Bob McMurray: F1 upheavals tame by comparison to 1982
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
We are in the midst of a season acknowledged as being pivotal for Formula 1.
But, when compared to some past seasons, the current round of changes and threatened upheaval to the sport seems relatively tame.
From the mid 1960s through to the 1970s, Bernie Ecclestone managed to corral all the teams under the banner of F1CA (Formula 1 Constructors Association) later to be known as FOCA, flexing his new muscle as he sought ultimate control over the sport.
This brought him into conflict with the Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) and so began the FISA-FOCA war that would last more than a decade.
It became almost personal between Ecclestone and the autocratic Frenchman Jean-Marie Balestre, president of FISA and later the FIA.
After years of political manoeuvring and disputes between the two factions, the 1982 season promised to be more peaceful, especially as the first of the famous Concord Agreements brokered by Enzo Ferrari was signed in early 1981.
Season 1982 did not get off to a good start with a drivers’ strike, led by Niki Lauda, at the South African Grand Prix over a dispute with the FIA about their “superlicences”.
After walking away from the first day of practice, the drivers barricaded themselves in a hotel room before a compromise was reached and they turned up for the second day of practice.
The next race in Brazil was no less problematic. FISA-sympathetic Ferrari and Renault teams running turbocharged engines protested against the winning Brabham and Williams no-turbo cars, which were subsequently disqualified.
That dispute was upheld at the FISA court of appeal, and the acrimony followed the season back to the European theatre of races.
Then at the picturesque circuit Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, Italy the race was boycotted by the majority of the FOCA teams andonly 14 cars started.
The “turbo or non-turbo” dispute continued through the season but at the next race after Imola, the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, the power politics were shattered by an accident in practice that took the life of Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve.
In Imola, Villeneuve and team mate Didier Pironi had had a major disagreement when Pironi apparently disobeyed team orders and overtook Villeneuve late in the race, taking the win. Villeneuve then said: “I have declared war. I will do my own thing in future.”
It is thought that perhaps that was playing heavily on his mind when, just 10 minutes before the end of qualifying and with Pironi in pole position, he crashed into the back of Jochen Mass’ car, the Ferrari cartwheeling and throwing its driver out of the cockpit and into the barriers.
Ferrari withdrew from the race and left the track and a sombre mood descended on the paddock.
On to Monaco and the inaugural Detroit race where Ecclestone tried to rally his FOCA teams to no avail as they all made arrangements to fit turbo engines for the following season.
Death’s dark shadow had not given up on Formula 1, though.
At the next Grand Prix in Montreal, on a circuit newly named in Villeneuve’s memory, Italian driver Riccardo Paletti was killed in a start line accident when he crashed at speed into the back of Didier Pironi’s stalled Ferrari.
Later in the season, Pironi was brutally injured when, qualifying in wet conditions at Hockenheim, he ran into the back of Alain Prost’s Renault. The injuries brought a premature end to his Formula 1 career.
The politics were still being played out with Balestre developing plans that would bring him and FISA into confrontation with Ecclestone and FOCA.
Ecclestone eventually gained most of the control he was seeking as the new Concord Agreement helped to establish a peace, at least on the surface.
The 1982 season also saw the Swiss Grand Prix at the circuit Dijon-Prenois in France and pre-qualifying much in force with some 40 drivers from 18 teams taking part during the season and only 26 cars permitted to race.
Keke Rosberg became the 1982 World Drivers Champion by dint of winning just one race and there were 11 race winners in the season.
The 1982 F1 season makes 2018’s discussions and disagreements look calm and gentlemanly.