The French Grand Prix appears on the 2022 Formula 1 calendar and it is impossible not to go back to 1979, when the Frenchman René Arnoux (Renault)
Formula 1: the battle between Arnoux and Villeneuve in 1979, one of the most remembered in history
The French Grand Prix appears on the 2022 Formula 1 calendar and it is impossible not to go back to 1979, when the Frenchman René Arnoux (Renault) and the Canadian Gilles Villeneuve (Ferrari) starred, due to intensity, quality of maneuvers and sporting loyalty, one of the most remembered battles in the history of motorsports.
That Sunday, July 1, at the Dijon-Prenois circuit, Parisian Jean-Pierre Jabouille crossed the finish line before anyone else. It was his triumphant baptism after 30 competitions and also the first victory for Renault and a turbocharged engine in the top category. At the time, it was no coincidence that Jabouille imagined that the race would be memorable not because of his historic success but because of what had happened behind him.
Yes, the movie duel that Arnoux and Villeneuve immortalized was for second place, a dispute that began to build when there were ten laps to go and little by little it grew in ferocity, spectacularity and competitiveness until it became an epic battle, perhaps the most exciting Formula 1 has ever seen.
Arnoux vs. Villeneuve: the three laps of film in Dijon
Villeneuve had tire problems and Arnoux had a bad engine. None of that prevented them from going to the bottom, at times without measuring consequences. With three laps to go until the end, the best part of the show began. The Renault managed to catch up with the Ferrari and they spun wheel to wheel until the Frenchman’s yellow car overtook the Canadian’s red one. On the next lap, the action was repeated but in reverse.
Also read: Formula 1: the tragic story of Gilles Villeneuve, the son that the category gave Enzo Ferrari
By the start of the 80th and final lap of the race, the fight for second place on the podium did not slow down. Rather the complete opposite. Arnoux launched decisively inside the first corner, the Frenchman held on the outside and both traveled side by side, hitting their tires, causing a sequence of touches and reckless actions that even led to the Renault leaving the track, although his return caught up again and was able to overtake the red car.
“That duel with Villeneuve was unforgettable, the best souvenir I took from Formula 1,” Arnoux acknowledged later.
However, Villeneuve still had one maneuver left: he surprised on the short side in another corner, took second position for good and crossed the checkered flag 24 hundredths of a second before Arnoux.
Formula 1: Villeneuve, the winner of an epic and unforgettable duel
“That duel with Villeneuve is something I will never forget. That was the best souvenir I took from Formula 1. It is true that he beat me and that he did it at my house, but I didn’t care because at that moment I realized that the best driver in the world had beaten me”, he acknowledged later Arnoux.
Gilles Villeneuve and René Arnoux staged an epic battle on the track at the 1979 French GP.
For races to the limit like the one in Dijon, the Canadian became a Formula 1 legend, despite never having been a champion. His bold style enchanted motorsport fans and also aroused admiration among the most successful drivers of his time.
“I think Gilles was the perfect driver. He the most talented of us. The craziest devil I’ve seen in Formula 1 ″, sentenced the Austrian Niki Lauda, with which another three-time world champion like the Brazilian Nelson Piquet agreed: “In a way he was crazy, but it is clear that he was a phenomenon. He was doing things on the track that no one else was capable of.”
Also read: Formula 1: why Ferrari said “I killed my mother” after Froilán González’s victory at Silverstone
Villeneuve met a tragic and untimely end: he died at the age of 32 and in his law, trying to go beyond the limits in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix. It was on May 8, 1982. Less than three months later, on July 25, Arnoux would win his only French Grand Prix.