Sunday 6 May 2012

Retro F1: Gilles Villeneuve tribute - the 1981 Monaco Grand Prix

Hey y’all. The latest Retro F1 took place today. And given that this week marks the 30th anniversary of the passing of the legend that is Gilles Villeneuve, I decided this one should double as a tribute to the great man.

We therefore watched the 1981 Monaco Grand Prix, one of Villeneuve’s best ever drives, using the YouTube link below. The only drawback was that the commentary is in German, but we managed to work around that.

Retro F1 is when we watch a classic F1 race in full online, and chat about it on Twitter as we go, using the #RetroF1 hashtag. All are welcome!

Highlights of the Twitter chat are below.

Welcome all to the latest Retro F1, which is a Gilles Villeneuve tribute special, watching the 1981 Monaco GP. Here’s the link to the Monaco GP '81 race footage, I’m clicking play now :)

@CamillaKristel Should be interesting.
@kanemelegatti Ready guys?
@mario_eb Fuel in for Retro F1 :)
Hi Mario. Glad you could join us. Should be a good one :)
@mario_eb Hi Graham. Surely it'll be fun. Although my server's a little slow now I'll be following Retro F1 maybe I'll need my KERS ;)
Or your DRS.

@mario_eb Haha :D Ok, let me activate it :D

@djtrickster77 I'm gonna need your help with the commentary or will the racing speak volumes?
Hoping we'll be able to work around the German commentary, we'll see how it goes!
@mario_eb Well, I'll let the volume on. Fortunately those engines speak one language :)

@F1isP1 With you every lap of the principality!
@djtrickster77 1 minute to go
@aka_robyn Phew! Just in time!

Look forward to hearing your chat – remember to use the #RetroF1 hashtag!

Some scene-setting: the year is 1981, and this is race six of the season. The season so far has been dominated by the two Williams and Nelson Piquet’s Brabham. That’s Nelson Piquet Senior by the way.
@mario_eb Why? Is there any Piquet Jr. over there? ;)

But it’s Williams ‘number 2’ Carlos Reutemann who’s leading the championship by 12 points after two fine wins, including one in Brazil where he did what Felipe Massa didn’t (i.e. defied a team order to let his team mate, Alan Jones, past to win).
@SartoMutiny ‘Alan is faster than you’. 

So Reutemann and Jones are on frosty terms, as now are Jones and Piquet, following a contretemps at the previous round in Zolder. Piquet accused Jones of shoving him off, and has spent the subsequent two weeks making threats at Jones via the press. Clearly a lot of hate around in 1981.

@SartoMutiny Die varm-up lap. 

On the grid: Piquet’s on pole (his car in qualifying may be have been illegally light, but no one protests you if Bernie’s your boss). Then two interlopers: Gilles Villeneuve in Ferrari’s new turbo machine starts in P2. Turbos aren’t meant to go well on street circuits…

Gilles Villeneuve's Ferrari 126 CK
Credit: Etienne (Li) / CC
I’ve heard it said that this was the precise point when F1 teams knew the writing was on the wall and they had to go turbo. Renault had pioneered the F1 turbo and had won three races, but the Ferrari turbo debuted in 1981 had a throttle response that put the Renault to shame. And come mid-1985 the whole F1 field indeed had turbo engines.

Then in P3 on the grid there’s a little-known British pay driver called Nigel Mansell. Don’t think anything became of him ;) Reutemann’s P4 and Jones is down in P7.

Green light. At the first corner Andrea de Cesaris has crashed, which isn't like him ;) And he's taken Mario Andretti's Alfa Romeo with him.
@CamillaKristel Poor Mario. 
@mario_eb Andrea De 'Crasheris' involved in a crash? Poor Andretti.
@Parnelli98 No way! He crashed? That never happens! Much.

@SartoMutiny Those cars look so huge on that track. It seems daft anyone ever thought racing in Monaco was a good idea.

@LoisMarketing Ahhh 1981 ... I remember watching the first few races with friends at the University of Georgia.
Retro F1: Bringing back happy memories :)
@LoisMarketing There were a bunch of us -- many international students -- who would get together on Saturday and Sunday to watch qualifying and the race. They were my first ‘F1 Family’ :) Then until Twitter came along I followed it pretty much by myself! 
@racedayrocks Never had a ‘F1 Family’ until Twitter. :) Everbody wanted NASCAR.

Inimitable Monaco
Credit: Bert S / CC
@djtrickster77 Wow!! That’s when Monaco didn't have a chicane after the tunnel.
Yes, the chicane was just a quick flash between barriers, seems amazing it survived so long.
@SuperAudi59 Much better corner layout out of the tunnel, don't you think?

If you spotted spray in the tunnel you weren't imaging things.
@F1isP1 Is that water in the tunnel? Was that the year with the hotel fire that led to water in the tunnel?
Yes, the very same! The race start was delayed by an hour due to a fire in the hotel above the tunnel which resulted in water seeping through onto the track! As a result of the damp track, there was a yellow flag in the tunnel for the whole race.
@F1isP1 The marshal holding the yellow flag before the tunnel should be famous - he's shown it every lap!
Hope he has strong arms.

@SartoMutiny I was four years and one day old on the day of this race. #uselessfacts
@mario_eb I hadn't even been born :O #uselessfacts

Apologies for the German commentary, we usually have Murray Walker and James Hunt to guide us through Retro F1. If anyone fancies translating…only joking.

@CamillaKristel Villeneuve 2nd and Reutemann 4th. But who is 3rd? 
None other than a young Nigel Mansell :) 
@SartoMutiny I cannot imagine a young Nigel Mansell. He must have been odd as a child.
@CamillaKristel Haha me neither.
He had a moustache even then. Reckon Our Nige was born with a moustache.
@kanemelegatti Some say it generates downforce. 
@CamillaKristel Can't imagine Keke Rosberg ever being young either haha. 

In those days Monaco strictly only had a maximum of 20 starters, at other races it was 26.
@mario_eb It would've been a real mess with an eventual accident with so many cars in a track like Monte Carlo.
@F1isP1 Did any famous names fail to qualify in the 1981 GP? 
The main one was Keke Rosberg, who'd be world champion the next year! Also, Derek Warwick, Derek Daly and Jean-Pierre Jabouille.
@SartoMutiny Not a good day for Dereks :(
@F1isP1 Rosberg? Yes - saving his energy for his single win and championship in 1982.

@SartoMutiny Ugly ugly cars. Even by 2012 standards, some of these cars really offend my eyes. 
I quite like them, weirdly. Look nice and big and beefy :)

Probably should update you on the race order: Piquet leads, from Villeneuve, Mansell, Reutemann and Jones. Piquet is pulling away a bit.

@aka_robyn Where is Villeneuve? I need live timing! ;-)
Gilles is still second, behind Piquet. Seems to be dropping back.
@aka_robyn Oh, I see, never mind!

@F1isP1 How much has the coverage (camera quality and timing) come on since 1981?
Yes, it always amazes me in Retro F1 how much action TV coverage missed back in the day.

@djtrickster77 Looks like Mansell’s catching Villeneueve with a train following behind.
The hotel fire/damp track impeded Villeneuve, he was never able to take the tunnel flat, losing him a lot of horsepower advantage. Hence why he seems to be struggling a bit.

@kanemelegatti People are really close to the track!! They can touch the car if they want...
Bet a few tried as well :)
@kanemelegatti And the could keep their arms?! O_o

@djtrickster77 The name I keep picking up from the commentary is Patrese.

@F1isP1 Where's the crane to lift the cars from the lap corner accident?

And championship leader Reutemann crawls into the pits with a bent nose, having made contact with the back of Mansell's Lotus. Amazing how tardy his pit entry was, and how tardy the stop was too.
@SartoMutiny Carlos Reutemann in the pits. Should have been world champion in 1981.
@hellasf1 Poor Carlos Reutemann! The championship leader race is ruined by that slow pit stop.
Amazing how slow a job it was then to change a front wing, took them over a lap! Not a quick job like now.

And Mansell in too with broken rear suspension, maybe a result of Reutemann contact, though he apparently tagged a barrier too. Lotus also claimed the breakage was down to wear.
@djtrickster77 Our Nigel is in the pits.
@F1isP1 Terrible luck for Mansell - he'd been hounding Villeneuve up to that point.
@SartoMutiny Nigel Mansell in the pits getting his rear end looked at. #doubleentendre
There's always one. All this vaults Alan Jones up to P3.

@mario_eb Oh, the real Lotus Team, Renault (the original equipe) and Alfa Romeo. Real icons in motorsport :)

@kanemelegatti Piquet runs away.
Piquet is still in a firm lead, Villeneuve is second but Jones is looking the quicker in third.
@djtrickster77 Now Jones is all over the back of Villeneueve while Piquet tanks off into the distance.
@SartoMutiny You realise how little world championships actually mean when you remember Villeneuve never won one.

Spoke too soon, Jones up to second! And the cameras missed it! Gah!
@djtrickster77 Jones is up to 2nd?? When did that happen?
Cameras seemed to miss it :( Damn 30 year old TV coverage!

@F1isP1 Jones also pulling away from Villeneuve - clearly Ferrari not the fastest car.

Siegfried Stohr in the pits. Despite the incredibly Germanic name, he was actually Italian :)
@F1isP1 They obviously liked covering stationary cars in the pits in 1981 - strangely!
@aka_robyn We don't blame you for the excess of exciting in-the-pits coverage! ;-)
Yes, they obsessed over Stohr so much :/ Reutemann in the pits didn't get anything like the same coverage!
@CamillaKristel Yes, they did. Very strange.
@hellasf1 The Arrows were always orange! What a beautiful car driven by Siegfried Stohr! Unfortunately he retires from the race... 
@F1isP1 Stohr had also been involved in an accident with one of his mechanics on grid at Zolder in the previous race.
Yep, very unpleasant incident. The mechanic was very lucky to escape with relatively slight injuries.

@djtrickster77 The Ferrari is quick in the fast sections but gets monstered in the twisties.

@SuperAudi59 Is it my imagination or do these cars look slower through the tunnel than current cars?
They probably were, lap times in this race are about 1m 30 secs, now they're about 1m 15 secs. Also, a fire above the tunnel, and water seeping onto the track below, meant the track was damp for the whole race there.
@SuperAudi59 I've done a 1:19 odd on F1 2010...
We just need to transport you back to 1981 and you'd be walking this race ;)

Yay! Just seen a replay of Jones passing Villeneuve, under braking at Mirabeau. Nice move! Actually, it seemed to be a surprise to the commentators, I wonder if they hadn't noticed Jones was second :)
@F1isP1 At last - they show Jones pass on Villeneuve - they were close to contacting!
@djtrickster77 That’s what we were waiting for.
Love the way it took them about 15 minutes to dig the replay out!
@djtrickster77 And to top it all off as you say the commentators sounded surprised about it.
@aka_robyn ...and people think FOM does a bad job of catching stuff now...
Indeed, we should count ourselves lucky :)

Alan Jones - some years later
Credit: Lutz H / CC
And according to the graphic Patrese is now third ahead of Villeneuve, another pass that they missed :/ 

@SuperAudi59 1981 was the last year I was a Marshal at Bathurst... And this race was live at 11 pm... 

Now we’re getting lots of coverage of the battle for *consults 1981 Autocourse*...13th place!

Love how close the walls are to the track in the swimming pool section - Ayrton Senna used to be mesmerising through that section.

@djtrickster77 Patrese out....That makes Gilles back in third.

@SartoMutiny Elio de Angelis goes *bang*.
@hellasf1 Elio de Angelis, retires with his Lotus at the same time as Arnoux, who crashes his Renault on the bumpers before Casino!
Apparently that's why Arnoux crashed, he went off on De Angelis's oil.

Oop, Pironi's Ferrari nudges Cheever's Tyrrell around at Mirabeau, and Cheever has a terrible time pointing the right way again!

@mario_eb Drivers out so far: Andretti, de Cesaris, Stohr, Mansell, Patrese.
@F1isP1 Add Reutemann.
@mario_eb  Yes. Arnoux, de Angelis, and Lole :)

If it interests you, that retirement marked an end to 15 consecutive points finishes for Reutemann, which was a record at the time. Back then, only the top six scored points and reliability wasn't anything like as good as now, so Reutemann's run was remarkable.
@hellasf1 Schumi was watching that race and responded to Reutemann's record (smashed it) many years later! :-p
Yes, it's the sort of record that got smashed repeatedly in future years (what with better reliability etc).

@aka_robyn Man, I could really go for a Marlboro and some candy...
@kanemelegatti And a bit of Agip for the car XD
@aka_robyn Haha! Wouldn't say 'no' to some Gordon's Gin, either! ;-)

Back to the race: Jones is closing on leader Piquet! It was a seven second gap, now it's down to two seconds :) ‏
@F1isP1 Whoa - that was quite hefty contact on Piquet's left rear into turn 1 #lucky
@kanemelegatti Jones only two seconds far from Piquet.
@djtrickster77 Jones is catching Piquet quite quickly.
@SartoMutiny Jones now stalking Piquet. Could be interesting...

@CamillaKristel A 'young' Alain Prost is 6th in the Renault.

@F1isP1 Who's the back marker in car 22 - what an ugly car!
It's an Alfa Romeo. It was rather bulbous! Car 22 was Andretti (who crashed on lap 1), so think that was team mate Bruno Giacomelli.
@mario_eb Giacomelli maybe? I have him with number 23. Alfa Romeo 179B. Although they used a C version.
@F1isP1 Thanks - difficult to read the car numbers at times!

@SartoMutiny I still cannot believe they are just leaving that Renault on the outside line at Loews.

Piquet looking very ragged now under pressure from Jones.
@djtrickster77 C'mon Jones!! Get past misery man Piquet to give him something to moan about.
Wonder if Piquet’s beginning to regret his threats made against Jones before the race?

@djtrickster77 Was that the way Piquet worked? To threaten other drivers because I’ve never liked what he did to Mansell.
Piquet was very talented but was also prone to stir things up out of the car too.
@SartoMutiny I remember him calling Nigel Mansell ‘an uneducated blockhead with a stupid and ugly wife’.
@djtrickster77 He does come across as a bit of a dick...sorry I couldn't think of a better word.
@bodkin1 Ask Nigel Mansell about hiding toilet rolls when he had the squits.
In fairness to Piquet, that was quite funny :)

@SartoMutiny If I was Nelson Piquet, I would have rather soiled underpants at this stage.
@mario_eb Piquet was a great driver. Unfortunately he never knew how to stay quiet sometimes.
Indeed, think Piquet's very underrated, he was fantastic (most of the time) in his Brabham days.
@mario_eb Sure. It's a shame that Nelsinho couldn't make honour to their name. Now in NASCAR trucks! Please! ;(

@SuperAudi59 Looks like the rears are going on Jonesy's car.

Love the way the marshals are blue flagging the leader.

Nelson all over the road now trying to keep Jones behind.
@SartoMutiny What Piquet needs right now is a car radio with a Rob Smedley-type figure telling him to calm down a bit.
Stay cool, Nelson baby...
@F1isP1 'Yes Nelson - thanks for that, but we can also see that Jones is quite clearly faster than you!’

@F1isP1 Villeneuve 21 seconds behind the leaders.

Piquet's now got a bit of air between him and Jones. Is Jones having a breather, or is it something else?
@SartoMutiny Piquet looks constantly on the verge of an accident.

@F1isP1 My German isn't perfect, but haven't heard ‘for sure’, ‘undercut’ or ‘team orders’.

Amazing how stiff those 1981 cars are bouncing over the bumps.
@bodkin1 Oh God yes Gilles called his a Shitbox. They were described as like go-karts!!
Ferrari designer Harvey Postlethwaite thought the 1981 Ferrari had only a quarter of the downforce of the Williams and Brabham.

@CamillaKristel De Angelis speaking German? #random

@bodkin1 Look how far Gilles is behind!!! Wow Gilles was a magician!! Over 30 seconds. This is fantastic, not watched this since the day of the race!!! 

@SuperAudi59 Jones scratching again.

Ooop, some comic relief from the battle at the front provided at Saint Devote by Michele Alboreto and Bruno Giacomelli. Alboreto spun, Giacomelli collected him, and both are out.
@bodkin1 Poor Michele RIP.

Piquet's in the barrier! I was just about to say Piquet was stretching his lead, but he's binned it!
@djtrickster77 Piquet’s out!!!
@Parnelli98 Wow! Piquet out! It looks like he narrowed the right side of his car a little.
@SartoMutiny Bosh.

Piquet's afternoon ended in the barrier
Credit: Eric Velplanken / CC
Jones is the 'Nouveau leader' :)

Jones admitted subsequently when Piquet crashed it was one of the few times he's burst out laughing while driving a racing car.

Replay: looks like Piquet just got off line and understeered off!
@CamillaKristel Das war nicht gut, Piquet.
@F1isP1 Piquet was distracted by the ugliness of that mystery car!
@Parnelli98 Will Nelson be mad at himself like he gets towards other drivers when they screw up? Probably not!
@mario_eb Good point. Imagine Piquet punching himself like he did with Salazar. Thing is, both were still wearing the helmets :D
@Parnelli98 Looked like such a silly mistake too, unless the car had a component failure. Start swinging Nelson!

Jones also said he dropped back as he planned to come back at Piquet quickly to try to unsettle him. He didn't need to in the end.
@bodkin1 I loved Jonesy.
Yes, Jones was a clever and gritty racing driver.

@aka_robyn I can't get over the shape of those cars! Like a cigarette pack with a nose at one end and a rear wing at the other.

I know this point's been made, but imagine how many safety car periods we would have had if this race took place now?
@SuperAudi59 No thought of marshal safety!
@mario_eb Sure. Although F1's changed a lot in terms of competitiveness, we can't complain about safety nowadays.
@bodkin1 I know but the marshals were risking their lives out there then.

@bodkin1 At this point I was thinking Gilles is going to be on podium!
@djtrickster77 Villeneueve is 31 seconds behind Jones.

@aka_robyn Only just noticed the ABC's Wide World of Sports banner! Brings back childhood memories. 

This drive is even more impressive by Alan Jones, as he’s driving with a badly burned thigh, sustained in the previous race.

@F1isP1 Can't help chuckling at the Leyland logo on Williams cars - hardly synonymous with speed, reliability or quality!

@CamillaKristel Only the top 3 are on the same lap. And when did Pironi come up to 4th...

In case you’re wondering why the gap came down so quickly, Jones has made a pitstop (which we didn’t see). He’s having a mysterious late race fuel pick up problem, and thought taking on a few more gallons would solve the problem. It didn’t solve the problem, and the gap to Villeneuve is down from around 30 seconds to around six...
@bodkin1 Look at Gilles sliding it through the chicane
@bodkin1 The marshals are cheering Gilles on, listen to the crowd!! I was screaming myself hoarse at this stage!! Go Gilles!!!!
@F1isP1 How much more exciting would this be with Murray Walker's commentary?
@djtrickster77 4.9 secs now.  
@Parnelli98 Now Gilles is less than 5 seconds behind! Jones having issues in the Williams?
@SartoMutiny The gap really coming down.
@kanemelegatti How the hell did Villeneuve do it? Jones is having degradation??
@CamillaKristel 3.9 seconds now! Great drive from Gilles.
@Parnelli98 Someone's clapping for Gilles at the Lowes hairpin!

And Gilles leads! The marshals are loving it!
@F1isP1 What a ballsy pass by Villeneuve!
@bodkin1 I have Michael Turner framed print of Gilles overtaking Jones, he drove his heart out that day!!
@CamillaKristel Villeneuve passes Jones!
@SartoMutiny Villeneuve leads!
@djtrickster77 Bloody hell!! Villeneueve’s in front!!

@SartoMutiny Villeneuve wins. The end.
@Parnelli98 Lol! The flagman. ‘1 to go, no wait..winner!’
@F1isP1 Yes - chaos!
All of a sudden, the race is over, think they skipped the final 3 laps or so :/ So, Gilles Villeneuve wins, one of (amazingly) only six GP wins in his short F1 career.
@djtrickster77 It just shows that statistics mean absolutely nothing when it comes passion & heart to be remembered in F1.
Indeed, stats only mean so much in F1.

Gilles’s win may have been inherited, but his car shouldn’t have been near the victory on this track, and Gilles drove to the maximum all day. To illustrate: here are Gilles’s average lap times throughout the race: laps 1-10 1m30.94, 1-20 1m30.74, 1-30 1m30.5, 1-40 1m30.34, 1-50 1m30.3, 1-60 1m30.22, 1-70 1m30.27, at the finish 1m30.3.

And it was Gilles’s first win for over 18 months. Jones trickled in second some 40 seconds adrift. Jacques Laffite finished third.

@CamillaKristel I didn't understand much of the German commentary but I thought Gilles passed on the last lap. I must be sleeping.
Yes, it was all a bit confusing how they edited it, but it was four laps to go that Gilles took the lead.
@kanemelegatti Really great race. I can't imagine Villeneuve winning at last.

And so it ends, thanks very much all for joining Retro F1. Hope you enjoyed it! Plus, I'm always happy to hear requests for races to watch, though it has to exist for free on the internet.

@hellasf1 Pleasure to watch a great race - tribute to a true great! Thanks for the great company! looking forward to the next Retro F1.
@kanemelegatti Thank you!! See you on the next!! Bye guys!!
@mario_eb As all past races this one was great. Thanks a lot Graham for this Retro F1. Really enjoyed it :)
@djtrickster77 I did enjoy it..I even worked through the German commentary so I think I did well.
@F1isP1 Thanks Graham - great fun and a fitting tribute to GV:-)
@CamillaKristel Really enjoyed the Retro F1 again. 
@BrownSquirrel I haven’t seen them when I’m online before LOL Must pay more attention!! Thx for that.

Credit: Maria Azzurra Mugani / CC
Thanks very much for joining in all, always great to hear your thoughts. It's chat from people like you that makes it! See you next time :)

‏@aka_robyn I spent my entire first F1 season watching races with all commentary in Mandarin. At least I could understand *some* of today's! ;-)
Intriguing, didn't realise there was Mandarin F1 commentary :/
@aka_robyn There is in China, on CCTV-5!

If you fancy reading a bit more on the 1981 season as a whole here’s something I wrote a while ago on it. Toodle-oo.


  1. Gilles was really a Little Big Man. I signal to you an original memory with unpubished photo on the Imola boxes 1982, posted on april 21, on:

    Claudio Arisi

  2. Thanks very much Claudio. Very nice photos, and very evocative too given what happened.

    All, here's a direct link to the photos: