It remains to this day one of the most controversial and fiercely debated Formula One Grand Prix races of all time. Coming up on the fortieth anniversary of the legendary 1973 season that saw Jackie Stewart win the World Driver’s Championship, there’s still the controversy of who should have won the Canadian Grand Prix, which took place on September 23, 1973 at Mosport International Raceway. What should have been a routine race ended up being anything but, with the race marking the first time in Formula One history that a Safety Car was deployed and the resulting confusion over who the actual winner of the race was.
It was Tuesday before I could get a flight home. I had planned to stay over for Monaco. By then Gilles had been home several days and was lying-in-state in the vestibule of the local arena in Berthierville. The lines to view his body just went on and on. He was dressed in a white, what I thought was a driver’s suit, but I have heard conflicting reports since. When I went to pay my respects, there were so many people there I almost turned for home. I was undergoing such a range of emotions I had never felt so intensely before. I wanted to comfort the family, but was not sure it was just me I wanted to comfort. Gaston was in hospital under heavy sedation. He had lost the son he never had. He and Gilles were closer than a Father and son. Like many Fathers, Gaston had pulled Gilles out of many of life’s ditches. I drove directly to Berthierville from the airport. After paying my respects I headed for home in Ottawa. I had seen my friend for the last time.
I am still in a fog about most of that week. I am not sure if it was the Thursday that the funeral was held, but I drove to Berthierville with my good friend David Morgan-Kirby, an avid race fan and sometimes journalist who, like I, had watched the rise of Gilles from Formula Fords to Formula One. He had taken the time to interview Gilles when he was in the lower ranks and still would get a good reception from him even though Gilles was now at the top of his game. David and I and my wife at the time sat in the loft to the right of the chequered flag draped coffin. We were within fifty feet of Jody when he gave the eulogy. David, a stoic Englishman was rock solid. My wife was a blithering mess. I was just stunned. In less than a week I had done the final negotiation for our Grand Prix book, received a significant advance against royalties, ventured overseas and returned home broken, but I was in better shape than my friend who was now the centre of a different type of attention.
After it was all over Gilles’ body was taken to Montreal to be cremated. Joanne would then take the ashes back to Monaco. We followed the black Cadillac to Montreal on our return to Ottawa. I thought of the ‘Red Cadillac’ on this drive. David and I reminisced about all we had seen. There was a lot of laughter and tears on that drive. We got seriously drunk that night. [Read more...]
The usual squabbling between the FIA and FOCA was noticeably absent at the start of the 1982 season. Alan Jones had become disenchanted with the almost suspension-less cars and had gone home to Australia. The rumour mill was rampant with as many as three former World Champions to appear on the grid for the season. Jackie Stewart, James Hunt and Niki Lauda were all reported to have been offered large sums of cash to put on a helmet again. Only Lauda appeared at McLaren with John Watson as his backup.
Carlos Reutemann had intended to retire but reconsidered when Jones left the team. Keke Rosburg was his second at Williams. Mario left Alfa-Romeo to return to America and IndyCar racing. Gilles and Didier remained with Ferrari. Piquet teamed with Recardo Patrese at Brabham while Prost and Arnoux returned to Renault. Mansell and de Angelis took up the cores with Lotus and March retained Jochen Mass alongside newcomer Raul Boesel.
Gilles thought 1982 was going to be his year. Ferrari would win the constructors championship, but things would be very different in the drivers race.
South Africa started the season and a rift over the new driver’s super license which the drivers felt they could be traded like cattle at the whim of the team owners. Once this got straightened out the race got underway. Gilles had qualified third behind Arnoux and Piquet. Didier was qualified sixth. Both Ferrari would drop out of the race with Gilles blowing a turbo and Didier having a misfire and finishing in eighteenth.
There had been many changes to the driver line-up in the off-season. Andretti now drove for Alfa-Romeo. Emerson Fittipaldi retired from Formula One and left Keke Rosburg to carry the Fittipaldi colours. Rene Arnoux was still at Renault with newcomer Alain Prost. Formula Three star Nigel Mansell shared the driving orders at Lotus with Italian Elio de Angelis. The Williams team remained unchanged with Carlos Reutemann and Alan Jones, the new World Champion. Only Ferrari and Renault had the all-powerful turbo until the new Toleman team appeared with a Brian Hart turbo. It was entered in the Italian Grand Prix with Brian Henton at the wheel. It started twenty-third and finished tenth. Derrick Warwick was unable to qualify the sister car.
At the Belgian Grand Prix, again held at Zolder, Gilles qualified seventh, over a second and a half behind Reutemann’s Williams on the pole. Pironi out-qualified Gilles in third.
Reutemann had an unfortunate incident which put a damper on the weekend and his solid qualifying run for the pole. As he set out for his final qualify attempt on Friday, Osella mechanic, Giovanni Amadeo, fell from the pit wall into Reutemann’s path. Reutemann was unable to avoid him. Amadeo died from extensive injuries the following Monday. A second incident, also involving a mechanic, occured at the start of the race.
The 1981 Formula One season continued with the on-going dispute between the FIA, the sports governing body and FOCA, the Formula One Constructors Association. At the first race it came to a head and only at the insistence of the principal sponsors of the teams would any kind of reconciliation take place and the season got underway at Long Beach.
At Ferrari there was a new kid on the block. Jody had retired having achieved his goal of the World Championship in 1979. He stuck around for 1980 with the T5 disaster falling down around him. Some drivers would have just thrown up their hands and called it a day, but Jody showed his class by sticking to Ferrari so they could capitalize on his achievement. The new kid was Didier Pironi who had moved over from Tyyrell.
“When I joined Ferrari the whole team was devoted to Gilles. I mean he was not just the top driver, he was much more than that,” recalled Pironi. “He had a small family there…he made me fit right in. I felt at home right away. Gilles made no distinctions. I was expecting to be put in my place. I was not number one. I was number two yet he treated an equal all the way.”
This is a guest post from friend of The Garage, Jeremy Sale. It was originally published in this month’s edition of the VARAC newsletter.
I came across a report of the Canadian GP in 1977 the other day. It reminded me of a story I wrote which included a report of the infamous incident when James Hunt punched out a marshal. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the context of the episode:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“By lap 60 Andretti was still leading with Hunt in hot pursuit. In fact, so quick was their pace that they had lapped everyone except HuntÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s team mate, Jochen Mass. As the two leaders came up behind him Mass managed to impede Andretti at Moss Turn and Hunt quickly took advantage, getting by Andretti and into the lead. But Hunt was still behind his about to be lapped team mate Mass and somehow at turn three the two came together and Hunt was put out of the race. Hunt, after standing trackside, angrily shaking his fist at Ã¢â‚¬Å“Herman the GermanÃ¢â‚¬Â as he called his team mate, tried to cross the track and was restrained by a marshal. Still furious, Hunt punched the marshal, who went down for the count. Hunt was fined $2,750. Mass went on to finish third.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Following the Mobil 1 Car Swap event at Watkins Glen, the fans went home to get warm and the media went inside for a post drive debrief. Led by retired Formula 1 star turned TV commentator, David Coulthard, Tony and Lewis chatted candidly about the day. When DC opened the conversation up to questions from the floor, things got a bit more interesting.
Monster World Rally Team press release
JUNE 13, 2011, New York, New York Ã¢â‚¬â€œ With an already busy mid-season schedule, Monster World Rally TeamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ken Block has just added one more thing to his summertime to-do list: test in a Formula One car. The announcement was made with BlockÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tire sponsor, Pirelli, prior to the start of the seventh stop of the 2011 Formula One calendar, the Grand Prix of Canada in Montreal. Slated to take place on August 5th in Monza, Italy, Block will find himself behind the wheel of PirelliÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s F1 test car as he works his way through a series of tires that Pirelli manufacturers for Formula One.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Obviously IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m stoked about having this opportunity presented to me by Pirelli,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Block. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Getting to go and test in a Formula One car isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t something I ever imagined IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d have the chance to do, so when they contacted me with the offer to come over to Italy and drive their test car I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even hesitate to say yes!Ã¢â‚¬Â