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Formula One Flashback - Imola 1982 17 Apr 2003

The flags flying on top of the Ferrari castle.
San Marino Grand Prix, Rd4, Imola, Italy., 14 April 2002

The 1982 San Marino Grand Prix has gone down in history as an absolutely legendary affair. The records will show that Didier Pironi won from his Ferrari team mate Gilles Villeneuve, but that does not tell the whole story.

In 1981 Gilles Villeneuve had suffered a monstrous crash at the circuit, on the corner that would later carry his name. In 1982 he wanted to make up for the previous year and bring the tifosi the Ferrari win they so desperately craved.

1982 was a season of highly charged politics in Formula One. Following the exclusion of Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg from the results of the Brazilian Grand Prix for running under weight, FOCA teams decided to boycott the race at Imola. Only seven teams showed up for the San Marino Grand Prix: Ferrari, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Tyrell, ATS, Toleman and Osella.

Qualifying saw the two Renaults take the front row, with Rene Arnoux outqualifying Alain Prost. The second row was an all red affair with Villeneuve edging out Pironi, ahead of Michele Alboreto in the Tyrell and the two Alfas.

The race itself was not a classic, the only real excitement coming from the two Renaults breaking down. However, it was in the final laps that the fans were treated to a battle of epic proportions. Didier Pironi closed right up on the tail of his team mate Gilles Villenueve. As he had led most of the race, Villeneuve believed the win was his and expected an agreement between the drivers and the team not to race each other, would be honoured.

Pironi overtook Villeneuve but the French-Canadian was not concerned. He believed Pironi was putting on a show for the fans. He duly fought with Pironi and the lead changed hands a number of times with some daring moves and incredibly late braking.

On the last lap, Villeneuve believed the fighting was over. Pironi however leapt in front of the number 27 car and drove on to victory. It was a Ferrari 1-2, for which the tifosi went wild, but Villeneuve was incensed. He believed the win was his by right. He swore never again to speak to Pironi. He never would.

A fortnight later, during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, Villeneuve was killed in a massive smash. Villeneuve was, and still is, a legend and a hero not just to the tifosi, but to Formula One fans the world over.