Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix, which is one of the most poignant in Formula 1’s steeped history because of a fiery dispute between Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi.
After a number of drivers were disqualified from the Brazilian Grand Prix, the Formula 1 Constructors’ Association opted to boycott the race at Imola in protest of the decision. This group included the likes of McLaren, Lotus and Williams, meaning that the only teams with a realistic chance of winning were Renault and Ferrari.
Having locked out the front row of the grid, Renault saw its drivers retire from the race, handing the advantage to Ferrari. Not wishing to see its drivers suffer a similar fate, the Ferrari team gave Villeneuve and Pironi the call to hold position with the Canadian driver in the lead.
However, Pironi had no intentions of accepting second place. He moved into the lead of the race, but Villeneuve soon re-passed him, believing that it was simply a way of them spicing up the racing. However, he failed to defend the inside of the final corner on the last lap, and Pironi jumped at the chance to take the win.
Villeneuve was furious, feeling that he had been betrayed. He insisted that he would never speak to Pironi again.
Tragically, this became true. At the next race at Zolder in Belgium, Villeneuve died in an accident during qualifying whilst trying to better Pironi’s time.
However, his son, Jacques, did go on to achieve great success in Formula 1, winning the 1997 world championship. He is set to race in the Indy 500 this year at the ripe old age of 43.
Amid all of the talk of team orders and disputes in the modern sport, very few rivalries run quite as deep as this one.