The Red Tide Runs Out

Ferrari, Jody Scheckter, Gilles Villeneuve, Long Beach Grand Prix

What a difference a year makes. 1979 had been a real Ferrari benefit with Jody Scheckter winning the World Championship and his young teammate Gilles Villeneuve  as runner-up with Ferrari’s 312T4. Ingenere Mauro Forghieri had got the aero right.

But 1980 was something else entirely. Here are Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve in line at the U. S. Grand Prix West on the Long Beach street course on March 30th. They would qualify on the third and forth rows, well off the pole time of Nelson Piquet’s Brabham. While Piquet went on to win, Scheckter could only manage fifth and Villeneuve broke a driveshaft and retired. This result continued the surprisingly poor showings by the red cars from Maranello in the season’s first three races.

The new car for 1980 – the 312T5 – was not at all effective. These were still early days for ground effects aerodynamics which had foretold the future in 1977 when the Lotus 78 for Mario Andretti had a tremendous advantage. Ferrari’s weaknesses in 1980 were primarily two: the other teams had substantially advanced their ground effects aerodynamics whereas the T5’s powerful but wide “boxer” motor, now becoming a rather old design, limited Ferrari’s ability to improve downforce.  From being World Champion and winning the Constructor’s title in 1979, during 1980 Ferrari did not win a race and their two excellent drivers scored aggregate of eight points to the 71 that took Alan Jones and Williams to the titles. At the end of the season, Scheckter would retire and Villeneuve would soldier on with Ferrari’s new and more competitive turbo car.

Photo by Bill Fox ©The Klemantaski Collection

 

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