F1 Flashback: Villeneuve and Pironi’s dispute at Imola

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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.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.