Germany 1982 - bittersweet win for Ferrari 29 Jul 2003
Following the death of Gilles Villeneuve in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, Ferrari could hardly have expected its 1982 season to get any worse. However, it did exactly that just three months later when Didier Pironi came close to losing his life at Hockenheim.
Pironi, who had been not only Villeneuve's team mate, but also his bitterest rival (Villeneuve had sworn never to speak to him again after Pironi defied team orders to snatch victory from him at Imola earlier that season), had carried Ferrari's honour admirably in the wake of the tragedy, and led the drivers' championship going into the German Grand Prix.
His strong form continued at Hockenheim as he proceeded to take pole position in Friday's dry qualifying session, the Frenchman going almost a second quicker than closest rival, Alain Prost. However, with Saturday came rain and, unsighted by heavy spray in practice, Pironi tagged the rear of Prost's Renault with disastrous consequences.
The Ferrari instantly became airborne, and then landed tail first before cart wheeling down the track. It eventually came to rest on its wheels, but only after ploughing head-on into the barriers. The injuries to Pironi's legs meant he would never race in Formula One again, despite numerous operations to repair the damage.
Sunday's race started with Pironi's grid slot left vacant; hence Prost was effectively on pole. Behind him on the second row were the second Renault of Rene Arnoux and Nelson Piquet's Brabham. When the lights changed Piquet was immediately the man on the move, seizing the lead by the end of lap two and then quickly pulling away from Arnoux and Prost.
Behind them was the sole Ferrari of Patrick Tambay and with the Italian team's hopes resting on his shoulders alone, he was charging hard, making his way past both Renaults within the opening ten laps. Catching Piquet was going to be tougher, but in the end he didn't have to, the Brazilian retiring after a coming together with backmarker Eliseo Salazar on lap 18.
From then on Tambay never looked back and took the chequered flag over 15 seconds clear of Arnoux, with Keke Rosberg clinching third place for Renault. It was Tambay's first Grand Prix win and gave Ferrari a much-needed, albeit brief, lift after such a difficult weekend.
The victory would also prove crucial to Ferrari's title aspirations for that year. Tambay drove solo for the team at the next round in Austria, finishing fourth, before withdrawing from the Swiss Grand Prix due to injury. Only for the final two races did he get a new team mate in the form of American veteran Mario Andretti. Between them they did just enough to bring the team the 1982 constructors' title, Ferrari beating McLaren by just five points.