100 F1 race winners part 7: 1977-1982

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Jackie Stewart’s record of 27 victories stood for 14 years until Alain Prost surpassed his mark. The French driver would go on to win four championships and 51 races.

Two other champions of the eighties covered in this part of the guide to F1 race winners are Alan Jones and Nelson Piquet. Jones won their battle for the 1980 title but Piquet would go on to take the championship three times.

Here’s more on them and more of F1’s 100 Grand Prix winners.

61. Alan Jones

First win: 1977 Austrian Grand Prix, Osterreichring
Total wins: 12
Nationality: Australian

Jones drove for a series of back-of-the grid teams in the mid-seventies before getting a break with Shadow, replacing the late Tom Pryce. Jones snatched his maiden win at the Osterreichring (the third consecutive Austrian Grand Prix won by a first-time winner) in 1977, which brought him to the attention of Frank Williams.

Driving Williams’ simple but effective FW07 Jones had a strong end to the 1979 season and would have been in contention for the championship but for the arbitrary complexities of the points-scoring system. In 1980, however, five wins and five other podium placings were enough to make him champion.

The 1981 season turned sour as he fell out with team mate Carlos Reutemann and left F1 at the end of the year. But it seemed he had been too hasty and he returned for a one-off race at Long Beach with Arrows in 1983. Then he made an extended comeback in 1985-6 with Team Haas’s Lola, but quit for good after that.

Read more about Alan Jones: Alan Jones biography

62. Patrick Depailler

First win: 1978 Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo
Total wins: 2
Nationality: French

One of several French drivers to graduate to F1 in the 1970s thanks to a scheme backed by fuel company Elf, the charming and popular Depailler was F1’s nearly man for many years with five second places for Tyrrell in 1976 alone.

He finally scored his breakthrough victory at Monte-Carlo in 1978 and switched to French team Ligier the following year. But even as he came into contention for the championship with a victory in Spain Depailler maintained a taste for high-risk extra-curricular activities. He broke a leg while hang-gliding which ruined what could have been his best season.

Depailler switched to Alfa Romeo for 1980 and struggled with a car that was off the pace. He was killed while testing at Hockenheim due to a suspected suspension failure at the Ostkurve. Depailler’s car hit the barriers at almost undiminished speeds, while the catch fencing that might have saved his life was rolled up in piles at the side of the track, ready for installation ahead of the Grand Prix.

63. Gilles Villeneuve

First win: 1978 Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal
Total wins: 6
Nationality: Canadian

One of F1’s best-loved drivers thanks to staggering skill in controlling a wayward car, and determination to continue racing even as his Ferraris disintegrated around him – Enzo Ferrari called him the "high priest of destruction."

McLaren gave Villeneuve his F1 chance at Silverstone in 1977 but team boss Teddy Mayer declined to offer the Canadian a long-term contract. Instead Ferrari scooped him up as Niki Lauda left the team. But the early races did little to ease his reputation as a crasher, particularly when he collided with Ronnie Peterson during the Japanese Grand Prix, the wreckage of Villeneuve’s car striking and killing two spectators.

The following year ended with Villeneuve scoring his maiden victory at the first F1 event at the new Montreal circuit, which would later be renamed after him. Two wins early in 1979 put him in contention for the title, and at France he salvaged a magnificent second place on a day when the Renaults were clearly superior by fighting furiously with Rene Arnoux.

But team mate Jody Scheckter took over the championship lead and team orders within Ferrari required Villeneuve to play a supporting role, which he did. But there would be no shot at the title for either driver in 1980 with the hopelessly uncompetitive 312T5.

Ferrari’s V6 turbo-engined 126CK was a step forward in 1981 but the chassis was still way off the pace of the front runners. But Villeneuve scored two of his greatest wins with it: one at Monte-Carlo and the other – his last – by keeping a train of four cars behind him for 80 laps at Jarama.

But in 1982 while contesting a poorly-attended San Marino Grand Prix team mate Didier Pironi defied team orders to take victory from Villeneuve. An incensed Villeneuve vowed never to speak to Pironi again and was killed the following race weekend when he hit Jochen Mass’s March during qualifying.

Read more about Gilles Villeneuve: Gilles Villeneuve biography

64. Jean-Pierre Jabouille

First win: 1979 French Grand Prix, Dijon
Total wins: 2
Nationality: French

Jabouille scored the first win for a turbocharged Formula 1 car in the 1979 French Grand Prix. But thanks to the astonishing battle for second place the victory – despite being scored by a French driver in a French car with a French engine on French tyres at the French Grand Prix – was overshadowed.

Jabouille had been with the Renault turbo engine project since its beginning in the 1977 British Grand Prix. He stayed with the team in 1980 but only won once more and team mate Rene Arnoux usually had the upper hand. At Montreal Jabouille suffered a heavy crash and badly broke his legs, and six races into his new race deal with Ligier in 1981 it became clear he was no longer able to compete at the top and he retired.

65. Rene Arnoux

Rene Arnoux heading to his first F1 win at Interlagos in 1980

First win: 1980 Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos
Total wins: 7
Nationality: French

After driving for Martini and Surtees in 1978, Arnoux joined the works Renault team the following year and won two of the first three races in 1980, raising hopes of a championship bid.

The following year Alain Prost joined the team and, as the two Frenchmen eyed the opportunity to become France’s first world champion, the rivalry between the two became intense.

In 1982, after a string of retirements, Arnoux found himself cast in the number two role to Prost, but rebelled and refused to hand over victory to his team mate at home at France.

He joined Ferrari the following year and was in contention for the title until the final round. After a win-less 1984 he started 1985 with Ferrari again but was mysteriously dropped by the team after a single race.

Arnoux returned in 1986 with Ligier, the team he would stay with for his final four seasons. Unfortunately towards the end of that time Arnoux developed something of an aversion to being lapped and became notorious for refusing to let faster cars pass him.

Read more about Rene Arnoux: Rene Arnoux biography

66. Nelson Piquet

Nelson Piquet won his final world championship for Williams in 1987

First win: 1980 United States Grand Prix, Long Beach
Total wins: 23
Nationality: Brazilian

Piquet’s strong form in his first full season for Brabham in 1979 was said to have played a role in pushing Niki Lauda into (his first) retirement. Piquet quickly made the team his own and after three wins the following year narrowly lost out on the title.

His first championship came in 1981 but the team struggled the following year as it began to experiment with the BMW turbo engine. The hugely powerful unit propelled Piquet to a second title in 1983, snatched from under Alain Prost’s nose in the season finale at Kyalami, much as Piquet had grabbed him first title from Carlos Reutemann.

By now Brabham boss Bernie Ecclestone was becoming distracted by his F1 empire-building and his team suffered as a result. Piquet persevered with them until 1985 before signing a big-money deal to join Williams in 1986.

Piquet believed the terms of his deal meant that team mate Nigel Mansell would have to play a supporting role to him. But apparently no-one told Mansell, and relations between the pair rapidly degenerated. Despite winning four times, Piquet was beaten to the title by Prost.

Piquet won one race fewer in 1987 but consistent points scoring in the form of seven second places, while Mansell suffered chronic unreliability, netted Piquet a third title. Unhappy with the arrangement at Williams he defected to Lotus but his 1988 title defence was a disaster, his best results a trio of third places.

Lotus slipped even further down the pecking order in 1989 and Piquet failed to qualify at Spa-Francorchamps. But being picked up by Benetton in 1990 on a points-per-place detail rejuvenated himand he scored two wins at the end of the season. His final victory came at Montreal in 1991, Piquet enjoying a win inherited from Mansell, but the arrival of Michael Schumacher at the team convinced Piquet his best days were behind him.

His son Nelson Piquet Jnr now races for Renault.

Read more about Nelson Piquet: Nelson Piquet biography

67. Didier Pironi

First win: 1980 Belgian Grand Prix, Zolder
Total wins: 3
Nationality: French

Pironi was single-minded in pursuit of his desire to be France’s world champion – but it’s hard to avoid the impression that his uncompromising nature was what cost him his best chance.

Another graduate of Elf’s driver training scheme Pironi made his F1 debut with Tyrrell. A season at Ligier in 1980 brought him an excellent win at Zolder and Enzo Ferrari quickly signed him to replace Jody Scheckter.

Pironi couldn’t get as much out of the uncompetitive 1981 Ferrari as Villeneuve could. The 1982 championship seemed to offer much more but in Villeneuve’s eyes Pironi crossed a line when he tricked his team mate out of a win at Imola.

After Villeneuve died Pironi became the championship favourite – but he also seemed a haunted man. At Montreal, now renamed the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, he qualified on pole position but stalled. Riccardo Paletti’s Osella smashed into the rear of his car and Paletti was killed.

Rumours spread about Pironi’s state of mind and his decision to go for another run in streaming wet conditions in qualifying at the Hockenheimring turned out to be a critical misjudgement. Unsighted in heavy spray, Pironi slammed into Prost’s Renault. Pironi survived, albeit with terrible leg injuries.

His tally of 39 points was only just eclipsed at the end of the season by Williams’ Keke Rosberg. Pironi later tested for Ferrari again but weeped in agony with the strain it exerted on his mended, but weakened, legs. He turned to powerboat racing to satisfy his appetite for speed, and was killed in a crash near the Isle of Wight in 1987.

68. Alain Prost

First win: 1981 French Grand Prix, Dijon
Total wins: 51
Nationality: French

Prost’s calculating and rational brain was always alert to how he might gain an advantage over his rivals both on and off the track. Having made his debut for McLaren in 1980 he jumped ship to Renault for 1981 and might have been champion the following year with better reliabity.

He came even closer to the title in 1983 but Brabham overtook the team on car development as the year progressed and he was powerless to stop Piquet from taking the title – despite colliding with his rival at Zandvoort.

Not for the last time, Prost savaged his team in public and was shown the door, which gave him the perfect route back to McLaren where new boss Ron Dennis had constructed a formidable team. The 1984 championship was an epic duel between Prost and Niki Lauda, with Lauda taking the title by half a point. Prost turned the tables the following year however, taking the title for himself. He repeated the feat in 1986 thanks to consistent points-scoring in a car that was not the fastest that year, and a stroke of fortune in an astonishing season finale at Adelaide.

Although the 1987 McLaren MP4/3 was not the team’s most competitive car Prost eclipsed Jackie Stewart’s long-standing tally of 27 race wins. He was back at the front in 1988 with the Honda-engined car but had a new team mate to contend with in Ayrton Senna. McLaren devastated the opposition, winning all but one race, but Senna’s extra victory over Prost proved decisive and the title went to the Brazilian.

Prost beat Senna the following year – but in much more controversial circumstances. The two had clashed over driving standards before but at Suzuka Prost collided with Senna with the apparent intention of taking his rival out of the race. Senna continued but was later disqualified, making Prost champion. He withdrew from his final race for McLaren in protest against the wet weather conditions at Adelaide.

His relations with Nigel Mansell at Ferrari were not much better than they had been with Senna, but Prost won five times to put Senna’s title lead under pressure. When they arrived at Suzuka Senna wasted no time in taking Prost out and claiming a second title for himself.

Ferrari dropped off the pace in 1991 and Prost made some blunt remarks about their efforts which led to his sacking. Giving their dismal performance in 1992, while he was on sabbatical, it can’t have bothered him too much. He returned to F1 with Williams in 1993, taking care to ensure his contract specified that Senna would not be his team mate, and won a fourth championship before retiring.

In 1997 he bought the Ligier team and re-named it Prost, but the outfit collapsed in 2001.

Read more about Alain Prost: Alain Prost biography

69. Riccardo Patrese

First win: 1982 Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo
Total wins: 6
Nationality: Italian

He was regarded as a wild child in his early days and unfairly blamed for the accident that claimed Ronnie Peterson’s life at Monza in 1978. But Patrese matured into a dependable racer and was the most experienced F1 driver ever until Rubens Barrichello surpassed his mark early this year.

Patrese’s career began to move forward when he joined Brabham in 1982 having driven for Shadow and Arrows. He won a hectic race at Monte-Carlo that year and was gifted a win at the season finale at the end of 1983. But he was dropped and he spent two years in the doldrums with Alfa Romeo before returning to the now much less competitive Brabham team.

The most productive phase of his career came when he joined Williams in 1988 for what would be a five-year stint. His win at Imola in 1990 ended a record seven-year stretch between victories and he won twice more in 1991 when Nigel Mansell returned to the team.

But he couldn’t keep pace with Mansell in the active suspension Williams-Renault FW14B in 1992 and won just once to Mansell’s nine – although it became clear around the middle of the year that Patrese had been relegated to supporting Mansell’s title bid.

Expecting Prost to take his place in 1993 he signed for Benetton but when Mansell revealed he was leaving the team Patrese stuck by his new contract even though he knew he was leaving a more competitive car behind. He spent a year as team mate to Michael Schumacher and after that decided he didn’t much fancy a second, and retired.

Read more about Riccardo Patrese: Riccardo Patrese biography

70. Patrick Tambay

First win: 1982 German Grand Prix, Hockenheimring
Total wins: 2
Nationality: French

After making his debut for Theodore in 1977 Tambay joined McLaren for two years, but the team was far off the pace. An uninspiring 1981 with Theodore and Ligier led him to quit F1 but he returned in 1982 to take over his late friend Villeneuve’s Ferrari.

He gave the team some cheer by winning at the Hockenheimring after Pironi’s terrible crash. The following year he took car number 27 to an emotional win at Imola, the scene of the race that had sparked the destructive Villeneuve-Pironi row twelve months earlier.

Dropped by Ferrari he joined Renault for 1984 but the French manufacturer had fallen behind in development and withdrew from the sport in 1985. Tambay then joined Team Haas before it too left F1 at the end of 1986. He later raced sports cars and then became an F1 commentator.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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6 comments on “100 F1 race winners part 7: 1977-1982”

  1. Keith, I think there’s a typo in your 1st paragraph. Prost won 51, not 41. Fix? :)

  2. Fixed thanks Journeyer – pretty unforgivable seeing as I got it right later on in the text…

  3. As I said, Keith, a typo. Happens to everyone. :)

  4. Thanks Keith… good bit of history :)

  5. keith i did know that alain jones have win 1977 for shadow?

  6. legal, am brasil

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