbed out of the dip, but the Renault engine gave a hiccough as he accelerated and the Ferrari was instantly alongside. Over the brow of the hill they went, still rubbing tyres, but with the Ferrari on the advantageous inside for the long fast final bend. Down the last dip they were virtually touching, nose to tail; up the hill the Renault pulled out, and as they disappeared over the brow and raced for the line, they were side by side again. The Ferrari got the verdict by an official quarter of a second.
The two ‘whizz-kids’ in second and third places were grinning all over their faces, having thoroughly enjoyed their last-lap rough-and-tumble, sayng it had all been good fun, though they realised it could have ended with them both spinning off.
It had certainly been a Grand Prix of France to go down in history, being won by the French, while the race for second place revived the interest of all the Formula One disbelievers. All races cannot be good, but you watch all the races so that when one is good, you don’t miss it. — DSJ