Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio
– 1981: Gilles Villeneuve wins legendary Monaco Grand Prix
The 1981 Monaco Grand Prix started later than scheduled due to a fire breaking out in the Lowes Hotel, above the famous tunnel. Firemen had tended to it and put the fire out but the consequence was the water had leaked into the tunnel. The marshals managed to get the track as dry as possible but there still remained an element of danger.
Gilles Villeneuve had qualified second to the Brabham of Nelson Piquet – an incredible performance in a car that Harvey Postlethwaite would describe cumbersome. The powerful Ferrari turbo also suffered turbo lag – a delay in throttle response whilst the turbos spooled up – which all added up to a car that wasn’t suited to the short straights and multiple low speed corners of the Principality. Except no-one had told the French-Canadian…
At the start, Piquet and Villeneuve pulled quickly away and incidents behind them meant that Alan Jones – from seventh on the grid – was up to third by lap 14. He caught Villeneuve quickly who was struggling with his brakes. The harsh delivery of power from the Ferrari engine was needing heavy use of the brakes to rein the car in for the next tight corner.
There was sound reasoning behind this decision, he knew that Jones and Piquet hated each other; in fact in the previous race in Belgium, they had touched and Piquet ended up out of the race. Afterwards the Brazilian was quoted saying “He’s absolutely crazy. The next time he does that I’ll kill him.” Jones was the archetypal no-nonsense Australian ‘bloke’ and found his threat laughable.
Jones began closing on Piquet whilst Villeneuve fell back with brake problems. The field became decimated against the unflinching Monaco barriers and by lap 53 only eight cars remained in the race. On lap 54 Piquet succumbed to the pressure from Alan Jones and crashed whilst trying to lap Eddie Cheever.
Jones took over the lead – thirty seconds ahead and just 22 laps remaining. A problem had been developing and a misfire began to develop which brought the Williams driver into the pits. There were air bubbles in the fuel and nothing could be done to remedy it so he returned to the circuit merely six seconds in front of Villeneuve.
Just four laps from the end Villeneuve attacked the ailing Williams of Jones and passed him into Ste. Devote. With the crowd going wild he drove the last four laps to a 40 second victory over the Williams of Alan Jones.
“It was very hard to drive with the suspension so stiff it was like a go-kart. I bumped my head all the time on the rollbar and now I ache all over. it was one of the most tiring races of my life – but i am very, very happy with this win. when my brakes started to go I had to be very brutal with the car but it lasted ok. I am very lucky today.”