Friday, 23 September 2011

1996 Spanish Grand Prix - Circuit de Catalunya

June 2, 1996

A casual observer may not have enjoyed the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix - a lone red Ferrari putting an ever increasing distance between itself and its pursuers. But to the purest it was spellbinding.

What made it all the more impressive was the fact that at the start of the 1996 season Michael Schumacher appeared to have done the unthinkable by leaving Benetton in the wake of back-to-back world titles. He transferred to Ferrari - a proud name, but in many ways a bare shell of a team. 

He'd been encouraged when he tested the 1995 car, but was hugely disappointed when he'd subsequently tried the new F310, Ferrari's first V-10 powered Formula One car. He knew immediately that he was in for a tough season, and he was right. The Williams-Renault dominated the season with a far superior car. In Spain, however, Ferrari had an unquantifiable edge ... Schumacher. 

Still, Schumacher finished the warm-up 0.86 seconds shy of polesitter Damon Hill (Williams-Renault), almost the same margin he'd been adrift in Saturday's dry qualifying session where he claimed third on the starting grid. Then he took a calculated gamble. He told the team he wanted a full wet set-up with light tanks. Two stops. 

1996 Spanish GP - Schumacher's bold gamble was pivotal.

Normally in the wet, the strategy is to go to the grid with a heavy fuel load for maximum strategic flexibility. A wet set-up means the car is softened right off on the springs and bars, making its response to the driver's actions more gentle - reducing the risk of a small mistake turing into a terminal, high-speed incident. More wing is cranked on to produce more downforce int he corners, assisting the tyres to grip and disperse more water. The problem, of course, is that if the track dries, the driver will lose out hand over fist to a car that started on a stiffer set-up. Furthermore, the tyres will start to wear horribly quickly.

But start on compromise settings and you obviously don't go as well in the wet. So it is a grey art: if you anticipate a drying track, you run as hard (dry) a set-up as the driver can cope with in the rain.

Hill seemed to hesitate when the lights went out, trailing Villeneuve and Alesi into the first turn, but his getaway was scintillating compared with Schumacher's. The Ferrari appeared almost to stall, before stumbling away. "My start was a disaster," Michael said. "I went for the clutch, and there was nothing. I nearly stalled, then tried it again. Fortunately, no one went into the back of me." By the time he got things sorted out he was ninth going into the Elf right-hander. He quickly recovered however, and had passed three cars before the end of the first lap.

1996 Spanish GP - After a poor start Schumacher storms to the front.

Thereafter, his progress was mesmeric. Eddie Irvine (Ferrari) spun out of fifth and when Damon Hill (Williams-Renault) ran on to the grass a couple of laps later, Schumacher was up to fourth. On lap five he passed Gerhard BErger (Benetton-Renault), lapped two seconds quicker than anyone else and closed to within six seconds of the lead. Next time around he was 3.7 seconds faster than race leader Jacques Villeneuve (Williams-Renault) and second-place man Jean Alesi (Benetton-Renault).

The German was using totally different lines to everyone else, sweeping wide to avoid the more frequently used, rubber permeated areas of the track and thus maximizing what precious little grip was available. On lap 9 Schumacher swept around the outside of the tightening fourth gear Renault right-hander and did the same out of Repsol. He sliced his way past Alesi, into second, and on lap 12 he overtook Villeneuve, too, at precisely the same place. On each occasion, he left his braking late, poked the nose of the Ferrari inside, leaving neither Jean nor Jacques an opportunity to resist. The moves were exquisitely judged and by the end of lap 12, he was three seconds clear.

Just two laps later Schumacher posted the fastest lap of the race, some four seconds quicker than Villeneuve and Alesi. By lap 24, Schumacher was in for his first stop. In the twelve laps he led the race he opened a 40 second gap. Before he stopped again, on lap 42, the margin was widened further to 90 seconds, despite a sick sounding engine.

1996 Spanish GP - Schumacher effortlessly passes Villeneuve for the lead.
"It started on lap 33," Michael said, "and I thought I was running on eight or nine cylinders. I guessed it was probably caused by the water, but I was worried. Normally I'm flat in sixth on the straight, but suddenly I wasn't even hitting the limiter in fifth."

In actual fact his engine was on nine cylinders for a time, but this cured itself and the main problem was a broken exhaust. Nevertheless, through the most appalling wet conditions Schumacher scored his first success for the Prancing Horse. A truly brilliant one, too. He all but drowned Ferrari's sporting director Jean Todt on Moet on the podium.

"I wouldn't have bet a penny on myself winning this race," he said after the race. "In Brazil the car didn't handle and it hadn't felt good in the wet warm-up at Monaco. I've no explaination other than that it is very sensitive to the circuit. Here, we hadn't been competitive in the dry, but suddenly, in the wet warm-up, it felt great. We made a few more changes afterwards and it was perfect."

1996 Spanish GP - Schumacher and Ferrari would soon dominate F1.
It was, in truth, one of the great wet weather drives in history. The set-up and strategy may have been perfect, but this was as good a drive as Michael Schumacher had ever delivered. And that's saying something. The highest praise came from the opposition.

Renault's Bernard Dudot said with a smile "Today, Schumacher was brilliant and nobody could do anything to stop him. We had no engine problems!" And Williams senior operations engineer James Robinson added: "I don't think the Ferrari was that brilliant. It looked like it was on ice to me. That guy is something else. It was pretty amazing." 

Amazing was about the only way you could describe it.

Monday, 5 September 2011

1988 Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka

October 30, 1988

In the summer of 1987 Ayrton Senna finally sealed a three-year deal to drive for the McLaren team from the start of the 1988 season. Former McLaren team driver John Watson found himself chatting with Senna about his prospects with McLaren during the summer of 1987. The conversation worked around to how Ayrton would handle competing alongside Alain Prost, by then in his fourth season with the team and already the winner of two World Championship titles.
Drawing on his experience of running beside Niki Lauda in the McLaren squad, Watson offered the young Brazilian his opinion that the best way to deal with Prost would be by stealth rather than by engineering a head-to-head confrontation. Senna listened politely, then surprised Watson by telling him that he had other ideas.

"He told me he would beat Prost by being fitter, more motivated and more dedicated," Watson recalled later. "He said he would make sure he was in a position to drive faster, more consistently, and for longer than Prost could. He meant to beat him convincingly from the front, and I recall thinking, Well that seems a little optimistic."

1988 Prost & Senna - The two premier drivers would battle for the title.
Alain Prost was indeed a potent and formidable adversary, not to be taken lightly. He had, after all, won two of the previous three World Championships and at that time he had won more Grands Prix than anyone in history. Beating him would never be easy and while it was fairly obvious that Ayrton had the natural talent to confront him within the same team, with equal machinery, overcoming the mental barrier of actually transcending Prost would prove to be the biggest hurdle.

As the cornerstone of his impending strategy Ayrton Senna made qualifying a speciality which no-one could hope to match in 1988, not even Alain Prost. Nowhere was this more clearly demonstrated than at Monaco where his pole position lap, the 19th of his five year career, was a scarcely believable 1.6 seconds faster than the Frenchman! To outpace a team-mate of Prost's stature by such a margin was absolutely astounding and up until then ... unheard of.

At Monaco, being on the front row can be a decisive advantage and Senna made effective use of his pole position. The Brazilian made a brilliant getaway while his team-mate faltered. Out of the Ste Devote chicane it was Senna ... then Gerhard Berger (Ferrari) who had snatched second place from Prost. At the end of the opening lap, Senna had pulled out a 2.5 second lead.

Though Prost drew level with Berger several times under braking for Ste Devote, and even pushed his McLaren's nose in front, his efforts looked fruitless, perhaps even reckless. When, at last, the Frenchman managed to wrestle second place from Berger, Senna was 48 seconds in front. Prost posted a couple of fast laps, but then when Senna responded with the fastest laps of the race thus far, Prost radioed to his pit and said that he would settle for second place.

"When they told me that Alain had overtaken Berger, I went faster for a few laps," Senna would say later. Team chief Ron Dennis, then called Senna to inform him that Prost would not be trying to attack. Only a few laps later, Senna's car bounced off the guardrail on the inside of the right-handed Portier corner and then smashed into the barriers on the outside of the corner.

1988 Monaco GP - The biggest step in Senna's career.
He trudged away expressionless, numb and he went directly to his nearby apartment. There he promptly fell asleep without even calling his team. On reflection, he concluded that the accident had been his fault, for heeding Dennis' advice and slowing down. "It was my mistake," he said "by going slow I lost concentration."

Given the fact that it was Senna's avowed intent, when he went to McLaren, to prove to everyone that he was beyond doubt the next World Champion, the shock of Monaco must have been immense on his psyche. It would have buried the confidence of most, especially considering that on points, Alain now led Ayrton in the Championship 24 to 9 and making up a 15 point deficit on Prost would not be the work of a moment. Hard to believe as it was, but after only three of sixteen races, Senna may have already lost the 1988 World Championship at Portier that Sunday.

Ayrton, however, was never one to give up and it was belief in himself (to do even what seemed impossible) that would eventually make him one of the truly greatest racing drivers of all time. He was able to shake off the disappointment of Monaco and came back even stronger and more determined, winning six of the next eight races. As the calendar approached the Japanese Grand Prix, with only two rounds remaining in the Championship, Senna had trimmed Prost's lead in the standings to 5 points.

In 1988 drivers counted their best eleven finishes towards the Championship and if Senna could win in Japan he would clinch the World Driver’s Championship no matter what Prost did. This straightforward scenario seemed to be perfect for Senna. He seemed to be created for such a task … grab pole, go faster than anyone and win. 

1988 Japanese GP - A victory would seal the Championship for Senna.
Ayrton duly took the pole at Suzuka, which was almost a given since, in the end, he would win the pole position in all, save three races, of the 1988 season. Prost joined him on the front row with Gerhard Berger (Ferrari) and Ivan Capelli (March-Judd) occupying the second row. 

It was unfortunate that, amid the excitement and anticipation of the moment, the politeness of Suzuka’s efficient organizers was tested to the full by none other than FIA President Jean-Marie Balestre. His first gaffe was to send a letter to the president of Honda Motors reminding him (as if such were necessary) that both Senna and Prost should be provided with identical engines: “otherwise the image of the World Championship would be tarnished.” An ominous precursor to the behaviour of Monsieur Balestre, and an ironic choice of words, given how his actions would reflect on the World Championships of 1989 and 1990.

Politics aside, the stage was set then for the epic showdown that would decide the World Championship. However, moments after the start of the Grand Prix it seemed almost unthinkable that Ayrton Senna would win the championship in Japan. The benefits of his hard-earned pole position, evaporated when his Honda engine died. Prost whizzed by to grab the lead, while on the grid behind there were numerous heart-stopping moments as fast moving cars swerved around the seemingly stricken number 12 McLaren. 

“It was the only start I missed all year – and it was the most important,” Senna would relate later. “When I dropped the clutch, the engine died, and then when I got it going, it did it again. I thought: I am going to have to drive as hard as I can, but it will be impossible to catch Alain.”

Senna’s car was fourteenth at the second corner, and one couldn’t help but recall his mental lapse at Monaco. Surely the situation he was in now was impossible. His vastly experienced team-mate was out in front, with the same dominant equipment and twelve competitors between them. After fighting so hard all season to put himself back into contention for the title it is easy to imagine how demoralizing this must have been. Any other drive would have mentally packed it in, but Senna was not like that, and as only he could, he began to fight back. By the end of the first lap he was eighth. 

“I found my rhythm and started to go quicker and quicker,” Senna recalled. “Then some drizzle came, so everybody slowed, and that helped me.” Indeed in the slippery conditions Senna’s special brand of skill and daring brought him dramatically closer to his team-mate. Patrese (Williams-Judd), Boutsen (Benetton-Ford), and Alboreto (Ferrari) were all comparatively easy prey – it took three laps to dispose of them, but by then third placed Berger was 9.4 seconds in front.

The gap melted to nothing in five laps, as Berger did his best to stay within the limits of his Ferrari’s fuel gauge. Once past the red car, Senna’s sternest rival would be the excellent Ivan Capelli, who had taken his March past Berger on the sixth lap. At the moment when Senna started to cut into the margin separating him from Capelli, the Italian was giving Prost a hard time. For one glorious moment the sea-green March actually nosed in front of the McLaren in front of the pits, but his normally aspirated Judd just could not match the turbo-charged Honda and Alain maintained the lead.

Senna Closes In - Prost's advantage at the start melts away. 
Prost would not be able to resist Senna so easily. “Ayrton was very strong and motivated, and I knew it would be difficult,” said the Frenchman. “I had a good opportunity when he missed the start, and I controlled the race. Then I had some traffic – and also a gearbox problem – I was missing one gearshift maybe every two or three laps. I am very frustrated and it was disappointing that I lost maybe eight seconds in two laps compared with Ayrton. He overtook me when I had traffic.”

Once in front of Prost, a jubilant Senna allowed the remaining 23 laps to tick away without effort. When a second rain shower damped the circuit in the last five laps, Senna victory was assured. There was certainly no mistaking his elation that he felt as he crossed the line, punching the sky with both arms, to win.

Ayrton had pulled off the unimaginable, with a stupefying performance. He won the Championship in the best possible fashion, beating the dominant driver of the day fair and square despite the huge obstacles that were thrown his way. After his victory at Estoril in 1985, he was given the nickname “Magic” and at the Japanese Grand Prix in 1988 he proved how appropriate that nickname truly was.

In the press conference afterwards, Senna was more open, more frank than usual. “I feel as if I’ve lost a great weight off my shoulders,” he said. “I feel very light and pleased. Many times people ask me which was my best race, and up until now it was always Portugal in ’85 in the rain, my first win. But this one is the best one now, for sure.”

“Generally, people don’t realize how hard it is for us to come from behind. There were so many back markers and they were so difficult.” As it happens, one of those who didn’t make it easy for Senna was Prost himself. The passing manoeuvre that gave Senna the lead, and with it the championship, took place as they passed the pits, Senna chose to pass on the inside, and Prost who occupied the middle of the circuit showed no readiness at all to concede. Senna completed the pass in the dirt. 

Senna saved the biggest revelation for a question about his now celebrated mistake at Monaco. “I can talk about it now,” he said. “Monaco was the turning point of the Championship for me. The mistake I made in Monte Carlo woke me up psychologically, mentally, and I changed a lot after that mistake. And that gave me the strength and the power and the cool mind to fight on critical situations.”

“That was when I had the biggest step in my career as a racing driver, as a professional and as a man. I have to say that it brought me even closer to God than I’ve ever been, and that has changed my life completely.”

1988 Japanese GP - Senna and a great weight lifted.
As much as the events during the Grand Prix reminded us of why we love Formula One, Monsieur Balestre's bias and favouritism reminded us afterwards of how loathsome certain aspects of the series can be. On Sunday afternoon, having heard of Prost’s gearshift difficulties, he rang FISA officials at Suzuka to demand that the offending gearbox be stripped down. This led to the amusing sight of six FISA officials, none of whom knew the difference between a pinion and a potato, trying to make sense of dozens of gearbox parts scattered over the paddock tarmac.

In contrast to the deluded world of Jean-Marie Balestre, Ayrton Senna’s victory in Japan was something real. I truly admired him for readily admitting his shortcomings and making no excuses for his mistake at Monaco. It would have been easy to massage his ego with his eight victories, his thirteen pole positions or his world crown, but it was his ability to make himself stronger through adversity that made me respect him even more. Facing challenges seemed to unlock an even higher level of performance from him, and the more difficult the challenge he faced, the more inspired a performance he could deliver.

This was Ayrton Senna’s “Magic” … this is what made him special, this is what made him the greatest driver of his era.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

1979 French Grand Prix - Circuit de Dijon-Prenois

July 1, 1979

Renault's first Formula One race in the modern era was at Silverstone for the 1977 British Grand Prix. They entered a single car for Jean-Pierre Jabouille. What made this particular entry so notable, was the fact that the Renault RS01 carried a Renault-Gordini V6 turbocharged engine which was the first such engine to be used with any regularity in Formula One history.

1977 Jabouille - The fast, but fragile RS01
The car proved extremely fragile. So much so that the British teams cheekily dubbed it the Yellow Teapot because of its tendency to retire from Grands Prix billowing smoke from the engine. It suffered mechanical failures in all five of the races it entered that season. While reliability was clearly an issue the car was able to demonstrate an impressive speed capability and Renault stayed committed to developing the technology. Solving the turbo puzzle proved difficult and it wasn’t until 1979 when they introduced their new RS10 ground effects car (which now had a Renault-Gordini V6 with a twin turbo configuration) that the team began to show progress. That season Renault had expanded the team to two drivers with René Arnoux joining Jabouille.

The team was a national undertaking. Not only was Renault France’s largest automobile manufacturer, the team also partnered with Elf Fuel and Michelin tyres. So when the Grand Prix circus arrived at the Dijon-Prenois circuit it was clear that this was not just another race on the calendar for Renault.

Dijon, abounding in fast corners and with a steep uphill haul towards the end of the lap, is a circuit where horsepower counts for more than anything else. With the twin-turbo Jabouille was fastest from the very beginning of practice and he took a comfortable pole. Less readily anticipated, though, was the presence of René Arnoux's sister Renault on the front row. In the matter of sheer pace, the yellow cars stood alone.

Only Gilles Villeneuve (Ferrari) came closest to disrupting the Renaults dominance during qualifying. Behind the French-Canadian was Nelson Piquet (Braham-Alfa Romeo), Jody Scheckter (Ferrari), and Niki Lauda (Brabham-Alfa Romeo).

The crowd on race day was predictably of epic proportions, variously estimated at between 100,000 and 120,000. They were there in droves to lend their support to the yellow of Renault. Even the Gods seemed to be doing their bit for the home side. After the blistering, if clouded, heat during practice and qualifying, race day was overcast and cool - in other words, perfect turbo weather. All the omens seemed to be pointing in one direction.
Gilles Villeneuve

With all of this stacked against him, Villeneuve, knew the start would be critical. “For me, it is very important to get a good start,” he said on Sunday morning. “Somehow I must at least split the Renaults on the first lap.” He did better than that. When the green light blinked. the Ferrari lit up its tyres and catapulted away. Arnoux, on the front row, very nearly stalled his car, and that was all the gap Gilles needed. Jabouille had got away reasonably well, but it was not enough to hold the Ferrari. Villeneuve led the pack into the first corner, intent on forcing the issue from the outset. All the way round that lap, the Ferrari was on the ragged edge, but the policy was working out. Gilles was leaving them behind.

As the T4 completed lap one in the lead, it was followed by Jabouille, Scheckter, Piquet, Jean-Pierre Jarier (Tyrrell-Ford), who had made a sensational start from row five, Lauda, Jacques Laffite (Ligier-Ford), Alan Jones (Williams-Ford) and - back in ninth spot - Arnoux. After two laps, Villeneuve's lead was over two seconds and growing, but Arnoux was already giving notice of the Renault's potential, dispensing with Jones and Laffite in a single lap. After another, he was past Lauda. 

Rene Arnoux
At five laps, Villeneuve was more than four seconds to the good, with Jabouille steadily dropping Scheckter. Piquet ran fourth, with Jarier fifth, but the Tyrrell was swiftly passed by Arnoux, who needed only another five laps to displace the Brabham.

At the front, Villeneuve's progress was remarkable, but one wondered if he might regret the early charge when tyre wear became critical in the second half of the race. “I am not interested in three or four points,” he had said on Sunday morning. "This is one I want to win, nothing less.”

Although maintaining his five-second lead, it was clear that Villeneuve's Ferrari was making its driver work. The Renault, by contrast, looked as smooth as silk. If Jabouille was content to let Villeneuve lead, Arnoux clearly had very definite ideas about coming to grips with Scheckter, and the South African surrendered without a fight on lap 14. Ferrari, Renault, Renault, Ferrari. Quite suddenly it became obvious that Villeneuve's strategy, while the only one open to him, was not going to work out after all, for Jabouille was closing relentlessly, sometimes by as much as half a second a lap. The two of them were now well clear of the rest, who were led comfortably by Arnoux.

1979 French GP - Jabouille relentlessly pursues Villeneuve.
Jabouille was right up with Villeneuve after 30 laps, and the spectators really began to believe that perhaps a French victory might be at hand. Villeneuve was not about to wave Jabouille by, however, and a combination of lucky breaks with lapped traffic, handled with good deal of verve, pulled the Ferrari's lead out to four seconds again.

“For the second half of the race, my car was all over the place,” said Villeneuve later, this being the price of his early charge. On right-handers, he added, it was oversteering, and on left turns, the very opposite. So when Jabouille moved in once more, Gilles had no worthwhile cards left to play.

On lap 46, Jean-Pierre made his move, diving past the Ferrari at the end of the pit straight. “I remember being told early in my career that it was essential, after overtaking, to go as quick as possible for three or four laps afterwards,” he said afterwards. “It demoralizes the guy behind. That was good advice. and I really went hard for a while.” 

1979 French GP - Once past the Ferrari, Jabouille builds a gap.
In five laps the Renault went three seconds clear. Now the driver had only to keep going, keep praying that this time it would all come right.

Stalemate appeared to sum up the dying laps. Jabouille was a quarter of a minute to the good, with Villeneuve similarly ahead of Arnoux. Jones ran a solid, now lonely fourth, and Jarier appeared to have the measure of Clay Regazzoni (Williams-Ford).

And now it was that the race came alive. The question of victory was never in doubt, of course, for Jabouille had all well in hand. But even he was not without problems. “In the last 30 laps, my brake pedal went 'hard', and required a tremendous effort to push it. For the last few laps, I was in a lot of pain with my right leg, and I don't believe I could have continued for much longer.” Jean-Pierre's problems, however, were as nothing compared with those confronting Villeneuve, whose tyres were now quickly approaching the end of their life's work. The Ferrari's pace had slowed appreciably; and at the same time, René Arnoux, fighter that he was gave the Renault everything he had, closing in on Villeneuve at a simply prodigious rate, something around a second and a half a lap.

With ten laps left, Gilles's position appeared hopeless, for Arnoux was only five seconds back and, as we had seen earlier in the race, he quite obviously had no trouble in passing people.

Five laps to go, and the two cars were almost nose, to-tail, spectators now on their feet, willing Arnoux on screaming frenzied support. Villeneuve surely could not withstand the Renault for long, for surely Arnoux was now quite inspired, swept along by the moment.

On lap 71 he had gone round in 1:09.16, more than a second faster than any other driver in the race! And some measure of Villeneuve's determination was that he, too, set his fastest lap of the race at the same time, hobbled by tyre wear or no. On lap 77, Jabouille went through, then a horde of backmarkers, then ... delirium from the stands, Arnoux was in front! It was going to be a Renault one-two. At the end of the pit straight, he had calmly out-braked Villeneuve and snatched second place. And that, so it appeared, was that. Gilles had gallantly carried the battle to the Renaults and the gamble had failed. Torque - and a healthy dose of French pride - had beaten him. But Villeneuve was not like that. He had sensed that something was slightly amiss with Amoux's car. “When René passed me, I expected him to run away down the straight, just as Jabouille had done, but the gap stayed the same. I couldn't close on him, but he wasn't getting away.”

Arnoux's fuel pick-up was faltering slightly in the last few minutes. “I thought I would try to get him back as quick as possible, because he wouldn't expect it. At the end of the pit straight, I wasn't really close enough, but I dove for the inside and left my braking really, really late ...” 

1979 French GP - The epic duel between Villeneuve & Arnoux.
With smoke from all four tyres, the Ferrari scrambled inside the Renault, and the two cars rounded the tight right-hander side by side. During those remaining 7 or 8 kilometers (4 or 5 mi.), no one really knows how many times they banged wheels, slid wide, went off the track, rejoined it, touched again. It was desperate in a manner not often seen in Grand Prix racing, condemned by some as irresponsible, lauded by more as heroic.

The downhill left-hander into the loop is not a place for overtaking, nor even for lapping unless the back marker is unusually charitable. It follows a top gear right-hander, which dictates line astern formation Therefore, it was with considerable surprise to witness the Ferrari and the Renault emerge absolutely side by side on the last lap. Down through the left they plunged, Arnoux sliding out into Villeneuve, both cars getting way out of line on the exit.

René led up to the hairpin, but Gilles asked one more favour from his exhausted Michelins, braked later than late, and snatched back the place. Desperately Arnoux tried another counterattack, but Villeneuve was not giving way now. Across the line they went, the Ferrari in front. 

There was total pandemonium. As they cruised round the slowing down lap Gilles and René saluted each other, and when they stopped, they jumped from their cars, shook hands and embraced after the race of their lives. There were no recriminations from either man.

"No," grinned Arnoux, "I am not sad to be third. I enjoyed the race very much, and Gilles drove a fantastic race. Most of all, I am pleased for Jean-Pierre. C'est justice!"

"C'est justice!" - Renault and Jabouille achieve the first turbo victory.
"I tell you, that was really fun," said Villeneuve, merry as ever. "I thought for sure we were going to get on our heads, you know, because when you start interlocking wheels it's very easy for one car to climb over another. But we didn't crash, and it's OK. Tired? Not really, I feel I could go another 40 laps, maybe..."

The same could not be said of his tyres.

Truly a race to remember, a first win for Renault, their turbo and Jean-Pierre Jabouille. And there lay the tragedy. He had driven magnificently, finished the race exhausted. The winner, French in a French car in France, however, it is the legendary battle for second place that this race will always be remembered for. Being a Canadian, Gilles Villeneuve was a childhood hero of mine. I admired him for his strong and true character, but I loved him for his racing. In 1979 at Dijon is why I and many Canadians to this day will never forget Gilles Villeneuve. He was one of the very best drivers to ever race in Formula One.