Villeneuve second in final race after Pironi 'betrayal'
The Formula One record books show that Didier Pironi won the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix from Ferrari team mate Gilles Villeneuve. That, however, does not tell the whole story.
In 1981 Villeneuve had suffered a huge crash at the circuit, on the corner that would later carry his name. In 1982 he wanted to make amends and bring the tifosi the Ferrari win they so desperately craved.
1982 was a season of highly charged politics in Formula One racing. Following the exclusion of Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg from the results of the Brazilian Grand Prix for running under weight, several teams decided to boycott the race at Imola and only seven showed up: Ferrari, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Tyrell, ATS, Toleman and Osella.
Qualifying saw the two Renaults take the front row, with Rene Arnoux beating team mate Alain Prost to pole position. The second row was an all red affair with Villeneuve edging out Pironi, ahead of Michele Alboreto in the Tyrrell and the two Alfa Romeos.
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 Ferrari battle of epic proportions as Pironi closed right up on leader Villeneuves tail. As he had led most of the way, Villeneuve believed the win was his and expected an agreement between the drivers and the team not to race each other to be honoured.
Pironi overtook Villeneuve but the French-Canadian was not concerned. He believed Pironi was simply putting on a show for the fans. He duly fought the Frenchman 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 one-two, 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 Villeneuve was killed during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder.