“However, because of this competition between him and Pironi, obviously that made him take risks.”
This rivalry has become one of F1’s most legendary, is set to be examined in a soon-to-be-released documentary called Villeneuve Pironi.
“The edge of it is where you have to be,” says Villeneuve’s former wife Joann in the footage from an upcoming documentary. “He was just a true racer at heart.”
Ultimately, that friendship between Villeneuve and Mass would sadly come to a halting end on that fateful day in Belgium. It’s clear that the latter felt the weight of the tragedy on his shoulders for quite some time, until a couple of chance meetings years later.
“A while later, when he was already racing, Jacques came up to me when we were sitting on a plane together,” Mass says.
“He said: ‘Jochen, our family – we never blamed you. It was a racing incident – just a wrong decision by the two of you.’
Even now, the relief delivered by this statement is palpable for the German, and it was further helped by another family member.
“Melanie his sister, who was a lovely girl, she came along and said ‘Hi, I’m Melanie.’
“After the accident, and I didn’t feel like talking about it – I felt so guilty, but she said: ‘No, no, no – all good.'”
Mass has seen all the highs and lows of racing one can possibly imagine: taking his GP win at Montjuïch park after Rolf Stommelen’s crash which killed four spectators, the incident with Villeneuve, retiring whilst leading Le Mans with Stefan Bellof at Le Mans in ’83 before winning the enduro classic Mercedes in ’89.
However the German is certain on what was his greatest win in racing.
“People ask me what was the highlight of my life? The highlight is that I’m still here.”