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GP Week : Issue 152
stage they had won two races each. Jody, though, had taken a big jump for wards with a valuable second place at Zandvoort. Gilles, in that race, had also been stunningly good: he arrived in Holland after a fighting drive to P2 in Austria. On Saturday night we sat in the Ferrari caravan and he spoke about his situation and his hopes: “What annoyed me today was being 0.6 sec slower than Jody. I’m not saying that I could have gone faster than him today but at least I know where I went wrong. Yesterday, you see, the car felt pretty good except on a couple of corners. Through the right-hand loop before the first chicane and through the corner onto the straight I wasn’t as good as I should have been. Both corners are similar because they’ve got a change in elevation, so I thought I’d change the car on Friday night. Jody made some changes too, but they weren’t as major as mine. “Anyway, we had four sets of the very soft tyres for the last session and Jody was quick on one of them. Then they gave him another and he did 1min 16.3 and so I immediately put the other set on. I only did 1min 16.9 . I couldn’t understand what was wrong, so they put my car back to Friday’s set-up and I did 1min 17.1 on harder tyres. I then got a fourth set of the soft ones but as I went out it started to rain. That was that. Maybe that wouldn’t have changed my grid position but at least I would be closer to Jody. “The thing tomorrow is to beat Jody into the first corner. If I can do that and, say, get one of the Renaults between him and me, I’ll be looking good. I’ve got to try to do something like that because I haven’t caught anything on Jody in terms of mechanical problems – I ran out of fuel at Zolder; I broke the pinion at Monaco. Jody hasn’t had anything like those problems all year. So I’ve got to beat him in a racing situation. It’s my only chance...” That Dutch GP was, in effect, the championship decider. Gilles was arrow- true to his word. On race morning, in the warm-up, he shattered the pit lane by lapping about a second quicker than front row-man, Alan Jones. Luxuriating in the grip of the new, ultra-soft Michelin 220s, Gilles was delighted that the Dutch ambients were low. The 220 could be a race tyre! Michelin’s harder tyre, the 212, was a guaranteed finisher but would be about a second a lap slower. Rene Arnoux, on the pole for Renault, chose the 212s. Jean-Pierre Jabouille and the two Ferrari drivers raced the 220s. On full tanks, Gilles was a blinding match for Alan Jones’s Williams (whose Cosworth was hesitating slightly out of slow corners). Alan led for the first 10 laps – then it was Gilles, ahead of Jody into the first corner, as he said he would be! – passing Alan on the outside of the Tarzan hairpin. Then it was Gilles, leading the Dutch GP. Would the 220s last? That was the only question. Gilles and Alan were never more than three seconds apart. The race passed the half-way mark. Still Gilles was in front, but slowly, slowly, he could fee the grip going away. He began to lock inside fronts; the wheelspin increased on the exit from slow corners. Jones lined up for the kill. It came on lap 47 of the 75-lap race. Villeneuve went into the new chicane – the Scheckter-conceived chicane! – a fraction too quickly for his grip level. He put an outside rear on the kerb and suddenly the car snapped round, fully 360deg. He kept the engine running, of course, and rejoined in second place. Still he was ahead of Scheckter. Then the left rear blew as Gilles braked for the Tarzan hairpin. Jody, who by this time had easily worked his way up to third place, drove comfortably and well into P2, despite late-race blisters that appeared on the left front. He won much more than a mere title could have given him ... 26 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> FEATURE