As the 1979 F1 season was at the halfway point in Monaco, Ferrari had the right to look smug. Schechter, the solid South African, was leading the driver’s championship and the wild but unbelievably quick Canadian, Gilles Villeneuve, was third. The Ligier of Laffite which had won the first two races could only score a single second by Monaco. For Allen Jones the situation was even worse, he had only scored a single third.
The last eight races confirmed the strength of the Ferrari with Schechter scoring in every race except two, and Villeneuve scoring in every race except three.
F1 then had a slightly different point system. You only scored points from your test four results in the first seven races, and then your four best results in the final eight races.
As the season ended, Jones made a valiant comeback, but it was too little too late. Schechter would be the 1979 F1 champion. Villeneuve was second and Jones third.
Ferrari had won their third championship in five years. It was a remarkable achievement when you consider that Ferrari from 1960 to 1974 had only once won that driver’s championship, and that was in 1961.
Villeneuve and Schecter
As 1979 clicked into 1980, Ferrari faced a dilemma. The 312 series was a dead end, as in 1981 the new turbo car, the 126, would be unveiled. Not only did Ferrari have a car development problem to resolve, they also had a driver issue.
In 1979, Villeneuve had accepted the role of number two, to the much more experienced Schecter. That was something Villeneuve was no longer willing to do in 1980. The Ferrari team principal Mauro Forghieri knew that managing the team in this transition would be a challenge.
Forghieri, Villeneuve, Piccinini, Ferrari and Schecter
As the 1980 season was about to start, F1 had another greater issue to contend with, the beginning of the FISA – FOCA war that was just beginning to start.
The 1980 season had originally eighteen races scheduled. That would be trimmed down to fifteen as Sweden, Mexico and Las Vegas were cancelled. The FISA – FOCA war would remove the Spanish race, leaving a total of fourteen.
|1||Argentine Grand Prix||Autódromo de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires||13 January|
|2||Brazilian Grand Prix||Autodromo de Interlagos, São Paulo||27 January|
|3||South African Grand Prix||Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, Midrand||1 March|
|4||United States Grand Prix West||Long Beach Street Circuit, California||30 March|
|5||Belgian Grand Prix||Zolder, Heusden-Zolder||4 May|
|6||Monaco Grand Prix||Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo||18 May|
|7||French Grand Prix||Paul Ricard Circuit, Le Castellet||29 June|
|8||British Grand Prix||Brands Hatch, Kent||13 July|
|9||German Grand Prix||Hockenheimring, Hockenheim||10 August|
|10||Austrian Grand Prix||Österreichring, Spielberg||17 August|
|11||Dutch Grand Prix||Circuit Zandvoort, Zandvoort||31 August|
|12||Italian Grand Prix||Autodromo Dino Ferrari, Imola||14 September|
|13||Canadian Grand Prix||Île Notre-Dame Circuit, Montréal||28 September|
|14||United States Grand Prix||Watkins Glen Grand Prix Course, New York State||5 October|
Ferrari went into the 1980 season with two dilemmas. The first was the 312 series was at the end of its development cycle, and the 126 car wouldn’t be available until 1981. The second was the impending war between FISA and FOCA as to who would control F1.
The season opened in Argentina and was an easy win for Alan Jones in the Williams. Both Ferraris would fail to finish.
The race was to echo the way the first half of the season would go. Williams and Brabham were almost always in the top three, with the others having some success, but being plagued with unreliability. Schecter was to score one fifth and Villeneuve one fifth and one sixth. It was looking dismal for Ferrari.
Races two and three, Brazil and South Africa, would be wins for Arnoux in the Renault, but the unreliable Renault would only score one more podium for him with a second in the Netherlands.
The fourth race in Long Beach would be an easy win for Piquet, taking first place by almost 50 seconds. Schecter would place fifth in Long Beach. It was his swan-song, as they were the last points he would score for Ferrari.
Piquet in his 1980 Brabham
With the Mexican GP being cancelled the next race was in Spa. It would turn out to be an easy win for Peroni in the Ligiet, but the rumour after the race was that he had signed by Ferrari to replace Schecter, and the bulk of Peroni’s salary was being paid by Michelin.
The next three races would all be won by Williams. Monaco by Reutemann and France and Britain by Jones. At what was supposed to be the half-way mark the championship looked like this.
The next two races, Germany and Austria, would be won by Laffite and Jabouille. While both races added some excitement to the championship neither had any impact on the final results. With four races to go the championship looked like this.
The next two races were in the Netherlands and Italy. Piquet would win both and go into the last two races in Montreal, with a one-point lead. One British correspondent called the Ferrari — “A Dog with Flees”.
There was great anticipation for the last two races of the season, Montreal and Watkins Glen.
As it turned out the final two races would be anti-climactic. Jones would win both and Piquet would DNF both. Alan Jones was the 1980 F1 champion.
For Ferrari the season was a disaster. Schecter would finish the season in nineteenth, even Villeneuve could do no better than fourteenth. It was Ferrari’s worst season in F1. The changes were fast, Pironi replaced Schecter and Villeneuve became the effective number one, and that would create more issues for Ferrari.
The age of the turbos had arrived.