Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

F1's Back to the Future, or when two and six don't make eight // A fictitious tale of legends of yore

Published by Jordan F1

As this what-if story spans some thirty-odd years and three different drivers in major roles it requires darker powers than mine changing one small item in the past and observing its results. Darker powers than even the forces of Evil, Darkness and Chaos (aka Ferrari, McLaren and Brabham to a then Williams Fanboy) can handle.

Fortunately we can find someone or should I say something at the docks of the Lower Town of Quebec City that fits the bill perfectly. The Gibbet of Marie-Josephte Corriveau (aka Le Corriveau). As you can see, it is empty. Not surprising as the victim was sentenced for witchcraft back in the 1760's, and her remains should have decomposed long ago, but others say her skeleton still wanders the walls of Old Quebec, and she will grant you your wish for a price. Her cost was steep, more Black-Eyed Peas, no English WDC's - and the continuation of Christine's Prediction Curse. At this point, I was starting to doubt myself, but Le Corriveau thought I was a New York baseball fan, and cursing the Yankees not to make the post-season would completely doom my soul. However, faster than you can say "Go Bosox!" the ink of my signature had dried on the contract.

Present Day: Montreal, Quebec, Tundraland. Where you can find a more extensive amount of F1 Driver's Championship Trophies anywhere else on the planet? All labeled to a certain Jacques Villeneuve, but as the local F1 circuit on Île Notre Dame was renamed to "Circuit DES Jacques Villeneuve, there's actually more than one champion with that name. No many people know the 1982/1983 WDC has a brother who actually preceded him into F1. His name is Gilles Villeneuve. He is the father of the 1996, 1997, 2000-2002, 2004 WDC Champion. Currently Gilles is the manager of the "Trois Pilotes" restaurant in downtown Montreal, where we are going to interview him.

JF1: Tiens Gilles! We are here you interview you about your F1 career and some events of the 1982 season.

GV: Me, not my brother or son? You are kidding me! If this is one of Piquet's jokes...

JF1: Wow! That's quite a collection of autographs you have under those F1 diecast models. What's the story?

GV: Yes, you could say that it is our "Wall of Champions". It's a tradition that was started by my brother when he won for Ferrari in '82, and '83, Prost was nice enough to continue it from '84 to '86, Piquet in '87 and then it became a tradition, so you see there's Senna, Prost, Senna, Senna, Patrese's '92 Williams, Prost, Schumacher, Schumacher, my son Jacques double, Häkkinen, Coulthard, then of the start of the Quebecois Era with my son's three Ferraris in a row, (Alex) Tagliani, Alonso, Alonso, Räikkönen, Massa, Vettel, Tag's second, and finally (Andrew) Ranger's double.

JF1: Strange that after Hunt, England has not had a WDC and Canada has had 4 multiple WDC's.

GV: Quebec, mon ami. Paul Tracy was an even worse joke in F1 than he was in Indycar.

JF1: So what do you think is the secret of Quebecois F1 success, then?

GV: Simple. After Indycar, I used to be the Chief Instructor at the driving school at Mont-Tremblant and Mosport Park. With the exception of Tracy, they were all students of mine at some point.

JF1: And Paul Tracy's lack of F1 success?

GV: He drives like a Torontonian. Stuck in traffic until the day is over.

JF1: Getting back to the original topic, how did you get into F1?

GV: In 1976, I was just wrapping up IMSA in Formula Atlantic and had to complete in a non-championship race at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, which attracted many greats from F1 like the World Champion James Hunt. After I beat Hunt and a few other F1 stars in that race McLaren offered me a contract for up to five F1 races in 1977. And my debut F1 race at Silverstone, where Hunt and Mass had the latest McLaren M26's, I got stuck with a two year old M23! Still got sixth place although, and fifth fastest lap - Lucky for me I ignored that temperature gauge, it turned out after the race that it was faulty all the time.

JF1: Not bad for a guy who had to pre-qualify the Wednesday before the race. Now, about the rumours that Enzo Ferrari was interested in hiring you?

GV: Absolutely true! Apparently Enzo talked to Walter Wolf about finding a replacement for Lauda and sometimes they were looking for a third race driver as well. Walter, who I raced for in Cam-Am was also thinking of using me as a possible replacement to Jody Scheckter. Once Walter was able to secure Jody's services for Wolf in 1978 he mentioned me to Enzo. By the time Enzo came to offer me the third Ferrari I was already under contract to McLaren. Good for me too as Ferrari decided to run Pironi and keep Tambay as a reserve driver and loan him out to his old team of Theodore during the races. Of course Carlos (Reutemann) still had the lead driver role.

JF1: You must have been kicking yourself silly during the 1979 season, when the Ferrari looked so good.

GV: Not so much as Scheckter, when Pironi disobeyed team orders at Monza and took the Championship Tiens, if you thought Webber had it bad at Malaysia. I think that my history speaks for itself in that if I was in Pironi's shoes in '79, Scheckter would have been the champion.

JF1: I find it surprising that you would think like that if you drove for Ferrari.

GV: Well, that would only have been my second full season in F1. You could see that Jody did not have that much time left in F1, it was his seventh year after all. I had time on my side, and I had already completed my first goal of driving in F1 now it was just a matter of driving for Ferrari at some point.

JF1: So how would you describe your years at McLaren?

GV: Mostly as a complete waste of time. The McLarens were extremely fragile cars. They broke too easily for my liking. The only decent car that McLaren had then was the 1981 car. In 1979 I destroyed Hunt with no more than two third places all season, and he quit McLaren in total disgust in the car. In 1980, well, it was even worse. John Watson lucked into a quarter of all our points at Argentina. I only wish my cigarette lighter lit up as reliably as the M28!

JF1: So about the 1981 Canadian Grand Prix...

GV: That stunt that was pulled was garbage, and everyone knows it.

JF1: But it was the closest you ever came to an F1 victory.

GV: At least you just do not look at the finishing stats of an F1 history book. Yes, second behind Laffite and closing in hand over fist. My brother Jacques in the Ferrari behind me by quite a distance. There's about 10 minutes to go until the time limit expires and we (Laffite) tangle at turn 4 and I am driving around with a broken nose. Jackie Stewart is blabbing away that I needed to be black flagged on television.

JF1: But that was his job as commentator, he had to report what he sees on camera.

GV: True, but he did not know that his voice was being broadcasted on the French Canadian based radio station and being received to everyone, including the Ferrari pit crew. They quickly taped a CB radio with the talk button down and then told the clerk of the track that I had a broken nose and needed to be black flagged for safety, using the radio-to-CB transmission as proof. So the decision was made by the stewards that as Stewart had immediate access to the TV screens and they did not to black flag me before they saw that my front wing was damaged. I was issued with a black flag and instantly DQ'ed. End result. Jacques' Ferrari goes up into second without even passing me!

JF1: That's awful.

GV: The thing is once the Ferrari crew heard it from Stewart's voice over the radio, they had to hurry to get me DQ'ed as the video showed, by the time I was ordered by McLaren to observe the black flag and pit on the second lap, my nose had already come off on its own. Of course, you can not undo a DQ so the point is instead of Stewart saying some thing like "Look at Gilles" which did not specifically state that my nose was broken, I could have either gone the two laps needed to get the wings off, or I could have pitted on that lap and have my crew saw off the nose and still gotten some points for McLaren.

JF1: Who by this point, where not exactly being kind to you.

GV: I was still beating John Watson when I could but whenever John retired it was "that's all right John", but when the same happened to me I was the Crazy Canadian that can only turn the car by hitting every wall around a corner.

JF1: And then came 1982.

GV: Yes, and that was too bad. McLaren looked like they would finally have a good car again, so good that it attracted Niki Lauda. McLaren thought Niki and John would make a better pairing than Niki and myself, and as they put it - I was getting very expensive in terms of McLaren repair bills. It's quite elementary, from McLaren's view, they finally found a "Holmes" to go with their Watson. Jacques was signed with Ferrari and I thought all the competitive seats were gone so I went to Indycar and got a ride there, which lasted until June of 1982.

JF1: So, time for the ticklish question. What about Imola 1982?

GV: I am still of the thought that FOCA should not have boycotted the race. You can obviously point to the 1982 championship standings and say since my brother beat Keke by a single point, he did not deserve to be champion as you can say that there were at least four drivers that lost the opportunity of winning the WDC that year due to the Imola boycott. However, with a season like 1982, any one of those four drivers had multiple chances to correct whatever mistake that may have cost them the WDC. Heck, Pironi helped everyone else gaining 3 additional points by that last lap passing stunt he did. But we will never know for sure, right?

As to the "show" itself, it is obvious that Jacques was trying to save fuel for the last few laps when Pironi sneaked past Jacques for the win.

JF1: And the aftermath?

GV: Tambay deserved his Zolder and subsequent drives as Ferrari's other driver. It does go to show you how competitive the 1982 season was, he also had a shot at the WDC dispute missing the first three races.

JF1: And that brings us to your 15 seconds of fame. Too bad no one remembers that you had to qualify fourth at the Indy 500 to get to that point. How did "Gill Vill-neuf do?"

GV: Well, it was nice to bump Mario Andretti down into fifth place, although there is still a voice in my head that tells me that had I been in fifth, I could have won the 1982 Indy 500.

JF1: Have you ever thought that maybe boxing is more your sport?

GV: Kevin Cogan deserved it. Just ask A. J. Foyt - for a more unbiased opinion: how does a racing car driver at that level crash into everybody even before the green flag is picked up by the starter?

JF1: How?

GV: Well, the green had yet to be shown when Cogan veered to the right, crashed into Foyt hard, bounced across the track and he stuck me broadsided, destroying my right side and I was collected into the inside wall knocking me out. I was able to come to by the time the Safety Crew were able to ply me out of the wreckage. When I got out of the car and Kevin tried to explain things, I already had my helmet in my right hand and in my anger I gave him a shove with my left and Kevin slipped.

JF1: A shove? I would say that even George Foreman would kill for a left jab like that. So did the Indiana State Police Troopers and the Indiana State Justice department.

GV: (smirks) I still have it, mon ami.