Determination and frustration
Gilles Villeneuve and his Ferrari team had been enjoying a strong start to the 1979 Formula 1 championship, not that any onlookers at Silverstone that year would have noticed.
Despite Ferrari leading the teams’ championship by 14 points and drivers Jody Scheckter and Villeneuve first and second in the drivers’ championship, there was a noticeable lack of pace from the Italian squad at the British Grand Prix.
The Ferrari F12’s advantage lay in the low speed corners, of which there were none at Silverstone, and the team struggled with pace and handling throughout the weekend.
That’s how it came to be that Scheckter and Villeneuve, first and second in the championship, were only 11th and 13th on the grid.
The positions didn’t stay that way for long, with both quickly making up places as other drivers dropped down the order or out of the race with mechanical problems
At half race distance, Williams was dominating at the front of the pack, with Alan Jones and Clay Regazzoni miles ahead. The Renault of Rene Arnoux had managed to put himself third after starting 16th on the grid, with Ligier’s Jacques Laffite fourth, and then came the Ferraris, Scheckter leading his Canadian team-mate.
Just a handful of laps later, Jones was taken out of the race when his engine failed. Six laps later, Laffite suffered a similar fate. After what had started as a frustrating weekend was turning into one where Ferrari could scrape a podium.
Unfortunately for any tifosi at Silverstone that weekend, it wasn’t to be.
Villeneuve dropped from fourth to seventh in the pits. Though he was quick to close the gap to Jackie Ickx ahead, tyre graining and fuel vaporisation problems cut his comeback short.
The Canadian’s race came to an end 18 laps before the chequered flag, when the vaporisation problems became too much to work with.
Scheckter suffered a similar issue, and dropped back to fifth in the closing stages of the race. Still, fifth meant two valuable points, more than would have been expected at the start of the weekend.