• San Marino Grand Prix 1982

Pironi leaves Villeneuve fuming

Martin Williamson April 25, 1982
Race winner Didier Pironi sprays the champagne as livid team-mate Gilles Villeneuve looks on enraged over what he saw as a breach of team orders when Pironi raced to victory © Sutton Images
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The San Marino Grand Prix was not one to celebrate. Another political war between FISA (the governing body) and FOCA (the teams' association) left the FOCA teams boycotting the event and a grid of just 14 cars. But that was no more than a dust-up compared to the spectacular bust-up between Ferrari team-mates Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi at the end of the race itself.

The only serious challenge to the Ferraris had come from the Renaults of Rene Arnoux and Alain Prost - but Prost suffered engine failure after six laps and Arnoux, after a spirited performance, succumbed to an oil leak after 45 laps. After that, it was a simple question of what order would the Ferraris finish.

The crowd were kept entertained as the lead switched, but an informal agreement had been reached that whoever was ahead when the team showed a "slow" sign would take the victory. When that happened, Villeneuve was ahead and he duly eased off the pace, expecting Pironi to do likewise.

Villeneuve assessed the situation and expected Pironi to allow him back ahead as though he were just playing. Villeneuve made a move for the lead and was chopped by Pironi and then on lap 58 the French driver chopped his team-mate once more. On the penultimate lap Villeneuve succeeded in passing Pironi but on the last lap the Frenchman dived through on the last corner and there was no way back for Villeneuve.

As the pair, along with Michele Alboreto who had finished third, headed to the podium, Villeneuve was incandescent with rage. At one point he refused to go onto the podium itself before being persuaded to do so, and even when there his anger was clear for all to see.

Pironi, who claimed he was unaware of the team orders, tried to apologise, but Villeneuve was having none of it.

The next day Enzo Ferrari publicly berated Pironi, but the pair were at loggerheads. Ferrari officials were deeply concerned what effect the row would have on team dynamics. As it was, within a fortnight Villeneuve had been killed after crashing while practising for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The Tyrrell of Alboreto only participated as a deal had been done with Italian electrical appliance manufacturer Candy and Ken Tyrrell couldn't refuse the money so he had to race.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA

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Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA Martin Williamson, who grew up in the era of James Hunt, Niki Lauda and sideburns, became managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group in 2007 after spells with Sky Sports, Sportal and Cricinfo