Brought to you by The Judge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio
– 1979: Villeneuve wins South African Grand Prix – Sensibly!!
Anybody who fears the looks of this years cars must remember one thing – whichever team you support – if the car wins races it will be stunning to look at…kind of.
If we step back thirty-five years into history the Ferrari 312 T4 was unveiled for the South African Grand Prix to stunned silence.
This car brought Ferrari firmly into the ground effect era and although the car couldn’t produce equal downforce to the DFV powered brigade – due to the width of it’s flat-12 engine – it’s power advantage and bullet-proof reliability weighed heavily in its favour.
Factor in the effect of a twenty one year wait for the next Ferrari champion and the acrobatics of a legend and the rose-tints forgive any abhorrence felt at viewing Mauro Forghieri’s design.
Villeneuve qualified third behind his South African team-mate Jody Scheckter and Jabouille in the Renault. The cars lined up on the grid under heavy darkened skies and drops of rain began falling as the starting procedure was given.
Due to its turbo lag the Renault was engulfed by the Ferraris and the first laps were fought out between the three drivers swapping places but as they came to cross the line for the third time – the race was red-flagged.
Thirty minutes later – with the track still saturated – the order was given to start the race once more.
Villeneuve: “Five minutes before the start I decided to use rain tires. I figured I would be able to make a better start with the wets and build up a lead which would give me time to change to slicks if the course dried out later.”
At the start Gilles romped away and Jody was driving to his limit to maintain a reasonable distance whilst slithering around on inappropriate tyres.
Having built up a fifteen second lead, Gilles pitted on lap 15 for a set of slicks. It took the Ferrari crew merely eighteen seconds to change the tyres and this allowed the local hero through. The problem for Scheckter was that he had abused his tyres in the early laps and with fresher rubber Villeneuve was remorseless in his pursuit. ( Remember this was Ferrari team orders B.S – Before Schumacher! )
Scheckter tried frantically to respond but as he braked for Crowthorne Corner – on lap 49 – he flat-spotted one of the front tyres. The ensuing vibrations were too severe and he pitted three laps later eventually finishing a disappointed 3.4 seconds behind.
Villeneuve is remembered for his outlandish skills and most memories of him are either destructive or balancing on the knife’s edge and yet this was an intelligent drive.
“I waited until the fuel load lightened before pushing the tyres too hard, then when I felt either the front or back tyres starting to go off I adjusted my driving style to bring them back again. Jody came close and if I had made a mistake he could have taken me easily. I decided to keep my cool and hold on.”
I have a suggestion. Let’s ban pit to car radio – make the drivers do the work..