The rhyme of time is strong while this is being written. The recent anniversary of Gilles Villeneuve’s death in 1982 was a reminder of a time when Formula 1 was facing a major crisis, just as it is now. There’s even a parallel in the themes of those crises. The coronavirus has merely hastened F1 to a destination it was always heading for: a damaging mismatch between the top teams and the others. Ferrari is forming the most vocal resistance to an adjustment, just as it was in ’82.
The row raging then was between younger minds and hotter heads than those of today’s disagreement and had become poisonous. That poison was a significant contributor to the circumstances in which Villeneuve crashed and died at Zolder.
The small independent teams of 1982 (FOCA), with their customer engines, were justifiably concerned that they could be swept out of existence by the arrival of much bigger automotive teams and their sophisticated and expensive turbocharged engines. The governing body’s president, Jean-Marie Balestre, was openly hostile to the Bernie Ecclestone-led independents and was stacking the odds even further in favour of the manufacturers in his framing of the rules. It looked as if he was actively seeking to deny the independents of Brabham, Lotus, McLaren, Williams et al the oxygen of competitiveness, reducing their bargaining power, possibly to the point of extinction.