The 1982 San Marino is notorious on two counts. It is remembered because over half the teams boycotted the event due to an argument over ground effect aerodynamics. The race itself produced a bitter twist that would lay a foundation for tragedy at the next Grand Prix at Zolder.
In the early 1980′s Formula One was locked in a power struggle. In the red corner there was Formula One Constructors Association, the group of mainly British constructors that compromised over half of the grid. In the blue corner were the “grandee” teams, the large manufacturer based outfits who were backed by FISA, the sports governing body.
In the early part of the 1982 season a row had broken out over the use of “water cooled bakes” by the majority of the FOCA teams. This was a ploy to allow the DFV powered cars to run under weight in the race then have their cooling fluids topped up for scuretenniering at the end of the race. Of course the fluid top-up included a sizable weight in water for the illusory brake cooling.
Williams and Brabham were excluded from the first two places of the season’s second race, the Brazilian Grand Prix for this practice and FISA banned the exercise with immediate effect. The FOCA teams were in uproar and they claimed that their cars would not be ready for the next Grand Prix at San Marino.
The ensuing boycott of the San Marino Grand Prix reduced the grid to just twelve cars: the teams that were closely aligned to FISA, the “grandees:” Ferrari, Alfa-Romeo, some small British teams and Tyrrell (who competed due to pressure form Italian sponsors.) Notwithstanding this, the race developed into a scorcher. The two Renaults of Alian Prost and Didier Pironi lead in the early stages form the Ferraris of Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi. The fragile Renaults succumbed to engine failures in the early stages of the race leaving the Ferrari drivers to battle for the race win.
Villeneuve was leading Pironi and as they were under no threat from anyone else they were told to hold their positions. Villeneuve cruised around the circuit with Pironi closely in tow. All looked to be going to plan until two laps from the end when Pironi over took Gilles. Villeneuve assumed that Pironi’s intentions were honorable, that he was putting on a show for the tifosi but he was surprised how hard he had to push to retake the lead of the race by the final lap.
Villeneuve believed that his task was completed and short-shifted on the run down to Tosa hairpin. Pironi seized his chance and snatched the lead of the race to take an underhanded victory. Villeneuve was incandescent by Pironi’s betrayal and he vowed he would never speak to the Frenchman again, promising that from that day he would always beat him on the track. In final qualifying for the next Grand Prix at Zolder, Pironi beat Villeneuve’s time in the closing minutes of the session. Villeneuve, who had often complained about the absurdity of trying of fast times on qualifying tyres that were only good of one lap on a crowded track set out to best his teammate. Approaching Jochen Mass, Villeneuve kept his foot down and tragically the two cars collided: the resulting accident tragically ending his life.
(This article is from the F1Rogues Archives and was originally written by Tris)