30 years ago: Villeneuve’s last and best F1 win

1981 Spanish Grand Prix flashback

Frank Williams, Alan Jones, Patrick Head, Carlos Reuteman, Williams, Jarama, 1981

Frank Williams, Alan Jones, Patrick Head, Carlos Reuteman, Williams, Jarama, 1981

Gilles Villeneuve’s victory at Jarama on this day in 1981 was instantly recognised as one of the great Grand Prix wins.

Villeneuve resisted constant pressure for 67 laps to win in what was clearly an inferior car.

It was his final triumph before his untimely death the following year. And it was a win that would simply be impossible to repeat today.

Last race at Jarama

The previous year’s Spanish Grand Prix had lost its status as a world championship event amid the bitter wrangling between the teams’ association, FOCA, and the governing body, FISA.

History nearly repeated itself in the run-up to the 1981 edition. The race organisers attempted to allow local driver Emileo de Villota into the race with his Williams FW07, usurping one of the ATS entries, which they claimed had arrived late.

The race organisers backed down when it was made clear to them the race would be stripped of its world championship status if de Villota was allowed to participate.

The Jarama circuit, north of Madrid, held the Spanish Grand Prix for the last time in 1981. It may have been designed by John Hugenholz, the man behind the popular Suzuka and Zandvoort, but Jarama’s compact, narrow layout was comprised mainly of slow corners and somewhat unloved.

Denis Jenkinson, writing in Motor Sport, complained about a “Mickey Mouse” circuit with “pretentious corner names, like Nuvolari, Ascari, Varzi, Bugatti etc…” This was to be the final race at the track and the last Spanish Grand Prix until Jerez arrived on the calendar five years later.

“It’s like a fast, red Cadillac”

Jarama’s few quick bends exposed the handling deficiencies of the Ferrari 126CK. “You put on new tyres, and it’s OK for four laps,” said Villeneuve.

“After that, forget it. It’s just like a fast, red Cadillac, wallowing all over the place”.

An impressive qualifying effort put him seventh on the grid, eight-tenths of a second faster than his team mate. Didier Pironi was beset by turbo problems – Ferrari had followed Renault’s lead in using 1.5-litre turbocharged engines in 1981.

Directly behind Villeneuve was Nelson Piquet, mystified by the unusually poor handling of his Brabham.

The Williams were running true to form near the head of the field but for the third year in a row at Jarama the grid was headed by Jacques Laffite’s Ligier.

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1981 Spanish Grand Prix grid

Row 1 1. Jacques Laffite 1’13.754
Ligier-Matra
2. Alan Jones 1’14.024
Williams-Cosworth
Row 2 3. Carlos Reutemann 1’14.342
Williams-Cosworth
4. John Watson 1’14.657
McLaren-Cosworth
Row 3 5. Alain Prost 1’14.669
Renault
6. Bruno Giacomelli 1’14.897
Alfa-Romeo
Row 4 7. Gilles Villeneuve 1’14.987
Ferrari
8. Mario Andretti 1’15.159
Alfa-Romeo
Row 5 9. Nelson Piquet 1’15.355
Brabham-Cosworth
10. Elio de Angelis 1’15.399
Lotus-Cosworth
Row 6 11. Nigel Mansell 1’15.562
Lotus-Cosworth
12. Riccardo Patrese 1’15.627
Arrows-Cosworth
Row 7 13. Didier Pironi 1’15.715
Ferrari
14. Andrea de Cesaris 1’15.850
McLaren-Cosworth
Row 8 15. Keke Rosberg 1’15.924
Fittipaldi-Cosworth
16. Patrick Tambay 1’16.355
Theodore-Cosworth
Row 9 17. Rene Arnoux 1’16.406
Renault
18. Hector Rebaque 1’16.527
Brabham-Cosworth
Row 10 19. Jean-Pierre Jabouille 1’16.559
Ligier-Matra
20. Eddie Cheever 1’16.641
Tyrrell-Cosworth
Row 11 21. Chico Serra 1’16.782
Fittipaldi-Cosworth
22. Derek Daly 1’16.979
March-Cosworth
Row 12 23. Siegfried Stohr 1’17.294
Arrows-Cosworth
24. Eliseo Salazar 1’17.822
Ensign-Cosworth

Six drivers failed to qualify and joined de Villota on the sidelines: Michele Alboreto (Tyrrell), Beppe Gabbiai (Osella), Slim Borgudd (ATS), Brian Henton (Toleman), Derek Warwick (Toleman) and Giorgio Francia (Osella).

Jones throws the lead away

Laffite bogged down at the start and was swamped by the chasing pack, slipping from first to 12th while the two Williamses sprinted into the lead. As they completed the first lap cars one and two were first and second, Alan Jones leading Carlos Reutemann.

Several cars had been creeping forward as the red lights turned to green. Villeneuve’s wasn’t one of them – but he made a blistering getaway to clinch third place.

Flogging his Michelins for all they were worth, Villeneuve quickly mounted an attack on Reutemann. Coming from an improbable distance behind at the start of lap two he thrust his way around the outside of the Williams into second place.

Reutemann must have sat back and consoled himself with the thought that the Ferrari’s tyres would go off before long. They hadn’t been holding up well and it was a particularly sweltering day in Spain.

This handed Jones a massive opportunity: he was leading, with rival Piquet out of the points in seventh, and his even bigger rival, Reutemann, now bottled up behind Villeneuve. A win, nine points and a reduced deficit to Reutemann in the championship beckoned.

But Jones made an error similar to that of a footballer bearing down on an empty goal who somehow contrives to chip the ball over the crossbar. He inexplicably spun off at the start of the 14th lap at Ascari, handing the lead to Villeneuve.

Laffite battles back

Laffite began his recovery, passing Riccardo Patrese, Bruno Giacomelli and Didier Pironi to move up to seventh. The Piquet collided with Mario Andretti, promoting Laffite to fifth.

Alain Prost was the next to drop out, spinning on lap 29, elevating Laffite to fourth.

Now chasing John Watson, the pair come upon Laffite’s team mate Jean-Pierre Jabouille – and Laffite seized an opportunity to pass, taking third on lap 49. Jabouille, struggling to recover from the leg injuries he suffered in a crash the previous year, retired from F1 after the chequered flag.

Traffic was proving a serious concern on the short, tight circuit. Laffite and Watson reeled in Reutemann, who was having to hold his car in third gear at times as he chased Villeneuve. As they filed past Eliseo Salazar, Laffite squeezed past Reutemann and Watson followed him by.

Villeneuve hangs on

http://youtu.be/w4ZnWYiCywo

Villeneuve carefully reduced the pace, taking all the time he needed in the slow corners where he couldn’t be passed, and using the Ferrari’s prodigious grunt to blast away on the straights. He held up the cars behind him to the extent that they stopped gaining on the next car to be lapped, Giacomelli’s Alfa Romeo.

Villeneuve’s defending was thorough but scrupulously fair: no sudden moves, no chops. He positioned his Ferrari carefully and played his one strong card – its straight-line speed – to perfection on every lap.

The cars behind were tripping over themselves in an effort to pass. Elio de Angelis’s Lotus caught up, making it a five-car train.

Laffite threw everything he had at the Ferrari but Villeneuve resisted him to the end. The five cars crossed the finishing line almost as one, separated by just 1.24 seconds.

“It wasn’t a race, it was a show,” complained Reutemann. “It was very slow, ridiculous, but there was nothing you could do.”

Villeneuve’s defensive tactics meant the average speed for the race was 3mph slower than it had been the year before.

It was a remarkable win – and one that would have been utterly impossible had his rivals had DRS.

1981 Spanish Grand Prix result

Pos Car Driver Team Laps Difference / Notes
1 27 Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 80
2 26 Jacques Laffite Ligier 80 0.22
3 7 John Watson McLaren 80 0.58
4 2 Carlos Reutemann Williams 80 1.01
5 11 Elio de Angelis Lotus 80 1.24
6 12 Nigel Mansell Lotus 80 28.58
7 1 Alan Jones Wiliams 80 56.58
8 22 Mario Andretti Alfa Romeo 80 60.8
9 16 Rene Arnoux Renault 80 67.08
10 23 Bruno Giacomelli Alfa Romeo 80 73.65
11 21 Chico Serra Fittipaldi 79 1 Lap
12 20 Keke Rosberg Fittipaldi 78 2 Laps
13 33 Patrick Tambay Theodore 78 2 Laps
14 14 Eliseo Salazar Ensign 77 3 Laps
15 28 Didier Pironi Ferrari 76 4 Laps
16 17 Derek Daly March 75 5 Laps
3 Eddie Cheever Tyrrell 61 Not classified
25 Jean-Pierre Jabouille Ligier 52 Brakes
6 Hector Rebaque Brabham 46 Gearbox
5 Nelson Piquet Brabham 43 Accident
30 Siegfried Stohr Arrows 43 Engine
15 Alain Prost Renault 28 Accident
29 Riccardo Patrese Arrows 21 Brakes
8 Andrea de Cesaris McLaren 9 Accident

BBC highlights of this race are available to UK users here.

Browse all history articles
Image © Williams/LAT

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106 comments on 30 years ago: Villeneuve’s last and best F1 win

  1. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 21st June 2011, 9:16

    Very interesting read. I’d never heard of this victory before (yes, I’m ashamed) but I’ve only really recently started looking back on Gilles’ career. When I read the headline, I was expecting to discover he pulled away and won by 5 laps or something, but this sounds like a masterful drive. In a way, it sums up Gilles, as he was able to push his car to positions it had no right to be in and this is a fine example. But I’d like to know how many laps he managed to keep them behind. Was it as long as half the race, or just the final few laps?

    Either way, I just wish I could have witnessed this era of F1.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st June 2011, 9:19

      He led for 67 laps. For the last 19 of those he had Laffite behind him who was pushing him harder than Reutemann was.

    • xabregas said on 21st June 2011, 11:47

      30 years already!!!!!!!!!
      I´m one of those who started to watch F1 back in late 70´s and i can tell you the reason that took me to watch F1 till today was Villeneuve, he was fantastic, allways on the edge, this jarama race was just an example of that but you have a lot more even if his career went short.
      Great drivers came to F1 after Villeneuve, the list is long but only one looks like him when racing, Hamilton especially this year.
      Worth your time to follow villeune´s career.

      • unocv12 said on 21st June 2011, 12:08

        If this happened today, or in Velencia next time last week in Canada everyone would onthe forums of every F1 related site blasting the regulations for not allowing cars to pass and it being too easy to block and LOOK! Villneuve hardly had to do anything and he stopped anyone from overtaking in clearly faster cars!!! The current F1 regs are horrible. If the cars were more like the ones Senna and Prost drove or even back in the days of Gilles Villenuve then it wouldn’ have happened!!!

        But this is old….

      • kowalsky said on 21st June 2011, 16:03

        i took notice of villeneuve for the first time at the 1982 brazilian gp. He was leading with piquet right behind, and he made a mistake and off he went.
        He was fun to watch, but very hard on the car, tyres etc.
        My type of driver without a doubt, but closer to montoya, than senna or prost in quality.

      • Robbie said on 22nd June 2011, 14:31

        Here, here, xabregas!

    • The Sri Lankan said on 21st June 2011, 22:07

      i wish that they will make a movie on Gilles. He deserves one. i ‘ve heard about one being on the works. but seems like things have stalled

      • Robbie said on 22nd June 2011, 14:33

        Agreed…not sure what has happened to that project but I hope it is still alive and being worked on.

  2. BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st June 2011, 9:19

    Do I sense an agenda here with highlighing how this would have not been possible with the chasing pack having DRS ;-)

    And a great one it is, showing how superb defensive driving is and should stay part of F1!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st June 2011, 9:23

      Do I sense an agenda here with highlighing how this would have not been possible with the chasing pack having DRS

      Perish the thought :-)

      But seriously, this win was worth an article even without that, the DRS angle is just convenient. But nonetheless interesting. There are other examples of drivers in slower cars winning races they “shouldn’t” have – but it’s hard to see how that could happen today.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 21st June 2011, 9:24

        There are other examples of drivers in slower cars winning races they “shouldn’t” have – but it’s hard to see how that could happen today.

        Sure there is: conspire to have one of your drivers crash on a lap that is ideal for your other driver.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st June 2011, 9:26

          I was thinking of more meritorious examples.

          • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 21st June 2011, 13:44

            Would Vettel’s win at Monaco this season count? Sure the Red Bull is the quickest over a single lap, but in race conditions both Alonso and Button were quicker.

          • MahavirShah (@mahavirshah) said on 1st April 2012, 9:30

            Alonso this year? Slower car, Sauber taking 1.2 seconds off per lap. Without the error by Perez. Funny how Ferrari at both times :) !

      • Sasquatsch said on 21st June 2011, 11:10

        Even with DRS it would be hard to overtake Villeneuve. You could block all you wanted those days, compared to today. And since they could drive in each others slipstream because of the ground-effect, there was no need for DRS then.

      • Hairs (@hairs) said on 21st June 2011, 13:34

        I’m sorry, Keith, but I’m going to have to call “bull” on this slant.

        If this sort of defensive driving is impossible in the days of DRS, then I need you to explain why Vettel didn’t get passed in Spain or Monaco.

        Villeneuve’s defending was thorough but scrupulously fair: no sudden moves, no chops. He positioned his Ferrari carefully and played his one strong card – its straight-line speed – to perfection on every lap.

        Change a couple of words:

        Vettel’s defending was thorough but scrupulously fair: no sudden moves, no chops. He positioned his Red Bull carefully and played his one strong card – its cornering speed – to perfection on every lap.

        What’s the difference? If DRS is this “magic button”, then why didn’t Lewis, Alonso, or Button get past him? How long was he out front getting pressured? In the case of Spain, almost start to finish. He didn’t get overtaken. Lewis was in the DRS window for how many laps? The DRS didn’t give the driver behind an unfair advantage that breezed him past with no skill of any kind.

        No doubt your intention is to compare Villneuve’s drive with Schumacher’s in Canada. There are several problems with that.
        Firstly, as your article clearly states, this was a track, like Monaco, where passing was difficult/impossible. Canada is a track where passing happened even in the days of the Wall of Downforce. So that’s one point that makes the comparison moot. Secondly, as is also clearly stated in the article, Villneuve’s rivals had technical problems, were out of position, or made mistakes to seriously lessen the pressure he could be put under, and to gift him the position he found himself in.

        I’m not saying that to take away from Gilles’ win, or his driving – I’m pointing out that your claim that this proves your theories about DRS is entirely wrong. None of the facts match, the situations aren’t comparable, and the claims that people make about what DRS has done are not borne out. Cars and drivers of equal performance are not disadvantaged by DRS. All that happens is that the leading driver doesn’t have an invisible protective wall that stops anyone getting past him. If DRS strips races of driver skill, then so does the Wall.

        I’m going to whip out the question I asked in the forum:

        Driver A and Driver B
        A is ahead, but B is 2 seconds a lap faster. Ignore what the cause is of that speed difference – we don’t care if it’s tyres, weight, skill, aero, anything, it’s not relevant. Assume it’s a spec series, if you want. B is right behind A as they leave a slow corner leading onto a long straight.

        What do you think should happen in this scenario?

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st June 2011, 14:14

          That all rests on the assumption that Vettel had the same performance deficit to his rivals that Villeneuve had, which was clearly not the case.

          That said, if DRS proves as ineffective everywhere else as it was in Spain – i.e., to the point that they might as well turn it off – I won’t be complaining.

          • Hairs (@hairs) said on 21st June 2011, 17:59

            Vettel was still able to keep faster cars behind with defensive driving, though. And the DRS wasn’t a magic tonic that allowed another driver to override his skill and take the place, as it is often painted.

            I still have yet to see DRS allow a slower driver to get past a faster car and stay ahead. Buemi is not going to use DRS to get ahead of Vettel at any point during the year. It’s not an unfair advantage.

            And you still haven’t answered my question. :)

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 21st June 2011, 9:23

      And a great one it is, showing how superb defensive driving is and should stay part of F1!

      Defensive driving hasn’t been a part of Formula 1 for a long time. Aerodynamics negate the need for defesive driving skills. How many times have we see one driver who is clearly faster than the car in front get within one second of that car and make no further progress? Even with the DRS, we’ve seen plenty of examples of this.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st June 2011, 10:05

        Your not serious here, right?

        How was Alonso defending from Schu, and Schu defending from Alonso in 2005 and 2006 and a lot of other races since then not about defending the lead?
        The results in China, this year were about defending the lead, just the DRS and KERS use helped Hamilton to get past in the end.

        Vettel not being fastest in the end, but defending in Canada and Monaco were about defending, until Vettel cracked and made the slight mistake in Canada.

  3. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 21st June 2011, 9:21

    It was a remarkable win – and one that would have been utterly impossible had his rivals had DRS.

    And probably impossible anywhere else on the 1981 calendar (except Monaco). Jarama was slow and processional and just as bad as – if not worse than – Catalunya.

    • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 21st June 2011, 9:26

      Are you saying the win isn’t impressive?

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 21st June 2011, 9:43

        I’m not saying it’s not impressive. I’m saying that the characteristics of Jarama contributed a lot to the result. As the article describes, Villeneuve took his time when he knew he couldn’t be passed, where other drivers might push too hard around the entire circuit. It’s a testament to his ability to read the circuit more than anything else.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st June 2011, 9:59

          Just as the characteristics of Monaco contributed to the results there for some 50 years now!
          A lot of wins by being able to defend on the narrow streets there as well – defensive racing is a good way to win Monaco, if you start close to the front.

          • Fixy (@fixy) said on 21st June 2011, 11:00

            Just as the characteristics of Monaco contributed to the results there for some 50 years now!

            That made me chuckle ;)

        • I suggest you re-watch the race or re-read the article. Especially the part where Gilles past Reutemann for second place.
          You may also want to re-read the entire section which describes how Laffite closed in on Gilles. ‘The characteristics of Jarama’ may be that it is more difficult to pass but clearly not impossible.

    • montreal95 said on 21st June 2011, 10:02

      “except Monaco”

      And guess who had won there? ;)

    • Jarred Walmsley (@jarred-walmsley) said on 21st June 2011, 11:13

      Would it have been impossible though, as the Ferrari had the higher speed on the straight and this being with no engine freeze would his superior straight line speed have still been enough to keep them behind?

      • hohum said on 21st June 2011, 15:33

        Interesting point, Ferrari has always been about the engine, too bad we no longer have engines to be interested in.

  4. Doance (@doance) said on 21st June 2011, 9:28

    Nowadays F1 sounds like an arcade video game. Detection Zones and Activation Points.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 21st June 2011, 9:44

      Then don’t watch it.

      • Fixy (@fixy) said on 21st June 2011, 11:10

        But he’s right – like in Mario Kart (which I like – but F1 should keep apart) if you’re behind you can use a mushroom to pass the driver ahead, if you’re in front you can only use bananas to stop the driver passing you. How many times have I won when I was last at the beginning of the last lap? Because the drivers behind have stronger items (mushrooms, special mushrooms, bullet bills) that are designed so that they can win the race.

        • Herman said on 21st June 2011, 12:09

          Comparing F1 to Mario Kart is exaggerating. I’ve played Mario Kart. In that game, the items are so powerful that the slowest person on the track has a chance of winning. This is impossible in F1. DRS allows the faster car to go past the slower one; if we saw HRTs flying past Red Bulls or something, then you could say one is like the other.

          However, I agree with Doance, even if you agree with it being allowed in F1, terms like “KERS boost button” does sound like a video game term.

  5. Andrew White said on 21st June 2011, 10:31

    If this happened today we would be complaining that it’s impossible to overtake. Because it happened 30 years ago, it’s just seen as a great drive.

    • dennis said on 21st June 2011, 10:39

      Exactly…

      Alonso certainly would have passed Villeneuve… And Hamilton probably would have crashed him out.

      • montreal95 said on 21st June 2011, 10:51

        Utter tosh! It was seen as a great drive in 1981, 1981, 2001 and now in 2011 as well. And yes even in 1981 everyone raved about how difficult it is to overtake and that Jarama circuit is crap. But no one denied that it was a great win by Gilles in the Red Cadillac against much better cars overall.

      • Shrieker (@shrieker) said on 21st June 2011, 20:31

        Alonso should worry about Petrov first.

        lol, fail.

    • Sasquatsch said on 21st June 2011, 11:20

      In those days there were more overtaking actions than the past 20 years (with the exception of this year, because of the tyres and DRS) so yes, it was a great drive.

      With today’s anti-blocking rules (only one move allowed on a straight) it would be a lot harder to stay in front than in 1981. I think it compares to Senna holding of Mansell in Monaco 1992, which also would be almost impossible today.

      Come to think of it, even with the anti-blocking rules the overtakes in the past years are less than when blocking was allowed, so there is something fundamentally wrong with F1 (cars), which DRS can’t cure, but ground-effect can.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st June 2011, 11:40

        With today’s anti-blocking rules (only one move allowed on a straight) it would be a lot harder to stay in front than in 1981.

        I don’t agree at all. Villeneuve’s driving wouldn’t come close to the limit of what’s allowed in terms of defensive driving today.

        • Lindsay said on 21st June 2011, 18:37

          Truer words have never been spoken. Drivers simply didn’t block each other back in the day, that behavior started with Senna.

          In fact, there is an article by Nigel Roebuck in last month’s issue of Motorsport about this exact subject.

        • Sasquatsch said on 27th June 2011, 11:53

          Keith,

          You’re right. After watching the video again I agree that there is hardly any blocking done by Villeneuve.

          Probably just my memory that played tricks on me.

          I still think that DRS wouldn’t have helped Laffite to overtake Villeneuve, just because the straights were too short (or so it seems). Besides DRS with ground-effect would be even more unfair than today, because DRS is introduced because cars cannot ride in each others slipstream. With ground-effect in those days they could.

  6. bosyber said on 21st June 2011, 10:32

    Very nice article. While reading I was also pondering DRS and this result, I wonder if anyone going for DRS was.

    The racing in Barcelona this year was a bit like that though, even with DRS (well, opposite, with Vettel being fast in the corners, I suppose). Vettel was a bit slower, probably, over a lap, but he made sure to use his advantage in the place where it counted.

    Even with DRS, we do see great defensive driving, it just means that it takes longer before the DRS works, and is complicated by having to make sure the DRS isn’t effective, so it is harder to make it happen, and more depending (possibly) on your car and set up.

  7. montreal95 said on 21st June 2011, 10:42

    Keith I understand you’re against DRS and your reasons for it. Don’t agree but understand. However this is a very unfair comparison you’ve made here. To claim that the reason such a win would’ve been impossible today cause of DRS is to ignore some very important factors:

    1) The cars could’ve followed each other much more closely then without the aerodynamic interference of nowadays cars. Even at Jarama there were many overtakes during that race and it’s a testament to Gilles skill that he managed to hold off Laffite when so many others have fallen to him. So Laffite didn’t have DRS but he also didn’t have the terrible turbulence to fight with.

    2) The circuit-Jarama is in many ways like Monaco. As PM rightly said above such a win would’ve been impossible on any other track in the 1981 season bar Monaco. This is possibly an even more important factor than car performance.
    And look what happened in Monaco this year. Yes I know everyone says? Button or Alonso or both would’ve probably overtaken Vettel if not for the red flag. But I’m pretty sure that everyone who saw Jarama 1981 live said to himself that Laffite would overtake Gilles sooner or later. Vettel COULD’VE held them off, even with the DRS, and his tires in bad condition. Because it’s Monaco.

    3)To say that such a win would’ve been impossible because of the DRS is to overlook another important factor-that the differences between performance of various components on the cars,most notably the engines, were much greater then. The Ferrari turbo monster in 1981 was way more powerful than the Cosworth in 1981, and that was key factor in the win. But today, with frozen engines, the difference between the best and the worst engines in F1 power-wise is around 20-25 bhp no more, barely above the bhp gain from DRS.

    To conclude, I’m not sure if such a win is impossible to replicate today, but if it is, DRS is just one of many factors for it. I just wish we had another Gilles to help us check it out. But as it was said millions of times before, there will never be another Gilles. RIP

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st June 2011, 10:49

      I’m not getting bogged down in the mechanics of literally whether it would have made the difference – we could argue that toss until the sun goes down and then back up again.

      But you can’t deny that DRS has undermined – perhaps entirely – the skill of defensive driving, which is what made this such a celebrated victory.

      Incidentally, I’m not entirely opposed to DRS – this is pretty much my view on it at the moment: DRS: Separating the good from the bad

      • montreal95 said on 21st June 2011, 11:09

        Not entirely undermined. As bosyber rightly pointed out the defensive skill still plays a role. But the whole point of introducing DRS was to give the defensive driving the role it played in the 80′s as opposed to the role it played through much of the nineties and the noughties. In the eighties, even if your defensive driving was perfect, it took a very special set of circumtances to stay ahead of faster cars for the whole race.
        But lately all the driver in front needed to do was not to make a mistake and he knew that the only place where he could be overtaken is in the pits. In fact that could’ve maid them a little complacent regarding their defensive skill. I mean what’s the point of honing your defensive skills if your car’s wake does all the job for you? No there’s a thought!

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st June 2011, 11:42

          I think Canada showed the modern value of defensive driving when Button flew past Schumacher about a quarter of the way along the DRS zone.

          I.e., nil.

          • montreal95 said on 21st June 2011, 12:42

            How can you compare Canada and Jarama? That overtake you speak of is the combination of a circuit layout, much faster car and slipstreaming on a very long straight plus DRS. What was the effect of defensive driving during slipstreaming on the Monza straights? and I’m NOT talking about pre-chicane Monza but the 1980′s? Yes, precisely nil. And to think that 20 years ago Canada was considered one of the most difficult tracks to overtake on(altough admittedly the circuit layout is a bit different now)…

          • Hairs (@hairs) said on 21st June 2011, 22:15

            Button was over two seconds a lap faster!

            The DRS didn’t make him that fast, and do you know how you can tell? He was two seconds a lap faster when he got past him, that’s how!

            Honestly, Keith, for a man who has had so many articles debunking popular mythmaking and looking at facts, I’m surprised at you.

            I think Canada showed the modern value of defensive driving when Button flew past Schumacher about a quarter of the way along the DRS zone.

            I.e., nil.

            It took Mark Webber 15 laps to get past Schumacher. Look at your own chart. http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2011/06/13/2011-canadian-grand-prix-analysis/

            Please explain how the DRS failed to work, and how there was no ability for Schumacher to defend, for 15 laps. It worked, as you clearly state, for Button. Why didn’t it work for Webber? Bear in mind, two laps after he passed Schumacher, Webber was almost 2 seconds ahead of him.

            Your argument does not stand up to any rational analysis.

          • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 21st June 2011, 22:48

            To be fair Hairs, some of that 2s per lap was because he had a DRS boost from Webber and Schumacher.

            Also, DRS was only open for a few of those 15 laps you quote. I think Webber got him on the second or third try.

            I don’t agree that DRS would make a repeat of this impossible because we saw what happened in Barcelona and Jarama was a similar overtaking-killer. But what we saw in Canada was ridiculous really.

          • Hairs (@hairs) said on 22nd June 2011, 0:10

            Sorry, Icthyes, DRS had nothing to do with Button’s speed. The lap charts can tell you that.

            In clear air, as soon as he was past Schumacher, and before he was in the zone with Vettel, he steamed away.

      • Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 21st June 2011, 15:14

        But saying that, Keith, the vast majority of DRS overtaking ‘attempts’ I’ve seen FOM broadcast live this year have not resulted in a successful overtake.

        But you can’t deny that DRS has undermined – perhaps entirely – the skill of defensive driving, which is what made this such a celebrated victory.

        Again, why the hyperbole? DRS has not undermined the skill of defensive driving. The whole idea of DRS is to directly counter the ‘dirty air’ problem. If anything, the ‘dirty air’ effect does a lot more to undermine the skill of defensive driving as it makes it much easier to keep a car behind you. You don’t need to do any defensive driving at all if the car behind can’t get into an overtaking position to begin with, do you?

        Also, while I agree that the DRS debate is a good one to have this year, I don’t quite understand why it’s necessary to even bring it up at all in an article about something that happened 30 years ago! Unless you’re deliberately trying to troll people like me, which if you are I’ll admit that you’re doing a good job! :P

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st June 2011, 15:28

          Again, why the hyperbole?

          It’s not, you just don’t agree with me.

          DRS has not undermined the skill of defensive driving.

          We’ve got drivers pressing buttons to get a speed boost which sends them zooming past defenceless rivals in the middle of straights. How has that not undermined it?

          I don’t quite understand why it’s necessary to even bring it up at all in an article about something that happened 30 years ago!

          Because then more people will read it.

          • Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 21st June 2011, 16:28

            It’s not, you just don’t agree with me.

            You’re right, it wasn’t really the right word for what I was trying to say.

            We’ve got drivers pressing buttons to get a speed boost which sends them zooming past defenceless rivals in the middle of straights. How has that not undermined it?

            This is my issue with this argument. You are not ‘defenceless’, in my opinion. If Massa was ‘defenceless’ during the opening laps of Melbourne, Button should’ve breezed passed Massa on his first try with DRS on Lap 3, but he didn’t. Like I said, the majority of DRS pass attempts I’ve watched this year have not resulted in a pass. You are able to make your move to defend and position your car in a way that makes it difficult for your opponent to pass you, you cannot simply drive around the opposing driver without any form of resistance at all, so I really don’t like it when people use the word ‘defenceless’ as in my opinion and experience that’s simply not true.

            In terms of undermining defensive driving, I can see the argument that it makes defending a position more difficult but I still maintain that the DRS serves to equal what were actually skewed odds to begin with. We want to see close racing, for sure, but I didn’t like seeing drivers having difficulties attempting to overtake because they couldn’t get close enough to begin with, as we saw so many times over the last few seasons. Just by the nature of being in front of someone, I would be able to keep them behind me not because of my own skill but from the sheer turbulence from my car on the air alone. That’s not defensive driving in the slightest. If drivers are going to keep other cars behind them, I’d much rather see them do it through the active defending we saw from Massa in Melbourne over the passive defending from so many ‘dirty air’ races over the years, like the two Imola races in ’05 and ’06. Also, while DRS is only applicable on one (well, two now, but should be one) corner per lap, we’ve seen countless overtaking moves this season in non-DRS corners. Drivers still have to be prepared to defend at every corner on the circuit, and not just DRS-zone corners, which means the nature of defensive driving is, the majority of the time, no different to how it has been in recent times. While DRS equalises the playing field in favour of the attacker for one/two corner(s) a lap, most of the time the defending driver enjoys the natural advantage of being in cleaner air. So you could say DRS (in combination with all the other elements this year) has helped to make defensive driving a more important aspect of racing in 2011 than at any other time in recent history.

            Ultimately, it does depend a lot about the areas in which you’re allowed to use it. Istanbul was an example of where there was too much of an advantage to the attacking driver while tracks like Malaysia and Melbourne were examples of where it worked much more effectively. This is going to be a long-term solution that will require a lot of fine-tuning, but I think DRS has been a positive addition to the Formula and I hope we give it enough time to be perfected before doing away with it too hastily.

          • Damon (@damon) said on 21st June 2011, 16:51

            Magnificent Geoffrey, the bottom line is that there were instances when a car was defenceless against a DRS using car (e.g. Schumacher vs. Button).

          • Hairs (@hairs) said on 21st June 2011, 22:18

            Schumacher was defenceless because Button was faster. Much faster. Much, much, much faster. Very much faster. All over the track. He was faster. How often does it have to be pointed out?

            Would you rather Button wailed up to the back of Schumacher, and then hit an invisible wall, and was stuck there for the rest of the race, unable to slipstream, unable to get close enough to outbrake, unable to get past? Is that better?

  8. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 21st June 2011, 11:13

    It’s been a long-held argument of mine that circuit design depends a lot on the land set aside for circuit – moreso than the actual designer. Hermann Tilke has great circuits like Istanbul, Sepang and Austin, but at the same time, he had bland ones like Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.

    I think Jarama proves this more than anything. The circuit was designed by John Hugenholz, the man who developed Suzuka and Zandvoort, and who was basically the Hermann Tilke of the 1960s and 1970s. But for all the brilliance of Suzuka, Jarama stands out as one of the circuits that was not exactly conductive to good racing.

  9. HounslowBusGarage said on 21st June 2011, 11:37

    I remember the race well. As a youngster I was medically dependent on F1 and I remember watching this on TV with Murray Walker squeaking commentary at me.
    For me, it was the most frustrating race I had ever seem with this ludicrous ‘mobile chicane’ on a narrow and dusty mickey mouse circuit – factors which conspired to rob me (and probably millions of other) of a “good race”.
    I agree with PM, Jarama was a horrid track. But the performance characteristics of the Ferrari turned a bore into a bad dream.
    Don’t get me wrong, Villeneuve was entirely right to do what he did and showed his real ability to drive with his head as well as heart. But at the time, I thought it was awful.

    • JimN (@jimn) said on 21st June 2011, 12:17

      I have totally the opposite memories, for me this was probably the greatest race I ever watched (on TV). After Villeneuve got in front I was on the edge of my seat for the rest of the race. At each corner it seemed that he was about to be overtaken, and somehow at each corner he managed to stay in front, to me it was mesmerising. But it must be remembered that then, braking distances were long with overtaking was reasonably common then, as was mechanical breakdown when under pressure. The suspense was because we thought he would and could be overtaken… not as in the recent past because overtaking was practically impossible.

      • montreal95 said on 21st June 2011, 12:33

        +1 great post!

        My thoughts exactly. Lucky you, to have witnessed it live. I wasn’t even born then. But even when I watched the full race recording for the first time a couple of years ago and knowing the result I had the nagging feeling that in the next corner it’ll definetely be over and Gilles will be overtaken! I was almost surprised when he wasn’t ;)

    • LuvinF1 said on 21st June 2011, 14:01

      For me, you are on the mark HBG. It all depends on your point of view. In 1981, I rooted for Lotus first, Williams second, and McLaren third. So to me, a moving chicane was frustrating.

  10. xabregas said on 21st June 2011, 12:16

    Sure it was one of those tracks where it was really difficult to overtake, i could say the only place you could do that was at the end of the main straight but you´re forgeting that the Ferrari was good ONLY at the straight, how about the rest of the track, it was the driver that made the difference and what you´ve seen in this video was only the last lap but the 66 laps before were almost like the last one, and it wasn´t allways the same driver pushing Villeneuve and he didn´t do any evasive manouvers to avoid beig overtaken like we´re used to watch in today´s F1 races.

  11. I wasn’t alive during Villeneuve’s career but he’s such an intruiging legend to me far more so than Senna.

    I imagine that quite a few people such as HBG found this race rather processional and dull and as I didn’t watch it live my comment should be taken as a display of rose tinted glasses syndrome but reading and watching the race back I find it rather exhilerating. I’ve never needed passes to be excited by F1 as I find anticipation a lot of the fun so this is really thrilling for me. As much as the circuit didn’t suit Ferrari’s outright pace it did aid their cause by being a nightmare to overtake on but Gilles still did everything right and it was a performance I half expect of someone else as Gilles is never portrayed as the smartest of drivers but more wild.

    Thanks for this article Keith ity’s made my day. I think it was a magnificent win by one of my favourite ever F1 characters.

    • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 21st June 2011, 15:18

      I can’t say I’ve been completely won over by Gilles, but I understand how unfair it is that we weren’t born into this era! :P It’s nice seeing how much of a fan you are and how much he means to you, too. :)

  12. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 21st June 2011, 13:42

    Reading the article make you feel that it was a great race back then.If I could haven got access to all the video’s of F1 I should have had love to have the race video of all the races from 1950 with Murray Walker & Martin Blundel as the commentator.

    • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 21st June 2011, 15:15

      But Martin was only born in 1959! :P

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 21st June 2011, 21:19

      Erm. It’s either Martin Brundle or Mark Blundel. As far as I know, no one called Martin Blundel was ever associated with F1 (and I think you mean Martin Brundle).
      Before Martin, Murray had Jonathan Palmer for a side kick, before him it was James Hunt. Not sure if there was anyone before that, but in 1981 I’m pretty sure Murray Walker did the commentary solo.

      • wasiF1 said on 22nd June 2011, 2:44

        I meant Martin Brundle,apology for my spelling mistake. What I wanted to say is that they will be commentating now for those old races as early days there were no commentary.

  13. A4P said on 21st June 2011, 14:10

    “And it was a win that would simply be impossible to repeat today.”

    Check out Singapore 2010. Oh, I forgot. You Brits are too proud to admit that Alonso is the legend of these days.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st June 2011, 14:27

      They didn’t have DRS last year. If you’d made it to the end of the article you might have realised that was the point.

      And spare us the jingoistic rubbish, thank you.

  14. Pingguest said on 21st June 2011, 14:16

    Not only DRS makes a repeat of the 1981 Spanish impossible, pit stops make it impossible too.

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