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.

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

Photo: Getty Images
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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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